If It Walks Like a Duck

lame_duck.pngThe origin of the phrase ‘lame duck’ had nothing to do with politics.  It started out (1761, UK) as London Stock Exchange slang for someone defaulting on his debts, then was reapplied (1863, US) to mean an ineffectual politician in any office.  In this country, the first public usage with respect to a sitting President seems to date back to May of 1926, when the Wisconsin newspaper, the Appleton Post-Crescent ran a piece titled, ‘Making a lame duck of Calvin Coolidge’  (CBS News November 29, 2013).

Currently, the phrase is most commonly used to refer to a President who is either not running or has been defeated for another term; and the period usually refers to the time between the November elections and the swearing-in ceremony in January (10 weeks).  Arguably, the GOP has been trying to make President Obama a lame duck president since before he was inaugurated for his first term.  And now they are deceptively trying to convince the public that because the President is in his last year, he is, in fact, simply a lame duck and should not bother doing anything.  This boils down to saying that, even though the President was elected to serve a four year term, it is really only three years because the last 25% should not matter.  Using an extension of this logic, does the person who works an eight hour day have a legitimate claim that for the last 25% of their day, they should not be doing anything?

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Whither the WI Supreme Court?

The Wisconsin Supreme Court: Another Chapter

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The Wisconsin Supreme Court — known for decades as a paragon of honesty, ethics, and integrity for decades — has run into less glorious distinction in the last ten years.  The following statements contrast the judgement of the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court with that of the Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court:

“Judges are not politicians,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., wrote in the majority opinion in a 5-4 decision [Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar], “even when they come to the bench by way of the ballot.” He went on, “Simply put, Florida and most other States have concluded that the public may lack confidence in a judge’s ability to administer justice without fear or favor if he comes to office by asking for favors.” 

Justice Roberts’s opinion makes the connection between campaign contributions and the appearance of corruption or favoritism clear. But in Wisconsin, new recusal rules adopted in 2010 make recusal a matter of personal discretion. Each judge or justice decides for him or herself whether in a given case recusal is warranted. In defending the new recusal rules, Justice Roggensack took a position quite different from the one expressed by Chief Justice Roberts.

Patience Drake Roggensack, now the Chief Justice [of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin], wrote for the conservative majority in a 4-3 vote in favor of the rule, “We elect judges in Wisconsin; therefore, judicial recusal rules have the potential to impact the effectiveness of citizens’ votes cast for judges. Stated otherwise, when a judge is disqualified from participation, the votes of all who voted to elect that judge are cancelled for all issues presented by that case."

Justice Roggensack’s opinion reveals that she and her fellow conservative justices consider themselves to be representatives of the people who voted for them. Not impartial judges of the facts and the law, but partisans beholden to their supporters, including especially those who funded their campaigns!

Interestingly, when considering changes to the rules, the court rejected ones proposed by the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan group, and instead adopted the extremely weak rules submitted by the Wisconsin Realtors’ Association and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, two right-wing groups who heavily supported the elections of the right-wing justices as well as the election of Governor Walker.

The recusal rule changes are only a fraction of what is troubling our Supreme Court, but they represent the direction the court has taken.  Money, Eric O’Keefe, Wisconsin Club for Growth, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Citizens for a Strong America, among other outgrowths of the same movement have aggressively taken control of all branches of our state government.  There may be several avenues of recourse.  The people are our best hope.  Educate, talk to other people, vote, repeat.

Continue on to the next section where the basic responsibilities and procedures for the court are briefly explained.

 

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The Face of Fascism

Earlier in his campaign for the GOP nomination, Donald J. Trump stated with intensity that the United States must prohibit the entry of any Muslim to our nation.  This remark elicited a huge response, and some of the comments included references to the words "fascism/fascist."  Former Democratic Presidential Candidate Martin O’Malley stated that Donald Trump is a "fascist demagogue." 

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Using a clever play on words and a eerily unsettling image, the Philadelphia Daily News carried this picture on its front page.

On Tuesday, 12/8, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow devoted her introductory segment to a brief overview of fascism.  To be clear, many Americans are not really familiar with the concept.  Many conflate it with socialism or communism, which could not be further from the truth:  on the spectrum of political ideology fascism is found on the far right, socialism and communism on the left.   And there has been a tendency to speak about fascism in low whispers.  This article is intended to shed some light on the nature of fascism.

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Where and When to Vote Early

To help North Shore communities take advantage of early voting, here's a list of municipal offices, phone numbers, and business hours. 

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Obama's Clean Power Plan: Myths Busted

Late last summer, in conjunction with the release of his Clean Power Plan, President Obama proclaimed in a speech to an audience in Arkansas:

We have a moral obligation to leave our children a planet that’s not polluted or damaged. By taking action now to combat climate change, including developing homegrown clean energy and cutting energy waste, we can help protect our kids’ health, cut carbon pollution, and begin to slow the effects of climate change so we leave a cleaner, safer environment for future generations.

We are already feeling the dangerous and costly effects of a changing climate across the nation. In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital. And extreme weather events – from more severe droughts and wildfires in the west to more powerful hurricanes and record heat waves – are affecting communities across the country. Now is the time to act. We have already made progress by moving to cleaner sources of energy and improving the energy efficiency of our cars, trucks, and buildings.

Released on Monday, August 3, 2015, the Plan addresses cutting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by 2030.  The Federal Government will establish standards for each state; and then each state will develop its own plan for implementation.  Initial versions of the Plan are due in September 2016, with final versions due in 2018.  For more detail on the Plan and subsequent activity, click here.

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Hannah Dugan for County Circuit Court Judge

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Hannah Dugan with Marla Stephens
at a Citizen Action Organizing Cooperative event

Grassroots North Shore is proud to join a long list of distinguished people who are endorsing Hannah Dugan for County Circuit Court Judge, including Mayor Tom Barrett, Mayor Bryan Kennedy, Sandy Pasch, Jon Richards, Mandela Barnes, David Bowen, and Jonathan Brostoff.

As a practicing attorney for over 28 years in Milwaukee County Hannah has represented thousands of people in federal, state and municipal courts.  As a trusted decision maker, Hannah accepted civic appointments to the Milwaukee County Ethics Board and the City of Milwaukee Ethics Board, during which time she helped revise both the Milwaukee County Code of Ethics and the City of Milwaukee ethics code. Additionally Hannah has conducted complicated attorney discipline hearings as a Wisconsin Supreme Court referee, and she has determined judicial discipline as chair of the Wisconsin Judicial Commission.

Her service to the community is not confined to the practice of law. She served as Director of Family and Children Services for Catholic Charities of Southeastern Wisconsin and also as the Executive Director of that charitable organization. She has taught classes for Marquette University's Graduate College of Professional Studies, Marquette University Law School, and Seattle University Law School. She currently serves as Treasurer and Finance Committee Chair of the State of Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission.

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The War on Drugs: Another Not So Well Thought Out Solution

Last month the Wisconsin State Senate heard bills that would help stem the burgeoning problem of heroin and prescription drug abuse.  The sponsor of the new legislation, Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), has used the story of his daughter Cassie’s struggle with heroin addiction as the basis for action.  His specific target is the abuse of prescription opioids, which many feel are the ‘gateway’ to heroin use and addiction:  when persons addicted to opioids can no longer obtain the prescription drug, they turn to the street-drug heroin, a cheaper and more accessible substance.  Some believe that if opioids are not available, the person will not start down the path to addiction.  And while this might be true in some cases, many suspect that another drug would then fill the role of gateway drug.   Back at the beginning of the war on drugs, many people asserted that marijuana was a gateway drug to heroin.  The assumption that because some people who used marijuana went on to heroin, all people who used marijuana would use heroin.

The following chart shows the growth in opioid addiction since 2001.  Indeed it is a growing problem that should be addressed.  The gut and heart-wrenching agony of families affected by addiction should not be understated.  But, sadly, the problem has existed for a while, and only when the scourge of addiction moved from the city to the suburbs and non-urban areas has it seemingly become worthy of action. 

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