TSW #32

Ben Jacobs, The Daily Beast, April 29:

… the [Wisconsin Democratic primary] competition has boiled down to a two-man race between former Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, the 2010 Democratic nominee, and Kathleen Falk… It is a competitive primary, in which both sides are well financed and motivated. There just isn’t much difference between the two.

… Barrett is better known than Falk as a former mayor of Milwaukee and congressman … Barrett, however, is not a perfect candidate either, and has only been in the race since the end of March. He was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2010 against Walker and he lost…

… Wisconsin Democrats still have to sift through their candidates and pick one on May 8. They just may have a difficult time staying awake in the process.

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They may? That’s strange, because I’m pretty damned sure Wisconsin Democrats are wide awake. It’s Jacobs who seems to be asleep. Otherwise, how are we to account for Kathleen Falk, a woman, being named as one-half of a “two-man race”? Or Tom Barrett, the current mayor of Milwaukee, being described twice as the “former mayor” of Milwaukee? He won a third term on April 3, as a matter of fact. There were balloons and everything.

As to Jacobs’ apparent objection to there not being “much difference between the two,” it’s difficult to understand why and how he would expect two generally mainstream, career Democratic politicians to have “much difference” between them. Continue reading TSW #32

Take Five (Civilitas Successit Barbarum edition)

ONE: One Live Badger

A review of petitions by Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board validated almost 901,000 signatures to recall Governor Scott Walker and over 800,000 to recall Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, far in excess of the 540,208 needed for each.

Republicans had sagely “warned” that the integrity of the petition process would be compromised by fake names, and their “fears” were borne out when fake names were indeed discovered, a whopping four of them (Adolf Hitler, Mick E. Mous, Donald L. Duck and I Love Scott Walker Thanks, if you’re curious). A fifth name, Fungky Van Den Elzen, was initially thought fake, but later confirmed to be happily real.

Recall election season officially began with the GAB’s certification of the results on March 30. Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee, who lost to Scott Walker in 2010, announced his candidacy for governor that same day, to nobody’s surprise. Almost immediately after Barrett’s announcement, the Republican Party of Wisconsin’s communications director, Ben Sparks, got busy rewriting history:

Wisconsin rejected Barrett and elected Governor Walker by an overwhelming majority because they wanted to move Wisconsin forward from the 8 years of failed liberal policies that culminated in 150,000 lost jobs and a $3.6 billion budget deficit.

You might remember that Walker’s “overwhelming majority” was 52.25% of the vote, even if Ben Sparks doesn’t. And you might know that the proximate reason for Wisconsin’s fiscal woes (and those of the rest of the country) wasn’t failed liberal policies but failed conservative ones trickling down from DC during the Bush years, even if Ben Sparks doesn’t.

Sparks moved on to a carefully vague denunciation of Barrett’s record in Milwaukee:

We look forward to contrasting Governor Walker’s bold record of moving Wisconsin forward with Barrett’s liberal tax and spend agenda that has only led to a total downward spiral of Milwaukee’s economy.

Despite that whole total downward spiral thing, Milwaukee voters seem to like Tom Barrett’s liberal tax and spend agenda, even if Ben Sparks is paid not to. They enthusiastically elected Barrett to another mayoral term on April 3. Listen up, Ben Sparks! This is an overwhelming majority:

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett cruised to victory in his re-election bid Tuesday, easily winning another four-year term by turning back challenger Edward McDonald.

Unofficial returns showed the Democratic mayor with about 70 percent of the vote, compared with about 30 percent for McDonald.

Barrett is currently the favorite for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, which will be decided in a May 8 primary. He leads his nearest rival, Kathleen Falk, 36% to 29%, but with workers’ rights figuring to be a prominent campaign issue, he isn’t as well positioned as his backers might hope:

Barrett earned the ire of Milwaukee unions last year, when he used Walker’s budget reforms (known as Act 10) to propose a budget that cut city employees’ health and pension benefits rather than making a deal with unions before the law took effect. He also clashed with unions in an attempt to take over the public school system.

Unlike Falk, Barrett has not promised to veto any state budget that didn’t restore collective bargaining rights.

A dispiriting March 25 poll indicated that neither Barrett nor his Democratic rivals would best Walker:

Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk trails by 49%-45%; Milwaukee Mayor and 2010 Democratic nominee Tom Barrett is behind by 47%-45%; state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout trails by 49%-41%; and Secretary of State Doug La Follette trails by 49%-42%.

Yet by April 2, another poll hinted that Walker’s malefic, misery-soaked tenure might just be drawing to a close:

A new Rasmussen Reports statewide survey shows that, if the recall election was held today, 52% of Likely Voters would vote to recall Governor Walker and remove him from office. Forty-seven percent (47%) would vote against the recall and let him continue to serve as governor.

Yes, it’s Rasmussen, and yes, the poll has an MOE of plus or minus 4.5%, but the shift it purports to document is hugely encouraging at this stage of the recall. The last official seal of the Wisconsin Territory in 1839 and the first state seal in 1848 both featured the motto “Civilitas successit barbarum,” which translates as “Civilization succeeds barbarism.” Can Democrats restore civilization to Wisconsin after Scott Walker’s barbarism? Yes, they can. Is Tom Barrett the right person to lead that effort? Labor troubles aside, he might be; Wisconsin urgently needs a brave guy who doesn’t like thugs, and whatever his shortcomings, Barrett is that. Of course it would be completely wrong of me to liken the actions of Scott Walker and his legislative cronies to an attack on Wisconsin with a metal pipe, so I won’t resort to that metaphor. It was much more like a baseball bat attack, anyway.

TWO: Give or Take $7.3 Million

Forty days or so after Scott Walker was sworn in last year, mass protests against his policies were underway. For weeks, huge crowds rallied on the grounds and in the rotunda of the Capitol in Madison. It was magnificent.

Walker’s administration was predictably frantic about getting protesters barred from the building. After litigation ensued, a government official – in one of the earliest, best examples of the administration’s helpless affinity for simply making shit up – told the court that the protests had inflicted an estimated $7.5 million of damage on the building and its environs:

DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch originally claimed that tape used to hang signs throughout the Capitol building may have damaged marble stones. A memo from DOA’s historic preservation officer Dan Stephans estimated it could cost as much as $500,000 for an estimate of the damage, another $6 million for professional restoration work on the tape-affected marble and $1 million to repair damage to the Capitol grounds.

Stephans acknowledged in the memo that the numbers were an “estimated guess.” An open-records request by the Journal Sentinel revealed the estimate was based on a few of Stephans’ handwritten estimates on a single sheet of notebook paper.

Other than a potential $20,000 for additional landscaping, the final tally for cleanup costs is now in, and it turns out the government’s original estimate was off by a mere $7,302,541.

(Note to Governor Walker: fire Dan Stephans and save the state his $110,888.54 salary, and Wisconsin taxpayers are only on the hook for $86,570.46 in cleanup costs. Hey, always happy to help out a fiscal hawk like your bad self, sir.)

THREE: The Last Days of Pompous

David Badash’s estimable website The New Civil Rights Movement mistakenly “broke” a story from May 2011 when it belatedly picked up a Forbes report on Scott Walker’s failed attempt to deny same-sex couples hospital visitation rights. It’s a story worth reading anyway, and the site quickly published a correction. The error was understandable, really; it’s easy to get confused over the timing of Walker’s various profanations of the public realm. They all share the same gorge-taunting odor, and there are so damned many of them it gets hard to remember their specifics.

And now, with the growing possibility that he might end up unemployed some weeks hence, Walker and his legislative toadies are treating state law the way Keith Moon treated hotel rooms. Democracy Now! provides a succinct and nauseating summary of his recent policy achievements:

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker has privately signed a series of controversial bills aimed at curbing access to abortion and sex education. The first bill bans most abortion coverage under policies obtained through a health insurance exchange set to be created under the Obama administration’s healthcare reform law, allowing coverage only for rape, incest or medical necessity. A second bill requires every woman seeking an abortion to meet privately with a doctor and undergo an exam before the procedure so the doctor can ensure she is not being pressured. Doctors who violate the law could be charged with a felony. A third bill requires teachers in schools that offer sex education to stress abstinence and says they no longer need to address contraception. Wisconsin’s current law requires some instruction on birth control options. Walker signed the bills Thursday, but did not announce the move until the next day on Good Friday, when his office released a list of about 50 bills he had recently signed… Among the other bills Walker signed was a repeal of the state’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act, which gave women and other marginalized groups more power to fight wage discrimination.

All part of what Ben Sparks would call “Governor Walker’s bold record of moving Wisconsin forward.” Although Sparks never did specify the final destination Walker has in mind, its outlines get clearer all the time. Continue reading Take Five (Civilitas Successit Barbarum edition)