Thursday, October 27, 2016

Republican Mike Gallagher says he has courage, but doctors video to score political points

Gallagher’s moral courage is lacking, especially after crafting a deceptive campaign ad

Republican candidate for Wisconsin’s 5th Congressional district Mike Gallagher is running a political advertisement calling out his opponent, Democratic candidate Tom Nelson, for saying he lacks courage.

Gallagher has a U.S. military background. “Joining the Marines the day he graduated college, two combat tours, yet Nelson questions Gallagher’s courage?” the ad asks.

Certainly Mike Gallagher has shown tremendous courage in serving his nation dutifully overseas. No one should question that service.

Yet Nelson hasn’t questioned that service. The quote that the Gallagher campaign used in its ad deriding Nelson’s words is taken wildly out of context in an attempt to distort what Nelson was really talking about during a television interview.

Tom Nelson did not question whether Gallagher served valiantly or not; rather, Nelson asked whether Gallagher demonstrated moral courage in continuing his support for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for president, even after video of Trump surfaced that exposed him bragging about being a sexual predator.

Gallagher has yet to denounce his candidate, continuing to endorse Trump for president. And that, Nelson contends, is how Gallagher lacks moral courage.

Here’s Nelson’s full quote, in context:
My opponent has stood shoulder to shoulder with Donald Trump after everything he has said, all of the vile comments. That question is about moral courage. Whether or not the candidate for this office has the moral courage or not to oppose Donald Trump, and I will oppose him.
Gallagher would have been right to criticize Nelson if he had questioned his service to this country. But that’s not what Nelson did -- instead, he questioned why Gallagher continued to support a candidate that is obviously unfit to serve as president.

Gallagher lacks moral courage for continuing to back Trump. And that characterization by is further justified in his latest misleading campaign ad. Taking your opponent’s words out of context doesn’t show courage in the slightest bit. If anything, it shows cowardice.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ron Johnson channels Dale Gribble in climate change comments -- people like it “a little bit warmer”

His failure to take the issue seriously makes him unfit for a second term in office

To hear Sen. Ron Johnson put it, global climate change isn’t a problem at all. Humans will actually thrive under the warming temperatures, he says.

“Climate has already changed, always will. I’m just not an alarmist. We will adapt,” Johnson told a Wisconsin radio station recently.

He was certain that the warmer temps would be welcomed. “How many people are moving up toward the Antarctica, or the Arctic?” he asked rhetorically. “Most people move down to Texas or Florida, where it’s a little bit warmer.”

Johnson doesn’t want to do anything about climate change either, calling those who bring it up “alarmists,” adding that their actions and proposals will do “a great deal of harm on our economy.”

He acts as though climate change is a propaganda tool for some hidden agenda. Ron Johnson, in short, has become Dale Gribble.

But that sort of thinking is just plain idiotic. Yes, people love the beaches and coastlines that Florida and Texas have to offer, and so they flock to them for vacations even in the heat. But climate change will affect those areas too, in negative ways.

It goes beyond the temperatures -- should they continue to rise globally we’ll see water levels rise on coastlines worldwide, which will be devastating to states like Texas and Florida. In fact, according to estimates from actual scientists, a complete melting of the polar ice caps would result in the entire sinking of the state of Florida, and much of the Texas coastline would also disappear.

Weather patterns across the globe will be altered as a result of climate change, too. The severity of storms will increase, droughts will destroy the farming industry, and massive hurricanes will become commonplace.

But hey -- the temperatures will be warmer! And that’s what matters, according to Johnson. People love going to the beach, they love vacationing in warmer why the big fuss about global warming?

There’s plenty to fuss about, even if our sole focus is on temperatures alone. We’re already seeing the negative effects of climate change with regards to rising temps -- over the past ten years, heat-related deaths have become the number one killer of Americans when it comes to weather-related fatalities. And it’s only going to get worse: excessive heat events across the country are expected to rise by 475 percent by the middle of this century (PDF).

Sen. Ron Johnson likes to joke about and scoff off climate change as an “alarmist” piece of propaganda. But for many Americans, climate change is real, and is a matter of life and death. That Johnson refuses to take it seriously demonstrates in part why he’s unfit for the office he currently holds.

He doesn’t care about you, the voter, or other Americans threatened by this crisis. He just cares about monied interests that want to ignore the problem exists in the first place.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Activist who advocated for placing instigators at Trump rallies is rightly fired. Now what about Scott Walker?

Conservatives are inconsistent with their outrage, forgetting about governor's similar comments on instigators

UPDATE: Scott Foval just released this statement:
"This scheme to cast legitimate organizing activities as a sinister plot is nothing but a ruse. When O'Keefe's team of grifters attempted to find illegal activities going on , they were disappointed to discover, in fact, that I and my associates were only involved in above-board, legal, legitimate organizing work to counter Trump's campaign of division, misogyny, hatred, and xenophobia. Despite our attempts to redirect the conversation and actions towards positive, results-oriented, legal and ethical political organizing, O'Keefe's crew of imposters continued to walk down a path of deception and manipulation. Our team took the high road, deciding to not indulge the imposters in their dubious scheme, rather attempting to put our energies and intentions towards positive activities that garner electorally relevant results. All who view these recordings should remember that they were speculative conversations where we attempted to correct a misguided idea put forth by O'Keefe and his cronies, and we did not take the bait."
More updates will be coming as they develop. Stay tuned...original post below...

Conservatives are outraged because new footage from James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas shows a high-level member of a liberal organization suggesting ways to agitate supporters of Donald Trump at his rallies.

[Scott Foval of Americans United for Change] made false comments that are wrong about inciting violence at the rallies. Foval has since been fired from Americans United for Change, which had a contracting relationship with Democracy Partners.

"I mean, honestly, it's not hard to get some of these a------- to pop off," Foval purportedly says at one point in the video. "It's a matter of showing up, to want to get into their rally, in a Planned Parenthood T-shirt. Or 'Trump is a Nazi,' you know. You can message to draw them out, and draw them out to punch you."
The outrage over Foval’s comments are understandable. His words demonstrate part of what is wrong with politics today, that it has become a win-at-all-costs affair. Just because they come from the left doesn’t mean we should dismiss them, and I wholeheartedly condemn his suggestions as wrong.

But I do have to wonder: where was this outrage from the right when Gov. Scott Walker also considered putting agitators in the crowds? In 2011, during the mass protests that engulfed the Capitol Square in Madison, Walker took a phone call from a man he thought was billionaire conservative donor David Koch.

And when the fake Koch asked Walker about placing “troublemakers” into the large crowds protesting the anti-collective bargaining bill that he was trying to pass at the time, Walker told the caller that “We thought about that.”

Ultimately Walker also told the fake conservative donor that he and his advisors decided not to instigate the protesters, but it wasn’t out of compassion or ethical consideration; it was because doing so might help the protesters’ cause more than his own. In fact, that was his only concern:
My only fear [about planting troublemakers in the crowds] would be is, if there was a ruckus caused, is that that would scare the public into thinking maybe the governor has gotta settle to avoid all these problems.
Scott Foval was rightly fired from a liberal organization for suggesting he could work outside the law on a variety of issues, among them purposely instigating Trump supporters to engage in violence. His tactics should be shunned by all, especially those on the left.

O’Keefe’s Project Veritas organization has a history of selectively editing its undercover sting operations, but Foval’s words seem pretty clear to me. And they should be rejected.

At the same time, the outrage from those who view this as unsavory should be consistent. Many on the left have already condemned Foval, and he has been terminated from his employment for his words. Many on the right, however, are inconsistent with their outrage. They are flabbergasted with Foval’s recent actions, but in 2011 they dismissed Walker’s disturbing considerations as not worth acknowledging, in many instances.

In politics today it is hard to find consistency across the political aisles. What may harm your opponent today you may ignore about your own side tomorrow. If Americans are truly in favor of reshaping the political landscape, that sort of thinking ought to be rejected at once.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Which is a greater threat to freedom -- conservatism or progressivism? Paul Ryan gives the wrong answer

Paul Ryan attempts to create a divisive rewrite of history in order to score political points for the GOP

House Speaker Paul Ryan gave a speech in Madison last week in which he chastised the “failures of liberal progressivism,” according to reporting done by the Cap Times’ Jessie Opoien.

“Beneath all the ugliness” of this recent campaign, Ryan said, “lies a long running debate between two governing philosophies: one that is in keeping with our nation’s founding principles -- like freedom and equality -- and another that seeks to replace them.”

Ryan equated the latter philosophy with progressivism. But he is wrong to do so. Indeed, the identity of being American itself is rooted in progressive changes in our nation’s history. And conversely, much of the resistance to that identity has come from conservative voices, especially in recent years.

We can look to specific instances of our history to see how progressive ideals have shaped our country, all the way back to the Mayflower. The pilgrims came over from Europe to start a life in the New World in part because they wanted to practice their religion freely. Though they themselves became quite restrictive in their beliefs, their initial exodus signaled a strong commitment to a freedom that would become celebrated in our nation. Immigrants from every generation since have followed suit for similar reasons, leaving oppression for freedom of worship in America.

Our belief in a society where freedom of conscience should be respected is embodied in our Constitution in the First Amendment, which states that “no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” shall be passed.

That amendment has been challenged and thwarted many times in our nation’s history; but it has survived to this day to mean that you and I may believe what we want, without fear of persecution from the government, in regards to religious doctrine.

Yet today that same amendment is being threatened by the Republican Party’s presidential nominee Donald Trump, who insists that immigration policies and other laws should restrict law-abiding Muslims from enjoying the same freedoms that other Americans have (he even once suggested he would back policies requiring Muslims to have identifiers on them at all times).

Trump isn’t alone in this regard: several municipalities across the nation have attempted to ban mosques from being built altogether, using zoning codes as their rationale, when Christian churches might otherwise be given the authority to do so in those same communities. Progressivism respects the beliefs of everyone, even if they aren’t in the majority; it seems that conservatives across the country, however, are looking to restrict some citizens’ beliefs.

Beyond freedom of religion, it was also a progressive ideal to expand the right to vote many times through our nation’s past. Yet each time that expansion was introduced -- whether it was to non-land owning white men, to freed black slaves, to women, and so on -- it was challenged by conservative interests seeking to restrict it instead.

The suffrage movement for women, for instance, took generations to realize, and was often lambasted by misogynistic characterizations that falsely considered women unable to handle the responsibility to make a choice on their own on whom to vote for, without their husband’s input.

Even today we see attempts by conservative interests to make unnecessary restrictions on voting rights. Voter ID laws have been demonstrably restrictive to the elderly, to students, and to minority voters. In Wisconsin the voter ID law has been catastrophic -- eligible voters who have voted for decades in state elections here have been unduly denied access to the ballot, with officials dispensing errant information about what documents are needed to obtain the simple right to vote.

Additionally in Paul Ryan’s speech, he also tried to label Democratic candidate for president Hillary Clinton as a statist. “You see,” Ryan said, “when Hillary Clinton says we are ‘stronger together,’ what she means is we are stronger if we are all subject to the state. What she means is we are stronger if we give up our ties of responsibility to one another and hand all of that over to government.”

That’s presumptuous on Ryan’s part. Yes, liberals due tend to call for ambitious government programs -- especially when the need for them is real. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was an attempt to stave off the effects of the Great Depression, for example.

However, the type of statist government that Ryan is describing, where “cold and unfeeling bureaucracy” limits the rights and responsiveness of local decision making, is more evident from the conservative side of politics as of late, in our state especially. Conservative Republicans have passed 128 laws since 2011 in Wisconsin restricting the ability of local governments to act in the way they desire. That Ryan ignores this fact, and implies that progressivism is to blame, underscores how little he understands about the political philosophy.

To be sure, progressivism isn’t perfect. The movement was responsible for some reforms that were indeed overly restrictive -- the abolition of alcohol and the 18th Amendment comes to mind specifically -- but it isn’t the restrictive nanny-state that Ryan and other conservatives try to cast it as. And conservatism isn’t necessarily restrictive either. There are plenty of people on the right who are upset with what Trump, Ryan and others have done to their movement.

In reality, neither of these ideologies is inherently restrictive against freedom and equality. And neither is inherently against the founding principles of the United States. The founders themselves were often at odds with one another, with some factions taking a leftist approach and others a more conservative one. The truth is, there isn’t a single ideal that our founders espoused; they themselves were burdened with separate ideologies between themselves.

Paul Ryan disregards the historical record and instead tries to create a divisive rewrite of American history. He specifically labels progressivism as against the principles of our nation, when in fact progressive programs similar in scope (and in some ways more so) to Social Security were proposed by some of the founders themselves. There were many liberals and conservatives among the founding signatories of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Americans aren’t looking for division. And the record shows, in spite of what Paul Ryan suggests, that progressivism has expanded freedom and equality over the course of our nation’s history.

That doesn’t mean it carries all of the answers -- nor does it mean conservatism is always wrong. Still, to characterize progressivism the way Ryan did is a disservice to his constituents, and a false representation of what has made our nation the envy of the world.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Walker portrays himself wiser than Feingold, but WI governor still backs Trump

Gov. Walker can’t believe Feingold still supports the ACA. Meanwhile, Walker backs a candidate who bragged about sexual assault.

I need to make an admission here -- I missed the debate between Sen. Ron Johnson and former Sen. Russ Feingold. And since I missed it, I shouldn’t comment on who won, who did better, and so forth until I watch a replay of it online later this weekend.

But I was struck by an observation made online by Gov. Scott Walker following the debate. Walker tweeted out a criticism of Feingold for his support of the Affordable Care Act.

The law, though it has its flaws, has produced more good for this nation’s uninsured and under-insured. Before the law, for example, insurers could refuse service to paying customers based on “pre-existing conditions,” ailments or conditions that individuals had in the past. These included pregnancy, cancer, and even acne. Women could be charged more for insurance before the health care reforms were passed.

Because of the ACA, millions of people who didn’t have insurance now have access to it. But critics are right about one thing -- costs have gone up, and Americans are struggling to make payments. That is why Feingold said during the debate (according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) that, “It's not perfect. I agree the deductible and premiums have to come down.”

Scott Walker took that comment and decided to comment on it directly through his Twitter account:

Scott Walker is upset that Russ Feingold supported a law that insured more Americans and prevented millions from being denied coverage.

To which I ask Gov. Walker -- what is worse? That Feingold supports Obamacare, but wants to make necessary changes to it? Or that Walker AND Johnson both continue to support the candidacy of Donald Trump?

It is not an unfair question to ask. Walker and Johnson have both condemned the embattled GOP presidential nominee for his words over the past week that suggested he has sexually assaulted women because he’s a celebrity and feels entitled to grab them in unmentionable areas.

But his words -- and the subsequent allegations made by nearly a dozen women that he touched or kissed them inappropriately and without their consent, as of the time of this post -- have not been enough for either Walker or Johnson to rescind their endorsement of Trump.

So while Walker is critical of Feingold for supporting a law with some flaws, I think Wisconsinites should be more concerned with Johnson being supportive of a presidential candidate who has bragged about committing assault.

Feingold supports the ACA but knows it’s not perfect. He’s looking to make changes to it in ways that will improve the law overall. Meanwhile, Gov. Scott Walker still backs Trump, even as Trump shows no sign of improving his own behavior and demeanor.

You tell me who has the moral high ground here.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

ENDORSEMENT: Hillary Clinton should be our next president

She is the best choice to lead us over the next four years of challenges

This has certainly been an eventful presidential election cycle.

The choice for president boils down to this: do we continue with the gains we have made under President Barack Obama? Or do we move in a different, darker direction?

Image via U.S. State Department,
Public Domain
That darker direction is led by Republican nominee Donald Trump. He has, over the course of his campaign, exemplified the nastier side of campaign politics. He has verbally maligned his political opponents. He has denied press credentials to newspapers that have reported on facts of his campaign that he may not want publicized. He has called immigrants rapists and murderers despite evidence to the contrary, and has even suggested an American-born judge, the son of Mexican immigrants, couldn’t perform his judicial duties without bias.

He has also suggested that an entire group of people, based on their religious beliefs, should be barred from entering our nation. And he had once proposed that Muslims, practicing the faith that he so blatantly abhors, should have to wear an identifier -- similar to what Adolph Hitler required of the Jews in Nazi Germany.

He has belittled disabled reporters, encouraged his supporters to engage in violent acts during his campaign rallies, and has yet to hold any responsibility or make any apologies for racist actions and statements he’s made. Throughout all of this, and more, Donald Trump has tried to assure us that he has the best temperament of any candidate running for office.

Elections are supposed to be about what we’re going to do to improve our nation. The hard-hitting issues that matter to us are meant to be debated, fiercely, and discussed in forums among the candidates, their surrogates, and the people themselves. But this candidate, whose campaign more resembles a circus act than a respectable run for higher office, has demonstrated that his demeanor is unbefitting of a president.

To be sure, he is wrong on policy issues that matter to the electorate as well. But as a representative of the people, the presidency being the only office in the United States where every voting-age citizen gets to play a part at selecting the person to serve, Donald Trump has proven he is unable to truly be a chief executive for all in this great nation.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has proven she can do just that. She will be a president we can all be proud of, and one who will not use her office to punish her political enemies, as Donald Trump recently suggested he would.

There are issues with Clinton’s candidacy that raise alarm bells, to be sure. But many of these issues are exaggerated beyond the pale by conservatives, and they have become caricatures of what they truly are. Clinton’s mishandling of emails while serving as Secretary of State, of keeping state secrets on a private server, for example, demonstrates a mistake on her part. But this does not disqualify her for the office that she seeks, as some on the right suggest (nor do the other issues that they relentlessly have tried to bombard her with). She has, on each and every attack that Republicans have attempted to throw at her, been exonerated on every charge imaginable.

And she has handled herself with grace along the way. As the first female candidate running for president on a major party’s ticket, Clinton has had to battle sexism at every turn of the race. While some, like Donald Trump, may turn toward making vicious attacks against those who oppose them, Clinton has countered suggestions that she may be unfit to serve with rational and sound reasoning. She has defended herself without resorting to name-calling. She has, as Michelle Obama said at the Democratic National Convention, taken the high road while others go low.

Donald Trump’s policies may not be worth examining at great length, for the reasons outlined above. But Hillary Clinton’s do deserve to be looked at -- and celebrated. She is for raising the minimum wage, recognizing that the federal rate of $7.25 per hour isn’t a living wage that people can survive on. She is for reducing carbon emissions and seeking out alternative forms of renewable energy, and has proposed a way to help those reliant on the coal industry to adapt to her proposed shift.

She has put forth a plan to make college more affordable, noting that the debt facing many young people today is insurmountable after they graduate with four-year degrees. And she recognizes problems with the Affordable Care Act, and has a plan to fix those problems so that rising costs won’t continue to be an issue for households across the nation.

And she has foreign policy experience. As Secretary of State, she has travelled to hundreds of countries and faced head-on leaders from other nations that don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with the United States on some issues.

Hillary Clinton is not the perfect candidate. She does have flaws, and on some issues I cannot defend her stances. Originally, I had supported Bernie Sanders for president. But Sanders didn’t win the Democratic nomination, and now he himself is supporting Clinton as the best option to move America forward.

I, too, support Clinton’s candidacy. She is the best choice among a small field of candidates (including the third-party options) of leading our country in an effective and positive way for the next four years. There will undoubtedly be times during her leadership where citizens should be critical of her choices. That would be true of any leader, regardless of their popularity. We shouldn’t give her a blank check when it comes to her leadership.

But among the choices that we have, selecting Clinton to become our next president is the best option to choose. She will be an inspiring leader to millions of women. But she will also be an inspiring leader to millions of Americans.

I do not base my selection on any candidate’s gender. I select it based on their ability to lead our nation, understanding that some tough decisions lie ahead for whoever assumes that office. With that final thought in mind, and for all of the reasons already mentioned above, Hillary Clinton has earned my vote and endorsement for President of the United States.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Paul Ryan, other Wisconsin Republicans still endorse Trump, no matter how low he goes

Several Wisconsin Republicans still back a man who openly brags about using his celebrity status to grope women

Is there no bottom, no low-point that Donald Trump can sink to, that can cause Speaker Paul Ryan to at some point say he will rescind his endorsement of the embattled presidential candidate?

Religious tests for refugees, racist statements on African-Americans, calling immigrants criminals and rapists, promising to prosecute political opponents, and bragging about sexual assaults against women because of his celebrity status -- all of these issues, and more, are not enough for Ryan and several other Wisconsin Republicans to say “no” to Donald Trump.

Ryan has stated that he will not campaign with or directly promote Trump’s candidacy. That proclamation came after it was revealed this weekend that Trump had bragged about grabbing women by their genitalia because, according to him, “when you’re a star ... you can do anything.”

After his dismal debate performance last night and his failure to diffuse the issue with a proper apology (one that doesn’t require a qualifier), Ryan told House Republicans quite plainly that he won’t campaign with Trump any longer.
Ryan spoke to House members on a conference call Monday morning following an intense political weekend, in which many Republicans abandoned their party’s nominee. Ryan also said that he would not campaign for or defend Trump in the weeks before the election.
That’s a step in the right direction. However, Ryan didn’t push the caucus on one crucial point:
“He didn’t say anything about the endorsement,” one source said of the call.
And as of this writing, Paul Ryan continues to, at least officially, endorse Donald Trump for president. So, too, does Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Ron Johnson, and 8th Congressional District Republican candidate Mike Gallagher.

Gallagher’s support for Trump helped him to secure the nomination from his party in a contentious primary earlier this year, despite the fact that outgoing GOP Rep. Reid Ribble refused to support Trump long ago.

To his credit, Gallagher has described the Trump recordings on social media as “sickening,” and released an official statement on his campaign site saying that he denounces Trump’s “disgusting and offensive comments and strongly echo the sentiments of my mother, sister, niece and all women who deserve to be treated with our utmost respect.”

That’s great and all, but one question still lingers: will Gallagher, Ryan, and other Republican leaders in Wisconsin still vote for Trump, even after these disgusting comments? There’s nothing to suggest in their official statements that they won’t.

Until they say otherwise, we should assume that these legislative and state leaders still do, on paper, support a man who has admitted to groping unsuspecting women. They should be ashamed for still backing Donald Trump for president.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Violent Crime in Wisconsin surges to record high -- concealed carry has failed to deter

Lawmakers who suggest loosening gun laws even further ought to consider how concealed carry, other gun laws, failed to make the state safer

In July of this year, I criticized Attorney General Brad Schimel for insisting that Wisconsin was safer because of concealed carry becoming law in 2011.

“Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites hold a concealed carry license, making our state a safer place to live, work, and raise a family,” he said then.

I pointed out that his assumption was flawed -- the state wasn’t safer under the recent years of concealed carry. FBI data for the years 2011-2014 showed that violent crime and murder went up, and preliminary data from 2015 showed it went up dramatically.

Concealed carry, when it was being debated on in the state legislature, was sold based on the idea that it would prevent crime from happening. If a criminal couldn’t be sure that a law-abiding citizen was carrying a gun or not, surely that criminal would be less likely to try and commit a crime.

In other words, it wasn’t just self-defense that justified concealed carry, but it was also deterrence of crime. Indeed, in signing the bill into law Gov. Scott Walker promised that the state would be safer for it.

Last month the FBI released the updated numbers for crime in the United States for the year 2015. My numbers from July of this year came from the Wisconsin Department of Justice, and were preliminary estimates. These new FBI numbers are considered more reliable, and are better to compare with previous years’ data.

New data suggests crime went up 
even more than we initially thought

What new information have we found? The new data shows that the estimates examined in my post from July were actually conservative. Violent crime, murder and gun crime trended worse than what I reported back then.

In the years prior to concealed carry getting passed into law, crime in the state was already trending lower year-after-year. From 2008 to 2011 (the law was enacted at the end of that year), the rate of aggravated assaults where a gun was involved in the incident dropped by 72 percent, from 35.8 incidents per 100,000 citizens to 27.4 incidents per 100,000.

From 2011 onward that rate went back up -- dramatically. Aggravated assaults involving a gun went up by 87.3 percent, from the 2011 rate of 27.4 per 100,000 citizens to a rate of 51.3 per 100,000 in 2015.

Overall, from 2008 to 2015 aggravated assaults that involved a gun went up by 43 percent. All of the rise in that rate during that time period, however, can be attributed to the years after the concealed carry law was passed.

Violent crime (in general) in Wisconsin has never been this high since the time records were kept by the FBI. In 2011, when concealed carry was passed, violent crime stood at 236 incidents per 100,000. In 2015, it went up to 305 per 100,000. That’s a 29 percent rate increase in violent crime since concealed carry became law.

Deflating the “it’s only in Milwaukee” argument

There are some who will see these statistics, scoff at them and say, “It’s only in Milwaukee.” Indeed, crime did go up from 2011 to 2015 in our state’s largest city. But making that statement perpetuates the belief that Milwaukee is somehow “cut off” from the rest of the state. Many across Wisconsin simply choose to ignore Milwaukee, and view it as a hindrance, when it’s just as much a part of the state as any other community. The safety of that city should matter to the rest of the state.

But another problem with the “it’s only Milwaukee” statement is that it’s NOT just Milwaukee. Violent crime across non-metropolitan counties has also gone up. From 2011 to 2015 violent crime in these counties went up by 18.8 percent. Murders went up by 172 percent.

In all, from 2011 to 2015 murders in Milwaukee increased by 69 percent. In communities outside of Milwaukee murders went up by 84 percent.

Put another way, for every 10 murders in 2011 that occurred outside of Milwaukee, there were 17 that occurred inside the state’s largest city. In 2015, that gap decreased: for every 10 murders outside of Milwaukee, the number that occurred in the city dropped down to 14.

Concealed carry didn’t deter crime

Following my blog post in July, I was invited to speak on the Joy Cardin show on Wisconsin Public Radio. I reiterated the points I made on my blog at that time:
[Chris] Walker points to 2011, when the concealed carry law was passed. In the three years leading up to 2011, crime was going down, he said. But in the following years, the crime rate starts to go up.

"Now, whether that’s a correlation or not is up for debate," he said. "Whether the rise in crime happened or not, I don’t think is up for debate. I don’t think that we can say that concealed carry succeeded in making us a safer state," he said.
It’d be unfair to blame concealed carry for the rise in gun crimes or violence overall across the state. A variety of factors unrelated to gun ownership could be in play, and a more comprehensive study is necessary than what I have provided above.

But what we can point out is that concealed carry, as a method of deterrence to crime across the state, was an utter failure. Republican lawmakers promised -- and still promise to this day -- that concealed carry makes the public safer. Yet we are most definitely not safer in the years following its passage.

As a method for public safety, we need to consider options other than concealed carry. Calls from some Republican lawmakers to loosen gun laws even more (around K-12 schools and college campuses in particular) are wrong-headed, and won’t provide safety to the areas they intend to.

Real reform is needed, and the answer can’t just be to arm the public. That reform has failed to keep us safe.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Who won the VP debate? It depends on when you ask the question

Pence won the debate in the moment; Kaine will seem more-the-victor in days ahead

Republican Mike Pence (left) and 
Democrat Tim Kaine (right).
Images via Wikipedia
Here’s my very-quick take on the vice presidential debate last night between Mike Pence and Tim Kaine. Everyone is concerned about who “won” and I’ll include my two cents on that as well. But first I want to Socratically ask, “when do we measure victory?”

If we’re talking about who won in the moment, Mike Pence is the definite winner, though he didn’t win with a huge victory. He simply performed better than Tim Kaine. The Democratic nominee certainly had more facts on his side, but he frequently interrupted his opponent and pressed the same issues over and over. In watching the debate live, even I, one of his supporters, had to cringe at Kaine’s performance.

Pence was less factual, but more composed. I tried putting myself in the shoes of an undecided, low-information voter who doesn’t regularly follow politics. Pence just comes off more professional and ready to serve from that perspective.

However, when looking at “who won” from a different perspective, I think Tim Kaine takes the victory. That perspective is from the news fact-checking that is heavily prevalent in our media landscape today. Kaine consistently attacked Pence on the issue of Donald Trump, and asked him to defend Trump’s lewd and questionable statements. Pence refused to defend them, stating several times that Trump didn’t say what Kaine said he did.

As the video below shows (via Hillary Clinton’s Twitter account), that’s just not the case:
And perhaps that was what Kaine was after all along in delivering the same message over and over again. That method of debating makes him seem almost bullyish DURING the debate, but in this age of soundbite politics (coupled with the various fact-checking websites contradicting Pence’s insistence that Trump never said what he actually did say), it creates lasting impressions in the form of videos like those above. In that sense, Kaine is the clear victor TODAY and in the days AFTER the debate.

Indeed, the vice presidential debate was likely watched by less people than the first presidential debate between Hillary and Donald. It would be better strategy, then, to try and create situations in the VP debate that could be used on the campaign trail (in commercials or otherwise) rather than trying to win the debate in the moment. In that regard, Kaine won.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Wisconsin conservatives toast to unlimited, secretive corporate influence and pay-to-play in our elections

Supreme Court decides not to hear John Doe case

I predicted that the Supreme Court of the United States would hear arguments in favor of allowing the John Doe investigation in Wisconsin to continue. Today, it was revealed that the Court won’t hear those arguments after all.

I was wrong in my guess. But my reasons to hope for the outcome I wrongly predicted were as true as ever. The Court needed to hear the case to restore integrity to Wisconsin’s political process. As it stands today, the method of campaigning, of candidates diverting funds secretly to third party interest groups to allow both unlimited and secretive contributions, is legal.

Many citizens don’t support this type of electioneering. They don’t want corporations donating large sums of money to a candidate’s cause, and then “poof,” like magic, that corporation mysteriously benefits from laws passed by the very same candidates they supported.

In one such instance, legislation benefitting companies that dealt with lead paint were granted huge leeways in who could sue them. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled Legislature approved a measure aimed at retroactively shielding paint makers from liability after a billionaire owner of a lead producer contributed $750,000 to a political group that provided crucial support to Walker and Republicans in recall elections, according to a report released Wednesday.
That’s not proof of pay-to-play, but it certainly doesn’t pass any “sniff test” I know either. Three-quarters of a million dollars goes to supporting Republican candidates from a lead paint company, and then lead paint regulations are suddenly eased. Stop at any Kwik Trip in Wisconsin, start up a conversation with anyone inside, and that person will tell you they have doubts about the integrity of our leaders. They’d also want to know more about what’s going on in our elections process.

Except, now they CAN’T know more -- those types of donations are hidden from view, purposely kept in the dark. The only reason we know anything about them at all is all because of the John Doe investigation in the first place. Leaked documents, provided to the Guardian US from an unknown source in September, allowed us a tiny glimpse into how campaign fundraising works in the state now. But we won’t be able to see anything more from this point on.

Today Wisconsin conservatives are literally toasting the decision of the Supreme Court not to take on the John Doe case. I wonder to what they’re toasting to? Unlimited corporate influence? Secretive donations being the law of the land? Pay-to-play bribes that now won’t see the light of day? These are not Wisconsin values.

Yet this is the Wisconsin that Republicans and conservatives wanted. For now, they’ve gotten it -- corruption, bribes, and a clear path to corporate oligarchy. It’s up to us, the people, to restore integrity in our state. I remain hopeful that we can.

John Doe is dead. But democracy and openness in our elections still have a chance in Wisconsin.