Monday, November 21, 2011

A reoccurring fraud on the media

Almost without exception, when we approach a major election in Wisconsin, Republicans trot out phony accusations of fraud. They make over-the-top unsubstantiated claims and feed the lies to each other via elected officials, their radio propagandists, blogs and special interest front groups. So the proper question is never, "will they make these kinds of false accusations?" Instead the important questions are "when will they" and "how badly will the traditional media fall for it this time"?

In the face of a statewide grassroots effort to recall extremist Scott Walker, all of the usual suspects are out making unsubstantiated accusations of fraud. Recall petitions, I might add, that are being signed at a blindingly fast pace (over 105,000 in four days). So naturally we have to endure the right wing's phony "fraud" claims.

Again, this kind of thing is totally expected because they run the exact same libelous drill every single time. What is always much more disappointing is how many in the traditional media give a measure of credibility to such unproven (and usually false) accusations. For example,I've already seen at least two Milwaukee-area TV news departments reporting on allegedly under age people signing recall petitions. They have raised these right wing questions without providing a proper level of evidence (no, a simple video obviously does not suffice).

Apparently some tabloid prone members of the media just can't help themselves. At some point you would think that they'd learn. We certainly know that there is a long history of these kinds of baseless accusations. The media rushes to report them and then later it is discovered that the accusations were dubious at best.

Who can forget the wild right wing accusations of voter fraud that were actually squashed by the Bush appointee and former U.S. Attorney Biskupic? He investigated hundreds of the Republican claims at that time and found "no widespread voter fraud" (much of the same result that was found nationally). The hyperbolic voter fraud rhetoric was simply not backed up by facts or by reality. Wisconsin Republicans only relied on innuendo, right wing urban legands and wacky conspiracy theories. Yet their false accusations were reliably reported in the media at the time.

There was also the epic example of false accusations that actually took place in the form of a press conference in front of the residence of the falsely accused. The libelous press conference included Wisconsin Republican officials, operatives, elected officials and others. As it turned out, the falsely accused was a young man that was studying for the priesthood and he had not committed voter fraud. None of that stopped the over-the-top and libelous accusations from the right wing who didn't even bother offering as much as an apology.

Wisconsin's recent history is filled with such false and over-the-top accusations of voter fraud. Yet it seems that many in the mainstream media just keep falling for the right wing shtick every single time. It seems that if there is any significant level of "fraud" happening it is the reoccurring right wing "fraud" that is occurring on unquestioning members of the media.

UPDATES (from Journal Communications Inc):

Charlie Sykes, ex post facto equivocator

Jeff Wagner Makes Outrageous Claim on TMJ Radio Today

And then there is @TodaysTMJ4 still promoting the original lie

Monday, November 07, 2011

FDR: I welcome their hatred

ht: Armando at Daily Kos

From an FDR 1936 campaign speech in Madison Square Garden:

"For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.

I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master."

Friday, November 04, 2011

Are gun extremists ever satisfied?

The one thing that we have learned this year is that nothing ever seems to be good enough for the truly gun obsessed. They are apparently never happy and always seek the most extreme "solutions" to problems that often don't actually exist. Just when you think that they have achieved what they want, they just keep pushing for the furthest fringe. Exactly how far do they want to go with fully arming our entire society? Are there any limits at all and are the rest of us willing to let them drag us to such a dangerous place?

In Wisconsin the gun lobby has been unsuccessful in pushing concealed carry legislation for years. This year they finally got what we thought they wanted as concealed carry legislation was passed into law and recently enacted. However that wasn't good enough for the gun lobby because they didn't want any permit process whatsoever in the law. When their own ally, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, presented very modest rules for the concealed carry process, they even attacked him. Apparently their constituency can't even handle the idea of having a whole 4 hours of "training" with a deadly weapon. I'm fairly certain that we can look forward to them trying to undermine the handful of weak requirements in Wisconsin's concealed carry law. Perhaps they will try it through additional legislation in Wisconsin's legislature or perhaps they will try to do it through big government legislation that they are trying to work through Congress.

As soon as the ink was dry on the enacted concealed carry legislation, the extremist gun lobby proceeded to the next item on their wish list, the so-called Castle Doctrine. It might be more accurately described as the Shoot First Doctrine. Feeding an apparent Dirty Harry obsession, this legislation would allow people to become judge, jury, and executioner if an intruder enters their home or business. In fact they seem to keep trying to extend where this law would apply (to things like the porch, driveway, and even adjoining sidewalks). It wouldn't matter if the intruder was unarmed and it wouldn't matter if they were not an actual physical threat.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm opposed the legislation saying the following:

Wisconsin, like most states, doesn't need a castle doctrine because current law, refined over the last half century, provides more than adequate protection for anyone legitimately acting in self-defense. "The statute in place right now is actually a very good standard, very workable, functional definition of self-defense," he said. Chisholm called the current bill a solution in search of a problem, one that "seems to introduce ambiguity that will make it difficult for law enforcement to make fine distinctions."

The Criminal Law Section of the Wisconsin State Bar also opposed the Castle Doctrine legislation.

"AB 69 changes Wisconsin law by providing a defense for irrational people armed with deadly force. Under its provisions, malevolent, reckless, or paranoid people who shoot trick-or-treaters or repairmen on their porch will be presumed to be acting in self-defense."

" provides a solid defense, and a favorable jury instruction, for any man who kills his wife in the family home and lies about it in court."
Nevertheless the Wisconsin Assembly quickly passed the bill earlier this week. In fact they did it so quickly that they failed to include proper protections for people like police, firefighters and other first responders. So after the legislation passed the state Senate the Assembly had to pass the new version. On Thursday the Castle Doctrine bill passed the legislature and awaits Scott Walker's signature.

But once again, passing the so-called Castle Doctrine is still not good enough. Earlier this week, just as the state Assembly took up this flawed legislation, the chairman of Wisconsin Carry Inc. suggested that this was only the beginning. He admitted that the home is the safest place that a person could be (so why the need for the Castle Doctrine then?) and that it is more important to have the "protections" of the Castle Doctrine law outside of the home. He is referring to the next leap to the fringe which is known as "stand your ground" provisions. It looks like vigilantism really is on the agenda.

This brings us back to my initial set of questions: Exactly how far do they want to go with fully arming our entire society? Are there any limits at all and are the rest of us really willing to let them drag us to such a dangerous place?

This post is written as part of the Media Matters Gun Facts fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to further Media Matters' mission to comprehensively monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Some of the worst misinformation occurs around the issue of guns, gun violence, and extremism, the fellowship program is designed to fight this misinformation with facts.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

I've got Ryan's class war right here, Part 2

The following graphic comes from Citizens for Tax Justice. It identifies 30 large corporations bringing in large profits but paying no total income tax in 2008-2010.

When I see this kind of thing I often wonder: How is it that these massive corporations paid less over several years than a guy flipping burgers did in one paycheck? I also wonder exactly why I'm supposed to feel sorry for these big corporations and why I shouldn't expect them to pay their fair share. By the way is that WE Energies on the list?

ht: Think Progress

This is what a jobs bill looks like

This is really very remarkable isn't it? Walker calls for another special session of the legislature to focus on jobs legislation. Then his rubber stamps in that body proceed to address every crack pot right wing piece of pet legislation that they can imagine. With this crowd that is to be expected but one may have also expected at least one actual jobs bill during this alleged special session on jobs. Instead we have witnessed a bum rush of extremist agenda items including some of the following:

  • Feed more Dirty Harry obsessions by introducing the Castle Doctrine (which actually takes away the jobs of Judge, Jury and Executioner).
  • Mandating abstinence "education" in public schools
  • Ignoring painfully obvious disparities by removing race as ONE factor for a scholarship program that serves disadvantaged college students.
  • Attempting to break the law (that Republicans already passed) by changing the gerrymandered redistricting maps. Nothing but a naked attempt to thwart the recalls to come.
  • Failed attempt to rush through legislation that would require a notary for each individual recall petition. Even though Walker and the author of this legislation both voted for the current system in the late 1990's.
  • Finding new ways to scapegoat and otherwise punish teachers.
The list goes on but you get the idea. We can certainly argue about these absurd legislative proposals. However there is no debate that none of them are designed to actually create jobs. And yet this is all that we have seen during another sham of a "special session on jobs". Give me a break, who do they think that they are fooling anyway?

If you want to look at what actual jobs legislation looks like, the Assembly Democrats introduced an entire package of bills that are clearly focused on creating jobs. They have named it the Make Wisconsin Work jobs package. You don't have to like the various bills or maybe you can find ways to improve them but at least they are on the actual topic of JOB, JOBS, and JOBS. Those Democratic bills include some of the following examples:

  • Workforce Growth Program - A grant program created under the Wisconsin Technical College System. It would address capacity issues at local technical colleges allowing them to partner with high growth/high demand industry sectors. It would create a better pipeline of newly skilled workers for the industries and businesses that most need them.
  • Extending the Transitional Jobs Program which helps people across the state gain the proper skills to reenter the workforce.
  • Apprenticeship Requirements for State Projects.
  • Business Match Training Grants which again partners local businesses with local tech colleges.
  • Wisconsin Agriculture Corps which connects youth with farm work and farm life in Wisconsin. The goal is to create long-term working relationships with those corp members and the farms with which they work. It will help create an entirely new group of skilled workers in our state's agriculture industry.
  • Entrepreneurial Assistance Grant Program - Provides grants to new small businesses for the costs of paid internships. It also gives funds to colleges and universities to establish a curriculum around the internship program.
UPDATE: Now read Rep. Mark Pocan on this "Anything But..." special session on jobs.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Fatally Out-of-Touch on Health Care

Scott Walker has had the luxury of receiving taxpayer funded health care for a very long time. Like so many other "anti-government" Republicans, other than a very short period, Walker has lived off taxpayers for his entire adult life. Because of the generous benefits provided by Wisconsin taxpayers, Walker and his family never had to seriously worry about health insurance and medical care costs. His personal hypocrisy makes his extremist policy positions on the issue all the more repugnant.

There are many people in Wisconsin that don't find themselves in such an envious position. In fact all too many hard working Wisconsinites find themselves caught in the middle and falling between the cracks of our dysfunctional health care system. They are working hard but don't earn enough to cover rapidly increasing health insurance costs. Costs that have greatly increased but at the same time have covered much less. The expansion of the BadgerCare program during Governor Doyle's administration provided a solution to more of these people. Because it met such a real need it was certainly not a surprise that it became extremely popular. Naturally Scott Walker plans to mindlessly and carelessly cut from this program, leaving real working Wisconsinites to totally fend for themselves in a hostile environment once again.

The Walker administration apparently isn't content in simply throwing thousands of those Wisconsinites to the wolves. Apparently they want to further protect the predators in this situation, the big health insurance industry. The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to spend at least 80% of premiums paid to them on actual medical care. If insurers don't meet this requirement then they have to give rebates to their policy holders. Recently the Walker administration filed for a three year waiver regarding this new rule. If that waiver is granted it will cost Wisconsinites operating alone in the predatory insurance market some $14 million. All to protect a handful of the largest insurance companies. Apparently some insurance companies are ready to actually follow the law and others are not.

As a self-employed person I have personal experience with trying to fend for myself in the predatory health insurance market. In fact I have had a very direct experience with one of the big insurance companies that the Walker administration is now trying to protect. To make a long story short, they may as well have just held me up at gun point and taken my money the old fashioned way. The best that I can do is to chalk it up to a very expensive learning experience.

Although the Affordable Care Act doesn't go as far as I would have preferred, my own personal experience with its provisions have certainly been more positive than the totally unchecked dysfunction that proceeded it. There are many provisions of the law that are helpful to different people for different reasons. For example, here are the items that I have either come to appreciate personally or that I eagerly anticipate once they are fully implemented:

  • 80% of the money that I am paying my insurance company each month will either go to actual medical care or a portion of it will be refunded.
  • Small business and other health care TAX CREDITS
  • Preventative services that were not covered in the past that are now covered specifically because of the new health care law.
  • Health care exchanges (which as far as I can remember used to be a Republican idea) that will give individuals and small business owners more leverage and will help foster a more competitive environment.

Most people are not asking for a free pass when it comes to health insurance and medical care. I certainly know that there has been nothing "free" about my own personal experience. Most hard working people are just asking for fair treatment in an environment that has been dysfunctional and predatory for far too long. Now that the individuals who are on their own are starting to actually get some help, Scott Walker has decided to defend the predators. He has made the choice to defend them rather than the people that have quite literally been paying his (health care) bills for his entire adult life. For once, he should be forced to actually live in the dark dysfunctional world that he is constantly trying to perpetuate. Maybe he will actually get that opportunity very very soon.