Thursday, January 10, 2019

THE MOSTLY DESERVED NEW DARLING OF CABLE NEWS RATINGS

By Dominique Paul Noth

It would be comforting to believe that liberal advances in national cable news polls reflect more intelligence and discretion by the viewing public.  But we have 20 years of  evidence this is not what makes  cable news outlets rise to the top – usually it’s advertising, false excitable controversies, bitter putdowns, easily duped viewers and simplistic sound-bites, which continue to elevate FOX despite the growth in more liberal outlets.


Rachel Maddow's climb to the top
This time, though, factors such as screaming advertising and belligerency on-air are  absent as polls embrace more liberal news outlets, particularly MSNBC which has been growing steadily, from near invisibility 15 years ago to now having the dominant cable news show in recent testing, “The Rachel Maddow Show” (8 p.m. Central time).

But still we have to deal with old canards. MSNBC has long been regarded as the most left of the cable news outlets just as FOX was the most right, with CNN taking up the more middle position, though it has had many feisty moments of late.

As to the old canards, yes – but not as clearly as before.  FOX is clearly the most rabidly conservative – if you are Trump trumpeting morning shows, No. 1 Sean Hannity and a Medea would-be, Judge Jeanine Pirro.  (Or maybe just his second favorite. There are those Russian rumor items that must  be beaming into his steel dental fillings, so curious has  been his penchant, outside Kremlin talking circles, of reciting warped histories of Afghanistan, Belarus and Montenegro, stories that keep cropping up and first stirred laughter and wonder from the aforementioned Rachel Maddow.)


But in other time spots, some of FOX’s hosts have taken a knife to Trump’s outlandish tendency to lie, as has his favorite Murdoch newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, which recently called his history on Afghanistan “cracked.” Ignorance is becoming harder to maintain on right-wing outlets.


Maddow has been heavily focused on investigating things Russian.  Americans have trouble remembering the Russian names in Dostoevsky novels much less news reports. But Rachel’s storytelling style has led to viewers actually separating Yevgeny Prigozhin (an oligarch better known as Putin’s chef) from Konstantin Kilimnik and Oleg Deripaska (the duo Paul Manafort whispered sweet polling data to) and Natalia Veselnitskaya (the lawyer who hung around Trump Towers and now is a defendant in a separate money laundering case).


Audiences seem to embrace Rachel’s conversational ramblings and curiosity.  It is her  display of  mental curiosity that belies the sameness of so much 24/7 cable coverage, of which MSNBC had often been a prime villain, so narrow its focus in the past and how hard it finds beginning every hour with something fresh.


Maddow has an authenticity that seems be attracting followers, but her love of history and the tales that make it up have long marked her methods (I discovered that reviewing her book, Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, in 2012.) But in fairness she is not alone in the elevation of MSNBC in terms of personalities mixed with the news.



Andrea Mitchell proves it's not always about
the new face in the crowd
(Let me pass on “Morning Joe.” I can never talk rationally about that show largely because of the same talking heads and Mika Brzezinski providing a tak-tsk balance to Joe Scarborough despite their marriage. I find the formula tired – and Willie Geist a strange third rail. But no one can deny that D.C. listens to them.)

MSNBC daytime was soundly rebuked a few years  ago for relegating to weekends -- or dumping or being dumped by -- its better known black anchors (Melissa Harris-Perry who left in a huff, Al Sharpton largely exiled to Friday guest shots and  weekends and the versatile Joy Reid,  now everybody’s favorite fill-in).  But even its advertising has shifted to a youth theme citing bright personalities -- Katie Tur, Kasie Hunt, Craig Melvin, Hallie Jackson and Ari (“The Beat”) Melber, who mixes legal chat and rap knowledge in his attempt to attract young viewers while keeping older liberals engaged.



Ari Melber seeks to add the views
of hip-hop generation.
Midday certainly can’t be called left – not with pioneer broadcaster and rigorous news hound Andrea Mitchell often sandwiched among Stephanie Ruhle and Ali Velshi, both business wonks married to explanatory journalism.

And a real find has been Nicolle Wallace of “Deadline.”  Long removed from the Bush White House and Sarah Palin, she speaks candidly and laughs winningly about the difference between being a political mouthpiece and a demanding journalist. 



Nicole Wallace leads MSNBC's parade
of disgruntled Republicans.
She is also  a leading figure in MSNBC’s emergence as refugee center for Republicans disgusted by what Trump has done to the party they have mostly abandoned.   Most articulate among them is Wallace’s former John McCain cohort, Steve Schmidt, but he is frequently joined by the likes of Michael Steele, David Jolly, Rick Wilson, George Wills, smirk-happy Bill Kristol and even a sometimes Trump defender who doesn’t seem to know just where his mental processes will land,  Hugh Hewitt.

(I’ve left out another escaped Republican and frequent MSNBC guest, Charlie Sykes, because MSNBC does not understand how his presence hurts its image in Milwaukee where I live.  For decades on WTMJ (which now survives only because of its sport programming) and in founding puffery sites like Right Wisconsin, Sykes was resident ridiculer of the governor he labeled Diamond Jim, of rail initiatives, of the Deep Tunnel sewer project, of Mayor Tom Barrett, of welfare recipients and frankly of every Democrat or liberal initiative that strayed into his sights.  The fact that he is now used as a positive voice for conservative sanity on cable news, without a single mea culpa for his Limbaugh past, annoys TV viewers here no end. I keep wondering if the Milwaukee area is an exception to MSNBC’s general ratings rise.


(Sykes also strikes me as the perfect model for Washington Post essayist Carlos Lozada’s brilliant analysis of how the Never Trumpers were once the Only Trumpers. “Only with the rise of Trump did they even think to interrogate the conservative dogma they'd long defended,” wrote Lozado. “Only with Trump did they begin to reconsider their roles in feeding a frenzied base.” It’s understandable the Never Trumpers are finding a warm home at MSNBC, but caution please!  They could turn again.)


The network doesn’t always require an anti-Trump tape as audition material, as it once did. But I am not much enamored of “MTP Daily” and one of the network’s hosts with two first names who strike me as wishy-washy, Chuck Todd succeeding David Gregory. But Todd recently redeemed himself with a segment on climate change that flat refused  to do the kneejerk cable “on the other hand” dance of offering a word from climate-change deniers. Nope, it’s real, Todd said – and bravo!


Not that there isn’t a solid liberal bloc in MSNBC prime time, led in by a somewhat paternal veteran voice, Chris Matthews and “Hardball.”  Mathews at his shrillest sounds a lot like Trump and his tendency to interrupt guests and pursue his own tangents is notorious, but his energy is welcomed by many viewers.


The real solid left stuff follows -- a chatty but pertinent Chris Hayes, then Maddow, then Laurence O’Donnell whose hatred of things Trump knows no bounds.  They are followed (10 p.m. Central) by a show that was supposed to be a throwaway, “The 11th Hour With Brian Williams.”  Intended as the bone to help restore Williams’ reputation, it has now become a ratings leader with so much news breaking late in the evening, aided by Williams’ quick wit and warm tones.


Studious and nimble, Maddow doesn’t mean to
play the news so close to improvisation – she plans assiduously but she is also willing to throw stuff out when something better comes along.  This is a freshness in cable news long needed.


She is probably deeply chagrined that she became an Internet “meme” for her unexpected tearing up on the air over babies imprisoned at the border, but it was that unusual break in the fourth wall that confirmed to viewers her interest is human.


Moreover, there is teeth behind the changes at MSNBC.   Wallace, a former White House communications director, bluntly announced that  “Deadline” would no longer carry Sarah Huckabee Sanders press conferences but monitor for actual news as opposed to blather (finding very little of course).  Maddow has made it clear that she will cover Trump’s actions, but not his words and certainly not his rally claims. 


Those may be a small sign of the maturity that viewers desperately want from cable news, which has given Trump way too much airtime.  In fact, a CNN media insider recently questioned whether the networks should follow tradition, as they did January 8, in giving Trump airtime over his “border crisis” without evidence that he is not simply attempting to distract the public from the investigations closing in on him.   High time that cable news grows up.


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 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, December 21, 2018

NO XMAS NOSTALGIA JUST GENERAL DISASTER FROM TRUMP

By Dominique Paul Noth

Sweet retired general Dean Jagger (with Mary Wickes) in "White Christmas"
“What do you do with a general when he stops being a general?” Irving Berlin asked the musical question back when fondness for generals could be the plot centerpiece for a holiday movie perennial, “White Christmas.”

Marine General James Mattis (who hates the nickname “Mad Dog” that Trump loves) was 4 years old and Donald was at his permanent age of 7 when the film broke at Christmastime in Radio City Music Hall 64 years ago, setting box office records.  Composer Berlin was a Jewish émigré and devout patriot who loved the army and fashioned in musical salutes the nostalgic vision of a patriotic America that we still haven’t outgrown – even while we have soured on wars and generals (“We’ll follow the old man wherever he wants to go”) as a way of life to emulate. But while we’ve grown suspicious of the draft and military service, we continue to concede that the discipline and service represented by generals is something to admire. 

Warts and all, we regarded the generals Trump surrounded himself with as the wise old men who would keep him in check. Okay, so it is not the blind adoration those “White Christmas” GIs felt for nice old Dean Jagger, but at least the White House presence of those generals brought tons of experience to prevent a wrecking ball novice from swinging wildly.  We thought.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis
Mattis’ announced resignation took away the last of those generals.  Michael Flynn lost his way to become a now convicted felon.  Lieutenant General H.R. McMasters wore himself out in months as Trump’s chief of staff and John Kelly, after exposing his mean chauvinistic streak, is also departing.  

None of the generals enhanced their image in civilian service – in fact, they saw their reputations disintegrate.  As did ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson who plunged into disrepute after serving as secretary of state.  Tom Price, Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke, Jeff Sessions and on and on till the crack of doom.  It is a parade of people who “have left in dismay or disgrace,” noted future House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

On Dec. 20, a date that will live in chaos, Trump engaged in more “end of times” meltdown.  He pulled out of Syria, ignored a plunging stock market, forced the government into closure because he was denied his toy train (a $5 billion start on his useless border wall, with his new concession that he would settle for “steel slats” – hopefully not Chinese steel) and fought the reality of 17 separate investigations of his empire and presidential campaign over obstruction of justice, fraud, bribery and Russian collusion. 

His excuse for this continuing descent into chaos was that he was keeping campaign promises (the wall, pulling out of Syria) – but that is an unending pledge of continuing disaster given how many things he promised that “I alone can fix it.”

Nothing distinguished Mattis as much as the way he left office, with a resignation letter that confirmed his reputation within the Pentagon as a rigorous intellectual. 

“Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours,” he wrote, “I believe it is right for me to step down from my position. The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed.”

But he nailed those differences in ways that by mere contrast and elegant protest confirmed how working for Trump has shallowed out his influence. This is no Hollywood general.

"One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies."

Slap one: Trump was disrespecting allies.

“My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.”

Slap two: Why are you cozying up to the bad actors?

Observers believe Mattis was incorporating several disagreements in these remarks -- Syria, North Korea, Russia, NATO, a space force, arming troops at Mexican border.

Trump has now torn himself loose  from all anchors the nation once respected, leaving us with the likes of John Bolton and Stephen Miller to advise him.  His bullying ways may keep Republican followers in check for a few more weeks but eventually most of them will be forced into awakening.  Time is running out. The consequences for the nation are almost too extreme to contemplate

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 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.  


Monday, December 17, 2018

GOP GROUCHES EMERGE WHEN POLITICAL POWER TRANSFERS

By Dominique Paul Noth

Among the traits Assembly majority leader Robin Vos
shares with Richard Nixon . .  .
In national politics, there is a pattern of the incoming Republican administration seeking to unravel successes of the departing Democrats.  Wisconsin at the end of 2018 is seeing a wrinkle in the playbook -- departing Republicans trying to foul the landing field for the incoming Democrats.

. . . is a profound disdain for the US
democratic transfer of power.
It all makes curious reading for history buffs about how our supposedly normal transfer of power from one party to another can be turned into a period of audacious mischief-making.

Democrat Lyndon Johnson was desperately but promisingly working on a deal among South Vietnam, North Vietnam and the US to halt the war in 1968 and bring the issues to the Paris bargaining table. Richard Nixon the Republican candidate was anxious to wrap up presidential victory in a year when the Democrats had fought among themselves yet were still giving him trouble at the polls.  He keenly feared an LBJ success in Vietnam could tip the scales.

So Nixon gave lip service to LBJ’s peace initiative but behind the scenes through emissaries like power broker Anna Chennault -- and today we have it on tape – tricky Dick was assuring the South Vietnamese they would get a better deal if he got elected.  

LBJ discovered the deception, branded it treason in private but felt revealing it to the public would destroy the nation’s self-image.  So Nixon got away with that maneuver, the war lingered seven more years and even expanded during his terms. The seeds of Watergate deception were planted – he had proof that high-handed interference worked.

Something similar was parlayed by candidate Ronald Reagan when he was ahead in the polls in 1980 but feared one setback that could elevate Jimmy Carter – success in Carter’s quiet backstage work with Iran on a deal to release the hostages.  So Reagan, turning to his campaign manager and future CIA leader William Casey, negotiated with Iran to wait for him -- assuring there would be no hiccup in his win.  Carter’s administration succeeded but the hostages release was announced by Reagan on the date of his inauguration – fooling America to think he’d done it, fostering a myth that has endured.


With Trump, we don’t yet have a total picture of what sabotage was worked with Russia or social media to lead to his election.  It’s starting to look like no one involved was convinced their shenanigans would have such positive results in 2016, but we do know there were shenanigans and collusion – just waiting for investigators to establish how high up and intimate they went.   

We have clear evidence, though, of how Trump sought to sabotage the departing administration its last two months in office – to undercut Obama in more ways than campaign rhetoric where he could. One way was to make sure the Russians knew he would weaken the sanctions Obama had leveled, while also working ahead of time to undo other Obama’s initiatives.

Wisconsin Republicans picked up the same pattern of behavior – but in this case after losing, not winning every statewide race. The GOP could do that  because the courts have not yet solved the gerrymandered district maps imposed by Republican lawyers in 2011. The GOP still held firm in deformed legislative maps seven years later while statewide every office turned blue

Wisconsin and Michigan have that legislative underclass in common and are the two states the GOP could show its ugliest colors in the transformation – or flat giving up – of power.

Wisconsin was even more grotesque in how the Republicans sought in their final bills to undo campaign pledges that clearly helped Tony Evers win, such as economic development and Medicaid expansion.  Evers won voters with a campaign promise to replace a Walker concoction, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation,  with a well managed Commerce Department. The legislature has now locked him out of any say in the WEDC for eight months.

Urban Milwaukee editor Bruce Murphy speculates that the GOP had been planning for a long time to pull this lame-duck trigger once it was assured Walker would lose, and I for one believe Walker was a willing participant in this idea, so easily did he approve all three of these bills weakening incoming Democrats, putting his powerful partial veto pen to one side.  Even a partial veto would criticize his longtime allies for not thinking deeply enough or draw a road map for the inevitable lawsuits.

But Walker’s final trickery was shrewder. The entire lame-duck session was pretense to
lay $100 million or $78 million in tax incentives on Kimberly-Clark, but even GOP legislators balked at that amount of corporate welfare, particularly after hearing the public’s anger about the billions of dollars given to Foxconn. So before he signed the new bills preventing any such economic deal by Evers – shrewd timing this -- he established $28 million in tax incentives for Kimberly-Clark, a healthy chunk of what he wanted in the first place.

The frustrated lame-duck GOP turned instead to bills that strengthen the legislature’s hand over the new governor and particularly over the new attorney general.  They almost force Josh Kaul to play backseat to their own legal hires in   every case where the public objects to legislative overreach.

The attacks on the governor were notably  in regard to the WEDC, which the GOP has openly used to give tax incentives to companies that supported them politically. WEDC represents seven years of scandal and financial waste, much of it before the noxious Foxconn deal.  

The lame-duck bills lock Evers out of the WEDC for eight months.  By that time, the damage by an unfettered CEO with new freedoms may be  too severe to unwind.  The new law raises membership on the board so that the legislature, not the governor, has the controlling voice.  It makes the state’s Foxconn point person report to the board, not the governor. The legislature gets to choose the CEO and the CEO can make more deals with less data (verification of new jobs created) than before. And while previously WEDC was limited to making deals with 30 companies (it only got up to 26) the cap is now gone and the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee has a passive voice of approval in the decisions.  In other words, if you view the original setup as inviting corruption, these changes practically beg for corruption.

The Republicans know these bills are a last gasp effort because they no longer can triangulate: Senate blames Assembly blames Walker and round and round we went trying to figure out who was doing the most damage.  The governor is now out of the picture.  The ugly stuff is coming from the legislature and if the public gets angry about which good ideas are bollixed, the finger-pointing is only at the legislature – and all the lawsuits will be aimed at them.  The GOP may hang on to stubbornness for a few months but the price for continued obstruction could quickly become too costly.

Funny thing.  While Democratic Party regulars and much of the public that voted Evers in are gnashing their teeth and anxious to crucify the Republicans for their entrenched gridlock,  Evers is not.  He continues his budget listening tour around the state, picks out an eminent team of advisors, frames proposals the Republicans will be hard to fight and even visits the White House  to lay out plans for state and federal cooperation. 

He has been critical of the lame-duck bills but believes he will be judged on what he tries to accomplish – and what they oppose.  The  orneriness of the legislature could prove his biggest marketing tool.

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 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.  


Monday, December 10, 2018

THE CHILDISH POLITICAL GAME FREEZING OUR STATE

By Dominique Paul Noth

Governor-elect Tony Evers  discovering just how futile
it is to appeal to Walker's conscience.
Not just Democrats are stuck in the childhood game of “Statues” – Stop Motion and Freeze! -- because of the lame-duck legislation dropped on Scott Walker’s desk, those controversial new laws that attack the new governor, the new attorney general, voting rights  and basic protections for the citizenry  against  governmental overreach while tangling us in red tape.

It comes in a season dominated by holiday chatter, the Packers after McCarthy, the Bucks in a new auditorium and so forth – but also  shortly after an election where voters spoke out for change in our economic oversight, health care championship and ways of working together. The contrast of what the legislature just did and what the public sought is enormous and normally would lace the season with community protests and media vitriol over the tone and methods of these bills. 

What’s happening instead is anger frozen in midair while even national columnists and past governors from both parties sound the alarm.  There is this strange paralysis because the basic question – “what do we do now?” – isn’t quite real yet. 

The departing governor is stringing out the possibilities of delay and uncertainty to the bitter end, leaving the public hanging in limbo not sure what to attack and what will remain.  Walker is urged by near and not so dear to show his hand, but he seems to enjoy keeping Wisconsin blurry and out of focus.

Even his normally optimistic replacement, Tony Evers, doubts that Walker will protect his own legacy or that of his state. The Republicans scoff and pretend that the new bills aren’t really dangerous or extreme.  But here’s a news flash --- they are. 

As of Dec. 10, Walker hasn’t even formally called for the lame-duck bills to come to his desk – he has until Dec. 20. And then he has a week to play with veto, elaborate partial veto and simple passage. Expect Walker to use the biggest partial veto pen in the nation to nip and tuck the dynamite – and pretend that he is turning a sow’s ear into a slightly better looking sow’s ear.  The best he is likely to do is put lipstick on this pig.

It’s not just how much of the intended consequences of these lame duck laws will be put in place.  It is how much of the unintended consequences will, or slippery consequences that the Republicans never talked about. In their haste they did not realize or even cared as they scribbled rewrites in the dark for several dreadful early December nights. Walker will not so much fine-tune this legislation as decide what to allow that doesn’t expose his own hypocrisy.

In past legislation designed to coerce him, he refused to let the legislature take this much power from the executive or encumber state agencies with the bucketloads of reports and paperwork these law require. Now he seems part of the move to force both the governor and the attorney general to genuflect to the legislature every time they seek a significant action.

In the past Walker tried to limit how the Department of Transportation could whipsaw state and federal funds around, or how much sway the legislature would have over routine executive decisions, or how much it controlled what he wanted to do with Medicaid. Despite his protests of not inhibiting Evers, he is likely to be doing just that.

Intended and unintended consequences are starting to mix together as more people examine these bills ahead of Walker’s decision, underscoring that he really can’t fix stuff the legislature should never have sent him in the first place and that I suspect he knew damn well was coming. It may take months to really understand the traps built into these bills.

The initial  court action – and I anticipate many filings -- is likely to circle in on the limitations on early voting and how deeply the two week time frame flies in the face of previous court decisions – most particularly a 2016 federal decision by Judge James Peterson that spells out how blatant the original bill was in attacking voting rights. 

This all ties in to an existing federal case attacking the gerrymandered maps. Without them, we wouldn’t be going through this current horror show. The hope and fear is the US Supreme Court will deal with either solution or avoidance in the spring.

The Republicans now try to claim that by giving up opposition to evening hours and weekends, their new two-week limit on early voting solves the many legal impediments, but it is a ludicrous argument and frankly an attempt to send Wisconsin voting back to the stone age. 

The Republicans claim, in an insult to rural voters, that this is the group “deeply distressed” that urban voters get to cast ballots weeks before they can.  The only complaint I hear from rural voters is more in the line of “give me some of that” – usually they want the state to technologically move forward into the 21st century with secure voting options that free rather than inhibit the time frame. 

That one is so obviously silly that Walker is likely to step in with his partial veto pen.  

But that doesn’t begin to touch the real damage the bills do to the operation of the government.

Republicans have created brand new sections of law that put the majority leaders of both chambers and the chairs of the joint committees (also Republicans) on par with the attorney general any time someone in the public dares challenge the constitutionality of a law they passed.  All these GOP insiders now have the authority to appoint legal counsel at taxpayer expense and the attorney general is merely “consulted.”

This is more than a slapdown of the new AG Josh Kaul. It deliberately chills the public from complaining unless they have such deep pockets they don’t care that the taxpayer will be paying the opposition counsel whatever the legislators involved require.

The AG is the highest law enforcement official in the state. He or she can’t directly strike down a law as unconstitutional.  But the current process requires input from the AG when the public does challenge, and the citizens naturally turn to their top elected officeholder for an evaluation, not expecting some wishy-washy legislator who wrote the bill to be given equal weight.  It sure makes you wonder what sort of behavior these legislators want to protect.  

Mandated intervention by legislators is the operative phrase in the many new sections in the laws.  The legislature can interfere anytime a court becomes interested in what it does, which seems a warped vision of checks and balances.  State agencies, with the exception of educational ones already protected by court decisions, can’t move an inch without a legislative okay and must prepare quarterly reports as detailed as if agency leaders were merely Bob Crotchet working for Scrooge.  Even the commissioner of insurance has to ask before he or she can give waivers. Legislature spanks if executives don’t curtsy deeply enough.

On and on the fine print runs, blocking in passing any effort by Evers to limit firearms at the Capitol or attract people to government who want to do important work. 

Independent analysts are beginning to take apart the tax legislation to demonstrate that, despite promises, it is not aimed at middle class relief or smoother operation but to help corporate partnerships and those households with a quarter of a million dollars or more in annual income. There is apparently a Republican definition of the middle class that is foreign to most Wisconsinites. 

The entire tax section is a muddle even for the state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau in its formal analysis, which uses “indeterminate” a lot to describe the impact of a complicated law.

It isn’t so much that the legislators didn’t miss a trick, but they imposed so many tricks they themselves don’t even know what the legislation requires.

Apparently Evers most scared the willies out of them with his pledge, endorsed by the voters, to dissolve the WEDC (the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation) and create a better Commerce Department.  The new bills treat that as an open threat to the oceans of gimmes and giveaways that have rewarded the Republican top corporate donors through this Walker created shell game, which has been stalked by millions of dollars in scandals.

In the new laws, the CEO for WEDC is nominated by the legislature, not the governor; the board members from the legislature are expanded while quorum level is reduced, and the board can give the CEO broader discretion.  The WEDC on its own can lift the current restrictions on deals it makes with companies – in other words the entire legislative approach protects the WEDC and invites corruption.  Foxconn has been given looser job assurances to require and the governor’s point-person on Foxconn now reports just to the legislature.

You can start a good fistfight anywhere about the value or lousiness of the Foxconn presence in the state. But there is now universal agreement – except apparently in the GOP legislature -- that the looseness of the WEDC mechanism led Wisconsin to pay way too much for a promised job-land of milk and honey now curdling into lawsuits from other states and environmental groups
  
The WEDC protection in these laws is being advertised by the GOP as a testing period for the new governor, suggesting neither he nor the voters had a clue about economic development but that the mighty legislature did.  This advertised shakeout cruise imposed on the governor bans him from any meaningful say in the WEDC until after September 1.  Examine this from the pragmatic side.  The legislature has put itself in charge for most of 2019, defying the governor to make changes to their choice of CEO and operations if he is still unhappy next fall. They are telling the governor and the voters that their opinions about WEDC don’t really matter.

My personal feeling is that the attorney general is the most aggrieved party in the lame-duck bills and the least likely one for Walker to save, since that directly confronts the legislature and the GOP’s biggest donors. These attacks on the AG are one of the most blatant examples of revisionist history in memory – and with Trump occupying the White House, that is saying a lot.

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 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, December 2, 2018

STATE REPUBLICANS KEEP MAKING AN ASP OF THEMSELVES

By Dominique Paul Noth

“We have scotched the snake, not killed it!”  So worried Macbeth that his foes had not been destroyed but driven into secret nests, or wherever snakes come from.  This was Shakespeare on an evil man’s overriding fear – that the powers to defeat him were just lurking, ready to strike.

Today we flip the bard on his head.  The fear should be from the good guys, the heroes, the progressive forces who thought they had killed the snake in the election of 2018.  They had barely scotched (scorched) it. In Wisconsin, the snake is alive and more than lurking among the Republicans because of their own special serpent, gerrymandering.

A chart  created for Internet use that clarifies
 how  many more votes Wisconsin Democrats
got with poorer results.
This snake left the state legislature intact Republican despite what the electorate clearly wanted.  The charts breaking down 2018 voting truths reveal a majority of state legislative voters wanted change. It is these voters now being denied by blatant GOP manipulation.

The lame duck GOP includes members defeated handily for larger office like Leah Vukmir.  But they are scrambling to do massive damage to the incoming Democrats who swept the state offices.  They fully trust one of the defeated, Scott Walker, will go along with their duplicity.

Rep. Chris Taylor
The short time before January 7, 2019, is their shrinking window to do huge damage in an extraordinary legislative session that Democratic Rep. Chris Taylor rightly describes as “only extraordinary in the sense it reveals the depths Republican leaders are willing to sink to expand their own political power in direct violation of the will of the voters.”

Study the bills. There may be some red herrings in there so blatantly political and unconstitutional that they can’t survive previous court opinions on early voting hours or moving an election in 2020 to favor a conservative pet for the Wisconsin Supreme Court.   But maybe the GOP is hoping to deflect the outrage with obviously extreme bills it actually won’t pursue – fooling the angry public into thinking it was victorious while the real horrors are hidden in the legalese sausage-making of bills on boards, waivers and taxing powers. 

The main thrust of those bills besides elevating the GOP legislature is to limit the powers of the incoming governor and attorney general in ways that border on constitutional abuse but are much harder to take to court.

The Democrats are both angry and a bit mystified about which ways to counterattack. Legal niceties don’t seem to much bother this Republican crew. They expect to be saved by the tilted Republican judicial system that has ignored constitutional realities in the past.  

If the legislators themselves don’t stop this,  only public outrage can – rallies and phone calls, particularly by citizens reaching both inside and outside their own districts to shake up the pliant Republican legislators.  

I and other members of the media have actually made this point to many Republican legislators who are not what you would normally call blind Trump people. But out of fear of losing power or speaking out in defiance of their leaders, they seem to have amnesia about how representative democracy is supposed to function.

This lost-memory behavior by once responsible Republicans has perplexed Democrats, independent and even many traditional Republican voters. What is happening to these people?  In conversation these officials seem to understand there are problems with Trump’s circular firing squad of an administration and with never saying you’re wrong.  But they justify going along because of the few things he does they like, such as supreme court nominations.  But sell your soul to this kind of refusal to accept a changing world? Lose an election and refuse to concede? There is no nobility of belief here, just malice.

Optimistically, I look at the national polls  suggesting  38% approval of Trump as president  (a bad number to begin with) as boiling  down to 18% diehard support of anything he says or does and 20% who like his general policy direction but not his personality.  I also think there is a subset that so embraces respectful treatment of any president that they take the opposition to him as more un-American than his own behavior. And the Trump diehard group may well include people so dismayed by our slow checks and balances democracy that they see Trump as the agent to blow the whole thing up whether they like his policies or not.

But still with all that,   there clearly ought to be a good percentage who can be talked to.  Democrats and social scientists sure keep trying.

It’s hard to throw cold water on the Democrats who are luxuriating in the most sizeable House victory since Watergate -- and likely bigger than 60 years before that. The party has flipped some 40 seats and is re-electing the most proficient Speaker of the House in modern political history, Nancy Pelosi. But the Republicans sit there like stone reminding us why that is not enough, particularly in Wisconsin.

In the US Senate the GOP picked up one seat, a lot less than they hoped for but still retaining a majority. The GOP House losses were massive, but only for two year terms and the clock has already started on the flippers and whether they will maintain and expand in once red districts. How many Democrats of the 40 gained can be reassured re-election in 2020? Is Wisconsin an indication of how ugly the fight will be elsewhere?  

There are special circumstances in Wisconsin that led to this deformed legislative effort to reduce or reverse the results of the 2018 election. But perhaps we are a prelude – and a warning – of what the GOP really intends everywhere beneath the surface. Rather than looking for ways to get things done for this country, too many are seeking to retain control or force their opinions about poverty and wealthy income on the unsuspecting public.

It would be remarkable if the citizens of Wisconsin can stop them. It would be fierce resolution at the end of one backwards year for a productive two years ahead. If fact, this ugly partisan behavior should lead the Democrats to more forcible actions to empower a new governor, Tony Evers, than they originally intended.


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 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.  




Monday, November 19, 2018

WILL WISCONSIN STAY SLEEPY THE NEXT 40 DAYS?

By Dominique Paul Noth

Is Scott  saying: "Even if you beat me, Tony, I'll find a way to screw you."
Basking in the mammoth November election victory and preparing for a festive holiday season, the Wisconsin public is little in the mood to think of politics or the degree of mischief the Republicans are contemplating in the 40 odd days before Tony Evers and Mandela Barnes are sworn in as Democratic leaders January 7.

This is just the sort of lull the GOP loves to pounce in.

In this time, it will be particularly hard to galvanize the outrage and march on Madison that Wisconsinites were eager to do in 2011 when Gov. Scott Walker and his GOP legislature sprung Act 10 on them, limiting worker bargaining rights and wresting important areas of local control away from communities. 

Those protests made national headlines, planted seeds that grew in 2018, but did little else. It took years before the full dual price of those actions caught up with Walker. (The gerrymandering the Republicans imposed in 2011 still has a hold.)

There are still people around who try to defend Walker and Act 10, but it was one of several moves that cost Walker the 2018 election -- because seven years later the truth had finally landed.

He traded temporary financial savings for long term loss of continuity, control and effectiveness of local government and education. You could argue that all his desperate borrowing and deal-making actions since 2011 stemmed from what he considered a success then and that the public would continue to fail in acting against him. Surviving one recall and one re-election made him confident that our blindness would continue.

The 2018 election was a bigger disaster for Republicans in many states outside Wisconsin, yet all the states where the GOP  still exercises some level of government control are seeing the same sort of sabotage as emerging here.

Look next door in Michigan. Before incoming Democrat Gretchen Whitmer can take over as governor, the Republicans in the legislature are trying to weaken an improved minimum wage proposal they passed to lessen her impact. 

There’s terrible irony here for the GOP dominated legislature in Michigan. In September they pre-empted the minimum wage and sick time improvements intended as ballot initiatives by approving them to soften the voter anger.  It didn’t. Now they intend to use that pre-emption so that a simple majority vote in their chambers can prevent any amendments or improvements by the public.

Similarly, North Carolina Republicans – already facing court action over election maps – are plotting to change a voter ID constitutional amendment before the legislature loses its supermajorities.  With that loss, impending next year, goes away the ability to unilaterally override vetoes by a Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, who was elected in the summer of 2017.

But it is in Wisconsin the GOP hopes to cause the most damage in the weeks before Evers takes over and in the few weeks after that before his new team can take hold.

Evers is promising a governorship unlike Walker who made public war on the Democratic governor he succeeded, Jim Doyle, forcing Doyle by his incoming veto threat to back away from promises for high speed rail, expanded health care and other improvements.

Evers has pledged a cooperative reign, but the Republicans seem born suspicious and are acting aggressively against him.  They are trying to gather enough votes among their majority – with some balkers who may soon give in – to curtail Evers’ powers as governor and strengthen the GOP legislators’ say in the freedom of action of the Democratic executive staff.

They couldn’t find enough GOP votes for a key Walker corporate welfare plan -- to supply Kimberly-Clark the giveaways the company wanted. Maybe this was a minor rebellion against the departing Walker, but the Republicans are also listening hard to leaders like Rep. Robin Vos, who was poised to run for governor until Walker decided on one last time.  Now they now sound more convinced that they can impose a new legislative session before the end of 2018.

They are openly exploring how to dilute Evers’ ability to appoint staff and tinker with what actions the governor can propose – a sudden concern about executive power they never expressed in public when Walker was in office.

Indeed, Walker is not out of the picture.  Though in public he claims he will be hands off and let Evers work his own magic, privately he is encouraging frequent allies to handcuff the new governor.

The Republicans are actively seeking ways to prevent Evers from blocking work requirements on Medicaid participants (a Walker scheme).  They would also make changes to diminish Evers’ role in the University of Wisconsin system.

And they are openly talking 2020 and divorcing a state Supreme Court election that year (technically nonpartisan) from the spring presidential primary.  It would be moved to March rather than April. Why?  The fear is that Democratic fervor will work against a GOP pet that the public has never spoken on, Daniel Kelly, appointed to the high court by Walker in 2016.

Alberta Darling lets the cat out of the bag.
GOP state Sen. Alberta Darling, often used to float GOP trial balloons in advance of aggressive action, openly discussed moving the state Supreme Court election so that the true feelings of the populace wouldn’t interfere. March would also bring far lower turnout.

The GOP also lives in fear of what will happen in April of 2019 when Shirley Abrahamson’s seat is up on the high court and the much touted and experienced progressive candidate is appeals judge Lisa Neubauer, highly regarded by both sides and running against a Walker holdover, Brian Hagedorn. In fact, if progressive judges win in 2019 and 2020, there goes the conservative dominance on the high court.

The Republicans clearly hope that the naïve public will not look ahead to the games still left their legislature ahead of Democratic takeover and even long afterward into 2020.  They have thrived on residents’ indifference to what they can do under the surface.  Will that still hold?

“This is exactly the brand of politics that that was rejected by the voters, who really selected Tony Evers to move away” from such behavior, commented Democratic assembly minority leader Gordon Hintz on the same TV show where Darling floated GOP plans

The big question remains. How woke is the public to such shenanigans during the holiday season?

The next two weeks are precisely the time when fully activated crowds descending on Madison and warning the legislature to let the new people alone would have an enormous impact.  It is doubtful that such a level of protest can be stirred up.

Those with long memories will remember the holiday season of 2010 when it was clear impending new governor Walker was going to take away high speed rail while denying to labor leaders that he would take away collective bargaining from public workers (a clear sign, to anyone who understands such political denials, that he was leaning that way) and preparing to borrow to the hilt on the state dime to keep his pledge not to raise taxes.

Wisconsin fell for it then. Why should anything be different now?

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 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, November 14, 2018

WARPED MAPS GET UNDER STATE’S DEMOCRATIC SKIN

By Dominique Paul Noth

More than a week after the midterm elections, it is the Democrats who want to keep the count going to confirm the  heady size of the  Blue Wave . . . in the rest of the nation.

The 1812 political cartoon that gave birth to
the term gerrymandering
In Wisconsin it was blue frosting atop a dark gerrymander cake.  The state proved that on the top  it is Democratic, electing every statewide Democratic candidate plus giving Tammy Baldwin the largest victory margin in the US Senate. Yet underneath it looked like North Dakota.

Sad as that is to report it remains factual.  In the top blue frosting, there may well be a potent template for the future in governor and attorney general, but it is criminally slowed down by a legislative field established by years of successful cheating by Republicans, quietly allowed by voters in most of the state’s 72 counties. 

Never forget that and brace for more of the same in 2020 unless the courts or new action in the US Congress change things, both possibilities long shots. The Democrats, with   nearly 40 seats won from Republicans in the House,  now have the power to challenge Trump and offer exciting bills.  But Wisconsin will not be at the forefront of change, and we’d better get used to that.

Along with eight new Democratic governors,  the turnaround in statehouses was massive – fully 300 statehouse seats changed to Democrats. In Wisconsin and by virtue of absentee ballots recorded a day after the election, only one Assembly seat turned blue – Robyn Vining in AD (Assembly District) 14. One Senate seat that went blue in the lower turnout August election went back to red – in Door County!

And while the US House now boasts a nearly 100 seat lead in favor of  the Democrats, assuring many new proposals starting in January, not a single House seat in Wisconsin flipped or even came close.  At that level we look like Tennessee.  In terms of clout, we have to rely on Tony Evers, Mandela Barnes and Josh Kaul to figure out something.

That is truly bizarre because in case after case it was clear to all voters that the Democrats had better candidates – anyone want to argue against Dan Kohl over Glenn Grothman, Margaret Engebretson over Sean Duffy?

Bryan Steil over Randy Bryce in CD1 was a combination of gerrymandering and vicious successful third party advertising that painted Bryce as a much arrested union thug. I think both union image and arrest record played a dismaying role.  Steil not only had Paul Ryan’s money and support, he looked enough like Ryan to confuse people. So there are complexities in that lopsided race beyond the gerry-snake.

On the Internet an accurate chart has been making the rounds, indicating how many more Democratic voters the Wisconsin Assembly races got and yet how they remained red because of the maps drawn in secret with Republican attorneys in 2011. To put the chart simply, in 2018 Democrats  got 54% of vote yet only  36 seats while Republicans got 45% of the vote and 63 seats.

This is an ingrained problem that has been written about for years by perceptive journalists (insert appropriate pat-self-on-the-back emoji).  Looking through my files, in 2013 I discussed how hard right-wing money was stepping in to support gerrymandering in state legislative races that the localities were not even aware of.  In another story I speculated on why a completely superior candidate even by Republican measures could still lose in suburbs like Franklin.

The voting public is responsible for this, but apparently does not have the level of education or interest to dig inside a five syllable word to understand mapping.  That led even the Washington Post to provide a simply mathematical breakdown of how clever gerrymandering can turn natural competitive districts into lopsided ones based on miniscule voting patterns. Study that explanation for a moment and even the mathematically challenged will understand how expensive lawyers working with in-depth voting charts could tilt your assembly and state senate district to confound the best citizen candidates.

And we had them in 2018.  The most painful loss was state Senate District 5 where Julie Henszey came about one thousand votes shy (mainly the gerrymander) of putting Dale Kooyenga on the same shelf as Leah Vukmir (who did so poorly against  Baldwin). 

Don’t expect Henszey to go away but don’t expect her to run again unless the map becomes fair. And that is the attitude from several candidates. They flogged themselves and their supporters in door to door campaigns that looked good while Republican incumbents dodged discussion of issues and relied on tried and proven advertising techniques. And to our regret as a state, relying on voter ignorance worked.  Under these maps, Democrats would have to pull 20% above their actual weight to win seats.

Some of the losers gave up good jobs to run and they deserve to be back in the mix.  But until the map changes, don’t expect Dennis McBride to run again in Assembly District 13, nor Liz Sumner to take on Fred Ott in AD 23, nor Emily Siegrist to tackle Dan Knodl in AD24 – all strong races on paper that had enthusiastic backers.

One thing that has weakened gerrymandering in other states – with a difficulty the courts should still step in to fix --  is a  pronounced new flow of populations and information. That’s been particularly true in urban areas but harder to achieve in entrenched GOP suburban cul de sacs and in more rural states like Wisconsin. Some sociologists think isolated family voters tend to reinforce each others’ preferences and biases generation after generation.

Now even that is changing, thanks to the needs of farmers for imported immigrant laborers who put down roots; by the nature of small business manufacturing along with the movement of big companies and the “service industry” units;  by living patterns where isolation or size of lot is not as important to a resident as such factors as schools, hospitals, environment and education.

There are citizens in this country who don’t think much about politics until it impacts their living standards, which Trump’s policies are starting to do.  Simplistics about law and order and lingering confusions about taxes are slow to dissipate. 

On the local legislative level, the high involvement in the midterm – a staggering 49% of eligible voters nationally, more than in any midterm since WWI! – reflects a growing awareness reaching far beyond the politically attuned regulars to involve more families, more young people concerned about their future, more people forced to face up to  how and where they get their information.  All that is somewhat muddied by the noise of our technology and splintering sense of unity.

Changes will not happen overnight and changes are never clean.  Most people don’t remember back to 2012 how two South Side Milwaukee Latino districts were protected by a federal court, while the rest of the questionable 2011 maps proceeded willy-nilly. What progressives perceived then as a victory still took six years to create change at the top and nearly nothing down below.

Trump followers desperately need to slow things down, one reason for all the fury about counting real votes in Florida and Georgia.  They  realize that unless they expand their numbers quickly  they are dying out -- that may actually be the underlying fear that motivates them and Trump. 

Likely new Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants the House’s first focus to be on voting issues – rights, gerrymandering, campaign finance, accountability – and there could be widespread support.  Along with protecting pre-existing health conditions, these issues have deep public impetus behind them.

Eric Holder and Barack Obama’s NDRC  organization – the National Democratic Redistricting Committee –  is not only taking the gerrymandering issue national but is also raising money and attention for nonpartisan redistricting. The pressure for improvement keeps building on several fronts.

After North Carolina, Wisconsin is next up in the gate for the US Supreme Court, which has temporarily turned back  to a three member federal panel a technical issue involving legitimate  complainants.  That struck many observers as a signal of interest when SCOTUS  could have simply shut the door.  

The case comes up again in April for the federal judicial  panel – and it now has the frighteningly universal results of the 2018 election to add in as evidence.

That case continues with the elimination of a blindly loyal Republican attorney general, Brad Schimel – replaced on Nov. 6 by Josh Kaul, who has made no secret that he will return his department to more legal responsibility as opposed to partisan leanings.  All this led the appeals court to allow Assembly  Republicans to hire their own private lawyers to pursue the case, which also releases pressure on Kaul to blindly support the maps as Schimel did.

There seems little doubt with the added evidence of the 2018 election, SCOTUS will have to take this case up after it deals with North Carolina, also a state under censure from a judicial panel.

The plaintiffs believe that, having solved the legal concerns raised by SCOTUS, they have a strong case that could force the court to provide new maps – whether in time for the 2020 fall election is unclear.  SCOTUS could find a way to punt again.

Expert minds are mulling the situation and raising simple questions.  Is it possible for Wisconsin to rejoin the rest of the nation it seems to agree with? Or will the gerrymander strike again in 2020?


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 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.