Does the General Welfare Include Our Air?

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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With the Iowa Caucuses just a week away now, the attention of the nation is riveted on the contenders and their every move in both parties. But a much more consequential election in Wisconsin is a mere three weeks away.

What could be more consequential than the first votes in the presidential contests? The first votes for Wisconsin State Supreme Court Justice.

The February 16 primary in Wisconsin will pit three candidates for that crucial office against each other. Two of the three — Judge Joe Donald and Judge Rebecca Kloppenburg — represent sound judicial temperaments and years of relevant experience. One of the three — Rebecca Bradley — has little judicial experience and believes that the role of the State Supreme Court is to show great deference to the legislature and the governor.

pledge to vote!

Because the spring primary is a very low turnout affair, a few thousand votes could make a huge difference. If we can muster enough support for Judge Kloppenburg AND Judge Donald, Rebecca Bradley could be eliminated from the election on April 5, the one that will determine who sits on our Supreme Court for the next several decades.

And that's why I VOTE EVERY TIME IN EVERY ELECTION. What happens in February determines what can happen in April. My vote counts the most when few other voters bother to turn out. If progressives want to start winning again, every one of us must VOTE EVERY TIME IN EVERY ELECTION.

pledge to vote!


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2016 Elections Begin!

election-ahead-sign-375x250.jpgThe nominating papers have been submitted and at Grassroots North Shore, we are ready with our first two endorsements of this election season.


US Senator Representing Wisconsin

This is an easy choice. Russ Feingold deserves to return to the US Senate to represent Wisconsin ideals of a government that serves the interests of everyone and that looks to the future. Russ has courageously stood up for an open government, one that is not owned by the select few for the interests of a select few.  

Needless to say, his opponent has held this office only to advance the interests of people like himself and has only been in place to obstruct the efforts of our president in areas such as advancing the economy, building a green future and economic inclusion.

Grassroots North Shore is looking forward to working with the Feingold campaign to push America into the 21st century and enable this state to take pride in who represents us in Washington. Visit the Feingold campaign website to sign up for news updates and to volunteer:

Milwaukee County Executive

Following a vote by our members last monthGrassroots North Shore is proud to endorse Chris Larson.

A long-time friend of this organization, Chris has been a proven fighter for progressive causes and has shown the ability to promote ideas that are beneficial to our economy, especially raising the minimum wage. He has been a champion of issues essential for making Milwaukee county a great place to live, including his support for public education and for our county parks. Chris Larson will not be a business as usual official, but will bring to county government management the skills and viewpoints of a diverse number of experts and activists from the area. 

Grassroots North Shore will be working with the Larson campaign to organize volunteers to cover the North Shore. More information on Chris is at

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Ready, Aim, Fire

image by larryhw

Some extol the language of the Second Amendment as the epitome of clarity.  Some find it far more ambiguous.  Some use it as an advertising slogan to sell more weapons in an insatiable quest for profit.   But how many are aware of how it became part of the Bill of Rights and its history since that time?

The concept of right to bear arms came from English history.  From the middle ages through the 17th century, an Englishman was expected,  even required, to have a gun.  Unlike the standing armies of today, every Englishman was responsible for protecting the kingdom and was considered to be a soldier in the king's army.  Despite the fact that early colonial families were often very isolated, the existence of standing armies was a threat for them because Europe had seen many armies come to power that ended up ruling over the people.  And even given the existence of a standing army, it would have taken too long for them to reach a trouble spot.

So, instead of having standing armies, the colonists would train together and, when danger seemed imminent, would gather their arms to defend themselves.  These local groups were called "militias" and are somewhat equivalent to our National Guard today.  Early colonial constitutions included a mention of the right to bear arms for defensive purposes for this very reason.

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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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