Wisconsin GOP uses rare session to weaken incoming governor
By SCOTT BAUER
Tuesday, December 4
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Still stinging from an election loss, Wisconsin Republicans on Monday tried to push through measures that would weaken the incoming Democratic administration and allow outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker to make one last major mark on the state’s political landscape after his defeat in November.
They backed down, for now, on changing the 2020 presidential primary date at a cost of millions of dollars to benefit a conservative state Supreme Court justice. That had been introduced but did not win approval in committee, meaning it is likely dead.
Angry opponents filled the hallways of the Wisconsin Capitol, and a hearing room, banging on doors and chanting “Respect our votes!” and “Shame!”
Republicans forged ahead despite threats of lawsuits, claims by Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers and others that they were trying to invalidate the election results and howls of protest from hundreds of people who showed up for a public hearing.
A Republican-controlled legislative committee held a hearing for nine hours, before voting just before midnight along party lines to pass the bills, setting up final approval in the Senate and Assembly on Tuesday.
The lame-duck maneuvering in Wisconsin is similar to action taken by Republicans in North Carolina two years ago and is being discussed in Michigan before a Democratic governor takes over there.
The protests, coming at the end of Walker’s eight years in office, were reminiscent of tumult that came shortly after he took office in 2011, when he moved to end collective bargaining powers for public sector unions.
Other measures would weaken the attorney general’s office by allowing Republican legislative leaders to intervene in cases and hire their own attorneys. A legislative committee, rather than the attorney general, would have to sign off on withdrawing from federal lawsuits.
That would stop Evers and incoming Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul from fulfilling their campaign promises to withdraw Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit seeking repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald downplayed concerns about the lame-duck session, saying, “I don’t think it’s outrageous at all.”
“But listen, I’m concerned,” he said. “I think that Gov.-elect Evers is going to bring a liberal agenda to Wisconsin.”
Walker signaled support for the package.
“All the talk about reining in power, it really doesn’t,” Walker told reporters Monday afternoon at the executive mansion.
Fitzgerald said Walker and his chief of staff were deeply involved in crafting the measures.
Fitzgerald would not say whether there was enough support among Republicans for moving the 2020 presidential primary date, a change that would cost about $7 million and has drawn opposition from nearly every county election official.
But the committee’s rejection of the bill likely means it is dead.
Last week, Fitzgerald said that Republicans want to move the 2020 presidential primary, when Democratic turnout is expected to be high, so it won’t be on the same date as an April election where Walker-appointed Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly is on the ballot, thereby improving his chances of victory.
Walker said he has always found it odd that the state holds partisan and nonpartisan races on the same date. The presidential primary is partisan, but state Supreme Court candidates are officially nonpartisan, although Kelly is part of a clear conservative-leaning majority on the high court.
The state Elections Commission unanimously adopted a motion Monday declaring that the shift would be “extraordinarily difficult” and costly without additional funding. Commissioner Mark Thomsen, a Democratic appointee, called the plan “the biggest waste of money for a single person that I can think of” during discussion preceding the vote.
The committee did approve limiting early voting to no more than two weeks before an election.
Similar limitations on early voting were found unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2016, and Democrats have threatened legal action again.
A news conference where Fitzgerald and other Republican leaders spoke was peppered with catcalls from protesters.
The votes to pass the sweeping package of bills on Tuesday would come five weeks before Evers is slated to take office.
It was the first lame-duck session in Wisconsin in eight years. The last such session happened just before Walker took office, when Democrats tried unsuccessfully to approve union contracts.
Last month, Democrats won every constitutional office, including governor and attorney general.
Evers vowed to fight the session, saying lawsuits were being explored. He called on the people of Wisconsin to contact their legislators even as the bills were speeding through. They were just made public late Friday .
“This is rancor and politics as usual,” Evers said in written testimony to the committee. “It flies in the face of democratic institutions and the checks and balances that are intended to prevent power-hungry politicians from clinging to control when they do not get their way.”
The executive director of One Wisconsin Now, which filed a lawsuit challenging the previous attempt to limit early voting, said the GOP’s latest effort shows they “refuse to accept the results of the 2018 elections” and are worried about large voter turnout.
About 565,000 people voted early in the November elections.
Democratic lawmakers who sit on the committee holding the hearing Monday said the scope of the lame-duck session was unprecedented.
“It’s a power grab,” said Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach. “They lost and they’re throwing a fit.”
Erpenbach said expected legal challenges to what is passed could “grind things to a halt” in the Legislature for as much as a year.
Republicans have had majorities in the state Senate and Assembly since 2011 and worked with Walker to pass a host of conservative priorities. The GOP will maintain its majorities in the Legislature next year when Evers takes over.
Associated Press writers Todd Richmond and Ivan Moreno in Milwaukee contributed to this report.
Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sbauerAP
I dig through archives to unearth hidden stories from African-American history
December 4, 2018
Author: Jane Landers, Professor of History, Vanderbilt University
Disclosure statement: Jane Landers has received funding from The Black Caucus of the Florida Legislature, Latin American Materials Project, National Endowment for the Humanities Collaborative Research Grant, British Library Endangered Archives Programme, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Diocese of St. Augustine, the Historic St. Augustine Research Institute, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Guggenheim Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Vanderbilt University’s Jane and Alexander Heard Library.
Partners: Vanderbilt University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
Many years ago, as a graduate student searching in the archives of Spanish Florida, I discovered the first “underground railroad” of enslaved Africans escaping from Protestant Carolina to find religious sanctuary in Catholic Florida. In 1738, these runaways formed Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, the first free black settlement in what became the U.S.
The excitement of that discovery encouraged me to keep digging. After doing additional research in Spain, I followed the trail of the Mose villagers to Cuba, where they had emigrated when Great Britain acquired Florida. I found many of them in 18th-century church records in Havana, Matanzas, Regla, Guanabacoa and San Miguel del Padrón.
Today, those records and others live on in the Slave Societies Digital Archive. This archive, which I launched in 2003, now holds approximately 600,000 images dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Since its creation, the archive has led to new insights into African populations in the Americas.
What we’ve found
The Slave Societies Digital Archive documents the lives of approximately 6 million free and enslaved Africans, their descendants, and the indigenous, European and Asian people with whom they interacted.
When searching for and preserving archives, our researchers must race against time. These fast-vanishing records are threatened daily by tropical humidity, hurricanes, political instability and neglect.
The work is usually challenging and sometimes risky. Our equipment has been stolen in several locations. Soon after we left the remote community of Quibdó, Colombia, a gun battle erupted in the surrounding jungles between the government military forces and Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, better known as FARC. It’s no wonder that one of our team members called what we do “guerrilla preservation.”
This hard work has allowed us to discover more about the lives of slaves in the Americas. For example, the Catholic Church mandated the baptism of enslaved Africans in the 15th century. The baptismal records now preserved in the Slave Societies Digital Archive are the oldest and most uniform serial data available for African-American history.
These unique documents also offer detailed information regarding the diverse ethnic origins of Africans in the Atlantic world. Once baptized, Africans and their descendants were eligible for the sacraments of Christian marriage and burial, adding to their historical record. Through membership in the Catholic Church, families also generated a host of other religious documentation, such as confirmations, petitions to wed, wills and even annulments.
In addition, Africans and their descendants joined church brotherhoods organized along ethnic lines. These groups recorded not only ceremonial and religious aspects of their members’ lives, but also their social, political and economic networks.
Previously unknown church records for Havana’s black Brotherhood of St. Joseph the Carpenter document the membership of Jose Antonio Aponte, executed by Spanish officials in 1812 for leading an alleged slave conspiracy. Our records similarly document the marriage and death of another famed “conspirator” – the mulatto poet Gabriel de la Concepcion Valdes, better known as Placido.
Africans and their descendants also left a documentary trail in municipal and provincial archives, including petitions, property registries and disputes, bills of sale, dowries and letters from owners granting slaves their freedom.
Sharing our discoveries
My work in the rich records in Florida, Spain and Cuba taught me how to track early African history elsewhere. Additional grants have allowed our archival teams to expand to new sites in Brazil, Cuba and Colombia and, finally, to digitize the church records for Spanish Florida.
Thanks to those records, and the excavations of archaeologist Kathleen Deagan, Mose, the settlement that I first studied as a graduate student, is today a National Historical Landmark. It boasts a new museum where the Fort Mose Historical Society organizes historical reenactments and community events.
Each of the modern nations whose African history we are tracking still struggles with the legacy of slavery. Both scholars and the public who are interested in African heritage can look at these materials to help define national identities in multicultural societies. For example, the Brazilian Constitution of 1988 granted land rights to self-identified quilombolas, or runaway slaves. One group was able to find their ancestors in church records we preserved for the state of Rio de Janeiro.
Since the archive’s inception, we have worked to ensure that these precious materials are freely available to the interested public. Our teams also provide copies of all digitized records to our host churches and archives, as well as donate cameras and other necessary equipment to allow local teams to continue preserving their own endangered history.
Next, we hope to begin a new project in the Dominican Republic, Spain’s first colony in the New World and my childhood home. It boasts many of Europe’s “firsts” in the Western Hemisphere. The capital of Santo Domingo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where Spaniards established the first monastery, the first hospital, the first court of appeals, the first university, the first cathedral in the Americas – and a free black town that predates Mose, the site where all this work first started.
Trump praises witness who refuses to testify against him
By MICHAEL BALSAMO and ERIC TUCKER
Tuesday, December 4
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump praised a key witness in the Russia investigation Monday for having the “guts” not to testify against him, and said his former lawyer — who cut a deal with prosecutors — should head straight to prison.
In a pair of politically charged tweets, Trump made clear that he is closely watching those who turn on him in the special counsel’s probe, which has ensnared some of the president’s closest advisers. So far, five people in Trump’s orbit have pleaded guilty to federal charges.
The tweets add to mounting questions about whether Trump is taking steps to improperly influence witnesses in an investigation that has enraged him and shadowed his administration. Some legal experts, though, say they may not amount to witness tampering if Trump didn’t directly tell others what to say or not say.
Trump already has come under scrutiny from critics who fear he may use his executive power to protect himself as well as friends and supporters. Last week, Trump told the New York Post that a pardon for his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was not off the table.
Prosecutors say Manafort torpedoed his plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller by repeatedly lying to them, although Manafort denies that he lied.
In one of Monday’s tweets, Trump took aim at Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney who once grandly declared he would “take a bullet” for the president but ultimately took a plea deal.
Cohen pleaded guilty last week to lying to Congress about negotiations he had on Trump’s behalf for a real estate deal in Moscow.
Though he told lawmakers the talks were done by January 2016, he admitted they actually lasted as late as June — after Trump had clinched the Republican nomination and after Russians had penetrated Democratic email accounts for communications later released through WikiLeaks.
Cohen said he lied out of loyalty to Trump, who insisted throughout the campaign that he had no business dealings in Russia, and to be consistent with his political messaging.
On Monday, Trump ripped into Cohen on Twitter.
“You mean he can do all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things having to do with fraud, big loans, Taxis, etc., and not serve a long prison term?” Trump added that Cohen “makes up stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal for himself.”
Trump added: “He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence.”
Minutes later, Trump lavished praise on his former campaign adviser Roger Stone. Mueller’s prosecutors are investigating Stone to learn whether he had advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans to release hacked material damaging to Hillary Clinton’s presidential effort.
Trump lauded Stone for saying he’d never testify against the president.
“This statement was recently made by Roger Stone, essentially stating that he will not be forced by a rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about ‘President Trump,’” he tweeted. “Nice to know that some people still have ‘guts!’”
Stone then posted a screenshot of Trump’s tweet with a caption that said he was proud of their 40-year relationship and “prouder still of the amazing job he is doing making America Great Again!”
Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said Trump’s tweet was inappropriate.
“The President of the United States should not be using his platform to influence potential witnesses in a federal investigation involving his campaign,” Warner said in a tweet.
Stone said the idea that Trump’s tweet amount to witness tampering is “hysterical.”
“I’m not a witness to any proceeding,” he said.
David Weinstein, a former Justice Department prosecutor in Florida, said he was surprised by Trump’s comments Monday, but didn’t believe the tweets alone rose to the level of obstruction or witness tampering because Trump did not explicitly tell anyone what to say or not to say. Subjects of an investigation can still communicate to others entangled in a probe, and though they can encourage them to tell the truth, they cannot coach them to lie, he said.
“What he seems to be saying is that people who continue to show support for him, in some way, may be rewarded for that support,” Weinstein said. “I don’t think it rises to the level of obstruction yet, but it certainly would cause people who are conducting the investigation to start asking questions about whether or not the target has reached out to them.”
Trump’s message had an immediate effect on supporters. His remarks prompted Michael Caputo, the president’s former campaign aide and a longtime Stone friend, to launch a “GoFundMe” account to help pay Stone’s mounting legal fees.
Stone said he’s paid about half a million in legal fees already and is projecting that total to reach $2 million.
“I require a small platoon of excellent lawyers and they’re not inexpensive,” he said.
A conservative author, who is an associate of Stone and in the crosshairs of Mueller’s investigation, filed a complaint Monday with the Justice Department, alleging prosecutors tried to coerce him to give false testimony and threatened to indict him.
Investigators are looking into whether Jerome Corsi had contact with WikiLeaks or knew about their plans to release emails damaging to Clinton. Corsi has released documents showing Mueller’s prosecutors offered him a deal to plead guilty to a false statements charge but he’s rejected the offer. Corsi says he didn’t knowingly mislead investigators and wasn’t in contact with WikiLeaks. The Justice Department declined to comment on his complaint.
The Russia investigation has dogged Trump for two years. In recent weeks, Trump has sharpened his criticism, accusing Mueller’s prosecutors of dirty tactics and pressuring witnesses to lie.
Cohen’s decision to turn on his former boss was a particularly striking blow for the president.
Cohen pleaded guilty in August to eight criminal counts, including campaign-finance violations, in a separate case unrelated to Mueller’s investigation. He said Trump directed him to arrange the payment of hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels and a former Playboy model in the run-up to the 2016 campaign.
Cohen’s admission during that court appearance marked the first time that a Trump associate had gone to court and implicated Trump in a crime.
Whether — or when — a president can be prosecuted remains a matter of legal dispute. Trump has denied any wrongdoing as well as the extramarital affairs.
Associated Press writers Chad Day and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.
Criticism of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s clothes echoes attacks against early female labor activists
December 4, 2018
Author: Einav Rabinovitch-Fox, Visiting Assistant Professor, Case Western Reserve University
Disclosure statement: Einav Rabinovitch-Fox does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Case Western Reserve University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
As the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, 29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has attracted much media attention.
A young outspoken woman who defines herself as “an educator, an organizer, a working-class New Yorker,” Ocasio-Cortez has positioned herself as an outsider who isn’t afraid of speaking truth to power.
While her radical political positions – from abolishing ICE to Medicare for all – is responsible for some of that publicity, her fashion choices have also drawn a lot of scrutiny.
“I’ll tell you something,” Washington Examiner reporter Eddie Scarry tweeted on Nov. 16, “that jacket and coat don’t look like a girl who struggles.”
It seems that some critics just can’t accept the fact that an unapologetic Democratic socialist like Ocasio-Cortez – who calls for a more equal distribution of wealth and fair shake to workers – can also wear designer clothes.
To a historian like me who writes about fashion and politics, the attention to Ocasio-Cortez’s clothing as a way to criticize her politics is an all-too-familiar line of attack.
Ocasio-Cortez isn’t the first woman or even the first outsider to receive such treatment.
In particular, I’m reminded of Clara Lemlich, a young radical socialist who used fashion as a form of empowerment while she fought for workers’ rights.
Lemlich – like Ocasio-Cortez – wasn’t afraid to take on big business while wearing fancy clothes.
‘We like new hats’
In 1909, when she was only 23 years old, Lemlich defied the male union leadership whom she saw as too hesitant and out of touch.
In what would come to be known as the “Uprising of the 20,000,” Lemlich led thousands of garment workers – the majority of them young women – to walk out from their workplace and go on a strike.
That 14-week strike between November 1909 and February 1910 was the largest strike by women to date, turning what was thought of as a disorganized workforce into a united, political force.
Strikers demanded better wages, hours and working conditions. But they also called to end the pervasive sexual harassment in the shops, safer workrooms, and for dressing rooms with mirrors and hooks on the walls, so workers could protect their elegant clothes during the workday.
“We like new hats as well as other young women. Why shouldn’t we?” argued Lemlich, justifying strikers’ demands. And when they went out to the streets, strikers were also wearing those nice clothes of theirs, updated according to the latest trends.
As historian Nan Enstad has shown, insisting on their right to maintain a fashionable appearance was not a frivolous pursuit of poor women living beyond their means. It was an important political strategy in strikers’ struggle to gain rights and respect as women, workers and Americans.
When they picketed the streets wearing their best clothes, strikers challenged the image of the “deserving poor” that depicted female workers as helpless victims deserving of mercy.
Wearing a fancy dress or a hat signaled their economic independence and their respectability as ladies. But it also spoke to their right to be taken seriously and to have their voices heard.
Activism and fashion can work together
The strikers’ fashionable appearance was heavily criticized by middle-class observers and the male union leadership. To them, it was evidence that these women weren’t really struggling as much as they claimed to be.
Sarah Comstock, a reporter for Collier’s magazine, commented that “I had come to observe the Crisis of Social Condition; but apparently this was a Festive Occasion,” pointing to the fact that the strikers’ clothes made them look like they didn’t have any real grievances.
“Lingerie waists were elaborate, pufftowered,” she observed. “There were picture turbans and di’mont pendants.”
The New York Sun also mocked the strikers, calling them the “unwonted leisure class…all dressed in holiday attire” and showing no evidence of harsh treatment.
To critics like Comstock and the New York Sun, the fact that strikers aspired for better working conditions that would allow them to go beyond mere survival – and would provide them with disposable income to spend their wages as they saw fit – wasn’t a privilege that working-class women should have.
Despite the criticism, Lemlich and her fellow strikers were able to win concessions from factory owners for most of their demands. They also turned Local 25 of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union into one of the most influential labor unions in the country, changing for the better the lives of millions of workers like themselves.
But more importantly, Lemlich and her colleagues changed the perception of what politically radical women should look like. They demonstrated that socialism and labor struggles were not in opposition to fashionable appearances.
Today, their legacy is embodied in Ocasio-Cortez’s message. In fact, if Clara Lemlich were alive today, she would probably smile at Ocasio-Cortez’s response to her critics.
The reason some journalists “can’t help but obsess about my clothes [and] rent,” she tweeted, is because “women like me aren’t supposed to run for office – or win.”
Ocasio-Cortez has already begun to fashion an image for women who, as her worn-out campaign shoes can attest, not only know how to “talk the talk,” but can also “walk the walk.”
Joe Celko is a Friend of The Conversation: This seems to be an American cultural insanity. Hillary Clinton gets hit for her pantsuits. Mrs. Trump gets hit for just about anything she wears. The mainstream media always remark on what a female politician is wearing, but anything short of a clown suit on a male politician is not worth mentioning (I guess we became really dull dressers after the 1970s, and hip hugger bellbottoms were out of style :-)) I cannot find the exact quote, but it was from Mark Twain to the effect that clothes really do make the man; naked people have very little influence in Congress 🙂