Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 7:31 pm

Will the presidency stand in Scott Walker’s posterity? Uh, quite possibly not.

Thou hast it now: king, Cawdor, Glamis, all,
As the weird women promised, and I fear
Thou played’st most foully for ’t.
Banquo, “Macbeth,” Act III, Scene 1
Scott Walker won the governorship of Wisconsin, turned on some of the very working people who helped get him elected, and then, when they turned on him in kind, fended them off in a recall election whose outcome was narrow but clear.
Now Scott Walker is being talked about among the GOP White House contenders for 2016. And why not? He won an election and a recall, he’s enough of a hippie-puncher to satisfy all but the most rabid of the right-wing nutjobs, and unlike, say, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, if you Google him, you might immediately find offensive things, depending on your political persuasion, but not outright ridiculous things.
But just as Macbeth reached the throne of Scotland by climbing over the corpses he’d killed, Walker — who, even if nothing else goes wrong, still would face a tough fight for the GOP nomination with the White House open — may yet be shown to have played almost as foully, by 21st-century standards, as Macbeth did a millennium ago in Shakespeare’s play.
Consider:

Gov. Scott Walker and his top campaign and Milwaukee County aides were named Monday as part of a team that routinely commingled political and official county business.

The disclosures came during the sentencing of a former aide to Walker during his last year as Milwaukee County executive. Kelly M. Rindfleisch, 44, was sentenced by Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David Hansher to six months in jail and three years of probation on a single felony count of misconduct in office. The judge stayed the sentence pending Rindfleisch’s appeal to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals or the state Supreme Court.

In a lengthy presentation during Rindfleisch’s sentencing, Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf displayed numerous emails between Rindfleisch and key members of Walker’s campaign staff in which they discussed how to manage county government in 2010, while Walker was a candidate for governor.

Repeatedly, Landgraf argued that Rindfleisch knowingly broke the law by doing campaign work at the courthouse. In a new development, the prosecutor made clear – without saying it was illegal – that top Walker campaign officials influenced, even directed, county strategy.

“You guys are in the driver’s seat,” Rindfleisch wrote in one message to Keith Gilkes, Walker’s then-campaign chief of staff.

At another point, Rindfleisch said in an email regarding an effort by the campaign to plant stories about problems at the state Mendota Mental Health Institute: “This needs to be done covertly so it’s not tied to Scott or the campaign in any way.”

Landgraf said “The Campaign Group” included Walker, Gilkes, campaign spokeswoman Jill Bader and campaign adviser R.J. Johnson. It also included several top county aides to Walker: Cindy Archer, who was county administration director; county chief of staff Tom Nardelli; spokeswoman Fran McLaughlin; housing director Timothy Russell; and Rindfleisch.

Rindfleisch served as Walker’s policy adviser and later his deputy chief of staff at the county.

Five members of the group spoke by phone daily at 8 a.m. to make sure the county executive’s office was “in sync” with the “image” the campaign was advancing of Walker in his Republican race for governor against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, according to an email Landgraf presented in court …

A bit of background for you non-cheeseheads: Wisconsin has a long history of what political wonks call “good government,” a term of art and culture dating to the early 20th-century Progressive movement  that means not just that the roads get paved but also that conflicts of interest and corruption are just not done. By any party. And part and parcel of that culture is that governing — paving the roads, running the firehouses, building the schools — and campaigning are kept separate, not only by custom but also by criminal law.

Before being elected governor, Walker was the Milwaukee County executive and Kelly Reindfleisch was an aide to him in that job. Officially she worked for the taxpayers of Milwaukee County alone. In real life, she was coordinating between Milwaukee County government staff and Walker’s gubernatorial campaign staff, and barring a win on appeal, she’s going to prison for six months for it. Not only that, members of Walker’s campaign team, Reindfleisch’s prosecutor said in court, were dictating county government policy, apparently in an effort to benefit Walker’s campaign.

Reindflesch isn’t the first former Walker aide to be headed to the hoosegow. One former aide, Kevin Kavanaugh, is headed to prison for stealing $51,000 from a veterans’ service organization, for crying out loud. Although Walker himself was not implicated in that case (at least so far as I can tell), the so-called John Doe (whistleblower) grand jury investigation that grew from it has expanded into issues, including Reindflesch’s role, that do threaten Walker.

And it ain’t over, Esquire’s Charlie Pierce notes:

It is that most dangerous of all grand-jury investigations — patient, thorough, and damned near leakproof. (I was in Milwaukee last week and, while there was some chatter downtown about something big breaking in the case, nobody really knew what it was.) This case has been built slowly and methodically, and it is beginning to produce results in the way the most dangerous grand juries do – a little at a time, in a fashion whereby people higher up the food chain first become collateral damage in other cases, and then wind up in hip-deep in the fudge themselves.

Rindfleisch was the first real domino to drop. She widely was believed to be the liaison between Walker’s campaign staff and the members of his campaign team, who were not supposed to be in contact at all. (This kind of thing may seem penny-ante to people in Louisiana …  but Wisconsin takes good-government principles very seriously, having invented most of them. The penalties for breaking those statutes are relatively draconian.) The e-mails presented by the prosecutors at her sentencing make her function pretty clear. …

This is not going to come to a quick and easy end. Rindfleisch is the fourth person to be convicted in connection with Walker’s days as Milwaukee county commissioner. … It’s plain at this point that the office was a snake pit of quasi-legal chicanery, and fully illegal machinations. The investigation continues, still thorough, still patient, still silent. Some day in the future, Scott Walker is going to wake up and wish very much that he were back in New Hampshire, listening to the cheers of strangers.

Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” villainous as he was, was fictional. But Walker is a real-life character, and in real life it’s beginning to look as though he may never make that trip to New Hampshire to hear the cheers of strangers, let alone climb Dunsinane Hill to the White House. Instead, Birnam Wood may be trudging, slowly and methodically, patient and silent, toward Madison, the camouflaging branches of a secret grand jury investigation concealing certain doom.

Monday, June 4, 2012 8:02 pm

This is a simple story. It’s not that the media can’t tell it. It’s that they don’t want to.

The Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election is tomorrow.

Charlie Pierce, last week:

A lot happened over the holiday weekend, including the first debate between Walker and his Democratic opponent, Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee, who is a very nice fellow, but who doesn’t yet seem to realize exactly what kind of a fight he’s in. In Friday’s debate, he kept banging on Walker’s responsibility for “the civil war” in the state, as though the primary goal of this whole business has been to get people to be nice to each other again. This is, of course, not remotely the case. The primary goal of this whole business has been to rid Wisconsin of Scott Walker, and of the corporate pirates and mountebanks to whom he is prepared to sell the rest of the state. The reason there’s a recall at all is not that Wisconsinites wanted more civility. It’s that they wanted less of Scott Walker.

There’s more to it than that, but it’s still pretty simple, as Athenae explains:

In the past several weeks I’ve had conversations about the election with family and friends, some of whom agree with me. Some of whom don’t. And what I keep coming back to is fear, among the Walker supporters, among those who say things like “we can’t afford to keep paying for pensions” and “we can’t afford anything but the lowest of low taxes for corporations” and “we can’t do anything we did 40 years ago because of reasons I don’t understand but I know, in my bones, that we can’t, we just can’t.” And I’m being reminded of how radical a message it really is, how radical it always is, to say we can achieve what we want to achieve.

Because it’s not just the cavalier “I don’t wanna, I got mine, screw you,” not from all of them. Not from those who aren’t billionaires but from those who’ve listened to what the billionaires have to say. Who’ve been fed hate and fear for months now, hate and fear of their neighbors, hate and fear of their own futures, and worst of all, hate and fear of their own history.

Their parents or grandparents lived lives we now think of as anachronistic or idealized: Union jobs at a factory, pensions through retirement, health insurance, Social Security and Medicare that actually took care of them when they were very old. Schoolteacher and police officer being occupations that allowed you to own a home, a car, perhaps even send your children to nice schools if you saved very carefully. Possibly a vacation, nowhere fancy, maybe a road trip memorable for anything but the destination.

When you retired, your pension allowed you to keep spending money at the local grocery and dime stores, to stay in your house and maintain it, to enjoy your neighborhood restaurants and attend your neighborhood church and donate to your local Lions Club or VFW. You could rest easy in extreme old age knowing that even if you didn’t leave your children an inheritance, at least you wouldn’t bankrupt them with debt and thus hinder their own starts in life.

These aren’t fancy things, that we’re now told are too much for us to handle, are luxurious and out of hand. These aren’t outrageous expectations. This isn’t Free Purebred Kitten Day, or foot massages from film stars. These are reasonable rewards for living a reasonable, upright, decent life. Used to be, we could afford as a country large numbers of people living just like this if they so chose. This used to be something we could do with ease. And now we’re being told no, we can’t have that anymore, and in fact we have to make sure people don’t have that anymore, we have to make sure nobody even dreams about that anymore, because it’s too expensive and everything’s going to hell. And we’re so, so angry at anybody who tells us different, so, so afraid.

I say it’s fear because: If those things aren’t out of reach, if it isn’t true that “we” can’t afford them anymore, then we have to ask ourselves the question: Why don’t we have them? In answering that there is no earthly reason we can’t have lives just like our parents and grandparents led, but for the bastards we enable in power, we have to admit that we allowed this to be done to us, that we let hucksters and thieves turn us against each other while they ran away with the piggy bank. In really looking at how much money there is and what it goes for, we have to admit that we just didn’t want to question our politicians and fight our bosses and resist our every human urge to not make a fuss in order to get the very least of what is owed to people who teach children and put out fires and arrest that one [jerk] who keeps ripping up the library’s rhododendrons.

That’s too much to look full in the face. In answering it we have to own up to just how much of our own power we’ve been willing to give up. We have to admit that what teachers and public workers and nurses and cops are asking for isn’t some outrageous thing, not if for one second we’d stop undervaluing ourselves, and start demanding what we’ve had to demand so many times before.

We think this is some insurmountable problem, some terrible divide, that we’ve never seen before. We have always had people saying sit down, shut up, don’t rock the boat, while some slick-talking jerk in a shiny suit was pouring fire and brimstone about how the company was gonna mess you for your own damn good. We have always had the jerk, too, and his bosses, and the company will always be with us. This is how this has always worked. What we haven’t always had is an entire pseudo-middle-class establishment media, especially on 24-hour cable news, appealing to ignorant-ass ‘necks reinforcing the message to lay back and think of Wall Street, or else they’ll come for you next, but even that’s not a total excuse.

They’re always coming for you, is what I want to tell everybody who’s angry and everybody who’s scared. The jerk, the company, they’re always out there, and the only thing you can’t afford is to think they’re on your side. When they’re done with the teachers and the steelworkers and the cops, they’ll come for you, too, and no racist sign or hat with teabags glued on gonna save your soul then. The only thing to fear is fear itself, said the last person who understood this well enough to make a case, so up you get.

There’s no reason to be scared, when the scariest thing is that it’s all up to you, and you decide what “we” can and cannot do. And the things we cannot do just melt away, once we really start taking them apart, and seeing what they’re made of. We can do anything if we want it bad enough. We can afford what we want to afford.

We can afford what we can get enough votes to afford.

You want to know why Republicans are working so hard to scratch eligible voters from the voter rolls, in Florida and elsewhere? This right here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 7:57 pm

Memo to would-be evil holders of power …

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Evil — Lex @ 7:57 pm
Tags: , ,

… from Athenae: “If you want to be evil you’d better be at least halfway competent.”

Investment bankers? Check (he said, bitterly).

Scott Walker? The Prop 8 defenders in California? The backers of Amendment 1 here in North Carolina? Not so much.

(And, yes, I really should blog my own letter. I just either haven’t had time or, when I’ve had time, I’ve forgotten about it. I’m still not sure why I didn’t blog it when I sent it. Oh, wait, I remember — laundry.)

Thursday, December 1, 2011 11:20 pm

Yeah, I’ll go there: If the jackboot fits, supporters of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker can damned well wear it.

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 11:20 pm
Tags: , , ,

The New Brownshirts:

This was posted before I knew about the case of Andy Stephenson, a voting rights activist who died in 2005. His access to medical care was likely impeded by a Free Republic campaign that claimed Stephenson was faking his illness. It went on right up to the day pancreatic cancer killed him. Even with the Stephenson case in mind, however, those freepers seem downright tame compared to the unprincipled slobberers running those pro-Walker Facebook pages and threatening, harassing, and intimidating with apparent impunity.

It’s well past the time to discard the blasé, eye-rolling dismissal, “Oh, it’s just the Internet,” when people like Mary find themselves targeted in this manner. It’s time to stop giving the trolls that run pages like “Operation Burn Notice” carte blanche to wreck lives and frighten others into silence. If this campaign of harassment results in someone actually getting hurt or even killed, the people behind it won’t back down. I doubt they’ll even express regret.

Because sadly, there are people in this world who only grasp the concept of right and wrong on the basis of whether or not their friends and associates approve. Their actions are not grounded in empathy or a sense of ethics, but on whether or not they can get away with something. A person they dislike, someone like “Mary” being physically injured in the offline world as a result of their posts won’t faze them one bit.

Quite the contrary. Safe behind their wall of anonymity, where they can count on approval rather than rejection for their conduct, they’ll cheer and give each other high-fives.

The only language that bullies understand is violence. Perhaps the violence of hard time in prison will get a message through to them: America is no place for thugs.

 

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