Thursday, December 29, 2011

Meet Judge J. Mac Davis

As we all know, Scott Walker's campaign filed a frivolous lawsuit against the Government Accountability Board because they opted to actually follow the law. Apparently Scott Walker's campaign wanted them to do their work for them and at taxpayer's expense. So thanks to a new court shopping law passed by the radical majority in the state legislature, Walker's campaign filed suit against GAB in the most Republican county in the state, Waukesha.

Lisa Mux at Blogging Blue gave us a good report on what transpired in the courtroom today. What stood out to me most was Lisa's descriptions of the judge in the case, J. Mac Davis. At this point it seems prudent to provide some of the following background information on Judge Davis.
  • Son of a former Republican Congressman
  • Republican State Senator (1982-1990)
  • Ranking Republican on the Joint Finance Committee for 5 years
  • Unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 1996. He lost in the Republican primary to Tom Reynolds (yes, that Tom Reynolds)
  • Testified for former Speaker Scott Jensen, during his first criminal trial
  • At the end of George W. Bush's last term Davis was nominated to the Western District of Wisconsin bench but was never confirmed

Now don't get it twisted. I'm not saying that a judge with this kind of long partisan background can't make a sound legal decision. But I am wondering what kind of pressures he will face with such a politically charged case in a totally toxic environment. But just in case Judge Davis decides to go all Republican activist on us, (maybe he has already) I just thought that you should at least meet him first.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

(Reality) Check Yourself

Prior to Wisconsin passing a free-for-all concealed carry law, proponents constantly used the same shtick. Whenever there was a report of a crime anywhere, they would make the inevitable and overly simplistic comment that it never would have happened if we had concealed carry in Wisconsin. I'm wondering what these same people will say when crimes continue to occur now that Wisconsin does allow the legal carrying of hidden handguns. If their past arguments carried an ounce of weight, we should see a dramatic drop in crime because now criminals are suddenly rational and are they are cowering in a corner somewhere. The entire "if we only had concealed carry" argument is built mostly on faulty assumptions and pure fantasy.

The first assumption is that the person carrying the concealed weapon actually knows how to use it. The Wisconsin concealed carry law originally required at least four measly hours of training. However when the gun lobby cried about it, the requirement was quickly tossed. Now there is no real requirement that you even know what you are doing with a gun.

A firearms trainer from Wisconsin recently shot himself in the leg. And he was in a controlled environment on a firing range not trying to quickly engage a criminal. Then there was the recent story about a veteran police officer in a mall that accidentally fired his gun. This is someone with decades of experience and intense training yet the public is supposed to feel safe with a bunch of newly armed know-nothings?

Although there seems to be a lot of fantasies about people carrying concealed weapons and using them to stop crimes, there doesn't seem to be a lot of data to back it up. For example, there were over 1.3 million violent crimes (13,000+ of them were murders) in 2009 but only 215 of them ended with the criminal being killed by a private citizen using a firearm. As much as some people replay the scenario in their own imagination, it just doesn't seem to happen very often in reality. In fact one study suggests that you are 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault if you are armed than if you don't have a gun.

It is important to realize that being in the middle of a violent crime in progress is not going to play out like a scene from a movie. In the tragic shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and others in Arizona, the scene was absolute chaos. In fact one of the legitimate heroes was armed but his handgun very nearly became a horrible liability. He admitted that when he first came on the scene that he was very close to shooting the wrong person. He saw a man with a gun and didn't realize that it was an unarmed bystander that had just wrestled the gun away from the actual shooter. Eventually he decided not to pull his gun because he worried that some other armed person might make the same mistake and shoot him. Thank goodness that none of that happened during the terror and chaos. But the example should certainly teach us a few sober lessons.

Some people also insist that they are safer because they have a full arsenal in their homes but that also doesn't always turn out as imagined. In fact sometimes that can make you even more of a target. Just last month a criminal targeted a man in Hudson, Wisconsin. He kicked open the door and had his gun on the victim before he could even get to his multiple guns, brass knuckles, butterfly knife and an "electric weapon". In fact the armed intruder tied him up and stole both his money and his household weapons.

A vocal minority in Wisconsin continues to celebrate the careless and deeply flawed pieces of gun legislation that passed the state legislature this year. While they are rushing to fully arm themselves I hope that they also take a moment to assess the actual facts. I also hope that they are operating on careful reality rather than on some romanticized idea of what it means to carry a deadly weapon and (God forbid) to actually use it.

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.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Is Walker History Repeating Itself at Dodge?

The Fond du Lac Reporter is drawing attention to the alarming increase in prisoner attacks on guards at the Dodge Correctional Institute in Waupun. Union officials are saying that it is at least partially due to a combination of low morale, unfilled vacancies and an exodus of experienced staff. Marty Beil, executive director for AFSCME Council 24 offered the following observation:

Working in a prison is not an easy setting even at the best of times, and now with the morale and vacancy levels being where they're at, it becomes a much more difficult place to be. You’ve got long-term correctional officers moving out and less seasoned officers moving in. The inmates understand what’s going on and see the changes. This is already a manipulative environment, and this just enhances that

A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections comments that "there is no staff shortage" and that "all posts are being covered with regular staff or staff on overtime." (keep track of the word "overtime" below)

This phenomena shouldn't really be a surprise to anyone that watched Scott Walker's train wreck of an administration in Milwaukee County. This current story in fact seems to be perfectly consistent with it. Consider some of the following from his failed administration of the Milwaukee County House of Correction:

But wait! That isn't the only situation that parallels the Dodge Correctional issue. There was a similar Walker pattern at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex.

So when I now hear about increased attacks on workers at Dodge, low morale coupled with high overtime and 37 unfilled positions at the facility, I can't help seeing a very long pattern being continued. I also can't help but remember Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's words in at least one of his debates with Scott Walker. In it he said (paraphrased), "If you can't run your own House of Correction, how are you going to run the state's Department of Corrections?" It was a great point then and it turns out to be a very relevant question now. I think that we are unfortunately starting to see the clear and most unfortunate answer.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Smear Machine Mission Accomplished

Two weeks ago right wing front group Media Trackers made wild accusations against Senator Lena Taylor for which they provided no real evidence. Most informed observers instantly approached it with extreme caution. Unfortunately too many divisions of Journal Communications Inc apparently didn't see that clear fact and they ran with the story. To their credit, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting today that the primary point of Media Tracker's smear against Senator Taylor was not accurate after all.

This and other recent examples of Media Tracker's false claims reveals that they are all about smearing the opposition and getting negative stories in the media about their political opponents. It seems clear that they have no concern for facts or reality as long as they accomplish those goals. You can really see how this pattern played out in the baseless smear against Senator Taylor.
  • They played some twisted version of "Six Degrees of Separation" by trying to somehow link the Senator to voters that temporarily lived at her mother's ministry to the homeless.
  • They found one homeless guest at the ministry that had a felony on their record and that voted in the spring elections.
  • They rushed to promote the smear on Senator Taylor, feeding it to their friends at Journal Communications Inc without taking the time to confirm that the man in question wasn't actually eligible to vote.
All of these steps show you that the real intentions of Media Trackers was not to do honest research. It was only to find something, ANYTHING that they could even remotely tie to a political enemy. If they really wanted to find out if the primary person that they focused on in this smear was actually eligible to vote they could have easily done so and without much effort at all. They could have clearly read his sentencing information such as his Judgement of Conviction. They could have called Probation and Parole to find out if/when he was on "paper". They could have also placed a simple call to the Milwaukee County Sheriff's office. Given the dishonesty that they were promoting through Journal Communications Inc, they clearly didn't bother to do any of those very basic checks.

This very clear smear job of Senator Taylor comes on the heels of their lying attacks on two African American women who signed recall petitions in Milwaukee. The same basic Media Trackers pattern applies.
  • They take video of the two young women signing the recall petition in Milwaukee.
  • Someone at Media Trackers apparently fancies themselves as an age expert and determines that these young women are underage.
  • Rather than taking the next logical step of a responsible investigator (trying to actually confirm the age of the women), Media Trackers again uses their friends at Journal Communications Inc to quickly perpetuate the lie.
In both of these smear jobs Media Trackers essentially followed the same irresponsibly disingenuous pattern. More problematic is that Journal Communications Inc was so easily and/or willingly drawn into both baseless smears and served as the primary promoter of them.

In both of the aforementioned cases critics were immediately skeptical of Media Trackers smear and once someone actually bothered to look at the actual facts, those critics proved to be correct on all counts. However even after Media Trackers false accusations and innuendo-based efforts were fully debunked they remained unapologetic. The likely reason? Because their goal was never to illuminate, objectively report or to properly investigate the issues that they raised. It was to simply find any possible hook (real or imagined) to smear their political opponents and to use the larger media as an "accessory" to the baseless smear. Whether their accusations were eventually debunked is immaterial because for many people on the right it has already become conventional "wisdom".

Mission Accomplished.

UPDATES: One Wisconsin Now's Response
Senator Taylor's Response
New logo for Media Trackers?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Jacque following in some wacky footsteps

The Bible Belt state of Mississippi rejected a radical personhood amendment recently. But that didn't stop a legislator from proposing something similar here. State Representative Andre Jacque (R-Bellevue) recently proposed a personhood amendment for Wisconsin. Once again a radical Republican wants to tinker with the state constitution to make it fully comply with his own rigid dogma. The amendment that he is proposing wouldn't only outlaw all abortions (including in the case of rape, incest and the life of the mother) but it would likely jeopardize things like contraception, in vitro fertilization and embryonic stem cell research.

I certainly hope that people are not surprised that Andre Jacque is this radical because that much was clear long before he was elected in 2010.

He was a supporter in 2000 of perpetual presidential loser Alan Keyes. You remember Alan Keyes don't you? He is the guy that threw out his own daughter and stopped speaking to her when she came out of the closet as a lesbian. He was so extreme that he eventually left the Republican Party and joined the Constitution Party. Even they refused to make Keyes their presidential candidate in 2008.

Alan Keyes came to UW-Madison in 2001 and berated a gay student during a Q&A session. But that certainly didn't deter Andre Jacque who said at the time that Keyes "embodies the conservative principles that a number of people like myself share." [Capital Times, 2/14/01]

As if Keyes isn't enough, Andre Jacque later became a staffer for wacky former state Senator Tom Reynolds. He is the guy that reportedly questioned potential staff about whether they were born-again Christians and whether they would remain virgins until married. Reynolds also attended the rabidly anti-gay International Conference on Homo-Fascism in 2003. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Reynolds scares his own party", 9/18/05]

Right now we have Andre Jacque's personhood amendment, but I'm sure that this won't be his last radical proposal. He seems to be following in some rather wacky footsteps and I'm sure his mentors are very proud. But none of those mentors will get a vote when he tries to run for reelection for the first time. Jacque has apparently decided that he will be running on a record located somewhere on the furthest legislative fringe. We will have to wait and see where that wacky path actually leads.