Thursday, February 26, 2015

In Scott Walker's mind, the democratic right to protest is the same as ISIS

Governor compares 2011 Wisconsin Uprising to militant, violent fundamentalists

Earlier today, Gov. Scott Walker compared the citizens of Wisconsin, those who took to the streets to exercise their democratic rights to petition their government in 2011, to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an extremist organization of radical religious fundamentalists who engage in brutal acts of terror and murder.

“If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world,” Walker said confidently, closing a statement in which he described the need to go after ISIS directly.

It’s unclear whether Walker understands what President Barack Obama is doing currently with ISIS. Last year the president outlined his plan for targeted airstrikes against the terrorist organization, and just this month sent a war authorization package to Congress.

But whether Walker understands the president’s actions or not, one thing we can be certain on following these comments is that he has utter disdain and disgust for many of his constituents.

Making a comparison like this -- that protesters in Wisconsin are similar to ISIS -- should put to rest any lingering doubts about Walker’s governing style: it isn’t about doing what’s right for constituents, it’s about deflating and defeating your political opponents.

If Walker indeed feels this way about the protesters, then it’s a war for him, and always has been, to defeat those who stand in his way. We have every reason to believe this now, given these recent remarks and Walker’s own actions while in office.

A prank phone call Walker took in 2011 fits with this conclusion. Believing he was speaking to one of the Koch brothers, Gov. Walker said he had considered placing instigators in the crowds in order to discredit the protesters, choosing not to do so only after considering the ramifications of getting caught.

Comparing Wisconsin Uprising protesters to ISIS militants is completely unwarranted and disrespectful to the people Walker is supposed to be representing. Yes, it’s clear that those who showed up in 2011 to stand up against the end of collective bargaining rights probably didn’t vote for him. But that doesn’t mean Walker isn’t meant to represent those people in the office he holds. And it certainly doesn’t give him permission to compare those protesters to murderous, fundamentalist militants.

The duties of the governor are to serve the people of this state. It seems that, in the past four years, Scott Walker, perhaps willfully, has forgotten that.

#Solidarity with Wisconsin blogger Jeff Simpson

From our friends at Cognitive Dissidence comes some upsetting news to report: contributor Jeff Simpson, a survivor of cancer, has had a recurrence.
While Jeff is experiencing some anxiety, which is utterly understandable and perfectly normal, he is maintaining a very positive attitude and is confident that he will overcome this as he has every other obstacle.


Jeff and his family also invite us to join them in lighting a candle at 9 pm tonight in a show of solidarity and well-wishing.
You can also help Jeff and his family directly by donating funds to him at this difficult time. Go to Cognitive Dissidence to find out how, or go directly to the PayPal site here.

Hang in there, Jeff! We’re rooting for you! #Solidarity

Image via Cognitive Dissidence

How to respond to “Let’s just raise the minimum wage to $100 an hour!” -- A reference guide

Arguing on extremes in minimum wage debate makes no sense (or cents)

In the debate over raising the minimum wage, invariably someone who opposes raising it will make an irrational point. It goes a little like this:
“If raising the wage is SO GOOD for us, why should we stop at $10.10 an hour? Why not raise it to $20 an hour? Or $100 an hour? Huh??”
I’ve been dumbfounded by this question on many occasions. Not because it’s too complex for my mind to comprehend (though that opinion has been offered many times) but rather because it’s too simplistic to warrant an answer.

OF COURSE raising the minimum wage to outrageous levels would be a dumb idea. Admitting that point, however, seems to give these opponents a certain level of satisfaction. But the argument doesn’t stop there. There’s another side to the debate that these irrational naysayers are unconsciously making.

In arguing over raising the wage to these unheard of levels, these individuals are choosing to use an extreme argument. So go to the OTHER extreme -- argue about the hazards of having NO minimum wage. It would be ludicrous and detrimental to our society to get rid of the minimum wage completely, and no rational person would say otherwise (coincidentally, if the person argues in favor of eliminating the minimum wage, you know you’re arguing with an irrational person).

Use that as a starting point, or if needed, as “reset button” in your argument: you both agree that extremes in either direction are bad. So the argument isn’t about the extremes -- it’s about finding that common ground in the middle, where workers get paid a fair wage and employers aren’t overwhelmed paying it.

Once you agree to those terms, you can return to the original talking points. Show that the minimum wage isn’t just for teenagers. A raise in the minimum wage would primarily affect older workers, with 88 percent of those benefiting from a wage increase being over the age of 20. Most small businesses also support raising the wage as doing so would mean that more consumers could purchase their goods (it’s the Henry Ford effect -- he paid his workers a salary that allowed them to purchase his own product).

And of course, you can’t forget this one: the minimum wage, if it had kept pace with inflation since 1968, would presently be around $10.75 an hour. That means workers today are earning less than what their counterparts in the 1960s earned. How is that fair?

It’s true that some political debates warrant arguing in extremes, but the minimum wage debate isn’t one of them. A thoughtful dialogue on the merits of raising the wage to a reasonable rate requires both sides to argue earnestly. As much as opponents to a wage increase think they’re making a profound point, no one is arguing in favor of an extreme and unmanageable minimum wage.

So don’t let that talking point gain steam -- step on the brakes when someone makes that argument, and bring them back to reality.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Latest actual jobs count shows more Walker administration failure -- and RTW isn’t the cure

Wisconsin continues to "slow down" on job creation under Walker's policies

Probably sensing a day that the media would be focusing on protesters in the Capitol rotunda, the Department of Workforce Development released preliminary jobs numbers from its quarterly jobs report yesterday.

The data was once considered the “gold standard” by the Walker administration, until people started getting wise and realized that the data showed Wisconsin was dead last in job creation in the Midwest. These days, it hardly warrants acknowledgement of any kind from the governor.

The data released yesterday can’t yet be compared to other states because it's released early. The federal report, which comes out next month, will provide a detailed analysis on where Wisconsin stands with the rest of the country. For now, we can only look at Wisconsin’s year-by-year comparison.

By that standard Wisconsin had yet another troubling year (PDF), its second-worst third quarter showing since Walker took office.

Data obtained from Bureau of Labor Statistics and WI DWD

The bottom line? The best year we’ve seen since Walker became governor had mostly to do with a Doyle budget (the blue bar in the graph above). Walker’s first budget didn’t take effect until June of 2011. The third quarter report from 2011 therefore includes nine months of Jim Doyle’s Democratic budget and three months of Scott Walker’s Republican budget.

Even with only nine months of Democratic policies in place, Wisconsin faired significantly better. In fact, the third quarter report from 2014 is roughly a 33 percent slower growth rate than the rate from 2011. In fact, if we had kept pace with the third quarter 2011 numbers, we’d have 42,438 more jobs today.

Would right to work legislation create more jobs in the state? Probably not (conservative pundits even admit to this). It may stimulate minimal job creation, but nothing the size Republicans are suggesting it would. And in many ways, right to work could HURT job creation in many sectors by further stifling demand in the state.

Here's how: Right to work states notoriously pay their workers less for the same jobs pro-worker states perform. With less income, workers will typically spend less, which hurts businesses elsewhere. And if businesses can’t see a significant boost in both profits and demand, they won’t have a reason to hire new workers themselves.

Right to work is not a remedy this state needs to be implementing, especially if it wants to focus on job creation. All it will do will hurt middle class families, which in turn will produce less demand in the state’s economy overall. That is a recipe for slower job growth.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Walker decries "gotcha" journalists, pulls his own "gotcha" on Wisconsin

If Walker can't handle media pressure, he shouldn't be running for president

More nonsense from Gov. Scott Walker (emphasis in bold mine):
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker let out his frustration with the media this weekend over Twitter, an attempt to regain control of the narrative surrounding his refusal to comment on former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s remarks questioning whether Obama “loves” America.

On Saturday, Walker decried the media’s “gotcha game,” and on Sunday he tweeted a selfie of himself and his son visiting the White House with the rest of the governors in town for the National Governors Association meeting.
Wisconsinites across the state should take real offense to Walker characterizing the media as playing a “gotcha game.” This is legitimately disturbing stuff: the governor of our state can’t say for certain whether the president loves America or not. He won't even say whether Obama is a Christian or not, which the president has pointedly shown on numerous occasions that he is.

Which is a huge implication in itself when you think about it. If Walker doesn’t know, then it means he believes there might be some truth to the idea that Obama doesn’t love America, which is absurd on its face. The only people who believe that Obama lacks love for the nation are extremists in the Republican Party.

Unfortunately for Walker, he has to court those extremists (and their views) in order to get the nomination for president. So he has to look like a fool in front of the national press -- resulting in what he calls “gotcha” journalism.

Here’s another maddening line from Walker’s courtship of the tea party-extremist base (h/t to Cognitive Dissidence) (emphasis in bold mine):
Walker argued that when Reagan fired the PATCO air-traffic controllers over their illegal strike, he was sending a message of toughness to Democrats and unions at home as well as our Soviet enemies abroad. Similarly, Walker believes his stance against unions in Wisconsin would be a signal of toughness to Islamic jihadists and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Seriously. Scott Walker believes that he’s standing up to Putin and jihadists when he abolishes workers’ rights.

This isn’t a “gotcha game.” This is legitimately scary stuff. Walker thinks that his actions somehow affect national policy. If he thinks for one second that Vladimir Putin is scared of him because of how he acted in Madison, then Walker’s ego is even larger and more troublesome than I originally thought.

Walker didn’t run on right to work -- he explicitly called it a “distraction.” He didn’t run on ending collective bargaining in 2010 either -- he said he was prepared to negotiate with unions. Instead he ran as an extremist disguised as a typical Wisconsin guy, who upon getting sworn in had only one thing to say to us all:


Friday, February 20, 2015

Why didn't Walker answer "Yes" when asked whether Obama loves America?

Walker chooses to incite more ignorance and fear-mongering instead of leading on question of Obama's "love" for America

After being joined by Rudy Giuliani this past week at an event where Giuliani questioned the love that President Obama has for the country, Gov. Scott Walker was asked today “Do you think the president loves America?”

Walker answered:
I assume most people in this country love America. And to me I don’t think it’s worth getting into the battle over whether he does or he doesn’t. He can handle that himself. I know I do. And I know there are great people in this country who love this country and who ... feel this country’s exceptional and it doesn’t necessarily align by party. I think there are Republicans and Democrats and plenty of people in between. I’ve never asked the President so I don’t really know what his opinions are on that one way or another.
Here’s what he SHOULD have said:
That’s the easy answer. And it’s the right answer. So why wasn't it the answer Walker gave?

Walker had a chance to lead on this – to look rational, and to answer in a way that seemed reasonable. He chose to fan the flame of ignorance and intolerance instead.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs...Scott Walker?? Really??

Walker turns questions about his degree into attacks on higher education

Gov. Scott Walker doesn’t think that having a college degree should impede him on his quest to become president. I for one agree – it’s not necessary to have a degree in order to succeed in this life, though it does often help a great deal.

Still, it shouldn't be the sole determination over whether someone is qualified to hold office. Much like religion, an individual’s level of education shouldn't restrict them one way or another when it comes to which office they want to shoot for.

But Scott Walker makes many assumptions when he defends his not having a college diploma. Among the more absurd, he lists himself among notable non-degree holders such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg.
"I think there's a lot of Americans out there who scratch their head and say, we have people who helped found Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, plenty of other successful businesses, enterprises across this country, did exactly the same sort of thing I did – have an opportunity to start a career, have an opportunity to start a business, senior in college, went out and did it," Walker said.
That’s great and all, but the comparison to Walker and these great minds is laughable.

Gates, Jobs, and Zuckerberg formed billion-dollar companies that are celebrated for their ingenuity, used the world over because they are beneficial to business and personal use alike.

Scott Walker – well, he cut taxes for rich folk, which resulted in a dismal Wisconsin economy when compared to the rest of the nation. In short, his contrast between himself and those other three names doesn’t stack up.

Now we’re faced with a $2.2 billion budget shortfall, a deficit twice the size of his predecessor’s, and deferred debt payments that future Wisconsinites will have to deal with. That’s Walker’s real legacy, and no narrative of his can ever change that.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Oregon set to have nation's first openly serving LGBT governor

Brown's ascension the latest step forward for LGBT rights

The state of Oregon is set to have the first openly serving LGBT governor in America’s history.

After being embroiled in controversy, current Gov. John Kitzhaber has announced he will step down from office. He will be replaced by Secretary of State Kate Brown, a Democratic official who identifies as bisexual.

Brown was outed in the early 1990s under circumstances she described as “a forced coming out.”

“It was probably good that it happened,” Brown said of the incident, “but it wasn't sort of in my own terms and in my own timeline.”

First elected Secretary of State in 2008, Brown will assume the office of governor on Wednesday when Kitzhaber will officially resign.

Many are already praising Brown’s ascension to the state’s executive office. Human Rights Campaign had the following to say:
Few are better prepared to lead the great state of Oregon than Kate Brown. She's a known commodity to Oregonians with a distinguished record of service of over two decades. And while she'll make history as the nation's first sitting LGBT governor, the more important truth is that she's supremely capable of leading the state to better days ahead.
Brown will become the first open LGBT governor to serve in office. Former governor of New Jersey Jim McGreevey announced he is gay on the same day he said he was stepping down from office.

Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin successfully ran for an open U.S. Senate seat in 2012, becoming the first open lesbian senator elected to office in doing so. If Brown wishes to be the first LGBT governor elected to office she will have to wait until 2018, when the next Oregon gubernatorial election will occur.

This is set to become another milestone year for LGBT rights. Last year, several state constitutional provisions and laws prohibiting the marriage of same-sex couples were found to be unconstitutional in federal courts across the country. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on appeals to those decisions later this year.

All indications from the Court, including those that oppose marriage equality, suggest that the justices will rule in favor of gay and lesbian couples.

As well they should.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Avoidance on Evolution question exposes Walker's problem with science

When it comes to science, Gov. Walker leaves it to the "experts" -- his donor base

Though he had taken great pains to prevent unwanted questions from the foreign press, Scott Walker couldn’t prevent questions in at least one forum: the Q&A section from the event he was scheduled to speak at.

Walker was asked a question about the issue of evolution, and whether he himself was “comfortable” with the idea:
"I'm going to punt on that one as well," Walker responded.

The likely 2016 presidential candidate said he didn't think it was an appropriate question to answer during a trade mission to the United Kingdom, adding, "that's a question a politician shouldn't be involved in one way or another."
Maybe the question wasn’t relevant to the topics being discussed in the forum. But Walker is purposely dodging controversy, an action that doesn’t coincide with his supposed “leadership” mantra.

Later on, Walker tried to clear up his statement:
"Both science and my faith dictate my belief that we are created by God," Walker's statement said. "I believe faith and science are compatible, and go hand in hand."
A Walker spokesman declined to elaborate on whether that statement meant he believed in evolution.

Why is this important? Why should Walker answer this question? The topic of evolution exposes a deeper issue, on whether the governor accepts scientific reasoning as factual or something to ignore. If he says he doesn’t feel comfortable with evolution, it shows that he’s willing to push aside scientific discovery in favor of his religious beliefs. If he says he is comfortable with it, it will undoubtedly make his base uncomfortable with him.

Avoiding the issue completely, however, has a third outcome: it alienates everyone. His core base won’t respect the answer because, as a supposed “leader,” he should answer strongly that he opposes evolution; and those that support science won’t be happy because it’s clearly an answer meant to avoid accepting evolution as fact without saying so.

We know, however, that Walker doesn’t respect science one bit. His refusal to say something on evolution is just the latest episode in a series of anti-scientific statements and actions, which include requiring studying the effects of windmills on human health (despite scientific studies already suggesting that no detrimental effects exist), signing onto “no climate” tax pledges, and seeking to remove a recycling mandate in his 2011 budget proposal.

The bottom line is this: Walker will take whatever action on science his donors deems best. That includes putting our natural resources at risk, going to great lengths to do so including allowing companies with questionable environmental records to write legislation favorable to their profit margins.

This is unconscionable. So is the disregard of evolution as scientific fact. Personal beliefs aside, Walker should respect the teaching of evolution in the science classrooms. That’s where it belongs, after all, regardless of anyone’s personal opinions on the matter.

What does Walker’s non-answer do to enhance education across Wisconsin? Like many of his other recent decisions, it lessens the importance of growing knowledgeable minds in the state. Science, like education itself lately, stands in the way of some of Walker’s biggest donors.

We can’t have that, now can we?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Walker's solution to avoiding tough foreign press questions: avoid foreign press

In seeking to avoid Christie-like performance with the press, Walker simply won't talk to London media

During his trip to London this week, Gov. Scott Walker will speak privately with UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

He’ll represent Wisconsin in a “trade mission.”

But he won’t talk to any press.

Citing an “extremely tight” schedule while overseas, Walker’s Press Secretary Laurel Patrick denied any requests for the governor to speak to the press.

“This is an official trip and the purpose of the trade mission is to promote foreign direct investment in Wisconsin,” Patrick added, “so it is vital that we keep the Governor's planned schedule.”

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Fresh off his own stint in the UK, Gov. Chris Christie, another presidential prospect for the GOP, embarrassed himself with a slew of answers pertaining to vaccination.

Walker, ever the right-wing-media-darling in Wisconsin, knows he can’t control the foreign press message the way he can back in the Milwaukee media markets. So rather than make a fool of himself, he’s going to avoid the process altogether.

We’re getting a good glimpse of how Walker, as a potential head-of-state, will react to foreign issues: he’ll either be clueless on them or ignore them entirely.

We’ve seen that he can’t answer clearly or definitively on the issue of Syria, giving standard talking points about “going back to the red line,” but nothing of real substance. When pressed, he admitted to having a hawkish attitude.

Now we’re seeing that Walker’s latest foreign policy plan is avoidance. When confronted with foreign press, he simply won’t talk to them.

I guess that’s leadership, Scott Walker-style.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Scott Walker -- a comedy of “drafting errors”

Removal of Wisconsin Idea exposes the true light of Walker’s intentions

UPDATE: Records now indicate that there never was a "drafting error," and that Walker's budget team had indeed purposefully struck the Wisconsin Idea language out. Original post below.


In the proposed budget that was drafted by Gov. Scott Walker’s office, an unusual item caught the eye of University of Wisconsin System officials.

It was the removal of core tenets of the Wisconsin Idea, a philosophical belief that the purpose of the System was to “extend knowledge and its application beyond the boundaries of its campuses.”

That line, in fact, was crossed out. So were others, including “to serve and stimulate society” and “Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.”

Put in place of these omitted sections was a simple line: “The mission of the system is to meet the state’s workforce needs” (words in bold added).

Universities and colleges serve a grander purpose than “meeting the state’s workforce needs.” They serve to foster societal growth, to conduct research, and to create an educated population that can better solve the problems of our state.

Their purpose isn’t to help an embattled governor reach a failed jobs promise.

Shortly after the social media uproar that occurred as a result of this edit, Gov. Scott Walker’s office insisted that it was a “drafting error,” a simple mistake that would be remedied.

A tweet from Walker included, “The Wisconsin Idea will continue to thrive.”

That’s all good and well. But calling the removal of key provisions of the Wisconsin Idea a “drafting error” is a misnomer. Those words were consciously struck out. New words were consciously put in.

Whether Walker knew about the edits, or if one of his surrogates changed things, is besides the point: the words were changed. That doesn’t happen by forgetting to turn “CAPS LOCK” off, or a slight of hand while typing.

It was a conscious decision. And the people of Wisconsin know better than to believe it was a simple, “ho-hum” drafting error.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Walker’s budget seeks to kill La Follette’s legacy, the Wisconsin Idea (UPDATED)

Gov. Walker's attacks on education continues

UPDATE: Walker backs off, won't remove/change Wisconsin Idea. Original post below.


Budgets are moral documents. That’s a sentiment I strongly believe in. On paper, sure, it’s a lot of dollar signs and convoluted numbers, but the nuts and bolts of any budget tells us where our priorities are at.

It’s true for any budget. A family’s budget might say we’re going to allocate some money towards saving a car, but we’re also going to put money away to save for our child’s education. The priority of that budget looks towards the future, of leaving open the possibilities of a better life for the next generation.

It’s clear that the same set of priorities isn’t on the mind of Gov. Scott Walker.

When discussing his budget in previous days, Walker made it known that he was shifting priorities away from the University of Wisconsin System in order to help pay for a $287 million budget deficit.

Last night Walker finally unveiled the details of his budget plan. On top of the stifling cuts to the UW System, Walker plans on changing a bedrock principle of the state: the Wisconsin Idea.

Per the Center for Media and Democracy:
Walker's executive budget (see below) amends Sec. 1111 of the statutes to remove language specifying that the UW system has a public service mission to “extend knowledge and its application beyond the boundaries of its campus" and to "serve and stimulate society." He strikes language ensuring that the mission of the UW is to extend "training and public service designed to educate people and improve the human condition," as well as the language specifying that "the search for truth" is "basic to every purpose of the system."
UW Chancellor Becky Blank, on her Twitter account, made it clear that she supported keeping the Wisconsin Idea intact.

Walker wants to remove all things progressive from the state of Wisconsin. He went after unions. He’s attacking higher education. What will Walker attack next?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Health costs are too high to ignore the importance of vaccines for children

On immunization, the public’s general health, and Scott Walker’s choice to do what’s right

Click to enlarge
It’s important that every child get vaccinated. The health risks are far too great to ignore the medical necessity of prevention for your son or daughter.

It goes beyond that: the health of your child is of utmost important to you, but what about the health of the children your kid interacts with? Parents who are questioning immunizing their children need to consider the health of their own family, but they also need to empathize a little, to consider the health of other families that their choices may affect.

We’re currently in the midst of an outbreak of measles across the country. At present, more than 100 cases of measles have been reported in 14 states. Officials at the CDC expect more cases to be reported in the coming days.

Measles is no laughing matter. More than a quarter of children who got the disease in the last decade had to be hospitalized. Measles can lead to lifelong brain damage, deafness, or even death, according to the CDC.

During the last decade the median number of measles cases was about 60 per year. That changed in 2011, when 222 cases were reported. Of those cases, 40 percent were under the age of 4, when measles can be especially damaging.

What has lead to this rise in measles? Paranoia. The unwarranted fears of immunization, dredged up by conspiracy theorists that vaccinations cause more harm than good.

We’re now seeing the effects of that line of thinking: kids without immunizations are getting sick. What’s more, they’re getting other kids sick too.

Potential candidate for president Chris Christie is in favor of supporting parental rights when it came to vaccinations, saying that parents “need to have some measure of choice” when it comes to the health decisions of their children.

At some level, he’s right: parents have a right to act foolishly, to believe the hype that erroneously casts doubts on vaccinations. But when rights are exercised in ways that affect the health of others, they cease being rights, and are deserving of regulation.

Parents who do not vaccinate their children should not be allowed to send their kids to public schools. It’s that simple. The risk is too high to allow the actions of foolhardy parents to dictate the lives of responsible families.

Another potential candidate for president, Scott Walker, has been rather mum when it comes to the “rights” of parents to not vaccinate. Not much is known about Walker and his opinion on immunization, but he does do the right thing when it comes to promoting vaccines.
Expecting a baby soon? If so, don’t be find a card from “Governor and Mrs. Walker” in your mailbox shortly after the little one arrives.

Five months after the birth of her second son, a cute-as-can-be Hallmark card arrived at her home, with a congratulatory message and a reminder on the importance of early childhood immunizations.
Emphases added.

Gov. Walker doesn’t receive my gratitude for a lot of things. But for promoting the vaccination of children across the state, he deserves positive recognition.

A broken clock is right twice a day, I suppose.