August 17, 2014
"In 129 years since police and fire commissions were created in the state of Wisconsin, we could not find a single ruling by a police department, an inquest or a police commission that a shooting was unjustified…The problem over many decades, in other words, was a near-total lack of accountability for wrongdoing; and if police on duty believe they can get away with almost anything, they will act accordingly. As a military pilot, I knew that if law professionals investigated police-related deaths like, say, the way that the National Transportation Safety Board investigated aviation mishaps, police-related deaths would be at an all time low."

Michael Bell

January 15, 2014
A Retired Police Officer Speaks Out

Russell Beckman, a retired police officer, recently gave the following statement to the Committee on Criminal Justice in the Wisconsin Legislature in support of Assembly Bill 409, which would increase oversight of Wisconsin police.  It is lengthy, but worth the read to hear a former police officer castigate the criminal justice system he once proudly served as a member of.  I’ve cut out the first two paragraphs listing his credentials (which are long):

Dear Members of the Committee,

[…]

This letter, the attached affidavit with supporting documents, and my testimony will make many people uncomfortable. My testimony will address the elephant in this hearing room. We all know it is here. Most of us, including me, do not want to acknowledge it. I will be testifying about a law enforcement culture in some police agencies that fosters an environment where the concealment of facts and evidence, untruthfulness, and other unethical and criminal behavior by police officers is both tolerated, and in many cases, expected.

Read More

January 11, 2014
Wis. judges on 7th Circuit uphold jail booking fee, over strong dissent - JSOnline

From the article:

A federal appeals court decision by two Wisconsin judges that it’s OK for an Illinois jail to charge every arrested person a $30 booking fee was blasted by a third dissenting judge who compared the practice to something from “Alice in Wonderland” or “1984.”

This is an excellent example of a court abusing the doctrine of Standing to uphold a law that is unconstitutional on its face.  The majority engages in a long and completely irrelevant analysis of the Standing doctrine, followed by a Kafkaesque analysis of the Plaintiff’s procedural due process claim that manages to completely miss the point at every turn.  As Judge Hamilton says in his dissent:

This should be a simple case.  The village’s booking fee ordinance is unconstitutional on its face.  It takes property from all arrestees—the guilty and the innocent alike—without due process of law. The deprivation occurs at the time of arrest, immediately and finally.  It occurs based on only the say-so and perhaps even the whim of one arresting officer. By no stretch of the imagination can that be due process of law.  The fee is in substance a criminal fine, modest but a fine nonetheless, and it is imposed regardless of the validity of the arrest and regardless of whether there is any criminal prosecution or what its outcome might be.

This is how blatantly unconstitutional laws get upheld in the courts.  Overly technical judges place form over substance to reach legally absurd results. The Standing doctrine  is supposed to be used to prevent the courts from being flooded with claims asserted by people who haven’t actually suffered a legal injury.  It certainly doesn’t apply when the Plaintiff is challenging a facially unconstitutional law, which would be invalid when applied to the innocent and guilty alike.  So the fact that the Plaintiff pled guilty to the crime he was arrested for is completely irrelevant to the constitutionality of the law.  The 7th Circuit majority in this case missed the forest through the trees.

April 9, 2012
The Repeal of Wisconsin’s ‘Equal Pay’ Bill, And The Failure Of The Republican Political Imagination

When we talk about laws that mandate equal pay for women, we need to keep in mind that most reasonable people agree that two equally competent individuals should be compensated equitably for their work, regardless of their gender, or any other character trait, for that matter.  I don’t know anyone, of any political persuasion, that doesn’t think this should be the case.

With that in mind, I think most reasonable people can also agree that, if a law is unnecessary or outdated, then repealing it is no crime.  If Scott Walker et al. could make the case that this law is no longer needed, and that similarly situated men and  women are receiving equitable compensation, then there would be absolutely nothing wrong with repealing this law.  Indeed, there is no point in filling up state codes with laws that are unnecessary or cumulative.  If employers are treating men and women equally, then we needn’t fatten state codes with pointless provisions.

But Walker and his Republican peers have completely failed to make that case; which is interesting, because there is certainly research out there that that suggests the gap in earnings between similarly situated men and women is greatly exaggerated.  The analysis doesn’t end there, of course.  But the fact is that Walker and his peers are not even trying to make that case.  Instead, they’re talking almost entirely about the impact of “baseless” discrimination lawsuits on the cost of doing business; and apparently, while they’re at it, citing Ann Coulter as an authority.  Which is problematic for reasons obvious enough that they need not be pointed out.  

I think this is another good example of why I’ve always been turned off by the intellectual culture of the modern Republican party.  Even when a reasonable case could be made for their policy position, they completely fail to make it.  The people who the Republicans need to convince in order for repeal of the Wisconsin “Equal Pay” bill not to become a political liability are the women who the law protects.  There’s no question that the constant threat of lawsuits makes it more difficult to run a business.  But if those lawsuits are vindicating a right that couldn’t be vindicated otherwise, then they might be a necessary evil.  Walker and his peers had an opportunity before repealing this law to make the case that Wisconsin women don’t need this bill.  Instead, they talked about the negative effect that the “Equal Pay” law had on business owners, which makes it look like they don’t care about protecting female employees.  That may not be true as a matter of fact, but that’s certainly how it looks.  And they have nobody but themselves to blame for that perception.  

This is a huge political failure by Walker and his Republican allies in Wisconsin.  Their decision to repeal Wisconsin’s “Equal Pay” law will become yet another political liability for Republicans nationally come November.  And they could have prevented this by speaking directly to the women affected, and trying to convince them that they’ll be ok without the bill.  They didn’t do that.  And they deserve every electoral defeat they receive as a result of that oversight.

March 16, 2012
Republican State Senator Galloway to Resign; GOP Will No Longer Control Wisconsin State Senate

wisconsinforward:

Wisconsin State Senator Pam Galloway, one of the Republicans facing a recall, is resigning.  This leaves an even split between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate.

LTMC: The Ides of March indeed.  Something tells me WI elections are going to be a charnel house for Republicans.

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Filed under: politics wisconsin 
August 31, 2011
Deteriorating Working Conditions Cause Wisconsin Teacher Retirements to Double

wisconsinforward:

As they face massive cuts to pay and benefits, as well as bizarre and belittling restrictions (no microwaves allowed, skirts must cover the knees…), Wisconsin teachers are retiring at an unprecedented rate.  And this phenomenon isn’t limited to teachers:

In the first six months of 2011, overall public employee retirements were double that in all of either 2009 or 2010.  

State agency retirements were particularly dramatic, nearly tripling from 747 in all of 2010 to 1,966 through June. Retirements from the University of Wisconsin System more than doubled, up from 480 last year to 1,091 this year. All told, 9,933 public workers had retired by the end of June, a 93% increase from 5,133 in 2010. The year before, there were 4,876 retirements.

Labor Day is going to feel a little different in Wisconsin this year.

You mean reducing compensation in a field which 90+% of Americans feel are at best adequately paid leads to an exodus of talent?  Amazing.

May 27, 2011
"Judge strikes down Wisconsin's anti-union law"

In yet another twist in Wisconsin’s bitter fight over unions, a judge Thursday struck down the Republican-sponsored bill to strip most public workers of their collective bargaining rights, moving the battle to the state Supreme Court.

Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi ruled that the Legislature violated the state’s open meetings law in approving the bill championed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker that sparked massive protests and the flight of 14 Democratic senators to Illinois in a futile effort to prevent its passage.

The state Supreme Court is scheduled to decide June 6 whether to hear the case.

As the Wisconsin fight intensifies — with six Republican and three Democratic senators facing recall elections, most likely July 12 — union workers and their allies in Ohio are halfway toward their goal of collecting more than 450,000 signatures to put a measure on the fall ballot that would repeal that state’s anti-union law, which sharply curtails the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

The recall proponents need to gather 231,149 valid signatures by the end of June. They say they had collected 214,399 signatures as of last week.

(via stuffsickpeoplehavetoputupwith-)

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Filed under: politcs wisconsin 
May 19, 2011
"

Mr. Wilson has made a long essay against Senator Beveridge’s bill to abolish child labor. It is the same kind of argument that would be made against our bill to prohibit women from working more than eight hours a day in industry. It is the same kind of argument that would have to be made; if it is true, it would apply equally against our proposal to insist that in continuous industries there shall be by law one day’s rest in seven and three-shift eight-hour day. You have labor laws here in Wisconsin, and chamber of commerce will tell you that because of that fact there are industries that will not come to Wisconsin. They prefer to stay outside where they can work children of tender years, where they can work women fourteen and sixteen hours a day, where if it is a continuous industry, they can work men twelve hours a day and seven days a week.


Now, friends, I know that you of Wisconsin would never repeal those laws even if they are at your commercial hurt, just as I am trying to get New York to adopt such laws even though it will be to the New York’s commercial hurt. But if possible I want to arrange it so that we can have justice without commercial hurt, and you can only get that if you have justice enforced nationally. You won’t be burdened in Wisconsin with industries not coming to the State if the same good laws are extended all over the other States. Do you see what I mean? The States all compete in a common market; and it is not justice to the employers of a State that has enforced just and proper laws to have them exposed to the competition of another State where no such laws are enforced. Now, the Democratic platform, and their speakers declare we shall not have such laws. Mr. Wilson has distinctly declared that we shall not have a national law to prohibit the labor of children, to prohibit child labor. He has distinctly declared that we shall not have a law to establish a minimum wage for women…

"

Theodore Roosevelt, Addressing Milwaukee Wisconsin, October 1912.

Note that every single regulation Roosevelt spoke of was passed; and the U.S. has long since operated the largest economy in the world in terms of GDP.  That isn’t to say one caused the other; it is to say that these regulations were not the impediment to economic growth that Roosevelt’s opponents claimed they would be.

April 20, 2011
Fifth Wisconsin Republican to be Recalled!

wisconsinforward:

Number five is Alberta Darling (R-Milwaukee), the co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee!  A little over 20,000 signatures were required; around 30,000 were collected. 

Update: There will be a gathering at Kletzsch Park in Milwaukee tomorrow (Thursday) at noon.

5 GOP Wisconsin senators are now to be recalled over Walker’s Union-busting fiasco.

If the Democrats make big gains in state legislatures in 2012, the GOP can thank Scott Walker for igniting the Progressive voting base in this country.  His union-busting bill has very likely guaranteed an electoral windfall for democrats in the next mid-term.

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Filed under: politics wisconsin 
April 8, 2011
Voter Fraud In Wisconsin, Ctd.

Cunningham think the votes are suspect:

[Waukesha County Clerk Kathy] Nickolaus says repeatedly that she imported the data into Access, but through a process of “human error”, she “forgot to save”.  Then come the tears, repeatedly, throughout her presser.

Here’s the problem.  Microsoft Access (any version) doesn’t ask you to save. When you enter data into a table, it automatically updates the underlying database.  If you close the database accidentally, the data you entered (or imported, in the case of Nickolaus) remains.  If you stop to take a phone call from your buddy the governor (for example), your data will still automatically save.

That’s not the only fishy thing.  The voter turnout was supposedly about ~25% of Waukesha right up until the ‘blackout’, when it suddenly jumped to an astounding ~75%:

On Tuesday, shockingly-large turnout suddenly emerged from Waukesha County, which did not comport with either the results of previous spring elections, or even internal estimates from city officials mid-day. In fact, a Waukesha City Deputy Clerk said at 1:18pm that turnout was very typical, predicting somewhere between 20 to 25 percent. As Tuesday night wore on, reporting in Waukesha County stopped altogether for hours, leaving observers to wonder what was going on. Then suddenly, results suggesting massive turnout started to pour in rapidly with Prosser adding dramatically to his total by a 73-27 percent margin.

That’s not all, either.  Kathy Nickolaus has a history of being criticized (and audited!) for improper vote counting procedure.  I can find accusations of impropriety as early as August of last year:

Nickolaus said she decided to take the election data collection and storage system off the county’s computer network - and keep it on stand-alone personal computers accessible only in her office - for security reasons…

Director of Administration Norman A. Cummings said because Nickolaus has kept them out of the loop, the county’s information technology specialists have not been able to verify Nickolaus’ claim that the system is secure from failure.

“How does anybody else in the county know, except for her verbal word, that there are backups, and that the software she has out there is performing as it should?” he said. “There’s no way I can assure that the election system is going to be fine for the next presidential election.”

When she was called on it, she didn’t take the matter very seriously.  In fact, she refused to adopt changes recommended by the County Board and dismissed them with a smirk:

Several committee members said they were uncomfortable with Nickolaus’ refusal to adopt the recommendations.

During one part of the discussion, [Chairman Jim] Dwyer erupted in exasperation at Nickolaus’ facial expressions.

“There really is nothing funny about this, Kathy,” he said, raising his voice. “Don’t sit there and grin when I’m explaining what this is about.

“Don’t sit there and say I will take it into consideration,” he said, asking her pointedly whether she would change the passwords.

“I have not made my decision,” she answered. After supervisors continued to press the issue, Nickolaus indicated she would create three different passwords.

“This isn’t that big of a deal. It isn’t worth an argument,” she said. “This is ridiculous.”

Nickolaus also said she would make her own assessment of when to back up computer programming for election ballots - and store the more frequent backup in another building, as the auditor recommended.

What about Kathy Nickolaus herself?  Well, she’s described by the Weekly Standard as “a Republican activist”:

[T]he discovery of the extra votes is sure to stoke the embers of the heated battles that have taken place across the state over the past two months, particularly because Nickolaus, the woman at the center of the controversy, is a Republican activist. A posting on the website of the Republican Women of Waukesha County indicates that Kathy Nickolaus recently served as president of that group.

I’m not one to make partisan accusations without a reason, but this seems like, at best, an extremely suspect situation.  Couple it with her previous status as the President of the ‘Republican Women of Waukesha County’, her refusal to address the security flaws in her system, her lies about Access not saving her documents, and 50% of the entire county showing up between 1PM and when the polls closed and you have to admit that there is something seriously, drastically wrong here.

Well, in all fairness, drawing attention to the fact that she’s a Republican activist is making partisan accusations on an ad arguendo basis.  But the point about voter participation suddenly jumping by 50% does raise suspicions.

As I’ve said before, there are plenty of ways to confirm/rule out voter fraud: an independent investigation, a lawsuit, and/or FOIA-style requests can resolve this question pretty quickly.  So interested parties ought to pursue those routes if they genuinely think there was foul play here.  Keeping government officials honest is never a bad thing, regardless of party affiliation.

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