Take Five (Misrule of Law edition)

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ONE: Fed Up but Still Hungry in Wisconsin

If Tuesday’s Wisconsin recall election results left a bad taste in your mouth – and my confident guess would be that if you’re reading this, they sure as hell did – I offer as a completely inadequate diversion the curious case of Wisconsinite Bill Wisth.

Wisth is a hungry man who finds himself at odds with Chuck’s Place, a Thiensville eatery featuring a purported all-you-can-eat Friday Fish Fry, which actually, according to Wisth’s allegations, turns out to be more of an all-some-can-eat proposition:

He was there [May 11] when the restaurant cut him off after he ate a dozen pieces.

“Well, we asked for more fish and they refused to give us any more fish,” recalled Wisth.

The restaurant says it was running out of fish and patience; arguing Bill has been a problem customer before.  They sent him on his way with another eight pieces, but that still wasn’t enough.

He was so fired up, he called the police.  “I think that people have to stand up for consumers,” said Wisth.

And stand up he will. Wisth has vowed to picket Chuck’s Place every Sunday until its management sees sense and allows the 350-pound seafood enthusiast to chow down without restriction. As a former union member, registered Democrat and fellow consumer, I feel I can do no less than support him robustly, but at least one Chuck’s Place worker makes my sense of solidarity waver:

Elizabeth Roeming is a waitress there and says they’ve tried to work with Bill over the years — like letting him have a tab he still hasn’t paid off.

It’s only my theory, of course, but I suspect Wisth might have scheduled his picketing for Sundays so that he could take advantage of the Friday Fish Fry that the Prime Minister Restaurant, a very short drive from Chuck’s Place, also features. With potato pancakes, soup or salad, cole slaw and dessert, all for a wallet-friendly $9.49, it will help should Wisth ever decide to pay off that tab over at Chuck’s Place.

TWO: Cited Sub, Didn’t Sink Same

Elsewhere in Wisconsin’s apparently chaotic food scene, you might recall a story about Mitt Romney and his slimy little buddy Paul Ryan greasing Waukesha voters’ palms with free sandwiches back in April.

The Democratic Party filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Board, which was denied because the GAB considered it a possible criminal matter. A parallel complaint was filed with Brad Schimel, DA of Waukesha County, but Schimel has now announced that he doesn’t believe the two Republicans committed a crime:

In a letter to Melissa Bauldauff, research director for the state Democratic Party, Schimel said he would not be filing charges.

“The lunch was set up for a specific group. Anyone who was from that specific group was not charged for their lunch,” Schimel wrote. “A corner of the restaurant was designated for these individuals and the RFP campaign was permitted to display campaign signs in that area. Other customers who were not part of this group were charged the normal price for their meals and drinks.”

“To obtain a criminal conviction for election bribery, a prosecutor must prove that the individual(s) offered something of value with the intent to induce individuals to vote by providing something of value. There is no evidence to contradict the intent claimed by the organizers of the luncheon. The most reasonable conclusion that may be drawn from the evidence appears to support the claim by the RFP campaign that they did not intend to induce the general public to vote.”

To which I can only say, Mr. Schimel, baloney.

THREE: “But it’s a dry oppression…”

The Achilles heel of the rule of law is bad law. Enter the Republican Party. An immense amount of abysmal legislation has been rammed through Republican-dominated state houses in the last few years, much of it derived from paint-by-numbers bills produced by everyone’s favorite “nonpartisan individual membership organization of state legislators which favors federalism and conservative public policy solutions,” the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Arizona’s 50th Legislature, now mercifully adjourned, is a depressing case in point:

Lawmakers proposed some of the most conservative measures in the nation: abortion limits; allowing employers to opt out of providing contraceptive health-care coverage; restricting union activities; allowing guns on college campuses; cutting taxes; and curbing regulation.

They pursued controversial efforts to require presidential candidates to show proof of citizenship to get on the state ballot, sought to take control of federal land and tried to prevent any level of Arizona government from adopting environmental-sustainability policies.

The session was not an unqualified win for Arizona Republicans, however:

Despite Republicans’ political advantage, their bills had mixed success. Many of the session’s most-controversial efforts failed or were significantly watered down. Political insiders cite a variety of reasons: lawmakers trying to cater to more-moderate voters during an election year, a governor who hasn’t been afraid to wield her veto power and vocal opposition from the public.

Due to redistricting, some retirements and even possible voter backlash, the worst might be over for Arizona come November:

“You will see the 21 Republican [Senate] seats shrink to 17 or 18,” predicted Chris Herstam, a former state representative and political commentator.

So only 18/21sts as bad as it is now? In red states, you better take progress where you find it, I guess.

FOUR: Missouri Honor a Bust for Taxpayers

The Capitol rotunda in Jefferson City features the Hall of Famous Missourians, with handsome busts of people like Betty Grable, Stan Musial, Marlin Perkins, Josephine Baker, George Washington Carver, Sacajawea and Walter Cronkite. Steve Tilley, the Republican House Speaker, recently noticed that the roster of honorees lacked a lying, obnoxious, woman-hating, drug-addicted, bloviating gasbag, so he ordered up a bust of one Rush Hudson Limbaugh III:

In light of the recent controversy surrounding Limbaugh’s [Sandra Fluke] “slut” comments, Tilley told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the induction ceremony was closed to the public because it was more “acceptable to do an invitation-only event.”

Only Republicans were invited to the ceremony because Democrats, whom Limbaugh called “deranged” in his speech at the event, signed a letter protesting Limbaugh’s induction into the Hall of Fame, Tilley told the Kansas City Star…

So far, so bad, but hey, at least the bust was financed through private donations, so this farce didn’t cost the good people of Missouri a cent. Oh, wait a second:

The Missouri House has spent more than $1,100 in taxpayer money on a security camera to keep watch over a new bronze bust of conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh, the House clerk said Thursday.

Clerk Adam Crumbliss said he authorized the camera after discussions with Republican legislative leaders because of concerns the sculpture of Limbaugh’s head and shoulders might be vandalized…

Although there is a general security camera in the center of the Capitol Rotunda, Limbaugh’s statue is the only one with its own additional security camera.

So Lord Haw-Haw gets his own security camera and Missouri taxpayers pick up the tab. I might be going out on a limb here, since any damn thing is possible, but my guess would be that a bust of Steve Tilley will never appear in the Capitol rotunda.

FIVE: Breaking! Rational, Humane, Effective Government Found in Connecticut!

Despite the recent revelation that Americans’ heads are getting bigger, the proliferation of Republicans entrusted by voters with the reins of government proves that size doesn’t matter. Yet at least one state government is capable of doing the right thing.

Connecticut recently legalized medical marijuana, becoming only the 17th state to do so:

Under the bill, patients and their caregivers must register with the Department of Consumer Protection. In addition, a doctor must certify there is a medical need for marijuana to be dispensed, including such debilitating conditions as cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis or epilepsy.

Finally, only a pharmacist with a special license can dispense medical marijuana, according to the new law.

The excessive caution aside, this law will help people, which – I very faintly recall – is one of the things that government exists for, or was until Republicans came along to put a big stick through its spokes.

Connecticut has also recently overhauled its voting rules, and if that sounds ominous in light of all the draconian restrictions enacted elsewhere, be of good cheer:

Connecticut is now poised to become only the ninth state — tenth if Washington, D.C. is counted — to enact election-day registration, otherwise known as EDR. Bucking a national campaign toward greater restrictions, the move is expected to enhance access to the polls for first time voters.

“We want to take Connecticut in a different direction,” says Secretary of State Denise Merrill, who applauds her state’s action as a vivid contrast to the flurry of legislative activity in states across the country seeking to impose additional barriers on registration or voting.

Merrill is unmoved by the inevitable Republican squawks of “Voter fraud, voter fraud!” but realizes that what her state has done makes it an outlier:

“I had no idea at the time we introduced legislation that there would be this national move to restrict voting, and I see it as exactly that,” Merrill said.

Governor Dan Malloy is even more refreshingly blunt:

Gov. Malloy, at an April press conference with legislators from the state’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, criticized the tilt toward increased restrictions. “No one, five or six years ago, or even three years ago, would have guessed that states would be taking up laws to limit access to voting,” he said.

As to the campaign’s motive, his judgment was harsh. “I will go so far as to say racist in its intent.”