Friday, May 28, 2010

Honoring Everyone's Sacrifice and Service

LGBT members of the armed forces have served and sacrificed for our country throughout our history. This Memorial Day those that have followed in their footsteps are much closer to serving proudly, openly and without fear.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Out-of-Touch: Johnson’s Preexisting Condition

Ron Johnson received his coronation by the RPW elites over the weekend but aside from his reciting of tea party bumper stickers and slogans, he has shown very little in the way of actual public policy. He admitted as much on several occasions saying that he was still working on his actual positions on the issues. One of the places that he recently made such an admission was on Mark Belling's radio program. In fact his only real attempt at discussing policy revealed not only that he is light in that department but also that he is totally out-of-touch with average Wisconsinites and the struggles that they face.

When talking about what made him enter the race he said the following:

"Well, I can tell you well first of all the theme of my campaign will be freedom. Okay, that's the main reason I'm running is freedom, and the trigger point, the straw that broke the camel's back from my standpoint was the passage of ah the Health Care Bill—ObamaCare, and the assault on freedom that that thing represents."

When asked by Belling if he is really ready to run for office he responds with the following statement and what appears to be an unrelated personal story:

"I believe I am. But let me tell you just one other thing about a motivating factor here Mark in terms of health care. My, my, my first child was a daughter and she was born with a very serious congenital heart defect that required major surgery to reconstruct the upper chamber of her heart. Now what I had to do was I had to call up around the country to find the most advanced medical treatment for her. Now the good news though, I'll skip ahead, she now is a twenty-seven year old woman and she is a nurse in a neo-natal intensive care unit herself."

So let me see if I am getting this straight. He has a child that had a very serious pre-existing medical condition yet he wants to "repeal" protections for nearly 100,000 kids in Wisconsin with pre-existing conditions that could otherwise be denied health care? News flash to Ron Johnson! Most of those 100,000 Wisconsin children don't come from families with multimillion dollar fortunes to pay for their medical care. If you include all Wisconsinites under the age of 65, the number of people with preexisting conditions swells to over 1.1 million. The health care reform that is now law gives us a much needed level of protection for those people. Ron Johnson wants to take those protections away, leaving both children and adults (who are not multimillionaires) to fend for themselves.

Apparently Ron Johnson doesn't only suffer from a lack of ability on public policy but he is also deeply out-of-touch.

Monday, May 24, 2010

“They Don’t Think for Themselves”

Those were the words of a Dave Westlake supporter just after Westlake was thrown under the RPW bus at their convention this past weekend. Westlake certainly wasn't the only one that was run over by Republican insiders. Delegates also decided the throw Terrance Wall under the bus even after he has thrown a ton of his own money into the race. It looks like the real estate mogul made a bad investment, thanks to the RPW insiders.

The above Republican candidates were only the latest to be thrown under the bus by their own party. That process was started the moment that they decided to break with some 32 years of tradition and coronate Scott Walker right in the middle of a heated primary with Mark Neumann. Not only did the RPW throw Mark Neumann under the bus, but even a number of his followers were kept on the street outside of the convention (presumably so that they could also be run over later).

It is clear that the RPW insiders are trying to hurry up and rally behind one candidate (no matter how flawed) in certain races but not in others. But I have to wonder if they have rushed too fast to coronate some of these people. For example, Ron Johnson has not even figured out his policy positions opting instead to read the same old substance-free bumper stickers and slogans. What policy surprises and gaffes can we expect from him along the way? Has the RPW even taken the time to properly and completely vet him in their mad rush to throw the other Republican candidates under the bus?

In coronating a struggling Scott Walker, the RPW's strategy could also backfire. Mark Neumann's campaign has done much better this year and has actually made more of a race in the Republican primary than many would have thought was possible. Neumann has been successfully making inroads into the tea party and it is hard to throw him under the RPW bus without throwing them under as well. Somehow I don't think that they take kindly to party bosses decreeing that their candidate (and they) should shut up and fall in line. We already know that there is a history of tension between party bosses and the tea party folks.

So now that they have run over many of their own candidates (along with their supporters), it will be interesting to see if the RPW bus backfires or otherwise breaks down along the election year road.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Which Walker Do You Trust?

Scott Walker has had a very bad week on just about every level. Not the least of which was his epic fail on the Arizona Immigration issue. When asked about the new and unfortunate law, Walker initially put on his "I'm a reasonable conservative" face. But the right wing tempest in a teapot quickly came back to burn him on the issue. Typical Scott Walker. He began speaking out of the other side of his mouth in less than 24 hours. So I guess this provides Wisconsin's tea party with a real "come to Jesus" moment. Tell us, which Scott Walker do you trust?

Although this may be the first time that hardcore right wing activists have noticed Walker double-talk, there have been countless examples during his time as County Executive. Here are just a handful of them:

  • He originally said "no thanks" to stimulus funds for Milwaukee County, he sent out fundraising letters calling it "feeding at the trough" but in the end he used those stimulus dollars to fill gaping holes in his budget. The title of an MJS story had it right, "Walker's stimulus position depends on whom he asks".

  • Every year he jumps up and down about the slight increases in the tax levy that the County Board passes. Even though he plays Chicken Little about those increases one year, the very next year he uses those same figures as the starting point in his own budget. If he was really against those tax increases last year, why is he implementing them himself this year? Just look at his own proposed budgets and you will see that he has raised property taxes by $39 million during his time in office.

  • He came into office claiming that he would eliminate cronyism, but he just replaced most of the other guy's cronies with his own. There is a long list of political friends that he has continuously recycled into county jobs when they were not qualified. At times it has been like an endless revolving door.

  • Walker jumps up and down about increasing government, spending and debt but he has made himself into the prime example of all three. He has increased spending some 35 percent as County Executive. He front loaded three years of borrowing and spending into one year (2010). As if that isn't enough, he subjected the taxpayers to a massive and risky game due to his $400 million pension obligation bond scheme. What the heck is "conservative" about any of that?

So as Republican insiders gather in Milwaukee for their convention they really need to ask themselves "which Walker do I trust?" More importantly, members of the tea party movement that pride themselves on right wing purity need to ask themselves the exact same question. The answer for everyone in Wisconsin, regardless of party or ideology, is that when someone has so many faces and speaks out of so many sides of their mouth, you don't trust any of them.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Another Use Found for Walker’s Joyride

Everyone knows that Scott Walker has been on absolutely all sides of the federal stimulus issue (sometimes at the same time). A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel headline said it best when it reported on the hypocrisy of Walker comments in a fundraising letter. The title was "Walker's Stimulus Position Depends on Who He asks". One minute he tells the most rabid elements of the right wing that he will not "feed at the trough" and the next minute he is trying to take credit for programs and investments that were funded via the federal stimulus.

I think that the blog Pretty Important is on to something with a posting yesterday. It tracks some of the communities where Walker is making/has made a stop on his campaign season joy ride. Pretty Important points out the various benefits that have been received via the stimulus in places like Wisconsin Rapids, Waupaca and La Crosse. I agree that Walker should have to explain why those local communities should say "no thanks" to the stimulus dollars. In fact last year I suggested that Walker should have to go on an anti-stimulus tour of the state, doing that very thing. Considering that he is currently on his Rolling Blunder tour, perhaps he can conveniently fold in some chastising of local communities over their acceptance of stimulus funds.

If he really is against the stimulus (even though he relied heavily on it in Milwaukee County) then he should point a judgmental finger in the following directions during the current/next leg of his trip:

  • Over $3 million for the School District of Hudson
  • Over $9.6 million for the Eau Claire School District
  • Over $30k to Eau Claire-based Badger Truck Refrigeration Inc.
  • $2.3 million for improving an airport in Oneida County
  • $12.6 million to upgrade clean water technology in Rhinelander
  • $1.8 million to the School District of Rhinelander
  • Tens of Thousands of dollars to several Langlade County farms to promote clean diesel.
  • $1.8 million to the Unified District of Antigo
  • Millions of dollars for State Highway, local road and bridge repairs in all of these areas.
  • Residents in all of these communities that took advantage of new homebuyer tax credits, in addition to the weatherization and the Making Work Pay tax credits.

As Scott Walker continues his joy ride to these communities and beyond, he should finally be forced to get consistent on his stimulus position. He should be forced to fully explain why these local communities should have refused those extra dollars for some of their most important projects and investments. Then he should have to explain why he took the same kind of money himself.

UPDATE: Blogging Blue has highlighted additional stops on Walker's Rolling Blunder tour.

What Can $204,000 Buy Me?

Over the weekend the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Milwaukee County has spent $204,000 in legal bills specifically to handle the endless problems at the Mental Health Complex. Problems like starvation deaths, overdoses, massive increases in assaults on staff and now sexual assaults of patients. I'm just wondering what that $204,000 could have bought us if we didn't need it to defend incompetence?

Using this salary report as my guide, I came up with some of the following examples:

Pay a full year's salary for 3.5 Registered Nurses
Pay a full year's salary for 3 Sheriff's Deputies
Pay a full year's salary for 4 new Assistant District Attorneys
Pay a full year's salary for 6 new MCTS Bus Drivers
Pay a full year's salary for 9 veteran security guards
Pay the full median income of 5 Milwaukee County residents

Walker policies regarding the Behavioral Health Division have largely brought us to this place. Cut staffing and budgets, short-term politically motivated thinking, at an unacceptable long term cost. A cost to both taxpayers and unfortunately even to the most vulnerable. This legal expense is just another example of that endless pursuit of short-term gain, coming at a long term cost for everyone.

Afterthought: Since it is highly unlikely that Scott Walker would invest this kind of money in the items listed above, maybe the following are examples that might speak to him more clearly:

Pay for 68 campaign season joy rides across the state.

Pay for 5 members of the Millwaukee County Executive's staff to troll comments sections of blogs and other sites.

Friday, May 07, 2010

150 Years and Counting (Walker's Bad Policies)

Today the Milwaukee County Transit System is celebrating its 150th. The system has been and is a critical element to economic development in the Milwaukee area. Unfortunately it has been in deep trouble, especially over the last number of years.

An editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on the subject today calls out state officials but conveniently leaves out two key names that should be held to account regarding MCTS. Those names would be Scott and Walker and the politically motivated short term thinking that he brings with him. He has continually cut routes and boosted fares during his time as county executive. The Public Policy Forum produced a study which showed a direct correlation between those short term moves and a rapidly declining ridership. So it should be no surprise that twice during Walker's administration the system hit historic levels of decline in ridership.

Today's festivities will include free riding on Route 15 and the unveiling of a new look for the 90 new Clean Diesel Buses. Most of those new buses come to us courtesy of the federal stimulus that Scott Walker was against and then for (depending on who was asking). In fact, it sounds like a decal or emblem of some sort will be prominently displayed on all of the new buses reflecting the fact that the stimulus bailed out Walker and paid for the much needed new buses. "Thanks for saving me from myself, Mr. President!" -Scott Walker

So while we celebrate MCTS 150th, perhaps we can hold out hope that the system's best days are still ahead of it. A key to that hope will be a County Executive that is capable of thinking about good public policy and long term solutions rather than self promotion and the politically motivated short term. When we get to that destination, maybe we can celebrate by having George Takei back to cut another commercial for MCTS.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Ryan Lends Name but No One Lends Him Support

Earlier this week Congressman Paul Ryan decided to lend his name to dueling DC fundraisers for both Scott Walker and Mark Neumann. Well, to be clear, he agreed to lend his name but apparently not his actual presence or endorsement. Seeing him lend his name made me wonder if any Republican officials/candidates have finally decided to lend Ryan some support. It was back in February when I asked Republican candidates and officials (especially those running for Congress) to publicly state their position on Ryan's "roadmap" legislation.

To refresh our recollection, Ryan's "roadmap" legislation is really just recycled right wing rhetoric probably cribbed from some 1980's position paper somewhere. You know the whole privatize and slash spending for Social Security and Medicare shtick that comes through every few years. Ryan's recycled "roadmap" doesn't actually accomplish its stated goal and it is based on several irrational assumptions. Perhaps that is why key Republicans were running from it early and often when he trotted it out for publicity earlier this year. The last time that I wrote about this, Ryan's legislation had only 8 co-sponsors Congress, none of which were from Wisconsin. So has anyone finally decided to lend Ryan some support for his misguided efforts? I hear that Sensenbrenner and Petri were at Scott Walker's DC fundraiser. Did Walker do his part to advocate for the missing namesake of the event?

It looks like Paul Ryan has gained the support of four more Republican Congressman; unfortunately none of them are from Wisconsin. Where the heck is Petri and Sensenbrenner on this and why haven't they signed on as co-sponsors yet? Similarly, where are all of the Republican candidates for Congress on this? Are they only convenient conservatives? No doubt the tea party types love to fawn all over Ryan and his "roadmap". So why aren't these allegedly principled activists demanding that their candidates lend Ryan's "roadmap" some support? If they don't stand for it now, what makes the tea party think that they will do it should they end up in Congress? The other two Wisconsin Republicans in Congress certainly have not.

Maybe the Republican convention would be a good place for these Congressional candidates to lend their support to Paul's privatization plans. If GOP activists and tea party-types really insist on ideological purity, one would think that they would demand that these candidates back up Ryan's "roadmap" with actual words. If not, then maybe they are not the conservatives that they claim to be.

So what say you, Sensenbrenner, Petri, Duffy, Kapanke, and the chorus of candidates in the 8th Congressional District? Are you going to publicly lend your support to HR 4529 or not? Will the tea party hold you accountable or won't they?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Right Wing Endorsement Sweepstakes

First there was the Twit-Off and now Mark Neumann and Scott Walker are trying to win the Right Wing Endorsement Sweepstakes. We already know that Scott Walker unsuccessfully tried to get the endorsement of Sarah Palin. Newt Gingrich came to town for a Walker fundraiser but he wouldn't actually endorse him. It appears that Walker did get the endorsement of Jeb Bush, but who would really know? After all, the media was locked out and only high rolling special interests were allowed. What we do know is that Mark Neumann just won the endorsement of another nationally recognized reactionary Republican, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn.

For those that don't know, here are some of Coburn's extreme right wing "credentials":

  • Forget terrorists, Tom Coburn is apparently more concerned about the LGBT Community saying that they have "infiltrated the very centers of power in every area across this country, and they wield extreme power…That agenda is the greatest threat to our freedom that we face today."
  • In 1997 he proposed a bill that would have required reporting the names of those who tested positive for HIV/AIDS to public health authorities and withholding Medicaid funding from states that didn't comply.
  • At a House subcommittee meeting on the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1996, which included testimony of Milwaukee's 1993 cryptosporidium problem, Coburn praised the spores that made 400,000 sick saying that they "can sometimes…be very helpful – for doctors – because it helps us identify those people who in fact are immune-compromised."
  • In 1997 when NBC aired the Academy Award-winning movie Schindler's List. Coburn proclaimed that the airing of the movie had taken television "to an all-time low, with full-frontal nudity, violence and profanity." He also was outraged by the "…irresponsible sexual behavior…" of the movie.
  • More recently Coburn has expressed his right wing cred in other ways, such as blocking things like the extension of unemployment benefits, veterans benefits, breast cancer research funding, child protection legislation.

I could go on forever on Coburn's wildly extreme record and over-the-top rhetoric, but you get the point. Apparently this is just the kind of nationally recognized reactionary endorsement that Neumann and Walker are desperately trying to win right now. Walker has Jeb and now Neumann has Coburn but the story is still developing as each of them tries to win the Right Wing Endorsement Sweepstakes.