MILWAUKEE -- Because it's all so important, because so much is at stake, because the issues on the line here in the Badger State go right to the heart of the nation's own deep political divide, Wisconsin Republicans have now taken away the Democrats' copying-machine privileges.
The staffers who work for the 14 Senate Democrats holed up just across the border in Illinois can no longer use the Capitol's copying machines; the Senate Republicans said so. The Republicans also blocked direct deposit of the missing Democrats' paychecks. They've even taken away their parking privileges.
That'll show 'em.
Talk about rising to the occasion! Our brave GOP senators, frustrated beyond words by the Democrats' continued refusal to provide the quorum they need to rubber-stamp the new governor's new rules, have pulled themselves up to their full height -- 2 feet, 6 inches -- and gone snitty. Now they've voted to fine the missing Dems $100 each for each session day they miss without a good (i.e., good enough for the Republicans) excuse.
What's next? Thumb tacks on their chairs? Prank calls in the middle of the night? Oh, wait -- two GOP legislators are actually circulating a bill to ban prank calls. (No, really!) Apparently the sound of the new governor sucking up to a pretend-billionaire in a 20-minute brag-a-thon demanded a legislative solution. And since they can't make stupid illegal...
Where were we? Right: What's next? Will the Republicans stomp their feet? Threaten to hold their breath until they turn purple? We'll all be sorry, then, won't we, for the awful way we treated them, when all they were trying to do was give Scott Walker the tools he needs to make everything better!
The tools. That's what Gov. Walker keeps calling them -- "the tools." Our financial crisis will only get worse, the governor keeps warning, unless those Senate Democrats come back to Wisconsin and let the Senate give him "the tools" he needs to solve it.
"The tools" sounds so... workmanlike. So professional. There's not a hint of ideology in there. You've got a leak, he's got a wrench. You've got a flat, he's got a jack.
And also a tire iron, which he's more than eager to apply to the skulls of those pesky unions.
But that sounds so hostile. Better to just talk about "the tools."
Which include, presumably:
* The pocket calculator, so the governor can figure out exactly how much money the unions have been contributing to Democratic candidates and causes, and how much less they'll be able to contribute if he cripples their ability to represent their members;
* The carpenter's level, so the governor can make sure his policies tilt far enough to the right to satisfy the Koch brothers and his other corporate financiers;
* The not-so-smartphone with the special iLandslide app that lets the governor turn his 52%-to-47% victory last November into a mandate to do absolutely anything he wants to do;
* The tape measure, so the governor can start dreaming about his White House drapes;
* The oversized screwdriver, and the matching screws;
And of course:
* The chain saw, the ax, and the sledgehammer, so the governor can solve Wisconsin's financial crisis by whacking away at the state's university system and its public schools and its recycling programs and its Medicaid recipients and its welfare recipients and its --
You get the idea.
When you think of tools, think of Scott Walker.
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.