Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mitch Henck wrongly supports putting marriage rights to a vote

Some rights go beyond democratic preference

Radio personality and political commentator Mitch Henck says we should let the states decide on the issue of marriage equality through a vote of the people.

Mitch Henck
“That way people can feel good about, it or accept defeat a lot more easily than if just a few judges decide for you,” he says.

OK then. Let’s presume that’s the best method. Let’s allow the states to decide same-sex marriage.

For that matter, let’s let the states decide on the issue of interracial marriage. Loving v. Virginia determined in the 1960s that bans on those marriages were unconstitutional. But it must have left people feeling uneasy after a “few judges” decided that, right? So let’s undo that decision.

For that matter, let’s undo Griswold v. Connecticut, which allowed women the right to contraception. Surely some religious groups had gripes with that decision as well.

And Brown v. Board of Education was a Court-decided case also. That one REALLY had people upset. But should that decision instead be left to a vote?

I think my point is clear here: some issues simply require an esteemed decision from the Supreme Court rather than a democratic vote. Democracy should not be two wolves and one sheep deciding what’s for dinner -- there are occasions when democratic preferences need to yield to fundamental rights.

Marriage equality is one such issue. Gay and lesbian couples deserve the same protections and recognitions for their unions that straight couples receive. The difference between so-called “traditional” marriages and same-sex marriages is negligible, especially when you realize marriage is a contract between two consenting adults.

Within that contract, certain privileges are bestowed upon a couple with regard to property, inheritance, taxation, and child custody, among a myriad of many other rights. In all there are more than 1,100 federal privileges granted to couples in legal marriages at the federal level, and more privileges at the state levels, too. Those privileges are unfairly denied to same-sex couples.

And Mitch Henck wants to leave it to a vote whether that changes?

Democracy is a powerful tool that can be -- and should be -- used to allow the people to determine the direction their governments take. But it shouldn’t be the only aspect of what makes society grow. Recognition of fundamental rights has long been an evolving process, and one that typically requires intervention from the courts to move forward.

Henck’s conclusion, that we ought to allow states the right to deny privileges if they deem it proper, ignores that concept. He’s right to say that a democratic vote would make people happier, even the losers who would have to accept that they are now in the minority.

But fundamental rights shouldn’t be determined by a simple majority. The prevention of rights requires more, a justification that can pass a test that deems the exercise of such rights a harm to society or to people in some possible way.

Marriage equality presents no such harm. The Supreme Court should declare it a protected right, and Mitch Henck should understand that democratic preference of the states should not overrule the freedoms these people are seeking.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

You might be on the losing side of the cultural wars when...

you have to resort to this:

apologies for my dirty windshield but these folks were on 4 overpasses today at rush hour between Silver Spring Dr and the Zoo Interchange on Highway 45 south going towards Milwaukee.
Now you'd think these are maybe just your typical bigoted anti gay wing nuts...sent out by the Wisconsin "Family Council"...but they're not.
As soon as I saw what the website on that banner was ( knew who was behind this.
None other then "Pastor" (and as a Christian I'm using that term loosely here) Matt Trewhella.
Who is he you might ask? He might not be on your radar cuz he wasn't on mine til about a year ago I happened to be watching the public affairs program called "In Focus" on WVCY (which bills itself as a local Christian tv station...but about 50% of the time they're promoting right wing politics) and this guy was on talking about this very Walker should "defy" federal judges and "tyranny" when gay marriage comes to the states.He's not joking.Take a look at this excerpt from his website once:
When the Supreme Court acts outside the parameters of the Constitution it is incumbent on the lesser magistrates, within their spheres of authority, to maintain allegiance to the U. S. Constitution and not blithely obey federal lawlessness.
Hence, when Walker states that “the federal courts have ruled so I must obey” he is hiding behind a lie; a fiction created by federal courts but repugnant to the very U.S. Constitution itself.
Nowhere are states compelled to a suicide pact with a lawless federal government. The people of the states should not be forced to accept a federal court which makes opinions repugnant to all common sense and the clear created order of God and says “two men or two women can marry.” Again, marriage and family is the core foundation upon which societies are built. Such a ruling is an attack upon family.
This isn't the first time this "pastor" has said anti gay things.
In 2013 he referred to LGBT folks as "filthy people"
“Your children would be getting perverted in their minds by these filthy people,” Trewhella claimed, before turning his venom to straight people who don’t condemn gays and lesbians: “I have no respect for people who are parents, who actually have children, and have no problem with homosexuality or homosexual marriage. They are the most base people on the planet to have totally abandoned every God-given vestige to protect your child from the filth of homosexuality, to blatantly go along with it is disgusting.”
“It’s disgusting to watch, it’s disgusting to see,” Trewhella said.
He also said this later on that year:
 During an October show on the supposed connections between the gay rights movement and pedophilia, Trewhella played the notorious 1961 Boys Beware PSA, which even he thought wasn’t anti-gay enough and actually “sold the foundations” for gay rights by calling homosexuality a “sickness” instead of sin.
“That’s what people used to think about homosexuality,” Trewhella said wistfully. “They still knew it was wrong, they knew it was disgusting, it was a bad thing and you were messed up in the head if you wanted to practice those types of sexual behaviors.”
“It’s the depraved nature of man and that’s why it needs to be suppressed through the force of law, otherwise it proliferates within the culture to the point now where homosexuals who can’t reproduce actually adopt other people’s children to raise them.”
He has a profile in the "Encyclopedia of American Loons" and for good reason.
He makes both Glenn Grothman and Julaine Appling look like moderates when it comes to right wing hate of gays.
The fact that this kind of person is not only a "Pastor" at a church (no matter how small it likely is) and even worse is allowed to spew hate like that on a "Christian" TV show just absolutely disgusts me.
But hey...if theres one thing thats clear its the fact that history will not be on the side of people like this 20 or even 10 years from now...and they know it.
Hence the desperate display today.

Call to Wanggaard's office turns up flimsy rationale for removing 48-hour gun waiting period

In four decades since waiting period went into effect, State Senator can point to only one incident, a questionable one at that

LISTEN to this story

State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine)
Yesterday I wrote a piece about why the governor and legislature were wrong to support a measure ending the 48-hour gun waiting period. I essentially said that deregulation of gun laws won't lead to a safer Wisconsin, providing examples in the state and elsewhere that such measures had failed.

I wasn't the only one who wrote about the 48-hour waiting period. State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) also had something to say, although his piece was largely in favor of removing the waiting period, a response to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's editorial scolding Republicans for scrapping the law.

The second paragraph in his piece caught my attention. In it, Wanggaard wrote:
For every gun violence story that the Journal Sentinel cited as a reason for this antiquated law, I could write an equally emotional story showing that a firearm saved a life or that the waiting period cost someone his or her life.
That bit in bold (my emphasis, not Wanggaard's) troubled me. I did a quick Google search and nothing of the sort really came up. Had the 48-hour waiting period cost anyone their life in the past?

I decided to do something about it. I called Wanggaard's Senate office in Madison and asked if there were any cases where this had indeed happened.

Wanggaard's aide supplied me with one example: Bonnie Elmasri, who lived in Wauwatosa in 1991.

You're reading that correctly: the reason Wanggaard opposes the 48-hour waiting period to purchase a gun is based on a crime committed more than 24 years ago. I pressed the aide, "Were there more examples that the Senator could give?" The aide was unaware of any such examples.

So it's just the one instance, we're left to presume, for why Wanggaard and other Republicans are so insistent this law needs to be repealed. But the case of Bonnie Elmasri is much more complicated than what Wanggaard is making of it.

Here's some background: Elmasri and her two children were brutally murdered by her husband in 1991. The two were in the middle of a nasty divorce, and it ended tragically in her family's murders and the assailant's suicide.

There are claims that Elmasri had attempted to purchase a gun. Indeed, arguments against the Brady Law were made around that time based on this incident, with some calling Elmasri the first "victim" of that bill.

But the claims are dubious at best -- the gun dealer making them couldn't definitively say that it was Elmasri who had asked to purchase a gun from him. And Elmasri's close family have gone on record as stating she would never have purchased a gun to begin with, and that, during that 48-hour period, her whereabouts were nowhere near a gun shop.

"My sister would never buy a weapon, never," said Gary Greenberg, Elmasri's brother. "I believe [the story is made up] entirely or that somebody called him up by the name of Bonnie, but that it was not my sister."

"We can account for almost every minute of the 48 hours" before she was killed, Greenberg added.

Then there's the omitted portion of the story: Elmasri reportedly let her estranged husband into her home, repeatedly. He didn't barge his way in. He was allowed into her home, despite her filing a restraining order against him.

That doesn't sound like the actions of a woman so fearful for her safety that she'd try to get a gun to defend herself. Which makes me wonder whether this incident is truly a catalyst for Wanggaard's reasoning, or instead a convenient tale for him and others to use in order to justify their support for removing reasonable waiting times for gun purchases.

To recap: when asked what incidents made removing the 48-hour waiting period such a priority, Sen. Van Wanggaard's office could point to only one story in the four decades since the waiting period was passed that he felt "cost someone his or her life." And upon closer inspection, that incident's outcome likely didn't involve the 48-hour waiting period at all.

Sen. Wanggaard needs to come clean and explain his true rationale for removing the waiting time for gun purchases. It will take more convincing now to demonstrate it has nothing to do with lobbying rather than personal conviction.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Here's a thought: Let's examine evidence before deregulating gun laws

Reasonable debate and examination of statistics relating to violence missing from debate over ending 48-hour waiting period

For a follow-up on this article, please click here.

Gov. Scott Walker will likely sign a proposed bill into law that would remove a 48-hour “cooling off” period for gun purchases across the state.

Current law on weapons purchases requires all gun sales to have a two-day waiting period. The bill, if signed by Walker, would eliminate that requirement.

It’s unclear who asked for this bill to be introduced in the first place. Its need is questionable as well -- no undue burden is placed on gun owners by requiring a waiting period, a fact you’d hear many of them admit to if asked.

Nevertheless, this bill’s passage into law is considered to be an inevitability, the latest in a line of laws passed by Republicans in the state legislature and signed by Walker dealing with the deregulation of gun ownership.

That’s troubling, and recent statistics demonstrate why. We can look to the concealed carry law as an example. Despite the governor claiming that it would make the state “safer for all responsible, law abiding citizens,” the rate of crime has actually increased since the time that concealed carry was passed, according to the FBI.

In 2011, the last year that concealed carry wasn’t implemented, the violent crime rate in Wisconsin was about 236.9 per 100,000 citizens. In 2013 that number was up to 277.9 per 100,000, a rate increase of 17 percent.

The number of murders committed through guns in the state have also seen dramatic increases. In 2011 there were 80 murders across the state that were carried out through the use of a gun. In 2014 an estimated 111 murders in Wisconsin involved a gun, an increase in gun-related murders of more than 38 percent.

These statistics should give us reason to worry. We can’t definitively say concealed carry was responsible for these sudden rises in crime, but we can see that it failed to fulfill Gov. Walker’s promise of making Wisconsin a safer place.

I worry that the removal of the 48-hour waiting period may have the same effect. A few years from now we might wonder whether allowing instant access to guns may have been a mistake.

It’s clear that any deregulation of gun laws needs careful thought and consideration by state lawmakers. We’re not getting that from our current class of Republican legislators, much less from Gov. Scott Walker.

We haven’t taken enough time to study the effects of removing the current law. For that, we might consider looking to South Dakota, which in 2009 removed its own waiting period for gun purchases. Statistics from that time to now should give lawmakers in our state ample reason to hesitate, to give similar legislation before them more thought before so carelessly endorsing it.

The rate of violent crime in South Dakota before they ended their waiting period for gun purchases was around 185.6 per 100,000. In 2013, four years after they removed the waiting period, that rate jumped up by more than 70 percent, to a rate of 316.5 incidents of violent crime per 100,000.

Again, we can’t say for sure that the removal of the waiting period was responsible for this rise in crime. But it shows once more that things didn’t get safer because of it.

Republican legislators have done the people of Wisconsin a disservice by fast-tracking this bill to Gov. Walker’s desk. Instead of passing laws based on careful thought and constituents’ concerns, they have ruled based on special interest lobbying and campaign donations.

Gov. Walker has an opportunity before him to make the right decision. Should it reach his desk, he should veto this bill, and ask for more consideration from the legislature before they pass anything similar onto him.

The question is, can we count on Walker to do the right thing? Or will he once more put his higher ambitions above the concerns of Wisconsin citizens? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Scott Walker earns Koch Brother endorsement through nefarious means

Walker has demonstrated his willingness to bend over backwards for Kochs while holding an office of public trust

Scott Walker has earned his first major endorsement as he contemplates running for president.

In front of a group of donors in Manhattan, David Koch, one half of the infamous Koch Brothers political machine, had high regards for Walker. And in private, some said that Koch preferred Walker over any other viable candidate.
“When the primaries are over and Scott Walker gets the nomination,” Mr. Koch told the crowd, the billionaire brothers would support him, according to a spokeswoman. The remark drew laughter and applause from the audience of fellow donors and Republican activists, who had come to hear Mr. Walker speak earlier at the event, held at the Union League Club.

Two people who attended the event said they heard Mr. Koch go even further, indicating that Mr. Walker should be the Republican nominee.
Emphases added.

And why shouldn’t the Kochs want Walker? In a recorded phone conversation, where Walker was pranked into believing he was speaking to the real David Koch, Walker implied that he would take a proverbial bat to state senators opposing his bill ending collective bargaining rights for state workers. He even insinuated he had considered putting agitators into the crowd to discredit protesters.

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, to hear such high praise for Walker emanating from David Koch. Even if it wasn’t him on the other side of the phone line, to hear Walker grovel to such an important donor like Koch must have been sweet music to his ears, even if what Walker was saying during that conversation might have been illegal.

It is worrisome that Walker would curry favor with someone like David or Charles Koch. These men are influential, that’s a certainty -- but it’s not because they are former leaders themselves. They have money. That is all that they bring to the table.

Those dollars are apparently enough to bend over backwards for in Walker’s (and many other candidates’) eyes. Do we really want to elect someone president who closes the doors to constituents but opens the lines to receive policy advice based on monetary merit?

To be fair, the eventual Democratic nominee for president will also likely have this problem, albeit from a name different than Koch. Money in politics, no matter which side it stems from, is problematic, and reform in our campaigns process is desperately needed to restore our true democracy.

But there appears to be no one else other than Walker who is so willing to ignore the will of the people in favor of the privileged few. It is hard to trust a man who is going to bend so easily to the whims of the wealthy to make them happy while holding an office of public trust.

The president is supposed to work for the people of this nation. How sure can we be that a President Scott Walker would do that?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Melissa Sargent's marijuana bill would benefit the state

Easing laws that aim to punish marijuana users the right direction to take

State Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) recently submitted a bill encouraging the legalization of marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes.
”Marijuana prohibition has not worked for Wisconsin. Ending this prohibition in our state would promote personal freedom and liberty, create financial opportunity, and increase safety and security in our communities. We have spent countless taxpayer dollars, imprisoned non-violent offenders, perpetuated falsehoods, and created a dangerous black market. This must end,” Rep. Sargent stated.
The bill has almost no chance of passing the Republican-held legislature. But Sargent is absolutely right to submit it nevertheless.

Rep. Melissa Sargent D-Madison
Marijuana poses no significant potential to harm society at-large. It’s no more dangerous than alcohol and no more unhealthy than conventional cigarettes. In some ways it’s healthier -- while people can overdose on alcohol it’s impossible to do so while smoking weed.

In plain English, it’s a drug that is on equal footing as other legal drugs already available to the public.

Sargent’s bill would require individuals to be over the age of 21 to recreationally use marijuana. We have the same standards on alcohol use. If both products produce the same results (that is, they both alter the state of mind of the user) then it only makes sense that this standard be uniform as well.

Legalizing marijuana makes sense from an economic point of view as well. Think of the number of people currently imprisoned because of marijuana. Now think of the money we’d save just by removing those people from jail.

Consider the revenue we’d gain by taxing marijuana. That alone makes it worthwhile to the state, which could stand to generate tens of millions of tax dollars if it implemented legalized weed.

But why submit the bill now, even when it will be impossible to pass? This bill draws attention to constituents and lawmakers alike. It opens up a conversation in communities across the state. And it does have support -- nearly half of Wisconsin residents support marijuana legalization.

If anything this bill accomplishes opening up the dialogue to a reasoned debate on marijuana policy in the state. Hopefully that debate will include facts, not fiction, on the drug itself. But this first step is necessary, and one we should applaud Rep. Sargent for taking.