I'm late, I'm late...

This week's newsletter is a couple of days later than usual. Life does sometimes get in the way. But there are of course a wide variety of worthy events happening in the next couple weeks, so I hope you'll scan the list and find a few to engage with.

For your weekly schadenfreude, you might want to read about a speech on liberty and democracy former President George W. Bush gave today as a part of the Bush Institute’s Human Freedom Initiative. (I almost miss him. Don't you?) Without mentioning his name, Bush barreled into sPOTUS for his bigotry, for his blatant lies and participation in conspiracy theories, and his undermining of trust in vital American institutions like the free press and our independent judiciary. You can read about it at The Hill. Enjoy.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

On being down so long

On a day when lives are in jeopardy in the northern California fires, the Trump administration has begun the process of rolling back the Clean Power Plan. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports: "In recent decades, fire seasons have grown longer, more frequent and more destructive, something scientists attribute in part to increased dryness caused by climate change. (Scientists from the University of Idaho and Columbia University wrote in one study published last year that climate change had caused more than half of the dryness of Western forests since 1979.)"

Puerto Rico remains in desperate shape, still largely without power and clean water. FEMA declares that it is not responsible for delivering food and waterVox explains that a key clue to the effects of climate change in Harvey, Irma, and Maria is the amount of rain each mega-storm generated. The hurricane season isn't over yet.

Women's health and freedom are under constant assault. The Trump administration has so weakened the requirement that health insurance plans cover contraceptive care without co-pays or co-insurance fees that any employer can ignore the requirement with impunity. And the US House has passed a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks. Conventional wisdom has it that the bill can't pass the senate. Nevertheless, Planned Parenthood needs our support. Consider attending one of the organization's Be Visible events.

Our state, our country and our planet are all showing signs of extreme stress while the man who is unfit to be president pursues his feuds with Senator Corker and the NFL. The daily news is both terrifying and overwhelming. Although no one of us can do everything, every one of us can do something to help change the power structure. If you're looking around for a way to engage, get in touch with us at Grassroots North Shore. Our outreach committee can get you connected to one or more organizations that focus on an issue you would like to work on. Our organization also has several working committees that could use your help.

Notes from the Chair

In the past year one of our goals has been lend support to other groups. As such, we want to update you on two actions:

Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort (WAVE) 
Last week some of us attended a letter writing session at their office. It was so simple, clear, and efficient that we are duplicating it at our office on Thursday, October 12, 2017 from noon – 1 PM. We will provide everything you need so please sign up on our site

Voces de la Frontera Gala on Friday, October 27, 2017 at the Harley Davidson Museum. We have completed work on soliciting items and creating baskets for the group’s Silent Auction. Special Thanks to Ann Winchel and her team: Rosalie Tocco, Joan Baumgartner, and John Grove. 

If you would like to personally support the group, please consider attending the Gala yourself. You can find ticket information on their site.


Read more
Add your reaction Share

Can we reclaim our voices?

On Sunday, Oct. 1, Grassroots North Shore was a key part of a coalition of WI organizations sponsoring a rally for the plaintiffs in the Whitford case that was argued this morning at the US Supreme Court. The turnout was terrific — more than 150 people, some from far away, attended to hear local leaders and two of the plaintiffs talk about the case and what it could mean for all voters, regardless of party, going forward. If you missed it, you can watch it on YouTube.

No doubt there will be plenty of press accounts of this morning's proceedings at the Supreme Court and some pundits may try to predict an outcome based on the questions justices asked. Just take them with the usual dollop of skepticism. The lawyers arguing that our current electoral maps are unconstitutional made a strong case and the justices were listening. It may be months now before we know the outcome but we are hopeful.

Still, hope is not a plan. And we still have work to do on this issue. Right now, there is a bill to take the process of drawing electoral maps out of the hands of the politicians and turn the responsibility over to a nonpartisan body. But the bill (SB13 and AB44) is bottled up because the chairs of the committees in each chamber have refused to hold public hearings. So, if you have a little energy left from grieving for those who have died or been injured in the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas or from extending whatever help you can to those people and areas devasted by terrifying hurricanes, pick up the phone and call Sen. LeMahieu (608-266-2056) and Rep. Bernier (608-266-9172 or 888-534-0068) to tell them that you want them to hold hearings and vote the bill out of committee.

I've been so deeply concerned about the role gerrymandering is playing in our state and national politics because I see it as one part of a pair of existential threats to democracy: the tsunami of money from the super-rich and the rigging of electoral maps join together to make the will of the people irrelevant. We see it in issue after issue: environmental policy, tax policy, and most vitally at this moment gun safety policy. In 2014, social scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page published an important study showing that "economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence." In an accessible article in the Washington Post online, the two researchers discussed their conclusions and rebutted critiques. I highly recommend it.

Although American's attitudes towards gun safety are pretty complex, it's clear that a large majority of us believe in universal background checks and restrictions on assault weapons of the sort used in the latest carnage. Just one year ago, the Gallop organization summed up public opinion research this way:

Almost any proposal we put in front of the American people relating to background checks gets overwhelming support. A majority of Americans favor stricter laws on gun sales in general. Americans who are dissatisfied with gun laws favor more restrictions. Most recently, new Gallup research conducted since the mass shooting in Orlando underscores these attitudes. Americans overwhelmingly say that banning gun sales to individuals on terrorist watch lists would be effective in preventing incidents such as Orlando. A majority, albeit a smaller percentage, also say that restricting the sale of assault weapons would be effective in preventing mass shootings.

So why do state legislatures and the US Congress pay no attention to the majority's views and instead continually loosen regulations on fire arms? You just have to ask "qui bono" (who benefits). The NRA's power flows from its donations to political parties and candidates. The NRA, which is effectively a front not for individual gun owners but for gun industries, supports partisan gerrymandering when it advantages Republicans who will vote for deregulating access to increasingly potent fire arms. When that's where the money is, that's where the power lies. But it's hard to see how we can loosen the grip of money in politics unless we can unrig the maps both through legal challenges like the one citizens of Wisconsin brought to the Supreme Court this morning and through enormous public pressure to persuade legislators to change redistricting laws. If we fail to regain even a semblance of majority rule, we the people will simply be shouting in the wind.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

not one word about the NFL!

What we collectively don't know or misunderstand about how our personal participation in our representative democracy works simply astonishes me. I was chatting with a couple of people helping with the fundraising event we held last week and learned that people living in River Hills think their village needs saving. From what? From the construction of a luxury apartment building, apparently. This is double hearsay but one of the people I was talking with told me that one resident said she objected to the project because she didn't think it fair that someone who was going to pay only $2000 in property taxes would have the same vote as others, including herself, who were paying 10 times that amount. I have to say I was shocked to hear that anyone thinks votes are or ought to be apportioned by wealth! A community is not a corporation with shareholders allotted votes by the number of shares they own, for pete's sake!

But in truth, our system of self-governance has some pretty strange features. Michelle Goldberg, in her debut op-ed in the New York Times looks as some of the many ways we seem to be living under a "tyranny of the minority." As she points out, this problem is structural, built into the very design of our constitution. And it will take a heap of heavy lifting to make structural changes that could make a difference.

So, getting rid of partisan AND racial gerrymandering will go only so far to bring greater balance and fairness to our elections and to our elective bodies. Still, I hope you will find the time to attend the rally Grassroots North Shore is co-sponsoring with an illustrious coalition of groups working on good governance issues. The first step toward greater balance and fairness has to be getting rid of partisan control of electoral maps. Working to overturn Citizens United and the Electoral College won't be effective until we get past the first structural hurdle. Please join me and our leadership on Sunday, Oct. 1, from 5-7pm (we're serving dinner!) at Plymouth Church (2717 E. Hampshire St., Milwaukee) for a send-off rally for the upstanding Wisconsin citizens who have brought this landmark lawsuit. A great turnout not only tells the plaintiffs that their fellow citizens support their efforts; it also tells the media and the wider public that this issue is important for everyone. RSVP.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

I'm part of the problem too

I'm currently a white woman, though I might not always have passed for one. Because I am Jewish. People of "my tribe" have been excluded from "whiteness" in the past. And perhaps are again by those who identify themselves with the alt-right (aka, neo-nazis and other racial, religious, and ethnic hate-mongers). So as Jews begin the High Holidays tomorrow at sundown, I am writing this from a precarious position of privilege. But precarious or not, I need to own it, to reflect on it, and to act to change it. I hope you'll bear with me for a brief look at what white America has wrought.

Ta-Nehesi Coates argues, in a much discussed essay in this month's Atlantic, that Donald Trump is America's first white president. Of course, all the others save one, he acknowledges, were also white. But Trump has a special distinction: "Trump has made the negation of Obama’s legacy the foundation of his own. And this too is whiteness.... Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president."

We've continued to argue passionately about who elected this white man, this bigot and misogynist, this ignoramus with zero qualifications and even less aptitude for leadership or wisdom. One favorite narrative lights on the plight of the white working class. And there is certainly a problem there. But as Coates so eloquently points out, both in his essay in the Atlantic and in an even clearer and more concise way in an interview with Chris Hayes, we're focusing on the wrong adjective in the analysis. Though they suffer exactly the same economic stresses (indeed often even greater ones) and share the same effects of economic displacement, working men and women of color DID NOT vote for Trump. The interview with Hayes is worth watching in full (about 10 minutes all told) but the link takes you directly to the place where he states most forthrightly that the population of voters who put Trump in the White House share one overwhelming characteristic: they consider themselves to be white. He outlines the data this way:

When white pundits cast the elevation of Trump as the handiwork of an inscrutable white working class, they are being too modest, declining to claim credit for their own economic class. Trump’s dominance among whites across class lines is of a piece with his larger dominance across nearly every white demographic. Trump won white women (+9) and white men (+31). He won white people with college degrees (+3) and white people without them (+37). He won whites ages 18–29 (+4), 30–44 (+17), 45–64 (+28), and 65 and older (+19). Trump won whites in midwestern Illinois (+11), whites in mid-Atlantic New Jersey (+12), and whites in the Sun Belt’s New Mexico (+5). In no state that Edison polled did Trump’s white support dip below 40 percent. Hillary Clinton’s did, in states as disparate as Florida, Utah, Indiana, and Kentucky. From the beer track to the wine track, from soccer moms to nascar dads, Trump’s performance among whites was dominant.

In her much discussed book The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker, political scientist Katherine Cramer locates voters' discontent in the disconnect between rural and urban worlds. She says very little about racial resentment, focusing instead on rural citizens' perceived lack of power and resources (those goodies flow to the larger cities of Madison and Milwaukee) and their perceived lack of respect from the elites in power. No doubt her research has some explanatory power but the data from the last election shows that the majority of urban whites, including the majority of those very elites (see college-educated whites) who presumably do not respect rural folk, also voted for Trump.

So, we have a problem. White people, through no fault of our own, understand the world through the frame (way of seeing) into which we have been born. And our framing is inevitably filtered through a pervasive whiteness we cannot see directly. In "Peering Through White-Rimmed Glasses: A Letter to My Fellow White Americans," my sister Fran Kaplan observes: "Over our lifetimes, we humans develop a frame of reference – a particular way of seeing the world. Our habits of seeing are based on the cultural norms we learn at our parents’ knees, at school and work, from the media, and in the social circles where we spend the most time. Our personal frames shape how we behave, but they tend to operate outside of our awareness, without our having to think about them." If you are a white American, you operate in a largely invisible "white racial frame." Notice that it is not a RACIST frame. It's just a white way of seeing and knowing the world. We glimpse it most directly during moments of high national drama: when Rodney King is beaten half to death and some people riot; when the OJ Simpson trial produces a shock of recognition that black and white citizens don't see the world the same way; when Treyvon Martin and Michael Brown and Eric Gardner and Dontre Hamilton and all the other innocent people are killed for no reason and with no consequences for the killers and people take to the streets to protest. During those moments it's easy to see that the world really is different for people of color. But it's hard to keep that insight operative in our day-to-day concerns.

Jamele Hill, sports analyst for ESPN, calls Donald Trump a racist. His press secretary urges her employer to fire her (and many people concur!). But Trump can say “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” He's elected president for all that.

If we read the data right, our still majority-white country has a problem. "A new Reuters/Ipsos poll ... finds that while there is relatively little national endorsement of neo-Nazis and white supremacists, there are troubling levels of support for certain racially-charged ideas and attitudes frequently expressed by extremist groups" (New Poll: Some Americans Express Troubling Racial Attitudes Even as Majority Oppose White Supremacists, University of Virginia Center for Politics, Sept. 14, 2017). Have your eyes opened to the extent of the problem: read the entire analysis of the survey.

As progressives and the Democratic Party wrestle with our future direction, I want to make my own position clear. This is no time to ignore identity politics. As Coates reminds us, whiteness is also an identity in the political sense. Unlike black or LGBTQ or female identity, it does not have to be named or overtly recognized to be powerful. Coates ends with this insight:

It has long been an axiom among certain black writers and thinkers that while whiteness endangers the bodies of black people in the immediate sense, the larger threat is to white people themselves, the shared country, and even the whole world. There is an impulse to blanch at this sort of grandiosity. When W. E. B. Du Bois claims that slavery was “singularly disastrous for modern civilization” or James Baldwin claims that whites “have brought humanity to the edge of oblivion: because they think they are white,” the instinct is to cry exaggeration. But there really is no other way to read the presidency of Donald Trump. The first white president in American history is also the most dangerous president—and he is made more dangerous still by the fact that those charged with analyzing him cannot name his essential nature, because they too are implicated in it.

I long for a satisfactory understanding of how to tackle this problem -- head-on, effectively, and immediately. The only thing I know for sure is that acknowledging that we (white people) have a systemic problem is an essential, first tiny step toward revising the frame.

The Obamacare repeal nightmare is haunting us again. I know you know what to do. If you don't, look for information about direct action from organizations like CItizen Action.

Help Grassroots North Shore prosper: come to our annual fundraiser "Laugh 'Til it Dursts" on Thursday, September 21, from 7-9pm at the Bay Shore Lutheran Church. Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 at the door. Additional donations gratefully received. RSVP and get your tickets online.


Read more
Add your reaction Share

GRNS Newsletter: what's it (worth) to you?

As you complete a flight segment on any major US airline, the crew thank you for choosing that company. The usual pitch is something like "we know you have many choices...." It's not just true for airlines: it's also true for whatever money you can spare to support progressive causes and organizations. At Grassroots North Shore, we are well aware that the number of organizations proffering a digital tin cup is large and growing. So we are delighted and honored when the recipients of our weekly newsletter and attendees at our educational programs and our volunteers during each election season donate to us.

But the truth is, we simply cannot do what we do, with you and for you, without a bit of money. I won't bore you with a complete financial report but I can tell you we're a very lean organization. With a steering committee of 15 dedicated volunteers and an advisory committee of another eight to ten people, we reach over 2500 people each week with our newsletter. We organize speakers and educational programs 10-12 times throughout the year. We recruit volunteers for the whole range of campaign activities for primary elections AND general elections. And did I mention we have no paid staff

We do it out of a passion for progressive causes and a love of our communities, our state and our country. Here's the bottom line: if everyone who is reading this email buys a $25 or $50 ticket to come laugh with Will Durst (Thursday, September 21, from 7-9pm (Bayshore Lutheran Church, 1200 E Hampton, Whitefish Bay), we will reach our fundraising goal for the year. We will also feed you your just desserts!

OR, if you cannot attend, just  what you can and forward your ticket to Eilene Stevens who will give it to someone who could otherwise not afford to come.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

When dreams become nightmares

Once again today's news is utterly depressing. Unless Congress acts — and pretty quickly, DACA is dead. That's 800,000 people whose lives will be totally upended a few months from now: they will lose their work permits and they will become subject to deportation. But that's just the tip of the total damage. Their parents and some of their siblings — already subject to deportation — are likely to become major targets of Immigration Control and Enforcement. When immigrants apply to DACA, they fill out information that the government will now be able to use to locate them and their relatives. Many people were concerned about the level of disclosure the program required when it began five years ago precisely because the information could some day be used to round them up. That day may be fast approaching.

According to an article just published online at the New York Times, "Immigration officials said that they do not intend to actively target the young immigrants as priorities for deportation, though without the program’s protection, the immigrants are considered subject to removal from the United States and would no longer be able to work legally." But ICE has already shown its willingness to apprehend anyone and everyone the agency can find. I don't hold out much hope that these young people who have all the makings of fine citizens will be spared.

The first call to action here near Milwaukee is for a rally tonight targeted at Paul Ryan: Wisconsin March for DACA, 6:00 pm at Monument Square in Racine. For more information, you can call 262-721-5575. If you can't go to Racine tonight to participate in that rally, check out the site Here to Stay. It allows you to search for events in the area and will no doubt have many entries within the next 24-48 hours. And visit the Defend DACA toolkit page of Voces de la Frontera to keep up to date on activities posted there.

No doubt my inbox and yours will quickly fill with other calls for action, including requests to contact your senators and representatives in Congress.

Reminders to Participate in Upcoming Events with Grassroots North Shore

We're holding our annual picnic at Cahill Park in Whitefish Bay on Sunday, September 17, from 4:30-7pm. (Just FYI, the Packers game against the Atlanta Falcons is scheduled for 7:30 pm, so you won't miss a single kick or snap!). It's a fun potluck supper with some featured speakers: Josh Kaul, candidate for Attorney General, and Earnell Lucas, candidate for Milwaukee County Sheriff. Get all the details and RSVP.

Our one and only annual fundraiser, the event that keeps this all-volunteer organization afloat, will take place on Thursday, September 21, at 7 pm. Doors at Bay Shore Lutheran Church will open at 6 pm. Will Durst, a nationally renowned political satirist, will entertain us so that we "Laugh 'Til It Dursts."

I cannot stress enough how important supporting this organization is. Although we have no paid staff, we organize and present as many as 12 informative programs every year and we work in the run-up to every election to elect progressive candidates at every level of government, from the local races to the national ones. In 2017 so far, we've held 10 programs with speakers on such vital issues as saving public education, protecting our wells and waterways, supporting Tony Evers, fighting for Senator Baldwin, supporting the movement for fair electoral maps and nonpartisan redistricting. We set up phone banks, we recruit volunteers to knock on doors and drop campaign literature, and we work practically around the clock to staff get-out-the-vote operations. To do all of that, we rely on donations to pay for our office space, the material supplies we need, and the databases and communications tools that enable us to keep you informed about everything happening in our region. You can share the fun with us for as little as $25 for an advance ticket ($30 at the door) but I hope those of you who can afford a little more will be generous. Get all the details, RSVP, and make your donation on our website. (And even if you cannot come, your donation will prompt the system to send you a ticket. If you forward that ticket on to Eilene Stevens, she will make sure to donate it to someone who otherwise would not be able to enjoy the event with us.)

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Let's Focus on Ensuring Fair Elections

I can't stress this enough: Democrats need to win back some power in the state if we want to have any chance to change our state's direction. As we head into the 2018 electoral cycle, Wisconsin stands at a crucial turning point. As you know, the Republicans currently control both houses of the legislature and the governor's office. In 2011 they deliberately rigged the electoral maps to ensure that they remained firmly in power for at least a decade. If as a result of the 2018 election the legislature remains in GOP hands and Walker wins re-election, Republicans will once again be able rig our electoral maps in their favor after 2020 census. Only if Democrats win the race for governor OR can capture the state senate or the state assembly, will those maps have to reflect the input of both parties. Even if the Supreme Court affirms the lower court ruling that our current maps are unconstitutional, the maps drawn after the 2020 census could still be rigged in a partisan way. That's because the decision in current case can deal only with the results of the last process. It cannot mandate a different process to ensure a different result the next time around.

Because the current maps are so rigged to keep Republicans in power in the Assembly, our best chance to unrig the maps going forward is to elect a Democratic Governor. In an effort to ensure that the many candidates who are likely to be vying for the Democratic nomination have ample opportunities to lay out their priorities and to hear from progressive voters, Grassroots North Shore will provide as many forums for candidates as we possibly can. We are starting that process with State Senator Kathleen Vinehout tomorrow evening — Wednesday, September 30 — from 6:30 - 8 pm at the Bay Shore Lutheran Church (1200 E Hampton Rd, Whitefish Bay). Senator Vinehout has not yet officially declared her candidacy but she formed an exploratory committee last month and shows every sign of intending to declare soon. Please make time to hear what she has to say, and more importantly, to let her know what issues you think are crucial to winning next year. RSVP to let us know that you'll be there.

The movement to require states to draw fair election maps is going national, partly as a result of the Wisconsin case in which the trial court ruled the current maps unconstitutional. That case — Gill v. Whitford — is scheduled to be argued at the US Supreme Court on Tuesday, October 3. Between now and then, there are several educational events in our area that can help you understand what's at stake and will give you action items you can take to help move Wisconsin forward. One way to take action is to lobby our current legislature. On Tuesday, September 12, the legislature resumes its work. So we are asking people to call legislators and the chairs of the committees where legislation is pending to ask for their support for Senate Bill 13 and Assembly Bill 44. If passed into law, these bills would require that the Legislative Reference Bureau draw electoral maps in a nonpartisan way. You can find the information about who to call and what you might want to say on our website.

Also on September 12, Grassroots North Shore is co-sponsoring a town hall on Fair Elections at the Washington Park Library, 2121 N. Sherman Blvd. Shauntay Nelson from Wisconsin Voices and former state senators Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) and Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) will be speaking. The doors open at 5:45; the program runs from 6-7pm. If you don't know much about the issues surrounding redistricting and how partisan maps sabotage our democracy, this event will fill you in.

On Sunday, October 1, Grassroots North Shore, together with the Fair Elections Project and a coalition of other organizations in Wisconsin, is hosting a send-off rally for the plaintiffs in Gill v. Whitford. Most of the 12 plaintiffs will be heading to Washington to attend the Supreme Court argument on Tuesday, October 3, and many of them will speak at this kick-off event. Widely seen as a momentous case, the decision has the potential to remake the legislative landscape not only in Wisconsin but across the nation. More information on times and location will be coming soon. So mark your calendars now. (I promise you won't miss any Packer action: they play on Thursday night that week!)

There are two other important events on the Grassroots North Shore horizon: on Sunday, September 17 from 4:30 - 7pm we are holding our annual potluck picnic. It's always fun to mingle with the greatest group of North Shore progressives while consuming pulled pork or pulled chicken sandwiches and sharing the wonderful homemade side dishes, salads and desserts you all bring to the affair. (If your last name begins with A-N, please bring a side dish or salad large enough to share – but no more than 8 servings please. If your last name begins with O-Z, please bring a plated dessert to share.) We'll be hearing from Josh Kaul, Democratic candidate for Attorney General, and Earnell Lucas, Democratic candidate for Milwaukee County Sheriff. Just RSVP so we are sure to have enough food, plates, utensils, and soft drinks for everyone. (BYOB if you want something stronger to drink!)

And on Thursday, September 21, the nationally renowned comedian and Milwaukee native Will Durst will make sure we Laugh 'Til It Dursts. This event is our one and only fundraiser for the year. As you know, Grassroots North Shore is an all-volunteer organization. But even though we have no paid staff, we do have some modest expenses. Rent and utilities for our office and the online tools we use to keep in touch with you are chief among them. So please be generous. Donations begin at the low, low price of $25 (in advance, at the door the price goes up to $30). Beyond that, you could become:

  • a Friend of Grassroots North Shore for $50.00
  • a Patron of Grassroots North Shore for $100.00
  • a Sponsor of Grassroots North Shore for $250.00
  • a Grassroots North Shore Host for $500.00
  • or best yet, an Angel for $1,000.00

It may surprise you to know that we can accept your money even if you can't join us for a belly laugh or two. But we hope you can be there for a great evening of some much-needed fun.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Eclipses Galore

Yesterday was the day of the eclipse. The moon eclipsed the sun. The man who currently occupies the presidency eclipsed the Speaker of the House. And the top generals apparently eclipsed Steve Bannon and the man who currently occupies the presidency! What a day.

This morning I noted that our local press apparently can't stay up late enough to cover the news in Wisconsin. The Journal Sentinel had not word one about Paul Ryan's fake town hall last night. (It's a fake event, in my view, when the audience is hand-picked by no-one-know-who and the questions are screened in advance, again by some anonymous folks, presumably at CNN.) The national press, however, went to town on it.

Politico notes that Ryan faces heat back home: "In this small southeast Wisconsin town on Lake Michigan [Racine], the speaker received the same kind of treatment as other congressional Republican facing unhappy crowds at town halls. In some ways his powerful position in Washington makes it worse because he controls the 240-strong House Republican majority." I'm not so sure about the "controls" part — and that's the crux of his problem.

The Washington Post focuses on Ryan's challenger Randy Bryce: "CNN’s town hall forum with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, at some risk of being overshadowed by the president’s speech on Afghanistan, has turned into a marketing opportunity for progressives. Randy Bryce, Ryan’s likely Democratic opponent in 2018, has purchased time for two 30-second spots that will run during the broadcast in the Republican’s district." The Post story includes video of both ads. Well worth a watch.

And a Dominican nun challenged Ryan on his approach to health care. Charlie Pierce at Esquire sharpens his already deadly pen. Here's the first paragraph:

While the president* was fastening on his Serious World Leader face Monday night, Speaker Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny-starver from the state of Wisconsin, was facing a carefully tailored audience at a CNN "town hall" in Racine. Because Ryan is the biggest fake to hit Congress since the King of the Cranks, Ignatius Donnelly, there was the usual nonsense and prevarication.... But my favorite moment came when Ryan was confronted by a Dominican nun who challenged him to square his zombie-eyed granny-starving with his Catholicism. What followed was pure Ryan, which is to say dishonest, cowardly, patronizing, and totally unmoored from either self-awareness or actual reality. Gaze in awe.

If you didn't watch and want to, you can see the whole thing on YouTube.


Back here in Wisconsin, the race for the Democratic nomination for governor is heating up. The Wisconsin State Journal has a page devoted to helping us keep track of who is in, who is thinking, and who is out. The list of "ins" is getting longer: Dana Wachs (Representative, Eau Claire) has entered the race as have Tony Evers (State Superintendent of Public Instruction), Mike McCabe (founder of Blue Jean Nation), and Andy Gronik (Democratic Businessman), plus the Don Quixote of candidates, Bob Harlow (software engineer). In the still-exploring category, we have former state Rep. Brett Hulsey, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, and State Senator Kathleen Vinehout.

The Democratic Party of Milwaukee County is already gearing up to sponsor at least one candidate forum, possibly early next year. But you don't have to wait to hear what Senator Vinehout is thinking. She'll be speaking and answering questions at an event Grassroots North Shore is hosting on Wednesday, August 30, at Bay Shore Lutheran Church (1200 E Hampton Rd, Whitefish Bay) at 6:30 pm. Doors open at 6 pm. Please RSVP.

Finally, mark your calendars and save the dates for the Grassroots North Shore annual picnic on Sunday, September 17 from 4:30-7pm ( see more information and RSVP) and our annual fundraiser "Laugh 'Til It Dursts" with nationally renowned political comedian Will Durst on Thursday, September 21 from 7-9pm ( see more information, buy tickets and RSVP).


Read more
Add your reaction Share

America's Lost Weekend

I want to say a few things about the events of the past week but before taking up those issues, it's important to attend to colossal failures closer to home. As of this writing, the WI biennial budget is still not complete! So I encourage everyone to attend a Conversation with Senator Kathleen Vinehout on Sunday, August 30, at the Bay Shore Lutheran Church (1200 E Hampton Rd, Whitefish Bay) from 6:30 pm - 8 pm. Senator Vinehout will be discussing the budget and other vital issues with ample time for questions and answers.

I also want to urge you to add two upcoming events to your calendar:

  • On Sunday, September 17, Grassroots North Shore will be holding our annual picnic. Earnell Lucas, candidate for Milwaukee County Sheriff, and Josh Kaul, candidate for Attorney General, will be joining us. Don't miss this opportunity to meet them. Stay tuned for further information.
  • And on Thursday, September 21, Will Durst, nationally-renowned political comedian, will bring us some much-needed laughter. So let's "Laugh 'Til It Dursts" together. RSVP now and we'll send you everything you need to know about where and how much the tickets will be in the next week or so.

On a more sober note, I continue to be appalled by and ashamed of the events that took place in Charlottesville last weekend. It's hard to believe that so many people in our country feel so comfortable with white supremacist and white nationalist ideas. But for POTUS to fail to disavow these toxins in our body politic until days after the events, and then only grudgingly, is deeply unnerving. The coming weekend promises more of the same in at least nine locations around the country, according to an article in New York Magazine. A "White Lives Matter" rally planned for September 11 at Texas A & M has been canceled out of safety concerns [Slate, August 15, 2017]. While I am not certain that canceling such events is the best response, the university's position is certainly understandable.

There's a lot more to this eruption of bigotry and hatred than I can encompass or even understand right now, but I find it heartening that so many communities are calling for the removal of many symbols of the Confederacy, especially statues of Robert E. Lee. As he often does, Josh Marshall has a deeply informed take on what those symbols mean, how and when they were erected, and why statues of people like Lee should not remain visible testaments of our nation's values.

I encourage you to read the entire piece, but here are a few key paragraphs:

Debates over public memory and the valorization of history are frequently complicated and politically vexed. But on the margins, in extreme cases, they are often pretty straightforward. For any subject of controversy, the first question we should ask is: What is the person known for? How did they earn a place in our collective public remembrance? 

As Thomas Jefferson’s involvement in slavery has become increasingly difficult to dismiss as simply a product of his times and as his use of one of his own slaves as his lifelong concubine has become more surely confirmed as fact, Jefferson’s place in the national pantheon has come in for increasing criticism. In his case, we have a mixed ledger. He is the author of the Declaration of Independence, the prime driver of the Northwest Ordinance, a significant anti-slavery document, Secretary of State, President. He was also a lifelong slaveholder with all that entailed. With Jefferson you have numerous acts which are high points in our national story joined with an integral involvement with our greatest national shame. This will be a long public discussion. 

What is Robert E. Lee known for? .... Lee is known for one thing: being the key military leader in a violent rebellion against the United States and leading that rebellion to protect slavery. That’s it. Absent his decision to participate in the rebellion he’d be all but unknown to history. He outlived the war by only five years. There’s simply no positive side of the ledger to make it a tough call. The only logic to honoring Lee is to honor treason and treason in the worst possible cause.

Marshall goes on to retell the fate of Lee's plantation. The Lincoln administration turned it into Arlington National Cemetery: "The federal government confiscated it and dedicated it as a final resting place for those who died defending the United States." And he notes that the statues of Lee were erected decades after the Civil War. In fact he argues that

[T]hese statues date not from the Civil War Era but from the decades of the establishment of Jim Crow, to celebrate the South’s success establishing an apartheid system on the ruins of the Antebellum slave South. A statue of Lee in uniform, mounted on a horse in a southern town square has only ever had one meaning: white supremacy. These statues didn’t come to be associated with racism and Jim Crow only after the Civil War had receded into memory. They were created, from the start, to mark and celebrate the foundations of Jim Crow, uncontested white rule.

Even the National Review is now calling for monuments to the Confederacy to be removed from prominent public display: Mothball the Confederate Monuments. These are hopeful developments.

But meanwhile, POTUS continues to embarrass himself and us as he turns his petty ire on the four CEOs who have resigned from his advisory board. And in a much more ominous turn, his Justice Department threatens everyone's civil liberties by demanding that a tech company turn over more than 1.3 million IP addresses to identify visitors to a website set up to coordinate protests on Inauguration Day [Washington Post, August 15, 2017]. It's hard not to despair.



Read more
Add your reaction Share