It’s official. The battle of the choirs at the state capitol is the latest attraction at the permanent circus called the state legislature.
It’s sort of like the Anthony Wiener story: just when you think it’s finally going to go away and leave you alone, another new twist comes along that propels the story into another full day of media coverage.
This morning, Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney was on Mitch Henck’s WIBA-AM show trying to explain how he really “isn’t on the side of the Solidarity Singers” and how he would “never encourage anyone to break the law”. Yesterday, it came to light that a local nooz organization (WMTV Channel 15) got into the business of making news as well as reporting it, when one of their reporters applied for a permit, presumably for the so-called Solidarity Singers, to use the capitol rotunda at noon – and then never did a story about it, leaving that small detail to a bunch of other local media.
If you’re not in the Madison TV market or don’t read one of the Madison newspapers or listen to WIBA-AM, you’re probably not aware of the latest lunacy under the big top at the head of State Street. So here’s a bit of background.
A couple years ago when Governor Scott Walker (“I’m a reformer!!!”) was ramming Act 10 through the legislature – the so-called “Budget Repair Bill” – all sorts of hell broke loose in Madison, with mass marches, sit-ins and sleep-ins at the capitol building, dueling press conferences, national TV coverage, 14 Democratic state senators decamping to Illinois in a failed attempt to avoid a vote on Act 10, yadda yadda yadda. During this period, the Solidarity Singers were born.
Believing that’s it more important to be heard than to have actual singing talent, the group which varies in size depending on the day and the weather has occupied the central rotunda of the capitol every weekday over the noon hour, singing lefty tunes like “Solidarity Forever” (to the tune of “Glory, Glory Hallelujah”).
After a couple years of this daily song-fest, a bunch of TeaPublicans got tired of it and wrote and passed a law, the purpose of which was to kick the singers out of the capitol. But, there’s that pesky First Amendment thing, so a challenge was filed, and a judge said groups of 20 or more had to have a permit to gather and demonstrate (read: sing) in the capitol. Why 20? Well, the judge said you gotta pick some number.
Now those of you not from the People’s Republic of Madison need to understand a few things: groups like the Solidarity Singers think the First Amendment is there just to protect what THEY want to say. Here it comes….the Eddie Ben Elsen reference! He’s the guy who ran for D-A of Dane County back in the 60’s, announcing his campaign naked on the stage at a strip joint known as The Dangle Lounge, with a platform plank saying people should “obey only the good laws”. Sort of like the Tea People, who only believe in the GOOD parts of the Constitution, which was written by Jesus.
And you wonder why it’s so much fun to live in Madison.
Last week, the Capitol Police, with help from the State Patrol, said they were going to begin enforcement of the permit law, and started arresting the singers. This sort of thing is as irresistible as chocolate-covered strawberries to the newsies, who flocked to the capitol, cameras rolling, microphones on, note-pads at the ready, to capture the scene of senior citizens being cuffed, taken downstairs, being ticketed (around 200 bucks), and then being released.
After a couple days of this, local political operative Mike Blaska (referred to in the media as “right-wing blogger Mike Blaska”) got a group together, got a permit, and announced to all that would listen that his group – the “We Got A Permit Singers” – would be holding forth in the rotunda. This prompted the un-permitted lefties to hold their competing noon hour sing-fest outside on the capitol grounds.
Media madness, of course, ensued.
Bad-boy Sly (referred to by the media as “left-wing talkshow host Sly”), no stranger to political shenanigans, went inside the capitol and started shouting insults at Dave Blaska, so Capitol Police told my former broadcast partner he’d best move along, and three of the boys in blue escorted Sly to an exit.
Next chapter: by what he says is complete coincidence, Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney happened to be passing through the capitol rotunda the other day, and stopped to say hello to some of his constituents in the Solidarity Singers who recognized the Sheriff. This became fodder for the local gossip mill, the story morphing into “Sheriff Mahoney supports the Solidarity Singers” – which caused our Sheriff to go on Mitch’s show on WIBA this morning to explain that he doesn’t take sides, and just happened to be at a meeting at the capitol which ended over the noon hour.
Of course, the locals all remember our Sheriff at the peak of the frenzy over Act 10 a couple years ago saying that Dane County Sheriff’s Deputies were not “Walker’s Palace Guard”, a statement which he had to walk back with the local newsies. No surprise that his coincidental stroll through the capitol last week during the sing-along wound up with the spin it did.
See what I mean about it being fun to live in Madison?
Then, yesterday, when no one was arrested at the noon-hour sing-along, the story emerged that the reason for no arrests was that a Channel 15 reporter got a permit for the noon sing-along. As the rest of the news outlets scratched their head about this blatant example of participatory journalism, the nooz boss at Channel 15 said the reporter got the permit because he was going to do a story about how easy it is to get a permit, and then, breaking news broke (one presumes it was the story of the letter Sharon Wand supposedly wrote to The Monroe Times, recanting her testimony in the case of her husband and brother burning down their house and killing 3 of their children) so the Channel 15 story about the singers and the permit never came to be.
Oh, it’s a circus, all right. And who knows what will happen at noon today. Or tomorrow.
See what fun you’re missing by not living here?