Friday, April 20, 2018

WHY DEMOCRATS ARE CHOKING YOUR EMAIL ACCOUNTS ACROSS NATION

By Dominique Paul Noth

Meet the candidates nationwide in your emails and snail mail begging for money – not just through many political or party groups but more often in personalized notes from themselves or famous supporters. 


Among the liberal senators facing ferocious
GOP money attacks are Sherrod Brown . . .
As a journalist I sign into multiple campaigns of both parties to keep track of what is happening. This year the Democrats have made it much easier for all of us, since so many are sending missives laced with money hunger, deadline pleas, matching fund opportunities, desperation or even “where have you been?” panic. (Like “Why haven’t we heard from you, insert name?)

Sensing a momentous wave, candidates around the country have intensified reaching out.


. . . and Elizabeth Warren  . . . 
  One result is that the money sent Democratic candidates is bulging and so are the number of women candidates.  It’s all still second place to the GOP, but it is making more contests competitive and even making an  earlier impact than the Republicans.

Act Blue, an internet service that candidates use to make sending money easy, is already closing in on its 2016 results – seven months ahead of the election!

. . . and Wisconsin's own Tammy Baldwin . . .
Big progressive donors are being stretched to the max and so are the little donors who remain the bulk of the Democratic party giving and voting. For state parties, this is a mixed blessing, as they reluctantly confess.

Great if there’s a nationwide sweep but it comes at some cost to local election fund-raising. 

. . . but so are moderates like Claire McCaskill.
It may be unfair that the average citizen is being asked to give till it hurts, but how else to combat  the superior dark money offered on the GOP side from  such billionaires as the Kochs and the Mercers, an Addison demanding genuflection, an Uihlein here, a Hendricks there – just add your favorite villain. 

The Democrats cannot hope to match this outlay, so they need to pile up $25 donations across the land to reflect the reality of growing support. So it may be a good dilemma for local candidates who feel money for them is drying up from the national blitz –at least everyone is working in the same direction when it comes to turnout. 

The problem for many folks on fixed income or little discretionary money is – where do you put the dough and how much to how many?  Most progressives I know of are investing more than they sensibly can afford, but feel it is vital for the country.  But there are some races where “give till it hurts” causes moral pain, particularly in D.C. Senate and House races which once limited fund-raising to the state you live in. 

Not counting the two independents who vote with the Democrats – King and Sanders seem in good shape – there are 23 Democratic Senate seats facing renewal or replacement in November – and only eight Republican ones. Nine GOP if you include the Mississippi seat of retiring Thad Cochran, which requires a November election to complete his term until 2020.

Mississippi is usually unthinkable -- Democrats have not won a Senate race there since 1982 -- but the Democrats are making inroads in House elections and the senate picture is still shaping up.  Wyoming’s John Barrasso and Mississippi’s other senator, Roger Wicker, didn’t seem much threatened . . . until a few weeks ago. 


Arizona's Krysten Sinema
But the Republicans willingly leaving are certainly threatened seats -- Jeff Flake most notably in Arizona where Rep. Krysten Sinema is running an ardent campaign using the internet and even Bob Corker as Tennessee voters weigh the horror of Rep. Marsha Blackburn replacing him, rather than Democrat Phil Bredesen, a former governor far better liked and in some polls leading

Blackburn’s hard blond FOX persona is so frightening that Corker even toyed with un-retiring rather than see her run.

Nevada's Jackie Rosen
While still uphill, buoyant Rep. Jackie Rosen is mounting a strong challenge to Republican Dean Heller in Nevada and, amazingly, Rep. Beto O’Rourke has subdued his opponent’s insults in Texas by out-raising Ted Cruz, a race the internet seems eager to keep hot.  

But Mitt Romney seems a shoo-in replacement for retiring Orrin Hatch in Utah, keeping that seat Republican. And Deb Fischer seemed a shoo-in until Democratic activist Jane Raybould and others started hitting her on issues important in Nebraska – health care and her support for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

But the real Senate threats – and the real push for money – involve nearly two dozen sitting Democrats, many facing those outrageous amounts of third party money hard to trace.

Several  races the Republicans won’t much bother with – New Mexico’s quiet and popular senator Martin Heinrich, Hawaii’s Mazie Hirono, Delaware’s Tom Casper, Washington State’s Maria Cantwell, even Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar and  Rhode Island’s Sheldon Whitehouse, Virginia’s Tim Kaine, and Maryland’s Ben Cardin despite a bizarre primary challenge from Chelsea Manning.

But everyone else, especially the most liberal Democrats, are burning up the web with pleas to combat the millions pouring in against them. 

Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin is heavily pounded by GOP money which doesn’t seem to care who she faces (two Republicans, each with their own billionaire in their hip pockets, are trying to knock each other off before the August primary).  

Also pounded by the right are Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow and Florida’s slightly more moderate Bill Nelson who now faces Florida’s well-heeled governor, Rick Scott.

Challenged by outside money are New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand and Connecticut’s Chris Murphy in states they should normally have a comfortable lead in.

In two cases, New Jersey’s Bob Menendez and California’s Diane Feinstein – the challenge may come from Democrats on the left, somewhat curious in the Feinstein case, where the arguments against her float dangerously close to ageism.

But there are Democrats desperate for campaign money that progressive Democrats raise questions about.  

These are the blue dogs whether they accept the name or not, likely to vote with the Republicans on some issues such as a tax bill and yet stand unblinking with fellow Democrats on issues like Obama healthcare. They look strong for the Democrats in reddish states when compared with their opponents.  But without weighing those opponents, what is a poor donor to do when email solicitations arrive from West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey and Indiana’s Joe Donnelly? (In my experience, Casey has been less present on the Internet push than the others.)

The donor instincts are not just about differences of kind in a “big tent party”  -- which should and do exist regionally -- but in worrying about how these Democrats will vote  for six years into the future, and how hard they will work to reverse Trump’s mistakes should their party  gain the majority. 

These are the four that trouble me most.  But while also moderate in their votes, I have a great deal more sympathy and belief in Montana’s Jon Tester (who is fighting Illinois billionaire money from Richard Uihlein supporting his opponent) and particularly Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, whose fighting spirit is admirable and whose ideas are thought-provoking. Given their general control of Missouri, the Republicans are coming after her hardcore – she is considered the most threatened Democratic senate incumbent, though Baldwin might give her an argument. Even Democrats who don’t always agree with her are rallying to her support.

Last time, Republican backwardness on sex helped her win against Todd Atkins – can lightning strike twice?  This time her opponent is state attorney general Josh Hawley, who has been stymied in straightening out his own state GOP.  That stems from his governor, Eric Greitens  who admits to an extramarital affair, is battling blackmail and criminal charges and yet refuses to resign, accusing his opposition of  “a political witch hunt.” Talk about a Trump echo chamber.

Hawley had hoped Greitens would quit to put felony and blackmail charges behind him – and also behind Hawley early in his campaign against McCaskill.  His ineffectiveness has become a campaign issue. McCaskill may get another reprieve through self-imposed Republican folly. 

Hiral Tipirneni is fighting from behind to win
an April 24 special election in Arizona.
As if the Senate elections weren’t busy enough, social media users have been badgered by innumerable House campaigns.  An Arizona House candidate facing a special election April 24, Hiral Tipirneni, is soliciting campaign letters from embattled senate Democrats like Gillibrand while Heitkamp has provided endorsing emails for California Rep candidate Brian Forde, a former Obama adviser.

Miami Beach’s David Richardson, hungry to replace retiring Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, has also flooded Facebook, causing Midwest confusion among people who have never heard of him.  Similarly South Carolina’s Joe Cunningham hopes you will directly help him knock Mark Sanford back to Argentina.

Likewise, South Carolina’s Archie Parnell running against GOP gun toting Ralph Norman has launched his own direct Facebook campaign while Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos is directly soliciting Democrats in border states for her threatened 17th District in a former Trump region. 

Emily’s List is in your email pushing 36 (!) House pro-choice women including Iowa’s Cindy Axne, Florida’s Mary Flores, Washington State’s Kim Schrier, California’s Mai Khanh Tran and Illinois’ Lauren Underwood (many of whom would flip red seats to blue) plus female candidates for governorships.  Even attorney generals in other states have gotten into the internet act.

On and on down every ballot, including those you can’t vote in, the money wheel spins across the US.  Will it tap your savings?


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 Urban Milwaukee.  


Saturday, April 14, 2018

ADD TOUGHNESS ON SYRIA TO TRUMP’S CHAIN OF MISCONCEPTIONS

By Dominique Paul Noth


Trump closed the barn door on dapper dictator Bashar al-Assad after
his chemical attack crushed his opposition.
We don’t need to rely on Russian bots to fill our email and news feeds with false history.  The Republican Party and the Trump administration have that well in hand, demonstrated by a selective and probably ineffective airstrike on Syria April 13 that closed with Trump reviving Bush’s false claim at the end of the Iraq war:  “Mission Accomplished.”

He was not alone. UN ambassador Nikki Haley lowered her reputation for accurate tough talk by declaring about the airstrike that “America was locked and loaded” (quoting Trump) and then added this:

“When our president draws a red line, our president enforces the red line.”

This red line rhetoric is meant to be a slap at Obama rather than at the Republican Congress that refused to back up his stance on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, first taken six years ago.

It has become a Republican centerpiece of fake news, suggesting that a weak Obama failed where a strong Trump is succeeding, building up the Tin Man to hide his Cowardly Lion bluster.

Now there are legitimate arguments that can be made about Obama’s approach to foreign policy. His was more a case by case solution  rather than a hawk or dove overview, but he contemplated intervention at a time when US action in Syria could have made a difference – when there was a real civil war and Assad’s authoritarian ruthlessness was in jeopardy. 

Things might have been different if the US stepped in then, but the US was clearly sick of such Mideast conflicts and questioned whether our government should insert us in a civil war regardless of the crimes against humanity that Assad was engaging in.

We drew a mental line, not a red one, between the brutality of conventional weapons and the use of poison gas. The second we wanted to act on. The first not so much, though it was killing more innocents. (View online the documentary that should have won the Oscar: “Last Men in Aleppo.”)

Thus in 2013, after Obama had drawn a red line around the further use of chemical weapons, Congress balked at giving him military authority to enforce it.  (Trump’s current authority is a paper-thin resolution previously used to justify the Iraqi War.) So a frustrated Obama maneuvered and accepted Russia’s promise to supervise removal of all of Assad’s chemical weapons, accomplishing by diplomacy what he had been denied militarily. 

Today we know the Russians misled UN inspectors and did a lousy job. But we forget the deal did hold up for Obama’s remaining years.  Once Trump came in 2017, Syria reverted to multiple uses of chemical weapons, not stopped by an air strike a year ago and maybe this time not stopped by a military one-off but by the facts on the ground.

In the intervening time Assad’s forces have dominated the opposition and, with Iran and Russia support, firmed up Assad’s dictatorship. Why risk universal condemnation over chemicals when ruthlessness with conventional weapons can bring the same result – and aren’t being protested by the US government? Besides, Assad's recent use of gas was specifically to drive out the last active remnants of the resistance, crushing their will by devastating their children. That Mission Accomplished may have been his.

Despite Trump’s full court press in the media, despite pretense that his America is tougher than the old America,  TV viewers had better get used to turning away from continuing images of brutality rained on Syrian families and cities – and certainly turn away from any pretense we are doing anything concrete about it. 

We have become good at turning away and at accepting false narratives.

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 Urban Milwaukee. 


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

DALLET’S WIN IS SURFACE OF A CHANGING ELECTORATE

By Dominique Paul Noth


JS expert photographer Rick Wood caught Dallet and her family
at her April 3 victory party.
It was rainy and cold throughout Wisconsin Tuesday but that did not deter the forces behind Rebecca Dallet from leaping in puddles, doing handsprings and yelling eureka! when she was the obvious winner with only half the vote counted over Michael Screnock for a 10 year term on the state’s highest court.

There were reasons for the Democrats to revel in glee in what is on paper a nonpartisan race.  Screnock had open backing from what has become in many minds the evil triumvirate – the NRA, the Republican Party and the conservative juggernaut disguised as Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, literally flooding his campaign with dark money. 

Dallet had her own liberal backers and some big out of state names that usually ignore our high court race. But it was not just Joe Biden and Eric Holder making the race a national media story.  Ever since Trump, there has been a David vs. Goliath feeling to Wisconsin elections, so dominant has been the GOP grip on the state government and the state’s sad emergence as a national test tube for Trumpian ideas.

For many her win is the start of retrieving respect and balance for the high court. Even Gov. Scott Walker regarded Dallet’s win as the first surge of a Blue Wave.

It did not escape notice that part of Dallet’s victory was in Paul Ryan’s House District 1 where (except for Waukesha County) she won or basically tied in the other four counties, part of a district gerrymandered to remain Republican. Dallet’s reputation is not just as a liberal values judge but a judge with law and order credentials, which could explain the size of her win.

But much of it spells hope for less well heeled candidates running against Ryan in November -  if he decides to run (the polls have moved him from sure thing to threatened and as of this writing he had not announced his decision on his future).

The 12 point margin of her victory also suggested, as many elections around the country have recently done, that the one-time sure hold the Republicans believed they had on rural territories has evaporated.

Not that superior money doesn’t make a difference, but it is no longer the guarantee it once was in elections.  Nor are the usual outbreaks of slimy television ads, such as the one WMC increased showings of after the prosecutor and the named family in the case protested this perversion of the facts and invasion of privacy.  The ad reminiscent of the infamous Willie Horton commercial tried to paint the two-year sentence that Dallet had given as some kind of weakness. 


Louis Butler
The public wasn’t buying it, but it scared folks with long memories. Ten years ago Michael Gableman, who wisely decided not to run again, won his seat on the high court largely because of a Willie Hortonesque ad that was even more misleading but probably cost Louis Butler his incumbency on the court. Even today, Butler’s decisions and reputation on the court survive, but the ad robbed him of his career.

The public seems to have grown up – in most parts of the state.  In Milwaukee, County Executive Chris Abele, a rich man in his own and his father’s right, spent a fortune trying to reshape the county board to his preferences.

In the cases where he spent the most money, he lost handily, even suggesting that Oak Creek is fertile territory for a more progressive candidate for the legislature. Abele lavished more than $160,000 in flyers and campaign activities on his District 8 candidate, James Davies, who lost handily (56%-44% out of 7,682 votes) to public educator Steven Shea, endorsed by progressive groups.

In the race where Abele shoveled the most money – District 1 against board chairman Theodore Lipscomb Sr. – opponent Casey Shorts took advantage of the Abele LeadershipMKE’s $178,328 in anti-Lipscomb mailers and canvassers.  Shorts had entered the race on his own hook, but certainly didn’t deny the money help that gave him 48% of the vote, far closer than he would have gotten on his own steam.

Another Abele supported candidate, Patti Logsdon, benefited from $129,000 in his money to edge a conservative supervisor (Steven Taylor) in District 9, but with only 23 votes separating the candidates, expect a recount.
(Ed Note: Later results put the race 500 votes out of reach.)

Most successful was Abele’s support of incumbent Deanna Alexander over Sparkle Ashley in District 18, which retains on the county board his lone, very conservative and Trump-style supporter.  Abele also supported Alexander with campaign money, but Ashley did not provide a strong enough counter in a district ripe for change.

Abele’s money combined with pitiful turnout to defeat Supervisor Peggy West in the Latino dominated District 12, where his $63,945 effort paid enormous dividends, a sad comment on the Latino community where the voter turnout was a pitiful seventh of what District 1 drew.

The winner, Sylvia Ortiz Velez, may have run behind in the district before but never refused Abele’s help this time, though she told interviewers that she does not support all his  policies. But she clearly owes him her seat, so it will be interesting to see how she votes on the board.

The District 12 story, where only 1,417 turned out to vote, spells difficulty for many grassroots groups that supported West.   Whether it is the specter of Trump, Sessions and ICE or whether other factors, the US citizens of Hispanic heritage in this district are painfully reluctant to engage in local elections. 

In the District 7 race for an open seat, as all sides predicted, Felesia Martin won with a whopping 79% of the vote.

The sparse impact on the county board, most of whom did not face opposition, suggests that Abele is good at wasting money, not exactly the image he is working toward.   

Some will reduce the victories to progressive over moderate as they turn to thinning the field against Walker in the governor’s race.

But across the state there may be a different lesson.  Dallet’s main appeal was competence, experience and social values but in a form moderates also found appealing.  Putting absolutism in ideology first is not as smart as listening to the electorate.


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 Urban Milwaukee. 


Friday, March 30, 2018

TRUMP NOT ON BALLOT BUT VOTERS CAN SEND MESSAGE APRIL 3

By Dominique Paul Noth

Mueller memes like this are flooding the Internet
How curious that in writing columns about trickery and extremism in politics, there was enough stuff in local confusion and state elections to not even mention Donald Trump and the national Republican disaster.

But admit it, they are making Lewis Carroll proud.  The author of “Alice in Wonderland” described how the lemmings marched over a cliff following their leader.  Many Republicans know the doom they are pursuing and pursue it anyway – even as their leader flails more and more.  When Roseanne is his most convincing defender, the public realizes what a cartoon this is. The cruel reality  he took advantage of (unhappiness with government) cannot hide how bad he is at governing and how he has dragged the rest of his party with him.

The death wishes are so infectious down to  state and local politics that even the supposedly non-partisan April 3 election has become a test of our national temperature. 

Trump’s latest moves failed to deter Congress from its joy in having a president of the same majority party.  The Republicans have rushed to the cliff’s edge as he hires and fires  lawyers, hides  from the students’ massive anti-violence marches, tweets about everything else, agrees to a meeting with North Korea and then picks a national security adviser who wants to bomb the country out of existence, threatens a trade war while Wall Street ducks for cover, lets China seem more peace-loving than the US  and isolates his few remaining military advisers who once brought strange comfort to the nation.

Media insiders have actually begun betting pools about what Trump will tweet next time to distract from his Russian woes, his policy failures and international loss of US reputation. The press has amusingly noted that every time a real revelation is about to take hold, or an embarrassing interview with a sexual playmate is about to air, he hits the “look what I did”  button  on his desk, which seems immensely larger than his nuclear button.  Most recently it has been constant announcements of staff changes or how  infrastructure is just another “easy” lift being blocked by those durn Democrats.

The New York Times recently summed up the consequences of his  staff disarrangements: “The incoming national security adviser (John Bolton) has called for the swift takeover of North Korea by the South. He and the newly nominated secretary of state (Mike Pompeo) have urged withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. The pick for CIA director (Gina Haspel) once oversaw interrogations in which terrorism suspects were tortured.”

Mustache famous John Bolton
It is a hard shift to the hawkish right, particularly disturbing in the choice of Bolton (whom “Game of Thrones” fans have taken to calling Night King Stache) to succeed Gen. H.R. McMasters. With his decision on steel and aluminum tariffs,  even those who like the idea express the same fears as one of Paul Ryan’s opponents,  Randy Bryce (the real IronStache),  who commented on TV that whatever the value of tariffs, this is precisely the wrong president to implement them.

No wonder many  pundits are suggesting the only solution to keep the nation out of war (Bolton in the past has recommended pre-emptive strikes against North Korea, Iran and even Cuba) is to pray that  the talkative Bolton can’t keep his mouth shut in a job where he is supposed to give Trump multiple security options.

If he says something outrageous ahead of Trump saying something outrageous, he will get fired as the president has usually done in the past. Don’t step in front of the Donald.

We are reduced to the strange game of reverse psychology to save the nation, since we doubt that Trump on his own hook has any idea how and could plunge us into despair and war.

Don’t laugh. The power of reverse psychology is also forcing the media to look at new methods of covering the president.  Many of them argue that Trump is eating up a lot more airtime (with less effect) than either Bush or Obama because of the past concept of the president as a significant, even godlike presence in American culture – what he decides bears massive impact on domestic and foreign policy. So they hang on every word – but should they with Trump?

It’s even a dilemma for the opposition party.  Democrats are not just torn between moderate and left,  they are torn in how loudly they should be pointing out Trump’s failures.  They don’t want the country to fail, since some of the blame will inevitably attach to them. But if unintentionally or not he does something they think good for the country, should they support that and hope the electorate is smart enough to discern that exception is their  reason?

The media has been lurching around trying to pretend there is good reason to suffer through – and put endlessly on the air – the meaningless press conferences Trump suddenly calls after a nasty tweet, the diatribes he rambles through, the useless series of White House press conferences where stone-faced Sarah Huckster will duck every bullet and send it back as a thoughtless sarcastic bomb.

Advice from Rachel Maddow
Reverse psychology suggests the president should be ignored or that the traditional politeness attending his presence may need some shaking up.  Some in the media are already considering that. MSNBC’S Rachel Maddow has bluntly said the media should pay attention to what he does and what is circling in around him rather than what he says. In her philosophy, ignore his claims and focus on the happenings.

The  other options to reverse  psychology are protest and vote. The young people demonstrated the power of protest in the mammoth marches for life. The youth raised a lot of positive expectations about the future, both by their actions now and their threat to vote later.

The voting doesn’t have to  wait for August primaries  and November election  to start correcting America and force the president and his minions to listen to the masses.

Ostensibly the April 3 election is non-partisan, but no one believes that.  What happens in Wisconsin  will reveal a lot about the future.

The entire state has only two contests to be concerned about.

Justice candidate Rebecca Dallet
One is electing Rebecca Dallet to the state supreme court.  She is the only acceptable  candidate, demonstrated by the desperation of the ads against her (arguing not that she let anyone go but followed the family and  prosecution’s advice in sentencing). 

She is also the first step in restoring balance to the court. 

In 2019, Shirley Abrahamson’s seat is up, and though she has not announced if she is running again, her legendary distinction will carry liberal weight.  In 2020, before the next presidential election, it is the unknown justice under the gun – Daniel Kelly, appointed by Walker to fill out David Prosser’s term.  He has never faced the voters at any level, serving mainly as litigator and conservative hired gun on gerrymandering. Dallet will be the start on turning the high court back to normalcy.

The other important vote is No on eliminating the office of state treasurer. This is simply a power grab by the executive against the state’s banker, who should be examining in a watchdog role billions of dollars in common aid to schools and libraries while also serving a key role on the commission for public lands.

The problem is the duped public thinks that eliminating any elected office, particularly one that has attracted few voters in the past, is somehow a step toward saving money. Actually it’s a step toward letting corruption loose.  Ignore the Republican stooge who has been in the office, Matt Adamczyk, who saw his job as undercutting the reasons for the office.

In better hands, the state treasurer will oversee important fiscal duties that shouldn’t be at the whim of any governor or legislature. Keep the office and elect someone who will do the job.

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 Urban Milwaukee. 


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

GOP LOSING ITS SOUL WHILE DEMOCRATS SEARCH FOR THEIRS

By Dominique Paul Noth

No one is sure anymore what it means to be a Republican.  Their traditional voters are even more confused. The people they hired to represent them in the state senate and assembly are swinging slightly left over here and then far right over there, clouding why they ever were sent to Madison.   Or they are simply refusing to run again, sensing a Democratic tsunami in their future.

AP Photo captures the three top state Republicans pretending to get
along -- Senate leader Scott Fitzgerald (left), Gov. Walker (middle)
and Assembly majority leader Robin Vos.
Similarly Scott Walker. Facing re-election for governor, he is suddenly putting some money into education (not as much as he took out), some money into the job market (not as much as he destroyed in Acts 10 and 44) and some nice words about Obamacare, which he spent two terms trying to strangle. 

Underneath he’s stuck in the same ruts that have driven the state to the bottom of polls on good places to live.

When he and the legislature start squabbling over details, we usually get a push further to the right than he originally wanted because of election worries.  But he goes along with his power base: Tilted higher education, tilted job training and – in a bow to Trump and his education secretary, Betsy DeVos – an ever  higher family income level for voucher schools statewide, so that people mainly looking for a break on their private school tuition now have state government money to bolster them.

Both he and the legislature have been bollixed on issues of transportation and keep punting problems further down the road, even exploring ideas that were once anathema to the GOP but do stick it to the taxpayer – toll roads, higher gas fees. 

The concept of easing regulations, long advertised as a streamlined road for business, has mainly streamlined environmental pollution.  Food stamp recipients have been singled out as targets for reform, with programs that will cost far more than any perceived benefit.  Rules for local lakes and water, even down to piers, reward the richest landholders.  Foxconn, originally designed by Walker as an election winner, has turned into a troublesome boondoggle splitting the state between the average citizen the GOP still needs for votes and the traditional business lobbyists who never met a taxpayer handout they didn’t like.

Yet the Republicans doing this know they are facing wrath in November – if angry citizenry, including many who used to vote Republican, don’t turn complacent in anticipation that others will do the difficult lifting for house-cleaning.

Nothing new happens in politics without sweat and footwork, and there are fears that people will sit back anticipating a change rather than struggling for one. That habit of sitting back waiting for the tempest to die -- it may be what the Republicans hope for. They have in the past.

Is that why they are doubling down on bad bets? The latest moves may be the ugliest.

Former US AG Eric Holder made his mark on Wisconsin
politiics winning a lawsuit against Walker.
Clearly in fear of Democratic gains, Walker broke the state constitution to delay special elections for two open seats. It took a lawsuit by Eric Holder’s group and a decision by a judge Walker had appointed to the bench to tell him this was unconstitutional.

Now the GOP leaders in Madison set a special session to rewrite the law, which will also probably be unconstitutional.  But it may take so long moving through the courts that any election won’t take place until November, leaving the seats vacant for a year and robbing the residents of any representation in or out of session. Just like Walker wanted.

[Editor's Update: After three courts confirmed the unconstitutionality, Walker succumbed to reality and the legislature abandoned the idea of a special session.  Elections are now set for June 12.] 

Then a bill to fill in wetlands was resurrected at the last minute to benefit one Atlanta-based sand processing plant despite protests by environmentalists.

It is almost a death wish to be “hanged for a sheep as for a lamb,” a truism that writers like George Bernard Shaw used to describe deliberately committing a greater offense after perpetrating another offense.  It sometimes seems the Republicans are defying the Democrats to come after them.

Historically that may be their only course – counting on the Democrats to attack each other for the right to run and then losing energy after the primaries, which this year take place in August -- way ahead of the November finale.  The theory goes that Democrats will squabble so much before picking a candidate, particularly in the crowded gubernatorial race, that their energy for voting will be dissipated.

If you look carefully you can see signs of that already. Not just bad words and strident opinions in the gubernatorial field.

The House Democrats have a fund-raising arm known as the D triple C – or DCCC, or the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which describes itself as the “only political committee in the country whose principal mission is to support Democratic House candidates every step of the way.”

Or oppose them every step of the way, because the DCCC has not been hesitant –usually for sound reasons -- to choose favorites among Democrats running for House office in primaries around the nation.


DPW chair Martha Laning
This is in sharp contrast to most state organizations, such as the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW, also wisdems.org). I asked its chairman to explain its procedure and Martha Laning provided a simple sentence: “It is up to voters to decide who will best represent them and DPW stays neutral in Democratic primaries, supporting all candidates equally.”

Yet at the same time, Laning runs a grassroots organization that eagerly seeks out respectable candidates to run and this year intends to make strong showings in every state senate and assembly district.  So they may actually have favorites.

Yet Laning is sticking firmly to the neutrality policy and the DCCC doesn’t, which creates some interesting dilemmas.


Texan Laura Moser inadvertentlyhelped
by DCCC.
The DCCC’s opposition to Laura Moser in Texas’ 7th District is actually credited for her making the primary runoff in May in a very large field.  The DCCC came out against her for some past horrible statements about living in Texas, but she is also a progressive who got support from area groups and noted figures like Jim Hightower, and locals were also angry at the intrusion. That means she will face another respected candidate, Lizzie Fletcher, to then go against a Republican incumbent in November.

That’s not the only case. In Arizona the D triple C is backing Ann Kirkpatrick in that state’s 1st district, a seat she once held but is now competing for with other Democrats against a GOP incumbent.  In Pennsylvania’s 6th District,  retired fighter pilot Amy McGrath running a populist campaign on the Internet  has drawn nationwide attention but the DCCC is clearly conflicted since two other Democrats they know well are also running.

This dilemma for the DCCC often involves former Clinton and Obama figures who have the experience and often the financial edge that tempts the DCCC to jump in regardless if other Democrats are running.  Such thinking has them speaking out for Abby Finkenauer in Iowa’s 1st, Betsy Londrigan in Illinois’ 13th, and many Florida candidates ahead of primary competition.

It can be a dangerous game given how other factors beside establishment support are playing in these races.  Geographically there can also be a change in emphasis, where in one district a Bernie Sanders supported candidate appeals and others where such a candidate doesn’t.


DCCC decided to back Randy Bryce . . .
Where does Wisconsin come in?  The DPW remains neutral, but the DCCC has come down hard on the side of Randy Bryce, which has clearly upset the campaign managers for Cathy Myers. They have long been angry that Bryce has gained so much media coverage in his campaign against Paul Ryan in the 1st District.  And Bryce is clearly gaining money as well as attention, turning the contest from sure Republican to threatened Republican.


. . . which dismayed the campaign of the other  Paul Ryan opponent,
Cathy Myers.
At first the Myers campaign seemed confused about the neutrality of the DPW and then its email and Internet come-ons sowed confusion about whether the support for Bryce is local or national.  While Myers’ videos have remained focused on the GOP target, the edge of her remarks is shifting.

The campaign sometimes makes it seem she is competing against Bryce not Ryan, demanding debates quite early in the game as a way to draw attention to her effort.

The DCCC may step into other races.  One obvious one is Dan Kohl, nephew of Herb, against Republican caveman Glenn Grothman in the 6th District. This is an uphill battle by a well-heeled Democrat running in traditionally conservative counties where there is a lot of anger at the GOP for environmental and educational weaknesses.

Another case where the DCCC may care, though it hasn’t yet said, is the 7th District against Sean Duffy (and if you confuse him with Sean Hannity you are forgiven -- they are both strangers to the truth). Democrat Margaret Engebretson, a Polk County lawyer and Navy veteran, is making the sort of strong showing that has influenced the DCCC in the past, but there are multiple other Democrats anxious to take Duffy down. And in that race, the electorate seems ready to unite behind the winner.

Under the surface, there is enormous pressure on Laning and the DPW. An impatient membership or would-be membership doesn’t intend to wait for August to decide who to back, so they are pushing to speak out while Laning and company want to remain open to all.

In some ways, this is good pressure, a chafing at the bit like a spirited horse eager to bolt forward. The problem is maintaining that enthusiasm to capitalize on in November.


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 Urban Milwaukee. 


Sunday, March 25, 2018

SLIPPERY POLITICS START IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD

By Dominique Paul Noth

Trickery has become the staple of politics on the local, state and national level – deception the public needs to know about. 

A new website attacks Abele's money campaign.
Let’s focus on the local level – Milwaukee.

There is a slippery attempt to muddy the waters from a group funded by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, who throws his wealth behind responsible and irresponsible causes, leaving the hapless public to figure out which is which.

It would be nice if as county exec he valued money nearly as much as he lavishes money on his own pet peeves, but since he doesn’t -- let the taxpayer beware.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel estimates he is sinking close to a million dollars into his campaign to reshape the county board into a pliant partner via the April 3 election – backing candidates sometimes but not always friendly to his own camp mainly to demonstrate the power of his money.  

Other reliable sources have itemized about half a million so far in his expenditures against the board, much of it to out of state business that produce printed material and hire canvassers.  It took awhile but now establishment media has caught up to the trickery.

The Abele group is named LeadershipMKE, which would disappear – and probably will shortly – without being propped up by his money. As an independent expenditure committee, it must report its spending, at its own pace.

League board  member Patty Yunk attempted to talk with
Abele during a meeting he left early, protesting
his pay to park in parks idea.
The game has so angered a notable local group of citizens and activists that they are holding a noon rally March 28 under the banner The League of Progressive Seniors – and they have even produced a website to further their protest.  Their stated aim is to protect Milwaukee democracy from Abele’s money. The group’s board boasts a roster of familiar activist, union and former county worker names, including SEIU’s Bruce Colburn, Anita Johnson, Karen Royster, Stephanie Sue Stein (retired director of the county’s Department on Aging), Jan Wilberg, retired AFSCME legislative leader Patty Yunk and lawyer Jackie Boynton.

Abele’s LeadershipMKE is trying to sidestep its own noose with deceptive come-ons and misstatements about county board votes. While it dispenses Abele’s money to attack county leaders, it lists responsible and irresponsible candidates indiscriminately on its own website, from school board races to village trustees to the county board.

Some were recruited by Abele, some were not.  Some are supportive of his efforts to take more control of county government away from the county board, others are not.  

They are all mixed together in such as a way as to make the site’s recommendations unreliable. For instance I am a longtime acquaintance of Oak Creek mayoral candidate, Dan Bukiewicz, also president of the building trades council, and he is a good candidate. Yet he may be shocked as I am to find his campaign supported  – and I know Robert Hansen, running for Greenfield school board, was shocked. Supervisor Peggy West is a big supporter of Hansen who is a target of Abele’s money through the same group.  You see how screwy the connections can get.

Abele’s group has put all these candidates in a bind about whether to support or disown his campaign literature that attacks their opponents but may not reflect their own viewpoints. It’s hard to reject help from any source in the heat of a campaign – and Abele is successfully counting on that.

It’s pretty clear where Abele is putting most of his money, actually in the Oak Creek area giving a leg up to supervisor candidate James Davies over more progressive Steven Shea.  Abele has dumped more than $115,000 into that race alone.  Other big expenditures are attacking sitting supervisors West and even conservative incumbent Steve Taylor (who dared vote against an Abele appointment). 

Most interestingly he is supporting Casey Shorts against current board chair Theodore Lipscomb though Shorts entered this race on his own, as I have discussed.

Now where I disagree with Abele is on an issue that Shorts has come to believe in – that the relationship between the county exec and the county board has toxic elements that stem from Lipscomb’s hostility. 

Except every board chair has been in disputes with Abele, a relationship I once explained as approaching Abele with an olive branch and getting it flung back as a stick in the eye.

I’ve interviewed many current and past supervisors who all had similar problems with Abele’s method of running the government.  The shame is that they are sometimes supportive of his policies but it is his methods and inability to listen that raise hackles.

One of the misleading centerpieces of the LeadershipMKE website was a petition urging citizens to oppose the county board on paying to park in the parks – which ironically is the idea Abele wanted and the board helped stop. 

The board had agreed to seek revenue from park operations, thinking that meant things like beer gardens, only to have Abele promote parking meters. The board then insisted the public should be heard and the public response was negative in the extreme.

But it wasn’t just the county board that screamed. So did every leader of every municipality in the county – in other words, the people closest to the citizenry, who all had a park in their backyard as it were.  They had met with Abele a day before he announced he was withdrawing the idea.

But only sort of withdrawing.  While a Madison bill that would give Abele more powers over the board, including imposing a wheel tax and parking meters at will, was shelved earlier this year, it still lies there dormant and can be revived at any time.  It’s Abele’s bill, not the board’s, yet LeadershipMKE is trying to stir up anger at the county board for an Abele idea.

That’s one Milwaukee example of what I mean by slippery. Future columns will explore state and national games.

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 Urban Milwaukee.