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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

What if the alphabet only had the letters "A" and "B"?

In that case, Scott Walker would be a champion speller because, although he could offer a full alphabet of options for a state budget, he seems to have forgotten the rest of the letters beyond "A" (destroy the unions) or "B" (fire state workers).

BuzzFlash/Truthout staffer Dan DiMaggio wrote a commentary about Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, who offered another option: taxing the super rich:

But across the border from Wisconsin in Minnesota, Democratic Governor Mark Dayton has proposed an alternative idea: Raise taxes on the rich to help close the budget gap. Dayton's budget plan would increase taxes to 10.95 percent on Minnesota families earning over $150,000 a year (or single adults earning more than $85,000). He would also add an additional 3 percent surtax on the superrich - those earning more than $500,000 - for the next 3 years.

Dayton would still make some workforce and social service cuts, but he is putting more than two options on the table. The Republicans, as they did with the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, have basically limited the alphabetic choices to two, and neither of them require sacrifice for the wealthy and corporations. In fact, Walker is cutting taxes for that privileged group.

But what if the wealthy of Wisconsin paid their fair share for the services and abundance that democracy offers them?

Mark Levine, founder of the Center for Economic Development at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, wrote an op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel proposing a modest fair share contribution from the super wealthy. Levine also notes this stunning statistic: "Moreover, as a study by the Institute for Wisconsin's Future documented, Wisconsin corporations underpay state and local taxes by more than $1.3 billion annually: This is the difference between what businesses actually pay in state and local taxes and what they would be contributing if paying at the average national rate."

We had a president, George W. Bush, who had trouble with language, now we have a governor of Wisconsin who only knows two letters of the alphabet.

MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH EDITOR FOR TRUTHOUT

How comfortable Marie Antoinette would feel with Scott Walker and the Koch Brothers.

Let them [the masses] eat cake, indeed.

As BuzzFlash has noted before, a key technique of the plutocracy is to consolidate wealth in the hands of a few, while dividing and conquering those who work for ever-decreasing hourly wages. A recent Truthout reader email recounted a conversation of two workers at a food store in Wisconsin who were "disparaging greedy public workers."

Remember that the corporate and individual wealth today is actually increasing because of a combination of cheaper labor in other nations, resulting in cheaper labor in America, and the increased percentage of business profits that come from sales overseas.

Meanwhile, the former middle class - the hardcore poor don't even get but a scintilla of media recognition anymore - is left to fight over scraps, or week-old pieces of cake.

Walker and his radical, plutocratic, modern-day economic royalists want to return to the days when the lower class fought each other over a few crumbs.

That is what was revealed in that conversation in what was probably a nonunion supermarket. The logic is clear: Walker represents the ideology that everyone but the richest Americans should be resigned to more work for lower pay.

This divide-and-conquer strategy is reinforced by the right-wing media echo chamber.

What we end up with are organizations of the rich pushing people who labor for a living into a race for the bottom.

GEORGE LAKOFF FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The Wisconsin protests are about much more than budgets and unions. As I observed in What Conservatives Really Want, the conservative story about budget deficits is a ruse to turn the country conservative in every area.  Karl Rove and Shep Smith have made it clear on Fox: If the Wisconsin plan to kill the public employees' unions succeeds, then there will be little union money in the future to support democratic candidates. Conservatives will be effectively unopposed in raising campaign funding in most elections, including the presidential elections. This will mean a thoroughly conservative America in every issue area.

The media, with few exceptions, is failing to get at the deeper issues.

Let's start with the case of the Lincoln legislators. As is well known about Lincoln, and as the Political Wire reports,

On December 5, 1840, Democrats "proposed an early adjournment, knowing this would bring a speedy end to the State Bank. The Whigs tried to counter by leaving the capitol building before the vote, but the doors were locked. That's when Lincoln made his move. He headed for the second story, opened a window and jumped to the ground!

Lincoln would be, and we all should be, proud that the Wisconsin state senators have courageously crossed the state line to Illinois to avoid a quorum in Wisconsin that would have a disastrous effect, not only on Wisconsin, but on America for the indefinite future.

Quorum rules are an inherent part of democracy. They are in the Wisconsin Constitution for a reason. When an extreme move by a legislative majority would be a disaster, patriotic legislators can, like Lincoln, refuse to allow the disaster if they have the power to stop it. That is their democratic duty, not only to their constituents, but to the nation.

That is why I think these legislators should be called the "Lincoln Legislators" as a term of honor. They understand that their courage is being called upon, not just in the name of collective bargaining rights, but in the name of protecting democracy from a total conservative takeover. The Lincoln story, and the greater good story, should be in the media every day. And Democrats nationwide should be hailing the courage, and vital importance, of those legislators.

Yet the media keeps reporting on them as "fleeing" and refusing to do their jobs. Where there is positive reporting, as on MSNBC's The Ed Show, it is only about defending unions and collective bargaining rights for working people.

The media - and the Democrats - also need to do a much better job on a sneaky conservative media strategy. The clearest example occurred in the NY Times. David Brooks, in his Feb. 21, 2011 column wrote: "Private sector unions push against the interests of shareholders and management; public sector unions push against the interests of taxpayers." I turned on CNN that day and heard Anderson Cooper introduce the Wisconsin protest story as a battle between taxpayers and unions. These are massive distortions, but they are what conservatives want the public to believe.

The real issue is whether conservatives will get what they really want: the ability to turn the country conservative on every issue, legally and permanently. Eliminating the public sector unions could achieve that. Collective bargaining rights are the immediate issue, but they are symbolic of the real issue at stake. That is the story the media should be telling - and that Democrats everywhere in America should be shouting out loud.

What is standing in the way of having the real story told? It is the frame of collective bargaining itself, which only points to the parties that are doing the bargaining and what they are bargaining over

The real point of collective bargaining is the idea of fairness inherent in democracy. Without unions, large corporations have an unfair advantage in hiring individual workers: Workers have to take what is offered, a fair wage for work done or not. Unions help to even the playing field, enabling workers to have a fair chance against wealthy, powerful large organizations - whether corporations or governments.

But public employees' unions, in bargaining with governments, are raising deeper issues in which wealthy corporations and individuals play a huge role. The public employees' unions are aware that the top one percent of Americans have more financial assets than the bottom 95 percent - a staggering disproportion of wealth. The wealthy have, to a large extent, amassed that wealth through indirect contributions to them by governments - governments build roads corporations use, fund schools that train their workers, subsidize their energy costs, do research they capitalize on, subsidize their access to resources, promote trade for them, and on and on.

Meanwhile, over the past three decades, while corporations and their investors have grown immensely richer on the public largesse, middle class workers have had no substantive wage increases, leaving them poorer and poorer.  Those immensely wealthy corporations and individuals have managed, through political contributions, to rig our politics so that they pay back only an inadequate amount back into the system that has enabled them to become wealthy

The real targets of the public employees' unions are the wealthy free riders who, in a fair political economy, would be giving back more to the nation, and to the states and communities they function in.

That is the obvious half of what the Wisconsin protests are about. The other half concerns the rights of ordinary people in a democracy - rights conservatives want to deny, whether gay rights, women's rights, immigrant rights, retirement rights, or the right to the best health a nation can provide to all its citizens. Unions, through their political contributions, support the basic freedoms, protections, and resources we all require to have a decent life and live in a civilized society.  If those unions are destroyed, American life will become unrecognizable in a remarkably short time.

Democracy as we know it is at stake in the Wisconsin protests, not just budgets and union

Progressives are organizing rallies to "Save The American Dream." They are understating the case.

If Democrats are not talking out loud about these deeper issues, then they are, by their reticence and silence, helping conservatives destroy unions, defund the Democratic party, and take over the country.

MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH EDITOR FOR TRUTHOUT


It was June of 2010 and Jerald Kellner, 15-years-old, was on his way to Miwaukee's "Summerfest" when he was killed by a slab of falling concrete in a parking garage poorly maintained by Milwaukee County.

Scott Walker, then the long-term chief executive of Milwaukee County, indignantly denied that he was responsible for not maintaining the safety of county buildings.  According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "County Executive Scott Walker said he knew of no report that would suggest the O’Donnell ramp [parking garage] suffered from deferred maintenance."

But it would appear highly unlikely that Walker was not aware that he was trying to prove himself a loyal Koch brothers acolyte by insufficiently managing and funding basic services, such as county building maintenance, that might have saved the life of Jared Kellner.

According to "The Daily Reporter," a Wisconsin paper that covers the construction industry, an October 2010 report by the Milwaukee County Department of Audit, the county, under Walker, was not systematically overseeing the maintenance of county buildings and property:

A report released Monday by the Milwaukee County Department of Audit revealed what everyone long suspected: Milwaukee [County's] public structures are in disrepair.

There is more than $193 million in necessary repairs needed on 521 Milwaukee County buildings inspected. Nearly one-quarter of the reported deficiencies are “currently critical,” which means structures pose an immediate safety risk, fail to comply with the American with Disabilities Act, or are deteriorating altogether — and, in some cases, all of the above.

Hundreds of immediate public safety hazards were identified, totaling $5.5 million in repairs. The report suggests a large portion of particularly critical repairs be addressed within a year, but those structures deemed most vulnerable should be county officials’ first priority.

The report blames spending cutbacks and a disorganized building inspection system for the poor conditions of county buildings.

Of the neglect of public safety under the Walker Milwaukee County Administration, the Milwaukee County Audit director was frank:

Jerry Heer, Milwaukee County audit director, said this suggests the county maintenance duties fell behind, and officials attempted to toss money at problems once deficiencies became too large to ignore.

“We don’t really do preventative maintenance,” Heer said. “We wait till things are really bad and need major repairs.” (Bolded by BuzzFlash at Truthout.)

In a recent BuzzFlash at Truthout article, we noted that Walker has appointed his former county chief of staff, who oversaw the staff responsible for Milwaukee county buildings and property on a day to day basis, the person in charge of state buildings, licensing of amusement parks, state property and the public safety of Wisconsin residents.

The man appointed to this state position is named Tom Nardelli, 66, and is currently receiving two taxpayer funded pensions, and is on his way to two more for a total of four.  But that relates to Walker's hypocrisy in allowing unlimited taxpayer pensions for his cronies, while trying to crush the pensions of the public unions.

The actual possible threat posed by Nardelli's overseeing a large staff responsible for state building and safety codes is his performance of letting hazardous conditions remain unrepaired in Milwaukee County buildings, according to "The Daily Reporter."

In terms of this aspect of the Walker/Nardelli symbiotic relationship, it's not just hypocrisy at work; this is managerial neglect -- under the guise of saving taxpayer dollars -- that could be deadly to the citizens of Wisconsin.

MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH EDITOR FOR TRUTHOUT

Scott Walker is against public union pensions, but he's not against pensions, for himself or his cronies.

In fact, Walker's former chief of staff at the Milwaukee County Board, Tom Nardelli, is well on his way to receiving a whopping four pensions, one of them is $30,000 a year from the city of Milwaukee.

Upon being elected governor, Walker appointed Nardelli, 66, to a state position overseeing state building and safety codes paying $90,000 a year.

As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

Nardelli will be paid $90,000 in his new job. He was paid about $75,000 with the county as Walker's chief of staff.

Nardelli collects a $30,000-a-year pension from the city and another undisclosed sum from the Army, where he served more than 25 years and retired as a lieutenant colonel.

He's also eligible for a county pension of about $4,500 a year, but that won't kick in until April, when his unused vacation and personal time runs out. Nardelli will also be eligible for a state pension. If he keeps his state job for four years, he could get about $5,700 a year.

BuzzFlash used an army reserve calculator and estimated (although we may be under or over because we don't know all the details of Nardelli's service) that Walker's crony is receiving perhaps about $8,000 a year in pension payments from the reserves.

So Walker clearly is not anti-taxpayer funded pensions when it comes to his chief political confidante, who is currently receiving two pensions while earning $90,000 from the state - and who will shortly be receiving a third, and then a fourth pension when he leaves state government.

And Walker himself has a nice pension that he received from his days in the state legislature, not to mention his years heading the county board, and then a third pension will come from his years as governor. Now, although Walker, when campaigning for governor, implied that he would pay for his pension, he only was really promising to pay 11% of his salary toward the pension, the taxpayers footing the rest of the bill.

BuzzFlash noted in an earlier story on Scott Walker's increase in the salaries of political loyalists when he was chief executive of the Milwaukee County Board that he attempted to give Nardelli a $25,000 raise at a time of worker and union cutbacks. The County Board was able to stop the Nardelli increase of 26% in his salary, but not the other raises that Walker lavished on his political posse.

As for Nardelli heading state safety for buildings and other facilities, one blog critical of Walker's tenure at the Milwaukee County Board noted:

This is not a story from The Onion:

Tom Nardelli, the long-time chief of staff to then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker who served when a) a slab fell off the County-owned O'Donnell Park garage, killing one person and maiming another, b) a piece of the County Courthouse fell, c) a ceiling panel fell off the County-owned airport, injuring a passenger, d) reports were issued showing scores of millions of dollars of repairs were needed in deferred maintenance on county facilities, for which there was no regular inspection schedule....Tom Nardelli has been appointed by Walker to run the building safety division at the state Department of Commerce.

I repeat: this is not a story from The Onion.

Nardelli says that he is commuting to Madison for his $90,000 a year job, but it won't be on a high speed train, because Walker refused the federal funds for the job-building project.

Anyway, why would Nardelli want to disrupt a comfortable pension/salaried lifestyle, all at taxpayer expense courtesy of Scott Walker?


MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH EDITOR FOR TRUTHOUT

The infamous billionaire Koch brothers founded "Americans for Prosperity," but cut off the part about it being "prosperity for the few."

This came to mind as I was reading an article in The New York Times this morning and saw a banner ad inviting readers to support Scott Walker. I clicked through and, of course, the web site was sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, which the Koch brothers still generously support.

In fact, you might call the Koch brothers the backers of Walker's campaign for governor in Wisconsin, just as GE invested in Ronald Reagan in grooming him as a political spokesman for corporatism. The prank phone call in which Walker was as responsive as a lapdog to the fake David Koch proved his obeisance to the billionaire brothers.

Yet, today the Kochs are fighting back, claiming that they are being besmirched and that Walker is acting on his own. That's kind of odd, since Americans for Prosperity, the right-wing Club for Growth and FreedomWorks have all been playing a role in spreading propaganda on behalf of Walker's effort to break the backs of unions.

According to TPM, a spokesman for the Kochs defiantly asserted that the:

Koch brothers were not "involved" with Walker's controversial bill, but did say it is "clear Scott Walker is trying to do the right thing for Wisconsin." He also said that while he and the Koch brothers founded and "support" Americans for Prosperity, which has been active in pro-Walker efforts, they are not involved in the group's day to day activities.

For eight years under Bush, the Koch brothers and their oligarchical comrades had a chance to bring prosperity to America - and, instead, helped drive our economy into the ground, leave millions jobless and erode the earning power of what's left of the middle class.

The real name of "Americans for Prosperity" should be "Billionaires for Control of the Government by the Wealthy."

That is an oligarchy. Technically, it's really a plutocracy.

But anyway you look at it, it's a form of government that is a throw back to the European models of rule by the privileged few against which America rebelled.

It was the basis of our revolution.

Thursday, 24 February 2011 07:05

Scott Walker is All Koched up

MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH EDITOR FOR TRUTHOUT

Scott Walker is all Koched up, and has no place to go.

Based on Walker's statements on a call in which he thought he was chatting confidentially with right-wing billionaire backer, David Koch, the Wisconsin governor is facing charges of unethical and perhaps illegal behavior.

The police chief of Madison is concerned that Walker admitted to considering using disruptive infiltrators to discredit tens of thousands of peaceful protesters.

Police Chief Noble Wray bluntly stated:

"I spent a good deal of time overnight thinking about Governor Walker's response, during his news conference yesterday (Wednesday), to the suggestion that his administration 'thought about' planting troublemakers among those who are peacefully protesting his bill," Wray said in a statement issued this morning...."

"I find it very unsettling and troubling that anyone would consider creating safety risks for our citizens and law enforcement officers. Our department works hard dialoging with those who are exercising their First Amendment right, those from both sides of the issue, to make sure we are doing everything we can to ensure they can demonstrate safely.

"I am concerned that anyone would try to undermine these relationships."

Adding to the eroding credibility of Walker, a former Wisconsin attorney general (AG) believes that the governor should be investigated for possible ethical, labor and legal violations. "There clearly are potential ethics violations, and there are potential election law violations and there are a lot of what look to me like labor law violations," said former AG Peg Lautenschlager, who also served many years as a US attorney.

That's what happens when you get all Koched on funding from right-wing billionaires who are out to reinstitute something akin to indentured servitude.

According to Ian Murphy, who made the successful 20-minute prank call to Walker, the governor is clearly jacked up on something - even if ideological - and "delusional."

Sniffing all that Koch campaign money is what they call a Republican high.

MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH EDITOR FOR TRUTHOUT

"One of the most elemental human rights [is] the right to belong to a free trade union." -- Ronald Reagan


Question?

In this Ronald Reagan Presidential address on October 19th, 1982, is President Reagan rebuking the Soviet government of Poland or Scott Walker? Read it and honestly decide if Republican "Saint" Reagan's condemning words equally apply to Scott Walker. They do:

Yesterday the Polish Government, a military dictatorship, took another far-reaching step in their persecution of their own people. They declared Solidarity, the organization of the working men and women of Poland, their free union, illegal.

Yes, I know Poland is a faraway country in Eastern Europe. Still, this action is a matter of profound concern to all the American people and to the free world.

Ever since martial law was brutally imposed last December, Polish authorities have been assuring the world that they're interested in a genuine reconciliation with the Polish people. But the Polish regime's action yesterday reveals the hollowness of its promises. By outlawing Solidarity, a free trade organization to which an overwhelming majority of Polish workers and farmers belong, they have made it clear that they never had any intention of restoring one of the most elemental human rights—the right to belong to a free trade union.

The so-called new trade union legislation under which this contrary and backward step has been taken claims to substitute a structure and framework for the establishment of free trade unions in Poland. But the free world can see this is only a sham. It is clear that such unions, if formed, will be mere extensions of the Polish Communist Party.

BuzzFlash repeats: this is from a Ronald Reagan presidential address, the transcript which you can read here. BuzzFlash repeats this statement from Reagan's address (we bolded): "They [the Soviet Polish government] have made it clear that they never had any intention of restoring one of the most elemental human rights—the right to belong to a free trade union."

In suppressing trade unionism and collective bargaining,  threatening to use the national guard to suppress the tens of thousands trade union protesters in Wisconsin, in sending out the state police to pursue Democrats who are standing up for Ronald Regan's words in defense of trade unionism, and threatening to fire workers if the unions don't agree to give up collective bargaining -- among other backslaps to Reagan's words -- Scott Walker is committing the number one unforgivable Republican crime: He's defiling the legacy of Ronald Reagan.

In fact, in this 1981 television presidential address (which begins with some warm and fuzzy words about Christmas) Reagan championed the Solidarity trade union and its rights in the most vigorous of words.

In fact, in his 1982 statement, Reagan even discussed how the Solidarity Union sought God-given rights.

So is Walker not only throwing mud at Ronald Reagan, but also defying God?

If you don't think so, don't take it up with BuzzFlash at Truthout. Take it up with Ronald Reagan, because he's the one who said it.


Read here and watch the Christmas/Solidarity Union address here.

MARK KARLIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

BuzzFlash has been writing a series of articles exposing the Manchurian candidate that Scott Walker is, a man who costs taxpayers more than he saves, and whose goal is to be the errand master for his rich funders for crushing unions and privatizing public property in fire sales.

Kudos to Rachel Maddow for uncovering just one in many of Walker's wasteful stunts that left the taxpayers paying the bill.  In essence, Maddow charges that Walker -- the then executive of the Milwaukee County Board -- did what he is doing now: claiming a fiscal emergency and taking action detrimental to people who pick up the tab; that is you and me.

It involves an unsavory private security company, Wachkenhut, that Greg Palast has exposed as an infamous union busting, low wage, low quality favorite of Republican privatizers (not to mention some Democrats too).  Despite being prohibited by the Milwaukee County Board from firing public security staff employees, Walker unilaterally abolished a union contract and terminated the employment of security guards for the Milwaukee County Court House and two other buildings.

Walker replaced the guards with non-union Wackenhut, a division based in the UK. Walker claimed that there was a fiscal emergency and so he could do what he pleased.  But, as Maddow reported, last month an arbitrator ruled that the county did not have a sufficient fiscal crisis at the time that would have allowed Walker to bypass the county board and cancel a union contract.

What should be more alarming to people who voted for Walker because they thought that he would save them money (which would never happen anyway, because whatever he "cuts" is going to show up in a rise in local or county flat taxes), but he overestimated the "savings" of busting the union by more than $300,000.

As Maddow notes, that's not all of the Walker damage to the taxpayer. The arbitrator ruled that the union security guards must be rehired and be paid a half a million dollars in lost wages, financed, of course, with taxpayer money. That's on top of the money already paid out to Wackenhut.

And who supervised the Wackenhut non-union employees? A man with a criminal record, who had done jail time, was appointed the security chief for Walker's replacement guards.

Those Wisconsinites who are concerned about how their taxpayer dollars are being misspent -- and their security endangered -- by Scott Walker better join the general uprising for democracy, because this is only one example of the privatized world of corporate sham artists, profiteers, and criminal supervisors, according to Maddow, that Walker has prepared for the people of Wisconsin.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011 05:09

Scott Walker Would Have Jailed Lech Walesa

MARK KARLIN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker expected opposition to his union busting from the Democratic minority in the legislature, but what he didn't anticipate was a general uprising.

Walker, who is a Koch brothers Manchurian candidate, felt comfortable that a partisan battle would lead to an easy Republican victory.  His wealthy oligarchical backers saw Wisconsin as easy pickings for leading a national wave of states crushing organized labor and collective bargaining.

Although the White House and the national Democratic Party have been giving lip support to the revolt in Wisconsin, they haven't been showing full-throttle backing for what is a major skirmish over who controls American government: corporations or people.

What is most uplifting about this moment in Madison is that progressives, young people, union members and working class citizens have created a movement on their own to fight back against the corporatists that the national Democratic Party and the White House have so frequently accommodated. (Needless to say, the corporatists completely control the Republican Party.)

This is a progressive populist moment, a battle for the middle class, and while the legislative battle is Republican vs. Democrat, the estimated 80,000 people who came to Madison this past weekend are not fighting for a party; they are battling for economic justice.

National Republicans and Democrats cheered on the union solidarity movement in Poland led by Lech Walesa, why should it be any different for union members in Wisconsin?

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