Category: Uncategorized

Do Wisconsin Democrats have a potential savior from a gubernatorial campaign trainwreck?

Yesterday, it was reported that former Wisconsin State Senator Tim Cullen of Janesville is going to seek the Democratic nomination for Governor of Wisconsin, with Cullen set to launch his gubernatorial bid sometime next month. If Cullen does enter the race, he will likely be the second candidate to run for governor as a Democrat; a former state legislative aide by the name of Bob Harlow is currently running for governor as a Democrat.

However, I strongly believe that neither Cullen nor Harlow can defeat one of the worst of the worst in the Republican Party, incumbent Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who is likely to run for a third four-year term.

Regarding Cullen, he is probably best known for briefly leaving the Wisconsin State Senate Democratic Caucus in 2012 for not getting a committee assignment that he wanted. That sounds like something that Donald Trump would do, and it tells me that Cullen has very poor leadership skills and is very self-centered. There’s also that part of the now-infamous “David Koch” prank call where Walker bragged to a guy who he incorrectly believed to be right-wing billionaire David Koch that Cullen was a “pragmatist” and praised Cullen. Any Democratic primary television advertisement attacking Cullen from the left practically writes itself.

Regarding Harlow, I have been notified by a California-based political source that Harlow ran for a U.S. House seat in California in 2016, and, during that campaign (which he failed to advance to the general election), Harlow and canvassers working for Harlow’s campaign openly hurled insults at voters by calling them “corporatists” because they told the Harlow campaign that they were going to vote for the incumbent, U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo. While Harlow was once an intern for former Republican Wisconsin State Senator Dale Schultz, Harlow is a lot more progressive than Schultz. The only Wisconsin-based political figure that I’m aware of who has praised Harlow since the launch of his gubernatorial campaign is Monona Grove School Board member and political blogger Jeff Simpson, who is known for saying what he thinks about the Democratic establishment in Wisconsin and telling it like it is (example here). However, Harlow has a proven track record of being incompetent at political campaigning, and it’s not like Wisconsin has any affinity for people from California moving to their state to run for public office. I fear and suspect that the Trump White House and/or foreign influencers (such as the Russian government, Wikileaks, and/or other foreign-based entities) may try to aid Harlow in his gubernatorial bid.

It’s important to note that, judging by the Twitter pages of some of the Democratic elected officials in Wisconsin, they do not appear to be circling the wagons around Cullen, in contrast to their reaction to Mary Burke’s entrance to the 2014 gubernatorial race in Wisconsin, where Burke had near-total support from Democratic state legislators from the outset of the campaign. This pretty much guarantees that at least one other candidate with considerable Democratic Party political connections in Wisconsin, political experience, and/or personal wealth is going to enter the gubernatorial race, which would mean a competitive primary between Cullen, Harlow, and at least one other candidate. If Mary Jo Walters could get somewhere around 45% or so of the vote against John Lehman in a primary for lieutenant governor, then it would not be out of the realm of possibility for Harlow to win the gubernatorial primary with a plurality. Harlow is completely unelectable in a general election, because the GOP would paint him as a carpetbagger from California if, by some chance, he won the Democratic nomination.

It has become increasingly clear to me that Wisconsin Democrats need a savior to step up to the plate to save the party from a potential trainwreck in the gubernatorial race next year. We know from past experience that Hillary Clinton/Jim Doyle-style neoliberalism is not going to win elections for Democrats in Wisconsin, and the Democratic primary electorate in Wisconsin is very left wing and absolutely distrusts the current Democratic establishment. Ron Kind is not a progressive by anyone’s imagination, so he’s no savior. Susan Happ is a proven loser, so she’s no savior. Kathleen Vinehout couldn’t win the Democratic nomination in the gubernatorial recall election, so yet another proven loser. I don’t know enough about Dana Wachs or Joe Parisi to tell you anything about either of those two.

The ideal political savior for Democrats in Wisconsin would be someone who is strongly progressive, and, therefore, ideologically similar to Harlow, but is considerably more politically skilled than Harlow. One might point to State Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) as a potential savior for Wisconsin Democrats, given her fearless, no-holds-barred style of progressive politics. However, if she runs statewide, it would probably be for attorney general, not for governor, although she’d be an absolutely awesome candidate for either office. Late last year, Wisconsin-based political blogger Chris Walker mentioned State Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) as a potential gubernatorial candidate, and, if she were to run for governor, I would endorse her campaign without hesitation. She is one of the most progressive state legislators in the entire country, and, having read some of her op-eds, she seems like someone who genuinely cares about…no pun intended…making her state great again. However, Sargent could probably get elected to the state assembly for two-year terms for the rest of her life if she wanted to, so I highly doubt that she’d run for statewide office, but she’s never publicly ruled out a gubernatorial bid to my knowledge. If, by some chance, she were to seek the Democratic nomination for Wisconsin’s highest office, Sargent would probably win over nearly all of the voters who would be open to voting for someone like Harlow, and she’d have a good chance of winning the nomination, provided that she were to run a true statewide campaign. I don’t know enough about people like Dave Hansen or JoCasta Zamarripa to tell you about whether or not they’re interested in a gubernatorial bid or give you an opinion about them.

Long story short, Wisconsin Democrats can do a lot better than Tim Cullen or Bob Harlow.

People like Melissa Sargent are the Wisconsin Democrats’ future

A while back, Chris Walker, a progressive political blogger from Madison, Wisconsin who is obviously not related, either by party affiliation or familial relationship, to Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), stated that he thought that Wisconsin State Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) sounded “gubernatorial.”

Let me preface this by saying that I am not a Wisconsin resident. However, having read several of Sargent’s op-eds on the website of the Madison-based newspaper The Cap Times, I believe that Sargent would be an awesome governor for Wisconsin if she were to run for governor and win.

As a state legislator, Sargent has advocated for marijuana legalization, a higher minimum wage, abolishment of sales taxes on tampons, and other progressive ideas designed to improve the lives of her constituents and the people of Wisconsin. However, few of Sargent’s ideas have been seriously considered by the Republicans who control the Wisconsin State Legislature. That hasn’t stopped Sargent from successfully leading the fight to make upskirting, a crime in which a pervert photographs or films up a woman’s skirt without her consent, a felony in Wisconsin.

Sargent believes that Democrats shouldn’t have to give up support for equality in order to support policies designed to empower the poor and the working poor. Sargent also believes that political resistance against the Republicans is only half of the battle; Sargent believes that fighting for progressive ideas is just as important as opposing the opposition.

Conventional wisdom suggests that Democrats should run a center-left candidate from a rural region of Wisconsin for governor. If Sargent were to run for governor, she would be running into a conventional wisdom headwind, to put it mildly. Sargent is a lifelong Madison resident and is one of the most progressive state legislators in the entire country. However, if Barack Obama could defy conventional wisdom in the 2008 race for the Democratic presidential nomination, then it would be very much possible for Sargent to defy conventional wisdom in Wisconsin in 2018.

I seriously doubt that Melissa Sargent would seriously consider the idea of running for Wisconsin’s highest office. That hasn’t stopped the Republicans from attacking her online; specifically, Sargent has been attacked in a sexist manner over the fact that her husband works for Wisconsin State Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) (Sargent response to attacks here). Anyone who has even the slightest familiarity with Sargent knows that she can think for herself without any difficulty. However, if she does run for Governor of Wisconsin, I believe that she would be an awesome candidate.

Because of the competitive Democratic gubernatorial primary in my home state of Illinois, I’m going to considerably scale back my blogging about Wisconsin politics to some degree.

An open letter to the women of Poland

To the women of Poland,

I have learned of the proposed total ban on abortions in Poland via internet news sources. I have also learned that, on Monday, a large number of you wore black-colored clothing and went on strike against the proposed legislation.

I applaud all of you for standing up your fellow women!

The proposed legislation would be detrimental to Polish women. The legislation, if enacted, would, among other things, ban abortion in Poland with no exceptions and ban other forms of reproductive health care in Poland. The legislation would strip you and your fellow Polish women of your right to make your own health care decisions in regards to reproductive health, and it would also result in the loss of the lives of many pregnant women. In some cases, doctors would be legally forced to allow women to die instead of providing life-saving reproductive health care.

Very few Polish people want this legislation, but right-wing politicians and Catholic clergy want to determine what kind of health care you can receive. I encourage you to keep opposing the politicians and the religious leaders that do not believe in women’s rights.

I trust women!

Sincerely,
Aaron Camp

SATIRE: Marco Rubio loses debate to a robot

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is a satirical blog post that does not describe a real-life event. For all future blog posts, satirical blog posts will be marked with (SATIRE:) before the blog post title, and non-satirical blog posts will contain no such marking.


Earlier today, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, delivered an absolutely awful debate performance…against a robot created as part of a joint project between students and professors of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). The debate was held inside of a greenhouse on the UW-Madison campus, with no spectators admitted to the debate site, although video of the debate was recorded and streamed online.

While the robot, named “Samantha”, responded to debate moderator Mike Gousha’s questions truthfully and honestly (Samantha’s political ideology is similar to that of Democratic elected officials in the Madison, Wisconsin area) and didn’t give any repetitive responses, Rubio mostly stuck to a canned line claiming that “President Obama knows what he’s doing, and he wants to radically change America”. At one point in the debate, Samantha chided Rubio for being “robotic” with his responses, prompting members of a focus group watching the internet livestream of the debate to burst out in laughter.

Samantha also commanded a deep knowledge of Rubio’s political track record, bringing up, among other things, Rubio rarely showing up to vote in the U.S. Senate, his use of a Florida Republican Party credit card for personal expenses, and his opposition to LGBT rights. This put Rubio on the defensive throughout the debate; in fact, towards the end of the debate, Rubio was barely able to give audible responses to debate questions.

Samantha’s closing statement (per debate rules, Rubio and Samantha were limited to one-sentence closing statements) was absolutely legendary:

If, after watching the debate, you think that Senator Rubio is more robotic than an actual robot, you’re not alone.

Sara Goldrick-Rab, a UW-Madison professor who led the effort to build Samantha, was absolutely delighted after seeing a video of the debate, saying that her team had built “an absolutely awesome robot” that “delivered a memorable debate performance”.

INTERVIEW: 1st Congressional District of Iowa Democratic candidate Gary Kroeger

I recently conducted an email interview with Gary Kroeger, a former Saturday Night Live (SNL) cast member and former game show announcer who is now one of three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in the 1st Congressional District of Iowa.

The interview was conducted via email, and I emailed Mr. Kroeger a total of 29 questions about his background, his congressional campaign, the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, and Iowa politics. Even though I asked all of the questions at once and asked Mr. Kroeger to reply to the questions in list form, I’m going to list Mr. Kroger’s response to each question below the relevant question, with one exception for when Mr. Kroger responded to two questions with one answer. “AC” stands for Aaron Camp, the author of this blog, and “GK” stands for Gary Kroger, the 1st District of Iowa congressional candidate.

AC: I’ll start with a question about your background…Please tell us a little bit about your life story.

GK: I was born and raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  My career ambition was to be an entertainer and that took me to Northwestern University where I met Julia Louis Dreyfus and her (future) husband Brad Hall.  Together with Paul Barrosse we joined Saturday Night Live in the early to mid 80’s.  I had a 20 year, journeyman’s career after that where I worked in television, film and producing.  I even owned a restaurant for a few years.  I gave up show business in 2003 because I had a son that I wanted to raise in a more stable environment than what entertainment can offer.  I moved back to Iowa and was hired as a creative director for a growing advertising agency.  My interest has always been in politics, but as a columnist and activist.  After the unfortunately results of 2014 I decided to throw my hat into the ring.

AC: Who are your immediate relatives?

GK: My two sons, who live with their mother in Cedar Rapids, my mother who is here in Cedar Falls, and I have two brothers.  One is in San Diego and the other is in Des Moines.

AC: On to your congressional campaign…Why did you decide to run for Congress in the 2016 elections?

GK: America has been moving, systematically, to the right for over 40 years.  There is no moderate Republican anymore.  Even Eisenhower would be consider far left by today’s conservative standards.  Last year as Iowa took a hard right turn with the election of Rod Blum and Joni Ernst, I (and many others) determined that we must correct this course.  This is not a time for tepid, moderate Democratic views that appeal to popular trends, but a time to starkly challenge the new status quo.  We need to move left, just to get back to the middle!  I knew who was, and was going to get into this race before I declared.  I declared because I am the only true Progressive running.  By that I mean leading with ideology rather than following the popular pulse of poll driven policies

AC: What are your proposals for reducing income inequality in America? 

GK: This is a complicated question and the answer is an article unto itself.  First- Create jobs by investing in infrastructure.  That includes renewable energy sources.  Focus on affordable housing and other grassroots development.  We must spend the money to rebuild roads, bridges, schools.  The creation of job opportunity is the first step.  Secondly, raise the minimum wage and index it to the poverty threshold so that it automatically adjusts in the future.  Americans have been taking a pay cut for 40 years as the COL increases and wages have remained flat.   Next, improve the tax code so that it works for working and Middle Class Americans.  Expand EITC.  Also, expand access to child care and paid maternity leave.

AC: Do you believe that the Citizens United v. FEC U.S. Supreme Court decision has led to more influence of big-money interests in the American political system? 

GK: And emphatic YES.  No need to explain, CU is a pipeline for dark money to flood toward whatever candidate or special interest it chooses.  It is a direct affront to a Republic by for and of the People.

AC: If elected to Congress, would you vote for a federal constitutional amendment that would effectively overturn the Citizens United decision? 

GK: YES

AC: Do you support a federal constitutional amendment that would abolish the Electoral College and implement a national popular vote system for electing the president and the vice president? 

GK: The Electoral College is antiquated and I am open to reform.  I don’t think this is a clear issues, however, because change will be exactly that, change.  Iowa will lose its status as first in nation as the system no longer requires the electoral votes.  From that there are repercussions that I think we need to look at carefully before making a blanket determination.

AC: Do you support a woman’s right to make her own reproductive health care decisions, including a woman’s right to decide whether or not to have an abortion?

GK: Absolutely.  A woman must have dominion over her own body.  Anything less is to say that a woman is not equal due to her biology.  If being technical is the argument the “pro-lifer’s” need, then I will make myself clear.  A fetus is not a life until it has viability.  Up to that point it is a potential life.  I am willing to discuss where that viability threshold may be, but at this time Roe v Wade is the determination by which we abide.

AC: Do you think that the United States should go further than the international climate change agreement recently negotiated in Paris, France does when it comes to saving the planet from global warming? 

GK: Paris is only a start.  The work is going to be much harder than making a decision to act.  Going further is about demanding that our own country take the lead by aggressively developing clean energy and reducing fossil fuel dependence (ultimately eliminating dirty fuel).  A Carbon Fee (and rebates for low income families and energy reduction compliant businesses and households) on the 7 billion tons of inorganic gas being pumped into our skies alone is ESSENTIAL.  We can do little to comply, let alone, exceed Paris standards until we put a fee on the most massive contributor to global warming.

AC: What are your ideas for U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East?

GK: This, too, is an article unto itself.  The Middle East is complex and our involvement in creating a quagmire goes back 100 years.  By reducing (to eliminate) our dependence on Middle East oil is the single most effective measure we can take.  Our involvement in Middle East affairs, and is the root of imperialist policy is directly linked to oil relationships.  Taking that out of the equation gives us leverage that we need in order to make any headway.  America has at several junctures in Middle East history, created power vacuums that have been filled by extremists.  We can point to the mid 50’s when we organized a coup to topple the Iranian prime minister to replace him with the Shah to the invasion of Iraq in 2002.  Our foreign policy has been short sighted without understanding the implications changing the power structures and stability of the region.  While Republicans believe that “turning the sand into glass” is actually a viable policy, that will exacerbate tension, create more terrorism and further destabilize the Middle East.  Negotiation is necessary (I support the Iran nuclear agreement).  While we must be strong militarily in order to have leverage, we must be equally as smart.  Historically, we have not been.  ISIS will not be defeated by jingoistic policy, or massive military annihilation, it will be defeated when their money is cut off and when better alternatives are available that slow recruiting.

AC: Do you think that the U.S. should accept refugees who are fleeing ISIS and the Bashir al-Assad dictatorship in Syria? 

GK: Of course we should accept these refugees.  The small threat of a terrorist passing through should not betray the promise of America.  “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddle masses yearning to breathe free.”  Without our tenets of justice and freedom, we compromise all that we pledge allegiance to.

AC: What are your ideas for reforming America’s immigration system? 

GK: Immigration laws must be amended to create better legal access.  We can fortify our borders, but unless we create legal pathways to citizenship we do nothing to protect that which makes us the shining city on the hill; freedom and justice.  In the meanwhile, I support amnesty to keep families together and compassionate justice with regard to any deportation.

AC: Do you think that there should be more efforts to make health care more affordable in America? If so, what are some proposals that you support? 

GK: I would be all in for Single Payer, but there was, and as of now remains, no way to get a true concept of socialized medicine passed in Washington.  And so I support ACA.   I would like to see state lines disappear so that competitive bidding can reduce costs, and I would like to see the portion of the Middle Class that makes too much to qualify for subsidies, but not enough to afford high family costs, to receive tax breaks.

AC: Do you support or oppose Common Core State Standards? 

AC: Do you support or oppose standardized testing in K-12 education? 

GK: I am not a fan of standardized testing.  I have seen progress from CC and know of teachers and administrators who support it, but, personally, I think that it is symptomatic of a misunderstanding of education.  CC, as well as No Child Left Behind, are programs designed to address the RESULT of educational standards that have been dropping and not the CAUSE.  The cause, in my view, has been a systematic devaluation of liberal arts education and basic principles of learning.  America has replaced education with a value system based in capitalism, and away from critical thinking.

AC: Do you support expanding Social Security? If so, what is your proposal for doing so? 

GK: We should raise the cap on Social Security.  Not only is that more equitable and fair, but creates the solvency that is needed to perpetuate the program.

AC: Do you support or oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other currently-pending free trade deals between the U.S. and foreign nations? 

GK: I have been a vocal opponent of TPP longer than anyone else in my race.  I did not wait for polls to tell me that this is bad for the American worker.  This is, to quote Robert Reich, “NAFTA on steroids.”  It is a race to the bottom as nations compete for the lowest bidder and corporations choose margins over employment.

AC: Would you support efforts to repeal existing free-trade agreements between the U.S. and many foreign countries, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)? 

GK: Yes.  But, we must be careful to weigh agreements, outcomes and results.  I am not against trade agreements, but NAFTA saw American workers becomes marginalized as employment was outsourced.  TPP would do the same on an even larger scale.  These blanket agreements which have little interest beyond expanding the scope of corporate influence and power have been detrimental to wages and jobs.

AC: What are your ideas for expanding broadband internet access in rural areas, if any?

GK: This is not an area in which I have done much study, but it would certainly appear to me that the expansion of broadband would be in the public interest.  What I am interested in, is keeping the internet free and not regulated by corporate interests.

AC: What are some of your ideas and policy positions in regards to agricultural policy?

GK: The family farm has suffered as the American worker has suffered.  Farms have become corporatized and the interests of Monsanto and others have cornered agriculture.  I support Farm Bill legislation as a means to keep farms operating and our food supply plentiful.  A farm is an industry that is subjected to the whims of nature and, therefore, if we are to maintain its solvency must intervene by providing subsidies.

AC: Do you support increased gun safety/control measures? If so, which gun safety/control measures do you support? 

GK: I am an advocate of new gun safety measures.  More comprehensive backgrounds checks that extend to gun shows and second party sales.  Banning armor piercing bullets (except for law enforcement, of course).  Re-instating the ban on assault weapons.  I would also move to increase funding for “smart gun” technology, as well as expanding safety programs.  Ultimately, I would push for mandatory proficiency/safety testing at the purchase of a firearm.

AC: According to the election information website Ballotpedia, two Democrats are listed as running against you in the Democratic primary: Monica Vernon and Pat Murphy. What are your thoughts about your Democratic primary opponents? 

GK: I will never throw my primary opponents under the bus.  They are both good people and are fighting on the correct issues.  However, I entered this race when Vernon was already in a commanding position financially and with endorsements, and I knew that Murphy would get in. Both have the infrastructure and support that make them formidable (they’ve both been running this very race for 3 or more years).  I entered because a bold, unapologetic Progressive is what we need in this seat.  Not someone who needs to be enlightened to civil rights issues, gun restrictions, environmental protection, workers interests, etc, but who leads by virtue of ideological values that they already possess.  This is not a time for a moderate Democrat.  We need to move left, just to get back to the middle in America; we have drifted so far to the right.

AC: If you were to win the Democratic nomination, you would, more than likely, be running against incumbent Republican Congressman Rob Blum in a congressional district that is more Democratic than Iowa as a whole is. What are your thoughts about Congressman Blum?

GK: Rob Blum is a Tea Party Republican.  He is the Steve King of the 1st District. Blum, King (and Ernst) are motivated by the fringe in America (who are gaining ground) who believe in a theocratic society, and who will pander to wealth in the continuance of America becoming an oligarchy.

AC: Now, about the race for the Democratic presidential nomination…Do you support continuing the Iowa tradition of being the first state in the nation to hold major-party nomination contests for president, or do you support establishing a national presidential primary and caucus day?

GK: This was sort of answered earlier.  If we do away with the Electoral College, primaries and caucuses will change and Iowa’s already tenuous hold onto being the first battle ground will become irrelevant.   IF our process remains as it is, then YES, I like Iowa’s place as first in nation.  We are an active state, conscious, aware, and uniquely qualified with agricultural, urban, industrial, and educational interests.  Easy to navigate.

AC: You’ve endorsed Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Why did you endorse Bernie, and what are some of Bernie’s ideas that you consider to be your favorite(s)?

GK: I believe that there is no reason for a public person to be different from a private person.  In other words, if I endorsed Bernie Sanders privately, why should I, as a political figure, endorse him publicly.  I am running AGAINST political expediency and poll-driven positions.  This is in alignment with Sanders.  We know who he is, what he stands for, and we know that he cannot be bought.  That is my premise, as well.  In terms of the issues, I align very well with Senator Sanders,  particularly in our concern for the oligarchic nation we have become; and our political mission to restore representative democracy.

AC: If he were to win the Democratic presidential nomination, who do you think would be the ideal running-mate for Bernie Sanders?

GK: I have not gotten so far as to even consider who a running mate for Sanders would be.  Elizabeth Warren would be ideological Heaven.

AC: Now, a couple of questions about Iowa politics…In 2018, the office of Governor of Iowa will, once again, be up for re-election. Who are some candidates that you’d like to see run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Iowa?

GK: Last year I was hoping that Monica Vernon would run for governor.  A moderate Democrat would be ideal to get support across the state.

AC: What are your thoughts about the congressional and state legislative redistricting process that is used in Iowa? 

GK: You mean gerrymandering?  It is a crime against democracy.

AC: One final question…Other than yourself, who do you consider to be the greatest Iowan of all time?

GK: Fred Maytag.  Who has created a more useful invention in history?  Iowa has produced so many names that have gone on to entertainment, politics, athletics, and invention.  John Wayne was even born here.  And I think Johnny Carson before he moved to Nebraska.  Harry Reasoner, too.  I even like Fred Grandy 🙂

Gary Kroeger’s campaign website can be found here.

I hope to be able to conduct more interviews with political figures and other interesting people in the future.

Bundy Family and militia takes over Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters, CNN isn’t reporting about it online

Ammon Bundy, the son of far-right anti-government crackpot Cliven Bundy, two of Ammon’s brothers, and far-right militiamen have taken over the administration building of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon.

As of 9:30 P.M. PST/11:30 P.M. CST, CNN.com, CNN’s website, has reported absolutely nothing about the right-wing militia taking over the Malheur NWR headquarters. There’s nothing on the front page about the takeover, and there’s nothing on the U.S. page about the takeover. In fact, the Wikipedia page on Malheur NWR was edited at 1:57 A.M. GMT/5:57 P.M. PST/7:57 CST to include a one-sentence reference to the Bundy/militia takeover.

This story is clearly of national importance, because right-wing terrorists and members of the Bundy family of right-wing extremists have responded to the legitimate conviction of two Oregon ranchers who set fire to federal land set aside for the protection of wildlife, not for ranching, by an armed takeover of the Malheur NWR headquarters.

Furthermore, some corporate media outlets are trying to claim that the Bundy/militia occupiers are non-violent protesters, when, in fact, Ammon Bundy has openly called for militia members to join the occupation and bring weapons with them. This is clearly not a non-violent protest, although I’ve heard no reports of shots fired or any other acts of violence at this time.

CNN has become an absolute joke of a news organization, and most other corporate media outlets are not much better.

Democratic Party of Wisconsin praises likely Republican presidential candidate and misogynist employer Jeb Bush in a tweet

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin, which is supposed to be promoting Democratic candidates for various offices in Wisconsin, sent out a tweet praising Jeb Bush, a likely candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in next year’s presidential race who recently hired a rabid sexist to run his campaign’s technology operation should he run for president:

While I admire transparency in politics, I find it highly inappropriate for a state-level Democratic Party organization to use its social media accounts to praise Republicans, which is far too common in the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Past examples of Republican praising by Wisconsin Democrats include U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, 2014 Democratic Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, and 2014 Wisconsin State Senate candidate Martha Laning, among others, running TV ads praising Republicans, as well as numerous Democrats and many progressives praising former Republican Wisconsin State Senator Dale Schultz. Also, for the DPW to praise Jeb Bush for transparency is absolutely asinine, especially when one considers the fact that, in the document dump that the DPW apparently referenced, Jeb revealed the social security numbers of many Florida residents, which is a major violation of people’s privacy.

The DPW’s pro-Jeb Bush tweet and the culture of Republican praising that is far too commonplace in the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is one of many reasons why Mike Tate, Jason Rae, and Chris “Boss” Abele, which is what I like to call the troika of Wisconsin Democratic politics, as well as the rest of the joke of a “leadership” team has failed Wisconsin Democrats on many levels and absolutely sucks at political messaging.

Illinois Republican Congressman Aaron Schock surrounds himself with a racist press secretary

Benjamin Cole, a former Baptist minister and mouthpiece for the energy industry who is now the senior adviser for policy and communications (i.e., press secretary) for Republican Congressman Aaron Schock of Peoria, Illinois, made racist Facebook posts referring to black people as “animals” and “hood rats” and wanting his D.C. neighborhood to gentrify (i.e., run the blacks, other minorities, and poor people out of the neighborhood):

While I strongly believe that shooting people and using or threatening to use a glass bottle as a weapon is highly unacceptable, referring to blacks as “animals” and hood rats” and calling for blacks, other minorities, and poor people to be run out of a neighborhood is racist and also highly unacceptable. Black people are not animals or rats, they’re people.

It’s been one scandal after another for Aaron Schock recently. First, he apparently violated congressional ethics laws by recently having his office decorated in the lavish style of the Lord Grantham’s room on the British TV series Downton Abbey, which airs in the United Kingdom on the British TV network ITV and is televised by many PBS public television stations here in the United States as part of the Masterpiece anthology series, and now his spokesman has been exposed as as a vile racist.

Scott Walker’s barbaric budget eliminates the Wisconsin Idea and forces UW System faculty to work without pay starting in mid-2016

Wisconsin Governor and likely Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker’s barbaric budget includes, among other things, the destruction of the University of Wisconsin System (UW System), Wisconsin’s network of two-year and four-year colleges and universities.

First off, the third Walker budget includes a provision that would eliminate the search for truth, which is effectively the current primary mission of the UW System, and the Wisconsin Idea, which outlines the mission of the UW System to serve the people of Wisconsin, from the UW System’s mission statement and would replace it with a mission statement that effectively makes serving Big Business interests the UW System’s primary mission. While Walker has tried to claim that the budget provision removing truth and the Wisconsin Idea from the mission statement is a “drafting error”, I think Walker’s claim is hogwash for a couple of reasons. One, I’ve made plenty of drafting errors as a political blogger, but I’ve never managed to rewrite the entire mission statement of a state college or university system in one of my drafting errors. Two, I firmly believe that Walker included that provision simply to pander to the far-right Tea Party crowd in states like Iowa and New Hampshire, both of which hold early contests for the Republican presidential nomination, only to backtrack from it after he submitted the proposal to the Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Legislature and Walker got questioned by the media over it.

Secondly, there’s something very unusual in Walker’s budget proposal:

If you look at the “FY17 Recommended” column in the “Full-Time Equivalent Position Summary”, you’ll notice that not a single penny is appropriated to full-time faculty member salaries. If Walker’s budget were to be enacted in its current form, starting in July of 2016, when Wisconsin State Fiscal Year 2017 begins, professors and other full-time faculty members at UW System colleges and universities would be required to work without pay. While most college professors work because they love teaching higher education and conducting research in order to make their communities, state, and country a better place to live, I’m almost certain that very few, if any, college professors would work without any pay at all, even though most college professors are interested in doing much more than earning a paycheck. Forcing UW System college professors to work without pay would significantly hurt Wisconsin’s economy, especially areas of Wisconsin in or near a UW System institution, and is, to put it mildly, absolutely cruel. Walker has yet to give one of his absurd explanations for eliminating UW System full-time salaries in his latest state budget.

Unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how barbaric Scott Walker’s latest Wisconsin budget proposal is. As a Illinois resident, the thought of Walker being anywhere near the White House gives me nightmares.

The Progressive Response to the State of the State of Illinois Address

Earlier today, Bruce Rauner, the Republican governor of our state that we instinctively know as Illinois, outlined his plan to drive down wages, infringe on the rights of Illinois workers, and destroy an already weak Illinois economy.

Prior to giving his State of the State address, Rauner went around the state using PowerPoint slides to publicly bash our state’s public employees, whine about public employees being, in his view, overpaid, spread lies about worker’s rights and public employee pay, and blame public employees for our state’s fiscal problems. Additionally, it was reported yesterday that Rauner strongly hinted that he wants to eliminate collective bargaining rights for our state’s public employees. Given that Rauner has given his top administration officials pay raises and appointed a $100,000/year chief of staff to his wife despite the fact that his wife has no official duties whatsoever, for Rauner to give his cronies pay raises while wanting to drive down public employee salaries is blatantly hypocritical.

In his State of the State address, Rauner called for gutting our state’s workers’ compensation system, lowering property taxes while our state and local governments have billions of dollars in unpaid bills, allowing local governments and/or voters to bust unions at the local level, prohibiting project labor agreements, eliminating prevailing wage laws, and privatizing public education to benefit his political cronies. Rauner did have a few good ideas that he talked about in his address to the people of Illinois, such as banning trial lawyer donations to judicial campaigns, merging the offices of state comptroller and state treasurer, and increasing funding for early childhood education.

While there is no disputing the fact that our state is in a fiscal mess for a large number of reasons, the primary reason why our state is in such a fiscal mess is because the wealthiest Illinoisans, such as Rauner himself, don’t pay enough state income taxes thanks to an ridiculous provision in the Illinois Constitution that prohibits the General Assembly from passing legislation to tax the incomes of wealthier Illinoisans at a higher rate than the incomes of poorer Illinoisans. The flat tax requirement in the Illinois Constitution prohibits our state from raising the revenues that would be needed to pay off our state’s unpaid bills and put our state on solid financial footing. I would strongly support a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution to allow the General Assembly to levy a progressive state income tax in order to raise income taxes on the wealthiest Illinoisans, cut income taxes for the poorest Illinoisans, and put our state’s finances back on track. Additionally, I would strongly support eliminating all tax breaks for businesses, such as the ridiculous tax break that Sears and CME Group received a few years ago, as this would also bring in more revenue to the state that can be used to pay off unpaid bills.

Regarding public employee pensions, another reason why our state is in a fiscal mess, I would strongly support a pension reform proposal that would phase out the current public employee pension systems in our state, but still allow public employees who have paid into the current pension systems to still receive the benefits they’ve earned once they retire, and require all new state and local elected officials, appointed officials, and hired public employees who receive a full-time salary but had not previously paid anything into the current public employee pension systems in our state to pay into a newly-created public employee pension system that is designed to be fully-funded and provide our state’s future elected officials, political appointees, and public employees with a steady retirement income once they retire. Make no mistake about it, I will strongly oppose any pension reform proposal that cuts benefits for those who have currently paid into the pension systems, creates a 401(k) system for public employees, and/or turns an existing pension system into a 401(k) system.

Regarding cutting spending, I would support an audit of the entire state government and every single county, township, city, town, village, and other type of local government entity in our state in order to find actual wasteful spending and propose common-sense solutions to cut actual wasteful spending and help save the state money in both the short term and the long term. Make no mistake about it, I will strongly oppose cuts to public education, social services, and other government services that reduce the quality of service by our state and local government agencies.

Regarding strengthening our state’s economy, I strongly support raising the state minimum wage here in Illinois to $15/hour and indexing automatic, annual minimum wage increases to productivity. Additionally, I strongly support creating a North Dakota-style economic development bank here in Illinois to issue and/our guarantee loans to factories, farms, small businesses, and other types of businesses that have to be repaid in full with interest. These two proposals would lift thousands of Illinoisans out of poverty, establish a minimum wage that values work, and help entrepreneurs start up new businesses and create jobs without pocketing government benefits to simply pad profits. Busting unions and driving down wages is something I strongly oppose because those policies would do absolutely nothing to strengthen our state’s economy or empower Illinoisans.

Regarding campaign finance, ethics, and government reform, while a federal constitutional amendment to repeal the Citizens United v. FEC U.S. Supreme Court decision that helped Rauner and his cronies buy the last gubernatorial election would be required to allow Illinois to enact meaningful campaign finance reform, I strongly support eliminating the conflicts of interest that are currently allowed by our state’s campaign finance system, such as a couple of conflicts of interest that Rauner mentioned, prohibiting unions from donating to candidates for public office that they’d have to collectively bargain with if said candidates are elected and prohibiting trial lawyers from donating to judicial candidates, and one that Rauner did not mention because he’s effectively opposed to it, prohibiting business owners and managers from donating to candidates for public office that could use the public office in question to directly benefit said business owners and managers if elected. Additionally, I would support setting the maximum campaign contribution for a statewide office here in Illinois at $250 and enacting even lower limits for state legislative and local offices. Additionally, I strongly support implementing a pair of public campaign finance systems, one for judicial elections and one for other non-federal elections. The judicial public campaign finance system would prohibit judicial candidates from receiving campaign contributions from other people and/or funding their own campaigns, require that all judicial candidates receive a set amount of campaign funds from the state, and require that judicial candidates receive the same amount of campaign funds from the state that their opponents receive. The public campaign finance system for other offices would allow candidates for those offices to receive $4 of state funding for every $1 they receive in contributions and/or self-fund their campaigns with. Additionally, I would support enacting what I like to call the Bruce Rauner Rule, which would outright prohibit candidates for statewide office here in Illinois from donating or loaning more than $100,000 of their own wealth to their campaign, and set even lower self-funding limits for other offices. On term limits, I would support limiting the offices of governor and lieutenant governor to one elected term, limiting the other state executive offices to two elected terms, limiting state senators to five elected terms, and limiting state representatives to eight elected terms, and anything stricter than that would receive my opposition. Some other government reform ideas I support include allowing Illinois voters to recall all non-federal elected officials, converting the Illinois General Assembly into an unicameral legislature with at least 177 members via a state constitutional amendment, and amending the Illinois Constitution to establish a truly non-partisan redistricting process for congressional and state legislative districts.

Regarding reforming the criminal justice system, I strongly support legalizing, taxing, and regulating recreational marijuana, which would reduce the incarceration rate in our state and provide our state with much-needed tax revenue. Additionally, I’m open to various ideas to reform the criminal justice system in order to make our prison system more about rehabilitating convicted criminals instead of simply punishing them and make our criminal justice system more fair. For example, one idea that I strongly support would be requiring independent investigations of deaths that occur in the hands of state and local police here in Illinois.

Regarding education, I strongly oppose implementing school voucher programs here in Illinois, expanding charter schools, or any other school privatization scheme. I strongly support repealing Common Core State Standards and replacing them well-rounded, developmentally appropriate K-12 academic standards developed by the state and are held accountable by measures other than assessments and standardized tests. Additionally, I strongly support getting rid of the emphasis on career preparation in K-12 education, since I believe that career preparation should be the responsibility of higher education institutions, not the K-12 system. Also, I strongly support increasing funding for public schools in our state and making our state’s K-12 school funding system fairer to poorer school districts.

Illinoisans are worth more than speeches, political buzzwords, and PowerPoint presentations about driving down wages, busting unions, and making our state’s economy even weaker than it currently is, and Illinoisans are certainly worth more than Bruce Rauner’s far-right policies to drive down wages, bust unions, and destroy our state’s economy. It’s time for Illinoisans to push for progressive policies to protect workers’ rights, strengthen our state’s economy, put more money into the pockets of poor and working-class Illinoisans, provide a world-class education system for our state’s K-12 and college students, and provide for a more perfect Illinois.