Thursday, September 22, 2016

Scott Walker's Personal, Taxpayer-Funded Law Firm

This week, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel announced that his office was joining in yet another lawsuit against the federal government. This time, the suit attempts to overturn new workplace regulations that increase the salary threshold at which overtime must be paid to workers.

This is certainly not the first time that Schimel has used your state tax money to fight the federal government (which is ironically supported with your federal taxes). In a series of highly partisan actions, Schimel has consistently used state resources to advance the right-wing agenda of Scott Walker and the state GOP.

No friend of the environment, Schimel has entered Wisconsin into a suit fighting federal regulation of power plant carbon emissions. He is fighting federal regulations  that limit ozone-forming pollutants. He has spent state money to limit the ability of the federal government to remedy the pollution of navigable waters.

But Schimel doesn't just limit his actions to the protection of corporate polluters. He has joined in no fewer than three suits attacking the Affordable Care Act. He joined in a suit to allow federally-banned discrimination in schools based on gender identity. He joined a multi-state suit fighting much-needed federal immigration reforms. State suits against the US government almost always require the approval of the governor. Walker has been involved, if not the instigator, in all of these actions. 

Schimel's meddling on the national scene isn't limited to fighting the feds. He has supported Texas in their unconstitutional anti-abortion efforts. He has involved Wisconsin in a federal case to protect manufacturers of leaded paint from liability (sound vaguely familiar?).

Where is all of the money coming from to advance this right-wing-corporatist agenda by the Wisconsin Department of Justice? I thought that Wisconsin was broke! At a time when our university system, public schools, and the DNR have undergone drastic cuts, the DOJ keeps getting more and more money. Walker has given the DOJ a hefty 5.2% increase in funding between 2014 and 2017.

In a 2015-17 budget that pulled $250 million from the state university system, Scott Walker somehow found the money to build a new bureaucracy within the DOJ. The new group, called the Solicitor General's Office, was created and funded at $584,500 per year (2017). This staff of five is tasked with representing "the State of Wisconsin in cases on appeal that are of special importance to the State". In reality, this means defending new extremist-GOP laws of questionable constitutionality.

Much of the new funding for the DOJ is being used to defend Walker's and the GOP legislature's extreme agenda. Schimel's recent actions include defending Wisconsin's anti-choice laws, defending new voting restrictions, and defending our unconscionable redistricting maps. He defends the state GOP's union-busting Right-to-Freeload law that was jammed through the legislature in 2015. He defends the constitutionally-questionable "pee-in-a-cup" law requiring drug tests for those on public assistance.

Not content to have a lock on the Governor's office, the State Supreme Court, and both houses of the Legislature, the GOP has sought to punish any remaining moderate office holders. GOP legislative power grabs to minimize elected moderates like Supreme Court Justice Abrahamson, Secretary of State Doug LaFollette, and State Superintendent Tony Evers have all been defended in court by the partisan hack, Schimel.

Acting like Scott Walker's personal legal representative, Schimel has interjected himself in the John Doe illegal campaign-coordination scandal. In August, he submitted a brief to the US Supreme Court, arguing that Walker's Doe case should not be considered by the highest court.

Wisconsin Attorney General, Brad Schimel has taken gross GOP partisanship to an unprecedented level. Hardworking Wisconsin taxpayers are footing the bill for his spree of lawsuits against the federal government. We are funding his expensive courtroom defense of a swarm of indefensibly-partisan state laws. We need an Attorney General whose first obligation is to the people, not his Governor, legislature, and party. 

Paul C. Adair

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Assembly GOP Plans for Next Session

Last week, State Assembly Republicans unveiled their plans for the next legislative session. They call their 16-page manifesto, "Forward-For Wisconsin's Future". The plan is long on photos of politicians posing with workers, but short on substance. The plan is long on flowery PR language, but short on actual policy proposals.

As in past years, the Assembly Republicans are not running on what they really plan to do. They don't mention their intense efforts to stay in power through voter suppression and gerrymandering. They don't mention their continued campaign to lower the wages of Wisconsin workers through banning prevailing wage, instituting Right-to-Freeload, and ending the right to bargain. They don't talk about their relentless push to demolish Wisconsin's once-clean government.

However, last night I received a folder from an anonymous and totally unreliable source. The folder contains what appears to be a set of future bill proposals from the GOP Assembly majority. I can't vouch for their authenticity, but these bills just might be what we see emerging from Madison next legislative session:

AB-231 Relating to: Establishing Emergency City Manager plan. Take control of Milwaukee. Save money by sourcing municipal water from Milwaukee River instead of Lake Michigan.

AB-232 Relating to: Making English the official state language. Requiring all Wisconsin city names to be changed to their Anglicized versions. Germantown will become "Britishtown", Prairie du Chien will become "Dog Prairie", Fond du Lac will become "Melted Cheese Lake". 

AB-233 Relating to: Replacing out-dated Capitol "Forward" lady statue with nude statue of generous public benefactor Diane Hendricks. Replace Capitol bust of Bob LaFollette with bust of John Menard.

AB-234 Relating to: Changing the name of the WEDC (called Wee-dik) to the Business, Industry, & Governmental Development Corporation.

AB-235 Relating to: Renaming Badgercare "The Socialist Plot to Destroy Wisconsin Jobs -Care"

AB-236 Relating to: Limiting purchases by Food Stamp recipients to gruel, porridge, moldy bread, and dented cans.

AB-237 Relating to: Compensating for cuts to state university system by requiring all academic staff to participate in annual popcorn and cookie sale fundraisers.

AB-238 Relating to: Tripling the budget of Wisconsin Attorney General, Brad Schimel, so that he can continue to bravely defend Wisconsin against abortion, same-sex marriage, labor unions, minority voters, gun laws, immigrants, healthcare, and federal environmental laws.

AB-239 Relating to: Moving Wisconsin citizens from dependence to independence by ejecting anyone with an income higher than 50% of poverty level from Badgercare program. Those removed to be issued a bottle of aspirin, a field surgical kit, and a copy of Atlas Shrugged.

AB-240 Relating to: Banning the sale of British magazine, The Guardian, in Wisconsin (because Walker asked us to).

AB-241 Relating to: In the spirit of the Wisconsin Right-to-Work law, making payment of Wisconsin state taxes optional.

AB-242 Relating to: Providing ideological balance in the UW system. Require teaching climate stability. History instructors must swear that Ronald Reagan is the greatest president. Geology professors must teach Creationism. Chemistry professors must cover phlogiston.

AB-243 Relating to: Allowing the no-bid sale of Devil's Lake State Park, the Bronze Fonz, and the Giant Shirt.

AB-244 Relating to: Calling for a special legislative session for emergency action on the next (to-be-determined) Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce whim.

AB-245 Relating to: Prohibiting former Supreme Court Chief Justice Abrahamson from purchasing crab, lobster, or shellfish with her taxpayer-funded salary.

AB-246 Relating to: Requiring the successful completion of a civics test as a condition for obtaining a high school diploma. The test to include an essay section on: Ronald Reagan-great President or the greatest President ?

AB-247 Relating to: Establishing a “Wisconsin State Bureau of Rosy Economic News” to let everyone know that “It Really Is Working !”

AB-248 Relating to: Making English the official state language. Requiring all state employees to adopt Anglicized names. For example, Rep. Janel Brandtjen will become Jane Brand, Rep. Andre Jacque will become Andy Jack. Rep. Joel Kleefisch will become Chris Larson. 

 AB-249 Relating to: Abolishing Badgercare. Replace with common-sense, patient-related reforms. Abolish the food stamp program. Replace with common-sense, hunger-related reforms. Abolish the DNR. Replace with common-sense, mutation-centered reforms.

AB-250 Relating to: Establishing standards for teachers at school-choice voucher schools. Teacher must have graduated from eighth grade, have an audible speaking voice, and be off-paper

AB-251 Relating to: Selling corporate naming rights for Milwaukee, Lake Winnebago, and the University of Wisconsin.

AB-252 Relating to: Requiring a five-day waiting period for abortions. Prohibiting abortions after the first three days of a pregnancy.

AB-253 Relating to: Commending Scott Walker for his tireless 2015-16 efforts to build interstate trade relations with Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

AB-254 Relating to: Establishing a wall at the Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois borders, to keep out-of-state demonstrators, welfare bums, illegal aliens, and fraudulent voters out of Wisconsin.

Paul C. Adair

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

By this time in 2012, Romney signs in the W.O.W. counties were sprouting like mushrooms. However, there just does not seem to be similar enthusiasm for Donald Trump this year. Last weekend, we made two journeys through deep-red W.O.W., going from Germantown to Brookfield and from Germantown to Cedarburg. During these drives, we saw a total of five Ro-Jo signs, but only a single Trump sign. This is only anecdotal evidence, but it seems to verify other tales of very low Republican enthusiasm for Vladimir Putin's BFF.

Psychologically quite revealing is a comparison of Hillary yard signs with those of Trump. The design employed by the Democratic ticket uses the same font-size for Clinton and her running-mate, Tim Kaine. Not surprisingly, the font for Mike Pence is 35% smaller than that of his egomaniacal Cheeto running mate

The jury is still out on the effectiveness of campaign yard signs. Many political campaign professionals believe that they are a waste of time and money. However, in a study conducted at Columbia University, campaign yard signs in a set of four different campaigns generated an average 1.7% increase in turnout for the sign-posting campaign. That is not huge, but it could make all the difference in a close race.

Signs for local races may well be more effective than for statewide and national elections. Signs for local candidates get people familiar with your candidate's name.
In local races, name recognition is half the battle. Candidates for national and top state offices are already well known.

Democrats in W.O.W. counties are especially hesitant to display yard signs. Many of us have tried, only to have our signs quickly stolen. Such is one of the hazards of living in a red area. However, we should not let a few vandals deter us.

I have heard of a lot of strategies to keep signs from being stolen. Of course, there is the malicious approach, in which the sign is electrified, or is equipped with razor wire, or shards of glass are scattered around it, or bear traps are placed in front of it. Tempting though that might be, you shouldn't try to actually hurt someone. You could go to jail longer than would the sign thief.

No, there are many ways to foil the sign thieves short of causing physical harm. A common method is to print on the sign "If this sign is stolen, I will donate $200 dollars to Hillary's (etc.) campaign.". You don't actually have to do that, but don't feel guilty about lying to a would-be thief.

Another approach that I employ is to allow my dog, Bella, to poop in a circle around my signs. This approach is especially effective in poorly-lit neighborhoods. It may not totally deter the perp, but it will give you some satisfaction of revenge.

Some folks have gone out of the way to actually catch the crook. A strategically-placed trail camera could provide the evidence you need for an arrest. It probably isn't worth buying a camera just for this purpose, but if you already own one, go right ahead and try it.

Yet another effective approach I call -"If you steal us, we multiply". This requires getting a goodly number of signs. If you have one sign stolen, replace it with two. If those are taken, replace them with four. Like the fable of grains of wheat on a chess board, you can't keep this up for very long, but your thief will probably give-up before you do.

Similarly, if you are handy enough to make you own signs, you can make progressively larger and larger signs until the perp gives up. This works up to a point because state law (and many local laws) limit the size of residential yard signs.

However, probably the most effective method is to simply bring-in your signs at dusk. Even the most brazen pilferer will not strike in broad daylight. It is more work for you, but at least you will probably not be robbed.

Campaign yard signs have been shown to have a small, but distinct impact on voter turn-out. As progressives in a deep-red area, we should not be afraid to display support for our candidates. It says to other liberals in your town that they are not alone. It has the added bonus of pissing-off your right-wing nut job neighbor.

Paul C. Adair

Friday, September 2, 2016

How Walker Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Donald

There has never been a presidential candidate less qualified to take office than Donald Trump. His absence of relevant experience and knowledge alone should cause voters to reject him. His bombast, childish behavior, and lack of self-control should rule him out. His attempts to divide Americans over racial, ethnic, religious, and gender lines are a clear danger to our country.

Facing Trump is one of the smartest, most qualified presidential candidates that has ever blessed America. Only the most cynically partisan hack could believe that a six-times-bankrupt, three-times-married, know-nothing, Putin-loving, David Duke-hero, reality-show star could be a better president than Secretary Clinton. One such partisan hack is Wisconsin's own Scott Walker.

But it hasn't always been this way. Over the course of five months, Walker has gone from the anybody-but-Trump camp to become just another Trump apologist. How did Walker transition from strongly opposing Trump to being one of his top advocates? Let's explore.

The first indication that Walker was not Trump's biggest fan came when he abandoned his train-wreck of a presidential campaign. Never mentioning Trump by name, Walker stated that he "is being called (by God) to lead by helping to clear the field in this race" and that he wants "a positive, conservative alternative to the current front runner."

Feeling increasingly desperate to stop Trump, Walker endorsed Trump's last realistic rival, Ted Cruz, just a week before Wisconsin's early April primary. This endorsement, together with overwhelming Cruz support from extreme-right radio, gave Trump his last major loss on the way to the nomination.

At the May Wisconsin state GOP convention, Walker gave a thirty minute speech. During that time, he stressed the importance of re-electing Ron Johnson and retaining Ribble's congressional seat. He emphasized the need to add to the GOP majorities in the State Assembly and Senate. But he did not mention then-likely presidential nominee Donald Trump a single time.

In early June, Walker still had not come to fully accept his party's presumptive nominee. After Trump's racist comments about a US judge, Walker wistfully stated "I think for a lot of us, not just Republicans in general, we want to see what he’s going to do between now and the time the convention comes. The sad fact is -- it’s just sad in American that we have such poor choices right now."

In early July, Walker entered into the acceptance phase of his grief when he tweeted: "Last August, I said I'd support the GOP nominee. It's now clear who the RNC delegates will vote to nominate. And he is better than she is." He still had difficulty saying Trump's name, but at least he started to accept the grim reality of Don the Con heading the GOP ticket.

Walker was given a chance to extol the virtues of his party's nominee during a not-prime-time speaking slot at July's Republican National Convention Fear-fest. However, most of his time was devoted to bashing Hillary and to his boasting about taking-on the "big government union bossesTM" in Wisconsin. During his ten minute speech, he uttered Trump's name a mere five times.

Walker realized what Ted Cruz (who was widely booed by delegates) did not. Snubbing Trump at the national convention would be the end of his still-simmering national ambitions. His speech only gave the bare minimum homage to Trump required to avoid the permanent anger of the racist wing of the party. It is no wonder that Chachi was given a better time-slot than Walker.

However, at least Walker was finally able to utter the name "Donald Trump" without choking. But he still wasn't fully on board. After the convention, Trump traveled to Green Bay to rally his supporters. Walker and the rest of the state GOP nabobs scrambled to find something else to do that day.

But Walker has since come to terms with Trump. He has fully endorsed the orange Cheeto. He is totally on board the crazy-train. At the mid-August Trump rally in West Bend, Walker not only showed-up, but he actually introduced Trump. Walker enthusiastically said, "There are two names that will be on the ballot on November 8. One is Hillary Clinton, the other is Donald Trump. ...(unintelligible rant on Hilary)... There is only one person who's got a track record in the private truly take-on Washington, and put power in the hands of the American people. To make America great again. That man is the next President of the United States, Donald Trump."

It has taken him a while to arrive here, but Scott Walker has wholeheartedly endorsed the most unqualified presidential candidate in history, just because he has an "R" after his name. He has placed the Republican Party, and his own political future in that party, over our country. 

With his recent enthusiastic and self-serving Trump support, Scott Walker owns all that is Trump. He owns all of the hate and fear stoked by Trump. He owns every outrageous racist, xenophobic, and sexist comment uttered by Trump. He owns all of Trump's fascist tendencies. He owns it all. 

by Paul C. Adair

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Playing with Matches in a Fireworks Factory

As Donald Trump's election becomes increasingly unlikely, he has been sounding increasingly desperate. His speeches are more addled. His actions are more bizarre. The garbage spewing from his mouth is more incendiary.

During the GOP primaries, Trump unveiled his strategy of calling his opponents grade-school playground names. "Little" Marco, "Lyin'" Ted, and "Low Energy" Jeb can attest to that. Trump's childish name-calling continues in the general election. Starting with lame names such as "Crooked" Hillary, Trump has become increasingly over-the-top as it is becomes clear how far behind he is trailing.

Some of Trump's name-calling is simply silly. For example, he has called Hillary a "marshmallow", a "low energy napper", and a "world class liar". Sounding less mature than a second-grader, he called his opponent Hillary "Rotten" Clinton. However, many of his more recent names are aimed at dehumanizing Hillary. They are designed to strongly demonize his opponent, making her seem somehow worthy of hatred and scorn.

In a reflection of Trump's own shortcomings, Trump has called Hillary "incompetent", a "disaster", and a "nasty and mean enabler". In an audacious pot-meet kettle moment on Wednesday, he actually called Hillary a "bigot".

Many Trumpian names for his opponent are really over the top and could incite some of his most rabid and unstable followers into actions that go beyond simply exercising their vote. In Cinncinati, Trump killed a mosquito, then proceeded to compare Hillary to that dead mosquito. He has called her "the Devil". He has called her "evil". He has said that she is a "monster". He has repeatedly implied that she is a Muslim terrorist, calling her the "co-founder of ISIS".

Trump's rallies have become hate-Hillary fests. The uniform of choice is a "Hillary for Prison" t-shirt. Trump's stream-of-consciousness speeches are often interrupted with chants of "Lock her up!". These rallies are aimed at dehumanizing the Democratic candidate and whipping the Trump faithful into a frenzy of hostility.

And Trump keeps spouting-off about how the system is rigged. How "Crooked" Hillary is going to steal the election from him through widespread voter fraud. How "certain areas" of Pennsylvania are rife with cheating, and will lead to his defeat. When Trump finally loses the election, he will find great comfort in this fantasy that he is not a choker. He will convince himself that the presidency should rightfully be his. The problem is, some of his most addled followers will also believe this, thinking that Hillary Clinton is somehow not the legitimate President. It is difficult to fathom what actions some of these crazies will take.

If Trump worries that the most violent of his followers will not get his message, he spelled it out for them at a recent rally. He suggested political violence against either a President Clinton or Supreme Court justices, saying "By the way, and if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know." Although he later backpedaled on his dangerous and ill-considered statement, the most diehard Trumpbots heard him loud and clear.

If there was any doubt, a New Hampshire politician who advises Trump and sometimes travels with him to campaign events stated on radio that Clinton "should be put in the firing line and shot for treason."

If you think that Trump's followers will all just laugh off his agitation to violence, I encourage you to stand outside of one of his rallies. Some of these folks are downright insane. While most of his disciples would never consider acting on their rage, a small subset would have no such restraint. It only takes a few well-armed Trump-inspired nut-jobs to cause major damage to our country.

Donald Trump has dehumanized his opponent by calling her a "monster", "the Devil", "evil", and the "co-founder of ISIS". He has implied that, if (when) he loses, it will be because the election was stolen. He has gone so far as to suggest armed violence against a legitimately-elected president. This kind of rhetoric is akin to playing with matches in a fireworks factory. Someone this reckless has no business being anywhere close to the White House. 

                                              by Paul C. Adair

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.