Last week, we talked about how the Wisconsin Club for Growth was playing Zombie Joe McCarthy–modern-day red-baiting and naming names of the state’s enemies. The state, in this case, being Gov. Scott Walker, and enemies, in this case, being anyone who signed recall petitions against him. WCfG’s weekly email blast last week named two women who work in the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office and accused them of, literally, “active involvement in a political coup.”
This week the hilarity–sorry, not hilarity, more like implied threats against individuals’ personal safety and liberty–continues with the WCfG weekly email blast. In it, they run, in its entirety an op-ed written by professional hard-right gadfly George Mitchell. It’s not anywhere online–respectable news organizations have apparently had the sense not to run it–except at this blog. WARNING: DO NOT CLICK THAT LINK UNLESS YOU ARE PREPARED TO LOSE A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF YOUR FAITH IN HUMANITY AND PERHAPS GO BLIND FROM POOR BLOG DESIGN. But the whole of Mitchell’s screed is there.
Mitchell is taking up arms against not just the enemies of the state that work for the DA–a DA that is circling in on Walker with its John Doe investigation. He’s also attacking the free press, because apparently when the facts have an anti-Walker bias, the press should not report them. This is taking red-baiting to the next level, moving from the intimidation of private individuals into threats against the right of a free press.
In particular, Mitchell demands that Dan Bice, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, name the names of his confidential sources:
For nearly two years, unnamed sources have selectively leaked information to the Journal Sentinel. Resulting stories cast many individuals in a negative light. […] The people portrayed unfavorably by the selective leaks don’t know who has spread negative information to the paper. For legal and practical reasons, they can’t effectively respond. Consequently, readers receive a sliver of information–the opposite of transparency and balance.
Is there an overriding public purpose that justifies setting aside the traditional journalistic goals of transparency, balance, and fairness? None whatsoever. To the contrary, relying on unlawful release of selective information corrupts and erodes concepts central to our justice system.
Who are your sources, Dan Bice? Mitchell yells at his computer screen. Stop printing the news!
Is this because the leaks to Bice have been wrong? In fact, no: Everything Bice has reported about the John Doe has been borne out by official court documents and filings. Even in the part of the probe where no charges have been filed–the part that suggests there was shenanigans in Walker’s Milwaukee County real estate dealings–Bice’s reporting is backed not by leaks and off-the-record conversations with Enemies Of The State at the DA but by actual investigative journalism. (No charges, that is, except the mess around compelling Andrew Jensen to testify–all public record, not leaked.)
And this: “Yet Bice and his boss downplay the ramifications of widespread hostility to Walker among those working for [DA John] Chisholm.” Chisholm’s office employes 250 people. Just 43 signed a petition–a paltry percentage, the opposite of “widespread.” And of course none of those tasked with prosecuting and investing and probing the John Doe signed. Not one.
This is part and parcel of WCfG’s attempt, which is frankly just one aspect of a very widespread campaign, to discredit the John Doe. This is an investigation that has revealed crime after crime and smoking gun after smoking gun, but in the minds of crackpots like Mitchell, hard-right partisans like WCfG, and supposed “news” sites like Media Trackers, the John Doe is a trumped-up partisan witch hunt. The real witch hunters, of course, are those naming names, demanding the press shut down its reporting, and smearing anyone who ever came within a football field of a recall petition.
PART TWO: BONUS CONFUGGERY IN THIS WEEK’S CLUB FOR GROWTH EMAIL!
We’re all lucky, we recipients of the WCfG email screedery, in that there is never just one topic of fauxtrage per missive. No, in this week’s blast, there’s a whole separate section on the damage Scott Walker has done to this state’s K-12 education system.
Nah, just kidding! Instead, WCfG tries insisting that Scott Walker’s “tools” worked and schools and districts around the state didn’t end up gutting programs and budgets. They say this for one reason–the Walker administration and its fluffers on the right have discovered that different surveys produce different results! In past years, the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators had teamed up with the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WASDA + WEAC) to do a survey of school district staffing practices. This year, WASDA teamed instead with the state Department of Public Instruction to do the survey.
When WASDA and DPI released their results, they looked pretty bad. But wait! righties said–those results don’t say the sky is falling! Well, the results did say that, kinda. But wait! righties said again–those results don’t look as bad as WASDA-WEAC results from previous years! And I guess that’s true–with the important distinction that the WEAC-branded and DPI-branded surveys are simply not comparable.
When you do look at comparable data, like DPI’s year-over-year full employment survey data (pdf), the evidence is clear. Here it is in two pictures:
You can click on the pics to embiggen them, but what they show is pretty clear: In year-over-year apples-to-apples data, Wisconsin’s schools lost more teaching positions this year than in any year since these records have been kept. More districts than in any previous year cut teaching positions. Whether or not a district is using Walker’s “tools,” it is likely to have cut teachers, as 75% of districts did. Wisconsin Club for Growth can’t say that’s not devastating.
(I could throw in a bonus third, because WCfG also bragged in this week’s email that “it’s working,” because small-business formation is up a bit in the first quarter of this year. Of course you know by now that in March Wisconsin lost another 4500 jobs in March.)