Thursday, August 10, 2017

The New GOPee

I am old enough to remember when the Republican party was a group of adults with rational, albeit misguided, policy objectives. That party is long gone. The new GOP has become a party of third graders with a juvenile fixation on urination. Republicans want to test your urine, tell you where to urinate, and talk about urination in public rallies. The party of Goldwater has become the party of golden water. The GOP has become the GOPee.

For example, GOP legislators across America have introduced bills to force transgender people to use the bathrooms corresponding to their birth gender. North Carolina went farther than any other state in telling people where to pee, but somewhat backed-off after facing strong economic pressure. Even Wisconsin has its own supporters of this regressive idea. Representative Jesse Kremer (R-Neolithic) has been a primary proponent of bathroom gender-verification police.

The Obama Administration put some order on this chaos. In 2016, the Department of Education issued a directive protecting the rights of transgender students, including allowing them to use a restroom in alignment with their gender identity. However, like in so many areas, the Trump administration scrapped the rational Obama policy. We have returned to the previous "where can I pee?" pandemonium.

Another case of the Republican urine fixation is their push to collect and analyze the pee of poor people. Drug testing the urine of those on public assistance is one of the few bedrock principles of the modern GOP. They've gotta punish those "undeserving poor" ! Mean-spirited Republican states, including Florida, Utah, Missouri, Michigan, North Carolina, and Tennessee have wasted taxpayer money on testing unemployment insurance applicants.

Each trial of the Republicans' vast drug testing experiment failed to reveal hordes of drug-crazed welfare recipients. Tennessee screened 39,000 applicants and turned-up 69 positives. Utah screened 9,500 applicants and turned-up 29 positives. Arizona screened 87,000 applicants and found one positive. The percentage of drug users among those on unemployment is consistently much lower than among the employed.

Despite all of the failed programs in other states, our own Scott Walker still is obsessed with collecting and testing the urine of the poor. He has long wanted to pee-test those on food stamps, but was denied by the Obama Administration. He spent state funds on a lawsuit against the Federal government to try to be allowed to do that testing. He has applied to the Trump Administration for permission to urine-test those on Badger Care. There seems to be no limit to the amount of your tax dollars Walker is willing to spend on his strange little urine fetish.

The intellectual leader of the national Republican party has a thing about urine, too. During a campaign rally, Donald Trump babbled on and on about the fact that Hillary goes to the bathroom. She had been a little delayed coming back from a short break during one of the Democratic debates.

This was unfathomable to Trump. To his crowd of mouth-breathing supporters, Trump rambled, “I thought she quit. I thought she gave up. Where did she go ? Where did Hillary go? They had to start the debate without her! Phase two. I know where she went. It’s disgusting. I don’t want to talk about it. It’s disgusting. Don't say it! It's too disgusting! Let's not talk about it!” National politics have degenerated to the point that a presidential candidate delves into his opponent's toilet trip. Sad.

And who can forget the infamous pee-pee tape ? An intelligence dossier on Trump's Russian connections implied that the Russians have a compromising video of Trump in a Moscow hotel. Our President allegedly paid two hookers to urinate on a bed in the Presidential Suite at the Ritz-Carlton. Of course, the White House denied the story.

Out of respect to the office of President, I would normally accept a White House denial of such a wild tale. But Trump is not a normal President. His bizarre obsequence to the Russians, combined with the fact that he constantly lies about all matters big and small, lead one to believe the pee-pee tape story is entirely plausible.

Today's GOP is fixated on your precious bodily fluids. They want to control where you pee. They want to test your pee. They talk about pee in campaign speeches. Some believe that the GOP President paid prostitutes to pee while he watched. Republicans have become the number one party, and I don't mean that in a good way. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Washzakee ? Ozaukington?

Washington County officials recently put out feelers to neighboring counties concerning the merging of governmental services. This effort is aimed at reducing overhead costs. Washington and Ozaukee counties have already realized savings by combining their health services and are looking at other ways to save through consolidation.

In a July story on local TV, the Washington County Administrator speculated that even a complete merger of Washington and Ozaukee Counties is not off the table. This idea is not totally crazy. The two counties were a single entity in the past, only to part ways in 1853. Let's explore a few facets of a possible merger between Washington and Ozaukee Counties.

The combined county certainly will not be too unwieldy in size. At 233 square miles, current Ozaukee County is the second smallest in Wisconsin. Only tiny Pepin County is smaller. Washington is a little larger. At 431 square miles, Washington ranks 63 out of 72 counties in size. The combined Ozaukee-Washington County will still be only the 43rd largest Wisconsin county.

The two heavily-developed counties certainly are not tiny in population. Ozaukee, with 88,314 people, is the 17th most populous county in the state. Washington, with 134,296 people, is the 11th most populous. A combined county will become the fifth most populous Wisconsin county overnight. We will only be surpassed by Milwaukee, Dane, Waukesha, and Brown Counties.

The new county will have a median family income between those of Washington ($69,237) and Ozaukee ($76,433). The poverty rate
(W-5.6% ; O-5.2%) and the median age (W- 42.1 yrs ; O-43.8 yrs) will also fall between the two counties. The combined county will be higher income, less poor, and older than the current Washington County.

I know that the proposed merger is aimed at cost savings. However, we should think long term. To avoid parochial arguments over the location of the new county seat, a new Court House could be built at the center of the new county. A beautiful and palatial county library could also be constructed. Diagonal lines drawn from the four corners of the combined counties meet in a rural area just northeast of Jackson. Land there should be cheap.

Unlike other high-population Wisconsin counties such as Milwaukee, Dane, Waukesha, and Brown, the new county will not be dominated by a single large city. The combined Washington-Ozaukee county will be dotted with a well-dispersed group of medium-sized cities. The largest municipalities (2010 census) are West Bend (31k), Mequon (23k), Germantown (20k), Hartford (14k), Cedarburg (11K), Port Washington (11k), Grafton (11k), and Richfield (11k).

What should we call the new county? Certainly, we can drop the name "Washington". There are already Washington Counties in thirty of the fifty states. The loss of one Washington County will not be mourned. Our new county should avoid a name so common that we often are often confused with twenty-nine others.

Naming the combined county "Ozaukee" is not that great, either. Ozaukee is supposedly from Ojibwe, meaning "people living at the mouth of a river". Not all that inspiring for a 21st century county.

Any of the names that one could construct from a combination of the two current county names are pretty lame, also. "Washington-Ozaukee County" takes way too long to say. The shorter "Washzakee" and "Ozaukington" don't exactly roll off the tongue.

No, I think that our new combined county needs a name that is unique, easy to say, and is fairly modern. How about naming the new county for one of the most effective Presidents of recent times? I am all in for "Obama County" ! I am sure that most local residents will agree !

Friday, July 28, 2017

Ron Johnson Would Throw Out the Baby With the Bathwater

The Republican machinations to end healthcare for millions of Americans often defy logic. Yesterday, Wisconsin's dumb Senator, Ron Johnson, did a press conference with fellow Senators Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and Bill Cassidy. The four wanted to make it clear that the"skinny" GOP Bill to end healthcare was unacceptable. They wanted to express their hope that the awful bill would never become law.

Graham called the bill a "disaster", "a fraud", "terrible policy", and "a half-assed approach". The bill would kick millions off of healthcare and result in 20% premium increases over current projections for years to come. Late last night, Graham, Johnson, and Cassidy voted for the bill anyway.

On his turn to speak at the press conference, Senator Johnson told the woeful tale of a couple, Shari and Vern Colby of River Falls, Wisconsin. Vern drives a milk truck 60-70 hours a week. Shari works for a florist. The couple evidently bought insurance on the Exchange. They believed themselves eligible for Premium Tax Credits and received these as advanced payments, greatly lowering the costs of their monthly premiums. At the end of the year, Shari and Vern found that they had made too much money to qualify for the tax credits. They were required to repay the credits that they had already received, amounting to about $15,000.

According to Johnson, the couple had to tap their 401K to repay the government. He claimed that they had to sell their house to get the rest of the money.

Naturally, Johnson didn't mention the benefits that the Colbys gained from the ACA. Shari had a pre-existing condition. Before the ACA, she may not have been able to buy health insurance at any price. If she could have found an insurer, the couple might have paid much more than the $15,000 tax credit plus any monthly payments that they had already made. Before the ACA, nobody was eligible for government help in paying the ever-rising cost of insurance.

The couple was victim of one of the most easily-fixable flaws of the current ACA. The Premium Tax Credit is available to people who make up to 400% of the federal poverty level. Last year, that was $63,720 for a family of two like the Colbys. The law provides that nobody under the 400% income cap pays more than 9.66% of their income on health insurance.

However, the fixable flaw is that people earning even one dollar over 400% of the poverty level are ineligible for any tax credit. One more dollar of income can be the difference between a $12,000 credit and nothing. Unlike most other tax credits that gradually phase-out with higher income, this premium tax credit has a dramatic income cliff. I know. We buy our insurance on the exchange and have had to deal with this very provision.

Johnson admitted that nothing the Republicans are doing in any of the proposals are addressing the challenges and problems of people like Shari and Vern. Johnson and his GOP colleagues could have worked with the Democrats any time during the last seven years. Together, they could have addressed flaws in the ACA such as the one that tripped-up the Colbys. Instead, they obstructed any efforts to fix the law.

If Johnson really cared about people like the Colbys, he and his fellow Republicans could solve their problem immediately. He could eliminate the income-cliff over which the Colby's tumbled. He could submit a bill to gradually taper-off the tax credit for higher income workers. But no, Johnson would rather benefit politically from the Colby's misfortune. He would rather use their case as an excuse to take healthcare away from tens of millions of Americans and to gut Medicaid.
He would rather throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Johnson, who has called the Affordable Care Act "the worst assault on freedom in our lifetimes", would rather sit on his hands with his nihilist Republican colleagues, hoping against hope that the ACA will fail. He would rather let the Colbys be suffering pawns in a cruel political game. 

Maybe Johnson could stop playing politics and think of his constituents for a change. With last night's failure to repeal the ACA, he could actually work with Democrats to fix the law and make it stronger. Instead of whining about injustice, he could tweak the law so that he could help people like the poor Colbys

Friday, July 21, 2017

I Cried Because I Had No Shoes . . .

While growing up, my Dad often repeated the ancient Persian saying:

"I cried because I had no shoes. Then I met a man who had no feet."

This adage reflects the truth that no matter how bad your situation is, there is probably someone even worse off. They are coping with their predicament, and so can you. So, quit whining. Suck it up.

Just last week, I was in a situation in which the old wisdom applied perfectly. I had traveled to my hometown of Tipton, in north-central Indiana, for my (ordinal number deleted) high school class reunion. The Tipton County Fair was happening the same weekend. With a little time to kill during the day, and little else to do in this town of 5,000 people, I paid a visit to the fair.

In the fair's commercial building, I was happy to see a booth for the local Tipton County Democrats. It was in a prime, high traffic area. It was well-decorated. Best of all, it was staffed by three enthusiastic workers.

This proud waving of the Democratic flag was a welcome surprise. During my youth, my county was always a deep red one. The state legislative politicians were reliably Republican. A perennial sacrificial Democratic candidate always lost against our GOP Congressman. No Democrat has won the county in a Presidential race since the 1964 massacre by Lyndon Johnson.

The current political scene is no different. Tipton County, like much of Indiana, is prime Trump territory. It is 98% white. The area has historically been a heavy manufacturing region, with many auto industry suppliers. However, hard times hit and several big factories closed. Promises to revive American manufacturing are very enticing to voters here.

Last year, Trump carried the county with 74.4 % of the vote. Trump carried the entire state of Indiana with 57.2% of the vote.

In contrast, my own Washington County, Wisconsin went only 67.8% for Trump. That is, Tipton County was 6.6% more Trumpian than Washington County (the 3rd most Trump-loving Wisconsin county). My birth county makes my adopted Washington County seem downright progressive.

Trump carried Wisconsin with only 47.9% of the vote. Trump's share of the votes in Indiana was almost ten percent higher than his share in Wisconsin. My birth state makes my adopted Wisconsin seem downright liberal.

But even in deep red Tipton County, in the heart of deep red Indiana, the Tipton County Democrats know that they can make a difference. Despite having little hope at the local level, they can help elect Democrats at the state and national level. And they have. Senator Evan Bayh represented Indiana for two terms and was Governor for eight years. Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly currently serves the state. As recently as 2008, the state voted Democratic for President Obama.

So I will stop crying because I have no shoes. Suddenly, being a Washington County Democrat doesn't seem like such an overwhelmingly lost cause. I have seen enthusiastic Democrats working one of the reddest crowds in America. I have seen hardworking county-fair volunteers waving the progressive flag in deeply Republican Tipton County, Indiana. If they can do it there, we can certainly do it here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Your Taxes Go to Teach Religion to Other People's Kids

There are three separate "school choice" programs in Wisconsin. One applies to Milwaukee, one to Racine, and one covers the rest of the state. The common bond among the various schemes is that we, the hardworking taxpayers of Wisconsin, are forced to pay for the religious indoctrination of other people's children.

According to the DPI, there were 33,076 students in the three tuition giveaway programs in January 2017. Wisconsin spent almost $245 million on religious school vouchers for last school year alone. The tuition grants amounted to $7,323 for students in grades K-8 and $7,969 for high school students.

The ever-expanding statewide program is called the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP). Of the 155 schools enrolled next year in WPCP, every last one is a religious school. Not a single Montessori school. Not a single non-religious college prep academy. Not a single trade school.

The religious schools your taxes fund in the WPCP are primarily Lutheran (45%) and Catholic (38%). The other schools are an assortment of fundamentalist Christian (15%), Jewish (1%) and Muslim (1%). The participating schools in the Milwaukee and Racine programs are also overwhelmingly religious ones.

But that is not all. In addition to the publicly-funded tuition vouchers for religious schools, Wisconsin gives a big tax deduction to parents who send their children to private schools. This deduction amounts to $10,000 per pupil for high school and $4,000 for K-8. It is no big surprise that the bulk of this tax giveaway goes to the richest Wisconsinites. According to the Department of Revenue, about two-thirds of the benefits go to the top 13% of individual taxpayers. The state loses $12 million of revenue a year thanks to this unnecessary tax break.

There are many reasons why the public should not be forced to pay for private religious schools. We hear frequent horror stories of schools locking their doors in the middle of the school year after management absconds with tuition money. Study after study shows poorer student performance for private schools compared to public ones.

However, my biggest objection to these programs is that taxpayer funding of any religious school is simply wrong. Separation of Church and State is one of the founding principles of America. If parents wish to send their children to religious schools, that is fine. They (and their church/Kingdom Hall/temple/synagogue/mosque) should pay for that themselves. It should not be my responsibility to fund the religious instruction of other people's children.

Using my tax dollars to teach religion in religion classes is bad enough. As a scientist, what really burns me is the teaching of religion in science classes. Many of these schools, especially ones associated with Lutheran and other fundamentalist Christian groups, teach Creationism. This pseudo-scientific hogwash ignores the reality of modern Geology, Paleontology, Astronomy, Physics, Archeology, and Biology in favor of Genesis creation myths.

Let's look at science course offerings for just one typical taxpayer-funded voucher school, Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School, in Jackson, WI. The course description for Biology states, "Human biology will also be applied to each sub-unit, with particular emphasis on combating evolutionary theories with the truths of God’s creation."

Advanced Biology at the school is no better. The course's purpose is listed as "God created all things in the first six days of creation. In the book of Proverbs, God encourages us to get wisdom and understanding. These two provide huge foundations for the purposes of this course."

From Advanced Biology's course description, "The course will develop growing Christians who will be able to proficiently apply the timeless truths of God's holy, inerrant word to their study of organisms. " The syllabus describes one of the units as "Early evolution of life, the so called “evidence” for evolution, Mechanisms of evolution, A closer look at Creation."

This is just from one school, but Kettle Moraine is fairly typical. Many of these voucher schools teach similar creationist flim-flam in trying to prop-up their version of religion. Wisconsin state laws that mandate this taxpayer-supported dumbing-down of society do America a great disservice.

GOP politicians in Madison are forcing state taxpayers to fund religious schools. We pay for these schools through direct tuition payments, as well as through generous tax breaks. This funding comes at the expense of our public schools. With sympathetic ears to school voucher expansion in both Madison and Washington, this bad situation will only get worse. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

A Tale of Two Countries

The GOP Congress is hell-bent on repealing the Affordable Care Act because of Obama something, something.... The Senate and House schemes to replace the ACA consist of more tax-cuts for the wealthy, drastic cuts to Medicaid, much higher costs for seniors, and not a single thing to improve the health of Americans.

The main ACA complaint by Republican politicians is that for a handful of counties in backwoods America, there are few insurance options on the exchanges. The fact that Cletus and Maud in Dog-Crap, Missouri cannot buy insurance on their county exchange is somehow being used as an excuse to take insurance away from 23 million people. Rather than implement a simple fix, such as a public option for some local exchanges, GOP politicians see this as a golden opportunity to steal desperately-needed care from the poor.

Ironically, many of the same people who elected Trump, and many of the GOP Congress' own constituents, are the Americans who will be hurt the worst by the travesty of Trumpcare. This week, I would like to examine just how bad the healthcare already is in Republican states. Yet, the politicians who claim to represent these people want to make that care so much worse.

Let's divide the country into two groups-the thirty states whose electoral votes went to Trump, and the twenty states (plus DC) whose electoral votes went to Hillary. We will compare the current status of insurance, health, and outcomes of the two groups to see which is in most dire need of government help. The data I reference below was compiled by the well-respected Kaiser Family Foundation and the US Centers for Disease Control.

First of all, the citizens of Trump states currently have substantially less access to healthcare than the rest of America. No big surprise there. The 30 Trump states have an average of 9.8% of their residents uninsured. In drastic contrast, the 20 states that voted for Hillary have only 6.8% uninsured residents. Much of this inexcusable insurance gap is due to some stubborn Republican governors still denying Medicaid expansion to their people.

Let's look at health-affecting lifestyle differences between the Trump and Hillary groups. Clearly, being fat is detrimental to your health. The average Trump state has a 31.3 % obesity rate, while the average Hillary state comes in at a relatively skinny 26.4% obesity rate. Of the 16 states with the highest obesity rates, each and every one went for Trump.

Other than Mike Pence, everyone understands that smoking adversely affects your health. The overall US adult smoking rate is 16.8%. The 30 states that voted for Trump have a much higher average rate of smoking (19.3%) compared to the 20 states that voted for Hillary (15.6%). But that doesn't tell the whole story. Of the 14 highest smoking states, each and every one went for Trump

So lifestyle factors affecting health are much worse in Trump states. Trump states have more obese people and more smokers. This is compounded by the fact that too many people are without insurance coverage in those same states.

Let's look at numbers that reflect the lack of access to medical help. The suicide rate is some indication of lack of access to psychiatric care. America has an overall suicide rate of 13.3 per 100,000 people. The average Trump state has a suicide rate of 16.6, while the average Hillary state's suicide rate is a substantially lower 13.1.

Teen pregnancies are another tragedy that could, in many cases, be avoided with access to proper healthcare. Contraceptives are cheap, and highly effective. The average Trump state had a teen birth rate of 26.3 (per 1000 females 15-19), while the average Hillary state had a 33% lower rate, at 17.6 per 1000. Nine of the top ten highest teen birth states voted for Trump.

One of the best indicators of a population's health is how people actually feel. A self-evaluation questionnaire found that in Trump states, 18% of people said their health was poor or only fair. This contrasts with Hillary states, where a much lower 15% described their health as poor or fair. 

Another good indicator of a population's health is the expected lifespan of a newborn. Again, Trump states are relatively unhealthy, with an average expected lifespan of 77.9 years. Residents of Hillary states can expect to live 79.7 years-almost two years longer than people in Trump states.

The average Trump-voting state has higher obesity, smoking, teen-pregnancies, and suicide rates than US averages. The unfortunate folks in these states have poorer health outcomes and shorter lifespans. The politicians who claim to represent these people are miserably failing them. These states need better and cheaper access to care, not less. They do not need the snake-oil prescription that GOP politicians are selling them. They do not need the disaster that is Trumpcare. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

GOP Hacks Wreck Healthcare Exchanges, Blame Democrats


I am retired, sixty-three years old, and too young for Medicare. My wife and I buy our insurance coverage through the federal Healthcare exchange. Wednesday, I received an e-mail from our carrier, Anthem Blue Cross-Blue Shield. It was titled: Anthem will Discontinue many ACA Health Plans in 2018. 

In describing their decision to exit most of the exchange markets in Wisconsin, Anthem's note stated, "Unfortunately, uncertainty in the Wisconsin health insurance market does not provide the clarity and confidence we need to offer affordable coverage to our members in 2018." (underline mine)

In another statement, the company expanded on their reasoning, saying that selling into the exchanges has "become increasingly difficult due to a shrinking and deteriorating individual market, as well as continual changes and uncertainty in federal operations, rules, and guidance."

GOP politicians wasted no time. The same hacks responsible for the "continual changes and uncertainty in federal operations, rules, and guidance" started pointing their fingers elsewhere. They celebrated our inconvenience and gleefully blamed the law that has brought America's uninsured rate to historic lows.

Granny-starver Paul Ryan predictably said, "Because of Obamacare, many Wisconsinites will now have to scramble to find new plans and new doctors. " Ryan further stated, “This law has failed our state. Obamacare is clearly collapsing, and we have to step in before more families get hurt.

Urine-fixated Scott Walker chimed in about Anthem's move from our state's exchange: "Obamacare is collapsing. Growing uncertainty in the health insurance market was created by Obamacare’s costly regulations and it is causing higher premiums and a lack of options. "

Jim (If Obama is for it, I'm against it !) Sensenbrenner posted on Facebook, "Today’s announcement that Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield will be dropping out of the Wisconsin health insurance market is devastating to thousands of families in our state. It’s another unfortunate example of the ongoing failures of the disastrous Obamacare law..."

All is not dire. We are not in the mythical ACA death spiral that the GOP has been lying about for seven years. We will still have plenty of choices of insurance carriers in Wisconsin. In fact, of 3,144 total US counties, only 44 are in any risk of having no exchange insurer next year.

However, changing health insurance is a hassle. I will have to deal with a new carrier. I may have to change doctors. So will an estimated 14,000 other Wisconsin residents. But it is not the fault of the Affordable Care Act. It is not the fault of Democrats. I don't even blame Anthem for leaving the exchange.

We are not stupid. The ACA markets were stable until the Republicans gained complete control in Washington. They were stable until Trump started threatening to renege on the government's obligation to pay cost-sharing subsidies. They were stable until Trump's executive order to stop enforcing the individual mandate. They were stable until all of the uncertainty of Congress's mean-spirited attempt to rip the American healthcare system to shreds.

No, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield leaving Wisconsin is not the fault of the Affordable Care Act. As the insurer clearly stated, it is the fault of deep uncertainties at the federal level. 

It is the fault of Congressmen like Jim Sensenbrenner and Paul Ryan, who have worked tirelessly to take heathcare away from their constituents. It is the fault of Sen. Ron Johnson, who said that the ACA is the greatest assault on freedom in his lifetime. It is the fault of our Governor, who has done everything possible to sabotage our healthcare. It is the fault of an incompetent President, who continues to cripple the law through his Executive Orders.

Republicans are in complete control of both our state and federal governments. GOP politicians have weakened the healthcare marketplace by their own purposeful actions. They created this mess. In an act of unmitigated gall,they are blaming the Democrats, Obama, and the ACA. Sorry. This is on them. 


Friday, June 16, 2017

My IQ Is One of the Highest

Trump is unlike any president in US history. He is a walking casebook of mental issues. Psychologists have diagnosed him as a classic example of narcissistic personality disorder. Some have called him a sociopath. Others have suggested that, based on his erratic behavior and gibberish statements, Trump could have Alzheimer's. 

Today, I would like to explore one aspect of our President's disturbing, multi-troubled psyche. He has a dangerously inflated self-image The man believes that he is highly intelligent, but is not. There is a name for that form of self-delusion. It is called the Dunning–Kruger effect.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a common human bias in which people who are unskilled in a field vastly over-rate their abilities in that field. They don't know how little they don't know. In Trump's case, he believes that he is much smarter than he actually is. He believes that his mental abilities make him superior to the rest of us. He is ignorant and is ignorant of his ignorance.

Manifestations of Trump's strong Dunning-Kruger bias abound. Here are just a few times that Trump publicly boasted about his imaginary superhuman mental abilities:

In defending his lie that thousands of New Jersey Muslims celebrated the 9/11 tragedy, Trump said, "I have the world’s greatest memory. It’s one thing everyone agrees on." Trump later did not remember saying this.

In defending the fact that he attends very few of his daily intelligence briefings, Trump said,"I get it when I need it. I'm, like, a smart person."

In May 2013, Trump tweeted, "
Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure, it's not your fault."

At a campaign rally, Trump famously uttered, "I went to an Ivy League school. I’m very highly educated. I know words, I have the best words."

When asked what experts he was conferring with on foreign policy, Trump replied, “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things."

For years, Trump has told anyone who will listen that he graduated from Wharton School of Business with honors. He led people to believe that he graduated with an MBA at the top of his class from one of the nation's top business schools. In reality, he went there two years and, with credits transferred from another school, got an undergrad degree. He was nowhere close to graduating with honors.

Trump somehow never seems to exhibit the "great brain" that he constantly professes to have. He will not read long memos. Aides claim that briefing papers on every subject, no matter how complex, must be condensed to a single page and have no more than nine bullet points. At the recent NATO summit, our allies were requested to keep speeches to four minutes, due to Trump's short attention span.

Presidents Clinton and Obama are voracious readers. Jimmy Carter has written more that 30 books. Even W frequently enjoys a good book. But not Trump. In an interview, Megyn Kelly recently asked what book he last read. Trump's reply was “I read passages, I read areas, chapters, I don’t have the time."

In a Fox interview, Tucker Carlson asked him the same soft-ball question about what he reads. Trump's rambling answer was, "Well, you know, I love to read. Actually, I’m looking at a book, I’m reading a book, I’m trying to get started. Every time I do about a half a page, I get a phone call that there’s some emergency, this or that. But we’re going to see the home of Andrew Jackson today in Tennessee and I’m reading a book on Andrew Jackson. I love to read. I don’t get to read very much, Tucker, because I’m working very hard on lots of different things..."

The actual author of The Art of the Deal, Tony Schwartz, said last year, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.” During the eighteen months that he spent with Trump, Schwartz said that he never saw a book on Trump’s desk, in his office, or in his apartment.

So the leader of our country is an ignoramus who doesn't read. He doesn't take time to learn any subject at more than a superficial level. He has already demonstrated that he knows nothing about NATO, or our allies, or global warming, or healthcare. He knows nothing about hundreds of other subjects on which he makes critical decisions. More than once, Trump's ignorance has made us an international embarrassment.

Trump lacks the intellectual curiosity and smarts to study the important policy issues. But that is not all. Thanks to his severe Dunning-Kruger bias, he is not even interested in getting the input of our country's top experts. He doesn't need the views of the State Department. He knows more than top government scientists. He thinks the vast intelligence apparatus is wrong. He knows more about defeating ISIS than the generals. After all, he is, like, a smart person. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Tsunami Is Coming !

At last weekend's Democratic State Convention, you couldn't walk ten feet without hearing somebody talking excitedly about 2018. Party activists clearly sense a Democratic tidal wave in the mid-term elections.

The party opposing the President traditionally makes gains in the midterm. And 2018 will likely be no exception. Since 1862, the President's party has gained seats in both houses of Congress in only two midterm elections-those of 1934 and 2002. 

The 2010 election, Obama's first mid-term, was an awful year for the Democrats. According to the President, "We were shellacked !" We lost the US House of Representatives, going from a 255-178 majority to a 193-242 minority. We lost six Senate seats. We went from a three-governor advantage to a nine-governor disadvantage.

Wisconsin certainly did not escape the 2010 devastation. Assembly Democrats went from a 50-45 majority to a 38-60 minority. State Senate Democrats went from an 18-15 majority to a 14-19 minority. An Ayn Rand disciple beat progressive 3-term Senator  Russ Feingold. Even worse, we turned the governorship over to Scott Walker, creating the giant shit hole we still inhabit today.

So we know a political tsumami is possible, in which the party in power is routed nationally and statewide. It happened for Republicans in 2010. It can certainly happen for Democrats in 2018. Let's look at some data to see if we are being realistic, or merely hopeful.

Congressional Republicans are not making themselves any friends. Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and their unshackled gang of maniacs are running amok. They are trying to take healthcare away from 24 million Americans. They are gutting important environmental protections. They are dismantling the social safety net, education funding, and scientific research. It is no wonder that many Congressional Republicans are afraid to hold town hall meetings. For all of their efforts, Congressional GOP popularity is dropping fast.

An average of six generic Congressional polls taken between April and June show the Democrats ahead by 6.5%. A May Quinnipiac poll gives Democrats a huge 16% edge. For comparison, before the Democratic bloodbath of 2010, Republicans held just a 5% lead in the generic Gallup poll.

The midterm elections are a referendum on the President. Having Trump as their leader does the GOP no favors. Ham-handed bungling of international affairs, a rudderless domestic policy, and a scandal-a-day administration add up to a failed Presidency. Trump's approval rating is at record lows. An average of ten recent polls gives him a 39% approval, and it's falling fast. Quinnipiac has him at 34%. Trump will have very short 2018 coattails, to match his tiny hands.

Faced with the Trump disaster and a feckless GOP Congress, more Americans are self-identifying as Democrats. In a June Gallup poll, 45% of Americans identify as Democrats (or lean Democratic), while only 38% identify as Republican (or lean Republican). This 7% gap has jumped from only 3% in November.

On top of poor approval for GOP politicians, there is an unprecedented energy and excitement from the progressive base. The election of President Trump has taught us our lesson. We will certainly not sit out 2018. One only had to attend the Madison Women's March, or the Milwaukee March for Science, or the State Democratic Convention to see that people are fired-up and ready to go. One only has to go to any of Sensenbrenner's town halls, or local meetings of activists in the blood-red W.O.W. counties to see the renewed high-voltage grass-roots energy.

Sensing blood in the water, many Dems are stepping forward to run in 2018. Sensenbrenner already has a declared opponent- Shawn Rundblade. Glen Grothman has two-  Scott Olmer and Dan Kohl. Although no serious candidates for Governor have formally announced, the election is still seventeen months away. Many great experienced progressive candidates are floating their names to run against the highly-vulnerable Walker.

Even in scarlet red-area Assembly races, serious candidates are stepping forward. Last year, District 24 Republican Dan Knodl ran unopposed (Germantown, Brown Deer, River Hills, N. Glendale). This year, two great candidates have already announced a challenge to Knodl, the Tea Partier who jammed Right-to-Freeload through the Assembly.

The President's party has traditionally lost seats during midterm elections. Add in low GOP party affiliation, a big Democratic advantage in generic Congressional polling, and Trump's abysmal approval numbers and we have the makings of a good 2018 for progressives. Throw in a charged-up army of grass-roots activists and we just might have ourselves a Democratic tsunami !

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Political Name-Calling

The far-right has long been enamored with personal insults. When losing on-line arguments, conservatives frequently retreat to stock juvenile responses like "Libtard, go find your safe space !" or "Well, you're a snowflake !".

So it was no surprise when Donald Trump, master of the second-grade insult, successfully took over the Republican Party. Rattling-off ironically-projective names like "Little Marco", "Low Energy Jeb", "Lyin' Ted", "Crazy Bernie" and "Crooked Hillary", Trump spoke to the party faithful at a level that they could understand.

Trump is by no means the first to introduce name-calling into right-wing politics. There is a tradition of name calling by conservatives. Years of vilification turned the perfectly-good and noble term, "liberal", into a sneering pejorative. Since 1940, many conservatives have refused to use the adjective, "Democratic", insisting on ignorant, nails-on-chalkboard terms like "Democrat Party".

No, name-calling by the right is certainly not new. However, the ascendance of Trump and his alt-Right supporters have taken name-calling to a whole new level. A entirely new dictionary of stupid invectives has entered our political discourse, making it even more difficult to hold a civil debate on policy. Derogatory names like "beta", "cuck", "libtard", "buttercup", "cupcake", and "snowflake" are common on chat sites where the Right congregates.

Use of the term, "snowflake" by the Right is especially ironic. A "snowflake" is someone who is too easily offended, or too fragile. By this definition the Right's leader, Donald Trump, is the most fragile snowflake of them all. He constantly complains about the people who are "mean" to him. At a Coast Guard graduation ceremony, Trump recently whined, "Look at the way I've been treated lately. Especially by the media. No politician in history has been treated worse or more unfairly !"

In an extreme example of projection, conservative darling Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke frequently uses the term "snowflake" in describing progressives. This is the same David Clarke who ordered his deputies detain a man at the Milwaukee Airport for looking at Clarke in a mean way.

One of the silliest of alt-right insults is the term "SJW", short for Social Justice Warrior. The alt-right sneeringly uses this term as an insult. This is absurd. What is wrong with social justice? What is wrong with standing-up for the oppressed, the weak, those who have no voice of their own? What is wrong with insisting that every group in society should have the same rights and freedoms ?

Some of the most admired people who ever lived were social justice warriors, standing-up for the oppressed. Abraham Lincoln was an SJW. Susan B. Anthony was an SJW. Father Damien was an SJW. Martin Luther King was an SJW. Gandhi was an SJW. Mother Theresa was an SJW. Jesus Christ was an SJW.

In the Right's new topsy-turvy reality, people who should be society's heroes, the best among us, are derided as "social justice warriors". Misogynists, racists, xenophobes, and traitors like our President are held-up for admiration. Such a scrambled view of the world is hard to comprehend.

In our deeply divided country, political discourse has become increasingly hostile. Our President has made juvenile name-calling seem normal. An entire slanguage of new insults has entered our debates from the alt-right. If we ever want to return to functional bipartisan government, if we ever want to return to civil discussion, the silly political name-calling has got to stop.