Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Tuesday's Anti-Trump Rally

I normally don't like to discuss an event after it has already happened. However, today I would like to talk about Tuesday night's anti-Trump protest at the Washington Co. Fairgrounds.

Trump came to Washington County in an attempt to shore-up his Republican base. Despite trailing by 15% in the latest state polls, he is under the delusion that he can do what no Republican candidate has done since Reagan-carry Wisconsin. Don the Con and his advisers figured that Washington County was a safe place to hold his campaign stop. After all, we are (percentage-wise) the most Republican county in the state.

However, Washington County still has more Democratic voters than all but 14 of Wisconsin's counties. We certainly were not going to give Trump and his horde a free pass to spew their patented brand of hatred, unopposed. Not here. Not in our county. A good crowd of Dems and allies showed-up at the fairgrounds to wave the progressive flag. All of the protesters were local, most from Washington County.

At any one time, the protesters numbered about forty people. The crowd had a bi-modal age distribution. There were plenty of old people like me. Encouragingly, there were also a lot of college-aged kids. I guess neither of these groups are trying to raise a family or focus on their career right now. Both old and young have time to devote to changing the world. Everyone had a sign of some sort, many quite clever. My own sign is pictured above. (the baby is my 3-month old grandson, "Otis")

As expected, the Trump crowd was almost exclusively white, slack-jawed, and gray-haired. Many in the crowd were so decrepit that the GOP would do well to strongly encourage early voting. Men greatly outnumbered women. Almost everyone attending seemed angry. Angry at the protesters. Angry at the country. Angry at life in general. 

A very long line of Trumpsters waited outside of the hall to pass through security. They must have been patting people down for smuggled copies of the Constitution.

While we were pretty far removed from the line of Trumpsters entering the auditorium, there were plenty of Cheeto-Jesus disciples walking or driving past us on their way to see their hero. Many of them felt obliged to flip us the bird, give thumbs down, or tell us in so many words that we were misguided. Pretty tame stuff for anyone involved in the recalls.

Many believed the GOP meme that we protesters were either employees of the Hillary campaign ("Who is paying you?") or don't have a job ("Go to work!"). Well, which is it?

One man must have learned his street invectives from Moe Howard, calling us "imbeciles", "morons", and "idiots". Another yelled-"We will build our wall and put you on the other side of it!" Yet another one said, "You Dems just want free things!"

To almost everyone who treated the protestors with disrespect, we answered with "Have a nice day!"

Things were just getting started about 4:30. A steady stream of cars kept coming into the Fairgrounds at least until 7:30, when a headache forced me to go home. Trump was running late and did not speak to the crowd until well after 9:00.

We were surrounded by vendors selling Trump and GOP swag. Many of these entrepreneurs travel with the campaign nationwide and contribute to the carnival atmosphere. Pundits who call Trump a carnival barker are spot on.

The biggest winners of the night were the people selling the "Hillary for Prison" t-shirts that appeared to be the uniform of choice. They succeeded in getting hundreds of gullible rubes to spend $20 apiece on something they would be ashamed (and scared) to wear outside of a Trump rally.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

We're Here. We're Progressive. Get Used to It !

For much of the 25 years since we moved to Washington County, I was unaware of the many progressives living in our town. We saw few Democratic yard signs and bumper stickers. Most local political offices had only GOP candidates on the ballot. In local social gatherings, no liberal ideas were voiced when the discussion turned to politics.

Yet, one in three of my W.O.W. neighbors consistently vote for the Democratic candidate for President. Thousands of us signed to recall Walker, Darling, and Grothman. After Dane and Milwaukee counties, Waukesha has the third most Democrats of any county in Wisconsin. We exist. We are here. We just tend to keep our heads down. But that is changing.

I wrote a lefty political blog in the Germantown NOW from 2012 to March 2016. At first, many from the far-right crowd were apoplectic. "How dare there be a liberal voice expressed in our town?" Early on, the anonymous comments on the articles were often so offensive that they were quickly removed.

However, over time the comments became more substantive and respectful. By the last year, several of my far-right readers said that, while they seldom agreed with the columns, they enjoyed reading them. I don't know if I changed any opinions, but over four years we went from open hostility to an acceptance of the right of progressive ideas to exist.

In a similar vein, I have volunteered to work at the Washington County Fair's Democratic Party booth since 2012. The first year was awful. No sooner did one angry venom-spitting rightie leave our booth than another one would take their place. I was convinced that they were on scheduled shifts.

However, Washington County conservatives are gradually coming to an acceptance of local Democrats' right to exist. And increasing numbers of our rational neighbors are being assured that it is OK to be a liberal here. This year, I saw more thumbs-up than down. There were only a handful of nasty comments. Sure, there were still a few people who wanted to argue the primary GOP fixations on "God, Guns, and Gays". But even the argumentative folks approached us with much more respect than I saw my first year.

I have heard similar stories from others. For example, the Washington County Dems have had a float in the West Bend 4th of July parade for the last several years. Participants report hearing fewer Boo's each year. We are becoming more accepted. Simultaneously, we are letting other liberals see that it is OK to express your political views in public here.

Just last week, I was getting my hair cut at a local salon. A loud-mouthed Belling disciple started spewing talk-radio memes, assuming that everyone in the room agreed with his bizarre world view. Having had enough of his pro-Trump monologue, I spoke-up. He seemed stunned.

He said Trump was a great businessman. (I said that he stiffed suppliers and went bankrupt six times). He said that the Trump kids were great and you could tell a lot from how someone's kids turned-out. (I refrained from saying how dickish the Trump boys are, but replied that Chelsea Clinton seemed nice). He said that Hillary belonged in jail. (I said that the FBI cleared her, but Trump was in court for fraud). He said that electing Hillary would be like a third Obama term. (I said that that would be great). Growing increasingly red, he said that Trump would get rid of Obamacare. (I replied that I get my insurance on the exchange and am quite happy with it). (I asked him if he was really going to vote for a guy who idolizes a Russian dictator and who said that we should abandon NATO allies to Russian attacks). In a fit of pique, he sputtered again that Hillary should be in jail ! (I said, "So should Scott Walker!").

He then made an angry exit, muttering that "Scott Walker is a good man". He was no longer feeling secure to shout right-wing talking points in Germantown without push-back. A sense of relief went over the salon and several of the patrons actually thanked me for shutting the guy down.

Every Hillary yard sign, every Russ bumper sticker, every Democratic parade float makes being progressive in W.O.W. Counties a little more accepted. Every local Democratic candidate, every liberal view voiced in a beauty shop, makes others feel that it is indeed OK to be a progressive. Every lefty letter-to-the-editor, blog, and door-knock makes our neighbors realize that we're here, we're progressive, and they'd better get used to it. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Let's See Your Taxes, Donald !

The release of candidates' tax returns has become an important part of the American electorate's vetting process. In hiring someone to lead the country for four years, we have the responsibility and right to look at their finances through their tax records. While not written into law, all candidates for President and Vice President since the Nixon Administration have all disclosed their records. But not Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton has followed this tradition. She has gone way beyond what is expected of a candidate. She has disclosed 32 years of tax returns. But not Donald Trump. We have no record of votes and public service on which to judge Trump. He asks us to elect him solely based on his business career. So in Trump's case, the full disclosure of his tax returns is even more important.

Instead, Trump has stalled. He has dodged. He has weaved. He has told lies about not being able to disclose tax forms while his most recent taxes are being audited (he can). Even if that falsehood was actually true, it would not stop disclosure of decades of pre-2012 returns.

It is not as if Trump doesn't know the importance of candidates releasing their tax records. In 2012, he urged Mitt Romney to release his returns, saying that Romney "was hurt very badly" by his delays. However, in a May interview, Trump implied that he won't ever release his own returns, saying that the voters would not be interested and that "there is nothing to learn from them".

Based on Trump's long history of shady business practices and outright fraud, we wonder just exactly what he is hiding. The secrets that Trump is keeping from the American public must be far worse than the negative reaction to him not coming clean. For example:

Underworld ties. There have been rumors of Trump's underworld ties for years. It would be difficult to be involved in gambling casinos without such organized crime associations. The same for being in real estate development in New Jersey/New York. (I know. I watched the Sopranos). Only opening-up Trump's tax returns will start to put these rumors to rest.

Putin ties. Evidence of the disturbing and dangerous bromance between Trump and Russian dictator Vladimir Putin keeps piling-up. All Americans should be concerned about this. Could there be damning evidence of financial transactions between the two in Trump's tax returns? Could there be evidence of dark and shady business deals with the Russian oligarchs surrounding Putin? George Will has suggested as much. Only opening-up Trump's tax returns will start to put these rumors to rest.

Extensive offshore accounts. Patriotic Americans have a distaste for the rich shipping their money overseas to avoid paying US taxes. Could Trump be using such tax dodges? Only opening-up his tax returns will let us know for sure.

Blending personal and business expenses. Trump's byzantine business empire provides the perfect conduit to pass-off personal expenses as business ones. How much of the Trump family's personal food, transportation, clothing, and housing are being written-off in his taxes? Only opening-up his tax returns will let us know for sure.

Crooked deals. We know that Trump has frequently stiffed contractors. We know about his Trump University scam. The "morally flexible" Trump has been involved in over 3,500 lawsuits. What other crooked deals are hiding in his returns? Only opening-up his tax returns will let us know for sure.

Paying no taxes. (But when the taxman comes to the door-Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale, yeah). Mitt Romney was derided for paying low taxes. With all of the available business write-offs, it is possible that the self-proclaimed "very, very rich" Trump pays no taxes at all. This is not mere speculation. For the only three years that we know about (1978, 1979, 1984), billionaire Trump indeed paid absolutely no Federal income tax. Only opening-up his returns will let us know if he paid no tax at all in building his empire.

Donating little to charity. As with everything else in his life, Donald Trump loves to brag. He often crows about how much he gives to charity. How much of this is real and how much is fiction? There have certainly been questions about Trump's claim of donations to veterans' groups. Only opening-up his tax returns will start to put these rumors to rest.

Secret love child. Is Trump claiming even more dependents than we saw on the RNC stage last week? He seems to be fixated on comedienne Rosie O'Donnell, speaking of her often. Could he and his friend Rosie have had a love-child and kept it from the public? Only opening-up Trump's tax returns will start to put these rumors to rest.

Donald Trump thinks that the American public is stupid. He thinks that we will accept his view that "there is nothing to learn" from his tax returns. However, the only way that he can halt the rampant allegations and speculation is to do what he urged Mitt Romney to do in 2012-release his taxes for the last 20 years. Until that time, the public is free to speculate on what Trump is hiding by his astounding and intransigent refusal to come clean.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

McConnell and Ryan Fiddle While Rome Burns

During the Comedy of Errors that is the Republican National Convention, the most outrageous and ironic incident happened on the second day. The theme for Tuesday was "Make America Work Again". Yet, among the evening's speakers were Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Rather than acting to make America work again, McConnell and Ryan are the poster boys for the complete paralysis of our federal government. During one of the most serious public health crises in decades, the two are responsible for total governmental inaction. Compounding their irresponsibility, they put Congress on a seven-week vacation until after Labor Day.

The Zika virus is slowly and inexorably spreading through the US. According to the CDC, 2,905 locally-acquired cases have been reported in US territories (Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, American Samoa). Although no locally-acquired cases have yet been reported in the 50 states, fully 1,305 travel-related cases have been confirmed. Nine such cases have been reported in Wisconsin. Zika is here. It is spreading. It causes awful birth defects. Yet, the GOP leadership in Congress has done nothing but play cynical political games with our health.

As so often, President Obama has done his job. Last February, he requested $1.9 billion in emergency funding for vaccine research, mosquito control, healthcare, and education efforts. Yet, the GOP majority in both houses has still not authorized one cent to fight this awful disease.

The Senate passed a bipartisan bill last May, authorizing $1.1 billion to fight the virus. Tammy Baldwin voted for this bill. Ron Johnson did not.

A different House bill passed, mostly on partisan lines. Jim Sensenbrenner voted for this bill which provided no new funding and limited the money for Zika to only a third of what the Obama Administration had requested. And in an obvious pay-out to lobbyists, the bill sneaked-in a relaxation of limits on toxic pesticides.

Without allowing input from Democrats, House and Senate Republicans got together to add even more poison pills to the final bill. More than half a billion dollars was cut from the Affordable Care Act (of course). Despite Zika being sexually-transmitted and causing birth defects, the funds were prohibited from going to women's clinics (of course). The new version needed a new Senate vote. With all of the noxious additions, the Senate Democratic minority (including our own Tammy Baldwin) voted down the GOP-self-negotiated bill.

Senate Minority Leader, Harry Reid said of the GOP bill, "
It's a disgrace. It's a mockery of how Congress should treat an emergency." When Senate Democrats asked to actually have some input and compromise on the poison pills that the GOP negotiated among themselves, Senate Republican McConnell cynically replied, "The time for a debate about the content of it is over. "

The Republican bill is so toxic and overloaded with a Tea Party wish-list that President Obama has threatened to veto the badly-needed funds if it reaches his desk.

While he should be in Washington dealing with this emergency, McConnell had better things to do. He was giving a Tuesday speech at the Trump love-in in Cleveland. He had the unmitigated gall to blame Democrats for the impasse, saying in his mush-mouth accent, "As we sit here tonight, a terrifying mosquito-borne illness threatens expectant mothers and their babies along our southern coast. Just last week, Clinton Democrats in the Senate blocked a bill aimed at eradication before it can spread.

Huge bipartisan majorities of Americans believe that the government should provide funds to research Zika, fight its spread, and to provide reproductive choices to those afflicted. However, the GOP majority in Congress does nothing but go on extended vacation. Republican mismanagement of the Zika crisis has proven that they can't be trusted to run anything. They stall, add far-right poison pills to a critical bill, and play politics with the health of America.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Some Things I Boycott

I have a confession to make. I am a serial boycotter. I cannot stand to spend my hard-earned money at businesses whose policies I find reprehensible.

Our vote is only one tool that we have to promote political and social change. Perhaps a much more powerful tool is our money and how we choose to spend it. It is very painful for companies to deal with organized and sustained boycotts of their products. Most will change policies to avoid such boycotts.

I remember the first thing that I boycotted for political reasons. When I was in college, the 2nd California grape boycott was in full force and I participated enthusiastically. Since that time, I have often made spending decisions based on the economic and political policies of companies. For example, you will never see me at Chick-Fil-A because of that company's anti-gay activism. I won't set foot in a Hobby Lobby because of the company's legal wrangling to deny its employees insurance coverage for some forms of contraception.

Organized boycotts and boycott threats can be quite effective in forcing policy change. For example, after Rush Limbaugh's awful Sandra Fluke harangues of several years ago, thousands of sponsors stopped supporting the flaming Nazi gasbag. Some larger stations have stopped carrying the talking jackass. The Rush franchise has definitely been harmed.

After Florida passed a "stand your ground" gun law, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) promoted similar model legislation in many states. The murder of 17-year old Treyvon Martin under the pretext of "stand your ground" led to public pressure on corporate sponsors of ALEC. Negative publicity and threats of boycotts led 127 corporate members to sever ties with the right-wing organization, including giants such as Coca-Cola, GE, Microsoft, Ford, and Shell.

My family has personally boycotted several local businesses. Although they will never know it, our refusal to buy from the repugnant enterprises has resulted in hundreds and thousands of dollars in lost sales. For example, when looking for an estate lawyer to update my will, I ruled-out several candidates for their donations to Scott Walker. As a frequent Ford buyer, I will not shop at Sorens in Brookfield due to their sponsorship of hate-radio jack-ass, Jay Weber's podcasts.

There are a raft of reasons that I avoid WalMart. They have single-handedly destroyed many small downtowns. They underpay their employees. They squeeze their suppliers. They import about $49 billion in goods from China each year, displacing an estimated 40,000 American workers. They fight unionization at their stores. I haven't spent a dime in a Walmart in over 30 years.

I never patronize restaurants that insist on subjecting their customers to the GOP propaganda of Fox "News". One such frozen custard shop in Germantown (Robert's), lost my business years ago. (and I eat a lot of frozen custard!) Ditto for Fox "News"-loving McDonalds franchises in Brookfield and Menomonee Falls. Who needs to have their appetite ruined by O'Reilly or Hannity? If these restaurants must have a TV on, couldn't they just play game shows and sporting events?

Scott Walker's assaults on public and private workers have opened-up a whole new landscape for politically motivated boycotts. As an individual, I don't have any occasion to avoid huge Walker supporters like ABC Supply or Badger Meter. However, I can and do boycott big Walker donors like Menards, Kwik Trip, and the Rickett Family's Chicago Cubs.

Few big political donors have done as much damage to Wisconsin as the infamous Koch brothers. Boycotting the Koch companies is difficult, as their conglomerate makes everything from carpets to building materials to toilet paper. However, available lists of Koch products can help us end the siphoning of money from our pockets directly into the campaign coffers of anti-worker politicians.

Businesses have enough trouble staying solvent without alienating half of their potential customers. I fail to understand why owners insist on making large political contributions, or support regressive social policies, or impose political propaganda on patrons. However, as long as they do, I will exercise what little economic leverage I have by making conscientious choices about where to spend my money.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Walker Has a Lot of Nerve !

I enjoy the Fourth of July as much as anybody. As a former band geek, I especially like the parades with all of their marching bands. On Sunday, my wife and I went to Menomonee Falls to see one of the biggest parades around. It was a nice, cool evening. Everybody seemed in good spirits, watching the clowns, and floats, and Shriner vehicles. But midway through the parade, the festive mood suddenly took a dark turn.

Walking down the middle of Appleton Avenue came the worst buzz-kill of a politician in America- Scott Walker ! I guess that deep red Menomoneee Falls is one of the few areas of the state that our corrupt governor is not afraid to show his face. You will never see him in parades in Madison or Milwaukee or Racine or Shorewood. However, even in a core GOP stronghold like the Falls, there were plenty of people booing and yelling "Go home !". One guy was shouting "Go back to Iowa !" (OK, that guy was me.)

The most amazing thing was that Walker was wearing a red University of Wisconsin shirt. You know, the University for which Walker tried to re-write the mission statement. After facing unexpected statewide opposition, he backed down, calling his attempts at changing the Wisconsin Way a "drafting error". For months, Walker resisted open records requests until ordered by a judge to turn-over communications on his sordid scheme. Turns-out that this wasn't a "drafting error" after all, but a concerted plot initiated by the Governor himself. 

Yes, Walker was proudly wearing a University of Wisconsin shirt. You know, the system whose flagship campus is in Madison- a town that Walker would eject from his state if he could. In talking about the epicenter of the 2011 protests, Walker said "You've got a world driven by Madison, and a world driven by everybody else out across the majority of the rest of the state of Wisconsin."

Walker was wearing a Wisconsin shirt. You know, the university system that he tried to cut by a staggering $300 million in the last budget before the JFC whittled it down to only $250 million. The system that has seen a total $282.9 million cut over Walker's three 2-year budgets.

Walker was wearing a UW shirt. You know, the school that has already lost many top faculty to other universities because of his weakening of tenure protection. The school where Walker stripped students and faculty of much or their shared governance rights, putting more power in the hands of administration.

Walker was wearing a University of Wisconsin shirt. That is the same system whose faculty at Madison and Milwaukee and La Cross and Green Bay voted "no confidence" in Walker's hand-picked Regents and system President. The system whose faculty Walker blasted for standing up for their rights, whining, "Some faculty bodies, including faculty at UW-M today, appear more interested in protecting outdated ‘job for life’ tenure than about helping students get the best education possible."

For the next parade, Walker should probably refrain from wearing University of Wisconsin garb. He should not wear clothing honoring something that he seems determined to destroy. Maybe instead, he could wear a shirt depicting something he actually represents. Like the NRA logo. Or the letters WMC. Or a picture of Diane Hendricks.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Will W.O.W. Counties Turn Blue?

By any measure, the W.O.W. counties are very Republican. For example, in November's election, Germantown voters will see no Democratic challenger to either State Senator Alberta Darling (R-Mesozoic) or State Representative (and Ozaukee Patriots member) Dan Knodl (R-Bronze Age).

In the 2012 presidential election, the three counties gave Mitt Romney the three largest margins in the state (Washington 70%, Waukesha 67%, and Ozaukee 65%). At a combined 67.8% Romney vote, if W.O.W. was a separate state, only Wyoming (69% Romney) and Utah (73% Romney) would have given the GOP candidate a larger margin of victory.

Despite being deep red, the W.O.W. counties are very important to the hopes of statewide Democratic office holders. With a total population of 616,000, W.O.W. is home to a hefty 10.7% of Wisconsinites. There are more people in these three counties than in Madison-centered Dane (516,000). And W.O.W. residents are very politically engaged. We vote. In the 2012 presidential race, our votes constituted a full 12.3% of state-wide turn-out. And in the 2014 gubernatorial election, our voters were an even greater percentage of the Wisconsin total (13.1%). Statewide Democratic candidates ignore these vote-rich counties at their own peril.

However, I tend to be an optimist. The low percentage of W.O.W. Democratic voters is a real opportunity for large Democratic gains through strong outreach efforts. After all, a swing of just 16.1% of 2012 voters from Republican to Democratic would have made the Milwaukee suburbs a tie. In the stronger Democratic year 2008, it would have only taken a 13.1% swing.

Already, one in three W.O.W. voters select Democrats for President. In sheer numbers, Waukesha County is the third most Democratic County in the state, behind only Dane and Milwaukee. And several demographic trends and GOP policy directions are making it likely that the W.O.W. counties will start moving from deep red through fuchsia to full-on blue.

Older, more conservative people are dying-out. Based on 2012 election results, it is clear that young people vote Democratic. Exit polls below show a strong correlation between age and the way we vote:  
                 Age                % Obama Vote
               18-29                     60
               30-44                     52
               45-64                     47
               over 65                  44

Current polls for the Clinton-Trump race show a similar clear correlation. Trump has twice as much support from those over 65 (49%) as from those 18 to 29 (24%). Assuming one's politics do not change over time, this bodes badly for GOP W.O.W. domination in the future. Cranky old GOP-leaning geezers are dying-off and being replaced with far more more progressive youth.

W.O.W. is becoming more ethnically diverse. The Democratic Party continues to be the party of economic opportunity for all Americans. The Party has become a home for voters belonging to fast-growing ethnic minority groups. For example, President Obama garnered 93% of African-American vote, 71% of Hispanic vote, and 73% of Asian-American vote. With the unapologetic racism spouted from the current GOP nominee, Republicans will continue to drive away minority voters.

Like the rest of the country, W.O.W. counties are gradually becoming more ethnically diverse. Just between 2010 and 2014, census surveys show that the number of people reporting as "white alone, not Hispanic or Latino" dropped from 92.3% in the three counties to 91.2%.

Elimination of Milwaukee's residency requirement. In 2013, MPS eliminated the requirement that district teachers live in Milwaukee. Last week, the State Supreme Court ruled against the city requiring other city employees to live in Milwaukee. This will no doubt result in an influx of Democratic-leaning workers and their spouses moving into the surrounding W.O.W. suburbs. Prior to 2013, about 6% of all Milwaukee households had workers covered by the requirements. Four years after ending their own residency requirements, 28.5% of Cleveland's workers had moved to the burbs.

Increasingly Extreme Republican Policies. Over the last several years, Republicans have embraced increasingly extreme and unpopular positions. Republicans at the national level defend the Citizens United decision and fight common-sense gun regulation. At the state level, GOP politicians are busily taking away voting rights and reproductive rights. They are tireless in their war on public education and the environment. And nothing exemplifies the GOP shift to the nutty right more than the party's 2016 presidential nominee.

People are getting fed-up. Nationally, the GOP has a favorable/unfavorable average of 30%/59% vs 45%/46% for Democrats. In Wisconsin, Scott Walker's job approval is in the toilet at 39%. Many voters are re-examining their party affiliation and leanings. And the Republicans are certainly losing independent support.

Yes, the W.O.W. counties are still very red. However, inexorable demographic shifts and unwise GOP policies will gradually put Washington, Ozaukee, and Waukesha Counties into play for the Democrats. Even before that distant day, the counties will become less overwhelmingly red. As progressives, we need to do everything possible to help that process along.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Ron Johnson Again Protects the Right of Terrorists to Buy Guns

Once again, Ron Johnson has defended the right of terrorists to purchase weapons capable of slaughtering huge numbers of innocent Americans. In two Monday Senate votes, the soon-to-be-former Senator from Wisconsin once again refused to do a single thing to stop the recent spate of mass gun murders. 

In the early evening votes, the Republican majority (including our own Ron Johnson) defeated amendments that would have made background checks mandatory and would have kept terrorists from purchasing guns.  

Today is not the first time that Johnson has protected the right of terrorists and criminals to buy mass-murder weapons. In December 2015, he voted against an attachment that also would have closed the gun-show background check loophole. He voted against one that also would have kept terrorists on watch lists from buying assault weapons. These were similar to the Senate bills introduced today.  

Not content to just do nothing, Johnson has criticized his responsible colleagues who are willing to incur the wrath of the gun lobby. Last week on Icky Vicki, Johnson called Senate attempts to enact sensible gun laws "Nonsense". He told the GOP radio propagandist, "We have to quit distracting the American public with these nonsense debates — and that’s what these are — these nonsense debates about gun control."

Instead, Johnson disingenuously claims that the problem is not guns, but "Islamic terrorism". I guess Ron chooses to ignore the vast majority of mass gun murders that are not carried-out by Muslims. In Johnson's mind, horrible killings such as Sandy Hook, Columbine, Charleston, or Oak Creek do not need to be addressed.

Johnson's blaming of mass-shootings on everything except easy availability of guns is not new. In a 2012 Fox discussion following the mass killing of Colorado movie-goers, he stated, "This isn’t an issue about guns. This is really an issue about sick, demented individuals. "

Johnson is only half right. The real problem is "terrorists" or "sick, demented individuals" armed with easily-available rapid-fire human-killing machines. Personally, I would rather take my chances with "terrorists" and "sick individuals" armed with shotguns, baseball bats, and switchblades than with AR-15's.

Johnson won't even try to keep guns out of the hands of the criminally insane. In a 2013 post-Aurora interview, he said, "You simply can’t keep these weapons out of the hands of sick, demented individuals who want to do harm. And when you try and do it, you restrict our freedom.

Following the awful 2012 murder of children and teachers at Sandy Hook, Johnson had a chance to close the gun-show background check loophole. He voted against it. He had a chance to ban high-capacity ammo-feeders. He voted against it. He had a chance to re-institute the highly effective assault weapons ban. He voted against it. In fact, Johnson signed-on to a letter with 13 of the most extreme GOP Senators threatening to filibuster any attempts at even the laxest, most common sense gun laws.

Johnson's blind obedience to the the gun lobby has even affected his votes in other areas. For example, he claims that one of the reasons for his refusal to consider President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court is that "Judge Merrick (Garland) is hostile to your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.” This is the exact language that the NRA has been using in it's opposition to filling the Court vacancy.

Ron Johnson feels that there should be no controls on firearms at all. He consistently votes against even the most modest and rational gun laws, calling them "nonsense". He makes-up reasons that guns are not the real problem in gun-caused deaths. He comes-up with any excuse for his own shameful inaction. Johnson's refusal to act keep Americans safer in our malls, churches, schools, and streets disqualifies him from a second term.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Has Jim Sensenbrenner Earned a Twentieth Term ?

Jim Sensenbrenner has been on the taxpayer dole his entire working life. He was elected to the state Assembly in 1969, the year he graduated from law school. He served in the Wisconsin legislature until 1979, when he was elected to the US Congress-where he has sat ever since.

The year that our Congressman took his current job, the USSR invaded Afghanistan. Jimmy Carter was President. Kramer vs. Kramer was a box office hit. Magic Johnson met Larry Bird in the NCAA basketball finals. And one of the top albums was Saturday Night Fever. Our world and country have drastically changed in all that time, but Jim Sensenbrenner still occupies our Congressional seat.

What are Sensenbrenner's main accomplishments during his 38 years in office? Has he earned the right to yet another term? If you Google "Jim Sensenbrenner", one of the most frequent news stories related to our Congressman is an extreme pot-calling-the-kettle-black instance of Mr. Sensenbrenner stating that our current first lady has "a big butt".

Our Congressman calls himself a "veteran of the climate wars." He has finally acknowledged that the earth is, indeed, warming, but still fights any attempt to do anything about it. Recently, he voted against our military doing anything to prepare for climate change or acting to improve sustainability.

Jim Sensenbrenner is a senior Republican in the House. He and his party have succeeded in making this the most do-nothing Congress in US history. It is not as though there is nothing to do. Sensenbrenner and his cronies have done nothing on immigration, nothing on infrastructure, nothing on sensible gun safety, nothing on increasing the minimum wage, nothing on shoring-up Medicare and Social Security, nothing on jobs- well, you get the picture.

Instead, Sensenbrenner believes that the House has more important things to do than to attend to America's pressing needs. During a 2013 town hall meeting, one of Sensenbrenner's constituents remarked that so far, he has voted a ridiculous 46 times to repeal Obamacare. Jim immediately interrupted, saying, “and I would vote 46 more times to eliminate Obamacare.” To date, he has voted over 50 times to allow insurance companies to deny you medical coverage. Over 50 times to overturn an established and wildly successful law that helps his constituents.

And not satisfied with 13 Benghazi hearings, 50 briefings, and 25,000 pages of documents, Sensenbrenner voted to waste even more taxpayer money on Trey Goudy's ridiculously partisan and failed witch hunt.

As another example of how he ignores the needs of constituents in order to further a political agenda, our Congressman has consistently voted for every version of Paul Ryan's Ayn-Randian Roadmap to Prosperity manifesto. Through his votes, he has endorsed the privatization of Social Security and turning Medicare into a discount coupon scheme. Through his votes, he has favored the drastic slashing of the Pell Grant program, which allows millions of students to attend college.

The current Congress' ineffectiveness at governing should alone be sufficient reason to replace them all. However, Sensenbrenner and his pals have gone way beyond ineffectiveness. At the very least, we should expect that the people we elect to govern should keep the government actually open. Sensenbrenner has not even met these minimal expectations.

In one of the most senseless and inane Congressional actions in decades, House Republicans shut down the Government in 2013 for a total of 16 days. Right in the middle of this disgraceful event was our own Jim Sensenbrenner. He and 79 if his politically extreme comrades sent a letter to House leadership, encouraging them to close our Government in a vain attempt to end health care for millions of Americans. After Congressional leaders finally hammered-out an agreement to re-open the government, Sensenbrenner bizarrely voted with the minority to keep it closed

Sensenbrenner puts his party over his country. He has come-out in support of the most unqualified and dangerous presidential candidate in recent history. One of the few speakers to invoke Trump's name at the Wisconsin GOP convention, Sensenbrenner stated, "Donald Trump has won our nomination fair and square." In a convention interview, he expressed his views on the race, "I hope it's not Hillary Clinton. If Donald Trump is the only alternative, I hope it will be Donald Trump."

Want a politician to blame for a Florida ISIS sympathizer on FBI radar getting access to an efficient human-slaughtering weapon? Look no further than Jim Sensenbrenner. In 2011, he voted down an amendment that would have stopped terrorists on the no-fly list from buying guns. He has shown no support for a similar bill , the Denying Firearms and Dangerous Explosives to Terrorists Act, currently languishing in the House.

The electorate of the 5th District has had plenty of time to evaluate the long political career of Jim Sensenbrenner. From his participation in the heinous government shut-down to being a senior member of the least productive Congress in history, his record is an abysmal one. He has consistently voted against the interests of his constituents on issues such as gutting Medicare and privatizing Social Security. He has defended the right of terrorists to buy assault weapons. Sensenbrenner's performance in office has not earned him another term.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Republicans Want to Lower Your Income

One of the most consistent core Republican principles is the importance of lowering your income. From destroying unions, to making the minimum wage irrelevant, to fighting new overtime rules, the Trump-Party politicians who pretend to represent you are leading the charge to limit your take-home pay.

The latest affront to the income of Wisconsinites has come from our own Senator, Ron Johnson. In May, President Obama announced updated overtime rules that will raise the income level below which "salaried" workers must be paid time-and-a-half. When introduced in the 70's, the law covered 62% of salaried workers. With no adjustment for years, the percentage of covered workers has fallen to 7%.

The updated rule will give an estimated 80,000 Wisconsinites a well-deserved pay increase. The response by our two US Senate candidates makes the difference between the two parties crystal clear. Russ Feingold says that the change is long overdue. In contrast, Ron Johnson is totally against it. His office stated that he is working on ways to block the rule and that he "will seek additional opportunities to prevent its implementation".

House Speaker Ryan has also vowed to keep money out of your hands. Speaking-out against the new overtime rules, he warned, "We are committed to fighting this rule and the many others that would be an absolute disaster for our economy."

But this is not the first time that the Trump-Party-majority in the US Congress has sought to repress the pay of working Americans. Under Speaker Boehner, a minimum wage increase was never allowed a floor vote. It was filibustered every time it reached the Senate. Paul Ryan has consistently spoken-out against any increase. And Ron Johnson goes even farther, saying that there should be no federal minimum wage at all !

So short of executive orders by the President, there is little chance of Washington politicians doing anything to increase your paycheck. Any action must be taken at the state or local level. A 2015 study revealed that Wisconsin's middle class shrank more than that of any other state over the 2000-2013 period. During that time, the proportion of state households considered middle-class dropped from 54.6% to 48.9%. About 220,000 Wisconsin families fell out of the middle-class.

Surely, our state politicians would do something about that. Surely, they would do everything possible to get more money into the hands of Wisconsin workers and to rebuild our middle class, right? Wrong ! Rather than enact laws to put more cash in our pockets, our Trump-Party governor and corrupt legislature have done everything possible to lower the paychecks of working Wisconsinites. Everything possible to shove even more people out of the middle class.

Twenty nine states have instituted minimum wages higher than the current federal standard. Wisconsin is not one of them. Like many Trump-Party extremists, Walker doesn't even think that there should be a minimum. In a 2014 interview, he said that a minimum wage "doesn't serve a purpose". In another interview, he called a minimum wage "a lame idea". And the entrenched legislature Trumpites have kept all minimum wage proposals bottled up in committee for years.

Not content to keep low-end workers down, state GOP politicians have kept the middle class down, too. Hidden in the last state budget was a repeal of much of Wisconsin's Prevailing Wage law. The statute was designed to ensure high-quality work by well-trained workers on public projects. However, according to Rep. Dan Knodl (Trump-Party, Germantown), the repeal didn't go far enough. In a press conference he said, "The road to full repeal is the road that I've been on." and " (repeal) will drive down the wage."

And another success for the Wisconsin Trump-Party was the infliction of Right-to-Freeload on state workers. A 2014 study found that workers in the then-24 RTF states made16% less than those in states where workers pay their fair share of union representation. Implementation of RTF doesn't just affect union workers, either. Weaker union representation drives-down salaries for everyone. By jamming this law through in an emergency session, Trump-Party legislators have payed-off corporate donors like WMC at the expense of the rest of us.

At both the national and state levels, Republican office holders are working tirelessly to hold-down the wages of those they claim to represent. Through tactics like preventing minimum wage increases, weakening unions, and working against updated overtime rules, the GOP is systematically destroying the American middle class. One must ask the question-why are these politicians purposely and systematically working to hurt their own constituents? Just who do they really represent?