TPM News

Last night in Wisconsin, amidst the uproar over the state Senate's surprise passage of Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union bill, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's (R) office released a counter-argument to one particular Dem objection: That the sudden conference committee would have violated the state's open meetings laws.

At last night's conference committee (video below), Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D) strenuously argued that the conference committee violated the state's open meetings law, which requires at least 24 hours notice before a government meeting, unless there is good cause to act more quickly. Instead, only about two hours notice was supplied for this meeting. As the Capital Times reports, many opponents of the bill are already mobilizing challenge the bill on this basis, that a key meeting to pass the bill was illegal.

In response, as WisPolitics reported last night, Fitzgerald's office released a message from Chief Clerk Rob Marchant, saying that the conference was subject to different rules -- the ones governing special sessions of the legislature -- and that no advance notice is required at all.

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Led by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) a number of House Democrats have argued that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas should recuse himself from cases dealing with Obama's Health Care law since Thomas' wife formerly lobbied to defeat the law.

But as Stephen Colbert explained Wednesday night, that's a moot point since there is no firm code of ethics for Supreme Court Justices.

"No one is the boss of them," Colbert said. "That's why when you get confirmed to the Supreme Court, you get a clerk, a gavel, and a bumper sticker sticker that says, "Suck it, Bitch."

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More details on the upcoming fundraiser for members of the Wisconsin state Senate GOP in the headquarters of a prominent DC lobbying firm are coming to light.

In short, when members of the state Senate caucus that just voted to strip state workers of their collective bargaining rights gather in the downtown DC offices of a lobbying firm founded in part by Haley Barbour, they'll be among friends.

The BGR Group, the lobbying firm Barbour helped to found in 1991, has long been known for its ties to the GOP. Among its executives are Bob Wood, a former aide to Tommy Thompson, the Republican governor of Wisconsin for 14 years. And on BGR's past client list is a large energy company - and that's raising eyebrows with watchdog groups.

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The most high-profile fights between conservatives and unions have played out in Wisconsin and other states across the country. But another one is brewing at the federal level, where Republicans are trying to change the law to make it harder for aviation and rail workers to unionize. But several Republicans have broken ranks with their party, and labor activists see them as an opportunity.

The FAA reauthorization bill winding its way through the House would re-establish old rules, which say that if a worker doesn't vote in a unionization election, their heads will still be counted as "no" votes.

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It's been a pretty bad week for Democrats, and a ragingly awesome week for conservatives.

First, President Obama, reneging on a central campaign promise, announced earlier this week that he would continue to indefinitely detain prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

"I always thought the point of evidence was if you didn't have enough, you are not allowed to keep them in prison," Stewart said. "It's one of the many differences we have in this country between prisons and zoos."

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Following the Wisconsin state Senate Republicans' surprise move to unilaterally end collective bargaining rights for thousands of state workers, union activists are keeping up their protest pressure -- but steering clear of a rumored general strike -- for now.

At 9:00 Thursday morning Madison time, union supporters across the state will gather for the latest round of protests aimed at Gov. Scott Walker (R) and his plan to strip state unions of many of their current rights. In the social media cacophony following last night's vote, many supporters called for union workers to walk off the job as early as Thursday in protest of Walker's plan, and the latest Republican moves to get them through the legislature.

So far, union leadership hasn't signed on to that plan. But worker representatives in Wisconsin told TPM Wednesday night that strike is still an option -- and one they'll use if they have to.

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The Corporation for Public Broadcasting might still not have hit bottom in the James O'Keefe hidden camera scandal as evidence emerges that PBS might have fallen prey to the same prank.

A spokeswoman for PBS told the New York Times' Media Decoder blog that their senior vice president for development, Brian Reddington, had met with the same phony Muslim group that lured NPR executives into a trap with talk of a $5 million donation. Given the impact of the NPR tape, which forced resignations from both CEO Vivian Schiller and the executive captured on camera, Ron Schiller (no relation to Vivian), the prospect of another video featuring PBS execs could be a giant shoe waiting to drop.

According to the Times, PBS doesn't know if they've been taped or not, but given O'Keefe's MO it seems a very strong possibility. The PBS rep said that their executives were not fooled by the so-called Muslim Education Action Council, however, and came out of their meeting with "profound concerns about the organization." After a closer review of the group's legitimacy they broke off communication.

The man suspected of planting a backpack bomb along a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade route in Spokane, Wash., appeared briefly in U.S. District Court Wednesday afternoon. Kevin William Harpham, 36, had been arrested earlier in day at his house near the small community of Addy, about 50 miles north of Spokane. He is charged with one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of knowingly possessing an improvised explosive device.

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House Panel To Examine Muslim Radicalization Reuters reports: "The House of Representatives will investigate radicalization in the American-Muslim community, sparking outrage that the probe is a witch hunt akin to the 1950s anti-Communist campaign. With al Qaeda and its affiliates openly trying to recruit Americans and Muslims inside the United States for attacks, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King called congressional hearings on the subject 'absolutely essential.'"

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will meet at 10 a.m. ET with students and parents from the Conference on Bullying Prevention, and they will deliver remarks at 10:35 a.m. ET. The President will hold a meeting on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act at 2:05 p.m. ET. He will meet at 3:05 p.m. ET with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

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Former NPR news analyst Juan Williams discussed his firing from the network last year in an interview with the Huffington Post, and said: "I think when it comes to NPR's decision to, without any reason, throw me out the door, I think that for them, I think especially for some of the people who created NPR, it's an all-white operation."

"I think that they felt they had never had much success with people who were black journalists, Hispanic journalists. More success with white women," said Williams.

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