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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

There they go again.

As in the Bush campaign in Florida in 2000 - and so many Republican campaigns that followed and preceded it - the David Prosser election effort to retain his Wisconsin State Supreme Court Seat is resorting to bullying.

Prosser has promised, despite his contradictory claim of judicial independence, to support the conservative "values" of the Scott Walker administration in the Badger State.

So, as Brad Friedman - one of the leading election integrity bloggers on the web - points out, it is puzzling to say the least for Prosser to claim in a news conference on April 18 to pledge to stop any recount efforts, even though the margin of "victory" (.488 percent) for Prosser falls within the range of a recount allowed by law and paid for by the state. Particularly, when about 7,500 votes for Prosser showed up two days late from a highly partisan Republican county clerk with a checkered history of election oversight.

On the one hand, Prosser asserted that judges shouldn't be partisan and should observe the law. On the other hand, he and his spokespeople declared that they would fight any recount effort that is provided for under the law in Wisconsin given the closeness of the race.

Perhaps, it is just the usual GOP effort to intimidate an opponent from even proceeding with a recount, but it's right out of the Bush campaign 2000 play book.

As for the voting machine recount that the state would pay for, should JoAnne Kloppenburg (Prosser's union supported opponent) seek one, Friedman told BuzzFlash in an interview that even such a recount would be insufficient.

Reflecting long-held concerns of election integrity advocates, the only way to ensure an accurate vote count that reflects voter intention is to hand count the paper ballots, which would require a court order in Wisconsin, Friedman told BuzzFlash at Truthout.

As for Prosser, he comes off as a mini-me Antonin Scalia as he promises to uphold the law while defying it in relation to a legally sanctioned recount.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Governor Rick Snyder delivers his inaugural remarks in Lansing, MIchigan, January 1, 2011. (Photo: Corvair Owner)

What if President Obama appointed "emergency financial managers" to oversee states in economic distress? What if the president also was empowered to unilaterally dismiss the governments of those states that were billions of dollars in debt and appoint his own overseer who could contract out public services without oversight?

That's a scenario that Charles Showalter, host of the Union Edge radio program, raised today in a conversation with BuzzFlash at Truthout.

First, there would be calls by the Tea Party, Republicans and even a lot of Democrats for Obama's impeachment, and if that didn't work, we might see the National Rifle Association wing of the Tea Party start a shooting war to "reclaim democracy."

So, isn't it hypocritically ironic that declared and de facto Tea Party Republican governors are actually seizing or planning to seize such powers over towns and cities in their states? BuzzFlash at Truthout pointed this out over the weekend in relation to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and the alleged plans of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Many so-called "red states" lead the nation in receiving more federal funds than taxpayers of those states pay into the Treasury in income tax. That means if federal funding were cut to those states to match their income tax payments, many would likely be forced into virtual bankruptcy. Should President Obama then appoint overseers to administer those state governments?

If not, why should Snyder and his GOP cohorts get away with disenfranchising voters in local communities and towns at their sole discretion? Isn't that a violation of our constitutional right to vote for our own government?

Isn't that a betrayal of the alleged Republican creed that government policies are best determined by local communities?

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH FOR TRUTHOUT

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder are the two Great Lakes Tea Party autocratic leaders who owe more to the ruling style of past Soviet and Chinese leaders than anything that resembles George Washington.

Yesterday, BuzzFlash at Truthout wrote that "Tea Party Michigan Governor Rick Snyder adopts Soviet-style authoritarian powers over Michigan cities," and has already implemented these powers in Benton Harbor, Michigan, removing all authority from the elected leadership of the voters in that city.

Forbes blog columnist Rick Ungar - in an article entitled "Gov. Scott Walker Reportedly Planning Financial Martial Law In Wisconsin" - reports on an alleged Walker plan:

Following the lead of Michigan GOP Governor Rick Snyder, Walker is said to be preparing a plan that would allow him to force local governments to submit to a financial stress test with an eye towards permitting the governor to take over municipalities that fail to meet with Walker's approval.

According to the reports, should a locality's financial position come up short, the Walker legislation would empower the governor to insert a financial manager of his choosing into local government with the ability to cancel union contracts, push aside duly elected local government officials and school board members and take control of Wisconsin cities and towns whenever he sees fit to do so.

Such a law would additionally give Walker unchallenged power to end municipal services of which he disapproves, including safety net assistance to those in need.

Moreover, Ungar points out that if true about the Walker planned assumption of dictatorial powers, this supports the notion that GOP Tea Party governors and Republican-dominated legislatures want to "take control of local governments by replacing elected officials with appointees, both corporate and individual, of the state's highest executive officer."

That's scary stuff, the kind of autocratic rule that inspired colonists to rise up and begin the American Revolution.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

 

We talked about Scott Walker's Orwellian rhetoric yesterday, but Michigan Tea Party Gov. Rick Snyder leaves Walker in the dust when it comes to turning the book "1984" into a reality.

Snyder recently signed a bill that gives him powers to unilaterally take over local governments by appointing "emergency financial managers" with near absolute powers to supersede decisions made by democratically elected officials.

If this strikes some as an example of the type of governmental tyranny that the Tea Party deplored (but never existed before in a state as far as we know), that is because it is.

The Tea Party - and the Republican Party - have shouted to the rooftops that local government and individual liberties are the true "patriotic" freedoms in America.

Yet, they elect a governor in Michigan who - as one of his first pieces of legislation - empowers himself to take those rights away, nullifying the will of the voters in a given town or city.

Snyder just made Orwellian Tea Party history when his appointed "emergency financial manager" for Benton Harbor, Michigan, prohibited elected officials of that city from making any decisions or otherwise carrying out their duties.

As an outraged Michigan blogger observes:

This is a complete disenfranchisement of an entire community, an entire city in my state. The voters are now denied the ability to be governed by the people they elected in a democratic election.

This is nothing short of an abridgment of democracy in raw form.

So where are the Tea Party's "Down With Tyranny" signs when you need them?

 

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH FOR TRUTHOUT

Calling much of contemporary political rhetoric coming from the right "Orwellian" has become a cliche, but that's only because it is so true.

Take the recent "shock doctrine" tactics of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who bullied through legislation denying collective bargaining to unions almost exclusively on the claim that it was vital to reducing a future state budget deficit.

The House Republicans thought that this made Walker a hero and invited him to testify before a GOP-controlled committee on April 14. But what Walker must have thought would be a hero's welcome turned out to be a grilling that unmasked his deceit.

After claiming that he was accomplishing something "truly progressive," Dennis Kucinich got Walker to admit that his union-busting legislation would not save the State of Wisconsin any money at all.

According to the Madison CapTimes:

When Walker failed to address how repealing collective bargaining rights for state workers is related to state debt or how requiring unions to recertify annually saves money - one of the provisions in Walker's amended budget repair bill - Kucinich tried one more time.

"How much money does it save Gov. Walker?" Kucinich demanded. "Just answer the question."

"It doesn't save any," Walker said.

Furthermore, as BuzzFlash documented in an earlier commentary, Walker confirmed that despite his claim of a voter mandate to repeal collective bargaining for public employees, he had never once mentioned the plan when he campaigned for governor, not once.

If you define Orwellian as language uttered that is the opposite of reality, then Walker is a master Orwellian politician.

 

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

There are words said by each of us that we regret, sometimes as soon as they pass our lips.

But there is a recurring pattern of disturbing hatefulness and violence in the statements of many right-wing political figures today.

Take David Prosser, the Scott Walker ally on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, who is still involved in an officially undeclared election against JoAnne Kloppenburg.

Just before the April vote, it was revealed that Prosser had called the chief justice of the state Supreme Court the "B" word to her face and threatened to "destroy her." As is often the case with people who feel self-justified, Prosser apologized, but basically blamed Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, the first woman on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, for his disgraceful behavior, according to ThinkProgress:

"In the context of this, I said, 'You are a total bitch,'" Prosser said.

"I probably overreacted, but I think it was entirely warranted ... They (Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley) are masters at deliberately goading people into perhaps incautious statements."

Meanwhile, another right-wing official, "Governor Christie of New Jersey told reporters Wednesday to 'take the bat' to 76-year-old Sen. Loretta Weinberg for collecting a taxpayer-funded pension while making $49,000 a year as a legislator," again according to ThinkProgress.

But Prosser and Christie are hardly alone in unleashing abusive and violent rhetoric. There's something wrong with our civility as a nation when so many bullies of the playground grow up to become judges and elected officials.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR FOR TRUTHOUT AT BUZZFLASH

If you don't fight for democracy and justice, then what you get may not be worth having.

That became clear as I saw an advance screening of a PBS documentary (to air within the next few weeks) on the "Freedom Riders." It was 1961, and led by the Congress of Racial Equality, a group of blacks and whites rode on interstate buses (Greyhound and Trailways) to end segregation on the buses and in bus station waiting rooms in the deep South. For their efforts, many of the Freedom Riders were nearly killed, their buses vandalized and burned and dozens of them arrested and sent to jail.

The Kennedy brothers are portrayed as being less than supportive of the Freedom Riders. Robert Kennedy, in particular, thought that they were causing political problems in what was still then a segregationist Democratic-run South.

So, the Freedom Riders knew that their lives were at risk, because neither the Kennedys nor the local segregationist police would protect them. Many got beaten to a pulp. Yet, busloads kept coming.

Ultimately, the Kennedys were embarrassed into action. They supported civil rights, but on their political timeline. But the increasing media attention and brutal treatment received by the Freedom Riders reluctantly forced RFK to get the Interstate Commerce Commission to ban segregated buses and waiting rooms on any carrier that drove any of its buses across state lines (for example, Greyhound and Trailways).

There is a tingling, inspiring feeling to watching these courageous blacks and whites engage in nonviolence, even as they are mercilessly attacked, wounded and jailed.

Power doesn't yield without a fight. Sometimes, even people you think will support you (the Kennedy brothers) have their own priorities and abandon you.

So, victory came - as it did to the Freedom Riders - to those who fought on, even signing their wills before they boarded buses into the deep South in 1961.

It was a moment that pushed an unwilling White House into the center of an activist civil rights movement, and there was no going back.

All because of the sense of moral justice and courage of a committed group of blacks and whites, who put their lives on the line.

May 4, 2011, will mark the 50th anniversary of the departure of the first Freedom Riders' bus. It was burned in Alabama and its occupants nearly killed.

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Although the dispute over the vote count in Wisconsin for a State Supreme Court position is of key anxiety to many progressives, it is perhaps overshadowing a promising trend: the nonviolent pro-worker movement is spreading across the nation.

In the past week, for example, the crowds standing up for economic justice have been growing in Ohio, where Republican Governor Kasich has passed an anti-union bill.

According to the Columbus Dispatch:

With chants of "We are Ohio," an estimated 11,000 union supporters rallied at the Statehouse yesterday to launch the effort to overturn the law that would weaken public workers' bargaining power.

The crowd was the largest since the debate over Senate Bill 5 began in February. Many also signed up to help collect the 231,000 signatures needed to get a referendum on the November ballot.

And in the State of Washington, pro-worker supporters conducted a three-day sleep-in in the state capitol in Olympia, according to Northwest Cable News:

Thousands of union members from all over Washington poured into the state Capitol Friday, calling on lawmakers to "put people first" by ending corporate tax breaks and painful cuts to public programs.

The protest was by far the largest of four days of boisterous demonstrations in Olympia over spending cuts legislators are considering in order to help close a looming $5 billion budget deficit for the next two-year cycle.

It is invigorating to see Americans vibrantly express their rights as citizens in a democracy, and to peacefully assemble on behalf of a "fair share" economy as the Wisconsin moment moves across the nation.

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TONY PEYSER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

 

When a GOP election official cites

"Human error," it seems that

The "error" --- for some reason ---

Never helps the Democrat.

 

http://www.jsonline.com/news/waukesha/119627189.html

 

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MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH EDITOR AT TRUTHOUT

The Republicans in Wisconsin know how to embrace GOP incompetence, likely electioneering manipulation and cronyism, but denounce Democratic voter fraud that barely exists.

In fact, Wisconsin is just a mini-model of the Republican creation of a lie to keep minorities and the poor from voting (the myth of massive illegal voting, when it can actually be counted on a couple of hands, if that, in any given election.) This was the big lie that took down ACORN, among other organizations that worked to register disenfranchised voters.

Then, you have someone like Kathy Nickolaus come along as an elected election chief in Waukesha County, Wisconsin - with a media-covered rap sheet of shenanigans, legal immunity from prosecution, defiance of transparent election counting practices, employed at one time by both David Prosser and Scott Walker, and, among other corrupt practices, a person who sent out, in her official capacity, sample ballots awhile back marked with votes for Republican candidates.

Do you hear even a whimper of condemnation from the state or national Republicans about the integrity of the election process in the hands of someone like Nickolaus? No, and we didn't hear any complaints from the Republican Party about the partisan maneuvering of Katherine Harris back in 2000.

As noted on BuzzFlash at Truthout, Madison Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin detailed just some of the improprieties and questionable practices surrounding Nickolaus in a letter requesting that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) launch an investigation into the vote counting in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election.

It may or may not end up that the approximately 7,500 votes for Prosser that went missing are valid, but a full state recount is in order considering the conduct of Governor Walker and Prosser, as well as GOP election officials such as Nickolaus, during the recent election.

More importantly, the Feds should - as BuzzFlash has called for - seize the personal computer of Nickolaus on which she kept the "official" vote count in Waukesha, against directives not to do so. Whether or not the "found" votes for Prosser are accurate, it is almost universally agreed that her explanation that Microsoft Access was at fault is a virtual impossibility.

Furthermore, there is a strong possibility that there are incriminating emails on the hard drive of that computer that can explain why these votes - if valid - were held out for two days, or there might be correspondence pointing to a broader election counting "enhancement strategy" that was coordinated for Prosser.

Greg Palast did tremendous investigative work in revealing how emails and relationships with Harris's office played a decisive role in decreasing the Gore vote count in 2000.

The federal investigation should go much wider than Nickolaus because, as in Florida in 2000, something smells very fishy in Wisconsin. But, for the moment, it looks unlikely that the timidity of the DOJ when it comes to the GOP will lead to any formal attempt to get at the truth.

When it comes to election integrity, Democrats are guppies in a pool filled with sharks.

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