Sunday, June 26, 2011

What's Up with Wisconsin?

The state seems to have gone crazy lately.  Or maybe it was always crazy, and the news coverage has just gotten better.  I would have thought that after the snow melted and the days got longer they'd get over the SAD.

You probably know most of the back story.  Wisconsin elected Scott Walker, a Republican, governor in the Nov. 2010 elections.  This did not sit well with the radicals in the state, who have had a long history there, and when he began efforts to control public pensions costs, they went apeshit crazy, having weeks of demonstrations in Madison, the state capitol, trying to prevent legislative actions, and committing acts of petty vandalism in the Capitol Building their to express their, what, sincerity?  Blog diva Ann Althouse, a Law Professor from Madison, reported on these extensively.

Then, in April came an election for the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  Wisconsin in one of a few states where Supreme Court justices are elected and stand for re-election periodically.  David Prosser, considered a conservative, the incumbent, was facing a challenge from the distinctly left wing Joanne Kloppenburg.  At stake, among other things, were Walker's pension reform plans, since it was a closely divided court, and the pension reforms were working their way through the appeal system.  Kloppenburg had all but promised to rule them unconstitutional, and so had complete support of the radical faction.

The election came, and at first it appeared the Kloppenburg had won.  She went so far as to declare victory, and thank the voters of Wisconsin for their wisdom.  Then, the final returns came in, including a conservative county that had not been publicly accounted for, and the final ballot had Prosser winning by some 7,000 votes.  Kloppenburg demanded a recount, as was her right, given that the final tally was less the 0.5% apart, and the recount was duly and slowly carried out.  The final final tally was only about 300 votes different from the first, and Prosser was declared winner and remained in office.  OK, a little messy, but still only democracy at work, right?

Well, yesterday, a group called Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, a group loosely associated with Wisconsin Public Radio (so they're non-partisan, right...), published an article claiming that in a heated argument in chambers, Justice Prosser had grabbed Justice Anne Bradley by the neck and attempted to choke her.  Allegedly, this incident came in a rather heated conference last week.

This was, of course, rapidly picked up in the media (especially the blogs, for who the deadline is always now).  Left-wing organizations like ThinkProgess demanded that Prosser resign.  As Altouse herself a generally pro-Prosser advocate said:
But sure. If Justice Prosser committed a criminal attack on another Justice, he shouldn't be on the court, even if he only lashed out after weeks or years of merciless bullying. And let's have the whole story. Maybe there are some other Justices who don't belong on the court. Clear out everyone who doesn't belong on the court. How will they be replaced? By appointment of the Governor — the formidable Scott Walker.
And now, today, it turns out there may be more to the story.  New reports suggest that Prosser may have put his hands up to protect himself as Justice Bradley came a him with "raised fists", and that while he may have made contract with her neck, it was incidental to his self-protection.

Justice Bradley's carefully worded response to these allegations does not explicitely deny that she attacked Prosser first:
“The facts are that I was demanding that he get out of my office and he put his hands around my neck in anger in a chokehold,” Bradley told the Journal Sentinel.

And in response to the conflicting interpretation offered by unnamed sources, that Prosser put up his hands defensively as she rushed toward him, Bradley told the paper: “You can try to spin those facts and try to make it sound like I ran up to him and threw my neck into his hands, but that’s only spin.”

She added: “Matters of abusive behavior in the workplace aren’t resolved by competing press releases. I’m confident the appropriate authorities will conduct a thorough investigation of this incident involving abusive behavior in the workplace.”
Well, we'll see, maybe.  But if it turns out that she did attack first, will ThinkProgress demand her resignation?  Incidentally, it is reported that Bradley is taller, heavier and seven years younger than Prosser.

Not surprisingly, Ann Althouse is all over this story...
I want to know not only what really happened at the time of the physical contact (if any) between the 2 justices, but also who gave the original story to the press. If Prosser really tried to choke a nonviolent Bradley, he should resign. But if the original account is a trumped-up charge intended to destroy Prosser and obstruct the democratic processes of government in Wisconsin, then whoever sent the report out in that form should be held responsible for what should be recognized as a truly evil attack.
I just want a bigger bag of popcorn.

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