Wednesday, December 24, 2014

MKE Co. Sup. Deanna Alexander belittles Eric Garner's final words, makes fool of herself

Alexander's Twitter feed is a case study in ignorant commentary

I usually make it a point not to post things that are too political on the holidays. It being Christmas eve, I had every intention of ignoring politics today and focusing on other things.

The actions of Milwaukee County Supervisor Deanna Alexander, however, cannot be ignored. So with some spare time in hand, it’s worth looking what transpired last night and in days prior on Alexander’s Twitter account (H/T to Capper).

It all stems back to tweets she made earlier this month regarding the #ICantBreathe hashtag that has become popular on the social network. “I can’t breathe,” of course, were the final words of Eric Garner, an African-American male who was choked to death in New York City last summer.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Second Quarter 2014 jobs report: Wisconsin is dead last in the Midwest

Walker's policies since 2011 have sunk Wisconsin's jobs rankings

Scott Walker has said in the past that the state is growing jobs faster because of policies he’s put in place.

Well, the election is behind us now, but we can still see that’s clearly not the case. The second quarter 2014 jobs report is out, and Wisconsin is still lagging behind other Midwestern states, remaining in the lower half of states in the nation overall.

While the U.S. as a whole saw a 2.3 percent growth in private sector jobs, Wisconsin’s rate was only 1.5 percent, ranking us as 32nd in the nation. Among the states deemed as part of the Midwest (defined during the past election), Wisconsin is dead last -- just like it was in the previous quarterly report.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Scott Walker's "Cuba-deal" comments make him look foolish

Walker lacks qualifications to make real commentary on international matters

Reacting to comments from President Barack Obama regarding a change towards normalizing relations between Cuba and the U.S., Gov. Scott Walker said it’s a “bad idea” to move towards more openness between the two nations.
I think it’s a bad idea,” Walker told reporters Wednesday. “I don’t think there’s been any noticeable change towards making that a more free and prosperous country. There’s a reason why we had the policy in the first place.”


“I think it opens up the doors to problems, and I think in a similar way changing relations with Cuba right now without them showing a noticeable change in terms of what kind of freedoms they’re going to put in place is a problem,” Walker said. “In the past, we’ve said if you want to have a more normal relationship with the United States, you need to show you’re committed to the same freedoms and rights that we have here in the United States.”
Emphases in bold added

But Gov. Walker’s record on dealing with countries that are hostile towards the U.S. or its own citizens is sketchy itself. If Walker is going to criticize the president, he'd better be ready to defend his own history in dealing with nations that have human rights problems, including seeking trade agreements with countries like China.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Baraboo school district rightly adopts WIAA policy for transgender student athletes

Granting students equal access to sports activities the right move to make; qualms against the policy are based on unwarranted fears

The Baraboo school district has agreed to adhere to Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) standards allowing transgender students to participate in sporting activities that correspond with their gender identities.

The move by the district to accept the policy standards (PDF) is the right one to make. Students deserve equal opportunity to participate in sporting events that public schools may offer. Preventing students from participating in sports that correspond to their gender identities would be a grave mistake, and one that would devalue or demoralize any student who may identify with a gender other than the one assigned to them at birth.

Parents in Baraboo (and across the nation) have been primarily concerned with students committing fraud through this policy (for example, boys who say they identify as females only to have advantages over other competitors). But that fear runs counter to the policy set up by WIAA, which requires evidence that these student athletes are indeed identifying with the gender they say they are.

Monday, December 15, 2014

"Teach a man to fish, whatever!" An update on the Gospel according to Walker

Can the governor actually cite "teach a man to fish moments" in the Bible?

About a month ago I wrote an article noting that Gov. Scott Walker, himself a PK (pastor’s kid), didn’t understand the difference between a Chinese proverb and Biblical text.

Walker had said, “My reading of the Bible finds plenty of reminders that it’s better to teach someone to fish than to give them fish if they’re able.”

I correctly pointed out that the “teach a man to fish” lesson was never mentioned in the Bible -- and that handing out fish like “freebies” was something Jesus Christ himself had done during the miracle of the loaves and fish.

That post received renewed popularity following the “Molotov” Hanukkah mishap that Walker was recently ridiculed for. Over at Cognitive Dissidence, Capper took note of the gaffe, in conjunction with new reporting from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice on the subject:
"The governor specifically says it’s in his reading of the Bible," said Laurel Patrick, press secretary for Walker. "He’s not quoting scripture."
Well, doesn't that clear nothing up? He's citing the Bible but not the Bible? Huh?
I agree completely -- Walker is trying to be a biblical scholar, and to tie his “teachings” to his governing style, but he’s failing hard at it. He wants to make that “teach a man to fish” point, saying there are several examples of it in the Bible, without actually citing those parts of the Bible.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Has concealed carry made WI safer? The evidence says no

Scott Walker's promise that concealed carry would make state safer is clearly inaccurate

“By signing concealed carry into law today we are making Wisconsin safer for all responsible, law abiding citizens.”

Those were the words of Gov. Scott Walker when he signed legislation allowing for concealed carry in the state back in 2011. The promise of the legislation was that it would make us safer. Has it?

Before I go on, it should be noted that the data provided doesn’t show whether concealed carry contributed to higher crimes -- the data is so young and the numbers so negligible that increases could be attributed to any number of things. What I’m trying to show is whether we’re safer under concealed carry or not. To see if we’re safer, we simply need to look at crime statistics since concealed carry came into play. If crime goes up, we’re not safer.

For fairness, I’ve also compiled the data of crime over the past 21 years -- from 1993 to 2013. We can simultaneously look at the effects of concealed carry as well as the effects of the federal assault weapons ban of 1994, which went into effect at the end of that year and ended in 2004.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Acknowledging faults in the Senate torture report the right thing to do

Repairing our global image will take time, but it will require being honest about what we did as well

We know that Bush administration officials used torture tactics to obtain information from suspected terrorists. And we also know that the information obtained didn’t help us to defeat terrorists abroad or at home.

The Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture helps the nation find closure in this dark chapter of American history. And it’s important that we acknowledge these mistakes so that we don’t repeat them again in the future.

There are, of course, people who still defend the methods that were used. Among them is former Vice President Dick Cheney, who said the report is “full of crap.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Gov. Walker provides three "facepalm" moments of fail for the day

Embarrassing stories highlight Walker's ineptitude, low value for voters

Millennial translator: Facepalm = a hand gesture used to indicate extreme disappointment.

Our governor isn’t unfamiliar with embarrassing situations, but today must have been a tough one for him. Three stories are worth noting, providing a hat-trick of disappointment in Scott Walker within a 24-hour period of time. Two of them are religious in nature, while the third has to do with a slipping health care ranking.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Don't be fooled -- Gov. Walker is "playing coy" with right-to-work

Walker is showing reluctance for a right-to-work bill, but his record and past statements suggests he's all for it

Click to enlarge
Where exactly does Gov. Scott Walker stand on right-to-work in Wisconsin? In recent days, it would seem that the governor doesn’t care all that much about it. Don’t be fooled -- his past record says otherwise.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

No justice for Eric Garner -- officer avoids indictment despite choking man to death

Video evidence suggests that a jury trial was more than justifiable following Garner’s death

A New York City police officer who put Eric Garner in a lethal chokehold, a move that ultimately ended Garner’s life, will not face formal charges for his actions.

A grand jury determined that the officer, who used a chokehold maneuver that had been banned by NYPD for more than 20 years, would not face indictment for taking Garner’s life earlier this summer.

This is the second high profile incident of a white officer avoiding indictment from a grand jury for killing an unarmed black civilian in nearly as many weeks. On November 24, Officer Darren Wilson of Ferguson, Missouri, also faced indictment for shooting teenager Michael Brown. The grand jury there ultimately determined that Wilson would not face charges for his actions.

The situation in Ferguson became an instance of “he-said, she-said” as no documentable evidence (such as video recording) exists of the episode. Still, much of the grand jury proceedings remain concerning, and criticisms mounted shortly after the decision about the process.

Eric Garner’s death, however, was less clouded -- video of the officer placing him in a chokehold and ultimately killing him went viral this summer. Most casual observers of that video, I would assume, would agree that Garner’s actions (he allegedly was selling untaxed cigarettes) didn’t warrant a death sentence.

I have nothing but the highest respect for law enforcement officers. They put their lives on the line every day they go to work. That commitment deserves our respect and our gratitude.

They are not above the law, however, and I believe that 99.999 percent of them agree. When officers commit crimes, they, too, deserve to answer to the court of law for their actions.

It’s clear that Eric Garner wasn’t a physical threat to anyone around him. Video evidence shows us that an officer’s actions, improper ones at that, ended his life prematurely. But that officer will not face a jury of his peers because of those actions.

That’s more than just unfortunate; it’s a grave injustice. The system failed Eric Garner and his family, and it’s in dire need of repair following today’s decision.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Latest jobs report further demonstrates a slower recovery under Walker

Latest quarterly report the second slowest year of WI's recovery (even slower than Doyle's last year)

The Department of Workforce Development has released details about the latest quarterly jobs report due to be released nationally in December. Since the time of Scott Walker’s recall, the DWD has released the quarterly reports a month early.

The numbers for this report – which counts the number of jobs created between June 2013 and June 2014 – shows that more than 35,000 jobs were created during that yearlong period.

The DWD is quick to paint a rosy picture about the numbers, with Department Sec. Reggie Newson stating, “The latest quarterly data further demonstrate Governor Walker's comprehensive strategies and targeted investments are creating jobs and growing Wisconsin's economy.”

When compared to the previous year, in which less than 28,000 jobs were created, it does indeed seem like a stark improvement, worthy of praise that the DWD is handing out. When looked at over the course of Wisconsin’s recovery period, however, it’s a dimmer picture.

This second quarter report is the second worst year of recovery out of the four that Wisconsin has experienced since the end of the recession. In fact, the best year of recovery so far has come during the last year of former Gov. Jim Doyle’s budget – from June 2010 to June 2011. During that year, Wisconsin created nearly 40,000 jobs.

While the difference may be negligible to some, it’s important to note that during the latest gubernatorial campaign Gov. Walker was quick to point out the supposed “failures” of his predecessor’s policies. Those “failures,” however, generated more jobs in the second quarter report than any of the years that Walker’s budgets have been in place.

If we had kept pace with the rate of growth seen under the budget created before Scott Walker (e.g. Doyle’s last budget), we would have created nearly 20,000 additional jobs in the state than what we see now, or about 20 percent more than what Walker is claiming his “comeback” has thus far created. So, what policy could have prevented that many jobs from being created?

It could be Act 10, the union-busting law that Gov. Walker made his priority shortly after taking office. According to one UW economist, that law alone cost more than 20,000 jobs from coming to the state, as state workers would find themselves with new financial hardships, and as a result making less purchases in the communities in which they reside.

Or it could be that substantial tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy do little-to-nothing to spur an increase in demand within the state’s economy. While Walker gave tax breaks to the middle class as well, those cuts were negligible, amounting to a “fast-food” meal per week, hardly anything that could spur economic growth.

In either case it’s clear to see that what Walker is doing isn’t better for the state. Wisconsin’s comeback has slowed down under his watch, and it’s foolish for him or his administration to pat themselves on the back for job not-so-well-done.  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Lunchtime musings: Budget shortfall or “wish list?” Inconsistencies in past cause present confusion

Gov. Walker called agency requests a budget shortfall when it came from Doyle

Is it fair to call the $2.2 billion in budget requests a “budget shortfall?” These are, after all, simply requests from the various agencies in state government.

Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch was quick to say so in his department’s report (PDF) detailing the requests, which states unequivocally that the “assumption that ALL agency budget requests will be funded” is “flawed.”

Calling these new $2.2 billion budget requests a shortfall, then, is a bit of a stretch. But that doesn’t mean that these budget requests aren’t alarming. Indeed, alarmist behavior is how Gov. Scott Walker reacted when there were similar requests before he took office.

As pointed out by, this “method” for these budget requests “was also the foundation for the $3.6 billion deficit” claim that Walker has consistently made on campaigns and other self-promotion tours across the country.

To characterize the $3.6 billion budget requests from 2010 as a deficit and to disregard the current requests as a simple “wish list” shows inconsistencies in Walker’s and his administration’s rhetoric. Either there’s a problem with Walker’s budgeting scheme, or the alarmist words from Walker’s campaign were off the mark. In either case, Wisconsin is owed an explanation.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pastor Kid Scott Walker misquotes the Bible to justify denying health care

Governor confuses Chinese proverb and Christ's message of compassion

Scott Walker opposes expanding Medicaid and BadgerCare because it contradicts his understanding of the Bible.
“My reading of the Bible finds plenty of reminders that it’s better to teach someone to fish than to give them fish if they’re able. … Caring for the poor isn’t the same as taking money from the federal government to lock more people into Medicaid,” Walker said.
Oddly enough, the quotation Walker references above never actually appears in the Bible. It's a Chinese proverb. If we want to be clear on Jesus's position on handing out fish to the poor, we can look to the book of Matthew for guidance, where He literally hands out fish to the poor:
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 
As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”  
“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.  
They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
It seems like Jesus was all about "giving out fish" (or aid) to people who needed it, a stark contrast to what Gov. Walker implies about the teachings of the Bible. Heck, Jesus even had time to give out some free health care while he was at it.

Forget that college degree -- Walker should consider going back to Sunday school before anything else.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Paging Sen. McCarthy -- blacklisting alive and well under Speaker Vos's leadership

Political payback evident following tumultuous election year

Robin Vos has essentially suggested that political blacklisting is back -- and acceptable -- in Wisconsin.

Conjuring the spirit of Senator Joseph McCarthy, Vos, who was re-elected to serve as Assembly Speaker this week, suggested that the political ties of Milwaukee Bucks owners could influence the state's decision to help fund a new arena.

Bucks co owner Marc Lasry greeted President Barack Obama when he came to campaign on behalf of Mary Burke.

"If you are looking for people to support [the Bucks] you certainly don't want to poke people in the eye," Vos said on Sunday.

Read another way, Vos is essentially saying, "Support our cause, stay out of our way, or suffer the consequences."

We've seen pay-to-play and other forms of cronyism in the past four years from Wisconsin Republicans. Now we are seeing firsthand open political payback against those whose opinions differ from the GOP's policy positions.

It might not be "Red Scare" McCarthyism, but it's blacklisting nonetheless that's still very reminiscent of the late, dishonorable senator. Vos should change his tune, and offer an apology to the Bucks owners, before any more damage can be the sports franchise, and towards our democracy.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Minute of Heat: Vos, the Milwaukee Bucks, and legislation based on politics

A quick thought on the Assembly Speaker's reluctance to help the Bucks (based on the owners' liberalism)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Democrats should embrace electoral reforms to win public opinion

Redistricting reform, blended proportional representation and a citizens veto would encourage greater democratic involvement

In 2009 Time Magazine declared the Republican Party an endangered species.

You’d never know it given last week’s midterm results, but pundits and political insiders were questioning, just as they are now with the Democrats, whether conservative lawmakers would ever be relevant again.

The GOP suffered huge losses in 2008. But they had a game plan, a strategy to help them recover. They stuck to it, digging their heels in and eventually took back control both houses of Congress.

Wisconsin, too, was a Democratic state in 2009. But now we’re under full Republican control as well. How can progressives come back? What will it take?

The people of Wisconsin obviously want change. So Democrats should deliver, bringing about real change for the better. They should become the party of reform, coming to office on the platform of bringing stronger “small-d” democratic representation to state government.

They should, of course, continue to support the policies that they pushed for in the 2014 election. A raise in the minimum wage and an expansion of Medicaid/BadgerCare funds ought to remain priorities for the party, as should strengthening women’s rights and environmental standards.

But so too should electoral reform be up for discussion by Democrats. I’m not talking about reforms that disenfranchise voters, such as voter ID laws that are unnecessary towards preserving democracy. Instead, Democrats should promote legislation that is needed, that will encourage voter involvement and increase the voice of the people in the state Capitol building.

Democrats should push for three specific items in their next bid to lead the state...

First, they should insist that there be non-partisan redistricting reform. Republicans, who drew the legislative maps following their 2010 victories, made it exceptionally difficult for Democrats to win anywhere outside of major metropolitan districts. With less competitiveness the Assembly remained in the Republican Party’s hands in 2012 despite more voters supporting Democrats.

Second, support for proportional representation should be encouraged by the Democratic Party. I’ve written on this topic prior, insisting that having a blended system with PR incorporated would allow voters to have someone in Madison speaking for them. A Democrat in Waukesha or a Republican in Madison, for example, could rely upon a representative they voted for in the legislature to be their partisan voice, if not their geographical one.

Finally, a citizens veto would encourage more involvement by the voting population. Speaker Robin Vos this week has insisted that the Republican victories across the state symbolize strong support for the GOP’s conservative platform. That may be true on some issues, but on others it might not be the case. Gov. Scott Walker, for instance, cruised to victory despite being on the wrong side of the minimum wage argument in Wisconsin.

It follows that lawmakers could overreach in this new legislative term -- indeed, I predict they will. To prevent such an overreach, progressives in the early half of the 20th century instituted the recall election process. Today, however, many Wisconsinites are frustrated with the recall. Being able to veto specific policies may be a middle ground for those who disagree with the recall process but still want to do something about terrible legislation being passed by an overreaching conservative government.

Democrats should continue fighting for middle class and working families. They should continue to hold onto the standard policy positions that will empower these families in the free marketplace.

But they should also recognize that part of the reason that people sit on their hands and refuse to vote for them is because they’re fed up with voting altogether. If citizens had a larger hand in selecting their leaders, if they could be convinced that corruption was being taken out of the game and if they could play a part in doing-away with destructive legislation, they might be more apt to take part in the process more regularly.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

You don't sell Big Macs by being anti-Whopper -- or, how Burke lost to Walker

Messaging (too much of it negative) was a big problem this election year

Scott Walker shouldn't have won reelection. On the main issues, more Wisconsinites supported his opponent's policies over his own:
A majority of Wisconsin citizens support raising the minimum wage. Walker does not.

A majority support accepting federal Medicaid funds to expand BadgerCare. Walker said no to that.

Most Wisconsinites want to increase funding to public schools. Walker cut funding and gave taxpayer dollars to private schools.
So why did Mary Burke lose? The Walker campaign made Burke into a monster. They successfully convinced a majority in the state that she would be a terrible leader, through unsubstantiated rumors and innuendos.

Burke did her best to combat that characterization, but it wasn't enough. The conversation, no matter how hard she tried, couldn't be steered a different way.

That wasn't the only problem, however. The messaging in favor of Burke for governor consisted mainly of talk about how Walker was terrible. Yes, Burke did her best to promote herself as a good option. But for the most part, she was presented as an "anyone but Walker" candidate.

This isn't how advertising, political or otherwise, works. No one goes to McDonald's and buys a Big Mac because they're anti-Whopper. Similarly, independents didn't vote for Burke because she was anti-Walker.

According to exit polls more than a quarter of the electorate were independents. That amounts to around 650,000 voters. The exit polls also show that 43 percent of independents voted for Burke while Walker received about 54 percent of their votes. If you flip those numbers, with Burke getting 54 percent and Walker 43 percent, the race would have been much closer -- add in a stronger turnout for Burke, and we might have seen some different results.

The plan by Democrats (and by all appearances, the ONLY plan) was for Burke to have a strong turnout in order to win. Her numbers weren't hugely different than those from the previous two elections against Walker, however, and the obvious reason is that Burke was the same candidate as Tom Barrett was in 2012.

OK, that's not entirely true. Burke and Barrett are two different people, and Burke would have brought a different governing style to Madison than Barrett would have. But to the average voter, Burke and Barrett appear to be the same candidate. In the recall Barrett was all about "not being Walker." In this election Burke, too, was all about "not being Walker."

That's good enough for a sizable number of people -- but for a huge chunk of voters, especially independents, it wasn't. They needed to know what she would have put in the next budget, how she would create jobs, and why (most of all) she would make a great governor -- not just a better one.

I'll be the first to admit that I've written more "anti-Walker" stuff on this very blog than "pro-Burke" items. But that's what I'm supposed to do -- I'm a blogger, I'm supposed to complain. For Walker, talk radio provided that same purpose, going after Burke in negative ways throughout the campaign. That allowed Walker to promote himself, even if he was lying while doing so.

Burke was right to point out Walker's flaws from time to time, but it shouldn't have been the campaign's main talking point. Burke was too ambiguous about how she'd run the state. Ambiguity can work in elections -- FDR didn't have a solid platform, and had no idea what the "New Deal" would look like when he ran for president in 1932. But ambiguity only works when there's a call for change by the electorate, not the candidate.

There wasn't a call for change from Wisconsin voters. And without a clearer explanation from Burke and Democrats on why she should be governor, the election was lost from the get-go. 


One final thought before I end this rant: The Democratic Party of Wisconsin didn't do much in terms of changing the discourse in this election. While the Burke campaign and the DPW are responsible for their own shortfalls, we should recognize that the party dropped the ball big time, in terms of both turnout and messaging in this election. It wasn't just the governor's race: the State Senate is still in Republican's hands. Heck, Democrats even lost a seat this year when there was a prime opportunity to take back that chamber.

How much responsibility the DPW will ultimately have to accept for this dismal election year is up for debate. I'm not one to call for pitchforks and torches, but this should be a major wake up call to leadership in the party that things need to change, and change fast, if we're ever going to fix this state.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mary Burke's character shows why she'll be a better leader for Wisconsin

Walker works to further his own ambitions and to appease his donors; Burke will work to serve out her constituents' wishes and preserve Wisconsin ideals

There are two different paths that the citizens of the state of Wisconsin can choose to take come Election Day.

One option is to take a path already forged by the sitting governor. Scott Walker’s vision for the state is to appease business interests, with less emphasis on actual constituents. Easing regulations that pollute our waterways or make it more difficult to prosecute workplace discrimination, among other items, seems to be the endorsed M.O. for the Walker administration.

But it isn’t just his policies that matter -- how Walker goes about governing is also of importance. His “divide and conquer” strategy is all at once both startling and effective, and it has resulted in an unprecedented era of partisanship that the state has traditionally been unfamiliar with.

His poor managerial style is also worth noting. Has Walker selected only the best and brightest to hold positions in the executive branch, or for other appointments? No -- in fact, Walker has selected political surrogates and sons of campaign contributors to fill these roles over more qualified applicants. For Walker, it’s again about appeasement, using these positions to placate those who support him, furthering his own ambitions while doing so.

A different path is available for us to consider, presented by Walker’s challenger Mary Burke. This vision for the state emphasizes cooperation over division, inclusion over subjugation. Whereas ideas from one singular party is the preference in Walker’s Wisconsin, Burke will seek input from all political corners of the state, be they Republican, Democratic, or other.

To be sure, there will be challenges with this path as well -- cooperation can often mean compromising of some ideals to get things accomplished. But this path, which brings Wisconsin’s politics back to it’s modest origins, is more preferable than the path created by Walker.

For that reason alone, Mary Burke has gained my support, and I endorse her without reservation to become the first female governor in state’s history.

Yes, there are other specific policies held by Burke that are worth pointing out. Her support for a raise in the minimum wage, towards restoring much needed funding for our schools, and to preserve our natural resources for the enjoyment and health of our citizens for generations to come, all deserve praise from voters on the campaign trail. Burke has also stood for empowering women’s rights, marriage equality for all Wisconsin couples, and preserving the right afforded for all citizens to vote.

But it is her commitment toward cooperation and open discussion that warrants serious consideration for her as a candidate for governor. Wisconsin will face several obstacles over the next four years, some of them known to us currently, but others we have yet to discover. For these unknown situations that may come about, no policy position discussed on the campaign trail will describe how one candidate will lead versus another. Rather, it is the character of the candidate which helps us to understand how these individuals will react to these spontaneous situations that come about.

Burke’s character as someone who seeks input from multiple sources sets her apart in a positive way. It is a trait that should be desired by the citizenry in any leader they select, and distances her from Walker, who seems to thrive on divisiveness and partisanship. In short, Walker bases policy decisions on what can further his donors’ needs or his own ambitions; for Burke, the motivations are much deeper and nobler than that.

Wisconsin would be better off without Scott Walker in office. It will move Forward with Burke as governor.

Lunchtime musings: GOP operative makes wild claims we should all ignore

The allegations against Mary Burke, that she was fired from Trek, are completely unfounded and should be ignored. Why the mainstream media is picking this story up is beyond me, and it's irresponsible journalism in my view.

Here's what we know:
Gary Ellerman, the man making the claim, was himself fired from Trek. He is a Republican Party operative, and is known for not necessarily playing by the rules -- he was one of several "fake Democrats" to run against legitimate candidates in the 2012 recall elections; 
The organization that "reported" the claim, Wisconsin Reporter, is hardly neutral. It is founded in major part by the Franklin Center, which itself has major financial dealings with conservative groups like the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Koch brothers, and the NRA; 
And Mary Burke's brother, John Burke, the current president of Trek, denies all allegations made against his sister. As the president of the company, who was present at the time of these allegations, he is the best person to consult when it comes to the veracity of these wild claims.
So why are we taking the word of a disgruntled former employee with political motivations, who spoke to a conservative media outlet in order to further his wild story? This is political junk at its worst, one week before the election. It should be ignored, and the Republican Party of Wisconsin should be ashamed of itself for promoting it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Wisconsin less safe under Walker's watch, concealed carry

Statistical analysis of crime data exposes crime rise in state during national plateau

In 2010, the year before Gov. Scott Walker took office, there were 97 gun related homicides in the state of Wisconsin.

This week, according to Wisconsin Public Radio, we’ve already reached that number for the year, with 65 days still remaining in 2014. If we keep up the current pace we should reach 118 gun homicides by the end of the year.

What has happened to have made Wisconsin (if it keeps this pace) surpass a 20 percent increase in annual gun-related homicides from 2010 to the present? Funding to police departments fell, in large part due to cuts to localities imposed by the Walker administration:
The governor's first budget, passed in 2011, delivered the single largest cut to shared revenue in a decade — $76 million, or 9 percent. Walker also imposed strict limits on local governments' ability to raise property taxes to make up for those cuts.
While not saying he is directly responsible for the crime rate increasing over the years, the Wisconsin Professional Police Association determined that due to those cuts, it could not endorse Walker in this year’s gubernatorial election, opting instead to support Democratic candidate Mary Burke.

There’s another important aspect worth pointing out: homicides from guns have increased as we’ve instituted concealed carry across Wisconsin.

During the concealed carry bill ceremony in 2011, Walker stated, “By signing concealed carry into law today we are making Wisconsin safer for all responsible, law abiding citizens.”

While we can’t definitively say that concealed carry is responsible for these crime increases, we can look closely at the evidence and say that Gov. Walker’s assertion that the state would be safer with the law in place is patently false.

We now see that Wisconsin isn’t safer under Walker’s watch. Having citizens carry guns around didn’t make us safer, either. And cutting funding for municipalities by huge margins may have contributed to lower budgets for law enforcement, making crime a rising problem in the state, at a time when the rest of the nation is seeing relatively unchanged crime stats.

How could anyone who wants a safer Wisconsin support Walker’s re-election bid? It’s time to face reality, and to start fresh with a new governor. Wisconsin’s safety is depending on it.

Friday, October 24, 2014

"Angry Madison" remarks confirm Walker is ignoring the concerns of many residents

"Divide and conquer" politics still the go-to strategy for embattled governor

Gov. Scott Walker recently talked about the role that the city of Madison will play in the upcoming gubernatorial election:
There are a lot of people who love what we've done across the state. There are many people in Madison who are angry and they're going to vote no matter what. We have got to make sure that people who love what we do understand they have to come out just as strong. If they do, we'll win this election.
Emphasis added.

Describing Madison voters as “angry,” Walker refuses to confront the fact that as governor he’s meant to serve the entire state, not just the “WOW” counties. Rather than do that, however, Walker goes to his trusted strategy of “divide and conquer,” an offensive maneuver to say the least.

By making the conversation into “us-versus-them,” Walker hopes to villainize the people of Madison so that the rest of the state targets Dane County instead of him.

Madison residents are part of this state, too, and they’re entitled to support the policies and candidates they prefer. Calling Madisonians “angry” is a sad attempt to delegitimize those preferences, to make it seem as though blind rage against him, and not Walker’s record, motivates voters.

More importantly, Madison isn’t the only place upset with the governor’s performance over the past four years. It’s just not mathematically possible, and even if you toss Milwaukee in with us, there are still other parts of the state upset with Walker.

The latest Marquette Law School Poll survey sample (PDF), for example, was only 25 percent Dane County and Milwaukee County respondents. Even if you believe that these two jurisdictions are 100 percent anti-Walker (they’re not), that leaves a significant portion of the state still opposed to him and his policies.

The disappointing aspect of Walker’s comments stem from the fact that the “angry” people he’s trying to stigmatize are citizens of the state he’s in charge of. Their concerns, and those of every citizen in Wisconsin, should be his as well.


While we’re on the subjects of heroes and villains, I want to address a comment I made four years ago, in an open letter to then Governor-elect Scott Walker. I was writing on the subject of the high speed rail project, which then-Gov. Jim Doyle decided to leave in the hands of the governor-elect.

In my closing remarks, I wrote:
I don't view you as a villain, Mr. Walker -- I believe that you truly care about Wisconsin, and though we may disagree on some issues, I know your heart is in the right place.
At the time, I had felt that, even if Walker didn’t share my views, he had the interests of the state in mind. Four years after making those remarks, I’m not so certain I’d write them again today.

I’m not sure Walker’s heart is guiding his actions, or that he cares about Wisconsin anymore. At the very least, his comments on “angry” Madisonians confirms that there are certain parts of the state he’d just as soon ignore.

But I suppose that’s how “divide and conquer” politics works.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Lunchtime Musings: Journal Sentinel wrong, Walker's failed jobs pledge matters

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board is downplaying the importance of Scott Walker's promise to create 250,000 jobs during his four years in office:
The Walker critics argue you should care about this. But you shouldn't. It's just not that important. Walker's promise was always more rhetoric than reality, a nice sound bite.
"A nice sound bite?" That's not what the Journal Sentinel called it when they endorsed Walker in 2010, and it's not the standard Walker placed on himself while running back then, calling the number his "floor," the minimum he would accept.

The Journal Sentinel would like you to believe that these pledges didn't matter. They also want you to think that "politicians don't create jobs."

But if politicians don't create jobs, then why was it acceptable in 2010 for the Journal Sentinel to endorse Walker in the first place, in part for his jobs promises? It doesn't add up.

I wrote last month that Gov. Walker's pledge does matter. If it doesn't, then what's stopping him from making it again, or even doubling it? At what point is a politician meant to be held to their promises? And if we say it's no big deal, are other campaign promises fair game for dismissal too? Why make pledges at all?

The Journal Sentinel is wrong -- Walker's jobs promise DOES matter, and it's a failed promise that deserves to be recognized.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

At long last, the Republican Party answers my question: yes, they think we’re stupid.

Co-chair of national party, at an event featuring Lt. Gov. Kleefisch, makes embarrassing comment about state voters' collective intelligence

I’ve asked several times on this blog whether Republicans think we’re stupid.

In August, I asked if Scott Walker and state Republicans thought we were dumb for an ad they ran, in which the governor pinned the loss of 133,000 jobs on Jim Doyle rather than the global economic recession that occurred during his tenure:
[The ad] catches the attention of its viewers, but it also causes anyone with a critical mind to question: just how gullible, how stupid does Gov. Scott Walker think the average voter is?
And when he repeated the line days later, I asked again: does Walker really think we’re stupid?
This campaign of lies isn’t just disingenuous -- it’s also relying on the hope that the people of Wisconsin can’t remember the events of the past ten years. Walker is banking on the average voter -- you, me, your Aunt Irene, and so forth -- of having the memory span of a goldfish in order to win a second term.
In June, I asked if state Republicans thought Wisconsin women were dumb based on the passage of an abortion bill that required, in many cases, transvaginal ultrasounds in order to give those seeking an abortion “a full understanding” of what the procedure entailed:
The law -- as it stands currently, before this atrocious bill was even proposed -- requires [women] to be told what happens, and encourages them to seek other options.

It’s not too extreme to assume that Wisconsin Republicans think that women are dumb. If Republicans can’t trust women to make an informed choice after being counseled, waiting 24 hours, being offered an ultrasound, and generally being hounded by the issue, then it’s no wonder why Mary Lazich and her colleagues think women need more information in the form of an invasive ultrasound.
And again in February, I asked if WISGOP thought we were all dummies for not agreeing with them that the loss of 133,000 jobs during the recession was all Mary Burke’s fault:
Do the Republicans of this state, and moreover the national Republican Governors Association, think we can’t piece together recent history to understand that these losses can’t be blamed on Burke, for not just one but two reasons (the recession, and her being out of office at the time)?
After several months of silence, I figured that my facetious attempts to get the Republican Party to fess up were all ignored. Then, the co-chair of the national Republican Party, in a campaign event alongside Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, made it clear: yes, Virginia Wisconsin, they do think we’re stupid.
Sharon Day, the co-chair, told the audience, “It’s not going to be an easy election, it’s a close election. Like I said, much closer than I can even understand why.

“I don’t want to say anything about your Wisconsin voters but, some of them might not be as sharp as a knife.”
Emphasis in bold added.

I honestly didn’t expect a truthful answer from someone so high up in the party. But there it is, out in the open. And more importantly, the second half of the ticket, Lt. Gov. Kleefisch, didn’t dispute those words at that event.

They truly think we’re stupid.

Monday, October 20, 2014

For a real conversation on student debt, Mary Burke is the best choice

A tuition freeze is nice, but Walker won’t address student debt problem

On the campaign trail for governor, we often hear so much from candidates that what they really are saying to us doesn’t get the proper attention it deserves. The subject of college loan student debt is one of those issues.

Gov. Scott Walker talks a big game about his record on student loans. He frequently cites the fact that he put into place a tuition freeze across the UW system (although he neglects to point out in his first budget there was an 11 percent tuition hike.

While a freeze is helpful, it doesn’t fix the problem. It’s like turning off the faucet when you have a clogged up sink. Sure, there’s less water in the basin, but you’ve still got a mess to deal with in the pipes.

Tuition freezes are the first step towards fixing the bigger problems associated with the debt crisis. What Walker’s plan for student debt lacks, however, is the next step: finding a way to lower the burden on Wisconsin students so that they won’t be saddled with decades of debt after they graduate.

So who among the gubernatorial candidates is leading the call for student debt reform? Why, Democrat Mary Burke, of course!
The UW tuition freeze was a step in the right direction, but we need to do more to make college affordable for students, including bringing down the cost. That's why I support a plan to refinance student loan debt and would allow middle-class families to deduct more in tuition and fees associated with attending college on their taxes as a way to lessen dependence on costly student loans.
Burke described the tuition freeze as the best policy to be enacted during Walker’s tenure. Yet more needs to be done -- a tuition freeze is a stopgap measure, but it doesn’t make things easier for students in the long-run.

What’s Walker’s plan to help students? Another tuition freeze. Again, that’s a good first step...but it’s not a very effective second or third step. Unless something else is done, what good does a freeze do? Students are still paying huge bills, and the freeze itself doesn’t address that.

Let’s allow students the chance to refinance their debt. Let’s create more tax deductions for education. And let’s have an open conversation about how to really attack student debt, and how to make college more affordable to every Wisconsin family.

We’ll get that conversation with Mary Burke as governor. With Scott Walker...not so much.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Under Walker’s tenure, recovery is STILL at a slower pace than it was under Doyle's last year

Latest jobs numbers represent one month of recovery; during other 44 months, Walker’s average rate of growth has been grudgingly slower

**Note** When I first wrote this post, the job numbers I calculated for Gov. Walker were too generous. This post has been updated with more accurate data

We’re less than one month away from an election featuring Gov. Scott Walker, so it should come as no surprise that a jobs report with positive numbers is being scrutinized.

While the report shows that Wisconsin gained 8,400 private sector jobs in September, we ought to remain skeptical. These types of reports, after all, are misleading, based on a survey of less than 4 percent of businesses, and are terribly unreliable.

But don’t take my word for it: that’s what Gov. Scott Walker and his administration have said in the past about these reports in the months leading up to his recall election.

During the last month of the recall campaign, Walker instead cited the state’s quarterly jobs report, which relied on a higher number of businesses surveyed (more than 19 out of every 20 establishments in the state). That survey was released a whole month before it was originally scheduled, a move that some said was done for political rather than practical reasons.

In response, Walker’s administration began releasing those quarterly jobs reports early from that point forward, to at least carry some semblance of consistency. These reports, after all, were the “gold standard,” much better than those phony monthly numbers.

But something happened in the meantime, long after the recall: we were able to compare those quarterly reports to other states’ reports. Wisconsin wasn’t faring too well compared to the rest of the country, nor in the Midwest specifically.

In fact, Wisconsin is dead last in the Midwest in these quarterly reports under Walker’s watch. Despite an errant report from a supposedly neutral news source, from December 2010 to December 2013, Wisconsin grew 93,395 jobs, a four-year rate of growth of 4.11 percent. For comparison, here’s a chart of the states that border Wisconsin, and their rate of growth during the same three years:

As you can see, Wisconsin did not do so well in the first three years, falling behind our border states, and indeed the Midwest region overall.

So what about this latest month? We supposedly gained 8,400 new jobs in September (PDF), and that IS good news. But looking at the bigger picture shows we’re still facing problems.

From the start of this year to the month of this latest jobs report, Wisconsin grew 23,400 jobs. That sounds like a lot, but keep in mind, if we stay at this pace, we’ll create around 31,200 jobs for the year. That’s a slower rate than the last year of former Gov. Jim Doyle’s tenure, when the state created around 33,658 jobs.

In fact, the entirety of Walker’s tenure -- the supposed “Wisconsin Comeback” -- is a slower pace than the Doyle year of recovery. In Gov. Jim Doyle’s last year in office, Wisconsin grew jobs at a rate of about 2,805 jobs per month. In the 45 months since he’s taken office, Wisconsin under Scott Walker’s watch has grown jobs at about 2,473 jobs per month. It might not seem like much, but job growth under Walker is nearly a tenth slower than it was under the first year of recovery under Doyle.

(Chart reflects average monthly job creation from Jan 2010 to present)

Remember that Gov. Walker consistently derides Democratic candidate Mary Burke for proposing that we go back to the way we did things under Doyle, whose administration she briefly served as Commerce secretary for. But maybe we’d be better off under those policies.

We had a faster rate of job recovery, after all, when Doyle’s policies were still in play. And while we can’t necessarily attribute job growth to those policies, we can at least say they didn’t deter a faster recovery than what we’ve seen so far under Walker’s watch.


One more thing to watch out for: these monthly jobs numbers are subject to significant revisions; in some cases they’re altered by several thousands of jobs in the opposite direction. The Walker administration used to point that fact out in their releases. Now that they’re showing positive numbers, that disclaimer is no longer prominently featured in the report.

Next month will be the first revision of those numbers. It will come, however, too late, after the election for governor will have already taken place.

Funny how that works out.

Monday, October 13, 2014

WMC leaves out corporate-employee tax gap in misleading propaganda campaign

Other claims in videos, including that lower corporate taxes create jobs, are also misleading

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the campaign arm of the Chamber of Commerce-like organization in Wisconsin, is hoping to “educate” the workers of this state.
Wisconsin’s Chamber of Commerce (WMC) is urging employers to educate their employees about how government policies affect their employees’ livelihood in an innovative series of animated videos, WMC announced Monday.

“We are launching a series of animations that employers can email to their workers or post on their company social media sites to help workers understand the importance of good public policy,” said Kurt R. Bauer, WMC President/CEO.
In other words, through a series of whiteboard animations, the WMC is launching a propaganda campaign meant to misinform the typical Wisconsin worker.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Burke/Walker debate recap: thoughts on voter ID, the minimum wage and abortion

A commentary on three items from Friday night’s gubernatorial debate

The first gubernatorial debate is past us now, and while many have offered their opinions already on the several topics discussed between Mary Burke and Scott Walker, I figured I should throw my two cents in as well.

I’m not going to go line-by-line about the debate, though I certainly could. Burke gave some great answers to questions and held her own against the incumbent Walker. That in itself is a victory, but she did more than just debate well: she offered a concrete vision of what kind of governor she would be should she win election on November 4.

Those who had been skeptical of Burke in the past ought to re-examine their concerns with her as a candidate following her performance on Friday night. Despite no huge news-making statements from herself or blows to Walker, Burke was stellar on the debate stage, touting progressive ideals and appealing to voters across the state.

While I won’t talk about every issue that was brought up I do want to give my opinion on three topics that caught my attention during the debate: voter ID, the minimum wage, and abortion.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

DWD says "public aid" helps those on minimum wage, but Walker diminished aid for thousands

Two parents on minimum wage no longer qualify for BadgerCare

Gov. Scott Walker's administration stated this week that they determined $7.25 an hour was a livable wage. They cited, among other things, that state "public aid" helps make it so.

Two parents working minimum wage jobs earn around $30,160 a year. Before Walker, their family would have indeed qualified for BadgerCare coverage. 

But now, because of Walker's health care "reforms" and refusal to accept federal Medicaid funds, they no longer qualify. They're on their own.

So the "public aid" that supposedly makes $7.25 a livable wage is, in many cases, gone because of Walker.

The minimum wage, even with help from the state, is a challenge to survive on. But shame on both the Department of Workforce Development and on Walker himself for saying aid makes it easier, especially after this very administration took said aid away.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Does marriage equality still play a role in this year's election? Two words: Rebecca Kleefisch

Past comments from the current Lt. Gov. should cause some to question whether she would be a good governor, should Walker pursue the presidency

With the recent decision of the Supreme Court to not review appeals on bans of same-sex marriage from Wisconsin and several other states, one has to wonder: does marriage equality matter anymore in state politics, or more specifically in this year's elections?

You bet it does. Gov. Scott Walker may not be vocal about his stance on marriage equality anymore, but his Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch has said quite a bit on it in the past. These comments are truly worrisome, and indicate that Kleefisch might not be a responsible leader should she assume the post of governor in the future.

While running in 2010, Kleefisch was vocal about the same-sex marriage issue, comparing the practice to that of bestiality and other relationships.

“At what point are we going to OK marrying inanimate objects?” Kleefisch once asked rhetorically in a radio interview. “Can I marry this table, or this, you know, clock? Can we marry dogs? This is ridiculous.”

Kleefisch survived that controversy four years ago, and remains on the gubernatorial ticket today. As lieutenant governor, she would become governor herself should Scott Walker choose to resign his office.

Since Gov. Walker probably intends to run for president, his resignation is a real possibility, meaning “Can I marry this table” Rebecca Kleefisch could very well become governor if he’s re-elected this fall.

It would probably not affect the marriage equality decision much, but having someone in office that understands the difference between marriage among two consenting adults and marriage between animals and furniture would be a good thing. For starters, it would put more maturity into the office. But more importantly, it would put someone respectable, on this issue and on many others, in the position of governor.

If you want to avoid a Kleefisch governorship, you need to support Mary Burke for governor. It’s clear that Walker will run for president at this point, but only if he wins another term in his current position. Let’s hope, for the sake of thousands of families across the state, that doesn’t happen.

MARRIAGE EQUALITY IS LAW! Supreme Court refuses WI appeal on same-sex marriage

Appeals court decisions in five states brings equality across the nation closer to reality

UPDATE 10:29 AM >>> A couple of reactions from the gubernatorial candidates:

UPDATE 10:10 AM >>> Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell released the following statement after the Supreme Court ruling was issued today: "Based on the Supreme Court’s denial of Cert and advise of the Dane County Corporation Counsel’s office, my office will again be issuing same sex marriage licenses today. Our hours will be the normal 8 to 4pm for licenses."

The U.S. Supreme Court today rejected hearing a slew of cases on same-sex marriage, effectively allowing appeals court decisions in several states to become the rule of law.

That means in Wisconsin, gay and lesbian couples can now wed. Previously, a week-long period of marriages occurred when Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that denying same-sex couples marriage licenses was a violation of the Equal Protection clause in the U.S. Constitution. Crabb later put a stay on her decision, leaving in doubt the validity of marriage licenses for over 500 couples in the state.

Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen sought to appeal that decision in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. In a three-judge decision, that court determined that Crabb’s initial ruling was proper, and reaffirmed that same-sex marriages should be allowed in the state.

Judge Richard Prosner, an appointee of Ronald Reagan, questioned why the law was needed in the first place, calling it ridiculous and absurd in the decision he wrote.
”These people and their adopted children are harmed by your law,” Judge Richard Posner said of gay and lesbian couples who are barred from getting married. “The question is, what is the offsetting benefit of your law. Who is being helped?”
Rather than accepting that opinion, JB Van Hollen further appealed the decision to the Supreme Court late this past summer. Today, the High Court determined it would not hear his, nor any other state’s, appeal currently on the docket.


This decision is welcomed news for the state of Wisconsin. For too many years, gay and lesbian couples have been treated as second-class citizens when it came to their unions. Domestic partnerships provided some relief, but on other issues -- such as adoption rights, tax benefits, hospital visitations, and more -- couples were denied essential rights necessary for families to function in the real world. The ban essentially created a separate AND unequal status to these couples and to their children.

Both Gov. Scott Walker and AG Van Hollen stood in the way of marriage equality in the state in recent months. Walker took an indirect role in the whole matter, stating that his hands were tied since the law was a state constitutional amendment.

He easily could have swayed his attorney general’s decision to appeal by stating his support for letting go of the ban. Instead, in an election year where the governor wants to appear both conservative and moderate, Walker took a cowardly position of trying to seem like he held none at all.

While Wisconsin now has marriage equality, several states across the nation are still lagging behind. The decision by SCOTUS means that only those states that have appealed to them will receive marriage equality status, meaning only five additional states will see equality realized today.

But that’s a step in the right direction. As “the arc of the moral universe” bends towards justice, so too will marriage equality be realized across all fifty states of our union. It will remain a long and arduous path to take, but today’s declaration is a step closer towards equality for all couples, all families across the nation.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

PolitiFact Wisconsin's latest rating on Mary Burke is "Mostly Bunk"

Fact-checking site misrepresents candidate Mary Burke with its latest rating

I have mixed feelings when it comes to PolitiFact, the fact-checking site that makes rulings based on statements made by politicians, pundits, and candidates for office.

I’ve cited PolitiFact on this site several times. I’ve also come to understand that, while their articles usually contain a good measure of information in them, reading only their ratings on statements is a good way to remain misinformed on issues. The ratings, in fact, are largely subjective to whoever is making them, and in many cases they ignore the very rating system that they have set up in the first place.

The PolitiFact Wisconsin site recently commented on Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke’s assertion that Wisconsin has “fallen to dead last in Midwest job growth” under Gov. Scott Walker.

They rated that statement as “False.” And they're wrong.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Lunchtime musings: Burke didn't proofread, but Walker's scandals are truly worrisome

Let's examine Scott Walker's record, specifically his scandals,  and compare him to Mary Burke.

He's sending state workers to political events, a violation of the necessar separation between state and electoral spheres.

There was improper coordination between his campaign and third party groups, in an apparent effort to hide campaign cash during his recall.

He has consistently hired and promoted political allies, not to mention family members of high-paying donors, over more qualified employees in state government jobs.

Finally, let's not forget the secret email router system that linked government workers mere steps from his desk to his 2010 campaign activities, a clear violation of campaign ethics and rules.

In spite of all of these scandals, and then some, Gov. Walker has the nerve to call Mary Burke untrustworthy?

Burke's biggest "crime" is that she didn't proofread a document. We can't say the same for Walker, who's biggest crime may turn out to be a real one.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Scott Walker: A Failure in Job Creation (Video)

Latest "Video Heat" showcases how much we've struggled to create jobs under Gov. Walker's watch

Here's my latest "Video Heat" video, examining the job creation record under current Gov. Scott Walker.

With a little more than three months to go until his first term is up, Walker is barely 40 percent of the way towards fulfilling his 2010 jobs pledge. This, and more failures in the video.

Monday, September 29, 2014

First Lady's presence in Wisconsin more effective than a duo of scandal-clad governors

Michelle Obama's appearance alongside Mary Burke probably did more good than having Gov. Chris Christie alongside Gov. Scott Walker

Here’s the difference between the two political “celebrities” (for lack of a better word) that visited the Badger State today.

On the left, you had First Lady Michelle Obama. What comes to mind when you think about her? Someone who dares to push for a better America. Someone who doesn’t settle for “good enough,” who thinks that our nation can rise to greatness, even in the shadows of adversity. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m inspired by this woman, and I think that her presence in Wisconsin was a positive one, and very helpful for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mary Burke.

On the right, you had New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stumping for current Gov. Scott Walker. Let’s not kid ourselves -- Christie is seen as a rising star on the conservative side, someone who represents the future of the GOP. But let’s also not forget that he's also embroiled in a scandal, with his administration accused of misuse of government resources to score political payback against a community leader that didn’t want to endorse Christie back in his own re-election bid.

Walker himself is surrounded by scandal, ranging from cronyism, illegal use of state resources, and improper coordination between campaigns, among other items. Whether Christie is popular or not across the nation, having these two scandal-clad governors together merely reinforces a meme that Walker would rather have Wisconsinites soon forget.

Both Michelle Obama and Chris Christie did what they were meant to do today, and that is encourage the base. When it comes to luring independent and undecided voters (however few there may be remaining), who was more effective? For my money, I’m betting on the First Lady.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Lunchtime musings: En banc decision further proves the need to delay voter ID

The divided en banc decision of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals doesn't necessarily validate the voter ID law. If anything, it demonstrates more reason to delay its implementation.

The court could not come to a comprehensive decision, which shows that at least half of its judges realized the complexities of implementing an ID law just weeks before an election. Confusion of voters and registration problems will abound.

I previously called on Gov. Scott Walker to delay voter ID for this election season. If an appellate court is divided on this issue, it stands to reason that it's an important topic not to be taken lightly, and deserves more review before it's just suddenly thrusted upon the citizenry a mere month before Election Day.

Walker should still delay its enforcement to ensure voting rights are preserved for this election cycle.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Attention to 100-year old statute makes it clear: we're failing our neediest

Scott Walker, other political leaders, demonstrate moral decline when it comes to minimum wage workers

Wisconsin Jobs Now, an organization dedicated to empowering workers in the state, has brought attention to a statute on the lawbooks, more than 100-years old, that requires employers to pay a livable wage. It’s their hope that in doing so, Wisconsin lawmakers will be coerced (or forced) to raise the minimum wage.

It’s really ridiculous -- not on the organization’s part, but rather the fact that it might take an obscure law like this to force action from the state.

The minimum wage as it stands today isn’t livable -- and that makes it morally reprehensible. Those lawmakers who stand in the way of raising it do so at the detriment of thousands of their own constituents, who work hard every day and struggle to make ends meet when the paycheck finally comes.

If ever a law could be needed to improve the lives of people, to improve our own moral standing, the minimum wage is it. We owe it to those who continue to struggle day-in and day-out to raise the wage, if only to say that we as a people are empathetic to their needs and concerns.

One candidate for governor, Democrat Mary Burke, supports raising the wage to a livable standard. Republican Gov. Scott Walker, on the other hand, calls it a “political stunt.” Don’t forget that when you go to the polls this November.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Air Force removes "so help me God" requirement, and more thoughts on religion

No religious tests should ever be required for those willing to serve

The decision to make optional the phrase “so help me God” at the end of the oath for enlistment into the U.S. Air Force is the right move to make. What’s surprising isn’t the sudden policy change, but rather that it took this long to happen.

I’m not an atheist, but I’m often erroneously called one by those who know my views on Church and State. In spite of those short-sited accusations, I do believe in God, and celebrate my specific religious beliefs where it’s appropriate to do so.

My religious beliefs stop with me. Going beyond my own being, and demanding others to accept my beliefs as their own, goes against my moral thinking. Similarly, requiring those enlisting to serve their country to speak the words “so help me God” -- whether they are religious or not -- is a violation of the tenets our nation was founded upon.

Lunchtime Musings: Vukmir, Darling hold Walker to a lower standard

Republicans in the state continue to make absurd accusations and demands.

Now they are calling on Mary Burke to drop out of the race for governor.

Nevermind the fact that it was a subordinate's use of "plagiarism" that created this mess, not actually Burke. And never mind also that this person used their own words from previous documents of their own writings, negating claims of plagiarism itself.

No, Burke apparently acted so egregiously in this instance, according to Republicans, that she MUST drop from the race.

For those keeping track at home, questionable "plagiarism" is more terrible than any action of Governor Scott Walker's, including cronyism, secretive email systems on the taxpayer's dime, illegal collaboration between campaigns and issue groups, appointments to offices based on donor contributions and proximity to the governor himself, and lest we forget, broken campaign promises on jobs.

If Burke has to drop out over this small incident, what action would be amiable for Walker too take? Scandal seems to follow him wherever he goes. Yet, the GOP overlooks it all.

Does Walker need to be held accountable to the same degree, or does the "R" after his name render him a free pass? Please let us know, Sens. Leah Vukmir and Alberta Darling.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

WISGOP response to hyped-up “scandal” goes overboard, ignores "sad days" under Walker

Republicans in the state blow Burke scandal out of proportion, and ignore the scandals under the head of their party

Let’s set the record straight: plagiarism is a bad thing. There’s no doubt about it. Taking someone else’s original ideas and claiming them as your own is morally, ethically, and at times legally wrong.

Now, it’s questionable whether Mary Burke or her campaign engaged in actual plagiarism. An article at the New Republic explains it best:
So is Burke guilty of plagiarism? Of course not. She’s guilty of sharing a campaign consultant with other Democrats in her state.

... The Burke scandalette...[is] an instance of lazy p.r. tradecraft, and the consultant who “plagiarized” his own talking points has been fired for it.

... If a politician copy-pastes large segments of his academic thesis, it’s plagiarism. If he recites long passages taken from various sources in his speeches, it’s plagiarism. If he regurgitates the same sanitized Plan for AmericaTM as a fellow party member, it’s just message discipline working a little bit too well.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Value meal" tax breaks don't create jobs in Wisconsin -- and the latest jobs report proves it

Latest “gold standard” numbers proves that a strong consumer base is required to grow jobs.

The QCEW jobs survey -- called the “gold standard” of jobs surveys in the past by Gov. Scott Walker and his administration -- came out today. Once again, we see that Wisconsin performed poorly when it came to job creation. And when you look over the entire tenure of Walker’s time in office, it paints an even worse picture.

First quarter annual job growth (from March 2013 to March 2014) grew at 28,712 jobs. That puts Wisconsin 33rd in the nation in growth, below the national average and 10th out of 12 states in the Midwest over the year.

Lunchtime Musings: Voter ID? How about Corporate ID?

To partake in debate and exercise your speech rights, you are not required to show an ID. Nor are you culpable to felony charges for using your religious freedoms in whatever way you deem without identification.

So why the extra standards on voting?

Voting is only meant to be different in one way. You must prove you reside in the district you want to vote in. And you are capable of doing so without an ID.

Rampant fraudulent voting hasn't been an issue in Wisconsin. Yet now, this basic right requires an ID for participation.

If we are going to start requiring identification for the use of our rights, I have a suggestion: a Corporate ID law, one that requires corporations to disclose their expenditures for political purposes in the state. Failure to disclose should have similar penalties -- a hefty fine, jail time, and a felony record.

Such a plan would be more beneficial to our democracy than IDs at our polls.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lunchtime Musings: Walker should delay Voter ID

With tens of thousands of absentee ballot voters potentially deprived of their vote;

With handfuls of elections officials scrambling to determine a course of action on how to implement the new ID law;

And with an uncountable number of citizens lacking the proper paperwork, adequate time, or documents in their hands needed to enter the voting booth;

With all of these concerns in mind, voter ID ought to be delayed at least one more election cycle.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Why we should hold Walker to his 250,000 jobs pledge

Campaign promises will fail to mean anything if Walker's "good enough" attitude is acceptable

In 2010, then-candidate for governor Scott Walker made a lofty jobs pledge.

Walker said he would enact reforms that would create at least 250,000 jobs in his first term -- but with a little more than three months left until that time expires, the governor is about 150,000 jobs short of his pledge by most measures.

Monday, September 8, 2014

In one way, Walker's structural deficit is worse than Doyle's -- it came during a recovery

Gov. Scott Walker has no excuse for why the state's financial books are in disarray

Wisconsin is facing a $1.76 billion budget shortfall, and Gov. Scott Walker has no one to blame but himself and his Republican friends in the legislature -- the structural deficit is their own creation, and blame cannot be spun to portray it any other way.

Gov. Scott Walker (image by Gage Skidmore)
The new shortfall blunts the argument that Walker has made previously that he and his so-called “reforms” helped turn things around in Wisconsin. In campaign advertising, Walker continually says he turned things around in the budget, inheriting a deficit and creating a surplus.

Now, due to his irresponsible budgeting and election-year tax cut gimmicks, Walker is facing a significant budget shortfall of his own, one that couldn’t come at a more problematic time for the embattled governor. Walker currently trails Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke by four points in the latest poll, just two months out from election day.