Nel's New Day

May 6, 2020

If Only COVID-19 Could Talk

Imagine if the novel coronavirus could talk. That’s what Christian Schneider did in this piece: “The Novel Coronavirus Praises the Plan to Reopen America.” He wrote:

“The following is a transcript of a press conference given by the coronavirus earlier this week.” [Right: Collage by Hannah Yoest / photos: GettyImages / Shutterstock]

 

Thank you all for joining me today. I just wanted to tell you all what a great year it’s been and what a huge success I am. When people were downplaying my importance back in February, I worried about making a splash in the greatest economy on Earth, but I never had any doubt it would be big.

In spite of those who ignored me, I’ve literally grown from zero to a million cases in two months – I’ve basically gone platinum.

And people can’t get enough of me! Now Americans are cramming into state capitols, shopping malls, and public parks to lobby on my behalf! Some people are actually bringing guns to protect their right to pass me around from person to person. A literal armed militia has risen to defend me!

And I’ve been able to achieve all this with 95 percent of the media against me. Seriously – how many pro-COVID-19 stories do you see? Nobody has been treated this unfairly since the Spanish Flu.

The fake news media aren’t giving me nearly enough credit. Even your president, Donald Trump, called me a “very brilliant enemy” and said I was a “genius!” Sure, I’m microscopic, but I have a very big brain. 

Just think of all the wonderful things that have come about since I showed up. People are baking bread and sewing masks and playing Monopoly and talking to their children. Nature is healing!

And just look at the ratings I’m getting! I’m not saying this, but I’ve heard other people say, that the press conferences the president is holding rival those of the Bachelor finale and Monday Night Football!

And just think of all the things I haven’t done. I haven’t suggested people drink bleach (I don’t even have a brain and that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard), and I haven’t Tweeted well wishes to Kim Jong Un. That guy’s an asshole.

Anyway, it’s clear the people want more of me. Some of the president’s favorite supporters have tweeted that the states’ stay-at-home orders are like “slavery” and that they’d refuse to take any vaccine once it’s developed. In the meantime,  I can get millions of dollars’ worth of free public relations. Name someone else born from a medium-rare bat that could achieve that!

See, Americans love an underdog – I’m like the nerdy kid that catches the game-winning touchdown in that Charlie Sheen movie Lucas from the ‘80s. (Shout out to Charlie Sheen – a big supporter of the anti-vax community.)

What can I say – I agree with Donald Trump’s optimism that great times are ahead. Re-opening America is more than any infectious disease can ask for. All I ask from America is that you keep manufacturing phony drama between Doctors Birx and Fauci and Trump – getting rid of the experts will be the viral equivalent of sending me out on tour.

In closing, I would like to thank all the impatient Americans for their support. If anyone ever challenges you on your love of the virus, just compare not being able to eat in a restaurant to Japanese internment camps during World War II,* yell “herd immunity!” and run out of the room.

I have provided a complimentary Clorox smoothie for all of you on your way out.

 

* In Wisconsin, Rebecca Bradley, a conservative state Supreme Court justice who forced state voters into danger by making them vote in person for the primary, compared Gov. Tony Evers’ order to close business and schools to the U.S. incarceration of Japanese people during World War II. State GOP lawmakers are suing Evers and the state Department of Health Andrea Palm to strike down Evers’ order to protect people from COVID-19. Evers has stated that overturning his order would needlessly put residents’ health and lives at risk. Even with the shelter-at-home order, Wisconsin has had 8,901 confirmed cases and 362 cases.               

The state GOP also sent out a mailer stating that voters can request an absentee ballot for a special election on May 12 on a pre-paid postcard, but the postcard didn’t mention that the applicant must also submit a photo ID. The largely rural district election includes a state senator, school board president, and closely-watched contest for Ho-Chunk Supreme Court justice. The deadline is tomorrow.

Gregg Gonsalves, a Yale epidemiologist, tweeted that the U.S. negligent response to COVID-19 is close to genocide because of the high percentage of deaths among people of color. The government sent body bags to a Native American health center when it requested tests to help them fight the virus.

First, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick suggested improving the economy by killing off older people; now Gov. Greg Abbott said he knows his opening the state will increase the spread of COVID-19. The information was leaked from a private telephone call. Commenters on social media were furious about Abbott’s indifference to his constituents’ lives. exploded with fury at Abbott’s seeming lack of concern for the health of his constituents. One person tweeted:

“When it comes to abortion, Governor Greg Abbott says he’s pro-life. When it comes to actual people, not fetuses, he says he’s willing to kill thousands.”

COVID-19 should be quite happy with its progress in the United States. As of today, May 6, the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. is 1,263,183 with 74,807 deaths. Outside New York, the number of cases is rapidly rising while states are caving into the small percentage of protesters who want to open up all the businesses and stop any other mitigation. Meat plants, which Secretary of Agriculture ordered to open, are infecting and killing more people. As of ten days ago, 145 inspectors stayed home from work because of virus illness, and another 130 were under self-quarantine after being exposed to infected people. Three inspectors based out of New York, Chicago, and Mississippi have died from the virus.

In the midst of a huge number of infected cases and deaths, DDT has promised to kill the Affordable Care Act, leaving tens of millions of people without health care.

Congratulations, COVID-19!

April 11, 2020

A Week of New ‘Loyalists’ for DDT’s Coterie

Wisconsin’s Tuesday election keeps getting worse and worse. Thousands of requested absentee ballots in a hotly-contested Wisconsin election were never delivered or too late for the U.S. Supreme Court deadline to return, in a scenario probably leading to court cases on the event’s validity. The margin in the state’s 2019 Supreme Court race was about 6,000 votes.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the post office may not have placed a postmark on ballots when they were mailed in or not put dates on the postmark. Ballots sent by metered mail on April 7 may have postmarks indicating that the ballots were mailed with no specific date, just “APR 2020.”  The U.S. Supreme Court demanded that all mail-in ballots be postmarked by 4:00 pm on April 7. The court ruling may disenfranchise thousands and thousands of additional eligible voters who followed the rules. The state’s election commission agreed to count ballots with that postmark if the USPS states that this postmark was used only on April 7.

The Wisconsin requirement was that the ballot be received by April 13, but the U.S. Supreme Court changed that requirement the day before the election, violating the reason for their ruling—that changes to election rules not be made immediately before the date of the election. Another question is whether to count ballots arriving on Wednesday, April 8, because they had to be mailed by Tuesday, April 7, at the latest to arrive the next day. Ballots with no postmark on Thursday may not be counted although they could have been mailed at the appropriate time. The Supreme Court decision, a “stay pending appeal,” blocked a lower court order from taking effect while a full appeal follows a tortured path through the appellate process. No one knows if counting ballots will have further federal litigation. The high court disregarded its ordinary procedures in a ruling for Republicans in the Wisconsin election case just as it has for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in the past.

As Rick Hasen wrote: 

“The biggest problem with the Supreme Court’s opinion in the Wisconsin voting case was not the result (which was still wrong), but the Court’s sloppiness and nonchalance about voting rights and what that means for November.”

Election officials plan to start counting Wisconsin ballots at 4:00 pm on Monday, April 13. Madison has also received absentee ballots with two postmarks, one before the deadline and one after. About 50 ballots also lacked witness signatures. Thus far, an organization has recorded over 2,100 cases of voters who requested but did not receive absentee ballots. Election officials plan to start counting Wisconsin ballots at 4:00 pm on Monday, April 13. 

Eliminating voter rights wasn’t the only corruption from last week.

Last week, DDT continued his purging the U.S. intelligence agencies when he fired Michael Atkinson, the community’s inspector general in retribution for Atkinson’s legal action. One reason was DDT’s act of revenge for Atkinson’s telling Congress about a whistleblower’s complaint that revealed DDT’s extortion of Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky.

Three days later, DDT attacked Christi A. Grimm, the acting HHS IG who released a report on hospitals’ struggles to cope with COVID-19 patients. The report included 323 hospitals in 46 states that contradicted DDT’s claims that everything in the hospitals was just fine. Grimm found a “severe” and “widespread” shortage of testing supplies and protective gear at hospitals dealing with the pandemic.

Tuesday, Pentagon Inspector General Glenn Fine, designated to oversee the $2.2 trillion for the coronavirus disaster, hit DDT’s chopping block by moving him to a deputy IG. Picked by the head of a council of IGs, Fine would have led the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee to conduct and coordinate audits, but his position as deputy disqualifies him from leading the committee. Investigators are to search for waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer money in the disbursement of loans, loan guarantees, and financial payments to households and businesses. As a deputy IG, Fine is disqualified to lead the committee.

DDT replaced Fine with the unqualified Jason Abend to the new Defense Department IG, responsible for overseeing audits and criminal investigations of nearly $700 billion in annual spending. Abend is a Customs and Border Protection policy adviser who had previously been special agent at the Federal Finance Housing Agency and HUD. Until Abend is confirmed by the GOP senators who will confirm a ham sandwich, however, Sean Donnell, IG at the EPA will do double duty by also being acting Defense Department IG. Being IG is an easy job under DDT because he doesn’t want any investigations.

Grimm could also be removed from the pandemic committee if she is no longer IG, and DDT has nominated a new Education IG to disqualify the current IG on the panel by moving him to deputy IG. Senate would have to confirm DDT’s appointment before that would happen.

DDT is also appointing his White House lawyer Brian Miller as a special IG at the Treasury Department to oversee distribution of $500 billion to distressed industries. His work is supposed to be coordinated with the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. Miller helped put together DDT’s defense for the Senate impeachment trial and will easily manage gifts to DDT’s political allies and donors. During negotiations for the $2.2 trillion bill, DDT said, “I’ll be the oversight.” Now he figured out a way to do it. DDT’s pick will need to deal with a five-member oversight commission: one of them jointly picked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the other four each picked by one of the four congressional leaders. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has selected Bharat Ramamurti, a former top aide to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

DDT also threatened to fire seven more IGs. Before DDT, Republicans thought that government oversight was important. Former Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), House Oversight Committee Chair, called the Obama administration “the most corrupt government in history” and said about funding during that time, much less than DDT’s new slush fund:

“This money, at the American people’s expense, going through the hands of political leaders, is in fact corrupting the process.”

Some Republicans who exonerated DDT for impeachment because they thought he had “learned his lesson” are getting nervous, especially about DDT’s firing Atkinson. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), endorsed by Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Democrat senators, asked DDT for an explanation.

Progressives are pressing congressional members to stop the firing of IGs except for highly limited circumstances, like an amendment the House passed in 2008 for the Inspectors General Act. The Senate axed that provision, but similar legislation has again been introduced.

DDT managed another slush fund in the $2.2 trillion bill through a last-minute provision allowing the Federal Reserve to set up a $450 billion bailout plan with minimal oversight. These funds are exempt from the federal open meetings law without requirements for announcing meetings and keeping records about discussions. The record of votes will be secret until after the health crisis ends. Charles Glasser, media attorney, said:

“We may never know what terms are being given to banks, what collateral is being offered, what repayment methods and duties banks and other financial institutions may have, and those are important questions.”

AG Bill Barr went on Fox’s Laura Ingraham show to support DDT’s firing of Fine, known as a bulldog investigator. Part of Barr’s defense is the ongoing criminal investigation into the FBI’s Russia investigation for possible abuse or improprieties headed by Barr’s guy. Barr described the investigation as a “sprawling case” that “takes some time” to fully investigate. He also accused media criticism of DDT’s pushing an unproved drug, hydroxychloroquine, for COVID-19 of being a “jihad.” Barr may not realize that jihad means “striving for the benefit of the community” or a fight against Satan.

Another empty seat in the administration is that of acting Navy secretary Thomas Modly who spent $243,000 to fly to Guam to speak to the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt after he fired its captain for saving the crew from possible death and more illness from COVID-19. In his address to the crew who had cheered the captain, Modley called the captain stupid, later apologized, and “voluntarily resigned” his position after talking with Defense Department Secretary Mark Esper.

DDT has become the wrecking ball of the federal administration.

Today’s world deaths (108,834) from 1,780,440 confirmed COVID-19 cases in 210 countries and territories. On April 11, the U.S. has 20,577 deaths in 532,879 confirmed cases. 

April 9, 2020

Wisconsin: Voter Disenfranchisement

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said that this week would represent the peak in COVID-19 cases. That may not have happened, but it did represent a peak in the death of democracy in the United States. The epicenter of disenfranchisement occurred in Wisconsin, the originator of civil rights in the nation. 

With thousands of people in the United States dying every day from a pandemic and hundreds of thousands identified with the virus, the Wisconsin GOP legislature, state Supreme Court, and U.S. Supreme Court forced the state, with an order of shelter-in-place, to hold an election for people. If people wanted to vote, they had to risk their lives on April 7 by going to the polls because the election would not be postponed.

The state Supreme Court isn’t even open:  

“In an effort to protect the public, attorneys, court staff, and judges from the health risks associated with COVID-19, the Wisconsin courts have issued orders temporarily suspending in-person proceedings statewide, with certain limited exceptions.”

The U.S. Supreme Court closed down all arguments because of COVID-19. Yet it refused to permit people even an additional week to get their absentee ballots into the state; five justices ordered the ballots to be postmarked on April 7.

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker GOP Robin Vos assured the people of Wisconsin that voting in person was “incredibly safe,” but he covered himself in protective gear. And he lied on April 7 that people who didn’t get their requested ballots by mail could still ask the clerk for them. Ballots must be submitted by April 7.

Republicans want to suppress the vote to elect their candidate, Daniel Kelly, for a ten-year term to the state Supreme Court. A GOP court can redraw voter boundaries as they did after the 2010 census. In 2018, Republicans got 63 of the 99 Assembly seats in 2018 with just 46 percent voting for them. Kelly is an ideal choice for the Republicans; he opposes helping people in need.

DDT matches Kelly in heartlessness. After his support for Kelly’s election to “Protect your 2nd Amendment,” a reporter asked him who would be responsible if voters become ill because of standing in long lines to vote. He said:

“Look, all I did was endorse a candidate. I don’t know anything about their lines. I don’t know anything about their voting.”

The voting last Tuesday had far fewer “voting centers”—five in Milwaukee instead of 180 and two in Green Bay instead of 31. People who braved illness and death waited up to 150 minutes in line. Almost a dozen other states postponed primaries for voter safety. Wisconsin received 1.2 million requests for absentee ballots, ten times the usual number. Many people didn’t get them by the due date; on Sunday morning, 12,000 ballots had still not been mailed.

Republicans say that people can just use absentee ballots. But applicants didn’t get them by the due date to return them even after a two-week wait. Wisconsin received 1.2 million requests for ballots, ten times the usual number; on Sunday morning, 12,000 ballots had still not been mailed. Yesterday, the day after ballots were due, three tubs of ballots were found in a mail processing center while people complained about not getting ballots for weeks.

Linda Greenhouse, authority on the U.S. Supreme Court, criticized it for an unsigned (read five conservative judges) argument against postponing the Wisconsin election because “this court has repeatedly emphasized that lower federal courts should ordinarily not alter the election rules on the eve of an election.” First is the word “ordinarily.” People aren’t “ordinarily” afraid of dying if they vote. A state doesn’t “ordinarily” have an order for staying home. People, like the state Assembly’s leader don’t “ordinarily” wear PPE just to go out in public. And the number of requests for absentee ballots don’t “ordinarily” grow by ten times. The U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t “ordinarily” close because of a pandemic with the U.S. the worst in the world.

All four dissenting judges signed a minority opinion written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which, unlike the partisan majority opinion, pointed out that “the District Court was reacting to a grave, rapidly developing public health crisis.” She also dissented from the majority opinion that “declares that this case presents a ‘narrow, technical question.’” Ginsburg continued:

“That is wrong. The question here is whether tens of thousands of Wisconsin citizens can vote safely in the midst of a pandemic. Under the District Court’s order, they would be able to do so. Even if they receive their absentee ballot in the days immediately following Election Day, they could return it. With the majority’s stay in place, that will not be possible. Either they will have to brave the polls, endangering their own and others’ safety. Or they will lose their right to vote, through no fault of their own. That is a matter of utmost importance—to the constitutional rights of Wisconsin’s citizens, the integrity of the state’s election process, and in this most extraordinary time, the health of the nation.”

Greenhouse also slammed governors who used the pandemic as a shameless excuse to ban abortion for “crass political gain.” She finished with an excerpt from the speech by Queen Elizabeth II last week when the British monarch hoped that “in the years to come, everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this crisis.” Greenhouse concluded:

“That goes for the Supreme Court too: History will judge us all. The Supreme Court this week failed not only the voters of Wisconsin. It failed all of us.”

Ginsburg also pointed out the serious flaw in the majority’s opinion that voting rules cannot be changed close to an election. On the day before the election, the Court changed the due date for ballots.  

DDT railed against vote by mail, going so far as to say the using this voting method would mean no Republican would ever be elected again. In his daily press briefings (aka campaign rallies) he started lying about a million fraudulent votes cast in California. (In the past it was three million, the number by which he lost the popular vote.) Fraud in states using vote by mail is almost nonexistent. Asked about his own voting by mail, DDT said, “I’m allowed.” His vice president and several cabinet members also recently voted by mail.

For Wisconsin, a state with an order of shelter-in-place, safety was the primary reason for vote by mail. This op-ed from Arizona county election officials lists other reasons:

  • “Mailing ballots to voters is less complicated and less expensive compared to the massive logistical undertaking of finding, staffing, equipping, testing, sanitizing and maintaining hundreds of voting locations across the state.”
  • “Mailing a ballot to every registered voter is a very secure and straightforward process.”
  • “Every single ballot is tracked and audited before and after every election, stored in a secured area and signature verified prior to being counted. Since more than 80% of Arizona’s voters already choose to vote by mail, mailing ballots to the remaining 20% of voters would not require much additional staff, equipment or training.”
  • “The number of provisional ballots and conditional provisional ballots, which can take days to process and can require additional voter outreach, are reduced in ballot-by-mail elections.”
  • “Millions of unused ballots … must be shredded—a huge waste of resources.”

John Hickenlooper, former governor of Colorado with vote by mail, pointed out rigid safeguards in the practice and the increase of 3.3 percent in state voting.

Court and Wisconsin legislative decisions may be only the opening salvo in the voting war: 21 states and Washington, D.C. still have election deadlines before June 23. After the Wisconsin debacle, states are in the process of postponing their elections. Fourteen have already postponed in-person elections or extended mail-in voting deadlines because of COVID-19. Georgia has a primary on May 19, but quitting poll workers have shut down precincts. Like Wisconsin, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Montana, Michigan, Kentucky and Louisiana have Democratic governors and Republican-controlled state legislatures. Maryland, Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire have a Republican governor and a Democratic-controlled state legislature. Oregon has a May 19 election, but the state has voted by mail for almost 20 years.

A bipartisan majority of voters want vote by mail: 72 percent of all adults; 79 percent Democrats; 65 percent Republicans. Members of the GOP have less concern about COVID-19 because DDT reassured them that they are safe, but the percentage of concerned Republicans is growing.

Wisconsin provided an important lesson to the other states that don’t vote by mail: take action now or face disenfranchisement! Any state that waits will face the U.S. Supreme Court suppressing the vote. Wisconsin voters tried to comply with shelter-in-place by requesting absentee ballots, but the state wasn’t prepared. One bonus of Wisconsin’s election, however, was the postponement of results until April 13. No frantic spin or tweeting votes as they came in. With vote-by-mail, the lead-up to the elections could be less frenetic because it takes place over a period of time and makes the voting period more deliberative.

Republican Supreme Court decisions, both in Wisconsin and the U.S. suffer from a GOP syndrome, fear of voting. The result in this case will be thousands of people sickening and dying.

Today’s world deaths (95,735) from 1,604,718 confirmed COVID-19 cases in 209 countries and territories. On April 9, the U.S. has 16,697 deaths in 468,887 confirmed cases.
 
 

December 31, 2018

Shutdown, Cracks in Democracy on Last Day of 2018

Filed under: Elections — trp2011 @ 5:05 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Day Ten of Government Shutdown: Not satisfied with taking paychecks from 800,000 federal workers, almost half of them required to keep working, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has signed an executive order to freeze pay for about two million public employees in the coming year. He canceled a scheduled 2.1 percent pay raise that would almost keep wages up with rising inflation. After signing $1.5 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy and big business, DDT decided that he didn’t want a deficit. Many “furloughed” workers—including janitors, security guards, and cafeteria workers in federal buildings won’t be paid after they were told not to come to work because companies can’t bill the government for services that shut down. Congress could override DDT’s order with a two-thirds veto-proof vote in both chambers.

DDT’s threat to close down the southern border if he doesn’t get his wall soon could cost the U.S. commerce a billion dollars every day, a spike in car prices, and problems with factories. Another casualty would be foods that come to the U.S. from Mexico while the weather keeps agricultural production in the United States. Arizona, Michigan, Texas, and Utah—all DDT states—each sent over one-fourth of their exports to Mexico las year. Workers in both Mexico and U.S. comprise a majority of the almost one-million legal border crossings each day. A six-hour closure between San Diego and Tijuana last Thanksgiving cost the local economy $5.3 billion.

The longest government shutdown in history began in 1995 when House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) led the Republicans to cut Medicare. President Bill Clinton refused. After 21 days, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-KA) led his GOP members to pass the appropriations bills without Gingrich’s cuts to Medicare, and the House voted the same way. Todd Purdum writes that Gingrich later admitted that part of the reason he closed the government in November 1995 before the December 16 shutdown was that Clinton had pub in a rear cabin on Air Force One while returning from Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral in Jerusalem and made him exit by the rear stairs. Gingrich knew that Clinton wouldn’t sign a bill that increased Medicare premiums and cut environmental regulations. “It’s petty,” Gingrich said, “but I think it’s human.” Clinton’s stance on both shutdowns helped him win the 1996 election, but Gingrich got his revenge by working with Monica Lewinsky to force Clinton into an impeachment. The question is what consequences will come out of the current White House tantrum leading to the 2018-19 shutdown.

Lest anyone think that DDT is not “working” on the last day of 2018, he is still angrily tweeting. One claim calls out former chief of staff John Kelly in his statement that the “wall” doesn’t have to be concrete. He wrote, “An all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED, as has been reported by the media.” Like a king, DDT is waiting at the White House for the Democrats, excoriated in his tweets, to come begging to give him funding for his wall. In one tweet, he blamed Democrats for the death of two Guatemalan children in ICE custody this month, writing that the wall would have stopped it. He also tweeted to Democrats that he was sitting in his office waiting for them to come and give him his wall although a reporter found no Marine posted outside the door of the office.

Republicans take pride in their cruelty toward people in the United States with the statement that “Elections have consequences.” When Democrats and progressive ballot measures succeeded in the midterms, however, the GOP in several states refused to take the consequences of the party’s failures. Instead, they spent the last few weeks of the term during the lame-duck session by destroying the will of the people through democracy.

Despite gerrymandering and voter suppression, Michigan and Wisconsin became the poster states with dozens of bills to overturn policies won by majority vote and restrict elected Democratic officials. Many of the new laws reversed increases in the minimum wage and expansion of voting rights.

Michigan passed over 400 bills in less than two months, many of them signed by outgoing GOP Rick Snyder. He did veto four bills that exceeded legislative powers. The legislature may have blocked the use of growing cannabis for personal use, changing the way to appoint the non-partisan commission, and requiring voters to register at a county clerk’s office rather than the polls which removes the approval for same-day voter registration by a majority of the state’s population. Earlier the legislature had blocked a ballot measure on raising the minimum wage and paying sick time by enacting the proposals and then immediately removing these provisions with a simple majority after the midterm election. The legislative action on sick leave exempts almost 40 percent of Michigan workers. To block future ballot measures, legislators made the process of collecting signatures far more difficult and costly. Other lame-duck laws give a $115 million corporate tax cut and mandates that doctors prescribe abortion pills in person.

Other Michigan laws restrict powers of incoming Democrats—Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, AG Dana Nessel, and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson—all of whom replaced Republicans. Limitations include the governor’s authority in blocking a pipeline across the Strait of Mackinac, the AG from withdrawing from a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act without legislative permission, and the secretary of state in increasing voter access.

More Michigan laws passed after the election of Democrats:

  • State agencies must prove “clear and convincing” need to impose strong state regulations than federal ones.
  • A $1.3 billion online sales tax revenue was diverted from schools to roads and other priorities.
  • A grading system of A through F is mandated for public schools.
  • Federal toxicity values instead of those established by states must be used for cleaning up hazardous substances.
  •  A measure requiring permits for degrading wetlands made key concessions to developers.
  • Municipalities not already imposing licensing requirements on specific occupations cannot pass ordinance to do so.
  • States agencies may not use drones to surveil facilities subject to licensing or other government requirements.
  • The hunting age for deer, bear, and elk on public lands was reduced to ten years old.

The busy Michigan legislators will probably be crushed by some of Gov. Rick Snyder’s vetoes. A major veto was on the bill that would have permitted legislators to interfere in court cases. In neighboring Wisconsin, losing Gov. Scott Walker signed every lame-duck bill given him, many of them ones that copied those in Michigan. Wisconsin must remain in lawsuits opposed to the ACA, and the new governor cannot dissolve Walker’s misnamed Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) which gives loans and incentives to businesses connected with Walker and other Republicans. The legislature now has oversight instead of the governor. Other laws require Medicaid recipients to have drug-testing requirements that have not worked in other states and limits early voting to two weeks. Permits granted to the hugely expensive project that acquired large subsidies from Wisconsin taxpayers, Foxconn, have been moved from the GOP AG to the GOP legislature.

Walker’s power grabs caused even his staunch GOP supporters to say that his actions will “destroy” his legacy, already one that destroys the formerly progressive state. Despite its promises, Republicans failed to protect affordable insurance on pre-existing conditions as the ruling from a judge in Texas endangers the future of this health care that people overwhelming desire.

In one day, Wisconsin’s GOP senators approved 82 Walker government appointees a month before he left office, including two members to the state’s public university board. One of the positions had been empty for over a year. Thirty of the appointments had no public hearing, and some had failed to file a statement of economic interest. Eight years ago, Walker urged outgoing Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle not to “finalize any permanent civil service personnel” during his last two months in office, writing about “common practice for political appointees to use this time to ‘bump down’ into permanent civil service positions.” He added:

“I believe these appointees should be required to go through the same application process as any other civil servants and my Administration will review any new permanent hires during the next two months so they can be considered for termination during the probationary period.”

Walker also recently gave the outgoing attorney general a seat on a court in Waukesha County ― a position that doesn’t require state Senate approval.

Residents in both Michigan and Wisconsin resent handouts to large corporations, especially Walker’s $4.5 billion in state and local subsidies to Foxconn. The state is not scheduled to break even on the deal until 2043. Snyder’s Michigan “mega-deals” with incentives over $50 million” drain education, healthcare, transportation, and parks. The deals claim to create jobs, but the 29 big deals that cost taxpayers $7.1 billion include General Motors, Ford Motor Co., and Chrysler. Incentives average $465,000 per job, and advantages may not appear for years.

Florida’s new GOP governor-elect Ron DeSantis plans to stall any enactment of the state’s successful ballot measure, passed by an almost 65-percent vote, to return voting rights to felons completing their sentences. Legislative language could also restrict the law’s intent. A lawsuit could run into problems because DeSantis will replace three liberal-leaning justices immediately after he is sworn in, leaving the court with a six-to-one conservative majority.

Pennsylvania tried to unseat a legally elected state legislator, Ohio introduced legislation to stop people from amending the state constitution because a popular vote restricted gerrymandering, Missouri tried to block a stop to election fraud by popular vote, Georgia purged voters from registration rolls with no excuse, and North Carolina can’t seat a U.S. representative because he bought absentee ballots that would then be used to pad his vote. The Republicans grow more and more desperate because they know they cannot win elections with illegal election fraud and drawing districts that always favor the GOP.

Happy New Year!

May 14, 2016

How Far Will the GOP Go?

Republicans are going crazy after “the people” spoke and chose a candidate that they—and the majority of people in the United States—consider unsuitable. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) met with other GOP legislators and presumptive GOP heir Donald Trump to lay down the law. Trump appeared to back down on all the backing down that he had done during the past week, and Ryan, who foolishly believes that he can control a loose cannon, found him “warm and generous”—although not enough to endorse him. Other Republicans are going off on their own crazy ways.

Ryan’s governor, Scott Walker, blames the state’s deferment of $101 million in debt on President Obama, costing taxpayers at least $2.3 million in just interest plus tens of millions more. Wisconsin has the money, but Walker put it into the general fund for any shortfalls. The president’s economy has added jobs every month for six years, but Walker’s failed policies badly hurt Wisconsin. Yet Walker’s rainy day fund has $280 million thanks to the president’s gains in the stock and job market. His reason for looking poor is to make future budget cuts to use the Koch brothers’ “starve the beast” government strategy.

Some of the GOP craziness is ongoing. The Platform Committee of the Texas GOP is voting next Wednesday on an “independence” resolution. Then Gov. Rick Perry hinted that Texas might separate itself from the “United States,” but this vote will be the first action in its 171-year history about a decision to make the “state” an independent nation. With ten county chapters supporting the resolution, the Texas Nationalist Movement seems to be moving toward the political main stream from a fringe group.

In the GOP’s effort to “Benghazi” Hillary Clinton, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) is working with Fox host Adam Housley to find the fake witnesses swearing that military assets could have saved the lives of four people at the diplomatic compound almost four years ago. Fox has no evidence, but Gowdy wants these non-existent people for his committee. Housley is known for finding Dylan Davies who claimed that he scaled the wall on the night of the attack and engaged combat with the terrorists—before Davies admitted he lied.

Randy BarnettRandy Barnett is blaming John Robert for Donald Trump’s popularity because of Robert’s vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act. He claims:

“Roberts increased cynicism and anger at play-by-the-rules conservatives and decreased respect for institutions across the board.”

Barnett’s article in highly conservative The Federalist is based on the premises that John Roberts knows that the health care law violates the constitution but he pretends that it doesn’t because of his belief that courts should not overturn law passed by majorities. The argument overlooks Roberts’ deciding votes that gutted the Voting Rights Act, campaign finance law, and gun control legislation—and other decisions. Somehow, however, Barnett has convinced himself that the Trump supporters vote for the businessman because of a judicial review. This man who teaches lawyers at Georgetown University has even crazier ideas—so far right that the John Birch society doesn’t agree with them.

A recent GOP fit (they have so many!) comes from a report claiming that Facebook suppresses conservative articles in its Trending Topics feed. There is no support for the allegations from former Facebook workers, and Republicans have never expressed any concern that “fair and unbalanced” Fox is anything but. The RN accuses Facebook of “censoring” the right and using its power “to silence view points and stories that don’t fit someone else’s agenda.” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) has declared that he “wants to haul Facebook employees before Congress.” He wrote Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg with the demand that Trending Topics employees brief the Commerce Committee by May 24.

Despite all the vacation days and the health crisis of the Zika virus moving through the southern states, GOP finds that “Facebook hearings are a matter of urgent national interest.” Even if someone could find support for allegations, the question begs congressional oversight for a private social-media company. Thune now worries about Facebook’s integrity whereas his opposition to net neutrality declaimed that any political interference in Internet operation is unacceptable. In 2007, during a fight against the “Fairness Doctrine,” Thune argued:

“I know the hair stands up on the back of my neck when I hear government officials offering to regulate the news media and talk radio to ensure fairness. I think most Americans have the same reaction. Giving power to a few to regulate fairness in the media is a recipe for disaster on the scale that George Orwell so aptly envisioned.”

In avoiding a consideration of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Republican congressional members decided that the last elected year of the president’s four terms is a “lame-duck session,” but they are considering a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during the real “lame-duck session” between the general election and the changing of the guard at the end of December. Only three trade-related bills have been voted on in a lame duck: 1974, 1994, and 2006.

TPP is a really bad idea: extending drug company monopolies over their products, undermining environmental and labor regulations, allowing corporations to send more jobs oversea, voiding U.S. consumer laws with unelected international tribunals, etc.  Republican legislators who lose in November can vote for the TPP before they leave Congress and then take jobs for giant corporations grateful for their vote.

Publicity about the North Carolina “bathroom law” keeping trans people out of the appropriate facilities just hasn’t stopped. The Department of Justice has ordered the state to rescind the law to keep its federal funding, and North Carolina is suing the DOJ for its order. At the same time, all 10 GOP House members gave the Department of Education until yesterday to promise—provide the state with “immediate assurances”—that the North Carolina won’t suffer monetary penalty for violating federal civil rights. GOP state leaders, who complain about being “bullied” by the federal government are telling lobbyists that their employing corporations that they can expect retribution for speaking out against HB2, the potty law.

Gov. Pat McCrory wants to overturn the Civil Right Act of 1964 to make segregation legal again so that the state can “make special circumstances for those individuals [transgender students].” He also claimed that the “far left … brought this [agenda] up.”

Middle Age RiotThe latest lawsuit against the federal government, filed by “North Carolinians for Privacy,” is identical to a suit in Illinois from the Alliance Defending Freedom. It begins with the falsehood that DOE’s guidance “forbids educational institutions from maintaining sex-specific restrooms and locker rooms” and moves on to the argument that gender identity is not a component of sex. The lawsuit’s main claim is that the DOJ “unmistakable ultimatum” to either prohibit sex-specific restrooms or lose federal funding endangers all the students’ access to education. Another premise in the lawsuit is accusing the DOJ of violating the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) because the agency discriminates on the basis of gender identity against non-transgender people because it allows “some, but not all, biological males the right of entry and use of female restrooms and locker rooms.” The suit claims that North Carolina’s HB2 “treats all persons the same, regardless of their gender identity.”

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has dived into the bathroom controversy by describing it as the “biggest issue facing families and schools in America since prayer was taken out of public schools.” About potentially losing $5 billion of federal funding for Texas education, he added, “Well, in Texas, he can keep his 30 pieces of silver.” The analogy indicates that either he or Texas—or both—should be compared to Jesus who was betrayed by Judas for “30 pieces of silver.” Answering Patrick’s comments, including the one about no longer giving poor students free lunches, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “I think this does underscore the risk of electing a right-wing radio host to elected statewide office. No one should be discriminated against because of who they are.” Texas cut school funding 25 percent in the ten years following 2002 and ranks 38th in the nation in per K-12 student funding.

The U.S. disdain for the Republican party is at its highest level since 1992; 62 percent look at it unfavorably whereas only 33 percent view it with favor. The positive perception fell four points in the past six months. Only 68 percent of self-identified Republicans approve of their party, an 11-point drop from October. Independents prefer the Democrats to Republicans, 37 to 28 percent. The majorities of minorities oppose the GOP: women, 62 percent; blacks, 79 percent; and Hispanics, 61 percent. Among whites, 37 percent view both parties favorably while 59 percent have an unfavorable view of Democrats and 58 percent—only one percent less—have the same view of Republicans.

Update: Wisconsin’s debt deferment was erroneously listed as $101. It is $101 million.

 

July 15, 2015

July 14, 2015

Walker Sets Out to Destroy the U.S., Part II

Filed under: Presidential candidates — trp2011 @ 7:49 PM
Tags: ,

Past actions put Walker in tune with the Old South: tax cuts for the wealthy, health care rejection, concealed permits for guns, drug-testing for welfare recipients, and an “open for business” sign for corporations. He signed a 20-week ban on abortions, even in cases of rape or incest, despite his campaign claim that abortion should be a decision between a “woman and her doctor.” Immediately after the killing in Charleston (SC), Walker signed two bills into law that eliminated the state’s 48-hour waiting period for handgun purchases  and allowed retired or off-duty law enforcement officials to carry concealed firearms into public schools. Walker banned guns at his candidacy announcement.

Nicknames for the once proudly progressive state of Wisconsin are “Wis-issippi” and the “laboratory for oligarchs.” These are some reasons:

All-out war on workers with neither jobs nor higher wages: In 2010 he began “Act 10” to abolish almost all collective bargaining rights of public employees to union representation and drive down the take-home pay of public employees by over 10 percent. He rescinded his promise to labor leaders and the public by weakening the already-limited bargaining power of private-sector unions with the Southern-style “right-to-work” law. In a long interview with Fox network’s Sean Hannity after his announcement, Walker called the minimum wage a “lame idea” while calling on the next president to connect with the working class.

Soon after Walker signed the “right-to-work” law (that he said he wouldn’t) while campaigning, a major road building and mining company, Hoffman Construction, moved to Minnesota because of the legislation. Hoffman said the new law would cost him money and Minnesota’s increase in transportation funding is a better deal for him.

Walker’s repeal of the 80-year wage law keeping taxpayer money with local construction workers will also destroy jobs in Wisconsin as well as the quality of public projects. It will also cost the state more because of the repairs for work by contractors who underbid and then can’t deliver on their promises. Lost income to workers also cuts taxes to the state.

In the public sector, the projected 13,000 layoff for 2015 will equal the number for 2012 (6,511) and 2014 (6.186). The high for Walker’s administration was 9,000 in 2011, his first year of office.

Destruction of Wisconsin’s prized public education system:  Long ranked as among the best in the nation and the foundation of a democratic society, Wisconsin’s public education has been decimated. Loss of funding and low standards for privatized voucher schools were excerbated by a “hostile takeover” of powers of the elected Milwaukee Public School Board when Walker transferred control to a county executive. Walker also attempted to change the century-long university mission of “search for truth” to “providing state workforce needs.” Walker’s removal of tenure in the university system has caused reputable faculty to flee the state and warded off promising new professors.

Less accountability and transparency:  Even the far-right attorney general denounced Walker’s tactics of secretive late night GOP legislator meetings resulting in controversial features of the budget. Walker has always insisted on secrecy for his records.

Humiliating and harming the vulnerable: Attacks on environmental protection, punitive abortion rights with no regard for the woman’s health, exploiting the poor, and humiliating public assistance recipients are only a few of Walker’s modus operandi. Food stamps and unemployment insurance recipients are now forced to take drug testing despite the failure of these in other states and the unconstitutionality of the practice.

Part of Walker’s anti-abortion bill allows biological fathers to sue women who have abortions for “emotional distress” regardless of the men’s relationship with the women. On the other hand, women cannot sue over pay discrimination because Walker said it would “clog up the legal system.” Between 2009 and 2012, the Wisconsin Equal Pay Enforcement Act allowed women to seek damages for wage discrimination, but no woman ever sued an employer during that time. Sen. Glenn Grothman, now a U.S. representative, said the gender wage gap was reasonable because “money is more important for men.”

A college dropout, Walker has so little respect for education that he promoted a bill allowing high school dropouts to become licensed teachers with no further education. Any person hired as a teacher could get a license, giving 424 separate school districts control over the licensing process. Fortunately, it was removed during the budget process, but the bill came close to passing.

Walker’s environmental approach is as dismal as his economic one, reducing the role of science in policymaking and silencing discussion of climate change by state employees. His rollbacks in environmental protection include relaxing laws governing iron mining and building on wetlands, loosening restrictions on phosphorus pollution in waterways, restricting wind energy development, and attempting to end funding for a university renewable energy research program. His current budget eliminates 58 scientist positions and 60 percent of environmental educator positions at the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR). In addition, he wanted to change the DNR citizen board that sets policy to an advisory position and proposed a 13-year freeze on the state’s popular land conservation fund. Public objections caused lawmakers to reject both these.

Two years ago, Walker signed a law for major political donor Gogetic Taconite to build a 4-mile-long open-pit mine in the Lake Superior watershed. Gogetic helped write the law that allows companies to dump mine waste into wetlands, streams, and lakes; doubles the land where a company can pollute; allows DNR to exempt companies from the law, including paying a recycling fee on waste rock; and strips citizens of the right to sue mining companies for illegal environmental damage. The new law states that significant adverse impacts on wetlands are necessary.

Seven years ago, Walker signed the Koch-backed “No Climate Tax Pledge” that opposes all climate legislature increasing government revenue. The utility commissioner he appointed in 2014 said that “the elimination of essentially every automobile would be offset by one volcano exploding.” Asked by a Boy Scout what he would do about climate change, Walker said he would leave his campsite cleaner than when he found it.

Former GOP state senator Dale Schultz, retiring after 32 years in the legislature, said, “I think what’s going on is appalling. As somebody who thinks that should be the first thing conservatives ought to be doing is protecting our environment, it’s embarrassing. I’m a pretty pro-business Republican. But a clean environment is essential to business. This is just wholly unacceptable.” He added, “Some days I look at Governor Walker and I just see a guy who’s afraid of the mob. He helped create it, he fosters it, but then he’s also fearful of it.”

Doctors will be encouraged, perhaps even required, to commit malpractice, if Walker gets his way. For almost two decades, Walker has introduced bills to make doctors immune from prosecution if they fail to tell women about health issues of the fetus. That bill failed, but he succeeded in passing a ban on partial birth abortions. In 1998, Walker introduced a bill that allowed doctors to deny patients services, such as contraception, if they didn’t personally agree with it. His ultrasound bill in 2013 caused the closure of several women’s clinics.

Mandatory useless ultrasounds for women who request abortions isn’t an oddity in the country after the conservatives made these required in a dozen state. Walker took a step farther to claim that ultrasounds are a “cool thing.”  He said, “Most people I talked to, whether they’re pro-life or not, I find people all the time who’ll pull out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids’ ultrasound and how excited they are, so that’s a lovely thing. I think about my sons are 19 and 20, we still have their first ultrasounds.” Most of the time, ultrasounds are useless and not recommended

After his foreign travel, Walker is positive that “radical Islamic terrorists” plan to attack the United States. He has no evidence and doesn’t say who threatens the U.S. or what military actions he would use to combat these attacks. He also has no access to intelligence briefings. His confidence in confronting ISIS comes confronting the protesters in Madison for several months, including the parade of tractors that rolled through the streets one week in opposition to the governor’s draconian measures against the Wisconsin people. “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world,” he declared. Asked if he were ready to be president, he answered in the affirmative, explaining that he is an Eagle Scout.

walker_priceWhile Walker wandered Capitol Hill pressing the flesh in a pre-declaration campaign move during May, his own super PAC was handing out formal invitations to tell donors what they would receive for different levels of funding.

$1,000,000: Executive Board Member – Bi-Annual Retreats (Summer 2015 & Date TBA),MEMBERS ONLY briefings, Weekly Email Updates, Bi-Monthly MEMBERS ONLY Conference Calls, Dedicated Staff Time, 2 Private Dinners with VIP Special Guest(s), Inclusion in all public/regional fundraising events, and Exclusive Executive Board Pin.

$500,000: Executive Committee Member – Bi-Annual Retreats (Summer 2015 & Date TBA),MEMBERS ONLY briefings, Weekly Email Updates, Bi-Monthly MEMBERS ONLY Conference Calls, Dedicated Staff Time, 1 Private Dinner with VIP Special Guest(s), Inclusion in all public/regional fundraising events, and Exclusive Executive Committee Pin.

$250,000: Platinum Membership – Bi-Annual Retreats (Summer 2015 & Date TBA), Weekly Email Updates, Monthly MEMBERS ONLY Conference Calls, Dedicated Staff Time, Inclusion in all public/regional fundraising events, and Exclusive Platinum  Board Pin.

Yes, Scott Walker is definitely for sale, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United is making it much easier.

July 13, 2015

Walker Sets Out to Destroy the U.S.

Filed under: Presidential candidates — trp2011 @ 6:33 PM
Tags: ,

It’s official! After doing everything he could to destroy the former progressive state of Wisconsin, its governor has announced his candidacy so that he can annihilate the United States. Scott Walker’s presidential announcement is about a month late because he waited until he got the $72 billion biennial budget bill from the Wisconsin legislature—something he hoped would happen a month ago.

walker

In the latest YouGov.com poll, the top of the 15 declared candidates is unabashed racist Donald Trump. Walker will have to go a long way to out-trump Trump, but he’s worked hard to do this. Here are some of his outstanding efforts, starting with his most current budget that slashes $127 from K-12 education and $250 million from the University of Wisconsin System. In the past, Walker complained about including non-budget items in the bill, but he has recovered from this problem as these inclusions show:

  • Repeals tenure in the university system.
  • Advances school vouchers and the corporate privatization of Wisconsin public schools.
  • Eliminates a long-standing provision in state law requiring the minimum wage to be a true “living wage.” (At this time, the minimum wage is $7.25 that the governor’s office claims to be a “living wage.”)
  • Opens a giant loophole in the state law that mandates one rest day per week for many blue-collar workers.
  • Lowers wages for construction workers in the state by drastically reducing the scope of the state’s prevailing wage laws.
  • Allows payday lenders full reign to prey on low-wage workers by expanding their authority to sell additional financial products and services such as insurance and annuities while allowing them to give financial advice.
  • Weakens the state’s lead paint standard.
  • Prohibits any town or county from demanding more insurance from pipeline companies to cover possible spills.
  • Includes public policy provisions without public hearings or public input.

Among his 104 line-item vetoes to the budget, Walker axed more than $1 million in grants for environmental groups, a tourism plan, overhaul to long-term care programs such as Family Care, and tax exemption for construction to municipalities and nonprofit groups. He vetoed speeding up the termination of a long-running state program for assistance in cleaning up leaking underground fuel storage tanks. Another veto killed a requirement that half the money for the state from selling public land be set aside for future land purchases because Walker wants all the money to go to paying off debts. His removal of a provision limiting mandated drug tests to applicants with “reasonable suspicion” makes the state ripe for a lawsuit based on the law’s unconstitutionality.

The budget leaves a deficit of $490 million, and his promise to increase jobs in the state and pushing through a “right-to-work,” anti-union law has ranked Wisconsin 42nd in wage growth, the lowest in the Midwest. The budget has only two victories: removing the open records law and preserving the governance structure of the state’s retirement system oversight board may preserve it as one of the best-funded and best-managed pension systems in the nation.

Earlier this year, Walker skipped more than $100 million in debt payments to balance the books with a $283 million deficit. Fortunately for the governor, delaying the payment didn’t require legislative approval. His action increases debt-service bills by $545,000 next year and $18.7 million the year after that.

One way Walker attempted to save money, at least for the short-term, was to cut food stamp benefits. One 65-year-old woman saw  her monthly benefits go from $120 to $16 without any notification. She found the reduction came from her lack of documenting her heating costs with a utility bill. When Congress changed the way that states factor utility costs for food stamp eligibility, most states took action to prevent cutting benefits. Wisconsin didn’t, and 255,000 families, mostly seniors and people with disabilities, lost much of their benefits.

Food stamps were an obsession of the Wisconsin legislature last May as they concentrated on what to eliminate from the diets of poor people. At the top were lobster, shell-fish, and shrimp, but the list didn’t stop there. Willing to spend several million dollars for implementation of their micromanaging food stamp purchases, the “food police” tried to ban red and yellow potatoes, nuts, trail mix, herbs and seasonings, jarred spaghetti sauce, soups, salsa, ketchup, sauerkraut, pickles, dried beans sold in bulk, white or albacore tuna (permitting “light tuna”), and canned beans, except for green, wax or yellow. In Wisconsin, the land of cheese, the program eliminated types of cheese—no large blocks, no shredded, and no sharp. The legislature wasted their time because the plan couldn’t go into effect without a federal waiver.

Walker’s failure to gut the open records law by concealing special interests influencing legislature and other public records was a blow to the governor. The move came from a lawsuit after the governor withheld “search for truth” and the “Wisconsin Idea” from the university’s mission. Walker would also like to hide the fact that his creation, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, handed out more than $124 million to Wisconsin business without any formal staff review. The documents on these gifts, under Walker’s oversight, were made public in late June. These 27 awards, expected to create over 6,100 jobs, caused only 2,100 additional positions. Major Wisconsin newspapers published nothing about this fraud.

Walker is also facing an investigation into whether his 2012 recall campaign illegally coordinated with nonprofit groups. According to the Center for Media & Democracy’s PRWatch, “Prosecutors gathered evidence of Walker secretly raising millions of dollars for the supposedly ‘independent’ nonprofit Wisconsin Club for Growth (WiCFG), with the express purpose of bypassing campaign finance disclosure laws.” The same prosecutor is investigating whether one or two of the supreme court justices are implicated in the same kind of scheme because two groups suspected of coordinating with Walker’s campaign also spent $10 million to elect the four-justice conservative majority. Walker accused the investigation of being a “witch hunt,” but the prosecutor, a Republican who had voted for Walker, assured him it was not.

Republican prosecutors gathered evidence of Walker bypassing campaign finance disclosure laws by secretly raising millions of dollars for the supposedly “independent” nonprofit WiCFG. The group spent at least $9.1 million during the recall elections and funneled at least $10 million more to other politically-active groups like Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WM&C) while reporting to the IRS that it spent $0.  A John Doe investigation already led to convictions of six of Walker’s former aides on charges of illegal coordination, embezzlement, and corruption as well as secretly working on his campaign while they were on the clock as state employees. (More information here.)

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin may be right about the government has only two branches—omitting the court system—because of the election of judges. Thanks to a vote by the people of Wisconsin (aka the “legislature”), the state Supreme Court’s chief justice is now elected by the court instead of being the longest-serving justice, changed after 150 years. And thanks to the conservative machinations of Walker’s regime, the conservatives are in the court’s majority. Since then, newly elected conservative (and misnamed) Chief Justice Patience Roggensack has ignored the agreed-upon calendar. When some justices were not available for Roggensack’s revisions, she told them they could email her “their votes” so that they didn’t appear to have “withdrawn” from the cases she had scheduled at her special meeting. No discussion was necessary because the four right-wing justices are in the majority. Roggensack was also elected through an email vote.

Luckily for Walker, Roggensack has already decided not to have a hearing on the investigation into Walker and the two justices. The four conservative justices also won’t recuse themselves from deciding whether the John Doe investigation should be shut down even if two parties to the case are involved. The WiCFG and WM&C spent $7.6 million to help elect these four justices, providing 76 percent of the support for David Prosser, 69 percent of support for Justice Michael Gableman, 59 percent of the spending for Justice Annette Ziegler, and 48 percent for Roggensack. If they kill the Doe, justice will definitely be on sale in Wisconsin.

In his for governor last fall, Walker promised that he would serve out a four-year term if he were elected. “You have to be crazy to want to be president,” he said while claiming that he could wait 20 years and be only the same age as Hillary Clinton during her current presidential campaign. Immediately after telling his Wisconsin constituency that he “was going to do the best job I can over the next four years,” he started traveling throughout the United States and the globe, abandoning the legislature to its budget fights.

Of the four trips taken within five months of his inauguration, three were paid by taxpayers. The GOP Jewish Coalition paid for the fourth visit to Israel. Just Britain cost his constituents $138,200, and he was ridiculed for refusing to answer if he believes in the scientific theory of evolution. Since then Walker tried to keep reporters from following him, and his itinerary in Canada was kept secret. He failed to attend a news conference that focused on climate change and the health of the Great Lakes. (For the geographically-challenged, Wisconsin borders Lake Superior and Lake Michigan.)

Walker has done so much damage to Wisconsin that this is only Part I. The next two days will describe more about Wisconsin’s downhill spiral, thanks to Gov. Scott Walker, now GOP presidential candidate.

March 11, 2015

Walker Supports ‘Takers’ in Wisconsin

Gov. Scott Walker has created a new category of “takers” in his state of Wisconsin. Opposed to people getting something for free, he has signed the misnamed “right to work” law that allows people not to join the unions at their places of employment. To some people, this is “freedom,” but unions are not free to protect and negotiate for only their members. They must do this for all workers in places that unions cover. That means employees who don’t join unions but still benefit from the hard work of the organization are actually taking something free from the people who do pay for these services.

The law makes Wisconsin the 25th “right-to-work state” and the first state since Michigan and Indiana in 2012. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) provided wording, also used by Wisconsin, for this bill and those being pushed through legislatures in other states. The takers of Wisconsin are funded by ALEC backers such as the Koch brothers, the Coors family, and Exxon Mobile. This law follows Walker’s stripping collective-bargaining rights from many state workers in Wisconsin.

Although the ALEC-worded RTW bill may succeed in Missouri, it has run into problems in Montana, Colorado, West Virginia, New Mexico, Kentucky, and New Hampshire—at least for now. Michigan has introduced a RTW extension for police, fire, and public safety unions. Kentucky is passing RTW on the local level, and billionaire GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner has issued an executive order for RTW in Illinois public unions. On the federal level, Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced a “National Right-to-Work Act,” and Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduced its companion act in the House.

Walker said, “This [law] sends a powerful message across the country and across the world.” His message is his move to the right as he prepares for a presidential campaign. His email message immediately after he signed the bill is that he wanted money for his campaign when he asked for donations of $10, $100 and $1,000.

Walker consistently reneges on his statements. Until a few weeks ago, he denied that he would make Wisconsin a RTW state and claimed throughout his reelection campaign, “Private-sector unions are my partner in economic development.” Before his 2010 election, he told newspapers that he would negotiate with public sector unions; his anti-collective bargaining bill was introduced immediately after he took office in 2011. Two years ago, he was in favor of giving undocumented workers a chance at citizenship if they obeyed the law. Now he reversed that opinion to join another possible presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

The governor’s position on abortion has also reversed. Before last fall’s election, he told voters, “I support legislation to increase safety and to provide more information for a woman considering her options.” He claimed he supported a bill that “leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor.” Now he plans to sign a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks in constitutional violation of Roe v.Wade and removing the decision from a woman and her doctor.

Wooing Iowa, he switched his opposition to mandating ethanol and other renewable fuels. Now he wants to continue the Renewable Fuel Standard. Iowans might want to use caution in believing him. Walker will no doubt flip his promises for any personal gain.

ALEC has been helped by the 60-year-old National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC), led by fundamentalist Christian Greg Mourad, that also receives huge donations from the Koch brothers. The organization was co-founded by right-winger Fred A. Hartley, who co-sponsored the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act restricting unions and also co-founded the John Birch Society. The NRTWC has been behind the skyrocketing income inequality in the United States. CEOs who earned 20 times a worker’s pay 50 years ago, now receive at least 300 times the worker’s pay. Between 1973 and 2014, public-sector union membership dropped by 78 percent. Unionization and minimum wages helped equalize the distribution of wages. That’s why the Koch brothers are determined to get rid of both.

In a comparison of the share of income going to the middle 60 percent of population, the workers in the ten states with the lowest rates of union membership brought home 46.8 percent of total income, and the ten states with the highest rates of union membership brought home 47.4 percent of total income. It may sound like a small percentage, but the difference is equivalent to billions of dollars.

Abdur Chowdhury, professor of economics at Marquette University in Milwaukee, explained why Walker’s legislation could annually cost Wisconsin $4.5 billion in lost income and revenue: “If our income goes down, we spend less money on groceries.” Walker also loses money for his state: less income means less tax revenue, at least $234 million. The state won’t get this back from the wealthy and corporations because of the massive tax cuts that Walker gave them.

Despite claims from ALEC “economists” that RTW laws boost per capita personal income, average wages for all occupations in RTW states were about $4 an hour lower compared to non-RTW states in 2013. In RTW states, workers have $5,971 lower wages and fewer employers offering pension benefits or health care. Employers looking for skilled workers or a well-developed infrastructure will most likely not go to RTW states because these are less likely to have these advantages. That’s a reason that 400 businesses formed a coalition to oppose the law.

Oklahoma, the first state to pass a RTW law in 2001 for 25 years, was also the first state to do so in the post-NAFTA era of globalization. There has been no positive impact on employment in Oklahoma in the last 14 years. In addition, the number of companies relocating to the state and the number of manufacturing jobs both fell by a third in the first decade after the law was enacted.

Walker is not finished with trying to lower wages for workers. He’s trying to restrict the role of administrative law judges in workers comp disputes and take authority for the system away from the state Department of Workforce Development, a move that has been found unconstitutional in Florida. Also, Wisconsin is one of 32 states with a wage law to “prevent lowball bids from depressing wages,” something that Walker wants to repeal. The third reduction of wages would come from prohibiting “project labor agreements” that bars non-union contractors from working on publicly-funded projects.

Unions in Wisconsin are fighting Walker in creating his new category of takers. The Wisconsin state AFL-CIO with chapters from the International Association of Machinists, and United Steelworkers unions have filed a suit on the basis that the law “deprives the unions of their property without just compensation by prohibiting the unions from charging non-members who refuse to pay for representative services which unions continue to be obligated to provide.” In other words, Walker’s permission for employees to free-load off the unions is unconstitutional.

When Walker was elected, he promised a massive increase in jobs in his state. He failed. Since Walker became governor, job growth, GDP, and decline of unemployment have all lagged behind neighboring states and the nation as a whole. He may fail again with his new RTW law. Seven of the 10 states with the highest unemployment rates are RTW. After stopping RTW laws in 2012, Minnesota’s average weekly wage is $877.81, almost ten percent higher than its RTW neighbor Michigan that has a 6.3 percent unemployment rate compared to Minnesota’s 3.6 percent. Indiana, another RTW state, has an average weekly wage of $788.70 and a 5.8 percent unemployment state. Minnesota is one of the five fastest-growing states in the nation since 2012.

RTW Michigan also has a huge budget deficit and no industry coming into the state. Gov. Rick Snyder has had to lower the number of jobs that businesses need to create in order to receive massive tax credits. The worst is yet to come because workers are still operating on contracts made before the 2012 law, something that won’t happen in Wisconsin because the law goes into effect immediately.

Quality of life in RTW states is measurably worse with eight of the worst states in the nation having RTW laws, and eight of the best being non-RTW. RTW states have poorer life expectancy and infant mortality, higher homicide rates, worse pollution, lower voter turnout, less broadband access, lower educational levels, and poorer housing. The 24 RTW states have 34 percent higher rate of deaths on the job in the construction industry. During the 20th century, the middle class grew as unions grew; it began to shrink when unions were weakened through the so-called “right-to-work” laws.

Walker’s legacy will be the bodies that he leaves strewn along his path toward the White House.

October 13, 2014

Voting Restriction Rulings in Just One Week

Marriage equality didn’t stop for last weekend. Alaska, the first state to ban marriage equality in 1998, now legally recognizes same-sex marriage after U.S. District Court Judge Timothy M. Burgess of the U.S. District Court of Alaska issued his ruling. The Republican governor plans to appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit Court which legalized marriage equality in Nevada and Idaho last week.

Meanwhile, last week saw a rollercoaster of court decisions about voter suppression laws. In passing these laws, the GOP has openly declared that the reason for photo IDs required for voting is to keep Democrats from have their rights at the ballot box. With fewer than 31 fraud cases in over 10 years, the number of legitimate voters kept from voting has vastly increased.  Joy Dunn, 79, is an eligible voter who found out that new laws had disqualified her vote after her absentee ballot in March’s Arkansas special election was rejected. Dunn has been voting in the state since 1954—when she had to pay a $2 poll tax—and was never told that she had to mail a copy of valid ID with her absentee ballot. Arkansas’ new law includes only $300,000 for full implementation, including education, in 75 counties.

Some North Carolina citizens lost voting rights after the Supreme Court overturned a circuit court decision giving voters same-day registration and counting votes cast in the wrong precinct. This temporary ruling covers the November 4 election although the Court has until next year to make a decision about the restricting voting laws. This decision follows the one that upholds limiting votes in Ohio.

In contrast, the Supreme Court gave voting rights to Wisconsin, making three different positions this year. A federal trial court halted the mandatory photo ID for the upcoming election, a panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling and made photo IDS mandatory, and then the Supreme Court overturned the circuit court. Three weeks before the general election, 9 percent of registered voters in Wisconsin didn’t have the necessary voter ID. Even Justice Samuel Alito, one of three judges who voted to keep the restrictive Wisconsin law, admitted that courts should not issue orders affected a state’s election law when the election is near. The accusation of fraud, ostensibly the reason behind the Wisconsin law, found no cases that could have been prevented by a voter ID law. The following chart, an official one from the state to help people “understand” the photo ID law, may have persuaded the other judges how impossibly difficult Wisconsin was trying to make voting.

Wisconsin_voter_id_chart-770x1024 (1)

(The chart is fuzzy, but then so is the concept.)

Judge Richard Posner, who wrote the majority opinion in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (2008) used to validate restrictive voter ID laws, ruled against the Wisconsin law. He wrote that people needed a government-issued photo ID, but different states make far more restrictive mandates. His most recent decision describes new voting laws as “a mere fig leaf for efforts to disenfranchise voters likely to vote for the political party that does not control the state government.” He also pointed out that the ratio of voter fraud is one for every 14.6 million voters and said that his panel of judges supporting the Wisconsin law “is not troubled by the absence of evidence.”

Texas voters also got a break when U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos struck down that state’s mandatory photo ID for voting, calling it an “unconstitutional poll tax” intended to discriminate against Hispanic and African-American citizens that creates “an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.” A panel of judges had previously stopped the law because it posed “strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor,” but the striking down of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court a year ago allowed Texas to reinstate the law. As before, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, also a GOP gubernatorial candidate, promised that the state would “immediately appeal.”

People who cheerfully maintain that voter ID makes no difference in voting are now faced with a report from the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ nonpartisan investigative agency.  It found that “states that toughened their voter identification laws saw steeper drops in election turnout than those that did not, with disproportionate falloffs among black and younger voters.” The decline was among eligible and registered voters, not people trying to defraud the government. The greatest affect was on voters 23 and younger, new voters, and blacks. Voters with driver’s licenses or state IDs range from 84 percent of 95 percent, depending on the state; these IDs cost from $14.50 to $58.50. The GAO also found no voter-fraud problem. Despite this information, the Supreme Court is permitting North Carolina’s law to eliminate same-day voter registration and to ban votes cast in the wrong precincts. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented.

When the GOP took over states in 2010, the legislatures and governors gerrymandered the districts to put as many of their party into Congress as possible. The ten worst gerrymandered districts in 2013 are here. Federal judges have declared the congressional maps in Virginia to be unconstitutional because they isolate blacks into a single district. The order won’t go into effect this year and the case can be appealed to SCOTUS, but at this time the judges have demanded a new map by April. Republicans need to get the Democratic governor to agree to their redistricting. If Gov. Terry McAuliffe won’t sign their map, the judges may end up redrawing the districts. Virginia’s District 3 shows how contorted that gerrymandering has become.

543485db14a74.image

Florida emerged victorious in the gerrymandering debate. The GOP is not only permitted to use the existing racially-drawn map this year but also allowed to have only a slightly changed version in 2016.  Earlier this year, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case about Alabama’s gerrymandering that may have raised the number of blacks in one district to over 70 percent. The Supreme Court is also considering a challenge by Arizona Republicans to the state’s district map after an independent redistricting commission was mandated in 2000 to take politics out of the process. The GOP wants to draw lines for noncompetitive Republican districts. After the upcoming election, gerrymandering may become the next hot-button political topic.

In Ohio, John Husted has figured out a way to put his name front and center inside polling places. After doing everything possible to suppress the vote, Ohio’s Secretary of State put his name in big letters on an “informational” poster that his office requires all polling places to post. One county election official may not to post the name because Husted’s spokesman says that doing so is not a “formal directive.”

Another racial voting issue concerns American Indians. They’ve been able to vote for only 90 years, even a shorter time in states such as Montana that forbid those on reservations from voting because the state didn’t consider them taxpaying citizens. Other states such as Wyoming and Arizona used literacy tests to stop American Indian suffrage. South Dakota directly stopped all American Indians from voting until the 1940s, and Utah Supreme Court ruled in 1956 that Indians could be kept from voting because they were “neither acquainted with the processes of government, nor conversant with activities of the outside world generally.” Even the 1965 Voting Act required an extension ten years later specifying coverage for “language minorities” like American Indians.

Currently, South Dakota suppresses the American Indian vote by failing to put a pre-election satellite voting and registration site in an isolated part of Pine Ridge Reservation despite receiving funding for the facility. Voters have to travel 54 miles roundtrip on poorly-maintained dirt roads in the snow to register and cast ballots.

Another piece of insanity surrounding the election deals with TV commercials. Laws from 1927 and 1934 require that these ads, and those on radio, identify who is paying for the “information. The FCC waived responsibility in this area and now puts the burden of finding this information on the listener/viewer to find out if the entity identified on the ad is not the “true sponsor.” Dark money in Super PACs makes it almost impossible for individuals to discover who is paying for these ads. Even the Supreme Court’s ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC, the decision that gave almost unlimited donation amounts to campaigns, stated that disclosure requirements are  “justified based on a governmental interest in ‘provid[ing] the electorate with information’ about the sources of election-related spending” and help to “deter actual corruption and avoid the appearance of corruption by exposing large contributions and expenditures to the light of publicity.” Justices made the same claim in Citizens United v. FEC (2010) and McConnell v. FEC (2003). The FCC needs to note the Court’s claim that robust speech cannot occur “when organizations hide themselves from the scrutiny of the voting public.”

Over half the contributions for general election advertising comes from undisclosed sources that overwhelmingly benefits GOP candidates. Almost 80 percent of this money comes from secret money donated to the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Koch brothers Freedom Partners, and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS. Restrictive voter laws will disenfranchise about 5 million low-income and minorities voters. Facing these odds, progressives will be lucky to get any representation in state and federal legislative chambers.

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