Farrow, Ryan, Walker all fail in leadership test

The response of local Republican “leaders” to Donald Trump’s gross conversation about his pursuit of women tells us a great deal about about their suitability for their own positions.

Margaret Farrow is a University of Wisconsin Regent. She is one of the people charged with leading the UW System in the 21st century. Her response to Donald Trump:

Former Lt. Gov. Margaret Farrow, part of a coalition of Wisconsin women supporting the GOP nominee, defended Trump, noting the comments were made 11 years ago before he was running for president and were recorded without his knowledge. However, she said she raised her own sons not to use that kind of language.

“I’m more interested in keeping our country safe and bringing back jobs,” Farrow said, commenting before Ryan’s announcement late Friday. “On those two points I think he stands head and shoulders above Hillary Clinton.”

As a Regent, that won’t cut it. Mr. Trump’s crass attitude and behavior are salient in the world of the people attending the University of Wisconsin, and their concerns should also be of concern to Ms. Farrow. It is apparent that her interest in Republican politics has overtaken her judgment when it comes to the University of Wisconsin, and that she can no longer act effectively in her role as a Regent. She should resign immediately.

Paul Ryan’s response to the Trump debacle was this statement:

“I am sickened by what I heard today. Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified. I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests. In the meantime, he is no longer attending tomorrow’s event in Wisconsin.”

Well, that’s pretty weak sauce. Disinviting Trump from an event to which he was reluctantly invited, and hoping that Trump “treats this situation with seriousness.” Were Paul Ryan a leader, he would pull his endorsement from Trump, as Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Sen. Mike Crapo, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz have done. But Paul Ryan is not a leader. Nor does he appear to be from the 21st century. Women today do not ask to be championed or revered. They ask to be treated as people, and to be respected. Save your reverence for your religion, Mr. Ryan. Women in general do not need it.

Several hours after the revelations, our sometime-governor tweeted this response: “Inexcusable. Trump’s comments are inexcusable.” That’s all. Again, not enough strength to withdraw an endorsement, nor even a thought about what is appropriate. Nothing more on Twitter in the last 14 hours. Pathetic, really, but I don’t expect anything more from Scott Walker. There’s nothing inside, best I can tell.

Christian Schneider presumes too much about progressives

As so often happens. Christian Schneider’s premise from which he builds an “argument” is wrong. And starting from a false premise leads, almost inevitably, to a false conclusion, doesn’t it?

In his most recent column, arguing for (I think) eliminating tax loopholes, Mr. Schneider claims, “progressives think earnings belong to the government, and the government then allows you to keep what it decides is fair. And if a taxpayer betrays this capricious determination of “fairness,” then sanctions must be issued.”

No, no, and no. I consider myself progressive, but I certainly don’t believe that earnings belong to the government. I also don’t believe that the government makes a decision about what is “fair” to keep. I do believe in sanctions if a taxpayer fails to follow the law, but not because of a “betrayal” of a determination of fairness.

1. Earnings belong to the individual, but as a country, we have determined that an appropriate way to pay for goods and services used in common (aka, public goods) is through taxation of earnings. This is part of the compact that members of this society, through their representatives in Congress and their state legislatures, have undertaken. We pay for government and government services by willingly taxing ourselves.

So no, earnings do not belong to the government. WE have agreed to pay a portion of our earnings to the government, through taxation, to pay for goods and services in common use.

I note that Mr. Schneider does not refer to *unearned* income, such as that derived from the sale of stock and various other instruments, etc. We have also agreed that that income is taxed, but at a lower rate.

2. The government, through legislation, sets tax policy to achieve particular policy ends. Some are as mundane as paying for schools and roads. Some are particularized, and focus on enhancing individual industries. Most tax policy these days results from the encouragement of lobbyists who manage to convince a sufficient number of legislators that their employer deserves a tax break of some kind. No progressive would consider the current mode of determining tax liability to be fair.

The progressivity of the income tax, although limited, is supposed to recognize that those with more income can literally pay more to support government and public goods. Those with more income may also use more public goods as well, not, of course, through supports like SNAP or assistance for child care, but through tax subsidies to their businesses, agricultural subsidies, taking advantage of the infrastructure that helps them live in suburban heaven rather than in the city close to their workplace, and so on. And needless to say, those with more income have better access to the legislators who write the tax policy that could benefit them. So “fairness” is not really a word to describe our system of taxation.

3. Taxpayers who do not follow the law are subject to sanction, if they are caught. They will not be caught because they have failed a test of “fairness,” but because the strained auditing corps of the IRS somehow found deliberate errors (fraud) in their tax returns. Taxpayers are not “forced” to do what is “fair” but what is legal.

Progressives recognize that what is legal is not necessarily in the best interest of the country’s finances and that what is legal does not distribute the burden of supporting the public good on the people and corporations who are most capable of bearing that burden. These arguments, however, are far from the Mr. Schneider’s claims.

Where will Scott and Tonette Walker vote?

A recent comment by our sometime governor caught my eye last week. In an article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Mr. Walker indicated that he “plans to vote in Milwaukee County” this election.

But is Mr. Walker still a resident of Milwaukee County?

Let’s consider this question.

State law defines voter residence. Chapter 6.10, Wis. Stats., provides as follows:

6.10 Elector residence. Residence as a qualification for voting shall be governed by the following standards:
(1) The residence of a person is the place where the person’s habitation is fixed, without any present intent to move, and to which, when absent, the person intends to return. …
(3) When an elector moves his or her residence from one ward or municipality to another ward or municipality within the state at least 28 days before the election, the elector may vote in and be considered a resident of the new ward or municipality where residing upon registering at the proper polling place or other registration location in the new ward or municipality under s. 6.55 (2) or 6.86 (3) (a) 2. If the elector moves his or her residence later than 28 days before an election, the elector shall vote in the elector’s former ward or municipality if otherwise qualified to vote there.
Do the Walkers still reside in Wauwatosa for voting purposes?
The Walkers announced in January that they were putting their Wauwatosa home up for sale. At the time, Mr. Walker tweeted, “Matt graduates from Marquette in May. Alex from UW next May. Like many empty nesters, we are looking to downsize our home.” Apparently, the Walkers had been spending more time in the governor’s mansion than in Wauwatosa since their sons started attending college. According to a January report from Milwaukee’s Fox 6 News, “Over a 40-day period from late September through the end of October, the Walkers stayed in the Maple Bluff residence for 31 days and their Wauwatosa home for just nine days.” Moreover, the the Walker spokeperson confirmed that the Walkers would be looking for a smaller house once the Wauwatosa residence sold.

Photos of the Wauwatosa residence at the Trulia.com website, which was updated on March 17, 2016, show a partially-furnished home with large empty spaces. It does not look like a place where someone lives, even part-time.

Even more curious is that the Realtor.com listing for this house, under “property history,” indicates that the home was “delisted” on March 7, 2016. If that’s the case, why have we heard nothing about it from the Walkers, and why the contrary information on Trulia.com?

I have worked several years as an election official in the City of Madison. I do not claim to know all the answers, but I certainly see that the Walkers’ case for voting in

Wauwatosa, at least from their former home, is a tricky one. An alert election official would question the Walkers’ bona fides for voting in Milwaukee County. Do they intend to return to the house or not, or are they (now) maintaining it only as a voting address? Perhaps they should be gathering up the necessary materials to change their voter registration for this, and the next several elections, to Maple Bluff, Dane County, Wisconsin.


Rebecca Bradley’s apology is not enough

The sum total of Rebecca Bradley’s statement of “apology” for her published screeds against AIDS victims, gays and lesbians, Bill Clinton, and anyone else who deviated from what she perceived as the righteous path in 1992, is this pitiful statement:

I was writing as a very young student, upset about the outcome of that presidential election and I am frankly embarrassed at the content and tone of what I wrote those many years ago.

To those offended by comments I made as a young college student, I apologize, and assure you that those comments are not reflective of my worldview. These comments have nothing to do with who I am as a person or a jurist, and they have nothing to do with the issues facing the voters of this state.

This is a blatant mudslinging campaign to distract the people from the issues at hand. This election is about diametrically opposed judicial philosophies. I have run a positive campaign focused on the rule of law and strict adherence to the U.S. and Wisconsin Constitutions.  I am proud of the twenty plus years of experience I bring to this race, including my time as a Judge on the Milwaukee children’s court, the appellate court, and Supreme Court. I  will work for the people of this state to ensure that justice is served and upheld on the state’s highest court.

This is the response she offered to columns in the Marquette student newspaper where she referenced “degenerate drug addicts and queers,” AIDS as a “politically-correct” disease, Bill Clinton as “queer-loving” and “radical socialist” (The joke’s on us there!), and the majority of voters who elected Clinton as “either totally stupid or entirely evil.”

Ms. Bradley wants us to assume that at the “tender” ages of 20 and 21 she was incapable of writing more reflective, less inflammatory prose that still got her point across, and that her attitudes have changed since that time.

Well, I don’t buy it. Any apology that is offered only “to those offended by” the comments does not recognize that everyone should be offended by those comments. Those comments were offensive in 1992 as well. At the Republican Convention in 1992, Mary Fisher, a white mother, the daughter of a major Republican fund raiser, and infected with HIV, gave what became known as the “Whisper of AIDS” speech. In it, she asked that the Republican Party recognize the humanity of those with AIDS and HIV. She said,

We may take refuge in our stereotypes, but we cannot hide there long, because HIV asks only one thing of those it attacks. Are you human? And this is the right question. Are you human? Because people with HIV have not entered some alien state of being. They are human. They have not earned cruelty, and they do not deserve meanness. They don’t benefit from being isolated or treated as outcasts. Each of them is exactly what God made: a person; not evil, deserving of our judgment; not victims, longing for our pity — people, ready for support and worthy of compassion.

No, Rebecca Bradley’s crass and mean-spirited attitude toward those with HIV and AIDS did not fit the tenor of the day. (Nor does it fit the compassion of the Catholic Church toward those with AIDS and other diseases, notwithstanding the Church’s stand on homosexuality.)

Moreover, Ms. Bradley has offered no evidence to demonstrate that she has overcome the abhorrent views she held as a 20- and 21-year-old student. She only claims that the comments are not reflective of her worldview, but she still attends Republican fundraisers (on company time), accepts the patronage of WMC, willingly accepts the support of Mr. Know-Nothing himself, Scott Walker, and remains in her Federalist Society bubble.

Yes, I am sure Ms. Bradley is embarrassed that her commentary in the Marquette newspaper was discovered. She should be, because it is well more than enough to disqualify her from holding any office in the state judiciary. But this supposed “apology” doesn’t get her off the hook for the views she espoused as a young adult.

Commission on the Future of the Family

Wednesday was the first meeting of our occasional governor’s new Wisconsin Commission on the Future of the Family, created “for the purpose of identifying issues and barriers relating to the overall wellbeing of families in the State, developing policies that lift individuals out of poverty, and developing and recommending polices for implementation to better serve Wisconsin’s families throughout the future.”

You’d think that with such high aspirations, the commission would be stocked with people who have dealt extensively with the issues of families in poverty, and the issues that affect family cohesion: social workers who deal with family trauma and domestic violence, those who work with families facing eviction, people familiar with food stamp programs, maybe even someone with academic credentials in poverty research.

This being Scott Walker’s Wisconsin, you’d be wrong.

These are the commission members, with my comments.

Eloise Anderson, chair. Ms. Anderson does have experience, having been Scott Walker’s head of the Department of Children and Families, and with 20 years of state service in child welfare. Her policies since coming on board with Mr. Walker, however, particularly in implementing testing for recipients of Food Share benefits, suggest that she has lost whatever impulses she may once have had to lift people out of poverty.

Dr. Sarah Campbell, an Appleton pediatrician. Fine, she’s a children’s doctor, which gives her contact with families. But I don’t see any special expertise in dealing with poverty or troubled families.

Delvyn Crawford, a “fatherhood specialist.” Mr. Crawford says that his is a program to help men of all cultures, races, religions and backgrounds learn how to strengthen their relationships with their children and with their wives or the mother of their children, and to care for themselves. He does work with the population of Milwaukee, and claims to “provide resources for fathers that’ll help them with employment, child support arrears, license recovery, substance abuse, housing, entrepreneurship, and etc.” However, most of his work consists of presentations,especially with music, media, and motivational speaking, not counseling. “Providing resources” could mean laying out brochures. One of his other businesses, Gutter Enterprises, is a Christian faith-based outreach organization.

Rachel Campos-Duffy, mother of 7, former reality TV star, wife of Congressmen Sean Duffy. Ms. Campos-Duffy is the national spokesperson for the LIBRE initiative, the Koch-brothers funded organization advocating for economic empowerment of Hispanics, and does parenting and relationship segments on the Today show. Her book is called Stay Home, Stay Happy: 10 Secrets to Loving At-home Motherhood. It’s not clear what part of her experience would enable her to contribute to a conversation about the needs of people in poverty, although her husband (another former reality TV star) did complain that his $140,000 congressional salary was not enough to live on.

Mikel Holt, associate publisher and a writer for the Milwaukee Community Journal, the largest African-American newspaper in Wisconsin. Mr. Holt has long experience in Milwaukee, is a member of the Black Alliance for Education Options, and signifies strong support for voucher schools. I’ve looked at some of his writing (he has a column called Signifyin’); Mr. Holt certainly has a feel for some of the major issues of Milwaukee.

Jim Kacmarcik, owner of Kapco, Inc. in Grafton, a metal stamping and fabrication firm. Mr. Kacmarcik also is quite a philanthropist. But I see nothing in his history to show any special expertise in family issues.

Archbishop Jerome Listecki. According to the announcement from the governor’s office, Archbishop Listecki “recently called for an urban initiative to address the issue of poverty, unemployment, crime, and violence in Wisconsin. The main goals of the initiative would strengthen Wisconsin families, offer young men and women positive role models, and establish a coordinated effort between members of the local community and law enforcement.” Sounds good doesn’t it, but any initiative championed by Listecki would put up barriers to men and women making the decisions about their own reproductive lives that could help lead them out of poverty.

Alicia Manning, director of new citizenship programs for the Bradley Foundation. Again, I question the expertise in dealing with family issues. Additionally, the citizenship programs at Bradley Foundation are not dealing with civic engagement per se as much as moving society away from what the foundation describes as “contemporary forces and ideas that regard individuals more as passive and helpless victims of powerful external forces [rather] than as personally responsible, self-governing citizens.” The new citizenship programs support projects that “reinvigorate and reempower” traditional institutions (church, neighborhood, school, family); projects that “encourage decentralization of power and accountability away from centralized, bureaucratic, national institutions back to the states, localities, and revitalized mediating structures where citizenship is more fully realized.” This sounds like a deregulated libertarian paradise, where parents can discipline their kids and school them as they wish. It also suggests a notion called “responsibilization,” which we hear from conservative commentators regularly. “Why aren’t the poor more self-regulating? Why aren’t they more responsible for themselves?” It’s a notion that completely disregards the daily chaos of life in poverty.

Jeff Pralle. property manager and real estate broker from Onalaska. Really? Why is he on this committee? Expertise in eviction? He did contribute to Mr. Walker in 2014 directly and also supported the realtors PAC. So there’s that.

Emetia Riddle-Williams, case manager for Salvation Army of Beloit. Well, at least Ms. Riddle-Williams is a social worker. And she’s in Beloit, so she knows something about families in poverty. Score a point for her.

I question the value of proposals and policies coming out of this commission. First, there is a clear lack of relevant experience in its membership, with only two people with social work experience, and only one who has worked with public agencies. The membership also lacks relevant expertise. There is no one with identifiable experience with troubled teenagers, juvenile justice, gay and lesbian parents, child care, or children with disabilities (unless the pediatrician can supply expertise there). Other than the single social worker from Beloit, and perhaps the newspaper publisher from Milwaukee, what insight can these commission members give into the problems of poverty experienced by more than 40% of Wisconsin’s children? Perhaps most critical of all, the makeup of the commission is shockingly one-sided. It would appear that Scott Walker envisions future Wisconsin families to be Christian, Republican, and libertarian. The membership suggests an approach where people in poverty are expected to become “responsible” members of society without the social and material resources which allow that; re-empowerment when you’re off the power grid, so to speak.

The state already has an organization, the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, which has focused on improving conditions for families and children for more than 100 years. Its very mission “is to ensure that every child in Wisconsin grows up in a just and nurturing family and community.” That sounds a lot like the goal of the commission. The Commission on the Future of the Family also has the opportunity to take advantage of the Wisconsin Idea. The Institute for the Research on Poverty, an acclaimed center of interdisciplinary research on poverty located on the UW-Madison campus, conducts research on Wisconsin poverty, intergenerational transmission of poverty, building human capital, family complexity and poverty, and economic self-sufficiency.

Yet neither WCCF nor IRP is represented on the Commission. Why not? Why not engage with the expertise that is ready, willing and able to advise the state?

The sad answer is that Mr. Walker is not looking for advice, or even information. He is interested in window dressing. Perhaps there are bills now being drafted that will come out in the commission’s name. Actually having expertise on the Commission on the Future of the Family would ruin that plan.

What a waste of an opportunity.