In December, 2011, Tea Party Governor Scott Walker declared 2012 to be Wisconsin’s Year of the Veteran. Ironic given his past dealings concerning WI veterans over the years both as Milwaukee County Executive and Governor of WI. His history with WI veterans reads like a strategy, an extremist Christian Crusade to conquer our great state using the same techniques as Taliban extremists did when they took over Afghanistan.
Some of the first laws Walker enacted – Act 10, the 2011-2012 Budget, and AB 97 – allowed him to seize control of the assets of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans’ Affairs and our veterans.
To conquer a country, there are certain steps that need to be taken. The first step: To control the media and thus be able to promote your propaganda of deception to citizens. Walker did this during the 2010 election cycle with his cries of, “Wisconsin is broke!” and his brown bag routine. What the people of Wisconsin did not know then, but due to the John Doe probe findings we do know now, is that Walker’s close friend and campaign staffer Tim Russell actually embezzled from the veterans “Operation Freedom” charity funds to set up an illegal campaign website – Friends of Scott Walker – in the Milwaukee County Office for his gubernatorial run.
When it was reported that these charity funds were missing, in true Walker political crony style, Russell was not only allowed to continue to manage these funds, but also served as Treasurer for Milwaukee County GOP. Any other county or state employee would have been fired. Several other staffers were found to be working on his campaign during county time, including Darlene Wink who was sending glowing accounts of Mr Walker’s qualifications to be Wisconsin’s next Governor to several newspapers on county time.
And then there is Kevin Kavanaugh, who is charged with felony embezzlement for misusing county workers Employee Trust Funds for personal gain, and whom Walker appointed to the Milwaukee County Veterans Service Office Board. During this time a significant amount of the Veterans Trust Funds disappeared as well.
We veterans will never know where these funds went. The 2011-2013 state budget passed in the early months of 2011 transferred all the assets of the WI Department of Veterans Affairs to the newly created Department of Safety and Professional Services. They are no longer under the control of veterans.
Once elected under false pretenses, Walker controlled state military and law enforcement agencies. He swiftly placed Stephen “Papa” Fitzgerald, Senate Majority Leader Scott and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald’s father, in the top cop position as head of the State Patrol. As the Budget Repair Bill eliminating meaningful collective bargaining for state workers was unveiled, Walker said that if protests got out of control, he intended to call in the National Guard.
Walker ordered law enforcement officers to increase actions towards protestors, re-assigning a ridiculously large number of state troopers and DNR game wardens to patrol the Capitol. Some of these actions included locking citizens out of the Capitol building illegally, sending the State Patrol to arrest the fourteen Democrat Senators to force them to vote on the Budget Repair Bill, and confiscation of cameras and recorders in the Assembly and Senate galleries.
The next step was to control the elections, and soon the now infamous and possibly illegal Voter ID Bill was passed. I tried to explain to our Governor in December that, although it was nice of him to give donated ornaments from the Capitol in Madison to the veterans living in our state veterans homes, he should also take steps to ensure they would not be denied their right to vote in the 2012 elections. This is a real possibility since their military issued VA cards were not acceptable as photo ID.
This Voter ID law violates the rights of many of our WWII veterans who no longer drive and thus do not have easy access to a nearby DMV office, or a WI drivers license or birth certificate that they would need to obtain a Wisconsin photo ID. At over 80 years old, it is good they are no longer driving on our roads. But as a veteran myself I feel it is a crime for anyone to deny a veteran the right to participate in democracy and vote for their government representatives!
I happen to be a proud member of WI Women’s Network, a group of women veterans. There are 28,000 female veterans in our great state who served to defend our American freedoms and objected to this voter ID bill. We see it costing our elderly, homeless,and disabled, male and female veterans the right to freely vote in any election after serving to defend our American flag and Constitution against ALL enemies, both foreign and domestic.
Did we really serve to defend our homeland, our families, our American freedom and democracy that is the envy of the world, only to have politicians pass a bill that denied our right to vote? Surely this is not our America or our Wisconsin! During the first test of the new Voter ID law in the February 21, 2012 elections, we saw women, minorities and veterans who discovered that they were unable to vote because they did not have the proper photo ID, or due to the Wisconsin GOP TEA Party secret redistricting maps, their polling place had been changed unbeknownst to them.
Currently, both of these TEAhadist laws to suppress citizens’ ability to participate in democracy have been overturned in the WI courts and are on hold. But since the Supreme Court is now also firmly under TEA Party control, our job as veterans is to alert the citizens of what has become the state of Fitzwalkerstan, and educate our families, friends, neighbors and co-workers about the crucial importance of voting in the local, state and federal elections coming up in the next 90 days.
These include the April 3 GOP Presidential primary, the May 8 Senate recall elections and primaries, and the June 5 recall election for Gov. Walker & Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. In order to vote, you will still be required to sign in at the polls and prove your current address, although due to injunctions photo ID will not be required. If possible, ask to use a paper ballot instead of the touchscreen voting machines so that your vote does not get flipped, and to ensure that there is a clear paper trail so that neither political party steals the votes and the voices of our citizens. The next step in this takeover is to conceal the actual votes by using electronic machines that are already outlawed in two states due to inconsistencies.
The other step of these TEA Party extremists sponsored by corporate backers of the American Legislative Exchange Council, was to give Gov. Walker total control of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs through AB97. Walker now appoints not only the new board members, but also the Secretary of the Department of Veteran Affairs who serves at his “pleasure.”
After over 100 years of non-partisan administration of the DVA, our veterans are now at the mercy of rapidly changing political ideas. Taking over the DVA was an act which has divided many veterans organizations. Our veterans are the real losers here as they deal with budget cuts to our educational benefits, small business loans for returning veterans, and access to State employment at other than entry level positions.
In the last weeks of the legislative session, our TEAhadist Assembly passed several laws that openly violate women’s rights. The first was a repeal of the Equal pay for Equal Work Act that allows criminal penalties for companies who discriminate against women. This is something we female veterans cannot understand since we do the same work as our male counterparts and should be able to file suit on a state level if our civilian employer is discriminating against us for simply being female.
Then there were bills to define single parent households as contributors to child abuse, the repeal of the “Healthy Youth” Act so schools can teach abstinence only sex ed, and the enhanced felony charges for MD’s who do not “ensure” a woman seeking an abortion is not coerced into it. The Taliban stripped Afghan women of their right to own property, to be educated, and to vote and now we see the TEA Party in Wisconsin trying to make women second class citizens as well!
Women veterans who served in the Middle East have seen the abuses that these corrupt type of governments inflict due to their religious zeal. We watched in the newscasts as the people of Syria, Libya, Greece and Spain protest their Governments. The local news carried these stories, but not those in Madison where the largest citizen protests since the Viet Nam war occurred.
We women veterans serve so that the rights of men, women and children in third world countries are restored, while here in WI our own are being denied by the extreme right wing TEA Party. Just as when the jihadist Taliban took over Afghanistan, the first thing they did was to send those brave, intelligent women back to the 14th century submissive servant roles. So too the Wisconsin TEA GOP politicians are trying to put our women back to the 18th century!
When the rights of women to join unions are denied (Act 10 primarily affected nurses and teachers unions); when their rights are denied to obtain an education ($800 million in school funding cuts), to start a small business ($2million in veteran loans cut), and when the attack on equal quality healthcare, confidentiality, or choice regarding reproductive rights takes place, a critical denial of a woman’s right to experience true freedom occurs.
We lose the choice to go to college, to pursue a career outside the home, or even to join the military when we lose the option of contraception as a way to choose when to start a family. It is that kind of control that these male Christian conservative politicians wish to impose on our mothers, sisters , and daughters. As a nurse, I guarantee many of our Women Warriors have used some form of birth control while serving her country. No woman wants to be fighting in a desert or jungle while pregnant. We can now see in Wisconsin a direct correlation of what the Taliban did in Afghanistan and what the TEAhadist Fitzwalkerstan regime is doing in Wisconsin.
So I say, is 2012 really the year to honor our WI veterans? How can an Administration who condoned diverting veteran funds and assets, revoking veterans rights to participate in democracy, and denying women’s rights to choose in reproductive healthcare say they honor our veterans? They have no idea what honor, duty or integrity are all about.