Walker's "update" doesn't add up

30 Dec. 2011

Thanks for the E-update and the confirmation that you do, in fact, acknowledge that I exist! While I recognize that this went out to everyone who "contacted Governor Walker’s office directly at some point during 2011," I accept it as the long-awaited recognition that you do, indeed, have my email address. It's a start!

I wanted to let you know right away, though, that I won't be sending you the gift cards you requested, as there are a number of errors (or "lies" depending on how you look at it) in your message. I know you're in California right now (gotta raise those recall election funds somewhere, eh?!) and probably have no idea what the message "you" sent even says, but I think you're going to want to send out a revised or redacted version very soon. Because you wouldn't want people to think you're an idiot. Or a liar. 

First of all, you claim in your letter that you have lowered the school portion of the property tax levy by one percent across the state, putting $228 million "back in the pockets" of Wisconsin taxpayers, which you claim "amounts to $69 for every man, woman and child in the state" just for the school portion of the tax bill.  What kind of fuzzy math is this?  Every man, woman and child?  Given the current population of Wisconsin, a $228 million difference would amount to about $40 per person, not $69. The 2010 census puts the population of Wisconsin at 5,686,986. Multiply this by $69 and you get $392,402,034 (not the $228 million you claim you put back in our pockets).  As my Dad asked, where's the other $164,402,034? In your pocket? 

This question is rhetorical, of course, because these figures - like my question - are a joke. It just doesn't add up. According to data from the Wisconsin Taxpayers' Alliance, Wisconsin taxpayers actually saw an increase in the tax rate ($9.84 this year, compared to $9.76) despite an overall decrease in the tax levy. In 2010-11, the school district levies statewide totaled $4,692,935,468.  In 2011-12, the total is $4,645,873,099. That's a .98 percent decrease, true: a difference of $47,062,369.  Where you got the figure of $228 million is a mystery only the person who actually writes your emails can solve.

So let's do the real math. If we divide that $47,062,369 by the 5,686,986 Wisconsin men, women and children whose pockets you care so much about, each of them saves $8.28 compared to last year. Not the $69 you claim.  (Not that even $69 a year would do anything to compensate for how much less I now take home in my paycheck, incidentally).

Eight dollars and twenty-eight cents.  That's my "savings."  That's how much I get for going along with the union busting, the demoralizing and demonizing of our hard-working teachers, the $1.6 billion in cuts to public education (on top of the fortunately miniscule reductions in local levy spending). Eight dollars and twenty-eight cents.  For my family of four, that's about $33. All of which and more, I'm sure, will be spent in the additional contributions I'll be expected to make next year to cover the things my kids' school already can't afford - like tissues and markers and notebooks and rulers and cleaning supplies and backpacks for low-income kids and dry erase markers and the little notes I have to write to teachers to remind them that not everyone really thinks they're worthless.  I expect all of this to add up to significantly more than thirty-three dollars.

Further, you don't explain how it is that we should give you, personally, credit for this, even if it were true.  How, exactly, did you put this money in our pockets? Was it by gutting public ed to the tune of $1.6 billion or by stripping teachers of their collective bargaining rights? I thought you said there was no fiscal component to that, and therefore the collective bargaining bill was sneaked in sideways outside of the budget.  Something doesn't add up here, either. Either that was a lie or you're trying to take credit for something that has nothing to do with you, neither of which are very rosy alternatives.

And for what it's worth, my own property taxes did not go down. They went up, and significantly so, due in no small part to the handiwork of our conservative City Council and Mayor John Murray (you know, the guy with no justice experience that you just appointed to be head of the Office of Justice Assistance for close to $100,000 a year?).  And our school tax levy only changed by a few cents, even though citizens had turned out in force at the annual School Board Budget Meeting and voted to raise it more to safeguard against your cuts that would force us to drop some much-needed programming.

So you might want to let people know that they aren't actually saving $69 each this year (where did you even get that number from, anyway? Did you just make it up out of thin air?). You might also not want to beg them to send you the gift cards you find such an incredibly touching gesture. I think a lot of people are still pretty mad about you not really creating any jobs and whatnot, so you kind of come off a little, um, absurd, with that request.  I'd cut that part out of the letter altogether if I were you. Because I don't think people are really in the mood to send you gift cards at the moment.

Thank you for the wishes of a happy new year.  I have very high hopes for 2012 and wish you all the best, too, in finding your new job.

Sincerely (by which I mean I sincerely cannot wait to see you recalled),
Heather DuBois Bourenane
Sun Prairie

Date: Friday, December 30, 2011 11:05:40 AM GMT-0600
Subject: E-Update from the Desk of Governor Scott Walker

E-update from the Desk of Governor Scott Walker
One of the most important duties I have serving as your Governor is to provide you directly with updates related to the operation of our state government.  In an effort to improve communication, periodically I will be sending out an e-update to provide you with more information about what is going on in state government.  Please feel free to share with this update with your family, friends and others who may be interested in state government operations.

Protecting Property Taxpayers

Throughout December homeowners received their property tax bills.  The average property tax owner saw their tax bill stay the same or decrease for the first time in years. 

Just last week I received a special letter from a Fox Valley area family.  They said they were very thankful for our reforms, and they actually enclosed a gift card for the amount their family saved on property taxes this year.  Gestures like this mean the world to me.  Everything we’ve done is to lay the groundwork for a better future for the next generation, which is why I’ll be donating the cards to various charities throughout Wisconsin.

The school portion of the property tax levy was down one percent across the state.  It’s important to point out that school tax levies increased on average $162 million a year—each of the last five years.  By comparison, this year we put $228 million back into the pockets of property taxpayers in this area alone.  That amounts to $69 for every man, woman and child in the state. 

Reforms and Results

Earlier this year long-term, structural changes were made to fill in Wisconsin’s $3.6 billion budget deficit and help local units of governments balance their budget without increasing taxes. 

Simple changes have saved taxpayers millions, such as allowing local units of government and school districts to take competitive bids for public employee health insurance plans and reforming overtime rules. 

I created a website (www.reforms.wi.gov) to track examples of the savings realized from these reforms.  This website has video testimonials from local government officials talking about balancing their budgets, a breakdown of the savings in each county and a categorization of how these savings were achieved.

Reforms.wi.gov goes beyond simply listing the savings from having public employee’s to pay a little bit more toward their pension and toward their health insurance premiums (which is still well below what federal government employees pay and well below the average Wisconsin citizen).  This website also shares examples of how the reforms have actually improved government services. 

I encourage you to visit this website, to learn about the savings realized in your county.


Weekly Radio Address

One of the other ways I communicate each week is by partnering with the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association to produce and distribute a brief radio address once a week.  The audio files of these radio addresses may be accessed on http://www.wi-broadcasters.org and http://walker.wi.gov/section.asp?linkid=1761&locid=177

Previous topics of the radio address include, but are not limited to SeniorCare, encouraging educator effectiveness, property taxes, making government more efficient, and honoring Wisconsin’s veterans.

A new radio address is posted each week at 10 a.m. on Thursday.  I encourage you to check out the radio address website each week to learn more about your state government. 

From my family to yours: Happy New Year

As we close out 2011 my wife Tonette, and our two sons would like to wish you and your family a happy, safe, and prosperous New Year. 

It has been a pleasure communicating with you. It is an honor to serve as your Governor and represent the residents of Wisconsin.

Governor Scott Walker

You received this e-mail because you contacted Governor Walker’s office directly at some point during 2011.  If you wish to be removed from this e-update list please click here and put in the subject line unsubscribe.

How to Institutionalize Hate Speech: Part 2, An Open Letter to Chris Mertes

The Sun Prairie Recall Office, all aglow. Stop by and sign the petitions! 1571 Ivory Drive
In a recent editorial, Sun Prairie Star editor Chris Mertes makes a house-of-cards case for Democrats being responsible for the climate of political discourse, using a few examples of facebook pages and posts he doesn't like, and ignoring altogether actual incidents of local violence and hate speech (including the threatening call I myself received and he had reported in the Police Blotter column of The Star). He claimed he had no knowledge of any other incidents, which is, I suppose, possible, but if true, a very sobering reflection of the integrity of the hometown paper.  Jeff Simpson, who writes for Forward Lookout and Blogging Blue, took Mertes to task for this piece.  I very highly recommend it. You can read it here: "An Open Letter to Christopher Mertes."

I wrote my own letter to the editor, which he did not publish because it apparently exceeded the word limit on letters to the editor.  Interestingly, in his response to some resoundingly negative comments to the online post of that editorial, Mertes argues that allowing such comments is proof that he is open to alternative perspectives:
If we did not want other viewpoints to be aired, why would we have a website that allows commentary, albeit as misinformed and misguided as yours is, to be printed?
Misinformed? Misguided? Not exactly raising the bar on the sort of civil discourse he's appealing to in his editorial, is it? Note that the "you" he refers to here is Sun Prairie resident Barb Muse, a retired educator, grandmother and active recall volunteer who is as "informed" and "guided" a person as you may ever hope to meet. Insulting her in a public forum is hardly the display of decorum that encourages one to believe Mertes was sincere in his calls for civility.

I admit to having years ago cancelled my subscription, and I only occasionally follow the website. But The Star did not cover the local recall effort at all to my knowledge (beyond online publication of our two press releases) until this article came out on Dec. 21, 2011, less than three weeks before the end of the 60-day recall effort.  The article, by Rachel Wittrock, ironically makes clear that a priority concern for recall workers is to restore civility and a spirit of neighborly respect to the political climate that has vanished under the intolerant administration of Scott Walker.  The recall process began full-force on Nov. 15 and the Sun Prairie recall team has since collected about 7,000 signatures and its volunteers have been the subject of numerous other press engagements - including the Wisconsin State Journal, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, several local television and radio channels, and national outlets like The Ed Schultz Show (tv and radio) and The New Yorker magazine. News of the death threat I received got even broader coverage. We have regularly staffed two or more locations from 8am-8pm and held visible and publicized events throughout this time.  We have nearly 400 active volunteers - significantly more people, incidentally, than are "fans" of the The Star's facebook page. And yet The Star didn't find any of this newsworthy until late December.

I will repeat here the call I made in my own letter to Mr. Mertes: it's time for The Star to star inviting editorials from people with differing perspectives.  Not doing so damages the credibility of the paper and its value to a diverse community. And it actively promotes the very sort of discourse Mr. Mertes claims to oppose. We should expect nothing less from our local paper, and we shouldn't have to beg for it. If we want to promote civil dialogue, let's start by actually having one.

How to Institutionalize Hate Speech: Wisconsin Recall Edition

Senator Mark Miller with SPARC recall volunteers. Looks civil to me.
In Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, our hometown paper, The Star, is decidedly conservative, and while they did very kindly post our press releases online, coverage of the local recall effort has otherwise been limited to general discussion of the statewide recall effort in the form of a few demeaning editorials and a couple of angry letters from residents of nearby towns.  The paper did send a reporter to our office about a week ago to interview a few volunteers for an article on our efforts, but that article has not been printed yet. In my own interview with that reporter, I named several instances of harassment and intimidation to local recall workers, so I was surprised to see these facts ignored when I read the latest editorial online. In "Is hate speech being institutionalized?" , managing editor Chris Mertes takes on the topic of "hate speech" by refusing to acknowledge local recall violence and referring to a couple of anti-Walker facebook pages he doesn't like. He fails to mention that there have already been several calls on the Governor  to address the lack of civility being shown recall supporters - in the form of actual violence, threats of violence, harassment, and so on (including one from a Sun Prairie resident - me). While local legend and Mertes-Caller-Out Extraordinaire Eric Basile already soundly critiqued the editorial (see the article comments), I felt obliged to send my own letter, to add some balance by sharing some of the things we've seen at the local level in our recall efforts.  People tell me he's unlikely to publish the letter in the print edition, but maybe he'll surprise us. And who knows? Maybe he'll even take me up on my suggestion that he solicit more balance in the editorial department. It could happen. This world is ours for the changing, after all.

Letter to the editor. RE: "Is hate speech being institutionalized?"
I am a member of SPARC (Sun Prairie Action Resource Coalition), and also a United Wisconsin coordinator helping to organize the local recall movement here in Sun Prairie.  We have been collecting recall signatures here in town since November 15, and have been enormously impressed with the civility, respect and productive dialogue we've seen in the community. We thank all of the citizens of Sun Prairie for helping us collect signatures as peacefully and harmoniously as possible - we understand that this is a very charged political moment and many people have very strong feelings about what is happening in Wisconsin right now. We truly appreciate that our right to collect signatures and express our views has been respected by members of the community, and we also strive to be as respectful as possible of fellow citizens who disagree with our efforts.  To this effect, our group has been praised by the City Clerk, the Sun Prairie Police Department, the mayor, and the City Council president, all of whom expressed appreciation for our efforts to ensure that we collect signatures legally, transparently, and as amicably as possible. SPARC is about building community, and we believe that even in times of political turmoil we can still come together as friends and neighbors.

However, while the vast majority of responses we get are cordial and civil (mainly in the form of waves, honks, thumbs up and "thank yous!"), we have also had many instances of people expressing their displeasure with the recall effort.  While not all of these instances count as "hate speech," and people most certainly have the right to express their opinions about our work, we are regularly on the receiving end of negative comments and uncivil remarks. I have personally witnessed numerous instances of harassment, including the following: people shouting obscenities at recall workers from their cars; people giving the middle finger to signature collectors as they drive by; hate mail; threatening and hateful voicemail messages; harassing phone calls in the middle of the night; and threats of physical assault. We have had to call the police on more than one occasion. At a recent event, we even had a man drive by whose young son shouted at us, making obscene gestures, from the back seat while his father looked proudly on.  And while these instances are vastly outnumbered by the civil responses we see, they provide ample evidence that at the local level, it is people who stand in opposition to the recall movement - and not the local recall workers themselves - who have been openly demonstrating the sort of incivility Mr. Mertes bemoans in his disingenuous editorial.

I find it unconscionable that Mr. Mertes feels he can simply ignore the actual instances of political hate speech going on right here in Sun Prairie and yet still draw conclusions about the state of political affairs based on his selective reference to certain posts and facebook pages. For every anti-Walker page he mentions, there is a pro-Walker page that is equally malevolent. He brazenly ignores, for instance, several well-publicized facebook pages which actively collect personal information on recall workers and promote and encourage acts of violence against them, and which are even under police investigation.

Mr. Mertes asks if hate speech is being institutionalized, and I am ashamed and saddened to see that the answer to this question seems to be a resounding YES.  By blatantly ignoring local instances of the very sort of hate speech he claims to abhor, Mr. Mertes effectively condones that speech.  And as a Sun Prairie resident who has been a victim of that incivility, I find this to be shamefully irresponsible coverage of an issue that affects all of us, on both sides. We are neighbors. We are friends. Our children play together every day. Our voices deserve a place beside each other in the local paper.  If our shared goal is to avoid hate speech and come together for civil dialogue, then both sides should have equal time at the table. Perhaps now would be a good time for Mr. Mertes to solicit the occasional editorial from someone who does not share his views, so that we can get there faster.
Heather DuBois Bourenane 
                 Volunteers keep it civil (and fun) at the Sun Prairie Recall Office.    Are these grandmothers threatening our sense of security and civility? Or is there a more sinister subtext at work in editorials like the one posted in The Star this week?

How to Survive the Holidays Without Money Using Scott Walker's "Tools"

19 December 2011
Dear friends of justice and dissent,

As you know, I am an expert in surviving without money using Scott Walker's "tools," by which I mean I have survived so far and continue to live (without money) happily and functionally as he (allegedly) continues to "govern" this state.

However, with the holidays just around the corner, I thought perhaps we could use some new and more pointed tips on how to best survive the holidays under the Grinchish rule of Scott Kevin Walker.  Follow these tips, and I'm sure you'll get through the holidays just fine.

Whose house? "Our house."
  1. Tell your kids that Santa won't be coming this year because the elves couldn't produce enough gifts for everyone after layoffs, and having their wages and hours reduced, but maybe next year if the outsourcing plans go well, they'll get some nice gifts from South Pole Santa.
  2. Can't afford to travel home for the holidays? Send your greetings by mail, like this Wisconsin family (pictured) did.
  3. Feeling bad about not being able to contribute to the local economy?  Let local businesses know you support them by collecting signatures to recall Walker on the public sidewalk in front of their stores.
  4. Can't handle the insufferable politicking at your company Christmas party? Luckily for you, you don't have to lie this year to get out of it: just tell your boss you can't make it...because you'll be at your other job.
  5. Can't buy the kids those pricey toys at the top of their wish-lists?  So sorry to hear that. Having no money can't solve that one. But good luck with that talk about "the true meaning of Christmas being giving" etc.  Should go over really well.  Maybe a tour of the Capitol Nativity scene would help (don't forget to wear your RECALL WALKER gear, to be extra festive. And don't bring the whole family, unless you have four or fewer people in your family, because you're going to need a permit for that. So if you have a big family, you might want to split up in groups of 3 and pretend you don't know each other if the Capitol Police start eying you. Although spending Christmas in jail might be an easy out in the no-presents-under-the-tree department).
  6. Can't afford expensive tickets to The Nutcracker? Do something free, like tour the Holiday Fantasy in Lights display at Olin-Turville Park in Madison. Bonus: You can sign the recall petition on the way out if you haven't already!
  7. Can't throw the annual holiday party you're so famous for on your new budget? Have a virtual party instead! Or join mine: RECALL WALKER HOLIDAY PHOTO CONTEST. Cost to enter: $0. Cost to vote: $0. Seeing all the creative ways Wisconsinites are channeling their holiday spirit into recall action: priceless.
  8. Photo: Vin Vado
  9. Homemade goodies mean so much more than store-bought crap anyway: who wouldn't appreciate some  of these delicious cookies (at right)?
  10. Draw names so you only have to buy a gift for one person. I suggest a $30 limit, so you can get an autographed copy of Cut from Plain Cloth: The 2011 Wisconsin Workers' Protests.  Gender-neutral, collector's item...who wouldn't love it? (Note: that is not a rhetorical "who wouldn't love it?" It is direct request. This is at the top of my wish list.  If you all chip in...).
  11. Need a free and fast last-minute gift idea? Nothing could be more tasteful and practical than a set of his and her petitions to recall Walker and Kleefisch, hand-rolled and wrapped in an elegant ribbon. The gift that keeps on giving.

See? With a little thrifty thinking, your holidays can still be as holly and jolly as ever.  And just think how happy your New Year is going to be once Walker is recalled!

Happy Holidays!


Can't fool Santa
Grinches never win.

Leading (and Listening) by Example: A lesson for Scott Walker

11 December 2011
Dear Scott Walker,

You know what's sad? People asking me to share their stories because they know you won't read them, and they know you don't care. Nancy Colford of Green Bay shared this touching story (below) and I was asked to post it.  I'm happy to oblige, as I think it's absolutely crucial that stories like this are told.  The story of Nancy and her neighbor is the story of so many families in Wisconsin who are forced to live with less and less and less, despite their best and most beautiful efforts.

What bothers me is the circuitous way the story has to be told, and how it came to be that an angry, bloggy mom from Sun Prairie has to share this sort of information because you have proven, over the course of this year, that you refuse to listen, and have nothing to say, to the citizens of Wisconsin (unless of course, they're all ready on file as your supporters). And so people just stopped trying to talk to you. You are officially nothing more than an eavesdropper on the Wisconsin experience. We are talking around you, not to you. And that's what you get for not listening. Oh, and you're also getting recalled.  Which is a positive consequence, I guess, if a tragic one.

The lives you are destroying are the lives of people who matter, people who make a difference, people with integrity and humility and pride. People who can't be ignored. People who are not disposable. People who didn't ask for any of this. I don't know how you can live with that.

Heather DuBois Bourenane
Wisconsin taxpayer, dissident, courier, etc

Here is Nancy's heartbreaking letter. I hope it keeps you up at night:
My single parent neighbor lives like we all should. I have lived across the street from her for 21 years, and in the past year I have discovered many things about her that I never knew. She and her 13 year old son go to several area nursing homes several times a year to play piano and sing to the residents. They don't go with a group. They go because since they are able to, they feel they should. They work monthly at a soup kitchen or a food pantry ... not because someone organized it and asked them. They go around asking who needs help because they feel they should. She has taken her son with her to canvass politically years before I knew such a thing existed. They only do it in nice weather as they both have inherited bronchial disease preventing them from being out in the cold, but she wants her son to be politically aware and know how to canvass.

What did her 13 year old son learn from this example? Last fall I fell down the stairs and dislocated my knee. I was outside trying to cut my grass with my reel lawn mower. Her son saw me and came across the street and told me he was going to finish it for me. He helped me get my yard settled for winter. He didn't do this because his mother asked him to; she didn't. He did it because he felt like he should. He refused to accept any payment because I was hurt.

This is just great, but what does it have to do with the current trickle-down? They live a very simple life in a tiny box of a house. Most of their entertainment is helping others. She has made a career for over 20 years of being a substitute (usually music) teacher, which pays very poorly and has no benefits, but she has her own health issues that make a regular teaching job unrealistic for her. They receive no government benefits even though they are eligible for some. They were happy with their simple life of mostly helping others. She will soon be out of work because of the current politics in Wisconsin and how they are affecting the schools. She is now retraining to do 2 minimum wage jobs, hoping she will find employment in one of them.

I am very worried about her. She has severe scoliosis, causing what is commonly known to some as "hunchback." She will probably be in a wheelchair before she is 60, as her mother was before her. She is now 53. She will probably not even be able to do one of the new jobs she is training for, but she is desperate. I held her when she cried. I wish Scott Walker could read what I just posted. I wish he would live his life as she does.

This is what integrity looks like: A letter from Erika Hotchkiss

Below is a copy of a letter that Erika Hotchkiss, the owner of Tuvalu, a cafe in Verona, WI, wrote to her local paper. I understand the paper didn't publish it, as she is running for Dane County Supervisor, 32nd district. I can only assume that anyone in the 32nd would be proud to vote for her after reading it. I know I personally look forward to service on the County Board, and thank her for taking a stance of integrity and character, and putting Wisconsin first.
Since the beginning of the recall effort in I have received many messages and phone calls both in support and in opposition to Tuvalu’s participation in the recall effort. I would like to take a moment to clarify why I have made the decision to involve my local business in this issue.

Tuvalu Coffeehouse & Gallery has, since it's opening, been all about social justice. Everyt...hing I do I do with the thought of how it will affect our community, our children, and quite honestly our world. I have set out to make a place in Verona that educates consumers and offers a family friendly environment and a socially conscious choice within our community.

I feel strongly that what is happening to the people of our state and the divisiveness that we see at the Capitol is, at its core, a social justice issue. I have, therefore, provided the recall Walker organizers in Verona a place to collect signatures where they can sit out of the cold at a table in the corner and be safe, and the people who want to sign the recall petition can sign it knowing that they are signing in a place where they and their signatures are also safe. The recall group has been very respectful of our business and our customers. They sit quietly at a table with their petitions waiting for people to come to them if they so choose.

As a customer recently wrote to me “Some might think that putting politics into your business is risky… Sometimes, separating the two is the least authentic choice. We must all go to bed at night knowing we are measured by the positions we take on a daily basis. I applaud the transparency and I know you sleep well.”
No matter the outcome, I wouldn't change a thing.

As a longtime resident of Verona, a mother to three wonderful kids, and a small business owner I have to make the best choices I am able to every day. I love that we have a safe place in Verona for people to sign. I love that I am able to stand up for what's right with integrity and feel empowered and supported by this wonderful community! I have never been silent when I see injustice and misuse of power no matter the risk. I truly would walk away from anything where I was not able to be authentic to who I am and what I believe.
This is what Tuvalu is at its core... it’s more than just a place to get a cup of coffee.

Thank you all and Happy Holidays!
Erika Hotchkiss
You can support Erika Hotchkiss' campaign for Dane County Supervisor here.

Educators and Walker Collaborate Toward his Recall

5 Dec. 2011
Dear Scott Walker,

I'm sorry you chose to ignore my last letter. There's really no other way to interpret that than as an endorsement of the harassment, actual violence and threats of violence against recall workers.  Your handlers must be so proud. You really don't give an inch, do you?  It really makes me sick that your supporters see this as your strength when it is, in fact, your tragic flaw.

But that's not why I'm writing today, having not expected any response beyond your usual refusal to acknowledge dissent.  I'm writing about your latest radio address, on the topic of teacher merit pay and your grand "collaborations" with education experts.

I try, as a lover of truth and justice, to ignore your weekly propaganda session radio address. I assume you won't take it personally, as someone who makes a living ignoring people who are speaking directly to him.  But the one you made last Thursday (Dec. 1, 2011) was too hard to ignore, because you were talking about the issue that matters most to me, and the issue about which I most find grounds for your recall, and the issue about which you lie the most: education.  And even though you'd think I'd be used to it by now, I cannot believe you have the nerve to continue your campaign of lies, misrepresentations and misinformation even in the midst of a massive recall effort based at its root on these very manipulations and duplicities. Here's what you said:

As a parent with two sons in public schools, I want them to receive the very best education possible.  As governor, I want this same thing for all of Wisconsin’s children.  Ensuring that our kids receive a great education means making sure that our teachers receive the professional support they need and that parents and educators know how well our students are achieving.
That’s why we joined with the State Superintendent, school boards, school administrators, and the teachers unions to develop a better system to evaluate teachers.  It’s the kind of constructive collaboration that doesn’t always make it to the front page of your local paper but it is important work that I am proud to support.

First of all, we all know your office was one of many players in this business so stop trying (as usual) to take credit for other people's work. It's no secret that you don't think public sector jobs are "real jobs" because they don't earn people "real money" and that you think the business model is the only model for running anything.   The jackassery of applying this perspective to our heretofore excellent education system has been the subject of debate and discussion all year, and Uppity Wisconsin recently revealed how your attempt to revive former Governor Doyle's merit pay system and pass it off as your own is yet another embarrassing example of your customary hypocrisy.  I hate to always have to be the one to remind you of this, but (and I'm going to put this in caps so you know that I'm shouting at you) OUR SCHOOLS ARE NOT YOUR PERSONAL "BUSINESS" TO RUN and you are not, in fact, the CEO of anything, least not the State of Wisconsin, which is also not a business at all. I really wish, sometimes, that you'd finished college so that you could have learned more about things like business and the real world and the value of education and how to use dictionaries. It's so frustrating to always have to explain things to you.  But I digress. You continued:
We will move beyond traditional merit pay models that simply hand out bonuses for good standardized test scores.  Instead, it has the potential to better serve students by rewarding teachers who continually demonstrate excellence on a number of fair measures while working to support struggling teachers.  I believe teachers who continually excel should be given an opportunity to earn more pay while moving up a teacher career ladder that allows for peer mentoring and other leadership roles without having to leave the classroom entirely.
I don't think you could have said anything that better illustrates your complete lack of understanding of how education works and why we, as a civil society, are bound to value teachers based on the unquantifiable virtue of their profession rather than the "merit" of their "value" in pay than your use of the absurdly and disgustingly contemptuous and condescending expression "moving up a teacher career ladder."   What is wrong with you? Seriously.  Do you really think teachers care so little about themselves or their work that their only aspiration is to "advance" along the edu-corporate "ladder"? Your disrespect for education could not be more evident when you use expressions like this. Who writes your speeches anyway?  But I'm digressing again.
I’m pleased that the system we helped develop earned the praise of both the Wisconsin Education Association Council and the American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin. Mary Bell, the president of WEAC, said that the educator evaluation system will improve teaching and student learning. It was also praised by School District Administrators and the School Boards Association.
While your speech is deliberately unclear in its vague description of the details of the merit pay plan, and an obvious attempt to rebrand forced collaboration as actual consensus (where, again, you seem to be just trying to take credit for other people's ideas - like you did when school districts were forced to deal with your budget cuts), the implication that these organizations either support or praise your education policy is just going too far for me to bear.  And Mary Bell is hardly gushing your praises. What she said was "Through consensus building, Wisconsin will be using an educator evaluation system that will improve teaching and student learning," which cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be reconstrued as praise for your anti-education agenda.

So while these groups were, of course, obligated to "collaborate" with you on this issue, that hardly translates to evidence that you have the slightest idea what "consensus building" even means.  Here's what we do know:  We know that the "School District Accountability Design Team" you've organized is working in direct opposition to the efforts of WEAC and the DPI to favor private and charter schools over the interest of the majority of Wisconsin children in public schools.  We know that the unions don't support you, especially the part about imposing a two-year wage freeze on all state workers on top of all the cuts to their take-home pay (despite the fact that they haven't had a raise since 2009). And we know that teachers (obviously) don't support you (as most painfully evidenced by the horrific staging of the only pseudo-experts you could dredge up to pretend to support you in the pre-campaign ads you've been airing constantly). We know that State Superintendent Tony Evers doesn't support you. We know that the Association of School District Administrators doesn't support you.  And we know that WEAC doesn't support you.  In fact, the first thing you see when you click on the WEAC webpage is a giant picture of this:

When you click on it, it links to a members-only page for all things recall.  Hardly the "praise" you claim WEAC President Mary Bell is dishing your way, is it?

I don't entertain any hopes that any of this will stop your weekly propaganda sessions, but I do hope that this will remind you that your tired lies and doublespeak are not fooling everyone.  Whatever this group decides about refashioning the way teachers are recognized for their achievements, your plan to control the merit pay for public workers has already been discounted for what it is: more of the nepotism and cronyism we've come to expect and despise:
"Under the plan, Walker appointees at the Department of Administration will have the ability to hand-pick which state workers are rewarded with pay increases without any evaluation system," said Scott Spector, a spokesman for AFT-Wisconsin, which represents about 17,000 public workers. "There is no accountability and no transparency. It would appear that the only merit used to judge state workers is their loyalty to the governor." 
And now, at last, I may see a method to your madness: there may be an ounce of fiscal responsibility in you yet!  Your masterplan seems to be to remind all state workers - especially teachers - why they should never, ever demonstrate any loyalty to you, so that you, in turn, will never have to "reward" them with "merit pay." Pretty sneaky. And vile. And unconscionable.  But it does help explain why you try so hard to give teachers the impression you have no respect for them.  And the sum total of all this points toward one conclusion: the only thing all of these groups seem to be collaborating with you on is the effort to see you recalled.

Looking forward, as always, to seeing you recalled, as are all the teachers, students, and administrators in Wisconsin. Or at least all the ones you don't pay to pretend to support you.

Heather DuBois Bourenane
Taxpayer and recall enthusiast

What Superintendent Tony Evers, educators, students, parents and WASDA administrators really have to say about the impact of your budget, despite the lying spin you immediately tried to pass off, which actually just reveals the damage you've done to our schools.

Update 12/7/2011.  Walker signed the Senate Bill 95 into law today - a bill that allows test scores to be one reason you can fire a teacher. And here's what Mary Bell really had to say about it:
“This is just another item to add to the growing list of attacks on educators and public education that Governor Walker and his allies have relentlessly pursued.”
WEAC, and Mary Bell, support the Framework for Educator Effectiveness initiative. But there's not much question here about whether or not they support Walker.

Thursday again today. Wonder what tonight's propaganda session has in store, and if I can bring myself to listen to it.

Horrifying Collectible Nativities: Special Holidays of Dissent Edition!

Nothing says "In your face, Jews & Muslims!" more than the bacon nativity.
30 November 2011
Dear friends of hyperbole and dissent,

Those who know me personally and/or on facebook know that religious hypocrisy is not only my worst pet peeve, but pretty much the underlying item of dissent of most of my complaints with our universe and the people in it.  I've been thinking critically about this topic both privately and academically for many years, and have come to the conclusion that nothing, as far as I can tell, illustrates the complexity and arrogance of this phenomenon more brilliantly than the existence of non-ironic and entirely collectible non-human nativity sets. To this end, I have (since 2009) become something of a connoisseur of blasphemous nativities.  I collect images of actual collectible nativities that generally meet two simple criteria:
  1. They (and especially the baby Jesus) must be non-human and
  2. They have to be for sale - and not just irreverent "art" that's for sale (there's tons of this out there) but something mass-produced that people can (and presumably do?) buy and collect.
I don't have proof of it, but I'm pretty sure I have the World's Best, Definitive and Only Collection of Images of Sacrilegious Collectible Nativities, with over 150 unique images. I welcome you to check it out, and share it with your friends.  

And remember: Next time you hear someone complaining about taking the "holy" out of "holiday" or the "Christ" out of "Christmas," just ask them: where do you stand on marshmallow/snowman Jesus?

Some of my favorites are below. Click here for the complete collection. Updates always welcome.

Happy Holidays!

P.S. Please note that I do not own, nor do I intend to own, any of these.

The whole scene *is* pretty other-worldly, when you think about it.

Creepy mice make everything just a little more sacred, don't they?

That's funny. I didn't know Jesus was bearskin rug.
The fact that baby Jesus is a duck, and the "mortals" are chickens only proves his godliness.

Like Jenga, only holier.
Whoo's that in the manger?
Yetitivity, believe it or not.
They're s'mores! They're snowmen! They're adore-able! This is the set that sparked my collection/obsession when I saw it for sale at a real store.  Turns out it was just the tip of the iceberg. But it doesn't get more sacrilicious than this, does it?

Monologues on Air: Can't Stop the Recall

I spoke with Mary Carol and Ed Schultz this week on the death threat I received and how the recalls are going. Here are links to those clips for those who've asked for the audio:

Nov. 17, 2011: Out Loud with Mary Carol (radio)

Nov. 22, 2011: The Ed Schultz Show (radio)

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Looking for the petition or a place to sign?  Click here or here.

Democracy Cannot Be Bullied, but Scott Walker Can Be Recalled

I was invited to speak at the Recall Rally in Madison because I've been outspoken on the subject of education and the damage Scott Walker's administration has done to our schools. The death threat I received last week was not related, and did not deter me from speaking at this event. If anything, it strengthened my resolve and my conviction that we need to restore the rule of reason to Wisconsin and send a strong message that we will not give up in our fight to defend our own future. I am humbled that I was invited to speak, and enormously grateful for all the support I've received  - and I'd especially like to thank Chief Tubbs and the Capitol Police for taking things so seriously and being so professional and kind. 

Since February, I've been shouting monologues into the wind - writing to Scott Walker with full knowledge that he does not care what we have to say, that he will not (under any circumstances, apparently) respond.  At this rally, though, I was able to engage in a dialogue with so many people who are just trying to say the same thing: Walker's "tools" are destroying our state. Walker's "reforms" are turning us backward. Walker's arrogant disregard for the welfare of our kids and our future, and his staggering fiscal irresponsibility, have created a Wisconsin we no longer recognize.

Scott Walker wants us to think his "reforms" are working. He wants us to think he can just cut funds to infrastructure and not worry about the bridge collapsing. Well, the bridge isn't going to collapse today. Or tomorrow. But it WILL collapse. And I don't want my kids, or your kids, or any of our grandchildren to be standing on it when it does.

Regular people have an opportunity and an obligation to stand up right now and take a stand. We need to stand up for our kids and promise them that we will not just stand around and wait until the bridge collapses. We are going to fight to have it restored, and we are going to invest in making sure it's stronger than ever.

I have made that promise to my own children, and I am committed to seeing it through. FORWARD. It's the only way to go.  Dialogue: it could happen!  All you need to do is sign the petition.

 Speaking on education at the Recall Walker Rally in Madison, Nov. 19, 2011

Scott Walker Condones Threats and Intimidation through his Silence

17 Nov. 2011
Dear Scott Walker,

Today I received a death threat to me and my family, at 4:00 in the morning. The anonymous person, who called from a cell phone that could not be traced immediately by police, said that I had "attracted the attention of some very bad people."  I spend the entire day dealing with this - talking to law enforcement, concerned organizers, media and others. We learned that the same person has also made calls to other recall workers in Wisconsin. But these are not isolated incidents. In the first three days of the recall, we have seen many reports of harassment of circulators and attempts to commit election fraud, and even vandalism of private property as one organizer's tires were deflated.

I hold you entirely responsible.

Ten months ago you unleashed on this state a firestorm of irresponsibility and disrespect that has led directly to this point - where regular people are personally targeted and threatened simply for exercising their rights to dissent and participate in the political process. 

It was you who threatened to call in the National Guard on our peaceful protests. It was you who was recorded (in what you thought was a private conversation with your benefactor, David Koch), saying that you had considered the idea of planting agent provocateurs in the crowds at our rallies.  It was you who implied, over and over and over again, that the teachers, nurses, civil servants, regular people, concerned citizens and workers of all walks of life in the streets protesting your anti-democratic and duplicitous policies were thugs to be alternately feared, ignored and despised. It was you who created a situation in which, shockingly, regular people like me were forced to go "public" just to defend the rights of our kids to decent and quality education.  It was you who made me a target.

And now, as the recall has begun and we are hearing these reports of intimidating and threatening behavior, you are silent.  Even yesterday, you even went so far as to deny responsibility for the recall effort itself.

Your silence would be a deafening endorsement of such behavior, as through your actions you have modeled precisely the sort of bullying and intimidation I was the victim of last night.

You have disrupted, at is core, the social contract of civility that makes democracy possible. In its wake, we are left to deal with strong-arming bullies like you who would rather threaten and harass than negotiate and compromise.

I understand that I have put myself in the public sphere by sharing my objections to your cuts to education and other essential programs at the expense of tax breaks, a rash of political appointments and the general lack of civility with which you've run your administration. And I understand that people on both sides of this issue have very - very - strong feelings about what's going on right now. I even understand that people are angry that those with whom they disagree seem to be "getting their way" with the recall despite having lost at the ballot box last fall.  And I understand that we all have the right to express our views - including the view that the recall effort is unwarranted.  I get all that. None of that, however, changes the fact that we have a legal right to recall you and that by your silence you condone the threats and intimidation of recall workers.
Fortunately, however, we do not need approval or permission to exercise our rights. We do not need approval to stand up for what is right and to protect the future of our children and their education.  Fortunately for all of us, democracy cannot be bullied into submission. These threats only fuel and empower our determination to restore the rule of reason to Wisconsin and return to a democracy where whatever our differences, we can unite to move forward. 

I don't expect that you will reply. But I do expect that you stand up for the safety of innocent citizens on both sides of the political fence and call for an end to this unpatriotic behavior that serves only to sabotage democracy and make a mockery of civic action.

Meanwhile, we continue to countdown the clock on your term of office. And it's going really well so far. 50,000 signatures in the first two days. At this rate, we'll be done soon.

We will see you at the ballot box. Please tell your supporters to meet us there, instead of harassing us in our homes.

And when you're ready to apologize for your role in all this, you know how to get in touch.