Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Hillary Clinton wins in first head-to-head debate with Trump

Trump offered hate and anger in his responses; Clinton gave thoughtful and measured answers to questions

After watching the Clinton/Trump debate last night, I want to say that Donald Trump’s performance could be summed up in one short video clip from the Adam Sandler movie Happy Gilmore:

The crux of his performance last night is that simple. Listening to Donald Trump makes you dumber.

In all seriousness, my major takeaway from the debate, without going into too many details, was that it was a clear Hillary Clinton win. There can be no doubt about it. She wasn’t perfect, but she answered questions with intelligence. She likely would have won the debate even if Donald Trump wasn’t the nominee.

Perhaps Donald was trying to reach his base. Indeed, Trump said many of the things his supporters wanted him to. But he came off as bullyish, ill-prepared, obnoxious, rude, and unable to respond to simple questions from moderator Lester Holt or from Secretary Clinton herself. And he contradicted well-known facts that are could be found through a simple Google search.

Clinton, on the other hand, appeared to produce thoughtful answers -- as if she had studied the issues. It’s a good thing to be a studious candidate. Americans want a prepared leader, and Hillary Clinton was definitely prepared to answer some difficult questions, providing ample reason to believe that she’ll be ready to serve as president on day one.

Americans also want a leader with sound temperament. They saw that Clinton was the better of the two in that regard as well, and it was especially evident as Trump kept interrupting and rudely shouting over Clinton’s responses.

Yes, people do like it when candidates speak from the gut. But Donald Trump’s gut didn’t just speak last night on the debate stage -- it spewed out the thoughtless tripe that composes the entirety of the Trump platform, which is hate and anger, and very little in actual substance.

Trump offers a cathartic release for voters who are upset with America’s first black president and its potential first woman president. Everyone else was hoping to see a measured response to questions and a plan for how to move the nation forward. They got that from Sec. Clinton. From Donald Trump, they got zilch.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

John Doe must be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court

The integrity of our nation depends on the High Court correcting our state's wrongs

If a left-leaning organization had coordinated with a Democratic candidate to shift funds from wealthy donors to themselves in an effort to keep millions of dollars in campaign cash hidden, you can best believe we’d be hearing from conservative media across Wisconsin about the blatant and criminal actions of that candidate and organization.

And if that same left-leaning group had influenced the elections of state Supreme Court justices by disseminating millions of dollars collectively in support of several liberal justices, that same conservative media would likely demand that those justices recuse themselves in any cases involving that organization.

Those demands would be justified, too -- the judicial ethics code in Wisconsin requires judges and justices to avoid impropriety (and even the APPEARANCE of impropriety), defining such actions as conduct which “would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge's ability to carry out judicial responsibilities with integrity, impartiality and competence is impaired.”

The scenario above is not fictional -- it just involves conservative organizations rather than left-leaning ones, Republican candidates rather than Democrats, and conservative justices rather than liberals. The indignation should remain despite the change of characters. Yet several conservatives across the state are furious, not about the collusion and coordination between candidates, third party groups and corporate elitists that occurred, but rather because of the fact that information meant to be hidden under gag order was instead leaked to the public, exposing conservative malfeasance.

Whoever leaked that information should be held accountable. But so, too, should those who performed the illegal actions in the first place.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to consider whether it should revive the John Doe investigation. Wisconsin’s Supreme Court previously ruled that the investigation should come to an end, a ruling that was marred by the fact that conservative justices on the court had benefitted from millions of dollars in campaign spending by the very groups that were involved in the case. “Reasonable minds” would conclude that the majority ruling from that case has the appearance of being made by an impartial justice or two from the court’s conservative bloc.

This should be a no-brainer. Of course the investigation should move forward, and of course the conservative justices were errant in not removing themselves from the case from the start.

All of this is a symptom of a greater problem. The influence of corporate money, and the unlimited, hidden nature of that money, has made a huge mess in Wisconsin and elsewhere. This problem is not new, but in light of recent years following the Citizens United decision, it has gotten way out of hand, to the point where some international organizations refer to the U.S. as an oligarchy now rather than a democracy.

We as a nation should be ashamed of this, and the Supreme Court should remedy the unintended problems they unfortunately helped to create in issuing out the Citizens United decision. They can start making things right by agreeing to hear the John Doe appeal.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Did Scott Walker make a subtle threat to county DAs across the state?

Walker suggests “a lot of people” may not feel the need to fund DA offices if they continue investigations into political figures (namely himself)

Is Scott Walker suggesting he might use political retaliation against district attorneys across the state that may investigate his criminal behavior?

That’s what it sure seems like. In speaking with reporters in Beloit, Walker suggested that some may question the need for additional staff in attorneys’ offices if investigations like the John Doe case are pursued further.

From the reporting of Jessie Opoien of the Capital Times:
Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday suggested there could be broader implications for district attorney staffing levels throughout the state if Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm were to continue to pursue a John Doe investigation into Walker's campaign after the U.S. Supreme Court weighs in on it.


Walker was asked by reporters Thursday at an event in Beloit whether he expects to hear more from Chisholm on the John Doe investigation after the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether or not to hear the case.

"I would think most people in the state would think after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on this that there’s certainly not a lack of work to be done in Milwaukee County on issues related to crime and on other issues," Walker said. "We hear, not only in that county, but in other counties, about the need for additional district attorneys and additional resources. I think a lot of people wonder, if they continue to spend time after the U.S. Supreme Court were to rule on this, if that’s really necessary, if they have time to spend on this even after the courts have shut it down."
Emphasis in bold added.

That seems like a veiled threat from where I’m sitting. And it’s disappointing to hear our governor suggest that DAs can lose funding for doing what’s fundamentally their jobs.

I’m not the only one to think this. John Nichols also put in his two cents on Twitter:

And James Rowen suggests that the comments may mean something deeper:
All this pressure from people with a vested interest in killing the case suggest there is something these dark money beneficiaries want permanently hidden.
Though conservative courts who were aligned with Walker (including the state Supreme Court) tried to shut the John Doe investigation down, the U.S. Supreme Court revived the possibility that the investigation could continue in accepting a writ of cert under seal earlier this summer. And it’s highly likely they will grant that cert to hear the full case -- such writs under seal are typically given full consideration by the High Court.

Walker’s threats to county DAs isn’t unfamiliar ground for the Wisconsin Republican Party either. Whether it’s threatening Milwaukee with spending cuts over how the city handles crime or issues of education, or threatening cuts to the University of Wisconsin over classes on sexuality, the modus operandi of the WisGOP seems to be that if they don’t like a liberal policy or politician, they will threaten them with spending cuts.

But the governor’s words this week are especially disheartening. They imply that action can be taken against civil servants whose duties include looking into nefarious behaviors of state lawmakers. By threatening to lessen the staff of county DAs across the state based off of that necessary legal obligation, Walker’s true colors are out there for all to see -- and they’re not pretty.

Walker should use caution against such rhetoric. He, too, is beholden to the laws of this state, and his status as governor doesn’t change that -- nor does it mean he can make threats to the people who take an oath to uphold and enforce those laws. It’s troublesome to hear him make these statements, even for Walker’s standards.