Thursday Music Twofer: Jackson Browne – The Rebel Jesus and Steve Carlson – A Hell of A Time

I had the distinct pleasure this week of seeing Mike McCabe write on his Facebook page that my Christmas song, ” A Hell of A Time ” reminded him of Jackson Browne’s ” The Rebel Jesus ”  so I couldn’t resist re-posting my song next to Jackson’s. Thanks for putting up with me and Happy Holidays!

 

 

 

Madison GOP Creating A New Breed Of Taker

As the Madison GOP fast tracks their right to freeload law…they are creating a new breed…someone who takes a good paying job with good benefits…but doesn’t want to pay the costs for the work that goes into earning that pay and those benefits…in other words…a TAKER!

U.S., Cuba relations to normalize thanks to President Obama

This is HUGE.

After a half-century of Cold War acrimony, the United States and Cuba moved on Wednesday to restore diplomatic relations – a historic shift that could revitalize the flow of money and people across the narrow waters that separate the two nations.

President Barack Obama’s dramatic announcement in Washington – seconded by Cuban President Raul Castro in Havana – was accompanied by a quiet exchange of imprisoned spies and the celebratory release of American Alan Gross, a government contract worker who had been held in Cuba for five years.

The shift in U.S.-Cuba policy was the culmination of 18 months of secret talks between the longtime foes that included a series of meetings in Canada and the personal involvement of Pope Francis at the Vatican. It also marked an extraordinary undertaking by Obama without Congress’ authorization as he charts the waning years of his presidency.

“These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked,” Obama declared at the White House. “It’s time for a new approach.”

Predictably, Republicans have started caterwauling about President Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba, as if 50 years of isolation has been an effective strategy at bringing about democracy in Cuba.

Why did Sen. Tammy Baldwin vote for the awful CRomnibus bill?

On December 13, the Democratic-controlled Senate voted 56-40 to approve H.R. 83, the so-called “CRomnibus” bill, a $1.1 trillion, nine-month omnibus spending bill that will keep the federal government fully funded through September 2015.

Among the Democratic Senators who voted for the CRomnibus bill was progressive Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and as the CapTimes notes, there’s a lot for progressives to hate about the CRomnibus bill.

  • The measure includes a rewrite of rules for derivatives trading that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said “would let derivatives traders on Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money and get bailed out by the government when their risky bets threaten to blow up our financial system.”

  • It includes provisions that will allow billionaires and millionaires to spend dramatically more money buying elections. Democracy 21’s Fred Wertheimer refers to these sections of the CRomnibus as “the most destructive and corrupting campaign-finance provisions ever enacted by Congress.”

  • It reworks pension rules in a way that Teamsters President James Hoffa says could “slash the pensions of thousands of retirees who worked years for a pension that they thought would provide them financial security in their retirement years.”

While I understand compromises need to be made in order for the sausage-making process that is legislating to occur, I can’t help but wonder why a progressive like Sen. Tammy Baldwin chose to vote in favor of such a horrible piece of legislation. After all, the last time I checked allowing millionaires and billionaires to spend more money to buy elections and slashing pensions for retirees don’t sound like issues a progressive should support.

Stop The Presses: Wisconsinites Have The Right To Work!

Despite the illusions being cast by Republicans in Madison, Wisconsinites already possess the right to work…they can apply for any job they want…they can accept any job offered to them…they can negotiate any pay/benefit package they are willing to accept…they can accept or not accept any promotions offered…they can quit any time they want…they can retire! Go figure! The are FREE!

The Coming of The Antichrist, etcetera.

Watch as nutjob Baptist Pastor Steven Anderson ( who has recently suggested that killing all gay people would produce an AIDS free Christmas ) pitches his new film about, well, whatever it’s about. My favorite part comes at roughly the 45 second mark when the Sinister Minister explains how the film will cover everything from when the Bible left off,  to the present, and even the future with ” the coming of the Antichrist, etcetera. ”

 

 

The coming of the Antichrist, etcetera. Doesn’t sound like a very big deal to me.

Milwaukee voucher school receives $4.6 million in taxpayer dollars while only 2% of its students read at grade level

Another day, another story of a voucher school’s financial practices and academic performance being called into question.

The operator of one of Milwaukee’s longest-running private voucher schools says her organization strives to give disadvantaged children the best shot they can get in life, even when they’ve been left behind by other schools.

But new documents and former employees have raised concerns about the internal workings at Ceria M. Travis Academy, a private school that’s received more than $35 million in state voucher payments through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program since 1996.

Complaints filed with the state in 2014 and obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel through an open records request allege that the school has violated state law by employing people without bachelor’s degrees to teach students.

And former and current staff members say the close-knit family business has crossed a number of other lines that, while not illegal under state statutes governing private voucher schools, may be holding children back from getting the kind of education they deserve.

They say Dorothy Travis Moore, the founder and CEO of Ceria M. Travis Academy Inc., employs an unusually high number of family members and that it’s hard to tell where the money for education goes, as classrooms lack adequate resources.

As noted in the Journal Sentinel report, a full report outlining salaries for staff at the Ceria M. Travis Academy is not available because the school is private; however federal nonprofit tax filings from 2012 list the compensation packages for Dorothy Travis Moore and her daughter Wilnekia Brinson at $213,000 and $118,000 respectively.

According to the Journal Sentinel’s report, the two schools operated by Dorothy Travis Moore will be receiving at least $4.6 million in voucher payments if enrollment holds at current levels, which seems to me to be a heck of a lot of money. So what kind of academic performance should Wisconsin taxpayers are getting for their $4.6 million “investment” in Dorothy Travis Moore’s voucher school? Well, last year only 2% of the students could read on grade level, while just 3% could do math on grade level.

Remind me again why conservatives are so keen on voucher schools?

America & ISIL share a common bond: torture

I wonder if having torture in common with the terrorists of ISIL is an example of “American exceptionalism.”

Image © Jim Morin - Miami Herald

Image © Jim Morin

That’s a lot of people

Check out this time lapse video of the Millions March in New York City;  people marching against police violence in communities of color. That’s a whole lotta folks.

 

Jeff Smith: The Blogging Blue Interview

After the disastrous results of the 2014 election here in Wisconsin, many Democrats here in Wisconsin have called for Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate to step down from his position. Many (including yours truly) have criticized Tate for what’s seen as a lack of success in helping Democrats across Wisconsin win elections, and as a result a number of individuals have begun preparing to challenge Tate when his term as DPW Chair is up. It’s been speculated Tate may not seek reelection when his current term is up, but there’s no doubt that whether Tate seeks another term or not there will be no shortage of candidates vying to replace him.

Image courtesy Jeff Smith for Assembly Facebook page

Image courtesy Jeff Smith for Assembly Facebook page

One such candidate is former Democratic State Rep. Jeff Smith of Eau Claire (pictured, left), who told me during a recent conversation that he’s “pretty far down the road” towards formally announcing his candidacy and that he expects to make a decision shortly after the holidays. Smith noted that while other individuals have expressed interest in vying to become the next DPW Chair, he believes his abilities and experience make him the most well-prepared of anyone considering a run for DPW Chair.

When prompted to talk about what he felt separated him from other possible contenders for DPW Chair, Smith cited his experience having been on a ballot six times. Smith noted that while he didn’t win every election in which he was a candidate, he took pride in having run very competitive campaigns that in many cases exceeded expectations. He noted he got more votes in his races than the Democratic candidates at the top of the ticket in 2008, 2012, and 2014, and he added he won an Assembly Race in 2006 when he wasn’t expected to win.

Smith also cited his strong roots in a largely rural part of the state as something that would benefit the party, given the difficulty the Democratic Party has had in bringing rural voters who largely support Democratic Party issues into the fold. “Voters like the issues that Democrats support,” Smith noted, “but they still vote Republican,” adding that the Democratic Party of Wisconsin needs to figure out how to engage and educate those voters to bring them back into the Democratic Party “tent.” Smith added that it’s his belief the Democratic Party has focused on winning votes in urban centers for too long, and he noted that in his experience staff were often sent by the Democratic Party to work in the Party’s Eau Claire office with orders to only send volunteers or do phone banking in the city of Eau Claire while largely ignoring the rural areas surrounding the city.

“The Party can’t continue to win by engaging urban voters only,” Smith told me, adding that the Democratic Party can win rural voters back by listening to them. “All people want is someone to listen to them,” Smith said, noting that the results of referendums in which Wisconsinites opposed corporate personhood and the idea that money equals speech, supported the state accepting federal Medicaid funds for BadgerCare, and supported an increase in the minimum wage show that Democrats are on the right side of the issues but simply lack the right message to convince voters to vote for the Democrats who will address those issues. As an example Smith cited the fact that many rural voters care deeply about preserving their community schools, as many small rural communities are faced with the prospect of losing their community schools due to education funding cuts. “Many people are concerned about losing their community schools, yet they continue to vote for the very Republicans who cut education funding,” Smith said.

If elected DPW Chair, Smith said he’d make it a priority to engage county parties and empower them to be more proactive and make more of a difference in their communities. Smith said he wanted to see county parties doing more to recruit local volunteers who can both relate to local voters and who will have more credibility with those voters while doing outreach.

As I noted earlier, Jeff Smith expects to make a final decision on whether or not he’ll run for DPW Chair by the end of this year, and no matter what he decides to do it promises to be a crowded field come time to choose the next DPW Chair.

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