Rage Against The Machine Guitarist Coming To Wisconsin For Concert

MADISON, WIS. – For the past week, the protests outside of the Wisconsin statehouse have had a background soundtrack of Bruce Springsteen, Journey and even the Beastie Boys blasting from speakers as marchers walk around chanting “Kill the bill!” and “Recall Walker!” But on Monday, Madison will get some live music — a concert headlined by Tom Morello, the guitarist for Rage Against the Machine.

For nearly a decade, Morello has also been playing political folk music — inspired by people like Woodie Guthrie and Mother Jones — under the alias The Nightwatchman. On his Facebook page, fans had been urging him to come out and support them in Madison before he made his announcement.

“Hey Tom, could you please come to Madison?” read a message by a fan named Mike Loew. “As I’m sure you’re aware, Scott Walker is trying essentially to de-unionize.”

“Tom, please come to Madison!” read another posting by Mike Tapia. “The national news are not covering this the way they should be. We need your voice! To get on the national front. First person I thought of writing to was President Obama, which I did, at a close second came you!”

In an interview with The Huffington Post on Saturday, Morello explained that the fight for collective bargaining rights is personal for him. He’s a member of Professional Musicians Local 47 in Los Angeles, and his mother worked at a public high school in Illinois for more than 30 years.

“I really think that the future of the rights of working people in this country is not going to be decided in the courts,” he said. “It’s not going to be decided in Congress or radio talk shows. The future of rights of working people in this country will be the fight on the streets of Madison, Wis. “

On Saturday, Morello said he also received an e-mail of encouragement from one of the principle organizers of the protests in Cairo, Maor Eletrebi. “Madison is the next Cairo,” observed Morello. He said Eletrebi wanted him to share his message with the protesters, which was addressed to “our friends in Madison, Wis.”

“I wish you could see firsthand the change we have made here,” read Eletrebi’s e-mail, which Morello read to The Huffington Post. “Justice is beautiful, but justice is never free. The beauty of Tahrir Square you can have everywhere, on any corner, in any city, or in your heart. So hold on tightly and don’t let go. … Breathe deep, Wisconsin, because justice is in the air. And may the spirit of Tahrir Square be in every beating heart in Madison today.”

Morello said he was willing to play in Indiana, Ohio, or any other state fighting for workers’ rights. “Wherever The Nightwatchman is needed, The Nightwatchman will be,” he said.

Morello has been closely following the controversy in Wisconsin and was excited to hear that the statehouse in Madison was still loud and energetic with protesters. He was skeptical of Gov. Scot Walker’s (R) assertion that restricting the collective bargaining rights of public employees was necessary to fill the state’s deficit, noting that he supported millions of dollars in tax breaks for corporations.

“So clearly, the issue isn’t the state budget,” said Morello. “It’s breaking the right of working people to stand up to corporate power. That’s what they want to do, and that’s what we’re not going to let them do.”

Monday’s concert is being organized by the labor organizations on the ground, including the AFL-CIO, AFSCME and SEIU.

Content from The Huffington Post, obtained via an RSS feed, as in all content in in our Political briefs section. Most web sites use RSS to feature blurbs withs links back to the original site. HuffPo features many stories from other sites with links back to the original source. For some reason, HuffPo often features the full content of the story in their web site. We\’e not sure why but the material here is provided under the same rules we use for all RSS content.

Wisconsin Putting The Civility Back Into Discourse

(Reuters) – When the two sides in Wisconsin’s bitter battle over the future of the state’s unionized public employees converged on the Capitol on Saturday for dueling rallies, the fear was trouble would break out.

(SCROLL DOWN FOR LIVE UPDATES)

Instead, the day was marked by a surprising civility when the shouting stopped and the one-on-one conversations began.

The slogans they had chanted had highlighted the stark differences that separated them.

“Kill the bill!” cried the opponents of Republican Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to cut the pay and benefits of unionized public workers and sharply reduce their collective bargaining rights. “Pass the bill!” supporters of the proposal shouted back.

But aside from a few outsiders — like AFL-CIO chief Rich Trumka here to back opponents of the measure, and Andrew Breitbart, the conservative provocateur who appeared at the Tea Party-backed rally to support Walker — the people on hand were from Wisconsin itself and these neighbors were remarkably civil despite their sharp disagreements.

Wisconsonites are united, even in times like this, by many things, including a love of University of Wisconsin, Madison, athletics and the program’s strutting mascot Bucky the Badger; a devotion to the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers NFL football team; and, of course, a love of beer, brought to the state by its German settlers and honed by brewers whose names are part of American history: Pabst, Schlitz, Miller and Blatz.

So when the opposing rallies ended here on Saturday, many of the demonstrators retired to the numerous bars in the Capitol’s shadow, like The Old Fashioned Tavern & Restaurant, with its 50 beers on tap — all from Wisconsin — and another 100 in bottles, 99 of them from the Badger state. The one other, from neighboring Minnesota, is listed under imports.

Over pints of Evil Doppleganger Double Mai Bock and Lost Lake Pilsner, knots of demonstrators debated the questions that have galvanized union employees across the country and brought the business of the state legislature to a standstill. Is Walker’s proposal part of the Republican’s effort to put the state’s finances in order, a repudiation of the state’s long history of progressive politics, or the latest example of that tradition?

Zog Begolli, a 23-year-old bill opponent, met four bill supporters at the Old Fashioned when they helped him get a drink at the crowded bar. “They allowed me to get closer so I could order a beer,” Begolli said.

“Beer is something we can all agree on,” said Randy Otto, 59, from Lake Mills, one of the bill supporters who let Begolli squeeze in.

“I was outnumbered,” Begolli said. “But the conversation was civil.”

Outside the numbers were reversed. Of the estimated 55,000 people attending Saturday’s demonstrations, probably fewer than 5,000 were Tea Party types backing Walker and his fellow Republicans.

Begolli said he agreed with the bill’s supporters that, in the state’s current budget crisis, public employees can help by paying more for their health care and retirement benefits. But he says the part of Walker’s bill curtailing collective bargaining by unionized state employees is “not about fiscal issues. It’s an attack on unions.”

Dave Andera, a 59-year old investment adviser from Milwaukee, has no problem with that. He thinks public workers should not be unionized and believes Walker is following in the progressive footsteps of the state’s great Robert La Follette by facing down organized labor.

“Wisconsin has always been in the forefront of change,” he said. “And we’re in the forefront again.”

Neither Andera nor Begolli believed he had changed the other’s mind during their 30-minute conversation at the Old Fashioned. But both thought the legislators inside the Capitol could learn something from the exchange.

“I think the more meaningful discussions this week have occurred outside the capitol,” Andera said.

“You can disagree without being disagreeable,” Begolli said. “That’s exactly what we need to see inside the State Capitol.”

(Editing by Jerry Norton)

Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

Content from The Huffington Post, obtained via an RSS feed, as in all content in in our Political briefs section. Most web sites use RSS to feature blurbs withs links back to the original site. HuffPo features many stories from other sites with links back to the original source. For some reason, HuffPo often features the full content of the story in their web site. We\’e not sure why but the material here is provided under the same rules we use for all RSS content.

Madison Protests Hit Largest Numbers On Saturday

MADISON, Wis. — Sometimes they cursed each other, sometimes they shook hands, sometimes they walked away from each other in disgust.

(SCROLL DOWN FOR LIVE UPDATES)

None of it – not the ear-splitting chants, the pounding drums or the back-and-forth debate between 70,000 protesters – changed the minds of Wisconsin lawmakers dug into a stalemate over Republican efforts to scrap union rights for almost all public workers.

“The people who are not around the Capitol square are with us,” said Rep. Robin Vos, a Republican from Rochester and co-chair of the Legislature’s budget committee. “They may have a bunch around the square, but we’ve got the rest on our side.”

After nearly a week of political chaos in Madison, during which tens of thousands of pro-labor protesters turned the Capitol into a campsite that had started to smell like a locker room, supporters of Gov. Scott Walker came out in force Saturday.

They gathered on the muddy east lawn of the Capitol and were soon surrounded by a much larger group of union supporters who countered their chants of “Pass the bill! Pass the bill!” with chants of “Kill the bill! Kill the bill!”

“Go home!” union supporters yelled at Scott Lemke, a 46-year-old machine parts salesman from Cedarburg who wore a hard hat and carried a sign that read “If you don’t like it, quit” on one side, and “If you don’t like that, try you’re fired” on the other.

A lone demonstrator stood between the crowds, saying nothing and holding a sign: “I’m praying that we can all respect each other. Let’s try to understand each other.”

The Wisconsin governor, elected in November’s GOP wave that also gave control of the state Assembly and Senate to Republicans, set off the protests earlier this week by pushing ahead with a measure that would require government workers to contribute more to their health care and pension costs and largely eliminate their collective bargaining rights.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said the crowds that have gotten bigger each day have yet to win over any member of his caucus.

“What they’re getting from individuals back home is stick to your guns, don’t let them get to you,” Fitzgerald said. “Every senator I’ve spoken to today is getting that back home, which is awesome. It’s great to hear from people who are part of a rally … (but) two people you meet at a fish fry or a person who comes up to you at a basketball game, those comments sink in.”

Fitzgerald and other Republicans say the concessions are needed to deal with the state’s projected $3.6 billion budget shortfall and to avoid layoffs of government workers. The move to restrict union rights has also taken hold in other states, including Tennessee and Indiana, where lawmakers have advanced bills to restrict bargaining for teachers’ unions.

The throngs of Walker supporters who arrived in Madison on Saturday for an afternoon rally organized by Tea Party Patriots, the movement’s largest umbrella group, and Americans for Prosperity, carried signs with a fresh set of messages: “Your Gravy Train Is Over … Welcome to the Recession” and “Sorry, we’re late Scott. We work for a living.”

“We pay the bills!” tea party favorite Herman Cain yelled to cheers from the pro-Walker crowd. “This is why you elected Scott Walker, and he’s doing his job. … Wisconsin is broke. My question for the other side is, `What part of broke don’t you understand?'”

Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate, short of the votes needed to keep Republicans from passing the so-called “budget repair” bill, fled the state on Thursday. They haven’t been seen since, and said Saturday they are more resolved than ever to stay away “as long as it takes” until Walker agrees to negotiate.

“I don’t think he’s really thought it through, to be honest,” Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach, of Middleton, said Saturday.

Democrats offered again Saturday to agree to the parts of Walker’s proposal, so long as workers retain their right to negotiate with the state as a union.

Fitzgerald said that’s an offer the GOP has rejected for months. The restrictions on collective bargaining rights are necessary so that local governments and the state have the flexibility needed to balance budgets after cuts Walker plans to announce next month, he said.

Walker, who was spending time with his family Saturday and didn’t appear in public, also rejected the Democrats offer. His spokesman, Cullen Werwie, said the fastest way to end the stalemate was for Democrats to return and “do their jobs.”

Madison police estimated that 60,000 or more people were outside the Capitol on Saturday, with up to 8,000 more inside. The normally immaculate building had become a mess of mud-coated floors that reeked from days of protesters standing shoulder-to-shoulder.

Police spokesman Joel DeSpain said there were no arrests or problems during Saturday’s protests. “We’ve seen and shown the world that in Madison, Wis., we can bring people together who disagree strongly on a bill in a peaceful way,” he said.

Steve Boss, 26, a refrigerator technician from Oostburg, carried a sign that read “The Protesters Are All `Sick’ — Wash your Hands,” a reference to the teacher sick-outs that swelled crowds at the Capitol to 40,000 people Friday and raised the noise in its rotunda to earsplitting levels. Boss said the cuts Walker has proposed were painful but needed to fix the state’s financial problems.

“It’s time to address the issue. They (public workers) got to take the same cuts as everyone else,” he said. “It’s a fairness thing.”

Doctors from numerous hospitals set up a station near the Capitol to provide notes to explain public employees’ absences from work. Family physician Lou Sanner, 59, of Madison, said he had given out hundreds of notes. Many of the people he spoke with seemed to be suffering from stress, he said.

“What employers have a right to know is if the patient was assessed by a duly licensed physician about time off of work,” Sanner said. “Employers don’t have a right to know the nature of that conversation or the nature of that illness. So it’s as valid as every other work note that I’ve written for the last 30 years.”

John Black, 46, of Madison, said he came out to the rallies in order to help bridge the gap between the pro-labor protesters and Walker’s supporters. He carried signs that asked for a compromise on the budget bill while a friend’s son handed out purple flowers.

“We liked Scott Walker as a change agent, but he moved too quickly and because of that there’s always room for compromise,” Black said.

Content from The Huffington Post, obtained via an RSS feed, as in all content in in our Political briefs section. Most web sites use RSS to feature blurbs withs links back to the original site. HuffPo features many stories from other sites with links back to the original source. For some reason, HuffPo often features the full content of the story in their web site. We\’e not sure why but the material here is provided under the same rules we use for all RSS content.

Ed Schultz Tells Limbaugh: ‘Wrap Your Fat Ass In The Flag’ Over Wisconsin Protests

Ed Schultz tore into Rush Limbaugh for calling the protesters fighting the anti-union bill in Wisconsin “freeloaders,” telling Limbaugh that he should wrap his “fat ass” in the American flag.

Schultz made his comments during a special Saturday edition of “The Ed Show.” He was reporting live from Wisconsin, with a raucous crowd of protesters cheering him on.

In a recent broadcast, Limbaugh called the union activists and protesters working against the bill–which seeks to strip public sector workers of their collective bargaining rights–“freeloaders.” This incensed Schultz, who played a clip of Limbaugh before pointing to the crowd behind him.

“Did you know that all these Americans are freeloaders? Did you know that?” Schultz said. He then talked about what he called “the conservative right” in America:

“They told us on 9/11, we will never forget…that we’re all Americans…they wrapped themselves in the flag…
If you want to follow the Limbaugh and the Becks of the world, and you want to turn your back on firefighters, turn your back on police officers, turn your back on nurses, turn your back on brothers and sisters who have stood in solidarity to fight for the middle class in America? Is that wrapping yourself in the flag? Hey Rush: why don’t you wrap your fat ass in the flag on Monday?”

WATCH:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Content from The Huffington Post, obtained via an RSS feed, as in all content in in our Political briefs section. Most web sites use RSS to feature blurbs withs links back to the original site. HuffPo features many stories from other sites with links back to the original source. For some reason, HuffPo often features the full content of the story in their web site. We\’e not sure why but the material here is provided under the same rules we use for all RSS content.

Steven Weber: Connecting the Dots

“Look down there. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax — the only way you can save money nowadays.”
—Harry Lime The Third Man

It’s pretty freakin’ clear what the Right is about these days.

Those cross-brandishing, flag-waving folks who purport to love life and democracy prove with every utterance that they love neither.

The pact the Republican Party and those that still refer to themselves as “conservative” is not with the American people or with an philosophy which has anything to do with the healthful governing of a free society. It is a pact, rather, with a sociopathic god who bears a sneering disdain for all those who would not bow to it, and otherwise embrace the point of view succinctly expressed by the fictional but all too prescient Harry Lime. Seen from a distance, from the comfortable buffer of ignorance, who could possibly care if a “dot” just stopped moving? That seems to be what the Right is saying with every slithery move it makes.

Up close on the ground though, those “dots” take on more disturbing characteristics: they are women, still denied their rights to equal pay and equal opportunity, still denied the essential right to govern their own bodies by self-righteous fanatics;

They are working people conned into mortgages and credit deals that they can no longer afford, conned into fear and loathing of the very diversity which gives this country its soul and its strength, conned into believing that the very social legislation that strengthened the middle class of America is in fact a “socialist” lie;

They are the soldiers who fight with genuine patriotism, only to have that patriotism revealed to be the propaganda churned out by corporate oil cartels bent on preserving their wealth and power;

They are children, whose prospects of a decent education are diminished with each cynical ploy to privatize schools, to rewrite history, to demean science;

They are the sick and the old, the poor and the disenfranchised, they are our grandparents who now face the real threat of a cold and heartless end to lives of struggle, their funds and aid assaulted by shortsighted demagogues and greedy drug manufacturers.

There are many more aspects conveniently ignored by those who would gleefully make those “dots” stop moving in order to fill their coffers. The “dots” in Wisconsin are, upon closer inspection real, living, breathing, working human beings who are outraged at the rape of American values at the hands of the Republican thugs and bullies who themselves, true to their corporate Harry Lime masters, have little choice but to do all they can to make those “dots” stop moving. And without the tried and true techniques of violent, divisive rhetoric to distort and distract people into compliance, their ideology if truthfully articulated would have zero traction.

In the end of The Third Man, Harry Lime is dead — for real, this time. But there is a sense that the world has changed forever and not necessarily happily. For it is a world where evil is clearly hovering at any time ready to seep into men’s souls. It is a world where the price of freedom is not shopping but vigilance.

It is a world where the fruits of liberty cannot be savored because the forces which would crush that liberty thrive when comfortable distance makes people into soulless, faceless “dots”.

Time to connect those dots.

Content from The Huffington Post, obtained via an RSS feed, as in all content in in our Political briefs section. Most web sites use RSS to feature blurbs withs links back to the original site. HuffPo features many stories from other sites with links back to the original source. For some reason, HuffPo often features the full content of the story in their web site. We\’e not sure why but the material here is provided under the same rules we use for all RSS content.

Loraine Boyle: Time for Democrats to Turn up the Volume

I woke up this morning from a dream of teachers on strike in a large group of protesters that resembled in size those in the Middle East. I didn’t realize how much the Wisconsin protests against the Republican governor’s plan to take away collective bargaining rights from unions had invaded my subconscious. Maybe it’s because many years ago I was a proud member of the Newspaper Guild when I worked for the Detroit Free Press. More likely, it’s because I’m really concerned about Republican and Tea Party power trying to gut not only unions in various states but also about the House of Representatives staying up all night to eviscerate funding to programs like environmental regulations, food safety, family planning, the Space Agency, the NEA and the health care overhaul.

As an average citizen I guess I’m so worried that politics invades my dreams. I’m worried when I hear a Republican propose cutting the TSA staff because he sees some of them standing around at the airport. Gee, I thought they’re standing there watching passengers to detect suspicious behavior in order to prevent a plane from blowing up. In Congress, Republicans are cutting family planning programs and voting to withhold all funds from Planned Parenthood because they must think that women’s health services don’t matter much. Preventing teenage pregnancies and providing health care for poor women just doesn’t matter to conservatives because they equate it all with their right to life agenda. Are they trying to make the US like those third world countries where women get short shrift from the medical profession?

What’s wrong with the people led by Tea Partiers who voted in the Republicans? I always thought that the average person would favor unions since they protect workers’ interest. Wasn’t it always big business that wanted to bust the unions? And I would think that most people would want environmental regulations and food safety inspections to help prevent them and their kids from getting cancer caused by environmental toxins or dying from E.coli in contaminated meat

There are government services we can’t do without. Cutting funds for meat inspection which are meager enough will only lead to more potentially deadly diseases. The average Joe is more likely to eat fast food burgers that come from giant meat processers who are happy not to have to spend money on food safety. Those of us who can afford good grass raised organic beef aren’t as likely to get sick. So actually once again the Republicans are favoring the rich but we always knew that. The wealthier among us can buy their own health insurance or and pay for their own doctors. Congress too has the benefit of a good health insurance plan.

Why can’t the Democrats grab the bully pulpit and get their message across as loudly as the Tea Partiers and the Republicans? Why can’t Democrats turn the message around to show how the Conservatives efforts only undermine programs that the average person relies on? We Democrats lost the last election and we just cannot afford to lose the next one. There has to be a way to turn to turn up the volume to get people to see what is really happening. Most people don’t seem to read to get their information and it’s who yells the loudest that gets the attention. If the people who say we need to cut the deficit would actually learn about what is being cut, perhaps they would change their tune. It’s time now for Democrats and President Obama to figure out how to make people see where their real self-interests lie.

Content from The Huffington Post, obtained via an RSS feed, as in all content in in our Political briefs section. Most web sites use RSS to feature blurbs withs links back to the original site. HuffPo features many stories from other sites with links back to the original source. For some reason, HuffPo often features the full content of the story in their web site. We\’e not sure why but the material here is provided under the same rules we use for all RSS content.

Tamar Abrams: Planned Parenthood and Me… and You

My first encounter with Planned Parenthood was in 1978, when I was a college freshman in St. Louis. Looking back, it seems like such an innocent time. I’d never talked to my mother about birth control, never discussed such things with a doctor. My roommate suggested I go to Planned Parenthood, conveniently located just a city bus ride away. I recall three things from that long-ago visit: a kindly nurse who explained that a tipped uterus would not interfere with my dream of someday conceiving a child, a sliding fee scale that made the visit affordable, and the pills that allowed me to let go of my fear of becoming pregnant.

Twelve years later, I went to work for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. I was a full-time communications consultant to the national office, traveling the country to provide strategy, trainings and help in winning legislative threats to reproductive health for Planned Parenthood affiliates. It was a heady time. I felt that I was doing important work. And I was lucky enough to spend time with Planned Parenthood affiliate staff and patients. I visited a clinic in Ohio on vasectomy night, overwhelmed by the waiting room crowded with nervous-looking men. I met a woman who had been forced to have an abortion when a sonogram showed that her fetus had no heartbeat, though she was still grieving, and who credited Planned Parenthood with helping her through the awful process. I met women who received contraceptives and cancer screenings and prenatal care at Planned Parenthood in rural communities where any choices were few. I met staff who received hostile anonymous phone calls while they were bathing their children at night — accused of “killing babies.” For four years, I was so proud to say I worked for Planned Parenthood and, as a woman in her reproductive years, to know that the organization would be there for me.

Time passed quickly, as we know it does. I became pregnant with a dearly wanted baby while working for Planned Parenthood and still recall how joyous everyone was for me as my belly grew. They set up a home office so I could work from home while juggling the responsibilities of raising my beautiful baby while still working. When I left Planned Parenthood, my daughter was three and had already marched in two pro-choice demonstrations.

So now I am stunned to read the comments of members of Congress who seek to defund the organization that provides so much care to so many of America’s men and women. Congressman Mike Pence is a leader of this crusade, joined by Virginia’s Eric Cantor. They seem to be under the misguided notion that Planned Parenthood is an abortion provider. Perhaps they need to actually visit the clinics to see the huge range of health care Planned Parenthood clinics provide. It would be as unfair to call a grocery store a “fruit vendor” as it is to say Planned Parenthood is an abortion provider. Both characterizations are myopic and ignore the whole in favor of a single part.

I, like many Americans, wonder what the true objective is in the House legislation. If it is to end abortions, do they really believe defunding Planned Parenthood will achieve that? If it is to promote life, will this bill succeed? And the larger question is what Pence and Cantor are afraid of. Clearly, they don’t trust women.

My greatest fear is for my daughter, now 18-years-old. I had assumed so many years ago that she might someday seek out Planned Parenthood as her mother did. And I have been confident that she would be treated with respect and compassion as I was.

I urge men with unresolved feelings about women to stay out of the health care decisions we make. In turn, I won’t seek to get Viagra removed from their health coverage. Pence and Cantor would do well to follow the lead of anti-abortion Congressman Stephen Lynch who is quoted as saying, “”This is about the ability of Planned Parenthood to conduct women’s health care, to offer services that are deeply needed in many communities where no other source of health care is available… I don’t have many friends in the Planned Parenthood community. They don’t support me. I am pro-life. But I respect the good work that they do,” he said. Good for you, Congressman Lynch!

This would be a much richer nation if we respect more and impose less.

Content from The Huffington Post, obtained via an RSS feed, as in all content in in our Political briefs section. Most web sites use RSS to feature blurbs withs links back to the original site. HuffPo features many stories from other sites with links back to the original source. For some reason, HuffPo often features the full content of the story in their web site. We\’e not sure why but the material here is provided under the same rules we use for all RSS content.

Democratic Strategy In Wisconsin: Kill The Bill, Recall Republicans

MADISON, WIS. — Final passage of Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-Wis.) controversial proposal to strip away collective bargaining rights from public employees is currently stalled, thanks to Senate Democrats who left the state in order to prevent their GOP colleagues from reaching a quorum needed to move forward.

But many remained worried that once they come back, Republicans will push through the legislation anyway. Democrats, however, haven’t given up yet and say they have a two-pronged strategy for moving forward.

In an interview with The Huffington Post on Saturday, freshmen Democratic Assembly Member Brett Hulsey said that until the legislation passes, they’re trying to put as much grassroots pressure as possible on Republicans.

“What we’re telling people is to call people you know in Republican districts,” said Hulsey. “Tell them to call their senators and Republican members at home. When you see them at church and at the grocery store, tell them to kill the bill.”

The second strategy will come only if Republicans decide to stick with Walker. According to Wisconsin law, voters can recall any elected official in the state, as long as they’ve been in office for at least a year. This process involves collecting signatures for a recall position and then holding an election with the incumbent against any other candidates who jump in. As ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser has reported, there are eight Republicans who could currently be recalled.

“We’ve seen what happens when Scott Walker and the Republicans have total control: You get dictatorial power,” said Hulsey. “The tyranny of the majority, as [James] Madison spoke of in the Federalist Papers.”

“Recall Walker” is a popular chant amongst protesters in Madison, although Walker just took office in 2011 and therefore is not eligible to go through the process yet. (Most protesters who talked with The Huffington Post admitted that they knew about this technicality but wanted to join in the chanting anyway.)

But that doesn’t mean labor leaders aren’t already thinking about recalling Walker when it’s time.

We would do it now,” said AFSCME President Gerald McEntee in a phone interview with The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein, “but we don’t have the opportunity because he has to be in there a year. But whether or not we lose this battle, that is one of our possible objectives, to pursue a recall against him.”

The Wisconsin Republican Party did not return a request for comment.

Part of the irony of the Walker recall effort is that the governor was elevated in public life thanks to politician’s recall woes. In 2002, Walker won a special election to serve as Milwaukee County executive after Tom Ament, plagued by scandal and facing recall, decided to retire.

Conservatives are also reportedly eyeing recall efforts against two Democratic state senators who left Wisconsin this week. When asked about whether he’s worried something like this, Hulsey said he thought it was a politically risky move for Republicans: “Rock and roll! Let’s rock!”

Content from The Huffington Post, obtained via an RSS feed, as in all content in in our Political briefs section. Most web sites use RSS to feature blurbs withs links back to the original site. HuffPo features many stories from other sites with links back to the original source. For some reason, HuffPo often features the full content of the story in their web site. We\’e not sure why but the material here is provided under the same rules we use for all RSS content.

How Mideast Autocrats Win Friends In Washington

NEW YORK — Shortly after 20 Shiite opposition leaders, including clerics and human rights activists, were arrested on the eve of elections in Bahrain last September, U.S. State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley was asked about the situation, including allegations of police torture, “given the close relations between Bahrain and the United States.”

Crowley responded, “We are in touch with Bahraini authorities and have expressed our concern. At the same time, we have confidence as Bahrain evolves that you don’t have to make a choice between security and democracy, and that this is the message that we’re sending to the government.”

When asked whether the State Department believes Bahraini government claims that those opposition figures were plotting a coup against the royal family, Crowley dismissed the allegation, saying, “I don’t know that we’re aware of any information along those lines…”

Bahrain’s state media covered the same press briefing with a slightly altered response from Crowley. Their headline read, “America: Bahrain evolves in security and democracy,” with an accompanying story reporting the “spokesman stressed that the United States has confidence that Bahrain is evolving in the fields of development, security and democracy.”

Control of the state media is not the only way the oil-rich island kingdom polishes its reputation. A month before the arrests, one of Washington’s most powerful lobbying firms began working for Bahrain.

Qorvis, a lobbying and public relations giant with a roster of high-profile clients from Intel and the Washington Post to Saudi Arabia and Equatorial Guinea, began work under a subcontract with Britain’s Bell Pottinger. Among its goals: to position Bahrain as a key ally in the war on terror and as an advocate for peace in the Middle East. As part of its work, Qorvis pitched major media outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times, reports O’Dwyer’s PR Daily.

One Qorvis staffers working on the account, former State Department Official Matt Lauer, was recently named one of Washington’s most influential people under 40.

Lauer did not return several requests for comment. It is unclear what advice Qorvis is offering the government amid Bahrain’s current unrest, in which government soldiers have fired live rounds on thousands of protesters and at least six people have been killed and hundreds injured.

One of America’s strongest allies in the Middle East, Bahrain houses the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. The country holds parliamentary elections and women have the right to vote, despite its status as an absolute monarchy.

Qorvis is one of several high-powered lobbyists that have helped the region’s autocrats and monarchs win business and smooth relations with the U.S. Patton Boggs, which recently made headlines when President Obama sent of its lawyers, Frank Wisner, to negotiate with Egypt’s recently-ousted former president Hosni Mubarak, has long worked with Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Previously, Patton Boggs represented Bahrain, a move that outraged the country’s human rights activists who decry the Sunni royal family’s discrimination against its Shiite minority. Soon after Patton Boggs was hired, Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, voiced concern over the lobbyist’s role in the country. “This action shows us that the government has full intentions to continue with its policies of sectarian discrimination, marginalization and disenfranchisement of a large percentage of the population,” he blogged. “Instead of putting money into tackling these problems on a local scale by addressing issues of poverty, the national housing shortage, unemployment and discrimination, the government has chosen to put money into a public relations venture, presumably to cover up these problems in the face of the international community.”

Meanwhile, Qorvis has represented Egyptian steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz, a Mubarak ally targeted in Egypt’s protests for using his government connections to corner the steel market and hike prices as much as 70 percent in recent years. On its website, Qorvis also touts its work for Saudi Arabia in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks: “Following the tragic events of September 11, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia selected Qorvis to neutralize negative media coverage it received nationwide after it was revealed that 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.”

Qorvis and Patton Boggs were both subpoenaed in 2002 by the House Committee on Government Reform, which was investigating reports of American children kidnapped and held in Saudi Arabia.

Even Libyan strongman Muammar el-Qaddafi has proven attractive to K Street. The spring of 2008 was a stressful time Qaddafi — despite renouncing WMDs and renewing ties with America in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, he was still being treated like a pariah. Congress had passed a law that allowed victims of state-sponsored terrorism to collect court judgments by seizing foreign assets in the United States, which could cost Libya $3 to $6 billion. U.S. officials and human rights activists were pressuring Qaddafi to release jailed Libyan political activist Fathi al-Jahmi, a 66-year-old provincial governor in ill health and detained since 2002 when he called for free elections and the release of political prisoners. And American and British officials re-emphasized their commitment to having the Lockerbie bomber, former Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, serve out his sentence in a Scottish jail.

Luckily, Qaddafi had some powerful allies, so the Bush administration requested an exemption for Libya from the compensation law passed by Congress. Then-House Minority Leader John Boehner was the most recent U.S. lawmaker to visit Qaddafi at his tent in the desert for a cordial visit, during which the Libyan leader gifted Boehner with a pair of sunglasses. And one of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington was busy working to restore Libya’s reputation on Capitol Hill.

Former Louisiana Representative Robert L. Livingston, who left Congress in 1999 amid allegations of marital infidelity and founded a lobbying firm representing a stable of high-profile clients, signed up Libya earlier that year for $2.4 million to help “enhance the relations between Libya and the U.S.,” Livingston told the Washington Post. Livingston himself escorted Libya’s ambassador to a series of meetings with Congressional leaders and attended the December 2008 swearing-in of the first U.S. ambassador named to Libya since 1972.

The lobbying deal was an important part of Libya’s efforts to smooth relations with the U.S., according to a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks. During a meeting with the U.S. Embassy’s Charge d’Affaires on May 7, 2008, a top Libya national security official asked about “the effectiveness of the LIVINGSTON Group, a lobbying organization hired to help burnish LIBYA’s reputation in Washington” during a discussion about getting an exemption from the tough law on compensation passed by Congress earlier in the year.

A few months later, on the eve of Qaddafi’s first-ever visit to the U.S. to address the United Nations, the relationship proved too risky, and the Livingston Group ended its contract with Libya.

Content from The Huffington Post, obtained via an RSS feed, as in all content in in our Political briefs section. Most web sites use RSS to feature blurbs withs links back to the original site. HuffPo features many stories from other sites with links back to the original source. For some reason, HuffPo often features the full content of the story in their web site. We\’e not sure why but the material here is provided under the same rules we use for all RSS content.

Jonathan Richards: The Problem With Democracy

2011-02-19-Arabuprising.jpg

Content from The Huffington Post, obtained via an RSS feed, as in all content in in our Political briefs section. Most web sites use RSS to feature blurbs withs links back to the original site. HuffPo features many stories from other sites with links back to the original source. For some reason, HuffPo often features the full content of the story in their web site. We\’e not sure why but the material here is provided under the same rules we use for all RSS content.