Month: May 2016

What is patriotism?

To me, it seems like the Democratic Party has completely lost its way in regards to patriotism. You almost never hear Hillary Clinton talk about patriotism in any way (and Hillary is an ardent internationalist), and, although Bernie Sanders is a left-wing nationalist (or the closest person to a left-wing nationalist in American politics), you don’t hear too much of any patriotic rhetoric from Bernie. Meanwhile, the Republican Party has been pushing a brand of phony patriotism that involves thumping the Bible at every opportunity and stirring up hatred and resentment to anyone who isn’t a white, male, heterosexual, Anglo-Saxon, evangelical Southern Baptist for decades.

I think that it’s time to ask ourselves: what is patriotism?

My own vision of patriotism is derived from two pieces of inspiration. The first is from the late former Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson, who was twice the Democratic Party’s nominee for President, but lost both times to Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, from his 1952 speech to the American Legion convention in New York City:

We talk a great deal about patriotism. What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times? I venture to suggest that what we mean is a sense of national responsibility which will enable America to remain master of her power — to walk with it in serenity and wisdom, with self-respect and the respect of all mankind; a patriotism that puts country ahead of self; a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. The dedication of a lifetime — these are words that are easy to utter, but this is a mighty assignment. For it is often easier to fight for principles than to live up to them.

The second is a country music song called “America First”, performed by Merle Haggard:

Now, I’ll talk about what is not patriotism. Patriotism is not shoving your religious beliefs (or lack thereof) down everyone else’s throats. Patriotism is not sending American troops off to war for the mere sake of sending troops off to war. Patriotism is not making America more a part of an international community that threatens America’s economy on a daily basis. Patriotism is not making America the police force for the entire world. Patriotism is not putting the national security of foreign countries before the national security of America. Patriotism is not infringing on the rights of the American people in the name of a religious deity and/or America.

Most importantly, I’ll talk about what is patriotism. Patriotism is fighting to make America, not foreign countries, a better place to live for everyone. Patriotism is fighting to ensure justice and fair treatment for all Americans. Patriotism is protecting and expanding the most important of all rights, voting rights. Patriotism is understanding that civic duty is a lifelong responsibility. Left-wing nationalism is true patriotism.

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ENDORSEMENT: Alan Grayson for U.S. Senate in Florida

With presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump now trying to push absentee Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) into running for re-election to his U.S. Senate seat, I proudly endorse Alan Grayson, a progressive Democrat who is running for Senate in Florida.

As a U.S. Representative, Grayson has been a tough, effective progressive, using the amendment process to advance progressive ideals. Grayson has always told it like it is on the House floor, and he’ll tell it like it is on the Senate floor if elected.

Grayson’s Democratic primary opposition is Patrick Murphy, a Trump crony who was once the vice-president of a construction company that helped build two of Trump’s condo towers in Florida. Furthermore, Murphy is one of the least progressive Democrats in either house of Congress, repeatedly voting with the big-money special interests that are holding our country back. Patrick Murphy is simply too Trump for Florida Democrats.

While there are other Republicans currently running for Rubio’s Senate seat, let me make it clear that Rubio couldn’t win Florida in his failed presidential bid, and that Rubio almost never did his job as a U.S. Senator while running for president. Floridians can’t afford six more years of being represented by an absentee senator.

While Illinois lacks a state budget, Bruce Rauner holds a religious event on state property

Showing complete disrespect for the separation of church and state that is mandated by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner held a prayer breakfast at the Illinois Executive Mansion in Springfield earlier today.

It’s bad enough that Rauner chose to hold a religious event on state government property. It’s even worse that Rauner chose to do so while Illinois lacks a state budget due to Rauner’s right-wing hostage politics of demanding anti-worker policies designed to drive down the wages of working Illinoisans in exchange for a state budget.

I hope that Illinois’s next governor decides to end the unconstitutional tradition of holding a state prayer breakfast.

Former Republican aide outs Republicans who were giddy about suppressing the Wisconsin vote

Todd Allbaugh, who was an aide to former Wisconsin State Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center), revealed the names of Republican members of the Wisconsin State Senate who were giddy about enacting a “voter ID” law designed to disenfranchise Wisconsin voters and make it easier for Republicans to get elected to public office in Wisconsin:

Former GOP aide Todd Allbaugh testified in federal court today members of the Senate Republican caucus were giddy in 2011 over the prospect of passing voter ID and its impact on their electoral hopes.

Allbaugh added some were “politically frothing at the mouth,” singling out Sen. Leah Vukmir of Wauwatosa and former Sen. Randy Hopper of Oshkosh. He added Sen. Mary Lazich of New Berlin and then-Sen. Glenn Grothman were also among the most enthusiastic members of the caucus during a closed-door meeting in supporting the bills.
Of those four, only Lazich and Vukmir are still members of the Wisconsin State Senate. Grothman is now a U.S. Representative, and Hopper is no longer an elected official after being recalled from office in 2011 over his vote for the anti-union Act 10 law and his role in a sex scandal.
What Todd Allbaugh said in his testimony as a witness for the progressive One Wisconsin Institute in an ongoing court case regarding the Wisconsin Voter ID law clearly indicates that Wisconsin Republicans had exactly one goal in mind when it came to justifying their support for the voter ID law: suppress Democratic voters. That is flatly un-American.

Donald Trump admitted under oath to using a fake name in 1990 lawsuit

As the Donald Trump scandal regarding his 1991 use of the false identity “John Miller” in at least one interview with People magazine continues to dominate the headlines, another instance of Trump’s use of false identities has come to light.

In a 1990 lawsuit regarding the use of undocumented migrant workers from Poland during the construction of Trump Tower in New York City, Donald Trump, now the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, admitted under oath to using the pseudonym “John Barron” in some capacity:

…During testimony in a lawsuit that dealt with his employment of undocumented migrant workers from Poland on the Trump Tower project, the real estate mogul was asked if he had ever used the name “John Barron.”

“I believe on occasion I used that name,” Trump replied (though he would note he wasn’t specifically asked whether he used the name with the press).

Furthermore, Trump claiming that “I’m sort of new around here” in his 1991 interview under the fake identity “John Miller” may have been a reference to Trump’s use of “John Barron” being exposed by Trump himself in the Trump Tower lawsuit.

While Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has contended that he has never used a pseudonym or fake identity, it’s becoming more and more clear that Trump has used fake identities. This proves that Donald Trump simply cannot be trusted.

Milwaukee state legislator incorrectly listed as congressional candidate in Northeastern Wisconsin

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The title and body of this blog post have been edited to include information provided by Wisconsin State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa (D-Milwaukee).


The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) incorrectly lists Wisconsin State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, a Democrat who represents a state assembly district entirely within the City of Milwaukee, as having filed a campaign registration statement (page 4 of this PDF file) for the Democratic nomination in a U.S. House race in the 8th Congressional District of Wisconsin (8th CD), which includes no part of the Milwaukee metropolitan area and includes the northeastern part of the state. Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson is campaigning for the 8th CD seat in Wisconsin, but is not listed as having filed any paperwork with the GAB at this time. Additionally, the GAB lists Democrats Wendy Gribben and Jerry Kobishop as having filed declarations of candidacies with the GAB for the 8th CD race.

However, as Zamarripa stated via Twitter, this is a technical glitch of some kind on the GAB’s master list of candidates for the August primaries in Wisconsin, and that she actually filed to run for re-election to her state assembly seat:

I’m thankful that State Representative Zamarripa explained what the problem was.

Madison, Wisconsin replaces every single lead pipe in the city

Madison, Wisconsin, the second-largest city in Wisconsin, did something incredible with their water supply. They replaced every single lead pipe in the city’s water system in response to the lead concentration in the water supply being one part per billion over the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limit for lead concentration in the water:

Long before Flint, Mich., faced a water-contamination crisis, this city dealt with one of its own. The local utility had sampled residents’ tap water in accordance with the federal government’s new Lead and Copper Rule and discovered unacceptable levels of lead.

But Madison’s response was like hitting a gnat with a sledgehammer. It was so aggressive that only one other major municipality in the United States has followed its approach so far. It’s also why some people now call Madison the anti-Flint, a place where water problems linked to the toxic substance simply couldn’t happen today.

Madison residents and businesses dug out and replaced their lead pipes — 8,000 of them. All because lead in their water had been measured at 16 parts per billion — one part per billion over the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard.

Although the federal government defines lead contamination of water as the lead concentration level in water being over 15 parts per billion, no level of lead in water is safe. Madison has proved yet again why it’s America’s most forward-thinking city.

George Zimmerman proves once again that he has no sense of decency

George Zimmerman, who is best-known for shooting and killing Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, is now in the news yet again. This time, he’s selling off the gun that he used to kill an innocent teenager:

George Zimmerman says he is auctioning off the gun he used to kill Miami teen Trayvon Martin.

Zimmerman made the announcement on Wednesday night during a newscast on Orlando’s WOFL television.

The online auction starts Thursday. The opening bid is set at $5,000.

I wouldn’t pay a damn penny for any firearm, let alone $5,000+ for a firearm that George Zimmerman used to kill an innocent black teenager. Zimmerman has absolutely no sense of decency, and, quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of Zimmerman being treated like a celebrity by the corporate media.

How to shorten American campaign season while still allowing people to take part in democracy

While Australia has a short, campaign season for all seats in both houses of the Australian Parliament, America’s campaign season, especially in regards to presidential elections, but also in regards to congressional and even state legislative and other types of elections, is ridiculously long to the point of being seemingly perpetual, and it needs to be shortened badly. However, at the same time, we must allow the same or greater level of ability of voters to participate in the political process.

Here are some of my ideas for speeding up America’s political process:

  • Establish a national primary day for party nominations in federal elections, preferably the Tuesday following the first Monday in September
  • Establish a filing deadline for federal races that is four weeks before the national primary for non-incumbents and five weeks before the national primary for incumbents
  • Overturn the Citizens United v. FEC U.S. Supreme Court decision by federal constitutional amendment and allow for robust regulations, limits, and restrictions on money in politics

One reason why many voters here in America are burned out by the political process is because campaign season is too long. It’s time to change that.

Bruce Rauner’s War on Downstate Illinois

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has, despite winning a very large percentage of the downstate vote in the 2014 Illinois gubernatorial election, waged a war on downstate Illinois ever since taking office, much of which involves, either directly or indirectly, his political hostage-taking in regards to the state budget (which Illinois has operated without for a very long time because of Rauner).

There are several reasons why Rauner’s destructive politics has negatively impacted downstate Illinois.

Agricultural education

Rauner has, as recently as March of this year, targeted agricultural education, which has helped thousands of Illinois farmers better understand the land and farming practices, for complete elimination of state funding. This is obviously a blatant attack against downstate Illinois by Rauner, since nearly all of the agricultural industry’s economic activity in Illinois occurs downstate.

Higher education funding in general

It’s not just agricultural education that has been negatively impacted by Rauner’s War on Higher Education. Higher education in general, and, in particular, Eastern Illinois University, have felt the wrath of Rauner since taking office. Rauner has refused to fund public higher education institutions in Illinois. Eastern Illinois University, which serves a very conservative region of the state, has been forced to lay off nearly 200 employees and is on the brink of being forced to permanently shut down.

Illinois State Museum

Another casualty of Rauner’s War on Downstate is the Illinois State Museum, which is located in Springfield. The state museum was forced to close due to the lack of a state budget, meaning that the art exhibits, natural history exhibits, and other exhibits housed at the state museum are not accessible to the public.

Whoever Democrats nominate in the 2018 election for Governor of Illinois will have to address the concerns of downstate voters in order to defeat Bruce Rauner.