Tag: address

Right-wing extremists are the biggest threat to America

It’s become inherently clear to me that right-wing extremists are the biggest threat to America today.

Last night, President Barack Obama gave a rare speech from the Oval Office about ISIS, national security, gun control, and the recent San Bernardino shooting. In his speech, Obama said that letting the right define America’s fight against ISIS and other Islamic fundamentalist terror groups as a fight between America and Islam is exactly what ISIS wants. He’s right.

Republicans running for president, such as Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, as well as Republican elected officials and right-wing blowhards, support launching a full-scale war against ISIS, spying on American Muslims, and other extreme measures. The truth of the matter is that those type of measures would do little more than play into the ISIS narrative that America is at war with Islam, thus emboldening ISIS and leading to U.S. involvement in yet another long, drawn-out war in the Middle East. Furthermore, Republican and NRA opposition to efforts to ban those on U.S. no-fly lists encourages terrorists to buy guns in order to carry out terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

It’s not Islamic fundamentalists that pose the biggest threat to America today. It’s our own country’s right-wing extremists, who want to aid and abet ISIS and other similar terror groups.

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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.

Scott Walker contradicts himself on education in State of the State of Wisconsin Address

In his State of the State address, Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker railed against Common Core State Standards (CCSS), claiming that local school boards should have the authority to set academic standards for K-12 schools in Wisconsin, which they currently do.

However, as Rebecca Kemble, a columnist for The Progressive magazine and a candidate for the District 18 seat on the Madison (WI) Common Council, noted, Walker’s reasoning behind his opposition to Common Core State Standards in his State of the State address directly conflicts with his support for 2015 Wisconsin Assembly Bill 1 (AB1), an atrocious piece of proposed legislation that, among other things, would allow a newly-created state panel stacked with anti-public education bureaucrats and politicians to take poorly-performing schools away from the local school districts and give them to millionaire charter school operators.

While I’m opposed to Common Core State Standards like Walker is, my opposition to CCSS is for different reasons: I believe that CCSS overemphasizes career preparation in K-12 education, something that should be the responsibility of colleges, universities, and vocational schools, and is tied to a system of high-stakes teacher evaluations based on standardized testing, which does nothing more than shame teachers. I believe that states or, in states where local school districts determine curriculum and standards, local school districts should set their own K-12 academic standards that hold schools, administrators, and teachers accountable based on the curriculum that is taught in the classroom, is developmentally appropriate for each grade level, and prepare students for higher education.

Kemble also noted that, while he was talking about AB1, Walker said that he thinks that there’s no need for bureaucrats and politicians to make decisions on education. That also directly conflicts with Walker’s support AB1, since AB1 would put many important decisions about K-12 education in Wisconsin into the hands of a 13-member state panel of…you guessed it…bureaucrats and politicians.

Scott Walker’s remarks about education in his State of the State address and his support for the atrocious AB1 legislation that would destroy public education in Wisconsin proves that he is two-faced when it comes to K-12 education in Wisconsin.

President Obama just got this country into another Vietnam

In an official address to the nation, President Barack Obama announced that U.S. forces will carry out air strikes against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants in Syria.

While President Obama promised that there will be no ground troops in Iraq or Syria, I seriously doubt that the president would hold to that promise for long. In fact, I think that the president just got this country into yet another Vietnam.

While I support humanitarian aid to those fleeing ISIS’s wrath and counterterrorism efforts to prevent ISIS from pulling off a terrorist attack on U.S. soil (so as long as said counterterrorism efforts don’t violate the U.S. Constitution), any kind of war with ISIS, whether it be an air war, a ground war, or a combination of both, is, more than likely, going to bog this country down in another long, drawn-out war, similar to the Vietnam War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I firmly believe that ISIS is an extremely dangerous organization that intends, through violence, to destroy everything they consider a enemy, including the United States of America, in fact, they are the most extreme Islamic fundamentalist organization that I’ve ever seen in my life. However, the U.S. becoming involved in a war with ISIS would, more than likely, be a big mistake.