Tag: 2015

The First Annual Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards

For the first time ever, this blog will be awarding end-of-the-year awards to several individuals who I consider to be effective at advancing progressive causes during the year, regardless of whether or not one meets the typical criteria of being politically progressive or not. This is the first annual awarding of the Order of The Progressive Midwestern Awards, for the year 2015. All ProgMid Award winners for this year and years in the future are automatically inducted into the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner.

The award categories for the first ProgMid Awards are as follows:

  • Person of the Year
  • Man of the Year
  • Woman of the Year
  • American of the Year
  • International Person of the Year
  • Group of the Year
  • Athlete of the Year
  • Blogger of the Year
  • Activist of the Year
  • Elected Official of the Year
  • Entertainer of the Year
  • Young Person of the Year

There are two important notes regarding the awards:

  • Many award recipients will receive multiple awards. For example, if the Person of the Year in a given year is a female athlete from Canada, she would win Person of the Year, Woman of the Year, International Person of the Year, and Athlete of the Year.
  • Should multiple people or a group of people win award(s) other than Group of the Year, the plural form of the name(s) of the other award(s) will be used (People, Men, Women, Americans, International People, Athletes, Bloggers, Activists, Elected Officials, Entertainers, and/or Young People).

With that said, I hereby present the First Annual Order of The Progressive Midwestern Awards, for the year 2015!

Person of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Person of the Year is the only open ProgMid Award category.

No person has made a bigger impact on advancing progressive causes in the year 2015 than Bernie Sanders. Bernie, the junior U.S. Senator from Vermont, is currently seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in the 2016 elections, and he has made improving America’s economy a key part of his campaign. Bernie has publicly championed raising the U.S. minimum wage to $15/hour, guaranteeing paid family leave, making college in America truly affordable, breaking up large financial institutions, and many other progressive ideals. Bernie is the ProgMid Person of the Year for 2015.

Man of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Men are eligible for the Man of the Year Award.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is male, Bernie is also the ProgMid Man of the Year for 2015.

Woman of the Year – Rachel Notley

Women are eligible for the Woman of the Year Award.

In Alberta, Canada’s most conservative province, Rachel Notley led the Alberta New Democratic Party to a landslide victory in the Alberta legislative general election in May of 2015, and, as a result of the election, Notley became Premier of Alberta. Notley and her party ran on a progressive platform that championed good government, Alberta’s environment, economic justice, and common sense, and they won in a very conservative part of Canada. Notley is the ProgMid Woman of the Year for 2015.

American of the Year – Bernie Sanders

In order for one to be eligible for the American of the Year Award, one must be a United States citizen, United States national, resident of the United States, or some combination thereof.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is an American, Bernie is also the ProgMid American of the Year for 2015.

International Person of the Year – Rachel Notley

Those who are not eligible for the American of the Year Award are eligible for the International Person of the Year Award.

Since the Woman of the Year, Rachel Notley, is a Canadian, Notley is also the ProgMid International Person of the Year for 2015.

Group of the Year – The Black Lives Matter Movement

The Group of the Year Award is the only ProgMid Award that is required to be awarded to a group of people.

In response to racism, police brutality, and police shootings of black people in America, the Black Lives Matter movement, a group of progressive activists seeking reform of the criminal justice system and increased accountability of law enforcement in America, has brought the issues of criminal justice reform and law enforcement accountability to the forefront of American politics. Black Lives Matter is the ProgMid Group of the Year for 2015.

Athlete of the Year – Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Professional athletes and individuals primarily known for being amateur athletes (including, but not limited to, collegiate athletes and amateur Olympic athletes) are eligible for the Athlete of the Year Award.

Although one would usually not think of a NASCAR driver as advancing a progressive cause, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. played an important role in building public support for taking down the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State House in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. When asked about his thoughts about the Confederate flag, Dale Jr. called the Confederate flag “offensive to an entire race” and said that the Confederate flag “belongs in the history books, and that’s about it”. For his condemnation of the Confederate flag, Dale Jr. is the ProgMid Athlete of the Year for 2015.

Blogger of the Year – Kelly Wilz

Those who are an administrator of, editor of, author of, and/or contributor to a blog are eligible for the Blogger of the Year Award.

One of the newest members of the progressive blogosphere is Kelly Wilz, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Marshfield/Wood County. Wilz is also the author of the progressive political blog Dissent and Cookies, which launched in May of 2015. As a blogger, Wilz has primarily focused on ending rape culture in America and supporting tenure protections for college professors, both of which are very important causes. Wilz is the 2015 ProgMid Blogger of the Year.

Activists of the Year – The Black Lives Matter Movement

Those who are largely or primarily known for being a political activist are eligible for the Activist of the Year Award.

Since the Group of the Year, the Black Lives Matter movement, is a group of political activists, members of the Black Lives Matter movement are also the 2015 ProgMid Activists of the Year.

Elected Official of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Those who were a public official elected either directly by the people or elected by a body elected by the people (such as the U.S. Electoral College) at any point in the year in which the award is given are eligible for the Elected Official of the Year Award.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is an incumbent elected official, Bernie is also the 2015 ProgMid Elected Official of the Year.

Entertainer of the Year – Jon Stewart

Those who are entertainers (actors/actresses, comedians/comediennes, musicians, sports announcers, radio show hosts, television show hosts, etc.) are eligible for the Entertainer of the Year Award.

While Jon Stewart left the anchor desk of the Comedy Central news satire program The Daily Show in August of this year, Stewart has not abandoned the first responders who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Stewart passionately advocated for, and won, renewal of federally-funded health care for 9/11 first responders. Stewart is the 2015 ProgMid Entertainer of the Year.

Young Person of the Year – Keanan Sargent

In order to be eligible for the Young Person of the Year Award, one must be less than 18 years of age on December 31 of the year in which the award is given.

At an August 2015 LGBT pride parade and rally in Madison, Wisconsin, Keanan Sargent, the then-nine-year-old son of Wisconsin State Representative Melissa Sargent, did something incredibly creative when confronted by homophobia. Keanan used balloons to obscure a sign that anti-LGBT protesters were displaying at the pride parade and rally. For his creativity and progressive values, Keanan Sargent is the 2015 ProgMid Young Person of the Year.

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Major League Baseball 2015 Postseason predictions

Since baseball’s postseason begins tomorrow, I’m going to predict the results of the 2015 Major League Baseball (MLB) postseason.

For the Wild Card games, since those are a single game in each league, I’ll simply list the predicted winning team defeating the predicted losing team by the predicted score, and, if I predict the game to go extra innings, I’ll list the total number of innings predicted in parenthesis. For the rest of the postseason, since those are best-of-five (League Division Series) and best-of-seven (League Championship Series and World Series) series, I’ll use a tennis-style format of listing the predicted scores (with any extra-inning games having number of innings predicted in parenthesis), with the predicted series-winning team’s scores listed first for each individual game. Additionally, (H) is used to denote the team with home-field advantage in a wild card game, best-of-five series, or best-of-seven series prior to my prediction for the series result.

National League Wild Card (Pirates (H) vs. Cubs single game) – Pirates defeat Cubs 4-3 (15)

American League Wild Card (Yankees (H) vs. Astros single game) – Yankees defeat Astros 6-2

National League Division Series #1 (predicted Cardinals (H) vs. Pirates best-of-five series) – Cardinals defeat Pirates in 3 games – 8-3, 4-2 (10), 6-4

National League Division Series #2 (Mets (H) vs. Dodgers best-of-five series) – Dodgers defeat Mets in 5 games – 3-5, 11-0, 4-3 (11), 5-7, 8-2

American League Division Series #1 (predicted Royals (H) vs. Yankees best-of-five series) – Royals defeat Yankees in 5 games – 2-6, 3-4, 6-5, 4-3, 7-4

American League Division Series #2 (Blue Jays (H) vs. Rangers best-of-five series) – Blue Jays defeat Rangers in 4 games – 11-4, 16-7, 3-9, 8-7 (13)

National League Championship Series (predicted Cardinals (H) vs. Dodgers best-of-seven series) – Cardinals win in 6 games – 8-2, 6-5, 2-3 (10), 4-9, 10-4, 6-3

American League Championship Series (predicted Royals (H) vs. Blue Jays best-of-seven series) – Blue Jays win in 7 games – 3-5, 7-3, 4-2, 7-0, 2-6, 0-4, 5-4

111th World Series (predicted Blue Jays (H) vs. Cardinals best-of-seven series) – Blue Jays defeat Cardinals in 7 games – 2-11, 6-8 (12), 3-4 (10), 13-0, 2-1 (12), 7-4, 3-2 (21)

I predict that the Toronto Blue Jays will win the World Series this year.

My 2015 Rugby World Cup predictions

With the 2015 Rugby World Cup (RWC), the premier international tournament in the sport of rugby union, scheduled for next month, I’m going to make predictions for every game of the entire tournament. Since this is a two-stage tournament, with a four-pool, 20-team round robin segment called the pool stage, followed by an eight-team elimination segment called the knockout stage, with a somewhat complex point system being used to determine standings for the pool stage, predicting the entire tournament correctly is extremely difficult, if not virtually impossible.

In the RWC, wins in the pool stage are worth four points, draws are worth two points (if two teams are tied after regulation in the pool stage, the game is declared a draw), and losses are worth zero points. Additionally, one bonus point is awarded for scoring four or more tries (in rugby, a try is scored by grounding the ball behind the opposing team’s goal line) in a game, and one bonus point is awarded for losing by seven points or fewer. I’ve listed games according to pool and in the order within the pool that they are scheduled to be played. I’m using the (winning team) (winning score)-(losing score) (losing team) format to display projections, with teams scoring bonus points (BP) being noted in parenthesis. For standings, if at least one game in a particular pool ends in a draw, I’ll use the win-draw-loss format for team records, and, if no games in a particular pool end in a draw, I’ll use the win-loss format for team records. Points are displayed as the following mathematical formula: (win and draw points)+(bonus points)=(total points)

Here are my predictions for the pool stage of the 2015 RWC:

POOL A (Australia, England, Wales, Fiji, Uruguay)

England 21-17 Fiji (Fiji BP)
Wales 32-6 Uruguay (Wales BP)
Australia 25-19 Fiji (Fiji BP)
England 17-17 Wales
Australia 49-9 Uruguay (Australia BP)
Fiji 20-19 Wales (Wales BP)
Australia 34-30 England (Australia and England BP)
Fiji 31-11 Uruguay (Fiji BP)
Australia 25-13 Wales (Australia BP)
England 71-3 Uruguay (England BP)

Australia – 4-0-0 – 16+3=19
England – 3-1-0 – 14+1=15
Fiji – 2-0-2 – 8+3=11
Wales – 1-1-2 – 6+2=8
Uruguay – 0-0-4 – 0+0=0

POOL B (Japan, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, United States)

Japan 22-21 South Africa (South Africa BP)
Samoa 29-22 United States (Samoa and United States BP)
Scotland 11-10 Japan (Japan BP)
South Africa 57-24 Samoa (South Africa BP)
United States 22-20 Scotland (Scotland BP)
Samoa 31-12 Japan (Samoa BP)
South Africa 37-20 Scotland (South Africa BP)
South Africa 30-24 United States (South Africa and United States BP)
Samoa 27-15 Scotland (Samoa BP)
United States 22-21 Japan (Japan BP)

South Africa – 3-1 – 12+4=16
Samoa – 3-1 – 12+3=15
United States – 2-2 – 8+2=10
Japan – 1-3 – 4+2=6
Scotland – 1-3 – 4+1=5

POOL C (Argentina, Georgia Republic, Namibia, New Zealand, Tonga)

Tonga 40-15 Georgia Republic (Tonga BP)
New Zealand 19-18 Argentina (Argentina BP)
New Zealand 102-6 Namibia (New Zealand BP)
Argentina 38-10 Georgia Republic (Argentina BP)
Tonga 35-14 Namibia (Tonga BP)
New Zealand 49-18 Georgia Republic (New Zealand BP)
Tonga 22-9 Argentina
Namibia 24-19 Georgia Republic (Namibia and Georgia Republic BP)
New Zealand 32-20 Tonga (New Zealand BP)
Argentina 49-3 Namibia (Argentina BP)

New Zealand – 4-0 – 16+3=19
Tonga – 3-1 – 12+2=14
Argentina – 2-2 – 8+3=11
Namibia – 1-3 – 4+1=5
Georgia Republic – 0-4 – 0+1=1

POOL D (Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Romania)

Ireland 36-11 Canada (Ireland BP)
France 40-36 Italy (France BP, Italy 2 BPs)
France 39-12 Romania (France BP)
Italy 29-16 Canada
Ireland 41-3 Romania (Ireland BP)
France 41-20 Canada (France BP)
Italy 33-29 Ireland (Italy BP, Ireland 2 BPs)
Canada 44-30 Romania (Canada and Romania BP)
Italy 55-12 Romania (Italy BP)
France 19-19 Ireland

France – 3-1-0 – 14+3=17
Italy – 3-0-1 – 12+4=16
Ireland – 2-1-1 – 10+4=14
Canada – 1-0-3 – 4+1=5
Romania – 0-0-4 – 0+1=1

In rugby union, tries are worth five points in a game, conversions after tries are worth two points in a game, and goals (which can be scored on either penalty kicks or drop kicks) are worth three points in a game. If I’ve predicted a team to win a game and earn a bonus point in the standings, lose a game by more than seven points and earn a bonus point in the standings, or lose a game and earn two bonus points in the standings, then I’m predicting that the team will score at least four tries in the game in question.

Since the top two in each pool advance to the knockout stage of the RWC, that means that I predict that Australia, England, South Africa, Samoa, New Zealand, Argentina, France, and Italy will advance to the knockout stage. In addition, I’m also predicting that, in addition to the eight teams that I’ve predicted to advance to the knockout phase, Fiji, the United States, Tonga, and Ireland will qualify for the 2019 RWC based on their performance in the 2015 RWC.

The quarterfinal pairings for the knockout stage are 1B (first-place from Group B) vs. 2A (second-place from Group A), 1C vs. 2D, 1D vs. 2C, and 1A vs. 2B, with the winners of the first two quarterfinal pairings facing each other in the first semifinal, and the winners of the last two quarterfinal pairings facing each other in the second semifinal. The winners of the semifinal matches advance to the final to play for the Webb Ellis Cup that is presented to the winner of the RWC, whereas the losers of the semi-final matches advance to the bronze final to play for third-place.

Should any knockout stage game end in a tie after regulation, two ten-minute extra time periods would be played, with both periods being played in their entirety regardless of whether or not scoring occurs and/or one team is ahead after the first extra time period. Should extra time end in a tie, a ten-minute sudden death extra time period, in which the first team to score wins, would be played. Should neither team score in the sudden death extra time period, a kicking competition, in which both teams will get five place-kicks at goal, would be played, and whoever kicks the most goals in the kicking competition wins. Should the kicking competition end in a tie after each team has taken five kicks, then a sudden death kicking competition, in which the kicking competition is continued until one team kicks a goal and the other team misses, would be played.

QUARTERFINALS

England 25-22 South Africa (Sudden Death Extra Time)
New Zealand 41-19 Italy
France 45-18 Tonga
Australia 36-15 Samoa

SEMIFINALS

England 26-23 New Zealand
Australia 24-21 France

BRONZE FINAL

New Zealand 33-27 France

FINAL

England 19-19 Australia (England wins in Sudden Death Kicking Competition 12-11)

I’m predicting that England, the primary host country of the tournament (Wales will host several games, although most of the games will be held in England), will win the 2015 Rugby World Cup and claim the Webb Ellis Cup.

I care about women in sports, thanks in no small part to the U.S. women’s soccer team

Last night, the U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT) defeated Japan by a score of 5 to 2 to claim the third Women’s World Cup for the United States and the first one for the U.S. in 16 years.

While an estimate of how many people watched the FOX telecast of the Women’s World Cup final, which was held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, is not yet available, I was among the people who watched the Women’s World Cup final live, although I originally didn’t intend to. The start of the broadcast of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race from Daytona International Speedway in Florida, which was televised by NBC, was scheduled at roughly the same time as the opening kickoff of the Women’s World Cup final, and, as a big NASCAR fan, I originally intended to watch the NASCAR race live and watch the soccer game late at night via DVR. However, because rain delayed the start of the NASCAR race by over three hours, I ended up tuning into the soccer game live a couple of minutes after the start, right before Carli Lloyd scored the first of her three goals for the USWNT, and I ended up being able to watch the rest of the game live because the NASCAR race ended up starting well after the soccer game was over. I was not disappointed one bit by the soccer game, in fact, I’m absolutely excited that our nation’s women’s soccer team are, once again, the world champions of women’s soccer.

I hope that the incredible success of the USWNT in this year’s Women’s World Cup leads to a greater public acceptance, and a greater level of respect, for female athletes in all sports.

Usually, the only instances where female athletes get any significant level media attention in this country is when the Olympic Games are taking place, when the major tennis championships are taking place, when Danica Patrick runs in automobile races, and…you guessed it…when the Women’s World Cup of soccer is taking place. This is one of a number of reasons why women’s sports have not been accepted by as much of the American public as men’s sports have. I’m fortunate to have an expensive enough satellite television package where I can, during the winter months in non-Winter Olympic years, find women’s bobsled, skeleton, and curling on television. When female athletes do get a significant level of media attention in this country, it’s often in a sexist manner. When the sports media covers female athletes, they often talk about subjects like the athletes’ love/sex lives or whether or not they have kids, subjects that have nothing to do with an athlete’s performance and the sports media rarely talks about in regards to male athletes.

I hope the U.S. women’s soccer team’s World Cup victory leads to less misogyny towards, and more acceptance of, female athletes in all sports.

BREAKING NEWS: Martha Laning elected Wisconsin Democratic chairwoman

It’s official…former Wisconsin State Senate candidate Martha Laning is the new chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. According to Shawn Johnson of Wisconsin Public Radio, here are the official results:

  1. Martha Laning – 721 (53.45%)
  2. Jason Rae – 428 (31.73%)
  3. Joe Wineke – 191 (14.16%)
  4. Stephen Smith – 6 (0.44%)
  5. Jeff Smith – 3 (0.22%)

A total of 1,349 valid votes were cast for a chair candidate by delegates and alternates who were elevated to delegate status prior to the vote. Of the five chair candidates, Jeff Smith dropped out of the race right before the DPW Convention and officially nominated Laning, however his name remained on the ballot.

Laning ran on, among other things, identifying the cause of lower turnout in midterm elections, promising a more inclusive Democratic Party of Wisconsin, providing more financial and technical support to county-level Democratic organizations in Wisconsin, encouraging Democratic candidates in Wisconsin to use values-based messaging based at least loosely on George Lakoff-style messaging (more on that here), and helping candidates use foreign-language materials to reach out to Wisconsin voters who don’t speak English as their first language. In short, Laning has promised a stronger, more inclusive Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and I will hold her accountable to her promises.

For a while, it appeared for quite a while that Jason Rae was going to win the chair’s race easily. However, many of Rae’s staunchest supporters attacked Laning, me, and everyone else that opposed Rae in any way, shape, or form, and Rae himself had a royalist mindset throughout his campaign. Another problem that gave Rae nothing but trouble during his campaign was his affiliation with Nation Consulting, a Milwaukee-based political consulting firm. As I wrote about a month ago, Thad Nation, the head of Nation Consulting and Rae’s employer, used a political front group to give tens of thousands of dollars to right-wing political organizations that have strongly opposed Democratic and progressive causes. I’m not sure how many delegates I managed to persuade to vote for a non-Rae candidate with that blog post, if any, but I can say that it certainly didn’t help Rae’s campaign at all.

Additionally, Laning benefited from the implosion of the Jeff Smith campaign for chair. About a week or so before the convention, Jeff Smith sent a letter to delegates, which was received by at least one DPW official that I know of, in which Jeff Smith offered Laning a job if he had been elected. Laning responded by criticizing Jeff Smith for using campaign literature to tout a job offer without her permission. That ended any chance of Jeff Smith being elected chair, so he bowed out right before the convention, and, in a move that helped solidify Laning’s “party unity” credentials, Laning allowed Jeff Smith to officially nominate her for chair.

Initially, I despised Laning and her candidacy. When I first heard that Laning was going to run for DPW Chair, I thought that she’d be a terrible candidate for DPW Chair, as I initially viewed her as a candidate of appeasement towards Republicans. However, when Jeff Smith dropped out of the race, I reviewed Laning’s plans for the DPW, and I quickly realized that Laning would be the best candidate to lead the Democratic Party in the state that could be the most critical to a national Democratic victory next year. I sincerely apologize to Martha Laning and her supporters for my criticisms of her campaign prior to Jeff Smith exiting the race for DPW Chair.

One person I will credit for Laning’s victory (other than Laning herself, who obviously deserves most of the credit), is Lori Compas, a professional photographer and the organizer of the unsuccessful, but valiant, recall attempt against Republican Wisconsin State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald in 2012. While the endorsement of Wisconsin State Senator Kathleen Vinehout was the first noteworthy endorsement that Laning received, Compas endorsed Laning early on in her campaign, and, when Compas endorsed Laning, that was the first time I viewed Laning as a serious candidate for DPW chair. Laning’s coalition of support represented a cross-section of the DPW, ranging from ultra-progressives like former Madison Common Council member Satya Rhodes-Conway to centrists like Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris. For all the talk about Vinehout’s political instincts, nobody in Wisconsin has better political instincts than Lori Compas, and Laning’s victory is an example of that.

Martha Laning is going to have a lot of pressure to lead the Democratic Party of Wisconsin to victory next year, because Wisconsin is probably the one state that is going to decide control of the White House and the U.S. Senate in the 2016 elections.

My response to the Urban Milwaukee article about political consultant Thad Nation’s right-wing ties

Bruce Murphy, a columnist for the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-area webgazine Urban Milwaukee, wrote this piece on my work exposing the ties between Thad Nation, the founder of the Milwaukee consulting firm Nation Consulting and the employer of Wisconsin Democratic chairperson candidate Jason Rae, and several right-wing political organizations that have supported far-right Republicans like Scott Walker.

I have several points to make about Murphy’s piece:

  • While Murphy called me the “proverbial blogger in pajamas working on a basement computer”, I actually wear sweatpants most of the time, and my computer is located in my bedroom. I don’t quite fit the proverb, although I do live at my parents’ house.
  • Westville, Illinois is not “just east of Champaign”. It’s a small village located in the east-central part of the state, located roughly 32.5 miles east by south of Champaign, just west of the Illinois/Indiana border. I take offense to my hometown essentially being called a suburb of Champaign. “Just east of Champaign” is a term I would use to describe places like Urbana or St. Joseph, Illinois, not Westville.
  • Murphy neglected to mention that Rae, in addition to his work at Nation Consulting itself, either is or was an Associate Director of Wired Wisconsin, a Thad Nation-led organization that has openly attacked landline telephone users in Wisconsin. Landline telephone service still exists in Wisconsin because many Wisconsinites are not adequately served by mobile phone networks. Rae was hired by Wired Wisconsin in mid-2010, although it’s not clear to me if Rae is still employed by Wired Wisconsin.
  • There’s absolutely nothing in either Wisconsin state law or DPW by-laws that I know of that would prohibit Rae, or, for that matter, any of his opponents, from working for Nation Consulting and/or other organizations and being DPW Chair simultaneously. Because of that, I would not assume that Rae would resign from Nation Consulting and other groups that he works for if elected chair; in fact, I would assume the opposite unless Rae is elected chair and decides to leave Nation Consulting and any other groups he works for.
  • Although Murphy did not ask for permission, I do automatically allow other websites to use any photos of me that are taken by me and are on this blog, so Murphy did not have to ask for permission in this specific instance. For any photos that I have credited to another individuals and/or do not depict me in any way, I do require permission for use on other websites/blogs. If I’m the creator of the photo in question, I would determine whether or not to give permission. If I’m not the creator of the photo in question, I would direct whoever is seeking permission to the creator of the photo, who would then decide whether or not to give permission.
  • As I like to say, criticizing someone isn’t mudslinging if the criticism is not false.

Additionally, I’ll explain why I like to write about Wisconsin politics: Fourteen members of the Wisconsin State Senate fled to my home state in 2011 in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the union-busting Act 10 from becoming law in Wisconsin. Since then, I’ve developed an interest in writing about Wisconsin politics, which I’ve continued for two reasons: 1) I’ve had all sorts of trouble getting viewership for my blog posts about Illinois politics (although I will continue to write about Illinois politics from time to time), and 2) I have been able to get quite a few viewers for my blog posts about Wisconsin politics, especially in regards to blog posts about the upcoming race for DPW Chair.

Wisconsin Democratic chairperson candidate Jason Rae employed by firm founded by individual that provided money to Koch-funded organizations

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I have made edits to the blog post and title to accurately reflect Nation Consulting founder Thad Nation’s use of a 501(c)(4) organization to give money to right-wing organizations and Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson candidate Jason Rae’s employment by Nation Consulting.

I’ve found information that proves that Thad Nation, Wisconsin Democratic chairperson candidate Jason Rae’s boss at Nation Consulting, has provided money to at least seven right-wing organizations, including at least four that are funded either directly or indirectly by the Koch Brothers. Nation himself was listed in a 2012 IRS 990 filing as the principal officer of Coalition for the New Economy (CftNE), a 501(c)4 organization that opposes government-run broadband internet services in areas where private-sector firms currently provide broadband internet service. CftNE has also given money to at least several right-wing political groups that have actively opposed Democratic and liberal political candidates, have actively supported Republican and conservative political candidates, and/or have advocated for far-right policies that would have a negative impact on America. Here’s the organizations that CftNE has given money to, according to page 17 of the 2012 IRS filing by that organization:

  • $15,000 for “general support” to the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), a right-wing anti-tax organization that has, among other things, effectively supported allowing the U.S. federal government to default on the national debt. NTU has received a total of $32,500 from the Koch Family Foundations from 1998 to 2008, including $5,000 from Charles Koch’s own foundation in 2008.
  • $5,000 for “general support” to the Center for Individual Freedom (CIF), a right-wing organization that spent $1.9 million in television advertising in an attempt to help Republicans win U.S. House races that were seriously contested by both major parties in the 2012 elections. CIF spent a slightly larger amount of money on a similar effort in the 2010 elections.
  • $5,000 for “general support” to Americans for Prosperity (AfP), a far-right political organization founded by the Koch Brothers themselves. In Wisconsin, AfP spent $866,000 in ads designed to help Scott Walker win the 2014 Wisconsin gubernatorial race and approximately $2.9 million in ads in opposition to the 2012 recall effort against Walker that was strongly supported by Wisconsin progressives.
  • $10,000 for “general support” to FreedomWorks, a far-right organization that has, among other things, ran several anti-union campaigns in states like Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and supported far-right extremist Chris McDaniel, who, among other things, blamed rap music for many of our country’s problems, in his unsuccessful 2014 Republican primary challenge to U.S. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi.
  • $5,000 for “general support” to Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), a right-wing organization that was founded by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) and, among other things, opposes taxation and supports privatizing Social Security. IPI has received $35,000 from the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, which is identified by the Center for Media and Democracy’s SourceWatch as one of the four Koch Family Foundations. IPI is the only one of the organizations listed in the CftNE filing that is a 501(c)(3) organization; all of the others are listed as 501(c)(4) organizations.
  • $15,000 for “general support” to the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA), a right-wing organization that has, among other things, attacked the federal government over the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, two of the largest cable television providers in the country.
  • $14,740 for “general support” to the 60 Plus Association (60 Plus), a right-wing organization funded by Koch Brothers-funded organizations like Freedom Parners and American Encore as part of a complex web of Koch Brothers-funded organizations. In Wisconsin, 60 Plus ran this advertisement attacking now-Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin for supporting the Affordable Care Act (ACA), federal legislation that provided millions of Americans with health insurance.

That’s a total of $69,740 that Thad Nation has, through CftNE, provided to right-wing organizations that have supported Republicans like Scott Walker, ran smear campaigns against Democrats like Tammy Baldwin, and have supported far-right policies that would make America a much worse place to live. Thad Nation is also the same person who employs Jason Rae as a senior associate at Nation Consulting, and Rae is running for Chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. If Rae is elected DPW Chair, it would be at least an apparent conflict of interest for someone like Rae to be the head of a state-level Democratic organization if he were to remain employed at Nation Consulting, because the founder of that organization was the head of a 501(c)(4) organization that gave money to groups that support Republicans and their destructive far-right agenda.

Let me finish this post by saying two things about Rae and his supporters. One, Rae’s supporters are some of the most vile people I’ve ever interacted with online. Two, Rae completely lacks the temperament to be in a Democratic Party leadership position of any kind.

My two pence about the British elections

In the 2015 United Kingdom elections for seats in the 650-member British House of Commons, which holds nearly all of the governing power at the national level in the UK, were held yesterday. Here’s my two pence (in the UK, the British pound, the national currency, is divided into 100 pence) about what transpired last night across the pond from my home country of the United States.

First-past-the-post elections are ridiculously unfair

If there was ever a textbook example of how first-past-the-post elections can result in wildly disproportional results, the 2015 British elections would be it. The Conservatives, led by right-wing Prime Minister David Cameron, won an outright majority of seats in Parliament with only about 37% of the national popular vote. Another party that benefited greatly from first-past-the-post is the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), a left-wing Scottish separatist party. Despite winning less than 5% of the national popular vote, the SNP won all but three of Scotland’s 59 seats in Parliament, or 56 seats, 8.6% of all seats, entirely because they only contested the Scottish seats for obvious reasons. Even though the left-leaning Labour, led by Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband going into last night’s election, collapsed in this election for reasons I’ll explain below, Labour won 232 seats, or not quite 36% of the seats in Parliament, with only slightly over 30% of the national popular vote, thus not collapsing quite as much as their popular vote total would suggest. Three parties that were screwed over by the first-past-the-post system were the far-right UK Independence Party (UKIP), the left-wing Green Party of England and Wales (Greens), and the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems), who partnered with the Tories in the previous governing coalition. The UKIP received 12.6% of the national popular vote, the Greens received 3.8% of the total vote, and the Lib Dems received 7.9% of the total vote. Despite that, the UKIP and Greens won a single seat each, and the Lib Dems won eight seats, or 1.2% of all seats. To give you a general idea of how disproportional this is, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), a right-wing unionist party in Northern Ireland that contested 16 of the 18 Northern Irish seats, will have the same number of MPs as the Lib Dems despite the Lib Dems getting over 2.2 million votes more than the DUP, and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), a party which contested 15 Northern Irish seats and is similar to, and in an electoral pact with, the DUP, will have the same number of seats as the UKIP and the Greens combined, despite the fact that the UKIP and the Greens combined received over 16% of the total vote and the UUP received less than 0.5% of the total vote.

This is mostly due to three factors: First, in many constituencies, no candidate received a majority of the vote. When that happens in a British parliamentary constituency, the candidate with a plurality of votes is elected to the Commons. Second, the UKIP and the Greens received a significant minority of the popular vote nationwide, but, because their votes were largely spread out over the constituencies they contested, they only won a single seat each because they only got the most votes in a single constituency. Third, the SNP, the Northern Irish parties, and the left-wing Welsh separatist party Plaid Cymru only contested seats in one of the four British constituent countries and received a significant share of the vote in the constituent country they contested seats in.

There are several ways that Britain can make its electoral system more representative of the British populace. One idea would be to maintain first-past-the-post as a core system of election, but, if the first-past-the-post result is not proportional, a variable amount of leveling seats would be added to Parliament, so that parties end up having a number of seats that are proportional to their national popular vote share. How this system would work is, if the first-past the post result for 650 seats is not proportional, a calculation for a 651-seat House of Commons, with all seats not won by an independent candidate being allocated to each political party in proportion to their national vote share, is conducted. Should the 651-seat Commons calculation yield a result in which one or more parties end up with fewer seats than the number of seats they won under first-past-the-post, similar calculations are done for a 652-seat Commons, a 653-seat Commons, a 654-seat Commons, and so on, until each political party has at least as many seats as they won by first-past-the-post, and each political party has a number of seats that is proportional to their national vote share. Another idea would be to implement instant-runoff voting, in which voters are allowed to give multiple preferences for who they want to represent them in the Commons, but maintain constituencies electing a single member to Parliament. Yet another idea would be to implement single non-transferable vote, where voters would have only a single vote as they currently do, but Members of Parliament (MPs) would be elected from multi-member constituencies, with the top n candidates, in which n is the number of seats to be filled in each constituency, winning seats in the Commons. Other ideas involving multi-member constituencies include multi-member instant-runoff voting (basically a combination of instant-runoff voting and multi-member constituencies), single-transferable vote (a preferential system that is used in some multi-member constituency systems around the world), and the party-list system (where voters are given a single vote in a multi-member constituency, and seats are allocated to political parties in proportion to the number of votes each party receives in a constituency).

One thing I do like about Britain’s parliamentary elections is that each constituency reports all of its votes at once, and the candidates in each constituency are standing on the same stage as the results are announced. This is vastly different than how American and Canadian election results are announced, in which each polling place usually reports results individually, with media outlets making projections in election night coverage based on the polling place results and final results being officially reported weeks, if not months, after the date of the election, with candidates not being present for the announcement of official results.

Labour’s anti-Scotland rhetoric cost them any chance of forming a government

During the campaign, Labour, which will, once again, be the main opposition party in the Commons, spent most of their campaign railing against Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP, and Scotland as a whole. This cost Labour a large number of constituencies in Scotland that, prior to yesterday’s elections, were longtime Labour strongholds, and probably helped to give the Greens gain a sizable share of the popular vote that may have helped the Tories win some seats in England. Had Labour ran on increased devolution to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, they might have held on to a lot of their seats in Scotland and may have prevented the Tories from getting a majority by themselves. Instead, the Tories have an outright majority in the Commons, and Nicola Sturegon is effectively the voice of the Scottish people in Parliament.

For Labour to go back to Tony Blair-type centrist leadership would likely put Labour in an even worse position politically than they currently are for three reasons: One, they’d gain virtually nothing in Scotland, unless the SNP alienates some voters who supported them last night. Two, they’d give the Greens a even larger base of support among current left-wing Labour supporters who would be alienated by another Blair-type leader at the helm of Labour. Three, they wouldn’t gain enough from the Tories, who benefit heavily due to right-wing media bias from both the public media and the corporate media in the UK, the SNP, and possibly other parties to make up for any losses to the Greens and possibly other parties.

For Labour to at least have a chance at getting back in power, they would need to win back their former Scottish strongholds that went SNP last night by supporting increased devolution to Scotland, and they would need to win over voters they lost to the Greens by adopting and supporting a progressive, isolationist platform.

Joe Wineke proposes brilliant plan to rebuild the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

With Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) Chairman Mike Tate leaving office later this year, there’s two candidates already running for the office of DPW chairperson.

One of them is Jason Rae, a Democratic National Committee (DNC) member from Milwaukee. There are several red flags that pop up in my head when I think about Rae’s candidacy. First off, the fact that he’s a DNC member means that he’s associated with a national party that lost complete control of Congress over the past four years under the failed leadership of Tim Kaine and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Secondly, Rae’s Wikipedia page states that Rae’s lifelong goal is to be President of the United States (this is sourced to a 2004 Boston Globe article that is behind a paywall), which tells me that Rae is more concerned about gaining more political power for himself than actually building the Democratic Party in Wisconsin, a critical swing state in modern American politics. Thirdly, Rae, unusually for a candidate for a state party office, has a full-fledged campaign website, and, while I like the use of online resources to campaign for party offices, Rae’s campaign platform is full of the typical Mike Tate-style talking points that Wisconsin progressives have had to put up with for the past six years, such few specifics about how he’d run the DPW and a ton of empty rhetoric about reenergizing the party and winning over rural and suburban voters, two things that the DPW has been terrible at under Tate’s failed leadership. Last, but certainly not least, the front page of Rae’s campaign website is a splash page that includes a link to donate money to his campaign for DPW chair, which tells me that Rae is trying to buy the DPW chair, and I fear that, if Rae is elected, he would run the party in a corrupt manner.

The other candidate in the race so far is Joe Wineke of Verona, who served two largely successful terms as DPW chair from 2005 to 2009 and is running for a third non-consecutive term. Not only does Wineke have an actual winning track record, he also has a detailed plan to rebuild the Democratic Party of Wisconsin from the bottom up, which is how a political party should be run:

First…let’s quit playing defense all the time.

The public agrees with us on the issues, but we are constantly letting Republicans define the message, and by definition, defining us.  We do that by playing offense.

Second…we do that through messaging.

Message matters.  We need to create an “Opportunity Agenda” based on putting people first.  Our “Opportunity Agenda” will be based on economic, educational, and equal opportunity for all.  In musical terms, we must create a symphonic message based on these themes.  Variations to our symphonic theme will be based on:

  • Economic Security: People know they are falling behind.  We, as Democrats, have not given enough people the belief that we will help them succeed.  Supporting the working class is paramount to their security.  Better wages, reducing student loan debt, support for the right to collectively bargain, making housing more affordable and attainable need to be key to that effort.
  • Educational Opportunity: Democrats need to stand behind public schools.  Let the Republicans side with the rich and powerful on this issue.  We need to remind people that public dollars should go to public schools…period.  Rural schools in Wisconsin have reached a crisis point.  If we quit playing on the edges and show the public whose side we are on, we can win this issue.  We are currently losing it.  I believe that the Democratic Party renaissance will begin in rural Wisconsin and the issue is education.
  • Equal Opportunity: Political parties must stand powerfully behind core issues.  Equal opportunity for all, whether one is straight, gay, black, white, Native American, or anything else must be defined by Democrats.  Republicans have been allowed to pander to prejudice for too long.  Let it define them and define us.

If handled properly, the core issues of the “Opportunity Agenda” will rise to a message crescendo that will help lead us to victory in 2016 and beyond.  Of course, there will be other issues that will matter in our fight to reclaim Wisconsin, but it is far better to stick to a handful of powerful issues than to get bogged down in a hundred battles at once.

Third…we need to rebuild our Party from the bottom up.

Neither a “top down” Party, nor a “top down” message, resonates with average people.  We need to create a better message, more effectively using modern communication mediums on social media, like Facebook and Twitter.  I propose the creation of a Social Media Advisory Council within the Party to create a daily message based on our “Opportunity Agenda”.

Fourth…there is an old saying that states, “You can’t beat somebody, with nobody”.

When I was Chair, we fielded a variety of candidates in every legislative and local race we could, not just competing in the “so called” competitive seats.  Not to mention, we were pretty darn successful in doing it, filling the vast majority of seats for the Assembly and Senate.  In 2014, we left 31 of 60 Assembly Republicans off with “free rides”.  If I am elected Chair, those days are over.  We won’t win a lot of those seats, but we might just steal a few.  In addition, it is a smart way to build a local party base that will likely increase our percentages in GOP counties enough to get a few more percentage points at the top of the ticket.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (MJS), a bastion of media bias in Wisconsin, published this piece about Wineke and Rae entering the race for DPW chair which featured Rae’s announcement prominently and only made a passing mention of Wineke’s announcement. Given that MJS has long been in the tank for Scott Walker and other Wisconsin Republicans, that’s a clear indication that they think that Rae will continue Tate’s legacy of being an asset for the Republicans.

While I don’t live in Wisconsin, it is indisputable that Wisconsin is one of the more important states to the Democratic Party, mainly due to Wisconsin being a swing state in recent years, which is why I’m writing about the DPW chair race.

While I do have a few qualms about Wineke, such as the fact that he was once a corporate lobbyist for AT&T, Wineke is, in my opinion, the best candidate for DPW chair among those currently in the race because of his winning track record and solid plan to build. Because there is the possibility that one or more other candidates could enter the race, I’m not going to publicly endorse a candidate for DPW chair yet.

 

New blog launching January 1, 2015

I’m Aaron Camp, and, coming January 1, 2015, The Progressive Midwesterner will be my new home for all of my political blogging activities, with the exception of a few articles that I’ll write for DailyKos and Prairie State Blue.

The four blogs that I currently use, Blue Downstate, The Prairie Badger, The Progressive Idealist, and The Apollo Diary, will no longer be updated after December 31, 2014, although I’ll keep them online for archival purposes only. If you have one or more of these blogs on your blogroll, please update your blogrolls to include The Progressive Midwesterner, although please do not remove any of my other four blogs from your blogroll until January 1, 2015.

Starting next year, I’ll write primarily about Illinois, Wisconsin, and national politics on The Progressive Midwesterner, and I’ll also write about other political subjects, as well non-political subjects, from time to time.