Saturday, April 14, 2012

Extremely Low Turnout for 2012 AFP Tea Party Madison Rally

Despite the beautiful spring weather, and free bus rides to the event from every major city in Wisconsin, turnout for today's American for Prosperity Tea Party rally was under a thousand, way down from previous years. The picture below shows the crowd at about peak.

The crowd was so small and thin that I was easily able walk right up the middle to within about fifty feet of the stage several times during the event. Compare the Tea Party crowd to this video of one of the anti-Walker protest last year. Gives you an idea just of how pathetic the astroturf Tea Party movement has become.

Tea Party Hires Security Guards as "Scare Tactic" at Madison Tax Day Rally

It's funny what people will tell you if you ask them politely. A private security guard at today's Americans for Prosperity Tea Party rally in Madison said that his company was hired as a "scare tactic" to intimidate counter-protesters. I guess the Capitol Police just aren't mean enough for the Koch brothers.

Attendance was way down at the event this year, although AFP seems to be setting a new record for its inflated crowd size claims. More on that later...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sarah Palin Live! Listen to the 4/16/11 Madison Tea Party!

Yes, once again I've risked life and limb to attend and record a Tea Party event. Thanks to my sacrifice you can now enjoy all the glorious paranoia and vitriol in the comfort of your own home! Just click on the player below (click twice if you have IE). The entire recording is an hour and forty-five minutes long, so I strongly recommend taking it in small doses.

If I get some spare time I'll do an update with the starting times of all the major speakers, and I might even post some pictures!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Killing the University, Softly

UW-Madison is a great university. But it faces an attack that will destroy it as a public institution. State support for higher education in Wisconsin has been falling for decades, and Scott Walker and his conservative allies will reduce it even further. Unfortunately, Chancellor Biddy Martin is creating a situation which will doom future state aid, regardless of which party controls the Capitol.

We support public universities because they provide public good. If the average citizen can't see and recognize that good, support will dry up. For the vast majority of people in Wisconsin, the main public good provided by the UW-Madison campus is the opportunity to attend a world-class institution in their own back yard.

Biddy Martin is going to change that. With the best of intentions, she has signaled her willingness to accept a significant state aid cut in return for "flexibility". Flexibility means a huge tuition increase, ten percent fewer Wisconsin students , and dividing UW-Madison from the rest of the UW system

By making far more difficult for the average Wisconsinite to attend UW-Madison, while simultaneously separating Madison from the other campuses, Martin virtually guarantees continuing erosion of public support, and the eventual end of all state funding for the UW campus. It will take years, but as each reduction in state aid results in further tuition increases, and the need to accept even more out-of state (rich) students, the result will be inevitable. UW-Madison will evolve into an elite private university, no longer supported by, or accountable to, the people of Wisconsin, and out of reach of all but the most wealthy.

You might argue that the many other benefits from UW-Madison, including the billions of research dollars that it brings in, will protect it from such a future. You would be mistaken. Most Republicans, at least those in the Capitol, are perfectly happy with the concept of a privatized UW-Madison that serves the needs of business and the wealthy. And Democrats are not going to lift a finger to preserve an institution that their constituents can no longer hope to attend.

For better or worse, the Ivy League may finally invade Madison. The Wisconsin Idea will be the first casualty.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Why Are Conservatives Such Cowards?

I've been to a lot of events at the Wisconsin State Capitol. From anti-war rallies to Tea party protests. A few dozen people to many thousands. Even helped organize a few myself. Yet I've never seen anything like the heavy and obvious police presence at the labor rally today.

The Capitol Police usually take care of security in and around the Capitol. In my experience they have always been extremely professional and capable, unobtrusive yet always there when needed. Good cops doing a good job without stirring up a fuss. And that's been good enough for every other governor, and at every other event, in recent history.

But not for Scott Walker and his fellow cowards. Walker brought in DNR wardens, UW police, State troopers, and Sheriff's deputies, and just to make sure folks noticed all the cops he dressed them up in bright green and orange vests. Lots and lots of wasted taxpayer dollars walking around Capitol Square to show everybody how tough Walker is. I'm surprised he didn't call out the National Guard as well.

Maybe he's saving them for tomorrow's protest.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Spencer Black Retiring

I'm honored to say that Spencer Black has been my representative in the Assembly ever since we moved here twelve years ago. Spencer is a great guy, a true progressive, and a shining example of a truly dedicated and honest public servant. He's going to be be missed.

About a year ago I asked Spencer if he was going to run for Fred Risser's Senate seat should it open up. Spencer told me no, that he wanted to have more time to spend with his family, and that he was probably going to retire after this current session. I kept it quiet, partly because I didn't know if he wanted it public, but also because I was secretly hoping that he might change his mind. As good as Spencer has been in the Assembly, I think he would have been even better in the Senate! But it was not to be...

Best wishes to Spencer and his family. And if you do happen to read this, Spencer, please don't forget about the Democratic Party. We'd love to see you every now and then!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

MASSIVE Drop in Attendance at Madison Tea Party Compared to Last Year!

Actual photographic count shows that the 2010 Madison Tax Day Tea Party rally was only ONE-THIRD as big as 2009!

Despite the perfect weather, attendance at this year's Madison Tea Party was FAR lower than last year. Based on an actual photographic count, there were only 2,600 people at the event earlier today, compared to 8,000 in 2009. One-third the size of last year! This is a massive drop, and it indicates that both the size and the influence of the the Wisconsin Tea Party are rapidly declining.

Below is a picture showing the actual crowd count from today's Tea Party rally, with a red dot placed on every visible head. Click on it for a much larger image. It was taken at 12:15 PM, about 45 minutes into the rally, when the crowd was at its peak. There are 1,972 people visible in the picture, but the actual attendance was higher because some folks are obscured by other people or objects in front of them, and the picture cuts off the edge of the crowd, particularly on the left side. Perhaps somewhat generously I estimate that I missed one person for every two or three I counted, meaning that the actual crowd size was 2,600 to 3,000. I have similar pictures taken from other high vantage points around the event, and they are all consistent with this estimate. Public claims by Americans for Prosperity and other event sponsors that attendance was 12,000 are simply ludicrous, if not outright lies.

Much more to come from the Madison Tea Party, including some great pictures and audio. Stay tuned!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Tea Party Express Sponsor ResistNet Actually GOP Front Group

Why am I not surprised? I had never heard of ResistNet before I attended the Tea Party Express stop in Madison a few days ago, so I decided to check it out. Turns out that ResistNet was created, and is presumably controlled, by a GOP public relations firm called Shirley & Banister Public Affairs. SourceWatch has more details.

ResistNet's motto is "Home of the Patriotic Resistance." Seems like "Home of the Republican PR Operatives" would be a lot more accurate. Or maybe "Home of the uninformed teabaggers who are too dumb to figure out that they're being used."

To be fair, I should point out that the left also has its share of astroturf front groups, although they're not nearly as pervasive as those on the right. The Democratic and Republican Parties pretty much work from the same political playbook, but in this arena Republicans are much more successful. In part this is because Republicans and business interests simply have far more resources to throw at such efforts, but also because it's easier to manipulate the grassroots right, which is generally both less educated and less politically informed than the activist left.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Report and More Pictures from the Tea Party Express Stop in Madison

UPDATE: Somebody leaked a document to Politico which shows that the Tea Party Express is a pure astroturf operation created and run by Republican operatives through an outfit called Russo Marsh & Rogers. More and more it's looking like the entire Tea Party phenomena is just a very sophisticated PR campaign intended to help the Republican Party.

(Click any picture to enlarge)

Reform Dem attended the recent Tea Party Express stop in Madison so you wouldn't have to make small talk with folks like the women in the picture above! Despite the presence of a few crazies it was an interesting and entertaining experience. What it wasn't, despite the repeated refrain of the speakers, is grassroot. The event was very professionally run and produced. The very essence of astroturf, although the crowd seemed quite willing to ignore the evidence right in front of their faces. Ah, to be a teabagger and believe whatever I'm told...

Speaking of truth, it doesn't seem to be much of a requirement at Tea Party events. Some of the whoppers I heard from the speakers were truly amazing. Peter Cobb, the Wisconsin director of, kicked the evening off with, among other things, the most bizarre global warming diatribe I've ever heard. He claimed, as you would expect, that global warming is a hoax, then that carbon dioxide is actually a good thing because it's natural and helps plants grow, therefore environmentalists should support increased CO2 because they're opposed to erosion, which more plants would help to reduce, and if we get rid of the CO2 there will be too much oxygen anyway, so the real problem is that we need better science to find the truth. Whew! Maybe the real problems is that folks like Cobb shouldn't make shit up about subjects in which they're obviously clueless.

But the crowd loved it!

It's pretty obvious that the folks behind the Tea Party groups are worried about the reputation teabaggers have earned as nasty racist thugs. The theme that the Tea Party is a respectable nonviolent mainstream movement was hammered constantly. Did you know that it's actually impossible for a teabagger to be violent because the Tea Party is a human rights organization? I didn't either, but that's what they said, so it must be true.

Mark Neumann was up next, and I have to admit that for a wacky conservative he sure gives a good political speech. If he gets his campaign act together Neumann could potentially beat Scott Walker in the primary. Barrett is my guy, of course, but between Neumann and Walker I'd take the far more moderate Walker in a heartbeat. Following Neumann was Sarah Palin impersonator Rebecca Kleefisch, who is running for Lt. Governor. I have a previous post up about Kleefisch's rather despicable dog-whistle homophobia at the event, including audio of her entire speech, so I won't go into it here.

Then, finally, the main act arrived. The three big buses of the Tea Party Express!

The Tea Party Express is a conservative vaudeville act, a bunch of entertainers who speak, sing, and even dance a little, all while spouting Tea Party propaganda. Sounds corny, but they're quite talented and a lot of fun to watch, even if you don't agree with their extremist politics. The organizers obviously went to great lengths to make sure the Tea Party Express performers and staff are as diverse as possible. Gotta prove to the media that teabaggers aren't racists. Probably a third of the folks that got off those buses were black or brown, while the only person I saw in the crowd who wasn't pasty white was a Hmong guy trying to earn a little extra cash selling buttons.

The performer that the crowd seemed to like best was Polatik, a Mexican-American rapper. He really was quite good, despite some problems syncing with his background vocals. Wish I had audio of him to post, but I didn't have my recorder on. I cut out just after Polatik finished. It was getting late and I was thoroughly chilled by then. Here are some more pictures from the event, I apologize for not having more crowd and general shots, but most of the time it was just too dark to shoot without a flash. Enjoy!

Happy teabaggers! I blurred the face of the person in the center because he was clearly a minor.

One side...

And the other. Wonder if he knows that Rand was actually an atheist who practiced free love and once wrote "What are your masses but mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned for those who deserve it?"

There's a popular misconception, which I once shared, that many teabaggers are moderates or disaffected Dems. Not true! In reality they're almost all extremely conservative, although many are so far to the right of the Republican Party that they label themselves as independents. Pollster has a good article examining this issue.

I certainly agree with the first part of this bumper sticker, and I understand the point of the second, but it sure is a xenophobic way to express it.

The Tea Party can complain all the want about being misrepresented as violent extremists, but as long as they condone signs such as this, and make claims, as one of the speakers at the event actually did, that "Obama is a domestic enemy," then they fully deserve that condemnation.

And why are all these folks so radicalized and disconnected from truth and reality?

Of course.

Dog-whistle Homophobia from GOP Lt. Governor Candidate Rebecca Kleefisch

Tea Party events seem to bring out the worst in some people, and GOP Lt. Governor candidate Rebecca Kleefisch is no exception. She used yesterday's Tea Party Express stop in Madison as an opportunity to serve up a little dog-whistle homophobia to a receptive crowd. Many folks probably missed her double entendre, but the social conservatives in the audience certainly didn't. Using sex education as an example of unwarranted government involvement in personal matters, Kleefisch said that she wanted her children to learn about the birds and the bees from her, not from "Jim Doyle and Mark Pocan."

Kleefisch will undoubtedly claim that she's simply using Mark Pocan as an example of a big bad Madison liberal, and that Pocan's sexual orientation has absolutely nothing to do with it. But given Kleefisch's background, and her knowledge of Wisconsin politics, she knew exactly how the social conservatives in the audience would interpret her words: Democrats have put gays in charge of sex ed so that they can corrupt your children. Be afraid, be very afraid.

UPDATE: I've uploaded an MP3 file of Kleefisch at the 3/6/10 Tea Party Express event. The comments I referred to above occur about three minutes into her speech. It's worth listening just to hear hear how well Kleefisch imitates Sarah Palin. Quite deliberate no doubt, and the teabaggers love it!

Oh, the Irony...

A picture from the Tea Party Express stop in Madison earlier this evening. You'd think they'd notice something like this.

More pictures and info from the Madison event later. Some pretty shocking stuff.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Terrence Wall: Teabagger?

Will Terrence Wall show up at the Tea Party Express Tour stop in Madison tonight? Wall has donated the use of one of his properties for the event, and it would be a perfect opportunity for him to start cozying up to the radical right.

Although being closely associated with an increasingly strident and violent fringe group like the Tea Party could hurt Wall in the general election against Russ Feingold, he has a much more immediate problem: Tommy Thompson. Current polling shows that if Thompson enters the race he'll crush Wall in the primary. How can Wall even the playing field? Perhaps by going the populist Tea Party route while painting Thompson as a corrupt Washington insider.

Will he or won't he? It will be very interesting to see if Wall takes the plunge tonight. At the very least, the fact that he's providing a free venue for the event shows that he's keeping all his teabagging options open.