A chokehold on Wisconsin…
“Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.”
– Oscar Wilde
Speculation is running rampant about what may become of the charge that Supreme Court Justice David Prosser had fellow justice Ann Walsh Bradley in a chokehold a couple of weeks back after an argument about the court’s split 4-3 ruling upholding the legislature’s action on Governor Walker’s union-busting legislation. The incident took place in Bradley’s office, several others were present and Bradley had apparently asked Prosser to leave.
All of this is now being investigated by the Dane County Sheriff’s Department and the Wisconsin Judicial Review Commission. The story broke over the weekend and it has been drawing an incredible amount of commentary from readers in various state newspapers as developments appear. For Prosser, it comes on the heels of the story during the recent campaign that he called Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a “bitch” and threatened to “destroy” her. Since he was forced to admit to that, it doesn’t provide a helpful backdrop to this more recent episode.
I have enormous respect for Justice Bradley and her husband, Mark, who serves on the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents. I’ve also met Justice Prosser several times. All of this seems a bit bizarre and it will be interesting to see how it plays out. So far, the assessment of the Wisconsin State Journal in a headline seems appropriate. It appears that the high court has hit a new low. Nobody wins with this stuff.
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Governor Walker was greeted by hundreds of protestors at Devil’s Lake State Park on Saturday and hundreds more in Green Bay on Sunday, as he signed the state’s biennial budget at Fox Valley Metal-Tech in Ashwaubenon. The guv originally planned to hold the event at Badger Sheet Metal Works, but those plans were scuttled after it was learned that company’s CEO was convicted of tax evasion, for which he ended up serving jail time. (Avoiding taxes will now become easier.)
People will find out soon enough what this budget means, as millions of dollars worth of holes are left in local communities in the way of reduced state support and money extracted from local folks to pay for the governor’s priorities elsewhere. A lot of people will be left a little poorer and for those who are already poor, they will become a little more desperate. There will be goodies for Miller-Coors, road builders and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. The real fun will begin as local governments begin trying to put together their budgets with those famous “tools” and then all of the confusing rhetoric over the past few months will begin coming into focus. And no, your taxes aren’t going down and Governor Walker isn’t spending less. Watch and learn.
And does anyone else find it curious that this governor chose to sign the public’s budget in a private setting? Walker had originally planned to introduce the budget at a Madison-area business, too, until he was told that he needed to do that particular piece of public business in the public’s building. I’m all for promoting the importance of economic development, but it’s critical for public officials to never forget who it is that they’re supposed to be working for.
In 2000, 26 percent of students who attended the Wausau School District qualified for free and reduced-price meals. This past year, 49 percent qualified. Based on the trend, it will be more than half this fall. Excuse me for being a bleeding heart, but I don’t think that is call for carving hundreds of millions out of school budgets and social programs or cutting capital gains and corporate taxes by self-proclaimed “family values” elected officials. If we want family values, then we need to value families. Promoting a system that is leaving half the families with school-age children in poverty doesn’t seem like a good way to do that.
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Democratic State Senator Dave Hansen’s most credible Republican opponent in the July 19th recall election, Rep. John Nygren, lost his spot on the ballot for failing to turn in 400 valid signatures on his nomination papers. That’s really a sloppy mistake and it leaves David VanderLeest as the standard bearer for the Republicans in that race. (You can look him up on his essentially content-free campaign website or look him up at the more content-rich: http://wcca.wicourts.gov/index.xsl)
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Speaking of recall races, Democratic Sen. Jim Holperin will have his hands full in the 12th Senate District, where the Republicans will have a primary between Lincoln County Board Chair Bob Lussow and Tea Party organizer Kim Simac of Vilas County. Former Congressman Steve Kagen was at Holperin’s event Monday in Antigo. In addition to explaining where some of the out-of-state money is coming from to challenge Democratic incumbents in the recalls, it became apparent that Kagen will be watching how the dominos fall between now and early next year in anticipation of a potential return to politics himself. Stay tuned. If these recall elections turn out well for the Democrats, then it may not be the last of the recalls in Governor Walker’s young term of office. If Republicans do well, then they may be able to hold off the next set of fireworks until the fall of 2012.
Christian Schneider sums up the conflicting stories of “Chokegate” in the National Review Online: