Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Wait Til Dean Kaufert Gets Home!

By Jeff Simpson

BIG and I mean BIG, government Wisconsin republican Dean Kaufert, with the approval of the Speaker of the ASSembly Robin Vos, have authored a bill telling you what you must eat daily!  Seriously!

The party that threw a fit when NYC Mayor Bloomberg wanted to ban big gulp soda's, is now planning your daily meals.  You can not make this stuff up! 

if Pillsbury or a competitor had any business sense, they would make a big donation to Robin Vos and they could pass a law telling us we can only use their products and recipes.  


FoodShare Reform legislation, authored by Rep. Dean Kaufert [R – Neenah], passed the Assembly State Affairs committee Tuesday, April 30 on a 7-2 vote. An amendment to the bill which was also passed by the committee added specificity to the reform proposal and would require FoodShare recipients to use at least 2/3 (67%) of their monthly benefits on staple food products. Eligible staple food products would include the items on the WIC list, meat, pork, chicken, fish, and vegetables.

“The FoodShare Reform legislation will make sure we continue to help those truly in need in our communities with basic food necessities, while at the same time reduce the abuse and misuse of this program,” Kaufert said. “The original intent of the food stamp program was to provide the basic necessities, not luxury items and this bill will move us back in that direction.”

Those takers in society dont need ketchup or mustard or salt or pepper or what bread.  They will eat what the Wisconsin republicans tell them to eat and they will expect a "thank you"card n return!

You can tell by the way Robin Vos runs his own life that he more capable of running your life than you are!


Have any recipe or nutrition question?

Madison Office
Room 15 North
State Capitol
P.O. Box 8952
Madison, WI 53708
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Voting Address
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Neenah, WI 54956


State Rep. Dean Kaufert

Lawmakers Harrassing The Constitution

By Jeff Simpson

The Manitowoc News brings us the story of ASSemblyman Garey Bies

A Wisconsin lawmaker is pushing for tougher laws to deter people who would intimidate or harm members of the Legislature and their families.Under legislation introduced by Rep. Garey Bies, a Republican from Sister Bay, acts such as striking, shoving or kicking a lawmaker or a family member with no legitimate reason would face harsher penalties.

For one all of this os obviously already illegal and secondly, what legitimate reason would anyone have to  "striking, shoving or kicking a lawmaker or a family member"?  

As is the theme here, but wait there is more:

Bies said harassment of lawmakers is a longstanding issue but has worsened since Gov. Scott Walker signed a law in 2011 that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers. Opponents of that measure “would stand in your face and bump into you,” Bies said. “They chased you down the hallway and all the way to the office.”
Just look on the bright side,  I hear they are considering adding - pretending your an elected official running away from your constituents as a new Olympic event! 

Bies said he has personal experience. During that tumultuous period, he said he got enough derogatory calls at home that he got caller ID.
 Wow, as a legislator, his constituents called him so much he had to get Caller ID!  Of course  Caller ID was introduced to the US in the late 1980's, we cant expect our republican legislators to be up on the latest in technology, heck its only been out 25 years. 

The restroom of his restaurant was vandalized twice within two weeks during September 2011, which he attributed to his status as a legislator.
 I never heard of a public restroom being "vandalized".  Care to expand on what exactly happened and how you know it was people who disagree with you?  Any arrests made? or should we just enact laws on based on conjecture?  

 Under current law, people who intentionally harm a public official can be convicted of a Class I felony, punishable by up to 31/2 years in prison. Bies’ legislation would create a Class A misdemeanor — punishable by up to nine months in prison — for acts of repeated intimidation or use of force to influence a lawmaker’s action, or for lingering within 100 yards of his or her private property.
 Does that mean Charlie Sykes will be arrested soon?   Can we expect that Verify the recall website will be taken down

Acts that cause a lawmaker or family member’s fear of death would be a Class H felony, meaning up to six years in prison.

So the bigger the coward the politico is, the more severe the penalty is.  Got it!  

Bies said he supports freedom of speech, but there’s a line people shouldn’t cross when they disagree.
More accurate:  Bies said he supports free speech, as long as you agree with him.  Attaboy's only! 

Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, and Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Randall, are co-sponsoring the proposal.
See Plale, Jeff and Fields, Jason.  

 Madison police last year cited a Racine man who they said was involved in dumping a glass of beer on the head of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. The suspect’s motive was unclear.
 The Motives were very clear, the suspect was a goof and Robin Vos is a douchebag!   

“This bill is a solution in search of a problem,” Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin said in a statement
Well Duh.  However we can give the Wisconsin republicans in Government a break, its not like that have any other more pressing issues


Just Another Day in Wisconsin!

By Jeff Simpson

A quick look at the headlines, and you will find out that April 30, 2013, is just your typical day in Wisconsin.  

First thing we see is that there are more Wisconsinites losing their jobs, 100 at one plant and 90 Wisconsin workers at another.  

While we lose hundreds of jobs a day, the two papers of record are on it.  The Wisconsin State Journal is so upset that they decided to attack public school teachers (yet again) in their editorial.  JSOnline has decided to prioritize advocating for less democracy in Milwaukee County. 

While we all wish that our media was more competent, its the legislators that can really get something done. With Wisconsin dropping to 44th(out of 50) in jobs created and obviously losing jobs by the day, let us check in and see what the legislature has on its plate to help fix this:

1.    The extremist personhood law, declaring life at first date!

2.    Limiting voting hours.

3.    More Austerity!

These days all of this right wing extremist crazy and hundreds of job losses in WIsconsin are so common place that no one even blinks*.

Except AFP-WI who parties everytime we have bad Wisconsin news!

The Walker Agenda Is Still Working! Part CLXXVIII

The good news of just how well Scott Walker's agenda is working keeps coming in:
C&D Technologies will eliminate 90 jobs at its factory in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood between late June and the end of the year, as the company completes the shift of a battery production line to Mexico. 
The cuts were first announced in late 2011 and detailed more fully in early 2012. At that time, the company said it expected to eliminate 120 jobs.

The good news is that they are only wiping out 37.5% of their workforce instead of a full half of it.

Another Walker success story...

The Walker Agenda Is Still Working! Part CLXXVII

No, really, it's really working:
Foremost Farms, one of the state's largest dairy cooperatives, is closing a cheese plant and idling another plant indefinitely - resulting in more than 100 employee layoffs.

The Baraboo-based cooperative says it's closing a plant in Alma Center that makes mozzarella cheese for foodservice markets and is idling a plant in Waumandee which makes cheddar cheese.

The Alma Center plant closing will result in the loss of 52 jobs on June 30, while the idling of the Waumandee plant will result in indefinite layoffs for about 50 employees, also on June 30.
The article goes on with even better news. It says that even though they will have one hundred less workers, they plan on making even more cheese. Nothing like pushing people to point where mistakes are more likely. There's now a better chance of one buying a chunk of cheddar with someone's finger in it.

Negotiating One's Way Through The Irregularities And Lies Of Milwaukee County Negotiations

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the baffling strategy of the Chris Abele for Milwaukee County Emperor campaign.  In a nutshell, Abele and his acolytes were accusing the Milwaukee County Board, and namely Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic, of the most hideous of crimes - talking to the union!

The accusations fell flat when confronted with rationality and reality, yet they continued with this attack because UNIONS!

The charges were ridiculous for a number of reasons.  Top of the list is that despite Abele's most devout wishes, Act 10 is NOT the law of the land.  The ruling of the Honorable Judge Colas singled out these items and found them unconstitutional:
  • The requirement for annual recertification elections by unions wishing to remain the certified bargaining representative for a bargaining unit,
  • The prohibitions on negotiating fair share and voluntary dues deductions by payroll withholding,
  • The limitation on negotiating anything other than increases in base wages, and
  • The requirement for a referendum prior to negotiating wage increases greater than the CPI increase set forth in the statutory formula.
Furthering belying Abele's claims that the union is decertified is the fact that he continues to hold monthly Joint Safety Committee meetings which include representatives from the unions.

Add to this that if there had been contract negotiations, before any such contract was ratified, it would not only have to be approved by the union members, but it would have to get past the County Board as a whole, Abele's veto and then any override attempt.  Given Abele's anti-worker attitude, it's doubtful it would have gone anywhere.

In other words, it was still a case of trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.

But as with his good buddy and hero Scott Walker, when it comes to Chris "Lil Walker" Abele, there is always more.

While all of these shenanigans were going on, Abele and his plutocratic pals were desperately trying to get enough Republicans in the state senate to go along with his power grab bill.  They were losing the senate because of the issues of local control and the fact that they don't really trust Abele either.

So, suddenly, wild paper trail evidence appeared out of nowhere!

Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that there were indeed negotiations going on, and to prove it, he had supplied a copy of the contract and a number of emails to support this supposition.

And that's where things started falling apart for Team Plutocracy, even though no one really knew it at the time.

The contract that Bice provided looked like no other contract that I have seen before.  Furthermore, the two things listed in the contract - a pay raise of 1.5% and a collection of dues from members who voluntarily sign up for it - made no sense.  

Compare the contract that the county allegedly offered to AFSCME, to the more legit appearing contracts offered to the other unions.

A 1.5% raise was already included in the budget.  Why offer what was already in the budget?  And why get upset about it? Was it because Abele was still mad that it wasn't the 3% raise he wanted workers to get?

The other component would be in direct violation of the Colas ruling, so I could see disagreeing with that one.  Besides, the unions wouldn't agree to that necessarily as it was in violation of the ruling.

Indeed, Bice's article contains emails from the union questioning this "offer."

But it was in one of the emails from Fred Bau, the county's labor negotiator, that really raised red flags with all of the irregularities it contained.  Look at the header:

Click to embiggen
The email lists a series of events of Bau's meetings with the union.  This is unusual in itself because any discussion of contract talks would normally be withheld until the Finance, Audit and Personnel Committee met in closed session to discuss this.  (The reason for closed session is indeed to keep it secret so that they don't tip their hand to the unions.)  

The next odd thing about this is that Bau wrote it on a Saturday afternoon.

But the really alarming issue is that when Bau sent the email, he did a blind carbon copy to Amber Moreen, Abele's overpaid Chief of Staff.  

The reason why this is alarming is that as one of the results of the Tom Ament pension scandal, the county executive's office was not to have any knowledge of what was being negotiated, much less have a say in it.  

So in the absurd way it stands now, the labor negotiator serves at the pleasure of the county executive and is answerable to him.  However, the negotiator receives directions from the Board regarding contract negotiations.  In hindsight, they should have taken the negotiator's position and moved it from the executive's control altogether, but unfortunately, they did not.

The fact that the county executive was made aware of the details of the supposed negotiations presents some real puzzling issues:
  • If the County Executive was aware of the supposed negotiations, were they really negotiations?
  • Since the County Executive was aware of the negotiations, was he giving directions to the labor negotiator, which would be illegal?
  • Since there is now proof that Abele was fully aware of the supposed negotiations, why was he feigning ignorance of them?
I think that the answer to the third question is directly related to the answer of the second question.

And as proof that Abele was indeed interfering with negotiations, comes another late breaking article from the local paper (emphasis mine):
The president of the state nurses' union said Monday she was assured by the Milwaukee County labor negotiator that County Executive Chris Abele would sign a proposed contract that included a provision in which the county would collect union dues through payroll deductions.

"I was specifically told the county executive was going to sign it," Candice Owley, the nurses' union president, said in an interview. She said county labor negotiator Fred Bau told her that April 15.

Abele, however, denied he had given that direction to Bau.

"I didn't tell Fred that," Abele said. "Absolutely, without any reservations, unambiguously, no," he said.

Owley said she "was most unhappy" to see Abele's comment Monday that terms of the nurses contract deal and three other tentative union agreements appeared to violate the state's Act 10 law that restricted public worker collective bargaining.
Why would Bau promise anything about the County Executive unless he received this from the County Executive? The simple answer is he wouldn't.

So, given all of the information we have now, there are a few possible scenarios of where the truth of the matter lies:

  • The County Board was legally negotiating with AFSCME and Abele was not only aware of it, but was also illegally involved surreptitiously,
  • The County board illegally negotiating with AFSCME and Abele was not only aware of it, but was also illegally involved surreptitiously, or
  • The County Board was not involved in negotiations with AFSCME and Abele was directing his labor negotiator to make it appear that he was so that he could frame the Board with it in order to turn public opinion against them.
If the gentle reader thinks the third choice is a bit too conspiratorial, just ask former County Supervisor Johnny Thomas, who Abele had framed by his former Director of Administration, Patrick Farley.

In summary, for anyone calling for Dimitrijevic to step down from her office for this, they ought to be calling the same for Abele, since he's just as, if not more so, guilty as anyone.

And given Abele's penchant for vindictiveness, I would offer some friendly advice to Fred Bau: Get thee hence to HR first thing and file for retirement before you get fired.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Hindsite is 20/20

By Jeff Simpson

With the opening of the George W Bush Presidential library, we keep revisiting his presidency.Now retired Justice Sandra Day O Conner is weighing in:

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor expressed doubt Friday about the decision to take the 2000 Bush v. Gore case that resulted in the election of President George W. Bush.

"It took the case and decided it at a time when it was still a big election issue," O'Connor told the Chicago Tribune editorial board in an interview. "Maybe the court should have said, 'We're not going to take it, goodbye.'"

"Obviously the court did reach a decision and thought it had to reach a decision," she said. "It turned out the election authorities in Florida hadn't done a real good job there and kind of messed it up. And probably the Supreme Court added to the problem at the end of the day."

The Florida Supreme Court ordered a manual recount on Dec. 8, 2000, of all Florida votes in the 2000 presidential election between Vice President Al Gore and Bush, then the governor of Texas. But a 5-4 Supreme Court majority, including O'Connor, ordered an injunction the next day. The Supreme Court ruled on Dec. 12 in a decision "limited to the present circumstances" that the Florida recount was unconstitutional, giving Bush the presidency.
Justice John Paul Stevens has also joined the "we messed up" bandwagon!

The Book of St. ALEC

Greed is good! Greed is God!
The looming question is whether this economic reality is necessarily
unbiblical. In the scope of this paper, we will examine the Biblical indicators that suggest that an existence of income inequality is not necessarily unjust or unnatural. To best understand this, we need to go to Scripture on two fundamental points: the distribution of gifts and abilities, and examples of God’s earthly rewards for stewardship within the context of market exchange. Outside of market activity, God can and does reward the stewardship of our gifts and abilities in alternative ways. It is important to remember that income is derived from market activity; it is one way Christians are rewarded for use of their gifts, not the only way. Dr. Kaiser highlights the Proverbs which tell us that possessions or property can be gained by industriousness (Proverbs 13:4, 14:23), wisdom (Proverbs 3:16; 24:3), or by development of insight (Proverbs 14:15).27
They even go on to cite the Book of Matthew to try to justify their greed.  Yet they somehow missed Matthew 19:24 in their research:
And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
It truly amazes me sometimes how far people will go to justify their unjustifiable behaviors.

H/T Gareth

ZOMG! The University of Wisconsin System Is Working!

It's one of those news stories that leaves one just shaking their head.

Click to embiggen
It was reported that the University of Wisconsin system had a surplus of one billion dollars. But then when one takes out the amount of money that has already been earmarked for specific projects, that total fell to $648 million.  Of that money, over $400 million has also been committed, leaving the actual "surplus" to be $207 million.

This greatly reduced number, which has been deemed normal by an independent accounting expert, was still enough to send the usual suspects into a tizzy and an undie bundling apoplexy:
State Representative Steve Nass (R-Whitewater), Chairman of the Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee, is calling for the firing of President Reilly in response to the discovery of the surplus. Nass calls the newly-discovered money a “betrayal of public trust.”Nass calls Reilly a “fraud,” saying, “At the same time the legislature is trying to hold down tuition, he’s traveling around the state bashing legislators about how cuts to the UW System will destroy it. He used very harsh language while doing that. At the same time, he’s sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars in tuition money taken from students.”

Nass says he will also introduce a budget amendment to freeze resident undergraduate tuition for four years.Fellow Republican Glenn Grothman, a state Senator from West Bend, won’t go as far as calling for Reilly’s “head,” but says he’s outraged the University President has been pushing for a tuition hike.Governor Scott Walker says in a statement, having a sizable surplus is disturbing, “especially at a time when students, families, and lawmakers have continually heard from the UW System about the need for more money to offset ‘devastating cuts’.” Walker’s budget allows for $181 million in funding for the colleges, but now some Republicans question whether that should happen. Reilly had said that $153 million of that amount is already committed for things like previously-approved UW construction and renovation projects, fringe benefit increases, as well as leases and utility costs.

GOP leaders in the state legislature are “outraged” with what they call the “mishandling of taxpayer dollars and the incompetence shown by university system administration.” In a press release Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), Joint Finance Co-Chairs Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) and Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford), say: “We want to assure the university students and their parents that, at a minimum, this budget will include a two-year tuition freeze.”The Republican leaders say, “It is not only unfair to the students and their parents who keep getting hit with tuition hikes; it’s unfair to the taxpayers of Wisconsin.”
Their selective outrage is rather ironic when one considers that they were knocking their shoulders out of joint trying to slap themselves on the back when they had a surplus (which really isn't a surplus considering the debt also went up).

The fact that the UW System even broke even, much less has a surplus shows that the administrators were doing their jobs.

Given how badly the Republicans slashed their finances in the first budget, and given how the axemen of austerity are running amok like whirling dervishes during this budget session, it doesn't take a great leap of logic to expect that the UW system was going to receive another whack or three to their funding.

When you know bad times are a-coming, it only makes sense to squirrel away as much as you can to ease the pain as long as possible.  Ask any worker that has been affected directly or indirectly by Act 10.

But the Republicans really need to shut their hypocritical pie holes until they can explain why WEDC still exists even though they lost track of tens of millions of dollars.  Then they can also explain what happened to the hundreds of millions of dollars that were supposed to go to job creation yet created no jobs.

All the Republican's selective outrage is about is to give them an excuse to raid the funding of the university system and divert it to their wealthy campaign contributors.  After all, the road builders, ALEC and the Kochs didn't spend all that money on their elections for their good looks.

And speaking of raids, is anyone paying attention to the pension system and retirees benefits.  They're getting ready to raid those too, y'know.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

If There Was Justice In This World...

...this fool would be facing charges for being party to murder.

Redistricting Reform

By Jeff Simpson

To absolutely no fanfare, a bunch of freshman legislators got together and authored a redistricting reform bill.

  MADISON) State Representative Robb Kahl (D-Monona) is joining with the 13 other freshman
Democratic Assembly members in authoring a redistricting reform bill. The bill is based on the
highly successful redistricting process used in Iowa.

“I am joining with my colleagues, all of whom have not served previously in the legislature, to
move reform forward,” Kahl stated. “Both parties have erred in not acting to reform the
redistricting process when the opportunity presented itself. As new members, we are committed
from day one to seeing reform put into place.”

The bill, now designated as LRB-0665/1, will require the non-partisan Legislative Reference
Bureau to redraw district boundaries following the census. Unlike the current map that is in
place where one district makes a u-turn around another and communities of interest are split,
districts will be drawn to be compact, equal in population and with boundary lines that do not
look like jigsaw puzzle pieces.

Anyone who has paid attention these last couple of years, knows that there is not a better issue to showcase the republican parties lack of ethics, morals, honesty than the anti-democratic way they redistricted our state last time.

The republican party has decided its better to chose their voters, instead of the voters choosing their representatives.    In the last election(under the new districts), voters turned out overwhelmingly in support of Democratic Candidates, yet the democrats LOST seats!  

This is not only anti-democratic, it has also proven to be incredibly costly for the taxpayers of WI!  

However, I see two problems with this legislation.  The first being because it had bipartisan support and massive support of people, and press, from all over Wisconsin, do not expect it to be on Robin Vos's agenda anytime soon(which is what happens when the legislators choose their voters). 

Secondly, how long if it does pass, do the republicans wait to pass a bill that takes all power away from the legislative fiscal bureau and makes the whole bureau appointees of the Governor?  

Even when this bill dies in committee, it is nice to see some legislators actually going to Madison to LEGISLATE, instead of sitting in their gerrymandered district forever because they are incapable of ever getting a job in the private sector(see - Nass, Steve)

WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Nothing Changes Except When It Gets Worse

Bipartisan Opposition To Rent-To-Own - Really?

In a stunning bit of news, it is being reported that there is a diverse, bipartisan coalition standing in opposition to the rent-to-own provision in Scott Walker's 2013-15 budget proposal. The irony of it and statements made from it is inescapable:
A diverse, bipartisan coalition gathered today to call for removal of a
provision in Gov. Scott Walker's budget that would not only allow the rent-to-own businesses to operate the in Wisconsin, but would grant them special exemptions and privileges.

State Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), a longtime opponent of the rent-to-own industry, joined with Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) and prominent clergy and consumer rights activists today in a rally at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce headquarters on Milwaukee's south side.

In a press conference, Grothman blasted Walker, saying that the governor ran for office on a platform of reducing the amount of policy issues in state budgets.

"This time around, there are a variety of economic initiatives Gov. Walker could choose to support. He could have put policies in supporting the manufacturers or the farmers or the restaurant owners or whatever in the budget. Instead in this budget, we're trying to open up the state of Wisconsin to the Rent-A-Center chain. There are a variety of chains, but the one I think they really want this badly is the Rent-A-Center chain out of Plano, Texas," Grothman said.

Rent-a-Center takes advantage of people who do not understand math concepts well, Grothman said, by charging up to seven times more for a television, piece of furniture or other item than it would cost in a normal retail store, and adding exorbitant fees.

"I assume Gov. Walker does not know how predatory and just plain evil this chain is," Grothman said. "I hope we can get Gov. Walker to change his mind. I assume that if this chain comes in here, they will be bleeding millions of dollars every year from our most vulnerable citizens…It's just horrible that of all the things you can do in the Legislature, you would say we're going to let these guys in the state of Wisconsin."

Taylor said the rent-to-own provision is especially upsetting because it is buried in the budget.

"We need to shine a light on this issue because it's hidden in the budget," Taylor said. "To me, if Gov. Walker is so proud of this provision, he should put it in a freestanding bill," where it will be subject to public hearings, Taylor added.
Now, it might be my cynicism talking, but I am a bit skeptical about all this.

Grothman is not exactly known for standing up for poor people or minorities, who are the favorite prey of these usury businesses.

Lena Taylor, on the other hand, is known for her willingness to sell out her constituents on just about any issue from gun control to education privatization to representative government in Milwaukee County.

I would also point out that their press conference occurred at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.  That's the same group that has joined with the Greater Milwaukee Committee in their effort to take over Milwaukee County and plunder its assets and exploit the taxpayers and workers alike.

All in all, it's not a group of people that one would expect to stand up for the little people.

Which makes me wonder why they are doing so.

Is it a fluke?  Is it that they just haven't gotten enough campaign donations yet?  Or is it simply a turf war and they don't want anyone muscling in on their racket?  I mean, there is only so much that they can squeeze out of the taxpayers and they wouldn't want to share it.

I don't know why these individuals have had an apparent sudden change of heart, at least on this one issue.  But it does remind me of the adage that a leopard cannot change its spots.

Workers Memorial Day

If you walked up to 100 people today and asked them if they knew what today was,  I would be surprised if you would even have one that knew it was Workers Memorial Day.

This is a crying shame when one looks at recent events.

MIT police officer Sean Collier was killed by the Boston bombers.

In West, Texas, at least 14 people were killed - most of them were first responders - when a fertilizer plant exploded.  The explosion happened due to an inordinate amount of highly volatile ammonium nitrate on site.  The company didn't bother to even notify anyone that it was such a large powder keg.  To make it worse, the plant hadn't been inspected in years.

In Bangladesh, hundreds of lives were lost when a building collapsed.  Bosses ordered the workers back to the job even though cracks were seen in the building and the police ordered an evacuation.  This tragedy comes just a few months after another huge loss of life due to a fire in a clothing factory that serves companies like Walmart.

Closer to home, an employee of the University of Wisconsin, Kenneth J. Newman, 63, was killed when a lift fell on him.

In the United States, 13 people are killed each and every single day due to workplace accidents.  The vast majority of these deaths are preventable and are caused by the continuing deregulation of workplace safety and companies cutting corners to increase their profit margins.

Equally sad is the fact that there are hardly any commemorations of the day.  There was a time when unions and public officials would a small ceremony to honor those that had fallen.  But with the rampant austerity and the scarcity of money for anyone who is not already filthy rich, I am aware of only one such commemoration in all of Wisconsin and that's in La Crosse.

So before you start up the grill, go to the park, take that bike ride or whatever activity you have planned, please take a moment and think of those who went to work one day and never returned home to their families.

And then please remember and recommit to the words of Mother Jones and fight to bring back worker rights to this state and to this country.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Two Weeks Until Lakefly Literary Conference

In two weeks, I will be a part of a panel at the Lakefly Literary Conference.

From their schedule of events:
10 to 10:50 a.m.

Citizen Journalism; Panel: Chris Liebenthal, Lisa Muxworthy, John DeDakis 
Join two Wisconsin bloggers and CNN writer John DeDakis in a panel discussion on the future of journalism. Is print media dead? What effect does social media like Youtube, Blogger, and Twitter have on mainstream media? How can you get started in Citizen Journalism? How do you attract and grow an audience?
I look forward to seeing you all there.

By the way, Lisa blogs at Waukesha Wonk.  Well worth the read.

We're Reforming What Now Why?

In 2002, it was learned that then Milwaukee County Executive Tom Ament and his staff crafted a plan that would greatly enrich their own pensions, which would cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.   As a result, Ament was forced out of office and on of his aides, Gary Dobbert, was convicted and sentenced to jail.

Ament was succeeded by Scott Walker as Milwaukee County Executive.  It was
learned that during his tenure in that office, Walker was running a caucus-styled operation out of the the county executive's suite.

This scandal launched a three year John Doe investigation, commonly referred to as Walkergate.  Stemming from Walkergate were a number of arrests and convictions.

Walker's Director of Constituent Affairs, Darlene Wink, was convicted of illegal politicking during work hours and using county equipment.

One of Walker's Deputy Chief of Staffs, Kelly Rindfleisch, was also found guilty of illegal politicking from the county executive's office.

Tim Russell, a long time special friend of Walker's who served in numerous positions in Walker's administration, was found guilty of stealing from a veterans fund which wasn't even supposed to be under the control of Walker's office.  It was noted that Russell had also committed numerous crimes of illegal politicking, ranging from installing a secret router to directing Wink's fundraising work to doing campaign work during work hours and using county property.

Walker himself, although never charged, was found to be intrinsically involved with the caucus-styled operations, as evidenced by numerous emails.

After Walker left Milwaukee to corrupt the entire state government, Chris Abele was elected into office.  In the two short years of Abele's reign, there already have been questionable activities.

One such scandal was Abele using his Director of Administration, Patrick Farley, to try to frame then County Supervisor Johnny Thomas.  Abele has also tried to use taxpayer money to illegally reward his cronies.

Sadly, despite over a decade of corruption and fraud coming out of the county executives' office, the plutocrats and oligarchs have been able to convince too many people that the County Board of Supervisors is to blame for all our problems.

No real reform will happen unless we start by cleaning up the county executive's office.

I wonder who they are going to blame when things keep getting worse.

It Just Had To Be In Wisconsin Too...

Some days all you can do is stand there shaking your head:
Sure, cats aren’t for everyone. But we can’t remember the last time
someone called the police to complain about a pair of kittens.

But that’s exactly what happened in Wisconsin on Thursday when a woman called police after she reportedly witnessed two kittens “having sex” in her front yard.
Oh, and look, there's also a reference to the bone-headed sheriff of Milwaukee County, David Clarke:
The Wisconsin Rapids Police Department included the truly unusual call in their public list of request calls received. However, there’s still no word on how the department responded to the unnamed woman’s call.

And besides, at least one Wisconsin law officials [sic] have said citizens shouldn’t be too reliant on the service, saying waiting on 911 responders may not longer be their best option after budget cutbacks have delayed response times.
Doesn't that just make you proud?

Walkergate: Tim Russell's Expensive Lesson

As advertised, Tim Russell, former aide to then Milwaukee County Executive was in court Friday to learn how much restitution he would have to pay for the money he had stolen from one of Walker's campaign stunts disguised as a veterans fund as well as from two candidates campaigns.

The grand total that Russell has to pay back is $26,613.04.  The court gave him
credit for having already paid back some $3000 of it, leaving him with being in arrears for nearly $24,000.

And for those who are interested, he is currently being housed in the Winnebago Correctional Institute and won't be released any earlier than January 21, 2015.

I hope for his sake that Russell has learned that crime does not pay, that greed is not good and that if you cozy up to weasels like Scott Walker, they will set you up for a fall.

And I sincerely hope that the taxpayers, who will have to pay for Russell's every need for the next two years, at a minimum, have learned that you just cant trust Walker or anyone that is his buddy.

The Reality of the Bush Years

By Jeff Simpson

With the opening of the Bush Library,, there was much revisionist history flowing.  We will let John Fugelsang set the record straight:

Also just in case you needed 50 reasons to remember reality!

Solidarity Fish Fry: The Primer

As I have reported, the management at Serb Hall has been trying to bust the union there.  Recently, they have shown their true selves and have declared an impasse in negotiations and are now being extremely abusive to the union members.

Due to this, we have stopped going to Serb Hall to eat, but have gone back to support our union brothers and sisters through education.

Randy Bryce drew up these fine informational fliers for us to distribute to people going to Serb Hall:

We had a small crew there to hand them out, including Randy, Representative Chris Sinicki, Richard Schwalb, and one of my tweeps, @runtodaylight.

Even though our crew was small, we had more than enough people since they weren't very busy at all:

Things were so slow that they had two busers out picking up garbage from the yard.

It took management about five minutes to realize we were out there and to keep sending people out to make sure we stayed on the sidewalk.

While we were distributing the literature, one car pulled up with a young priest in the passenger seat.  He asked what was going on and we gave him a flier and explained that we liked Serb Hall but that we didn't like that they were treating union workers so poorly.  He identified himself as a priest that formerly worked at the church which owns the hall.  He told us that he was on the way to the church for a meeting and would make sure that they knew what was happening.

That encounter alone made our efforts a success.

Sadly, our happiness didn't last long.

Shortly after the priest went on his way, another car pulled up.  Driving the car was Maryann, a union waitress who had been at Serb Hall for 38 years.  She told us how they cut her hours to one shift a week and then gave that shift away to one of the non-union workers.  The poor woman was in tears as she told us of the abuses they are suffering for having dared to stand up for their rights.

At about ten minutes before we were going to leave, a squad car pulled up.  A handful of people handing out leaflets was enough to get management so rattled that they called the police.  I can just imagine how that call went:
"Hello, 911? Yes, there is some union thugs in front of our business and they are causing all sorts of mayhem.  Worst of all, they have leaflets! Leaflets, I tell you!  No, leaflets...fliers, literature!  Yes, yes!  Can you send a hundred police to arrest them all?! It's pure chaos out there!"
While we were chatting with the officer, another squad car started to pull in until the first officer waved them off.  After chatting with the nice officer for a few minutes. we decided to stay for another 20 minutes to make a point.

Afterwards, we went to Clifford's Supper Club for the Solidarity Fish Fry.  We had the pleasure of having Rick and Linda Rumpel join us there:

All of the tables are long ones, so it fits our needs wonderfully.  And the management didn't mind having larger groups there, where Serb Hall can make it seem like expecting them to cater to the customers is too much for them to bear.

The all you can eat fish fry was more expensive than Serb Hall, but we all agreed that the fish was better at Clifford's.  The fish was large slabs of cod done to perfection.  The fish was moist but not underdone.  The fries weren't the greatest, but were still good.  The coleslaw was the creamy kind which I prefer over the vinegary type that Serb Hall serves.

The meal was served family style, although we had a very difficult time to get Randy to understand that included the tartar sauce:

We were even fortunate enough to have a former union waitress, so the service was pretty good.

True to the nature and spirit of the Solidarity Fish Fry, we made sure we left our "calling card":

As we were leaving, the waitress asked me what the message meant.  I was more than glad to explain it.  You never know when a seed will take root and grow into something beautiful.  (This is where I learned she used to be a union server until the place that she had worked for broke the union.  Now the business is gone.  Talk about a learning opportunity for Serb Hall!)

After dinner, my wife and I went back to Serb Hall to see how things were.  The dining hall was an echo chamber, it was that quiet.  Tim, the maitre d', was looking awfully bored.

Next week, we do it again, but we will turn it up a notch.  Get some poster board, some markers and make some signs.  Let's let people know that the way they are treating their employees is not only wrong, it is absolutely unacceptable.  We need enough people with enough signs to make sure everyone hears our voice, especially the board members.*

We will hold another informational rally at Serb Hall next Friday from 5 pm to 6:30 pm, and then we will adjourn to Clifford's for some more of that cod.  Man, it was good!

Let's do it up right and send our message loud and clear.

*And judging by the way Serb Hall's general manager was trolling my previous posts tonight, our small event had a big effect.  Imagine how much more of an effect it will be when they hear all of us next week!

PS: Does anyone know where we can get a giant Scabby the Rat costume for Randy?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Walkergate: Russell's Restitution Day

Tim Russell, the former aide to then Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, will be back in court today to find out how much of the money he stole from the veterans fund he will have to pay back.

What a timely reminder of the corruption that happens in the county executive's office and how that office needs to reformed.

It's Time For Abele To Put Up Or Shut Up

The Milwaukee County Board proved all their critics wrong by passing their locally-generated reform measures in a veto-proof majority of 15-3.

The three that voted against the bill were Supervisors John Weishan, Steve Taylor and Deanna Alexander.

Weishan voted against it because he doesn't believe in caving in before bullies.

Taylor voted against it, even though he was all for it on Monday, because he got bullied into it by Mark Belling.  Taylor proved himself to be both a snake and a coward.

Alexander voted against the bill because that is what Abele and GMC are paying her to do.  Her whiny press release (I thought she couldn't send those out!) only revealed her dishonesty and the fact that she has absolutely no clue on how government or democracy works.

The Board issued their own press release as well that lays it out quite nicely:

15-3 Vote Dramatically Cuts Board Budget, Staff, Supervisors’ Salaries

(MILWAUKEE) – The Milwaukee County Board approved a dramatic local reform package by a 15-3 vote on Thursday, meaning Board Supervisors’ salaries will be cut by 20 percent, staff will be cut by 50 percent and the Board’s budget will be cut by 50 percent.

Under the reform package, Supervisors’ terms would be also cut from four years to two beginning with the new term in 2016 if the state Legislature approves. The comprehensive package includes other measures such as the requirement of an efficiency audit for all levels of County government and use of a mediator to enforce those efficiencies.

“This is the kind of local reform our constituents have demanded,” said

Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic. “We listened to everyone – residents, state legislators and community leaders. This bold reform reflects the tone of local input.

“It’s been said that we would never reform the Board, that we would never cut our salaries, and that we would never cut staff. But we’ve done it. This is indeed a new day on the County Board, and we have shown leadership in approving this reform package.

“While the state is attempting to mandate Board change without local support, without even a hearing in Milwaukee County, we have accomplished meaningful reform by listening to the residents of Milwaukee County. Reform without local buy-in cannot work. This is true local reform.”

Dimitrijevic said the overwhelming support for the reform package was a reflection of the Board’s desire to create locally generated reform.

“We made the hard decisions,” she said. “But with local support this is one of the most dramatic changes to Milwaukee County governance in history.”
The Board's reform measures isn't all that different than the one written by the GMC. They both cut the supervisors' pay and staffing levels. The Board's version doesn't go as deeply as the GMC's, but with the county budget being well over a billion dollars, that amount of money is negligible in comparison.  Both measures also transfer more power to the executive's office as well, but as with the pay, the Board's version is a little less severe.  To squabble over these minor differences would be merely splitting hairs.

There are some bigger differences though:

  • The Board's version clearly describes the Board's role and the Executive's role in government.  This cuts back on Abele's power grab by eliminating his ability to make the rules as well as addresses Abele's false accusations that the Board is micromanaging the county.
  • Control stays local with the Board's version.  This means that when it's demonstrated that this isn't working because of Abele's incompetence, it won't takes years for an act of the state to rectify the problems that will come with it.
  • The Board's version calls for an audit for efficiency in ALL areas of the county, including the county executive's office and the top heavy departments. The GMC version only selects the Board, which is a drop in the bucket as far as cost goes.
Interestingly, Abele had no comment on the Board's measure and whether he will sign the bill.  I guess that this means we'll have to wait until Aaron Rodriguez' next blog post to see what Abele really thinks.

But now is the time for Abele to put up or shut up.

If Abele is really all about reforming the government, he will need to sign this resolution.  It gives him the pay and staffing cuts.  It gives him more power.  And it's much more comprehensive than the GMC bill.

If Abele vetoes it or just doesn't sign it, it shows that he wasn't interested in reform and that this was nothing but a power grab all along so that he and his plutocratic pals at GMC can divvy up the county's assets for themselves.

And it should be noted that he has only about two weeks to make up his mind.

And as he makes his decision, he'd best be aware that the people of Milwaukee County - the majority of which has been quite vocal in their opposition to the GMC version - will be watching.

Chris Abele's Ghost Writer

In politics, it's not unusual for a politician - of either party - to want to stay above the fray of the fight, especially during a campaign or during a fight about a hotly disputed issue.  If there is some talking point that they really want to get out, but don't want to get their hands dirty, they will leak that information out to a reporter, a radio squawker or a blogger*.

The Teapublicans are exceptionally skilled with this sort of strategy.  They give a talking point to one of their propagandist groups like MacIver Institute or Media Trackers.  Then someone like Charlie Sykes or Mark Belling picks up on it and they all keep hammering on it.  Eventually, the local paper or TV news picks it up and suddenly a smear campaign becomes "news," giving a false credibility to the story.

But sometimes, this strategy can backfire, especially when it becomes too obvious.

Case in point would be these past two weeks and the fight over what form the "reform" of Milwaukee County Government should take.

Aaron Rodriguez, an extremist Teapublican who has delusions of being a reporter,  has a blog at JSOnline.  Most of his writing is blase at best, and is often painful to read.  But all of a sudden, he was breaking stories that broke bad against the county board.  On the same day or the day after that one of his "breaking reports" would appear, Milwaukee County Executive Chris "Lil Walker" Abele and/or Supervisor Deanna "Whatever you say, GMC" Alexander would be on the radio touting the story and expressing their shock, dismay and/or anger about it.

Then they would take great pains to tout Rodriguez' "reporting."

Gee, could I have been wrong all along about A-Rod, as he likes to refer to himself?

Not really.

As this screencap of one of Abele's emails shows, Abele and A-Rod were rather close buddies:

Click on image to embiggen
For over a year, Abele's been using Rodriguez to put out his talking points, his smear jobs, his fabrications and his obfuscations.   So much so that he couldn't even wait until he returned from vacation or use one of his staffers to do the job.  And there are hundreds like this.

The only thing that's not clear is whether this came from a county phone.  If it did, well, that would be against the law.  As Kelly Rindfleisch, Darlene Wink, and Tim Russell can testify, one can't use county equipment for politicking.

Alexander is even worse.  Anything that she got was immediately shared with Abele, Rodriguez, Sykes, Belling and even WVCY, a conservative Christian radio station.

So does anyone really think that a partisan hack like Rodriguez was breaking these stories, instead of having them spoon fed to him?

But now, when it comes to efficiency audits of the county, they will be able to get rid of Brendan Conway, Abele's official spokesman. Why spend taxpayer money on a redundant service when they can just give their information for Rodriguez to regurgitate.

*Yes, sometimes my tips come from a politician, but the majority of the articles I write come from tips from people like you, gentle reader.  The biggest difference is that I, unlike Rodriguez, will independently verify the truth of a story before running it.

Fairness Versus Unequal Pay

What happens when you pay two monkeys unequally? Watch what happens:

If Capuchin monkeys can figure it out, why can't the Teapublicans?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Austerity Chicanery

By Jeff Simpson

What matters to me is that I do what I think is right and I see, I'm a numbers guy, that's my attitude. I know we have a debt tsunami coming, we are bankrupting this country and I'm in a position where I can actually advance ideas to prevent that from happening. That's exactly what I should be doing.

Last year, the US Department of Education administered the National Assessment of Educational Progress administered an economics test and found out less than half of high school seniors are proficient in economics.  

Fewer than half of high school seniors are proficient in economics, according to the results of the 2012 National Assessment of Educational Progress exam released Wednesday. This statistic is causing alarm among educators and advocates, especially in an era marked by economic crisis.

While that is disturbing, it only scratches the surface.  There is something that is truly alarming going on.   While less than half of high school seniors are not proficient in economics, an even greater percentage of Congress is not proficient in economics led by our friend, Paul Ryan (R- Wall St.).

Paul Ryan has fashioned a career advancing his austerity agenda, there is only one problem, his whole philosophy is flawed.  Seriously flawed!

Echoing the messaging of billionaire-funded groups such as the “Fix the Debt” coalition, Ryan has argued that any “pain” suffered by working Americans—in the form of restructurings of Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, post office closures and cuts to state and local aid—was necessary in order to avoid an economic meltdown.

"Economists who have studied sovereign debt tell us that letting total debt rise above 90 per cent of GDP creates a drag on economic growth and intensifies the risk of a debt-fueled economic crisis," Ryan told a congressional hearing in 2011. When he accepted the Republican vice presidential nomination in Tampa, Ryan brought that sense of urgency into the national spotlight, declaring that "a defining responsibility of government is to steer our nation clear of a debt crisis while there is still time."

Since the defeat of his national candidacy, Ryan has continued to claim that the threat of economic ruin is so clear that—despite their rejection at the polls—his proposals must be adopted by President Obama and Congress. This has been and remains a steady message from Ryan, whose “Path to Prosperity” budget proposal rests on the premise that economists have "found conclusive empirical evidence that [debt] exceeding 90 percent of the economy has a significant negative effect on economic growth."

But the 90 percent threshold is a false precipice based on a false premise.
See Ryan's whole premise was upended when a 28 year old grad student(Thomas Herndon) sat down with the numbers.  

What Herndon had discovered was that by making a sloppy computing error, Reinhart and Rogoff had forgotten to include a critical piece of data about countries with high debt-to-GDP ratios that would have affected their overall calculations. They had also excluded data from Canada, New Zealand, and Australia — all countries that experienced solid growth during periods of high debt and would thus undercut their thesis that high debt forestalls growth.

Herndon was stunned. As a graduate student, he'd just found serious problems in a famous economic study — the academic equivalent of a D-league basketball player dunking on LeBron James. "They say seeing is believing, but I almost didn’t believe my eyes," he says. "I had to ask my girlfriend — who's a Ph.D. student in sociology — to double-check it. And she said, 'I don't think you're seeing things, Thomas.'"

So what did the original authors, Reinhart and Rogoff, have to say about their flawed study?  Oops

While other economists have been telling us that Austerity does NOT work, it did not stop our friends on the right from using this research to preach he need for austerity!  This research has been used to justify the economic mess all over the world, and even the International Monetary Fund's Top Economist had to say OOPs

As Crooks and Liars says, we instituted this failed austerity agenda all over the world because of a coding error!   Ouch!   

By the way the number of republican politicians in the US who have admitted the error of their ways in using this data is already up to 0.   I guess Paul Ryan is as fake of a numbers guy as he is a conservative

Raise your hand if your surprised!   

Here is Mr. Herndon's original paper.