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Wisconsin Government to Garnish the Wages of Poor People to Fund New Sports Arena

By Justin Gardner | The Free Thought Project | June 29, 2015

Milwaukee, WI — Wisconsin governor Scott Walker may be the darling of mainstream Republicans for next year’s presidential election, but “less taxation, less government” is an illusion under his current tenure. Milwaukee residents will soon be forced to pay an extra 15% tax surcharge that will go toward public financing of a new sports arena, under a plan put together by this champion of limited government.

The 15% surcharge will apply to Milwaukee County residents who are behind on their property taxes or court fines. Walker’s sports arena plan calls for the state to take over the collection of Milwaukee County’s old debt and use it to help pay for half the cost of a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks.

This blatant example of extortion and public-private cronyism is troubling to Milwaukee County Supervisor John Weishan Jr.:

“To think we would put the squeeze on someone because they didn’t pay a parking ticket and their only crime is being poor and unable to pay it, and then taking that money and giving it to people who are extremely wealthy, doesn’t sit well with me.”

Wisconsin state, unlike county government, has the power to garnish wages and intercept other income such as tax refunds. Citizens will be powerless to stop the state from taking their money so their government can go into partnership with sports moguls on a fancy new spectacle. The cost to Wisconsin taxpayers—whether or not they care about the arena—will be $400 million after accounting for interest.

Government’s interest in using major televised sports as a public distraction is no secret, hearkening to the Roman days of bread and circus. In May, we reported how NFL teams are paid millions of dollars by the U.S. Department of Defense for nationalistic propaganda. The appeals to emotion in furtherance of patriotism serve two purposes—entrenching corporatism and stifling dissent of military hegemony.

Back in Wisconsin, Walker and his team are salivating at the prospect of taking over debt collection in Milwaukee. Nearly $77 million is owed to the county courts, most of it older than five years. The surcharge would mean an extra burden of $11.5 million on citizens, and would cover 4.6% of the public’s obligation toward Walker’s sports arena.

While Governor Walker and his team withhold details of the plan under the guise of “finalizing legislative language,” they are drumming up support among lawmakers and telling Republican senators to avoid making critical comments.

They’re working hard to suppress public dialog while PR experts couch the plan in Orwellian terms.

“There is a cost to collecting debt. The cost is now borne by the county. The benefit of this program is that the burden falls on the people who can afford to pay this debt,” said bureaucrat Teig Whaley-Smith.

Another spokesperson, Laurel Patrick, said the 15% surcharge is standard procedure, so why should anyone care? “Unpaid debts impact others who do pay their bills, fines, etc. on time, and are now paying more than they otherwise would need to for those government services and programs.”

The likelihood that this tax increase will be mentioned as Walker and other presidential hopefuls parade about next year, wrapped in the flag and false concern for the people, is little to none. We can expect the usual bread and the usual circus.

June 29, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , | 1 Comment

Court Holds Wisconsin Officials In Contempt For Enforcing Scott Walker’s Anti-Union Law

By Ian Millhiser | Think Progress | October 22, 2013

A Wisconsin judge who declared Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) union-busting law unconstitutional more than a year ago held the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission in contempt of court on Monday for continuing to enforce that law against school and municipal workers.

Walker’s law includes a one-two punch that dramatically weakens the ability of unions to improve workers’ wages while simultaneously encouraging those workers to drop the union. First, the law only permits public workers to collectively bargain for raises limited to the rate of inflation, thus curtailing one of the primary benefits of unionization — increased wages. It then requires unionized public workers to vote every year on whether they want to still be represented by a union.

Judge Juan Colas’ 2012 order blocks these restrictions from going into effect against city, county and school district workers, although state workers remain largely subject to Walker’s law. His order on Monday clarifies that the order applies statewide, and not just to the narrow group of plaintiffs before his court.

Yet, while Colas’ most recent decision is a victory for public workers in Wisconsin, this victory is likely to be temporary. His original 2012 ruling is pending before the very conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court. And the conservatives on that court already reinstated Walker’s law once after it was blocked (on a different legal grounds) by a lower court.

October 23, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , | Leave a comment

On Paper, China Looks Very Good

By David Macaray | Dissident Voice | February 4th, 2013

Without much fanfare, and without many people even aware of it, in 2009, China has overtaken the U.S. as the world’s leading papermaker. Moreover, they did it in much the same way that they became the world’s premiere manufacturing beast: with innovative engineering, a smart game plan, a vast reservoir of cheap labor, and massive government subsidies.

As for reaching the top of the papermaking ladder, it’s the innovative engineering aspect that’s mind-boggling. China has managed to develop a genetically altered hardwood eucalyptus tree (which begins in the lab as a tissue sample inside a petri dish) that requires only four to six years to reach full height. That’s approximately one-tenth the time it takes “natural” trees in North America (which are abundant) to reach maturity. Eucalyptus is a favored furnish in papermaking because of its soft fiber.

Each year Chinese labs clone 190 million of these “test-tube” eucalyptus sprigs, which are planted on 790,000 acres spread over several Chinese provinces. Wending Huang, Asia Pulp & Paper’s chief forester in China, calls these bad boys “Yao Mings” (referring to a famous and very tall Chinese basketball player). Wisconsin is the leading papermaking state in the U.S. Maine is second. China can now match the yearly output of Wisconsin in just three weeks.

But genetically engineered trees aren’t the whole story. In addition to new woodlands, China has established itself as the world’s leading recycler of paper. Indeed, its recycling, de-inking, re-pulping operation is staggering. China buys about 54 billion pounds a year of scrap paper and cardboard from all over the world, and uses this recycled material to produce about two-thirds of its own paper and cardboard.

As for its own paper production, according to the McClatchy News Service, China has 20 mega-sized paper mills spread across the country, and the automated machines in these state-of-the-art mills are capable of producing a mile of glossy publishing-grade paper per minute. A mile a minute. That’s 5,280 feet per minute (fpm) of a glossy, high-quality base sheet. That’s amazing.

Not to give away any trade secrets, but Machine #1 at Kimberly-Clark’s Fullerton, California, paper mill produces a 172-inch wide sheet, at 4,600 fpm. That’s a pretty good operating speed for a less-than-new machine that runs 24 hours a day, 360 days a year. But this wadding is used exclusively for Kleenex and bath tissue, and doesn’t approach the quality of “publishing-grade” paper. A high-quality, glossy base sheet is a whole other deal.

It should also be noted that China still imports the overwhelming majority of its raw timber and processed (chemically treated) pulp. It gets its timber from all over the world (e.g., Indonesia, Russia, Vietnam, Brazil). In 2011 alone, it imported 14.5 million tons of it (29 billion pounds), l.6 million tons of which came from the U.S., where sawmills, logging and pulp operations have closed down, leaving timber businesses looking for new customers.

While environmental groups have strongly objected to China’s aggressive demand for wood pulp, claiming that it’s destroying the world’s forests, American companies and Wisconsin politicians have their own reasons to complain. They accuse the Chinese government of subsidizing the country’s paper mills and “dumping” unfairly priced (too cheap to compete with) paper on the American market. Japan was accused of the same practice with its cars.

According to McClatchey, “the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute estimates the Chinese government doled out at least $33 billion in subsidies to its paper industry from 2002 to 2009—the period that coincides with its stunning growth. That’s more than $4 billion a year, a number that is growing.”

So we have U.S. paper mills being squeezed not only by foreign competitors but by foreign governments subsidizing those competitors. It must be nice having your own government as partner and benefactor. One of the obvious advantages is that the government can print all the money it wants. That can be very helpful.

The third complaint—along with environmental concerns and “dumping”—is reserved for labor unions. They blame the unions for wanting decent wages and benefits. Attacking working people, those at the very bottom, should come as no surprise. It’s Newton’s First Law of Fecal Gravitation on an Inclined Plane (Shit rolls downhill).

~

David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and author (It’s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor), was a former union rep. He can be reached at: dmacaray@earthlink.net.

February 4, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Comments Off on On Paper, China Looks Very Good

US judge annuls anti-union state law in Wisconsin

Press TV – September 15, 2012

A US judge in the State of Wisconsin has struck down an anti-union law signed by the state’s Republican governor in 2011, reigniting a controversial issue that prompted recall elections just weeks before Election Day.

Wisconsin’s Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas ruled on Friday that the law, curbing collective bargaining for most public employees, violates both the state and the US Constitution and infringes on free speech and association rights.

The judge’s ruling represents at least a temporary defeat for Governor Scott Walker, who promptly censured the decision on Friday but further expressed confidence that his state would launch an appeal against it.

“The people of Wisconsin clearly spoke on June 5,” said Walker. “Now, they are ready to move on. Sadly a liberal activist judge in Dane County wants to go backwards and take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the legislature and the governor. We are confident that the state will ultimately prevail in the appeals process.”

The state law struck down by the Wisconsin judge was at the core of Walker’s legislative agenda following his 2010 election victory and its passage triggered a chaotic political situation in the state throughout most of 2011 and 2012.

The bill included a provision curbing collective bargaining for most public employees. It was passed, and Walker subsequently signed it into law over angry protest rallies by labor activists who stormed the state capital in early 2011.

The Wisconsin chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees celebrated the ruling and tried to portray it as an obvious reprimand to the Republican governor.

“Today, Governor Scott Walker was rejected by the courts again,” said AFSCME Council 48 Executive Director Rich Abelson. “Today’s ruling shows that his attempt to steal the rights away from working men and women in Wisconsin was unconstitutional. We have always believed that Governor Walker and the state legislature overstepped their authority by taking away the rights of public employees to collectively bargain.”

September 15, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Comments Off on US judge annuls anti-union state law in Wisconsin

Missouri mosque razed in arson attack

Press TV – August 6, 2012

A mosque in the Midwestern US state of Missouri has been completely destroyed in a suspected arson attack, the second attack to hit the place of worship in a little more than a month.

The Jasper County Sheriff’s Office said the fire at the Islamic Society of Joplin was reported around 3:40 a.m. (0840 GMT), AFP reported on Monday.

“The building was completely destroyed,” said Sharon Rhine, a spokeswoman for the office, noting that no injuries were reported and no charges have been filed.

“No-one was apprehended. They don’t want to call it a hate crime without information or knowledge of having someone to charge,” Rhine added.

The Islamic Society’s religious leader, Imam Lahmuddin, said he was “sad and shocked” about the fire.

“We just take this as a test from God. God is testing us. This is the month of Ramadan. We are fasting. We are not supposed to get angry, we are not supposed to say anything bad,” Lahmuddin said. “But that’s not only for this month, but for every day of our lives. In Ramadan we are more careful in guarding our tongues, not to say anything inappropriate.”

On July 4, the same building became the target of a failed arson attack. No arrests were made and the FBI offered a USD15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and indictment of the suspected arsonist.

“If it (Monday fire) is determined to be deliberately set, then we will look to see if there’s a connection between this fire and the one set on July 4,” said Bridget Patton, spokesperson for the FBI in Kansas City, Missouri.

Local community members say it is one of a series of attacks on their mosque since it was founded in 2007.

“Since the establishment of the mosque, we’ve been constantly under attack,” said former mosque board member Navid Zaidi, adding that “Our sign has been burnt … Our mailbox was smashed multiple times. We had bullets shot at our sign.”

The Monday incident came a day after a deadly shooting at a Sikh temple in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek in Wisconsin, which took the lives of six people.

August 6, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Comments Off on Missouri mosque razed in arson attack