Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Punching a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Amazon has ended a year of suspense by deciding that it is going to split its new second headquarters--"HQ2"--between cities just outside of New York and Washington, DC.  Hundreds of cities across the country had put together presentations and incentives packages for the retail giant hoping to land the 50-thousand high-paying tech jobs and the billions of dollars in direct and indirect spending by the company and its customers.  But in the end they are left disappointed and New York and Washington get to celebrate.

Except, some in these liberal hotbeds are not celebrating their incredible fortune.  Many of them are decrying Amazon's decision to locate in their areas and are being very vocal in their displeasure.  The opposition to New York's selection is being led by none other than the face of America's Socialist future, Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  Ocasio-Cortez says Amazon is bringing the jobs that "New York doesn't need".  She also shows an incredible ignorance of what Amazon actually does by questioning if these corporate headquarters jobs are going to be "low-wage" and if employees will be unionized.  That was followed by demands that Amazon pay to fix New York City's crumbling public transportation system and that they build "affordable housing" for those that are not going to work for them.

This continues a trend in the major liberal cities across the US where local governments do everything they can to make themselves as attractive to the "progressive" young tech entrepreneurs and cutting edge companies as possible--and then complain and exploit them once they show up.  Cities like Seattle, Portland and San Francisco spent billions to provide bike paths, light rail, streetcars, free wi-fi, riverwalks and parks in the middle of dense urban areas.  They pushed industrial companies out of the city, tore down old factories to build large-scale apartment complexes (rather than single-family homes) on transit routes, declared themselves "sanctuary cities", promoted their "diversity", made recreational marijuana use legal, and mandated $15 minimum wages.  And like the ghosts of the baseball players in Field of Dreams, they did in fact come.

The "millennial friendly" cities saw huge booms in new residents, flush with cash from their tech jobs and looking to live the liberal lifestyle.  Rents skyrocketed, old, dumpy apartments and townhouses were remodeled or torn down to make way for new developments--displacing those that could no longer afford anywhere to live in the city.  Homelessness exploded and every other employer in town struggled to find workers--even at $15 an hour or more. 

Now those same cities are turning on those that brought such prosperity to them.  Seattle initially levied its tech companies with a "head tax", where every employee and new employee would be charged to fund homelessness programs (Amazon helped to get that law repealed quickly).  San Francisco voters just approved a similar tax--despite already having some of the highest taxes in the nation.  Now Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and other Socialists are telling Amazon that they shouldn't bring their economic prosperity machine to New York or Washington either.

The Fox Valley was among those that initially considered making a play for HQ2.  Perhaps someone should shoot Jeff Bezos a quick text message reminding him that we may not have communities that cater to the lazy, liberal lifestyles of his employees, but at least we will welcome them with open arms.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Baraboo "Nazis"

Until yesterday, Baraboo, Wisconsin was known primarily as the home of Circus World--the town where the traveling circuses of yesteryear wintered--and where the Great Circus Train originated.  Now, Baraboo, Wisconsin will be known as the home of the "High School Nazis".

A prom photo appearing to show a group of high school boys making the Sieg Heil straight-armed salute went viral on Monday--marked with the hashtag "Baraboo proud" mocking the school district's social media campaign promoting sports and other activities.  The photo was apparently taken last spring before prom--and why it only recently surfaced is not known.  The boys were juniors at the time and are scheduled to graduate next spring.

As global scorn came raining down upon Baraboo yesterday, and the media began to ask very uncomfortable questions, school district officials issued statements that the picture "is not what Baraboo schools teach".  So it is only fair to ask, what is Baraboo High School teaching kids about Nazism? 

A check of the Baraboo High School website features course descriptions.  Freshmen take a one-semester World History course that provides generalizations of major political and economic movements in human history.  Doesn't sound like much time for in-depth discussion and learning about the forces of Facism in pre-World War II Europe.  Another one-semester course is in Area Studies--that focus on non-European and American history.  Juniors then get two semesters of American History--which appears to focus on select topics from the Civil War to the modern era.  At the very bottom of the page is a half-semester elective course dedicated to World War II.

85655 World War II History
0.5 credit - 1 semester
Grades: 11-12
Prerequisites: US History
Historical introduction to WWII including analysis of such topics as the causes of war; strategy, tactics and technologies in the major theatres; political and military leadership; and war crimes. The war at home will be studied including Japanese Internment, women and minorities in the workforce, and Badger Munitions. Students will analyze a variety of films and novels in this course and it will require out of class reading.

It doesn't list the textbook used so I can't tell how in-depth the study of Nazism is.  And again, this is an elective for Juniors and Seniors--so we don't know how many of the kids in the picture had taken that course.

Might I suggest to Baraboo School District officials--and those from any other school everywhere--that Social Study classes hold discussions focusing on historical perspective and false modern equivalencies.  The term "Nazi" should be applied only to those who belonged to the National Socialist movement in Germany in the 1930's and 1940's.  Any use of the term to describe people who voted for Donald Trump should be discredited.  Any use of the term to describe members of the National Rifle Association should be discredited.  Any use of the term to describe those opposed to unfettered immigration should be discredited.

Maybe then small-town kids will associate stiff armed salutes, swastikas and Hitler Halloween costumes with true evil and not treat it as some naughty joke.

    Monday, November 12, 2018

    The Birth of the Common Sense Party

    For the first time since the Progressive and Bull Moose members returned to the Republican Party in the 1930's, there is fertile ground for the formation of a viable third party in the US.  Don't let Libertarians or Green Party members fool you, they have no chance to win anything--and actually only serve to increase the political fracturing by siphoning off just enough votes in closely contested races between the two major parties to produce non-majority winners.

    Instead, I'm talking about a major third party that would have high-profile candidates from day one, infrastructure to organize campaigns in all 50 states and an established donor network to fund those campaigns against what would remain of the two major parties.  All we need is a really cool name.

    The problem with modern third party politics in modern America is that they have been the creation of just one person--or limit themselves to just one issue.  The Reform Party of the 1990's was nothing more than the ego of Ross Perot--who spent millions of his own money (twice) just to advance his own personal agenda.  Compared to what we have in today's political atmosphere, how were George HW Bush and Bill Clinton that much different from each other?  And what was Perot going to "reform"?  The party's only win was Jesse "The Body" Venture capturing the governorship in Minnesota in a race that really foreshadowed the current cult of personality politics that produced election victories for the junior Senator from Illinois Barrack Obama and the former TV reality show star Donald Trump to the presidency.

    Meanwhile, parties like the Greens tie themselves to one issue--like environmentalism--limiting their appeal to all voters and then compound that by refusing to play by the modern economic rules of politics.  Their supporters create even more distaste by demanding European-style representation in Legislatures and Congress arguing that they "deserve" two percent of the seats because they got two percent of the vote.

    But now the two parties are driving each other farther away from the center--where the vast majority of voting electorate lies on the political spectrum.  Trumpism in the Republican Party and Socialism in the Democratic Party has members of both looking around and asking, what happened to my party?  And that is where the Never Trumpers and the Democrats that still believe in the Constitution can come together and actually get this process back on the rails.

    The key--as I mentioned before--is to pick the right name.  The Constitution Party is already taken by a bunch of nerds that will waive their pocket copy of the document in your face every chance they get while reciting obscure passages of Article II word for word.  It looks like the Centrist Party is also taken--although I've never heard of them actually getting a candidate on the ballot.  Perhaps we can look to one of the Founding Fathers, Thomas Paine, who penned the pamphlet Common Sense Addressed to the Inhabitants of America--which spawned the first push for democracy in the New World.  The Common Sense Party--our hope for the future.

    Friday, November 9, 2018

    Because It Makes an Ass Out of U and Me

    One thing I've heard from a lot of Republican acquaintances this week is "How could Scott Walker have lost?  The economy is doing great.  Everybody is working.  Taxes are lower.  What was there to hate?"  The results of Tuesday night show the dangers of assuming that everyone shares the same values as us Conservatives.

    Believe it or not, not everybody wants to work.  And not everybody believes that you should have to work.  A lot of the folks that found new jobs during Scott Walker's eight years in office would much rather be sitting at home collecting assistance instead.  Or they are in jobs that they feel are "beneath them" or that don't pay them $15 an hour that some politicians tell them they "deserve"--even though they lack the basic skills to move up to anything better.  What's more, Walker was making thousand of people have to work to collect FoodShare benefits--and they were looking at having to work to stay in BadgerCare starting next year too.

    We also tend to forget that not everyone pays taxes.  The divide is edging closer to 50/50--so talk of rate reductions and additional credits don't apply to nearly half of the people going to the polls.  And as younger Wisconsinites opt for renting over homeownership, property tax reduction means absolutely nothing to them.  How do schools and local governments get funded?  They have no idea and quite frankly, they don't care.

    Even the six year tuition freeze at the UW System got no appreciation from those it benefited the most.  We assume that not having to pay more every year is great for the consumer--but as far as those students are concerned, college should be free.  And with the proliferation of student loans, they aren't paying much out of pocket right now anyway--so what difference does it make? 

    Now I am not saying that we should turn our backs on the long-held American beliefs that you should work hard, save your money and pull your own weight.  But as Tuesday night--and other recent elections have shown--there are fewer and fewer people that think the same way.

    Thursday, November 8, 2018

    It's About Time Clerks Learned How to Do Their Jobs

    I would like to congratulate municipal clerks here in Wisconsin for finally conducting a fair and honest election.  On neither Tuesday night nor Wednesday morning did I hear any of the allegations of election fraud that have become "commonplace" in recent years.

    There have been no claims that Voter ID kept tens of thousands of people from voting on Tuesday.  Limited in-person absentee voting hours didn't discriminate against the working poor this time around.  We are yet to hear from any out-of-state college students or military members that never received their absentee ballot--or who got it too late to get it back in time for election day.

    There haven't been any stories of poll workers denying registration to people because their address wasn't right on proof of residency documents.  No one was turned away after trying to provide the most obscure form of valid identification at the polls.  No poll observers tried to "intimidate" minority voters.  Nobody that was in line at 8:00 was told that they would not be allowed to vote.

    There were no pre-marked ballots reported on Tuesday.  No voting machines that suddenly switched candidates' names after the voter made their selection.  There were no complaints of ballots that were too complicated to understand and there were no ballots with candidates in the wrong party column.  (There were ballots handed out to the wrong Assembly district voters in Howard on Tuesday--but that was as much the fault of ignorant voters as the poll workers themselves.  The very first voter of the day should have noticed the candidate they wanted to vote for wasn't on the ballot and should have brought it to the attention of the workers--instead of more than 240 people not noticing.)

    There were no complaints of marked ballots being left out in the open.  No previously-sealed bags showed up at city hall with their seals mysteriously broken.  No voting machines made thousands of ballots "disappear".  Bags of uncounted ballots that flipped the results of the elections were found in Milwaukee County this time and not Waukesha County.

    No one has been accused of trying to hack into voting machines this year.  There have been no claims that outside agencies affected the vote totals.  Not a single candidate or party official has made any claim that the results of Tuesday's vote were a fraud.

    That stands in sharp contrast to the impotent administration of statewide elections in 2016, 2014, the 2012 recall elections and 2010--where all of the issues I listed before were claimed to be rampant in Wisconsin.  It's almost like we just conducted non-partisan spring elections or August primaries this week.  Well, except for those April elections where Conservative Supreme Court Justices won.

    Perhaps out municipal clerks here in Wisconsin--having finally figured out how to run an election "properly"--should teach the folks in Georgia, Florida and Texas how to do it--since all of our "problems" here have suddenly shown up down there.

    Wednesday, November 7, 2018

    The Eclipse of Scott Walker

    Someday, Wisconsin political historian will consider the high point of Scott Walker's career to be the millisecond before Donald Trump descended down his tacky gold-painted escalator at Trump Tower to announce that he was joining the Republican primary race for President.

    Up until that moment in time, Walker's political arc had been both astounding and groundbreaking.  Walker will likely be the last Republican to win a race in Milwaukee--taking over as County Executive in the wake of the pension scandal.  He had won three statewide elections for Governor in just four years--becoming the first sitting governor in US history to survive a recall election.  Walker had severely weakened public sector union's influence over state and municipal government with the passage of Act Ten and he had turned away Federal funding for Medicaid expansion as part of the Affordable Care Act while still increasing Badgercare enrollments.

    Walker was also raising huge amounts of cash for his Presidential campaign--which he had kicked off more than a month before Trump and he was doing well in the polls in the first battleground state of Iowa--usually in the top two or three.  And then Trump came down the escalator.  The billionaire established his campaign style immediately, turning debates with an already over-crowded field into a three ring circus--and sucking all of the air out of the room.  He called Walker "a failure" and called Wisconsin's economy "terrible"--without citing any metrics or statistics.  Like every other GOP candidate, Walker had no answer for Trump--who made goofy faces for the camera that was always focused on him whenever criticism was leveled in his direction.  It wouldn't be long before Walker's funding dried up--much of it heading to Trump--and he limped home a beaten man.

    Walker then tied himself to Texas Senator Ted Cruz--the last man standing against Trump in the primary--and seemed to gain a bit of revenge when Cruz won here, forcing Trump to push the campaign farther in the primary.  Eventually, Trump would win the nomination and Walker would fall in line with other members of the GOP to campaign on his behalf in the state--delivering a stunning victory for the President--and taking credit for "delivering Wisconsin".

    Then came Foxconn.  The huge tax credits for the Taiwanese plant ruffled plenty of feathers of even the most ardent Walker supporters--but he got it passed.  And who showed up for the groundbreaking ceremony?  President Trump to take credit himself for the plant saying "he delivered it for Governor Walker".

    And then just as Walker's re-election effort was kicking into high gear, the President decided to start trade wars with countries that import a lot of Wisconsin goods.  Dairy farmers lost markets in Canada and Mexico, grain farmers lost markets in China, and Harley Davidson faced huge tariffs for bikes shipped to Europe.  When they suggested that some manufacturing would have to be moved to the Continent, the President was there to blast them, to threaten higher taxes on their bikes and to urge people to boycott the company.  And all Scott Walker could do was stand there and try to explain away how it might lead to "real free trade".

    Even the couple of President Trump's campaign stops in Wisconsin in the final weeks of the campaign to "help Walker" in his close race, became nothing more than pep rallies for the President himself--with his backers that couldn't care less about other members of the GOP and absent the long-time Conservative voters that had elevated Walker to national prominence--but have absolutely no use for the President.

    And now after the 47-thousand uncounted absentee votes in Milwaukee County swung the race in Tony Evers' favor, Scott Walker is left to wonder how it all could have gone so wrong so quickly.  Much like the proverbial china shop owner must have felt after the bull went through.

    Tuesday, November 6, 2018

    The Little Monsters

    It used to be that parents would lie awake at night worrying that their kids were going to flunk out of school, or die in a car crash, or get pregnant while a teenager, or get abducted by a stranger in the park.  Today, parents need to lose sleep worrying that their kids are going to kill them.

    In our latest rash of disturbing youth violence, we have the 11-year old boy who killed his grandmother and then himself because he had been told to clean his room and the 10-year old girl in Chippewa Falls that stomped on the head of a six-month old boy--because he wouldn't stop crying.

    It should be noted that the 11-year old killed his grandmother execution-style--with a shot to the back of the head before shooting himself.  Where does an 11-year old get the idea that because he was told to do something that he didn't want to do--clean his room--that he is going to get his grandfather's pistol, sneak up behind an old woman, kill her gangster-style, and then turn the gun on himself before his grandfather can disarm him?

    In the Chippewa Falls case, the 10-year old girl admits to dropping the six-month old boy on his head at a daycare center last month and then jumping on his head until he stopped crying.  How does that become the normal reaction for a ten year old--to stomp on a baby's head instead of going to get adult help?

    I would also include the Barron County case of the murdered parents and the missing 13-year old girl.  While the girl may not have been the trigger person, my 20-years of reporting on stories like this lead me to believe that she had contact with the person responsible before the shootings.  You may recall a 17-year old girl in Rhinelander in 2015 that killed her mother and step-father--in front of her siblings--so that she could run off with a 22-year old guy from Indiana that she "met" on the internet.  And let's not forget the 12-year old girls involved in the brutal Slenderman stabbings in Waukesha County.

    Why have we fortified our schools to the point of absurdity in recent years?  Not so much due to external threats--but rather to protect students from each other.  The Sandy Hook Elementary shooting is really an outlier--an outside adult killing kids--and even then, the shooter's mother worked at the school. 

    The Twilight Zone featured an episode in 1956 called "It's a Good Life".  Rod Serling introduced the show by saying "there is a monster living this small town"--as the camera pans across a peaceful farm setting making you wonder what could possibly be the monster--until settling on a small boy (played wonderfully by Billy Mummy).  The boy has telekinetic powers that he uses to punish anyone or anything that makes him mad--killing people and animals indiscriminately and on a whim.  The boy's parents and the remaining people in the town live in fear of the child and do everything they can to please him at all times.  I'm sure that in 1956 the plot seemed implausible, as children were kept in their place by their parents and adults in authority.  But now it appears we had better make sure the kids are always kept happy.