Month: April 2015

CONFIRMED: Rand Paul is a paranoid conspiracy theorist

If Rand Paul hadn’t already gone completely off of the deep end, he has now.

Rand has publicly called for an investigation of the upcoming Jade Helm 15 U.S. military exercise in Texas and six other states after Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott called out the Texas State Guard because of right-wing nutjobs falsely claiming that Jade Helm 15 is a U.S. plot to invade Texas and take guns away from law-abiding Texans:

Rand Paul, presidential candidate, announced in a recent interview that he is looking into the conspiracy theories surrounding the upcoming US military exercise Jade Helm 15. The gullible and paranoid citizens of rural Texas are up in arms over the wide scope training mission after a map which revealed Texas labelled as “hostile” territory appeared on the Internet. The map was held up by internet conspiracy theorists and delusional nutjobs as proof that the federal government was going to impose “martial law” and take their guns away.

Jade Helm 15 is a simulation, utilizing the rough terrain of the Southwest to mimic tactical conditions of foreign countries where US troops might see action. As it is a simulation, a portion of army units will be playing the role of the “bad guys”, and that is where the hostile designation comes into play.

The paranoia has grown to the point where Governor Abbott of Texas has deployed a state militia to “monitor the situation” and make sure that Texan constitutional rights were not infringed. The idea is so ludicrous that it is really quite baffling to see not only an elected official but a presidential candidate give credibility to the nonsense.

Yes, you’re reading that correctly: Greg Abbott, the Governor of Texas, thinks that the U.S. military is trying to invade his state, which is part of the U.S., and Rand is going to bat for Abbott and his base of right-wing lunatics.

While there’s an online map showing Texas and Utah in “hostile” territory and an “insurgent pocket” in an area of Southern California roughly corresponding to San Diego, Imperial, Orange, and Riverside Counties, the map is only for the purposes of the military training exercise (I’m surprised it’s publicly available online, to be honest with you). To put that another way, Texas and Utah are NOT areas that are officially hostile to the U.S., there is NO anti-U.S. insurgency going on in Southern California, and the map simply serves as a simulation for the members of our nation’s armed forces who will be taking part in the training exercise. Rand and Abbott are out of their damn minds to believe that the U.S. is invading its own territory.

Supporter of Martha Laning campaign for Wisconsin Democratic chairperson attacks supporters of American sovereignty

While it’s 100% clear to me that Democratic National Committee (DNC) member Jason Rae would continue the failed, out-of-touch, insider-oriented, consultant-driven leadership of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) that Mike Tate has become infamous for, at least Rae opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). However, Rae refused to publicly criticize President Barack Obama and Wisconsin’s own U.S. Representative Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) for waging a war on american sovereignty by supporting the TPP. The TPP, if fully implemented, would cost America thousands of jobs and allow unconstitutional courts to dictate what economic policy our country can implement.

For merely opposing the TPP, Rae has alienated some of his would-be corporate allies, who are supporting the candidacy of former Wisconsin State Senate candidate Martha Laning for DPW Chair instead. Paul Geenen, a Laning supporter who was identified as an organizer for the Laning campaign by Blogging Blue’s Zach Wisniewski, went onto the page of a Facebook group associated with the DemTEAM candidate recruitment/support organization that is associated with Wisconsin State Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) and publicly attacked Rae and other opponents of the TPP for criticizing the proposed free trade deal. Geenen stated that Laning intends to run a “big-tent” approach to running the DPW, focusing on issues that have near-universal support among Democrats, such as raising the minimum wage, implementing universal background checks on gun sales, and addressing the growing climate change problem. While I agree with Laning on those three issues, Geenen’s description of her strategy reminds me a lot of the failed Mary Burke strategy from the last year’s gubernatorial election in Wisconsin, which proved itself to be an unmitigated disaster that resulted in Republican right-wing extremist Scott Walker winning re-election in the Wisconsin gubernatorial race.

While Laning’s supporters are accusing progressives of being divisive, there’s two people among the five who are running for DPW chair who are either acting in a divisive manner themselves or have Wisconsin-based supporters who are acting in a divisive manner. One of those candidates is Jason Rae, who blocked me on Twitter after I questioned him over fundraising for a campaign for state party chairperson, which is not regulated by state election authorities in Wisconsin. The other candidate is…you’ve guessed it…Martha Laning, who has a very vocal supporter, Paul Geenen, who is publicly attacking those who oppose the president’s efforts to destroy much of what little American sovereignty remains and ship thousands of American jobs to foreign countries. In fact, Laning is trying to somewhat distance herself from Geenen’s divisive, unpatriotic remarks by…get this…praising both prominent supporters and prominent opponents of the TPP while opposing the fast-track authority for the TPP at the same time:

I am supportive of Senator Elizabeth Warren and our own Senator Tammy Baldwin’s stance to stop the fast track of TPP and I have signed that petition. I did this because the pieces that have leaked, if true, are deeply concerning. I like most Americans, want to be sure that thoughtful consideration is being given to each and every part of the agreement and I feel we should have more transparency. I have heard concerns about the lack of financial oversight by our government on big corporate deals that could result in another financial crisis like we had in 2008, which is unacceptable. I have heard this bill would hurt jobs here in the US like NAFTA did, and that too is unacceptable. On the other hand, I respect President Obama and understand his desire to help shape the rules for world trade to prevent China from shaping them without us. Bottom line is that for me to have an opinion on TPP, I need the details of the bill. TPP has not been completed and submitted for a vote yet and therefore, most legislators and the public do not have access to the details of the bill, only leaks, and we don’t know the credibility of the leaks. Many legislators that I respect, like Senator Tammy Baldwin and Senator Elizabeth Warren, have expressed their deep concerns, but stop short of saying they would vote no, likely because the details are not available. Out of respect for the President of the United States, I express deep concerns about what I am hearing about TPP, but will reserve final judgment for when the document is made public and we clearly understand what is included.

Wisconsin Democrats and progressives cannot afford the continuation of Mike Tate’s Chicago-style machine politics, which is what would happen if Jason Rae is elected DPW chair, nor can they afford the corporate, Mary Burke-style “leadership” that Martha Laning would bring to the DPW if elected chair.

ENDORSEMENT: Bernie Sanders for President of the United States

I am pleased to announce that multiple media outlets are reporting Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will announce his bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination on Thursday.

I’m also pleased to announce that I am probably the first person in the entire country to officially endorse Bernie’s presidential bid.

While most Americans are not yet familiar with Bernie and his style of politics, those who know him know that he’s a progressive firebrand who wants to put the American government in the hands of the people, not just political elites and the wealthy. As Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Bernie helped make Burlington one of the most attractive places in America to live. As a member of both houses of Congress, Bernie has fought for progressive policies to rebuild the American middle class, protect American consumers and workers, and provide for the well-being of all Americans. Most recently, as a U.S. Senator, Bernie has railed against the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and fast-track authority for President Obama’s Global Trading Regime. The TPP and other proposed free trade deals, if fully implemented, would destroy much of what little American economic sovereignty remains and cost America thousands of jobs. In his upcoming presidential campaign, Bernie has promised to make universal health care, rebuilding our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, making the U.S. Tax Code more progressive, and putting Americans back to work.

For those of you who doubt Bernie’s ability to win the Democratic presidential nomination, the Iowa caucuses, the first presidential nomination contest of any kind in the entire country, usually see extremely low turnout, which means that, if Bernie can get Iowa progressives to turn out in a big way, he could very well win many of Iowa’s delegates to the 2016 Democratic National Convention (DNC). After Iowa is the New Hampshire primary, which will be held in a state that is trending more and more Democratic thanks to people from Bernie’s home state of Vermont moving to New Hampshire and bringing their progressive political views with them. If Bernie can win both of those contests, he’ll be in a hotly-contested race for the Democratic nomination, if not the favorite for the nomination.

I hope that I’ll be able to vote for Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination in the Illinois primary next year. I’ve longed for a Democratic presidential candidate who is more than willing to make the wealthy and the political elites squeal, and now we’re going to have one!

Jeff Smith outlines what he’d do if elected Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson

Make no mistake about it, Former Wisconsin State Representative Jeff Smith has an actual plan of what he’d do if elected Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) Chairperson, and he’s going to run the party as a progressive organization whose main goals are helping progressive-minded people vote and promoting progressive values across the entire state of Wisconsin.

Smith, if elected to lead the Democratic Party in the state that will likely decide control of the White House and the U.S. Senate in next year’s elections, has promised to:

  • Work with whoever is elected to be the new leader of the DPW County Chairs Association (DPW CCA)
  • Direct county-level Democratic organizations in Wisconsin to help voters obtain Voter IDs in order to allow them to vote (Wisconsin’s discriminatory Voter ID law will go into effect at the next election of any kind held in Wisconsin)
  • Implement new DPW messaging based on recommendations by Scott Wittkopf of the Forward Institute
  • Provide proper support for Democratic candidates, campaign managers, and volunteers in Wisconsin
  • Open year-round DPW field offices in every region of Wisconsin
  • Help county-level Democratic organizations in Wisconsin maintain a strong online presence

Notice that Smith made absolutely no mention of Scott Walker in his press release. That’s because Walker is no longer trying to hide the fact that he doesn’t care about Wisconsinites, and that provides a great opportunity for Wisconsin Democrats to lay out their own vision for Wisconsin’s future.

Jeff Smith is the only one of the five candidates for DPW Chair who, at least to my knowledge, has laid out a highly-detailed plan for rebuilding the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and that’s why I encourage DPW Convention delegates to vote for Jeff Smith.

Are Democratic donors only interested in sabotaging political campaigns?

Niko Elmaleh, a New York City real estate developer who has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Democrats in recent years, bragged in an email to Democratic National Committee (DNC) Treasurer Andy Tobias and Democracy for America (DfA) Chairman Jim Dean about a plan to sabotage the Democratic presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton by having Elizabeth Warren run for the Democratic presidential nomination, only to later drop out of the race after Warren had upstaged Hillary’s campaign:

In his April 3, 2015, email to the small group, Mr. Elmaleh refers to his concern that a lack of a meaningful primary opponent will result in a stale and complacent candidate. He writes, “I think we should seriously consider as an excellent way to keep Hilary fresh in the public eye; Elizabeth Warren should run against her.”

Later in the email he reveals that after an appropriate “show” has been staged, Ms. Warren would be expected to bow out, having strengthened Ms. Clinton as a candidate. “If we can put on a ‘show’ featuring two of the most prominent progressives who are women, it will focus the attention of the bulk of voters on us.”

He then proceeds to land a few glancing blows on the other side’s candidates: “The Republicans’ show is a comic circus and would not compete with ours. Of course, this has to be carefully managed so that Warren can gracefully withdraw after performing this vital task. I don’t think she can win yet (although she could in the future).”

If I were running for public office, I would never take Niko Elmaleh’s money. All Elmaleh wants to do is start trouble within the Democratic Party and cost our party critical elections. While there have been numerous past instances of Democrats upstaging other Democrats who are running for public office (usually in the form of a superb and/or well-remembered speech at the Democratic National Convention or some other political gathering), this is the first time I can recall a Democratic donor being involved in a concerted scheme to sabotage someone’s political campaign by having another candidate upstage him or her. Sadly, the Democratic establishment thinks that grassroots activists are the ones who are causing trouble in the party, when, in reality, their own kind of people is causing a ton of trouble in the party.

If you want a progressive who is sick and tired of big-money political games and is interested in running a real campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, please encourage Bernie Sanders to run for president.

John Kasich is nothing like Elizabeth Warren

John Kasich, the virulently anti-middle class Republican who happens to also be the Governor of Ohio and a possible presidential candidate, went on CNN’s State of the Union political talk show and did two things that set me off. First, he bragged about being a part of the late 2000’s financial meltdown that destroyed this country’s economy (Kasich was the managing director of the Columbus, Ohio office of the Lehman Brothers investment bank until Lehman Brothers went bust). Second, he claimed that U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a staunch supporter of protecting consumers and a staunch opponent of “too big to fail” financial institutions, is like him.

You can watch Kasich’s remarks here.

While Warren has zero interest in running for president, there is a night-and-day difference between John Kasich and Elizabeth Warren.

John Kasich has a decades-long track record of opposing labor unions, workers, the middle class, economic strength, and common sense. As a U.S. Representative, Kasich built a very conservative voting record, including demonizing welfare recipients and helping to enact Bill Clinton’s plan to gut the social safety net in this country. As a businessman, Kasich ran the Lehman Brothers office in Ohio’s largest city until Lehman Brothers went bankrupt and the American economy began to collapse. As Governor of Ohio, Kasich tried to bust Ohio’s public employee unions, but Ohioans firmly rejected his anti-worker and anti-middle class policies at the ballot.

Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, is a champion of the middle class, economic strength, and common sense. Warren, who is the Paul Wellstone of our generation, has fought for more regulations on our nation’s financial institutions in an attempt to prevent another economic collapse like the Great Recession. Warren understands how income inequality, in which the wealthiest few percent of people in this country have the vast majority of the country’s wealth, is hurting our economy and destroying what little of our country’s middle class remains. Warren has also stood up to members of both major parties in this country in opposition to free-trade deals that undermine our nation’s sovereignty, such as the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

John Kasich is nothing like Elizabeth Warren, and he should quit trying to take credit for Warren’s work to make America a better place to live.

This is the kind of sexism that female political figures have to put up with

Kelly Gunderson, a Minnesota conservative activist who dreams of being a right-wing talk radio host, took to Twitter and attacked Minnesota State Representative Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing) for having an infant son and being a Minnesota state legislator at the same time:

Gunderson is receiving bipartisan criticism for her downright insensitive tweet:

This is the kind of sexism that female political figures in this country have to put up with constantly. The fact that Gunderson apparently thinks that being a young woman who recently had a child should disqualify her from holding or running for a state legislative seat is clearly sexist. If the representative from Minnesota House District 6A was a young man who had an infant child at home, I don’t think for one second that Gunderson would have said the same thing she said about Melin.

Regarding Melin’s tweet about being away from her infant son all week because of the Minnesota legislative session, I’m not a parent, but I’m sure that most parents who are away from their kids for long periods of time for whatever reason would begin to wish they could come home to their child at some point. Even politicians have feelings.

It’s official: Russ Feingold has re-entered the political sphere

I don’t usually do this in a blog post, but, HEEEEEEEE’S BAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!

Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), a revered figure among progressives in Wisconsin and nationally, has re-entered the political sphere after he left his post as a U.S. Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Earlier today, Feingold attended a fundraiser for his own state representative, Wisconsin State Rep. Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton), at a restaurant in his hometown of Middleton, Wisconsin. This is the first real political event of any kind that Feingold has taken part in since resigning from the U.S. State Department.

While Russ Feingold is not officially running for his old U.S. Senate seat yet, it’s clear that Feingold appears to be gearing up for a likely run against Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI).

If there’s anyone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to trade, it’s President Obama

After over six years of, outside of a few issues like Social Security and domestic spying where he’s sided with the far-right Republicans, largely relying on progressives as a base of support, President Barack Obama has launched a full-on War on Progressives by openly antagonizing opponents of proposed free-trade agreements, including the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), that would destroy most of what little sovereignty America still has.

This is what President Obama said at an Organizing for Action (OFA) summit in our nation’s capital:

When people say this trade deal is bad for working families, they don’t know what they’re talking about…I take that personally. My entire presidency has been about helping working families.

If there’s anyone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to international trade, it’s President Obama and his corporate allies in both major parties in this country. In fact, the fact that the TPP and other free trade deals and policies

For many decades, tariffs and other trade protections made America great by building a strong economy and manufacturing sector that provided middle-class jobs and American-made goods that Americans could actually purchase. Now, because of NAFTA, CAFTA, Most Favored Nation status for China, and other agreements and laws that have loosened American trade policies, most goods sold in the United States are made in foreign countries

Over the last three and a half decades, we’ve seen the effects of current free-trade agreements and other free trade policies between the U.S. and foreign countries, and they’re almost entirely negative. For several very brief periods in the early 1980’s, the U.S. actually had a very small trade surplus. Since then, because of free-trade policies that have been pushed by every president from Ronald Reagan onward and a bipartisan corporate coalition in Congress, wages in this country have been driven downward, the manufacturing sector of our economy has been annihilated, our trade deficit with foreign nations has exploded, the vast majority of goods sold in this country are foreign-made, and the American economy has become an economy full of low-wage jobs. Here’s a graph showing how our nation’s trade deficit has exploded since 1980:

U.S. Balance of Trade 1980-2015 (Graph Courtesy of Trade Economics)

For someone who professes to be a constitutional scholar, President Obama clearly doesn’t understand that the TPP itself and the fast-track authority for it are both blatantly unconstitutional.

The TPP itself is in blatant violation of Article III, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which establishes the structure of our nation’s court system. Article III, Section 1 reads as follows:

The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

(emphasis mine)

While I’m not an attorney, I interpret Article III, Section 1 as allowing for the creation of a single Supreme Court of the United States and any number of federal courts that are below the single Supreme Court. Since the TPP would create the Investor-State Dispute System (ISDS), a de facto court system that is effectively above the U.S. Supreme Court, this means that the TPP is blatantly unconstitutional.

The fast-track authority for free trade agreements blatantly violates a different part of the Constitution, specifically, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2, which reads as follows:

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

(emphasis mine)

Again, I’m not an attorney, but I interpret Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 as requiring approval by two-thirds of U.S. Senators who are present for such a vote, for ratification of any treaty negotiated and signed by the President on behalf of the United States. However, since fast-track authority, among other things, allows for free trade agreements, which I consider to be a type of treaty, to be ratified by a simple majority of members of both houses of Congress who are present for votes on such agreements, fast-track is blatantly unconstitutional.

I know I’m going to say something controversial, but I’m willing to say it: President Obama and his corporate allies in both parties in Congress have a deep-seeded hatred of the concept of American economic sovereignty, and they are pushing to enact a corporate globalization agenda in order to drive down wages, pollute our environment, and destroy the American economy without any regard for the U.S. Constitution or the American people. While some international trade is necessary due to consumer demand, globalization and weak trade protections are destroying America and our economy, and we certainly don’t need more of the same.

For President Obama to effectively claim that the overwhelming majority of those who twice elected him President of the United States are stupid is absolutely disgusting and traitorous.

Why I’m calling for both of Wisconsin’s U.S. Senators to resign from office immediately

I am officially calling for U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D) and Ron Johnson (R), both of Wisconsin, to resign from office immediately. In both cases, it involves their role in a scandal involving opiate pain pills being overprescribed at a Veterans Affairs medical facility in Tomah, Wisconsin, which I will refer to in subsequent paragraphs of this blog post as the Tomah VA.

Marquette Baylor, a former staffer for Baldwin who was fired as part of an apparent political damage control operation by Baldwin and her chief of staff, Bill Murat, recently filed an ethics complaint against Baldwin with the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics, a six-member committee with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. Baylor is claiming that Baldwin made “false statements and misrepresentations” as part of a political cover-up in a desperate attempt to protect Baldwin’s own political career and Murat’s career. It appears to me that Baylor was fired after the corporate media exposed Baldwin sitting on information about drugs being overprescribed at the Tomah VA, and that Baylor was fired because Baldwin and Murat were looking for a scapegoat.

While the far-right corporate media in Wisconsin has almost entirely fixated on Baldwin’s role in the Tomah VA scandal in an obvious example of right-wing bias, Wisconsin’s other U.S. Senator, Ron Johnson, has also been implicated in the Tomah VA scandal. About a month and a half ago, Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that Johnson’s aides sat on information about drugs being overprescribed at the Tomah VA. While Johnson and his staffers have tried to make U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) their scapegoat, Bice’s report made it clear to me that Johnson’s staffers sat on information about drugs being overprescribed at the Tomah VA.

Calling for the resignation of elected officials is something I take very seriously. The fact that Senators Baldwin and Johnson failed veterans and sat on information about dangerous practices in the health system that serves those who served our nation in uniform for far too long is more than enough for me to call for them to resign from office immediately and without delay. Senators Baldwin and Johnson are a disgrace to their home state of Wisconsin and to America.