Breaking… Two Wisconsin Democrats win recall votes

Two sitting Wisconsin Democratic State Senators faced recall votes today. One of the races has been decided so far.

Wisconsin state Sen. Bob Wirch (D) has defeated corporate attorney Jonathan Steitz (R) in a recall election.

Wirch’s 22nd district seat is Democratic leaning, although Gov. Scott Walker (R) won narrowly there in the 2010 election. In the Republican-leaning 12th district, state Sen. Jim Holperin (D) is fighting tea party activist Kim Simac (R).

Wirch and Holperin were among the Democratic State Senators who fled Wisconsin to stall the vote on Governor Scott Walker’s union busting bill.

Politico is reporting (via breaking news e-mail) that both Wisconsin Democrats have now survived the recall votes.

A third Democrat, Dave Hansen, easily won his recall vote in July.

Please use this as an open thread.


Tuesday Reads

The reaction Obama should have to the unemployment numbers

Good Morning!! I wrote about Obama’s three-state bus tour last night, so I won’t go on and on about it; but I watched the speech at the Decorah town hall late last night. I just had to share this excerpt:

“We had reversed the recession, avoided a depression, gotten the economy moving again. But over the last six months we’ve had a run of bad luck. Some things that we could not control.” He mentioned the Arab Spring, which led to higher gas prices, the tsunami in Japan, and the European debt crises.

“All those things have been headwinds for our economy….Now, those are things that we can’t completely control. The question is, how do we manage these challenging times and do the right things when it comes to those things that we can control?”

“The problem is that we’ve got the kind of partisan brinksmanship that is willing to put party ahead of country, that is more interested in seeing their political opponents lose than seeing the country win. Nowhere was that more evident than in this recent debt ceiling debacle.”

So nothing was wrong with the administration’s policies? If it hadn’t been for those uncontrollable events, everything would have been just fine? Excuse me, but wasn’t there a report a last week that showed there basically has never been a real recovery?

Have you been following the Anonymous protests against the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) authority in San Francisco? The protests were in response to the shooting of a homeless man by BART police–the second such shooting in the past couple of years.

After a white BART police officer shot and killed an unarmed black man shortly after New Year’s 2009, the transit agency agreed to 127 policy changes recommended by an independent auditor. They included arming officers with Tasers and providing crisis-intervention training for the BART police force.

Eighteen months after the auditor issued its final report, BART has fulfilled only a fraction of those recommendations. By last month, barely a quarter of all officers possessed Tasers, even though the agency had purchased enough for each one. Just 10 percent had received training in how to defuse potentially violent situations involving the mentally ill.

On July 3, a BART officer shot and killed Charles Hill, a homeless man, at the Civic Center station in San Francisco. Transit police said Mr. Hill, appearing inebriated, was armed with a bottle and two knives and acted aggressively when two officers confronted him. After a minute-long confrontation, one of the officers shot Mr. Hill.

Last week, the hacktivist organization attempted to shut down BART with a ddos attack, which failed. Next,

participants took to raiding databases and leaking the personal information of 2,000 people.

On Thursday, BART switched off access to voice and data services, from all of the major cellular carriers, including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. The shutdown was in response to plans to use mobile devices to coordinate protests during the evening commute.

“[The protest organizers]…stated they would use mobile devices to coordinate their disruptive activities and communicate about the location and number of BART Police….BART temporarily interrupted service at select BART stations as one of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform,” a statement from BART said.

“Cell phone service was not interrupted outside BART stations. In addition, numerous BART Police officers and other BART personnel with radios were present during the planned protest, and train intercoms and white courtesy telephones remained available for customers seeking assistance or reporting suspicious activity.”

When I heard about this yesterday, I wondered if the U.S. was beginning to turn into Egypt, with authorities attempting to keep people from using social networking sites.

The digital interruption caused the protests to be cancelled, but enraged protesters. Thus, the stage was set for a confrontation today. And the confrontation came, with all four downtown SF BART stations forced to shut down.

BART temporarily closed all four downtown San Francisco stations tonight – Civic Center, Powell, Montgomery and Embarcadero – a crowd gathered to protest the transit agency’s decision to cut underground cellular phone service for three hours Thursday evening in an effort to quell a protest.

As of 6:45 p.m., the Civic Center and Montgomery stations were open. At the Powell and Embarcadero stations, passengers could exit trains but not board them.

The closures began at 5:25 p.m., when protesters were kicked out of the Civic Center station, then began marching toward the other stations. That prompted BART to close them, one by one.

The Muni Metro stations at the same locations were closed in tandem with the BART stations. Trains continued to run through the stations, only allowing passengers to exit.

In addition, the FCC has begun an investigation of BART’s actions in shutting down cell phone service. So I guess we’re not Egypt quite yet.

Remember the story about David Prosser, the Wisconsin Supreme Court judge who allegedly choked a female colleague, Anne Walsh Bradley? A special prosecutor has now been named to investigate the incident.

Sauk County District Attorney Patricia Barrett will serve as special prosecutor in the investigation of a physical altercation between two state Supreme Court justices.

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley has said Justice David Prosser put her in a “chokehold” during a June argument over a case in her chambers. Others have said Bradley came at Prosser with fists raised and he put up his hands to block her or push her back.

The incident occurred June 13, a day before the deeply divided court issued a 4-3 ruling upholding Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s legislation curtailing collective bargaining for public employees. That case started when Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne brought a lawsuit claiming a legislative committee violated the state’s open meetings law in March in forwarding the legislation to the state Senate. Ozanne sought to invalidate the law, and implementing it was delayed for months while the case was pending.

The high court ultimately ruled key parts of the meetings law do not apply to lawmakers.

We’ll have to keep an eye on this story. Also in Wisconsin, today three Democrats face recall votes.

The Wisconsin recall fight ends Tuesday, and while the state Senate is no longer in play, Republicans could cut into the gains Democrats made last week. One Democratic seat in tomorrow’s election is probably safe; the race for the other one is very close.

“Here we’re fighting on our turf,” said Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski. “We’re cautiously optimistic.”

State Sen. Jim Holperin appears to have the slight edge in the hotly-contested 12th district as a well-liked incumbent, but increased Republican enthusiasm in this GOP-leaning territory makes it basically a toss-up.

Right now, Republicans have a 17-to-16 majority in the state Senate, thanks to the Democratic victories in last Tuesday’s recalls, when six Republicans faced challenges and two lost.

If you haven’t read it yet, please try to get through the Texas Monthly cover story on Rick Perry’s very bizarre religious beliefs. I can’t really do the story justice in a short excerpt, but just the same, I’ll give you a sample to get you started. Two pastors, Tom Schlueter of Arlington, TX and Bob Long of San Marcos, TX had come to see Perry at the Governor’s office in order to inform him of some prophecies that involved him (Perry). They explained that Texas is the “prophet state,” and will lead the U.S. toward “Godly rule.”

At the end of their meeting, Perry asked the two pastors to pray over him. As the pastors would later recount, the Lord spoke prophetically as Schlueter laid his hands on Perry, their heads bowed before a painting of the Battle of the Alamo. Schlueter “declared over [Perry] that there was a leadership role beyond Texas and that Texas had a role beyond what people understand,” Long later told his congregation.

[….]

At the end of their meeting, Perry asked the two pastors to pray over him. As the pastors would later recount, the Lord spoke prophetically as Schlueter laid his hands on Perry, their heads bowed before a painting of the Battle of the Alamo. Schlueter “declared over [Perry] that there was a leadership role beyond Texas and that Texas had a role beyond what people understand,” Long later told his congregation.

So you have to wonder: Is Rick Perry God’s man for president?

Schlueter, Long and other prayer warriors in a little-known but increasingly influential movement at the periphery of American Christianity seem to think so. The movement is called the New Apostolic Reformation. Believers fashion themselves modern-day prophets and apostles. They have taken Pentecostalism, with its emphasis on ecstatic worship and the supernatural, and given it an adrenaline shot.

The movement’s top prophets and apostles believe they have a direct line to God. Through them, they say, He communicates specific instructions and warnings. When mankind fails to heed the prophecies, the results can be catastrophic: earthquakes in Japan, terrorist attacks in New York, and economic collapse. On the other hand, they believe their God-given decrees have ended mad cow disease in Germany and produced rain in drought-stricken Texas.

Their beliefs can tend toward the bizarre. Some consider Freemasonry a “demonic stronghold” tantamount to witchcraft. The Democratic Party, one prominent member believes, is controlled by Jezebel and three lesser demons. Some prophets even claim to have seen demons at public meetings. They’ve taken biblical literalism to an extreme. In Texas, they engage in elaborate ceremonies involving branding irons, plumb lines and stakes inscribed with biblical passages driven into the earth of every Texas county.

Yikes!

Here’s another disturbing article, posted at The Institute for Southern Studies. Next low-wage haven: USA. This one is long too, but here’s just a bit of it.

For years advisers like the Boston Consulting Group got paid big bucks to tell their clients to produce in China. Now, they say, rising wages there, fueled by worker unrest, and low wages in Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina mean that soon it won’t be worth the hassle of locating overseas.

Wages for China’s factory workers certainly aren’t going to rise to U.S. levels soon. BCG estimates they will be 17 percent of the projected U.S. manufacturing average — $26 an hour for wages and benefits — by 2015.

But because American workers have higher productivity, and since rising fuel prices are making it even more expensive to ship goods half way around the world, costs in the two countries are converging fast.

Dan Luria, research director of the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, says many of the big-name consultancies, which until a year ago were advising their clients to “Asiafy their footprints,” are now telling companies to think twice.

BCG bluntly praises Mississippi’s “flexible unions/workers, minimal wage growth, and high worker productivity,” estimating that in four years, workers in China’s fast-growing Yangtze River Delta will cost only 31 percent less than Mississippi workers.

That’s before you figure in shipping, duties, and possible quality issues. Add it all up, says BCG, and “China will no longer be the default low-cost manufacturing location.”

Serfdom, here we come!

Last night I wrote about the suspicious suitcase that were left outside John Boehner’s Ohio office. A similar event happened in Beverly Hills today.

Beverly Hills police blew up an aspiring screenwriter’s laptop and script when investigating a suspicious package Thursday morning on Rodeo Drive.

The screenwriter, who was not identified, apparently left his briefcase — with the computer and script inside — unattended at a talent agency office.

Beverly Hills Police Lt. Tony Lee said police, not knowing what was inside the briefcase, detonated it as safety precaution.

Lee said the owner was distraught when he learned what happened to briefcase.

I hope his laptop wasn’t in the briefcase too.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?


Wisconsin Recall Vote comes with High Turnout

Recall votes on 6 republican state senators are being held today in Wisconsin. All 6 hold seats in traditionally republican areas of rural and suburban Wisconsin.  Tons of outside money has poured in for some of the most vituperous ads in political history.  It’s been a match of high money rollers on the republican side and on the ground voter turn work by unions on the democratic side.  Indications are that turn out is as high as it usually is in a presidential race.

Various clerks in the recall districts reported steady turnout so far with some projecting numbers that will rival a presidential election.

In the 10th SD in western Wisconsin, River Falls City Clerk Lu Ann Hecht said today’s numbers could be as high as the 2008 Presidential election. The city issued 1,003 absentee ballots, twice as many as a regular election.

The municipality is home to both GOP Sen. Sheila Harsdorf and Dem challenger Shelly Moore.

“We expect the turnout to remain steady throughout the day,” Hecht said.

Hudson City Clerk Nancy Korson said voter turnout in Hudson, also part of the 10th, would likely not reach the levels of a presidential election. But they were comparable to the spring Supreme Court election, with over 500 absentee ballots received.

In Baraboo, Deputy Clerk Donna Munz said turnout was much higher than normal. She also said she’d received voter complaints over people at some polling places contacting them as they went into the polling places. At one, about nine people were outside and some voters said they were angry that they felt intimidated.

“We have received angry calls from voters regarding how persistent the people outside the polling places are,” Munz said.

In the 8th SD, one of the top races with GOP Sen. Alberta Darling and Dem Rep. Sandy Pasch, Whitefish Bay officials reported a steady stream during the morning, but said it was too early to say how turnout would end up in Pasch’s hometown.

In River Hills, where Darling lives, Village Clerk Barb Goeckner reported steady turnout through the morning. By 9:45 a.m., about 200 of the municipality’s 1,300 registered voters had cast ballots.

“It’s just been steady,” she said. “It’s not been a mad rush. We don’t have any lines, but it’s definitely been a steady turnout so far.”

In the 2nd SD, DePere officials predicted a turnout of around 45 percent by day’s end. In next door Green Bay, turnout was around 15 percent following the morning checks with polling places. In the April Supreme Court race, turnout was about 11 percent following the morning checks.

A lot is at stake in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Republicans are in real danger of losing control of the state Senate in tonight’s recall elections, as it looks more and more possible that they will lose at least three of the six seats that are on the ballot.

The losses would be cast by Democrats as a severe rebuke of Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) policies. And wins by Republicans would be cast by them as validation for Walker’s tough-love budgeting style.

Both of those evaluations would be fair. (For more on just how we’ve gotten here, see Michael A. Fletcher’s piece today and our primer from last week.)

Beyond Walker’s political capital, though, it’s hard to draw many broad national conclusions about what the recall elections mean. That’s because what’s happening in Wisconsin is occurring very much in a vacuum, for several reasons.

The first is that, as with special elections, these recall elections have have such unusual turnout and have received such inordinate attention from national third-party groups trying to influence the races and send a message. In fact, the recalls have essentially been special elections on steroids, with spending reaching nearly $30 million.

As of a couple weeks ago, about two-thirds of that has gone to benefit Democrats, and Republicans acknowledge that they were essentially caught flat-footed by the whole thing. And because of that, they’ve been fighting from behind in recent weeks.

“This is a referendum on Walker, and the Democrats have everything to lose, and the Republicans did not have a plan for what they started,” said one Republican monitoring the recalls. “And the national folks never saw it for what it was, which is a proxy fight.”

The proxy fight is between organized labor and the new coalitions of GOP governors and state legislative majorities. In the end, Walker’s gambit to cut collective bargaining rights through a legislative maneuver so badly irritated organized labor — and Wisconsin’s laws made it so easy to recall a member of the state legislature — that here we are amidst the biggest mass recall in United States history.

The second reason is that, while some Republican governors have been aggressive in cutting their budgets, the maneuver executed by Walker and the state legislature takes the cake.

The spending has been substantial according to ABC News.

The level of campaign spending has been unprecedented, especially considering it is a recall effort. Spending through Monday was estimated at about $28 million from outside groups on both sides of the aisle and about $5 million spent by the candidates themselves, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

That number was expected to increase by today. Wisconsin Democracy Campaign officials “estimate at this point it’s about even,” research director Mike Buelow said of spending on both sides.

The group will do a full accounting of spending after the election and will have a clearer picture of whether the spending totals are even.

JR Ross, the editor of Wispolitics.com, said turnout will determine which side is victorious by the end of the day.

“I don’t care who you talk to who says they know, they don’t,” Ross said. “It’s all about turnout. We’re in an unprecedented situation. … We don’t have elections in August in Wisconsin in the middle of summer.

“We do know that Democrats and union members are motivated and angry at Republicans and Walker specifically. If Republican voters can match that intensity and turn out in numbers to protect their guys, [then the Republican senators will be safe]. If not, the Democrats win control.”

Polls in Wisconsin close in less than an hour and the returns may be mostly in by  10 pm cst.  We’re going to follow those here in a live blog thread.