Month: December 2016

The 2016 Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards

As 2016 comes to a close, I hereby present the 2016 Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards. The Person of the Year will earn a spot on the list of members of the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner. Starting in 2017, listings of individuals on the list of recipients of the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner will become separate from the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards.

PERSON OF THE YEAR – JENNIFER WEISS-WOLF

2016 was, all around, an awful year for progressives, both in the United States and worldwide. However, one bright spot in progressive advocacy is Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, a women’s rights advocate from New York City. Weiss-Wolf’s advocacy for increased access to feminine hygiene products in public restrooms and advocacy for abolition of sales taxes on tampons and other feminine hygiene products has earned her support for her ideas from Democrats and even a few Republicans. States like New York and Illinois have eliminated sales taxes on tampon thanks to Weiss-Wolf’s advocacy, and Weiss’s hometown of New York City has mandated that tampons be made freely available in public restrooms of city schools, jails, and shelters. Jennifer Weiss-Wolf is the ProgMid Person of the Year for 2016.

ELECTED OFFICIAL OF THE YEAR – BERNIE SANDERS

For the second time in consecutive years, Sanders, who represents Vermont in the U.S. Senate and unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic presidential nomination this year, is the recipient of a ProgMid award. Although Sanders didn’t win his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and isn’t technically a Democrat, he has had a significant and largely positive impact on the Democratic Party. Sanders successfully pushed to make the national Democratic Party platform, which is non-binding for Democratic candidates, more progressive than in previous years and decades. Sanders helped bring progressive policies like making higher education truly affordable, single-payer health insurance, and expanding Social Security into the American political mainstream, even though none of those ideas will be enacted in the near future, at least at a national level. Furthermore, Sanders’s candidacy has led to the creation of the DNC’s Unity Commission, which will examine potential reforms to the Democratic presidential nomination process for the 2020 presidential election and future presidential elections after 2020. For his advocacy for progressive ideals and his efforts to improve the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders is the ProgMid Elected Official of the Year for 2016.

ATHLETE OF THE YEAR – LILLY KING

While 2016 was a banner year for the far-right Vladimir Putin regime in Russia, one thing that did not go well for Russia this year was their performance in the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Russia sent considerably fewer athletes to Rio than originally planned after the Putin regime was caught running a large-scale doping operation. Even worse for the Russians, they were completely embarrassed by Lilly King of the United States, who, after publicly criticizing Russia’s Yuliya Yefimova for doping, defeated Yefimova in the pool for the gold medal in the women’s 100m breaststroke swimming event. King was also a member of the U.S. team that won gold in the women’s 4 x 100m medley relay in Rio. For continuing the time-honored tradition of Americans defeating Russians in international sport, and for promoting ethical competition in sport, Lilly King is the ProgMid Athlete of the Year for 2016.

PLACE OF THE YEAR – REPUBLIC OF AUSTRIA

While the far-right has gained significant ground worldwide, Austria is, to an extent, an exception. Austrians rejected a far-right presidential candidate not once, but twice, in 2016. In the first of effectively two presidential elections held in Austria in 2016, left-leaning European federalist candidate Alexander Van der Bellen received more votes than far-right fascist candidate Norbert Hofer in a runoff election after no candidate received an outright majority of the vote in the first round of the first election. However, the Constitutional Court of Austria annulled the runoff results because Hofer complained of election irregularities, resulting in the runoff being re-held. Voters gave Van der Bellen an even larger majority in the re-run of the runoff, and Hofer finally conceded. For rejecting a fascist would-be head of state not once, but twice, in the same year, the Republic of Austria is the ProgMid Place of the Year for 2016.

 

CONCEPT OF THE YEAR – POLITICAL RESISTANCE

As I’m sure that virtually everybody who reads this blog knows, Republican Donald Trump won this year’s presidential election despite winning a minority of the national popular vote. Not surprisingly, I’ve seen more than a few people on the left, and even many establishment Democrats, call for a non-violent political resistance to the incoming Trump Administration. With a barrage of right-wing federal legislation likely to be enacted starting early next year, progressives are going to expect resistance from the Democratic minorities in both houses of Congress. Political resistance is the ProgMid Concept of the Year for 2016.

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Tom Perez doesn’t get it: listening to people is not a strategy to rebuild the Democratic Party

In the third paragraph of the statement on the front page of Tom Perez’s DNC chair campaign website, this is literally the first sentence of the third paragraph of Perez’s statement:

But most of all, we need to listen.

Really? Listening is what would be Perez’s top priority if elected DNC chair? Give me a break! If listening was the most important skill set to being a successful NASCAR driver, Tom Perez would be a multi-time Daytona 500 winner. Of course, Tom Perez isn’t a NASCAR driver, and listening is not the most important skill set to being a successful NASCAR driver. The same principle applies to political party management. I’ve always been of the belief that who you listen to is more important than whether or not you listen to anybody. Tom Perez has made a living listening to President Obama and his corporate neoliberal political allies promote a globalist, pro-free trade economic agenda that destroyed rural and blue-collar America, cost America millions of jobs, and helped Donald Trump win the presidency. I strongly fear that Perez would listen to the same political professional class that destroyed the Democratic Party under Obama’s watch if elected DNC chair.

Real leaders fight for what they believe in. Keith Ellison is a fighter. While Tom Perez and other Obama Administration officials were busy trying to convince Members of Congress to approve of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal (or, as I like to call it, Obama’s economic surrender to Victor Charlie), Keith called out the Obama cabinet for supporting horrendous trade deals with foreign countries. Keith took on the Obama cabinet, fought to stop the TPP, and won!

Now, Obama’s allies, still butthurt over TPP being effectively rejected by the American people, are now leading the opposition to Keith Ellison’s campaign for DNC chair. Keith defeated the Obama Administration once before, and, although I don’t think that he’ll do it again, I sure hope he does! We need a Democratic party that is less concerned about chasing suburban women and more interested in fighting for policies designed to rebuild America’s middle class.

GAME SHOW REVIEW: The Wall

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post includes information about a television program that some readers of this blog post may have not watched yet. Additionally, information about the television program that is the subject of this blog post is based on an aired pilot episode of the series; information about the format of future episodes of the series may differ from the format of the aired pilot episode. Furthermore, the pilot episode may have not aired on all NBC affiliates in the United States, although the NBC affiliate in my area of the country (WAND-TV) did air the pilot episode.


Some game show ideas are bad. Some game show ideas are good, but not well executed. Then there’s game show ideas that are rip-offs of other game shows or elements of other game shows.

NBC’s latest attempt at a primetime game show is called The Wall, which aired its pilot episode last night, with the series premiere proper scheduled for next month. The show gets its name from a giant wall with pegs on it that is designed to allow an object to drop between the pegs into one of multiple slots. I think I remember this concept from another game show…

The central part of the game is not much more than a blatant ripoff of Plinko, a longtime pricing game that appears frequently on the CBS game show The Price is Right (TPiR). However, there are some key differences between The Wall and Plinko…whereas Plinko’s only major secondary element is a small-item pricing segment, The Wall has multiple and completely different secondary elements, including trivia questions and an isolation chamber.

The Wall is played by a couple working as a team, and the game has four rounds (although the fourth round is effectively an extension of each the first three rounds):

  • The first round involves either member of the couple having to hit a button corresponding to one of two possible answers to a trivia question. If they guess correctly before the first of three balls falls into any slot at the bottom of the wall, the total cash amount associated with each slot with a ball in it is added to the couple’s bank. If they guess incorrectly or fail to lock in an answer before the first of three balls falls into any slot at the bottom of the wall, the total cash amount associated with each slot without a ball in it is removed from the couple’s bank. If the couple has a positive amount of money in the bank, the couple goes on to the second round. If the couple were to have a negative amount of money in the bank after the first round, the game ends and the couple wins nothing.
  • The second and third rounds play in a similar manner with a few differences. One of the members of the couple go to an isolation chamber and are responsible for answering multiple-choice trivia questions with three (second round) or four (third round possible answers, while the other contestant is responsible for making decisions about what slot at the top of the wall to drop red (two + one for each incorrect trivia answer in second round, four + one for each incorrect trivia answer in third round) or green (two + one for each correct trivia answer in second round, four + one for each correct trivia answer in third round) balls from. The two (second round) and four (third round) automatic red balls must be dropped from the same slots at the top of the wall as the automatic green balls were dropped from at the start of the round in question. Additionally, the contestant not in the isolation chamber has the option of playing two balls from the same slot of the top of the wall on the second trivia question of the second and third rounds, as well as the option of playing three balls from the same slot of the top of the wall on the third trivia question of the second and third rounds; the decision must be made prior to the trivia question being asked to the contestant in the isolation chamber. Wherever a red ball lands results in money being removed from the couple’s bank, and wherever a green ball lands results in money being added to the couple’s bank. However, if a red ball lands in a slot worth more money than what is in the couple’s bank, the couple’s bank goes to $0, not to a negative dollar amount (this happened once on the aired pilot episode, at the end of the second round). The second-from-the-right slot at the bottom of the wall is valued at $250,000 (second round) and at $1,000,000 (third round)
  • The fourth round does not involve the use of the wall, but, instead, involves a decision that the contestant in the isolation chamber must make involving a contract. A contract is offered to the contestant in the isolation chamber, and the contestant in the isolation chamber has the option of either signing the contract or ripping the contract up. The contestant in the isolation chamber is not told how many questions he/she answered correctly in the second and third rounds, nor is the contestant in the isolation chamber told how much money is in the bank after the third round. If the contract is signed, the couple wins the amount of money in the bank after the first round, plus $20,000 for each correctly-answered trivia question in the second and third rounds. If the contract is ripped up, the couple wins the amount of money in the bank after the third round, if there is any money in the bank after the third round.

Unfortunately, there are several major cracks in the The Wall:

  • As I mentioned earlier, the centerpiece of the game is a blatant ripoff of Plinko from TPiR. I’m not an attorney, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if FremantleMedia (the company that produces TPiR for CBS) were to sue NBC and the producers of The Wall (which include host Chris Hardwick and professional basketball player LeBron James, among others).
  • The show appeared to lack a traditional game show announcer; as a result, Hardwick announced himself as the host at the start of the show (normally, game show hosts are introduced at the start of an episode by an off-camera announcer), however, the crowd cheering Hardwick’s entrance drowned out Hardwick introducing himself to the television audience.
  • The trivia questions are very easy for a show where it is possible for a couple to win $12,000,000 in cash.
  • It would be possible for a couple to answer every single trivia question correctly and win absolutely nothing, and it would also be possible for a couple to win nearly a million dollars with as few as two correct trivia answers (one in the first round, and one in the third round).

Now, there have been far worse game shows that have aired on American television (such as this one) than The Wall, but it looks like NBC might be tearing down The Wall sooner than later.

Obama’s legacy: a failed Democratic Party and President Donald Trump

With the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, leaving office in a little over a month, I’ll take this opportunity to talk about Obama’s legacy, which has become a major talking point among Democrats.

First off, I want to mention an op-ed that Wisconsin State Representative Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) wrote about her thoughts about Obama’s legacy for the Madison, Wisconsin-based The Cap Times earlier this month. Usually, I strongly agree with someone like Sargent, who is a staunch progressive who realizes that opposing Republicans and their destructive policies is only half the battle for progressives. In fact, Sargent is one of the few elected officials in the entire country that I have a strongly favorable opinion of, and one has to remember that I live in a different state than Sargent does. However, I have a much more negative view of Obama’s legacy than Representative Sargent does.

President Obama did not get a whole lot of domestic policy legislation enacted in his eight years in office, largely because Republicans controlled at least one house of Congress for six of Obama’s eight years in office. When Obama did have political allies in Congress who were in a position to enact legislation, much of it was legislation that was largely or effectively corporate welfare for private-sector businesses (such as the Affordable Care Act and the automobile industry bailout) that, despite being effectively government handouts to large corporations, did benefit many Americans. In fact, I have personally benefited from the Affordable Care Act. Obama’s attempts to work with Republicans typically failed miserably, because the Republican Party of today is completely unwilling to work with anyone who is a Democrat.

While President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize not long after being elected to the White House, Obama was no champion of peace in the White House. Obama’s only major foreign policy success as president was his ordering of SEAL Team 6 to take out Osama bin Laden (which succeeded). The rest of Obama’s foreign policy record was largely underwhelming and, in many ways, a continuation of the post-9/11 George W. Bush foreign policy in the Middle East.

One of President Obama’s biggest failures was his attempt to cut Social Security benefits, which was rejected, largely because progressives strongly opposed it. Another major Obama failure is the Democratic Party: Since Obama was sworn into office, Democrats have lost hundreds of state legislative seats, dozens of state executive offices, and dozens of seats in both houses of Congress. Yet another Obama failure was the FBI under Obama’s leadership: James Comey, who was appointed FBI director by Obama, used his office to influence people to vote for Donald Trump in this year’s presidential election.

In some cases, left-wing victories under President Obama’s leadership came from unexpected places. Many of the major LGBT rights victories, such as key provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA) being struck down and marriage equality becoming law of the land, were because of rulings by a right-leaning U.S. Supreme Court. The LGBT community used the justice system to win justice.

Now, America is probably a weaker country than it ever has been since the Declaration of Independence was signed, although it’s mostly not President Obama’s fault. However, Obama’s pursuit of free-trade deals and Social Security cuts opened the door for a far-right demagogue by the name of Donald Trump to win the White House. I strongly fear that Trump will, some way or another, undo pretty much all of the positive aspects of Obama’s legacy and destroy this country in so many ways. If the Democrats haven’t gone the way of the Whigs by 2020, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Candidate for Mayor of Houston, Texas once used racist N-word on national television

AUTHOR’S NOTE #1: This blog post includes a web video, which was not produced by the author, featuring a clip of an individual using racist profanity on national television. The author of this blog post strongly disapproves of the use of racial epithets.

AUTHOR’S NOTE #2: This blog post uses some professional wrestling terminology; a glossary of professional wrestling terminology can be found here.


Houston, Texas’s next mayoral election is in 2019, but that hasn’t stopped Booker Huffman, who is best known for his work under the stage name Booker T in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) professional wrestling, from entering the race.

Huffman is well-known for an infamous use of a racial epithet on national pay-per-view television. During the 1999 WCW pay-per-view event Spring Stampede, Huffman was cutting a promo about a four corners match between Huffman and his real-life brother Lash “Stevie Ray” Huffman, as well as Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea and Lawrence “Lex Luger” Pfohl. Booker presumably intended to call Hogan, who is white, a “sucka”, a word that was part of Booker’s on-screen character; however, Booker said something a lot more racist instead. You can view a clip of the promo in question and a shoot interview of Huffman explaining what happened here:

I’m not endorsing a candidate in the 2019 Houston, Texas mayoral race, although I figured that I take the opportunity to mention one of the worst professional wrestling promo botches of all time.

For Democrats, winning over rural voters isn’t as simple as talking to a few rural people

For a number of years, Kathy Cramer, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been studying rural resentment towards Democrats and political elites, and seems to be one of only a handful of people who understand why Democrats are so awful at winning over rural voters in Wisconsin.

Recently, Cramer studied Donald Trump’s appeal to rural voters in Wisconsin, and you can read her findings at the end of this article by Jessie Opoien (last name pronounced oh-POY-en) of the Madison-based newspaper The Cap Times. Another thing that I enjoyed reading about in the article is Cramer’s epic response to a person who volunteered for the failed Hillary Clinton presidential campaign:

After Cramer presented her findings, a woman in the audience who said she had volunteered in Madison on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign asked Cramer what advice she would give Democrats on how to talk to the people in rural areas who voted for Trump.

“It’s not speaking to people,” Cramer said. “It will require just spending time with people and asking them, ‘What’s on your mind?’ for months — then trying to deliver a message.”

If winning over rural voters was a simple as talking to a few rural voters here and there, we’d still have Pat Quinn as governor here in Illinois. Obviously, that’s not the case. For Democrats to win over rural voters across the country, Democrats are going to start needing to emphasize agricultural policy proposals designed to give farmers a fair price for their crops and find other ways to connect with rural voters without alienating the progressive urban base of the party. Even better, Democrats should try to use rural resentment to their advantage by trying to paint Republicans as the party of urban and suburban political elites.

While there are several candidates that political insiders have floated as potential Democratic candidates for Governor of Wisconsin in 2018 (such as State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, State Senator Kathleen Vinehout, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, Former State Senator Tim Cullen, U.S. Representative Ron Kind, State Representative Dana Wachs, and Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ, just to name a few), I’ve wondered for some time whether or not Kathy Cramer would be a good candidate for a statewide race in Wisconsin, such as governor or lieutenant governor. Given that she seems to know how Democrats can win over rural voters (or at least enough rural voters to win a statewide race in states like Wisconsin), I think that she could be a great candidate for a statewide race in Wisconsin. However, I highly doubt that Cramer would even consider the idea of running for public office.

ENDORSEMENT: Keith Ellison for Chairperson of the Democratic National Committee

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Due to the entrance of Sally Boynton Brown to the race for DNC chairperson, I have edited the title of the blog post in order to replace the word “chairman” with the word “chairperson”.


I, Aaron Camp, proudly announce my support for Keith Ellison’s campaign for Chairperson of the Democratic National Committee (DNC)!

Earlier today, Ellison, who currently represents the Minneapolis, Minnesota area in the U.S. House of Representatives, announced that he would resign from the House if the DNC elected him to be their next chairperson. In other words, if Ellison is elected DNC chair, you can trust him to fight for progressive values on the national stage full-time.

Keith Ellison is a fighter. As a leader in the progressive faction of the Democratic Party, Ellison has fought to protect Social Security, championed peace in the Middle East, and strongly supported women’s reproductive rights. Ellison knows that, for Democrats to win, you must offer voters a reason to vote for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot.

If you wish to learn more about Ellison’s candidacy, his campaign website is here.

The college football team that could go undefeated and not play in the College Football Playoff

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The College Football Playoff is organized by CFP Administration, LLC. While College Football Playoff games are played under NCAA football rules, the College Football Playoff is not an officially an NCAA-sanctioned national championship.


Tonight, at 6 P.M. Central Time, Western Michigan University (WMU) will face Ohio University (Ohio U; not to be confused with The Ohio State University (Ohio State), which is in a different college athletic conference) for the Mid-American Conference (MAC) college football championship. The game will be played at a neutral site, Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan, and television coverage of the game will be provided by ESPN2.

2016 is looking like it could be the first year that the College Football Playoff (CFP), a four-team postseason playoff incorporating two bowl games as semi-final games and a stand-alone championship game designed to determine an unofficial NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I FBS) national champion, could be very controversial. One of the reasons why the CFP could be controversial in its third playing is that WMU could go undefeated and not be selected for one of the four spots in the CFP, which go to the top four teams in the CFP rankings after conference championships are awarded.

WMU has played an incredible college football season this year. In non-conference play, they defeated two teams from the much more prominent Big Ten Conference (specifically, teams from Northwestern University and University of Illinois), and they’ve won every in-conference and non-conference game that they’ve played this season. However, since Western Michigan plays in the Mid-American Conference, which is not considered to be one of the so-called “Power 5” conferences (Southeastern Conference (SEC), Big Ten Conference (Big Ten), Big XII Conference (Big XII), Pac 12 Conference (Pac 12), and Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)), they are ranked 17th in the CFP rankings after the 13th week of the college football season. By contrast, the only other undefeated team in Division I FBS football is the University of Alabama (Alabama) team, ranked at the very top of the CFP rankings. While there’s no disputing that Alabama has been the strongest team in top-level college football this year, there are a total of 15 teams with at least one loss ranked above WMU, including one team with four losses (Auburn University). WMU could defeat Ohio U by an obscenely large margin in the MAC title game and go into bowl season undefeated, yet not even come close to getting one of the four CFP spots, with at least three of the four, or, if Alabama loses the SEC title game, all four, teams being selected for the CFP getting playoff spots.

Additionally, it’s very likely that Ohio State, which isn’t playing for the Big Ten title, could get a CFP spot, while both of the teams playing for the Big Ten title on Saturday night (The Penn State University vs. University of Wisconsin; 6 P.M. Central Time on Fox), may not get a CFP spot despite the winner of the championship game between them being the Big Ten champion. Furthermore, if Alabama loses to University of Florida (Florida) in the SEC title game, Florida may not get a CFP spot despite being conference champion, potentially resulting in two or fewer of the CFP teams being conference champions.

If one were to regard the Electoral College as an unfair way to decide a president and a vice president, then the CFP is an even unfairer way to decide a college football national champion. However, it’s the system we have, not the system that I would like to see in place, that is official (in the case of the Electoral College) or generally recognized as determining the champion (in the case of the CFP).