Sunday, January 29, 2012

Walker Haunted By The Ghost of Frank Wills

Courthouse security was not what it should have been when Scott Walker was pretending to be Milwaukee County Executive and in deep in the throes of his mad clawing to become Wisconsin's first Koch-bought governor. In one of the many actions found to be illegal under his grandstanding, worthless term, in early 2010, Walker declared an "emergency" and laid-off the fine County employees who man-ed and woman-ed the entrances to the Courthouse in favor of low-paid rent-a-cops from Wackenhut, the executives of which were -- naturally -- political contributors. 

I mourned the loss of the familiar faces that greeted me at the doors of the Courthouse every morning when it happened.  In short order, the head of the Wackenhut Courthouse effort was found to have a bunch of criminal convictions and had to be replaced. And, in January 2011, an arbitrator ruled, not suprisingly, that Walker's privatization stunt was illegal and ordered the County employees reinstated, with back pay.  By then Walker had escaped to the Capitol in Madison, far from where he would be held accountable and from where anyone could ask how he could defend his costly made-for-campaign pose.

At the time, the failed effort to farm-out the security of the courthouse seemed like just another attack on public employees, something we have now come to expect from the most anti-middle class governor in Wisconsin history.  But – maybe something else was afoot.  Perhaps the turning over of courthouse security to near-minimum wage, part-time amateurs was designed to deliberately make the courthouse less secure, so that, when the Walker campaign IT people were let in in the middle of the night to install the separate server and wireless, they would be less likely to be discovered monkeying around in the County Executive suite.

Or not -- this theory may be giving Walker too much credit for devious design. I think the security detail clears out of the courthouse after 5 p.m. anyway, although you’d think maybe at least one person works the second and third shifts, checking doors and listening for odd noises in the night.  If so, what do you think the Milwaukee version of Frank Wills would think coming upon people with black bags, computer equipment and screwdrivers in Scott Walker’s office in the middle of the night?

Frank Wills, you’ll remember, is the security guard in the Watergate building who noticed tape on a door in the complex and eventually found the Nixon burglars cowering under desks in the DNC office, caught in the act of trying to bug Larry O’Brien’s phone.  It’s never been at all clear what the paranoid Nixon campaign thought it would learn by the wiretaps, but Frank Wills’ brave exercise in securitizing eventually resulted in the exposure of a criminal president and his removal from office one step ahead of certain impeachment and conviction.

Imagine what courthouse security would find, if they were touring the third floor on the night the hardware was installed.  No doubt, someone with real credentials would be there to shoo them away; Russell, Nardelli, Rindfleish – perhaps Walker himself.  You can almost see the stunned looks on the faces of the installers when faced with a real security guard in uniform.  “Just fixing some wires and stuff, nothing to see here,” they would claim while the security guard runs through the catalog of known county IT personnel in his head.  None of those folks look familiar.  Hmm...

Oh, stop, this ain’t Watergate, they’ll say.  Nixon was senselessly bugging the opposition; Walker was prophylactically debugging himself.  But, as always, it’s the cover-up that sinks the ship.  In Walker’s case, he was covering up ahead of time – trying to prevent the discovery of the full-time campaign operation being run from the County Executive’s office by outrageously creating an entirely separate IT infrastructure.  To pretend he didn’t know about the IT setup and intense campaign activity of his staff is ridiculous, especially considering his e-mail to (significantly) then-Director of Housing Russell. "We cannot afford another story like this one," he wrote to Russell.  No kidding.  As it turns out, he couldn't even afford that one story, once DA John Chisholm and his excellent staff started following the leads.

Walker’s entire time as County Executive had nothing to do with managing Milwaukee County and everything to do with his lifelong ambition to be the governor.  He would send up absurd budgets that were immediately rejected and redone by the grown-ups on the County Board.  He used his limited power to strike tough-guy poses, like the illegal security privatization scheme.  Nothing was done without both eyes on the governor’s race, whenever he got his chance.

Milwaukee's version of Frank Wills never got the chance to discover the dark-of-night hardware installation in the County Executive's suite.  Walker's undoing will be a combination of his own staff's lameness (Darlene Wink just had to post those comments on JSOnline, didn't she?), his and his campaign's arrogance that they could get away with such a thing as rigging a separate IT infrastructure and the quiet, patient competence of a DA following the trail.  No amount of lame excuse-making from the usual suspects will protect his sorry ass (Esenberg: "I continue to dislike dealing with this type as a criminal matter." Oh, Please.)  There is the now-more-likely recall, of course, but that is the least of Scott Walker's problems.  He may have to fight to try to stay out of jail.  Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Illusory Tenant Has Left The Building

Sad news from the blogosphere.  Just when we need him most, Tom Foley has headed off to gloriously greater climes, taking a good job in an exotic location and leaving the rest of us to fend for ourselves as the denizens of FitzWalkerStan kick and scratch and cheat to try to maintain their ungodly grip on Total Power. In a typically short, obtuse and self-effacing final post, he leaves us only with the glorious solo piano of Art Tatum playing "Over the Rainbow".  Which is where Foley is going, by the way.  I've seen pictures.

With all due respect to everybody else who is trying to make some sense and points with their various blogs out here, nobody holds a candle to Tom.  He is consistently brilliant, hilarious and right on-the-money.  A king of the short-form post, when he puts his mind and time to it, he can write a devastating long treatise on complicated legal subjects that entertain as well as destroy the pompous musings of a certain part-time law professor.

Speaking of Rick Esenberg, the latest winner of the Right-Wing Money Sweepstakes (his newly-minted "Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty", neither an "institute" nor much interested in law or liberty, is funded by the Bradley Foundation and other right-wing moneybags) tries to counter Foley's arguments by personally attacking him in his latest post.  The well-heeled Esenberg botches a snarky aside to Foley, writing nonsensically about a "law school graduate (and suspended lawyer)" without naming him, before lurching into yet another defense of the embarrassing middle-finger-to-ethics Justice Michael Gableman and how he didn't get the free legal services from Michael Best that he certainly got.  What are you going to believe, says Esenberg -- me, or your lying eyes?  Esenberg is obviously going to keep trotting out this line of apologist bullshit until somebody believes it.

Pointing out Foley's irrelevant state bar status is the kind of politics-of-personal-destruction diversion you expect from right-wingers who are losing the argument (which Esenberg always is).  The fact is that Tom -- who I have had the pleasure of showing around the Courthouse and could tell would have been a good lawyer if someone would have just hired him -- let his law license lapse when he realized he was moving on to better things.  The fact he isn't a current member of the bar doesn't affect his well-reasoned arguments on any subject one bit.  The fact Esenberg would resort to catty asides like this shows how weak he thinks his doomed position really is.

Tom Foley regularly had the goods on both Esenberg and Gableman -- not to mention Walker, the Fitzgeralds and everyone else making our lives miserable, locally and nationally.  I have encouraged him to use the wonders of what he called "the internets" to stay in touch with Wisconsin politics in this critical year and keep posting. Alas, he has declined, for now, not knowing the state of technology in his future slice of Paradise and figuring he'll be too busy working in the bright tropical sunshine.  But I hope he finds some time to share with us his unique and brilliant perspective.  Or at least drop us a line from time to time.

I'll miss his friendship and his bass and keyboard playing in my ad hoc semi-annual bands (we kicked ass on "Like a Rolling Stone" at Nod to Bob this year).  We'll all miss everything else -- his essential contribution to the Wisconsin conversation.  Terribly.