Unions and Citizens United

Corner of Washington and Desplaines

Athanae over at First Draft brings up an interesting point in the Teabagger Governors Against Unions battle that is currently raging in Wisconsin, and elsewhere. The unions are one of the Democrats biggest backers, spending lots of money in each election cycle. If the Rethuglicans smash the unions, who is going to step into that breach?

Feingold was on Maddow tonight and they both talked about something Susie’s been pushing on Twitter, which is that given the Citizens United decision, if you defund unions across the country the only moneyed players in politics anymore will be corporations. So this isn’t about the budget. This is about politics, and it’s about the long game, and they’re playing for keeps.

Luckily, so are the protesters. Madison schools are closed tomorrow, too, because teachers aren’t having it, so the protest — 30K by Maddow’s count, 13K by others’ — will get even bigger. Now that the story’s in the NYT, I imagine the rest of the national press/blogs will be reassured that this isn’t just the usual spectacle of unwashed hippies protesting the lack of free pot, and will feel secure in devoting some of their ink and their emotions to it. They pretty much ignored the fuck out of it until this afternoon, when the noise got too loud to ignore anymore.

(click here to continue reading New York Times Parrots Walker Line That Union-Busting is Budget Related – First Draft.)

On an unrelated note, why isn’t Russ Feingold running for president?


Walker Plans to Crush Wisconsin Unions

Duck Pit

The newly elected Tea Bagger Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, has his plan to destroy unions in Wisconsin, and he doesn’t give a damn about your opinion about it:

Aware that there would be a loud outcry if he proposed legislation to strip public workers of their collective bargaining rights, Walker inserted a provision in his budget stripping workers of their right to bargain. By including it in the budget, he bypassed all hearings or opportunity for public comment, and is pushing the Wisconsin legislature to vote on it as early as next week.

Under Walker’s immediate plan, all collective bargaining rights would be removed for state and local public employees starting July 1, except when it comes to wages. But any salary increase they seek could be no more than the consumer price index, unless voters in the affected jurisdiction approved a higher raise.

Contracts would be limited to one year and wages would be frozen until the next contract is settled. Public employers would be prohibited from collecting union dues and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues.

The proposal would effectively remove unions’ right to negotiate in any meaningful way. Local law enforcement and fire employees, as well as state troopers and inspectors would be exempt.

Walker’s plan also calls for state employees to contribute 5.8 percent of their salaries to their pensions starting April 1. They would have to contribute at least 12.6 percent toward their health care. Those two items would generate $30 million by July 1 and roughly $300 million over the next two years when combined with the other concessions.

Walker insisted he was not targeting public employees and that his primary concern was balancing the budget. His bill also calls for selling off state heating plants to save money and refinancing state debt to save $165 million in the fiscal year that ends June 30.

As you might imagine, an action like this might trigger a strike, or at least, the threat of one. No worries, because Walker is ready to call out the National Guard if such a thing happens.

Gov. Scott Walker says the Wisconsin National Guard is prepared to respond if there is any unrest among state employees in the wake of his announcement that he wants to take away nearly all collective bargaining rights.

Walker said Friday that he hasn’t called the Guard into action, but he has briefed them and other state agencies in preparation of any problems.

Walker says he has every confidence that state employees will continue to show up for work and do their jobs. But he says he’s been working on contingency plans for months just in case they don’t.


(click here to continue reading Dictatorship in Wisconsin? | Crooks and Liars.)

Call out the National Guard? Really? And what exactly is the Wisconsin National Guard going to do? Teach high school chemistry? Change bed pans in the local hospital?

Porthole - Cana Island Lighthouse

Russ Feingold replied on his website:

Statement on Governor Walker’s Request to Eliminate Collective-Bargaining Rights February 11, 2011

“Governor Walker’s request to the State Legislature to eliminate nearly all of the collective-bargaining rights for thousands of Wisconsin workers is big government at its worst. No private employer can do what the governor proposes, nor should it. For decades, Wisconsin has protected the rights of workers to collectively bargain with their employer on wages, benefits, workplace rules, and many other aspects of their employment. The governor is wrong to suggest that public workers are responsible for the state’s budget woes, and he is wrong to use that bogus excuse to strip them of rights that millions of other American workers have.”

(click here to continue reading Statement on Governor Walker’s Request to Eliminate Collective-Bargaining Rights | Russ Feingold.)

Amazing. I secretly hope he, and other reactionaries like him in the US Congress and elsewhere, follow through on their plans to destroy the U.S. economy by gutting each and every domestic program. Maybe then people will realize who they are supporting when they vote Republican, and even more, maybe the vast majority who ignore politics will get woken up. What percentage of eligible voters cast their ballots for these tea-bagger thugs in 2010? 20%? 25%? Something like that. The other 75% of us have to do more if we have any hope of avoiding turning our country into Somalia or similar third world country.

Business government

Teabagger Governor of Wisconsin Has Trouble With Math

El Mole Rachmim

We already ridiculed Scott Walker for his fundamental misunderstanding of complex mathematical concepts like percentages, and addition/subtraction, but James Warren of the New York Times adds:

As with family feuds, this ruckus has a history. It includes Mr. Quinn’s urging a Milwaukee train manufacturer to move to Illinois if Mr. Walker fulfills his promise to spurn $800 million in federal stimulus money and ditch a high-speed rail line linking Madison and Milwaukee.

The Illinois Senate president, John J. Cullerton, quickly obliged my request for relevant data. Even with the huge, “temporary” increases in Illinois, individuals and corporations are better off here than in Wisconsin — and in decent shape compared with Indiana, Missouri, Minnesota and Michigan, too.

According to the Tax Foundation, the Illinois personal rate of 5 percent compared with a sliding scale of 4.6 percent to 7.75 percent in Wisconsin, with anybody there earning $10,000 or above taxed at a minimum of 5 percent. The new Illinois corporate rate of 7 percent compares with Wisconsin’s 7.9 percent.

Mr. Walker doesn’t deny this but says he’ll get his rates down by 2015. Perhaps. But his rabble-rousing remains short on nuance.

As Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council underscored, taxes are important, but keeping an area competitive also involves quality of life, overall fiscal health, specific business incentives and intangibles like leadership. Quality of life includes the culture, restaurants and recreation that lure bright young people to Chicago.

(click to continue reading Wisconsin Sounds Off, but Misses the Point –



Hey Republicans From Illinois – Go To Wisconsin

Exit - Door County

If you are dumb enough to get your news solely from Fox News, and believe that impending tax increases in Illinois necessitate your move to Wisconsin, please, be my guest. And leave quickly so that the IL state’s IQ levels can increase at the same time that WI’s IQ levels decrease.

Wisconsin’s new Republican Governor Scott Walker has rushed to make hay out of the Illinois Assembly’s decision to raise individual and corporate tax rates, urging Illinois residents and businesses to move to Wisconsin. But, ironically, Illinois residents who move to Wisconsin should bank on paying higher taxes.

Conservatives like Walker have insisted on using the figure that Illinois is increasing taxes by a whopping 66 percent. While this is factually accurate, it’s misleading as it makes the tax increase seem much bigger than it actually is. Illinois tax rates will only go from 3 to 5 percent (hence 66 percent increase), representing a total increase in tax rates of just 2 percent. This will allow Illinois to solve a massive $15 billion budget deficit without gutting state programs. But even with this increase, tax rates for individuals will still be lower than in Wisconsin. Wisconsin has different tax brackets; the lowest income rate if you make over $11,000 is 6.15 percent. The highest rate is 7.75 percent.

Bloomberg noted this yesterday: Absent from Walker’s sales pitch was the fact that Wisconsin’s top income tax rates remain higher than Illinois even under the increase … Walker hasn’t yet proposed lowering the state’s income or corporate tax rates. But this didn’t stop Fox New host Neil Cavuto yesterday from insisting that Illinois is experiencing a “tax storm.”

(click to continue reading ThinkProgress » Blog Archive » After Their Tax Increase, WI Gov. Begs Illinoisans To ‘Escape To Wisconsin’ Where Taxes Are Actually Higher.)


Wisconsin and Ohio Get Their Way and Lose Rail Money

Dreams of Industry dashed

Morons. Even worse, morons getting their way. What’s funny is that I always thought the Republican goal was to take the country back to the Robber Baron era1. If they studied history at all, they’d remember that trains were the main transportation option back then.

Gov.-elect Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Gov.-elect John Kasich in Ohio campaigned on pledges to stop passenger-rail projects in their states. On Thursday, they got their wish.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood rescinded nearly $1.2 billion that had been allocated to Wisconsin and Ohio for new train lines. Wisconsin, which received $810 million for a passenger train between Madison and Milwaukee, will have to forfeit the entire amount. Ohio must give up $385 million of the $400 million allocated for a train connecting Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland.

The funds will be redirected to train projects in 14 states. California and Florida will receive the largest portions, up to $624 million and $342.3 million, respectively. Wisconsin will retain up to $2 million for the Chicago-Milwaukee line.

(click to continue reading Wisconsin, Ohio Off the Rails –

  1. no federal regulation, tiny taxes, return to the gold standard, yadda yadda. You know, like Somalia or something []

Extended Reach

Extended Reach
Extended Reach, originally uploaded by swanksalot.

Tree in Belgium, WI, photographed with a Hipstamatic 180, modified with ShockMyPic.

sort of looks like a woodcut, doesn’t it?


Funding for Wisconsin Rail Project in Jeopardy

Wake if You Want To

Follow up on the ridiculous Republican rail opposition in Wisconsin

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told Wisconsin’s governor-elect, Scott Walker, that the federal government will take back the $810 million in stimulus funding granted to the state for a high-speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison if Mr. Walker doesn’t soften his opposition to the project.

“I respect the power of governors to make decisions for their states,” Mr. LaHood wrote to Mr. Walker. “There seems to be some confusion, however, about how these high-speed rail dollars can be spent. For this reason, I would like to set the record straight: None of the money provided to Wisconsin may be used for road or highway projects, or anything other than high-speed rail. Consequently, unless you change your position, we plan to engage in an orderly transition to wind down Wisconsin’s project so that we do not waste taxpayers’ money.”

…The Obama administration announced in January that $8 billion of stimulus funding would go toward building 13 high-speed passenger-rail networks across the U.S. Two weeks ago, the federal government separately awarded an additional $2.4 billion for high-speed rail projects nationwide.

On Monday, the U.S. Transportation Department said that in addition to the grants for high-speed rail, Wisconsin has received more than $703.7 million in separate stimulus funding for other road, bridge, highway, transit and airport projects.

(click to continue reading Funding for Wisconsin Rail Project in Jeopardy, LaHood Warns –

Scott Walker seems to be confused, as Wisconsin already has incoming federal dollars earmarked to be used to shore up roads and bridges. I wonder if he’s even thought his opposition through, or if it just is a convenient campaign slogan, meaningless, in other words.

While I would like there to be high-speed rail to Madison (or any rail, actually), if the rail line ignored Wisconsin, and just went directly to Minneapolis, I could live with that.


Wisconsin high-speed train work halted due to Republican Jerk

Road closed

Incoming Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is an ass. Infrastructure improvements help all of us, we need a national transportation policy that doesn’t consist simply of making more interstates. The proposed high speed rail shouldn’t be cast aside for partisan reasons – Republicans ride the rails too.

Preliminary work was halted Friday on Wisconsin’s plans for high-speed passenger train service between Milwaukee and Madison, officials said.

While the announcement by outgoing Gov. James Doyle, a Democrat, suspending design and engineering work did not kill the $810 million federally funded project, the proposed extension to Madison is in jeopardy.

The proposed route would connect with Amtrak’s existing Hiawatha service between Chicago and Milwaukee, and it would increase top train speeds to 110 mph from 79 mph. In addition, Wisconsin has been partnering with Minnesota to extend the high-speed corridor to Minneapolis.

Doyle’s decision follows Tuesday’s election of Republican Scott Walker to become Wisconsin’s next governor. Walker campaigned against building a high-speed rail network, saying his priority would be to repair roads and bridges. He called the passenger rail project a waste of taxpayer money.

Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi, chief architect of the state’s high-speed rail plans, said the project is on hold while he and other officials study “the real-world consequences” of the incoming administration’s agenda.

(click to continue reading Wisconsin high-speed train work halted –

Maybe I Was Dreaming, Maybe It Was Real - Agfa Scala

Also in Ohio, the idiots are now in charge:

Meanwhile, Ohio Gov.-elect John Kasich reiterated his opposition to spending money on high-speed train service between Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and other cities in the state.

High Speed Rail proposal

There’s a Sierra Club petition you can sign, if you are into such things:

Wisconsin recently received grant funds to build a high-speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison. This project is part of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, a plan that calls for a 3,000-mile passenger rail network serving nine states with frequent service and top speeds of 110 MPH. Please sign this statement of support for High-Speed Intercity Rail for Wisconsin.


Russ Feingold Loss is a Loss for All of Us

Watching - Polapan

More on why Russ Feingold losing his seat to a Tea Party Know Nothing is a travesty…

Civil liberties advocates lost a Senate stalwart Tuesday night when Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) was defeated by Ron Johnson, a little-known plastics manufacturer whose shibboleths against health care reform and government spending tapped into populist anger.

For years, Feingold was one of the few — and sometimes the only — voice in the Senate skeptical of the government’s increasing demands for domestic surveillance power and control of the internet. He was one of 16 Senators who voted against the Communications Decency Act of 1996, an internet censorship bill later struck down by the Supreme Court, was the only Senator in 2001 to vote against the USA Patriot Act, and he introduced a measure to censure President Bush for his illegal warrantless wiretapping program.

“Senator Feingold was a true champion of civil liberties,” said Marc Rotenberg, the president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, based in Washington, D.C. “He spoke out against the Patriot Act and the dramatic growth of government surveillance programs when many other Senators stood by silently. His voice and his commitment to the Constitutional rights of all Americans will be missed.”

In 1997, before many Americans were online, Feingold set out to repeal the CDA, which criminalized sending “indecent materials” to minors on the net, even before the Supreme Court heard the case.

“One can be a speaker, a publisher and a listener using the internet,” Feingold said, years before the term Web 2.0 became trendy. “The threat of the Communications Decency Act is its undeniable ability to stifle this free-flowing speech on the Net.”

Feingold was a maverick in his own party, strongly opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and voting against the TARP bank bailouts. Unlike many Democrats, however, he embraced his vote on health care reform, saying there was nothing wrong with helping to get the uninsured health care.

(click to continue reading Civil Liberties Watchdog Feingold Loses Senate Seat | Threat Level |