Gas Pains

Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

Making a List and Checking it Twice

Governor Walker, Politics, Public Information, Recall Petition, Retaliation

By now most of you are aware that lists of those who have signed the petition to recall Governor Scott Walker can be easily accessed on the web. As clunky as they are you can at least sort by ZIP code. Being the naturally curious guy that I am I downloaded several ZIP codes into an excel file for ease of sorting and scrutiny. And I saved them - so I can check them twice. The 53213 file has 4188 lines of data representing neighbors of mine that have signed the petition. A good number of them I am personally acquainted with.

If you were to peruse the list you won't find my name. That's because I have any number of personal reasons not to sign a recall petition. I also know of individuals residing in ZIP code 53213 who in-fact signed a petition yet do not appear on the list. Such is the result of sloppy data entry. The list is flawed.

Nevertheless, the list has been made public and I suspect that some individuals who signed a petition are chagrined that their name and by extension their opinion on the matter would be made so public. There might be political fallout or at least an embarrassing episode or two to come of this. Such is the nature of information that is in the public domain. It's really no different than my wandering over to city hall to examine campaign finance disclosures. You can draw any number of useful conclusions about a person's politics by examining who they give money to. This info is also on the web - but in a searchable database far more user-friendly than the clumsy and flawed petition list.

In an email exchange over the weekend an acquaintance of mine pondered whether all this scrutiny will have a chilling effect on a person's decision to participate in democracy, especially as we improve scanning and database technology.

I dunno. I suppose it depends upon whether or not someone is going to use this list like Santa Claus’ naughty list and withhold a gift or substitute a lump of coal.

On the heels of the governor’s actions and the subsequent revolt in the form of the recall movement the extremes of divisiveness that have been summoned-forth like demons unleashed from Pandora’s Box are quite unprecedented.  So I suppose anything is possible.   

Joseph McCarthy kept a list. J. Edgar Hoover kept a list. And they both used their lists for nefarious purposes. Maybe I'm on someone's enemy list.  As unsettling as it may seem - perhaps a partisan individual in a position of power might use information sifted from the petition list to retaliate against a subordinate.  Or maybe the list will be used to intimidate or publicly embarrass someone.

If so, I would hope that someone compiles a list and makes it public.

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