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“Aiding And Abetting”: Australia Reduced Mass Violence By Confiscating Guns; In The U.S., Police Sell Them Back to Citizens

The on-camera shooting on Wednesday of two Virginia reporters has already reignited the debate over gun control in America. “I’m going to do something to shame legislators into doing something about closing loopholes and background checks and making sure crazy people don’t get guns,” Andy Parker, the father of slain WDBJ reporter Alison Parker, told Fox News.

Earlier efforts to push gun control legislation through Congress have failed. But Vox’s Zack Beauchamp describes a compelling case study for how another country has tackled the issue of gun violence. In the late 1990s, following a mass shooting, Australia launched a mandatory gun buy-back program. The government banned a number of types of guns, including automatic and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, purchased guns from owners at fair market value, and offered amnesty for anyone turning in an illegally owned firearm. About 650,000 guns were seized and destroyed. Afterwards, Australia’s murder and suicide rates dropped.

Could such a program work in America? Certain cities have already experimented with such an approach. The Los Angeles Police Department, for example, regularly holds buybacks and then melt down the guns. Cities in Florida, Connecticut, California, Arkansas, and Massachusetts also held gun buy-back initiatives in June this year, according to The Trace, a website dedicated to covering gun violence. More often than not, however, when police confiscate illegal guns or firearms found at crime scenes, they turn around and sell those weapons on the open market, raising quick cash for police supplies or training. Many states, including Kentucky, Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Montana, have laws on the books that encourage or require local police to put the guns they collect each day back on the streets.

In theory, this would result in taking guns out of the hands of criminals and putting them into the hands of responsible, law-abiding gun owners. Thanks to the nation’s patchwork of background check laws, however, it’s very easy for guns to wind up in the hands of criminals (again). In many states, a straw purchaser with no criminal record could buy the weapon legally from a licensed dealer, then sell it, legally, in a private sale without requiring the buyer to undergo a background check. Let us not forget that Vester Lee Flanagan, the man who committed the horrific shooting in Virginia on Wednesday, obtained his gun legally.

The police practice of holding auctions or trading in guns to a dealer is legal under federal law, and in some states it’s mandatory. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative network of lawmakers and corporations, and National Rifle Association both have their fingerprints on these laws advancing in Montana, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Here’s a small sampling of the widespread practice:

  • In 2009, Montana passed a law prohibiting guns from being destroyed by police, and instead requiring them to be sold off to licensed dealers. North Carolina and Tennessee followed suit in 2010. The Tennessee law states, “Any weapon declared contraband shall be sold in a public sale or used for legitimate law enforcement purposes, at the discretion of the court.” Texas in 2013 passed a law that gives local departments the option to resell guns.

  • The Memphis Police Department in Tennessee traded 500 of its confiscated guns in return for 33 new assault rifles. A local outlet reported that guns sold by police have been traced to new crimes. In 2010, a man shot two police officers in the Pentagon using a gun sold by the Memphis police department in 2008.

  • In Duluth, Minnesota, the police department sold 46 of its shotguns for $5,538. One of those guns was used to shoot two officers at another police department. The mentally ill man who shot the officers would not have passed a background check, but he was able to obtain the gun easily through a straw purchase on an online auction—private sellers require no such background checks.

  • Indiana’s Evansville police sold 145 firearms in 2015 to raise $24,915 for the department’s firearms training.

  • Since 1998, Kentucky has had a law that lets the Kentucky State Police collect confiscated guns from local police departments and sell them in an auction. A single auction can include more than 400 guns, and auctions can collect $650,000 a year, 20 percent of which goes to state police and 80 percent of which goes back to local agencies. Guns used in murders can be sold off, as well.

After the June mass shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, President Barack Obama called once again for stronger gun laws, and noted that he “had to make statements like this too many times.” Now, in the wake of this week’s tragedy, we are having that conversation once again. As long as federal background checks are too weak and the enforcement of existing laws remains too timid, however, we’re essentially encouraging more gun violence. Taking weapons off the streets could help reduce gun violence in America. Yet sometimes, even our own law enforcement agencies are the ones responsible for putting weapons into the wrong hands.

 

By: Rebecca Leber, The New Republic, August 28, 2015

August 30, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence, Mass Shootings | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“An Edge Of Ruthlessness”: Scott Walker; Uncle Scrooge’s Lackey In Wisconsin

Economically speaking, all 237 GOP presidential candidates are selling the same magic beans.

Everybody knows the script by now: Tax cuts for wealthy “job creators” bring widespread prosperity; top off Scrooge McDuck’s bullion pool, and the benefits flow outward to everybody else, the economy surges, budget deficits melt away, and the song of the turtle dove will be heard in the land.

Almost needless to say, these “supply side” miracles have never actually happened in the visible world. State budget debacles in Kansas and Louisiana only signify the latest failures of right-wing dogma. Hardly anybody peddling these magic beans actually believes in them anymore. Nevertheless, feigning belief signifies tribal loyalty to the partisan Republicans who will choose the party’s nominee.

However, with everybody in the field playing “let’s pretend,” a candidate needs another way to distinguish himself. I suspect that Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, may have found it.

See, Walker won’t just put money back in “hardworking taxpayers’” pockets. Like a latter-day Richard Nixon, Walker will also stick it to people he doesn’t like: lollygagging schoolteachers, feather-bedding union members, and smug, tenured college professors who think they’re smarter than everybody else. If Walker lacks charisma, there’s an edge of ruthlessness in his otherwise bland demeanor that hits GOP primary voters right where they live.

No less an authority than Uncle Scrooge himself — i.e. David Koch of Koch Industries, who with his brother Charles has pledged to spend $900 million to elect a Republican in 2016 — told the New York Observer after a closed-door gathering at Manhattan’s Empire Club that Walker will win the nomination and crush Hillary Clinton in a general election “by a major margin.”

Viewed from a distance, the determination of prosperous, well-educated Wisconsin to convert itself into an anti-union right-to-work state like Alabama or Arkansas appears mystifying. To risk the standing of the University of Wisconsin system by abolishing academic tenure, as Walker intends, is damn near incomprehensible.

Attack one of America’s great public research universities for the sake of humiliating (Democratic-leaning) professors over nickel-and-dime budgetary issues? Do Wisconsinites have the first clue how modern economies work?

Maybe not. But Walker’s supporters definitely appear to know who their enemies are, culturally speaking. Incredulity aside, it would be a mistake not to notice the craftiness with which he’s brought off the transformation. Not to mention that Walker’s won three elections since 2010 in a “blue” state that hasn’t supported a Republican presidential nominee since Ronald Reagan.

Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes don’t mean much by themselves, but throw in Michigan and Ohio, Midwestern states also trending similarly, and you’ve definitely got something.

Act 10, the 2011 law that took away collective bargaining rights for many public employees in Wisconsin (except, at first, for police and firefighters), brought crowds of angry teachers (also mostly Democrats) to the state capitol in Madison for weeks of demonstrations. As much as MSNBC was thrilled, many Wisconsinites appear to have been irked.

In the end, the state ended up saving roughly $3 billion by shifting the funding of fringe benefits such as health insurance and pensions from employer to employee, costing the average teacher roughly 16 percent of his or her compensation. Mindful of budget shortfalls, the unions had proposed negotiations, but that wasn’t enough for Gov. Walker.

For the record, Act 10 was an almost verbatim copy of a bill promoted by the Arlington, Virginia-based American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a think-tank largely funded by, you guessed it, the Brothers Koch.

Four years ago, a documentary filmmaker caught Walker on camera telling wealthy supporters that the new law was just the beginning. “The first step is, we’re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public-­employee unions,” he said, “because you use divide-­and-­conquer.”

“If we can do it in Wisconsin, we can do it anywhere — even in our nation’s capital,” Walker wrote in his book, Unintimidated, notes Dan Kaufman in the New York Times Magazine. Elsewhere, Walker has boasted that as president, he could take on foreign policy challenges because, he’s said, “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.”

Ridiculous, of course, but it plays.

Meanwhile, rueful trade unionists who endorsed Walker in 2010 are crying the blues, because they never imagined that having vanquished the women’s union he’d come after the ironworkers and the electricians in their pickup trucks. Divided, they’ve been conquered.

So right-to-work it is: diminished salaries, job security, pensions, health and safety regulations will inevitably follow.

More bullion for Scrooge McDuck’s pool.

So now it’s the professors’ turn. Walker, a Marquette dropout, has described his new law as “Act 10 for the university.” Tenure’s a dead letter in cases of “financial emergency… requiring program discontinuance, curtailment, modification or redirection.”

So who gets redirected first? Left-wing culture warriors or climate scientists? Hint: Scrooge is a fierce climate-change denier.

Meanwhile, Democrats underestimate Scott Walker at considerable peril.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, June 17, 2015

June 17, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Scott Walker, Supply Side Economics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Almost Anything Passes For ‘Religion’ In This Country”: Religious Freedom? Nope, Just Plain Old Discrimination

Religious conservatives have lost their battle over gay marriage. Most will even admit it. The clock is ticking down to April 28, when the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments for and against it—and by the end of June, they will have ruled on the right of every American to a civil marriage to the person of their choosing, regardless of gender. Although a “no gay marriage” ruling is possible, almost no one believes the Supreme Court will rule against the civil right to marriage.

Majority support for gay marriage is to be found in virtually every demographic in society. But the minority who still opposes it does so with vigor and conviction. The Roman Catholic hierarchy (not the people in the pews) and conservative Evangelicals continue to look for ways to express their disdain and condemnation for gay or lesbian couples who want to be married or who have been married. The new strategy is to do state-by-state what has been impossible nationally. With the help of ALEC (the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council), bills are popping up all over the country in state legislatures with what conservatives hope will be their effective (and legal) defense against the rising tide of acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

Indiana is a good case in point. On Monday, the Indiana House of Representatives passed a bill that would exempt individuals and companies from non-discrimination rulings by the courts—based on their religious beliefs. A similar bill was passed earlier by the Indiana Senate, and once the two are reconciled, Republican Governor Mike Pence has indicated he will sign it. This legislation, like its sister bills in other state legislatures, is based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) bill passed by the U.S. Congress in 1993. Many states have their own RFRAs, which, like the federal one, prevent any law which substantially burdens a person’s free expression of religion. (This legislation figured heavily into the Hobby Lobby case.)

If this legislation becomes law, anyone who disagrees with any non-discrimination legislation or court rulings would be allowed, based on their religious beliefs, to disregard the provisions of that non-discrimination protection.

The multiple ways in which such legislation is problematic are stunning. First, this would open the floodgates for citizens/corporations to exempt themselves from all kinds of laws, merely by claiming that it violates their religious beliefs. Now, we are presumably not just talking about your common, everyday, vanilla, mainstream religions (think Methodists, Presbyterians, Unitarians, Reform and Conservative Jews).  Such a law would, presumably, also protect members of the Westboro Baptist Church with its “God hates Fags” approach; the crazy, renegade Mormon man and his 25 wives; Satan worshippers; and Scientologists. Almost anything passes for “religion” in this country, and there would be no end to the appeals for exemption following certain laws based on the tenets of one’s religion, no matter how small and no matter how outside the mainstream that religion.

However, religionists don’t have to be crazy or on the fringes of society to wreak havoc on those they disdain. In debating the bill, Representative Bruce Borders (R-Jasonville) cited an anesthesiologist who refused to anesthetize a patient because the procedure for which his services were needed was an abortion—all due to his religious beliefs about the sinfulness of that procedure. A Roman Catholic pharmacist could refuse to fill a prescription for physician-prescribed birth control, citing her church’s objection to any kind of artificial birth control. A Southern Baptist pharmacist could refuse to fill a prescription for Truvada, the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) drug used by gay men (and others) to lessen their risk for being infected with HIV, claiming his church condemns the “gay lifestyle,” by which he means, apparently, promiscuous and profligate sex.

It is difficult for me to understand how this is not akin to the fervently held religious beliefs that the races should not “mix” in marriage, and the anti-miscegenation laws that emanated from those beliefs. Of course, in 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down those laws as unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia. How is this any different from a 1960s lunch counter owner denying service to African Americans because of his religious beliefs (widely held at the time) that “Negroes” were lesser human beings and citizens than white folks?

Taken to their logical and extreme conclusion, such laws could allow someone to ask to be exempted from meeting the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, if that person’s religion believed (as in much of the Old Testament) that physical infirmities were the result of the afflicted person’s sin (or that of his parents), and “my religion condemns sin rather than cooperating with it.”

But these debates and legislation are not fueled by the religious adherent’s condemnation of sin. Chances are, the florist who refuses to provide flowers for a gay wedding does not deny service to a bride who is on her second or third marriage. Jesus is silent about gay marriage, but roundly and emphatically condemns remarriage after divorce. The photographer who refuses to take pictures for a lesbian marriage (because it is against God’s will) should also decline to photograph a lavish and ostentatiously expensive wedding (Jesus talks a lot about the sinful nature of greed). If this were seriously about not serving sinful people, then obese people would be turned away from fast-food outlets as obviously living the sinful “lifestyle” of a glutton. If this were really about condemning sin, then service would be denied to all sinners, not just a particular sin among a particular, targeted group.

Make no mistake: These legislative bills, like the one about to become law in Indiana, are about exempting some people from having to comply with non-discrimination laws already in place for LGBT people, as well as pre-empting and forestalling any efforts to put such protections in place. This is old-fashioned discrimination all dressed up in ecclesiastical vestments and “religious freedom” language. But it is still discrimination, pure and simple, against a targeted group of fellow citizens. No amount of cloaking such legislation in the garb of “freedom of religion” is going to turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse.

 

By: The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress; The Daily Beast, March 25, 2015

March 25, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Discrimination, Religious Freedom | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Separating Fact From Advocacy”: How The Media Enable The Anti-Worker Movement

NPR Morning Edition aired a report this week that reeked of anti-union bias, and inadvertently promoted the Koch brothers’ agenda to reduce collective bargaining rights, which means smaller wages and benefits.

The report was rife with errors, missing facts, bollixed concepts, and a meaningless comparison used to impeach a union source.

Below I’ll detail the serious problems with reports by Lisa Autry of WKU Public Radio in Bowling Green, Kentucky, but first you should know why this matters to you no matter where you live.

A serious, very well-funded, and thoroughly documented movement to pay workers less and reduce their rights, while increasing the rights of employers, is gaining traction as more states pass laws that harm workers. A host of proposals in Congress would compound this if passed and signed into law.

News organizations help this anti-worker movement, even if they do not mean to, when they get facts wrong, lack balance, provide vagaries instead of telling details, and fail to apply time-tested reporting practices to separate fact from advocacy.

The advocates are sophisticated. They pose as “nonprofit research organizations,” but are better described as ideological marketing agencies.

There’s nothing wrong with marketing ideology, only with not being honest about what you are doing.

These tax-exempt outfits operate on the model of Madison Avenue; reinforcing instincts, hopes, and desire to stir demand for what may not be good for you or be of dubious effectiveness.

Carefully read, their reports are mostly assertions with a sprinkling of cherry-picked facts and projections, which I have found, reviewing them years later, turned out to be wrong.

Midwestern and southern states have been enacting anti-worker laws that take away collective bargaining rights, while forcing unions to represent people who do not share in the costs of collective bargaining and protecting workers in grievance proceedings. Other laws directly reduce compensation, especially pensions, although police and firefighters are generally shielded.

A key part of this strategy is creating the impression that unions are bad for workers. This goes to a problem that Presidents John Adams and James Madison feared would destroy the nation – the rise of a “business aristocracy” that would trick people whose only income was from wages into supporting policies that would be good for the business aristocrats, but bad for workers.

The NPR report was about Kentucky counties that are passing so-called “right to work” laws, a worthy topic for sure.

Early on, reporter Lisa Autry makes this untrue statement:  “Democrats have rejected efforts to allow employees in unionized companies the freedom to choose whether to join a union.”

No law requires workers to join a union under a binding U.S. Supreme Court decision. Congress outlawed the “closed shop” in the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, formally known as the Labor Management Relations Act.

Workers at firms with union contracts are only required to pay dues that cover the costs of representing them in negotiating contracts and grievance procedures.

Russell D. Lewis, the NPR Southern bureau chief who edited Autry’s report, told me he was only vaguely aware of the Taft-Hartley Act and did not recognize her error.

From an economic perspective, what so-called “right to work” laws do is allow workers to enjoy the benefits of collective bargaining and contract enforcement without sharing in the costs. This is a form of moral hazard that weakens unions and makes it likely that they will fail because of what economists call the free rider problem: Those who do not share in the costs of negotiating contracts and enforcing them enjoy the same benefits and protections as those who do.

Autry’s NPR report failed to mention a central fact – Kentucky’s highest court ruled in 1965 that cities and counties cannot adopt local collective bargaining laws. In a case that unions brought against Jesse Puckett, mayor of Shelbyville, Kentucky’s highest court ruled (emphasis added):

it is not reasonable to believe that Congress could have intended to [leave to local governments] the determination of policy in such a controversial area as that of union-security agreements. We believe Congress was willing to permit varying policies at the state level, but could not have intended to allow as many local policies as there are local political subdivisions in the nation. It is our conclusion that Congress has pre-empted from cities the field undertaken to be entered by the Shelbyville ordinance.

In reports for her local NPR station, Autry never cited this. She did, however, a report on a politician who told her that equal numbers of people believe a county-level ordinance would be legal or illegal. In another report, on whether counties have the legal authority to pass such laws, she said, “the answer depends on who you ask.”

It took me less than a minute using an Internet search engine to find the 1965 case. It was also cited in a nuanced and balanced January news report in the Louisville Courier-Journal. Even cub reporter Gina Clear of the News-Enterprise in Elizabethtown, KY provided coverage that was balanced and far better informed than Autry’s.

Did Autry fail to report the court decision because of laziness, poor judgment, or anti-union bias? I cannot give you a definitive answer because Autry and Kevin Willis, WKU’s news director, ignored my repeated requests for an interview, passing the buck to Lewis.

Strange, journalists who expect people to return their calls but do not hold themselves to that standard.

My review of several dozen Autry pieces suggests a bias against unions and workers.

Autry tends to quote anti-unionists at length, but paraphrase what union leaders say, though she did one report that explained union perspectives.

She frequently does one-sided reports using language that assumes only anti-union policies have merit, and quotes only anti-union sources. She also did a one-sided report against increasing the minimum wage.

Lewis, the NPR editor, noted that Autry quoted a United Auto Workers local official saying that Alabama and Mississippi, both with so-called “right to work” laws, have “some of the worst education, highest poverty. What happens is that as they reduce the union labor, less and less [sic] people are making a decent wage.”

But Autry followed that quote with a bizarre point to impeach the union official’s remarks: “Actually, since World War II, income and job growth have increased faster in right-to-work states.”

That might be relevant to a story about how Jim Crow laws kept, and still keep, blacks from many well-paying jobs. Or in a story about how taxpayer investments, especially in the Interstate Highways, canals, and electricity, opened the South to building factories after the war.

Autry cited no source. Lewis sent me a report by the Mackinac Center, another libertarian marketing agency.  It is much more nuanced than Autry’s flat statement.

And actually, to invoke Autry’s word, what would be relevant would be current data on household incomes in states with and without laws requiring workers to pay for the benefits they get from any union that represents them.

In 2013 the median household income (half make more, half less) was $49,087 in so-called “right to work” states, but $56,746 in other states. That means in the states with diminished worker rights people have to work a full year plus eight weeks to get what their peers earn in a year.

Autry’s piece and Lewis’s editing seem to violate NPR’s ethics handbook, which says “good editors are also good prosecutors. They test, probe and challenge reporters, always with the goal of making NPR’s stories as good (and therefore as accurate) as possible.”

The handbook also says “attribute everything… When in doubt, err on the side of attributing — that is, make it very clear where we’ve gotten our information (or where the organization we give credit to has gotten its information). Every NPR reporter and editor should be able to immediately identify the source of any facts in our stories — and why we consider them credible. And every reader or listener should know where we got our information.”

In her NPR piece and a number of WKU reports, Autry quotes the Bluegrass Institute, which she describes as “a Kentucky-based think tank that advocates for smaller government.”

With just two employees, it doesn’t have much capacity to think.

What Autry neglected to report was that the Bluegrass Institute is an ad agency for Kochian ideas.  It is also part of a network that is funded by corporate interests closely allied with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which poses as a nonpartisan advocate for smaller government and more federalism, but is funded by corporations opposed to unions, the Koch Brothers, and their confreres. While the network says its members are independent, behind closed doors it operates like an ideological Ikea selling libertarian ideas, The New Yorker magazine reported.

Editor Lewis told me he had no idea about the Bluegrass Institute’s connections.

Lewis also indicated he was not troubled by using the term “right to work,” which is both factually inaccurate and politically loaded. Based on the evidence I call them right-to-work-for-less laws. NPR surely should explain to listeners that an abundance of official data (and economic theory) show that union workers make more than their non-union counterparts.

Autry ended her NPR piece with another falsehood: “Meanwhile, several labor unions — including some from out of state — have filed a federal lawsuit to stop Kentucky’s local right-to-work movement.”

All of the unions represent workers in the county where the lawsuit was filed, a fact anyone who read the lawsuit should know. Irwin “Buddy” Cutler, the lawyer who filed the case, noted that to have standing – the right to sue – the union would have to represent workers in the county where the dispute exists.

Lewis said he did not know that, which explains his failure to ask what strikes me as an obvious question. Beyond that, what purpose did ending on this (false) point serve?

NPR owes listeners a corrective. It also needs to balance its reports and use relevant data. More importantly, all news organizations need to be wary of “think tanks” bearing easy information.

 

By: David Cay Johnston, The National Memo, March 21, 2015

March 23, 2015 Posted by | Journalism, Media, Right To Work Laws | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Remember At The Polls”: No One In Wisconsin Asked To Kill Unions Except Special Interests

It was the question no Republican in Wisconsin could answer.

“What beating hearts are asking you to pass right to work legislation?”

Senator Janet Bewley, a Democrat, put the simple query to the other side of the aisle Tuesday night while the chamber debated a “right to work” bill that will effectively kill private sector unions in the state by ending the requirement that workers pay dues for representation.

The answer, of course, is no one. That much was clear at the state capitol. There were no signs asking to join a union shop but not the union; no bullhorns asking to skirt paying dues.

If there was anyone at Monday’s hearing on the bill who asked lawmakers to pass right to work, their names weren’t mentioned by any of the Republicans. In fact, the only Republican to mention someone’s name was Senator Jerry Petrowski.

“I’m a Ronald Reagan Republican, and like President Reagan I was a union member for many years,” he said before becoming the only member of his party to vote against the bill. Nevertheless, it passed 17-15 and sets Wisconsin up to become the 25th right-to-work state.

This death warrant for unions wasn’t drafted in Wisconsin though. The fingerprints of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing special-interest group, were found all over the bill. Nevertheless, Governor Scott Walker is ready to sign it after dealing unions a mortal wound in 2011 by ending the right to collective bargaining for public employees.

“Walker said that it wasn’t time for this, that it would be a distraction,” said Tom Much, a 58-year-old retiree from the Communications Workers of America. Hundreds of union supporters and Much stood outside the Capitol as snow fell Tuesday afternoon, about an hour before debate over the bill began.

What did Walker think the bill was distracting from though?

“You tell me,” Much said.

It could be the state’s $2.2 billion deficit, often cited by Democrats as they futilely filibustered the bill . More than likely, though, it is Walker’s presidential ambitions that right to work would distract from. So, while much of the talk regarding Walker in the past few days and weeks has revolved around his no-comment status when it comes to President Obama’s religious beliefs, and prior to that his punting on the question of evolution, in Wisconsin, the governor’s about face on the law has gone almost unnoticed by national political reporters.

“Now, he says that he will sign it,” Much said, noting Walker’s intent to approve the right to work bill when it reaches his desk, something the governor always insisted was unlikely to happen. “Seems to me to be a bit of a turnaround.”

Not quite. Walker has avoided talk of making Wisconsin a right to work state—until recently—and has let his Republican allies in the legislature perform most of the heavy lifting regarding the bill.

His fellow Republicans didn’t have much to say during Tuesday’s proceedings, instead letting their votes do the talking. Fitzgerald began by introducing the bill, saying it would be a boon to the state’s economy. Almost all other comments from the GOP came in the form of bickering with Democrat Sen. Chris Larson over the previous day’s hearing, which ended abruptly when Republican Sen. Stephen Nass cited a “credible threat” that the proceedings would be disrupted by protesters. Twenty-five minutes before the scheduled end of the hearing, Nass called it quits, fueling anger among some in the crowd who had waited hours for their chance to speak.

“Are we afraid of what the public is going to say?” Larson said Tuesday night in arguing for a failed attempt to push the bill back to committee. “Maybe if we go back there someone will show up who’s not from a right wing think tank to speak for (right to work). I know I was on the edge of my seat waiting for that to happen.”

Larson was likely referring to James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation, who testified in support of the bill on Monday and has been extolling the virtues of right to work for the conservative think tank in op-eds at National Review. Larson noted that, in eight hour’s worth of testimony, more than 1,700 voiced their opposition to right to work, while just 25 expressed support for the bill, including Sherk.

This was the backbone of the Democratic argument against Walker’s policies Tuesday night: they represent special interests, not the people. Walker and his allies would likely reply that groups like ALEC, the Heritage Foundation, and those represented by the Kochs have just as much a right as any to have their voices heard as anyone else, but that they might lack the “beating hearts” that Bewley asked about.

“At issue here is the simple matter of individual freedom,” Fitzgerald argued in introducing the bill.

Who those individuals are—the corporate or manufacturing interests who backed Wisconsin’s right to work bill, or the men outside in hard hats and Carhart jackets who voted for union representation—is up for debate. But it’s a back-and-forth that Walker has so far stayed out of. His job is simply to sign the bill when it reaches his desk.

That will likely happen soon: Republicans have a 63-36 majority in the state assembly, where the bill is headed next week. If it does and right to work becomes law as quickly as everyone anticipates, the distraction to Walker’s increasing presidential hopes will be minimal. But a few people won’t forget what happened Tuesday. Among them, Tom Much. Watching through the snowflakes as his fellow union members had what will likely be their last and loudest stand, Much held a sign, aimed at the Capitol steps.

“Remember at the polls.”

 

By: Justin Glawe, The Daily Beast, February 26, 2015

March 2, 2015 Posted by | Right To Work Laws, Scott Walker, Wisconsin Legislature | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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