Friday, January 28, 2011

Make a donation to

It doesn't take a genius to understand the important role that teachers play in our society. They're responsible for shaping the minds of our youth, of instilling critical analysis skills necessary for our children to have in the real world once they graduate and enter the real world.

Teachers are important people in our communities -- but for how much we truly depend on them, we don't always treat them fairly or with much respect. Nor do we always provide for them the resources needed to properly teach a room of young people the skills they will one day need to pursue their passions. seeks to remedy that problem. They provide teachers that are struggling for resources to reach out to friends, family, and the community-at-large to make donations, large or small, to help keep the classroom fun, interesting, and educational.

I just made a donation tonight to an art teacher in Grafton, Wisconsin, to help him pay for updated photography equipment and software for his classroom. You can make any donation amount you'd like ($25.00 is the minimum), and using the search tool you can find the school or teacher of your choice.

Teachers are important members of our society. It was no accident that President Barack Obama stated in his State of the Union address that, "if you want to make a difference in the life of a child – become a teacher. Your country needs you." Our children are depending on good teachers to better their education, and in turn better their lives. And our teachers are depending on us to help them help our children.

Consider making a donation today -- help a teacher in need, who on average spends more than $1,200 of their own money improving their classrooms. It's an investment you'll never regret making.

Keep the fight alive to preserve progressive talk & the Bill Press show on the Mic

Last night, Friends of Progressive Talk in Madison, Wisconsin, held a meeting at Glass Nickel Pizza regarding the Mic 92.1's plans to discontinue the Bill Press show on weekday mornings. Bill Press, a liberal commentator whose show is based out of Washington D.C., would be replaced on April 1 with the Wall Street Journal Report, a news program similar in many respects to NPR-style broadcasts.

The meeting was a positive start to what will hopefully result in the Mic keeping Bill Press on the morning lineup. The sentiment of the 50-60 people who packed the basement of Glass Nickel ranged from outrage to confusion, with most (let's face it...all) in attendance upset over the station's decision to remove a liberal program in favor of a new show that, although seemingly non-biased, is part of the Rupert Murdoch-owned media machine.

Tim Scott, the station manager of the Mic, was unable to attend that evening, but the group hoped to meet with him sometime soon. Ideas of increasing advertising revenue were discussed at great lengths as well, as were the creation of a Friends of Progressive Talk Facebook page and website.

Overall, the group agreed that Clear Channel needed to keep Bill Press on the airwaves. They agreed that moving towards an NPR-like show in that time slot would be a mistake -- many participants posited aloud that listeners that wanted to hear NPR would simply turn NPR on. Some participants saw the move towards replacing Bill Press as one that was a direct assault on the overall programming the Mic provides for Madison -- others simply felt that the station was simply misguided, that it truly believed a news show in the morning would benefit the Mic. Either way, everyone agreed that Clear Channel was making a mistake, and that we should do whatever we can to keep the Bill Press show -- and any other progressive programming that may be threatened on the station -- in place.

But a group of people agreeing to support an ideal, and having the management agree to that ideal as well, are two very different things. So the pressure needs to stay on.

You can call Tim Scott at Clear Channel at (608) 274-5450. You can email him as well at Be sure to express just how much you want to keep the Bill Press show on the air, and that we won't tolerate replacing any show on the Mic unless doing so keeps the station progressive.

Also, be sure to email the Bill Press show as well, to let them know that we're fighting for his show to stay alive in Madison. You can do so here through a form on the Bill Press show's website.

This can only work if the station sees that progressive radio hosts like Bill Press are not only appreciated, but needed, in order to keep the Mic popular. Tell Clear Channel to keep the Mic progressive, and to keep programming alive that reflects the ideals of liberalism and progressives!

Thursday, January 27, 2011 Obama, Ryan on target; Bachmann distorts

The following was originally posted at The article, in its entirety, is there for your viewing pleasure.

Last night Tuesday night, President Barack Obama stood before a mixed Congress, delivering what was in my opinion a very good speech on what direction he’d like this country to move towards. He spoke on many subjects, focusing on the economy, education, infrastructure needs, and the overall improvement of our economy over the next few years.

The Republican rebuttal was delivered by Wisconsin’s own Paul Ryan, whose speech was also decent in terms of delivery. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) delivered a Tea Party response.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Clear Channel to boot Bill Press show off the Mic 92.1

The Mic 92.1 in Madison is set to change its programming once again -- unless people act against it. On April 1, the station will end the run of the Bill Press Show in the mornings, replacing it with the Wall Street Journal Report, a Rupert Murdoch-owned program.

This isn't the first time that the Mic, owned by Clear Channel, has tried to replace political programming with pro-corporate talk radio. In January of 2009, the Thom Hartmann show was replaced by a call-in program aimed at helping listeners improve their finances. Though such a show would be beneficial to listeners of any ideology, the fact that it replaced one of the more popular shows on the station was a sign to many that management didn't care about programming that listeners wanted to hear.

Ultimately, Clear Channel acquiesced to the demands of the Mic's listeners, and reinstated the Thom Hartmann show. However, the local morning show hosted by Lee Rayburn remained canceled. The show that ultimately filled in for Rayburn's was none other than the Bill Press show.

With essentially the same situation now being repeated for a different show, will the Mic's listeners come to the rescue for Bill Press the same way they did for Thom Hartmann? Press is not listened to as much as Hartmann due to their different time slots, but the Bill Press show is still an appreciated part of the programming on the Mic 92.1. Many liberal Madisonians depend on his show to help wake them up to the issues of that day; I myself listen to Press on the way to work nearly every single morning.

I cannot imagine that the same would hold true for the station were the Wall Street Journal Report to take the place of the Bill Press show. The idea of such a program doesn't interest me, and likely wouldn't interest the audience that the Mic tries to cater to. We're listeners who are interested in progress, in liberal ideas that benefit society overall, and in changing the status quo -- not in how well the mega-corporate companies are doing within the stock exchange.

The management of the station is trying to do one of two things. Either they're trying to influence their listeners' listening habits directly by broadcasting a program that caters to the interests of the wealthy elite, or they're trying to gradually change the station itself over to a more conservative format, little by little.

The latter can be achieved in two ways: by gradual change over time or through diminishing the number of listeners and forcing change through market forces. With less sponsors getting the attention of Mic listeners -- who will prefer progressive talk ALL the time rather than just after 8 AM -- the management can argue for an entire station format change, especially if this model works on more than just the removal of the Bill Press show.

Which is why it's imperative that we fight against ANY change of programming that the station might employ, especially if it's a change from a progressive talk show towards a show that caters to other interests politically. If the station's management is successful in removing one program, if it can change one show in this manner, then the next show that may be taken off the air might not be the early morning show but the late night one. And if that succeeds, the station can justify changing another show, and then another, until a change in format of the station becomes the next step overall.

This is an attack, I feel, on the progressive community in Madison. The Mic has and always should be a vehicle for liberals and progressive in the Madison area to come together, to hear reasonable talkers give their opinion and formulate their own. The radio waves belong to the people; and since there is a compelling interest in our community for political talk radio that captivates the interest of leftist listeners, it stands to reason that the Mic should remain a liberal-only station. Lord knows the area already caters to an arguably smaller conservative listening-base, one that dispenses Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and the like.

There IS something that can be done -- regular listeners of the Mic are gathering on Thursday night, January 27, at Glass Nickel Pizza on the East side (2916 Atwood Avenue). Concerned citizens and listeners are gathering at 6:30 PM to talk about keeping Bill Press on the radio airwaves, or at the very least keeping Rupert Murdoch-owned media off of a station that is dedicated to liberal ideals.

If you cannot make the event, you can still call into the station or email the station manager, Tim Scott. His business number is (608) 274-5450, and his email address is

We need to make our voices heard, to influence the management at Clear Channel to understand that progressive talk is here to stay. Join community leaders and regular listeners of the Mic Thursday, call and email the station right now, and spread the word about this to everyone that you can. Progressive talk can only survive if we make it clear to management, "We want this here!"

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Expectations for the State of the Union

Barack Obama is set to speak to the nation this coming Tuesday when he delivers his State of the Union address to Congress. Though not required to be given in speech form, the president must deliver an examination to Congress every year on the condition our nation is currently in, as per Article 2 Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution.

Past presidents have used this opportunity to reinvigorate their administration's projects, although the practice of delivering a speech to Congress was discontinued after Thomas Jefferson became president. It wasn't until 1913 when Woodrow Wilson reintroduced the speech-format of the State of the Union address that it became common practice for a president to present it to Congress himself (though presidents as late as Jimmy Carter have also delivered their State of the Union in text rather than speech form). Following the speech, many presidents hit the road, pitching their ideas they touched on in their words to the nation in a more intimate, local setting. President Obama will be coming to Wisconsin to do just that the day after his speech.

Personally, I'd love to see the president focus on certain things, touting his accomplishments but also bringing up the important subject of bipartisanship. For as much as I criticize the conservative coalition of lawmakers in this country, the fact of the matter is that laws can't get passed anymore without their approval. The bitterness left after the previous Congressional term must be set aside, and the discourse must be settled in order to forge out some important bonds on key issues facing the nation.

But the president mustn't forget that he's in office for a reason: it was his liberal platforms, his idealization of what this country could accomplish, that brought many voters, young and old alike, to the polls in 2008. The president must address this coalition of Americans who came together in support of his campaign, who may now feel a bit abandoned by his acquiescence to many conservative demands during the previous two years.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the inaugural speech of John F. Kennedy, who requested from Americans sacrifice and service when he said, "Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country." The passing of Sargent Shriver this week, brother-in-law to Kennedy and the first director of the Peace Corps (and advocate of many other programs designed to promote service), also reminds us of the importance of community service everyday Americans should consider taking part in to support the towns, villages, states, and nation they call their own. The dedication towards a better society, one in which people look out for one another because of a common sense of decency, should be renewed in Obama's speech next week.

Obama should tout the fact that jobless rates are going down, that less Americans asked for aide this week than the week before, a trend that has been building for several months now. Though unemployment still remains at levels unacceptable to the American people, the fact that we're headed on the right path and aren't moving backwards should vindicate the various programs that the Obama administration has established, including the economic stimulus package that he signed into law early on in his presidency.

Health reform should also be promoted in his State of the Union. At this time last year, children with pre-existing conditions and health concerns could be denied coverage from their provider based on that fact alone; today, that practice has been abolished. Young adults, many of whom are having troubles finding employment that supplies them with their own insurance, couldn't do anything about it one year ago today; but now, they're allowed to stay on their parents' insurance plans until they reach the age of 26. In the coming years, more reforms to health care will come about, including the complete eradication of the denial of health coverage to every American on the basis of their health care history as well as tax subsidies to help the poor and middle-class to afford insurance on their own, if need be.

Obama should state, in a plain and clear way, why the law that was passed will help the American people, and why attempts by the Republican Party to repeal its passage is the wrong road to take. He should also emphasize that more Americans would rather the health care law stay in place or do more than it currently does than would like to see it repealed.

Finally, the president should close with a renewed call for civility, for a chance of working with his opposition rather than against them. Conservative politicians and Obama might not always agree on fundamentals, but the American people demand many things from their lawmakers, including a discourse that is spirited but not violent; fair but not ambivalent; and most of all, moving our country forward and not backward.

Pundits will likely be judging Obama on how well he can sell his policies along with how cooperative his rhetoric will be towards the GOP opposition that never really gave him a chance in the first place. If he can explain his policies in terms of how many Americans support them -- and they do, overwhelmingly, support the initiatives he has set forth -- he can move forward with added political capital, and use that to influence his conservative opposition in the weeks, perhaps months, to come.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A letter to the editor (Wisconsin State Journal)

Recently, I wrote a letter to the editor in response to another letter that had been published earlier in the month regarding liberals in Wisconsin.

The original letter, written by Jim Cox, is below:
Why do most liberals resent people with money?

Their ideas and willingness to take financial risks is what created jobs. They managed to be successful, paid your wages and benefits, half your Social Security and all your unemployment benefits.

Now the trend is to support the underachievers, using tax dollars from the people with money. This doesn't sound fair to me. I am "middle class," but I appreciate the jobs they created for me. They had aspirations and should be rewarded.

Fair is fair. A flat-rate tax, of perhaps 10 percent across the board, is the equitable way. The wealthy do not stuff their money under a mattress. That money is out there spurring our economy. Don't divert it to financing government give-aways.

- Jim Cox, Lodi
Here was my response, posted January 17:
On Jan. 7 a letter was published regarding the disdain that this state's "liberals" supposedly have for the wealthy.

Liberals don't want to empty the pockets of the wealthy, but they do want to see the rich pay their fair share of taxes, a feeling that is in fact echoed by a majority of Americans, according to recent polling.

How fitting it was, though, that the letter was published on Jan. 7. According to One Wisconsin Now, it was on Jan. 7 that the average CEO in Wisconsin had already earned more income (in one week's time, mind you) than the state's median household will earn in the entire calendar year.

Forgive this liberal for thinking that the supposed "job makers" in this state - who earned more in seven days than I will earn in 365 - should have to contribute a little more proportionally in taxes, especially given the fact that they've failed so far to create jobs on their own since the end of the recession.

- Chris Walker, Madison

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Job-killing" bill continued: GOP lies to the American people

Last week I wrote about the unfortunate title of the Republicans' repeal of the health reform law. The title included the phrase "job-killing," which in the aftermath of the Arizona shootings that killed half a dozen people conjures up images of violence that many on the right had promised not to do during this debate anymore.

But the bill wasn't just inappropriately named -- it was also factually inaccurate.

A recent article from the Associated Press explains why the "Repealing the Job-killing Health Care Law Act" is flat-out wrong, because the health care law that passed will not in fact hamper job growth:
Republicans pushing to repeal President Barack Obama's health care overhaul warn that 650,000 jobs will be lost if the law is allowed to stand.


[The GOP cites] the 650,000 lost jobs as Exhibit A, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office as the source of the original analysis behind that estimate. But the budget office, which referees the costs and consequences of legislation, never produced the number.


What CBO actually said is that the impact of the health care law on supply and demand for labor would be small. Most of it would come from people who no longer have to work, or can downshift to less demanding employment, because insurance will be available outside the job.


That's not how it got translated in the new report from Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other top Republicans.

CBO "has determined that the law will reduce the 'amount of labor used in the economy by.roughly half a percent.,' an estimate that adds up to roughly 650,000 jobs lost," the GOP version said.


The Republican translation doesn't track, said economist Paul Fronstin of the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute.

"CBO isn't saying that there is job loss as much as they are saying that fewer people will be working," explained Fronstin. "There is a difference. People voluntarily working less isn't the same as employers cutting jobs."

For example, the budget office said some people might decide to retire earlier because it would be easier to get health care, instead of waiting until they become eligible for Medicare at age 65.
Because job creation is on everyone's minds these days, the Republican Party is trying to tie in their pet issues to jobs and the economy. By calling the health care law "job-killing," the GOP is hoping that the American people will buy into the idea that the law signed by President Obama early last year will diminish job growth. In fact, the claim made by the Republican Party is a lie, an attempt by Boehner and company to pull one over on the American people -- and they ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Honoring Dr. King

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Day. Take a moment to reflect on the enormous sacrifices that many made in order to make true the promise that our forefathers made, that all would be treated equal in our society. Honor Dr. King by promising to support the cause that lives on to this day.

Friday, January 14, 2011

"Job-killing" bill an unfortunate title choice

With Congress set set to resume business following the terrible events in Tucson, Arizona, House Republican leaders have made it clear that they intend to push the bill they delayed this week that would repeal the health reform law that was enacted last year.

There is a bit of controversy surrounding this proposed repeal, besides the fact that it would both increase the budget deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars as well as leave more than 30 million Americans with no insurance options.

The controversy lies within the name of the bill itself: the "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act."

Besides being titled in a way that would make any respectable high school English teacher cringe, the bill includes the word "killing," which in the wake of the shootings in Arizona is noticeably inconsiderate. At a time when lawmakers on both sides are heeding the call to tone down the violent rhetoric, this bill's title instead continues it encouraging a bipartisan battle through the use of hostile language meant to incite anger.

Several GOP members of Congress have pledged to reduce the violent imagery in their discourse. The first move they could make to keep that promise would be removing the violent imagery in their bills they propose. It seems like it would be an obvious move to make -- but as we've seen in recent history, Republicans rarely take sensible actions when it comes to issues of grave importance.

I don't want to be misconstrued here: the Republican Party certainly has the right to name their bills in whatever way they see fit. If they want to say that this bill will "kill jobs" and place that sentiment in the title of their bill, then by all means they shouldn't be restrained from doing so.

However, at a time of terrible tragedy, it seems to have defied all senses of logic and decency. First off, the bill won't "kill" any jobs -- a loss in labor may occur, but this would be due more to people being able to retire earlier than any threat of job losses, the Congressional Budget Office states.

But then there's the issue of decency. Again, in the wake of the tragic events that took place in Tucson, and following bipartisan calls for a more respectful dialogue between opposing ideologies, the Republican leadership is attempting to pass a bill that seeks to incite the very rhetoric they're trying to soothe.

President Obama put it best when he spoke to a crowd gathered at the University of Arizona. When thinking about those departed, especially nine-year old Christina Taylor Green (who had just been elected to her student government), the president stated that he "wanted to live up to her expectations" of how government was meant to function, of what our democracy was meant to be.

The president has taken the right approach towards resolving to calm the rhetoric. The Republicans are also, for the most part, doing good on their promises to bring it down a notch as well. But keeping "killing" within the title of their health care repeal is going against that promise they have made. It's their choice to make if they want to preserve that title -- but it's also disrespectful to the notion that violent imagery need not be made in order to make your point understood.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Events in AZ bring about gun control debate

In the wake of the tragedy that occurred in Arizona this past week, the debate on gun control is starting to gain traction in the mainstream media. Specifically, many are questioning whether renewing the assault weapons ban that expired during the Bush administration's time in office could have helped prevent some what happened this past weekend.

The ban likely wouldn't have stopped the tragedy itself. Jared Loughner was clearly a troubled individual, determined to get his point across through whatever means he could -- including through the use of violence.

But the weapons Loughner utilized to carry out his act of madness were on the list of weapons (and accessories) that were previously banned before 2004. Loughner used a Glock 19 with a high-capacity magazine count (he was able to shoot off more than 30 bullets before needing to reload).

Before the assault weapons ban expired, the legal magazine count was limited to 10, and the gun that Loughner used in his rampage wasn't even legal at all.

Gun advocates will make a compelling argument that, with or without the expired gun ban and the limits on magazine counts, Loughner (or anyone else with his troubled mentality) could have done harm regardless, through the use of some other weapon. No one should necessarily "blame" guns for the events that transpired this past weekend or in any other incident. A gun is an inanimate object; it is the person holding it that is ultimately responsible for how it's used.

On the other side of the coin, however, is the idea that certain weapons don't belong in the hands of the people. To the extreme end of things, for example, we wouldn't allow a citizen to own any nuclear arsenal based on what's written in the Second Amendment. So taken to a lesser extreme -- but still an issue of great concern -- why should we allow citizens to own assault weapons, capable of creating incredible harm to a large number of people?

Let's make this clear: I'm a proponent of the Second Amendment. I believe firmly that a person does indeed have a right to protect themselves, their family, and their livelihood, whenever any of those are threatened by outside forces. I even agree, to some extent, in the Tea Party-endorsed idea that the people have a right to overthrow their government in certain circumstances (though I do disagree with that movement's belief that we're anywhere near that point right now).

However, restrictions on weaponry aren't a violation of Second Amendment rights -- the words "well-regulated" are within the wording of the amendment itself, suggesting that our founders even agreed with restrictions to some extent. Furthermore, the weaponry owned during that time period was nowhere near as sophisticated as it is now. Protecting everyone's right to own a musket that could barely hit a target ten yards away is hardly similar to gun advocates' insistence that everyone ought to be able to purchase an assault weapon capable of doing harm to a significant number of people in a short amount of time.

Everyone has a right to protect themselves and the people whom they love. A person who owns a gun understands the risks associated with having one, and is responsible for its use. If they use it in a proper way, they shouldn't have their rights revoked in any way. However, certain weapons ought not be distributed at all, and are an unnecessary amount of force that, if placed in the wrong hands, could create a situation like what we saw in Arizona.

The motivations of a crazed gunman don't warrant the complete revocation of the Second Amendment...but they do give us plenty of reasons to consider more restrictions over weapons that could potentially cause a tremendous amount of harm.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

"Gun Crosshairs," other violent imagery, needs to end

Following the devastating shooting in Tuscon, Arizona on Saturday involving Congresswoman Giffords and several others (including a federal judge and a nine-year old child), many political pundits have wondered out loud what role our political climate (and more specifically, violent campaign rhetoric) played in the incident. Though Jared Loughner was a disturbed individual who may make a compelling insanity argument when his day in court comes, there is no doubt at all that our culture has created a mess within our political discourse -- it wouldn't be a surprise to anyone at all if Loughner's actions were driven in part by the imagery that politicians and commentators have pushed.

No one should place actual blame, however, on anyone but Loughner -- the idea that this young man could be driven to act out in this way by rhetoric alone is as absurd an idea as a person being driven to kill based on Beatles' lyrics. But there is a compelling case to be made that our political culture could fuel the flames of some mad man's desires, could court a flawed mind to commit such heinous acts of violence.

When you "target" certain members of Congress using images of gun crosshairs, you're suggesting that violence isn't something to take seriously, isn't an issue of much concern for you. When you invite supporters to shoot an automatic weapon with others to show your opposition to an incumbent, you demonstrate to those you surround yourself with that violent acts are an acceptable form of political protest. When you suggest that you hope "Second Amendment remedies" won't be needed following an election, you condone the use of brutality, justifying violence as not only acceptable but necessary to do what you -- and your followers -- believe is right.

We shouldn't be surprised, then, when a disturbed person like Loughner takes up arms to make his point. Again, responsibility ultimately rests with him -- nobody suggested that anyone actually use violence -- but one also can't help but feel that politicians and pundits who spew such vile content, failing to lead by example (disagreeing with opponents in an honorable, decent way), may have played some role in influencing his actions.

It'll be interesting to see whether, come Monday, these pundits will apologize for their rhetoric or defend it. I'm not holding my breath for the former, counting more on the latter for people like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck -- it'd be tough for anyone who has made a career on such a basis to change so suddenly. But perhaps we can look forward to a new attitude in Congress itself, as well as on the sidewalks of Main Streets across the country. It's just sad that an incident like this had to come along to enact that change, if it indeed comes.

We can disagree all we want, and nothing is wrong with that; but when we use violence to display that disagreement, something is terribly, terribly wrong.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Congresswoman Giffords (D-AZ) shot

I don't know what to say exactly about the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and others with her today. There isn't much really to say that isn't already common sense: the shooting was a terrible travesty, an unnecessary display of cowardice by a man that most likely disagreed politically with the Congresswoman's views.

As I write this, Giffords is in surgery fighting for her life. It should never have come to this. If a man disagrees politically with his representative, violence is ALWAYS the wrong route to take.

The political climate in this country is making a very minute -- but very radical -- population crazy, acting out in violent ways in attempts to "take this country back." Assassination plots against then-candidate Barack Obama; an attack made at the Holocaust Museum in D.C. perpetrated by a white supremacist; violence in Unitarian churches based on the political ideology its members hold; an assassination of an abortion clinic doctor by a right-wing radical; and now the shooting of a Congresswoman in Arizona.

Words cannot express how I feel about this. Violence isn't necessary except in extreme situations; and the world we live in today, the political conditions we now face, certainly don't require them at all. Bobby Kennedy said it best, speaking about the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., when he said the following:
The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one -- no matter where he lives or what he does -- can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours.

Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by an assassin's bullet.

No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of reason. (Emphasis added)
We seem to lose sight, sometimes, of that underlined section above, that we are all human beings. When we forget that, we act out in violent ways, disregarding the lives of others in favor of our own opinions and own ideas of how our world should be run.

Reject this violence, as other lawmakers, both right and left, already have.
...this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Less than one week in, GOP wastes your time, tax dollars

It's been less than one week since they assumed power of the House of Representatives, but Republican lawmakers in Washington are already wasting your time -- and your tax dollars as well.

First was the reading of the U.S. Constitution aloud among the members of the House. Though it included Democrats as well, the insistence by the GOP that the document be read actually cost taxpayers more than $1 million. The largely symbolic display of the scope and limits of our government was meant to educate the masses on what exactly is in our Constitution, though it may have been conservative lawmakers who were surprised when they read not once but but twice the U.S. government's right and duty to "promote" and "provide for" the "general welfare" of the citizenry.

That part leads to the second waste of time and resources that Republicans are pushing. With many members of the GOP clamoring over whether it is Constitutional or not, House Republicans are planning to vote on a repeal of health insurance reform that passed last year. The bill to repeal is not only a waste of time for this week -- with Democrats in control of the Senate, it will undoubtedly fail to reach the president's desk, who would veto it anyway -- but it would also be a waste of taxpayer dollars in the long run.

The Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan organization charged with weighing the costs of every bill that reaches either house of Congress, cites that repealing the health bill would add more than $140 billion to our budget deficit. Republicans, in urging the repeal of health insurance reform, would be going against their mantra of lowering deficits, all in the name of increasing profits for private sector insurance companies (not to mention reinstating the practice of denying children coverage based on their "pre-existing conditions"). The end result? In short, more deficits created and less Americans insured.

Finally, there's the third example of Republican mismanagement, of their showing the American people that they're not too serious when it comes to governing. Two House members, one of them the House Republican campaign chair, skipped the swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday in order to attend a campaign fundraising event. The two Congressmen held their hands up towards a television monitor, by their accounts, believing that they were taking the oath of office in a proper way. They then took part in half a dozen votes within Congress, and ironically the reading of the Constitution (though the two weren't yet properly sworn in).

The fix to this is easy, and the damage done isn't as severe as some are making it out to be. However, the disrespect of the office -- the deliberate absence of a time-honored tradition (to raise campaign cash, no less) -- is unbecoming of members of any political party. That one of those absent was a high-ranking member within the Republican Party is also troubling -- he should have known better, should have shown the same respect for the office that 433 of his colleagues showed. (Could you imagine the uproar if a Democrat had made this mistake?)

The repeal of health reform (a move that would cost the country hundreds of billions if passed), the unnecessary reading of the Constitution (a document that members should have already understood before running for office), and the blatant disrespect of elected office showcases just how hypocritical and arrogant the new GOP-controlled House of Representatives really is. The Republican Party is getting off to a rough start in this new legislative session. If they hope to retain power, they will need to change their ways drastically. Sadly, I fear America will suffer for the mistakes and missteps of the GOP, this week and in the months to come.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

State GOP's new plan: limit same-day voter registration rights

Having hardly been sworn in yet for the new legislative session, state Republican lawmakers wasted no time in setting forth a series of bills aimed at pushing a conservative social agenda. In a year characterized by constituent wishes for jobs and a healthy economy, conservative legislator (and husband to the newly-minted lieutenant governor) Joel Kleefisch set forth a dozen bills for the Assembly to consider.

Not all of the laws proposed are necessarily bad, or even conservative, at least at face value. A law prohibiting a sex offender from being on school property without first notifying the school in question seems quite logical to most. Ending the prohibition on the sale of cars on Sunday won't do much harm either to Wisconsin citizens, aside from those that like to browse lots uninterrupted on weekends.

But it's the assault of democratic rights that have many pondering the true motivations of Republican lawmakers now controlling our state government.

Kleefisch has proposed a bill to end same-day voter registration, a measure that Republicans have pursued in the past. Many Wisconsin citizens take for granted their right to register to vote on the day that they cast their ballot. The rest of the country usually requires you to register one month before any election takes place. Wisconsin, however, allows you to register to vote if you have proof of residency within your voting ward before and up to Election Day.

Kleefisch and other Republicans see same-day registration as a threat to democracy -- or, perhaps more realistically, as a threat to their re-election campaigns. Citing unfounded campaign fraud concerns, the bill would disenfranchise thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of voters who have relied on this privilege for years. Seniors and those who have a heavy work schedule (aka, the working class) would suffer the most, being unable to register to vote on the day of the election and having the most difficult time out of any other groups to register beforehand.

In other words, in an effort to prevent one or two cases of campaign fraud (which is coincidentally caught every time), Republican lawmakers would like to prevent ten or twenty thousand people from taking part in same-day voter registration.

Wisconsin has long been proud of its voting habits -- we've consistently ranked among the nation's highest states in terms of turnout, and Wisconsin voters are more happy with their voting experiences than in other states. The amount of voter fraud that occurs due to same-day voter registration is minimal, at best. One study on the subject actually concluded that voter fraud is more likely PREVENTED due to same-day registration, as the person in question must present their proof of residency on the spot for poll workers (and partisan poll watchers) to consider.

The prevention of voter fraud is a red herring -- state lawmakers that want to do away with same-day voter registration are exaggerating a small problem in order to disenfranchise a group of people (overworked blue-collar workers) that ordinarily votes Democratic. States that have same-day voter registration have the same number of instances (or less) of voter fraud, and higher turnouts as well. With legislation like this being thrown around, we ought to ask ourselves: What are newly-elected Republicans afraid of...democracy?

Reject the calls to end same-day voter registration. Wisconsin will remain better than other states, democratically, for it.

Monday, January 3, 2011

So long, 2010 -- Obama's bad/good year

In considering to publish a year-end post last week, it turned out I never really had the time to do one anyway. Between traveling to several different locations during the holidays, the idea of a year-in-review post would be tiresome, forced on my part, and something that many publications -- many times more legitimate than this one -- had already done.

Still, it's worth pointing out that 2010 was a year of limited success for Obama and Democrats, one with sizable gains but at the expense of the administration's hard-earned popularity. Health care and Wall Street reform topped the administration's many accomplishments (though they certainly could have gone further), and late-December compromises with Republicans allowed the president to get many important packages passed, including extending tax cuts for the middle class, getting benefits to 9/11 responders, repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and extending unemployment insurance for those in dire need.

So why does the year 2010 seem like a disappointment to so many? Simply put, even with all of these accomplishments, the fact that Republican obstructionism stopped or paused nearly all of these issues -- plus additional packages that failed to pass, such as the DREAM Act -- meant that an enormous amount of political capital was spent trying to get anything meaningful passed into law. So much patience was asked of so many that Obama and Democrats lost touch at times with many of their core supporters, creating an "enthusiasm gap" that enabled conservatives to win out at the polls in November. The president remains popular, and in 2012 things should look a little brighter. But this past year was not Obama's year, even though he wound up fulfilling many of his campaign promises.

2010 was a mixed bag, a series of accomplishments and setbacks repeated over and over again that made the American people overall lose faith in the governing process (what little of it they had gained, that is, from 2008). This resulted in the election results we wound up witnessing. Jobs and the economy dominated the people's minds, and while the Obama administration HAS been hard at work trying to remedy things, it'll be interesting to see how this new Congress and the president can work together -- if they can at all -- to help the people in the end.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Back from a break

If you're a regular reader of Political Heat -- to me, still a strange concept -- you may have noticed that the blog hasn't been updated for quite some time. I've been doing some family/friend get-togethers over the past two weeks, with Christmases in Madison and the Fox River Valley taking my time, as well as New Year's celebration in Milwaukee and the Rose Bowl this weekend.

I'm back now -- there will be regular updates in the coming weeks. And with the state government changing hands tomorrow, you can rest assured there will be plenty to talk about.

So, sorry about the lack of commentary over the past two weeks...but hey, life happens. Thanks for understanding. :)