TPM News

Demonstrations continued today in at the state Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, against Republican Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal -- which in addition to requiring greater contributions from public employees to their benefits packages, would also strip public employees of most collective bargaining rights. And today, pro-Walker protesters turned out, as well -- but were seriously outnumbered by the continued throngs of pro-union demonstrators.

The pro-Walker Tea Party rally featured something of all-star cast: Andrew Breitbart, Joe "The Plumber" Wurzelbacher, Herman Cain and more. However, every estimate in the media has shown that the pro-Walker demonstration was outnumbered several times over by the pro-union demonstrators.

Reuters reports: "Both sides drew thousands to the state capital Madison on Saturday -- unofficial estimates put the total near 40,000 -- but opponents appeared to have several times as many as those backed by Tea Party groups, the first appearance by members of the conservative, limited-government movement this week."

Separately, WisPolitics reports that the state Department of Administration has estimated 55,000 demonstrators -- 50,000 outside the Capitol, and 5,000 inside. They also add: "This is the first day there has been a significant number of people demonstrating in favor of Gov. Scott Walker's bill. The number of bill supporters, however, was dwarfed by the massive throng of bill opponents."

And amazingly, there have been no arrests or incidents reported. So as a former Madison resident, I must say: Wisconsin is a place where even the angry mobs are polite and friendly.

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Obama At Intel Plant: 'We've Got To Win The Global Competition To Educate Our People' President Obama recorded this weekend's YouTube address from the Intel plant near Portland, Oregon, discussing the need for strong education policies in order to maintain business competitiveness for the country.

"Companies like Intel are proving that we can compete - that instead of just being a nation that buys what's made overseas, we can make things in America and sell them around the globe. Winning this competition depends on the ingenuity and creativity of our private sector - which was on display in my visit today. But it's also going to depend on what we do as a nation to make America the best place on earth to do business. "Over the next ten years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education beyond high school, many requiring proficiency in math and science. And yet today we've fallen behind in math, science, and graduation rates. As a result, companies like Intel struggle to hire American workers with the skills that fit their needs. If we want to win the global competition for new jobs and industries, we've got to win the global competition to educate our people. We've got to have the best trained, best skilled workforce in the world. That's how we'll ensure that the next Intel, the next Google, or the next Microsoft is created in America, and hires American workers."

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1||On Friday, the New York Times reported that Bahraini troops opened fire on a group of mourners marching towards the center of Bahrain's capital, Manama. Scores were injured, and at least one mourner was killed.

The injured were taken to a nearby hospital. The Times reports: "Thousands of people gathered at the hospital, offering blood for the wounded, and doctors said they had to work as 'volunteers' because the government had issued orders against helping protesters."||Michael Graae/London News Pictures&&

2||The Times reported that Bahraini forces opened fire using machine guns and concussion grenades. "But even as the people fled, at least one helicopter sprayed fire on them and a witness reported seeing mourners crumpling to the ground," the Times article reads.||l94/ZUMA Press/Newscom&& 3|| ||Michael Graae/London News Pictures&& 4|| ||Michael Graae/London News Pictures&& 5||||Michael Graae/London News Pictures&& 6||Earlier in the day, the brother of Ali al Almoumen weeps over his brother's body. Almoumen was killed Wednesday in Pearl Square, the same location the mourners were headed to when they were reportedly fired upon.||l94/ZUMA Press/Newscom&& 7||More mourners in Bahrain earlier Friday.||Al Jazeera English&& 8||A cleric arrived to march with the mourners early Friday.||Al Jazeera English&& 9||As Bahrain was rocked by violence, Egypt celebrated a week since the overthrow of strongman Hosni Mubarak.||x99/ZUMA Press/Newscom&& 10||More than one million people gathered in Tahrir Square to celebrate and push their continuing call for democratic reforms. Tahrir had been transformed into the center of the protests that led to Mubarak's resignation.||imago stock&people/Newscom&& 11||More celebrations in Tahrir Square.||AA/ABACA/Newscom&& 12|| ||STR/UPI/Newscom&&

Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) just held a press conference at the Wisconsin State Capitol, laying down the gauntlet against the massive protests and labor union activity opposing his state budget proposal -- which in addition to requiring greater contributions from public employees to their benefits packages, would also strip public employees of most collective bargaining rights.

Wisconsin is currently in a political crisis, with the minority state Senate Democrats having left the state in order to block the three-fifths quorum necessary to pass the budget. In addition, many schools have closed across the state, due to teachers calling in sick in large numbers.

"First off I want to begin, certainly acknowledging the thousands of people who are outside protesting, many of whom are from the state of Wisconsin --many more lately have been coming in from other parts across the country -- certainly acknowledge their right to be heard," said Walker.

"But I particularly want to thank the 300,000-plus state and local workers from across Wisconsin, who unlike those here today didn't skip out on work, showed up for their jobs, did their jobs the way that they have done in the past and will do int he future, and that is be good, professional public servants. And we appreciate the work that they continue to do.

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I wrote earlier this month about the GOP's plan to lump State Department funds in with "domestic discretionary spending," and, thus, subject it to massive cuts. At the time, Democrats were warning that this could upend the strategy in Iraq, which involves winding down Defense Department involvement and ratcheting up State Department operations.

I don't know how common it is for cabinet secretaries to protect departments other than their own from spending cuts. But Robert Gates did that yesterday.

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Here are the line-ups for the Sunday talk shows this weekend:

• ABC, This Week: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

• CBS, Face The Nation: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

• CNN, State Of The Union: Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

• Fox News Sunday: Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).

• NBC, Meet The Press: Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.

The Wisconsin Democratic state Senators have become fugitives, multiple media outlets are reporting, with the state police sent out to look for them -- and with the Dems out of the state entirely, others are volunteering to go on the beat.

The Democrats have fled the state, thus blocking the three-fifths quorum required under the state constitution to take up Republican Gov. Scott Walker's budget. The budget includes controversial provisions against the state public employee unions, seeking to roll back many of the state's longstanding collective bargaining rights for public employees.

As Greg Sargent reports, state Sen. Chris Larson says that one of his colleagues, who has gone unnamed, briefly returned to his home to get some sleep. (Hmm, this person didn't seem to understand the whole concept of being on the lam.)

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House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is accusing President Obama of using his political organization to "demagogue" the efforts of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other GOP governors who are curbing the bargaining rights of public employees in the name of balancing the budget.

"President Obama has acknowledged the challenges we face, but - thus far - he has done nothing to offer solutions," Boehner said in a statement. "Now, worse, his political organization is colluding with special-interest allies across the country to demagogue reform-minded governors who are making the tough choices that the President is avoiding." 

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The SSA has put its employees on notice that GOP spending cuts could well lead to furloughs.

"It is important to note that the Commissioner has not decided to effectuate a furlough," reads a letter from the office of labor-management relations. "However, given the potential of reduced Congressional appropriations for the remainder of the fiscal year, the Agency is issuing this notice at this time in the event that a furlough may become necessary."

You can read the entire letter here. It's pursuant to this cut in the House GOP's proposed spending cut bill.

After he was elected in November, but before he took office, then Gov.-elect Scott Walker managed to squash contract negotiations between the lame duck government and public employee unions. He argued, reasonably, that he ought to get a real bite at the apple when he took office -- a typical argument against any major action during lame duck legislating.

But as he waged this fight, he asserted that he might decertify the unions completely. That, it turns out, is outside his gubernatorial authority. But it was a huge tell that he planned to go after unions in a dramatic way.

"Anything from the decertification all the way through modifications to the current laws in place," Walker told the Milwaukee Press Club in December. "The bottom line is we want to have a better ability to control what we do when it comes to wages and benefits."

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