Call on Gov. Walker: Come to your senses, before it's too late

CALLING ALL WISCONSINITES!  It's time to call on Gov. Desperado and demand he come to his senses!

I think it's high time we let Gov. Walker
know that "desperado" is an insult, not
a compliment.  Of the people, by the
people,  for the people
. Megalomaniacal
lone wolf is not the most admirable
quality in a leader.
The $68 billion budget has been passed by both houses and goes to his desk, where his veto power determines the fate.  Walker says he plans to sign the budget into law by July 1 - that gives us a week to try to reach him.  

Call. Write. Share. Repeat.

Snail mail: Office of Governor Scott Walker
115 East Capitol, Madison, WI 53702
Phone: (608) 266-1212

In 2012, Scott Fitzgerald warned us: "If you think this budget is scary, wait until the next one," and the Senate held good on that threat by passing a kick-the-can budget more damaging than the last one by far.  Rejection of federal healthcare funds will force 95,000 Wisconsinites off BadgerCare AND cost tax payers millions. Statewide voucher expansion and a double-dip tax credit for private school tuition doubles down on the attempt to decimate our excellent public schools.  In addition, the budget provides a tax break that will only benefit the most wealthy, wages war on independent watchdogs in a purely political attack on the Center for Investigative Journalism, massive borrowing for crony highway projects, restrict public access to the Gogebic Taconite mine currently being blasted into the Penokees, strips local control even further, and opens the door to Dog the Bounty Hunter-style bondsmen.  Further, it gives widely unpopular and unproven voucher schools carte blache by eliminating accountability, removing open records requirements, and not requiring certification or licensure of teachers or demanding uniformity of instruction.  The end result: higher property taxes and fewer resources for the public schools already reeling under the $1.6 billion cut in the previous biennium - the largest cut to public education in any state in US since the Great Depression. 

And these are just low-lights of the 1400-page behemoth* drafted behind closed doors by and with special interest goups like ALEC and the American Federation for Children who funded both the recall victory of the Governor and the campaigns of the budget's strongest advocates (most notably: Sen. Vukmir, Sen. Darling, Rep. Vos).  It's not lost on the Wisconsin public that Bill Leuders,  None of these largely sweeping policy changes were afforded a minute of public hearing.

Worst of all to anyone who cares about fiscal responsibility: the budget leaves us with a $664 million dollar deficit in the next biennium.  

It's unlikely that Gov. Walker will begin listening to his constituents at this late stage in the game.  It's even less likely that if he does, he'll be influenced by our pleas.  And the comic part is that we all know he's more likely to use his veto power for evil than good.  But that does not excuse us from the task of speaking out, it only intensifies the urgency of doing so.  

The voices of reason in the Senate and Assembly were powerless against the nepotistic majority, but if we have learned anything since Scott Walker took office, it's that dissent is mandatory in the face of abuses of power, especially when the public is routinely disregarded and refused opportunity to participate in legislative discourse.  Our silence is consent, and we maintain it at our peril.
We have an obligation, to our children and to those who have not been paying attention, to expose this budget for what it is and raise our voices in dissent:  not in our name, and not on our watch. The world was watching in 2011.  And the world should be watching now.  This is what happens when your government is sold to the highest bidder.  You get what they paid for.

Let's hope the Governor comes to his senses.  Before it's too late.

* The word behemoth © appears courtesy of my friend Ryan Wherley, rabble-rouser extraordinaire.

WisGOP confirms: We don't live in a democracy (luckily for them)

It's official.  Wisconsin Republicans finally admit - aloud, on record, and on the Assembly floor, that it's lucky for them we don't live in a democracy.  And after throwing citizens out of the Assembly gallery for exercising their constitutional rights (which violate his arbitrary rules), Bill Kramer confirms:  In Wisconsin, we live in an unconstitutional republic.

The short clip below from June 13, 2013, the day the Assembly shamefully voted to pass SB206, a bill which went from conception to delivery in 10 days, is so, so worth watching.

In which a Democratic assemblyman - the honorable Gary Hebl - stands up to acknowledge the concerned citizens who had been forcibly removed from the gallery despite having done nothing to violate the rules, and a Republican assemblyman  - one Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer - chastizes him,  mockingly saying:
"I'm really sorry if you feel that hurts democracy.  Luckily, we live in a Republic."

The only saving grace in this is that I am very proud to say that Gary Hebl is my own representative, and I can't thank him enough for standing up for us.

Thanks, too, to the indefatigable Rebecca Kemble for documenting these events and editing the video of these Capitol shenanigans.

It's one thing to point out the difference between "democracy" and "republic." It's another thing altogether to openly mock and disparage democracy.  And it's a third, and criminal, thing to demonstrate so vividly one's contempt and disregard for the Constitution.

Wisconsin Women Speak: An Invitation, and a Safe Space, to Share Your Story

“I call on every woman in Wisconsin to stand up and say ‘My body, my choice’.”
- Rep. Melissa Sargent

Dear friends,

I was at the Capitol on Thursday to bear witness to the Assembly's passage of a bill that violates the very personal relationship between a woman and her family, her doctor and her body. This bill was introduced on June 3 and the only public hearing for it was held on June 5, before most of us even had any idea such legislation was even possible - or legal.  Click here for Harriet Rowan's excellent coverage of SB206 for PRWatch.

I went to the Capitol myself because I felt women were shut out of that process, and that health care and mental health professionals were not afforded ample opportunity to speak out against the medically unnecessary and psychologically traumatic implications of forcing women and girls to undergo invasive, pointless (and often painful) transvaginal ultrasounds and give up their insurance coverage if they do not report their rapes before seeking an abortion (a consequence especially invasive for young victims, as Rep. Mandy Moore so chillingly pointed out in sharing her story).  I wanted to share that even though I do not advocate abortion (and who does?! No woman "wants" or thinks it's "fashionable" to get an abortion, as the bill's sponsor, Sen. Mary Lazich so disingenuously lied on the Senate floor), I will not stand idly by as we turn back the clock on our access to reproductive health and insurance coverage.  Without the Planned Parenthood offices that will be shut down by this bill, thousands of Wisconsinites will not have access even to affordable birth control, which only contributes to the numbers of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.  I've said this before but it stands saying again:  it is the greatest possible hypocrisy to claim to be "pro life" and then deny funding to the nation's #1 preventer or abortions and unwanted pregnancies. Even FOX news knows that.

Throughout the state, women and men are stunned by this big government intervention into our lives and looking for ways to speak out. On the legislative floor, many Democratic leaders stood to courageously share their own stories to stress how deeply invasive this policy is. Rep. Sondy Pope and Rep. Mandy Wright had particularly stirring stories to share (thanks to Rebecca Kemble for the video):

Rep. Melissa Sargent has issued the following challenge, and it is a challenge I will do my best to accommodate by offering a safe space to share our stories and raise our voices together:
“I call on every woman in Wisconsin to stand up and say
‘My body, my choice’.” 
I offer this page as a space to do that.  The men and women of Wisconsin need to stand together and say strongly, in a unified voice, that we will not accept these intrusions and that personal health decisions and women's bodies need to be respected by the law and those who govern.  This invasion into our most intimate privacy has forced many of us who are otherwise very private to feel exposed, ashamed, and violated by the very powers set in place to protect us.  If we do not have the freedom to protect our own bodies, and our own choices, what value are our other freedoms?
Silence is consent.

Share your story.  Let Wisconsin and the rest of the country know why you think we need to stand up for women's rights.  If you'd like to add your voice to those who have already spoken out, send me your story by email to: Be sure to include your city and whether you wish to remain anonymous or go by your initials.  If you don't want to share your story, but would like to simply sign on your name to this effort so that your voice is counted, let me know.  After we collect our stories, we will share them with our legislators, and I'll continue to update this post as they continue to come in.

I hope that you'll take this call seriously, and join me in standing up and speaking out.  They might have the majority vote, but they cannot silence the majority voice.



I briefly wore this piece of tape over my mouth in the Assembly gallery to express the overwhelming feeling of being silenced and shut out from the legislative process.  We were handed these tiny fliers full of unconstitutional "rules" and told to remove the tape.  What have we come to when concerned, law-abiding citizens are made to feel that dissent has been criminalized in our statehouse?  
I think my friend Mary Worley of Worley Dervish said it best:
"I sat in the gallery today (for the first time ever, actually) from about 1:15 until 3:15pm. I started out with tape across my mouth with the word "nondebatable" written on it. Eventually I was told I had to remove it. I asked (!) whether I could put my hand over my mouth and was told that I could, although apparently some were told that they could not. Supposedly this quiet, unobtrusive action was a violation of the rule against "displays." Unbe-frickin-lievable. So not only are we being silenced, but our very mild, quiet objection to being silenced is being silenced. Message from the Wisconsin GOP to the women of Wisconsin: Sit down and shut up."
This photo by Leslie Amsterdam captures the gallery as women are told to remove the tape from their mouths.  Just after this, when some women cheered a rousing speech by Rep. Sandy Pasch, Speaker Mike Ellis arbitrarily ordered an entire row of the gallery to be cleared.  Seeing the entire back row of the gallery lined with cops ready to physically eject the silent mothers, grandmothers, and allies present was too much for many of us to bear.  It was a day of tears. I ashamed to let my daughter know that we are still, in 2013, fighting for our rights to contraception and reproductive health. 

From JoAnna Pautsch, Dane County:

I'm not ready to play nice, I'm not ready to back down. I'm still mad as hell & I don't have time to go round & round & round.

I have struggled to find the perfect words to describe my 4-hour experience in the state assembly gallery this past Thursday. At first thoughts, the only words that would come from heart & mind to mouth were, “FUCK YOU, Republicans in office & anyone who supports legislation that suppresses the rights of & endangers the lives of human beings” AND “in the last two years, I’ve learned from Republicans what it truly feels like to hate.”  I thought, “I can’t post that. I need to post something profound that gets the point across how very corrupt our government is.” How people need to pay attention to what is happening right in front of their complacent, ignorance-is-bliss noses, & do something about it.

How I watched Republican Assembly person Bill Kramer, in the position of Speaker, laugh with another Republican colleague during testimony regarding sexual assault. The consistent hubris displayed by him & his Republican colleagues up there on their “thrones” making faces while passionate testimony was being given. How most of the Republicans, including Speakers Vos & Kramer, ignored most testimony & refused to offer their own testimony, answer questions, or debate. How most of the Republicans weren’t even in the room most of the time (only during roll call). How the ones who remained simply to push the voting buttons of their colleagues were reading magazines, browsing Facebook & sleeping in their chairs. (It was so unbelievable to me, I had to take photos - which is against the capitol law. I can have a gun in my hand, but not a camera or phone). How Republicans gave this legislation 10 days of “light of day”, while complaining that others needed to be tabled due to “only 3 months of light of day”. How WE THE PEOPLE are paying for this mockery of a democratic process...monetarily & socially.

How most of the citizens in the viewing gallery were escorted out (some arrested) for either refusing to remove tape from their mouths or for allegedly clapping after an amazing testimony – that’s it. How the Democrats respectfully turned their chairs to face them & listened intently when the three sole Republicans chose to speak. How I’ve never been more disappointed in my country, state & government as I am now.  How I’ve never been prouder of some of our Democrat Assembly people.

Or how our almost 13yo daughter asked if we could please move to Canada or Europe to escape the regression & oppression of humans in this country. And how I explained to her that we must do all we can to positively change this one first, but are researching which states and/or countries would be the best fit for us because ours has betrayed us. And how these Republicans in office think they can use their religion to legislate a state / a nation of people of many religions or no religion at all.

I thought my first thoughts might be inappropriate, might offend some on my page, might make me a target or regretful.  But I’ve taught my children to “say what you mean, mean what you say” and stand up for the truth…stand up for what is right. If you disagree, discuss it with me. Give me facts to support your position. This is mine. If it offends someone enough for them to lose respect for me, end a relationship or leave my page, please go…I am so over it!

Back to work!!
From Liz Morrison:
I would like to have my name added as supporting this effort.  Women have fought too long and too hard for equality that should have been ours all along and we should not have to go back and fight this battle again.  The idea that one group of people (Republican/Tea Party white men and women) actually believes that any human being deserves fewer rights than those they enjoy is totally repugnant to me.  Every woman in Wisconsin should be livid and speaking out about the trampling of their rights by Scott Walker and his minions.
Chrissy Morrissey shares her letter to Speaker Pro Tem Sen. Mike Ellis:
Senator Ellis,
That was really quite an outburst recorded by WI Eye yesterday. It is playing all over the internet, 10 thousand plus views on you tube in 24 hours. Hopefully local news media has picked it as well. I wouldn't know about that, as I find TV news mostly irrelevant.

May this finally be your downfall. May the Fox Valley voters at last see you for what you are. You are a villain who takes food and medicine from children. You are a misogynist. You are a spineless tea party ass kisser. You are a traitor to the environment of this naturally beautiful state. You are a shill for the private education industry. You are not a nice man. AND YOU ARE MOST CERTAINLY NOT A DOCTOR!

Local friends who have never previously engaged in politics on Facebook are OUTRAGED! And I say it's about damn time they realize what you are doing in Madison while claiming to represent us. This legislation has NOTHING to do with saving babies. It is about punishing women for being the sexual creatures that nature intended. The republican desire to limit birth control for women is further proof of this outdated prudishness.

If the republican majority cared anything for children you would not consider private school vouchers at the expense of public education. You would not be cutting medical care for families and nutrition programs for children. You would not be allowing sand frac mining and open pit mining, both of which pose serious health risks to children, to choke off state water supplies. You would legislate sensible guns laws that would protect children from intentional homicides and accidents caused by careless gun owners. You would work at creating real jobs that earn real living wages for the parents of these children that you have no intention of feeding, clothing or educating. You are nothing short of ridiculous in your flagrant hypocrisy.

Are you incensed by my disrespectful tone Senator? You are not deserving of respect. You are a disgrace. You have disrespected the people of this state for far too long. You have disrespected the women of this state with your votes to abuse their rights. You are not better than your constituents. Your job is to serve us.

Please watch yourself in action. You are an embarrassment to the Fox Valley and the State of Wisconsin. You do us all a disservice as the Senator from the 19th district.
From the incomparable Worley Dervish: WI GOP to WI Women: Sit Down and Shut Up
an excerpt: I’m so proud of the brave fighting women legislators of Wisconsin—Senator Kathleen Vinehout, Representatives Chris Taylor, Melissa Sargent, Sondy Pope, Mandy Wright, to name only a few—and so grateful to them for sharing their painful, personal experiences, especially in front of a legislature that is so obviously unmoved and indifferent. They stood up and spoke on our behalf, for the women and families of Wisconsin, at no small cost to themselves, so that others could see what this bullying legislature and governor are doing to us and the contemptuous way they’re doing it.

Add to that not only the circumvention of all but the most minimal public input, but also the quashing of even the mildest form of public protest imaginable. Our silent objection to being silenced—putting tape over our mouths—was forbidden. Our role has been relegated to that of passive, voiceless recipient. Is it any wonder that many of us feel that GOP legislators are abusing the women and families of this state, not only by forcing those seeking a legal abortion to get an unnecessary and invasive medical procedure, but also by excluding us from the legislative process, even when it concerns us so very personally and directly? Even the state's medical professionals have not had any input. While our voices are silenced, this is the loud and clear message of the Wisconsin GOP to the women of the state: Sit down and shut up!
Signing on in support and solidarity: 

MoD Cause of the Month: Think globally, fight locally

This is the inaugural post of a new feature: MoD Cause of the Month, which will shine the spotlight on local, grassroots efforts to make a difference that need our help. If you have ideas or suggestions for causes (local events, fundraisers, or actions) that need support, please email them to me! The criteria are simple: must be a local effort (fundraiser, action, event) to make the world a better place that really needs our support.  No promises that your cause will be featured, but I'll do my best to share the info!

The first cause is a personal one: my good friend Missy, an amazing mom living with multiple sclerosis, has bravely stepped up to attempt the 50-mile MS Challenge Walk this fall. She's been fundraising all year but still has $950 left to raise to meet her $1500 goal. One way you can help is to shop at her enormous garage sale June 13-15 at 604 Hubbell Street - aka Hwy 73, Marshall, WI, or you can contribute to her cause using this link.

Please support the
MS Challenge Walk!
or check out the
Fight MS Garage Sale
604 Hubbard St (Hwy 73)
Marshall, WI
June 13-15, 2013
Please join me in supporting a wonderful woman in her fight to raise awareness and support research that could cure MS. If you have any friends or family living with this disease, you know what we know: MS is BS! 

Please consider supporting this great cause.  No contribution is too small to make difference! 

Think globally. Fight locally. Give locally.  Every action counts.

Protest planned against WisGOP's pre-abortion ultrasound bill

In a shocking display of disregard for both the people and the process today at the Capitol, Senate President Mike Ellis shouted down Democratic Senators, denying them a chance to debate the issue, and calling for a roll call vote on the barely-vetted pre-abortion ultrasound bill today. The Assembly takes up the bill for these mandatory and medically useless ultrasounds on Thurs. June 13, 2013. A protest is planned, as is a noon rally, and Wendi Kent invites Wisconsinites to join:
Wisconsin: AB 227/SB206 goes back to the Assembly tomorrow at 1 or 2pm.

I will be there with tape over my mouth to represent the fact that they are making my medical decisions for me without my consent or input. They are speaking as if they represent when they do not. They are making decisions that hurt me, my daughters and all other Wisconsin women.

We are being silenced. We are being ignored. We are being treated like mindless wombs.
Care to join me?

For the most thorough coverage of the day, read Rebecca Kemble's telling report in The Progressive here.

This bill was just introduced on June 3. The only public hearing was held on June 5. It was passed in the Senate today, with refusal by the chair to allow debate. It goes to the Assembly tomorrow. SHAME cannot be shouted loudly enough, and Wisconsin women stand to be silenced by their exclusion from this senseless big-government intervention into our doctor's offices. This is, quite literally in the case of vaginal ultrasounds, legislative rape.  Fortunately, the issue is getting some national attention, but the Republican majority seems bent on pushing through this pointless legislation that serves no purpose but to shame and demean Wisconsin women and obstruct their relationships with healthcare professionals.

Senator Mark Miller aptly summed up today's sick and sorry events:

“Senate Republicans committed two assaults today…one on the women of Wisconsin in “passing” the bill requiring women seeking abortions to obtain an ultrasound, and another on legislative process and tradition by shutting off debate after just two speakers. “This is another example of Republicans abusing their majority power to trample the rights of the minority including elected representatives.

“Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald, Senate President Ellis, and the Republican Senate majority conspired not only to limit debate, but also to violate Senate rules of procedure by suspending the rules without obtaining the super-majority consent required. The bill was referred to the Assembly in violation of Senate rules.

“Republican policies have put Wisconsin’s economic performance and economic prospects near the bottom of all states. Is the push to pass anti-abortion legislation and other oppressive conservative social policy the result of Republican realization that they will fail to deliver on their promise of job creation and economic development? Are they now reduced to satisfying their political base at all costs?

“You would think Republicans would have learned lessons about abuse of power given the unprecedented political division they created last session with voter ID, redistricting, and nearly eliminating bargaining rights for public employees. Today they once again abused political power, once again undermining whatever fragile trust was being rebuilt, once again undermining democracy.”
 If you can stomach the mind-blowing lack of reason used to justify this bill, watch the bill's sponsor, Mary Lazich, rant about how anecdotal evidence proves to her that Wisconsin women are moronic fools who need to be shamed and coerced into making medical decisions:

The Great Voucher Scam: One Teacher's Story

Many of us who have been following the public funds for private school vouchers debate have been particularly disturbed by the double-pronged threat vouchers pose to regular public schools: (1) they suck funding from the common fund to benefit the few at the expense of the many, a very undemocratic and questionably constitutional practice and (2) the lack of accountability and standards within the private schools themselves means that both students and staff are at significant risk for exploitation and discrimination, insufficient or inadequate teaching and learning (and the voucher schools we already have in Wisconsin do perform worse than regular public schools), and generally who-knows-what in terms of the curriculum being taught (at least 15 Wisconsin schools currently receiving vouchers, for instance, have a very loose definition of "science").  Further, we puzzle over the sort of misleading language that's used to justify the massive betrayal of the public trust that voucher expansion requires:  Wisconsin parents and students already have significant, meaningful, fair, and adequate school choice though the existing open enrollment system, which allows parents to send their child to any public school of their choice, space permitting, even outside of their own district.

The following is a teacher's story, and it is a sobering first-hand look at what really happens to teaching and learning in the for-profit voucher system. Scott Schroder posted this as a document in a facebook group he started, Stop the Decimation of Public Education - Eliminate Vouchers, and it's republished here with his permission.  I am confident you'll find his story troubling and compelling, and I hope it inspires you to write your legislators and the governor and tell them you oppose subsidizing the pockets of private school financiers at the expense of our already underfunded public schools.  Here's a link to actual news coverage of this situation, in case you find it too horrifying to be true.  Spoiler alert: it is.

A Real Life Experience of
Racine’s Voucher Program in Action 
by Scott Schroder

I taught high school science at Indian Trail Academy, a public high school in the Kenosha Unified School District from 2008 until June of 2011. I absolutely loved my job and my students. Due to Governor Scott Walker’s 1.6 billion dollar budget cuts to public education, I was laid off along with more than a thousand other teachers state wide. Our school alone lost 27 teachers, yet the student population grew by over 500 students the following school year.

When I began teaching in 2008, there were many science, math, and special education jobs available in Wisconsin. When I was laid off, I couldn’t find anything. Even though I’m totally opposed to the voucher system, a new Catholic voucher high school was opening in Racine for the 2011 – 2012 school year. They offered me a position as their science teacher and head of that department. I was offered a contract guaranteeing a bi-weekly salary, health insurance, dental insurance, and vision insurance for my family and me. They also offered retirement benefits. Since nothing else was available locally, I accepted the position.

The owners "left" another Catholic school in Milwaukee and told us that they were going to be receiving a very large sum of money from the Catholic system along with the state voucher money. It turned out that the Church decided there were enough Catholic schools in Racine, so that funding never came through. Their ONLY source of income was the voucher money. How approval from the voucher system was given is anyone’s guess.

The school started out with 50 students and ended the year with 26. Some quit, most were expelled due to poor grades, discipline problems, and drug related activity. ALL of those students had to, by law, be re-admitted to the public school system, yet not one dime of the voucher money was returned to the public system.

We teachers went three months without pay TWICE during the school year, we NEVER received the benefits we were contractually promised, and there was absolutely NO accountability to the state as to how the voucher money was spent by the school and no recourse was available to us. The school still owes me over $7,500 in unpaid salary. After our first pay period, we never again received pay stubs and rumor has it, the school never sent in either state or federal withholding to the government.
Another rumor was that the two principals took out health insurance for themselves and neglected to do so for staff.

The second time we went three months without pay, I called the offices of four of our state legislators and asked if they would look into our problem and try to help us out. I called Representative Robin Vos’s office three times, Representative Cory Mason, State Senator Van Wanggaard, and Governor, ScottWalker’s office twice. Each time I called, I was promised by staffers that they would pass along the information and have the legislator call me back. The only person with the courtesy to return my call was Representative Mason. Interestingly, the other three are promoting vouchers and it would seem that they are trying to silence any bad press on this issue.

The school closed after one school year due to lack of funding, and I lost yet another job due to budget cuts and the voucher system. The only teaching position I could find this school year locally was as a substitute for the Racine school district.

At a recent state school budget hearing for the Racine school district, I shared my story to those attending and I asked Representative Vos (he is the politician who forced the voucher system on Racine) if since there was no accountability to the state as to how the school spent the voucher money if the voucher program would pay me the $7,500 I was owed and reimburse my family for the significant medical bills we incurred when we should have, by contract, been insured. Mr. Vos did not answer my question.

I know there are many more horror stories out there about the tremendous amount of faults of the voucher programs. Personally, I feel it is unethical and immoral for taxpayers to have to fund PRIVATE education. The supporters will say that since money is going to these schools, they have become “public”. This is a sham and is no more than money laundering in my opinion.

Open letter of the Day: Vouchers for Everyone!

I just may have a new favorite letter to the editor.  Gary Hanson nails it.  From the Green Bay Press Gazette:

PITTSFIELD — Gov. Scott Walker, I live in rural Brown County. I feel the sheriff’s department affords me less protection than that provided to those in urban areas. Therefore, I expect that you will, at your first opportunity, forward to me a “voucher” check so that I may hire a private security firm. Said funds may be deducted from the state aid given to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department.

In addition, my town is unable to plow my road as quickly as I’d like so please forward a second “voucher” check so that I may hire a private plow service. Those funds may be deducted from the road aids that are paid to the town.

I also insist that you not ask for licensing, accountability or oversight of the contractors involved.

I’ll be watching my mailbox closely.

Gary Hanson
 This simple chart from Say No to Vouchers puts things in perspective:
 Be sure to let the governor and your legislators know how you feel, too.

Crappy Anniversary, Wisconsin: a call to action, not mourning

5 June 2013
Dear friends,

I went to the Capitol yesterday morning, to be there when the Joint Finance Committee convened to take up Walker's 2013-15 budget. I wore red for public ed. I knew there wasn't much of a point to being there, since there was no public testimony allowed and the deals had already been largely made.  But I wanted to be a visible presence; a physical body to represent the teachers and students who couldn't be there because they were at school.  I wanted to be a presence equal, at the minimum, to the dozens of paid lobbyists scurrying like rats around the building, their audibly hollow sense of self-importance shaming them with every step.

This woman's sign expressed a common concern:
that democracy has been stolen
from the people of Wisconsin.
There were a lot of people there, wearing red shirts or "Save BadgerCare" shirts, holding pro-education signs or "Stop Voucher" stickers.  A couple of people found a place to sit, but nearly all of us we denied a seat in the room, though we'd lined up long before the room was full.  "Those seats are saved," we were told. We were corralled into two overflow rooms where they set up screens for us to watch on WisEye. They said we couldn't stand in the hallway near the proceedings because we were a fire hazard, even though we were in two neat lines hugging the wall. They pushed us back and said we had to stand down the hallway, behind two huge desks they pulled out to block off entrance to the JFC room on both hallways leading to its entrances.  Never mind that each entrance also has its own large foyer which would've been the perfect place for us to stand and listen.  Fire hazard?  Kind of like a desk blocking the hallway, as my friend Brion pointed out.

Later, I found out they'd started a line for lobbyists to enter the room as seats opened up, without offering the first place in line to those who'd been there since early morning.  The hubris is contagious, and the palace guard are not immune.

I chose to remain visible rather than be brushed out of sight and mind, and wandered around behind the desk-barricaded halls.   I stopped by the hearing room for AB225, a dreadfully ugly anti-democracy bill that takes aim at open elections and coddles lobbyists like you would not believe.  I stopped by to see my legislator, Gary Hebl, and had a nice chat with his aide.  Had lunch with a friend from DPI while we listened to the Solidarity Singers fill the Rotunda with their collective grievances and hopes.

Meanwhile, the committee started late.  They heard and ignored some stirring testimony and recaps of public comment by Democratic committee members, then took a lunch, then voted to reject federal money that would've helped so many of our citizens, and especially the working families who are struggling so hard to make ends meet in this Walker-frozen economy. Then they took a break and said they'd be back at 5. Then 7. Then 9:30. Then we didn't hear from them again until they reconvened after 2am.  I'd long left the Capitol to get some work in and get home to meet the kids after school.  And I fell asleep to the drone of WisEye re-runs waiting for them to come back.  I woke up to the news that they'd doubled-down on Walker's anti-education proposal by expanding vouchers statewide.
In the dead of night, after making the public and their colleagues wait nearly twelve hours while they wheeled and dealed behind closed doors, the GOP-heavy Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee voted 12-4 along party lines to do the following as they pushed Scott Walker's anti-Wisconsin budget through to the legislature for passage.  Some highlights of what all that lobby money bought Wisconsin:
Now, on the one-year anniversary of his survival of the recall election, the privateers who made it happen are reaping their rewards, and Walker is begging people to write their legislators to make sure they get paid in full.

He even provides a handy auto-form here, but I highly recommend changing the text provided to something slightly more accurate.
Be sure to copy/paste the final results and send it from your personal email as well.  You never know what happens behind the Walker wall of manipulation.

Here's my improvement to the propaganda suggested. Feel free to copy or get creative with your own and copy/paste it in the comments below, too, to inspire others.
June 5, 2013
Dear State Rep. Gary Hebl:
Dear State Senator Mark F. Miller:

I strongly DISCOURAGE you from supporting Governor Walker’s proposed budget, which will create LITTLE opportunity for ANY Wisconsin citizen through limited but effective government.
• The Governor’s proposed budget will help NOT Wisconsin families and small businesses by cutting income taxes for the first time in over a decade, and WILL continuing ITS STRANGEHOLD ON MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENTS BY freezING property taxes.


• By turning down Obamacare for Wisconsin and instead turned Medicaid into a true safety net through entitlement reform, the Governor is ensuring that FEWER Wisconsinites have coverage while WASTING TAXPAYER MONEY AND HURTING THOSE WHO MOST NEED HELP. PAYING OFF HOSPITALS INSTEAD OF PROVIDING MEDICAL COVERAGE IS AN ABSURD ABUSE OF TAX PAYER DOLLARS.

To keep Wisconsin moving forward, please stand with taxpayers like myself, in REJECTING Governor Walker's RADICALLY IRresponsible budget.

Ms. Heather DuBois Bourenane

Walker's begging Wisconsinites to write their legislators, and I'm begging, too.  WRITE YOUR LEGISLATORS TODAY.

The legislation on the agenda this session puts Act 10 to shame.  If you spoke out in 2011, you should be speaking twice as loudly today.  The fire and momentum of the protests may be gone, but the imperative is not.

Tell your legislators: Reject the Walker budget.  No public funds for private schools.  Embrace the  Affordable Care Act and accept the funds that will help so many Wisconsinites back on their feet.  Support Wisconsin families and freedom of press. Reject the special needs vouchers that were pulled out of the budget last night but may come forward again as separate legislation (the same attempt was rejected in the last legislative session when every single disability rights and student advocate group spoke out against it).

Stay vigilant, friends.  It's depressing, I know, but they are banking on our ignorance and/or complacency to get this budget into law as soon as possible.  If you're feeling like there's nothing you can do, there is something.  You can stay informed. And you can keep speaking out.  Stay on top of all things budget at the Wisconsin Budget Blog.  And follow my own newsy posts on facebook.


In Solidarity,

My governor made the biggest cuts to public education in any state
since the Great Depression and all I got was this lousy bumper sticker.

This Is What Killing Democracy Looks Like: Ryan Wherley on WI AB225

Must-read guest post from my friend and frequent MoD contributor Ryan Wherley.  Original appears here.

AB225: This is What Killing Democracy Looks Like:

A Call to Action at the Capitol on Tuesday

by Ryan Wherley

Wisconsin Assembly Bill 225 (AB225) is quite possibly the most reprehensible bill that has been brought before the legislature since the thugs in Fitzwalkerstan took over Wisconsin in January 2011. Rather than do the dirty work of decimating our democratic process and electoral system in a series of terrible bills designed to take away the rights of citizens, Repugnant Representative Jeff Stone has decided to do away with everything in one fell swoop, in an all-encompassing bill to dismantle democracy.

There is a verse in the daily Solidarity Sing Along version of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" that reads:

Oh, I followed every action,
Tried to hold up and be brave.
But I could not hide my sorrow
When democracy was slain.

If the fateful night of March 9th, 2011, when the Republican Senate stripped the fiscal items out of the Budget Repair Bill and passed Act 10 in the middle of the night without any Democrats present, wasn't the moment that democracy in Wisconsin was slain, then the day that AB225 passes will be.

From the PR Watch article on the bill:

"The legislation is "so huge, covers so much ground, and has so many independently controversial parts of it," that it appears "intended to cut-out any public input or to render [that input] meaningless," says Andrea Kaminski, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin."

To make things even worse, this awful, sweeping legislation was presented last week and is being rammed through with its lone public hearing at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, June 4th in the Capitol in room 417 North (GAR Hall).  Conveniently enough, this lone, time-restricted hearing was chosen to be held at the EXACT SAME TIME that the Joint Finance Committee is discussing just how far down the rabbit hole they wish to go in destroying our public schools system through private school voucher expansion. What a fucking surprise.

The bill introduced by Jeff Stone is straight out of the ALEC playbook and an all-out, full-frontal assault on democracy. Government of the people, by the people and for the people? That's a dirty phrase in the Republican party caucus. Here's what this bill entails:

  • Re-institutes voter I.D. restrictions while humiliatingly forcing people to sign something saying they are too poor to afford voting identification; 
  • Virtually eliminates the ability to recall elected municipal and school officials;
  • Restricts early voting hours, hitting Democratic strongholds Milwaukee and Dane County especially hard; 
  • makes registering to vote more difficult by prohibiting the use of electronic documentation as proof of residency for registration; 
  • Limits restrictions on lobbyists, making it easier for them to influence votes; 
  • Allows for valid votes on ballots to be thrown out on technicalities; 
  • Increases the likelihood of undisclosed, dark money flooding our elections by lessening campaign contribution disclosure requirements; 
  • Establishes the right of corporations to donate to election campaigns with impunity, essentially cementing the U.S. Supreme Court FEC v. Citizens United ruling at the state level...further protecting corporations' shady political activities in Wisconsin.
This is absolutely outrageous. Needless to say, I am putting out the call for as many people to get down to the Capitol on Tuesday as can possibly get there. Wear red to support public education, attend the JFC session, testify against AB225 or show up to officially register your opposition, write and/or call your legislators, attend the Solidarity Sing Along at noon, bring your most creative protest signs. Most importantly...just do whatever you can possibly do to make your voices heard.

Even if those in power refuse to listen, it is our duty to bear witness to the destruction of our state and of our rights. We must ensure that the historical record show that this increasing slide into fascism was vehemently opposed by citizens who expressed their dissent, disgust and defiance for the world to see.

I, for one, outright refuse to stand idly by and allow them to quietly go about their business of dismantling our state at an increasingly rapid pace. It is not only our right, but our DUTY to stand up, speak out and fight back against injustice wherever it lurks.

A button I recently purchased states: “If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." Right now in Wisconsin, let's just say there is a hell of a lot that Scott Walker and his legislative attack dogs are doing over which to be outraged. What we're seeing play out right in front of our eyes is much worse than what played out in 2011 and led to the historically massive Budget Repair Bill protests, especially when you consider that most of the terrible things they did and terrible legislation they passed in the past two years are now in full effect.

These are not partisan issues. These attacks are undoubtedly designed to go after voting blocs who are voting against the national, extreme right-wing agenda steamrolling across Wisconsin. However, in doing so, the "Republican" saboteurs are unleashing attacks on the fundamental framework of a successful democracy and on the basic rights of citizens of our once-great and progressive-minded state.

On the day back in February that Scott Walker was scheduled to present his biennial budget to the state, I wrote:

"During a particularly vindictive and ominous rant last January, Senate Majority Leader and Walker rubber-stamp Scott Fitzgerald was quoted as saying, 'If you think this budget was scary, wait until the next one.'

Well, the “next one” is nearly upon us. If Feb. 11, 2011 was the day that Scott Walker “dropped the bomb” on the citizens of Wisconsin, Feb. 20, 2013 will be the day Scott Walker unleashes the full nuclear arsenal at his disposal. I don’t know how much more of Scott Walker’s “caring” we will be able to withstand before irreparable harm has been done to our once-progressive Wisconsin."

But it isn't just the budget that is crushing us. The full nuclear arsenal has been unleashed in a torrential wave of abominably regressive legislation out of every committee in the legislature and in every corner of the budget. The time for rest, self-pitying and heads buried in the sand has long since gone by for the citizens of this state. It's time to wake the hell up and join (or rejoin) the fight to reclaim Wisconsin from the throes of tyranny. Lord knows the Teahadists in power most certainly aren't planning on easing off the throttle any time soon.

I can't wait to stare these tyrants in the face and give them a piece of my mind when I testify against AB225 on Tuesday...even though they assuredly won't like and more than likely won't even bother listening to what I have to say. I will see you at the Capitol. FORWARD!!

UPDATE (6/3/13): The Committee on Campaigns and Elections will also be taking up Assembly Joint Resolution 25, "Relating to: recall of elected officers and a code of ethics for government officials (first consideration)" during this same hearing.  This will assuredly be part of the Fitzwalkerstanis' attempts to pass a constitutional amendment outlawing recall of state-level elected officials for any reason other than official criminal misconduct.  So...yet another plot to rip the democratic process out of the hands of the Wisconsin citizenry.  Lucky us.

Here is the PR Watch article:

Here is my article from February on Scott Walker's budget:

Here is the text of the bill:

Here is the list of Wisconsin legislators with their contact information:

Here is the Facebook event promoting the Day of Action to stop AB225:

Here is the Facebook event promoting the Day of Action to save our public schools: