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Member since: Thu Apr 29, 2010, 03:31 PM
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Republicans sneak attack on the Wisconsin Retirement System

First, this isn't a poorly performing pension system. It's actually the best in the nation...


... the Badger State once again has the most well-funded public pension system in the nation, according to a study released this week by State Budget Solutions, a fiscally conservative think tank based in Virginia.

The Wisconsin Retirement System also has the lowest percentage of unfunded liability as it pertains to the 2013 gross state product and the second lowest cost per capita, only behind Tennessee, the report says.

Now, in my email, from Kathleen Marsh of MoveOn ...

Urgent! WRS Under Serious Attack

I wondered when the next assault on the best pension system in the world would begin. Well, it has! You need to know this and take action today! The Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee has inserted an anonymous #999 stealth provision (27a p. 9) into the Wisconsin State Budget that drastically changes the way in which our Wisconsin Retirement System is governed. It was slipped into the budget over the holiday weekend in the same way that the very short-lived no-more-open-records language was. I tried all morning to find out from legislators, but I have no clue who did this or why. All I know is it is part of the budget bill which will be voted upon as early as tomorrow! Please call your Senator and Representative TODAY and demand that this language be stripped from the bill. The WRS may be at very serious risk if this is passed without any study and/or public input. (Please do not email me. I will not be able to reply. I am going to be very busy trying to get this language removed from the bill!)

Why? The 27a language drastically changes the Joint Survey Committee on Retirement Systems, the legislative body that oversees the WRS. JSCRS is currently composed of ten members who represent a variety of interests and viewpoints: two senators of the majority party and one of the minority party; two assembly representatives of the majority party and one of the minority party; an assistant Attorney General or someone appointed from that office; a member of the public who does not belong to any public retirement system; the Insurance Commissioner or someone representing that office who has actuarial experience; and the ETF Secretary or someone representing the Secretary. The widely heralded success of this group shows the mix is an excellent one.

In the new language, the committee will be composed of five senators and five representatives, all appointed "as are standing committees in their respective houses". Deleted is is the requirement that the Secretary of JSCRS be a non-legislative member of the committee. Also deleted is language that specifies terms of four years. The new law will also "delete current law which provides that any member of JSCRS ceases to be a member of the committee upon losing the status upon which the appointment was based". Finally it also deletes currrent law which requires that "membership not be incompatible with any other public office."

Bottom Line: Under the new law, Republicans can now (or Democrats in the future) do whatever they like in regard to the WRS since they have majority status and therefore total control. They would be able to rush through any changes when and how they want. Are you okay with that? I AM NOT!

Neil Young and Promise of the Real kick off 'Rebel Content' tour at Summerfest

Neil puts the hammer down on Monsanto at Summerfest. Note that this reporting is in the far-right Milwaukee Urinal/Sentinel.


The first sight on stage may have confirmed some fears, as two people dressed as farmers tossed seeds onto the stage and watered sunflowers. But it was actually a ruse to distract the audience as Young sneaked behind a battered piano for "After the Gold Rush," from the 1970 album of the same name. That, too, is a song with a message — "Look at mother nature on the run" he sings — but the surreal words are captivating.


After performing a mesmerizing "Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)" on organ, men in hazmat suits appeared, spraying the stage with "pesticide." But again, the show wasn't making a statement so much as preparing the stage for Real's entrance (along with Lukas' brother Micah).

Real can be visceral live — a barefoot Lukas Nelson shredded the electric guitar with his teeth at Farm Aid at Miller Park in 2010 — but the band appropriately followed the leader. For the evening's 13th song, "Words (Between the Lines of Age)" — one of several from '72s "Harvest" performed Sunday — Nelson and bassist Corey McCormick bobbed back and forth, watching Young play electric guitar for the first time Sunday with laser-like focus. It was practically a paternal moment, ending with Young strolling up to the younger rockers, licking his fingers before he tore into his instrument, as if to say, "Watch this, boys."

So, no, Young was not in a lecturing mood. In fact, the only thing he said to the audience the first 75 minutes was, "How are ya?" And when Young did play two of "Monsanto"'s preachiest tracks, "People Want to Hear About Love" and "A New Day for Love," people just wanted to hear Young sing, no matter what it was he was singing about.

"Sanders, a socialist running ona platform that should send shivers up the spines of most Americans"

'Cause most Americans are afraid of keeping their Social Security and Medicare. Yeah, that's it.

Hit piece in the Milwaukee Urinal/Sentinel, equating Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump. This is what we're up against.


Stranger things have happened in American politics, but the sudden surge of Democratic/Populist Bernie Sanders and Republican/Pompulist Donald Trump puts one in mind of alternate universes. And I don't mean Miss Universes. Both men are holding second place in some polls behind Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, respectively. And both are steadily ascending in the polls at a greater pace than anyone could have predicted — or imagined.

Sanders, a socialist running on a platform that should send shivers up the spines of most Americans, drew the largest crowd of the season — nearly 10,000 — in Madison, Wis., Wednesday night. The anti-establishment candidate, who wants to break up big banks and redistribute wealth, makes President Barack Obama (and Clinton) look like robber barons by comparison.

Although Madison is a liberal college town and Sanders' record crowd could be rationalized accordingly, poll after poll shows him closing the gap with Clinton. A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday morning put him within 19 points of Clinton among likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa. Quinnipiac surveyed 761 likely Iowa Democratic caucus participants, with humans calling cell and land phones, and with a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points.


At the same time Sanders is on the zoom rail, mysterious things are happening around the candidacy of the Trumpster. Some of you may recognize him as the cartoon character eternally lost in a game of Monopoly, sort of the way Beetlejuice was confined to miniature quarters in the movie of the same name. (No matter what happens, do not say "Trump!" thrice in a row.)

Cindy Archer, longtime aide to Scott Walker, sues John Doe prosecutors


Archer's complaint said the Milwaukee County district attorney's office, under Chisholm's direction, has "conducted a continuous campaign of harassment and intimidation against individuals and organizations in retaliation for their association with Scott Walker and their support for his policies, especially public-sector collective-bargaining reforms."


Six former associates and aides of Walker while he was Milwaukee County executive were convicted of charges linked to the probe. Neither Walker nor Archer was ever charged.


And in an opinion piece published Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal, Archer wrote that her "reputation and career have been damaged beyond repair." "Worst of all, I have discovered that my demotion as Gov. Walker's deputy director of administration, which came four weeks before the raid on my house, appears to have been engineered by the governor's team after word reached them that I had been targeted by the district attorney," Archer wrote. "Subsequently, I have not been given any role in the administration that may bring public attention."

Archer, who works in the state public defender's office, was appointed to a new job in July 2014 making about $113,000 a year. In this case, she is being represented by a team of attorneys including David Rivkin of Baker and Hostetler LLP in Washington, D.C. Rivkin has also represented Eric O'Keefe and Wisconsin Club for Growth in previous lawsuits over a second John Doe investigation into whether Walker's campaign illegally coordinated with independent conservative groups in the 2012 recall election.

Wanker's team is doing everything it can to disrupt the continuing investigations into his wrongdoings. In this instance that entails suing the prosecutors in an attempt to intimidate them. It doesn't appear, however, that John Chisholm will be intimidated.

Assembly Majority Leader from Kaukauna blames Milwaukee for Republicans' destroying Wisconsin


Assembly Majority Leader from Kaukauna blames Milwaukee for Republicans' destroying Wisconsin's State Budget and Economy

The Assembly Republican Majority Leader, Jim Steineke from Kaukauna (pictured at the left) tweeted that, “MN doesn’t have a first class city that is a drain on the rest of the state." This illustrates again how the Republicans are incapable of understanding anything about economy, demographics, cultural geography and society in general.

The recent article in the American Prospect that compares Minnesota’s “high road” to Wisconsin’s “low road” summarizes the difference in the two state’s major metropolitan areas below.

The two states’ metropolitan structures are shapers of population and economic growth paths. The Twin Cities metro of Minneapolis and St. Paul hosts the state’s capitol, the flagship public university, several highly ranked liberal arts colleges, many corporate headquarters, the state’s top arts and cultural institutions, the bulk of the region’s non-storefront financial sector (including the Ninth District Federal Reserve Bank serving Minnesota, northern Michigan, northwestern Wisconsin, and three states to the west), and the state’s major philanthropic foundations. The region may benefit from what economists call agglomeration economies, where the density of labor markets and employers attracts and hold jobs and incomes. In contrast, Wisconsin’s major private, nonprofit, and public employers are split between Milwaukee and Madison, with the state capitol complex and the state’s top-rated university (arguably superior to Minnesota’s to date) in the latter, and the state’s financial, manufacturing, and philanthropic leadership in Milwaukee.

Since the Republican Coup of Wisconsin in 2010, legislation has continually punished both Madison and Milwaukee. Steineke knows that because he has deliberately done it. The rejection of $810 million for the train to connect these two engines of the Wisconsin economy was just the first step. The most recent assault has been the on the University of Wisconsin’s budget and governance. The combination of ignorance and arrogance has enabled slow witted politicians to follow the ALEC script as if it was actually their own plan and devastate Wisconsin’s state budget and economy.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan to retire after next season


He will be missed.

Does this apply to all the scary talk about SCOTUS appointments?


(Bill) CLINTON: Now, one of Clinton's laws of politics is this. If one candidate is trying to scare you and the other one is try get you to think, if one candidate is appealing to your fears and the other one is appealing to your hopes, you better vote for the person who wants you to think and hope.

For those trying to scare us into voting for Hillary because "she has the best chance of winning" and "you don't want Republicans naming Supreme Court Justices" I say: I'm voting for Bernie who wants us to think and gives us hope. Besides, I think he has a better chance of winning the GE than Hillary.

"Eggs Benedict"


Milwaukee Art Museum's embrace of condom portrait of pope draws disgust

The decision by the Milwaukee Art Museum to acquire and prominently display a controversial portrait of Pope Benedict XVI fashioned from 17,000 colored condoms has created outrage among Catholics and others who see it as profoundly disrespectful, even blasphemous.

Many suggest that if a piece were as offensive to other faith traditions or communities it would not be tolerated, much less embraced.

Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki blasted the decision as insulting and callous. The museum acknowledged it has fielded about 200 complaints. A handful of patrons dropped their memberships; one longtime docent tendered her resignation; and at least one donor vowed never to support the museum financially again.

Museum officials said an equal number of people have voiced support for the piece and that memberships and pledges in general are growing. They said they regret that the portrait, by Shorewood artist Niki Johnson, has elicited such enmity. But they insist it was not their intent — nor the intent of the artist — to offend Catholics or anyone else. And they said they continue to enjoy the support of people of all faiths, including Catholics.

Wisconsin: What legislators would have heard about UW if they had listened

Excellent editorial; more at the link.


If the legislators had held public hearings, they would have learned that the flagship of the UW System, UW-Madison, is the most cost-effective public university in the United States, attracting more research money, at lower faculty salaries, than any other university. They would have learned that individual professors at UW-Madison are paid more than $30,000 less than the University of Michigan, while Wisconsin's university attracts almost as much outside research money as the University of Michigan, over $1.2 billion annually.

If the legislators had held public hearings they would have heard from senior faculty members who would have described their hiring many years earlier by senior, nationally regarded scholars who insisted on only hiring the best. They would have explained that they came to UW-Madison because of the excellence of our university and that they have worked to maintain that excellence. They would have described how the historically strong leadership at the university and from the state Capitol has made it possible for them to do their jobs, knowing they were protected and supported. They would have described how the famous Sifting and Winnowing statement, on the front of Bascom Hall for more than 100 years, has a special meaning to them. It represents a century-old commitment to academic freedom.

If the legislators had held public hearings, the faculty would have explained that they have not complained about their salaries, even though they are lower than their colleagues around the country and the increases in those salaries have been few and meager in recent years. They could have explained that their salaries for full professors are 13th in the Big Ten, above only the University of Nebraska, but that the quality of their university is equal to any of the 14 universities in the Big Ten.

If the legislators had held public hearings, the faculty could have explained how UW-Madison and its sister universities have weathered budget cuts of three quarters of a billion dollars over the last 12 years. While those cuts caused serious problems, they did not strike at the core values of Wisconsin universities.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Portions Of Federal ‘3 Strikes’ Sentencing Laws

Not just marriage equality and Obamacare...


While the country was busy celebrating the Supreme Court’s long-awaited marriage equality ruling, the justices issued another ruling in the Johnson v. United States case that dealt a crucial blow to the prison industrial complex. The SCOTUS ruled that a key provision of the Armed Career Criminal Act, which lengthens the sentences of “career criminals,” is unconstitutionally vague. The ruling paves the way for thousands of prisoners to have their sentences reduced and will cause the private prison industry to lose millions of dollars in profits.

In 1984, Congress passed the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), the law required judges to sentence people to 15 years to life if they have three prior convictions for “serious drug offense” or “violent felonies.” However, what exactly qualified as a “violent felony” was frustratingly vague and was used as a sentence enhancer in many non-violent cases. A “residual clause” in the ACCA allowed third time felons to be sent to prison for any crime that ” presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” That potential risk could include drunk driving, fleeing police, failing to report to a parole officer and even attempted burglary. It seemed to be used as a catch-all sentence enhancer for the sole purpose of throwing people in prison for years longer than they deserved to be. This practice has become increasingly more common as more states allow for-profit prisons in their states.

In the Johnson case, the government used the ACCA to enhance Samuel Johnson’s prison sentence because of a prior conviction of possession of a sawed off shotgun. Johnson argued that he shouldn’t be subjected to a harsher sentence, because the definition of what was considered “violent” was unconstitutionally vague. The SCOTUS agreed with Johnson and issued a 7-1 ruling in his favor.


Now, prosecutors across the country will have to figure out who qualifies to have their sentences reduced, a move that is probably making private prison CEOs weep in despair. The private prison industry has been a long-time supporter of harsh mandatory minimum sentences because that means higher profits for them. The two biggest private prison corporations–GEO and Corrections Corporation of America— make about $3 billion annually off of incarcerated Americans; in turn they spend millions of dollars on lobbying efforts.
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