Monday, December 16, 2019

The Wisconsin State Journal Gets It Completely Wrong In Editorial Against Impeachment

The Editorial Board admits Trump probably performed impeachable actions, yet wants to wait until next year's elections, ignoring the outcome of last year's at the same time.  

I am beyond livid over the Wisconsin State Journal's decision to publish an editorial against the impeachment of the president ("Trust voters to end the sad Trump era"). Not only because the board is wrong, but because their argument is full of contradictions.

The overall thesis of the piece reads,
"[L]eaving Trump’s presidency up to voters is best for democracy, given public skepticism over the House’s rushed impeachment process."
"The facts suggest President Trump did commit impeachable offenses."
One would think that'd be enough for the State Journal's Editorial Board to embrace impeachment, as dozens of newspapers across the country have already done. Alas, that's not the case with Wisconsin's capital-city publication, whose board believes that timing, not criminality or abuse of power, matters most.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Sun Prairie And Other School Districts Across Wisconsin Must Reexamine Their Black History Lessons

Wisconsin's racial disparities exist in part due to ignorance.

The incident involving a student wearing blackface at a local high school sporting event over the weekend showcases the need for students to be taught black history in more depth, not just in the suburbs of Madison, but throughout the state of Wisconsin.

The student, who did not wear blackface upon arriving at a Sun Prairie High School but applied it on during the girls basketball game on Saturday, was immediately chided by his fellow peers, and told to remove it by them. That's wonderful news that deserves to be recognized — that the kids spoke up against a racist action.

What's disturbing, however, is that the action happened in the first place.

According to the Sun Prairie School District, which sent a letter to parents on Monday about the incident over the weekend, had the administrators noticed the student engaging in direct racist activities, they would have halted it at once.

"The student would not have been allowed to enter the event while wearing blackface. Had district personnel been notified or observed this, they would have acted immediately," the letter read, per reporting from CNN.

Those are good sentiments to hear. But it's not enough.

If it's unclear to some that this action was racist — undoubtedly, apologists will chalk it up to a misunderstanding by the student, whom they will insist shouldn't be criticized TOO much for it — one only has to consider which teams were playing. The game featured Sun Prairie, a district where 7-in-10 students are white, against Madison Memorial, a school whose population is 50 percent non-white.

Students from Sun Prairie's high school, middle school, and the Prairie Phoenix Academy walked out on Tuesday to protest what happened, WKOW reported. They made demands directly to Superintendent Brad Saron and other administrators, who promised to address them in talks with student leaders in the near future.

Those demands included:
  • updating school policies to include stricter enforcement against racist actions;
  • hiring more teachers of color in the schools; and
  • reviewing curriculum to ensure schools are teaching black history in a proper way.
On that last point in particular, it isn't just Sun Prairie School District that needs to address their curriculum. Schools across the state, beyond the suburbs of Madison (but including that city also), need to do more to educate their students on the story of racism in the United States, beyond just the basics.

So often, I fear, such history courses are content to discuss the bare bones of black history, in particular the parts of American history in which people of color were relegated to the status of second-class citizens. Slavery gets a mention, as does freedom after the Civil War. But then, it's apparent that most people's understanding of black history fast-forwards to Martin Luther King/the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, which likely only gets lip service in the classroom, if we're being completely honest.

But there's a lot of history that's missing. What about the Dredd Scott ruling? The three-fifths clause of the Constitution, and the racist reasonings for instituting the Electoral College? The American Black Holocaust? What of Plessy v. Ferguson? What of Emmett Till? Bring these terms up at your Thanksgiving dinner this week, and see how many of your relatives' faces go blank.

Heck, how often did your own face go blank just reading them now?

Among those issues, the disturbing history of minstrel shows and blackface must also be included. It's evident, based on the comments on local news sites' Facebook pages that shared this story, that many people don't see what the big deal is. There is a historical record, however, of these types of acts perpetuating stereotypes and insulting black Americans, all to get a laugh from a white audience.

That history is largely ignored in the classroom, it would appear — had it been discussed, it's unlikely this student would have applied blackface makeup at the game on Saturday.

This is an unforgivable sin, to gloss over our nation's history, and to forget about it all like it wasn't that big of a deal. It has real-world consequences.

Wisconsin is the most segregated state in the Union today, and one of the worst for nonwhite families to live in. And we imprison black men at a proportionally higher rate than whites.

More importantly, there is ignorance in this state about black history, on what qualifies as racism, and the willful ignorance over the treatment of nonwhites that is observable to any person willing to take an honest look at things. I have plenty of anecdotal stories I can recall of conversations I've had where a white acquaintance of mine has said or done something that is blatantly racist that they dismiss as a joke, or try to make a false equivalency to in order to defend themselves.

We need to do better in this state. We can start with our schools.

The demands of Sun Prairie students ought to extend beyond that district. They should be addressed by our state legislature, our governor, and by schools across Wisconsin. Change has to happen now.

Featured image credit: Scartol/Wikimedia

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Why 'Sanctuary Counties' Supposedly Protecting Gun Rights In Wisconsin May Violate The Constitution

Municipalities cannot just ignore gun laws from state and federal governments 

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers called a special legislative session this fall to address the issue of gun laws in the state. Instead of taking the issue seriously, Republicans in the legislature opened, and then closed the session out within seconds.

Their decision to do so was irresponsible. Gun laws have been loosened tremendously over the past decade, thanks to Evers's predecessor, former Gov. Scott Walker. Many Republican lawmakers who are in office today also helped to promote or write the changes to gun laws back then.

What was meant to be a deterrence to violence, however, actually had the opposite effect: murder and crime rates went up, and Wisconsinites didn't become safer under the changes, as was promised by that governor and GOP legislators at the time.

Opponents to new proposals from the Democratic governor worry that the ideas he and other Democrats are putting forward would hamper the rights of lawful gun owners. But the changes Evers is calling for aren't that egregious, even to the common gun enthusiast.

According to WPR, Evers is calling on the legislature to pass, at a minimum, stronger background checks on every gun sale. That means closing the "gun show loophole," which permits anyone to buy a gun at such shows across the state without having to submit to a background check — even felons or other violent criminals who are forbidden from owning them.

Evers is also asking the GOP legislature to support "red flag" laws, which would allow concerned friends or family members of an individual to petition a judge to remove the right of that individual, temporarily, from owning weapons, if the judge deems them to be a danger to themselves or to others. A process for that individual to appeal the ruling by the judge would exist.

Both proposals have widespread support from Wisconsinites, which is a rarity in today's politics. Over 4-in-5 state residents support red flag legislation; when it comes to background checks on every gun sale, the same numbers are supportive of the idea.

"Sanctuary County" Declartion In Northern Wisconsin

There are a small number of Wisconsinites who oppose those ideas, however, and some counties are trying to prevent such laws from being implemented. In Florence County this past week, the county board voted unanimously to describe its jurisdiction as a "sanctuary county" for guns, in large part because of Evers's desire for stricter rules.

The county, which is located near the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and has a population of about 4,300 residents, would essentially allow its law enforcement agencies, including its sheriff's department, to ignore any laws that come down from Washington D.C. or Madison that disallow people's rights to own weapons.

The language of the resolution omits who determines whether a law is unconstitutional or not, leaving it ambiguous and seemingly allowing local lawmakers or law enforcement agencies to make those interpretations.

"What we’re saying is the Second Amendment allows for law-abiding citizens to be able to protect their homes and bear arms," Florence County Board chair Jeanette Bomberg said.

Is this legal? Comparisons to sanctuary cities for immigration are "apples to oranges"

Can a county just say it's not going to enforce federal or statewide gun laws? In most cases, probably not. For one, it violates the standard of the Supremacy Clause found in the Constitution, which states that governments that are larger and inclusive of smaller governments take precedence when it comes to their own lawmaking.

But there are exceptions. The U.S. Supreme Court, for example, has ruled that on certain types of laws, the federal government cannot compel local governments to act in ways they do not like. This is where things get tricky.

Although the Trump administration is making efforts to change things, sanctuary cities, which protect undocumented immigrants living in their limits, are currently deemed legal under the law. These cities have passed ordinances that declare their law enforcement and other agencies will not cooperate with federal officials when it comes to capturing and deporting immigrants from within their areas.

Such arguments have held up in the courts, according to the Washington Post. The Supreme Court has held that the 10th Amendment protects such localities against being compelled to enforce the higher laws. In other words, the feds can take action within such sanctuary cities, but they cannot require local governments to do whatever they ask.

The "sanctuary county movement," of which Florence County is a part of now, seeks to take the sanctuary cities idea and apply it to guns. But there's a problem for that movement: other laws and restrictions placed on localities by the higher-ups do apply. The Second Amendment is one of those areas.

Some Constitutional provisions have been what's called "fully incorporated" by the 14th Amendment, while others are not. The "right to bear arms" is one of those provisions.

Here's how it works: if a law is passed by the federal government that deals with guns, and it passes muster in the courts, the Supreme Court has said in the past that the law must be enforced across the states and local governments as well, regardless of their own legal beliefs. This is why a city like Chicago was forced to change its gun laws after the Supreme Court ruled they violated residents' rights.

In short: some laws passed by larger governments can be "ignored" if localities want to have no part in them. The feds can still enforce the laws themselves, but the local governments don't have to cooperate directly with them. On other matters, however, the local governments cannot ignore the federal standard — including on gun issues.

Local governments — including Florence County — cannot become "sanctuaries" for unfettered gun use or ownership

If things remain interpreted in the courts as they do today, gun laws and standards handed out by the federal government must be respected, including by any county's law enforcement agencies. This renders Florence's declaration moot, but it's unclear whether the county will adhere to those standards or not, which could be incredibly problematic.

Such "sanctuary counties" are essentially saying that when it comes to guns, they don't want to follow the rules. Well, that's too bad — the courts are very clear that every jurisdiction has to follow the same interpretation of the law put forth. They cannot just make a declaration like this, and decide to ignore mandates from above, when it pertains to gun laws.

Florence County chair Bomberg said people in her jurisdiction are "scared" of gun laws being forced down their throats. But the push for more restrictions, at least at the state level, are reasonable changes. A person who is violent, or has a record of engaging in violent acts in the past, should be restricted from owning weaponry that can make future acts of aggression even more dangerous.

To be sure, such individuals should have a means to get such restrictions lifted. But the people of this state are very on what they want: background checks and red flag legislation. Those types of laws do not hinder a person's right to protect themselves, especially when it comes to the "well-regulated" rights found within the interpretations of the Second Amendment.

Featured image credit: Nikon D3300/Max Pixel

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Should We Have The Ballot Initiative In Wisconsin? Yes — But With Some Added Rules

A proposal to introduce the ballot initiative in Wisconsin should come with some added safeguards. 

Three Democrats in the state legislature are proposing an amendment to Wisconsin's Constitution that would allow voters the opportunity to write their own laws.

The measure will likely die in the Republican-controlled Assembly and Senate. But it brings about a valid question: should the voter initiative be brought to Wisconsin?

The proposal by Reps. David Crowley and Gary Hebl, as well as Sen. Dave Hansen, would create a multi-step process in order to produce a voter-led ballot initiative. First, for any proposed law, a citizens' group would have to get signatures equaling 5 percent of the total number of ballots cast in the previous Secretary of State election — which is no easy task, amounting to hundreds of thousands of signatures based off the last statewide race.

Next, after signatures are verified for the question being considered, it would be put to the voters to decide. With a majority vote, however, the proposed law wouldn't be put on the books quite yet: it would then go to the current session of the state legislature to consider. If the legislature passes the proposal, the governor would also have to sign the bill in order for it to become law.

If the legislature and governor DON'T approve of the proposed law, it's not necessarily dead quite yet: the measure goes back to the electorate in the following election cycle, where the people vote on it again. If the measure passes the ballot a second time, it becomes law.

It may surprise you to learn, but I'm personally against simpler versions of ballot initiatives. While I generally trust the electorate to be informed, it doesn't mean that the voters make the right choices every time. Indeed, that's one of the dangers of democracy, and representative government helps protect against so-called "mob rule."

Perhaps I'm a bit paranoid, but I recall the 2006 Constitutional amendment that limited marriage rights in the state to being solely between a man and a woman. Two sessions of the state legislature passed that law, but a statewide referendum cemented it into our state's highest governing document. I would hate for anything similar to be passed into law again, particularly through a ballot measure during a low-turnout election year.

That being said, the proposal put forward by the three Democrats named above seems to address that point, at least in part. If the citizenry likes a proposal, but it doesn't protect the rights of a certain group of people, for example, it can "checked" against by a state legislature or governor who can ensure encroachments are defeated.

I like the spirit of what Crowley, Hebl, and Hansen have put forward, but I would change one thing: if the measure goes back to the people to vote upon for a second time, it should require a super-majority of the electorate to overrule the "vetoes" of the legislature and the governor, perhaps three-fifths concurrence from the people to make it a law. And then, if the legislature still thinks it's a law worth overriding, it should require an equal number — three-fifths of a quorum in both houses — to kill the measure again.

A ballot measure for Wisconsin would be great for a number of reasons. It would allow citizens a chance to bypass the ill effects of partisan gerrymandering, by suggesting laws that the state legislature ordinarily wouldn't consider, particularly those with overwhelming support.

But it has to be done the right way. A citizen-led ballot initiative can be a double-edged sword — it can produce great good, but it can also result in populist agendas that do harm to marginalized communities.

Crowley, Hebl, and Hansen have produced an idea of a ballot initiative that seeks to address that possibility. It just needs to be tweaked a tiny bit more.

Featured image credit: Jeff Dean/WikimediaCGP Grey/Flickr

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Thoughts On The Marquette Law School Poll's October Findings, Showing A Lack Of Support For Impeachment In Wisconsin

A majority of Wisconsinites show that they don't know some of the most important parts about the impeachment proceedings — demonstrating that lack of support for impeachment is based on a lack of data.

The latest Marquette Law School poll shows that a plurality of Wisconsinites don't think there's enough evidence yet to begin impeachment hearings on the president. Understandably, based on those findings, a majority also doesn't believe President Donald Trump should be removed from office, too.

BUT...and there's always a BUT...
The White House/Flickr

An even higher majority haven't read the memo detailing the conversation between him and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which the U.S. head-of-state seemingly requested Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and look into a long-debunked conspiracy theory that would benefit Trump politically.

Only 40 percent said they did indeed read the memo (which is not an official transcript) released by the Trump administration last month. Fifty-nine percent say they haven't read it.

It's understandable, then, why 51 percent of Wisconsinites don't support impeachment and removal, while 49 percent say there isn't enough evidence for an inquiry into Trump's actions to begin. Simply put, not enough Wisconsinites know about what the impeachment inquiry is all about.

Not that this issue alone is necessary to warrant action by House Democrats to open an impeachment inquiry in the first place. Trump's Emoluments Clause violations, including his now-canceled proposal to host the G-7 Summit at one of his own properties (undoubtedly profiting personally by doing so), also demand an examination by Congress. So too does the fact that former special counsel Robert Mueller's eponymous report detailed at least 10 instances of Trump committing acts of obstruction of justice.

But on the Ukraine scandal, it's clear that much of Wisconsin has yet to delve into the serious matter at hand.

Trump, according to several State Department employees who have since spoken out, pressured the Ukraine president into opening an investigation into Biden. It was widely known within the State Department, as well as within Ukraine's own government, that the investigations Trump wanted were necessary to facilitate military aid from the U.S. to Ukraine.

Forcing a quid pro quo onto a foreign government is bad enough. Using said quid pro quo to benefit from it politically, in many people's opinions, fits the definition of "high crimes and misdemeanors" that the founding fathers had in mind when it comes to impeachment.

Wisconsinites aren't wrong on the issue of removing Trump from office. They're merely missing a number of facts regarding what's presently going on.

As time passes by, more Wisconsinites will likely wake up to the fact that Trump's actions — on Ukraine especially — deserve attention, including consideration of impeachment hearings and possible removal from office.

We already have demonstrative evidence to see this as true: the last time the Marquette Law School poll asked Wisconsin citizens about impeachment, only about a third supported the idea. Now, substantially more respond in the affirmative, supportive of the goal of at least investigating the president for potential "high crimes and misdemeanors."

There's also proof that, with more information given to them, Wisconsinites will change their tunes on impeachment. We find this within the latest version of the poll itself.

When asked whether it would be appropriate for a president to ask a foreign power, such as Ukraine or China, to investigate a U.S. citizen, two-thirds of respondents to the Marquette Law School poll said that'd be wrong to pursue.

Trump attempted to solicit investigations from both. Presuming a portion of those who haven't been paying attention start realize that fact, undoubtedly, support for an impeachment inquiry, and perhaps impeachment itself, will start to go up in the months ahead.

Friday, September 6, 2019

What exactly would Matt Walker, son of Scott, bring to Washington? (Seriously, what?)

As the younger Walker eyes up a run for Congress, a few quick notes about why he's not a representative voice for young people...

Matt Walker, the son of former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, may run for political office.

Walker (the young one) could make a run for Congress, as Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI 5) announced he would not seek re-election in 2020.

So what does Walker bring to the table? Well, he's the former governor's son, so that's a start, I guess. He's also got a tech business called Platform Digital, which specializes in digital marketing. And he's worked for the College Republicans and as the digital director for Pat McCrory, the former North Carolina governor (who lost the year Walker joined his campaign).

Aside from that, not much is known about his political opinions or core beliefs. He does support marriage equality, unlike his father (and he's anti-jean shorts, which might lose him some votes, if we're being honest). But he also wants to be the right's Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, apparently.

"I think in particular what intrigues him is he feels frustrated that AOC somehow nationally is reflective of his generation. He’s 25, and he feels there needs to be a counter-voice to that," his father said, per a report from the Washington Post.

And that's where both Walker's lose us — particularly me, but also other millennials in the state. As I opined in 2017, the policies of Scott Walker were actually driving millennials to leave the state, not embrace conservatism. And polling on millennials' attitudes on many political issues — from healthcare, to public transportation, and even on taxation — shows that younger generations of American are decidedly liberal.

Matt Walker, in other words, is a misnomer, not a representative figure when it comes to millennialism. He may represent younger conservatives, sure, but when it comes to millennials in general, Matt shouldn't be seen as a voice for us...especially if his views on most issues align with his dad's.

He's young, he's a conservative, and he's the son of a politician. Every politician has to start somewhere, but Matt Walker shouldn't presume he deserves a seat in Congress just because his dad ruined this state with his backward policies.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Congress Must Assert Its Article I Powers Above The President

Bipartisan efforts to assert the legislative branch's war powers is a welcomed start.

The Democratic Party-led House of Representatives passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would limit President Donald Trump's ability to levy an attack on the nation of Iran without first going to Congress for approval.

The amazing part is not so much that Democrats are insisting that the president get their approval first — in this day and age, it's somewhat expected that Democratic lawmakers put a stronger check on the president's powers. After all, that's what they were elected to do, in part, in the 2018 midterm elections.

But what's spectacular, and rare nowadays, is that dozens of Republicans in the House joined Democrats in voting for the NDAA amendment as well.

"If my war-hungry colleagues — some of whom have already suggested that we invade Venezuela, North Korea, and probably a few other countries before lunch time tomorrow — if they’re so certain in their case against Iran, let them bring their authorization to use military force against Iran to this very floor," Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida), a normally staunch, pro-Trump conservative, said, per reporting from The Hill.

Indeed, 27 Republicans in total crossed the aisle to join Democrats in voting for the amendment.

It's a necessary protection: Congress, and Congress alone, has the Constitutional duty to declare war. Yet Trump's rhetoric in recent days suggests he really wants to start a conflict with Tehran.

"Iran better be careful. They're treading on very dangerous territory. Iran if you listening, you better be careful," Trump said, USA Today reported on Friday.

Such temperament and disregard for his position in U.S. government warrant strict checks on Trump's powers.

This is a president who thinks that the laws do not apply to him — that the Constitutional checks and balances that limit his powers are meaningless. Speaking about the Mueller investigation earlier on Friday, Trump explained that Article II of the Constitution gave him "all of these rights at a level that nobody has seen before" — as if he's the only one who has ever been allowed to use them.
That kind of hubris is precisely why Trump should have never been selected to lead in the first place. It's why the American people should reject his candidacy in 2020.

And it's why Congress absolutely must assert its own powers, found in the Article of the Constitution that precedes the president's, to deny him the opportunity to start a war.

Featured image credit: JamesDeMers/Pixabay

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Pride Flag Flies Over The Capitol — And Republicans Lose Their Minds Over It

State Republicans don't actually care about so-called 'Divisive' Flags — they just want something to rile their bases.

The biggest political controversy of the week in Wisconsin government appears to be the most disingenuous one as well.

In recognition of Pride Month, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers authored an executive order in which he pronounced the rainbow-colored Pride flag would soar on the rooftop on the state Capitol building.

Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr
The Pride flag would appear below the state and American flags, and would remain there for the rest of the month, on the wing of the building in which the governor's office presides. The flag was put up on Friday afternoon, per reporting from NBC 15.

Some conservative lawmakers took issue with the decision by Evers.

State Rep. Scott Allen tweeted out his disapproval, trying to make some sort of religious argument against the secular flag. "Is this any more appropriate than erecting the Christian flag over the Capitol?" he wrote.
State Sen. David Craig also went online to express his dismay because — gasp — the flag is controversial! (But only to those who are offended by equality.)

"The US and Wisconsin flags are flown over us as unifying symbols for all Wisconsinites," Craig wrote. "The governor's action today is in no doubt a statement to advance a cause. The only cause that the Capitol flags should represent is fifty states united in one republic."
That's a nice sentiment — but it's also untrue. Lawmakers fly POW/MIA flags on top of the Capitol all the time. And while those flags aren't controversial to most, to some who are conscientious objectors or anti-war, an argument could be made — the same argument Craig is making — that those kinds of flags are indeed offensive.

In fact, the number of people in the state of Wisconsin who find the Pride flag to be "controversial" at all is probably minimal. Despite passing a state constitutional ban on marriage equality in 2006, citizens of the state have since evolved on the issue. Indeed, a Marquette Law School poll from 2016 found that almost two-thirds of all Wisconsinites supported marriage equality, while less than 1-in-3 opposed the idea.

Craig and Allen are in the minority opinion here: the Pride flag is not as offensive as they think it is. There are some other flags, however, that are troublesome, that they and other Republicans in the state have not spoken out against as vociferously.

Former Gov. Scott Walker, for instance, once took a solid and decent position of opposing the use of the Confederate flag across the United States — that is, he held that opinion, before he ran for president and had to court southern voters.

In 2015, after a mass shooting occurred at a black church in South Carolina by a white supremacist, Walker balked on the question of the Confederate flag, stating that he felt it was a debate that state leaders should have themselves "after the victims' families have time to mourn," The Guardian reported.

It's not the only instance of state Republicans being silent. Earlier this year, a group of protesters descended on the state Capitol with "Don't Tread On Me" flags to protest the mere possibility that Gov. Evers might propose legislation that would put restrictions on gun ownership. Oh, and these protesters didn't just have these yellow flags, which have become symbols of far-right movements — they also had pistols and rifles.

Republicans didn't seem to care much about that flag when it was outside the steps of the Capitol. But a flag about inclusion is "controversial," they say.

Of course, there is a difference between protesters holding a flag (and again, wielding flippin' guns!) demonstrating outside of the Capitol building, and the governor endorsing and promoting a separate flag. In the latter example, whatever flag the governor flies receives a tacit government endorsement.

But the way in which Republican lawmakers like Allen and Craig go on about the supposed divisiveness of the Pride flag seems to be more political grandstanding on their part than legitimate concern. It'd be good for them to have an actual lesson on what Pride is really about.

Here's a quick primer: Pride isn't about flaunting an opinion, or promoting being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or anything else. That's a false narrative that many on the right either ignorantly believe or purposely push to deceive others.

Rather, Pride is about the recognition of the political gains that the LGBTQ community has seen and accomplished over the past five decades. It's about celebrating those gains, but also understanding that much, much more need to be realized because full equality, despite what some may argue, has not yet been realized for those groups of people.

Allen and Craig ought to try to understand that there's nothing controversial about a Pride flag flying over the Capitol. It's a celebration of a group of people and what they've accomplished, and a promise from their government leaders that the push for full equality in society has not ended. The only thing controversial about that, is that some stand opposed to such calls to action.

Featured image credit: Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Death By Suicide Is Up In WI Since Gun Waiting Period Law Repealed

The suicide of a young woman in Colorado this week demonstrates that 48-hour waiting periods for gun purchases can save lives

An 18-year-old woman from Florida, who had an unhealthy obsession with the Columbine High School shooting that occurred 20 years ago in Littleton, Colorado, made a pilgrimage from her home to the Rocky Mountain state this week.

Image credit: Wikimedia
Authorities worried that the woman, who had reportedly purchased a gun when she arrived in Colorado, posed a security threat, and many high schools closed their doors rather than risk a repeat of what happened in 1999.

That woman ended up dying by suicide, according to reporting from Fox 31 in Denver. She was able to purchase her weapon in about 20 minutes, as Colorado doesn't have a waiting period to purchase guns.

When I read about those details this week, I was reminded about a series of blog posts I had written in 2015 about Wisconsin's own 48-hour waiting period to buy guns. At that time, state lawmakers justified abolishing that standard, which had been in place for forty years prior, using questionable stories (well, only one story actually, which was flimsy at best) to pave the way to a zero-wait time purchase for guns in the state from that point forward.

I made a sad prediction when the 48-hour waiting period law was repealed — that crime would go up, and more specifically, that suicides would increase across the state as well.

Unfortunately, my predictions on both turned out to be true.

From 2014 to 2017 — the year before the gun ban was ended, and the most recent year where FBI crime statistics are available, respectively — violent crime went up in a significant way. In fact, violent crime across Wisconsin increased by 10.2 percent between those years.

Death by suicide also increased during that period. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the suicide rate per 100,000 individuals went up by nearly 18 percent between 2014 to 2017.

Why was I confident that this would happen? I had hoped that I would be wrong. Unfortunately, my predictions were based on common sense observations that every lawmaker in the state of Wisconsin was able to access themselves.

I looked to other states that had recently removed their own waiting period laws from the books to see if crime had gone up. South Dakota did so, just a few years before Wisconsin did, and saw a rapid increase in violent crime, for example.

I also did my homework on the subject, and found that people who die by suicide generally formulate a plan to kill themselves, and follow through on the first steps of that plan — whether going to the gun store or making other arrangements — within 20 minutes of making their initial decision.

I wondered, earlier on Wednesday, what would have happened had this young woman made her way to Colorado and found that she'd have to wait for two days before getting a gun. She would have had more time to think things over — she'd probably have been found by authorities before being able to get her hands on the gun — and the gun store itself could have prevented the sale, even if they had begun the 48-hour process, because by the time they would have handed the weapon over to her, they would have been made aware of the danger she posed to herself and to others.

I also wonder about the people of Wisconsin who have died by suicide — how many would have been delayed from doing so, and how many lives could have been saved by that delay. Studies demonstrate that waiting periods do, in fact, save lives, and it's shameful that the state of Wisconsin, under former Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican legislature in 2015 (of which many of its members remain in office today), removed the waiting period under suspicious rationales.

Now, correlation doesn't equate causation. Suicide rates may have gone up for other reasons, and violent crime may have increased for different reasons than the removal of the 48-hour waiting period as well. But removing that restriction didn't make the state safer — nor did removing other restrictions on gun ownership in the years Scott Walker was governor.

Those revisions to our laws didn't result in less crime, as was promised to us by the former chief executive of our state. Rather, we saw more crime, and more suicide, across Wisconsin, just as I had predicted.

Reinstituting the 48-hour waiting period ought to be a priority of the current session of the legislature. Unfortunately, since Republicans remain in power, the chances of that happening are slim. As more time passes before such a waiting period can be reimplemented, more lives will be lost in the state in the meantime — a legislative "accomplishment" that Republicans ought to feel ashamed over.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Kristie Schilling Makes Ambitious Push In Write-In Campaign For Mayor Of Monona

The candidate sees a need — and potential — for economic development projects in the suburban city

If you live in the city of Monona, you may have noticed a postcard in your mailbox this week asking you to vote for a candidate named Kristie Schilling. But when you go to vote on Tuesday, April 2, you won't see her name on the ballot.

That's because Schilling, who is running for mayor of Monona, is doing so as a write-in candidate. Schilling is currently the CEO of the Monona East Side Business Alliance, and believes that new vision is needed for the city in the years ahead.

As a curious voter myself, I sent a series of questions to Schilling hoping that she'd respond so that I could place her answers here, for other Monona voters to read and consider her candidacy. Her responses to my questions are below:


According to the Herald Independent, you entered the race as a write-in candidate with only 10 days to go before election day. What drove you to make the decision to run? Why do you think change is needed in Monona?

Yes, this just might be the shortest political campaign in history!

I have been serving this city for the past four and a half years as CEO of the Monona East Side Business Alliance. I love this city, it is my home and my kids will graduate from the Monona Grove School District — so I’m here for the long haul.

In short, the system is not setup for someone like me to run for mayor. I’m a single mom, I own my home, I have a demanding job, and I do not come from a family of means. The role of mayor pays only $200/month and that’s the reason retirees or the independently wealthy run for positions like this. I’m neither of those things. I have to be able to provide for my family but I want to serve my community.

I made this decision so late because I realized that I would have to pledge to resign from my current job at MESBA and find a new job in order to launch this campaign. That is both terrifying and exciting. But I’m hoping that by stepping into the ring, I will inspire others to serve their communities and it will allow me to take my work in Monona to the next level.

When I drive around the Madison and surrounding suburbs, there are cranes going up everywhere. Currently, Monona has one at Yahara Commons, but, we are so well positioned geographically that I believe we should be seeing more developments to help us grow our tax base.

We’re a very small community — 3.3 square miles with a robust business community — approximately 450 businesses in that small footprint. They are a major part of our tax base. We have numerous infill development opportunities available. The majority of transportation infrastructure lies in our backyard — we’re minutes from the Interstate, Highway 51, and Dane County Regional Airport. The busiest Beltline Highway interchange is in Monona at Stoughton Road and the Beltline with 184,000 cars passing through every day.

We need to be more vocal in letting people know that Monona is open for business and that opportunities do indeed exist here.

You've served as CEO of the Monona East Side Business Alliance (MESBA) for over four years now. What accomplishments are you most proud of during your tenure, and how will your leadership within that organization translate to how you might run the city?

When I was hired, I was hired as the Executive Director of the Monona Chamber of Commerce. It was in a fiscal crisis and we’d had over 100 members drop that year.

I started by gathering feedback from current members, dropped members, stakeholders, and anyone that had an opinion to express to figure out what the major problems were. You can’t fix the problem unless you know, specifically, what the problem is right? I joke that I still have the scars on my back from those early conversations.

I allowed people to unload their frustrations on me and it was the start of gaining their trust and forging relationships with people I’d never met before. After a couple of months, I realized that the brand was so badly damaged that the best approach would be to wipe the slate clean and rebrand with a new name. I approached our Mayor at the time and told him my idea and he thought it was brilliant.

After receiving his blessing, I developed a plan for the rebrand and six months after I started, the Monona East Side Business Alliance (MESBA) was born on February 26, 2015. It’s one thing to have big ideas, but it’s another thing to successfully implement those ideas.

We had no money and were working off a $4,000 line of credit so I built the website myself, designed the logo and tagline, established a solid social media presence, and wrote the media releases. I also published the first “Guide to the Monona Area,” an annual magazine promoting our community locally and regionally. I did all of the photography, design, copywriting, and editing myself. It was a one woman shop at that time but it’s the thing I’m most proud of — building an economic engine for the east side with Monona serving as the hub. Three years later, we were 20 members short of tripling the size of the organization.

It’s been interesting seeing the conversations as of late about how businessmen do not necessarily make good leaders in government. That may or may not be true, I think it depends upon the individual. The organizational structure of a nonprofit is very similar to that of a city. With a city, you have the mayor and that equates to the board president or chair. Then you have the hired leader in a city administrator or an executive director. Then you have the staff and all of the committees that branch off underneath the staff.

I’d be very comfortable in the role of mayor because I know exactly what makes an excellent board chair — effective communication, supporting your staff when they’ve made a decision, backing up the staff if a situation arises, assisting staff so that their endeavors are successful, and bringing teams together. Of course, there are many other facets like budgeting, being the face of a city, taking some heat at times...but most of all, the role of a mayor is to stay out of the staff’s way so they can do the jobs they’ve been professionally trained to do. I think that’s where a lot of mayors go wrong — they get too involved in the staff’s work and micromanaging projects and tensions arise.

Another accomplishment I’m proud of is the Momentum Urban Arts project that is coming up on August 24, 2019. I’m working with a local street art business, Momentum Art Tech, to bring 60-70 street artists to do a live painting event all day on August 24. Street artists will be painting murals on the walls of businesses up and down Monona Drive. This event has incredible potential for the City of Monona! There’s a similar thing called Wynwood Walls in Florida and people travel from all over the country to see it. Search #MononaMurals if you want to learn more. I’m currently applying for arts and tourism grants to get the project off the ground. It will be the first year for the event.

What aspects of Monona are you proud of, and what are you hoping to change as mayor? What policy initiatives or plans do you see for the city's future?

Our retail community is proving to be amazing and I’m incredibly proud that they are rising to the challenge of competing with online shopping. They are facing challenges like never before but they have established themselves as destination retailers. Stores like Rutabaga Paddlesports, Reptile Rapture, The Cozy Home, Booth 121, Habitat Restore, Monona Shoe Repair, Rosy Cheeks Dancewear, Fraboni’s, Ken’s Meats & Deli, Karner Blue Candle & Supply, to name a few.

I’m also amazed at the residents’ willingness to volunteer to help our community with the Monona Farmers Market, Monona Community Festival, the Monona Memorial Day Parade, the Monona Fall Festival & Chili Cookoff. Monona residents have city pride that I’ve never seen anywhere else. We really rally together when needed especially when we know thousands of people will get a chance to experience our awesome little city.

One of the ways I often describe the people and vibe of Monona is through a story of the weekend I moved to Monona. I was driving down Nichols Road and it was the weekend of the City Wide Garage Sales. My kids and I were looking for some specific furniture pieces as well as a bike for my son. We saw some chairs sitting on the north side of Nichols Road. One of the pieces we were looking for was a desk chair and one looked ideal. I stopped and checked them out and saw a kitchen island with a “Free” sign on it. It was exactly the piece I needed for my kitchen! But, it was heavy, solid wood.

I managed to get it to the back of my car and was taking a few deep breaths psyching myself up to hoist it into the back of my Subaru wagon. Just as I was about to start the impossible lift, a woman ran out of her home on the south side of Nichols and yelled, “Wait! I can help you!” I was so happy to see her! We formulated our plan and were just bending down to begin the lift, when a man’s voice rang out, “Step aside ladies. I’ve got this.” And the man who was giving away the chairs and the kitchen island had been observing us and came out to help. Have you ever heard of such things?! I had not. And that was the day I fell in love with Monona.

Another great example of how people in Monona look out for each other is in my immediate neighborhood. My neighbors and I all pitch in to watch each others' kids and as a single mom, it’s incredibly helpful.

Currently, there is no vision for Monona. I see so much potential for this city given its excellent geographic position. We’re situated in a high profile area right off the Beltline Highway, and we’re directly across the street from Madison. We have two major developments flanking either side of the city — the Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison convention and cultural center, and the Alliant Energy Campus redevelopment. There are cranes up all over Madison and its suburbs but there’s only one in Monona.

We have some incredible redevelopment opportunities like the South Towne area. I’d really like to see some revisioning happen for that area. Shopko is closing on May 5 and I’ve been coming up with ideas for a new tenant. It’s highly unlikely that it would be a retailer given the current state of brick and mortar retail, so a family entertainment option may be a great option. I’m looking into an indoor soccer complex, roller skating rink, Dave & Buster’s type of place, or a teen center with cultural activities and employment preparation. But I’ll be collecting ideas from community members at my Community Conversations meet and greet on March 30 at Rosie’s Coffee Bar & Bakery from 11-2pm.

Another opportunity is to get Monona on the map in the tourism sector. Currently, $20 billion comes into Wisconsin each year from visitors. $6 billion of that is spent in Dane County. Monona has yet to tap into that market.

We have enormous potential with Lake Monona and Rutabaga Paddlesports, our bike trail, the Monona Lake Loop, our 30 eateries on Monona Drive, our parks and natural areas. I’m well experienced in tourism — I’ve setup a convention and visitors bureau in Fitchburg and I’ve created tourism maps for numerous chambers of commerce in Wisconsin with my first business.

The Monona Murals project is a perfect example of how Monona could easily grab a piece of that revenue. Our area is also very rich in Native American history — there are over 300 indian mounds in Monona and on the east side of Madison. MESBA wants to do Native History bus tours in partnership with the Ho-Chunk Nation as a way to drive guests to our hotels to build on room tax revenue. But in order to do that, MESBA needs to receive room tax dollars from the City.

I’ve also talked about changing our color palette for the city. We have a lot of buildings on Monona Drive that were built in the 60’s & 70’s. Many cities take the safe route in establishing their color palettes and go with tans, browns, grays. When you put those colors on an older building without a lot of architectural details, it does not improve the aesthetics. We are a waterfront community and adopting a color palette like Egg Harbor — bright blues, yellows, oranges — can really inject a fresh and energetic look into your city. I’ve been talking about that idea since my third interview for my current position.

Write-in candidates have a difficult time winning elections — one of the most obvious challenges is that your name doesn't appear on the ballot. What strategies have you implemented in order to get your name out there, to let people know that you're running and to write your name in?

I have a postcard being mailed out to every household in Monona on March 26-27. I have yard signs in the works. I’m hitting social media hard. My background is marketing so I’ve sent my media release to all of the news outlets around the Madison area. It’s been picked up by four outlets so far and I know a couple more are coming.

I know a lot of people in Monona and they’re helping me spread the word. People seem to be excited about embracing a new generation of leadership and vision and I’m certainly interested in continuing my work in making this community even better!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

If Wisconsin GOP Tries To Appeal 'Extraordinary Session' Ruling, They Expose Themselves As Hypocrites

The ruling is a "strict constructionist" look at the Constitution — a doctrine Republicans typically adhere to (except when it goes against what they want, apparently)

Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess ruled on Thursday that the lame-duck power grab "extraordinary" session, used by Republicans at the tail-end of 2018, violated provisions of the state Constitution when it stripped away powers of the executive branch after Democrats, including current Gov. Tony Evers, had won in the midterm elections.

The power grab was blatantly political, a maneuver that only took place because former Gov. Scott Walker had lost his re-election bid. Had he won instead, it's unlikely Republicans would have sought to remove these powers from executive leaders.

The political motivations, however, did not compel Judge Niess to render lawmakers' actions unconstitutional. Rather, the way in which the legislature convened itself did.

But before we get into that, let's talk about Constitutional theory, because it's important to understand how some people — namely conservatives — think.

The Wisconsin Constitution
(Public Domain Image)
There are two schools of thought when it comes to how a Constitution works. The "living document" idea posits that a Constitutional document evolves over time. As judicial rulings and changes to society come about, judges should interpret the document based on the belief that the Constitution itself has to change as time goes by, too. Liberal judges tend to follow this line of thinking.

This is our common law tradition of jurisprudence, and it is how the founders intended our government (and judicial branch) to work. But there's a separate, more restrictive view of how a Constitution ought to be considered in court cases, and that's the "strict constructionist" model.

This belief holds that what a Constitution says should be only how a judge should rule. Other judges' rulings, the adherence to stare decisis, or the changing attitudes and technologies of society, shouldn't matter when rendering a decision. Only the strict wording of the document matters, no ifs, ands, or buts. Typically, conservatives are the ones who espouse this view.

Why do I go into this Constitutional lesson before I discuss Thursday's ruling? Judge Niess can be considered a liberal judge. He was appointed by a Democratic governor in 2004 when a vacancy opened on the court he serves, and has won re-election to that post in liberal-leaning Dane County ever since. But the ruling he rendered on Thursday is anything but a "living document" look at the issues at hand — Niess's ruling instead takes a "strict constructionist" point of view, which could cause headaches for Republicans seeking to have it overturned.

Niess was asked to consider whether the Republican-led legislature, which convened itself in an "extraordinary session" last fall, had done so in a Constitutional way. The state Constitution lays out very plainly the ways in which a legislature can be convened beyond their regular schedule — and it does not, Niess pointed out in his ruling (PDF), include a means for the legislature to do so on its own.

The state Constitution allows for special sessions to occur when the governor calls for them. In no part of the Constitution does it state that the legislature has the right to convene a session on its own, unless it has planned for one at the beginning of the legislative session.

Walker didn't convene the session — the legislature did. Therefore, the entirety of the extraordinary session is deemed unconstitutional, because it met in an illegal manner.

The ruling by Niess, of course, goes into greater detail than a blog post can allow, but the essential argument one that Republicans, if they try to go against it, will have a hard time defending.

On the one hand, they don't want their legislation from the extraordinary session to be null and void. On the other hand, if they try to fight this ruling, they'll expose themselves as hypocritical, as going against a "strict constructionist" reading of the state Constitution.

The bottom line is this: there's no provision in the Constitution to allow for the legislature to call itself into extraordinary session. That rule serves as a check-and-balance type measure, requiring the governor to call into session the legislature in order to do so.

The legislature called itself into session, violating the Constitutional provision for how sessions can be convened. If you read the document in a strict way, that's the only way it can be interpreted.

Featured image credit: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, March 14, 2019

ADF Lawyer, In Defending Hagedorn's Bigotry, Makes Disingenuous Claim About The Constitution

The Constitution bars religious restrictions for office-holders to seek office — but restrictions for voters' considerations do not exist

The Brian Hagedorn saga continues, this time with a questionable line of defense coming from an organization he's been paid to speak for in the past.

Lawyer Timothy Chandler works for the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that takes up causes on behalf of Christians who often have extremist and bigoted viewpoints. Chandler recently wrote an op-ed for the Capital Times in Madison, where he argued on behalf of Hagedorn and defended his past comments as nothing more than a mere promotion of his Christian beliefs.

Those who took issue with Hagedorn's comments were "guilty of applying a religious test that’s discriminatory and at odds with Article VI of the U.S. Constitution," Chandler wrote. "These words might first have been penned with quill and ink, but the message is timeless: No public office-holder should be screened, tested, or maligned for his or her personal religious convictions."

Wisconsin Supreme Court/Wikimedia
As a lawyer, Chandler should know better: his comments are playing very loose with the facts. For starters, Hagedorn's comments went beyond what most people might find acceptable. He maligned altering laws that would allow for gay individuals to have consensual relationships, for example, suggesting that undermining those laws would allow people to have sex with animals.

If you can't understand the difference between a man and a man having a consensual relationship, versus a person (male or female) having sexual relations with a different species, I'm sorry — you don't deserve to be a state Supreme Court justice. Hagedorn did just that, and hasn't suggested his views on this topic have changed. He has only defended his previous statements (once they were brought forth publicly this year) as his "religious" viewpoints that didn't deserve condemnation.

Hagedorn also attacked those making criticisms of his viewpoints as being anti-religious.

"Some of the arguments made against me are a blatant attempt not just against me but against people of faith more generally," Hagedorn has said.

It's a defense that makes sense, at least from a strategic lens: don't defend your problems, but create a straw man argument that you can successfully defend against. However, no one is attacking Hagedorn for his religious rights, and his commentary (when he originally wrote it) was under the guise of a legal view, not a faith-based one.

Chandler's defense of Hagedorn is, much like Hagedorn's own defense of his past comments, misleading. But so too is Chandler's interpretation of Article VI of the Constitution.

Chandler wrote in his op-ed that the Constitution protects candidates against being "screened, tested, or maligned for his or her personal religious convictions." Were he to actually read the Constitution (not the one he imagines was published, but the real document), he'd realize that he is wrong on this point as well.

The part of Article VI that deals with religious tests simply states that office-holders won't be barred from serving on the basis of their beliefs. It doesn't prevent voters from considering them when casting their votes.

Here's the partial text of that article: religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
In other words, if you or I have a qualm with a candidate for their beliefs, we're free to exercise our respective rights to vote based on those issues we have.

In this specific state Supreme Court election, if Hagedorn's bigoted beliefs cause voters to think he may not be an impartial judge, even if his beliefs are based on religious convictions, it's fine for us to bring them up and discuss them, and urge others not to support his candidacy based on those beliefs. It's not an attack on Hagedorn's right to hold those beliefs, but rather a recognition of our own rights to not view them as positive traits for a justice to have.

Chandler's op-ed is disingenuous, to say the least. It's not surprising — his organization presently promotes and defends the same bigoted lines of thought that Hagedorn seems to have put forward in the past. His comments in the Cap Times should be largely ignored.

Monday, March 11, 2019

There's A Big Hole In Brian Hagedorn's 'My Faith Is Being Attacked!' Line Of Defense

Hagedorn doesn't want you to "attack" his faith, but he did the same thing to Mormons in his past writings

Judge Brian Hagedorn, a conservative candidate for this spring election's state Supreme Court race, has taken a lot of heat for the many writings he's made over the past decade that display a bigoted attitude toward entire groups of people.

Notably, Hagedorn's attacks have centered on the LGBTQ* community. In one example of his hateful writings, the candidate said that a ruling by the Supreme Court in 2005, which deemed laws restricting people from engaging in "homosexual acts" as unconstitutional, would lead to other laws banning bestiality being deemed acceptable as well.

(It should go without saying that comparisons to bestiality and homosexuality are not just nonsensical, but offensive as well.)

Other comments like these abound, and put doubts in voters' minds that Hagedorn can be an impartial member of the state's highest court if he's allowed to serve there. Hagedorn, for his own part, has had an interesting strategy for countering these and other contentions against his questionable background: he's tried to say these are attacks on his faith. And he's trying to connect so-called "attacks" against himself toward a broader attack on Christians in general.

"Some of the arguments made against me are a blatant attempt not just against me but against people of faith more generally," Hagedorn has said during this campaign.

I know plenty of Christians, being raised one myself, and in my experience most have not condemned homosexuality to being equivalent to bestiality. The Christians in my social circle have, in fact, embraced their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, choosing love instead of hate in attempts to emulate the message of Christ from the Bible.

Hagedorn's use of his set of beliefs as a shield to criticisms demonstrates that he still doesn't get it: this isn't about his faith, but rather whether Hagedorn will allow his beliefs to direct his views on the law when he hears cases before him on the Supreme Court (if he gets elected). So far, he's done nothing to convince anyone his viewpoints could be neutral.

There's another problem Hagedorn faces: his comments from the past don't just include attacks against the gay community, but also against other faiths themselves.

As WisPolitics reported on last week, Hagedorn has also made callous comments toward those who are part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. "Here’s the bottom line: Mormon theology is blatant heresy," Hagedorn wrote, adding, "Mormons are polytheists who believe we can become gods and who believe that both Jesus and Satan are sons of God the Father."

Hagedorn here was clearly making attacks against people for holding a different faith than his own. He's free to hold those views, but it puts a huge hole in his line of defense this election season — he has a history of attacking others for their beliefs, but now wants the media and others who criticize his past statements to stop talking about his religious views.

Again, no one is suggesting a Christian cannot serve on the state's highest court — certainly members of the state Supreme Court already include Christians, and that's perfectly fine. What's at issue is whether Hagedorn's radical interpretation of Christian theology, and the blatant ways in which those beliefs have been used by him to attack others on a legal basis in the past, render him incapable of being an impartial member of the bench should he be selected to serve.

It should be clear to most that Hagedorn's bias, and the insincere way he has attempted to defend his bigotry so far, disqualify him from the role.

Featured image credit: Royalbroil/Wikimedia

Friday, March 1, 2019

Nuestro Mundo Students Speak Out Against Hate — And In Support Of Black Lives Matter

The students ended their school week on Friday afternoon by coming to the sidewalks, holding up signs in support of Black Lives Matter on a chilly winter day.

Students at Nuestro Mundo Community School, a MMSD dual language (Spanish and English) charter school, came to the sidewalks on a chilly Friday afternoon to shout out their support for peace.

The school, which is Madison-based but located in the heart of Monona, aims to "develop literacy in both languages, preparing students for success in an increasingly global economy, and to promote acceptance and understanding of cultural differences and strengths," according to Nuestro Mundo's website.

Click the images to expand:

Holding signs up that read, "Don't Judge People's Color," "We Don't See Hate, We See Love," and more, the students explained to me that they were out on Friday afternoon, around 3 p.m. and at the end of their school day, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Although Black History Month was officially celebrated in February, students came out on March 1 to mark the end of the month-long celebration.

"The reason why we're here today is because we're celebrating Black Lives Matter for Black History Month" one student told me.

Students also held signs asking passersby to honk their horns if they supported their cause. About 10 vehicles did pass by while I was with the kids this afternoon, and I can tell you that there was a lot of honking going on in this normally quiet neighborhood!

Kudos for these children for doing their part to promote diversity, and to stand united against hate. We can all learn from their lesson, and realize it's not enough to be non-racist any longer — instead, we need to be anti-racist, and do something about the injustices we see in the world.

Yes, it's nice to share a Facebook post about how you hate bigotry that's being spewed out by some politician or leader or business mogul. But what are you going to actually do about it? Get out there and make yourself SEEN, not just HEARD, and take real action against bigotry by demanding it from lawmakers or businesses in person, not just on social media.

The kids at Nuestro Mundo get it — and it'd be wonderful if we adults could start emulating them for a change.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

State Supreme Court Race — Hagedorn's Bigotry Is More Troubling Than Neubauer's Faith In Science

If you view both candidates as "biased," surely one of their biases is worse than the other's.

There is a stark difference between supposed conflicts of interest held by the two candidates for state Supreme Court in this year's spring elections.
  • Liberal-leaning Lisa Neubauer reportedly attended a climate march, a political action to be sure, done in support of the scientific consensus that human-caused global warming is negatively impacting the world.

  • Conservative-leaning Brian Hagedorn's bigoted beliefs and actions in support of them have turned heads, and resulted in right-wing business groups denouncing him. He has financially supported a private school that discriminates against LGBT faculty and students (including inflicting punishments on them if their family members are gay). He has also accepted money from and spoke to a known hate group in recent years.
Both beliefs by the Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates are political, and represent actions taken by them that their ideological opposites find worrisome.

Yet in Neubauer's case, the action she took is grounded in scientific evidence. Climate change is real, and those still in denial about 1) its impact on the world, and 2) how humans are responsible for its exponential growth over the past several decades, are, to put it bluntly, wrong.

Could Neubauer have a conflict of interest in any case arising before her that has to do with the environment? It's possible.

But so too could Hagedorn have a conflict of interest when it comes to the rights and privileges that should inherently be recognized to an entire group of people.

Hagedorn has tried to defend his past comments chastising the LGBT community, in which he likened the legalization of gay relationships to bestiality. Attacks against those types of comments, he and his campaign have insisted, are attacks against Christianity itself, a notion that many Christians I know would not agree with.

But if he's so adamant about propagating his beliefs, perhaps Hagedorn ought to consider hanging up one set of robes for another, retiring from the judiciary and joining the clergy.

Ours is a government that must respect the rights and privileges of all, and not exclude those who we deem as "different" from societal privileges just because we don't like or live like them.

I remain unconvinced that Hagedorn's biases wouldn't influence him were he to get a seat on the state's highest court. And I do not view the biases of the two candidates as of their biases is clearly "worse" than the other.

If we must view both Hagedorn and Neubauer as conflicted, surely we should favor one over the other — and for me, the individual who stands beside reason and scientific inquiry, rather than the person who tries to defend their documented and frequent bigotry, will get my vote.

Featured image credit: Richard Hurd/Flickr

A Lesson On 'Wing-Walking' For Republicans After The Cohen Testimony

At what point will the GOP walk away from Trump?

The Republican Party is hedging all of its bets on a president whose past is catching up with him. At some point, they'll have to make a decision: will they remain tied to Donald Trump, or will they see the writing on the wall and make moves toward discrediting him?

Following the testimony of Michael Cohen to the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday — during which Republican members of the committee frequently attacked Cohen's credibility rather than ask any pertinent questions about the president's behavior — I was
reminded of a small lesson that was taught to me when I was in college many years ago.

"The First Rule Of Wing-Walking," which referenced wing-walkers of the 1920s and 30s who would walk on the wings of small aircraft to entertain hundreds of onlookers below, was that you don't take a step in a new direction unless you are certain it's a safe move to make, one that will leave you in a better position than you had before.

The principle can be applied to politics as well — it doesn't pay to change your positions on a whim, and you're better off thinking about each possible move like a wing-walker would. In other words, many lawmakers won't make a change unless it's going to end up placing them in a better place politically.

For the Republicans, that means staying true to the president, even after all of the controversial statements, questionable foreign policy choices, and domestic mishaps that have occurred in his administration so far — at least for now. Eventually, members of the GOP may change their minds, but only if new footing can be found that encourages them to step away from Trump.

That new footing may come about as revelations from the special counsel investigation, being led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, detail possible misdeeds by the president.

The report, however, may not come out for quite some time, even as news media keep getting told over and over again that it's coming out "soon." Its continued delay could put Republicans in a pickle.

The longer they stay true to Trump, the more egg on their face they'll have if they continue to defend him up to the report's release, especially if said report does indeed implicate Trump in criminal activities.

If that scenario plays out, one of two things will happen: Republicans, taking note of the sinking ship that Trump has become, may walk away from him, and join some Democrats who have already become vocal about it in seeking his removal from office. That'd be a very hard move to make, but one that some may see as more beneficial than staying loyal to Trump.

I worry, however, that Republicans may do the opposite, and make a very disturbing choice: defending the president's actions as no big deal or innocuous, even if some of them may be felonious in nature.

If they select that second option, it proves a point on what I've long assumed about the GOP — that Republicans make terrible wing-walkers.

Featured image credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Wikimedia