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.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

AG Schimel is Coming for Your Heathcare

The national GOP has moved-on from their unpopular attempts to strip healthcare from millions of Americans. Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel evidently did not get the memo. On Tuesday, he announced that he was spending your state tax money in yet another attempt to kill the Affordable Care Act.

Along with the AG of Texas, Schimel is leading the charge to destroy our healthcare system. If he succeeds, anyone with a pre-existing condition can be denied insurance. The sale of useless junk insurance will once again be legal. Kids under 26 could be thrown off of their parents' coverage. There will be no limits on how much more you can be charged if you are older, or sicker, or a woman. Insurance prices will skyrocket due to hordes of newly-uninsured descending on hospitals and clinics.

Appearing on Fox (of course) on Tuesday, Schimel boasted about his new suit against the Federal Government to declare the ACA unconstitutional. Schimel's weak legal argument is based on Congress's recent ending of the penalty on individuals who decide to go without insurance. The abolition of the penalty was one tiny aspect of the huge tax-cut for the rich that was jammed-through Congress late last year.

According to Schimel's bizarre logic, without a financial penalty for going without insurance, the personal mandate built into the ACA is not constitutional. Further, without the the mandate, the entire Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. As Schimel gleefully told his Fox interviewer, "If this falls, the whole thing is gone."

This is not Schimel's first attempt to use your state tax dollars to sue the US government (which is ironically supported with your federal tax dollars) over the ACA. In your name, he entered into three other national lawsuits to fight various ACA provisions.

Where is all of the money coming from to advance Schimel's far-right agenda? I thought that Wisconsin was broke! At a time when our university system, roads, public schools, and the DNR have undergone drastic cuts, the DOJ keeps getting more and more money. Walker gave the DOJ a hefty 5.2% increase in funding between 2014 and 2017. The DOJ got another 2.5% increase in the new 2017-19 budget.

What are Wisconsinites getting for all of that increased legal spending? Schimel has built himself quite the little empire. He formed a Solicitor-General office in the DOJ and staffed it with at least six new hires. According to a spokesperson, the group's ominous mandate is to "counter the multiple overreaches by the federal government".

In addition to his multiple suits fighting the ACA, Schimel has many more GOP-fantasy cases in his large portfolio. He has entered into federal cases to protect polluters, punish workers, support partisan gerrymanders, end reproductive freedom, deport the Dreamers, and fight trans bathroom rights.

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. 

Many of us rely on the ACA to survive. We don't need our elected officials working to end it. We need an Attorney General whose first obligation is to the people, not to his extreme ideology.

Friday, February 23, 2018

The NRA's $3.5 Million-Dollar Man

Scott Walker at 2012 NRA Convention
Last week, another 17 high school kids were murdered by a crazy person with a gun. Rather than act to end this all-too-common slaughter of innocents, America will do nothing.

The NRA is way too powerful for any meaningful and common-sense regulation of weapons of mass destruction. We will see no restrictions on the purchase of efficient human-killing machines. No increased waiting periods. No universal background checks. No banning of military-type weapons. No restrictions on bump-stocks or trigger cranks. No limits on high capacity magazines. 

Despite all of the new youthful optimism and zeal to address the problem, nothing will be done. Despite all of the marches and listening session and interviews, we will have more massacres. The NRA owns too many politicians for things to change.

With our current leadership, there will be nothing done at a national level to stop the killing. Only in a few progressive regions will anything be done at the state level. We have no hope of a common-sense legislative response in Wisconsin, so long as the NRA-owned Scott Walker and his batshit-crazy GOP legislature are in power.

After the latest tragedy, Governor Walker issued a predictable statement. He spoke of prayers for the victims. He ordered flags to be lowered. But in his 124-word statement, he did not once mention the words "gun", "weapon", or "shooting".

Like many politicians who are fully-owned NRA vassals, Walker blames everything for the mass-murders except the actual problem -the easy availability of rapid-fire guns. In his statement, he spoke of mental health. He gave vague promises of action that will never come, saying, "Here in Wisconsin we will continue to work with legislators and law enforcement on how to best keep our communities safe.

Walker and the NRA go back a long way. He has been a proud member for years. As Milwaukee County Executive, Walker gave the welcoming speech at the 2006 National Convention held here. In a later interview, Walker gushed about meeting the off-his-rocker rocker and renowned pants-pooper, Ted Nugent at the Convention.

By any measure, Scott Walker is in the pocket of the NRA. He was endorsed by the group during both the 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial elections. The group has propped-up their boy with contributions of over $3.5 million dollars for his elections in 2010, 2012, and 2014.

In their 2014 endorsement, an NRA spokesman expressed their over-the-top love for Walker, "Scott Walker is a battle-tested leader in the fight to preserve Second Amendment rights in Wisconsin. He's never wavered, never backed down and never stood still in the fight to protect our freedoms."

Walker spoke at the national NRA Leadership meeting in 2012 in St. Louis. At that session, he was awarded the gun lobbying-group's highest honor, the Harlan B. Carter Award. Walker was given this dubious award after he signed Wisconsin's Concealed Paranoid-Carry Bill into law.

With the stroke of his pen, Walker had turned our state into the wild West. He made all Wisconsin citizens less safe from stray bullets. During his acceptance speech, Walker bellowed, "It's all about freedom and that's what the NRA is all about ! "

Also adding to Walker's NRA luster was Wisconsin's Castle Doctrine Law "I can Murder a Drunk Kid on my Porch" Law that our governor signed in December 2011.

Walker at 2015 NRA Convention
Walker was unable to attend the 2013 National meeting, but sent a short video to his favorite lobbyist and contributor. He atoned by speaking again at the 2015 convention. In a warm-up for his 2016 presidential run, Walker strutted the stage, crowing about his perfect A+ NRA Score as Governor, "I'm proud of my A+ ranking as governor. I'm proud of that, even though some on the left might say it's a scarlet letter. ....I consider it a badge of honor."

Walker has a long history as a favorite NRA asset. He has consistently defended them, no matter how extreme their position. In turn, the NRA has consistently endorsed and funded Walker. 

We cannot expect Scott Walker to buck his controllers at the NRA. Wisconsin will not get common sense gun laws as long as the NRA's $3.5 Million-dollar Man is our Governor.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Thank a Republican !

The Republican Party is primarily responsible for America's epidemic of school and public shootings. Despite a citizen outcry to do something about the carnage, GOP politicians continue to push their all guns-at anytime-for everyone agenda. They refuse to ban the most efficient of the rapid-fire human-killing machines. They defend the right of the mentally-ill and terrorists to own a deadly arsenal. At both national and state levels, Republicans are erasing common sense gun purchasing and carrying regulations.

If you think that the wholesale murder of children is a good thing, thank a Republican.

But that is not the only reason to thank the GOP. If the party did not exist, the country's Overton Window would not have been shifted so sharply to the loony-right. America would be dramatically different without today's Republican Party. Why else should we thank the Republicans?

We should thank them for Americans lacking universal access to healthcare. Unlike all other first world countries, we have a health system that ignores large swaths of our population. Despite deficiencies in our current system, GOP pols are fighting to make it much worse. They constantly slash Medicaid and aspire to privatize Medicare. Destroying the ACA is one of the few unifying goals of the party.

We should thank Republicans for blowing-up the budget deficit and federal debt. We actually ran surpluses during Clinton's second term. W destroyed all that. His huge tax cuts and two unnecessary wars ballooned federal spending. Obama took an ax to spending, reducing Bush's 2009 deficit an amazing 69% by 2015. But the GOP is doing it again. The party of "fiscal responsibility" is again spending like drunken sailors. They enacted a ginormous tax cut for the wealthy and made huge jumps in military spending.

We should thank them for such unpopular moves as killing net neutrality and fighting marijuana legalization. We should thank them for creating a crisis for DACA kids, where none existed before. We should thank them for their Forever War on reproductive rights.

We should thank state Republicans for every pothole to which your car is subjected. By refusing to adequately fund our roads, Wisconsin now ranks #49 in the US in road quality. We can't afford decent roads, but we can afford to give billions to Foxconn.

We should thank Wisconsin Republicans for low wages in our state. The party no longer supports a minimum wage of any kind. Their war against labor includes ending prevailing wage and imposing Right to Freeload. Now the Trump Administration wants to steal the tips of low-paid restaurant workers.

We should thank the GOP for fighting renewable energy and denying the scientific reality of man-made climate change. We should thank them for America's new role as the global village idiot.

We should thank Republicans for worrying granny and gramps by constantly threatening to steal their earned Social Security and Medicare

We should thank the GOP for interference in our elections by a hostile foreign government. Our Republican White House denies that Russia was even involved in our elections. Our Republican Congress defends that stance with attacks on law enforcement, leaked intelligence, and conspiracy theories about secret societies.

We should thank Republicans for undrinkable water, unbreathable air, and unrestrained banks. We should thank them for allowing
the purchase our government with billions of dollars in dark, uncontrolled, and untraceable campaign contributions. We should thank them for a country in which corporations are people.

Yes, we have many reasons to thank today's Republican Party. Without a modern GOP, America would be a very different place. If you don't like what we've become-if you want to truly make America great again- you know what we have to do in November.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Sensenbrenner Joins GOP's War on the FBI

I have seldom agreed with Jim Sensenbrenner on issues. However, I never questioned his devotion to America or his patriotism. Until now.

Sensenbrenner is right in the middle of the Nunes memo scandal. The memo, written by the staff of Congressman Devin Nunes, unveils classified information for a blatantly political purpose. It is a clumsy ruse to cast doubt on the motivations of law enforcement agents at the FBI. It is a ploy to end an investigation of the meddling in our elections by a hostile foreign power.

The memo seeks to bully the FBI into submission. It tries to convince us that the FBI has no right to investigate collusion of the Trump campaign with agents of Russia. In a tweet this morning, Trump chimed-in, "The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans ... "

Our own Congressman is not innocent in this attempt to subvert American
sovereignty and rule-of-law. Like many others in the GOP, Jim Sensenbrenner has piled-on to harm the reputation of the FBI. On January 19th, he signed a letter to Nunes to release the memo. A copy of Sensenbrenner's appeal to release classified information can be found here.

Sensenbrenner's letter, cosigned by sixty-three other House Republicans (but not a single Democrat) stated "This important memo will be of interest to anyone who cares about America and our democratic system of government. We are writing to request the immediate release of this document to the public, as well as any relevant ancillary information. The audience of this document should not be limited to members of Congress -the American people deserve to know the information it contains."

In a January 19 press release, Sensenbrenner implied wrong-doing on the part of the FBI, saying "The American people deserve to know the full extent of any surveillance abuses by the intelligence community. This memo should be released publicly so that we can begin to restore trust in government.

The Nunes memo selectively discusses the FISA warrants for FBI surveillance of Trump foreign policy adviser, Carter Page. This man was identified as a Russian asset during investigation of a Russian spy ring in New York City. Page later gave an anti-American speech in Moscow. With his deep involvement with a Presidential campaign, it was no wonder he was under FBI surveillance. The agency would be remiss if Page wasn't being watched.

The odd thing is, Sensenbrenner asked for release of the memo that impugns the integrity of federal law enforcement without actually reading the memo. He had no idea of what sensitive classified information he was calling to be divulged.

Just last Sunday, at a Germantown town hall meeting, Sensenbrenner claimed that he had not read the memo. In response to a question, he said, " Now, have I seen it? No. And the reason for that is, if I saw it, I couldn't talk about it. And when it is released, I want to be able to talk about it." So the Congressman was clamoring to have a memo released, while having no idea what it contained. (13:13)

During the same meeting, Sensenbrenner further expressed his endorsement of the GOP's war on the FBI, saying, "I think there's some problems at the top of the FBI that need to be addressed, because I don't think that the FBI should ever become a political police force."
(10:10) Sensenbrenner does have some power to bully the FBI. He is a member of the Judiciary Committee, the group that oversees the agency.

In his blind devotion to the President, Jim Sensenbrenner has jumped on the crazy train. He has bought into the wildest conspiracy theories of the far right. He is putting his crumbling party over our beloved country. His reckless partisan actions in attacking law enforcement are beyond the pale. He no longer acts for the good of America. He must be replaced in November.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Can Wisconsin Democrats Retake the State Senate?

We must fire Scott Walker this year. But that is not enough. In order to undo all of the anti-worker, anti-choice, anti-environment, anti-education damage inflicted on our state since 2011, we must also regain a majority in the legislature. 
Last week, we looked at the possibility of Democrats regaining the majority in the State Assembly. It will be very difficult for Dems to overcome the precision engineering of districts that give Republicans a huge electoral advantage. A flip of almost 12% of voters from red to blue in current GOP-held districts will be required to retake the Assembly. 

However, with flips of 17.7% and 15% in last week's special State Senate and Assembly elections, such a large Democratic turnabout is within reason in an anticipated November blue wave.

This week, we look at the Wisconsin State Senate. State Senators are elected for 4 year terms. Half of the seats in that body are decided by voters this year. With 33 seats in the Senate, only 17 are to be selected in November. These are the odd-numbered districts. The districts on the ballot this year were last decided in 2014.

The current State Senate consists of 18 Republicans, 14 Democrats, and one (formerly Republican) open seat. Democrats would need to hold all current seats and flip three additional seats from red to blue in order to reach a 17-16 majority. This is easier said than done.

Of course, if the US Supreme Court orders Wisconsin to re-draw fair district maps, all bets are off. But we can't count on justice to prevail. We may have to play the crooked cards we were dealt.

Of the 17 seats up this year, six are currently in Democratic hands. In an anticipated blue wave these should probably remain Democratic seats. These are Districts 3, 7, 15, 25, 27, and 31. The districts that are currently in GOP hands are 5, 9, 11, 13, 17, 19, 21, 23, 29, and 33. Let's look at at the recent electoral history of those 10 seats, as well as the open, historically Republican District 1.

District                 Current GOP Senator          % D in 2014 Election
1                            (open, formerly Lassee)              38.4 

5                                      Vukmir                   No Dem candidate
9                                      Lemahieu                          39.9
11                                    Nass                                  36.6
13                                    Fitzgerald                          37.3
17                                    Marklein                            44.9
19                                    Roth                                  42.8
21                                    Wanggaard                       38.4
23                                    Moulton                            38.8
29                                    Petrowski                          34.3
33                                    Kapanga                           26.1

None of these races will be easy for Democrats. Of the ten GOP State Senate districts in which Democrats fielded a candidate, only in Districts 17 and 19 did they get more than 40% of the 2014 vote. 

But 2014 was an especially good year for the GOP. It was Obama's second midterm election. Nationally, Republicans gained 3 governor seats, nine Senate seats, and twelve House seats. The State Senate numbers above are a likely GOP high-water mark. 

A 10.1% red-to-blue flip of voters is needed in 2018 for the Democrats to retake the State Senate. This is a slightly lower bar than the 12% voter flip needed to retake the Assembly.

However, in only one of these eleven races (District 5) has a Democrat already filed papers with the Wisconsin Elections Commission. There is certainly time for more Democratic candidates to register, as the paperwork deadline is June 1 to be on the primary ballot. Still, 28 people- including 21 Democrats- have already registered to run for Governor. It is a little disappointing that more A-list Democrats have not already stepped forward to contest these State Senate districts.

Last week's special elections showed that it is possible to generate the kind of red-to-blue voter shifts required to regain the majority in the State Assembly and Senate. With continued voter rejection of awful policies by the President, Congress, and state GOP politicians, we just might see a long-overdue shift in state political power next fall. We just might see a new Wisconsin Democratic majority.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Can Wisconsin Democrats Retake the Assembly ?

The political world was shocked by the strong Democratic performance in Tuesday's Wisconsin special elections. Scott Walker is worried, calling the results a “a wake-up call for Republicans in Wisconsin.” Paul Ryan is alarmed, saying "I think we should pay attention to it."

State Republicans are right to be worried. If the elections held during the past year are any indication, Democrats should do quite well in 2018. Combined with normally poor midterm results for the party occupying the White House, next November might well be a Democratic tidal wave.

We must fire Scott Walker this year. But that is not enough. In order to undo all of the anti-worker, anti-choice, anti-environment, anti-education damage inflicted on our state since 2011, we must also regain a majority in the legislature.

One question on the minds of many progressive Wisconsinites is, will we do well enough to regain a majority in the State Assembly? Do we have a any hope of surmounting the grossly gerrymandered districts imposed on Wisconsin by the GOP? How big of a voter swing do we need to take-back our state government? Let's consider this.

Of course, if the US Supreme Court orders Wisconsin to re-draw fair district maps, all bets are off. But we can't count on justice to prevail. We may have to play the crooked cards we were dealt.

Of the 99 Wisconsin Assembly elections of 2016, 28 were in districts that are packed so tightly with Democrats that there was no sacrificial Republican candidate. Most of these districts are in Madison, Racine, and Milwaukee-urban areas that the GOP neither cares about nor politically contests. These 28 seats are pretty safe Democratic territory.

In 2016, a pretty good year for Wisconsin Republicans, seven Democrats won against declared Republican candidates. These seven districts are probably also safe for the Dems in the coming big blue wave of  2018.

That gives the Democrats 35 seats on the way to a 50 seat majority. There were 21 Assembly races in 2016 that were in districts so red that no Democrat challenged. Most of these deep crimson areas will likely remain in Republican hands. Despite the fact that many great Democratic candidates are stepping-up to contest these seats in November, let's be realistic about our chances.

So, in order to pick-up the additional 15 seats on the way to an Assembly majority, let's consider the 43 seats currently in GOP hands, in which Democrats did field a 2016 candidate. These 43 districts were all carefully crafted during the 2011 partisan gerrymander. At least 24 of them yielded a GOP majority in the tight 57%-63% range in 2016. In only four of the contested precision-engineered districts did the Democrats garner more than 43% of the 2016 vote.

A shift of 2% of voters in each these 43 contested districts gains Democrats no additional seats. A shift of 5% of voters in each district gains us only two seats. Even with a seismic 10% shift of voters from red to blue, the Dems only gain 11 seats. Still, no majority.

A 11% shift almost gets us there, with a 14 seat gain. The tipping point comes at a 12% shift of voters. With such a large shift from red to blue, Democrats gain 21 seats, yielding a comfortable majority in the Assembly.

But is that even possible? Could we see a 12% shift of voters from red to blue in these districts, awarding Democrats a new Assembly majority? Tuesday's election told us that it is possible. Let's look at the District 10 State Senate race. The Democratic candidate, Patty Schachtner, convincingly won with 54.5% of the vote. This is a district in which former GOP State Senator Sheila Harsdorf's Democratic opponent gained only 36.8% of the vote in 2016. That is a Democratic shift of 17.7%.

But that wasn't the only place where Wisconsin Democrats outperformed this week. District 58 Assembly candidate, Dennis Degenhardt, garnered 43.4% of the vote in deep-red Washington County. We have no good comparison of Tuesday's results with past Assembly races, since Dennis is the first Democratic candidate there since the 2011 redistricting. Hillary only received 28.4% of the district vote in 2016. So, the Democratic Assembly candidate created a shift of 15% of voters to the Democratic column.

Granted, this week's votes were special elections to fill vacancies. There was only one race on each ballot. The voter turn-out was anemic. For example, the turn-out in SD 10 was a measly 24.9% of the vote total for the same seat in 2016. The campaigns with the greatest enthusiasm outperformed. The challenge for November will be to generate the same sort of red-to-blue shifts in a high-profile election headlined by US Senate and gubernatorial races.

This week's special elections showed that it is possible to generate the 12% red-to-blue voter shifts required to regain the majority in the State Assembly. With continued voter rejection of awful policies by the President, Congress, and state GOP politicians, we just might see a long-overdue shift in state political power next fall. We just might see a Democratic majority in the Assembly.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Walker's War on Madison

I love Madison. For a smaller city, Wisconsin's capital has a lot going for it. The stores, the restaurants, the music, the art, and the people are wonderful. The city has the largest producers-only farmers' market in America. City boosters claim that Madison has more restaurants per capita than any other US city. There is always something interesting going on.

Madison's business climate is also great. Madison and Dane County have the lowest unemployment rate in the state. Dane county is a bright spot in the Wisconsin economy. Since 2011, an estimated sixty percent of state private-sector job growth occurred in the Madison metro area. A 2017 survey found Madison to be #10 of the top technology cities in the United States.

Madison's local government is also very effective. A 2013 study by 24/7 Wall Street found that Madison is the second best-run city in the entire US, topped only by Austin, Texas.

With everything that Madison has going for it, I was shocked by a recent tweet from Scott Walker that knocked the city. In a lame attempt to counter an announced candidacy for governor by Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, Walker wrote, "The last thing we need is more Madison in our lives."

This is not the first time that Walker has used Madison as a boogeyman. In talking about the 2011 protests, Walker said "You've got a world driven by Madison, and a world driven by everybody else out across the majority of the rest of the state of Wisconsin."

Rather than supporting our capital city, Walker has done everything in his power to hurt Madison. The University is a major area employer. Walker has tried to rewrite UW's mission statement. He has caused an exodus of top faculty by weakening tenure. He has axed the University budget. His war on UW-Madison has been unrelenting.

It is odd that Walker hates the second largest city in Wisconsin. (Not that he is especially fond of Milwaukee). I would hope that he could be the leader of the entire state, not just the areas that overwhelmingly vote for him. It is amazing that the Governor tries to divide the state for his cynical political ambitions. It is astounding that Walker tries to build resentment against Madison in order to gain votes from less prosperous areas of the state.

Despite Walker's disdain, the quality-of-life in Madison is good. The city consistently ranks high on various surveys. In 2014, NerdWallet found Madison to be the "greenest city" in America. In 2014, Livability determined Madison to be the 3rd healthiest US city. Madison has been named the most bike-friendly city in the Midwest, and is #7 in the nation. 

At a time that Walker is spending your tax money to lure Millennials into Wisconsin, Forbes ranked Madison the third best city in the country for young people. The 2014 rating was based on job growth, unemployment rates, the number of residents with college degrees, the number of small businesses, the median salary, and the cost of living.

Based on similar criteria, last year, NerdWallet found Madison to be the #1 city in the country for recent college graduates. In 2011, Madison was found to be the most educated US city. An Expedia study ranked Madison as the second coolest city in America.

But Madison isn't just for young people. An AARP study from 2015 found Madison to be America's most livable medium-sized city for people over 50. A 2014 study from Milken Institute found Madison to be the best big city for successful aging.   

In 2015, Madison was ranked by Livability as the best overall place to live. So, by many polls and many criteria, Madison is a desirable place to be. As Wisconsinites, we should be proud of this national recognition for our capital.

Unlike Scott Walker, I would be happy with more "Madison in our lives". I would be fine with lower unemployment, a healthier environment, more bike-paths, and better restaurants. I would be fine with lots of high-paying technology jobs. I would be happy with a growing, vibrant economy and low crime rates. I would be elated if the policies that make Madison a wonderful place to live could be rolled-out to our entire state.

Friday, January 5, 2018

A New Year's Resolution


With the beginning of a new year, most of us are making resolutions. Like the denizens of Sesame Street, we all want to become smarter, stronger, and kinder in 2018. New Year's Resolutions are nothing new. Historians have traced the practice back at least 4,000 years, to the ancient Babylonians

I recently became aware of a list of New Year's Resolutions written by one of my heroes, folksinger Woody Guthrie. This icon in the battle for economic justice and equality wasn't highly-educated. However, he was very smart. The two pages pictured above were written by Guthrie as "New Years Rulin's" on January 1, 1943, while living in New York City:

1. Work more and better                    1
8. Stay glad 
2. Work by a schedule                       19. Keep hoping machine running  
3. Wash teeth if any                           20. Dream good
4. Shave                                             21. Bank all extra money
5. Take bath                                       22. Save dough 
6. Eat good (fruit, vegetables, milk)   23. Have company but don't waste time 
7. Drink very scant if any                   24. Send Mary and kids money
8. Write a song a day                        
25. Play and sing good  
9. Wear clean clothes - look good      26. Dance better
10. Shine shoes                                 
27. Help win war - beat fascism  
11. Change socks                               28. Love mama  
12. Change bed clothes often             29. Love papa  
13. Read lots good books                   30. Love Pete  
14. Listen to radio a lot                       31. Love everybody
15. Learn people better                       32. Make up your mind                                    
16. Keep rancho clean                        33. Wake up and fight 
17. Don't get lonesome                      

Many of Guthrie's folksy resolutions concern person hygiene (such as take bath, shave, change socks, and wash teeth-if any). Some are aimed at improving his personal relationships (love mama & papa, learn people better). Others try to improve his finances (save dough, bank all extra money) or his psyche (read lots good books, dream good, keep hoping machine running). All of us could stand some improvement in these areas.

But Woody leaves the most important resolution for last-"Wake-up and fight!". Woody certainly followed his own advice. His lifetime was spent fighting for workers, the downtrodden, and the oppressed. This should also be the most important resolution for all progressives in 2018. We must "wake-up and fight". We have huge battles facing us at the local, state, and national levels.

In Wisconsin, we must restore balance to our Supreme Court. We must take back the Governor and Attorney-General offices. Like our Virginian brothers and sisters, we need to contest every legislative election in an attempt to regain progressive majorities in Madison.

If we intend to make Wisconsin a place to be proud of again, we need to help elect people who will make drastic changes in how our state is run. We need common sense gun laws and common sense environmental protections. We need policies that increase workers' salaries instead of cutting them. We need to improve public schools and reject school privatization. We need to defend reproductive rights.

On the national level, we must fight each and every regressive policy coming from the tantrum-prone toddler who occupies the Oval Office. We must return to net neutrality. We must reject a return to harsh marijuana law enforcement. We must push for a sane foreign policy. We must rejoin with the rest of the world to fight global heating.

We must continue to resist the efforts of Congress to steal healthcare from Americans. We must enact DACA into law. We must defend Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. We must stand-up against attacks on unions, the environment, and women.

We can only be successful at the national level if we re-take the House and the Senate. For our part, we have to defend Tammy Baldwin's Senate seat and make progressive gains in Wisconsin's House delegation.

If he was still alive, Woody Guthrie would be with us in our 2018 struggle. After all, he wrote a song in the early 1950's, protesting the discriminatory renting policies of Fred Trump, the Orange Dotard's father. Woody would certainly be leading the resistance against the administration of Fred's racist son.

Like Woody Guthrie, we must keep our "hoping machine" running. 2018 needs a strong effort from each and every one of us. We must all make a resolution to be active in campaigns, donate what we can, march, and call our Congresspeople in 2018. We must all "Wake-up and fight !".

With continued hard work and luck, we will win. If we all resolve to put-in our best efforts in 2018, we will prevail. We will take back our state and our country. As the lyrics to one of Woody's best songs promise, "There's a better world that's a-coming !"

Friday, December 15, 2017

Political Winners and Losers of 2017

Each December, the staff at Radio Free W.O.W. selects the biggest Political Winners and Losers of the past year. 2017 has been an incredibly busy year in the political arena. We had little difficulty in identifying Losers in this Walker/Ryan/Trump era. Winners were a little harder to come by. Here are our nominees:

Losers- The 8,900,000 American children who count on the Children's Health Program (CHIP) to access medical care and the 700,000 Dreamers who face deportation to countries they don't know. All are still waiting on Congress to do something about their situation.

Winners-The children of Wisconsin after Tony Evers won the State Superintendent race with 70% of the vote. The only areas carried by his wack-a-doo opponent, Lowell Holtz, were (sadly) my own Washington County and adjacent Waukesha County.

Loser- Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. Clarke was a regular fixture at far-right events. Known for a chest full of cereal-box medals, cowboy hat, and deaths at his jail. Clarke gave definition to the term "snowflake" when he had his deputies detain a man who looked at him meanly.

Winners- Lovers of the English language. 2017 politics popularized a number of formerly obscure and interesting terms like emoluments, dotard, collusion, narcissist, the Dunning-Kruger effect, and cofeffe.

Losers-The 58 people killed in October's Las Vegas shooting. The 26 people killed at a church in rural Texas in November. The other 14,683 Americans killed by gun violence in 2017. The 29,893 Americans injured in 2017 by gun violence. Still, Congress only offers thoughts and prayers instead of real solutions.

Winners- Foxconn executives for getting an unsophisticated rube of a governor to give them a cool $3 billion to locate a plant in southeast Wisconsin. This is the largest public subsidy to a foreign company in US history.

Loser- American leadership in world. We alienated our closest allies (Canada, Mexico, UK, France, Germany, Australia) while sucking-up to dictators (Russia, China, Turkey, Philippines). We ceded moral leadership by dropping-out of the Paris Accord. We alienated Arab friends with the move of our embassy to Jerusalem.

Winners- All of the comedians who have given us a bit of comic relief in these trying political times. Special kudos to Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Samantha Bee, Alec Baldwin, Anthony "the Mooch" Scaramucci, Melissa McCarthy, Omorosa Manigault, and Randy Rainbow.

Losers- The tiki-torch-carrying, polo-shirt-wearing Nazi wannabes who marched in Virginia in August. Of course, Trump thinks that some of them are good people.

Winners- Billionaires. The ultra-rich usually win, but their wholesale purchase of Congress is paying-off big-time. They are getting a huge tax break, despite what it will do to the middle class and to the national debt.

Losers- All of the politicians who betrayed the public trust by acting in sexually inappropriate ways. US Senator Al Franken, Senate candidate Roy Moore, Rep. John Conyers, Rep. Blake Farenthold, Rep. Trent Franks, and Rep. Joe Barton are the latest examples to come to light. One of the worst violators still occupies the Oval Office.

Winner-Robert Mueller, for assembling a top-notch team of investigators. They are carrying-out a thorough and impeccably honest investigation of interference in US elections by a hostile foreign government. Four solid indictments down and many more to follow.

Losers-The hardworking taxpayers of Wisconsin who were forced to pay $245 million for school vouchers and another $12 million for tuition tax credits to send other people's children to private, mostly religious, schools.

Winners- Democrats in deep red regions. Whether in W.O.W. counties, Indiana, or Texas, dedicated Democrats everywhere are making a difference. We always have an impact on purple-state statewide races. Sometimes, we can even pull-off an upset, as in the Virginia and Oklahoma legislature elections or the Alabama US Senate race!

Loser- Donald Trump, who showed that he has very weak political influence. His heavily-endorsed gubernatorial candidate in Virginia lost. His heavily-endorsed primary candidate for Alabama Senate lost. His heavily-endorsed general election candidate for Alabama Senate lost. Is there a pattern here?

Winners- The Washington Post, The New York Times, Politico, and the few other media outlets that still conduct investigative reporting. You are needed now, more than ever.

Losers- The 3.5 million people of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands who suffered from September's Hurricane Maria. FEMA's weak response was a national disgrace. The islands did, however, get badly needed paper towels. We also were amazed to discover that they are islands in the middle of the ocean.

Winners- People of the resistance. Millions of American patriots who were awakened by the most granny-starving, hate-filled, rights-restricting agenda the country has ever seen. They raised their voices through the Woman's March, the March for Science, airport rallies, taking a knee during the National Anthem, calling Congressional offices, knocking doors for candidates, and participating in town halls. America is now woke.