Friday, February 25, 2011

Mayhem, protests, filibusters, walk-outs, punishing debates, missing lawmakers: Cairo? Try Madison, Wisconsin!


ByTodd Richmond / Feb. 25, 2011

AP MADISON, Wis. - Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly took the first significant action on their plan to strip collective bargaining rights from most public workers, abruptly passing the measure early Friday morning before sleep-deprived Democrats realized what was happening.

The vote ended three straight days of punishing debate in the Assembly. But the political standoff over the bill - and the monumental protests at the state Capitol against it - appear far from over.

Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly early Friday passed Gov. Scott Walker's bill that strips most public workers of their collective bargaining rights.The Assembly's vote sent the bill on to the Senate, but minority Democrats in that house have fled to Illinois to prevent a vote. No one knows when they will return from hiding. Republicans who control the chamber sent state troopers out looking for them at their homes on Thursday, but they turned up nothing.

"I applaud the Democrats in the Assembly for earnestly debating this bill and urge their counterparts in the state Senate to return to work and do the same," Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, said in a statement issued moments after the vote.

The plan from Republican Gov. Scott Walker contains a number of provisions he says are designed to fill the state's $137 million deficit and lay the groundwork for fixing a projected $3.6 billion shortfall in the upcoming 2011-13 budget.

The flashpoint is language that would require public workers to contribute more to their pensions and health insurance and strip them of their right to collectively bargain benefits and work conditions.

Democrats and unions see the measure as an attack on workers' rights and an attempt to cripple union support for Democrats. Union leaders say they would make pension and health care concessions if they can keep their bargaining rights, but Walker has refused to compromise.

Tens of thousands of people have jammed the Capitol since last week to protest, pounding on drums and chanting so loudly that police providing security have resorted to ear plugs. Hundreds have taken to sleeping in the building overnight, dragging in air mattresses and blankets.

Democrats launched a filibuster, throwing out dozens of amendments and delivering rambling speeches. Each time Republicans tried to speed up the proceedings, Democrats rose from their seats and wailed that the GOP was stifling them.
Debate had gone on for 60 hours and 15 Democrats were still waiting to speak when the vote started around 1 a.m. Friday. Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer, R-Waukesha, opened the roll and closed it within seconds.
Democrats looked around, bewildered. Only 13 of the 38 Democratic members managed to vote in time.
Republicans immediately marched out of the chamber in single file. The Democrats rushed at them, pumping their fists and shouting "Shame!" and "Cowards!"

The Republicans walked past them without responding.

Democrats left the chamber stunned. The protesters greeted them with a thundering chant of "Thank you!" Some Democrats teared up. Others hugged.

"What a terrible, terrible day for Wisconsin," said Rep. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee. "I am incensed. I am shocked."

GOP leaders in the Assembly refused to speak with reporters, but earlier Friday morning Majority Leader Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, warned Democrats that they had been given 59 hours to be heard and Republicans were ready to vote.

The governor has said that if the bill does not pass by Friday, the state will miss a deadline to refinance $165 million of debt and will be forced to start issuing layoff notices next week. However, the deadline may not as strict as he says.

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said earlier this week that the debt refinancing could be pushed back as late as Tuesday to achieve the savings Walker wants. Based on a similar refinancing in 2004, about two weeks are needed after the bill becomes law to complete the deal. That means if the bill is adopted by the middle of next week, the state can still meet a March 16 deadline, the Fiscal Bureau said.

Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach said he and his colleagues wouldn't return until Walker compromised.
Frustrated by the delay, Senate Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Jeff Fitzgerald's brother, ordered state troopers to find the missing Democrats, but they came up empty. Wisconsin law doesn't allow police to arrest the lawmakers, but Fitzgerald said he hoped the show of authority would have pressured them to return.

Erpenbach, who was in the Chicago area, said all 14 senators remained outside of Wisconsin.

"It's not so much the Democrats holding things up," Erpenbach said. "It's really a matter of Gov. Walker holding things up."

Is the "job" of the U.S. government wealth redistribution? Howard Dean thinks so.

Verne Strickland Blogmaster

By Dr. Paul Kengor / February 23, 2011

A teachable moment on the purpose of government recently occurred on MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” who has picked up the torch for the departed Keith Olbermann.

It was Monday, February 7, the day after President Obama sat for an interview with Bill O’Reilly of Fox News.It was an exchange in the O’Reilly-Obama interview that inspired the teachable moment with O’Donnell.

O’Reilly asked Obama a valuable question:

O’Reilly: Do you deny that you’re a man that wants to redistribute wealth?

Obama: Absolutely.O’Reilly: You deny that?

Obama: Absolutely.

Putting aside the issue of whether Barack Obama is a redistributionist, the teachable moment for me here today—followed on MSNBC.

Lawrence O’Donnell’s guest was Howard Dean. Bear in mind that Dean is a very influential man of the Left. He chaired the Democratic National Committee, spearheading it when the Democrats took down George W. Bush in his second term, recapturing Congress in a landslide.

Those victories came after Dean challenged Bush for the presidency in 2004 and, in my opinion, did more than any other figure in ratcheting up the toxic vitriol that ultimately destroyed Bush’s presidency.

In short, Howard Dean’s opinion is not irrelevant.And so, Lawrence O’Donnell followed the O’Reilly-Obama “redistribution” exchange with this question to Dean:

O’Donnell: Governor [Dean], this is one of those things you can see he’s[Obama]afraid of discussing—what an increase in top tax rate actually does. This for me is — I feel is why Democrats so frequently lose the tax debate.You can see that they’re afraid of the tax debate.

Dean: That [interview] was an unusual thing. The president doesn’t often get mouse-trapped, especially by the likes of Bill O’Reilly…. He laid out a proposition that is we shouldn’t have redistribution. [But] that’s what governments do—is redistribute.

The argument is not whether they should redistribute or not, the question is how much we should redistribute…. The purpose of government is to make sure that capitalism works for everybody …. It’s government’s job to redistribute.

There are a bunch of objections I could raise to these statements. Primarily, however, the problem with Dean’s comments on the “purpose” and “job” of government is the complete lack of qualification. Dean gives a definition of government that is a leftist definition, provided by a modern liberal/progressive.

Howard Dean cannot, logically, honestly, factually, categorically argue that his definition is anything beyond that.Dean certainly did not offer a definition grounded in sources we would traditionally expect in America: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, specific writings of Jefferson, Madison, even John Locke. No one, and nothing, is cited.

For instance, the Declaration, written by Jefferson, edited by Ben Franklin, John Adams, and the entirety of the first Congress, approved by 56 of our founders, stated that “governments are instituted” for the purpose of securing the “unalienable rights” of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Wealth redistribution is nowhere to be found.What Howard Dean offered was an expansive modern “progressive” definition of government. That’s fine, but his terms need to be identified as just that.

Taking this a step further, note that Dean and O’Donnell both desire a federal income-tax system based on graduated or progressive rates. They believe such a system reflects and enables government’s “job” and “purpose.” They want a progressive federal income tax for the chief intention of wealth redistribution.

Here, too, this is hardly the spirit of America’s founding principles. America’s progressive income tax system did not start until nearly 140 years after the American Revolution, with implementation under President Woodrow Wilson—the progressive’s progressive—in 1913, and only after an intense, nasty debate that still rages a century later.

If Dean and O’Donnell want an early document that argues for a graduated or progressive income tax, they need to look overseas and to 1848, decades before Woodrow Wilson, with the publication of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto. If you go to page 75 of the Penguin Signet Classics edition of the Manifesto, or page 26 of the on-line version (click here), you can see Marx’s 10-point program. Point two, which follows

Marx’s unapologetic call for “abolition of property,” explicitly calls for “a heavy progressive or graduated income tax.”No, I’m not calling Lawrence O’Donnell and Howard Dean communists, but I am calling them Leftists and redistributionists. That’s what they are, as is their definition of government. Their definition is, first and foremost, theirs—not America’s.

Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values. His books include "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism" and the newly released "Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Civitas: Voter support for tapping Golden LEAF funds to balance NC budget

Verne Strickland Blogmaster / Feb 23 2011


Raleigh, N.C. - There is bipartisan support among North Carolina voters for using Golden LEAF’s $600 million in taxpayer funds to balance the state budget, according to a new poll released today by the Civitas Institute.

Fifty-six percent of voters said they would prefer the Legislature use the money to do such things as pay the state portion of the 2011 state employee retirement contribution and balance the budget.

Thirty-one percent said they would like legislators to leave the money with the Foundation so the Board of Directors can continue to grant money for economic development to local areas of the state. Four percent said other or none, and 8 percent said they do not know.

“The people of North Carolina elect legislators to spend state money. Golden LEAF members are unelected and unaccountable political appointees,” said Civitas Institute President Francis De Luca. “Voters seem to agree that state dollars are better managed by those elected to handle that responsibility.”

Further examination reveals there is bipartisan support among voters for using the funds to balance the state’s budget. Republicans (62 percent use-26 percent leave), unaffiliated voters (58 percent use-31 percent leave), and Democratic voters (50 percent use-35 percent leave) all prefer the Legislature to use the funds to deal with the state’s budget problem rather than leave the money for continued economic grants.

“Utilizing Golden LEAF funds would help close the budget gap and protect state workers and programs from possibly even larger cuts,” added De Luca.

The Civitas Poll is the only monthly live-caller poll of critical issues facing North Carolina. For more information on Civitas polling see

Full text of question:

“The Golden LEAF Foundation has over $600 million in taxpayer funds in its account. Which of the following actions would you prefer the Legislature take with that money:”

Use that money to do things such as pay the state portion of the state employee retirement contribution for 2011 and balance the state budget – 56%

Leave the money with Golden Leaf so Foundation’s politically appointed 15 member Board of Directors can continue to grant money for economic development and local NC areas – 31%

Other/None – 4%

Don’t Know/Refused – 9%

Civitas Institute 100 South Harrington Street Raleigh, NC 27603

NC 2012 Redistricting Panel Announced

Verne Strickland Blogmaster / wednesday feb 23 2011

House Speaker Thom Tillis has announced his appointments to the panel that will redraw the House's district maps for the 2012 election.

There are 19 Democrats on the committee and 24 Republicans. The Rs include seven leaders from all over the state, coast to coast. Harnett Republican David Lewis will be senior chairman.

Tillis had previously said the committee's partisan makeup would reflect the balance of the
House at large. He couldn't have gotten much closer. Dems make up 43 percent of the House overall, and 44 percent of the redistricting committee.

A few details that jumped out:

The GOP side includes seven freshman, a surprisingly high number for a committee that relies on political savoir-faire.

More than half the Democrats on the panel are African-American lawmakers. That's not proportionate to the House caucus but makes some sense in the context of voting rights issues.

There are several Triad/Piedmont Republicans on the panel but only one Democrat: Earline Parmon. That could be a sign the House GOP may be looking to pick up seats there.
Here's the roster as it was announced recently in House session:

House Redistricting Committee
Senior Chairman: David Lewis (R-Harnett)
Chairmen: Jerry Dockham (R-Davidson) and Nelson Dollar (R-Wake)
Vice-chairs: Justin Burr (R-Stanly), Danny McComas (R-New Hanover), Ruth Samuelson (R-Mecklenburg) and Roger West (R-Cherokee)

Republican Members:
Rayne Brown (R-Davidson)
Bill Cook (R-Beaufort)
Leo Daughtry (R-Johnston)
John Faircloth (R-Guilford)
Julia Howard (R-Davie)
Dan Ingle (R-Alamance)
Bert Jones (U-Rockingham)*
Ric Killian (R-Mecklenburg)
J.H. Langdon (R-Johnston)
Bill McGee (R-Forsyth)
Tim Moffitt (R-Buncombe)
Tim Moore (R-Cleveland)
Shirley Randleman (R-Wilkes)
Johnathan Rhyne (R-Lincoln)
Norm Sanderson (R-Pamlico)
Paul Stam (R-Wake)
Sarah Stevens (R-Surry)
(*Jones is unaffiliated, but caucuses with the GOP.)

Democratic Members:
Kelly Alexander (D-Mecklenburg)
Larry Bell (D-Sampson)
Angela Bryant (D-Halifax)
Tricia Cotham (D-Mecklenburg)
Jim Crawford (D-Granville)
Beverly Earle (D-Meck)
Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D-Wilson)
Susan Fisher (D-Buncombe)
Elmer Floyd (D-Cumberland)
Rosa Gill (D-Wake)
Joe Hackney (D-Orange)
Darren Jackson (D-Wake)
Marvin Lucas (D-Cumberland)
Annie Mobley (D-Hertford)
Earline Parmon (D-Forsyth)
Garland Pierce (D-Scotland)
Ray Rapp (D-Madison)
Tim Spear (D-Chowan)
Winkie Wilkins (D-Person)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Washington Post Preview 2012: Slamming Pantano

Verne Strickland Blogmaster


As Ronald Reagan famously said: "There you go again." So here goes the predictably liberal WASHINGTON POST again -- generating hogwash about conservative Christian Republican Ilario Pantano of Wilmington, NC -- candidate for the U.S. Congress.

Can Ilario Pantano get to Congress?

By Rachel Weiner 02/21/2011

Ilario Pantano knows how to generate headlines.

"Ladies and gentleman, it is time to start offending!" Pantano joked during an appearance on a panel about political correctness and the military during the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this month in Washington.

The question for Pantano is whether he can go beyond the headlines -- and the controversies that surrounded him during his 2010 race -- and win a rematch against North Carolina Rep. Mike McIntyre (D) next November.

Pantano failed to take down McIntyre despite the national Republican wave as two stories from his past complicated the campaign.

First, Pantano worked for on Wall Street for Goldman Sachs, and, second, he was accused of killing two unarmed detainees while serving in Iraq. (The murder charges were dropped by the military when a witness' testimony could not be corroborated). Both issues could well come up again as Pantano pursues a rematch against McIntyre.

In 2010, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee used Pantano's work for Goldman Sachs against him, framing a whole television ad around it.

A prominent tea party activist used it as a reason to support McIntyre.

While Democrats didn't seek to make an issue out of the Iraq story (and Pantano argues that voters were on his side), but it came up often in press reports on the race. In one ad, Pantano used footage from an NBC interview but cut out questions about Wall Street and Iraq.

While Pantano won't be able to change his past, his political future may be brighter due to the upcoming redistricting process in the Tar Heel State.

Gerrymandering helped keep Republicans down in North Carolina in 2010; Democrats won seven of North Carolina's 13 seats last November despite getting only 46 percent of the total congressional vote statewide.

Now, after nearly a century of Democratic control, Republicans are getting a chance to redraw the map. (North Carolina is one of three states where legislators have total power over the process so even though the state's governor is a Democrat, it doesn't matter.)

David Wasserman, a redistricting expert and House race editor at the Cook Political Report, told the Fix he sees two possible scenarios for the map in North Carolina heading into the 2012 election.

Scenario 1: Republicans abandon Pantano. Under this plan, redistricting would move African-American -- and reliably Democratic -- voters from the Cumberland County portions of the 2nd and 8th districts into McIntyre's 7th district. That would help freshman 2nd district Rep. Renee Ellmers (R), who squeaked out a win over longtime Rep. Bob Etheridge (D) last fall, in part thanks to a damning YouTube altercation. It would put 8th district Rep. Larry Kissell (D) in danger. But it would leave McIntyre safer than he was before.

Scenario 2: Republicans alter the 7th District by chopping off the Democratic parts -- Robeson County and Cumberland County -- and adding in very Republican Onslow County to the north, borrowing it from Rep. Walter Jones' (R) safe 3rd District. This more aggressive plan would convert McIntyre's district from one that gave Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) 52 percent in 2009 to one that would have given him 55 percent. Kissell or Ellmers would take on Robeson County and African-American parts of Fayetteville, which would make those districts slightly less favorable for the GOP. Republicans could also cut the black neighborhoods of Wilmington out of McIntyre's district, making it even more competitive.

"My sense is that Republicans will be under heavy pressure to go for the 'aggressive' scenario and may overreach," Wasserman told the Fix. "Obama-level turnout should help McIntyre in a big way, and he could conceivably win a district that was 5-10 points less favorable than it is now, given his appeal and likely 2012 turnout." (McIntyre's district is currently 21 percent African American.)

There's also the possibility that Republicans will put McIntyre and Kissell in the same district, forcing the two Democrats to run against each other. But that would make Kissell's district more Democratic.

For his part, Pantano says he's prepared for any scenario. "Am I aware that redistricting is an issue? Absolutely," he said. "I'm still a relative political neophyte ... but I'm a two-time Marine combat veteran, so I look at this all very pragmatically. We're going to hope for the best but prepare for the worst."

Pantano argues that having the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina will only hurt McIntyre, who has touted his support from Republicans. McIntyre, the only North Carolina Democrat to vote for the health-care repeal, already faces a primary challenge from the left.

Pantano has to hope that he can keep the focus on McIntyre rather than debating his own resume, which wound up being his downfall during the 2010 campaign.

For his part, Pantano isn't spending much time re-hashing what happened in the last campaign. "There's an expression in the military, 'paralysis from analysis,'" he said. "Sometimes you just have to say, it feels right."