Updates on Wisconsin, the War on Education, the War on Americans in Unions, the assault on public employees by Wisconsin Republicans, etc., etc.

April 1, 2011

First, be sure to read Zeno’s work over at Halfway There.  Zeno’s writing will make your mouth water, your pupils expand, your pulse quicken, your hands go all Galvanic on you, and otherwise get your attention — but in this case, his topic is important, too.  Zeno explains the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) with a peek inside ALEC’s  sumptuous, legislator-seducing red tent.   He’s got documents from ALEC, secured through not completely legitimate means (but neither are they illegal), and he lays the group bare.  It’s not a pleasant sight if you’re not fond of adipose tissue and necrosis.

Second, at Desmogblog you should check out John Mashey’s work on loose political organizations joined to politically oppose scientists learning about global warming, to oppose publication of findings about global warming, and to oppose government action to do anything to stop global warming.  Interestingly enough, Mashey informs me, the current cast of malefactors in Wisconsin, appear earlier as malefactors in the discussions and actions about global warming.  Coincidence?

And then stay tuned.  There is more to come on the issue of the Republican Party’s rebirth of McCarthyism, and the witch hunt they wish to conduct against historian Bill Cronon, I’m sure.


Historians back Cronon against Wisconsin witch hunt

March 31, 2011

Just the news, folks.  Just the news.

The Organization of American Historians Speaks Out on Academic Freedom and Defends OAH Member and University of Wisconsin–Madison Professor William Cronon

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 30, 2011

For more information, contact:
Katherine M. Finley, Executive Director
Organization of American Historians
112 N. Bryan Avenue, Bloomington, IN 47401
ph 812.855.7311; fax 812.855.0696

The Executive Committee of the Organization of American Historians (OAH), led by President Alice Kessler-Harris, R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of History at Columbia University, issued the following statement on March 30, 2011, supporting academic freedom and deploring the recent efforts of Wisconsin politicians to intimidate OAH member and professor William Cronon:

The Executive Committee of the Organization of American Historians deplores the efforts of Republican party operatives in the state of Wisconsin to intimidate Professor William Cronon, a distinguished and respected member of our organization and currently the president-elect of our sister association, the American Historical Association. As a professional historian, Professor Cronon has used his extensive knowledge of American history to provide a historical context for recent events in Wisconsin. Requiring him to provide his e-mail correspondence, as the Republican party of Wisconsin has now done, will inevitably have a chilling effect on the capacity of all academics to engage in wide public debate. The timing and character of the Freedom of Information Act request for Professor Cronon’s e-mail correspondence leave no doubt that the purpose of this request is to use the authority of the state to prevent William Cronon from freely exercising his rights as a citizen and as a public employee.

Cronon, a professor of environmental and U.S. western history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, has come under fire from the Wisconsin Republican party. A longtime member of the OAH and a former member of its executive board, Cronon is the incoming president of the American Historical Association. He has been thrust into the spotlight for his March 15, 2011, blog post and for a subsequent op-ed piece in the New York Times, critical of the Wisconsin legislature and Governor Scott Walker. The OAH Executive Committee believes that the action of the Wisconsin Republican party in requesting e-mails sent by Professor Cronon will have a negative impact on academics who engage in wide public debate.

For Further Reading

American Historical Association, “AHA Deplores Effort to Intimidate William Cronon,” online posting, March 27, 2011, AHA Today http://blog.historians.org/news/1293/aha-council-deplores-recent-intimidation-efforts-aimed-at-cronon.

William Cronon, “Who’s Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn’t Start Here),” online posting, March 15, 2011, Scholar as Citizen, http://scholarcitizen.williamcronon.net/2011/03/15/alec/.

William Cronon, “Wisconsin’s Radical Break,” New York Times, March 21, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/22/opinion/22cronon.html.

William Cronon, “Abusing Open Records to Attack Academic Freedom,” online posting, March 24, 2011, Scholar as Citizen, http://scholarcitizen.williamcronon.net/2011/03/24/open-records-attack-on-academic-freedom/.

Posted: Mar. 30, 2011


FOIA “request” in Wisconsin could be violation of whistleblower protection law

March 27, 2011

Wisconsinite Jean Detjen sent me a note correcting my misinformation:  Wisconsin does indeed have a whistleblower protection act.  The law protects Wisconsin state employees, against retaliation for disclosing information about wrongdoing.

William Cronon, Frederick Jackson Turner Professor of History, University of Wisconsin

William Cronon, Frederick Jackson Turner Professor of History, University of Wisconsin - University of Wisconsin photo

My reading suggests that, since professors are not specifically exempted, Prof. Cronon, at the University of Wisconsin, is specifically protected.

If the University of Wisconsin gives that answer to the Wisconsin Republican Party, however, the Party will argue that it is not a government official prevented from retaliating against a government employee.  That would be ample reason for the state to deny the FOIA request of the Party flatly and completely.

There is another, potentially more pernicious angle here:  The Republican Party in Wisconsin is, in this case, an agent of the Republicans in the state legislature, those whose tails are on the line for violating Wisconsin law, and as Prof. Cronon outlines it, Wisconsin tradition and historical norms.  It’s likely that the Party is acting at the direction of legislators.

In short, it’s kind of an organized crime action.  I think that the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) would cover this sort of action — any retaliation for hire, or by an agent, which creates a pattern or practice of organized crime activities.  Worse for the Wisconsin Republicans, if there were an ambitious U.S. attorney out there somewhere, there is no scienter requirement on RICO actions — that is, there need not be a clear formation of criminal intent.  The mere actions of an organized crime group, even with no intent to break the law, can be a RICO violation.

Even worse for the Republicans, RICO is available for anyone to use.  Were I Prof. Cronon, and were the Republicans to press their FOIA request to court, I’d counterclaim in federal court with the RICO statute.

That’s a nasty escalation.  But in these days, in this case, where a state party organization has gone to the employer of a university professor to get his job after he merely reported history, I wouldn’t take chances that the Republicans would later play fair or nice.

Every step against Cronon, every press release, every statement from a legislator or party apparatchik, provides more evidence of the coordinated effort, and establishes further the “pattern and practice” of organized crime activity.

Maybe cool heads will soon prevail, maybe patriotism and love of the First Amendment will break out among Wisconsin Republicans, and they will retract their demand that Prof. Cronon deliver them all of his e-mails as a professor at  the University of Wisconsin.

Maybe badgers will fly.

“Badger” is supposed to be the mascot of Wisconsin’s top-flight university, not a tool of partisan politics.


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