Yeah, you are probably tired of my harping about legislation around the use of social media by elected officials and other government employees. But here is the perfect example on why we need such clarity.

@realDonaldTrump is monitored by media and foreign officials the world over because President Trump uses it for official communication and policy pronouncements. But today it is purely campaign related. This blending of use is confusing and shouldn’t be allowed. And I wonder if it is even currently legal given the sketchy indicia saying who is providing this campaign advertising content. But see for yourself.

I don’t think the president is subject to the Hatch Act…but this is beyond acceptable.

P.S. In case you were wondering:

Trump Make America Great Again Committee (“TMAGAC”) is a joint fundraising committee composed of Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. (“DJTP”) and the Republican National Committee (“RNC”). Contributions to TMAGAC or any member committee are not deductible for federal income tax purposes.

As we’ve discussed…the Wisconsin State Supreme Court upheld the GOP laws limiting the powers and authority of both the governor and attorney general…who happen to be Democrats…who were elected in the fall 2018 general election.

Now these limits were passed during an extraordinary session held after the election but before the newly electeds were sworn into office…and the bills were signed by the outgoing Governor Scott Walker…who lost the gubernatorial election.

Well the various lawsuits…the one decided with this court decision…and two other pending suits…wanted the session declared unconstitutional. The court didn’t see it that way.

But obviously, there is still some disagreement about the legality of these extraordinary sessions.

To pass the measures, legislators held what’s known as an extraordinary session, in which they bring themselves to the Capitol when they’re not scheduled to be there. 


The groups argued such sessions aren’t allowed because the state constitution says lawmakers can meet only when called into a special session by the governor or as provided by law

emphasis mine

Or as provided by law…so maybe it is time for a bipartisan bill that defines how to call an extraordinary session…defines what laws or bills can be considered or not considered. The pendulum will swing back to the left eventually…the GOP should be interested in clarifying the issue as much as the Democrats. Who needs the questions? Who needs the lawsuits? Who needs the finger pointing? Who needs the hysterics?

No, I don’t actually expect any action on this…but there’s always hope.

 

It seems that a number of GOP legislators in Wisconsin are real estate tycoons in their own small ponds…and aren’t beyond helping themselves prosper…maybe visions of being Donald Trump dance in their heads?

A series of sweeping laws promoting the interests of landlords at the expense of renters, local governments and even public safety have been pushed through the state Capitol since 2011 by a group of lawmakers who moonlight as landlords. 


Backed by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos — a college-town landlord with 23 properties worth about $3.8 million — the Republican-controlled Legislature enacted five major bills largely benefiting landlords.  


The measures speed up the eviction process, eliminate some tenant legal defenses, limit the power of cities to police landlords and cap fees tied to building code violations. They also allow landlords to toss renters’ belongings on the curb immediately after an eviction, instead of placing the property in storage.


Call it the Landlords’ Legislature.


In all, about one out of five of state lawmakers who voted on these bills owns or manages rental properties, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found in its review. At least five lawmakers who double as landlords sponsored the various measures, each of which passed on mostly party-line votes.

So that just seems like greed and corruption so far…where is the irony? Well, author Matthew Desmond was just in Milwaukee explaining to religious leaders about the eviction crisis in the US and Milwaukee in particular.

Matthew Desmond, an award-winning reporter on the Milwaukee housing crisis, calls evictions one of America’s most devastating problems.


And in a keynote presentation Saturday in Milwaukee, Desmond told ministers from across the country what they could do about it.


The presentation was part of the United Church of Christ’s General Synod, a biennial governance meeting held this year at the Wisconsin Center.


Desmond centered the talk around his Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,”which documents the struggles faced by eight Milwaukee families in their search for housing.

He told the leaders gathered at the General Synod how government programs designed to help families looking for affordable housing were failing. According to Desmond, the consensus in America is that we should spend 30% of our income on housing. But today the majority of poor renting families spend over half their income on housing costs.

While the data is still incomplete, the lab learned that in 2016 2.3 million Americans lived in homes that received eviction notices. Every two years in Milwaukee, one in eight renters is evicted.


The base of the eviction epidemic, according to Desmond, is mothers, especially African American mothers with children. The chance of eviction triples if the renter has children.

Desmond argued that in order to have more stable communities, we need fewer evictions. Evictions can stain a family’s record and prevent them from moving not only into good neighborhoods but also public housing. They lead to job loss and mental stress. Ultimately they are a cause of poverty, not just a condition. 

So amidst a housing crisis in America…the Wisconsin legislature…to further enrich themselves…had decided to pile on. Shame.

We are all aware that the US is having a record measles outbreak this year. Officially, Wisconsin has been spared but there are tens of thousands of un-vaccinated residents in the state. So of course there has been a push to get people vaccinated. Some politicians are pushing to remove the religious and personal exemptions from vaccinations that are currently part of state law.

But it ain’t gonna happen, cause:

Rep. Chuck Wichgers, R-Muskego, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he won’t schedule a public hearing on the bill to avoid putting new rules on parents’ medical decisions for their children. 


Wichgers, who leads the committee where the bill is assigned, said he “supports a parent’s right to decide when and how their children should receive treatment.”


The decision to stall the bill comes after Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, also said that while he supports vaccinations, he doesn’t support mandating them. 

Nope, don’t want to tell parents how to promote healthy children and a safer society. But they have no problem telling women what medical decisions to make and trying to control women’s bodies. Particularly if they can do it via stupid supposed pro-life/anti-abortion laws:

Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate passed abortion legislation Wednesday that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has promised to veto.

 
The four bills are headed for a dead end just as GOP lawmakers enter the final stages of writing a state budget that dramatically differs from Evers’ spending plans.

One measure would send doctors to prison for life if they did not provide medical care to babies who were born after attempted abortions.


The others would ban women from seeking abortions because of the sex or disability of a fetus; cut off the last bit of government funding abortion provider Planned Parenthood gets for non-abortion services; and require doctors to tell women they could continue a pregnancy if they act quickly after taking the first dose of a two-drug regimen that causes abortion. 

The bills passed mostly on party lines.

And yes, Governor Evers vetoed the four bills.

But it is interesting what the GOP legislature construes as intrusive and what they are comfortable enforcing. Yikes.

The Wisconsin State Supreme Court upheld most of the laws passed by the GOP majority during their now infamous lame duck session that followed the November 2018 state wide elections. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has this to say following the announcement:

“This lawsuit, pursued by special interests and Governor Evers, has led to an unnecessary waste of taxpayer resources. We urge the governor to work with the Legislature instead of pursuing his political agenda through the courts.”

Yeah, right. Keep in mind that this is the same Assembly Speaker Vos who’s lame duck laws allow the legislature to bypass the Attorney General and hire their own attorneys and bring their own lawsuits when they deem it fit…at taxpayers expense. I find it hard to see the difference…well except the anti-Evers part.

 

Getting ready for a rematch against Governor Tony Evers? Replace Ron Johnson in the US Senate? Hmmm…he’s been almost as active as the president on Twitter lately. A sample of today’s topics, one where he is suddenly an expert on foreign relations:

Do you think, if President Trump starts a war with Iran on his own phony pretenses, that Scott Walker’s sons will be the first to enlist?

Tagged with:
 

I have remained fairly neutral around the Democratic contenders while watching how things were going to shake out. And I am looking forward to the upcoming Democratic debates despite the huge number of candidates on each evening. I hadn’t ruled anyone out although I have three or four favorites.

But coming back from a trip to Fort Campbell, I found a Twitter post from Senator Bernie Sanders (I – Vermont) that removed him from my list:

So I guess I am now a member of the corporate wing of the Democratic Party…cause for me Sen. Sanders is no longer under my consideration. This isn’t one of the senator’s finest hours…but he did learn something in 2016…he’s playing strictly to his base not the general electorate.

Tagged with:
 

President Trump is feeling pretty invulnerable right now. Between the lack of indictments coming from the Mueller Report, the House’s reticence to initiate impeachment proceedings, the lack of GOP blow back from his comments about taking opposition research from foreign governments, etc. Why would he take advice from the Office of Special Counsel i.e. Kellyanne Conway and the Hatch Act.

Well I don’t expect that he will. And I don’t expect that the GOP leadership on the Hill will hold him responsible if he doesn’t. Yet Ms. Conway has clearly violated the Hatch Act on any number of occasions. And not firing her would normally be an impeachable offense.

Here’s an interesting comment from the White House:

Among other things, he ( Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel) argued that the special counsel was applying an overreaching interpretation of the law to target the president’s aide, particularly by applying unjustified standards to social media.


“OSC’s overbroad and unsupported interpretation of the Hatch Act risks violating Ms. Conway’s First Amendment rights and chills the free speech of all government employees,” Mr. Cipollone wrote. The call for Ms. Conway’s firing, he added, “is as outrageous as it is unprecedented.”

emphasis mine

If you read the first paragraph above, once again there is a question about official vs. personal use of social media. As I have called for in the past, there needs to be legislation around what is and what is not official business on social media. When is a government official using social media in an official capacity and when are they acting as a private citizen.

The second paragraph gets into the First Amendment. Anyone going into government service is aware of the Hatch Act and knows what it entails and how it would affect them…it should come as no surprise and if they think that it will inhibit their rights…they shouldn’t take on a role in government.

But to think that laws can’t restrict free speech…I suggest that there are all manners of laws around privacy, secrecy and security that control what government employees can say or reveal in public already…laws that no one finds fault with…and I think the Hatch Act is similar.

So in short, Kellyanne Conway should go and take her rightful spot on Fox News…and if not the president should be impeached for refusing to remove her.

One last thing…that unprecedented thing? It is in fact unprecedented. The Office of Special Counsel has never had to issue a report quite like this before.

AND: What is the Hatch Act??

The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activities while they are on the job. Named for former Senator Carl A. Hatch, Democrat of New Mexico, the law has been on the books for 80 years.

Earlier this week two petroleum tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman. President Donald Trump is placing the blame on Iran…while naturally Iran is denying any involvement. Unfortunately neither administration can be trusted to tell the truth so it is very hard to determine who is actually responsible.

And the US has released a portion of a video that purportedly shows members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards removing unexploded mines from the side of one of the tankers. But as we know, with 21st Century technology, video is no longer a proponent of truth.

And the world isn’t helping one whit. Great Britain is siding with the US, Germany doesn’t believe the video proves anything. The explosions were supposedly caused by torpedoes and mines yet the damage is above the waterline and neither ship sank. The owners of the Japanese vessel claim their crew saw objects flying toward them before the explosions started. China says no one wants war over the issue. Europe urges restraint. The United Emirate Republics say that they have proof that the attacks were state sponsored.

So where do we go from here?

Well the president says he is willing to open talks with Iran over the issue. So lets do that. They say they didn’t do it…so let’s suspend disbelief for a time and join them in determining exactly what did happen. Include the governments of Japan and Norway whose vessels were attacked.

Continued antagonism will continue to push Iran into the Russian sphere of influence. A friendliness initiated during the Syrian civil war.

Pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Treaty has caused the European Union to develop new banking relationships and networks so they can continue to trade with Iran and circumvent Trump’s sanctions. Those two actions have weakened America’s diplomatic and economic strength in the region and may change our economic strength worldwide eventually. The Euro continues to replace the US Dollar as the currency held by foreign governments as a safe haven currency.

Opening talks with Iran is a good thing. Getting them involved in determining who attacked the tankers is a good thing. Getting the other gulf countries involved would be a good thing.

The biggest draw back (other than Trump not following through on the things he says) would be: why should Iran trust Donald Trump?

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