Despicable Wisconsin

Despicable WI
A Lament 

WI turned our back on war weary refugees.
(Tonight we can all sleep soundly.)

WI refused to adopt a living wage for our citizens.
(Life isn’t fair. Why should wages be?) 

WI increased campaign donor amounts but reduced the ability to trace them.
(“Never have so few given so much to get even more.”)

WI eliminated the 48hr waiting period to purchase firearms.
(We have two extra days to play with our new guns.)

WI rejected 1 billion dollars to expand health care for our citizens.
(Now we can cover fewer people for more money.)

WI mandated voter ID and decreased opportunities for early voting.
(Better to lose 100,000 registered voters than have one unregistered vote. )

WI slashed funding for public schools and our esteemed University of Wisconsin system.
(According to our governor, education is a waste and higher education is a bigger waste.)

WI gutted the DNR of its environmental scientists who protect our most precious resource.
(Science is the biggest waste of all.)

WI turned down 800 million dollars to fund a modern high speed rail system.
(At least automobiles can’t derail .)

WI destroyed our progressive tradition.
(And with it compassion, justice, fairness, truth, and honesty.)

OH, Despicable WI.

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Double Standard?

unaddressed-threats.jpgSomeone with a cause uses weapons designed specifically to hunt and kill people in a normally non-combatant location.  A scenario we have seen over and over again.  When it happens abroad in Paris, in Mali, in Mumbai and in other places too numerous to list, we react with horror.  Aided by a 24/7media rooted in sensationalism, we quickly discern the perpetrators to be extremist, terrorists, and most likely followers of Islam.  Merriam Webster defines “terrorism” to be the systematic use of violence that is committed by a person, group, or government in order to frighten people and achieve a political goal, especially as a means of coercion (combined definition).  

Reacting to the recent tragic events in Paris, for which ISIS has claimed “ownership,” many of our political elites and citizens are calling for draconian measures against all Muslims, ignoring the fact that these atrocities are committed by a small group of ultra-extreme fanatic terrorists who also happen to be Muslim and use their religion to justify their criminal and barbarous behavior.

Just Friday, a gunman with a weapon and a cause wreaked havoc at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic.  And while many places in the U.S. have experienced similar mass shootings, Colorado has the dubious distinction of having more than most other locations:  Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood on November 27th, Colorado Springs on October 31st, Aurora, and, of course, Columbine.  When similar acts occur within our own boundaries, what is the typical reaction?  

It isn't usual to turn to data as seen in the chart on the right showing hundreds of domestic acts of terrorism, most of them rooted in what is called "Right-wing extremism." (Note that the chart doesn't include data from the last four years.)

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How to Make Poor People More Miserable

foodshare_graph.jpgA consistent mantra of the GOP is that people on welfare are a bunch of lazy drug addicts, and it is critical that those sluggards be prevented from using hard-working taxpayer money on illegal substances. Legislators heap unfair, ineffective policies on those in poverty simply to court public favor by playing to their prejudices. In 2013, Republicans in Congress tried to give states the freedom to drug-test food stamp recipients, but Democrats warded off the attempt. But some efforts spring eternal. And there’s a long history of efforts to make the poor more miserable by constantly implying that they are illegal drug users.

Back in the 1990s, Michigan passed a law mandating universal drug testing of welfare recipients. The law was struck down in 2000 after it was found to have violated Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.  In 2011, Florida enacted legislation to require every single applicant for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) to pass a urine drug test at his or her own expense.  Although federal law rules permit drug testing as part of the TANF, in 2013 a federal court struck down the Florida requirement because it too violated the Fourth Amendment’s unreasonable search and seizures clause. The three-judge panel from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that lower court ruling, noting that Florida had “not demonstrated a more prevalent, unique or different drug problem among TANF applicants than in the general population.”

The message seems to have sunk in.  Since then states have been careful to include language requiring that there be a “reasonable suspicion” of drug abuse before a welfare applicant can be tested.  Screening applicants to determine whether they should be tested, however, is not without its own problems.  First, the screening may not be objective:  is it an interview by an untrained person who decides that you look suspicious or is it a well-constructed, scientifically based set of questions?  Second, will persons being screened be totally honest; or, in the case of questionnaires that are mailed out, will they ever be returned?

According to data gathered by ThinkProgress, the seven states with existing programs of screening and testing welfare applicants — Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah — are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to ferret out a tiny number of drug users. The statistics show that applicants for social programs exhibit a lower rate of drug use than the general population.  While the general rate of drug use is 10.2%, the rate for welfare applicants was <1% in six of the seven states and 8.3% (still well below the average) in the seventh. Meanwhile, the states have collectively spent nearly $1 million on the effort, and millions more may have to be spent in coming years.

So that’s the background. In one of Scott Walker’s first actions after declaring his candidacy for president, he decided to sue the federal government because the food stamp program (FoodShare in Wisconsin) does not allow testing of applicants.  He gave as his rationale his belief that testing people for drugs is part of a “compassionate approach to ensuring individuals on certain public assistance programs are workforce ready.  Our most recent budget builds on our record of enacting big, bold entitlement reforms to restore programs to their original purpose — a safety net, not a hammock,” his statement said. “We are focused on helping people move from government dependence to independence because we want people to know the dignity that comes from work” (as quoted in Crooks and Liars, July 17, 2015).

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Protect the Vote

Here's a great way to make a difference: make sure that every eligible voter is able to cast their ballot. The #1 reason voters give up on voting? Too few poll workers to keep the line moving swiftly. With your help, we can make sure that every vote gets counted. 

Every two years the Milwaukee County Democratic Party nominates individuals to be poll workers on election day. Anyone eligible to vote can be a poll worker - AND GET PAID DOING IT. Due to new laws, anyone living in Milwaukee County can be a poll worker for the City of Milwaukee. Sign up today and protect the vote for the next 2 years.

To apply, simply fill out this form and submit.  It's that easy.

So when are the next elections? Here's a handy guide.

Feb 16: Spring Primary TBD Nonpartisan. Top 2 winners for each office compete in the April election.

Apr 5: Spring General and Presidential Primary Elections

City Attorney
City Treasurer
City Comptroller

County Executive
County Supervisors
county Comptroller
County Judges

WI Appeals Court Judge
WI Supreme Court Justice

All offices are nonpartisan.

Republican Presidential Candidates TBD
Democratic Presidential Candidates TBD

In the Presidential Preference Primary, voters determine how many delegates each candidate will have at the party's nominating convention in the summer. Vote for one candidate in only one party.

Aug 9: Fall Primary

US Senator
US Congress Representatives
WI State Senators
WI State Assembly Representatives

District Attorneys
County Clerk
County Treasurer
Register of Deeds

Vote on only one party's list. The winners for each party go on to the November election.

Nov 8: Fall General Election

US President and Vice President
Finalists from the Aug 9 primary




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A FABLE: Why We Have Governments

caveman-clipart-caveman.gifLong ago when the world was a younger and far simpler place, rational people were wont to frolic about in the State of Nature, flexing their freedoms and exercising their rights.   And it came to pass that while they were frolicking, flexing and exercising, they oft came to harm other rational people.  In those days, hurt and harm were measured only by damage done to property.  As was the custom at that time, those so aggrieved, along with their circle of friends and kin, were expected to retaliate, exacting compensation and revenge, and inflicting appropriate punishments to the offenders.

As time passed, and more and more rational people engaged in frolicking, flexing, and exercising, and more and more aggrieved retaliated, the wise people among them came to realize that the harm-retaliate cycle was not sufficient, and the practice of mediation and adjudication by persons outside the cycle came to be. 

civilzedMan.jpegThe world grew and the complexities of the burgeoning society increased as well.  It became apparent that harm done to others was no longer limited to property and there was great ambiguity regarding how to mediate and adjudicate these conflicts.  Something else, perhaps a code of ethical behavior, was needed.  And thus, the advent of laws designed to document the nature of harming and define the appropriate punishments.  Having laws to use as the basis for mediation and adjudication proved of great benefit; however, something was still missing.  Mediation and adjudication were at the end of the process:  the law needed maintenance and enforcement prior to that point.  The answer, of course, was government.

But alas, at some future time, rational people felt unfairly fettered by government and laws, and cried aloud for a return to frolicking, flexing, and exercising.   Get rid of government and laws – let us all return to the State of Nature.  No matter if others are harmed; that is their just due for they are not among the strong who frolic, flex, and exercise.  Fie unto them – they are weak and lazy and deserve all that befouls them.

MORAL:  Beware those that bellow for the freedom of bygone days.  They are the very reason that rules and laws are needed.

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Do You Know What is Happening to Public Education and Your School District?

schoolhouse1.jpgFind out Sunday, October 25th from those who work with public schools and our children.

Many North Shore school districts were forced to lay off teachers or cut back key curriculum as a result of cost controls put into place at the state level. This forum lays out out how recent legislation has affected schools –  listen to the experts.

Bob Borch – retired Business Manager for Elmbrook schools – discusses the impact of recent state budget cuts on “normal” school districts.

Mort Grodsky – member of the Nicolet School Board – presents how changes are affecting school systems individually and public education as a whole.

Jenni Hofschulte – Advocate for MPS – gives specifics on types of schools and the effects of “reform.”

Liz Sanders – Whitefish Bay Advocates for Education – delves into local and particular school needs, responses to the cuts, and what residents should know and do to help schools overcome these challenges.

Come together for thie town hall to help protect our schools at the grassroots level. Doors open at 6:30 pm.

We welcome parents, voters, and everyone concerned about the future of education in Wisconsin to this free event at Bay Shore Lutheran Church.

1200 East Hampton Avenue in Whitefish Bay – light refreshments served.


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Guns Don't Kill People?

Port Arthur was known as a pleasant tourist town located in Tasmania, Australia. It is now known for something far more sinister.  On the morning of April 28, 1996, Martin Bryant, a 28 year old, emotionally disturbed young man walked into the Broad Arrow Café, pulled out an automatic rifle, and shot and killed 12 patrons. Over the next 24 hours, he proceeded to shoot and kill another 23 people throughout Port Arthur. The final tally; 35 killed and 24 injured. The automatic rifles he used were legal.  The Port Arthur Massacre was the largest and most lethal mass shooting in Australian history. 

Conservative Prime Minister John Howard, leading a coalition government, faced a stunned and shocked nation.  “I knew that I had to use the authority of my office to curb the possession and use of the type of weapons that killed 35 innocent people.”* The majority of Australians favored stricter gun control laws but a powerful gun lobby with considerable political clout resisted. Nevertheless, over the next few months, John Howard convinced the country to pass the National Firearms Act (NFA). Under this sweeping and strict new gun control legislation:

  • Gun laws were made uniform in all states and territories in Australia.
  • A nationwide registry for all gun purchases was initiated.
  • Police background checks on all gun license applicants was required.
  • Semi-automatic rifles and pump action shotguns were banned and ammunition amounts restricted.
  • All firearms sales were restricted to authorized licensed dealers; separate permits were required for each gun purchased.
  • A safety course and storage requirements with police inspections were mandatory.
  • A “genuine reason” for purchasing a gun was required. Self-defense and personal protection were not considered acceptable reasons.
  • A 28 day waiting period was required before any gun license could be obtained.

In addition, the Australian federal government instituted a nationwide mandatory buy-back program for all firearms the NFA outlawed. A new public tax compensated owners at fair market price for such weapons. Between 1996 and 1997, over 700,000 firearms — constituting over 20% of the estimated guns country-wide — were surrendered and destroyed in the largest buy-back program in history. In the decade prior to the Port Arthur Massacre, Australia witnessed 11 mass shootings (defined as three or more indiscriminate shooting fatalities by a lone gunman). Since the NFA passed in 1996, no mass shootings in Australia have occurred and many studies also show a significant decline in gun-related suicides and homicides.

The response to mass shootings and gun violence in the United States has been very different. 

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