Friday, November 17, 2017

Chris Says "So Long" To Political Heat

This isn’t a Goodbye. It’s just, “see you around.”

When I began Political Heat in 2009, it had been with the idea that writing would be my hobby. I’d submit my thoughts to be considered, have people comment on them maybe a few times a month, and hopefully use the site as a springboard into becoming a trusted voice on the left in the state of Wisconsin.

This year, I embarked on a brand new adventure: I began writing as a profession. Freelance writing, like this blog, had always been a “side gig.” But I had the opportunity to make it my full time job, and in March that’s what I did.

I’ve enjoyed doing it since then, and don’t intend to stop. There have been very few downsides to writing as a career, but chief among them has been the neglect of my home site, Political Heat.

The writing has been on the wall for a few months now, especially since the number of blog posts per month I was making had gone down significantly since I started writing elsewhere. Now, it’s time to say goodbye to the site itself, and to put out one last blog post before retiring the site for good.

This doesn’t mean that I’m no longer going to write about state politics. At the end of November, I’m happy to report, I’ll be starting a new project writing for a site that's dedicated to reporting on state issues from around the nation. I’ve been assigned to report on Wisconsin specifically, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

But putting Political Heat to rest is tough. This was the site that helped launch my career as a writer. When applying for side gigs for the past eight years, I’ve used content from this site to demonstrate my writing prowess. And when I was driven to write after incredulous events — when Scott Walker had decided to do something harmful to the state, when legislators insisted that loose gun laws would make us safer, when commentators made bigoted statements about women, people of color, or individuals in the LGBTQ community — this was always a home for my writing.

I liken this move, from one site to another, as analogous to a move from an old house to a new one. I’ve spent a lot of time building this site, promoting it, arranging it, and writing on it. I’ve contributed more than 1,200 blog posts here. I’ve been recognized by local sites like the Cap Times and international ones like the Guardian UK and CBS, have had people reach out to me locally to discuss issues relevant to my posts, have been invited to speak at conferences because of my contribution to citizen journalism, and have made many great blogging friends through my work on this site.

Letting go of Political Heat is the right move at this time. I can dedicate more of my time toward writing projects that will help pay the bills, while at the same time reaching a wider audience, all while still promoting progressive causes in the state and elsewhere. But parting from Political Heat is also a difficult move to make.

I would like add one last thought: if you’re considering starting a blog of your own, even just a little bit, DO IT. Even if it doesn’t take off, even if it’s just a place to hone your writing a little bit, or to vent, or to disseminate your opinion to your friends, even if it's just once a week or once a month, it will become an endeavor that will be beneficial to yourself.

What’s more, the world needs more citizens willing to express their views, and more opinion writers to provide their ideas on how to make their communities better places. Writing and researching the posts at this site have been enjoyable to me. I look forward to continuing that for my next project, which I will announce here soon (look for it in the sidebar in the next week or two).

Lastly, I have many thanks to give. I want to thank my parents, who always encouraged me to never stop learning, and who had a positive comment to give on nearly every post I published. I’d like to thank my brother, too, who did the same, and who gave me his perspectives on the issues whenever he could. I’d like to thank my friends who read this blog, who carried on the conversations offline, even if we sometimes disagreed with some of the finer points. I’d like to thank the Cap Times and WisOpinion for sharing my content elsewhere, bringing my writing to a bigger audience. I’d like to thank the brilliant Journalism and Political Science departments at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I’d like to thank the #wiunion blogging community, who welcomed me in with open arms. I’d like to thank you, the readers, who made this site what it was, who shared its content on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and elsewhere.

And I’d like to thank my wife, who helped me in three major ways: 1) she put up with me writing this blog site in the first place, which sometimes meant me taking a few hours out of the evening to work (and sometimes neglect household chores in the process); 2) she tempered my thoughts when they needed it so that I never wrote angry (well, too angry). She is a tremendous asset as someone I can share my ideas with, and who would give me honest answers on whether I was going too extreme or not; and 3) she always, always told me to keep writing, even when there were weeks when I thought to myself, “no, I shouldn’t do this anymore, what’s the point.” She always picks me up when I'm down on myself as a writer (which all writers do at some point), and she encouraged me to seek out additional projects as time went on. And I want to thank my son for having patience with me during times when I have said, “just five more minutes” to finish a blog post. Thank you both, very much.

Well, that’s it. The show’s over, but the work is never done. Keep fighting for a better Wisconsin. And please, keep reading local journalism.

Thank you,

Chris Walker

P.S. If you’d like to continue to read my thoughts, please follow me on Twitter @thatchriswalker. Please also visit my writing clips site where you can find the various sites I have written over the years, as well as my current projects I’m currently writing for. Oh, and if you have a wedding coming up, I'm an ordained minister! I'd be happy to work with you to help make your wedding day a perfect one (visit my clips site for information on that as well).

Thanks again!

Me, being a nerd

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Meet Candidate Michele Doolan, Running For Governor Of Wisconsin (Interview)

Doolan provides an inspiring vision of citizens campaigning to keep democracy in the hands of the people

The 2018 gubernatorial election season in Wisconsin is fast approaching, and I find myself being inspired by two candidacies.

Mike McCabe is announcing his run later this month as sort of an Independent-Democratic option that will challenge both parties to make change. His candidacy inspires me because it makes me feel as though a second wave of the Progressive Movement could be coming to Wisconsin (and possibly the nation) in the years ahead.

Doolan, via YouTube
But I am also inspired by a second candidacy because it demonstrates that citizens are beginning to rise up, to take back their government out of the controlling hands of corporate interests, and put it right back where it belongs in any democracy: within the care of the people.

Michele Doolan, a Wisconsinite with roots all across the state (currently in Cross Plains), is running for governor with a very limited amount of political experience. As a business owner, she is a member of Dane Buy Local, and serves as part of many other organizations in the area. She is also married to an Iraq War vet, and a mother to three children.

She says she is inspired to run because, looking at what we currently have in office, it was clear that someone like her had to step up.

“I’ve got a different perspective on the standard obstacles people consider when running for government office,” Doolan told me when I reached out to her recently.

So what made her, a political outsider, decide to run? Advice and encouragement from others, who seemed excited about the prospect.

“I asked [close friends] the following question: ‘What if someone who doesn’t have a political agenda, or a political career to worry, about ran against Scott Walker?’” she says. Those individuals “encouraged me to give it a shot.”

It’s by no means an easy task — and requires the help of those who surround you. “Your family needs to be ‘all in,’” Doolan tells me, “because it will absorb you a bit. You also need to keep your focus on the reasons why you’re running for office and never waiver on that.”

Importantly, you must have “clear boundaries for what you’re willing to do and what you’re not willing to do to make it into office,” she says.

On the issues, Doolan explains that, after two terms of Gov. Scott Walker, “it’s hard not to want to try to fix everything all at once.” But the “cost of living versus the average wage earner’s earning is in the forefront of my mind, as well as our collective investment in education,” she tells me.

These have to be some of the first priorities, she explains. “It’s difficult to get people excited to really consider new ideas when so many people are on the edge of financial disaster on a day to day basis, and have been encouraged by the right to blame each other for it” she says. “But that struggle needs to be addressed beyond say, a $50 tax break on property tax.”

And on the controversial project involving a $3 billion giveaway to Foxconn? “I would like to point out how anti-free market it is to ask the taxpayers to foot the bill for a private, outside company to bring jobs into the area,” she says. “The fact that it’s being rushed makes me wonder what’s really going on there. It screams politics that will benefit a select few rather than contribute to a long term economic goal that benefits all of us.”

Doolan isn’t afraid to speak her mind about President Donald Trump either — unlike Gov. Scott Walker, who refused to condemn the president after surprising comments involving white supremacists and neo-Nazis, describing some of them as "fine people."

On Trump, Doolan says, “How hard was it for Trump to form the sentence, ‘Nazis and bigotry are bad?’”

And on Walker being soft on Trump, she adds, “I think Wisconsin needs a leader that isn’t afraid to stand up to a President that is uncomfortable with protecting America from a White Supremacy movement. Maybe a plucky, small-town mom is just what we need?”

It could be just what this state requires.

Doolan is facing huge obstacles — as a newcomer to statewide elections, she will have just a year to make a name for herself, to travel across the state, and raise funds for her candidacy. Still, she’s running a campaign to become Wisconsin’s next governor as a citizen who saw that there are a lot of things wrong that need correcting.

You can't help but to feel inspired by that kind of sentiment.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Scott Walker Refuses To Condemn Trump — 'Bold Leadership,' Indeed!

Walker's past comments show a willingness to take the low road against political adversaries, cowardice to condemn allies when necessary

Gov. Scott Walker, who briefly ran against Donald Trump during the 2016 Republican primary, is taking a weak stand against the comments made by the president regarding violent white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump suggested that “many sides” were to blame for the violence that occurred in Charlottesville. Several examples serve to demonstrate that is not the case — in one instance, an African American was beaten by several white supremacists with pipes.

In the most notable example, Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old woman who was protesting the presence of white nationalist in Charlottesville, was killed by a supremacist who purposefully drove his vehicle into her and more than a dozen others.

Walker spoke out against the bigotry, but stopped short of being critical of the president’s reactions.

“My comment on this is I denounce the bigotry and hatred and I’ll let the president and his team speak for him,” he said last week.

That’s a cop-out that shouldn’t be seen as acceptable to the people of this state.

In fact, a poll out today shows that most Wisconsinites don’t approve of Trump’s conduct in office. Only 34 percent give him passing marks, while 56 percent say they disapprove of his time as president so far.

With numbers like those, Walker should be less afraid of speaking against the president. But again, Walker shows a preference for keeping his thoughts to himself when it could hurt someone in his own party.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “there comes a time when silence is betrayal.” In the case of Walker’s silence on Donald Trump, that time is now. Walker is betraying his constituents by refusing to say anything, critical or even supportive, of the president’s words.

Indeed, his silence on Trump is even more pronounced when you take into consideration how much he criticized the president before him, Barack Obama. One instance sticks out to me in particular — when Walker suggested that he didn’t know if Obama loved America or not.

“You should ask the president [at the time, Barack Obama] what he thinks about America,” Walker said in 2015. “I’ve never asked him so I don’t know.”

Walker's comments came in response to Rudy Giuliani suggesting at that time that Obama didn't love the country. Walker refused to denounce Giuliani's comments, instead deferring by saying we should ask Obama personally — again, a cop-out that shows he puts his party before country on questions like these.

Walker proved that he was willing to take the low road when he made those comments about Obama. And this past week Walker proved that he’s willing to take the cowardly way out of condemning a president worthy of criticism, solely because Trump happens to be part of the same political party as he is.

That’s hardly bold leadership that Walker frequently claims he possesses.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Right-wing blog Wants To Replace Statues Of "Fighting Bob" With WHO??

Wisconsin Governor fought for countless reforms, and was ahead of his time on several issues

An editorial on Right Wisconsin, a conservative-based blog in the state, is apparently advocating that we should remove the statues of Robert "Fighting Bob" La Follette, beloved governor and U.S. senator from Wisconsin’s Progressive era, from the state Capitol building and U.S. Capitol.

A bust of La Follette’s head sits in the Capitol in Wisconsin, while a full-sized statue is in the National Statuary Hall in DC.

The editorial from Right Wisconsin is making light of recent Confederate statue removals (by cities themselves or by force from citizens) and trying to suggest there is an equivalency somehow in removing figures that are from the past. That is a false equivalency, to say the least — La Follette stood for empowering the people, while the statues being removed elsewhere in the country stood for keeping entire races of people defined as second-class citizens.

But brushing aside the subtleties of Right Wisconsin’s byline-less editorial, it would be wrong to remove La Follette’s likeness for other reasons. Namely, because they wish to replace him with statues of William Rehnquist, who served as Chief Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States and was a Wisconsin-born jurist.

While that is a high honor worthy of recognition, replacing La Follette with Rehnquist would be a slap in the face of what Wisconsin stands for, and what Americans across the nation support overall.

La Follette backed huge reforms long before they were implemented. He was an ardent critic of big businesses crafting backroom deals with lawmakers, and fought against similar corruption within the government. He stood for women’s suffrage, saying early on that the right to vote for all women “will result in a more enlightened, better balanced citizenship, and in a truer democracy.” He also fought for protections of rights regardless of skin color, and was invited to speak by civil rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois in Atlanta about the fight for equality.

And he vigorously fought for electoral reforms, including implementing the primary system of selecting candidates and instituting the 17th Amendment, giving voters the right to select their own U.S. Senators through a direct vote.

What about Rehnquist? His record on rights is much, much darker. As a clerk for Justice Robert H. Jackson in the 1950s, he wrote a memo defending the “separate but equal” doctrine for keeping Jim Crow laws legal. Rehnquist also was part of the 5-4 majority that halted vote counting in Florida during the 2000 presidential recount. And although he later supported the rule, he was a vocal opponent of the necessary Miranda statement that all police officers must give to suspects they arrest.

Now, you tell me who deserves a spot in the National Statuary Hall: an individual who stood for expanding individuals’ rights, or one whose record included efforts to limit who could take part in American society? My vote goes to "Fighting Bob," and I think most Wisconsinites would agree we should keep his statues right where they are.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Measure the good vs. the bad with Foxconn deal, and you'll understand the skepticism

Mitch Henck complains about complainers, and I give my thoughts on that

Local commentator Mitch Henck doesn’t get why people are upset with the new Foxconn deal that was recently brokered by the state and the tech company.

“Alright, would you rather have the jobs not be here?” Henck asked rhetorically in his latest video column. “Understand that jobs are very vital, and we need them. [The state] is bringing up to 13,000 jobs" as a result of the deal, he argues.

Henck is fine to defend the deal if that’s his opinion, but he makes a lot of assumptions throughout the video. The idea that 13,000 permanent jobs could be created is a fiction. In fact, that number is only estimated by the company itself to be around 3,000 jobs to start with the potential to bring more in the future.

Much has been said, too, of the billions of dollars we’re giving away in tax incentives to Foxconn. The $3 billion in tax incentives isn’t even all of it — according to state Senator Kathleen Vinehout, the company will also forgo paying local property taxes for the next thirty years.

And concerns abound about the environmental impact of Foxconn’s arrival. A new bill in the state legislature this week would give the company tremendous leeway to pollute their surroundings — including potentially waiving the need for an Environmental Impact Statement.

Henck’s argument is that this deal is all about jobs, jobs and jobs, and that we should be grateful for the plans that Gov. Scott Walker has laid out for us to get those jobs. But there has to be a measured approach to the impact that the Foxconn deal will have for whatever area they locate to, as well as the rest of the state.

I liken it to this: if a new pill allowed balding men to regrow their hair, but came at the expense of losing their toes, would it be worth it? Some might actually make the sacrifice. But others would understand that toes, while the smallest extremities on the body, provide a very important role for the rest of the body when it comes to balance.

In other words, the sacrifices that get made may not be worth the impact of the overall goal. A man who constantly falls over all of the time may not be attractive, even with a full head of hair. And a company that may provide for thousands of jobs may not be worth it if comes at the expense of local governments or creates environmental hazards.

Scott Walker has failed to create jobs in any other way. And bringing more jobs to the state is a positive move. But if the only way Walker can do so is at the expense of the financial and physical health of the people he serves, then it’s hard to consider that a success, in my book.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Shower Thoughts And Twitter Bans

Why President Trump Is Wrong To Block Chrissy Teigen (Or Anyone Else, For That Matter)

I, like many individuals in the Millennial age bracket, do a lot of thinking in the shower. So-called shower thoughts are altogether profound and yet very simple in reasoning. They produce an “aha!” moment in your head as you have them, and then oftentimes, hours later, you end up saying to yourself, “Well, yeah, that’s so obvious now that I think about it.”

(Don’t even try explaining them to your significant other.)

My most recent shower thought involved President Donald Trump. I’ll get to it in a minute, but it involves his habit of blocking people from his Twitter account, which I’d like to explain a little bit more first. The latest (famous) victim is supermodel Chrissy Teigen, who has provided years of commentary to Trump’s tweets, yet was only blocked this past weekend for such a ridiculous reason.

Teigen wasn’t blocked for her pointing out a hypocrisy made by the president, or for noting a flaw in Trump’s policy positions. She wasn’t even blocked for threatening the safety of the president. She was blocked for sharing these five simple words:

“lol no one likes you.”
Chrissy Teigen has the right to free speech, of course, and her post about how a majority of Americans disapprove of the president’s time in office thus far (at least, that’s how I analyzed it) isn’t wrong. But it did earn her the ire, apparently, of President Trump.

The question is, does Trump have a right to block Teigen, or any other citizen for that matter? Free speech does require us to understand there are consequences to what we say, but should one of those consequences end up being restricted access to the president’s opinions?

We may soon find out. A group of citizens is suing the president for similarly being blocked on social media by him. Although they do not have the same clout as Chrissy Teigen, they do consider this blockage by the president a violation of their rights, namely their access to information disseminated by the him.

While there isn’t an enumerated right to access the president’s Twitter feed (an unforeseen circumstance by the founders, to be sure), they may have a point: the right to know what your government is up to is one that may fall under a penumbra of rights that do exist in the Constitution, and may possibly be connected to the Freedom of Information Act.

But one may argue, “aren’t some of these users engaging in harassment or bullying?” That’s hard to say, but it may not matter. Which brings me back to the “shower thought” that I alluded to earlier, which goes like this:

“The president is not my great aunt, and neither should treat me the same way as the other does.”

I’ll try to explain. When family members or friends on social media get annoyed with your commentary, and they feel the need to respond, you are certainly within your rights to block those individuals from seeing your posts. They may whine and bemoan your decision, but nothing other than your own choice to change your mind can alter what has happened.

But there’s something different about the president doing that — he’s the most public of all public figures, after all, and his words (be they spoken or thumb-typed) deserve the scrutiny of everyone who lives in this country. While your great aunt may not need to know every public utterance you make, what the president has to say in public does matter a great deal to millions of Americans.

Admittedly, my shower thought is a bit lengthy, but I think you get the point: there may be circumstances that do warrant a “presidential ghosting” on social media — perhaps when harassment goes beyond words and into the realm of leveling threats against the POTUShim — but those instances should require tangible proof that they’re necessary for the protection of the president, his family or other members of his administration. It shouldn’t need to be said out loud, but social media blocking by the president shouldn’t come about as a result of a minor annoyance, disagreement or grudge that the commander-in-chief holds against you.

Every citizen deserves access to the official communications of the president, which the White House has deemed Trump’s tweets fit under that category. Even citizens who are annoyingly hounding the president should still have access to what he has to say. And the president, even if he’s feeling a bit grouchy that day, doesn’t have the right to limit your access to official government records.

The advent of social media (which is still a relatively young invention) brings about new thoughts and theories about what is permissible or not for private and public spheres alike. But on this issue, the ability to access the official word of the White House should not be restrained, whether it’s through traditional print media or through the president’s social media postings. No matter how short his temper is, Donald Trump doesn’t have the right to block you from seeing his public postings.

Friday, June 30, 2017

GUEST POST >> Trump’s Plan for Consumers: Death by a Thousand Cuts

Are Consumers Being Trumped by Policy?

The following is a guest post authored by Lindsey Pasieka, a Consumer Rights Investigator with If you are interested in doing a guest post with Political Heat, please click the Contact link above. 

The metaphor is gruesome, I know. But today, so is the outlook for consumers in America. With the AHCA vote put on hold once again (because not everyone thinks it is okay to strip 22 million Americans of their healthcare) our nation sits on the fence between defending and decimating consumer protections.

Donald Trump, however, has already made his stance clear. He stands to the side with Big Business, Big Pharma and Big Losses for the public.

Already, President Trump has shown his disregard for the average American in his FY18 budget, which presents cuts to some of our most important health and safety agencies. For example, the FDA’s budget stands to be cut by $854 million, a deficit that would be covered by increased user fees placed on the shoulders of drug manufacturers.

Perhaps this is a burden easily taken on by Pfizer and similar household names. However, the hiked fees could trample smaller, innovative companies seeking to bring new solutions to the world of medications, stifling their product offerings and thereby preserving the profit margin of current industry moguls.

Trump has often talked about reducing regulations that he considers “overkill” in both drug and agriculture. What you might not know is that those reductions include a $228 million cut in farm programs that, in addition to maintaining a high standard for food quality, offer assistance to smaller farms and organic farmers making their way into the market. If that isn’t enough, reports that "Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in May rescinded rules in the School Lunch Program that required the use of whole grains and fat-free, white-only milk and a second round of sodium reductions."

In plain terms, the Trump administration is stamping out opportunities for eco-friendly, health-focused producers while blatantly allowing schools to provide less healthful options to our kids every day.

Of course, it’s not enough to put a pillow over the face of market innovators — the GOP has attacked consumers directly as well. With their oxymoronic Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act, the administration has made it much more difficult for consumers to seek justice when Big Business or Big Pharma missteps. To create a class, citizens must now prove they have the same “type and scope of injury.”

So if plaintiff #1 was exposed to talcum powder by her mother using baby powder on her as an infant, and plaintiff #2 used the powder to help reduce chafing while training for a 5K, and both have now been diagnosed with ovarian cancer caused by the talcum powder, they cannot band together to seek reparations. Even if both women had the same “type and scope of injury,” ovarian cancer can lie dormant for years. Since litigators have recently proposed changing the statutes of limitation for these cases from 10 to 3 years, these women would be unable to fight for justice if their diagnosis came too late.

As of today, Donald Trump’s administration isn’t quite sure where it lands on health care just yet. But they continue to be complacent in supporting Big Business and Big Pharma over the small businesses that truly make America great. They care more about profits in the food industry than promoting health standards, despite a raging obesity epidemic and the climate benefits of innovative, organic farming practices.

And when they’re done picking the bones of federal agencies, they have no problem targeting consumer rights directly. So death by a thousand cuts may sound ugly, messy, or painful. But there’s one thing the threat isn’t: fake.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Why you should ignore Scott Walker’s rosy economic outlook

Underemployment remains a problem in Wisconsin — and that’s why jobs numbers matter

Scott Walker is making much ado about the unemployment rate in Wisconsin. And at first glance, it does look pretty great. Here’s his latest radio address spot, courtesy of the Capital Times’s Jessie Opoien:
A 3.1 percent unemployment rate, again, sounds great. But there’s important things to remember here...first, that the unemployment numbers count people as employed even if they’re working part time.

There isn’t a reliable measure of part time workers that we can look at. So, it’s important to look at the underemployment rate also when we look at how much things have improved.

That rate, also known as the U-6 rate, is actually hovering around 7.7 to 8.0 percent, meaning that nearly 4 to 5 percent of the workforce that Walker is touting as employed isn’t getting as much work as they wish they could (full time). In total, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that nearly 100,000 individuals were involuntary part time workers in the state of Wisconsin.

This leads into the next point. In order to fix that problem of underemployment, there has to be new jobs created in the state, and frequently. This is true with any economy: a certain percentage of people, at any given time, want to be able to change career paths or just get a different job with a new employer. So, new jobs have to be created to keep up.

That’s not possible when new jobs aren’t being created. And with less than 12,000 jobs being created for all of 2016, it’s clear that Wisconsin isn’t keeping up with the demand for fluidity in the job marketplace.

It’s no wonder that millennials are seeking work elsewhere, as I pointed out earlier this month. Job opportunities are low, wages are dropping, and what job opportunities do exist are on many occasions part time jobs.

Scott Walker should be proud of the 3.1 percent unemployment rate. But that rate is hardly indicative of the overall economic picture. Voters should remind him of where the state really stands when 2018 rolls around.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Randy Bryce’s announcement ad is a powerful message — and Dems nationwide should echo it

Ironworker and activist hopes to win Paul Ryan’s seat

Ironworker and activist Randy Bryce has announced his intention to run for Congress. He faces a daunting task: running against the current Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

But if any candidate is going to be able to put up a fight worth writing home about, it’s Bryce. His no-nonsense style of wit, along with his lifelong connection to southeastern Wisconsin, will make him a formidable opponent for Ryan, who has held the district since 1999.

And Bryce, in announcing his bid for the seat, has come out swinging. He released his first campaign ad to great fanfare yesterday (just search “Bryce” on Twitter to see the people who have lauded this ad). One noteworthy message of praise simply states that Bryce was “genetically engineered from Bruce Springsteen songs.”

But you should really see the ad for yourself. And then you should share it with whoever you can, especially if they live in the First Congressional District of Wisconsin.
Bryce’s ad is a moving and powerful example of what the Democratic Party should be moving toward. If that message ran in every district across the country, there’d be a gain in seats for Democrats in Congress, no question about it.

I look forward to seeing who comes out ahead on the Democratic Party’s primary in Wisconsin’s First District. But Bryce’s ad has me pumped up about the possibilities.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Rename the City-County Building in Madison after Barack Obama

The building, which sits on MLK Blvd, would be incredibly symbolic of the 44th president’s importance

The City-County Building in downtown Madison should absolutely, without any reservation whatsoever, be named after the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama.

Local leaders from both the city of Madison and Dane County are hoping to do just that, reports.

Important names of presidents frequently adorn schools, buildings, and other monuments, and it makes perfect sense that the first African-American president should have his name on an official building in Madison — especially given its location. The City-County Building sits on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Madison.

It was King who spoke of “his dream” in 1963 in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. that justice would one day become “a reality for all of God's children.”

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal,’ King also said.

Contrast those words with Obama's 2004 keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, and it makes perfect sense to name the building after him.
[T]he greatness of our nation [is] not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy; our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." 
For many people Obama is the embodiment of King's dream, though by no means is he the fulfillment of it. For too many, justice is not yet a reality; for too many, the color of their skin dictates how others judge them. The dream lives on, but we're closer to fulfilling it because of great Americans like President Obama.

We need to continue to rectify America’s racial prejudices, to call out when discrimination still rears its ugly head. And one way to do that is to place the names of important historical figures in the places we frequent, to adorn influential figures on the buildings we enter every day, who embody what we strive to become.

Naming the City-County Building after Barack Obama would be a great step forward. And it’s an idea I full-heartedly endorse.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Walker fails math, prefers disastrous Trumpcare to fixing Obamacare

In weekend tweet, Walker neglects (purposely?) how much worse GOP plan for healthcare would be

Scott Walker issued several tweets this weekend from his official governor’s account, one of which caught my eye for being extremely disingenuous.

Walker argued that keeping the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in place would leave tens of millions uninsured over the next decade.
Walker’s words echo President Donald Trump’s statements that claim Obamacare is in a “death spiral.” That assessment, however, has been found false on many occasions. Obamacare isn’t failing — sure, it can use a tune-up, but it’s negative aspects don’t justify dismantling all the positives it has accomplished.

But Walker’s tweet goes even lower, trying to instill fear that the law is failing using numbers that are highly misleading. While it’s true that 28 million are projected to be uninsured by 2026, the Republicans’ alternative plan would almost DOUBLE that number.
Walker takes one-half of the debate and spins it to make a point about Obamacare’s shortfalls. But he neglects to mention his own party’s disastrous replacement plan. Fifty-one million uninsured Americans is a lot worse than 28 million uninsured. If the cost of doing nothing results in a better outcome, then we should truly consider doing nothing — rejecting Trumpcare and finding ways to repair Obamacare.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Conservative politics are forcing Millennials to leave the Badger state (and who can blame them?)

Younger workers see no motivation to stay in a state with bad economic conditions, conservative politics

A new study suggests that Millennials in Milwaukee are starting to leave the big city, and probably the state in general.

From WISN:
According to a new article on Time magazine's website, most urban centers saw an increase in millennials from 2010 to 2015 and 11 cities saw a decline. The Urban Land Institute said Milwaukee's urban millennial population saw a negative change of 1.8 percent.
Much of the blame for the loss of young talent rests with the fact that there aren’t enough jobs available to millennials, the article goes on to say.

In January of 2016, I wrote a post in response to a letter to the editor I had read in the Stevens Point Journal. The letter writer suggested that, “Millennials and younger voters are likely not in sync with Walker’s and Republicans’ policies,” and I further asserted that economic opportunities (or rather, the lack thereof) hindered the retention of millennials in the Badger state:
When the economic conditions of the state fail to provide a good life for people, it’s up to political leaders to try and change those conditions through various policies that shape the landscape overall. It’s impractical for politicians to create jobs on their own -- they can’t just legislate companies to hire -- but they can pass laws to make burdens on workers and small businesses less cumbersome.

Yet millennials are not seeing that from this governor or his legislative allies. Instead, Gov. Walker and Republicans are shifting whatever resources were available in the past toward help for a less deserving cause -- their political donor base.
We’re still seeing that today. In the 12 months after I wrote that post, jobs in Wisconsin grew by a measly 0.48 percent, or 11,590 jobs total for the year.

That’s not something that young workers likely feel confident about. Add to the jobs troubles the fact that millennials are generally more liberal than their adult counterparts, and you have a recipe for outward migration.

Millennials aren’t seeing community investments from Republican leaders in the state. Nor are they seeing any of the economic advantages that conservative “reforms” had promised them. No, millennials don’t want tax cuts for the wealthy and crumbling roads. They want a reason to stay — and in the past six years, they’ve rarely seen any motivation to do so.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Tolerating intolerable speech: change may be needed, but no need for legislative interference

UW should protect all speech, but proposed bill in the legislature isn’t necessary

Just a quick rant this afternoon...

The question of the so-called “free speech” bill making its way through the state legislature has me thinking a lot about the idea of what speech is tolerable or not.

I’m a firm believer in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. I even own a flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol Building in 2010 to honor that amendment, which includes speech rights. I’m a huge proponent that any political thought or opinion should be defended — even if it’s deemed an intolerable idea by most.

So bigots do have a right to speak their mind, and they do have a right to demonstrate their ideas. But that doesn’t mean that others can’t argue against them.

Speech that some deem intolerable can be protested against, and this type of speech shouldn’t be regulated either, except to prevent violence and harm to others. If protests limit the ability of people to speak in a public setting, that is unfortunate, and there should be ways to redress that. But protest, too, is speech; and it must be recognized as such.

The University of Wisconsin System needs to find ways to allow conservatives — yes, even right-wing extremists — the ability to speak in public on their property. And they need to find ways to limit interferences to those speakers, to allow a free market of ideas to exist.

But they needn’t be required to do so through legislative action that seeks to quell other forms of free speech. Protesters have rights as well, and the right to protest any speaker that comes to UW should not be infringed either.

I’m confident that the UW System can find a balance on its own. Legislators in the state capitol should advise and comment on whatever approach the UW takes — but they needn’t do so by requiring restrictive laws that limit the rights of students, faculty, and other members of the public.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wisconsin jobs report, part II: a “manufacturers recession” under Walker's watch

Even by Walker’s standards, Wisconsin has failed under his “leadership”

In my earlier post this week about the latest Wisconsin jobs report, I mentioned how Walker has failed to create conditions to help the economy reach the 250,000 jobs promise he made for his first term in office. We’d have come closer to that promise if we had just kept pace with the jobs created during the first year of recovery in Wisconsin, under former (Democratic) Gov. Jim Doyle.

This failure on Walker’s part hasn’t gone completely unnoticed. In fact, just a couple of months ago, Walker changed the metric of success, saying that manufacturing wages was the real measure to look out for.

This post will focus primarily on that issue, so here’s the background of what Walker said in March from WPR:
"It's not just how many jobs — it's are those jobs paying at a significant level," Walker said. "If we see wages go up in manufacturing, to me, that's my ultimate goal."
So let’s take a closer look at that: from 2015 to 2016, manufacturing jobs decreased by 3,776 total jobs. But again, Walker says it’s income that matters. On that, he has also failed: manufacturing wages WENT DOWN by 5.3 percent during the same time period.

Again, when Doyle was governor, there was a better outcome, in the form of an increase in wages. Income for manufacturing workers went up by 6.7 percent year-to-year in Wisconsin’s first year of recovery, during a Democratic governor’s tenure.

Walker’s failures in 2016 have effectively created a recession for the manufacturing industry in the state, as far as wages and work created goes. Tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy, in addition to enacting “right to work” (for less) legislation, did NOT benefit the workers, as Walker promised the law would.

Right to work “gives Wisconsin one more tool to encourage job creators ... to continue investing and expanding in our state,” Walker said when he signed the bill. “Freedom to Work, along with our investments in worker training, and our work to lower the tax burden, will lead to more freedom and prosperity for all of Wisconsin.”

But it’s apparent that wasn’t the case. Manufacturing jobs AND wages have both fallen in the wake of the law’s passage.

Walker’s reforms have failed — and Wisconsin’s workers are suffering for it.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Wisconsin jobs report, part I: Walker’s pace WAY slower than Jim Doyle’s final year

To reach failed goal of 250,000 jobs would take more than two years from today

I’m late to the game here — Wisconsin’s latest jobs numbers came out on Friday — but I have a good excuse: I was heading to the northwoods, making an early getaway on this Memorial Day weekend to spend time with family.

Which I suspect is what Gov. Scott Walker and his administration was hoping for, but on a grander scale. Dropping bad news on the eve of a three-day weekend makes it less likely that people will pay attention to what’s happened.

And what has happened? Wisconsin’s latest jobs numbers show a dismal 0.48 percent growth in jobs from December 2015 to December 2016, amounting to less than 1,000 jobs created per month, or around 11,590 jobs created total.

We can’t yet compare that outcome to what happened around the rest of the country — Wisconsin releases its jobs numbers a full month ahead of the federal report on jobs. So we’ll have to wait and see what this means when compared to our neighbors and the rest of the nation.

We can take a look at how Wisconsin has fared last year compared to how it has done in the past. And it’s no surprise here: 2016 was spectacularly low.

It’s worth pointing out that there are seven years of jobs recovery for Wisconsin, the first one starting in 2010. That first year of recovery happened under a different governor’s watch: Jim Doyle, a Democrat, oversaw an economy that recovered 33,658 in that time.

Since Walker was elected and began his tenure as governor in 2011, he’s only outperformed Doyle on two occasions in the fourth quarter jobs reports. In contrast, Doyle’s last year of employment gains was better than Walker’s performances on four occasions.

In fact, if we had kept Doyle’s pace of jobs growth — a pace that, at 1.5 percent, wasn’t exactly as fast as we’d have liked it to be either — Wisconsin would have gained an additional 39,439 jobs during the past seven years of recovery.

Scott Walker’s promise of creating 250,000 jobs in four years is an epic failure. Walker has created just short of 180,000 jobs in six years. It would take two more years and four more months, at this rate of jobs growth, to reach Walker’s original goal — in other words, what Walker promised he could do in one term of office will take longer than two terms to complete.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Scott Walker’s tweet on unemployment ignores 18 months of his predecessor’s faster rate decline

Sharper decline of unemployment occurred under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle

Scott Walker made a powerful tweet this morning, alleging that his administration was responsible for a substantial drop in unemployment.

Except, there’s one glaring problem. Take a closer look at the tweet:
Walker states that unemployment “peaked” at 9.2 percent “before we took office.” It then ignores the fact that A WHOLE YEAR PASSED BY before he assumed the governorship. That's a slight of hand that Walker is hoping you don't notice.

But even that ignores another important fact: Walker’s first budget didn’t take effect until July of 2011. So there were six additional months of Walker’s predecessor’s policies in play before Walker’s budget took hold.

In those 18 months, the unemployment rate sank to 7.8 percent. That’s an unemployment rate drop of 1.4 percent over 18 months, or about a 0.078 rate drop per month.

So what? That sure doesn't sound like a lot, right? Well, let’s take a look at Walker's performance, from July 2011 until the most recent unemployment rate report, which as Walker states is 3.2 percent. That rate was achieved after 70 months of Walker's first budget.

That amounts to a 0.046 percent rate drop per month — effectively an average monthly drop in unemployment that is 41 percent slower than his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s results.

We should be happy that unemployment is down, and I’m not trying to suggest a low unemployment rate is bad. But Walker is using hand-waving to make his outcome look better than it actually is.

In reality, we had a sharper drop in unemployment under his Democratic predecessor. That's something you won't read in any news release this week about jobs in Wisconsin.

Data for unemployment rates obtained at

Thursday, May 18, 2017

GOP State Sen. Roger Roth encourages “rural elitism” (with AUDIO)

Lawmakers should look at citizens from cities AND rural areas as equals

I wrote last winter about the idea of a “rural elitism” taking shape across the nation and Wisconsin — that some individuals from rural areas believe their political beliefs and needs are more important than the beliefs and needs of people in cities and suburban locales.

My concerns with rural elitism aren’t so much that I believe city people are better or more deserving of attention. The needs of those who live out in the country should be addressed. And the Democratic Party, in Wisconsin particularly, ought to consider ways to reach out to voters who haven’t identified with them in recent elections.

But I do take issue with the idea that the cities should be ignored, or that the opinions of those in urban areas aren’t even worth discussing.

Recently while browsing through Twitter during the state Republican Party’s convention, I saw that GOP state Sen. Roger Roth made a very curious statement. According to the Journal Sentinel’s Patrick Marley, Roth warned that political history in the state would soon be written by “intellectual types who can’t even change a flat tire on their own car.”
That struck a nerve with me — I consider myself an “intellectual.” Though I would never claim to be the smartest person in the state, I do hold a college degree from a UW System school, and am very proud of that fact. I also know how to change a tire — this past winter forced me to change two, in fact — and to insinuate that intellectual types are somehow weak is something Roth should reconsider doing.

Belittling intellectuals is part of “rural elitism,” since intellectuals are more likely to live near city centers (that’s where Wisconsin’s four- and two-year universities generally are located). That isn’t to say there aren’t intellectuals in rural areas. There are plenty of college-educated individuals living outside of the cities.

The farmer's market in Madison, Wisconsin.
Image via Wikipedia.
Roth, however, is trying to stoke anger by capitalizing on a divide between rural people and city dwellers. And it’s an inappropriate move to make, in my mind, because these two groups of people should be equals. One should not be empowered at the expense of the other.

Rural elitism prevents us from protecting the democratic wishes of the populace as a whole. President Trump, in fact, promotes the idea of the Electoral College specifically because it protects a rural elitism (coincidentally, his core voting base). The Electoral College, however, should be dismantled precisely because it pits the interests of one group of people above others, solely off of geographic location. A voter in Los Angeles, California, holds less sway than a voter in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It shouldn’t be that way: every voter in this country should have an equal voice when it comes to selecting the president.

I make frequent visits to rural areas in the state. On more than a handful of occasions, when I respond to people asking where I’m from, I’m told (through either visual cues or explicit rants) that Madison is a terrible place, and that people here aren’t “real.” Often, I’m told that we think we’re better than everyone else.

Some people in Madison probably do think that. And they’re wrong. But the people I’ve encountered in rural areas who scoff at Madisonians are wrong too. They are being elitists without even knowing it. And comments like Sen. Roth’s empower that kind of thinking to continue.

I have a better idea in mind: rather than encouraging a “conversational civil war,” why don’t we push for promoting both rural and city areas? City folk should understand the concerns of rural people, and tell lawmakers to support clean water, fund and increase internet access across the state, and find ways to help family farms stay in business. And rural folk should similarly stand behind increasing economic opportunities and reducing the effects of poverty for people in the cities.

It doesn’t have to be one or the other. And politicians like Roth should stop pretending it has to be.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

David Clarke’s tweet supporting Trump is full of so many problems that I can’t even

The Milwaukee Co. Sheriff conjures an imaginary bogeyman, and argues that criticism nullifies the will of the people

Give Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County his due: he was an early supporter of Donald Trump during his campaign for president. And now, the sheriff (himself embattled) is doubling-down on his support for the the controversial commander-in-chief, even as Trump faces mounting criticism and possible impeachment for a plethora of issues.

Clarke sent this tweet out on Tuesday evening, defending the president against the so-called “establishment” that’s trying to ruin his presidency.
“The continued attacks on our President is the establishment trying to nullify the will of We the People who elected him to lead this country” — that’s quite a mouthful, so let’s break it down.

First, the “attacks on our president” are wholly appropriate (to borrow a phrase from Team Trump). The president faces scrutiny for a variety of mishaps and problems during his first few months in office, but as I see it these few are the biggest concerns as of late:
  • Trump fired former FBI director James Comey. While spokespeople for his administration cited Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails as rationale for his ouster, Trump himself said in an interview with Lester Holt that his firing had everything to do with the direction Comey was taking the investigation into possible Russian collusion with Trump’s presidential campaign. His firing screams obstruction of justice.
  • Russian pictures in the Oval Office, and sharing classified info. One day after firing Comey — again, for continuing an investigation into Russian connections to his campaign — Trump actually met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The meeting was behind closed doors, without any U.S. media present. But Russian photographers from their state media service took plenty of photographs, posting the images to social media just moments later. Trump also shared classified information with the Russians, obtained from Israeli intelligence, a move that while technically legal is dangerously stupid.
  • The Comey Memo. And it was revealed Tuesday that Trump had pressured Comey to end the investigation into Michael Flynn, who had met with Kislyak before Trump assumed office, allegedly to talk about lifting American sanctions on Russia once Flynn was in as National Security Advisor. His improper contacts with Russians, his failure to disclose money earned while in Russia and Turkey, and his lying about it to Trump officials, led to Trump asking for his resignation. Comey wrote in a memo that Trump had urged him to drop the investigation of Flynn after Flynn left the White House, and before Comey was fired.
Any objective observer would see the facts outlined above and think, “yes, those actions by the president warrant further inspection.” And that’s being generous — many would read the above and think much worse. But Clarke? Criticizing Trump for those actions are attacks.

Sheriff David Clarke
Next, let’s look at Clarke charging that the “establishment” is behind the attacks of Trump. Who does he mean here?

Democrats? They’re out of power. They are the minority in both houses of Congress. They control barely a handful of governorships and statehouses. And they are being joined by more Republicans daily in their calls for investigating Trump, including Republican Mike Gallagher, who represents the 8th Congressional District of Wisconsin. The “political” attacks are becoming bipartisan as more is revealed about Trump.

The media? They merely report on what Trump himself and his surrogates have said. And you cannot fault them for reporting on sources in the White House who are bringing forth a trove of embarrassing information about the president that, more often than not, proves to be true.

So who is the establishment? It’s an imaginary bogeyman. Just as Trump said he would “drain the swamp,” Clarke wants to focus on a character of his imagination that’s seemingly going after the president. Truth is, the president is responsible for his own downfall.

Finally, Clarke says that this imaginary establishment is trying to disrupt the will of “We the People.” This is perhaps the most laughable part of Clarke’s short Twitter rant — a plurality of Americans didn’t select Trump to be president in the first place. He did win the Electoral College, but by a count of more than three million votes Hillary Clinton was the preferred choice of “We the People.”

But much more than that, Clarke implies that anyone upset with how elected leaders govern is trying to disrupt the will of the people. So what was Clarke, Trump, et. al. doing before 2017? Looking back at their statements and tweets from that time, it’s clear to see that they hardly accepted who “We the People” elected (former President Barack Obama), frequently expressing themselves in vehement outbursts how they felt the country was going down the gutter.

And that’s fine — it was Clarke’s right to do so at the time. But turning that around and suggesting criticism of Trump is “trying to nullify the will of We the People” is hypocritical.

Donald Trump is in serious trouble. Liberals and progressives have seen the problems with Trump for quite some time, and now some conservatives are starting to open up their eyes to the problems this president has presented as well.

Clarke is choosing to remain blind to what the president has done. He has the right to choose willful blindness, but he’s wrong to believe he and other Trump supporters are the victims of a made-up establishment’s attacks on the president.

But if Clarke wants to continue backing Trump during his downward spiral, who am I to say he shouldn’t?

On Trump and Russia, Republicans need to show less "concern" and actually DO something

GOP’s concerns need to turn into definitive actions against this reckless president

Far too many Republicans are accepting of President Donald Trump’s behavior. This goes beyond his term in office — as a candidate, the GOP begrudgingly accepted him as the leader of their party, even as evidence surfaced that he assaulted women sexually.

That alone disqualifies the president from being a leader we can trust. But now, reporting from the Washington Post indicates the president gave top-secret classified information to Russian officials, information that compromises an Ally of ours and greatly delegitimizes the standing of the United States in the world as a leader.

Trump’s communications team categorically denied the report, but Trump himself this morning on Twitter seemed to confirm that he did indeed share this information with the Kremlin.

One Republican member of Congress from Wisconsin, Mike Gallagher from District 8, has actually said that the president ought to be held to account. “While POTUS possesses the authority to disclose classified, even top secret, information, there’s a separate question of whether he should,” Gallagher said on Twitter this morning.

Which is a great start. I commend Rep. Gallagher for recognizing that this isn’t normal. Under any other circumstance, the actions that the president engaged in last week would have been seen as reckless at best, treasonous at worst. Gallagher is someone whom I disagree with on most issues politically, but it's good to see that he seems genuinely concerned about Trump, and willing to dig into his actions deeper to get to the bottom of things.
But other Republicans are too restrained, in my mind, and are hesitant to call out the commander-in-chief for his braggadocious need to outdo others, from his campaign antics that questioned the size of his hands, to this latest escapade in which the president allegedly had to boast about the intelligence he received from a trusted ally. “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” a source familiar with his conversations tells the Post he told the Russian ambassador.

Republicans cannot accept this from their leader, much less the leader of the nation. Their concerns have to go beyond just “deeply disturbing” especially since they chastised the Democratic candidate who opposed Trump, Hillary Clinton, for much less.

The Republicans don’t have much wiggle-room, in my opinion. There is no middle ground here. Either Republicans are upset enough with Trump's serious breach of security and other questionable actions (including firing former FBI Director James Comey) that they're willing to join Democrats in calls to investigate and possibly even indict him, or they're a party full of hypocrites that value their political victories over the needs of the country. As of today, it doesn’t look like Republicans care much about the latter.