Tag: marijuana

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.

My thoughts about the first Democratic presidential debate

Having watched last night’s Democratic presidential debate, I’ll begin by saying that I believe that Bernie Sanders won the debate, with Martin O’Malley having the second-best performance, followed by Hillary Clinton, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee.

My thoughts about Bernie Sanders’s performance

The Good – He upstaged Hillary Clinton on an issue directly affecting HRC (the private email server “scandal” that has been concocted by the GOP). He also defended himself very well, especially on gun safety and on the Veterans’ Affairs health system scandal.

The Bad – He mentioned his campaign website twice during the debate.

My thoughts about Martin O’Malley’s performance

The Good – He came across as the strongest candidate on gun safety, invoking the story of a family who lost one of their own in the Aurora, Colorado theater massacre.

The Bad – He tried to defend his zero-tolerance policing policy from his tenure as Mayor of Baltimore, Maryland, which was one of several factors that have led to distrust between the police and the public in Baltimore.

My thoughts about Hillary Clinton’s performance

The Good – She came across as very professional during the debate without coming across as scripted or boring. She also cracked a joke at a very inappropriate remark from lead moderator Anderson Cooper about her bathroom usage.

The Bad – She twice invoked the fact that she’s a woman during the debate. She also gave weak answers on a number of issues, most notably marijuana legalization and financial regulation.

My thoughts about Jim Webb’s performance

The Good – He used his wife’s story on immigration very well.

The Bad – He used the NRA’s talking points on guns.

My thoughts about Lincoln Chafee’s performance

The Good – Nothing about his debate performance was especially good.

The Bad – He blamed his father’s death on his vote for the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in the late 1990’s. Furthermore, he made an odd remark comparing himself to a block of granite at one point in the debate.

The big winners (other than the five Democratic presidential candidates debating)

The Democratic Party – All in all, the debate was a great showing that Democrats can have an intelligent, civil discussion about actual political issues between candidates representing various factions of the party.

Civic engagement – CNN’s telecast of the debate received the most viewers of any Democratic presidential primary/caucus debate in television history.

The internet – For the first time since the 1960 presidential general election debates, there appears to be a major disconnect between two media platforms on debate performance. In 1960, it was between radio (whose listeners viewed Richard Nixon as the debate winner) and television (whose viewers viewed John F. Kennedy as the debate winner). This time, it’s between television (which has been trying to spin a Hillary Clinton debate victory) and the internet (most people on social media view Bernie Sanders as the debate victor). I’d expect the newer platform (in this case, the internet) to come out on top.

The big losers (other than the five Democratic presidential candidates debating)

Anderson Cooper – Cooper, CNN’s lead moderator for the debate, tried to use his position to smear Bernie Sanders on a number of GOP talking points against him and failed, and he also made a very inappropriate remark about Hillary Clinton’s bathroom usage after one of the commercial breaks.

The mainstream media – See my remarks about the internet being a big winner above.

Mike Huckabee – Huckabee, one of many Republican presidential candidates, took to Twitter during the debate and made downright racist remarks about Korean people while attacking Bernie Sanders.

Joe Biden – With Hillary Clinton giving a strong enough debate performance to calm down those in the establishment who were fretting about Hillary, and Bernie Sanders solidifying the progressive base of the party, there’s not really a path to victory for Biden if he were to enter the race for the Democratic nomination.

Debate fairness – CNN shut out Lawrence Lessig from participating in the debate despite the fact that Lessig is a Democratic candidate for president.

Unlike what Mike Bloomberg and the media want you to think, Bernie Sanders is not a gun nut

Pro-gun control groups backed by former Republican-turned-independent New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the corporate media are not going after any of the many Republican gun nuts who are running for president. Instead, they’re going after Bernie Sanders, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, and trying to paint him as a frothing-at-the-mouth gun nut, which is not true at all.

In reality, Bernie Sanders supports increasing background checks on gun sales, closing the gun show loophole, banning assault weapons, and banning high capacity magazines. In fact, in recent years, Bernie has received very high ratings from gun control groups, such as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and very low ratings from gun rights groups, such as the NRA and the Gun Owners of America. Bernie believes in protecting the rights of responsible, law-abiding citizens exercising their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms, while, at the same time, doing everything possible to prevent guns from getting into the hands of people who want to carry out mass murders. Additionally, Bernie supports increasing access to mental health care in this country, which would prevent thousands of murders every year.

Also, many, but not all, groups supporting gun control measures are financially supported by Mike Bloomberg, whose views on many other issues are not in line with progressives at all. For example, Bloomberg openly made offensive remarks comparing teachers to gun nuts and supported efforts to privatize public education in New York City, most notably supporting the creation of 139 charter schools in New York City, when he was mayor. Additionally, Bloomberg has staunchly opposed efforts to decriminalize and legalize marijuana despite having smoked marijuana himself when he was younger. Bloomberg also supported George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election, who, in his second term as president, badly botched (for lack of a better term) the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina and saw the collapse of the American economy on his watch.

While Hillary Clinton, Bernie’s main rival for the Democratic nomination, is emphasizing her support for gun control measures on the campaign trail, Hillary had no problem attacking supporters of gun control measures for speaking their mind the last time she ran for president. During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) remarked that right-wing extremists “cling to guns or religion” when they “get bitter”, which is the truth about the vast majority of right-wing extremists in this country. Hillary responded to Obama’s remarks by calling Obama an “elitist”, which the right-wingers swiped from her and used as one of their favorite anti-Obama talking points, and talking about her dad teaching her how to shoot a firearm when she was a child. Guess who won the Democratic nomination and went on to get elected president that year…

As much as Mike Bloomberg and the corporate media want you to think otherwise, Bernie Sanders is no gun nut.

Wisconsin’s Melissa Sargent makes the case for legalizing recreational marijuana

Once again, Melissa Sargent, a Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Assembly from Madison, has proposed legalizing recreational marijuana in Wisconsin.

While Sargent’s bill has zero chance of being enacted by the Republicans who control Wisconsin’s state government, I strongly support all efforts to legalize marijuana for recreational use in this country. Sargent made a great case for legalizing marijuana in her home state of Wisconsin in this editorial, which was published by the Madison, Wisconsin-based alternative newspaper The Cap Times:

Adults choosing to use marijuana in the safety of their own home is a matter of personal liberty and freedom. As a matter of philosophy, the government must have a compelling reason to make something illegal in our society. If an individual action does not harm yourself, your neighbors, or your community, it is no business of the government. Likewise, Wisconsinites with ailments that could be alleviated through marijuana should have the freedom to use inexpensive and effective medicine that works for them.

As Wisconsin deals with devastating financial shortfalls created by Gov. Walker, we must look at all available options for generating revenue. While Republicans demonize the use of marijuana, what is truly criminal is the money Wisconsin is losing by not legalizing it.

As of today, each stop a police officer makes for simple marijuana possession costs taxpayers, on average, $425. Over 650,000 Americans were arrested in 2012 for marijuana possession. That’s one possession arrest every 48 seconds, and more arrests than for all violent crimes combined.

With limited resources, and an overextended prison system, it is not sustainable to continue imprisoning people for these offenses.

What Sargent is talking about are not just Wisconsin problems by any stretch of the imagination. They’re serious problems in every state in this country where marijuana is illegal. Legalizing marijuana for recreational use would bring states more tax revenue, save taxpayers money, reduce the number of people who are incarcerated, and provide more freedom to people. As Sargent herself stated in her editorial, “…the most dangerous thing about marijuana in our society is the fact that it remains illegal.”

ENDORSEMENT: Nicholas J. Stamates (write-in) for 20th Senate District of Wisconsin

While there’s only one candidate, far-right Republican Duey Stroebel, who has his name on the ballot in the upcoming special election in the 20th Senate District of Wisconsin, which includes the northern part of the Milwaukee suburbs and rural areas east of Fond du Lac, there is a Democrat who is running a write-in campaign against Stroebel: Nicholas J. Stamates.

Stamates isn’t interested in campaign donations, he’s interested in votes. Stamates supports legalizing recreational marijuana and taxing marijuana sales in order to help fill a large state budget deficit that Wisconsin faces. Additionally, Stamates opposes Common Core State Standards, which is a set of corporate, neoliberal education standards that are supported by Republicans like Jeb Bush and billionaires like Bill Gates, as well involve large amounts of standardized testing that make it more difficult for teachers and administrators to be creative with teaching curriculum and inspire their students to learn.

You can view Stamates’s website and campaign platform online. If a write-in line is available on the 20th Senate District of Wisconsin special election ballot, I encourage residents of the 20th Senate District to write-in Nicholas J. Stamates.

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.