Saturday, May 19, 2018

Twelve Reasons We Can't Let Leah Vukmir Be Elected

With Leah Vukmir's endorsement at last week's Republican State Convention, she will likely be the party's nominee for US Senate. Who is Vukmir and what does she stand for?  An examination of her websites, editorials, talk-radio interviews, and speeches makes it clear that she is a far-right ideologue. It is clear that she does not represent Wisconsin values. Let's look at a few examples.

Vukmir has no shame. Vukmir's campaign hit a disgusting low when they photo-shopped a picture of Sen. Tammy Baldwin next to Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, the mastermind of 9/11. The picture was captioned "Team Terrorist". On talk radio last week, Vukmir refused to apologize, simply saying, "If I'm politically incorrect, I'm politically incorrect."

Vukmir will waste your money on the stupid Wall. On April 26, she tweeted "There can be no discussion in immigration reform until we build the wall. " At her WI GOP Convention speech she boasted, "I am ready to stand with President Donald Trump and build that wall!"

Vukmir is anti-choice. We need a Senator who will push back on the national efforts to end reproductive rights. Instead, Vukmir consistently votes to squash reproductive freedom. On May 14, she tweeted,"Abortion is murder. Period. Linking healthcare for women and abortion is shameful and you should know better." On the same day, she tweeted, "As your U.S. Senator, I will do everything in my power to stop abortion and defund this devastating industry."

Vukmir is for dirty government. Wisconsin's non-partisan Government Accountability Board was a shining example of clean and ethical state government. Vukmir led the charge to destroy our GAB, replacing it with a toothless board of political hacks.

Vukmir buys into crazy conspiracy theories. The extreme right has convinced themselves that there is a War on Christmas. Vukmir chimed-in on this paranoid fantasy, submitting a December 2017 editorial to White Wisconsin on the subject. She wrote, "No one is offended when wished a Merry Christmas, except for liberals hoping to check their victim box for the day."

Vukmir is anti-worker. She is proud of the state legislature's success in busting unions and suppressing wages. A January 1 tweet boasted, "Wisconsin's been a leader for conservative reforms: 1. Act 10  2. Right to Work  3. Prevailing Wage Repeal  4. PLA Fairness." Vukmir sponsored the legislation to end prevailing wage laws. Her GOP caucus has consistently sidelined efforts to increase the state minimum wage.

Vukmir will not resist Trump's dictatorial tendencies. As a Senator, Vukmir would be one of Trump's biggest enablers. In January, she tweeted, "Before tonight's State of the Union address, I want to remind President Trump that we still stand with him, we have his back, and we can't wait to see what 2018 has to bring. Join me!" After Trump's SOTU, Vukmir was giddy, tweeting, "That was an amazing speech, Mr. President! USA! USA! USA! "

Vukmir supports using your tax money to pay for religious indoctrination. She has been a consistent supporter of the ever-expanding
Milwaukee, Racine, and statewide school voucher programs. Almost every school in the programs teaches religion, subsidized by the taxpayer.

Vukmir makes pledges to Washington lobbyists. On January 30, Vukmir signed the anti-tax pledge to DC lobbyist Grover Norquist. In return, the fiscally irresponsible lobbyist (the clown who dreams of drowning government in a bathtub) tweeted "Senator Leah Vukmir is one of the most conservative state legislators in the nation and is a hero to taxpayers."

Vukmir will not defend your Social Security and Medicare. During her speech to the state GOP Convention last week, she ominously stated that she is ready to "take-on entitlement reform." We all know what that means.

Vukmir is against a clean natural environment. Vukmir has been a consistent vote in the GOP drive to wreck Wisconsin's air and water quality. For each of the last three legislative sessions, she  earned a 0% score from the Sierra Club. In a January op-ed, she wrote "I am continually amazed that you (Tammy Baldwin) support government intervention to end global warming or climate change or whatever Al Gore’s buzzword is these days..."

Vukmir is against healthcare for Wisconsinites. She has been a consistent supporter of Walker's fiscally-foolish rejection of Medicaid expansion. In an editorial, she called upon "...leadership in the U.S. Senate to repeal and replace Obamacare with a free-market solution..." In her 2018 GOP Convention speech she shouted, "We will repeal and replace Obamacare!"

With the state Republican Party formally endorsing Leah Vukmir at their convention, she will likely be the their candidate emerging from the primary. On issue after issue, Vukmir has made her extreme ideology all too clear. She does not reflect the views of Wisconsin citizens. She does not represent Wisconsin values. We must make it our mission to see that she is defeated in November. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Didn't Think It Could Get Any Worse?

By any objective standards, the Trump presidency has been a Grade-A clusterf**ck. The Administration's swamp full of "the best people" proves to be more corrupt every day. The number of uninsured Americans is rapidly ballooning. We have surrendered our leadership of the Free World. Dictators have a friend in the White House. The US has gone into deep hock in order to give billionaires a huge tax break. It couldn't get any worse, could it?

Well, maybe. A new Ebola outbreak has been reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There have already been 34 confirmed or suspected cases. WHO has sent an experimental vaccine to the area. Volunteer medical personnel are trying to contain the emergency.

So far, the outbreak is nowhere nearly as large as the 2014-2016 epidemic in west Africa. In that tragic episode, which hit Guinea, Sierra Leon, Liberia, and Nigeria, 28,000 people were infected and 11,000 died of the disease. With massive financial help from the rest of the world and the efforts of thousands of brave medical workers, the epidemic was finally stopped.

The American response to this earlier epidemic was admirable. Over 3,000 US DOD and health workers were sent to the affected counties to provide training to local healthcare workers, construct fifteen Ebola treatment units, help track transmission routes, and distribute tons of medical and relief supplies. The US donated more than $2.4 billion in Ebola response activities.

Strong leadership from then-President Obama and quick action from Congress to provide emergency funds helped to make a potentially horrible scenario a lot less tragic. These actions show us how a great country responds to an international medical emergency.

At a time that today's new Ebola crisis cries-out for American leadership, we have the worst possible person occupying the White House. Given Trump's past statements, we can hardly expect that America will lead international efforts to stop the new epidemic.

As part of an effort to renege on a passed and signed spending bill, the Trump administration announced last week that they want to claw-back $252 million in money earmarked for combating Ebola outbreaks.

But cutting funding for fighting Ebola isn't all. During the 2014-16 epidemic, Trump clearly showed us how he feels about US leadership in fighting these outbreaks. In a series of 100 tweets, Trump showed us that he would have no intention of sending US troops to lead international relief efforts. He would abandon the heroic US doctors and nurses who risk their lives to help others. He would close the borders, cowering behind his little wall while the rest of the world is consumed by a global pandemic. Here are just a few examples of Trump's thoughts on how to deal with an Ebola crisis:

Tropical African countries are at the epicenter of the deadly Ebola outbreaks. These countries are poor and need resources to fight the Ebola scourge. The US can and should provide massive aid and personnel to help extinguish the outbreaks. Stopping the disease as soon as it appears is much preferred to waiting until it goes global.

However, we have a President who is attempting to cut monies allocated to battle Ebola. We have a President who dismisses the afflicted countries as "shit-holes". We have a cowardly President who thinks that we should abandon the brave healthcare workers who travel to help others. At a time that the world needs strong American leadership on this crisis, we have the paranoid, "America First" Trump. This is not normal. This is not right.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Why So Many Old People?

2017 WI State Democratic Convention

Go anywhere that progressive activists congregate- the state Democratic Convention, Fighting BobFest, local Dem Meetings, or Congressional Town Halls. Who do you see there? Lots of old people!

Why are there so many senior activists compared to younger folks? It is primarily for the same reason that we find the majority of volunteers in any organization to be older. Seniors simply have more time. We are mostly finished raising our families. We no longer spend every waking hour helping with homework and housework. We no longer spend our entire weekend shuttling kids from soccer to music lessons to slumber parties.

Most seniors are not working a full time job. We now have time to give back to society. We have more time to keep current with political events. We have more time to influence the direction of our country through the political process. We have more time to be involved.

While working, many of us kept our political opinions to ourselves. After all, if our boss was a right-winger, it would be better not to express our progressive politics too vociferously. (I certainly did not write a lefty blog while working!) Older people are no longer restrained by career considerations. With retirement comes a new-found freedom to express our opinions and to take positive political action.

Seniors are more financially involved in politics, too. Many of us have more disposable income now that we paid-off the mortgage or have downsized our home. We have traded expensive work clothes for comfortable jeans. Once on Medicare, our medical expenses go down. We have more money that we can donate to progressive causes. We become a large source of campaign funding for liberal candidates.

The fact that seniors are more politically active than the young makes us a critical demographic group. We vote in numbers way out of proportion to our share of the population. In the 2016 presidential election, 70.9% of citizens over 65 voted, compared to only 46.1 % of those 18-29. While we need to get the sorry voter participation rates up for younger people, we must continue to address the concerns of seniors. We need to cultivate the huge reservoir of already-steady older voters.

Many older progressive activists fought the Culture Wars and other political battles during our youth. We do not want conservatives to undo all of the progress that America has made in the last 50 years. Environmental protections, civil rights, women's rights, privacy rights, workers' rights, and diplomacy vs warfare are all under attack from today's right. Many seniors feel a need to stay involved to protect the gains that we made so long ago.

Seniors are especially vulnerable to recent Republican efforts to undo the social safety net and cut earned benefits like Social Security and Medicare. Many retirees under 65, including me, depend on the Affordable Care Act for access to health insurance. These are life-and-death issues. It is no wonder that so many seniors take an active role in progressive organizations to defend these important programs.

I frequently attend political meetings where someone, usually pretty old themself, laments the fact that there are few young people involved. I always think, "So what?" I don't feel bad that the burden of progressive activism falls on the shoulders of older people. That's how it should be. Seniors have fewer family responsibilities and career restraints. They have time to devote to political causes. They realize what is at stake for our country. Let's stop worrying about all of the gray hair and take advantage of this powerful source of senior grassroots energy !

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Dotard n' Lump

Donald Trump has debased the office of President more than anyone in modern times. Just one example is his constant use of grade school nicknames for political opponents. "Crooked" Hillary, "Little" Marco, "Liddle" Bob Corker, "Lyin' " Ted, "Pocohantas" Warren,"Crazy" Bernie, "Low-Energy" Jeb, and "Cryin' " Chuck Schumer are just a few cases of Trump's juvenile name calling.

With his moronic insults, Trump has single-handedly opened the floodgates of vile political discourse. But turn-about is fair play. People now feel free to, in turn, call the President himself any one of a number of insulting nicknames. An internet search reveals many lists of funny nicknames for the President. No single one has stuck, but most folks seem to have their favorite.

The most obvious trumpian traits for mockery include his bizarre skin color, his severe comb-over, his lack of morals, his childish temperament, his affinity for dictators, his desire to send others into battle, and his overwhelming stupidity. People seem to avoid other prominent trumpian traits in inventing nicknames for the Donald, including his gross obesity, his multiple marriages, his bigotry, and his constant lying.

The most popular Trump nicknames pertain to his non-human skin color. He seems to think that spray-tanning himself some shade of orange looks natural. "Angry Pumpkin", "Dork a L'Orange", and "The Orange Shit-gibbon" have all been used. "The Angry Creamsicle", "Agent Orange", and "Cheddar Boy" are popular. Others have called Trump "The Orange Slug", "The Tangerine Tornado", "The Talking Yam", and "The Banana Republican". Never one to hold back, Rosie O'Donnell has called called him "The Orange Anus" and a "Human Shit-Stain".

Trump loves him some Putin. And Erdogan . And Xi Jinping. In fact, Trump admires most despots and dictators. His own authoritarian tendencies figure into quite a few of his nicknames, including "Mein Trumph", "Genghis Can't", "Twitler", and "Hillbilly Hitler".

Some of the most popular nicknames combine Trump's artificial skin color with reference to his disturbing hero-worship of dictators, leading to "Minute-Maid Mao" and "Orange Caligula". Combine that with his uncanny resemblance to the Italian dictator and you get "Mango Mussolini", "Cheeto Benito", "Fanta Fascist", and "Il Douche".

Trump goes to great lengths to try to hide his baldness. The pompously-vain man actually thinks the weasel on his head looks good. This has led to nicknames such as "Hair Furor", "The Human-Toupee Hybrid", "Comb-over Con-Artist", "The Comb-over Kid", and "The Bouffant Buffoon."

Another Trump trait is his child-like temper. The leader of the Free World flies off the handle at the slightest provocation. A three-year-old has a steadier disposition. This has led to nicknames such as "Man-Baby", "The 70-Year-Old Toddler", "The Sophomoric Sniveler", "Trumpelthinskin", "Prima-Donald", and "The Bald-Faced Crier".

Multiple medical deferments kept Trump out of Vietnam. Being a veteran should no more be a requirement of our President than experience in law, farming, accounting, or science. However, Trump's infatuation with military parades and his tendency to send soldiers into harm's way on a whim open him up to ridicule. This has led to Trump nicknames like "Cadet Bonespurs" and "4-F5".

Trump is one of the stupidest men to ever occupy the Oval Office. Several clever nicknames reflect that fact, including: "Dolt 45", "IQ45", "Forrest Trump", "The White Kanye", and "Dumb Corleone".

Trump lacks a moral compass. His business record is sleazy. For example, he has been sued 3,500 times for stiffing contractors and non-payment of wages. Many popular trumpian nicknames refer to that fact. He has been cleverly called "Darth tax eVader", "Don the Con", "The Man of Steal", "Donnie Darko", "The Grifter-in-Chief", and "Boss Tweet".

Still other nicknames refer to his sleazy personal life, including "Donnie Tic-Tac", "The Mango Molester", "King Leer", "The Assaulter-in-Chief", and "Jack the Gripper". Making history as the first President with both a fixer and an alias, he has been referred to by some as "President Dennison".

In addition to the multitude of clever insults of Trump, there are several very appropriate anagrams of Trump's name. I especially like: "Adult Porn MD", "Lord Dampnut", and "Dotard n' Lump". But the prize goes to: "Damn Turd Pol".

In the new politics of the Trump Age, personal insults are fair game. Donald Trump loves to call his political opponents names, and he has opened himself up for reciprocation. There are many clever names for the President that play on his spray-tan, his comb-over, his love of authoritarianism, his militarism, his legendary stupidity, and his lack of morals. No single popular nickname has emerged from the pack, but we are still early in Trump's single four-year term. What is your favorite?

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Sensenbrenner, Grothman Support Bill to Protect US From Sensenbrenner, Grothman

House action last week showed us another example of the incredible hypocrisy of this GOP-led Congress. Glenn Grothman (6th CD-WI) and Jim Sensenbrenner
(5th CD-WI) voted for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution.

In a pompous Thursday floor speech, Sensenbrenner declared that "This proposed constitutional amendment will give us the discipline that we have not had as we’ve sat and watched the deficit go up and up and up and away". He admitted, "Congress can’t discipline itself."

Sensenbrenner has been a Congressman since 1979. Based on his long-term record, It is clear that old Jim is one of those without discipline. He voted for the Reagan tax cuts. He voted for the Bush II tax cuts. He and Grothman voted for the Trump tax cuts. They are as responsible for mortgaging America's future as anyone in the House. Showboating with their goofy Balanced Budget Amendment does not disguise that fact.

We don't need a Balanced Budget Amendment to do the right thing. Fiscal responsibility is not rocket science. In order to balance a budget, we must take-in at least as much as we spend. During prosperous times, we should put-away a surplus as a buffer for less prosperous times.

The traditional Republican modus operandi, as followed by Sensenbrenner and Grothman, flies in the face of common sense. They borrow heavily to cut taxes during good times. They borrow heavily to cut taxes during bad times. They purchase every conceivable weapons system. This long-term fiscal irresponsibility gave us the large Reagan deficits. They took us from the Clinton budget surpluses to the huge Bush II deficits. They are now taking us from the economic restraint of the Obama years into a new economic dumpster fire.

The GOP tax scheme that was jammed through Congress in December will have a devastating effect on our national solvency. The CBO projects a return to trillion-dollar annual deficits. They project a mind-boggling $27 trillion national debt by 2027.

At the end of the GOP's reckless tax-cut-and-spend binge, average Americans will not be better-off. By the time that the full effect of the tax scheme has kicked-in in 2028, fully 80% of the benefit will go to foreigners. By 2027, an estimated 83% of the tax cut will go to the top 1% of earners. You and other average Americans will be forced to clean-up the Republican's economic mess.

After voting for this monstrosity of a tax bill, Grothman and Sensenbrenner have the gall to claim fiscal responsibility. They have the brass to strut around, pretending to be deficit hawks. They were both front and center in promoting the for-show Balanced Budget Amendment. In reality, they are deficit peacocks. While talking a good game, they vote for schemes that will make US deficits far worse.

If a Balanced Budget Amendment were to come to pass, the main effect would be to protect us from the fiscal malfeasance of Congress members like Sensenbrenner and Grothman. 

As expected, the proposed Constitutional Amendment went down in defeat on Thursday. Amendments require a 2/3 vote to pass the Congress. This proposal received only a 233-184 vote, with most "ayes" coming from Republicans.

We need more than cynical posturing from our Representatives. If Sensenbrenner and Grothman were were serious about the ballooning national debt, they would reduce the grossly bloated military budget. They would not have axed governmental revenue through their ruinous tax scheme. Their votes last week for a silly Balanced Budget Amendment were a ruse to distract us from their gross fiscal irresponsibility. We are not so stupid as to be fooled by their antics.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

W.O.W. Election Results

On Tuesday, Wisconsin held another election for State Supreme Court. Although non-partisan in name, the election was anything but. Michael Screnock was the hand-picked candidate of Scott Walker, WMC, the NRA, the Bradley Foundation, and the state GOP. He was a point man for defending some of the state GOP's worst abuses of power, including Act 10 and the horrific gerrymandering of legislative districts. He was endorsed by David Prosser, Leah Vukmir, and Wisconsin Right to Life.

Rebecca Dallet was by far the more progressive candidate. For example, she appeared at the 2017 Democratic State Convention, 2017 Fighting BobFest, and last month's Milwaukee March for Our Lives. She was endorsed by Tammy Baldwin, Planned Parenthood, the AFL-CIO, and Shepherd Express.

By any measure, this Supreme Court election was a conservative vs progressive contest. Rebecca Dallet won by a surprising statewide margin of 55.8 to 44.2%. This caused Walker and the state GOP much gnashing of teeth and browning of shorts. These results bode well for future election success for progressive candidates in our state.

How did the election turn-out in the W.O.W. counties? Certainly, the tri-county Ring of Fire lived-up to its reputation as a Republican bastion. Out of all 72 Wisconsin counties, Washington County provided Screnock's largest margin (69.3% of votes went for Screnock). Waukesha was his second-best county (64.5% for Screnock). Ozaukee was his sixth best county (58.7%). Altogether, Screnock harvested 64.5% of the W.O.W. vote.

The three W.O.W. counties constituted 14.2% of the total statewide electorate for the two SC candidates. Because W.O.W. turn-out is generally higher than the state as a whole, this is several percent higher than the 12.4% portion of total statewide registered voters that we represent.

We gave Screnock 20.7 % of his statewide total vote (90,914 of 440,235). On the positive side, we contributed 9.0% of Dallet's statewide vote (50,016 of 555,196). W.O.W. counties are crucially important for Republicans, but Democrats cannot afford to neglect us.

Voter turn-out for Spring elections is generally anemic compared to higher profile partisan elections. What about this year? Statewide, fully 32.5% of registered voters voted in the SC election (995,431 of 3,058,349). This compares with a 36.2% turn-out in Washington Co., 36.5% in Waukesha Co., and a whopping 41.5% in Ozaukee Co.

Both the statewide and W.O.W.-county turn-out this year were high compared to previous Spring Supreme Court races. In 2017, Justice Ziegler was reelected without a challenger. The 2016 election was anomalous because it was held concurrently with the hotly-contested presidential primaries.

In the April 2015 election (Ann Walsh Bradley v. James Daley), W.O.W. turn-out was only 24.5% of pre-registered voters (compared to 23.4% statewide). In the April 2013 SC election (Roggensack/Fallone), W.O.W. turn-out was 28.3% (compared to 23.2% statewide). There was considerably higher interest in this year's Supreme Court election than similar past ones.

But even the turn-out for this year's Court race was low compared to Presidential elections. W.O.W. voter turn-out in the Clinton/Trump election of 2016 was 86.6%.

Did this election give us any indication of a blue wave in W.O.W.-land? The right-winger, Screnock, received 64.5% of W.O.W. vote this year. This compares to 65.2% for the conservative candidate in 2015. Trump garnered 61% of the Presidential vote in the tri-county region. So, there is no clear evidence of a blue shift in the ring of fire.

So what are the take-aways? Washington and Waukesha Counties retain their shameful titles as the reddest and second reddest counties in the state.
As shown by statewide turn-out, this Supreme Court election generated much more voter interest than other recent ones. W.O.W. counties still outperform the rest of Wisconsin with respect to voter turn-out and so have a disproportionate influence on state elections. This election gave no indication of a massive shift from red-to-blue in the Milwaukee ring-suburbs. Any positive political shift in this region will require patience, hard work, and investment of resources by progressive organizations and activists.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

A Positive Vision for Wisconsin

The Wisconsin right-wing media machine got their panties in a twist last week. The focus of their conniption is proposed legislation to guarantee rights to all Wisconsin citizens. The plan would also institute safeguards to check government corruption. It would guarantee a good public school education to every Wisconsin child. It would promote clean air and water for us all.

Spear-headed by Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison), the proposed Joint Resolution would amend the state Constitution in a number of ways. It would reverse some of the worst GOP power-grabs of the last seven years. The boys at MacIver so-called "Institute" are freaking-out. Right White Wisconsin did a hysterical hatchet-job on the proposal. Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin called the document an "Outrageous Power Grab by Leftwing Special Interests".

What has the right's propaganda machine so agitated? You can read the proposal for yourself here. The document is early in the legislative process, so it is likely subject to change. However, here are some of the main points:

Cleaner Government- Once a paragon of clean government, Wisconsin laws have been systematically dismantled to entrench the GOP in power. Taylor's proposal codifies and strengthens state ethics laws so that once again, we will have a state government we can to be proud of. This includes:

  • Re-establishing a non-partisan government ethics and elections Board (GAB).
  • Providing for a non-partisan process to draw legislative district boundaries.
  • Strengthening open meetings laws and the right to access public records.
  • Establishing rational recusal guidelines for judges.

Rights of Citizens- Since 2011, many of the rights of Wisconsin citizens have come under attack by the Republican majority. The proposed legislation pushes back on this assault by codifying into state law basic rights such as:

  • The right to access quality, affordable health care services.
  • The right to privacy, including the right to marry and exercise reproductive rights.
  • The right of every person to a just and fair wage.
  • The right to vote without obstruction.
  • The right all public and private employees to organize and collectively bargain.
Education- The plan strengthens the independence of the State Superintendent and states that no taxpayer monies will go to fund religious instruction. Statewide standards will be set for school staffing and funding.

Environment- The plan establishes an independent DNR organization and states that "Every person shall have the right to a clean, healthy environment, including the right to access clean, safe drinking water and the right to breathe clean air."

As long as Republicans hold the governorship and legislative majorities, there is little chance that this proposal will see the light of day. After all, the reforms outlined would undo much of the GOP-induced damage imposed on our state over the past seven years. 

It is no wonder that Republican propaganda arms like White Wisconsin and MacIver are so vehemently opposed. AFP-Wisconsin is so threatened that it promised to "mobilize its base to ...ensure this resolution is soundly defeated". Personal rights, cleaner government, good schools, and a healthy environment are evidently anathema to conservatives.

However, there is a good chance that progressives will regain state power during November's elections. Rep. Taylor's proposal is a well-reasoned and positive road-map for how Democrats can re-make Wisconsin. With luck and hard work, we can make this vision a reality.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Trump Scandals, Obama Scandals

A good way to get a Trumpista's head to explode is to state the fact that there were no major scandals during President Obama's eight years in office. Obama recently stated that this is something of which he is especially proud. There were no grand juries investigating the executive branch. No FBI investigations of massive wrongdoing. No pardoning of White House aides. No indictments of Cabinet members.

Sure, there were many imaginary Obama "scandals" that only gained traction in the Fox/Breitbart/Red State/Newsmax/Alex Jones/Rush Limbaugh media bubble. Benghazi TM, Fast & Furious, Uranium One , and IRS-gate come to mind. But none of these were actual scandals. After careful examination by reputable reporters, none of these silly kerfuffles were found to merit the term "scandal".

But the lack of any actual scandals during the Obama Presidency did not keep the far-right media from generating false controversies. Let's compare some of the real scandals of the first fifteen months of the Trump Presidency with what happened during Obama's eight years in office:

Trump's Attorney General lied during a Congressional hearing about his contacts with Russia. In a letter, he lied about justifications for firing James Comey. Obama's Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, took intense right-wing heat for speaking to former President Clinton on an airplane.

Donald Trump, Jr met with Russians and corresponded with Wikileaks' Julian Assange. Ivanka Trump received coveted Chinese trademarks for her business on the day after she dined with the Chinese President. Obama's daughters were condemned for wearing their dresses way too high.

Trump had extramarital affairs with a porn star and a Playboy bunny and paid them to keep it quiet. Obama was ridiculed by the right for wearing "mom jeans".

Melania Trump worked in the US illegally before getting her work visa. A promised press conference on the topic never happened. Mrs. Trump posed for naked pictures (link NSFW) in British GQ Magazine. Michelle Obama suffered brutal attacks from the right because of her efforts to improve school lunches and for wearing sleeveless dresses.

Trump said some of the Nazi marchers in Virginia were "very fine people". Obama was accused by the right of inciting a "war on cops" when he spoke-out on the national problem of black people being killed by police.

Trump and his companies have been slapped with legal suits 3,500 times for stiffing contractors and non-payment of wages. Obama was derided for wearing a tan suit.

Trump has played golf at least 102 times since taking office. At his current rate, Trump would play golf 772 times over the course of an eight year (dear God, no!) period. The right wing media frequently criticized Obama for playing golf. Obama played only 333 rounds over eight years.

Trump claimed that John McCain is not a hero because he had been a POW. Trump proceeded to attack a Gold Star family. Obama was crucified by the right as unpatriotic for saluting a Marine while holding a coffee cup in his hand.

Trump leaked classified information to Russian dignitaries during an Oval Office visit. Trump's leak may have jeopardized the life of an Israeli intelligence operative. Obama sent shock waves through the right-wing world when he propped his foot on the Oval Office desk.

Trump defends dictator Vladimir Putin, no matter what. Just this week, he congratulated Putin for winning his county's Potemkin election. He refuses to criticize Putin for attacking one of our closest allies. He has ignored Congress' call for sanctions on Russia for interfering in our elections. Obama was bashed by the right for ceremonial bows to the Saudi King and the Emperor of Japan.

Trump was issued a court summons for violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution. Obama was lampooned by right wing pundits for spending too much time on his NCAA basketball brackets.

Trump's Cabinet is a herd of hogs at the taxpayer trough. His Treasury Secretary spent a million dollars on air fare in nine months. His HUD secretary spent $35,000 on an office dining room set. His EPA Chief spent $25,000 on a "cone of silence". His HHS head resigned in disgrace because he was too good to fly with the hoi polloi in commercial aircraft. Obama's Secretary of State used the wrong server for her e-mails.

We are now living in in a whole different world. The days that major presidential "scandals" involved the First Lady's wardrobe choices and the President's March Madness bracket picks are over. In just the first fifteen months, the Trump Administration has made serious scandal a daily occurrence. This is not normal. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Get People to Vote !

During the 2016 US presidential election, only 55.7% of those of us eligible to vote actually did so. This mediocre turn-out puts us at a miserable 27th out of 34 advanced countries.

Yet, many politicians want to suppress our vote even further. In states like Wisconsin, a battery of laws have been enacted to aggressively cut the number of people going to the polls. Restrictive voter ID laws, cuts to early voting, voter-roll purges, restrictions on voter registration policies, and longer residency requirements have all done their part to make it more difficult to cast our ballots. In just 2017 alone, 99 bills were introduced in thirty-one states to restrict our right to vote.

These voter suppression laws have been pretty effective. A UW-Madison study indicated that Wisconsin's restrictive voter-ID laws deterred at least 16,800 Wisconsin citizens from voting in 2016 in Madison and Milwaukee alone. (In the interest of full disclosure, I worked at the Germantown polls for several years, but ended my service when the state's new ID law went into effect. I had volunteered to help people vote, not to keep them from voting!)

However, not all is grim. Unlike Wisconsin, a growing number of states are actually making it easier for people to vote. Ten states and DC have enacted laws to automatically register citizens to vote when they obtain or renew a driver's license. The few who, for some reason, do not want to be on the voter rolls can opt-out of registration.

Oregon led the nation by implementing the first automatic registration in March 2015. California followed close behind in October 2015. In 2016, West Virginia, Vermont, Alaska, Connecticut, Georgia, and DC jumped on the bandwagon. In 2017, Colorado, Rhode Island, and Illinois implemented the idea. Just last week, automatic voter registration passed both houses of the Washington state legislature, and their Governor is expected to sign it into law. Many other states are on the verge of passing automatic registration.

Automatic registration is different than the national "Motor-Voter" law that went into effect in 1995. That law states that eligible people must be provided with an opportunity to register to vote when they apply for or renew a driver's license or apply for public assistance. (Because Wisconsin has same-day registration, we are one of the few states to be exempted from this law). Motor-voter allows a convenient way to register, but people must opt-in to register. By contrast, automatic registration registers everyone who does not opt-out.

Wisconsin could have been a leader in this election reform. As early as 2010, automatic voter registration legislation was considered by our legislature, but did not pass.

Another automatic voter registration bill was introduced in 2015 by Reps.Genrich and Berceau and Sen. Hansen. Based on the consistent actions by the Wisconsin Republican Majority to repress the vote, it is highly unlikely that such a common-sense reform could ever make it past those currently in charge.

A 2017 House Bill to bring automatic registration nationwide was co-sponsored by Representatives Ron Kind, Mark Pocan, and Gwen Moore. The bill has gone to committee limbo, where it will likely stay until we again get a Democratic majority.

Automatic voter registration has been an astounding success in states where it has been implemented. If passed in every state, automatic voter registration would add as many as 50 million additional voters to the rolls. 

If automatic registration is combined with other common-sense reforms like mail-in ballots, abolition of voter-ID, shorter voting wait times, and nationwide suffrage for ex-felons, the poor voting turn-outs we see in American can be fixed. The more people who participate in our elections, the stronger our democracy will be.