Month: February 2015

PROVISIONAL ENDORSEMENT: Jeff Smith for Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson

I’m provisionally endorsing Jeff Smith’s campaign for Chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW). Please note that my endorsement of Smith for DPW Chair is only a provisional endorsement and not a full endorsement at this time, since I’m only endorsing Smith provided that a potential candidate for DPW Chair, Lori Compas, does not enter the race for DPW Chair. If Compas runs for DPW Chair (which is not likely, since it’s been a while since she stated that she was considering a run and hasn’t said anything about whether or not she’ll run since then), I will pull my endorsement of Smith and endorse Compas instead, while, if Compas does not run for DPW Chair, my provisional endorsement of Smith will automatically become a full endorsement of Smith.

Smith has some excellent ideas for reviving the currently moribund Democratic Party of Wisconsin, which is barely relevant in Wisconsin politics nowadays due to current DPW Chairman Mike Tate and others in the failed Democratic establishment badly mismanaging the state party, and making the party, whose list of former statewide elected officials includes people like Gaylord Nelson, Bill Proxmire, Pat Lucey, Tony Earl, and Russ Feingold, great once again. Some of Smith’s ideas include more support for Wisconsin College Democrats chapters to help the party reach out to young voters more effectively, making the DPW’s messaging more progressive, and making the DPW less dependent on political consultants who are more interested in getting payoffs from the party and its donors than doing anything to actually help Democratic candidates.

Mike Tate, who is not running for re-election for DPW Chair, is one of many individuals in the DPW who are responsible for the DPW being in so much disarray. Tate was the one who hand-picked corporate hack and Jim Doyle crony Mary Burke to run against Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker last year, and, in the process, Tate single-handedly turned Burke, who tried to run for governor as a political outsider, into the ultimate political insider, which destroyed what little chance she had of defeating Walker. Sadly, that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Tate’s mismanagement of the DPW.

While I’m not a Wisconsin resident (I live in Illinois, and we could certainly use better, more progressive Democratic leadership here, although trying to pry the Illinois Democratic Party out of the hands of Mike Madigan is nearly impossible), the election for Chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin has massive national implications, because Wisconsin could very well determine which party wins control the White House and the U.S. Senate in next year’s elections. Of the candidates currently running, I believe that Jeff Smith is the best candidate for DPW Chair, and that’s why I’ve provisionally endorsed Smith’s campaign. This year’s DPW Convention, which will select the next DPW Chair, will be held on June 5 & 6 at the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee, and DPW members who are selected as delegates to the state convention by their home county’s Democratic Party chapter will be able to vote for DPW Chair.

Scott Walker compares progressives to right-wing terrorists and touts junk science about Ebola

Wisconsin Governor and likely Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker compared progressives and labor union members to ISIS, a right-wing Islamic fundamentalist terror group at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an annual gathering of conservatives in the United States:

We need have someone who leads and ultimately will send a message that not only will we protect American soil, but…freedom-loving people anywhere else in the world. We need that confidence,” (Walker) said. “If I can take on a hundred thousand protesters, I can do the same across the world.

First off, regarding Walker’s claim that his political base consists of “freedom-loving people”, a claim that he’s made multiple times since he’s made it 100% clear to the people of his home state of Wisconsin that he wants to be president, Walker has made it clear to me that, if elected President, he wants to continue the Republican tradition of supporting freedom for people in foreign countries while taking freedom away from the American people. That’s not freedom-loving, that’s hypocrisy!

More importantly, I found Walker comparing progressives and labor union members to a group of Islamic fundamentalists who have beheaded Americans in the Middle East downright offensive and absolutely absurd. The 100,000+ people who descended on the Wisconsin State Capitol four years ago to protest the union-busting bill now known as 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, or Act 10 for short, weren’t out to kill anybody; they were out to voice their opposition to driving down wages and busting unions. To compare progressives and labor union members to a group of right-wing terrorists is false equivalence, pure and simple!

Additionally, as progressive blogger and possible 2016 Wisconsin State Senate candidate Chris “Capper” Liebenthal pointed out, Walker also claimed at CPAC that Ebola, a deadly virus that spreads through contact with bodily fluids, can be cured with aloe, a common ingredient in shampoo and skin moisturizer. In reality, Walker’s claim is false, since there is currently no cure for Ebola (although research to find a cure is ongoing), and methods of treating Ebola are currently very limited. I certainly wouldn’t want Walker making health care decisions for me or anybody else!

Scott Walker has made one absurd claim and comparison after another since he’s made it clear that he wants to be president. What’s next for Walker? Claiming that the U.S. should appease Israel more often because Robin Vos and Scott Fitzgerald helped him implement a far-right agenda in Wisconsin? Claiming that he can take on Vladimir Putin and Russia because he watched the movie Rocky IV? Claiming that he can take on Kim Jong-un and North Korea because he mandated forced ultrasounds for Wisconsin women who want to have an abortion? Walker frightens me!

Only 6.4% of members of a pro-wage theft business group in Wisconsin support wage theft legislation

Scott Manley, an official with the right-wing, pro-wage theft business group Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, claimed in a public hearing held by a Wisconsin State Senate committee that 300 of the WMC’s 3,800 members responded to some sort of inquiry by the group as to whether or not they support right-to-work-for-less legislation, also known as wage theft legislation, and that 81% of them support the legislation.

81% of 300 members in a group that has 3,800 total members is, rounded to the nearest tenth of a percent, only 6.4% of the total membership of the group. Yes, you’re reading that correctly…only 6.4% of the total membership of the main right-wing business organization in Wisconsin support the Wisconsin Republicans’ wage theft bill.

In case you’re wondering how I came up with that figure, I didn’t pull it out of my rear end. Instead, I made two calculations with Windows Calculator:

  • 0.81*300 = 243, meaning that 81% of 300 is 243.
  • 243/3800 = 0.0639473684210526, meaning that 243 of 3,800 is 6.4%, when converted to a percentage and rounded to the nearest tenth of a percent.

To put that another way, one of the largest organizations that is pushing the Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Legislature to allow non-union workers to effectively steal wages and other benefits negotiated by a labor union without paying for those benefits in the form of union dues or fair-share fees with support from only 6.4% of its members. This is not lost on many Wisconsinites, in fact, Lori Compas, the executive director of the Wisconsin Business Alliance (WBA), the main progressive business organization in Wisconsin, called local chambers of commerce in seven Wisconsin State Senate districts that are represented by Republican state senators, the 1st (Frank Lasee), 2nd (Robert Cowles), 10th (Sheila Harsdorf), 11th (Stephen Nass, who ended the public hearing early over rumors that an Hispanic group in Wisconsin was going to exercise the group’s First Amendment right to free speech in a public place), 13th (Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald), 23rd (Terry Moulton), and 29th (Jerry Petrowski, currently the only Republican state senator who intends to vote against the wage theft bill), and Compas could not find a single local chamber of commerce in those seven Wisconsin State Senate districts that was publicly willing to support the Wisconsin wage theft bill. Compas’s piece on her findings, which she published to the WBA’s website, is a fine example of investigative journalism. In fact, Compas’s piece has been republished in full by Steve Hanson of the progressive blog Uppity Wisconsin and featured in an online article published by the Milwaukee-area alternative newspaper Shepherd Express.

Let me make this point 100% clear: Very few people and groups in the Wisconsin business community are advocating for wages to be driven down and unions to be busted, in fact, it appears to me that the only individuals and groups in the Wisconsin business community that are advocating for wages to be driven down and unions to be busted are those individuals and groups who have a considerable amount of political influence over the Republicans that control Wisconsin’s state government.

Why Illinois is one of the most earthquake-prone states in the entire country

Map of New Madrid and Wabash Valley Seismic Zones (Map Courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey)
Map of New Madrid and Wabash Valley Seismic Zones (Map Courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey)

You might be surprised by this, but my home state of Illinois is one of the most, if not the most, earthquake-prone states in the entire country.

The New Madrid Seismic Zone and Wabash Valley Seismic Zone, a pair of intraplate seismic zones (i.e., fault systems within one of the tectonic plates that make up Earth’s crust, in this case, the North American Plate) provide a significant threat of earthquakes to a region including parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. The New Madrid Seismic Zone, the better known of the two seismic zones, extends roughly from the southernmost part of Illinois to the Memphis, Tennessee metropolitan area, and any large earthquake in this region would significantly affect parts of Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, and other states further away from the New Madrid Zone. The Wabash Valley Seismic Zone, the lesser known of the two seismic zones, extends roughly along the Wabash River from Terre Haute, Indiana southward, and any large earthquake in this region would significantly affect parts of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and other states further away from the Wabash Valley Zone.

However, there’s two main factors that would make a large earthquake in this region of the country, which hasn’t happened since 1812, even more devastating than an large earthquake in other areas of the country. First, since virtually all homes, buildings, and other structures in this region of the country are not built or retrofitted to withstand large earthquakes, the devastation that would be caused by a large earthquake in this region of the country would be considerably worse than the devastation that a large earthquake in, for example, California would cause. Second, because of the geology of this region of the country, any large earthquake in this region of the country would be felt over a wider area than an earthquake in, for example, California would be.

Jennifer Rukavina, the chief meteorologist at WPSD-TV, the NBC affiliate in Paducah, Kentucky that covers an area roughly corresponding to the northern half of the area that would be the most severely affected by a large earthquake centered in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, did a three-part series of news features for WPSD-TV on the New Madrid Seismic Zone in 2011:

If a 7.7 or greater magnitude earthquake were to occur in either the New Madrid or Wabash Valley seismic zones, it would be one of the worst natural disasters in modern U.S. history. Most, if not all, structures near the epicenter of the earthquake would be destroyed. Roads, bridges, railroads, power lines, power plants, water lines, water pumping and treatment facilities, and other types of infrastructure would be damaged or destroyed for tens, if not hundreds, of miles around the epicenter, many local radio and television stations in the region would likely be knocked off the air for days, if not even longer, sand blows and soil liquefaction would occur in some areas in the region, large rivers in the area, such as the Mississippi, Ohio, and Wabash, could be moved off of their current courses by upwards of two miles, if not even further, fatalities would likely be in the thousands, injuries would likely be in the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, the earthquake would probably be felt as far away as places like Boston, Massachusetts, Duluth, Minnesota, and Denver, Colorado, and at least minor damage could occur in places as far away as Madison, Wisconsin, Columbus, Ohio, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Wichita, Kansas.

The areas within and near the New Madrid and Wabash Valley Seismic Zones, which includes parts of several states in the Lower Midwest and South, including my home state of Illinois, are some of the most earthquake-prone areas in the entire country, and that’s something that many people don’t realize.

Scott Walker has a problem with Christians

Wisconsin Governor and likely Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker put his foot in his mouth yet again when he claimed that he didn’t know whether or not President Barack Obama was a Christian:

The Blagojevich family is pulling dirty political tricks in Chicago once again

This guy's wife is pulling dirty tricks in a desperate attempt to get Rahm Emanuel crony Deb Mell elected to the Chicago City Council (Photo courtesy of U.S. Marshals Service)
This guy’s wife is pulling dirty tricks in a desperate attempt to get Rahm Emanuel crony Deb Mell elected to the Chicago City Council (Photo courtesy of U.S. Marshals Service)

Patti Blagojevich, the wife of disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, is pulling dirty political tricks in a Chicago aldermanic race between Rahm Emaunel-appointed incumbent Alderwoman Deb Mell, Patti’s sister and Rod’s sister-in-law, Tim Meeghan, and Annisa Wanat:

(33rd Ward of Chicago) Aldermanic challengers Tim Meegan and Annisa Wanat said someone has been putting anti-Mell fliers on car windshields in the Northwest Side ward printed on orange paper to make them look like parking tickets.

Meegan and Wanat said they had nothing to do with the fliers and suspect it’s a political set-up by the Mell campaign — akin to throwing a rock through the window of your own campaign headquarters.

Both challengers also claim to have gotten phone calls complaining about the fliers from a mystery woman who sounds an awful lot like Mell’s sister, former Illinois First Lady Patti Blagojevich.

In the call, the woman identifies herself as a Ravenswood Manor resident who was “leaning toward voting for Tim.” That is, until she saw the orange flier on her windshield dissing Deb Mell as a puppet of her father, retired-Ald. Richard Mell, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel — “with no attribution” about who was responsible for the insult.

“If that was you doing that, it was incredibly cowardly and it really turned me off,” the woman says in the recorded call.

If you’re not convinced that Patti Blagojevich is behind the political-set up of Tim Meegan and Annisa Wanat, this should convince you it is a political-set up of Meegan and Wanat that is being orchestrated by the wife of one of the most corrupt elected officials to have ever held elected office in this country:

Meegan, a social studies teacher at Roosevelt High School and a member of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, said he has no doubt who placed the call.

“I’m confident it’s Patti Blagojevich. Annisa got the exact same message from the same person,” Meegan said.

“We are alleging that the anti-Mell flier that looked like a parking ticket was produced by the Mell people in order to try and smear her challengers. It’s laughable. It’s a dirty trick. I just can’t believe they would resort to those tactics in order to hang onto the seat.”

Meegan said he didn’t “put two-and-two together” until he heard the recording of another call in which Patti Blagojevich identifies herself by name and asks a neighbor with a Meegan sign on her lawn to consider voting for her sister, Deb.

I call shenanigans on this.

I find it downright ridiculous that Deb Mell’s sister, Patti Blagojevich, would feign consideration of someone other than her sister in an important aldermanic race in Chicago, even going as far print fliers designed to look like parking tickets and attacking her own sister and sending out phone calls to try to frame Tim Meegan over the flyers. This is a blatant political set-up by the wife of a former governor of our state who is currently serving a federal prison sentence for, among other things, trying to sell a vacant U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder and extorting a children’s hospital.

Deb Mell and Rahm Emanuel should publicly denounce Patti Blagojevich’s dirty political tricks, and Patti Blagojevich owes the voters of Chicago’s 33rd Ward an apology.

Could Russ Feingold lose a Democratic primary for his former U.S. Senate seat?

Go ahead and laugh at me, but I think it’s possible that Russ Feingold could actually lose a Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat he held for three terms before being defeated by far-right Republican Ron Johnson in 2010.

During his 18 years in the U.S. Senate, Feingold became famous for his advocacy for progressive ideals on a wide array of issues, especially civil liberties and campaign finance reform, and, because of that, he is regarded as a political institution in Wisconsin, especially among progressives. However, it is possible for a Democratic primary challenger to stake out ground to Feingold’s left. One issue where this is possible is on guns. In a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court case in which the right-wing majority on the bench prohibited state and local governments from banning firearms, Feingold signed an amicus curiae brief in opposition to the Chicago, Illinois handgun ban that was struck down in the case, although a handgun ban is considered so left-wing of an idea in American politics nowadays that even many progressives refuse to support handgun bans. Another issue where this is possible is on is, believe it or not, regulation of the financial industry. While Feingold actually opposed this from the left, he voted against the Dodd-Frank bill that, among other things, created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to regulate the financial sector of the economy, and it wouldn’t be completely unthinkable for a Democratic primary challenger to Feingold to attack him over this and what few other issues Feingold has opposed Democratic and progressive policies and positions and gain political traction.

One strategy that would not work is running in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin against Russ Feingold and running to Feingold’s right, as that would do nothing but help Feingold galvanize his progressive base of support, and any Democrat who were to run against Feingold and attack him from the right would face nearly non-stop criticism from progressives. Additionally, if the Democratic establishment in Wisconsin were to throw Feingold under the bus by discouraging him from running for his old U.S. Senate seat, like they’ve done to people like Barbara Lawton, Mark Harris, and Kathleen Vinehout in past gubernatorial elections in Wisconsin, and push an corporate establishment candidate like Ron Kind or Chris “Boss” Abele, you’d never hear the end of the outrage from Wisconsin progressives, even long after my time on this planet has passed and my body is buried somewhere in Dane County, Wisconsin.

While I highly doubt that anyone would run against Russ Feingold in a Democratic primary, it’s not completely impossible for Feingold to lose a Democratic primary for his former U.S. Senate seat.

A tale of three Wisconsin Democrats on economic messaging, part two

You may remember a blog post I wrote late last year on here in which I compared the political messaging of three Democratic members of the Wisconsin State Legislature, State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, and State Representative Melissa Sargent, when it comes to so-called “right-to-work” legislation, which is actually wage theft legislation since it allows non-union employees at a shop in which wages and other benefits are determined by a collective bargaining agreement between organized labor and management to effectively steal wages and other benefits without paying for them in the form of union dues.

Now, that Wisconsin Republicans are formally pushing to implement wage theft legislation in Wisconsin, I’d figure I’d analyse the press releases that Barca, Shilling, and Sargent sent out earlier today.

Here’s the key part Barca’s press release:

“Governor Walker has called so-called ‘Right to Work’ legislation a distraction and apparently that’s exactly what he wants. By rushing to pass Right to Work in less than a week, clearly the governor and Republican legislators want to distract from how destructive their budget is for Wisconsin’s workers, students and middle-class families.

“Wisconsin is already lagging behind most of the nation in jobs and wage growth and ‘Right to Work’ would only make things worse. In fact, the average worker in Right to Work states makes between $5,000 and $6,000 less than the average worker in other states. And calling an extraordinary session will make the budget disaster Republicans have created worse since we’re already scheduled to be in session the following week anyway. What’s the emergency?

Here’s the key part of Shilling’s press release:

Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling released the following statement regarding the call for an extraordinary session of the Legislature to take up so-called “Right to Work” legislation:

“It is absurd that Republicans would fast-track legislation to interfere with private business contracts and lower wages for all Wisconsin workers at a time when our state is facing a massive $2.2 billion budget crisis.

Here’s the key part of Sargent’s press release:

“Let’s call this what it really is. Plain and simple, this is a wage theft bill,” stated Rep. Sargent.

[…]

“It is important that the treatment of our workers reflects the challenges and dangers that they face on a daily basis. This proposal would also suppress wages for the true profit creators, the workers, which are already growing at a slower rate than the national average, and further polarize our state,” continued Rep. Sargent.

“People struggling to find work and stay in the middle class do not need this divisive legislation. Instead, we should be supporting workers’ rights and helping to build the economy. I know that workers deserve the freedoms that unions provide. The freedom to take a sick day if they need to get well or help take care of a family member, the freedom to earn a family sustaining wage, and the freedom to work in a safe environment are things that I will always fight for.”

While Barca and Shilling are talking about the negative effects of wage theft legislation, such as driving down wages and interfering with negotiated contracts, they’re still primarily referring to the legislation as “so-called right-to-work” legislation, which does nothing more than reinforce the right’s absurd talking point about union busting and wage theft. Sargent, on the other hand, is referring to right-to-work legislation as “wage theft” legislation, which reinforces the notion that such legislation allows non-union workers to effectively steal union-negotiated wages and benefits without paying for them, is referring to workers and consumers as “profit creators” (after all, without people earning salaries, there’d be nobody to buy goods and services and help businesses prosper), and is talking about the various freedoms that unions and workers’ rights provide. I find Sargent’s messaging, which is recommended by the Forward Institute, a Wisconsin-based progressive think tank, to be far more effective than the messaging that most other Democrats use.

The Cap Times misrepresents Peter Barca press release on Wisconsin right-to-work-for-less legislation

In a blog post which I have since deleted, The Cap Times, a left-leaning newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin, published this article, which made it sound like Peter Barca, the Minority Leader of the Wisconsin State Assembly, wasn’t even talking about the negative effects of so-called “right-to-work” legislation that is actually wage theft legislation.

In reality, Barca’s full press release, which The Cap Times did not bother to link to on their online article, did mention that wage theft legislation drives down wages:

Wisconsin is already lagging behind most of the nation in jobs and wage growth and ‘Right to Work’ would only make things worse. In fact, the average worker in Right to Work states makes between $5,000 and $6,000 less than the average worker in other states…

Even though the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and other far-right news media outlets in Wisconsin are more notorious for this kind of garbage journalism, even left-leaning news media outlets in Wisconsin, like The Cap Times, have been known to publish garbage journalism as well from time to time.

I apologize to Representative Barca for the misguided outrage I directed towards him earlier today.

Lexi Daniels, 15-year-old Ohio teenager with only one arm, is an absolutely amazing dancer

Lexi Daniels, a 15-year-old teenager from Columbus, Ohio who was born with only one full arm, performed this incredible hip hop dance in a dance class with WilldaBeast Adams, a dance choreographer who has choreographed with the likes of Madonna and Usher, at a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania dance convention:

You can read more about Daniels’s incredible dance at The Huffington Post.

If one asked me to do the same dance that Lexi Daniels did, I, with both of my arms, couldn’t pull it off half as well as Daniels did with only one full arm. While I’m not a big fan of hip-hop music, It’s absolutely amazing to me that many “disabled” people can do far more incredible things than most people who have no physical disabilities like me.