Tag: privatization

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 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.

Wisconsin public education takeover public hearing turns into total farce, Republicans in full damage control mode

The Wisconsin State Assembly education committee, chaired by Republican State Representative Jeremy Theisfeldt of Fond du Lac, held a public hearing today on 2015 Wisconsin Assembly Bill 1 (AB1), a proposed “school accountability” bill that isn’t actually a school accountability bill, but rather a bill to shame, takeover, and privatize public schools in Wisconsin.

The original bill that was brought to the public hearing was so atrocious, the public hearing turned into a total farce and the Republicans that control the committee have gone into full damage control mode. I’ll let the tweets from The Progressive magazine columnist and Madison Common Council candidate Rebecca Kemble and the author of the progressive blog Wisconsin Soapbox, who have been livetweeting today’s public hearing, speak for themselves:

…and that was just the first hour or so of the 11 1/2 hour public hearing.

To summarize all of that, Jeremy Theisfeldt and his fellow Republicans brought the bill to the public hearing and was quickly criticized by Democrats over horrible provisions in the bill and the bill not having a fiscal note despite the bill having a significant fiscal impact on local school districts in Wisconsin. That forced the Theisfeldt to remove a provision from the bill that would have authorized a state panel that would have had the power to take over public schools in Wisconsin and give them to millionaire charter school operators, as well as some of the other more atrocious provisions of the bill, without scheduling a second public hearing for the modified bill. That forced Theisfeldt to go into total damage control mode as he was attacked by both Republican (Dean Knudson of Hudson) and Democratic (Sondy Pope of Verona and Christine Sinicki of Milwaukee) state representatives, with Sinicki pointing out that the modified bill would still allow for public schools in Wisconsin to be taken over by the state and given to millionaire charter school operators. Theisfeldt comes across as a guy who is way over his head and is making a total fool of himself.

In my nearly four years as a political blogger, this public hearing on Wisconsin AB1 has been the single biggest farce I’ve read about.

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.

Many conservatives don’t like the Republican takeover of public education in Wisconsin one bit

I may be an Illinoisan, but I proudly stand with Wisconsinites who support public education! (Feel free to use this picture as you please with no photo credit necessary)
I may be an Illinoisan, but I proudly stand with Wisconsinites who support public education! (Feel free to use this picture as you please with no photo credit necessary)

You might be surprised to find that opposition to 2015 Wisconsin Assembly Bill 1 (AB1), or what I like to call the “Wisconsin school shaming and partisan takeover bill” because, if enacted, it would result in, among other things, poorly-performing Wisconsin K-12 schools being taken over by a board controlled by political appointees and possibly handed over to millionaire charter school operators, is not solely from teachers’ unions, Democratic and progressive elected officials, and various progressive groups, although all of these are strongly opposed to the legislation for a large number of reasons.

As Heather DuBois Bourenane, the author of the Wisconsin progressive blog Monologues of Dissent, wrote, the opposition to Wisconsin AB1 is broad, bipartisan, and across the ideological spectrum.

Former Republican State Senator Dale Schultz of Richland Center, a center-right Republican, publicly called the bill “a disaster” and warned that the bill could very well result in “eliminating completely the authority of local school boards and making them subject to a political board”.

Even many conservatives are opposed to the proposed Republican takeover of Wisconsin public schools.

Stop Common Core Wisconsin, a right-leaning political organization that is opposed to the implementation of Common Core State Standards in Wisconsin, publicly called the school grading system that would be implemented if the bill were to be enacted “a sham” and criticized the legislation for taking away local control from K-12 school districts in Wisconsin. Additionally, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), a far-right legal organization, criticized the legislation for putting political appointees in charge of private schools. While I usually disagree with conservatives and their political organizations, these two groups are making valid points in this particular case: This bill would take away local control from public school districts in Wisconsin, and, although WILL will disagree with my firm belief that private schools shouldn’t be able to receive taxpayer money at all (whether it be in the form of school vouchers or otherwise), I strongly believe that private schools shouldn’t be under the control of a governmental body of any kind.

As DuBois Bourenane pointed out in her blog post, the only groups not lobbying against the single worst anti-public education legislation in American history “are those with direct links to the organizations lobbying for “reform” (read: privatization) of public schools”. Sadly, school privatization interests wield a ton of influence in the Republican Party of Wisconsin, and they have large majorities in both chambers of the Wisconsin State Legislature.

I strongly encourage Wisconsin state legislators to vote NO on AB1, as the bill is not a school accountability bill, but a school shaming, takeover, and privatization bill that would destroy public education in Wisconsin. Additionally, I strongly fear that Bruce Rauner, who will be sworn into office as Governor of Illinois tomorrow, will propose legislation similar to Wisconsin AB1 here in Illinois.

Wisconsin State Senate Democratic leader Jennifer Shilling appoints pro-school voucher Democrat to state legislative finance committee

It’s been only a couple of weeks since Jennifer Shilling, a Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Senate from La Crosse, was unanimously selected by the Democratic state senate caucus to be the new minority leader of the state senate, yet she’s already pissing off Wisconsin progressives and rural voters in a big way.

Shilling assigned 2 state senators to the Wisconsin State Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (which consists of 16 total members; since Republicans control both chambers of the legislature, 12 are Republicans (six from each chamber) and 4 are Democrats (two from each chamber)). One of Shilling’s picks for the joint finance committee is Jon Erpenbach of Middleton, who has built up a progressive record on most issues as a longtime member of the state senate. However, Shilling’s other pick is Lena Taylor of Milwaukee, who, despite representing a district that has a large black population and votes overwhelmingly for Democrats, is a conservative Democrat who has supported, among other things, the gun lobby’s agenda, giving corrupt Milwaukee County Executive Chris “Boss” Abele more political power, and school vouchers.

For Jennifer Shilling to assign a staunch supporter of privatizing public education like Lena Taylor (the only time she voted against the charter school/school voucher lobby that I know of was when a statewide school voucher program was tied into the Wisconsin state budget) to a committee that is responsible for reviewing legislation on all bills that affect state revenue and expenditures (including education funding, proves that Shilling doesn’t give a rip about public education in Wisconsin. The Republicans that control Wisconsin’s state government are planning on enacting more legislation to privatize and destroy Wisconsin’s public school system, so for Shilling to pick Taylor for a committee that oversees, among other things, state education funding in Wisconsin is downright asinine.

Most of Shilling’s own constituents (Shilling represents a district that includes the La Crosse metro area and mostly rural areas to the south of La Crosse) are strongly opposed to taxpayer money being diverted from public schools to fund private schools, but Taylor wants to divert money from public schools all across Wisconsin into school voucher programs, which could force the closure of many rural school districts in Wisconsin, possibly including some school districts in Shilling’s own state senate district. To put this another way, Shilling is effectively aiding and abetting the Republicans’ push to destroy public education in Wisconsin.

Jennifer Shilling, the new Wisconsin State Senate Minority Leader, has done more to piss off progressives and rural voters in a little over two weeks than the previous Wisconsin State Senate Minority Leader, Chris Larson, did to piss off progressives and rural voters in nearly two years. The current Democratic leadership in Wisconsin has driven the Democratic Party of Wisconsin into political irrelevancy by giving political cover to the Republicans at every opportunity, and the new Democratic leaders in Wisconsin are even worse in this regard by actively helping Republicans implement their far-right agenda. It’s time for a large-scale push by Wisconsin progressives to divide and conquer the Democratic Party of Wisconsin by railing against the out-of-touch Democratic leadership and getting actual progressives elected to public offices and state and local party positions in Wisconsin.

Indiana Toll Road, privatized by Republicans, files for bankruptcy

The latest example of how privatization schemes have failed the American people comes from Indiana. Specifically, the Indiana Toll Road, which was privatized by Republicans several years ago, has officially filed for bankruptcy:

The company that operates the Indiana Toll Road filed for bankruptcy on Sunday, though Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said in a statement Monday drivers of the route through northern Indiana can expect “business as usual.”

Debt-ridden ITR Commission Co., a spawn of the Spanish-Australian company Cintra-Macquarie, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Chicago in a prepackaged plan to restructure its approximate $6 billion debt.

The company in 2006 paid $3.8 billion for a 75-year lease of the road that runs between the Illinois and Ohio state lines, but the toll revenue failed to meet company expectations.

This is the main reason why I’m opposed to toll roads, especially ones that are leased to a private entity by the state in which they’re located. If the toll road doesn’t get enough traffic, then the company that owns the lease can’t pay the bills, and motorists and taxpayers get the shaft. We need to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, not let it go bankrupt.

South Dakota Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rick Weiland blasts Republican challenger for selling EB-5 cards to the highest bidder

Rick Weiland, the Democratic candidate in the U.S. Senate race in South Dakota, is running this ad blasting Republican candidate Mike Rounds, a former governor of South Dakota, for a scandal in which the Rounds administration in South Dakota sold EB-5 visas, which are given to foreigners who invest money in the United States, to the highest bidder:

Unlike Mike Rounds, Rick Weiland believes that government shouldn’t be for sale to the highest bidder. That’s why Weiland is visiting every town in South Dakota at least twice, meeting with South Dakotans, and listening to their concerns. Weiland will fight to end the culture of corruption in this country’s political system by getting big money out of politics.

While Harry Reid and the rest of the Democratic establishment doesn’t understand Weiland’s populist appeal to South Dakotans, I believe that he can win on November 4. If he wins, he’ll be a wonderful representative of the people of South Dakota.