Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Hillary Clinton wins in first head-to-head debate with Trump

Trump offered hate and anger in his responses; Clinton gave thoughtful and measured answers to questions

After watching the Clinton/Trump debate last night, I want to say that Donald Trump’s performance could be summed up in one short video clip from the Adam Sandler movie Billy Madison:

The crux of his performance last night is that simple. Listening to Donald Trump makes you dumber.

In all seriousness, my major takeaway from the debate, without going into too many details, was that it was a clear Hillary Clinton win. There can be no doubt about it. She wasn’t perfect, but she answered questions with intelligence. She likely would have won the debate even if Donald Trump wasn’t the nominee.

Perhaps Donald was trying to reach his base. Indeed, Trump said many of the things his supporters wanted him to. But he came off as bullyish, ill-prepared, obnoxious, rude, and unable to respond to simple questions from moderator Lester Holt or from Secretary Clinton herself. And he contradicted well-known facts that are could be found through a simple Google search.

Clinton, on the other hand, appeared to produce thoughtful answers -- as if she had studied the issues. It’s a good thing to be a studious candidate. Americans want a prepared leader, and Hillary Clinton was definitely prepared to answer some difficult questions, providing ample reason to believe that she’ll be ready to serve as president on day one.

Americans also want a leader with sound temperament. They saw that Clinton was the better of the two in that regard as well, and it was especially evident as Trump kept interrupting and rudely shouting over Clinton’s responses.

Yes, people do like it when candidates speak from the gut. But Donald Trump’s gut didn’t just speak last night on the debate stage -- it spewed out the thoughtless tripe that composes the entirety of the Trump platform, which is hate and anger, and very little in actual substance.

Trump offers a cathartic release for voters who are upset with America’s first black president and its potential first woman president. Everyone else was hoping to see a measured response to questions and a plan for how to move the nation forward. They got that from Sec. Clinton. From Donald Trump, they got zilch.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

John Doe must be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court

The integrity of our nation depends on the High Court correcting our state's wrongs

If a left-leaning organization had coordinated with a Democratic candidate to shift funds from wealthy donors to themselves in an effort to keep millions of dollars in campaign cash hidden, you can best believe we’d be hearing from conservative media across Wisconsin about the blatant and criminal actions of that candidate and organization.

And if that same left-leaning group had influenced the elections of state Supreme Court justices by disseminating millions of dollars collectively in support of several liberal justices, that same conservative media would likely demand that those justices recuse themselves in any cases involving that organization.

Those demands would be justified, too -- the judicial ethics code in Wisconsin requires judges and justices to avoid impropriety (and even the APPEARANCE of impropriety), defining such actions as conduct which “would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge's ability to carry out judicial responsibilities with integrity, impartiality and competence is impaired.”

The scenario above is not fictional -- it just involves conservative organizations rather than left-leaning ones, Republican candidates rather than Democrats, and conservative justices rather than liberals. The indignation should remain despite the change of characters. Yet several conservatives across the state are furious, not about the collusion and coordination between candidates, third party groups and corporate elitists that occurred, but rather because of the fact that information meant to be hidden under gag order was instead leaked to the public, exposing conservative malfeasance.

Whoever leaked that information should be held accountable. But so, too, should those who performed the illegal actions in the first place.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to consider whether it should revive the John Doe investigation. Wisconsin’s Supreme Court previously ruled that the investigation should come to an end, a ruling that was marred by the fact that conservative justices on the court had benefitted from millions of dollars in campaign spending by the very groups that were involved in the case. “Reasonable minds” would conclude that the majority ruling from that case has the appearance of being made by an impartial justice or two from the court’s conservative bloc.

This should be a no-brainer. Of course the investigation should move forward, and of course the conservative justices were errant in not removing themselves from the case from the start.

All of this is a symptom of a greater problem. The influence of corporate money, and the unlimited, hidden nature of that money, has made a huge mess in Wisconsin and elsewhere. This problem is not new, but in light of recent years following the Citizens United decision, it has gotten way out of hand, to the point where some international organizations refer to the U.S. as an oligarchy now rather than a democracy.

We as a nation should be ashamed of this, and the Supreme Court should remedy the unintended problems they unfortunately helped to create in issuing out the Citizens United decision. They can start making things right by agreeing to hear the John Doe appeal.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Did Scott Walker make a subtle threat to county DAs across the state?

Walker suggests “a lot of people” may not feel the need to fund DA offices if they continue investigations into political figures (namely himself)

Is Scott Walker suggesting he might use political retaliation against district attorneys across the state that may investigate his criminal behavior?

That’s what it sure seems like. In speaking with reporters in Beloit, Walker suggested that some may question the need for additional staff in attorneys’ offices if investigations like the John Doe case are pursued further.

From the reporting of Jessie Opoien of the Capital Times:
Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday suggested there could be broader implications for district attorney staffing levels throughout the state if Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm were to continue to pursue a John Doe investigation into Walker's campaign after the U.S. Supreme Court weighs in on it.


Walker was asked by reporters Thursday at an event in Beloit whether he expects to hear more from Chisholm on the John Doe investigation after the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether or not to hear the case.

"I would think most people in the state would think after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on this that there’s certainly not a lack of work to be done in Milwaukee County on issues related to crime and on other issues," Walker said. "We hear, not only in that county, but in other counties, about the need for additional district attorneys and additional resources. I think a lot of people wonder, if they continue to spend time after the U.S. Supreme Court were to rule on this, if that’s really necessary, if they have time to spend on this even after the courts have shut it down."
Emphasis in bold added.

That seems like a veiled threat from where I’m sitting. And it’s disappointing to hear our governor suggest that DAs can lose funding for doing what’s fundamentally their jobs.

I’m not the only one to think this. John Nichols also put in his two cents on Twitter:

And James Rowen suggests that the comments may mean something deeper:
All this pressure from people with a vested interest in killing the case suggest there is something these dark money beneficiaries want permanently hidden.
Though conservative courts who were aligned with Walker (including the state Supreme Court) tried to shut the John Doe investigation down, the U.S. Supreme Court revived the possibility that the investigation could continue in accepting a writ of cert under seal earlier this summer. And it’s highly likely they will grant that cert to hear the full case -- such writs under seal are typically given full consideration by the High Court.

Walker’s threats to county DAs isn’t unfamiliar ground for the Wisconsin Republican Party either. Whether it’s threatening Milwaukee with spending cuts over how the city handles crime or issues of education, or threatening cuts to the University of Wisconsin over classes on sexuality, the modus operandi of the WisGOP seems to be that if they don’t like a liberal policy or politician, they will threaten them with spending cuts.

But the governor’s words this week are especially disheartening. They imply that action can be taken against civil servants whose duties include looking into nefarious behaviors of state lawmakers. By threatening to lessen the staff of county DAs across the state based off of that necessary legal obligation, Walker’s true colors are out there for all to see -- and they’re not pretty.

Walker should use caution against such rhetoric. He, too, is beholden to the laws of this state, and his status as governor doesn’t change that -- nor does it mean he can make threats to the people who take an oath to uphold and enforce those laws. It’s troublesome to hear him make these statements, even for Walker’s standards.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Special session is needed to address terrifying conditions at veterans home

Democrats are right: Gov. Walker should call a special session of the state legislature

Image by Karen Barefoot
The mistreatment of patients and deplorable conditions of facilities meant to serve those living at Wisconsin Veterans Home at King have been well-documented.

Katelyn Ferral and Saiyna Bashir at the Cap Times put words and pictures to good use in revealing what exactly was going on at King, including providing insights into outdated medical equipment, bad drinking water, overmedicating of patients, and possible retaliation of those who dared to tell.

And FOX 6 in Milwaukee recently interviewed family members of a late resident of the vet home, who described in grim detail how terrifying the ordeal had been for him:
"My dad loved helping other veterans," Sharon Blando said.

But during his final years, Blando says officials at the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King ignored and overmedicated her father.

"'They just overdosed him. That's what they do with a lot of their patients. They`d rather not take care of them," Kristi Williamson, Walter Sundling's granddaughter said.

Williamson took photos of Sundling slumped over in his wheelchair.

"They would put a pillow on the table so that when his head would fall, it would hit the pillow rather than the table or floor," Blando said.

Blando says her father suffered a leg wound for three months.


Blando says her father was a prisoner of war during WWII and suffered a foot injury while captive.

"He said he received better care for his foot in a German POW camp than he did for his leg wounds at the King VA facility," Blando said.
Emphases in bold mine.Better care as a POW than at King? While the statement may be hyperbolic, it does get the point across: patients are suffering, and their treatment at King needs to improve.

And what has our governor done to help the situation? Not much. According to Robert Cloud at Waupaca County News, more than $12 million has been transferred out of state veterans’ funds this year alone, with another $18 million planned for next year.

We shouldn’t be so surprised, however. Scott Walker hasn’t exactly been a friend to vets. It was under his watch as Milwaukee County Executive that thousands of dollars went missing from a veterans fund in an apparent embezzlement scheme that occurred mere steps from his desk. And according to the reporting of Mary Spicuzza of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Walker wasn’t exactly cooperative with trying to serve out justice to those who were close to him committing these criminal acts:
When Scott Walker was Milwaukee County executive, his office obstructed a criminal probe into thousands of dollars missing from a veterans charity, two investigators said Friday in a federal court filing.


"The County Executive's Office was uncooperative and obstructed the District Attorney's Office's efforts to obtain documentation of the County's receipt and disbursement of donations from Operation Freedom," the filing from two investigators in Chisholm's office reads. "As a consequence, the District Attorney's Office was forced to petition a John Doe proceeding in order to have legal mechanisms to obtain relevant documentation from the County Executive's Office."
We know that Walker stood in the way of investigations into embezzlement of veterans funds at the county level. We also know that Walker and his Republican allies in the state legislature moved millions of dollars away from a veterans home that was in sore need of repairs and better staff.

Our vets deserve much better than this. We cannot allow these abuses to stand, and we must correct them before more harm is done to those who served our country. The Democrats in the state legislature are right to request a special session to address the needs of the Veterans Home at King. And Gov. Walker, if he has any shred of respect left for those who have served our nation’s armed forces, should rightly call the session to order, the sooner the better.

Monday, September 19, 2016

To fix John Doe mess, we need to remove those that helped make it (including Scott Walker)

Lawmakers that made it easier to hide money in politics need to be removed from office

I want to do something that I rarely do in my political writing, on this site and elsewhere. I want to share with you a personal story.

I don’t typically get into personal narratives or share my history on this blog, but in light of the recent John Doe leak from last week, I felt it was important to tell this particular story.

In 2008, freshly graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, I was trying to find work that might be pertinent to my degree in political science and journalism. What I didn’t expect was the recession to coincide directly with when I graduated from school. I didn’t find work right away, and what I eventually found was temporary in nature. I took what work I could, and in the meantime I decided to continue pursuing my political aspirations by applying for a summer internship with the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

I learned a lot of things in my few months there. I was given some exciting tasks -- and some not-so-happy tasks, including being tasked with calling supporters who I had to tell would NOT be given tickets to see Barack Obama accept the party’s nomination in Denver that year.

But overall it was a pleasant experience and it gave me huge insights into what party operations were all about.

Eventually I found a job listing that intrigued me. It was a temporary assignment working for a third party advocacy group called Advancing Wisconsin. The organization was going door-to-door on behalf of candidates for election in the state Assembly, as well as promoting Barack Obama for president. I gladly accepted the job, which would last me until November of that year.

I knew I had to tell the DPW about this new employment because it was a huge conflict of interest. Third party organizations and political parties are (were?) forbidden from colluding with one another, and I wanted to see if I could continue my internship or if I had to end it at that point.

Upon explaining to my supervisor at the DPW where I was recently hired, I was told to pack up my desk and to leave. There were no hard feelings, of course, but I had to be out of the party’s offices by the end of that afternoon.


Gov. Scott Walker (drawing by Chris Walker)
The point of this tale is to juxtapose how politics in Wisconsin used to work in 2008 and how it has worked since Scott Walker became governor in 2011. Clearly there has been a significant change -- Scott Walker has merged the work of third party organizations and political organizations to collude with one another, allowing big money interests to run wild with campaign expenditures. In return for their donations, bills easing regulations on mining and lessening penalties for lead poisoning have been passed and signed into law. It is transparently pay-to-play, and it has corrupted the integrity of our state.

Whereas I was shown the door by the Democrats due to my employment with an advocacy group, Gov. Walker welcomed coordinated campaign management by RJ Johnson, who consulted with both Walker’s recall campaign and the Wisconsin Club for Growth. Walker also openly told donors to give to Club for Growth in hopes of creating a coordinated messaging campaign for himself and for a handful of statewide Senate races.

I grew up in a Wisconsin that wasn’t perfect. There were certainly problems in our state’s government, but they were nothing like what we’ve seen under Walker’s leadership. Our state is fast-becoming a corporatocracy, an oligarchy where the wealthy have more sway on the politicians in the Capitol than do the people. The time to change that is now -- but we cannot begin to do so until those responsible for the mutation of our state’s government are removed from their posts.

Scott Walker needs to go. His Republican allies in the legislature also need to be removed from power. And tougher campaign finance laws need to be passed.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Coordination status: Unknown. Walker becomes “Schrodinger’s governor” in refusing to answer John Doe questions

His refusal to be upfront with Wisconsin citizens casts more doubts on his leadership, ethics as governor

Much has already been said about the leaked John Doe documents that were released by the Guardian this week (the US version of the UK newspaper). Gov. Scott Walker and other legislative Republicans were clearly coordinating with third party groups like Wisconsin Club For Growth in attempts to circumvent campaign finance laws.

It’s evident that Walker and his recall campaign for governor told potential donors to give to third party groups in hopes of coordinating a singular message. This allowed donors to give unlimited sums, and to give anonymously, whereas giving to Walker’s campaign directly would require openness that some corporate leaders might not like.

Such coordination was illegal at the time it was occurring.

Several district attorneys (aligned with both major parties) and nonpartisan judges from the now-defunct Government Accountability Board saw ample evidence of malfeasance, and initiated a John Doe investigation (a secret inquiry that is meant to protect the identities of those being investigated) into Walker and his campaign contributors. Those investigations were halted by conservative judges, however, and when appealed to the state Supreme Court, justices there ruled that such coordination between Walker and third party interest groups were legal.

But some question the validity of that opinion, especially since many of the justices who sided with Walker’s preferred outcome benefitted themselves from the very same third party groups that he was allegedly coordinating with. Millions of dollars were spent on behalf of conservative justices by these third party groups during their own election campaigns to sit on the state Supreme Court.

The county district attorneys who initiated the John Doe investigation appealed the decision, and the federal Supreme Court is now considering hearing the case later this year (my prediction is that they will take up the case).

We will have to wait and see whether the High Court takes on the John Doe question. But on Thursday, when asked by reporters whether he still coordinated with third party interest groups and corporate donors, Walker wouldn’t clearly state yes or no on the matter.

From Jessie Opoien of the Cap Times:
Gov. Scott Walker wouldn't say whether he is currently raising money for outside groups like the Wisconsin Club for Growth, talking to reporters at a news conference Thursday.

But later on Thursday morning, an Appleton Post-Crescent reporter tweeted that Walker said he is not soliciting funds for the group.
Walker did say that he isn’t actively fundraising specifically for Wisconsin Club for Growth. But he won’t answer the basic question of whether he’s fundraising for any other third party group, refusing to provide Wisconsin citizens with information on whether he still deals in shady campaign practices.

Walker has become the “Schrodinger governor” in refusing to answer. In Erwin Schrodinger’s famous thought experiment (and this is a VERY basic explanation of it) a fictional cat is placed in a box, and it’s unclear whether it is alive or dead. Since we cannot know without opening the box, until we do open it we have to assume it is both dead and alive.

The same is true of Gov. Walker and his collusion with outside groups. Until we know with certainty whether he is coordinating or not with third party interest groups, we can only say that he is and he isn’t. There’s no way of knowing until we open the proverbial box...until Walker provides us with reason to believe him.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Wisconsin Republicans wrongly deride popular leaders as “career politicians”

Our nation’s founders celebrated leaders who were careerists

In one of his latest political ads, current Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is returning to a familiar theme: attacking his opponent, Russ Feingold, for being a “career politician.”

In Congress today, Johnson contends, “there are 54 lawyers, one manufacturer -- that’d be me -- still way too many career politicians, and now Senator Feingold wants to add another one. Himself.”

It’s a trope that many are familiar with in this bewildering election season, where the rules and mores of yesteryear have been tossed out completely. A sizable number of Americans are supporting billionaire Donald Trump, for example, because of his “outsider” status in the political world.

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina sums up what many people see in Trump: “It’s going to take an outsider to clean up Washington,” he said in July.

We’re witnessing this language in some of Wisconsin’s local races also. In the 8th Congressional District, for example, when asked why people should vote for him, Republican candidate for Congress Mike Gallagher took a subtle dig at his Democratic opponent Tom Nelson.

“I’m not a career politician,” Gallagher told FOX 11 News in Green Bay recently, adding that “I intend to treat my time in Congress not as a career.”

(It is odd that Wisconsin Republicans like Johnson and Gallagher don’t bring these criticisms up about current Gov. Scott Walker, who has been a career politician since the early 1990s.)

Some tend to agree with statements like these, and many base their votes on trying to select the most “un-political” candidate that they can choose. But is that really the best way to go about basing your vote? Does our democracy benefit from having amateurs in office?

Some conservatives believe that term limits are what the founders intended for our nation. Yet none of the positions in the Constitution were originally made with such limits (the 22nd amendment limiting presidents to two terms in office was passed in the 1950s). And many of the founders were themselves career politicians -- such as John Adams, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and many others, who served in political positions at the federal as well as state levels.

Benjamin Rush (public domain)
One founder even suggested a strong need to create career politicians. Benjamin Rush thought it was absurd to suggest that politicians were somehow different from other types of employment. In arguing against the Articles of Confederation’s limits on time served in Congress (which only allowed for a short, single term for lawmakers), Rush stated that, “Government is a science; and can never be perfect in America, until we encourage men to devote not only three years, but their whole lives to it.”

Imagine a person today suggesting politicians should dedicate their whole lives to serving people in government. But that’s precisely what our nation’s founders prescribed in crafting the Constitution itself.

If a person has been in office for too long, and if that person no longer serves the needs of the people, then by all means they should be removed from their post electorally. But that should be a decision of the constituents. If voters also prefer to select the same person to serve them term-after-term-after-term, they should be free to do that too -- and that choice should not be derided by others simply because they are a popular option in that district.

A good politician should be preferred by the people more than an incompetent amateur who can’t serve the needs of the people he or she is meant to represent. In short, an office holder isn't a “bad” person for wishing to make his or her political profession a career. If they serve their constituents well, they should be considered noble for doing so.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Rep. Jesse Kremer takes James Madison quote out of context in suggesting we should disregard the accepted practice of judicial review

Wisconsin GOP lawmaker chooses to ignore historical reasoning behind founder’s words

Rep. Jesse Kremer, a Republican from Kewaskum, published a blistering press release on September 8 in which he criticized the idea of judicial review, insisting that unelected judges should “serve God” while issuing out their rulings.

Kremer’s release tried to answer the question of why several issues in Wisconsin are the way they are. His answer? “Unelected, federal judges have decided that they can write law and become ‘gods’ in their own right.”

The Republican legislator further tries to tie his beliefs to those of James Madison, quoting the founder’s own words:
As James Madison once said, "As the courts are generally the last in making the decision, it results to them, by refusing or not refusing to execute a law, to stamp it with its final character. This makes the Judiciary department paramount in fact to the Legislature, which was never intended, and can never be proper."
Those words, of course, are taken way out of context. I’ll explain...

First, it’s important to understand that there are two main aspects from Kremer’s piece that we have to concern ourselves with: judicial review, and the implications of having a religious test for judges and justices. The latter aspect comes with a simple rebuttal: the Constitution expressly forbids a religious test for government officials, the First Amendment prohibits government from endorsing religious beliefs, and Kremer is foolish for suggesting we become a theocratic nation.

The former aspect, that of judicial review, needs a bit more explanation; but it’s evident that Kremer is lacking in what he learned in history classes, which is disturbing given that he is a member of the state legislature.

Judicial review is the practice of making a decision on court matters through what is written in the legislative code, but also interpreting laws through judicial decisions made in the past, and what qualifies as legitimate through other governing documents (including the Constitution itself). It’s what leads judges and justices to make decisions in a linear way.

Here’s an example: in Griswold v. Connecticut, it was determined that the state could not forbid private citizens from using birth control in their private lives. From Griswold, the justices determined there was a right to privacy that, although not specifically stated in the Constitution, existed within the document through a penumbra of other rights that did exist.

From the case itself, Justice William Douglas explained:
Various guarantees create zones of privacy. The right of association contained in the penumbra of the First Amendment is one, as we have seen. The Third Amendment, in its prohibition against the quartering of soldiers "in any house" in time of peace without the consent of the owner, is another facet of that privacy. The Fourth Amendment explicitly affirms the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." The Fifth Amendment, in its Self-Incrimination Clause, enables the citizen to create a zone of privacy which government may not force him to surrender to his detriment. The Ninth Amendment provides: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."
And from this decision, other laws were equally interpreted, including Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that guaranteed abortion as a legal right. Justice Harry Blackmun's opinion from that case:
The principal thrust of appellant's attack on the Texas statutes is that they improperly invade a right, said to be possessed by the pregnant woman, to choose to terminate her pregnancy. Appellant would discover this right in the concept of personal "liberty" embodied in the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause; or in personal, marital, familial, and sexual privacy said to be protected by the Bill of Rights or its penumbras, see Griswold v. Connecticut...
This linear basis of judicial review, of judges and justices forming opinions based on law AND past decisions, is the basis of the common law tradition of jurisprudence, which our nation has been practicing since before the Constitution was passed. And when the Constitution was itself being debated, several Antifederalists used the argument of preserving common law as reason to oppose the new government. Indeed, the father of the Bill of Rights, George Mason of Virginia, cited an absence of common law protections as one of his primary objections to the Constitution.

But defenders of the Constitution tried to assure detractors like Mason that common law (and with it, judicial review) would remain in place. Among these individuals was James Madison. In writing to George Washington, Madison stated quite clearly that the tradition of common law would not be altered in passing the new Constitution even without an explicit mentioning of it in its framework, an opinion that might surprise Jesse Kremer.

And in getting back to Kremer’s quote from Madison, we can see that in greater context it doesn’t match what he (Kremer) is trying to say it does. Kremer’s line in his press release seems to suggest that Madison is AGAINST judicial review. But Madison’s quote isn’t about the judiciary -- it’s about the power to veto legislation.

Click the image below for a more contextual quote. (Portions underlined in red my emphases.)

Madison is talking about a revisionary power, and who should hold it. What he meant by a “revisionary power” is who should have the power to veto a bill passed by the legislature. At the time of the Constitution’s debate, several lawmakers felt that the judiciary, as well as the president, should have “revisionary power” (effectively a veto) on bills they determined were unconstitutional. But that idea was tossed aside, for it would mean that the judiciary would have been above the legislature in its enumerated powers.

THAT’S what the quote supplied by Kremer is saying -- not that the judiciary shouldn’t have the power of judicial review, but that it should only come through traditional, common law practices -- meaning, when an aggrieved party challenges the constitutionality of a law in the courts following its passage. Though it would be more convenient, the judiciary should NOT be granted the power of veto, argued Madison.

* * *

It’s agonizing that it was necessary to write this post. Not because of its length or the research it took, or anything like that editorially. The true reason why it’s agonizing is that the concept of judicial review shouldn’t have to be explained to a sitting member of the state legislature.

It’s clear that Rep. Kremer has issues with court rulings that have been rendered in this state and elsewhere. He’s free to disagree with them, and to register his distaste in a public manner. But I doubt the real reason he’s so critical is because of judicial review.

I question whether he’d be opposed to judicial review and common law jurisprudence if the courts had rendered verdicts that had been appealing to him. Indeed, the state Supreme Court basically dismissed established law on campaign coordination (during the second John Doe investigation) using the same principles, yet Kremer failed to mention that in his published rant against judicial review.

Kremer shows he doesn’t understand how the courts are meant to function -- how they have functioned for the duration of this nation’s history. He also demonstrates that he doesn’t understand historical references in errantly trying to use James Madison as rationale for supporting his point of view. Those two facts should worry his constituents a great deal.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Wisconsin jobs report is slower than last year, slower than rest of U.S., and slower than Doyle's last budget year

Gov. Walker’s promise to generate more job growth in the state remains unfulfilled

When it comes to job creation, Wisconsin continues to lag behind the rest of the nation.

Job creation was a pivotal part of then-candidate for governor Scott Walker’s campaign pledge in 2010, when he successfully defeated Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to win the position. His victory in that election was due in large part to what he said he would do on jobs: Walker had promised to create more than 250,000 private sector jobs in his first term (2011-2015). So confident was he that he would succeed that he called the number his floor.

He came up short in that endeavor, big time. Wisconsin only created about 65 percent of Walker’s promise, or around 130,153 private sector jobs in four years’ time.

The latest jobs report that came out this week demonstrates we’re still creating jobs at a slow pace, especially when compared to the rest of the nation.

Wisconsin ranks 33rd out of the 50 United States and Washington D.C. in the latest jobs report. We had a year-to-year first quarter job growth of about 1.58 percent, or around 37,166 jobs created from March of 2015 to March of this year.

For comparison, the median state for job growth in the nation (Mississippi) saw a job growth rate of 2.11 percent (the U.S. as a whole created jobs at a rate of 2.1 percent). That means half the nation created jobs at least 33 percent faster than Wisconsin’s growth rate. The top quarter of states that outperformed Wisconsin did so at a pace that was at least 77 percent faster or better.

There is some good news from this report: Wisconsin outperformed Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota (Michigan continued to outperform us). Yet when compared to the rest of Walker’s tenure, from March 2011 to March 2016 Wisconsin only beat out Illinois (and barely so), with Minnesota, Iowa, and Michigan all doing better than us in the long-haul.

Sadly, this latest report is not indicative of Wisconsin performing better either. Our ranking in 2015’s first quarter report was 28th in the nation, and our rate of job growth then was 1.74 percent. In other words, we’ve slowed down our job creation rate by almost ten percent. In raw jobs numbers, we created 3,002 LESS jobs this year than in the year prior.

Blue bar indicates Doyle budget year,
red bars are Walker's budget years

Walker’s performance in first quarter annual reports -- in every year since he and the state Republican Party have controlled the state budget -- has yet to surpass the record of his predecessor’s last year. Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s final budget ended in June of 2011, which means the first quarter annual report from that year was under the influence of the last budget passed under Democratic control (and before public sector collective bargaining was eliminated through Act 10).

During that last Democratic year, jobs in Wisconsin grew at a rate of 1.90 percent, or 41,350 jobs from March 2010 to March 2011. If we had kept pace with that rate of job growth, we would have created 46,000 additional jobs that what we currently have through March of 2016.

It’s not even up for debate any longer -- Walker has failed to produce jobs at a faster rate under his leadership. His jobs agenda has failed. Tax cuts for the rich and corporate elite haven’t created more jobs as he promised it would. It’s not working.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Sen. Steve Nass berates UW for diversity training that business leaders want

GOP legislator creates fictional boogeymen that he believes are “indoctrinating” students at state’s flagship university

State Sen. Steve Nass is no friend to the University of Wisconsin. He’s also apparently not familiar with Google, because if he were he wouldn’t be making such outrageous claims against the state’s flagship university without doing the basic research beforehand.

Nass, a Republican from Whitewater, is upset about the UW spending money to train incoming students and staff about diversity.

Sensitivity towards students from different backgrounds is needed, as evidenced by several alarming events on the UW campus in the recent past. From Maggie Angst at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
After a series of concerning incidents last year — "war cry sounds" made during an American Indian healing circle, an anonymous note with racial threats made to a student of color and swastikas taped to a Jewish student's dorm room door — the university is trying to make the campus more inclusive and welcoming when classes resume next week.
But Nass sees it as unnecessary, labeling it as “forced political correctness” in a recent press release. “[I]t seems to be the standard opinion amongst UW System administrators that the people of Wisconsin are rednecks in need of cultural re-education,” he said (PDF), adding that the UW is suggesting that “families of this state have failed in raising their children, that they are culturally incompetent.”

Nass also went on record saying that UW System administrators “never lack money for advancing new and more sinister ways of liberal indoctrination of students.”

Of course, this sort of training isn’t anything like what Nass says it is. It is a far cry from “indoctrination” to teach people how to be aware of differences people at the UW have from one culture to another. Yet he is still skeptical about the need for graduating students to become more aware of a workplace that is more and more diverse. “I have never met a business person yet that alleges the people of Wisconsin are culturally incompetent employees,” he said.

And here’s where the basic Google search comes into play. Years ago, business leaders DID want a more diverse-friendly college campus in Madison. And when it was evident that was not what they were getting at UW, recruiters from major American companies were pulled from the university. From Pat Schneider of the Cap Times (Emphasis in bold added by me):
Diversity is good for business, which makes it an imperative for U.S. business schools, say Wisconsin School of Business administrators.

If the business school community does not have a mix of students, faculty and staff that can prepare students for a global economy, students will go somewhere else and so will business recruiters.

That has already happened at UW-Madison. A decade ago, big corporations like Procter & Gamble, General Motors and Alcoa stopped recruiting in Madison because of a lack of diversity among business school students.
It's clear that these businesses want more diversity. And with that, they want a more diverse-friendly workforce. The UW is preparing students for a more diverse business climate through trainings and other methods. But apparently Sen. Steve Nass doesn’t like that idea, nor does he get that businesses across the country want an inclusive mindset when it comes to diversity in the workforce.

It really makes you wonder: Does Steve Nass even care about university students’ needs -- and business needs -- in Wisconsin? Or is he simply motivated to go after perceived, fictional liberal boogeymen that live in his own mind?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Walker tweets about “Wisconsin Comeback” days ahead of (likely) bad jobs report

Tweet from Walker -- linking to a seven-month-old article -- raises suspicions

Scott Walker tweeted out a curious comment on Thursday.

“Nice column on the Wisconsin Comeback,” Walker wrote, which was followed by a link to a Forbes article by Patrick Gleason (the article itself is highly misleading, neglecting to mention shortages in transportation funding as well as the teacher shortages now facing the state as a direct result of Act 10; its author is a member of the far right-wing Americans for Tax Reform, which is run by noted conservative Grover Norquist).

The odd thing about the tweet? The column it references was written seven months ago. There’s nothing new about it, and it’s kind of weird for Walker to be pushing it to his Twitter followers at this point in time.

Regular readers of this blog will know that when Scott Walker starts talking about the “Wisconsin Comeback” it’s usually because of some other economic news that is about to break that’s not to the liking of the governor. The so-called “comeback” typically glosses over many problems facing the state, and includes misleading stats that are favorable to Walker’s claims but are highly unreliable.

Aside from tax collections in the state falling by about $85 million this fiscal year, there's also a jobs report Walker has to worry about. This coming Wednesday the quarterly report on jobs is expected from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which will likely include some bad news when it comes to Wisconsin’s ranking compared to the rest of the nation. Walker’s administration released its first-quarter yearly job numbers last month, which showed that 37,432 private sector jobs were created between March 2015 to March 2016.

That sounds like a lot to the casual observer, except that it’s slower than what we created in the year prior to that (40,168 jobs from 2014-2015) and slower even still to what Walker’s predecessor, former Gov. Jim Doyle, produced in his final budget year.

So why do I expect bad news? In the most recent national jobs report during that March-to-March timeframe, we ranked 40th out of 50 U.S. states in job creation. With a slower state jobs report this year compared to last, we can expect to be ranked similarly (or worse) in this coming week’s report. We will find out on Wednesday.