Friday, May 27, 2011

Gov. Walker's approval ratings slip deeper

Shift in opinion over job approval due to rejection of initiatives

Gov. Scott Walker’s approval ratings have tanked significantly.

His latest approval numbers (43 percent) are dwarfed by those in the state that disapprove of his job performance (54 percent). What’s more, one-in-two Wisconsinites now believe Walker should face a recall election, a step up from February.

Walker doesn’t fare well if it comes to potential challengers either. In a hypothetical match-up, former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold beats Walker by a ten-point margin (52-42). The man Walker defeated last November, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, also defeats Walker in a hypothetical election (50-43).

Walker’s dwindling poll numbers are significant for a number of reasons. They indicate that Wisconsin voters are rejecting his proposals for this state, especially those that hurt workers and their families. Cutting and altering social programs like FoodShare and FamilyCare as well as education by a billion dollars doesn’t bode well with the average Wisconsinite. People in our state have determined that the vision Walker is trying to realize isn’t acceptable to the rest of us.

And that’s going to be important coming into these recall elections. If the tide continues to shift like this, the State Senate could change hands (to Democratic control) with relative ease -- a shift that the people of Wisconsin also currently support.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Judge Sumi strikes down anti-worker bill

Bill passed in illegal manner, violated open meetings law

Judge Maryann Sumi ruled yesterday that the budget repair bill rushed in March through the Republican-controlled state legislature was passed in an illegal manner, violating open meetings law meant to keep the people of Wisconsin informed about legislation up for debate. Her ruling invalidates the law, which was signed by Gov. Walker earlier this year but never implemented.

The controversial bill included provisions that removed collective bargaining rights of state and local workers, a move that Walker has even admitted while under oath saves the state absolutely nothing in terms of the budget.

Before claims of judicial “activism” dominate the right-wing critics of this ruling, let’s examine the issue of this law very carefully, for the facts are very clear. The legislative committee that approved the bill alerted the public less than two hours before they held the meeting. Even under emergency circumstances, the public has the right to be informed at least two hours ahead of time when a piece of legislation is up for discussion. But the passage of this bill wasn’t an emergency -- which means the public was entitled to notice 24 hours ahead of time.

Judge Sumi’s decision to strike down Walker’s anti-worker bill is consistent in keeping with the rule of law. The law itself was an abomination -- indeed, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites came to Madison to show their dissatisfaction with the law. But despite our ill-feelings towards the bill, it would have still been law had it been passed properly. In this case, our personal feelings on the law (whether supportive or against it) don’t matter -- the law itself was passed in an illegal way, violating the trust of the people of Wisconsin who expect better from their legislative representatives. Anyone who argues differently overlooks long-established rules that were put in place to ensure the people are better able to understand and keep up with proposals in the legislature.

This terrible law was invalidated for the right reasons. If we ignore the rule of law, if we go about passing legislation in this manner, we do a terrible disservice to the people of Wisconsin. Judge Sumi’s ruling preserves our tradition of openness within our lawmaking.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Gingrich ignorant on voting rights

Fmr House Speaker wants voters disenfranchised based on Jim Crow traditions

Former House Speaker and current presidential candidate New Gingrich is proposing a radical idea -- one that has its origins in the Jim Crow south.

Gingrich is proposing that there ought to be a requirement in place that all voters pass a history exam before they are able to take part in the democratic process.

The proposal certainly has its appeal -- putting this requirement in place would undoubtedly disenfranchise Gingrich's own base, the Tea Partiers, who have a warped and ultra-right wing view of American history that would disqualify them from voting. Under such circumstances, someone with an equally warped view of history (such as Gingrich himself) would be prevented from holding office.

But stripping the people of the right to vote if they fail an examination is a troubling condition towards what should be a universal right. Nothing, not skin color, age, religion, economic status, or even historical perspective, should restrain any individual of the right to take part in their own democracy.

Gingrich's proposal ignores decades of struggle, of the right of those who may not always know the answers (whether through lack of education or deliberate manipulation by the test-givers) to still have a voice in choosing their government leaders. Gingrich is also insensitive to the history of setting conditions towards voting, a history he should be all-too familiar with being a native of the American South. These conditions have been notably racist, purposely favoring white males over people of color during the time of Jim Crow.

In the end, it all boils down to one simply question: Do we really want a guy like this, who would probably fail his own history requirement (if it were indeed administered fairly), to be running the country? Say what you will about President Obama -- at least he has a comprehensive knowledge of American history that is greater than a ninth grade level. Gingrich, it seems, can't make the same claim.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Prosser victorious, but win isn't mandate for Walker

Election results indicate a shifting attitude among Wisconsin electorate

The Government Accountability Board certified its recount results within the State Supreme Court race today, confirming that sitting Justice David Prosser won the bout by a margin of 7,000 votes -- or less than one-half of one percent of the total ballots cast.

Congratulations are due to Prosser -- he won the election, after all, and despite my frustration with the results they must be respected. The recount was about ensuring the integrity and openness within the election, especially in Waukesha County where County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus discovered 14,000 uncounted ballots days after the election ended, miraculously giving her former boss Prosser a victory. With those results now confirmed after a lengthy recount process, we must respect what they indicate -- that Prosser was the preferred candidate for voters between himself and JoAnne Kloppenburg.

Many on the right will undoubtedly try to say that this election was a referendum on Walker's policies, that the majority of the state, in supporting Walker's preferred judicial candidate, also prefer Walker himself, alongside his anti-worker initiatives.

But that couldn't be more wrong. Firstly, Walker himself, when it looked like Prosser was going to lose, stated that this election wasn't such a referendum. Polls also indicate that Walker's proposals are largely unpopular, particularly those that dealt with workers' rights.

Consider this as well -- if this Supreme Court race was indeed a referendum on Walker, then a sitting incumbent aligned with Walker's policies nearly lost to an unknown candidate, someone whom the state had never heard of before this election took place. A court race to determine who should be placed within a separate branch of government, especially when its outcome is so close, is hardly a call of support across the state to continue these policies...and it's certainly no mandate for Walker.

If anything, these election results indicate a tide of change within Wisconsin, as more people across the state moved left of what the 2010 elections produced in the electorate. Walker is right in telling his disciples this past week that they ought to take the senate recall elections very seriously. But the right also needs to acknowledge the fact that the state made a major swing this past spring, a shift that possibly hasn't yet finished materializing.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Voter ID bill destroys Wisconsin traditions, values

Access to vote for all severely limited by newly passed legislation

The right to vote, to have a hand in selecting the leadership responsible for managing our government, is a tantamount right deservedly granted to everyone within a democracy (who has attained the proper age to do so, of course). Creating undue restrictions toward this privilege, thereby limiting the ability of citizens to take part in the democratic process, is rightly seen as an injustice, a sin beyond reproach within our society.

But with a single stroke of the pen next week, Gov. Scott Walker and his legislative allies will commit such a sin.

The voter ID bill that passed this week does so much damage to our voting process that some are touting it as the most restrictive in the country -- a stark change for our state as formerly being one of the most respected. Previously, all that was needed to vote was proof of address, such as a utility bill or lease with your name on it. Now, only certain forms of photo ID (with your current address printed on them) will suffice.

The changes will likely affect hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites, and not just those who have a difficult time obtaining an ID. Renters will also be denied access to the ballot box, as many of their valid ID's won't have their current addresses on them either.

This bill goes further than the ID requirement, however. Participation in early absentee voting, a relatively new trend for those seeking to vote before an election day, is also severely curtailed. Prior to this bill, you could submit an absentee ballot up to 30 days before an election -- but that has been shortened significantly, down to a mere seven days. For the elderly especially, as well as those that may have to work on an election day, this is a disheartening departure from a respected practice of allowing those that wish to do so to vote early.

This bill solves a problem that doesn't exist in Wisconsin. Voter fraud, when it happens, gets caught. It's prevalence in our state is minute, lower than levels acceptable to even describe it as a "nuisance."

It seems that the true motivations of this law is to suppress the rights and privileges of people that typically vote against Republicans. It's a shameful display of arrogance, of dismissive attitudes toward established traditions within our state. Wisconsin has celebrated the right to vote, as well as the limited restrictions we've placed on voting, for several generations. It's a sad, sad day when we say "to hell with these traditions!" in favor of restricting access to the vote, a right that so many have fought for, countless have died for, in order to protect.


In some ways, it's fitting that Gov. Walker, who is actively working to destroy other valued Wisconsin traditions, will proudly sign the bill that destroys this tradition as well. However, that observation, that little anecdote, however precise it may be, will provide little comfort to those who are set to be turned away at the polls on election days in our state's future. Lawmakers like Walker, as well as Republicans in the legislature, need to lose their power to govern. Support the recall efforts.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Gov. Walker, state Republicans, de-fund women's health grants

'Love' -- or lack thereof -- for women apparent within GOP proposals

Wisconsin Republicans are making it crystal clear to women in our state: as far as their reproductive health goes, they’re on their own.

Two major aspects within Gov. Walker’s budget bill would limit the abilities of women with low incomes to receive adequate health care. The first was proposed initially by the Walker administration, as a $267,000 cut towards a program designed to give lower income women pelvic examinations to prevent cervical cancer. These screenings have been in place for decades -- and if removed could mean potential death sentences for many young women facing poverty.

The second bit within the budget bill that will affect women’s reproductive health was approved just this week. $1.7 million in grants to women health clinics will be stripped if this bill passes, affecting thousands that depend upon these organizations’ low costs to receive medical care.

Those cuts came in response to Republicans hoping to de-fund organizations that supported or performed abortion services. But the government grants that were funding these groups were tailored specifically to ensure that no taxpayer dollars would fund any abortion whatsoever. Without these grants, major aspects of these clinics’ services unrelated to abortion (free or low-cost contraception, inexpensive examinations, etc.) will be de-funded, in some cases possibly eradicating their availability within certain areas of the state.

These services in fact make up a vast majority of what family planning clinics do for their patients. An organization like Planned Parenthood, for instance, performs far less abortions than what people are led to believe. In fact, non-abortion related services accounted for more than 97 percent of all services performed at Planned Parenthood in 2009, including contraception, STD/STI treatment, cancer screenings and preventions, mammograms, and adoption referrals. Abortion procedures accounted for less than 3 percent of all services.

You may not agree with what these clinics do some of the time -- but grants given to them by the state provide a myriad of services that most WOULD agree are helpful to women facing financial difficulties. Taking away these grants will hurt thousands of women across Wisconsin, limiting their ability to test for diseases or prevent breast, cervical, or other forms of cancer.

Because of these two aspects of the budget bill, one could feasibly come to the conclusion that our state’s leaders just don’t care. The Republicans in the legislature, as well as the one currently occupying the office of the governor, don’t give a damn about the health of our state’s women, particularly those with meager incomes. It’s a shameful fact that, because of this lack of empathy within the GOP, Walker's budget will likely force many women in Wisconsin to suffer dire consequences related to their reproductive health.

Wisconsin’s women deserve better than this, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity -- but mostly, they deserve to be granted the chance to live healthy lives.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tommy Thompson faces challenges in Senate run

Former governor may not have 'cakewalk' some may expect

Tommy Thompson is set to become a major contender in the race to replace sitting U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, who will not seek re-election come 2012. As a multi-term former governor as well as a former secretary head within the Bush administration, Thompson brings a breadth of experience unparalleled by any other potential candidate for office.

But conservatives across the state needn’t celebrate quite yet -- a Republican victory in 2012 isn’t a sure thing, and if Tommy is to stand any chance of winning he’ll need to conquer some pretty intimidating obstacles to do it.

First, he’ll have to deal with the fact that it’s a presidential election year, and that President Obama is sitting pretty comfortably (for now) as an incumbent likely to win re-election. Though their respective elections are separate, the senate race’s outcome may depend heavily on the tide of the national attitudes within the presidential race as well. In short, many Congressional races in 2012 will depend on the outcome of Obama-vs.-whoever the Republicans choose to pick; thus, it’s possible that within a close senatorial race the presidential election will play a pivotal role in determining what kind of voters go to the polls.

Thompson will have to distance himself from the presidential election if the pendulum does indeed swing back into Obama’s and the Democrats’ favor. But he’ll also have to push himself away from statewide political leaders as well, namely Scott Walker. As both men have served or are currently serving as governor of Wisconsin, Tommy may inevitably be asked what he would have done in Walker’s situation -- that is, with regards to the removal of rights for state workers. If he distances himself from Walker’s position, he’ll push away his base that he’ll desperately need in what could become a close race. If he sides with Walker, however, he’ll sink his chances with independents across the state who found Walker’s actions repugnant.

Then there’s the problem of Thompson’s image beyond his political career. As the Democratic Party of Wisconsin pointed out on Tuesday, Thompson spent the better part of the past decade working as a lobbyist to some powerful organizations. The question posed to Wisconsin voters becomes, “To what extent will Thompson be working for us rather than powerful lobbies in Washington?” As a former lobbyist himself, Thompson will have a hard time quelling the concerns of state voters who want someone looking out for them.

These are just a few of the concerns Tommy Thompson will face as a candidate. Beyond them, Thompson will also have to face the ordinary challenges that any candidate for office has to overcome. Though Thompson may seem like a frontrunner right now, these issues and others could stifle his candidacy more than he’d like to admit. With the right challenger, the former governor who never lost a statewide race may lose his first come 2012.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Concealed carry legislation needs more regulation

Bills lack control, restriction of irresponsible gun owners

Originally posted at

The conceal carry bills, as they stand right now, are irresponsible pieces of legislation, allowing gun owners to carry weapons practically whenever and wherever they'd like. Only one proposed bill (of three) would require any training of any kind (two hours' worth), while the other bills lack even that basic need.

In this age of increased paranoia run amok, there's no telling what someone could be capable of under such circumstances. By allowing citizens this right without proper training, we risk a situation where an ill-informed individual may take advantage of a law that could cause potential harm to many around them.

What irks me most about these proposals is the lack of training necessary to carry a concealed weapon. Even state law enforcement agree that more training is necessary to make these bills safer for Wisconsin.

An argument often made in the gun debate is that more guns make people safer. While the evidence suggests that, at the very least, gun ownership doesn't equate violence, it's tough to assume guns necessarily make us safer on their own. These guns are heavily regulated, whether concealed or not, tracked to ensure that the people who use them are found immediately following their use. Guns are safer, it seems, with stronger regulations attached to them.

These bills deregulate guns, making it legal for anyone to conceal their weapon in public places. Any move towards the deregulation of weapons, however, deserves more care than these bills provide, more attention towards what will keep people (and law enforcement) safer rather than what will make gun enthusiasts happy.

If concealed carry is going to become legal in Wisconsin, it should be implemented with more regulation to ensure it's done right. A two hour session on the issue (or no training session at all) isn't enough to keep families safe in our state. Our Republican legislators fail us by disregarding the importance of this matter.

Senate updates

Paul Ryan announces that he won't run for U.S. Senate; former Gov. Tommy Thompson is expected to announce he will seek the seat that will be left vacant by sitting Sen. Herb Kohl.

Paul Ryan's own "class warfare"

Republican representative fails to see hypocrisy in accusation against Obama

It isn't a "class war" to expand basic health coverage to those unable to afford it, nor to attempt to fix the budget through a modest tax increase on the wealthy, who control more than 40 percent of the wealth in this country.

But U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) seems to think differently. Ryan recently accused President Barack Obama of engaging in "class warfare" through his domestic priorities, including Obama's insistence that the top 2 percent pay more in taxes to help cover the country's debts and fund important programs.
"The president says that only the richest people in America would be affected by his plan," Ryan said, arguing that "class warfare may be clever politics, but it is terrible economics."


"Sowing social unrest and class envy makes America weaker, not stronger," the Wisconsin Republican argued.
Mr. Ryan seems to have his priorities backward -- or rather, the priorities of the American people. Most don't care to continue the subsidies for the top 2 percent of income earners, and no one with a sound mind believes in the tired mantra that these people are "job creators" and therefore need more wealth than those actually struggling to find work.

But people DO believe in the importance of helping those in need. Programs designed to help those without, if administered properly, remain popular -- and for good reason: they work, at least when funded properly.

Again, Paul Ryan disagrees with the American people. Unveiling the GOP's proposed budget, Ryan's plan calls drastic for changes to Social Security as well as Medicare, turning the celebrated program into a voucher system.

Doing this will make purchasing insurance more difficult for seniors, who rely on the universal care dispensed by Medicare in their golden years and can't otherwise afford to make up the difference under the proposed voucher program.

It seems that the real culprits of "class warfare" aren't the lawmakers trying to make improvements for a number of people's lives but rather those that blatantly attack an entire segment of the population's ability to seek better opportunities. Call Obama's proposed tax increases what you will -- in the end, the lifestyle of the rich remains intact. Conversely, Ryan's proposal for the poor, the sick, the elderly, etc., makes life more difficult, makes living conditions for the middle- and poorer classes more strained in a time of economic duress.

A common talking point among conservatives is that a "shared sacrifice" is needed among the American people. To balance the budget, fix our economy, and increase the number of jobs in our nation, a shared sacrifice may indeed be required of us -- but the Republican Party's plans for shared sacrifice only includes the working classes, those that are facing the brunt of the crisis our nation is dealing with.

If Paul Ryan wants to talk class warfare, he should consider for a moment which classes are getting hit hardest by his economic vision, and then consider how rich the wealthy will remain under Obama's plan as well. Obama doesn't hit the wealthy too hard with his proposal; Ryan's plan, on the other hand, hits the poorest Americans beyond what is acceptable.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The benefits (yes, benefits) of a Paul Ryan Senate run

A Ryan campaign for Senate could result in dual wins for Dems

Would a Paul Ryan Senate-run turn out to be a good thing?

Consider this scenario: if the political "pendulum" swings back in favor of liberals and progressives in 2012 (a real possibility at this point), President Obama will coast back to a second term to the White House with a wave of Democratic candidates joining him in Congress. If Ryan runs against a formidable Democratic challenger -- someone who could win an open election on their own merit but may have even better chances within this possible "pendulum swing" -- Democrats not only retain a seat in the Senate but remove Ryan from his position in Congress within the House as well, as he wouldn't be able to run for both seats at the same time. And if the Dems can run a formidable candidate in CD-1 they may be able to pick that seat up too.

In short, if Ryan decides to chase senatorial aspirations, Democrats have an opportunity to pick up two seats in Congress, one of which has been a challenge to take for well over a decade (again, contingent in part on a change in voters' attitudes both nationally and locally).

With that in mind, however, we should think realistically -- would Ryan lose? At the very least, it'd be a close race for sure...to0 close for comfort for far too many.

It may be too soon to "hope" Ryan runs for the seat that will be left vacant by Sen. Herb Kohl. But should he toss his hat into the ring, Democrats will have an incredible opportunity to take charge of things Congressionally in Wisconsin -- so long as the right set of circumstances are helping them as well.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Madison Police Department estimate 7,000-10,000 attended rally against Gov. Walker's budget today.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Walker's proposed budget a reversal of Wisconsin values

Governor seeks to undo ideals valued by the people

Gov. Scott Walker's actions have proven he's not a man of the people, that he's governing purely for his ideological beliefs as well as his campaign donors. His budget is the icing on the proverbial cake that demonstrates it further, and without a doubt, that Walker isn't interested in helping the people of Wisconsin during these dire times.

His plans to privatize FoodShare, Medicaid, and other assistance programs vital to Wisconsinites ignores federal mandates as well as failed initiatives by other states that have wandered down similar paths. The budget also centralizes these programs, meaning many services at the county level will no longer be available to people in various localities across the state. Privatization would save the state about $8 million annually -- while federal funds lost due to the ignored mandates would number in the tens of millions of dollars.

Walker's budget also makes substantial cuts to education, the largest the state has ever seen. The governor is proposing nearly $900 million in cuts to schools across the state, from kindergarten to college, averaging a loss in funding of more than $800 per student. But the budget goes beyond cuts alone and severely limits local school districts' abilities to raise the funds they need on their own. On that fact alone, schools will lose the opportunity to raise $400 million in revenue, meaning that education in Wisconsin faces more than a billion-dollar shortfall due to Scott Walker's budget plans.

The tax scheme in Walker's budget bill is warped as well. The governor prioritizes the wealthy elites' "needs," giving corporations and the rich huge tax cuts (in addition to the cuts they've already received in January). Meanwhile, the poorest of the poor not only get left behind, but blindsided as well -- by the removal of tax credits designed to help the most downtrodden, resulting in what's essentially a higher tax rate for the poor in our state. (Talk about kicking a group of people when they're already down!)

Don't believe for one minute that seniors are left out of this bill either -- Walker's budget would make substantial cuts to SeniorCare as well, affecting most if not all of the 90,000 Wisconsin seniors that take advantage of the program. A significant portion of those within SeniorCare will be forced into Medicare Part D, a solution that, in many instances, means our state seniors may have to choose between prescription medications and groceries.

These are just the basics, the things that stand out easiest, within Walker's proposed budget. There are many more aspects to it, items that go beyond what is mentioned here that hurt the average citizen even more. To say that Walker has a different idea in mind for Wisconsin is an understatement -- Walker isn't just proposing a new vision, but rather a complete reversal of Wisconsin values.

Wisconsinites have always treasured a strong education, have always thought that caring for our seniors isn't a nicety but a necessity, and that those with economic hardships deserve consolation and assistance until they get back up on their feet. Corporatist attitudes aren't valued as much as fair treatment of our neighbors, a common belief that we must treat those around us with respect and care when needed.

Scott Walker and his Republican allies ignored our Wisconsin ideals, and as a result many of the Republican state senators are facing recall. It's likely that, if Walker continues to ignore these ideals, that he too could face recall, even more than he's facing it now. Trampling on workers' rights is enough to sicken a large segment of the state's population; trampling on Wisconsin's values is enough to sicken the entire state itself.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Within any transition between jobs, life always gets a little more hectic while you try to figure out your new routine. New blogs will be coming soon...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Osama bin Laden dead

President Obama to announce terrorist leader's death

UPDATE: President Obama delivers speech confirming Osama bin Laden's death. "His demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity." (Original post below made before Obama's speech)

I don't want to celebrate the death of any human being. It's against my morals, against my upbringing, to believe that the death of any person, even an evil man or woman, is a good thing.

With that said, I'm more than comfortable with saying that the world is a much better place without Osama bin Laden.

The president will announce tonight that bin Laden, the most wanted man in the world, is dead. The biggest enemy of our country, the man who was responsible for an unprecedented attack on us, is no longer around to do his part to try and defeat our great country.

September 11, 2001, was a day that will never be forgotten, one that is forever etched in the memories of millions of Americans. We will never forget the details of that day, where we were, what we were doing, and how our lives changed afterward.

Tonight and into tomorrow, we will also remember where we were when the man responsible for that event was announced to have been killed.

This isn't the end, of course. Terrorism will remain a threat; al Qaeda will continue to make attacks upon our people, upon our country. But with bin Laden gone, the world becomes a better place for sure. The face of terror for our country is gone.

Tonight is a victory for our country in the fight against terrorism. Again, I don't like to celebrate any death as doing so doesn't bode well with my religious views. But a world without Osama bin Laden is definitely a world that is better off.