CAVEAT EMPTOR: Wisconsin right wing moves from stealth candidates to stealth web sites, ads and "news"

Craven and sensationalist though it is, at least you can say the Drudge Report web site comes right at its readers and doesn't pretend to be anything but a collection of right-wing talking points. It's been that way since its inception in 1996, when the site hyped the Monica Lewinsky/Bill Clinton tryst from an initial news break right past impeachment.

With the Drudge Report, as with many right-wing trolling operations in the '90s and the following decade, at least what you saw is what you got. Such a quaint era, compared to our own.

Whether it's arrogant overreach or a sign that ordinary measures don't work, fakery and trickery have become increasingly manifest as tools commonly used by conservatives. What you see is what you don't get -- or, rather, what you don't see is what you do get.

The GOP noise machine early in this new century widely adopted an echo-chamber method of spreading malicious factoids, political memes and outright lies. A "leak" of information (actually, a suggestively edited accusation) would be circulated round-robin among conservative blogs, web sites, print media, TV operations like Fox's "O'Reilly Factor" and elsewhere until someone in the mainstream news media couldn't resist jumping in to make the meme seemingly respectable.

First outsourcing, then downsizing -- The Incredible Shrinking State of Wisconsin

Given the Wild Bunch that's now running Wisconsin state government, it's easy to fall into a dark, fearful and conspiratorial mood that their actions are spreading among us. So I was momentarily surprised to see what seemed like a gloating headline today on the intro page at the state's Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection web site. It reads:

Referendum open to downsize Wisconsin ...

Well! It was already clear that Team Walker and the repo-Ledge of GOP lawmakers are intent on further reducing the size of state government and sending most of those savings to their rich, fat-cat buddies in the form of tax cuts, as they consistently have in the past -- a sly form of upwards wealth redistribution. But this headline seemed to demonstrate just how openly crass our klepto-government was becoming.

But upon closer examination: Not so fast. The full headline was this: 

Referendum open to downsize Wisconsin cherry board

THE DAILY DYSFUNCTION: Of police overreach and mandatory ultrasounds

Welcome to another, not-really-daily edition of all the news that's hissy-fit to print. It might seem unkind to mention these disturbing accounts on Christmas Eve, but no Christian should forget the violence and mindlessness that followed the original Christmas. Evil does not rest, nor should we.

Cautionary Tale No. 1: At Salon.com, , an assistant professor at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, yesterday published a thorough examination (link below) of the Dontre Hamilton case, where a Milwaukee cop put 14 fatal shots into Hamilton, an unarmed black man with a history of mental illness. The Milwaukee County DA just ruled there was insufficient evidence to charge the ex-cop. The title os the Salon.com piece: “It may out-Ferguson Ferguson”: Why Milwaukee’s police violence will horrify you." Carriere provides a larger context of police racism in the city and compares it to the events in Ferguson, Missouri and elsewhere. Forewarned is forearmed.

Looking forward to the challenges of 2015

 
Looking Forward to the Challenges of 2015
by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
There’s something about the New Year that brings freshness and hope. Pain and loss are eased as the calendar turns to 2015. Opportunity and change await.
 
Farming taught me the importance of new beginnings. While the ground lies fallow, plans begin. The farmer sees the snow covered field. But in the mind’s eye, the field is lush green. The weeds are few; the crop bountiful; the balance sheet in the black.
 
So begins the work of the people in 2015. Every bill is new (although many are recycled). Each bill begins the laborious process of committees and public hearings. Many legislators are new; returning lawmakers have new offices and some new staff.
 
Acrimonious campaigning is put aside. Even long-time opponents sound similar as they compete to deliver the best bipartisan speech.
 
Farming taught me the importance of having a plan; so in this spirit of fresh beginnings this week and next I’ll offer my hopes and plans for the coming year.
 
The new session begins with the Governor’s proposal for the two-year state budget. The most important work of the Legislature will be the passage of this bill by midyear. The largest state-funded part of the budget will be K-12 education. What happens to schools will affect every community in Wisconsin.

Bipartisan Report: Johnson Wrong to Blame Obama for Secret Service Woes

Last September, U.S. Senator Ron Johnson faced a tough situation:  Blame President Obama, or blame government in general, for Secret Service agents failing to stop an armed intruder from scaling the fence, running across the front yard, and coming in through the front door of the White House.  

Johnson chose both, saying that this was yet another example of Obama's "inability to manage," and then also blaming the "dysfunctional" Federal Government:  

The court case that could expose Walker and the Republicans for who they really are.

During this term of the U.S. Supreme Court the case of King v. Burwell will get heard and decided.

To summarize, anti-healthcare forces are challenging the health care law based on clumsy wording contained in one sentence of the 1,000+ page act. That wording refers to premium subsidies available to those enrolled in an exchange "established by the state."

Hence the legal challenge. The plaintiffs argue that those states, like Wisconsin, and other states under the control of Republicans which opted not to create their own exchanges, are not eligible for the premium subsidies.

Lower courts rejected this argument because precedent requires that challenges to wording in legislative acts must be weighed in context, that is, taking the law as a whole and the ACA wording makes it clear congress intended subsidies to be available in those states operating under the federal exchange.

Legal scholars appear to lean in favor of the court upholding the law with John Roberts again casting the deciding vote. It was Roberts who voted in favor of the constitutionality of the law and those scholars posit it would be crazy for Roberts to trash the law now on something this flimsy.

Looking Back on 2014

December 24, 2014
 
Looking Back on 2014
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
The close of the year is a good time to reflect on what passed and look forward to what lies ahead. This week I offer my annual review of the opinions and needs of the folks I’m honored to represent.
 
Communication with constituents is a big part of a Senator’s job. This year I had over 6,500 contacts with more than 4,500 people in the 31st district on dozens of issues. Most people chose to send an email but 44 hard-working, old-fashioned souls took the time to send a handwritten letter or postcard.
 
Almost 300 people made the long trip to Madison to meet with me. Many came to celebrate a special occasion – like the 100th anniversary of 4-H in Wisconsin. Others came to testify or attend a public hearing.

Restless Scott Walker considers sending force against any "unrest" from Milwaukee's black community over Dontre Hamilton

Milwaukee County Supervisor David Bowen

Gov. Scott Walker reportedly likes to think of himself as a Ronald Reagan Republican. However, Reagan was a political moderate compared to Walker's brand of far right-wing policymaking. It's increasingly evident Walker is much more of a Richard Nixon analog. Nixon, like Reagan, was a moderate compared to Walker's ideological stances on numerous policy issues. But in two overriding aspects, Walker and Nixon are almost political twins.

The first aspect is Walker's willingness to engage in evidently illegal activity. Both created secret communications systems and strived to hide the flow of campaign donations to their coffers. All of which led to felony convictions against Nixon staffers and Nixon's resignation, evading impeachment; and, in Walker's case, two John Doe investigations that already have resulted in criminal convictions among his Milwaukee County executive's staff.

Walker is so Nixonian in this regard that, when GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush recently announced he'd make public all emails from his tenure as Florida's governor, Walker declined to make a similar move, saying he didn't understand why any candidate would do that.

Saudi si, Cuba no: Scott Walker clears it all up for you

After joining in the all-but universal Republican cacaphony over President Obama's normalizing of diplomatic relations with Cuba, Gov. Scott Walker was asked by reporters whether it isn't inconsistent for the US to continue isolating Cuba while continuing normal relations with Saudi Arabia, a nation that arguably has equal or greater involvement with state-sponsored terrorism and human rights abuses. News reports described Walker as "reluctant" to say much about the Saudis or to declare whether he regards that oil-rich country as a free and open society.

The presidentially minded Walker cleared it all up in his usual, non-incisive, incomprehensible political-speak:

"They’re making a few moves right now, but those are things that could be easily altered, at least in terms of Cuba. In terms of Saudi Arabia ... those are things I guess folks at the federal level would ultimately have to comment on in terms of whether there’s consistency or not. The difference, I think, is Cuba, that’s a policy the U.S. has had for some time, where to change that, I think there has to be substantial change in terms of the positions that the Cuban government has."

Huh? Quick, get an English teacher on the horn to help parse Walker's word salad.

Flashback: Ron Johnson on Russia, "Sad Fact is that Sanctions Haven't Worked"

Last May, U.S. Senator Ron Johnson appeared on CNN's State of the Union and dismissed Obama's plan to deal with Russian aggression with more economic sanctions, saying, "the sad fact is that sanctions haven't worked."  Johnson then went on to suggest that the only way to deal with Putin was militarily, saying, "Vladimir Putin is only going to respond to action, strength and resolve."

Now, seven months later, Russia's economy is going up in flames and the fire hydrants necessary to put it out -- IMF loans and other international help -- are locked down tight, because of the economic sanctions Obama and other world leaders imposed on Russia.

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