Month: March 2015

ENDORSEMENT: Nicholas J. Stamates (write-in) for 20th Senate District of Wisconsin

While there’s only one candidate, far-right Republican Duey Stroebel, who has his name on the ballot in the upcoming special election in the 20th Senate District of Wisconsin, which includes the northern part of the Milwaukee suburbs and rural areas east of Fond du Lac, there is a Democrat who is running a write-in campaign against Stroebel: Nicholas J. Stamates.

Stamates isn’t interested in campaign donations, he’s interested in votes. Stamates supports legalizing recreational marijuana and taxing marijuana sales in order to help fill a large state budget deficit that Wisconsin faces. Additionally, Stamates opposes Common Core State Standards, which is a set of corporate, neoliberal education standards that are supported by Republicans like Jeb Bush and billionaires like Bill Gates, as well involve large amounts of standardized testing that make it more difficult for teachers and administrators to be creative with teaching curriculum and inspire their students to learn.

You can view Stamates’s website and campaign platform online. If a write-in line is available on the 20th Senate District of Wisconsin special election ballot, I encourage residents of the 20th Senate District to write-in Nicholas J. Stamates.

BREAKING NEWS: Gogebic Taconite officially drops plans for Penokee Hills open-pit iron ore mine in Wisconsin

Gogebic Taconite, the mining company that bought weaker environmental regulations in Wisconsin as part of a bid to open a proposed open-pit iron ore mine in Wisconsin’s Penokee Hills region, will not open a mine at all in Wisconsin. That’s because GTac has officially dropped its plans to mine the Penokee Hills of the Wisconsin Northwoods after it became clear that the proposed mine was unfeasible for many reasons, two of them being that the mine would cause significant water pollution and would violate Native American treaties:

A company that was looking to open a huge iron mine in northern Wisconsin has officially withdrawn its plans, the state Department of Natural Resources says.

Gogebic Taconite was considering digging a 4½-mile-long mine in the Penokee Hills just south of Lake Superior but announced last month it was closing its office in Hurley and future investment in the project wasn’t feasible.

DNR officials announced Friday the company has withdrawn its pre-application notice. They said the land around the site will reopen to the public.

The proposed Penokee Hills mine was a huge part of the Scott Walker/Wisconsin GOP agenda to win the Northwoods, and all the Northwoods are going to get from Walker and his Republican cohorts are weaker environmental regulations without a single job being created. This is, to put it mildly, a massive defeat for Republicans, both for Republicans at the state level in Wisconsin and for Walker’s likely presidential campaign, and a huge victory for progressives, pro-environment Democrats, Native Americans, and common sense.

Wisconsin Democrats should make repealing the 2013 mining deregulation bill part of a long list of priorities in the 2016 state legislative campaigns in Wisconsin.

Scott Walker front group spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski doesn’t know how to properly use Twitter

As Chris “Capper” Liebenthal pointed out at Cognitive Dissidence, Kirsten Kukowski, the communications director of Our American Revival, an apparently illegal 527 group formed to support Scott Walker’s likely bid for the Republican presidential nomination, accidentally directed people to a Twitter handle that is not currently in use instead of Our American Revival’s Twitter page.

In the bio of her personal Twitter account, Kukowski incorrectly listed @OurAmericanRevival as the Walker front group’s Twitter page. In reality, that is a Twitter handle that is not currently in use by any person or organization, and a Twitter search for @OurAmericanRevival only comes up with a single tweet by someone who also got Our American Revival’s Twitter handle wrong. Our American Revival’s Twitter handle is actually @OurRevival. As of this writing, Kukowski has not yet updated her bio to include Our American Revival’s actual Twitter handle, and it appears that she’s only started following @OurRevival recently, as it’s near the top of her “following” list.

Given that Walker is surrounding himself with incompetent people like Kirsten Kukowski, who can’t direct people to the correct Twitter handle for a pro-Walker organization she works for, it’s clear to me that a Scott Walker presidency would likely be full of much more serious screw-ups that could endanger the American people.

With a stroke of a pen, Mike Pence legally eliminates Hoosier Hospitality

Hoosier Hospitality has been legally eliminated in Indiana. I’m not kidding.

Mike Pence, the far-right Republican Indiana Governor, signed into law a religious discrimination bill that, among other things, will allow business owners to refuse service to gays, lesbians, and other groups of people because of the owners’ religious beliefs.

The effects of the religious discrimination bill on Indiana’s economy are already negative and far-reaching. Gen Con, the largest tabletop game convention in North America, stated its intention to move the convention from Indianapolis to an as-of-yet-unspecified location in another state or country prior to Pence signing the religious discrimination bill into law. Additionally, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is looking to move its scheduled 2017 General Assembly from Indianapolis to a location outside of Indiana. The NCAA, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, has signaled that they’ll hold the 2015 Final Four in Indianapolis (presumably because moving the Final Four to another venue on nine days notice would be a logistical nightmare, if not virtually impossible, for the NCAA), although the NCAA has publicly condemned the religious discrimination legislation, and it’s possible that the NCAA may refuse to hold future NCAA championships in Indiana and move the NCAA headquarters to somewhere outside of Indiana.

Also, a special note to Democrats and progressives regarding religious discrimination legislation: Don’t use the Republican/conservative framing by referring to the legislation as “religious freedom” legislation, as all you’re doing by using their framing is reinforcing the right’s narrative. Refer to it as religious discrimination legislation, as that’s what it is: it allows business owners and other types of employers to discriminate against others based on religious beliefs of the business owners and employers.

In defense of the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap

CNN is now reporting that U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will be charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Even though the military has not yet made a formal announcement regarding the Bergdahl case, CNN cited two sources, one of which was Sgt. Bergdahl’s attorney, in its report, which leads me to believe that CNN’s report is likely, but not certainly, accurate.

While the Republicans will inevitably use this opportunity to criticize President Barack Obama for swapping five Taliban members who were in U.S. custody in exchange for bringing Bergdahl back home, I will use this opportunity to defend the prisoner swap that brought Bergdahl back home to stand trial before our country’s military court system.

I think it’s absolutely disgusting that Republicans would rather allow the Haqqani terrorist network, a sworn enemy of the United States and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members, to effectively harbor an alleged criminal in Bergdahl than bring Bergdahl back to the U.S. to stand trial before a military court for desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. If it takes swapping five Taliban members for Bergdahl in order for Bergdahl to face military criminal charges for deserting the Army, that’s what it takes.

If a U.S. civilian fled to a foreign country to evade prosecution for crimes they allegedly committed in our country’s jurisdiction, the U.S. has, in my opinion, a responsibility to do everything necessary and proper to have the alleged criminal extradited back to the U.S. in order to stand trial here. The same principle applies with the Bergdahl case; the only differences are that Bergdahl is a U.S. Army member accused of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, Bergdahl was held in captivity by a sworn enemy of the U.S., and that Bergdahl will stand trial in a U.S. military court because of a prisoner swap between the Taliban and the United States.

Michigan-based small business finds an interesting use for old wine bottles

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I have NOT received any money from Fresh Coast Candles and/or anyone affiliated with Fresh Coast Candles to write this blog post, and, if offered any money by Fresh Coast Candles and/or anyone affiliated with Fresh Coast Candles, I would refuse to accept the money.


One small business in Holland, Michigan has found a very interesting use for old wine bottles and other types of bottles.

Fresh Coast Candles, a small business based in Holland, Michigan, is manufacturing candles by taking old wine bottles and other types of bottles, cutting and sanding them, and filling them with soy wax, “essential oils”, and a candle wick. With far too many wine bottles and other types of bottles ending up in landfills, it’s nice to see someone take old wine bottles and other types of bottles and reuse them for something.

You can view Fresh Coast Candles’s website here and its Facebook page here.

Under Scott Walker’s failed leadership, Chicago-style pay-to-play politics is alive and well in Wisconsin

According to a Yahoo News report by Michael Isikoff, John Menard, Jr., the wealthiest individual in Wisconsin and founder of the Menards chain of big-box hardware stores, donated a whopping $1.5 million to Wisconsin Club for Growth, an right-wing political organization that apparently violated campaign finance laws and is currently subject to an ongoing criminal investigation, in support of Scott Walker’s efforts to fend off a 2012 recall attempt against him:

John Menard Jr. is widely known as the richest man in Wisconsin. A tough-minded, staunchly conservative 75-year-old billionaire, he owns a highly profitable chain of hardware stores throughout the Midwest. He’s also famously publicity-shy — rarely speaking in public or giving interviews.

So a little more than three years ago, when Menard wanted to back Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — and help advance his pro-business agenda — he found the perfect way to do so without attracting any attention: He wrote more than $1.5 million in checks to a pro-Walker political advocacy group that pledged to keep its donors secret, three sources directly familiar with the transactions told Yahoo News.

In return for donating to a pro-Walker front group, Menard got corporate welfare and weaker environmental regulations:

Menard’s previously unreported six-figure contributions to the Wisconsin Club for Growth — a group that spent heavily to defend Walker during a bitter 2012 recall election — seem to have paid off for the businessman and his company. In the past two years, Menard’s company has been awarded up to $1.8 million in special tax credits from a state economic development corporation that Walker chairs, according to state records.

And in his five years in office, Walker’s appointees have sharply scaled back enforcement actions by the state Department of Natural Resources — a top Menard priority. The agency had repeatedly clashed with Menard and his company under previous governors over citations for violating state environmental laws and had levied a $1.7 million fine against Menard personally, as well as his company, for illegally dumping hazardous wastes.

This is the kind of corrupt, pay-to-play politics that one would normally associate with Chicago, but has become far too commonplace in Wisconsin under the failed leadership of Scott Walker and his Republican cohorts. It’s 100% clear to me that John Menard bought influence in the Walker Administration in Wisconsin by donating money to an outside group that supports Walker’s political campaigns and apparently violated campaign finance laws by accepting money that Walker illegally solicited from the mining company Gogebic Taconite (GTac).

If elected president, Scott Walker will bring corrupt, Chicago-style pay-to-play politics to the White House, which is something America simply can’t afford.

The New York City media is a textbook example of how the corporate media encourages racism in America

The local news media in the New York City television market, the largest local television market in the entire country, is a textbook example of how the local television newscasts in this country encourage racism in America.

Color of Change, an organization noted for its progressive and civil rights advocacy, published this infographic to their Twitter page. The infographic makes these two main points:

  1. While 51% of the people arrested by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for murder, assault, and/or theft are black, a whopping 75% of the people that local television newscasts in the New York City market broadcast as being responsible for murder, assault, and/or theft are black.
  2. The fact that the local television newscasts in the New York City market broadcast instances of black people being responsible for crimes at a considerably higher percentage than the percentage of black people who are arrested by the NYPD for crimes cause many non-black viewers in the New York City area to develop hatred towards black people and drive a stereotype that all black people are criminals that should be avoided at all costs, which is an absolutely false stereotype.

You can view the full report on how local television newscasts in the New York City media market encourage racism in the New York City area here. The report studied local newscasts on four New York City local TV stations: WCBS-TV, WNBC-TV, WNYW-TV, and WABC-TV.

As a resident of the Champaign-Springfield television market in Illinois, I can attest that the local TV stations around here also broadcast instances of black people being accused of crimes at a far higher rate than the percentage of black people in the area covered by the Champaign-Springfield television market. In fact, the fact that local TV stations across the country tend to report instances of black people being accused of crimes at a far higher rate than the percentage of black people in the local television markets they serve is, more than likely, a nationwide problem that is dividing this country along racial lines.

Bernie Sanders campaign website re-designed for likely presidential run

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who is considering running for the Democratic presidential nomination in next year’s presidential election, has launched a redesigned campaign website at berniesanders.com. The redesigned Sanders website only references Sanders’s home state of Vermont on the biography portion of his campaign website and on the campaign mailing address at the bottom of the website, which is a clear indication to me that Sanders is likely going to run for president. Given that Sanders has public stated that he’s not interested in being a spoiler in a general election, Sanders is likely going to run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Please note that Sanders has not formally announced his intention to run for president at this time.

I find Sanders’s new campaign website to be very cool-looking and informative. Sanders’s new website has a detailed biography, which includes information about his progressive track record as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, the smallest city that is the largest city of a state in the entire country, as well as his progressive track record as a member of both houses of Congress. Sanders’s new website also has a detailed campaign platform, which includes support for fixing crumbling infrastructure, taking “bold action” on climate change, expanding social safety net programs like Social Security and Medicaid, support for single-payer healthcare, breaking up large banks, making higher education more affordable, ending NAFTA and other “disastrous trade policies”, equal pay for equal work, raising the federal minimum wage to $15/hour, allowing for the card check method to make it easier for workers to organize a labor union, and providing assistance to worker co-ops. About the only things in the platform I’d change if I were running Sanders’s campaign would be to replace the “pay equity for women workers” heading with a “pay equity for working women” heading and add more policy specifics to many of the parts of the platform. Finally, Sanders has a list of scheduled events on his campaign website. I rate the new Sanders campaign website a 9 on a 1-to-10 scale.

While Bernie Sanders has yet to formally announce a presidential bid, he’s taken yet another step towards running for president by launching a redesigned campaign website.

Bruce Rauner paying former charter school operator $250,000 per year to advise him on education policy

While Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner claims to be a guy who wants to fix Illinois’s fiscal problems, his actions as governor say something much different.

For example, Rauner is paying Beth Purvis, a former head of a Chicago charter school, $250,000 in Illinoisans’ taxpayer money every year to advise Rauner on education policy:

In her role as Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s education policy adviser, Beth Purvis is pulling in a $250,000 annual salary, the Associated Press reports.

That salary is more than twice as large as the earnings of previous officials in the position. Of Rauner’s Cabinet members, Purvis, the former head of the Chicago International Charter School (CICS), is earning the largest salary, according to the news organization.

The former CICS CEO told the AP that the $250,000 salary is “commensurate with what I’ve been paid in the past.”

Given that charter schools divert taxpayer money from public schools and lower the quality of education for Illinois children, it’s horrible that Rauner would hire someone who was an administrator of a charter school to advise him on education. What’s just as bad, in my opinion, is that the Rauner Administration is paying a political adviser more than any of our state’s constitutional officers (governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, and comptroller) earn, which is a ridiculous waste of taxpayer money.

Our state’s fiscal problems are too severe for anyone in our state’s government to collect a quarter of a million dollar salary every year.