In case you missed it

You've probably heard about the protests in Wisconsin (and Ohio, and elsewhere). You may have heard that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker just announced his budget. There are people renting hotel rooms in Rockford, too! (Okay that wasn't fair. Thank you for Cheap Trick and for being the R in REO Speedwagon.) However, if you've been watching TV, you may have missed the other drama in Madison.

On Monday, Wisconsin effectively closed the state Capitol. This made it hard for folks to return to collect things they thought were safely in the hands of the handful of holdouts-- things like important medical supplies. It also made it difficult for journalists, Supreme Court justices, and Democratic Assemblymembers to get inside.

Lobbyists, on the other hand, didn't appear to face this difficulty. That's certainly interesting, considering that lobbyists are folks who get paid to represent the interests of people who are too busy (or lazy) to make it down to the Capitol themselves.

Yesterday, AFSCME succeeded in getting a restraining order against the new restrictions on access to the Capitol.

The state responded thusly:
The Department of Administration today did receive a temporary injunction requiring the department to open the Wisconsin State Capitol to members of the public during business hours and when governmental matters, including hearings, are being conducted. The policies that DOA currently has in place are in compliance with this order. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. today at the Dane County Circuit Court, Branch 3, before Judge Albert.

In other words, Judge Albert was concerned enough about the new policy that he ordered the state to suspend it until he could rule on its legality. The state countered that since they felt their new policy was legal, they were going to ignore the restraining order. Interesting, that.

This announcement followed an even more fascinating pronouncement from the Capitol Police:
The King Street entrance to the Capitol has become congested. Capitol police request the assistance of the people in the area. People in the area of King Street need to exit the immediate area so that we can facilitate the public entry into the building.

There is a court hearing at the Dane County Court House at 2:15 PM and after this hearing we hope to be able to clarify policies on entrance into the Capitol.

I don't like it when strangers on the internet use the term "Orwellian", but, uh, that announcement only makes sense if the word "public" has a brand new meaning.

At 4 pm (I still haven't figured out what happened at the 2:15 public hearing, not that it appeared to have mattered), Governor Walker gave his budget address to a gallery packed with supporters. Members of the public (or people, at least) that had been holding out in the Capitol for days were here.

Rumor has it that these supporters entered through the steam tunnels. This has been hard to confirm, given that the one reporter who followed up on the story was met with terse men who appeared to be protecting the tunnels.

This is a news story. I know its popular in progressive circles to talk about things like Citizens United and access to government, but what's happened in Wisconsin this week takes things to a whole new level. The governor of Wisconsin appears to be using his power to commandeer law enforcement personnel to keep people he disagrees with from participating in government, while allowing his friends access-- and he's done so in violation of a court order.

I recall when President Clinton lied to Congress about oral sex. That was pretty much the main show on TV in 1998. Maybe it's just me, but I think what's going on in Madison is a tad more important, let alone interesting.

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