Thursday, November 08, 2012

An Even More Historic Victory

Barack Obama's election in 2008 was an obviously enormous event -- the first election of a person of color as president in the nation's history.  His message of Hope and Change after the 8-year nightmare of the worst president in U.S. history, Junior Bush -- whose damage to the country was starkly but only partly evident at the very end in the near-collapse of the financial system -- resonated with an exhausted public.  With an over-the-hill and over-his-head opponent in John McCain -- shown to be even worse by his irresponsible selection of the ridiculous Sarah Palin as his VP and his knee-jerk reaction to the financial crisis -- the stars aligned, destiny called and Obama answered.

But, as historic as 2008 was, Obama's stunning landslide reelection on Tuesday was even more so.  Never before has a sitting president -- or any candidate -- been subject to the kind of personal and political abuse channeled through more radical-right media outlets for four whole years.  No candidate has been bombarded with literally unlimited spending by selfish billionaires and dirty industries, all intended to fool people into voting against their interests.  Never has the mainstream media been more complicit in validating, excusing and distributing Republican lies. Not since Jim Crow laws in the South has there been such a systematic attack on the voting rights of American citizens by highly-organized Republican legislatures, designed only to suppress the votes of traditionally Democratic constituencies.

Bill Clinton managed to survive the first draft of the new-age Politics of Personal Destruction, supported every hour of every day by right-wing talk radio, then in its relative infancy.  The journalistic fraud known as Fox News did not exist until after Clinton's reelection in 1996, just in time for Newt Gingrich's House to make a historical fool of themselves with the partisan impeachment fiasco.  The new right-wing media found its footing playing defense during the dark Junior Bush years, with the added dynamic of pretend "independent" expenditures rearing their ugly heads, with phony front "groups" like the Swiftboaters carrying the Bush campaign's dirty water to save his ass from losing to American hero John Kerry in 2004.

But the radical right wing really had it all together and smooth, setting themselves up to (they thought) trounce Obama out on his offensively-drawn (by racist nut-right cartoonist Michael Ramirez -- a regular in the post-Doonesbury Journal Sentinel -- and others) big ears in 2012.  There was no doubt about this one.  Obama's supposed European socialist "regime" would be rejected in a landslide, and the entire structure of Fox News and talk radio was designed to affect just that result, with a script drafted by Karl Rove and the Republican National Committee.  Especially after the Fox-hyped FreedomWorks-funded astroturf tea party took credit for swinging the House Republican in 2010, the biggest anti-Democrat machine in history was ready to roll right over Barack Obama.

Consider the elements of the unprecedented Republican advantage:

Fox News: Never before has an entire television network -- laughingly declaring itself a "news" network in the first place, and "fair and balanced" to boot -- been committed to the defeat of one man and the promotion of one political party. For five years (the smearing of Obama began the day he announced his candidacy in 2007), the president was mocked, dehumanized, marginalized and criticized -- on both opinion and "news" programs (believe it or not, Fox insists there's a difference).  The pro-GOP/anti-Obama campaign really picked up steam after the hapless Mitt Romney made it through the hilarious Republican primary process. Fox propped up Romney and nitpicked Obama every day in every way.  For all the rich pigs who tried to buy this election through supposedly "independent" SuperPACs, the swinish billionaire who had the biggest role trying to destroy Barack Obama was a foreigner: Australian Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News.

Talk Radio: The nation's free airwaves were filled for five years with all sorts of lies and smears of Obama, from the loudest national voices to the tinniest local pipsqueaks.  In Milwaukee, former respectable corporate citizen Journal Communications Inc. turned over most of its non-sports daytime programming on WTMJ to heavily subsidized Republican mouthpieces like Charlie Sykes and Jeff Wagner, who gladly read GOP talking-points day after day after day.  (The company also runs nut-right local radio talkers in at least seven other "markets" across the country). Across town, mega-station behemoth Clear Channel runs out no less than three local right-wing talkers everyday on WISN, including veteran sexist and racist Mark Belling, to promote anti-Obama GOP tripe.  The balance of their day is devoted to three national Republican spokesmen, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levine.  There has never been anything like the kind of poison spewed into the political environment by the 24/7 talk radio industry.

SuperPACs: Fox News and talk radio are essentially free messaging for the GOP.  But, after the Citizens United decision by the right-wing of the US Supreme Court, the rich and their polluting corporations were also free to buy the commercials between the free programming.  Over the past four years, the anonymous rich spent billions trying to defeat the president through all sorts of ads lying about the president's record and intentions. Again, no presidential candidate has ever had to endure this kind of onslaught, even if the Dems were able to at least get close to parity on the airwaves in the weeks leading up to the election.

Voter Suppression: Republican legislatures and governors in various states have been on a tear the last two years, enacting Photo ID and other voter suppression laws that have been designed only to prevent vast  numbers of poor and minority voters from being able to cast a ballot.  Some of the laws, such as in Wisconsin, are held up for now by courts that have bravely upheld the Constitution's right to vote, unencumbered by unnecessary red tape.  But others are in place and are having just the effect for which they were intended -- although brave souls stood in long early-voting lines and went to court in Florida to stand up for their rights over the brutally anti-democratic machinations of Gov. Rick Scott.

Local Newspapers: The creeping demise of the local newspaper industry continues to facilitate the deterioration of the national discourse.  Some papers have ceased physical publication altogether, while most that continue to publish dead-tree editions are shadows of their former selves.  Locally, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel brags about Pulitzers won on mostly irrelevant topics while having its news, editorial board and opinion pages hijacked by a right-wing Republican think tank (The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute).  The paper played Romney's selection of radical right-wing congressman Paul Ryan as some kind of home-boy-does-good story, ignoring the damage his ascension would cause to the country.  In the last week of the campaign, the paper that endorsed the radical Scott Walker for governor -- twice -- announced that they would not make an endorsement in the presidential race.  They most likely did so because, in a series of candidates-and-the-issues columns, they mostly favored Obama's policies; but, being the right-wing shills they now are, would have surely endorsed Romney; and they could not stomach even their own hypocrisy if that happened.

And so the fates and stars aligned against Barack Obama like no other presidential candidate before.  Nobody had ever faced that kind of fierce, committed, coordinated, supposedly overwhelming opposition.  His victory this week is all the more incredible for that -- a truly historic event.

But, although he ran a great, well-funded campaign, the credit does not all go to Obama and his excellent team.  The credit really goes to the American people, who somehow saw through all the bullshit and did the right thing.  As a liberal and a progressive, it was easy for me.  But for many, it wasn't.  And they made the difference.  President Obama made history by winning reelection against unprecedented opposition. But it is those of us who voted for him who really made history, rejecting the campaign of Fear and Division, and voting again for Real Hope and Real Change.  Again.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Fox "News" and The Big Lie of Benghazi

Ever since the day he was elected in 2008, the Republicans and their various pliant, script-reading sycophants in the right-wing media have promoted an unprecedented stream of falsehoods and phony premises to try to prevent the reelection Barack Obama that, it appears, might occur on Tuesday.

For four years, they have set up straw men, lied, smeared, belittled, dehumanized and delegitimized the president -- or at least tried to. Although they managed to chip away slightly at Obama's well-earned stature and accomplishments in the face of the Historic Mess Junior Bush irresponsibly left for him to clean up, the frustrated Grand Boobahs of the Right will find themselves in the same place they did in 1996 after trying to pull the same shit on Bill Clinton -- on the outside, looking in to a White House controlled by Democrats for another four years, who will protect the country from their Evil Designs by fighting against their agenda and for their own every step of the way.

The Republicans have an increasingly sophisticated method to get even their most putrid, offensive anti-Obama messages into the mainstream of political discourse while maintaining what they think is a plausible deniability.  For instance, no self-respecting member of the GOP establishment would get within 100 yards of a drooling birther ranting in the public square or Fox News about Obama's birth certificate. And yet, you can bet the Dark Hand of Karl Rove or some other oily operative could be found, if only someone would look, slipping 10s and 20s into the dirty mitts of Orly Taitz to fund her demonstrably frivolous lawsuits.  Mitt Romney doesn't have to skip around the country calling President Obama a European socialist -- he's got hoards of talk radio stooges who do it for him every day.

And Mitt Romney doesn't have to spend any time trying to make the tragedy in Benghazi on 9/11/12 into some kind of political liability for the president.  He's got a fake news network that is more than willing to do it for him, 24 hours a day, for two months.

In the third debate, Romeny took the advice of his advisers to, well, not debate.  He rolled over and agreed with the president on numerous foreign policy issues, from Iraq to Afghanistan. Moderator Bob Schieffer set it up the Benghazi "issue" on a tee for him the first question of the debate -- and Romney passed, ignoring the question and rambling about "rejecting this kind of extremism" and other such blather.  Jaws dropped across the country as the astro-turfers in the tea party did spit takes in disgust because the guy they reluctantly hired to finish off Obama refused to take the bait.

But Romney knew what he was doing.  He didn't "go after" the president on Benghazi not for the right reason -- because there was nothing to "go after" him about -- but for the wrong reason: because he knew his surrogates on Fox News, talk radio and the other well-paid right-wing mouthpieces were going to do his dirty work for him.  He didn't say anything because he didn't have to.

And Fox News did not disappoint.  It's one thing for the Fox "opinion" show hosts like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity to dutifully read their Rovian talking points like the obedient servants they are.  But, last I heard Fox was insistent that its "news" shows -- hosted by fake "journalists" like Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and the like -- are to be taken seriously as "fair and balanced" news.  Serious viewers laughed that one off years ago (Kelly, who I watch at noon almost every day, leads every show with "new questions" that have arisen about some Obama action or other, real and imagined).  "Fox" is to "News" as "military" is to "music". One has nothing to do with the other.

But the entire network -- especially the fake news shows -- have gone way beyond what they have done in the past to support the Republican cause.  Literally every show on the network has led with some kind of feigned "outrage" about the Benghazi tragedy every day for the past two months, throwing out code words like "cover-up" and "Watergate" like they were candy from a Mardi Gras float.  It has not been a running news story; it has been a campaign, uninterrupted  even for Hurricane Sandy. When Fox talking heads were not breathlessly bleating Benghazi hysteria, they were bloviating about how the mainstream media was not following their lead, thereby engaging in an enormous pro-Obama cover-up of their own.  The network's fake news programs have promoted phony memes in the past, but, in terms of feigned passion and commitment to the "story" over all platforms, this is a new level of alternate-fact-universe creation, even for Fox.

This is especially the case since there is no there there. In recent days, real news reports have emerged, describing in detail the events of the Benghazi tragedy, including timelines provided by the military, the CIA and the White House.   None of it leads any credence and in fact puts the lie to the various fictitious versions of the events developed by Fox and its always-undisclosed "sources".  Saddest of all was the exploitation of (and by) the father of one of the murdered CIA agents, Tyrone Woods, who pitifully did the talk-radio/Fox News circuit in the past weeks, complaining about insincere and limp-handshake condolences offered by Obama and Secretary of State Clinton at a private meeting (nobody who knows Obama or Clinton would believe such a farcical version of their ability to express sympathy) and asking for "answers" about what happened to his son.  When the Fox host would helpfully offer him a chance to take a direct hit at the president, Charlie Woods said, oh no no no, he didn't want to politicize his grief.  Yet, that was just what he was doing.

And Fox News hasn't stopped. Yesterday on his Sunday show, Chris Wallace -- about as close as Fox News gets to a real journalist, which means "not close" -- started with interview with Obama campaign chief David Axelrod by grilling him on Benghazi for five minutes.  It continues today -- whenever the idiots on Fox and Friends took a break from their phony Romney optimism, they would lurch into some kind of Benghazi rant or other.

The naked politicization of national tragedy has been the GOP's stock-in-trade since before 9/11/01, which Junior Bush and Cheney used to drive the Stupid War in Iraq, the Patriot Act, and all manner of insane power-grabbing by that despicable regime. The same people are driving this last desperate attempt by the Romney campaign to turn around their doomed prospects.  It's way past time to resign these bastards to the dustbin of history where they belong.




Saturday, November 03, 2012

Biden Rocks; America Wins

You know, it's not like I haven't tried to get this thing going again.  For instance, here is a piece of an abandoned post back in September:

"You say I got no feelings
This is a good way to deal with it."
                            -- "Lipstick Vogue", Elvis Costello 
I had this big plan to get back in the saddle and ride this thing [the blog, that is] in the run-up to the November elections.  I was going to the Elvis Costello show at the lakefront last Saturday [Sept 15th] anyway and thought I would work out some of the writing kinks from this blog's summer-long dormancy (but what a summer it was...) by doing a review of one of my all-time favorite artists in Milwaukee in a brand-new venue on a spectacular late-summer night.
But then, the unexpected happened. Elvis Costello and the Imposters came out and laid an egg.  He mailed it in.  Rushed and indifferent, it was as if he couldn't get off the stage and out of town fast enough.  Indeed, an off night with Costello -- like Springsteen, with his non-E Street Band on Election Night 1992, but not as bad -- is better than anyone else at their best, but, still. This is the guy, after all, who played Milwaukee with only keyboardist extraordinaire Steve Nieve 10 or so years ago and came out for four encores, including a brilliant acepella off-the-mic version of "Couldn't Call It Unexpected No. 4" that is still reverberating off the walls of the Riverside. That was an engaged, dynamic evening of some of the best songs ever written.  
This one had some of the same songs, but none of the magic. It's as if he looked out at the half-empty seats of the instant white-elephant BMO Harris Pavilion (hard to tell what non-Summerfest acts they thought they could fill that with on a regular basis) and decided to, I don't know, do those things that rock stars do when they've landed in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It seemed like the bus was already warmed up and ready to go as the show started, running through 4 of his best known songs in the first 10 minutes...
By the time I wrote this, I was leading up to the fact that President Obama filled the venue exactly one week later. So I guess there might be some use for that place after all...

See? Aren't you sorry you missed all this great writing?

I do somewhat regret not putting my (literally) two cents in this year on important post-recall issues like, for instance, the Republican presidential primaries.   Sometimes I think that particular conglomeration of losers existed only for my personal entertainment; whether it was Michelle Bachmann peculiar form of alien channeling, Rick Santorum's whiny hysterics, Newt Gingrich's snootily, elitist, why-are-you-so-stupid assuredness, etc.  It was an occasionally amusing clown show, unless you considered how close one of them was to being the nominee of a major party.

Alas, we are not there, but here: 3 days before Election Day, with a rich, pampered elitist in magic underpants, Mitt Romney, trying to fool the American people into electing him.  And, just yesterday, I found myself in Beloit, helping the Obama campaign manage the press section gathered to hear Vice President Joe Biden at a middle school there.  An overflow crowd was treated to a great speech by Biden, who is one of the president's best assets.

Obama is blessed (if there is such a thing) with the valuable support of at least three extraordinarily talented veterans of a political generation almost -- but not quite -- past.  Each finding their niche, all have provided invaluable support for his steady governance, and, yes, his campaign.  His biggest star and the best hire by far is Hillary Clinton as the Secretary of State.  She has expertly helped him transition our nation away from the belligerence of the internationally-destructive Junior Bush era towards a more positive, productive foreign policy.  She has dealt with crisis with a steady hand, kicked ass where she had to, and put us on an even keel with a forgiving world.

Another veteran of the same kind of slash-and-burn politics that have been used against him every day of his presidency is, of course, Bill Clinton. The former president, already settling into his role as the best ex-president ever (his humanitarian efforts in Haiti and the Clinton Global Initiative, to name just a couple, while the still-embarrassing Junior Bush gives closed seminars to the rich about how to send their money offshore to the Cayman Islands), has become Obama's best campaign surrogate. His incredibly effective Democratic convention speech wasn't a surprise to anyone who saw him here in Milwaukee in the closing days of the ill-fated Walker recall election (see that picture over there).  Speaking without notes that day, Clinton did an incredible riff on the need for politicians to work together to solve problems, rather than the kind of drop-the-bomb strong-arm tactics of the Walker Republicans.  At the convention and since, Clinton has been the most effective spokesperson for the saner political world that will never occur with the current GOP.  But, if they ever come to their senses, we'll be there.

But Joe Biden may, in the long run, be more integral to the success of the Obama presidency than anyone else. He has been in the room during every significant decision, from health care to Osama, adding heft and a wealth of Washington experience to the mix.  In his debate with Wisconsin's favorite twerp Paul Ryan, he proved himself to be a strong and no-bullshit advocate for America in general and the Obama administration in particular. Unsafe, out of the talk-radio/Fox News cocoon, the clueless Ryan looked like he wanted to crawl back into the dark hole from whence he came.  And Biden put him there.

In Beloit, Biden gave the best political speech I've ever seen in person -- as effective as Clinton, but not as subtle.  Focusing on Milwaukee Mayor and recall hero Tom Barrett standing in the front row (who yelled at me for letting the blog go dormant; ergo, my fairly urgent effort to get something out today), Biden frequently started his points with "Tom, you know when governments work together..." and the like.  There were lots of jokes and anecdotes about his mother saying "Joey" this and "Joey" that (OK, maybe that was a bit much).  At his best, he took apart the Romney/Ryan lies about Jeeps in China and other ridiculous fantasies of the Far Right with humor, effectiveness and truth.

Dare I say -- it looks good as I hit the "publish" button on Saturday night. States like Ohio and Wisconsin are going to come through and send Romney back to his career, making millions raping and pillaging the vulnerable businesses he pretends to care about.  Hopefully, Obama and Biden will bring along a continued Democratic Senate and, if we are very lucky and if lightening strikes and we win the lottery, throw the House Republicans out on their sorry ears.  As Bill Maher said on his show last night, "If it's Obama, America wins. If it's Romney, comedy wins."  As much as I like to laugh, I'll take a victory for America any time.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Recall That Wasn't -- Part 1

There isn't a whole lot funny about the way the Recall campaign turned out, but one thing is the hilarious attempt by Scott Walker to strike a bipartisan, can't-we-all-get-along pose. Mr. Drop-the Bomb, Mr. Divide-and-Conquer, Mr. Bipartisanship-Is-Not-So-Good now wants you to believe he can pull people together to work for the good of the state.  The radical Republican party that once put out arrest warrants for its opponents somehow managed to get most of the multi-abused Democrats to show up at the governor's mansion on Tuesday to sip suds and chew brats.  Hey, no hard feelings, right?

Wrong, assholes. Walker and the Republicans remind me of the worst that prosecutors want to imagine about my domestic violence clients:  Historically abusive man [GOP] goes too far one night [dropping "bombs"; ignoring open meeting laws; moving votes in the middle of the night, etc.]. This compels his usually overly-patient partner [Democrats] to call the cops and have him arrested [recalled].  Man is released within hours and lawyers-up with the best representation money can buy [Michael Best, et al].  Although ordered to have no contact, a war of words escalates, with the man's family and friends loudly taking his side [talk radio, Fox "News", secretly-funded attack ads]. The character of the abused partner is disparaged (crazy bitch!) [crazy, dirty hippie protester; union thug] and clueless friends of the perp decide it's no big deal and wish it all away [Journal Sentinel].

But the DA thinks they have a case and proceed to trial [recall petitions produce recall elections].  On the day of trial, the victim fails to show up to avenge her injury [57% turn-out].  Relieved man, knowing he dodged a bullet, buys her flowers and takes her out to a nice dinner [beer, brats and bullshit], pronouncing how he's a Changed Man and That will never happen again.  Until it does, and worse [starting in January, if the Senate flips back].

Let's begin our postmortem of the recall efforts by proclaiming what nobody in what passes for a mainstream media in this state will admit: the flipping of the Senate to the Democrats, however brief, through two hard-fought recall cycles last year and this, is huge. The Democratic majority in the Senate for the remainder of this year will prevent any more bad shit that the radical Republicans had planned if they won all the recall races last week.  You just know, if that had happened, they would have called a special session, like, yesterday to jam more ALEC/Koch/Bradley-generated crap through their obedient caucuses. As it is, the petty, power-clutching Republicans won't even allow the Senate to convene to organize under the new leadership the Dems won last Tuesday.  In this poisonous, tyrannical environment, nothing coming out of the national-joke Wisconsin legislature for the remainder of this year is a very good thing.  As much as the increasingly right-wing Journal Sentinel likes to berate the recall process as "a waste of time and money", the Senate recalls have resulted (for now) in the end of unchecked Republican power in Madison.  Taking the Senate back through the recall process was not "a waste of time"; it was a monumental, historic and very useful accomplishment.

As for the Recall Walker effort, there are a lot of reasons it met with such disastrous results. Most of them, sad to say, lie right at the feet of the recall organizers and the Wisconsin Democratic Party.

There is only one question that should have been asked as the one-year anniversary of Walker's sad ascendance approached -- are we sure we are going to win this thing?  If the answer from the goddamn consultants (more about them later) was "we don't know" or anything less than a resounding YES, they had no business starting the process of circulating the petitions.  I'm guessing there was quite a conflict between the Wise Men in the DNC offices and the enraged cheeseheads here.  The national party showed from the beginning that they had no stomach for this fight; not because they won't fight, but because they could see this result coming, and probably advised the locals to skip it.

Perhaps spurred more by passion than reason (albeit very valid emotions and many very good reasons), the Wisconsinites surged ahead anyway.  It may well be that they had some polling way back then indicating high Walker negatives and a possible win.  But they should have been able to see the Citizens United fueled, talk-radio enabled, Journal Sentinel encouraged shitstorm coming.  And, if they didn't have a plan and a candidate that they knew would meet every challenge presented by a win-at-all-costs governor with no morals or scruples and access to more money than god, the state party leadership should have spiked it and focus on taking back the Senate -- which they accomplished anyway, almost as an afterthought and despite themselves.  That might not have stopped an independent movement to recall the most radical, destructive governor in Wisconsin history, but some damage to the party brand might have been avoided.

OK, so maybe the leadership figured they could not just leave all those people who took to the streets in Madison last year and the millions across the state that have felt the sting of the radical Republican agenda hanging.  Perhaps they felt they needed to follow through on the spontaneous outcry from February 2011 to try to recall Walker, win or lose.  Fine. Once in, though, the recall leaders and the party proved sadly inept.

There was an inkling of much they had their heads up their ass early.  I have been told by people who know these sorts of things that the party leadership went "on bended knee" to try to convince their preferred candidate to run against Walker.  Yes, it was a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin. No, it wasn't Russ Feingold.  Apparently, everyone's first choice to take back the governor's chair was...Herb Kohl.  Now, I love me some Herb Kohl.  He has represented progressive Wisconsin effectively for 24 years in Washington and is a sweetheart of a guy.  But, politically, he's done.  At 77, Kohl is hardly the vigorous candidate we would need to go against the Walker machine.  If he wanted to do us all a favor, Kohl would have just run again for his senate seats and spare the indignity of Wisconsin being represented by both rodeo clown Ron Johnson and, possibly and ominously, Eric Hovde.

The find-a-candidate miscalculations didn't stop there.  I was told back in December by one of the prime movers of the recall movement that the candidate would be -- no doubt about it -- Kathleen Falk.  I also like and respect what I know about Falk.  In fact, her campaign set up phone calls with various political bloggers back in January or so, and I had a very interesting conversation with her.  It turned out we had a lot in common as far as law schools, public-interest lawyering, etc.  Her fire-in-the-belly and enthusiasm for the mission to oust Walker was palpable and she turned out to be a much better candidate than I expected.

After that conversation with Falk, I held off on putting up a post titled "Tom Barrett for Governor" long before he got into the race.  At the time I was writing that post in my head (where so many posts go to die), the Falk campaign had just come out with its declaration that, if she won, she would veto any budget bill that did not have the re-institution of collective bargaining rights for public employees in it.  It was foolish for the unions to insist on that kind of promise and foolish for Falk to agree to it.  The promise fed right into the right-wing lie that the recall effort was all about the unions (which it wasn't) and made her look like a puppet (which she wasn't).

Eventually, Barrett jumped in and he and Falk actually waged a fairly positive campaign against each other while keeping the focus on the need to dump the radical Walker regime.  In the primary, Barrett beat Falk soundly -- even in Dane County -- the former rivals joined forces, and it was left to Barrett face Walker and try to save the state.  It was not to be, and I'm unaware of anyone claiming Falk would have done any better.  If anyone is saying that, they're crazy.

Barrett may have got thumped anyway and hindsight is 20/20, but there were many bad choices made by the goddamn consultants running the campaign after the primary that may have made a difference.

More about that in Part 2.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Panic In The Suites

There is panic in the suites of the Republican brain trust in suburban Washington DC that drives radical Republican governance throughout the nation.  Tomorrow, all of their devious lies and machinations are about to be put to the test by the people of Wisconsin, one vote at a time.

Although the forecast for Tuesday is for more beautiful late-spring Wisconsin weather, in the dark caverns of their twisted minds and souls, a storm of spontaneous Democracy has them battening-down the hatches and preparing for the worst. For them -- the filthy monied interests of pollution and profiteering -- the uncontrolled masses heading to the polls to consider turning their star flunky Scott Walker out of office is something they tried to stop. Failing that, since then they have tried to twist and manipulate the process by using their apparently unlimited resources to churn the issues into unrecognizable Walker-friendly mush. 

Using incredible amounts of money on fake "institutes" and media ads; the incredibly free, unlimited access to deliver their message-of-the-day on puppet talk radio; and the incredulous gullibility of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board to full effect, the powerful special interests that bought Scott Walker's services years ago have had their way with developing the "issues" and driving the debate throughout the recall process.  And yet, their Boy Governor remains in a margin-of-error tie with Tom Barrett in the last major poll of the campaign. And the voters of Wisconsin will have the audacity tomorrow to take it all away from them.

It's not like they didn't try to make it harder for the Average Joe and Josephine to do just that.  One of the first things on the agenda for the radical Republicans once they took over all wings of the Capitol was to engage in that ultimate exercise in voter suppression -- requiring photo ID and other hoop-jumping at the polls.  This is the standard anti-democracy tool in the Republican playbook throughout the country, vote-blocking Democratic constituencies like minorities, the poor and the elderly who might have the temerity to try to affect their conditions through the ballot box.  Unfortunately for the GOP in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Constitution protects the unfettered right to vote perhaps better than any state constitution in the country. At least until the issue gets up to the state Supreme Court -- currently controlled by a radical Republican majority -- the most vulnerable among us won't have to scramble to attain acceptable credentials to vote in the polling places they have frequented without hassles for years.

And it's not like they are not going to try some intimidating monkey business on election day.  Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is sending out assistant AGs and special agents of his Justice Department to Democratic strongholds on election day in a blatant attempt to intimidate voters. Along with hundreds of other "observers" from silk-stocking law firms like Michael Best and others, who knows what kind of tricks the Republicans have up their sleeves to make Election Day more complicated for certain voters than it should be.  The Democrats will have their Election Protection Team in place throughout the state (alas, although I've enjoyed the privilege of serving on the Team in the last several election cycles, other duty calls in the Courthouse this week), and we should know by early Tuesday what the GOP has up its dirty sleeve. 

The bottom line is we want everyone eligible to vote.  They don't. We protect the vote. They try to suppress it.  The participation of an informed and engaged electorate is the greatest threat to Republican rule -- especially the ruthless, uncompromising, divide-and-conquer variety practiced by Walker and his ilk in Madison.

As a trial lawyer, the most excruciating moments are when the trial is over, the closing arguments have been made and the jury goes into its protected space to deliberate.  Second thoughts about strategy, evidence and arguments are inevitable and irrelevant as the jury conducts its deliberations in secret and on their own terms.  Confidence about what it should do turns to fear of what it might.  A client's fate out of our hands and in those of 12 honest-and-true jurors. So it is for the Republicans who, for the first time since Walker and the radical Republicans took the Capitol in 2011, will lose all control over what happens next.  They justly fear the average Wisconsin citizen in the private space of a voting booth, his/her pen poised over the candidates names, connecting an arrow or filling in a circle, voting to take the state back.

In the end, it galls Walker's Republican overlords in Washington that they have to deal with the unwashed masses at all.  That their power attains only in the consent of the governed drives them crazy.  They never wanted this vote to happen and, despite their false confidence, they don't know how it's going to end.  They don't welcome -- they fear the people's judgement.

Let's do everyone a favor and make their wildest nightmares come true. 
 

Saturday, June 02, 2012

If We Knew Then What We Know Now

A proposed script for a last-day, last-minute Barrett spot.  All rights released to anyone who wants to use it.

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WHITE WORDS OVER BLACK SCREEN

"If we knew then...

"...what we know now..."

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FOOTAGE OF WALKER DURING 2010 CAMPAIGN SAYING HOW WE WANTS TO BRING THE STATE TOGETHER, BLAH BLAH BLAH

FADE TO FOOTAGE OF WALKER AND HENDRICKS...

"We are going to divide and conquer."

NEWS FOOTAGE ABOUT DETAILS OF "BUDGET REPAIR" BILL DECIMATING COLLECTIVE BARGAINING RIGHTS FOR PUBLIC EMPLOYEES

FOOTAGE OF PEACEFUL PROTESTS IN MADISON

FOOTAGE OF WALKER ON A PHONE; Soundtrack of Walker talking to fake-Koch brother...

"Drop the bomb..."

MORE FOOTAGE OF THOUSANDS IN THE STREETS IN PEACEFUL PROTEST

FOOTAGE OF "CONFERENCE COMMITTEE" "MEETING", WITH REP. BARCA OBJECTING

FOOTAGE OF THE PEACEFUL OCCUPATION OF THE CAPITOL

FOOTAGE OF WALKER TESTIFYING IN WASHINGTON...

"Sometimes bipartisanship is not so good."

NEWS FOOTAGE ABOUT PROSSER ATTACK ON JUSTICE BRADLEY DURING DISCUSSION OF ACT 10

NEWS FOOTAGE OF SUPREME COURT UPHOLDING ACT 10

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SUDDEN BLACK SCREEN.  SILENCE

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NEWS FOOTAGE OF DEMS TAKING TWO SENATE SEATS IN SPRING 2011 RECALLS

NEWS FOOTAGE OF SEN. SCHULTZ STOPPING BAD MINING BILL DUE TO NARROWED MARGIN IN SENATE

NEWS FOOTAGE OF PEOPLE SMILING WHILE DELIVERING BOXES OF PETITIONS FOR WALKER'S RECALL TO THE GAB

NEWS FOOTAGE OF WALKER AIDES CHARGED WITH FELONIES

DEBATE FOOTAGE OF BARRETT STATING THAT WALKER IS ONLY INTERESTED IN DIVIDING AND CONQUERING...AND HE WILL BRING THE STATE TOGETHER

FOOTAGE OF PRES. CLINTON SAYING THAT COOPERATION WORKS IN MOVING ECONOMIES FORWARD...SLAMMING WALKER FOR DIVIDE AND CONQUER...

FOOTAGE OF CLINTON SAYING HE WAS AGAINST THE RECALL IN CALIFORNIA, BUT THIS ONE IS NECESSARY

BARRETT TO CAMERA, SUMMING UP IN A PLEA TO BRING OUR STATE BACK TOGETHER.

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END


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Walker's Blue Dress

For all the robotic message discipline he displays whenever his handlers allow him to be exposed to outside air, Scott Walker is actually a fairly chatty guy.

Put him in front of news cameras at a press conference or a public event, and his bland, stilted recitation of the talking points driven into his head can put you to sleep.  But, get him in a room or on the phone with the billionaires he was bought and elected to serve, and he spouts jargon like an excited young pup who can't wait to show them how well he can be a Good Boy, panting and anxious to execute the Grand Plan of his masters.

Democrats have always been at a strategic disadvantage because they tend to do their planning and thinking in open forums, from the bottom-up, with many people and interests in the room, hammering out consensus solutions to government and/or political problems.  On the rare occasion they might try to maintain a little control with Wise Men in a smaller group, they leak like a sieve.

Republican office-holders in the Gingrich/Junior Bush era, on the other hand, take their direction from an Unseen Hand in a nondescript headquarters in Northern Virginia or some place like that, where Karl Rove or a reasonable putrid facsimile issues edicts on strategy and talking points to elected puppets like Walker and lock-step messengers on talk radio, Fox News and the Wall Street Journal.  You are never able to see the bugs and vermin under the GOP rock, as they scheme and plot to fool voters into electing stooges that are willing to enact the bad legislation that allows their corporate bankrollers to continue to pollute, rape and otherwise exploit the unregulated weaknesses of American capitalism.  One of the enormous frustrations with the radical Republican jihad in Wisconsin is that, other than ALEC, you can't tell exactly where they are getting all these bad ideas and who is writing the script.  You just know its not from anyone in Wisconsin.

While the Unseen Hand is never exposed, it can't always control the weak politicians who are hired to carry its water.  So it is with Scott Walker, who has been caught at least twice now with his guard down and his pants around his ankles at the service of the Grand Plan.  Last year, as a result of a brilliant piece of guerrilla journalism, he was caught telling the truth to someone he thought was one of his principal owners, fake philanthropist and real polluter David Koch, talking about how he was going to "drop the bomb" on the State of Wisconsin with his radical disembowelment of public employee unions.  For all he knew at the time, the Koch impostor was just another of the many vested interests looking for a piece of the action -- Walker probably gave the same "feels like Reagan, thanks a million" spiel to a dozen of his wealthy benefactors calling in for the face or phone time with the governor they thought they bought with their enormous contributions to Walker's official campaign or, more significantly, to the off-the-books "groups" that are really the center of the post-Citizens United universe.

Around the same time, Walker was tooling around Wisconsin, sucking up to more local bankrollers like Diane Hendricks. Once again, gone is the reserved, searching-for-the-notes-in-his-head dweeb who appears sparingly in public with a script and a weak smarmy smile on his face.  The Real Walker is a chattering font of verve, excited to discuss his secret designs in what he thinks is the usual safe cocoon provided for him by the likes of Hendricks.

Apparently, though, neither he or Hendricks were bright enough to realize the implications of the camera sitting there, ten feet from their faces, as she greets him at the door.  "Just so you know, nothing I do is going to see the light of day for over another year," film-maker and sudden hero Brad Lichtenstein says. "OK, that's fine," says the clueless Walker before he answers the overheated Hendricks' questions about making Wisconsin a "right-to-work" state by saying that the bomb he was about to drop on public employees was only a "first step", and that he expected to follow the lead of Indiana's Mitch Daniels, who eliminated public employee collective bargaining by fiat before signing a "right-to-work" bill soon thereafter.

As news of the video reached the secret bunker of the Republican Unseen Hand, you could almost hear the Hand slapping his forehead at the idiocy of Walker and Hendricks discussing such things in front of a camera they did not own.  "We train and train and train these people..." he mutters into his scotch as he sends out damage-control talking points to Walker's handlers and the fellow travelers on talk radio.

There is no doubt that Walker and the Republicans were planning on following up the destruction of public employee unions with the "right-to-work" dagger to the heart of all unions.  The bomb dropped on public employees had nothing to do with budget-balancing (the health care and pension contributions could have been imposed by simply taking those items out of those subject to bargaining, leaving the rest in place) and everything to do with destroying all unions and (more importantly) their political influence.

But, when Walker and Hendricks engaged in their happy talk, they could not have imagined the shitstorm that the radical Republican attack on public employees caused -- not only with the employees, but will the majority of state residents.  Given that, they could not now brag about how the private-employer unions are next, since they needed to use them as a wedge -- to "divide and conquer" the union movement, here and throughout the country.

No matter what happens, it seems, you still have idiot, short-sighted local unions like the Milwaukee Police and Firefighters, who are willing to throw their union brothers and sisters under the bus for their own selfish ends. And like this clown (towards the end of the story), Terry McGowan, the business manager of Operating Engineers Local 139, who, when faced with Walker's lies, "was troubled by the footage of Walker with Hendricks, but that he was continuing to take Walker at his word given his public statements and conversations he has had with him." At this point, any union or union member supporting Walker and not actively working to recall him are worse than scabs crossing a picket line.

During the ludicrous effort of another group of radical Republicans to impeach Bill Clinton, there was some, er, material found on a blue dress that ended any question of what had happened in the White House between Clinton and an intern.  The footage of Walker and Hendricks is Walker's blue dress, where the result of his on-his-knees behavior with those who would destroy labor unions and other  institutions integral to American greatness cannot be denied.  The only difference is that Clinton 'fessed up, and Walker continues to deny what the stain on his blue dress means.