Mountain Sun

Mountain Sun

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Governor Scott Walker, The Koch Brothers and The New Normal

 I don't think it is possible to overstate the importance of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's phone conversation with a man he thought was his out-of-state billionaire sponsor.  There are many instructive aspects of that call that people have or will call attention to.  But here, I first want to simply focus on the simple fact that while many of his own constituents and publicly-elected opponents were unable to get him on the phone, unable to truly discuss issues and perhaps arrive at solutions--while none of that could be done, Walker had all the time in the world for a billionaire supporter who lived in another state.

Madison protest sign 2/26/11.  Photo courtesy Melissa Ryan
We should thank Governor Walker for giving us such a blatant example of the corrosive and corrupting power of money in politics, an example that is being used against him most effectively (photo) outside his office window right now.

But it is dangerous and misleading to focus overly-much on the elected official who got caught this time.  People like Walker--and  the man he thought he was speaking to--are simply giving us a brief view of The New Normal--corruption that finds willing hosts in both parties and at all levels of government. They're giving us a glimpse at the corrupt process that has killed our republic and left the rest of us clambering over its dead body with hand-lettered signs made out of old pizza boxes.  

Listen to Lawrence Lessig:

Friday, February 25, 2011

Where is the Democratic Governors Association in the Wisconsin Fight?

The Republican Governor's Association has been all over the Wisconsin Labor Union Battle. Even before all this boiled up, the RGA did a massive ad buy supporting candidate Scott Walker, and directly contributed a huge amont to Walker's campaign.  The RGA has remained fully engaged in the battle, most recently ginning up a "Stand With Scott" website, complete with suggested Twitter hashtag and quotes from leading Republican Governors supporting Walker.  Here's the quote from GOP Governor Butch Otter of Idaho:

"For too long, elected leaders like Governor Walker, who are responsible and accountable to our citizens, have been virtually held hostage by the outdated and costly demands of public employees' unions. We live in a republic, and there is room for all voices to be heard – within the context of an open public process, not in the context of entitlement-driven protests, work stoppages and disruption of the people's business."
By which it appears that Butch Otter thinks that public voices should be heard, except for labor unions.

Obama's counter-message to the RGA has been fairly typical for him--weak and non-committal.  I really don't understand why--it seems counterintuitive and directly against his own political interests (not to mention against those of his "base").

But at least Obama has said something.  The Democratic Governor's Association--a group that one might assume has opposing or at least differing views from the RGA--has been completely silent.  To my knowledge, DGA Chair Martin O'Malley has issued nothing on the subject.  And a quick visit to the DGA website shows that the DGA has absolutely nothing to say on the Wisconsin battle that has been raging for well over a week, and nothing to say about unions or public employees.  The words simply do not appear anywhere on the site. 


So where are our Democratic Governors on this issue?  Why the complete silence from DGA?  Are they in disarray from the shellacking they took a few months back?  Are they simply unaware that an important part of their base is under attack?  Do they think the battle is unimportant?  Do they actually agree with their Republican counterparts that public unions are bad, but don't want to publicly say so?  Has national Democratic leadership become so bland, cowardly and ineffective that it is simply unable to muster any form of counter argument to the Republicans?

I honestly don't know the answer.


To his credit, here is O'Malley in a recent CNBC segment in which he does (in response to questions) respond to the public union issue.  He actually does make some good points here.  However, he is not identified as DGA chair, doesn't speak for the DGA, and my point remains that the DGA has been completely silent on the issue, as have the vast majority of Democratic leaders...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wisconsin Law Enforcement Union: "Tragic Mistake to Endorse Walker"

One of the remarkable parts of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's stalled union-busting bill is its selectivity. The bill does not attempt to break all public unions in the state, but rather focuses on those that failed to support him. As Ezra Klein observes, "...note that not all public-employee unions are covered by Walker's proposal: the more conservative public-safety unions -- notably police and firefighters, many of whom endorsed Walker -- are exempt".

The chaos caused by Walker's bill is clearly evidenced in this posting on the WLEA (Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association) website.  The posting was apparently made four days ago, on Feb. 16, but I saw no mention of it until today.  The statement includes WLEA's analysis of the bill as well as a strongly worded statement from WLEA's president, Tracy Fuller.  It should be read in full, but here is an extended piece of it:  

I don’t believe that the Troopers Association could have possibly predicted, or comprehended the events that are unfolding in front of us at this time. I can agree that it was a tragic mistake for the Trooper’s Association to endorse the Governor, I can’t do anything about it, and they are reaping the benefits of their actions. I do believe they thought any benefits gained would be for all of the members of WLEA, after all, the PCO’s, Field Agents, Capitol Police, and U.W. Police are all in the same union.

Who could have possibly thought that the Governor could pluck one local’s members from a union and identify it as being worthy of bargaining for a contract? Some of the comments and attitudes that have been made and displayed would have you believe that the Governor consulted with the board of the Trooper’s Association about what his plans were in all of this.
Everyone is in the same boat, just like the slaves. Perceived benefits are not benefits they are just perceptions. Slave owners loved the contention between the field slaves and the house slaves because they never had to worry about the two groups consorting with each other. House slaves would kill field slaves for talking about escaping the plantation.

Are we like the slaves, in that we can’t really see that we are all the same in Governor’s eyes, and he only sees us as things that fulfill his purpose of turning the state employees into workers on the big plantation, with no rules other than those conjured up by the overseers as the event occurs?

Friday, February 18, 2011

By His Own Definition, Governor Walker Is a Bully

It is an indelible hallmark of the conservative species that even as they relentlessly beat the crap out of their victims,  they whimper about being helpless victims themselves.  The case of Governor Scott Walker provides another great example.  The story begins here...

Gov. Scott Walker says he is confident state workers will continue to show up for work and do their jobs, despite their potential disappointment in his emergency budget proposal.
However, if there is worker unrest, Walker says the Wisconsin National Guard is prepared to respond…The governor says he’s briefed the National Guard and other state agencies, to prepare them for any problems with workers, as they learn of Walker’s emergency budget plan

So said Governor Walker to Milwaukee Public Radio as he unveiled his attack on collective bargaining rights for public employees in Wisconsin.  But I want to emphasize a point here--note that Walker’s threat of using the National Guard --the National Guard!-- came before any reaction from Wisconsin’s public employees—and certainly before any signs of “unrest” (which have never materialized).  It is important to be very clear about this:  Walker’s completely unprovoked and aggressive threat to deploy the Wisconsin Guard came before most public employees had heard any specifics about the radical nature of his "budget repair bill."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Egypt Envy

Like many others, I’ve been riveted by Egypt in recent days.  The incredible, impossible, triumphant first step by the Egyptian people has been something that no American liberal could resist.  What made the unfolding story so much more immediate to American liberals (or this one, at least) was the official American reaction to the stirrings of actual Egyptian democracy.  After years of cheerleading a comfortably theoretical concept of democracy in the Middle East (and killing hundreds of thousands in the process), Americans witnessed an administration that displayed every appearance of confusion, internal conflict, incoherence.  A series of high-level statements from Obama and Clinton said only one thing with any clarity: “We’re all for democracy,” they said.  “but whatever democratic changes are needed to get a lid back in place on this country, we want the dictator to make them.”

Friday of Departure, Tahrir Square.  Photo my Mona sosh.  Wikimedia Commons.

And so the US administration supported Egyptian democracy with the vaguest of rhetoric, while doing everything possible to uphold their man Mubarak over the Egyptian people.  And they continued doing so until Mubarak’s rejection became so obvious that even the US media saw it.  With Mubarak exposed and broken, Obama suggested Suleiman, a trusted US partner and infamous torturer.  It only took a few hours for it to become obvious that that pathetic dog wouldn’t hunt, with the result that the US administration had only one place left to go--the Egyptian Army.  Thus ended a truly embarrassing display of ineffective, reactive and incoherent moves by this administration in which it tried to simultaneously identify with the Egyptian people while also asserting that the dictatorship oppressing them was legitimate.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


We do not accept the proposition that Egypt's only choices are a slow-to-reform authoritarian regime or an Islamist extremist one; nor do we see greater democracy in Egypt as leading necessarily to a government under the MB [Muslim Brotherhood]. --January 29 2006 cable excerpt from US Ambassador to Egypt Francis Ricciardone to FBI Director Robert Mueller

I don't know who "We" is above, but it certainly did not include Bush then, and it most certainly doesn't include Obama now.  I'm sure to many of us, Ricciardone's assertion seems so self-evident that it hardly needs stating.  But sadly, the current US administration seems as cynical as ever as it presents a completely unconvincing facade of support for the Egyptian people bleeding in the streets, while desperately attempting to salvage the 'friendly dictatorship' that oppresses them, complete with scary choices between dictatorship, chaos, and the islamist extremist boogyman.   As an American who voted for Obama, this has been both painful and embarrassing to watch.  The US appears dedicated to swapping Mubarak with an (at least) equally pliant Suleiman, a man Obama knows and trusts to help implement a badly flawed set of US regional interests.

As the US attempts this cheap deception, it is up to the Egyptian people to see this not-so-hidden gimmick for what it is, and to refuse it.  So far, this "leaderless" protest has been superbly organized and beautifully disciplined.  I'm hopeful that the leadership so obviously present on the Egyptian street will not settle for what has been offered to them so far.