Thursday, March 31, 2011

GOP: Labor and collective bargaining are good for America

"Under the Republican Administration, as our country has prospered, so have its people. This is as it should be, for as President Eisenhower said: "Labor is the United States. The men and women, who with their minds, their hearts and hands, create the wealth that is shared in this country—they are America."


The Eisenhower Administration has brought to our people the highest employment, the highest wages and the highest standard of living ever enjoyed by any nation. Today there are nearly 67 million men and women at work in the United States, 4 million more than in 1952. Wages have increased substantially over the past 3 1/2 years; but, more important, the American wage earner today can buy more than ever before for himself and his family because his pay check has not been eaten away by rising taxes and soaring prices.

The record of performance of the Republican Administration on behalf of our working men and women goes still further.

The Federal minimum wage has been raised for more than 2 million workers.

Social Security has been extended to an additional 10 million workers and the benefits raised for 6 1/2 million.

The protection of unemployment insurance has been brought to 4 million additional workers. There have been increased workmen's compensation benefits for longshoremen and harbor workers, increased retirement benefits for railroad employees, and wage increases and improved welfare and pension plans for federal employees.

In addition, the Eisenhower Administration has enforced more vigorously and effectively than ever before, the laws which protect the working standards of our people.

Workers have benefited by the progress which has been made in carrying out the programs and principles set forth in the 1952 Republican platform.

All workers have gained and unions have grown in strength and responsibility, and have increased their membership by 2 millions.

Furthermore, the process of free collective bargaining has been strengthened by the insistence of this Administration that labor and management settle their differences at the bargaining table without the intervention of the Government.

This policy has brought to our country an unprecedented period of labor-management peace and understanding.

We applaud the effective, unhindered, collective bargaining which brought an early end to the 1956 steel strike, in contrast to the six months' upheaval, Presidential seizure of the steel industry and ultimate Supreme Court intervention under the last Democrat Administration.

The Eisenhower Administration will continue to fight for dynamic and progressive programs which, among other things, will:

Stimulate improved job safety of our workers, through assistance to the States, employees and employers;

Continue and further perfect its programs of assistance to the millions of workers with special employment problems, such as older workers, handicapped workers, members of minority groups, and migratory workers;

Strengthen and improve the Federal-State Employment Service and improve the effectiveness of the unemployment insurance system;

Protect by law, the assets of employee welfare and benefit plans so that workers who are the beneficiaries can be assured of their rightful benefits;

Assure equal pay for equal work regardless of Sex;

Federally-assisted construction, and maintain and continue the vigorous administration of the Federal prevailing minimum wage law for public supply contracts;

Extend the protection of the Federal minimum wage laws to as many more workers as is possible and practicable;

Continue to fight for the elimination of discrimination in employment because of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry or sex;

Provide assistance to improve the economic conditions of areas faced with persistent and substantial unemployment;

Revise and improve the Taft-Hartley Act so as to protect more effectively the rights of labor unions, management, the individual worker, and the public.

The protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively is the firm and permanent policy of the Eisenhower Administration."

  -- 1956 Republican National Platform

Would today's GOP call Ike a flaming liberal?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

True definition of "Peace Officer"

A well-written Wisconsin State Journal article about the chief of the Capitol Police.  Click here to read.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Peter Barca for Governor? Don't laugh.

Peter Barca, Kenosha's north side Assemblyman, sure found no honeymoon in his job as the leader of a distant minority in the Wisconsin Assembly.

Barca gained statewide attention for his leadership of the Assemnbly Democrats during the budget repair bill chaos.  Assertive and articulate leadership makes Barca someone to watch -- plus his short stint in Congress is another tick on his resume.

Should Governor Walker be recalled it's a loosely kept secret that former Senator Russ Feingold would like to challenge him in the recall election but Feingold, just bounced out of Washington by Wisconsin voters, may not be the best choice for Democrats.  Besides having just been defeated in a statewide race, Feingold is, well, the guy who Republicans will instantly paint as a liberal.

Barca has the brains but not the baggage and he may be a better choice for Democrats -- plus he's not from Madison or Milwaukee, another plus.  He's clearly someone to watch.

If only he'd return his phone calls.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Slimy Scott Fitzgerald: Ends justify the means?

What a week it was in Wisconsin government.

The Dane County District Attorney, acting on numerous citizen complaints, sued to void the collective bargaining law passed in shotgun fashion by the Fitzgerald brothers and crew and rapidly signed by Governor Scott Walker.

A circuit judge temporarily blocked the Secretary of State from publishing the new law until the claim that it's voidable because the Open Meetings Law was violated is resolved in court.  The state attorney general says a circuit judge can't do that and asked the Court of Appeals to intervene.  That court then entreated the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the case, noting both side appear to have made some plausible arguments.  An expedited decision is expected on whether the state's high school will step in.

But that's not fast enough or sure enough for Scott Fitzgerald.

The Legislative Reference Bureau published the law online Friday in a surprise move, after a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau. But serious questions remain over whether the law went into effect Saturday — especially because Secretary of State Doug La Follette, who typically publishes laws, is barred from doing so by a restraining order.


Even the Reference Bureau says its move didn't put the law into effect. La Follette agrees.  But Fitzgerald insists that the law is now law.

"I still do believe this will bring a conclusion," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, the legislation is in effect today."

Fitzgerald said he got the idea for the LRB to publish the law after reading a Wisconsin State Journal article earlier this month, which said laws don't take effect until one day after they are published with the LRB. Fitzgerald and his staff researched the statutes before meeting with Steve Miller, LRB director, on Friday morning to discuss the issue.

So what's wrong with this picture?  Plenty.

Fitzgerald knew that the Wisconsin Supreme Court was poised to decided whether to take up the case challenging the bill's publication.  That action could come "any day" yet Fitzgerald opted to attempt an "end run" around the judicial process.

Rather than shed light on a difficult situation, Fitagerald muddied the waters.  Nobody really knows if the LRB's actions constitute lawful publication of a new law, something else the courts may need to sort out.  Obviously Fitzgerald didn't make things any easier.

Like them or not, our courts exist for a reason -- to resolve legal disputes.  That's what was in the works .  when Fitzgerald jumped the gun and tried to do an end run around the judicial process.  In so doing he thumbed his nose at our judicial process  --  just another step in the "ends justify the means" mentality so prevalent in the Walker regieme.







Thursday, March 24, 2011

OFFICER BIRKHOLZ: THANK YOU FOR PROTECTING AND SERVING US

Here in Wisconsin we take time out from our political turmoil to reflect on a young man who left us all too soon.

Officer Craig Birkholz of the Fond du Lac Police Department, a decorated veteran, was essentially ambused Sunday morning  by a crazed man who also critically wounded another officer and his canine partner before taking his own life.

Just 28 years old and married for less than two years, Officer Birkholz, a former Pleasant Prairie resident and Tremper High School graduate, Officer Birkholz already had a track record of commendable service.  Birkholz , an Army veteran, served two tours, one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. He survived multiple mortar attacks and had marveled that he had gone through two wars without firing a single shot. He was an honors graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh who had hopes of becoming a federal officer.

On Sunday morning Officer Birkholz was felled by gunfire on an ordinarily quiet Fond du Lac street -- a senseless attack that reminds us all of the dangers our police officers and firefighters face every day as they do jobs most of us wouldn't.  All of us (including this ex-cop) who have served our communities know that we should live each day as if it is our last because one day we could be right.

As we mourn with and for the Birkholz family, it is fitting to laud the men and women of the Kenosha Police Department, especially Chief John Morrissey, who appropriately are treating the loss of Officer Birkholz as if it was one of our own, supporting the Fond du Lac Police Department in planning and executing funerals in Fond du Lac Wednesday and here in Kenosha on Friday and Saturday.

Those who have had the sad duty to attend one of these funerals will understand the impressive symbolism of hundreds of squad cars and officers who descend on a community to honor a fallen comrade.  We also know that politicians will extend condolences, maybe make a speech, and there will be commentaries, like this one, decrying violence and the loss of human life all too soon.

All of this, however, was eclipsed Wednesday by a young girl who stood out in the sleeting afternoon to pay her respects.  She held a handmade sign that simply stated, "THANK YOU FOR SERVING AND PROTECTING US!"

This young lady's words sums up the feeling of a grateful and mounful state.









Sunday, March 20, 2011

Guest comment: Assemblyman Mark Pocan on the mess in Madison

Here is Rep. Mark Pocan’s March 16 letter to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald  and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald:



Usually a letter from me is filled with pointed humor. You will find none of that in this letter. I write today in the utmost somber of terms, out of fear for the institution of the Wisconsin Legislature.

In the past few months, we’ve seen the state Capitol completely locked down to the public and, at times, our own members couldn’t even get inside this building. We’ve seen a joint committee end a public hearing with members of the public still on the speaking list. We’ve seen the Assembly also shut off debate with members of both parties still on the speaking list and deny members the right to vote. You’ve literally silenced the minority party and the general public. That alone should give you pause.

Rather than heeding that pause, you pushed ahead and violated the open meetings law on multiple occasions. It is a sad day in Wisconsin when our legislative leaders think they are above the very laws we make.

Sen. Fitzgerald, after trying every trick in the book you could think of to compel members of the state Senate back to Wisconsin, you realized your gimmicks weren’t legal. But that didn’t stop you from threatening your own members with those gimmicks. Imagine my surprise when the headline in March 16’s paper read “Olive branch offered.” That’s an awfully nice headline for someone who was doing nothing more than acknowledging their own illegal threats.

Speaker Fitzgerald, never in my seven terms in the Assembly, one as member of leadership, have I witnessed leadership overreach so far that there were motions to remove both the speaker pro-temp and the speaker. I hope the gravity of this isn’t lost on you.

Gentlemen, the threats need to stop. Look around. Is this institution your family runs the same institution you want to look back upon 20 years from now with pride? I’ve served with both of you during my seven terms in the Legislature and I’ve enjoyed getting to know you. The Fitzgerald brothers that I got to know on the Joint Committee on Finance and in the Assembly are not the same men running Wisconsin’s Legislature right now.

So far this term, Wisconsin politics has sunk to a new low, something to be ashamed of. Contrary to media accounts, flip-flopping on potentially illegal threats isn’t the same as offering an olive branch. I believe just two and a half months into this legislative session, this institution is already beyond repair. Only time will tell if I’m right. For the sake of the integrity of the Wisconsin Legislature, I hope I’m wrong.

The state Legislature over the past few months has been transformed into a vindictive and malicious institution with severe repercussions. Last session, when Democrats controlled the majorities in both chambers, we never reached this far or violated our own rules in the manner in which you have done.

Issuing press releases and conducting press interviews isn’t going to put this genie back in the bottle. It is going to take hard work and long hours of reaching across the aisle. It may even mean standing up to your own governor the next time he illegally threatens to kick kids off BadgerCare or issue layoff notices to state workers as a pawn in his political game of chess.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau hasn’t even released their summary of the governor’s budget bill, yet the few details the public has already gleaned from the bill make it wildly unpopular from the start. You have your work cut out for you in the coming months, as the state budget bill is surely going to be contentious. Will you continue to lead as you have the past few months, or will you use the beginning of this legislative session as a series of teachable moments to be learned from and improved upon? For the sake of the integrity of the Legislature and for the sake of all of Wisconsin, I hope you choose the latter.

As I write this, I do not have an answer of how to fix all that has gone wrong this session. However, simply assuming we can return to session as things have been for the past 100 years is just not possible. This Legislature will function long after we are all gone, but this shouldn’t be the standard we set. We owe more to this institution.

Please, gentlemen, put this genie back into the bottle.



Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, represents District 78 in the Assembly.

The Value of Education -- and Teachers

A pharmacist friend in Jasper, Alberta said that she was appalled at the seemingly light sentences given to abusers who kill children while someone murdering a police officer gets a life sentence.

Her take on this disparity was, "How do you know that if this child grew up he wouldn't become a policeman?"

An interesting and provocative take which I recalled when thinking of the value of education and our teachers who seem to be under attack these days as overpaid (whoever though a teacher could be accused of that?) and greedy.

First, the facts.  Here's what the Kenosha Unified School District, the state's third largest, pays teachers.  Hardly outrageous salaries, even with benefits.

We all know that generally speaking high school graduates make more money than those who dropped out and college graduates usually make more than high school grads.  That increased income, of course, turns around in our economy and helps pay the taxes that keep essential government services afloat.

More important, however, is that teachers in a child's life can mean the difference between success and failureHow do you know that this first grader won't become the scientist that discovers a cure for cancer?  Or become the CEO of a major corporationAnd, as the bumper sticker says, "If you can read this, thank a teacher."

So, if our teachers contribute to the success of these future scientists and corporate wizards -- as well as those who are just ordinary folks in our communities who are the nurses, restaurant owners, physicians, police officers and firefighters -- then maybe they deserve better compensation because of their importance to society and our communities.  Of course, our strained budgets don't permit this to happen but at least our teachers deserve to keep what they already have as well as our respect for the work that they do.

Here in Wisconsin, we have an excellent state university system -- which Governor Walker and some politicians want to dismantle -- as well as an educated workforce and a fairly good technical college system that needs some juice to remain competitive in today's rapidly changing world. 

Despite some lapses in central city environments -- after all, teachers aren't miracle workers for kids who come to school without parental and community support -- our educational system does a pretty darn good job.  We don't top or come near to the top of the college test scores every year without some credit going to our schools and teachers.  (And who do we compete with for the top honors?  Iowa and Minnesota -- our neighbors who also have made education a priority public policy.)

So this begs the question of why Wisconsin doesn't do more to promote quality education as a business incentive.  Our neighbors in Iowa -- which has the nation's highest literacy rate -- got that a long time ago.  The Des Moines area capitalizes on attractiving clean industry in the form of banking, insurance, finance and high technology.  Why isn't Wisconsin -- and more specifically, Kenosha -- doing more to attract these industries and jobs? 

The manufacturing glory days are long behind us and hitching our wagons to falling stars isn't all that productive for the state's economy and finances.  Education should have been a marketing tool a long time ago and should be now -- except that shortsighted politicians want to dilute its viability, not just in terms of dollars but also in terms of respect.  Further, the state's political instability doesn't lend itself to attracting high tech industries and workers.

Our state's future depends on education -- and those who are smart enough not only to realize it, but to capitalize on it.

Friday, March 18, 2011

More on Journal Communications and hypocrisy

An anonymous sufferer from rectal-cranial inversion chose to write me about the observations made about the $2 million compensation package laden with fringe benefits paid last year to the CEO of Journal Communications, the parent company of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel which, even today, editorialized that public employees should not be allowed to collectively bargain over "benefits."

This jerkoff wrote: "Quit belly-aching about PRIVATE SECTOR pay.  If you don't like it, BUY THEIR STOCK and vote the guy out." 

This goofball misses the point.  It wasn't the pay the CEO received that was at issue.  After all, it's only $752,000 out of two million bucks and some change.  But that's one of the major points -- all the "benefits" and bonuses that nearly tripled the base pay. 

So many people want government to be run like a business and, quite frankly, to the extent it's possible I am one of them.  But when was the last time a government employee received even a fraction of the bonuses, incentives, options and other goodies this CEO got?  Instead the newspaper editorializes that government workers are overpaid compared to the private sector and should have their benefits cut while its corporate parent showers its brass with bennies that government employees would never dream of.

Let's even take a stab at some of that "lavish" government pay.  The state is the biggest public law firm in Wisconsin with hundreds of lawyers yet the top pay -- a level few state attorneys will ever reach -- is less than the starting pay for associates at Foley and Lardner, Wisconsin's largest private law firm, also with hundreds of lawyers.  I guess if we want parity with the private sector, then there are hundreds of state lawyers entitled to some pretty hefty raises.

On the hyprocrisy meter, the Journal-Sentinel maxes out as "disingenuously hypocritical."





Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ethics at the Journal-Sentinel??? Stop the presses!!!

This tidbit -- ironically from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel -- makes for some interesting reading:

Steven J. Smith, the chairman, chief executive and president of Journal Communications Inc., received total compensation of more than $2 million last year/ Smith received a salary of $752,000, bonus of $97,760, stock awards valued at $452,500, non-equity incentive plan compensation of $391,040, change in pension value and nonqualified deferred compensation earnings of $312,211 and other compensation of $13,442 for a total of $2,018,953, the company's proxy statement shows.

That's up 39.7% from 2009, when Smith made $1,445,492. Journal Communications posted a profit of $34.4 million in 2010, up 698% from $4.3 million in 2009.
So the Journal-Sentinel whines on the editorial page that state workers are overcompensated and should suck up massive pay cuts to match the suffering workers in the private sector yet its parent company lavishly fawns dollars and bonuses on corporate brass, perks which are never available to government workers.

Anyone smell hypocrisy here?  Or maybe another Koch ho??

Friday, March 11, 2011

Where are the moderate Republicans?

Paul Soglin -- who started his political career as Madison's "hippie mayor" but turned out to be one of the best friends the Chamber of Commerce ever had -- laments in his blog that Wisconsin needs moderate Republicans to step up to the plate and lead us out of our current mess in Madison. 

He's right.  The problem, however, is that Main Street Republicans are a dying breed and the nation is far poorer for it.

Once upon a time Republicans by and large were the farmers and merchants -- folks who made our communities tick -- and the notion of conservatism wasn't a litmus test because while Republicans often held conservative core values they did not proclaim rigid orthodoxy.

Republicans favored a sound dollar, a flourishing economy, strong defense and less government.  Less government, not "no government."  This meant that government should stick to its core functions and not do goofy things.

Those moderate Republicans were the backbone of our communities and, more often than not, the saviors of our nation. 

Indiana's Richard Lugar, before becoming an international relations expert in the Senate, pioneered the Indianapolis-Marion County "Unigov" which improved delivery of services on a regional basis at less cost to taxpayers.  Teddy Roosevelt was a devoted conservationist who gave us pure food and drug laws. Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency.  Ronald Reagan tirelessly fought to break down the barriers of communism in Eastern Europe. 

But here at home it was Republican Dwight Eisenhower who put the U.S. into space and stepped up to the plate to begin the battle for civil rights for all Americans.  Not only did Ike send federal troops into Little Rock to carry out school desegregation but the federal judges he appointed were often the only recourse blacks in the south had prior to enactment of civil rights legislation.

On that subject, it was Republicans who blasted President Kennedy's proposed civil rights bill as too weak and his successor called upon Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen of Illinois to marshal the votes needed to enact the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.  In one of our nation's most tumultuous times Main Street Republicans saved the nation.

But somewhere along the way Republicans moved away from Main Street and as Democrats moved further to the left the GOP embraced the extreme ideology of the right.  Ronald Reagan's "big tent" was torn to shreds and hauled away.

At a time when our nation -- and this state -- need the Eisenhowers and Dirksens we instead get the Shiite wing of the Republican Party.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

There's a reason for recalls

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorializes that the transgressions of state senators of both parties don't justify recalling them and that lawmakers should be able to do their jobs without looking over their shoulders.

Wrong.

The editorial's premise that hasty recalls are ill-advised is sound. But the current shenanigans by the Senate and Assembly Republicans are living proof of why recall opportunities exist.
This is not to let the Democrats off scot free. If you perceive their leaving the state in order to stall a preordained vote on some very bad legislation as a transgression it's still not up to the level that should trigger a recall. The same can't be said for the Republicans.

Let's start with the notion of a preordained vote. Not unprecedented but here the so-called "budget repair bill" would have unraveled 50 years of precedent in a matter of days with no meaningful public input. In fact, before the Joint Finance Committee commenced its hastily called public hearing announcements were made that Governor Walker "had the votes" to get his way. Why bother with a public hearing that was nothing more than a sham process?

More important, the justification for recall is found not in the shenanigans -- including an unlawful misuse of state troopers to pressure the missing senators -- but rather in the Republicans forfeiting the very purpose of their office. It is the legislative branch that is supposed to set policy and the executive carries it out.

Here the GOP legislators couldn't move fast enough to cow-tow to the executive, ignoring that the three branches of government exist to provide a system of checks and balances. No dissent, no meaningful debate -- it's Walker's way or the highway. Why should the Democrats return when their input will ne for naught?

A friend once chaired the Michigan Senate's appropriations committee. I once asked him if he thought of running for governor. He replied, "Why should I? When he wants something he has to come and see me."

As it should be. The lock-step rigidity in abdicating our system of checks and balances alone justifies recall.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Guest Comment: Open For Business Starts With Quality Education

My wife's first letter to the editor:

Governor Walker says, “This ultimately is about the future of our state.” He’s correct. This fiasco he’s created IS about the future of Wisconsin. Under his plan, the future of our state looks very bleak.

Drastic cuts for schools mean much larger class sizes and major cuts or elimination of programs such as music, theater, sports, advanced placement, etc. – all directly affecting our children. Is this good for Wisconsin?

Wisconsin’s SAT scores are second in the nation! There are five states that don’t allow collective bargaining for teachers, all of which are at or near the bottom in SAT scores! Is that what we want for Wisconsin?

People move to Wisconsin for our quality educational system. What will happen with the Governor’s plan? Will people continue to move here when the test scores plummet? Will businesses come to Wisconsin if they are unable to find well-prepared students? Will quality teachers come to Wisconsin for a lower salary? Is this good for the future of Wisconsin?

The longer this fiasco continues, the more divided Wisconsin becomes. This division will last for years to come. Is this good for the future of Wisconsin?

The Governor’s plan and his uncompromising attitude will affect Wisconsin’s future, not positively as he tries to convince us, but in a far-reaching negative way.

I applaud the 14 senators who have put their careers at risk to stand up for what they believe in – a bright future for Wisconsin!

Please consider deeply what kind of future you want for Wisconsin and our children. And while you’re at it, say a prayer for our leaders.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Politicians Misuse State Patrol?

Early 20th century state police forces had little resemblance to modern professional law enforcement but were oft known for being strikebreakers.  The growth of the trade union movement saw resistance to creation of such units for fear they would be misused.  The public concern about this resulted in the Wisconsin State Patrol having specific prohibitions imposed on it by the legislature:

"No state traffic officer shall be used in or take part in any dispute or controversy between employer or employee concerning wages, hours, labor or working conditions; nor shall any such officer be required to serve civil process. The department may assign state traffic officers to safeguard state officers or other persons." [Wis. Stat. s. 110.07(2m)]
Fast forward to the past couple of weeks where state troopers were sent to the homes of the 14 State Senate Democrats who left the state to delay passage of the so-called "budget repair bill."  Troopers were also used for "security" at the state capitol during nearly two weeks of public employee protests.  And now the Republicans in the State Senate want law enforcement officers to round up the 14 Democrats whom they've cited for contempt.

Not only is it a slippery slope, it's arguably an unlawful misuse of the state patrol.  You'd think the powers that be over at the state patrol would be slapping some folks up, pointing out that troopers have no business getting anywhere near a labor dispute and no authority to serve civil process such as that being promulgated by the Senate Republicans to arrest their opposition.

Of course, you'd think in Wisconsin that the director of the Wisconsin State Patrol would be free of political influence -- well, as free as a Governor's appointee can be -- but newbie Gov. Scott Walker carried nepotism to a new low as his director is none other than the father of the Fitzgerald boys who are the Republican leaders in both houses of the legislature.  I guess when you're in the family business you don't bother with such things as reading the law that governs your agency.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Damage To Our Capitol

For as long as I can remember Wisconsin has been a special place.  (Even as a little boy I would note that the restrooms in Illinois stores seemed dirtier!)  It was a place to be proud of -- with progressive traditions which put us a cut above other places. 

Madison, too, was a special place, and not just because I went to school there.  I have family born and raised in Madison.  Even though I tilt more conservative than many in Dane County I still feel at home in what was often called the isthmus surrounded by reality.  Long ago a girlfriend once remarked, "It seems like your blood pressure drops once you've crossed the Dane County line."

She was right.  At night the dome of our beautiful state capitol -- a somewhat smaller cousin of the United States Capitol -- shined as a beacon for miles guiding me home.

As for the building itself, I had the privilege to work in it and appreciate the marble, engraved door knobs and history of the building.  It truly does belong to the people and can be inspirational.

And for two weeks our capitol was the focus of probably the largest peaceful assembly to seek a redress of grievances in our nation's history.

But our governor ordained that the capitol should be closed to the people, the demonstrators kicked out and the public -- even legislators -- denied meaningful access to our capitol.  Our capitol.  Ours.

Then tonight I heard a shocking report that there may be $6-7 million damage to the building blamed on the protest.  If true, it's heartbeaking that a priceless beacon of hope could be tarnished.  But from all accounts I've heard the protest was well controlled and vandalism was not the order of the day.

Whatever the repair cost, tho, the damage to our state done by the shotgun bobblehead legislature and our corrupt governor far exceeds it.  Marble and concrete can be polished and fixed.  Our state's tarnished reputation is a tougher repair.

The corruption which cut into our institutions -- and even our state's soul -- cannot be calculated in dollars and cents.  It may be irreparable.

And our capitol?  It's still beautiful.  But instead of being a beacon of hope, it reeks not so much of the body odor of thousands of demonstrators but of the stench of corruption.  Spic-and-Span and opening the doors and windows won't get rid of that.