Monday, February 28, 2011

Recalling Recall

Recall of Democratic State Senators has been a huge part of my life and career. As a result, I investigated the possibility of recalling the Wisconsin Democratic State Senators who eluded the call of the Senate by absconding to Illinois. This results in the Wisconsin Senate lacking quorum to act on Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill.

I lived and worked in Lansing, Michigan’s capitol, from 1985 until 2002. In 1983, Senate Minority Leader John Engler led the recall of two Democrat State Senators who voted for their Governor’s hated 38 percent increase in Michigan’s state income tax. Both were replaced by Republicans and John Engler became Majority Leader. After losing to Dave Obey in my native Wisconsin in 1984, I joined the Majority Caucus staff in Lansing in 1985.

For several subsequent elections, the Senate Majority was only two seats so a Republican loss would result in a tie, broken by the Democrat Lieutenant Governor. I was assigned to perform opposition research, policy development, media relations and more pedestrian assignments for the top targeted seats in 1986, 1988 and 2000. All but the most political assignments like doing doors, making vote calls or providing ballot security were expected to be done on state time. Things that were rewarded with my promotion in Michigan would earn me prison time in Wisconsin.

What is the law regarding recall of Wisconsin State Senators? In 1926, we passed Article 12 of Article 13 of the Wisconsin Constitution. It provides for a recall petition anytime after the first year of an elected term. The petition needs at least the signatures of 25 percent of the vote for Governor in the last election. This is a huge hurdle so recall is not taken lightly.

If valid signatures are filed, a recall election happens in six weeks. If there are more than two candidates, there is recall primary. If a candidate receives more than 50 percent in the primary, the candidate wins.

Because I live in liberal Madison, my State Senator is a safe Democrat during normal times. Absconding to Illinois to escape quorum and resulting in the lay-off of state workers means that it is not normal times now.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Killing for Religion

Is there a possibility that the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek will lead to fundamentalist Muslims seizing power like in Iran? Although Egyptians are comforted that the military is supposed to help make the transition to democracy, Egypt had become more fundamentalist even before the demonstrations. I was struck by how many veiled women were shown on television celebrating the fall of Mubarek. Fundamentalist Muslims killed Mubarek’s predecessor, Anwar Sadat.

Pakistanis have recently stoned and beaten members of minority religious sects. The Indian city now known as Mumbai was a city that was home to several religious communities so fundamentalists from Pakistan attacked it. In some fundamentalist Islamic countries, unmarried couples without chaperones have been killed.

In Iraq, Sunnis and Shia kill each other and everyone can kill Christians with impunity. It was typical when the Afghan Taliban dynamited the huge Buddhist statues at Bamiyan, forbade television and hosted Osama Bin Laden. Israel is less about democracy and more about religion. Fundamentalist Jews killed Menachem Begin. I am old enough to remember when Beirut was the Paris of the Middle East before civil war between rival religious militias turned it into a mess of pock-marks and Christian Falangists attacked refugee camps on orders from Israeli Aerial Sharon.

Religious authorities promise various wonderful things in the hereafter but they always want to control current behavior. Most religious traditions promise especially wonderful benefits from martyrdom.

I have been volunteering at a food pantry for the hungry in Madison so I am around what I perceived as nice Christians a lot. I am in demand there a lot because I am physically stronger than most volunteers and know most of the New Testament of the Bible. I was shocked to hear some of them call for capital punishment for people who are gay or call peaceful Muslims worshipers misled by the Devil. The same day that I heard a call for capital punishment of gays, a gay activist was killed by intolerants in Uganda.

I think there are people of good will in the faith community. I would always be willing to go to churches for weddings, funerals and baptisms but I have gradually come to the view that God did not create people in His image, but that leaders of faith created God in the image of people to control behavior in this world. I would never become a militant Atheist like the Freedom From Religion crowd; I will never forgive them for putting the fence around the donated statue of Christ in my hometown.