Thursday, September 29, 2016

ON TRUMP, JOHNSON AND DEGREES OF IGNORANCE

By Dominique Paul Noth
Gary Johnson's Libertarian brain lock.
I think the former Mexican president Gary Johnson was trying to remember  was Vincente Fox, who famously threw the f word at Donald Trump on video.

Or it could have been Felipe Calderón, who was president for six years ending in 2012. But I think it was Fox,  who came before Calderon and thus would have overlapped Johnson’s time as governor of New Mexico.

Yes, New Mexico, a state of multicultural heritage. Yet the Libertarian candidate for president who led that state for two terms couldn’t think of the name of a single foreign leader he admired on Chris Matthews’ MSNBC “Hardball” Sept. 28. If his vice presidential compadre Bill Weld hadn’t been there to throw in Merkel (Angela of Germany), Johnson would have been left dangling. (Weld’s lightness on his feet is one reason many think the Libertarian names on the ballot should be reversed.)

Johnson admitted he was having “an Aleppo moment,” describing a deer in headlights look he gave weeks earlier on “Morning Joe” where he blanked on the  one Syrian city that has been all over the news because of the refugee crisis and raging combat to liberate it from ISIL.
  
I’m not running for anything so my knowledge is not at issue.  But  Johnson’s blind spots on foreign affairs had me running my mind over how many admirable foreign leaders I could think of quickly, and that was two minutes I’ll never get back.

Netanyahu?  No, I think Bibi is almost as self-centered as Vladimir Putin. I certainly admire Justin Trudeau, who is far more than a People magazine hottie and is carving an impressive record, in two languages, on environmental, economic and  indigenous people issues.

I’d understand if Johnson had trouble digging out Theresa May’s name since she has only been the United Kingdom prime minister  since July. And this may not have been the moment for him to point out a successful woman in high office. (Why remind voters that the only bright spot in the presidential race was Hillary Clinton? I think one reason so many Republicans hate her is they realize she is the far superior candidate and can't bring themselves to admit it.)

I do admire France’s Francois Hollande who has dealt with two large terrorist crises with aplomb – and on the other extreme is Myanmar’s noted chief  councilor (equivalent of prime minister) who has gone back and forth from house arrest to humanitarian prizes (including the Nobel for Peace) and now is technically leader if the country is serious about giving her some power.  Her name is Aung San Suu Kyi and I confess to having double-checked the spelling.

All the above have been in the news recently and should be instantly familiar to anyone seeking the White House.  I know some aspects of the libertarian credo have appeal to millennials  (legalizing marijuana, pro-choice) but Johnson is also keen on fracking, the TPP and less controls on business.  So it is hard to understand any Bernie Sanders fan slipping that way – or, on the other hand, disillusioned Republicans heading into those high weeds.

When Obama says a vote for him or  Jill Stein, or no vote, is a vote for Trump,  I understand --  but don’t completely agree. I would look hard at where the voter lives, because in some precincts it makes no difference. In others, it matters mightily. In Wisconsin it could matter wherever you live.

I mean, libertarians like freedom, but freedom from knowledge is a bit much.

It was ironic after thinking about Johnson’s gaffe, in the next  hours I had to think about Trump.

Trump trots out stagecraft in Waukesha.
He was in Wisconsin Sept. 28 for a rally in the reddest area of the state, setting up in the Waukesha Expo.  A word about staging. The Expo is noted for expandable space and adjustable seating depending on the event. Since state Republicans have been tepid about Trump, the arena was arranged so that a crowd of about 1,000 looked on the TV screen like a Packers game.

In another  bit of Barnum,  Trump kept referring in his talk to thousands more waiting outside.  Well ask the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which according to its Twitter feed had more people covering a rather standard rally  than would have been used had the Pope come to town.

I just dipped in by live stream,  and the first thought was that the Expo was the appropriate venue since the audience is penned like cattle and there were endless delays. Just my experience at events there.

The attendees, clutching their signs and trying to keep their cool,  were kept suffering through multiple replays of Trump’s amped up audio tape interspersed with Ted Nugent style  screaming heavy metal. The music choice was understandable because the crowd has be kept agitated and on  nerve ends and so many recording artists had warned Trump not to use their music anymore.

I heard my favorite spiel line several times on tape --   that America needed  “a leader in the worst way possible,” which spoke for itself.

The event finally started off with an invocation from a female minister. It flatly preached  Trump as the embodiment of Christ’s values and Hillary, well, there’s that other guy. In the live stream a video of Hillary’s coughing was inserted (the music should have been Cheap Trick) and Trump’s actual speech claimed victory in the Monday night debate though all the polls say he lost badly. So in fact did sensible people in Waukesha County who stayed home.

He was preceded by an almost endless array of  enthusiastic politicians (Waukesha County Exec Paul Farrow, Waukesha Rep. Adam Neylon, state GOP leader Brad Courtney, DNR’s bubbly blond deerstalker Cathy Stepp, current arms merchant and former Sen. Bob Kasten, former Gov. Tommy Thompson (whom,  Trump claimed,  told him Wisconsin was back in play) and Trump’s traveling majordomo Rudy Giuliani.

Obviously Trump needs huge turnout from Waukesha. Also obvious at the rally he has his work cut out for him. The only special moment for me in Trump’s 40 minute speech (after hours of waiting) was an unintentional prediction of his future:  “If we don’t win, it will be one of the great wastes of time, energy and money — certainly in my life, that I can tell you.”

The brain does  strange things shifting from Johnson to Trump – it is sort of like a nightmare where you only dream of losers. But back in the real world it clarified a difference.

Johnson at least doesn’t mind looking like a fool, though he should.  Trump would have handled the question defiantly, saying he doesn’t need to know names because there’ll be people in the White House to teach him.  He so hates looking like a fool, which considering how often he acts like a fool is egocentric shameless.

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at milwaukeelabor.org.  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for urbanmilwaukee.com.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Sure I’m for Hillary, but STOP YELLING!

By Dominique Paul Noth

To all the email money-raisers peppering my in-box, yes I’m reasonably responsive, as if you really care, yes I’m voting for Russ and both he and Hillary are on my front lawn and I am listed as financial supporter.  But my responsibility is to them, not you.

I’m sure there is some professionally prominent telemarketer behind your methods who thinks he knows how to motivate the herd for political survival, but I for one am sick and tired of your groveling for money and trying to make me grovel –four times a day in some cases, raising the level of panic and fear with each mailing.  To wit:

IT’S ALL UNRAVELING!

Honestly it’s terrifying! (guess this one wasn’t that terrifying since it wasn’t all in caps).

Trump is surging in the polls. Democrats should PANIC.

WE KEEP EMAILING BECAUSE PRESIDENT OBAMA NEEDS HELP. BUT TIME’S UP!

DO YOU THINK HILLARY CAN STILL WIN?

NO RESPONSE RECEIVED (in flashing code)

And on and on and on and on.

Now what university did these folks go to, teaching them that Democrats and millennials only open their wallets or purses when they’re worried to death? Who told them to demand daily that we tell them our vote? Or want us to dip back into the same well?

I troll Republican PAC and presidential sites, too, and find similar somewhat lighter techniques whenever Trump goes down or up in the polls, which happens frequently. The body politic as well as these marketing geniuses are amazingly predictive.  Every twitch in the polls sends whatever side is affected into the Saint Vitus Dance. 

Poor Rachel Maddow, whose reputation as a liberal commentator is being used regularly to warn about "the future of our country” if Trump wins, which she meant as common sense but is now being used by senatemajority.com to make folks dig in their  pockets faster or Rachel will spank. I’m sure she never expected to play Cassandra.

Poor Nate Silver, whose reputation as an infallible pollster was already diminishing, for those who closely follow such things.  But nevertheless, since he keeps giving Trump a chance, his name has become part of the hysteria campaign to raise money in one camp and pronounce elevation in the Trump camp by such surrogates as Kellyanne Conway, the blond motor-mouth who has now switched candidates to say nonstop glowing things about her new employer just as she once criticized him.

End result. The same media Trump incites violence against at every rally is embraced by him for every poll bump. In her rallies, Clinton placidly plows ahead trying to talk issues and ignore the hiccups – but not her supporters on the Internet! They sure haven’t got the message.

In some ways I sympathize. By sheer contrast in ability Hillary should be way ahead. And she needs big changes down the ballot to turn the Senate and make strong inroads into the House – because then Congress will stop sitting on its GOP hands and begin moving forward on something, anything.  (Republicans don’t like to hear that, but the gridlock is mainly theirs and it is sickening.) 

I do understand that there’s a massive concern for turnout lest the people wake up Nov. 9 and flagellate themselves for what they let happen. So Democrats and independents recognize that this is the time to get busy.

But not the time to panic or sell fear! Yet some pretty notable fund raisers are doing just that on the web.  Biggest offenders are the End Citizens United campaign, Democratic Governors Association (sorry, not worried about governors right now – catch me in 2018), the SenateMajority (a com named in anticipation) and, sadly, my old friends ActBlue

There is more sensibility from Hillary Clinton’s own website, which sticks with issues and just a hint of let’s get going alarm. But even there the temptation is to bash Trump first and get around to reasons later, which reflects the media headlines. Since never before have so many Republicans abandoned their standard bearer, that’s a reality that can’t be ignored if you’re appealing to unsettled voters.

Emily’s List is fairly factual, too, and gives accurate poll rundowns of how Democratic female candidates for Senate are doing in local polls, which saves me the trouble of daily checking as telemarketers do to decide which panic button to push.

I also respect the sober “counting toward goals” methods of the sites of Tammy Baldwin and Russ Feingold, plus the thank you tone of Marc Pocan.

The Republican sites, for individuals other than Trump, are interesting, because they don’t rise and fall with his enthusiasm and panic but with the panic and enthusiasm of their own local polling!

Take Kelly Ayotte, in a tough race in New Hampshire against strong Democratic challenger Maggie Hassan. She can’t endorse Trump while saying she will vote for him, a schizoid hair-splitting that is understandably hurting with voters.  So she has now called in her senate buddy from Iowa, Joni Ernst, to borrow her “Let’s Make Them Squeal” pig holler to raise cash.

Sure, I’m bothered that Hillary isn’t winning in a walk, according to the polls. But I guess I’m more a realist about this measure of judging voter interest months in advance.

I talk to Democrats all the time who expect Clinton on pure merit to wipe the floor with Trump at the debates and seal the thing. But that’s only if Joni Ernst’s pigs can fly.  

I think her fans are waiting for a “Big Eyes” moment of embarrassment for Trump. That (true story, not just a movie invention) was when a judge ordered a paint-off between Margaret Keane and the charlatan Walter Keane to prove she was the only real painter -- and he could only muster bluster and excuses. How great that sort of defining putdown would be!

But even with the capable Lester Holt as moderator Sept. 26, this will not be that clear an eye-opening opportunity to expose the mountebank bluster.  She is playing on Trump’s home turf – electronic media, which illuminates every boast and outrage into “strong leader” and reduces every detailed logical explanation into ho-hum.  She’s answering with her head to an audience susceptible to fear and heartstrings.

Plus the TV audience will be grading him on a curve. If you are a traditional Republican you’re desperate to snatch some reason to feel better about your own party. You might just buy his spiel as long as he’s still standing at the end.

The debates will not be as conclusive as the Clinton forces hope and on the Internet are dangerously selling as decisive.  I take the longer view, the Obama view I guess, of trusting the American voters to act in their own best interests and security of the country when the final bell rings. 

I do worry that poor attention, lack of education, political ignorance and celebrity fascination will take a toll, but I think the panic from the Democratic fund-raising machinery is more likely a goad for the opposition. “Look how scared of us they are, the wimps!”

I will give in time and money as I can, but my email box is being embarrassed by the raw desperation.  It’s supposed to be the Republicans who treat raising money as the deciding god.


About the author: Noth has been  a professional  journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at milwaukeelabor.org.  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for urbanmilwaukee.com. 


Thursday, September 15, 2016

WHAT KEEPS REPUBLICANS FROM TURNING SENSIBLE?

By Dominique Paul Noth

What this country needs is an election divorced from traditional Republican and Democratic labels. 


It's hard for Republicans to look
Hillary in the face.
That’s a strange statement since for nearly 40 years the name Clinton has been the Democratic Party label and often the center of GOP hatred (only changed of late -- thanks Obama).

Breaking the mold, you would think, benefits Trump, except for the number of Republicans straining to break the leash of a party that so ineptly let him take over and are forcing them to embrace the tone, statements, divisiveness and spastic values the presidential candidate embodies. 

For decades Hillary has been Medusa for Republicans. How can they now look her in the eye and admit they were misled on Whitewater, Benghazi, emails, you name the manufactured scandal?  A lifelong Republican has got to put those stories in perspective first before they recognize the importance of voting for her.

They may just stay away, which is not healthy for democracy.  But if you examine the platforms and personalities of Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, it’s not just they don’t have a chance, it’s that they sound distant from Republican values and even more naïve.

How reality is changing things. For Republicans I’ve talked to and even suffered insults from, there is now something that quietly bothers them more than Hillary. It’s their own candidates dissembling. Candidates who say they may vote for Trump but can’t endorse him.  Or that they can’t endorse him or vote for him but won’t vote for her. Or just don’t ask me, I’m too busy. The confusion looks like profiles in cowardice, but there’s a lot of Republican heritage standing in the way of being sensible and voting for Hillary. Republicans are actually angry at their own candidates because that uncertainty reflects their own.

As a national party Republicans are in a struggle to be honest with themselves. It’s not just that they disagree with some Democratic approaches to government. They have lived with those for eight years and survived quite nicely.  Now it  is their own beliefs that have been shanghaied and are subject to whatever change Trump thinks will fly in the winds of his own bloviating.  What do they now stand for – and behind whom? 

Be kind. Who among us can admit that we were wrong for decades? Many Republicans are going through the stages of grief, particularly denial and still not ready for resignation and acceptance.

Traditional members are accustomed to the give and take that underlies American politics. They expect to win some, lose some and negotiate others to a result they can claim is a victory.   They’ve had Reagan and the Bushes and even of late Republicans have represented nearly half the country (and more in terms of statehouses).  Now, confronted by a gridlock in D.C. based on many issues they have mixed feelings on, from health care to background checks, from infrastructure to environmental protection, they have been hooked into standing by their party’s “principles.” 

But using the name ”Trump”  and the term “principle” in the same sentence has become impossible. 

No matter how he tries to cool his image and stick to the teleprompter, not matter how he tries to sound like a mellowed policy wonk, the real Trump continually exposes himself, and his vagaries.  Supporting him risks joining the  “deplorables” who genuinely exist and in noisiness dominate his rallies. No wonder so many in the GOP are  conflicted. 

The GOP  is a party regionally strong but likely to grow nationally weaker because of  Trump.  He would have a harder time than Hillary in forming coalitions in Congress. The smarter members of the GOP have already made the pivot to work down the ballot, supporting people who say never Trump and even  those who say maybe Trump or halfway house Trump.

The universal reaction to Hillary’s bout with pneumonia proves the point. Republicans were almost as panicked as Democrats at the specter of illness playing a role in who wins the White House.

But in this time of needed rescue,  how can Republicans turn to Clinton to protect their nation after so many years bashing her?  And then there is the left side of the Democrats, who want the 69 year old Hillary to be  the 75 year old Bernie or at least an agent of change though both have been pillars of the establishment.  (Both Hillary and Bernie would despise that statement, since both in their own way have spent their careers pushing against the establishment, but time in service  alone makes them vulnerable to that charge.) Nor can Hillary  repeat the might of the Obama coalition (who could?). But at least those younger voters and progressives are slowly recognizing that only Hillary in office represents their own advance and security.

If Republicans continue to think like Republicans, and Democrats do the same, Clinton won’t win the majority she and America deserve and the GOP will have wasted energy it needs to spend down the ballot, where the party has a stronger chance to survive (as painful as that is for a liberal like me to admit).  That’s why even conservative writers are warning that a Trump victory would more likely destroy the Republican Party than a Clinton win.



About the author: Noth has been  a professional  journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at milwaukeelabor.org.  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for urbanmilwaukee.com. 


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

TRUMP SHAPING UP AS HISTORY’S MOST BIZARRE FOOTNOTE

By Dominique Paul Noth

Years from now historians will look back at this presidential campaign with a mixture of disbelief and laughter. (That’s probably a pro-Hillary statement, since it assumes there will be historians years from now.)

They will wonder not just how Donald Trump hijacked  the once respected Republican Party and ground it into national rubble but  also how he did it with an issue that doesn’t even make the top five in problems facing the United States – the undocumented among us, whom  statistics demonstrate are far more criminal-law-abiding than their homegrown counterparts.

Trump lathered that up as the “only important conversation” for Americans. If that were not silly enough, his Aug. 31 ravings about their invented criminality were accompanied by crocodile tears for photo-ops in Mexico and at a black church. Those acts of false normalcy and almost total reversal of his rallies were given equal media time.

Historians will spend most of their ink on why so many GOP leaders, knowing what they were saddled with, found ways to tolerate Trump, either gently steering their own campaign away from his toxicity or playing that crazy confounding game of saying they’ll vote for him but not endorse him.

Let’s also hope the historians don’t forgive the unforgivable.  That is, the two faces of the mainstream media.  One face has done a pretty thorough job dismantling the falsehoods, half truths and deliberate deception of the Aug. 31 speech as well as his broadside attacks on Clinton. 

But the other face is ratings hunger, programming more for eyeballs than meaning.  So in report after re-report after looped re-reports both the Trump yelling and the contrasting crocodile tears were pounded out relentlessly. And every mention of Trump must be followed by a mention of Clinton in negative fashion whatever the reality may be. 

For me the most amusing was when she delivered a pretty sterling policy on mental health, but all the media could discuss were her emails.

We are in an era where visual images count more than analysis, and in this game of false equivalency Trump got an artificial leg up.

The best reporting these days is the mockery by faux news (late-night hosts and Comedy Central) who know exactly what to do when Trump points to “my African American” in the crowd or tells an incredulous congregation that the African American church is “so important, so important.”  Even as the establishment media tries to explain him they are electronically plastering his poster on city walls, the way we expect streets to be lined in dictatorships.  

Unquestionably the misdirection that Trump laces into his speeches are the biggest conspiratorial theories we have going, suggesting that Americans want to pick crops in the field or clean hotel toilets but are being deprived because of a porous border. Not by a needed wall around corporate greed.

On that real border, people are no longer a traffic problem – it’s more guns from American heading south and opium heading north.  The real issue the wall can’t address is comprehensive immigration, since most of the Trump targets already are in this country or overstaying legitimate visas.

Trump the supposed businessman is under pressure from GOP regulars who want him to back down on long-held promises to deport all the undocumented. They represent sizable tax revenue and also add some $12 billion to Social Security, which makes the cost of educating their children (hello Jan Brewer) a mere pittance compared to the giant profits.

These days both sides are eager to exaggerate.  I can collect examples from the far left as well as the far right.   One key device: Angry and anguished relatives speaking about deaths of loved ones.  This not only sells medical clinics in TV commercials. It has become a favorite emotional ploy for both political sides.  The relatives of the fallen soldier speaking to the camera. The veteran denied the care he needs. They tug at our hearts as do starving dogs in yet another popular TV commercial.

But this pull was dragged to preposterous heights by Trump in his immigration tirade. At the end he lined up for sympathy and “Trump our savior” comments some parents whose children were killed by “illegal aliens.” Truth often bends before emotion, especially parental emotions. As manipulative as I realized the Trump display was, it still tugged at my feelings.

Until you examine the particulars of each case.  All these lost relatives could have even more readily been killed by legal citizens. Actually more frequently. 

There are 1,500 hit and run deaths per year in the US, but plucking out two committed by the undocumented is hardly a convincing statistic. If we could only lower the rape rate to those done by “illegals” that would be a great statistic to boast about. In terms of home invasions, gang beatings, recidivism  and the like, US citizens unadorned by scapegoats are not only doing the majority but at far higher percentages.  Crime statistics bear out that such atrocities emerge far more in non-immigrant communities.

This is not to make light of these families’ tragedies or the holes in our law enforcement or incarceration imbalance. But every moment spent deciphering Trump’s ramblings or his motives is a moment lost to genuine solution.

No wonder that Obama, stifled for most of his two terms because of GOP obstinacy, simply plows ahead doing what he can without Congress – and believe me,   historians will have a lot to say about that. 


About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at milwaukeelabor.org.  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his own culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for urbanmilwaukee.com.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER AND OTHER NOSTRUMS ABOUT SHERMAN PARK

By Dominique Paul Noth

The clichés are rolling in the wake of the Sherman Park disturbances. First up is “closing the barn door” after the horse has bolted. That’s the  skeptic’s way to view Gov. Scott Walker’s skillful lifting and combining of existing federal programs and harmless shifts in state money to announce a $4.5 million bailout in mainly jobs aid targeted at the Sherman Park area.

Don’t expect residents there or anywhere in Milwaukee to look even a belated shrunken gift horse in the mouth, to vary another cliché.  The help – any puny help – is welcome in a city so often ignored by the state and by its richer surrounding neighbors in the WOW counties (Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington, which have been the beneficiaries for decades of white flight and Republican insulation).

Let’s not pretend the savagery against Milwaukee and the lack of steady interest by Walker haven’t played  an escalating role in the problems. In a diatribe uncomfortably echoing Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn statement to Bush about Iraq (Mr. President, you broke it you own it),  Keith Schmitz of Grassroots North Shore noted how Milwaukee lost 28,000 jobs in 15 years while the WOWs gained 56,000, many from white relocation.  So he told “right-wingers, you built this, you benefit from this, you are the problem.” 

It is also Kumbaya cliché to hear elected officials hold hands and say “we’re all in the same boat now.” Sure it’s true – it’s always true.  But it becomes a truism hard to believe in any year much less an election year.  Are city, county and state officials really pulling the oars in the same direction, or even in the same waters, beyond what is politically convenient?


LaTonya Johnson speaks reality.
I share the worries expressed by state Representative and soon to be Senator LaTonya Johnson in a Shepherd Express story recalling her negative initial reaction when the national guard was called in by the governor and Sheriff David Clarke (though smartly held in abeyance by Mayor Tom Barrett and Police Chief Ed Flynn).  In remarks she could have made 49 years ago, when Milwaukee also made national headlines, “You are going to get electeds who feel they need to step in,” said Johnson. “[How is this] going to affect our poor families and those individuals who are convicted felons? I’m sure there are going to be some harsh pieces of legislation that are going to come down the pipeline.”

Sherman Park was a short eruption on an August weekend that pushed to the forefront lingering sores. But it unfortunately has labeled a vibrant and diverse neighborhood, now deteriorating,  as the poster child of Milwaukee problems.  Walker’s help while welcome is almost a plantation master’s knee-jerk. There are other neighborhoods in Milwaukee where the blight looms larger and they  now feel doubly neglected. 

People immediately went about their lives as normal a few blocks away from Sherman Park while suburbanites are still shunning the city, just as it took years to recover from that July 30 to August 3 of 1967.

I was a local copy editor in 1967 and my view of the “riot” is somewhat different than popular history provides.  That was the Long Hot Summer when civil disturbance roiled through 159 cities, many much more destructive than Milwaukee’s. Yet the National Guard was quickly called in by Mayor Henry Maier and he also imposed a citywide 24-hour curfew for four days (with a few open hours for grocery shopping and liquor buying).


Clarke seems to have brought the ghost
 of the late  Harold Breier back
to Sherman Park.
In sum, if I remember right, there were four deaths (one from a heart attack), 100 injuries and under Police Chief Harold Breier (who would be Clarke’s Icon of Militant Authority if he hadn’t been so hated in the black community) 1,700 arrests.

The Milwaukee Journal was allowed to continue as we showed our press cards at the barricades on State St., but unlike others’ memories, the inner streets were not swarming with officers. I had no business except curiosity but I walked around then Third and Walnut with no incident, almost as if in a ghost town. 

(Nine months later I understood the quiet throughout the city, and even earned an eagle-eye reputation at the paper.  In those days the Journal copy desk routinely marked up and published the birth notices, and I noticed – and passed along to editors -- a remarkable surge in births nine months after the riot. So there clearly was a party side to the curfew.)

Back then, police officers were angry about attacks on their ranks and responded roughly to the behavior.  But a few took me inside. They told me it started with a few fights, escalating police presence,  teen window smashing and rock throwing, a crazy old man shooting at everything in sight and  a lot of people  sticking their guns out the windows, firing and then ducking inside chuckling.

Maier was much praised, even though a few months later he refused to pass the fair housing ordinance that underlay the tension then, much as deaths at police hands do now.

I came to believe that Maier’s actions were excessive. That’s not a majority opinion.  Better safe than sorry goes another cliché, so clamping down fast was highly regarded and in that summer considered prescient.  I’m sure we’ll discover over time that some adolescents who hang around Sherman Park were content to join or even lead the chaos.

But let’s not repeat the excess in different circumstances. The Park has also been a haven and learning place.  Maier in retrospect was more concerned about protecting us white folks than helping them black folks or addressing the roots of the problem. 

Now for another cliché. This is not a defense of the rioters from one of those “bleeding heart white liberals.” It’s recognition that violence does no good, never has, but does draw attention – mostly the wrong kind of temporary attention, which is why it is also stupid.  White flight escalated after 1967, especially if you combine the “riot” with federal requirements to integrate the schools. Greater isolation, mistrust and job loss continue to advance in the wake.  

There’s something hypocritical about our reaction to adolescents in this community.  Despite strong evidence that other young people were inflamed by social media and came storming in, headline-enterprising  Clarke scored strong-arm points by imposing  a continuous 6 p.m. curfew for youths in Sherman Park.  The youths in the area used to respond better  to kind words. Will they still? But this is Clarke’s American Way -- guilty until proven innocent.

When students after a basketball loss ran amok in Ann Arbor starting fires, it was addressed with another cliché (“Boys will be boys”). 

Nor do we summon the national guard into Madison after a rowdy football game or street festival. There is a racial and class component not only to the uproars but also to the state’s reaction.

Frantic Band-Aids can wind up worse than itching powder.

There’s been a lot of welcome discussion about remedies and endurance, some serious realization that nothing short-term will work, unless of course you are the governor or the state legislature judging from afar.

Some of those folks will judge it is all about broken homes, others all about residential segregation, though there’s growing evidence of why blacks like to live around blacks and whites around whites even when incomes rise.

Others claim lack of jobs alone, but in 1967 Milwaukee was awash in manufacturing jobs compared to now. According to Marc Levine, director of the UWM Center for Economic Development, then it was 119,000, not it's down to 27,600 by 2014.

Others say poverty, but it is a different kind and manner of poverty than immigrants endured in Boston and New York, since there was a non-melanin base to  assimilation and upward mobility.

A modern cliché of sociology is “systemic problems” – and it’s another case of  true, depending on who is defining “systemic.”  Should it be the same people who think systemic solutions can be imposed from the outside? Will we ever truly recognize the founders of the feast?


About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at milwaukeelabor.org.  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for urbanmilwaukee.com.


Monday, August 8, 2016

MEDIA WAKES UP TO AUG. 9 DARK MONEY THREAT

By Dominique Paul Noth

Something I reported at DomsDomain  on July 13 has made mainstream media two days before the  Aug. 9  election – the emergence of dark money, though now we start to learn the volume of it.  Dan Bice of the  now Gannet owned Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on the main money players and rumors of half a million in combined expenditures. He also brought in other supportive groups that may not qualify as dark money.  But the fever of the campaign is  certainly heating up an already hot August.

DA John Chisholm now biggest
target of dark money.
The real target of the highest rollers is obviously Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, on the theory that the community is so upset at law enforcement right now they might be talked into taking it out on him.

That certainly seems the methods of attack. Republican money has cunningly combined black anger with Republican worries about the John Doe, which is moving into a US Supreme Court determination.  Of course, given Chisholm’s national leadership on community healing, his loss would be tragic.

My July 13 story named the other progressive favorites and the reasons to back them in many local races, discussing the outbreak of those mysterious flyers and radio ads. 

Then my next story  July 17 (picked up by many outlets) discussed the virtues of DA Chisholm and suggested he was the real target of the dark money, describing the motives and the financial fountain – Eric O’Keefe, who worked for Wisconsin Club for Growth and for Gov. Scott Walker simultaneously. He has fumed against the John Doe investigation of illegal coordination.

The other races his money is involved in are mainly camouflage for a virulent attack on Chisholm.

I and other journalists pointed out that these races were between the most progressive and the least progressive candidates. So perhaps it should not be a surprise that the biggest advertisers for the least progressive include  the impenetrable Leaders for a Better Community (with WNOV radio host Sherwin Hughes listed as the contact and his program and station receiving the most ads) and the right-wing blitz from Milwaukeeans for Self-Governance, operated by PR man Craig Petersen with money from O’Keefe and (only they know) whoever else.

Their support is heaviest for Verona Swanigan, Chisholm’s opponent, but their devoted subjects are using the vernacular of Queen to describe Swanigan and Lena Taylor, struggling to be re-elected in Senate District 4 against Mandela Barnes. Save Our Queens seems the motto. Wonder what the late Freddie Mercury would say to that.

Ads by the two groups are closely allied – aside from Swanigan they support  Thomas Harris, Taylor’s  former chief of staff, for Senate District 6 and Jason Fields for Assembly District 11, which Barnes left to take on Taylor (he beat Fields four years ago). Darrol Gibson is the best AD11 candidate, which the ads fail to mention.

Candidate  LaTonya Johnson, slimed in TV ad
This help for  Harris includes a TV attack ad that appeared during the Olympics aimed at taking down the most popular candidate for SD6, LaTonya Johnson.  It does not dwell on her admirable legislative record but on her personal bankruptcy efforts to keep her house.

Bice had a lot of fun with the fact that all three candidates for Senate District 6 had once filed for bankruptcy – Harris, Michael Bonds and Johnson. His story -- double entendre headline and all -- looks tame compared to this attack ad that supports Harris without mentioning his bankruptcy but throws everything at Johnson, even dragging in from nowhere a knee-jerk issue she has nothing to do with (bad lead pipes).  It should make sensible viewers want to support her more.

All this creates a  confusing picture for voters, which may be what the right-wing money machine is counting on. To the uncritical eye, Milwaukeeans for Self-Governance sounds like actual  members of the community working to build it up, not tear it apart.  In reality any  success on election day would be a deliberate rupture of the  newly organized and newly effective  Milwaukee Democratic delegation to the Madison legislature.

This right-winging has stirred up bile on the other side by the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund, and John Chisholm for one wishes it hadn’t.

Reportedly with less money than O’Keefe commands but still sizable enough to do TV ads and mailers, Greater Wisconsin moved in to attack Swanigan in ways the sitting DA doesn’t like and has disowned.

“Some of the attacks on my opponent are also wrong-headed,” he wrote hours after the ads started appearing.  “She's absolutely wrong for the job, and does not have the requisite experience or understanding. However, there's nothing wrong with being a defense attorney. I respect and admire the hard work of my colleagues in the defense bar. No one should attack a lawyer based on who her clients are.”

While Chisholm has distanced himself,  Swanigan in contrast has embraced the third parties backing her and even echoes the acid thrown at Chisholm.  She has declined several debates but finally agreed to one in friendly territory Aug. 1 – Hughes’ radio show, where she openly suggested her election would be about “retribution.”  Knowledgeable listeners could almost hear O’Keefe pulling the puppet strings.

Much of this has been made possible by the US Supreme Court’s  2010 Citizens United decision. As the JS story rightly pointed out: “Corporations can spend unlimited cash on efforts to influence voters. Unlike candidate and political action committees, these nonprofits — most of which are organized under 501(c)(4) of the tax code — do not have to disclose their donors.”

I would add that labor unions and individuals who know how to bundle were also freed of restraints by Citizens United.

But Bice’s story may confuse some because it lumps all third party groups into the same dark box. Not so. One he mentions under the same headline and connectors is a political party that also supported Bernie Sanders, the Wisconsin Working Families Party.  Deep in the  story their leaders were allowed to point out that their money comes from liberal community groups and labor unions such as SEIU, so it is traceable.

Donors to the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund may not be known for months. Then  they will be known, and may clear up who is behind their campaign – but after the fact, which all journalists dislike.   Last spring, with help from County Executive Chris Abele according to news stories, the same group went after Sheriff David Clarke. 

Clarke meanwhile is doing robo-calls for Swanigan – bringing to mind the crushing letter about him Chisholm was forced to write two years ago after Clarke went on a media tear.

In contrast I can find no regulation that suggests the names of money-givers to  Milwaukeeans for Self-Governance will ever be revealed, unless they do it themselves.  So this is the truly dark money trying to sound like community advocates.

In my view, the Milwaukeeans for Self-Governance hopes to fool the black community into voting against Chisholm, dragging in some voucher friendly legislative candidates in the bargain. Of course, there will be some gleeful cross-over Republicans, but there always are.

I have also pointed out something the mainstream media missed – or has found no way to politely say.  There is a  glitch in state law that, if she were to win and  resign, Gov. Scott Walker could appoint a new DA for a full term, with the feelings of  residents of Milwaukee County shut out.  Swanigan has a history of medical problems. 

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at milwaukeelabor.org.  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for urbanmilwaukee.com.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

HOW KOOYENGA IS LOVING MILWAUKEE TO DEATH

By Dominique Paul Noth


Dale Kooyenga was generally taken apart by MTEA exec
Lauren Baker in an MU discussion that sure
looked like a debate.
If you wonder who besides Donald Trump is tone deaf in the Republican Party, meet Dale Kooyenga (Representative from Brookfield). He clearly regards residents of Milwaukee as untrustworthy children to be led around by uninformed outsiders like Dale Kooyenga.

It would be hard to find anyone as ill-schooled on issues of education while positioned to exert extraordinarily bad influence, as MTEA leader Lauren Baker revealed in a recent “discussion.”

(There is a rumor that Kooyenga has higher political ambitions, specifically Jim Sensenbrenner’s  seat in the House, but then again so does Wisconsin state senator Leah Vukmir. We may have to throw both into a chicken pit to peck away until Sensenbrenner decides to retire.)

Kooyenga is typical of legislators who say they love Milwaukee but not the decisions of its electorate. Read his now laughable explanation from two years ago opposing the streetcar,  advocating for more Madison interference in funding and taking credit for gains that should be spread around.  Yet it is dripping with love. He says he is working for Milwaukee and not against Milwaukee, so just give in.

There’s far more recent evidence of how his hug is the Night of the Grizzly. On Mike Gousha’s TV talk show July 31, Kooyenga totally misunderstood the strong negative  reaction toward his and Alberta Darling’s OSPP, the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program. That fanciful half-baked proposal (now law)  would take out of MPS hands a few schools identified as troubled (only it’s getting harder to figure out which are troubled since MPS is actually improving the usual suspects). They would be turned over for private school operation with state money by a commissioner selected by the Milwaukee County executive, currently Chris Abele.

Now every knowledgeable educator says a concept without a worked-out plan – and how about a budget? -- will never fly. That’s OSPP. And that’s why MPS offered an alternative that would benefit its education efforts. Everyone except Kooyenga and Darling (K&D)  thinks it’s a great idea and would preserve and enhance the MPS – an early childhood education center in the inner city open to the community and dedicated to best practices.

When Demond Means, that Abele appointed commissioner, learned that not only his plan but also this substitute would not fly with the bill’s authors (K & D), he resigned.  Kooyenga on Gousha’s show interpreted this as Means being “run out of town” not by K & D but by entrenched forces at MPS – rather than the thousands of parents and teachers who stood up and shouted OSPP  down. At several meetings it was like a Capra film. Seldom has Milwaukee seen such community uniformity and  involvement

This opposition called the OSPP what it is: Ineffective, unfunded and patently a takeover effort – another example of gutting local control and treating citizens as plantation slaves who need the master’s direction before they exercise their mental and moral faculties.

Meanwhile MPS chugs along improving schools to the point that Kooyenga’s targets keep shifting. I defy him to identify schools so poor they require a takeover as opposed to the ministrations of Superintendent Dariene Driver.

Of course, every self-proclaimed conservative visionary in Madison knows better than the Harvard educated Driver. They are just like studio executive Harry Cohn who once claimed that his ass twitched whenever he saw a bad movie. So naturally they have the monitoring asses for the educational universe while slowly but surely MPS is improving its educational ladders.

True to Harry Cohn’s behind,  Kooyenga pledged on the Gousha show that come next January, when the legislature goes back in session, he and Darling (from River Hills) will offer something “more aggressive.” He added: 

"What I want to know is, when are people in Milwaukee hungry for change? When do they say the status quo is not acceptable?" This from the incarnation of the status quo.

It’s a familiar arrogance past endurance.  It is also likely a hollow threat since there are elections in November that put half the Senate up for grabs and all the Assembly.  Kooyenga operates in the hubris that things will go unchanged politically. But he is Dale Kooyenga not  Dale Carnegie.

Events suggest he is spitting in the wind. Taking over the Assembly may be out of reach, given the GOP’s 63-36 edge but the Senate will go Dems if  the public gets irate enough.   Right now the Milwaukee public is that irate at how it remains a special whipping boy  for Madison meddling, without recognition that much of the state’s black population and jobless rate are packed into the city.

Dislike of the legislature’s heavy hand on education issues and funding is rapidly radiating across the state, as several conservative school districts will tell you.  

And the Senate (19-14)  is eminently flippable. It only takes three seats.

Kooyenga remains  a formidable threat only because city and county  officials are running scared of what crazy thing he might next do. Ald. Jim Bohl at recent committee meetings almost pleaded with his colleagues not to make the Madison legislature angry, lest they come up with something worse.

In reality, Kooyenga may  be  shooting blanks. He represents the heavy thumb that old-line common sense Republicans are longing to get away from. It may be high time to stand up to  his best shot, to quote “Hamilton.” 

But on education issues local officials are hardly profiles in courage.  The Right Step case has brought that  into bold profile. 

Right Step is being sued by what has now grown to seven parents and seven children for excesses in its boot-camp style all-boy military program,  now open to 154 students grades 5 to 12 at 8684 N. 76th Place (near Brown Deer Rd.  just east of the old Northridge Plaza). The plaintiffs’ attorney, Aaron DeKosky, tells me the case has advanced to the discovery phase.

Right Step wants to buy a former bank at 500 W. Center St., more recently a site for Head Start known as Centro Del Nino,   to open a similar school. But that requires rezoning. The building was owned by MPS and listed as one of its underutilized properties – but it was never a school where children walk the neighborhood, not with that nice liquor store across the street and the other commercial attractions.


Ald. Milele Coggs in a recent TV interview.
The Common Council, 9-6, approved the sale  – maybe because they feared that gun full of blankety  blanks. Most of the aldermen, even some who voted for approval, join Ald. Milele Coggs in disliking how Madison’s new law has taken away their ability to evaluate the quality or value of any charter or voucher school competitor that wants an MPS building. Only those voucher or charter operations are allowed to buy or lease one of the buildings (10 on the list) – which is bizarre in how it chills real commercial development.

The reason more aldermen are not upset is because the buildings are not stacked up in their territory. 

It’s an intrusive law, since MPS is known as a good absentee landlord and private operators offer a bit of upfront money and a lot of lingering doubts. Plus there seems an almost automatic pass-through of taxpayer money into their outstretched hands. 

The current Right Step,  aside from being sued by parents and investigated by the FBI, has a troublesome academic record along with its Heil Clarke mentality.

Coggs’ issue is not with the school per se, but the inability of aldermen to say anything but yes or no, the way the law is written. If it were not for the zoning issue, she points out, it would be full speed ahead despite the wishes of her constituents.

But local officials, and their lawyers at the city attorney’s office (which represents both the Common Council and MPS) are very squeamish about going to court against the right-wing money represented in the threat to opposing the law. 

This is actually more cowardly than Republicans are with taxpayer money.


AG Schimel has no hesitation on
spending taxpayer money.
The state went too far in its voter ID law, stretching its demands from driver license photo to limiting early voting and harsh strictures on what constitutes a proper ID. Appeals courts around the country have said so about similar laws. In Wisconsin two judges – both  federal in different suits --  have amended the law or ruled aspects unconstitutional (starting with November election). Yet  the state attorney general is spending on appeals – taxpayer money since the conservatives are in charge. He’s happily wasted such money before on issues he was clearly going to lose.  The city attorney’s office seems scared of any similar effort even as more courts are stepping in against these GOP laws.  

Coggs thinks many in her community would support court action on the MPS empty schools bill. Lawyers say there is a constitutional issue of local authority to fight for.  But when  the city attorney says don’t fight, the Common Council buckles. I guess it depends on who is risking taxpayer money. I also now  suspect that rather than Kooyenga’s OSPP law being threatened with local government court action – since it sure smells of overreach --  we’ll be subject to a similar crawl back into the shell.

Kooyenga could get a job in Door County because he likes to cherry-pick. Like when he said on TV about kids in Milwaukee, “40% of them are not even graduating high school.”

Let’s first clarify that most of the OSPP targets  are far lower than high school, and there is always a statistical lag between progress in  elementary schools and better graduation rates in high school. Few voucher or private charter schools even risk dealing with grades 9-12 – leaving MPS to absorb their poorly educated students.  Two of MPS high schools regularly rate in the top 200 of US high schools (Rufus King and Reagan) and several others are not far behind.

And while no one is happy with the graduation rates, Kooyenga – as did the McIver Institute in a similar story curiously timed to his TV appearance --  chooses what statistics to report, ignoring that the  state is a national leader in graduation rates.

In fairness, MPS schools are predominantly black, but that’s hardly the whole story.  In the latest 2010-2013 figures available for MPS graduation, it’s 58.3% for blacks,  56.4% for Hispanics but also  77% Asian and 74% whites.  So Kooyenga could have easily said 25% but chose 40%. 

The mostly black or brown  voucher elementary schools in Milwaukee  are now the feeders of  high schools, and many are worse than MPS and only a few are equal. In fact, the strong evidence emerging is that Milwaukee needs more integration rather than less. There’s nothing in OSPP for that.

Even in Mississippi, with an education system few want,  black students have a higher graduation rate from high school  because they are spread around the state in all schools. So white as well as black parents are fighting for fair funding.  In Wisconsin, the black  population is crammed into Milwaukee and each student receives some $1,300 less than a student  in Kooyenga’s  whiter Brookfield – and his ideas would make the gap larger.

Incidentally the large Elmbrook Schools administration building is for sale (the district includes Brookfield). Imagine how  that community would react if all-boy Right Step marched there rather than on Center St.  Kooyenga would never survive. He would be sent packing back to Trump University.


About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He also created its Friday Weekend section and ran Sunday TV Screen magazine and Lively Arts as he became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs and Internet and consumer news. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at milwaukeelabor.org.  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for urbanmilwaukee.com.