The footage was so uncomfortable that I found myself cringing and looking away on several occasions: Gov. Scott Walker went to Washington D.C. to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. It wasn't pretty.
Our wayward gov gave testimony that trotted out all the usual talking points and troubled logic to which we've become sadly accustomed, even going so far as to claim that his union-busting, environmental regulation destroying, corporate whoring was "truly progressive."
Thankfully, there were representatives at the hearing more than willing to ask Walker the hard, point-blank questions the governor has been ducking so doggedly-the answers to which, of course, most Wisconsinites already know.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) hammered at Walker about whether or not the stripping of public employees' collective bargaining rights actually saves the state any money. After awkwardly dancing around an actual answer for a moment, Walker finally relented, saying, "That particular part doesn't save any."
Further, when Rep. Gerry Connelly (D-VA) asked Walker whether he'd actually ever campaigned on the changes to collective bargaining, whether he'd even brought it up, Walker relented: "No."
Again, none of this is new to those of us who've been living and breathing the struggle over the past few months. It's somewhat heartening, however, to see Walker's lies and hypocrisy laid bare on a more national scare and under oath, no less.
Not unlike Rep. Paul Ryan's terrible national budget plan, Walker's state budget does little to save money or improve the quality of life for middle and lower income people. Instead, it feeds the already wealthy and sets Wisconsin on a path to a dirtier, poorer, and far less equitable future.
Walker's plans for health care in the state stand to benefit insurance and drug companies to the tune of millions of dollars.
Walker's plans for environmental regulation (or lack thereof) in the state stand to benefit companies like Koch Industries, which successfully lobbied for a dangerous roll-back of phosphorous pollution limits in the Fox River.
Walker's plans disproportionately target women, including by removing a state requirement that insurance companies cover prescription birth control, and by cutting child care support through the Wisconsin Shares program (for more on how the budget affects women and families, read the other posts at the last link).
Injunction junction what's your function?
Yesterday Judge Maryann Sumi dismissed one of three lawsuits that had been filed in challenge to the passage of the FitzVanWalker budget bill. Specifically, this one had been file by Dane County, and turns out that, according to Judge Sumi, "state law forbids an agency or arm of government like a county to challenge the constitutionality of state laws."
That's not the end of it, of course, since another lawsuit, filed by Dane County DA Ismael Ozanne, remains active and was the impetus for Sumi issuing the injunction that currently prevents the bill from becoming law (despite Republican's best efforts to ignore the court order).
Sumi has been the target of taunts and outright threats for her trouble, as documented rather exhaustively by Isthmus' Bill Lueders. This is odd, of course, given how perfectly gung-ho the GOP/Walker camp is about injunctions against bills with which they disagree.
I'll let the Illusory one lay it out for you:
Milwaukee residents voted nearly 70% to enact an ordinance expanding sick leave provisions for employees, which survived conservative Republican legal challenges all the way to the State Supreme Court, and now Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who swept into office on a Tea Partyish platform and believes government is too powerful, is exercising that power to void the plebiscite.
In sum, a conservative Republican governor and Supreme Court justice, both installed in Madison on the slimmest of majorities, would sweep away the clear will of the people of Milwaukee with the aid of Journal Communications, Inc.'s various ink-stained*** wretches and radio shouters. And they say this is what democracy looks like.
This is, in the end, consistently inconsistent on Walker's part (or inconsistently consistent? It could go either way). The bottom line is that our current governor is not at all interested in the will or well-being of "the people"-that being those who cannot or will not support his ambitions in the form of fat checks and powerful connections.
This also points to the breathtaking and downright jarring cognitive dissonance that exists in the collective FitzVanWalker brain.
What's wrong in Waukesha?
Kathy Nickolaus thinks she can restore voter confidence by not resigning her position as Waukesha County Clerk, even after she failed to save and report thousands of votes from the city of Brookfield in last Tuesday's election.
Even though she made such an enormous error that flipped the results of the Supreme Court race, and even though she has a long history of lax security and crappy practices in terms of tabulating votes in her county, even though she was once involved in the 2002 Republican Assembly Caucus scandal (and granted immunity to testify in the investigation).
Still, Nickolaus thinks she and she alone can totally restore voter confidence.
Color me overly critical, but I'm not exactly filled with optimism. Nickolaus has had years to get her job right, and for years she's apparently violated the people's trust by compromising their fundamental right to having their votes counted accurately and in a timely fashion. She did it all with a smirk, too.
Now that more eyes have fallen on her and her office, still more irregularities and questions are coming to light.
Defending Wisconsin recently called on Attorney General JB Van Hollen to resign his position based on funny numbers that came out of Waukesha in the 2006 election. The group's conclusion about the count probably doesn't hold water, but it did point out a fairly massive discrepancy between what Nickolaus' office reported for "total ballots cast" and the actual number of votes tabulated.
The Waukesha County report on '06 election returns lists "Ballots Cast Total" at 156,804. But then, just two rows down, it lists JB Van Hollen as having gotten 118,342 votes and Kathleen Falk with 55,608. According to some very basic math, those two numbers combined equal 173,950 that's 17,146 more votes than goes accounted for in the main ballot count.
The final Wisconsin State Elections Board Vote Canvass lists Waukesha County at 174,049 (the totals between individual races will usually differ based on people who only vote in certain categories, instead of all of them).
I don't think this indicates fraud (a WisPolitics article points to a caveat recently posted to the Waukesha clerk explaining that "ballots cast" doesn't include "any hand entered ballots" bringing up a whole other series of questions). What it looks like, then, is yet more gross incompetence out of the Waukesha County Clerk's office. Kathy Nickolaus, you've got a whole lotta explaining to do.
The Government Accountability Board is investigating the situation in Waukesha both to make sure the numbers from this most recent election add up (which they appear to do), and to see what changes need to be made to fix the process so as to avoid problems like this in the future.
They need to look further back-which the GAB is apparently now doing-at the apparently long-term and systemic negligence perpetrated on the citizens of Waukesha County by Clerk Nickolaus.
Sarah Palin is coming to Madison
Why? Seriously: Tea Party, Republican, everyone can we just be done with her now? Please? Palin adds nothing of substance to the debate and has proven, time and again, to act as nothing more than an overpaid, rambling accusation-o-thon of incoherence.
Palin does not strengthen your cause. Will she likely cause a media circus? Absolutely, but if you're really in this to find solutions to the serious problems facing us all, don't you think that's a bit counterproductive?
I wasn't particularly thrilled when Michael Moore showed up and spoke at one of the pro-union protests-not because he's Sarah Palin-esque, but because I felt like having such a partisan, celebrity lightning rod present distracted from what was otherwise an entirely grassroots uprising of regular folks.
But whatever it's a free country. You're free to pay Palin's speaking fee and have her maybe decide not to show up after all because gosh Madison is just infested with cranky liberals, or show up and string together a confused sentence or two about the evil mainstream media on which she relies for a living.
I'm also free to do my farmers market shopping (first outdoor market of the year wooooo!) and ignore her, and the Tea Party rally, entirely.