Month: January 2015

Progress Illinois, one of the few sources for quality news and information about Illinois politics, needs your help in order to stay online

Progress Illinois, a website that provides quality news and information about Illinois politics from a progressive perspective, is currently running on a shoestring budget and could be forced to shut down completely unless enough people are able to donate enough money in order to keep Progress Illinois online and operating. Currently, Progress Illinois has enough funds to continue operating for the next month or so.

While Progress Illinois is making attempts to establish a fundraising network, consisting of fundraising campaigns, a formal board to assist with fundraising, and an annual fundraising gala, to stay online and operating in the long term, they need all the help they can get. While I don’t have the means to donate money to Progress Illinois or otherwise assist with their fundraising efforts beyond writing this blog post, if you wish to donate money to Progress Illinois or otherwise help with Progress Illinois’s fundraising efforts, please contact Arica Flowers at Arica@ProgressIllinois.com.

Bruce Rauner’s plan to allow Illinois communities to enact employee wage and benefit theft zones would crater the Illinois economy

Bruce Rauner is touting right-wing lies about wages, unionization, and the economy in his crusade to drive down wages, bust unions, and destroy the already weak economy in Illinois.

A key part of Rauner’s plan to bust unions in Illinois is to divide and conquer the state by allowing local communities in Illinois to vote on whether or not to enact local versions of so-called “right-to-work” laws, which allow non-union workers to benefit from wages, health insurance, retirement plans, safer working conditions, and other benefits of union contracts without either joining or paying dues to the union that negotiated the contracts. While Rauner would call areas in Illinois that vote to implement so-called “right-to-work” laws on a local basis “employee empowerment zones”, in reality, so-called “right-to-work” laws don’t empower employees, instead, they allow non-union employees to effectively steal wages and benefits from union-negotiated contracts. If Rauner were honest about his scheme to bust unions at the local level in Illinois, he’d call areas of the state that approved of his scheme “employee wage and benefit theft zones”, and I strongly encourage Illinois Democrats and progressives to refer to Rauner’s scheme as such.

Another claim that Rauner has made about his scheme to bust unions in Illinois at the local level is that, if one were to drive down wages and other costs that businesses incur, more jobs and businesses would be created. That’s simply not true. In fact, when wages are driven down and unions are busted, the overall economy craters because workers who lose pay and benefits as a result of lower wages and no union representation aren’t able to spend as much money on groceries, gasoline, household goods, and other types of goods and services. This results in businesses losing customers and revenue, and, in many cases, forced to close and leave their employees without a job, which starts a vicious cycle of economic loss. Additionally, very few people who couldn’t afford to start a new business with current labor costs would be able to afford to start a new business with lower labor costs, so any economic gains wouldn’t even come close to offsetting the massive economic loss that driving down wages and busting unions would cause.

Regarding the areas of Illinois that would likely enact employee wage and benefit theft zones if a state law allowing local areas of the state to do so were enacted, if the legislation allowed counties to make entire counties employee wage and benefit theft zones and allowed local municipalities (cities, towns, villages, and townships) to make their jurisdictions employee wage and benefit theft zones in counties that haven’t enacted an ordinance or passed a referendum to make the entire county an employee wage and benefit theft zone, most, if not all, of the collar counties and downstate counties would probably become employee wage and benefit theft zones, as well as a few suburban areas of Cook County. The amount of economic damage that this would cause would be massive, and this would badly divide the state.

The truth of the matter is that Bruce Rauner’s plan to allow local communities to enact employee wage and benefit theft zones here in Illinois would probably cause just as much economic damage as enacting a bill to turn the entire state into an employee wage and benefit theft zone (i.e., a statewide “right-to-work” bill) would.

Wisconsin Democrats troll launch of Scott Walker PAC

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The previous post on here was supposed to be my last post on here for the next month or so, but I couldn’t resist writing this one.

Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) officials were waiting for Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to launch a leadership PAC, whose name was recently announced as “Our American Revival”, for his 2016 presidential campaign to troll him (technically, Walker’s new PAC is not actually a PAC, but a 527 organization that is legally prohibited from expressly campaigning for him, although, in effect, it’s the closest thing Walker has to a leadership PAC).

An unnamed individual or group bought the “americanrevivalpac.com” domain name and linked to a BuzzFeed article written by an unnamed Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) operative that shows a Dave Letterman-style “Top 10” list of “rejected names for Scott Walker’s PAC” (although the DPW’s list counts upward instead of downward like Letterman’s lists do), which attacks Walker for various things that he’s said and done since being elected Governor of Wisconsin. While it’s not clear as to who bought the domain name, and it’s not clear as to who wrote the Buzzfeed post, if I were to guess, the DPW probably bought the domain name using money from the party’s coffers (although it’s possible that some other Democratic group or Democrat with an interest in Wisconsin politics bought the domain name), and, if I were to guess, the BuzzFeed article was probably written by DPW Communications Director Melissa Baldauff, as it appears to be her style of writing, although it could have been someone else using the DPW’s BuzzFeed account.

While I’m not exactly fond of the DPW using party resources on domain names for the sole purpose of trolling GOP politicians, this is clearly payback for the Republicans buying up the “maryburke.com” domain name before Mary Burke announced that she was running in last year’s election for Governor of Wisconsin and using it to set up a webpage in order to, among other things, use my words to attack Burke without my permission.

Scott Walker has left Wisconsin with a massive budget deficit and a wrecked economy. Walker’s idea of a “revival” is turning America into a third-world country by handing out tax cuts to the rich, getting the U.S. involved in unjustified wars, and handing out corporate welfare to his cronies. That’s not a “revival”, that’s a destruction of American’s economy and reputation.

Scott Walker wants to cut funding to higher education in Wisconsin and give most of it to the owners of an NBA team

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This will probably be my final blog post on The Progressive Midwestern until early March, as I’ll be finishing a book that I’ve been writing.

On the same day that Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced that he intends to cut a whopping $300 million from the University of Wisconsin System (UW System), Wisconsin’s network of two-year and four-year public colleges and universities, Walker also announced that he wants to give most of that money to the owners of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks so that they can have a new arena built in the Milwaukee area:

This is a continuation of Walker’s massive expansion of the corporate welfare state in Wisconsin, in which corporations and other types of businesses get tax breaks and other government benefits, often at the expense of education, social services, and other government programs. Mark Lasry, one of the owners of the Milwaukee Bucks, probably could pay for a new arena by himself, as his net worth was listed at $1.7 billion last year, and Lasry isn’t the sole owner of the Bucks. Yet, the Bucks owners are whining about wanting Wisconsinites’ taxpayer money to be used to fund their new arena, and it looks like Walker is going to cut funding from higher education in Wisconsin and give it to the Bucks owners.

Scott Walker’s priorities are completely screwed up. What is even worse about this is that Walker wants to run for president so that he can hand out federal taxpayer money to corporations.

The Republican Party is a party of scammers

Media Matters for America (MMfA), a progressive media watchdog group, published this piece showing how ridiculously infected with scams and scammers the Republican Party and the conservative movement in this country are. Among the scams promoted by Republicans and conservatives include, but are not limited to, reverse mortgages, quack doctors, conspiracy theories, fraudulent financial schemes, worthless stocks, and political organizations that exist solely or primarily to pay political consultants.

MMfA cited 11 examples from the past two and a half years of Republicans and conservatives scamming fellow Republicans and conservatives:

  • Mike Huckabee sold out his fans to a quack doctor, conspiracy theorists, and financial fraudsters.
  • Conservative media such as Erick Erickson’s RedState, Dick Morris, Newsmax, Townhall, and Human Events have pushed paid promotions for dubious marijuana stocks.
  • Tea party scammers have been aided by media outlets like CNN and Fox News, which, in the words of one of the shady groups in question, have given the tea partiers “great television news coverage” to promote their efforts.
  • Subscribers to CNN analyst Newt Gingrich’s email list have received supposed insider information about cancer “cures,” the Illuminati, “Obama’s ‘Secret Mistress,'” a “weird” Social Security “trick,” and Fort Knox being “empty.”
  • Five conservative outlets promoted a quack doc touting dubious Alzheimer’s disease cures.
  • Conservative media sold out their followers to a disgraced financial firm, Stansberry & Associates.
  • Fox News contributor Wayne Rogers acted as a “paid TV spokesperson” for a company pitching reverse mortgages to senior citizens. Fox had previously reported that “there’s a lot of evidence” that reverse mortgages are “predatory loans.”
  • Tobin Smith, the dubious stock pitchman fired from Fox News.
  • Fox analyst Charles Payne was paid to push now worthless stocks.
  • The Dick Morris/Newsmax super PAC boondoggle.
  • Right-wing media helped “scam PACs” raise money from their readers.

Click on every one of those links above, as they go into detail about how Republicans and conservatives scam their own kind of people. The Republican Party is absolutely rife with all kinds of scams and scammers, and the scary thing about that is that the corporate media in this country helps promote right-wing scams.

Wisconsin Democratic operative Brandon Savage, who supports Jason Rae for Wisconsin Democratic chair, throws Tammy Baldwin under the bus

Brandon Savage, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-area Democratic operative who is a political ally of conservative Milwaukee County Executive Chris “Boss” Abele and candidate for Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) chairperson Jason Rae, reportedly stated on Facebook that he thinks that U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin will lose re-election in 2018 if a Democrat wins the 2016 presidential election, in fact, Savage went as far as to name the individual who he thinks will defeat Baldwin:

Right now, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is thinking, “why would I settle on running for (Milwaukee) mayor in 2016, when I could run for US Senate in 2018 and take out (Tammy) Baldwin?” If (Hillary) Clinton is president, Dems have a guaranteed bad midterm. The end result is simple: US Senator David A. Clarke, Jr.

Please note that it’s possible that someone other than Hillary Clinton, such as Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders, could win the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination and go on to win the general election.

For those of you who don’t know who David Clarke is, he’s the ultra-conservative Milwaukee County Sheriff who keeps getting re-elected to his current office by running in Democratic primaries and getting Republicans to vote in the Democratic primary for him. If Clarke were to run for a partisan statewide office, he’d likely run as a Republican, since he’s a staunch supporter of gun lobby groups like the NRA and is a member of far-right groups like the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), additionally, it’s very hard for someone like Clarke to run in a statewide Democratic primary in Wisconsin and get Republicans across the state to vote for him in a Democratic primary. Clarke has made no secret of the fact that he’s considering running for other offices (most notably Milwaukee Mayor in 2016), so Democrats and progressives in Wisconsin need to be prepared to strongly oppose Clarke if and when he decides to run for either another term as Milwaukee County Sheriff or for another office.

For Brandon Savage to essentially throw Tammy Baldwin, who has served Wisconsin to the best of her ability for the past two years and has built up a mostly progressive voting record as a U.S. Senator, under the bus by saying that he thinks that she’s going to lose re-election to a far-right nutjob like David Clarke even though it’s nearly four years until she’s on a Wisconsin ballot again (if she decides to run for a second term in the U.S. Senate, which is likely) is absolutely disgusting. Furthermore, Savage’s doom and gloom remarks about Baldwin’s re-election chances is indisputable proof that Savage, Mike Tate, Jason Rae, and the rest of the failed Democratic leadership in Wisconsin and their allies aren’t concerned one bit about winning elections in a critical swing state to the Democratic Party. Also, regarding Savage’s comments about how he thinks that the 2018 midterm elections being a “guaranteed bad midterm” year for Democrats, it’s nearly four years away, so it’s practically impossible to predict what the political landscape in this country would look like then. It’s worth noting that, in 1998 and 2002, the incumbent president’s party won a net gain of seats in at least one chamber of Congress, so it wouldn’t be unprecedented for a Democrat to win the 2016 presidential election and then for Democrats to do well in the 2018 midterm elections.

In fact, Savage’s doom and gloom comments about Baldwin’s U.S. Senate re-election chances may have been a huge turning point in the race for DPW chair, given that Savage is backing Jason Rae for DPW chair and, therefore, Savage’s remarks are something that Rae will have to answer for. If Tammy Baldwin decides to endorse a candidate for DPW chair, she might not endorse Jason Rae over Savage’s remarks about her re-election chances, although she probably won’t endorse Joe Wineke, given that Baldwin defeated Wineke in a 1998 U.S. House Democratic primary in the Madison-based 2nd District of Wisconsin. This could be a big opening for someone like Jeff Smith or Stephen Smith, the two other candidates currently in the race for DPW chair, Mary Lang Sollinger, who is likely to run for DPW chair, or one of the several possible candidates who are considering running, such as Lori Compas or Tanya Lohr. Of course, Baldwin’s vote is only one vote out of (likely) several hundred at the DPW convention in June (and that’s if she’s a voting convention delegate), and it’s certainly possible that a DPW chair candidate can get elected by defeating a Baldwin-endorsed candidate. However, Baldwin is the most high-profile Democratic elected official in Wisconsin, so any endorsement by her could have an effect on swaying any undecided delegates.

Make no mistake about it, the Dropkick Murphys “literally hate” Scott Walker

Make no mistake about it, the Dropkick Murphys, a Celtic rock band from Quincy, Massachusetts, is no fan of Wisconsin Governor and likely Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker using their music.

At the Iowa Freedom Summit, a recent gathering of possible and likely Republican presidential candidates in Iowa that was attended by far-right Tea Partiers, Walker used the Dropkick Murphys’ song “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” in his entrance at the event, which the band quickly disapproved of via Twitter:

This isn’t the first time a Wisconsin Republican used the Dropkick Murphys’ music without their permission. At the 2012 Republican Party of Wisconsin state convention, then-Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker “Little” Jeff Fitzgerald, a staunch Walker crony who was running in a multi-way GOP primary for U.S. Senate, used “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” in his convention entrance, which prompted the band to compare Little Fitz’s use of one of their songs to a white supremacist using a gangster rap track as entrance music.

The Dropkick Murphys’ have made their support for workers’ rights, something Walker has taken away from thousands of Wisconsin workers, known for many years. In fact, here’s their rendition of “Which Side Are You On?”, a pro-union anthem:

It’s not surprising that the Dropkick Murphys would “literally hate” someone like Scott Walker.

FOX News defends President Obama and slams Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Netanyahu using Congress as a campaign prop

Two weeks before the Israeli Knesset (Israel’s unicameral national legislature) elections, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak before the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives after being invited to do so by House Speaker John Boehner.

Netanyahu using the U.S. House as a prop for his party (Likud) in its re-election efforts is viewed so unfavorably here in the United States, even FOX News, a right-wing propaganda cable channel that masquerades as a cable news channel, is defending President Barack Obama, who is usually hated by on-air and off-air figures at FOX News, and slamming Netanyahu, who is usually well-liked by on-air and off-air figures at FOX News. Shepard Smith and Chris Wallace, who both host shows that are either aired on FOX News or produced by FOX News for the over-the-air FOX Network, blasted Netanyahu for using our country’s Congress as a political prop, with Smith quoting former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk:

You can read more about the growing backlash against the scheduled Netanyahu congressional speech from unexpected places here and here.

Over his long political career, Benjamin Netanyahu has shown zero respect for American sovereignty and institutions. We are not going to be a puppet state for Netanyahu’s Israel, we are not going to let Netanyahu run roughshod over the American people, and, most importantly, I am calling for Democratic U.S. House members to turn their backs to Netanyahu if and when he speaks before the House, even if it means getting expelled from the House.

The Wisconsin GOP’s court-packing scheme is straight out of the FDR playbook…this time, there’s no valid reason for it whatsoever

During the midst of the Great Depression, then-Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was stymied by a conservative-led U.S. Supreme Court that struck down many of FDR’s New Deal programs. On February 5, 1937, FDR unveiled a court-packing scheme, titled the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, that, in part, would have allowed FDR to pack the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) by appointing either six new justices or a number of new justices equal to the number of current justices who were older than 70 1/2 years of age, whichever was lesser, which would have resulted in a SCOTUS bench consisting of up to 15 members and, more than likely, a solid pro-New Deal majority. Nearly two months after FDR’s court-packing plan was unveiled, then-SCOTUS Associate Justice Owen Roberts, the usual swing vote on the New Deal-era SCOTUS who had previously sided with the “Four Horsemen”, as the anti-New Deal justices were known as, sided with the pro-New Deal justices in a 5-4 decision upholding the State of Washington’s minimum wage law. That decision also effectively ended any chance of FDR’s court-packing scheme from becoming law and kept the SCOTUS bench at nine members, which it remains today.

Nearly eight decades after FDR’s federal court-packing scheme failed, Wisconsin Republicans are attempting to pack the Wisconsin Supreme Court (SCOWI) with conservative justices. However, the Republicans in Wisconsin are not trying to increase the number of justices on the bench of Wisconsin’s highest court (currently seven), and they aren’t stymied by liberal justices who are using the court to block Republican Governor Scott Walker’s far-right political agenda (in fact, Walker’s conservative allies have a solid majority on the court and have rubber-stamped every part of Walker’s agenda that has come before the court, including the union-busting Act 10 law). Instead, they’re “stymied” (note the quotation marks) by SCOWI Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who is a liberal chief justice on a conservative-controlled court by virtue of being the most senior member of the court, and their efforts to pack Wisconsin’s highest court so that all seven spots on the SCOWI bench are held by far-right justices is a three-pronged effort:

  1. Enact a state constitutional amendment that would allow SCOWI justices to elect their own chief justice, which, if enacted, would result in one of the conservative justices, probably Patience Roggensack, becoming chief justice. This amendment will go before Wisconsin voters on April 7, and “yes” votes from a majority of voters would be required to ratify the amendment and effectively remove Abrahamson from the chief justice’s chair on the SCOWI bench. I’ve endorsed a “no” vote on this amendment.
  2. Enact a state law that would set a mandatory retirement age of 70 years for state judges in Wisconsin. This would automatically remove Abrahamson, as well as Patrick Crooks, the lone moderate on the SCOWI bench, from the bench entirely, and their replacements would be appointed by Walker, who would appoint far-right justices to replace Abrahamson and Crooks on the bench. Given that Republicans control both houses of the Wisconsin State Legislature, and Walker would almost certainly sign a judicial mandatory retirement bill into law, it’s not a matter of if a judicial mandatory retirement bill will be enacted, but when it will enacted.
  3. Defeat liberal SCOWI justice Ann Walsh Bradley, the other of the three justices who usually side against Walker and his cohorts on the SCOWI bench, in this year’s state supreme court election. Conservatives are running James Daley, a Rock County circuit court judge, against Bradley, however, Daley is not a strong candidate, having repeatedly flip-flopped on the proposed chief justice amendment that will be on the ballot at the same time he is, so there’s a good chance that Bradley could win re-election.

The proposed Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice amendment is about more than simply removing Shirley Abrahamson from the chief justice’s chair on Wisconsin’s highest court. It’s the first prong of Wisconsin Republicans’ three-prong court-packing scheme designed to completely remove liberals and moderates from Wisconsin’s highest court and replace them with right-wing extremists who will rubber-stamp Scott Walker’s destructive agenda and oppose all efforts by Wisconsin Democrats to implement progressive policies designed to make Wisconsin a better place to live if and when Democrats regain control of the governor’s office and/or the state legislature. Wisconsinites can oppose the first and third prongs of the GOP’s court-packing scheme by voting for Ann Walsh Bradley for Wisconsin Supreme Court and voting “no” on the chief justice amendment on April 7, which will send a strong message to the Republicans that control Wisconsin’s state government that they won’t support the second prong of their court-packing scheme. The state court-packing scheme that Republicans are trying to implement in Wisconsin is even more ridiculous than FDR’s federal court-packing scheme that he proposed nearly eight decades ago.

Robin Kelly considering run for U.S. Senate in Illinois

Yesterday, U.S. Representative Robin Kelly of Matteson, Illinois, who represents a congressional district stretching from the southernmost parts of the City of Chicago to Kankakee County, announced that she is considering running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Mark Kirk:

I am focused on serving the constituents of the 2nd Illinois’ Congressional district, but I am doing my due diligence and exploring whether there is a path to run for U.S. Senate in 2016. I have the experience at all levels of government, both elected and appointed, and believe I would be a strong candidate to represent Illinois in the Senate.

Kelly joins three other U.S. Representatives, Tammy Duckworth, Bill Foster, and Cheri Bustos, in considering bids. Of the four, Kelly was the most progressive in 2013 according to congressional vote scores by Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), although the ADA only scored a total of 20 bills in 2013, and Kelly was a House member for 18 of those votes. Kelly earned a 70% ADA score, followed by Duckworth and Foster (both 55%), then followed by Bustos (50%). Kelly usually votes the progressive position on most bills, except on some financial regulation/deregulation, national security, and domestic surveillance bills where she sides with conservatives.

Kelly is best-known for being a staunch supporter of common-sense gun control measures, such as background checks on gun sales. In fact, she ran her 2013 campaign in the special election in the 2nd Congressional District of Illinois, which was held a few months after the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut, on various gun control measures. Kelly won a multi-way Democratic primary with a majority of the vote and went on to win the special general election with over 70% of the vote.

While I’d prefer that Jan Schakowsky or someone who is politically similar to her run against Kirk the Jerk, I think Robin Kelly would be a good representative of Illinois in the U.S. Senate.