Dane County Will Help Drive Supreme Court Race

Wisconsin may unseat a conservative State Supreme Court justice come April 5th.

If that happens Dane County will be one place where thanks and offerings of gratitude can be sent.  Milwaukee County may be the other place flowers and candy tributes can be made.

Liberals in both areas are mad as hell, and plan to make sure conservative voters in other areas of the state are outnumbered when the polls close.

There is a serious get-out-the-vote effort underway for two huge races in Dane county.  The first is the one for county executive.  Then in Madison a very spirited contest for mayor is underway.    These two races alone will make for a huge turnout.

But on top of all that is a little nasty issue about assaulting state workers and public employees that has outraged Dane County.

Which brings us to David Prosser.

I bet Prosser wishes his race for reelection was almost any other year. 

Madison City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl said Monday that early absentee voting was “unusually high” for an April election. She expects to have as many or more early absentee ballots cast in Madison as in the high-turnout 2008 presidential primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.  When the pace of “early” voting began to exceed that of last fall’s governor’s race, the city ordered more absentee ballots.

Meanwhile in Milwaukee County there is also a county executive race that will add many voters at the polls come Tuesday.

But with the added element of the state’s budget fight, it’s seems more likely that a turnout surge in Milwaukee County would be left-leaning rather than right-leaning. The court race could influence the county executive race as much as or more than the other way around.  

Either way, we can expect a larger than normal Supreme Court vote out of both Milwaukee and Dane counties. While state election officials have forecast a statewide turnout that’s fairly typical for a contested Supreme Court race (20% of voting-age adults), it would be surprising at this point if it weren’t higher, given the politics of the budget battle and local election factors. (You can find the Government Accountability Board’s chart for turnout in all Supreme Court races since 2000 here). 

Is Wisconsin State Senator Randy Hopper Sweating?

He should be.   

The recall campaign against Sen. Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac) may or may not have enough signatures to force a recall election, though volunteers don’t plan to stop collecting them before next week.

Scott Dillman, a former Department of Corrections employee who is one of the campaign’s coordinators, wouldn’t say directly Tuesday that volunteers had collected the 15,269 signatures required to force the election. But he said that volunteers were planning a last push for signatures on election day next Tuesday, and that he’s hoping that the total collected will be “closer to 30,000 than 15,000.”

If the signatures are delivered that day to the state that day, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board would have  to review them within 31 days. If it certifies them as adequate — and if there are no delays caused by challenges or other factors — an election could come as early as June.

Dane County Judge Sumi Might Have Asked “Can You Hear Me Now?”

There really could be no doubt in anyone’s mind, even those brave people in Governor Walker’s administration that would only communicate to the press via telephone, that the collective bargaining law was not properly published last Friday, and therefore could not be implemented.

Since Friday there has been an ongoing discussion regarding the legal and political angles to this story in coffee shops and around kitchen tables all around Wisconsin.    All surely agreed we were in untested waters resulting from the Walker team acting with haste about the collective bargaining law.  The problem for all those chatting away this weekend, myself included, was the difficulty of lay people to back up their thoughts with solid legal findings.

We needed to get back to the work-week to start sorting the mess out in court.

That started on Tuesday evening when Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi let it be known that her pervious restraining order had either been ignored or misinterpreted.  Further implementation of the collective bargaining law was to cease at once.

“Now that I’ve made my earlier order as clear as it possibly can be, I must state that those who act in open and willful defiance of the court order place not only themselves at peril of sanctions, they also jeopardize the financial and the governmental stability of the state of Wisconsin,” Sumi said.

Tough words.  But someone needed to lay the facts bare in such a way that they would be understood.

I suspect what Judge Sumi truly meant was that her original order was flat-out ignored by the Walker Administration.  It is clear that Senator Fitzgerald went on a hunt last week to find a loophole for his actions which resulted in his request to the Legislative Reference Bureau on Friday.    Fitzgerald’s actions clearly were not in line with the order that Sumi handed down.

While Sumi was making it crystal clear  to all sides on Tuesday what she expected, it would not be hard to imagine her adding in a terse tone, “Can you hear me now?”

And who would have blamed her had she actually stated it?

What has taken place in the Republican controlled State Senate, and in the Governor’s office is one of the most outlandish and irresponsible ways to fashion public policy that most in Wisconsin have even witnessed.  This is not the way politics should operate in this state.  

I know that Governor Walker and his team want to slam dunk the collective bargaining bill, and shortchange the process for a political victory.  We all get that fact.

But that is not how the voters of Wisconsin want the process to work. 

Walker announced on Friday, February 11th his collective bargaining idea, and laid out a road map to have it pass both houses of the legislature within six days, with two of those being a weekend.  It was clear from that moment  over-reaching was to be Walker’s modus operandi.

The problem Walker keeps missing  is that there is an orderly process for how a bill becomes a law in this state.  Every fourth grader receives a copy of this document when they visit the Capitol for a class trip.  (They did, at least, when I worked in the Assembly.)  The rules of the road are laid out so the process is fair and open for all sides.  That is the way Wisconsin likes to play ball.

We are in a sad state when final votes are timed, such as in the State Assembly, so a third of  the body never was able to cast a vote, or open meeting laws are flaunted in the State Senate because they seem burdensome.

There are now many twists and turns in the legal wrangling over this matter. As Sumi noted on Tuesday these legal turns are costly to taxpayers.

It all underscores why rules should be followed under the Capitol Dome.  When they are not chaos takes place, the credibility of elected officials are tarnished, and the faith people have in the political process continues to erode.

What Will Muammar el-Qaddafi Do? Lets Turn To Science For An Answer

Libya and all the spokes of the story are driving every news cycle.  With that said the most interesting story on the matter today was this one regarding the creation of a psychological profile to better predict what Muammar el-Qaddafi will do next.

But at least one group has tried to construct a profile based on scientific methods, and its conclusions are the ones most likely to affect American policy. For decades, analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense have compiled psychological assessments of hostile leaders like Colonel Qaddafi, Kim Jong-il of North Korea and President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, as well as allies, potential successors and other prominent officials. (Many foreign governments do the same, of course.)

Diplomats, military strategists and even presidents have drawn on those profiles to inform their decisions — in some cases to their benefit, in other cases at a cost.

The political profile “is perhaps most important in cases where you have a leader who dominates the society, who can act virtually without constraint,” said Dr. Jerrold Post, a psychiatrist who directs the political psychology program at George Washington University and founded the C.I.A. branch that does behavioral analysis. “And that has been the case here, with Qaddafi and Libya.”

The official dossiers are classified. But the methods are well known. Civilian psychologists have developed many of the techniques, drawing mostly on public information about a given leader: speeches, writings, biographical facts, observable behavior. The resulting forecasts suggest that “at-a-distance profiling,” as it is known, is still more an art than a science. So in a crisis like the one in Libya, it is crucial to know the assessments’ potential value and real limitations.

Michigan Does Not Want To Be Like Wisconsin

No one can blame Michigan for making the comparison.

There is a rather sad policy shaping up in Michigan.

All states currently pay 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, before extended benefits paid by the federal government kick in. Michigan’s new law means that starting next year, when the federal benefits are now set to end, the state will stop paying benefits to the jobless after just 20 weeks.

After reading that description of the issue makes the comparison with Wisconsin easier to understand.

“It turns the clock back 50 years at a time when unemployment is at historic highs since the Depression,” Representative Sander M. Levin, Democrat of Michigan, said in an interview, adding that he worried that the state would set a precedent that would be followed by other states, including Florida, that are thinking of curtailing their unemployment programs. “I think that Michigan should not be to unemployment insurance what Wisconsin has become to collective bargaining.”

Is Governor Scott Walker Member Of ‘Mile High Club’?

For $42,000 Governor Walker better have gotten something out of his air travels.

The people of Wisconsin surely have not.

It was reported that Walker has used his tax-funded airplane a great deal to travel around Wisconsin.  Then as has been noted many times in news stories, Walker needs to duck into a side door or leave by a back exit so not to come in contact with the voters who have lined up to let him know what they think of his policies.

Perhaps if  Gov. Walker took the bus or even a car, and made pit stops along his way from Madison to whatever Republican friendly enclave will have him as a speaker, he might better understand the mood of his fellow citizens.  It also would cost less and let everyone know that he is making cutbacks as well in this time of a budget shortfall.

Since the Governor likes to fly over much of Wisconsin let me offer him a news nugget.

It is not good out there in the countryside, Governor. 

Lots, and I mean LOTS of people are really ticked off at you and your fellow Republicans.  And it is not just Democrats who you have offended.  I have been talking with many independents who have decided that you are not governing in the way you campaigned.  I think you might want to pivot towards sanity soon, or the GOP house of cards is going to collapse.

But I suspect when flying above it all in comfort it is easier to dismiss the anger and logic of the people who are trying to meet family budgets, retain health care, and preserve quality education.

Whatever you are doing up there please know that we have not forgotten about you and are  planing a little statewide get-together in your honor in early January.  Please join us at your local polling place.

President Obama Shows American Resolve In Libya Speech

If anyone wonders why I voted for President Obama to lead the nation the answer was found in the speech he delivered concerning military action in Libya.  Obama’s advancing of a larger parameter from which to lead the world was powerful, and essential.

I am glad that President Obama made it clear that there is a difference between values and interests. 

And that values in foreign affairs matter.

It is essential for America  to be engaged in putting pressure on Col. Moammar Gadhafi, and protecting the Libyan people.  Obama also made the  case I have argued for concerning the larger role our nation needs to play in the world. 

Operating from a moral perspective even when there is not a direct threat to the United States is one that matches our ideals, along with the expectations of those who want our deeds to match our words.

Bottom line is I am not ashamed of our power or the wise use of it. 

The reason we are now engaged with our international partners in Libya is to make sure the historic moment of democratic uprisings is not undone by the  ruthless hand of Gadhafi.  It would send a horrible message to the people in the Middle East and northern Africa if America did not put our resolve where out mouth is. 

President Obama said it perfectly.

To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and — more profoundly — our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action

I almost jumped to my feet several times to applaud certain sections of the speech.  He stated what I firmly have believed for a long time about the use of force for the betterment of others.

Sadly, we do not always employ this framework as evidenced by the slaughter that took place in Darfur.  International politics and human nature never allows for perfection. 

I am very pleased with these sections of the speech tonight which I post.  

I am one who strongly supports these thoughts having been put into action in Libya.  

Thank you, Mr. President.

There will be times, though, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and values are. Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and common security — responding to natural disasters, for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce. These may not be America’s problems alone, but they are important to us, and they are problems worth solving. And in these circumstances, we know that the United States, as the world’s most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help.

In such cases, we should not be afraid to act — but the burden of action should not be America’s alone. As we have in Libya, our task is instead to mobilize the international community for collective action. Because contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves. Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well; to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs; and to see that the principles of justice and human dignity are upheld by all.

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Born, as we are, out of a revolution by those who longed to be free, we welcome the fact that history is on the move in the Middle East and North Africa, and that young people are leading the way. Because wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States. Ultimately, it is that faith — those ideals — that are the true measure of American leadership.

My fellow Americans, I know that at a time of upheaval overseas — when the news is filled with conflict and change — it can be tempting to turn away from the world. And as I have said before, our strength abroad is anchored in our strength at home. That must always be our North Star — the ability of our people to reach their potential, to make wise choices with our resources, to enlarge the prosperity that serves as a wellspring of our power, and to live the values that we hold so dear.

What Should $579,000 Buy In A House?

If my mom and dad had proposed the idea of  walking through an open house on a Sunday when I was a kid I would have been seeking out United Nations assistance for asylum in a foreign land.  I would have crumpled from boredom at the mere thought.

Then I became an adult and things changed. 

Now James and I actually seek out wonderful old homes that strike our fancies to walk through when up for sale and allowing visitors for an open house.  We have no intention of  buying.  In fact, we both have said that our next move will be with us in the box.  We love our home, and life but like to see other houses.  

We also watch Home and Garden Television, (HGTV) and have a bug to see how others decorate and live.  Others often mention to me that they wonder what it looks like in such and such a house, and so my bug is widespread.  The fact that others are at these open houses who are well-known in Madison, and are not moving, only underscores how widespread the bug can be.

So on Sunday we were off to see a home with 2,532 square feet for a mere $579,000.   I certainly had a preset idea of what we would find when entering.  Mainly that it would be ready to move into and have no need for any repairs.  At the price they were asking would anyone assume otherwise?

The first thing that struck me was the warm yellow walls of the kitchen and across the house to where the kitchen table sat.  It was perfect!  I gave a mental thumbs up to the sellers for not being afraid to use color.  Sea foam green and beige are over-rated, and dreadfully boring.

But then things started to go downhill.

The day was bright and many windows allowed glorious light to highlight everything.  Including almost every wall where a brush of paint was brought over this and that scratch and mar on the wall.   But only one brush stroke.

There was no attempt to really paint the walls or even angled ceiling where gouges and scrapes had been made.  The marks stood out in the light as easy as if they had been circled with a black marker along a notation reading “Look Here“!

There were in several cases very cheap hollow type doors hung that one might find in a non-profit organization.  The striker plates in some places had been replaced, but with the wrong sizes, and old wood and paint showed the error.

A shower surround was loose and could be moved back and forth with my finger, and some old carpeting in a bedroom that should have been replaced instead greeted every visitor.  To show how much space there was in the room bunk beds had been placed, but the old indentations of the previous bed only added to the carpet needing to be ousted.

The reason I mention any of this is the degree to which home sellers often think that top dollar should be made for less than top-dollar homes.  I see more and more of this, and it frustrates me.

I come from the old school of wanting things to look right when folks visit our home.   On top of that if I knew our home was to be seen by strangers it would require a whole other layer of  OCD to come into play.  That is  just how I grew up.

James and I do not allow for deferred maintenance to pile up at our home.   When a need arrises it is handled within a week, or until the next paycheck if the project is a bit larger.  To think that sellers would allow for deferred maintenance to be part of the house sale is rather ‘rich’.

The home mentioned above was filled with kids and clearly good times.  That is the most important thing.  But when it comes to selling the house and asking top dollar I think it is only reasonable that everything be near perfect. 

Again there is that old school part of me coming out in clearly modern times.

The house is on a Madison lake and has a grand view.  There is no doubt about it.  But I suspect most buyers want to enjoy the view instead of needing to start with a bevy of items needing to be checked off the ‘to-do’ list.

Maybe next Sunday there will be another house with fewer issues…