When you listen to Scott Walker, do you think “beach party”? No? Well, long before “The Electrician,” before “The Plague,” even before “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore,” the Walker Brothers appeared in the drive-in movie Beach Ball (1965), starring Edd “Kookie” Byrnes of 77 Sunset Strip.
Scott Walker sings “Doin’ the Jerk” in Beach Ball
Even by the standards of the beach party genre, Beach Ball is pretty bad, though it’s considerably enlivened by the musical guests. The Supremes, the Four Seasons, the Righteous Brothers, and the surf band the Hondells (whose every song endorsed Hondas) all take higher billing than the Walkers, who had as yet no hits to their name.
The Walkers play one of Scott’s first compositions, “Doin’ the Jerk,” a tribute to the dance craze of 1964. Because their performance at the movie’s climactic rock ‘n’ roll/hot rod festival is intercut with a car chase, “Doin’ the Jerk” stretches over six minutes of film. Scott Walker-loving hodads like me will want to skip directly to 1:06:40, though I wish the best of luck to those brave souls who settle in for the whole thing.
A couple of days ago, a web page was posted with nothing on it but the above graphic and a 4AD Records logo, leading to speculation online as to whether a collaboration was afoot between that label’s artist Scott Walker (the legendarily unorthodox pop singer with the brain-wobbling baritone, not the evil, shitty Midwestern U.S. governor) and the ambient drone metal band Sunn O))). Yesterday, the Quietus confirmed that this is indeed the case, sending orgasmic reverberations throughout greater rock snobdom, as well as prompting this question—since “Sunn O)))” is merely pronounced “sun,” is this band just called “Scott?”
Confirming the project, a source at the label told us: “They’re working together and there is a record coming later in the year”, but wouldn’t be pressed on more details.
If you’re not familiar with Walker, he was the lead vocalist of the ‘60s pop band the Walker Brothers (neither actually brothers nor born named “Walker”), who’re remembered for wonderful singles like their vastly superior 1966 remake of the Frankie Valli hit “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” and their 1975 comeback song “No Regrets.” Walker’s solo career took extremely strange turns from there, however. He released fourexcellentpopalbums of increasing strangeness and difficulty. His compositions eventually started to jettison pop convention altogether, as he sought inspiration in avant-garde classical music. The eventual result was a series of staggeringly strange, bleak, and often simultaneously beautiful and frightening albums, Tilt, The Drift and the most recent, 2012’s amazing Bish Bosch. This unlikely transition from teen magazine idol to barely-classifiable artperson was chronicled in the must-see 2006 documentary Scott Walker: 30 Century Man.
As for Sunn O))), this kind of stuff you either love or hate. They’re arty fellow travelers with thoroughgoingly droooooney bands like Pelican and Jesu, who’ve achieved an elder-statesman/artiste status in post-metal and noise circles. Many find this sort of stuff tedious, and I wouldn’t dream of invalidating their viewpoint, but I’d interject that their music has its rewards if you devote some patience and attention to it—more La Monte Young than Black Sabbath, if you ask me. Speculating as to what they might do with Scott Walker is tantalizing, but fortunately, we apparently won’t have to wait past year’s end to hear it.
In yesterday’s mail I got a copy of Universal’s newly-released Scott Walker box set, which includes Scott(s) I-IV, ‘til The Band Comes In and a few singles. It’s a classy box and it sounds great, but that’s not exactly what this post is about (I’ll get to it in greater depth in the coming days).
On ‘til The Band Comes In, the least well-known of of Walker’s “classic” albums, there’s one song, “Long About Now,” that Walker could just not sing, since the lyrics were from the perspective of a wife waiting for her husband to return from his daily grind:
Long about now
He’s heading home
Back from the rain
Burned to the ground
His ashes will rise black butterflies
Tapping at my window pane
He’ll want to rest within my design
All the way to the end
Lighting my skies all up inside again
Long about now
He’s headin’ home
Drowning the games
That steel a man
Long about now
He’ll shrug and sigh and need me again
As poetry on the page—or screen—I think you’ll agree it’s a great lyric, but combined with the big ballady arrangement of Wally Stott, it really comes alive as a song. But who could sing it credibly and hold her own with Scott?
Walker’s then manager (and songwriting collaborator) Ady Semel was Israeli and also managed the beautiful Israeli pop singer Esther Ofarim, who had a worldwide 1968 hit with her then husband, Abi, called “Cinderella Rockefella” and she was brought in to sing “Long About Now.” My god did she kill it.
Yesterday, I plunked ‘til The Band Comes In on the stereo, not intending to really “listen” to it, but just to see how it compared to the CDs I already owned. I was doing the thing that audiophile nutjobs do, A-B’ing the old and new CDs. Anyway, I ended up doing the dishes and kept listening and when it got to “Long About Now,” my ears perked up and I was completely transfixed and moved by what I was hearing (I know the song well, but haven’t put this album on in well over a decade). On the last line, I found her performance to be so overwhelming emotionally that I got a lump caught in my throat and burst into tears. I probably listened to it five or six times on repeat.
It’s an incredible performance and frankly, one that I didn’t expect to find a video of, but wouldn’t you know it, in 1970 Esther Ofarim appeared on The Rolf Harris Show and did that very number.
Although perhaps less far-reaching in historical consequences than the burning of the knowledge stored at the Library at Alexandria, when some idiot at the BBC decided in the 1960s that they should wipe and reuse the stock from their video library (“No one is ever going to want to watch those old Doctor Who shows again, right?”) it meant that some popular performers had significant moments from their career zapped into metallic splinters by powerful magnets.
One such performer is Scott Walker. If you’ve seen the documentary about him, 30 Century Man, you’ve seen at least snippets of what did survive from his Walker Brothers and early solo career prime, and it ain’t that much. Furthermore, as a longtime Scott Walker nut, I’ve scoured the globe’s record stores and flea markets longing for decent copies of what I knew was out there (this DVD was the best thing I ever found and it’s mostly not very good quality) and coming up short.
Even YouTube has offered up little, in terms of anything “new” or with decent quality, but recently that’s changed (a little).
Above, Scott Walker performing “Mathilda” and Tony Bennett’s “When Joanna Loved Me” on Dusty in 1967. Apparently the BBC masters for Dusty Springfield’s series were wiped, too, but copies were eventually located and released on DVD as Dusty Springfield: Live at The BBC in 2008.
Doing Jacques Brel’s “Jackie” on Frankie Howerd’s show Howerd’s Hour in 1967. Odd that the famously camp comedian didn’t insert himself into this number in some way, the lyrics seem so especially ripe for Howerd’s leering brand of humor.
British comic Adam Buxton does deadpan readings of YouTube comments on his Adam Buxton’s BUG TV series. He shows videos—some really good ones, too—-but the real draw of the show is the hilarity Buxton wrings from ordinarily mundane YouTube comments, especially when anonymous people with ridiculous web handles start arguing and insulting each other. He’s really funny. It’s a low budget program with some of the deepest laughs belly-laughs of anything currently on television. I highly recommend it.
But comedy renaissance man Adam Buxton does a lot of things beyond merely making me laugh so hard I cry, he’s also a musician, and a bit of a mimic. Here’s his imagined version of Scott Walker singing Will.i.am’s “Scream and Shout” featuring Britney Spears:
Someone called soudofjura quipped:
“The only thing that would improve this is if it were actually Scott himself.”
Close your eyes and it is!
Below, an episode of Adam Buxton’s BUG. The YouTube comments start at about 7:00 in:
“Epizootics!,” from Scott Walker’s new album Bish Bosch, showcases the artist working at the peak of his powers. Hard to believe that the enigmatic recluse will be 70 years old next January. The voice, lyrics and attitude are more powerful than ever. Simply amazing.
The video directed by animator Olivier Groulx does a marvelous job of integrating image with sound in a rare and artful way that expands rather than diminishes the song. Future collaborations between Walker and Groulx is an exciting prospect.
Bish Bosch will be released on December 4 and is available here.
Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard’s highly-stylized trailer for the upcoming—and long-awaited by fans—Scott Walker album, Bish Bosch is a fascinating glimpse at the album’s unorthodox creation in the recording studio and Walker at work. It was a big deal for Walker to let cameras capture his creative process like this.
Watching the short film, the thought that came to my mind is that it’s a pity Scott Walker and Samuel Beckett never had a chance to collaborate on something… The creative terrain Walker’s music occupies has much in common with that of the author of Waiting for Godot, Krapp’s Last Tape and Endgame, but the eerie “internal monologue” nature of the vocal performance seals the deal for me.
“I was thinking about making the title refer to a mythological, all-encompassing, giant woman artist.” Scott Walker
A Hieronymous Bosch painting can’t be apprehended in a single blink of an eye. The Garden of Earthly Delights is made up of panels in parallel, with scores of tiny actions and allegorical representations teeming in every square inch of canvas. The painting is big enough to encompass heaven and hell.
Perhaps we should listen to Scott’s music in the same way we’d approach a Bosch canvas. You probably won’t understand it after one viewing, but you can become obsessed with one corner detail another until you eventually come to some understanding of how the different parts fit together and complement each other.
“It’s moving on a bit each time we go. Hopefully it’s getting nearer and nearer the kind of thing that’s in our heads. Little things are improving, a bit more focused. The style is improving.”
Since the 1960s, Scott Walker has scaled the heights of pop superstardom, produced some of the most revered solo albums of the late sixties, coasted on his laurels during the seventies, then metamorphosed into something very different. The music he has been making at his own pace since the early eighties might be utterly estranged from the songs that made him a household name, but they stem from the privacy he requires to write this complex and hugely inventive music.
Bish Bosch is the latest in Scott’s discography to pursue the line of enquiry he began back in 1978, with his four devastatingly original songs on the Walker Brothers’ swansong, Nite Flights, and continuing through Climate of Hunter (1984), Tilt (1995), The Drift (2006). He has continued to mature and develop in a late style utterly at odds with the music that made him a superstar, a lifetime ago, but which is totally honest, uncompromising and transcendent.
Scott began writing his new material around 2009, and recorded it sporadically over the following three years, while he was also involved in composing a work for the ROH2 ballet Duet for One Voice, chorographed by Aletta Collins. Unsurprisingly for a long-term exile from his native America, Bish Bosch is a great melting pot of clamouring voices and languages, swift scene-changes (the album’s geographic reach covers Denmark, the Alps, Hawaii, the ancient landscapes of Scythia, Greece and Rome, and Romania), time-travelling jump-cuts, and metaphors from medical science and molecular biology that seize you by the throat.
If The Drift was a dark place, full of scorching orchestral textures and ominous rumblings, Bish Bosch is a tauter but more colourful experience, with greater emphasis on processed, abrasive guitars, digital keyboards and thick silences. Scott’s regular co-producer Peter Walsh, and his regular core of musicians, Ian Thomas (drums), Hugh Burns and James Stevenson (guitars), Alasdair Malloy (percussion) and John Giblin (bass). Guests include trumpeter Guy Barker and pedal steel guitarist BJ Cole, who worked on three of Scott’s mid-seventies LPs. Musical director Mark Warman plays a prominent role, both as conductor and keyboardist. “If I use the big orchestra I’m using it for noises or textures, or big pillars of sound, rather than arrangements,” Walker explains, adding that the sonic richness was achieved by means of a novel recording technique. “What we did was record the drums, bass, percussion, strings and vocals in digital and analogue simultaneously. Because we knew there were a lot of silences in it, especially in something like ‘Zercon’. And in the endings – the ending of ‘Tar’, where you don’t know what’s going on. So in those spots we just cut off the analogue, and where we had the silences we just used the digital. And then we turned on the analogue again when everyone was playing together. Everything was recorded that way, so it’s about eighty per cent analogue.”
Bish Bosch will be in stores on December 3rd from 4AD .
After a year and a half of heated debate, many brutally cold winter days and plenty of heroic, hard work, it’s judgement day in Wisconsin.
I hope for the best (a Tom Barrett win) but expect the worst (polls are tight, but favor Scott Walker), so first a little levity:
A CEO, a Tea Partier and a union organizer sit down at a table, on which there is a dish of 12 cookies.The CEO takes 11 of the cookies and says to the Tea Partier, “That union guy wants part of your cookie.”
Remember that joke, it’s going to come in hand—quite a bit, probably—in the coming years…
In the final stretch of the recall election, it cannot be denied, the Republicans did what they do best: They divided and now they look set to conquer. Who would have thought that even a $30 million dollar war chest would have been enough to turn the tide that saw well over a million signatures on Walker recall petitions?
Not me, to be honest. I should stop underestimating the GOP, I really should.
Why Scott Walker could be the new Nixon.
Walker himself said the other day that he’s meeting people all over the state who tell him how RESENTFUL they are that public sector employees have better benefits than they do.
A plan for DUMMIES and people who’ve had 30 million dollars worth of cynical propaganda and bullshit fill their mental space for months now…
Obviously there IS a class war going on in America today, but in Wisconsin, the GOP has (brilliantly) hit upon a new recipe for (probable) electoral success: Pit working class people vs OTHER working class people.
If Walker does manage to hold onto his job today, expect much more of this exact same strategy in the future, in other states and even on a national, presidential level. Wisconsin was a laboratory of how to subvert democracy and a popular uprising with lies, cynicism and lots and lots of money.
Whether or not it’s Walker or Tom Barrett who wins when the votes are counted tonight, the GOP has learned a seriously fucked up new trick that has grave implications for American democracy.
Pit the middle class against each other! It’s a genius move. The politics of resentment are in full flower in Wisconsin today.
The GOP will hold the red states until the end of time with that strategy.
This, I think is the biggest take-away lesson of the entire process, especially for the Republicans. A certain segment of Wisconsin’s population has been successfully “moronized” (in the sense that “father of the New Left” Herbert Marcuse used the term in the 1960s). They’ve got a working blueprint for doing it. Win or lose this one, the implications are fucking enormous for well-funded, state-of-the art Republican political campaigns moving forward.
If Walker wins today, as expected, team GOP will have pulled off an election miracle (albeit a very well-funded miracle). When you consider how the palpable anti-Walker tidal-wave that saw over one million signatures gathered on the recall petitions and compare that with where we are today, when the polls are all telling us that Walker will squeak by and get to hold his job… I mean fuck it, it must be said WELL DONE REPUBLICANS.
They might be evil geniuses, but they are geniuses, nevertheless.
Later, as night fell over Milwaukee, Walker rocked the Serb Hall, presenting himself as a man of courage and big ideas who is trying to move Wisconsin forward, only to be stymied by backward-thinking Democrats and out-of-state “special interests.” (We pause here for a moment to laugh loudly enough that the Koch Brothers to hear us.) The governor’s speech was just as spirited as Barrett’s was, but oddly disjointed. “Isn’t it amazing,” he asked the crowd, “that politics is the only business where you get credit for courage just for keeping your word?” He also deplored the recall for what he said was the uncertainty it had created among the “job creators” and the small-business community in the state. “Truth,” he told the crowd, “is on our side.”
Out in the parking lot, I fell into conversation with Phil Waseleski, who was wearing a T-shirt celebrating the U.S. Postal Service that was festooned with Scott Walker buttons. Phil was a letter carrier in the neighborhoods around the Serb Hall for nearly 40 years, but he retired last year when his days were cut back to three a week as part of the fiscal crisis forced upon the USPS by Republican legislators who would like to see it go away entirely.
“A friend once told me, ‘Well, we only need mail three or four days a week,’” Phil told me. “I politely told him, ‘Dave, we’re gonna have to agree to disagree.’ I could have told him, ‘Dave, you know, maybe at that engineering place where you work, they only need you three days a week, and then you could come help us.’
“The politicians, I think, it’s a tough call, because if you don’t keep the postal service in business — you and I will both agree that there’s nothing more personal than taking pen in hand to write to your mother, sister, or brother. Until June of last year, I gave my heart and soul to my job. I worked right through lunch most days.”
Eventually, I asked him why he was here, at the Serb Hall, supporting Scott Walker, whose politics were far more in tune with the people who are trying to strangle the postal service than they are with the people who still work there. Phil told me that it was about his sister-in-law. “The problem is that, when you start handing out free health care out to teachers, that annoys me to no end,” he said. “I never got free health care. My brother’s wife is a teacher and I once asked her, when I was getting my teeth worked on, what it cost her and she said, ‘Nothing.’ It should never get to that point where somebody’s getting free health care. Something’s way out of whack there.”
Something IS, of course, out of whack, but it’s not what Phil Waseleski—a man who was himself a GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE—perceives it to be. Why on earth would one working person who himself saw his work days cut back support a union-busting asshole like Scott Walker in order to see that the hard fought gains of other middle-class people LIKE HIMSELF will get erased???
The answer, of course, is that Phil Waseleski and other fucking idiots like him have been cynically manipulated to essentially cast a vote AGAINST other working people so that billionaire “job creators” like the Koch brothers can move on to breaking the backs of the private sector unions, too, and rape and pillage the state of Wisconsin without much further ado.
Phil, that’s what you voted for, buddy. Do you realize how stupid you—a former GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE with a chest full of Scott Walker buttons—appear to someone who is (there is no delicate way to put this) smarter than you are? You don’t quite get it, do you, Phil?
It’s sheer idiocy for the working man to support Scott Walker and the Republicans. Nothing but sheer blinkered, uncut idiocy… and you, Phil, with a USPS tee-shirt and Walker badges could be the idiot’s poster boy…
Phil Waseleski, are you really the kind of man who wants to cast your vote in a democracy to cut other working people down to size and take what was theirs and give that to people like the Kochs and Diane Hendricks who make more in ONE HOUR than you did in your best year ever?
Charles Pierce must’ve puked in his mouth a little when he heard you speak this nonsense, you old coot!
If you find yourself reading this, Phil, can you please explain to the people who read your comments to Charles Pierce (in the comments either here or at Esquire), how you came to think this way. I cannot for the life of me understand how Walker and his billionaire reichwing patrons were able to convince one working person to resent other middle-class wage-earners, wish to see them economically punished and to reward two billionaires who inherited their money in the first place? It all makes zero sense to me. I need your help.
It’s not exactly a secret that the Republican party’s natural constituency is obscenely wealthy people and older, easily-manipulated idiots, especially Fox News watchers. Phil, as an obvious older idiot, would you mind, please, explaining to Dangerous Minds readers what happened in Wisconsin, from your perspective as an easily manipulated fool?
PS Phil, have you ever seen this clip? Which one of these guys is you? This is not a trick question, I promise:
In the article, Bottari lists who has been charged and what the charges are so far in Wisconsin’s ‘John Doe’ investigation that’s circling ever tighter around embattled Gov. Scott Walker, with the long-awaited recall vote now just hours away:
So far the investigators have charged six people with 15 felonies; one person, who turned himself in to prosecutors, was convicted on two counts:
* Timothy Russell (former deputy chief of staff to Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker) was charged with two felonies, and one misdemeanor related to embezzlement of donations intended for Wisconsin veterans in a special fund, which was created at Walker’s direction. The money was used by Russell and his partner, Brian Pierick, to take a few vacations. Read the criminal complaint here.
* Brian Pierick (partner of Timothy Russell): charged with two felonies involving child solicitation. It appears Russell’s phone records led to Pierick and a nasty story about two men soliciting a 17-year old minor for sex. Read the criminal complaint here.
* Kevin Kavanaugh (appointed by Walker as a county veterans’ official): charged with five felonies related to embezzlement from the veterans fund. Kavanaugh appears to have been raiding the funds separately from Russell. Read the criminal complaint here.
* Kelly Rindfleisch (former deputy chief of staff to then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker): charged with four felonies relating to campaign fundraising while on the county payroll. Rindfleish’s worked on a secret wifi system in her office just steps away from Walker’s office. Rindfleisch continued to work for Walker’s campaign until she was charged. Read the criminal complaint here.
* Darlene Wink (former aide to then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker): pled guilty to two unclassified misdemeanors as part of a deal that she made with the prosecutors relating to working on campaign fundraising while on the county payroll. Winks office was down a short hallway from Walker’s. Read the complaint here.
* William Gardner (President and CEO of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad): Gardner pled guilty to felony violations of Wisconsin’s election campaign laws in April of 2011. Gardner tried to convince prosecutors that his $50,000 in illegal contributions to Walker, which he funneled through his employees and a girlfriend, was an innocent mistake, except he had done the same thing the previous year. Read the criminal complaint here.
I can certainly appreciate Walker supporters and undecideds who might conclude that there is nothing that has been inserted into the debate by anyone with first hand knowledge of the investigation that would support the claims being made by opponents. I can additionally appreciate that, in America, we are all innocent until proven guilty and that even an indictment, should it occur, is an accusation—not a conviction.
Accordingly, a voter might well decide that the Governor is entitled to the benefit of the doubt at this point in time.
But one can certainly see how a Wisconsin voter might be concerned over what an indictment might mean to the state going forward.
Indeed, a voter who concludes that there is likely to be some truth to the increasing reports of a pending indictment, might view the potential of charges being filed against a sitting governor as another major distraction that will only make an already bad situation worse. It would also seem fair to at least consider that, even if Scott Walker was not involved in the shenanigans going on under his nose in the Milwaukee County Executive office, what does it say about an executive who operated without any knowledge of crimes that were being committed just a few steps from his office by people who have already been convicted or granted immunity in exchange for their testimony against fellow Scott Walker employees?
It would be nice to say that this all ends on Tuesday.
Yet, by all appearances, there is some reason to anticipate that a Walker win may only be the end of the recall process while just the beginning to an, arguably, even more disturbing era in Wisconsin government.
Or not. On this one, it’s up to Wisconsin voters to make the call.
What’s ultimately depressing is reading something like this, from Reuters:
Victoria Marone, who has several “Stand With Walker” signs in the yard of her Milwaukee home, said on Saturday she was worried that the massive union effort could still overcome Walker’s efforts.
“Unions ... are like rabid dogs with their jaws clenched down on your arm and won’t let go,” said Marone, who was a school teacher for more than 50 years.
Walker far outspent Barrett and the Democrats on television advertising in the run-up to the recall.
John Larrabee, a truck driver who also had a “Stand with Walker” sign in his Milwaukee yard, said he agreed with Walker that joining a union should be voluntary.
“This is class warfare,” Larrabee said. “They’re trying to pit those that are successful with those that want to sit on their butt.”
Although the wild rumors of Scott Walker leaving behind his love-child from a college-age tryst seemed just a bit far-fetched (a sex scandal seems so unlikely for a guy with a face like Walker’s, don’t you think?) and truly “too good to be true,” the same can’t be said when an Emmy award-winning journalist who has worked for Fox News, CNN and MSNBC, a former Attorney General and a former District Attorney all say that Walker IS the target of the so-called “John Doe” investigation… on a federal level.
It would kind of make sense, um, considering that THIRTEEN of Walker’s subordinates have been granted immunity and five people close to him have already been indicted.
With the recall election less than two days away, federal prosecutors are closing in on Governor Scott Walker, according to veteran political reporter David Shuster, former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, and former district attorney Bob Jambois.
In a conference call organized by state Democrats on Saturday evening, June 2, Shuster, Lautenschlager, and Jambois laid out evidence that Walker is a target of a federal investigation.
Wisconsin Democratic Party Communications Director Graeme Zielinski added that there is evidence of wrongdoing after Walker’s time as Milwaukee County Executive, and that the investigation includes criminal activity during his time as governor.
Based on conversations with a lawyer who has knowledge of the investigation, “We believe that Scott Walker set up a secret computer network in the governor’s office and Department of Administration offices, and that the John Doe investigation is seeking evidence of crimes he committed in Madison,” Zielinski said.
Walker denied the allegations. At a campaign event on Saturday, Walker answered “absolutely not” to reporters’ questions—raised by David Shuster’s reporting for Take Action News—about whether he had been informed, either formally or informally, that he might be a target of federal prosecution. “I’ve never heard a single thing about that, other than spin from the left,” Walker said. He described the allegations as “just more of the liberal scare tactics out there desperately trying to get the campaign off target.”
“I stand by my reporting 100 percent,” Shuster said in the conference call. “It’s clear to me that he is, in fact, a target in a federal investigation.”
Despite copious reporting, especially in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, about the Milwaukee County district attorney’s probe of alleged violations when Walker was county executive—including a secret email network maintained by his staff for the purpose of conducting illegal campaign activity on county time, the theft of funds intended for the widows and orphans of Iraq War veterans, and possible favorable treatment of campaign donors seeking public contracts, not much has been written about the FBI probe.
“The Wisconsin press has only reported about the John Doe—the state component,” said Zielinski. “They have not reported on the federal component of this.”
“I’ve been reporting on federal grand juries for twenty years”—including Justice Department probes of former Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker, Monica Lewinsky, Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, and Jack Abramoff—said David Shuster, a former reporter for Fox News and anchor for MSNBC, who now works with Take Action News and as a host on Current TV.
In his reporting on FBI involvement in the current probe of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Shuster said he consulted with Justice Department attorneys in the public integrity section and “I got independent confirmation that he’s a target.”
Shuster said that he had learned Scott Walker’s attorneys had been seeking to have their client publicly cleared of wrongdoing for the last five or six weeks, in the run-up to the recall election. Prosecutors could not clear him, Shuster said, because Walker is a target.
The ongoing John Doe investigation by the Milwaukee County District Attorney has led to criminal charges against three of Walker’s former aides, an appointee, and a major donor. Thirteen of Walker’s associates have been granted immunity—including Walker’s spokesman, Cullen Werwie.
Recent campaign finance filings show that Walker has transferred a total of $160,000 into a criminal defense fund— the only criminal defense fund maintained by a governor of any state in the nation.
Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce is one of the best political writers in America today. Hand’s down. He’s truly a great writer in the great tradition of great writers at Esquire (well done whoever hired him to do a daily blog). His prose and insights are so good that it kind of pisses me off that MSNBC, Current TV or even CNN haven’t realized what a tremendous political thinker and writer Pierce is and hire him on to be a featured pundit. He’s got important things to say about American politics and he should be as well-known as Paul Krugman, if you ask me…
Pierce will be closely following the Scott Walker recall election in the coming week and I expect that he’ll be providing some of the best coverage of what I feel is GROUND ZERO for the rights of the working class in America and the single most important thing that the national Democrats should be supporting—no matter what DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz seems to think... (I do hope she watched the Rachel Maddow segment posted below. I suspect she has and I suspect that it had an effect, too: Hello Bill Clinton, welcome to Wisconsin! Where the fuck is your buddy, Obama???).
The most telling moment came when Barrett treed Walker on the question of whether he plans to transform Wisconsin wholly into a right-to-work state, as Walker appeared to say to a wealthy backer on a videotape released back on May 10. Walker has consistently ducked the question, and he did so again last night, saying that a right-to-work bill would never reach his desk, and that he refused to comment on a “hypothetical”:
“I’ve said it’s not gonna get there, you’re asking a hypothetical..And the reason I say that is I saw what happened over the last year and half. And I don’t want to repeat that discussion. I think most people in the state, Democrat and Republican alike, want to move forward.”
There are enough weasels in that sentence to make a coat. What, exactly, does “moving forward” mean in this context? Does anyone seriously believe at this point that Walker would be reluctant to sign a right-to-work bill because of what’s happened in Wisconsin since he blackjacked the public employees, that he’s in any way chastened, that the people who groomed him and who are financing his campaign now to the tune of $30 million aren’t in this for the long haul? How many people does Scott Walker think will be driving to the polls on Tuesday on a turnip truck?
For his part, Barrett was having none of it:
“If that bill hits his desk, he’s signing it. I say it right here in front of Wisconsin…The Thursday before the Super Bowl, Mitch Daniels made Indiana a right-to-work state. Mark my words, he’ll sign it.”
Dawn breaks, finally, over Marblehead. The recall is specifically about Wisconsin’s attempt to rid itself of a governor whose primary political strategy over his entire time in public office has been the bait-and-switch. But its true national import is not what it may or may not mean to the president’s campaign in November.
In 2010, in addition to handing the House of Representatives over to a pack of nihilistic vandals, the Koch Brothers and the rest of the sugar daddies of the Right poured millions into various state campaigns. This produced a crop of governors and state legislators wholly owned and operated by those corporate interests and utterly unmoored from the constituencies they were elected to serve. In turn, these folks enacted various policies, and produced various laws, guaranteed to do nothing except reinforce the power of the people who put them in office. This is the first real test of democracy against the money power. Its true national import is that it is the first loud and noisy attempt to roll back the amok time that Republican governors and their pet legislatures have unleashed in the states at the behest of the corporate interests who finance their careers. It is the first serious pushback not only against Scott Walker, but against Dick Snyder’s assault on democracy in Michigan, and Mitch Daniels’s assault on unions in Indiana, and Rick Scott’s assault on voting rights in Florida. None of this was in any way coincidental. It was a national strategy played out in a series of statewide episodes, aimed at establishing the habits of oligarchy on a local basis. If Barrett has finally realized that, then he’s finally really in the game because he’s finally grasped the mortal stakes he’s playing for.
Bill Clinton’s out there for him today, raising roofs and raising hell, a day late and a dollar short, if you really want to be cynical, but still utterly overmatching the Triple-A team of Republican surrogates — Bobby Jindal? Nikki Haley, who’s grateful to have fled South Carolina one step ahead of an ethics investigation herself? — that are out stumping for Walker this weekend. Friday morning, on the spot with Fr. Jacques Marquette first made camp, Clinton talked about creative cooperation, and he ran his riffs about how people come together in small towns, but he also hung on Walker the responsibility for the confrontational politics elsewhere around the country, which is the only national message in Wisconsin worth mentioning. There the blog goes on the road this weekend to see what it can see. This thing is so tight I’m going to need Dan Rather’s help with the metaphors.
What happens in Wisconsin is of national, even generational, importance. This is not merely something that should be seen as a “state level” election at all. If you don’t know why I say this, you’re not paying enough attention!
Charles P. Pierce’s Esquire blog will be essential reading in the coming days for everyone who cares about democracy in America. Get into the habit of reading him and being able to savor his writing through the election, you’ll be glad you did.
In this long, but absolutely essential piece, Rachel Maddow lays out a seriously DARK prognosis for the future of this country if the Koch brothers money is able to drown out the Tom Barrett campaign and the Walker recall effort fails. This aired right before the holiday weekend, and I don’t think has gotten around the way it should have. Once again Maddow proves herself to be one of the premiere journalists of our time. I think Ed Schultz has done some great work in Wisconsin, too, but no one can build a case quite like Rachel Maddow can. She’s a national treasure (How did someone so smart get to be on American TV, anyway?):
This past March, standing outside a Shell station in Mellen, Wis., in the state’s far north, Mike Wiggins Jr. told me about a series of dark and premonitory dreams he had two years earlier. “One of them was a very vivid trip around the North Woods and seeing forests bleeding and sludge from a creek emptying into the Bad River,” Wiggins said. “I ended up at a dilapidated northern log home with rotten snowshoes falling off the wall. I stepped out of the lodge, walked through some pine, and I was in a pipeline. There was a big pipe coming in and out of the ground as far as I could see.
“I had no idea what the hell that was all about,” Wiggins continued. But he said the dream became clearer when a stranger named Matt Fifield came into his office several months later and handed him his card. Wiggins is the chairman of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and Fifield, the managing director of Gogebic Taconite (GTac), a division of the Cline Group, a mining company based in Florida. He had come to Wiggins’s office to discuss GTac’s desire to build a $1.5 billion open-pit iron-ore mine in the Penokee Hills, about seven miles south of the Bad River reservation. The proposed mine would be several hundred feet deep, roughly four miles long and a half-mile wide; the company estimated it would bring 700 long-term jobs to the area. Fearing contamination of the local groundwater and pristine rivers, Wiggins told Fifield he planned to oppose the mine. He didn’t know at the time that the company’s lawyers would be working hand in hand with Republican legislators to draft a bill that would weaken Wisconsin environmental law and expedite the permitting process.
What followed was a drawn-out fight that resembled other statewide battles over labor, education and voter-registration laws — all of which have been introduced since the election of the Republican governor Scott Walker in 2010. The most bitter of these fights began in early February last year, when Walker proposed eliminating virtually all collective-bargaining rights for a vast majority of the state’s public-employee unions. Around the time that Walker announced the measure, similar laws were introduced in Michigan, Ohio and Florida, and a nationwide demonization of public employees caught fire. Within two months, the National Conference of State Legislators had tracked more than 100 bills, initiated across the country, attacking public-sector unions.
From the beginning, Walker, who declined to comment for this article, seemed cognizant that his move to end collective bargaining placed him at the forefront of a national conservative strategy. His attack on public-employee unions was lauded by Mitt Romney, John Boehner and Karl Rove, and he has received significant financial support from the billionaire conservative donors Charles and David Koch. In a widely publicized prank phone call with Ian Murphy, a blogger impersonating David Koch, Walker described a dinner he held for his cabinet at his Executive Residence on Feb. 10, the night before he announced the collective-bargaining measure. “It was kind of the last hurrah, before we dropped the bomb,” he said to the faux-Koch. At the dinner, Walker held up a photograph of Ronald Reagan and told his cabinet that what they were about to do recalled Reagan’s breaking of the air-traffic-controllers’ union strike in 1981. “This is our time to change the course of history,” Walker said.
The June 5 recall election against Walker and four Republican state senators will be a decisive and momentous day in American history—no matter which side of the political divide you are on—and not just for residents of Wisconsin. If the reichwing and the Koch brothers get beaten back, it’ll send a definitive message to Republicans—and draw an iron line in the sand—letting them know how far is TOO FAR and what NOT to do if they don’t want to end up like Scott Walker. If Democrats take back control of the statehouse, I get the sense that things would largely calm down in Wisconsin, after two years that have seen friendships ended, family arguments and nasty, nasty local politics, vandalism, etc. Clearly in this way, Scott Walker has been a disaster for life in his state. How many people who live there, no matter what their political affiliation is, would argue that the mood in Wisconsin has improved under Walker?
However, if the Democrats and the unions lose, and it appears that they will lose, it’ll be a sad day indeed and will be seen as a demoralizing lesson in just how DEAD democracy really is when billionaires and out of state interests can come in and defeat the determined solidarity of tens of thousands of Wisconsin’s most politically engaged progressive citizens. If Walker wins, it will be a significant blow to the labor unions and progressive morale in general.
With repetitive TV and radio ads blanketing Wisconsin’s airways (Walker is spending over 20x what his challenger Tom Barrett can afford) the Koch brothers and the GOP have brainwashed people into supporting policies that would beggar their neighbors, friends and relatives and destroy the hard fought gains of the unions in the state where the labor movement was arguably born merely so that the rich can get richer. It’s not like everyone in Wisconsin doesn’t already know what’s going on and I doubt that many people are still undecided if they’ll be voting for Walker or Barrett with just two weeks to go. The polls are TIGHT, and incredibly—when you consider how his governorship has torn the state apart and Walker’s SHITTY record on jobs—favor the governor. It’s going to be all about the ground game and the side who can get out the most voters (something the Republicans excel at ).
You can kick in a few bucks to kick Walker’s ass at ActBlue. Fingers crossed and GO WISCONSIN.
I’ll join the chorus of folks asking why the fuck Obama and the national Democrats aren’t doing more to support the Scott Walker recall efforts in Wisconsin???
Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, Walker’s opponent in the recall match-up, lost to him in 2010 by 125,000 votes, or 5%. You’d think that after all that’s happened, Barrett’s victory in the recall would be a sure thing, but some recent polls indicate otherwise. Probably has to do with Walker having 20x the cash on hand, thanks to his super-rich pals, like the Koch Brothers.
Although I am not a Democrat and have never self-identified as one, I have voted a straight Democratic ticket for my entire life, SOLELY to vote against the Republican candidates. The beginning and end of any perceived loyalty that I have to the Democrats has to do with my lifelong hatred of Republicans and nothing else.
I’m someone who is resigned to voting for the lesser of two evils, because I believe you get less evil that way. I am, however, a staunch socialist, and strongly believe that the outcome of the WI recall election is of supreme importance to the future of organized labor and all working Americans, not just in Wisconsin. If the anti-Walker movement in WI fails to oust that cross-eyed weasel, Charlie Brown-looking dickhead, the implications for the future of labor unions in America should be seen as dire indeed.
SO WHERE THE FUCK IS OBAMA?
Why hasn’t the President already been in Wisconsin several times to support the state’s progressive Democrats and the labor union members who have worked tirelessly for over a year to kick Walker’s dumb ass to the curb? I thought the unions were the Democratic base, just like the GOP relies on billionaires and IDIOTS. Have Obama and the DNC completely written off big labor? WTF???
They couldn’t have done any less than they have if they decided to do nothing at all.
ONE fundraising email! ONE!
And where are the Occupy folks? THIS is the real battle of 2012, not holding down a park or clogging up the Brooklyn Bridge, as important as that might be symbolically, this is THE REAL DEAL. The Wisconsin recall election is equally important to the 2012 election, I think much more so, in some respects. Want to show the hard right what democracy looks like? Get thee to Wisconsin for the next few weeks and help out.
Clearly this is a battle between people power and the millions upon millions of dollars being funneled into WI by reichwing interests who have a big stake in seeing the unions crushed. The WI recall election is going to be a tight one and in the end the single biggest factor in whoever wins will be the ground game. The DNC could, if they wanted to, make a major impact in this regard, but for whatever reason, their support has been tepid, at best.
Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce—who is one of America’s finest political wordsmiths—laid out another, very compelling factor that should be of great concern to the DNC: Call it “The Future Newt Gingrich Factor”:
Right now, if nothing else changes, it looks very much like Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin, is going to keep his job. If that’s the case, and assuming he doesn’t go down in the ongoing John Doe investigation in Milwaukee, I predict that he will have an “exploratory committee” set up in Iowa within the month, and he will suddenly discover a deeply held desire to spend a lot of time in places like Nashua and Manchester. Make no mistake: If he hangs on, he will be the biggest star in the Republican party. Chris Christie yells at all the right people, but has he ever faced down the existential threat that schoolteachers and snowplow drivers brought to bear on Walker? Marco Rubio? Has he withstood the wrath of organized janitors and professors of the humanities? If Walker wins in June, it wouldn’t take very much effort at all for Fox News and for the vast universe of conservative sugar-daddies and their organization to decide that Walker should be the odds-on choice for 2016.
Dear Debbie Wasserman-Schultz: That heinous future actually could happen if you don’t get out of the Green Room and get the DNC off the stick here. I’m still not kidding. If the Democrats blow this one, and if it’s proven that the DNC could have helped in any way and didn’t, you should be fired before the sun goes down. In 1990, the DNC declined to help fully a congressional candidate named David Worley in Georgia. The Worley people were begging for money, for organizers, for a lifeline of any kind. Very little was forthcoming. Worley lost to Newt Gingrich by 978 votes. How would the subsequent 10 years have been different if Gingrich’s political career had ended ignominiously in 1990? That’s the kind of chance that you seem to be allowing to go a’glimmering in Wisconsin. Let Walker win, and Democrats not yet born will curse your name. [Emphasis added]
I am less than optimistic about Tom Barrett’s chances because he’s getting outspent about 20-1, and because the numbers stubbornly refuse to move. This should be a base-vs.-base election, but it’s being played, at least by the Democrats, as yet another unicorn-hunt after “independent voters.” Barrett keeps talking about the “civil war” that Walker incited in Wisconsin. But that’s not the argument. There should have been a “civil war” over what Walker was trying to do. There wouldn’t even be a recall without what Barrett calls “the civil war.” The “civil war” was entirely appropriate. Sometimes, in politics, there are issues worth screaming about. I’m no expert, but the end of collective bargaining during an era of flat-lining wages would seem to be one of those. By citing the “civil war” as the reason for voting for him, and without, I believe, intending to do so, Barrett makes all those people standing in the cold last January marginally complicit in what he says as the problem the recall was meant to solve. But the problem with Scott Walker was not that he inspired an outburst of incivility. It’s that he tried to screw the workers of the state of Wisconsin, and that he got more than halfway there, and that he apparently intends to go the rest of the way if he manages to survive the recall. It’s not idle speculation to say that a lot more is riding on this than who gets to be governor of Wisconsin. This is the first real fight of the 2016 presidential election.
If you’d like to support the drive to recall Scott Walker, without giving a dime to the national Democrats, you can donate at ActBlue. Even $5 will help offset the 20 to 1 spending by Walker’s billionaire supporters.
Below, an inspiring trailer for We Are Wisconsin: The Movie premiering soon.
So the recall race is on in Wisconsin, a match-up that once again pits wildly unpopular Republican governor Scott Walker against Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, the Democrat who Walker beat by 125,000 votes in the 2010 election.
A lot has changed since then.
Like massive protests and an unprecedented grassroots organization to send a certain sleazy GOP shithead back to the rock he crawled out from under. What is currently transpiring in WI is one of the single most important things that has happened in American politics and the labor movement in many years, perhaps for a generation. The forces to oust Walker have much in common with the Occupy movement, but Occupy needs to watch what’s been happening in Wisconsin closely and learn a few lessons. Protest is one thing, but getting out the vote, to my mind, seems far, far more important. The progressives in Wisconsin have got it sussed.
The recall drive was sparked when Walker and Republicans passed a law that effectively ended collective bargaining rights for most public workers and forced them to pay more for health insurance and pension benefits. Walker contends the moves were necessary to help balance a state budget shortfall of $3.6 billion, while Democrats argue the law’s primary purpose was to eviscerate the unions, which tend to back their party.
It’s hard to find anyone in the state who doesn’t have an opinion on the matter, and that interest was underscored by Tuesday’s 30 percent turnout, which was the highest for a Wisconsin primary since 1952.
Barrett told supporters Tuesday night at a victory party in Milwaukee (attended by leaders of the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees Union and other union members) that:
“We will be united because we understand we cannot fix Wisconsin as long as Scott Walker is the governor of this state.”
He’s right, too. There’s no way that the state legislature is going to be able to get anything done with that goofy-faced clownboy in office. He’s gotta go for the good of the people of Wisconsin and he should have had the decency to fucking resign a long time ago. Walker is just too divisive of a figure. This seems obvious to everyone, but Walker himself doesn’t seem to have picked up on the hint: He can’t lead the state. It’s just not possible anymore.
It’s time to throw this Charlie Brown-looking motherfucker on the scrapheap of history and move on, in the process sending a powerful and LOUD message to the rest of the Reichwing Republicans: It could be your job next, asshole!.
And with ground forces like the recall movement has, why not make an effort to defeat Congressman Paul Ryan in the Fall?
Jon Dzurak, a 55-year-old assistant principal in Milwaukee, said he initially was leaning toward Democrat Kathleen Falk, but decided to vote for Barrett because he was up in the polls and projected to fare better against Walker.
“I just would like to see Scott Walker defeated. I’ve never seen a division in our state like this. I’m not talking to some of my friends right now because of it,” he said.
Although Walker has raised $25 million so far, most of it from out of state, natch, I don’t think it’s going to help him all that much, but at least he’ll be spending that bloated Koch Brothers-funded war chest within Wisconsin, so perhaps the Walker camp can even create a few jobs, for once, before WI voters give him the boot.
Is that a fat lady I hear singing in the near distance?
Ask not for whom the fat lady sings, Scott Walker. She sings for thee!
Roll on June 5th general election!
If you’d like to contribute to ActBlue to get this powerful commercial shown on Wisconsin television stations, you can donate here. Watch it. If you agree with the message and support the cause, kick them a few dollars. Even $3 will help.