(Drawing by John Tenniel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
“It’s the stupidest tea-party I ever was at in all my life!”— Alice in Wonderland
By John Kaufman
It’s been a busy week in Madison, Wisconsin where Republicans/conservatives are currently in charge and our governor has abandoned the rabbit hole. To keep the underground world flourishing, Republican legislators are racing around issuing odd orders while the conservative majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court has turned that once-respected legal body into what The New Yorker magazine rightly calls “a disgraceful mess.”
The week began with newly elected WSC chief justice Patience Roggensack taking to conservative AM radio to say that, after her emailed election to top judge thanks to her fellow conservative judges, she is, indeed, the top judge, thanks to the newly approved referendum. The referendum was, of course, a political move by the Republican legislature, and they got just enough votes to pass it in a poorly turned out spring election. Roggensack accused the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel of “poking fun” at the Wisconsin Supreme Court, though the JS editorial board supports her election. (And the Board misses the point of justice Shirley Abrahamson’s lawsuit: her current term doesn’t expire until 2019 and the referendum vote shouldn’t properly take effect, she argues reasonably, until then.) The Journal Sentinel editors have failed, again, to blame the proper party, citing only a general “dysfunction” and “polarized” politics on the court, clinging to their unpolarized faith in two equal poles, as if both of the political poles had the same magnetic charge. Such a compass will get you lost rather quickly.
This week in Wisconsin we learned that controlling phosphorous pollution, largely responsible for turning Green Bay into an Algae Bay which dies every summer, will cost the state about $7 billion dollars. What was the state’s response? Did our Republicans in charge cry “Save Green Bay!” No. What happened was this: Ask the EPA to delay enforcement and rush to defend the “economic hardship” stopping the pollution will cause industries. That much of the phosphorous pollution is caused by factory farms in northeastern Wisconsin and perhaps we might want to rethink that whole “agribusiness” model did not occur to our Republicans. Perhaps we can turn algae-green water and dead fish into a tourist attraction, instead.
The Wisconsin Senate, meanwhile, approved raising the speed limit on interstates and major highways in the state to 70 mph so as not to force drivers from other fastlane states to slow down a little upon entering Wisconsin. AAA Wisconsin points out that trucks going 70 mph are more dangerous. But what’s a few lost lives compared to upping the speed of interstate commerce?
Furthermore, we learned this week that denying people on food stamps the right to buy lobster and sharp cheddar cheese will cost the state “millions of dollars.” Who suspected that not eating lobster would be this expensive? It seems it is a software issue, for denying the poor certain foods requires computer programming and if there is one thing more expensive than lobster, it’s digital software. Long ago in New England lobster was junk food and laws were passed to keep prisoners, etc. from being fed too much of it. But now in Wisconsin we’re working on a law to keep the poor from buying any of it in order to save taxpayers the expense of paying for lobster; this law will probably save us taxpayers millions of dollars which we can then use to buy the lobster-preventing, cheese-counting software.
But perhaps the most shocking if totally expected development this week in Wisconsin was the failure of tax cutting to bring in even a modest tax windfall to make Gov. Walker’s Tea Party budget less of an Alice in Wonderland catastrophe. When the tragic and entirely predictable news hit Madison this week that trickle-down economics still doesn’t work, our Mad Hatter Republicans put on their calm and in denial hat and said, in essence, “don’t worry, we’ll figure it out.” Legislators said, “We’ll raise some fees to pay for roads.” Gov. Walker, from some undisclosed location, said, “No fees. That’s a tax.” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he’d like to put some tolls on roads. Roads are very important in Wisconsin. We raise the speed limit and we’ll raise the cash for roads. Somehow. But schools, universities and the poor must be kept in line: “Off with their heads!” said the Queen of Hearts.
Finally, amidst all this political wonderment, Republicans legislators somehow found the time to concoct a bill saying that a woman who asks a doctor to perform an abortion, even for reasons of rape or incest, on a fetus more than 20 weeks old can then sue the doctor for doing what she asked him/her to do. Her significant other can sue the doctor, too. And then, for good measure, the state can send the professionally-trained doctor to jail for a good three years. Fortunately, the woman who asked for the abortion and then sued the doctor (or not) would not have to serve prison time. Senate President Mary Lazich said, //
“It’s about not inflicting cruel and unusual punishment. We don’t want to see cruel and unusual punishment for some babies and not other babies.”
Though medical knowledge is firmly in agreement that a 20-week fetus feels no pain, our conservatives in Madison do not accept this knowledge. They have other knowledge. I hope, at least, that, based on Lazich’s statement, we won’t be seeing a return to capital punishment in Wisconsin anytime soon. But next week is another week.