Tag Archives: Column

Time to regulate Facebook, Twitter like the publishers they are

Here is my column that ran in the Washington County Daily News this week.

The New York Post, the newspaper founded by Alexander Hamilton, broke a story last week about Joe Biden’s family. The story was supported by credible evidence and implicated Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in a long-term scheme to shake down foreign entities for money in exchange for favorable American government action. It is the kind of story that, if true, is the most serious kind of government corruption imaginable — the selling of American foreign policy for cash.

The bombshell story was instantly quashed and hidden by Twitter and Facebook. Both companies actively censored the story, blocked accounts that attempted to share the story, and disabled links under the faux-truistic cover that they were upholding journalistic standards by insisting on stronger sourcing. This is despite a lengthy history of allowing every conspiracy theory and liberal fake news story to propagate unmolested. In choosing to put their digital thumbs on the Biden story, both companies crossed the line from internet platforms to publishers and require a different regulatory treatment.

Twitter and Facebook both benefit from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which is credited with providing the legal umbrella that allowed the internet to flourish into what it is today. Section 230 simply states, in its entirety, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

While simple, the distinction has massive implications in law. By not being deemed a publisher, internet companies are protected against liability for libel or defamation for what appears on their platforms. Section 230 is an evolution of an ancient English common law practice of “common carriage” or common carrier. The crux of common carriage is that private enterprises who are engaged in something imperative to the common good are granted some special protections by the government in exchange for certain obligations. In the case of internet companies, the free exchange of ideas these platforms facilitate is considered the lifeblood of a free, self-governing society and a common good worthy of such protections.

In the 20th century the common carrier that dominated technology for the better part of 70 years was AT&T. In exchange for a monopoly on long-distance lines and the ability to use eminent domain, AT&T agreed to let the government regulate their rates and, what was critical, to not discriminate against what was said on those lines. This was a stark contrast to the great monopoly of the telegraph, Western Union, which might have helped sway the presidential election of 1876 to Rutherford B. Hayes by secretly providing the Hayes campaign the Democrats’ telegrams and suppressing others. AT&T’s great bargain was to agree to be regulated in exchange for a monopoly.

Section 230 took the grand bargain a step further by providing all of the benefits of legal absolution in exchange for nothing. Under this law, companies like Twitter and Facebook grew up into dominant natural monopolies because their users provided petabytes of content for other users to consume without having to police the content for accuracy or even sanity.

Make no mistake, if you are not paying for it, you are what is being sold. In the case of Twitter and Facebook, their business model is to collect incredible amounts of personal data about their users and sell that data for the purpose of target marketing, research, and whatever other moneymaking purpose they can divine. Their algorithms target people for specialized content and might have already broken the common carrier trust that the public bestowed on them.

In purposefully, actively, and personally deciding to stomp on a negative story about Joe Biden that was published by a reputable newspaper in the midst of a political campaign, Facebook and Twitter have definitively and unmistakably crossed the line from being internet platforms to publishers. As such, the legal protections granted to them under Section 230 must be withdrawn so that they can be regulated like The New York Times, Fox News, MSNBC, and all of the other publishers that filter, edit, and curate the information they provide to their subscribers.

Facebook and Twitter can’t have it both ways. If they want the legal protections provided under Section 230, then they must allow all information to flow freely. If they want to be information gatekeepers, then those protections must be withdrawn so that people have legal remedies against abuse.

Time to regulate Facebook, Twitter like the publishers they are

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. I know what you’re thinking… what the heck did President Hayes do to make the news this week? You’ll have to read and see.

In the 20th century the common carrier that dominated technology for the better part of 70 years was AT& T. In exchange for a monopoly on long-distance lines and the ability to use eminent domain, AT&T agreed to let the government regulate their rates and, what was critical, to not discriminate against what was said on those lines. This was a stark contrast to the great monopoly of the telegraph, Western Union, which might have helped sway the presidential election of 1876 to Rutherford B. Hayes by secretly providing the Hayes campaign the Democrats’ telegrams and suppressing others. AT& T’s great bargain was to agree to be regulated in exchange for a monopoly.

Actions matter

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Note that I wrote this before the judge ruled in favor of letting Evers continue with perpetual emergency orders. Here’s a part:

In my column last week explaining why I will be unreservedly voting for President Trump, I reiterated the old axiom that actions matter more than words. One might further truncate that statement to just “actions matter.” The Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature should take note.

[…]

When Evers issued his mask order, the Republicans issued scathing press releases and did nothing. The mask order was politically popular and rarely enforced in Republican areas, so several Republican legislators decided to sacrifice good government to political convenience.

Now Evers has ordered restaurants and bars to limit capacity to 25%. This will be the death knell to numerous small-business owners who will not survive another forced restraint of their trade. Again, legislative Republicans are issuing stirring press releases, but they are doing nothing. Fearful of political retribution in a few Assembly swing districts, Republicans have ceded their power to the governor. If they are unwilling to use the power granted to them by their supporters when it is needed most, then their supporters should look for someone who will.

Trump has earned this conservative’s vote

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News last week.

In 2016, disillusioned with the Republican Party, distrustful of Donald Trump’s agenda, and fearful of the rise of populism in America, I cast my vote for a third-party candidate. I strive to not repeat mistakes. This year, I will cast my vote without reservation for President Trump. He has earned this conservative’s vote by advancing and defending issues about which I have deeply cared for my entire adult life.

In politics, as in life, it is more imperative to judge people on what they do rather than on what they say. In most cases, this advice is a lesson to watch for oily people who say what you want to hear while doing the opposite. In the case of Trump, you have to sometimes ignore his ramblings and bombast to see that he has a record of conservative accomplishments strong enough to rival any president.

In the modern era where we have allowed our federal government to reach into the smallest crevices of our lives, federal court judges and justices have become critical to preserving our liberties — particularly those continuously threatened liberties enumerated in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th Amendments to the Constitution. Supreme Court Justices get all the press, and rightfully so. For the high court, Trump is 3 for 3 in appointing superb judicial conservatives. He has strengthened the Supreme Court and helped protect our civil liberties.

Only a small percentage of federal cases, however, ever end up at the Supreme Court. The vast majority of cases are decided in the Appeals Courts. Trump has appointed 53 mostly conservative Appeals Court Justices. In doing so, he has even begun to turn the heretofore rogue 9th Circuit Court of Appeals into a court that is more balanced and constructionist. Combined with the 161 federal District Court judges that Trump has appointed, Trump has significantly shifted the federal judicial branch to one that is more conservative and more protective of individual liberties.

Beyond shaping the judicial branch, Trump has advanced many conservative domestic policies. The Trump-Ryan tax bill was a landmark piece of tax reform. It decreased the corporate tax rate to be more competitive with the world. It lowered individual tax rates until 2025. It reformed tax perks, incentivized companies to repatriate their foreign profits, and cut the death tax. Importantly, it also ended the unconstitutional individual mandate provision of Obamacare that forced people to buy health insurance.

On foreign policy, Trump strengthened our nation’s border. He removed the United States from the destructive Paris Climate Agreement and from President Obama’s dangerous Iran nuclear deal. Trump unleashed our military to defeat ISIS and moved the American Embassy to Jerusalem to strengthen our ally Israel. Despite liberal prophecies of Middle East doom, Trump helped negotiate the normalization of relations between the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Israel, thus ushering in the promise of stability in the region. It also signals the realignment of the region against America’s most volatile enemy in the region, terrorist-exporting Iran.

The big policy items necessarily get the attention, but the Trump administration’s unrelenting push to the right has racked up hundreds of successes that get overlooked in the mix. Bureaucracies are slashing regulations to let Americans and their businesses breathe and thrive. The Department of Education is encouraging school choice and rejecting the socialist indoctrination that has permeated public education. Trump reformed Veterans Affairs to bring accountability and more health care choices — including telehealth technology — to give our veterans more and better health care.

I have only begun to scratch the surface of Trump’s conservative record. Sure, Trump still spends too much, supports tariffs, and supported weakening our criminal justice system, but for conservatives who purport to care about protecting unborn lives, the 2nd Amendment, free speech, lower taxes, less regulation, an America-centric foreign policy, and a love of country, President Trump has made more tangible movement in advancing and protecting those principles than any other president in my lifetime. He is not the perfect conservative messenger, but he sure is an effective conservative doer.

As I pray for the speedy recovery of our president and those close to him, I also look forward to casting my vote for his re-election.

Trump has earned this conservative’s vote

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Pick up a copy!

In 2016, disillusioned with the Republican Party, distrustful of Donald Trump’s agenda, and fearful of the rise of populism in America, I cast my vote for a thirdparty candidate. I strive to not repeat mistakes. This year, I will cast my vote without reservation for President Trump. He has earned this conservative’s vote by advancing and defending issues about which I have deeply cared for my entire adult life.

In politics, as in life, it is more imperative to judge people on what they do rather than on what they say. In most cases, this advice is a lesson to watch for oily people who say what you want to hear while doing the opposite. In the case of Trump, you have to sometimes ignore his ramblings and bombast to see that he has a record of conservative accomplishments strong enough to rival any president.

[…]

I have only begun to scratch the surface of Trump’s conservative record. Sure, Trump still spends too much, supports tariffs, and supported weakening our criminal justice system, but for conservatives who purport to care about protecting unborn lives, the 2nd Amendment, free speech, lower taxes, less regulation, an America-centric foreign policy, and a love of country, President Trump has made more tangible movement in advancing and protecting those principles than any other president in my lifetime. He is not the perfect conservative messenger, but he sure is an effective conservative doer.

As I pray for the speedy recovery of our president and those close to him, I also look forward to casting my vote for his re-election.

Evers’ DWD failed Wisconsin

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News last week:

In response to the disgraceful management of the Unemployment Insurance program by the Department of Workforce Development, the nonpartisan Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau audited the response and performance of the state’s call centers. The audit uncovered the exact kinds of lethargy, indifference, and poor leadership that confirm the worst stereotypes of government bureaucracy.

The scale of the problem the DWD faced was real and unprecedented. Governor Evers declared a public health emergency on March 12, closed schools on March 13, and after ratcheting down public gatherings, ordered everyone home on March 24. The governor’s order shuttered most businesses in the state and forced hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites out of work. Evers caused an unprecedented rush of people filing unemployment claims.

In 2019, an average of 4,700 Wisconsinites per week filed an initial unemployment claim. The DWD’s UI call center took about 6,300 calls per week. According to the DWD, 93.4% of initial claims were filed online with only 6.6% being filed through the call centers. The DWD UI call center had a staff of 90 employees.

Beginning the week of March 15, the number of initial claims skyrocketed. It peaked the week of March 22 with 116,129 initial claims filed and was half that by the week of April 5. The DWD call centers received 1.4 million calls the week of March 22 and almost 6 million calls the week of April 12. All told, there were 41.1 million calls made to the DWD call centers between March 15 and June 30. Of those, 93.3% were blocked or received a busy signal; 6.2% of callers got through but hung up before being answered; and only 0.5% of calls were answered.

The DWD woefully underreported the extent of the problem to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. The DWD reported the number of calls blocked, abandoned, and answered. The calls it reported as “blocked” were calls that reached the system and the caller was told to call later and disconnected. They did not report the number of callers who just received a busy signal. In doing so, the DWD failed to report 75% of the calls that were unable to reach the call centers.

When challenges arise, leaders rise. Unfortunately, there were not any to be found at the DWD or in the governor’s mansion.

It is important to follow the dates. On March 31, two weeks after Evers declared a public health emergency, DWD began increasing the staff of its call centers. By the end of April, six weeks after the emergency declaration, they had added four employees. A month later, they had added a total of 37 employees. By the end of July — a full 20 weeks after the emergency declaration — they had added a total of 98 employees. Meanwhile, Wisconsinites continued to get busy signals and wait for checks that never came.

One would think that the DWD employees were burning the midnight oil to help their fellow citizens in these unprecedented times, right? Wrong. From March 15 to July 31, while hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites were unemployed and looking for help, DWD call center workers worked a scant average of 1.6 hours of overtime per week. The call center was only open for 39.58 hours per week until May 20 before they began expanding hours slightly.

The DWD also dragged its feet to contract with outside call centers. Again, the dates are important. The governor declared a state public health emergency on March 12. On April 9, DWD began the process by requesting approval from the Department of Administration to waive a competitive bidding process. The DOA gave approval on April 16 and on April 20, the DWD requested bids. It awarded the contract to Alorica on May 7 — eight weeks after the emergency declaration.

As Alorica call center took several weeks to ramp up to capacity, the DWD did not require that they provide any information about the actual effectiveness of the call centers. The DWD has no idea if they were able to actually resolve the callers’ issues after the initial call. More calls were finally being answered, but nobody is certain to what effect.

If Wisconsin had a competent governor with a competent administration, they would have anticipated the rush of Wisconsinites seeking to file unemployment claims when they effectively shut down the state’s economy. They would have aggressively worked to expand the capacity of the DWD UI staff, expanded hours, worked overtime, accelerated outsourcing, and done everything possible to serve Wisconsinites who were forced out of work due to government action. Instead, the governor, DWD secretary, and agency bureaucrats plodded along at government speed while unemployed Wisconsinites waited and worried.

Governor Evers forced his DWD secretary to resign as the administration’s scapegoat, but he should take a hard look in the mirror and ask why his administration failed precisely when so many Wisconsinites needed it most.

Evers’ DWD failed Wisconsin

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

Beginning the week of March 15, the number of initial claims skyrocketed. It peaked the week of March 22 with 116,129 initial claims filed and was half that by the week of April 5. The DWD call centers received 1.4 million calls the week of March 22 and almost 6 million calls the week of April 12. All told, there were 41.1 million calls made to the DWD call centers between March 15 and June 30. Of those, 93.3% were blocked or received a busy signal; 6.2% of callers got through but hung up before being answered; and only 0.5% of calls were answered.

The DWD woefully underreported the extent of the problem to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. The DWD reported the number of calls blocked, abandoned, and answered. The calls it reported as “blocked” were calls that reached the system and the caller was told to call later and disconnected. They did not report the number of callers who just received a busy signal. In doing so, the DWD failed to report 75% of the calls that were unable to reach the call centers.

When challenges arise, leaders rise. Unfortunately, there were not any to be found at the DWD or in the governor’s mansion.

It is important to follow the dates…

[…]

If Wisconsin had a competent governor with a competent administration, they would have anticipated the rush of Wisconsinites seeking to file unemployment claims when they effectively shut down the state’s economy. They would have aggressively worked to expand the capacity of the DWD UI staff, expanded hours, worked overtime, accelerated outsourcing, and done everything possible to serve Wisconsinites who were forced out of work due to government action. Instead, the governor, DWD secretary, and agency bureaucrats plodded along at government speed while unemployed Wisconsinites waited and worried.

Governor Evers forced his DWD secretary to resign as the administration’s scapegoat, but he should take a hard look in the mirror and ask why his administration failed precisely when so many Wisconsinites needed it most.

 

Evers wants to extend illegal mask mandate

My column for the Washington County Daily News in online and in print. When it comes to the mask mandate, Governor Evers is wrong on the law and wrong on the science.

Governor Tony Evers’ illegal order that all Wisconsinites wear face masks is set to expire on September 28 and he covets an extension of his despotic rule. Any extension of the order would not only be the third intentionally illegal power grab by the governor through emergency declarations, but it would be an admission that his actions are not rooted in science or data. Evers’ emergency orders are about power — not people.

[…]

If you think that a governor creating a permanent state of emergency where he issues arbitrary orders at his sole discretion is an acceptable way to govern, then the governor should at least be able to explain why the order is necessary and will work. The evidence is clear that the current mask mandate has not had any impact on the spread of coronavirus.

The commoditization of a college education

Here is my column that ran in the Washington County Daily News earlier this week. Yes, I do use “college” and “university” interchangeably because the content applies to both but it gets wordy to keep saying “colleges and universities.” Enjoy!

Wisconsin’s colleges and universities have begun their fall semesters with a variety of plans for mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Students throughout the state and nation are living through an unpredictable whipsaw of experiences as colleges change the rules depending on the latest COVID-19 test numbers. These changing experiences are perhaps forever changing the fundamentals of the college experience and the value proposition of a college degree.

As a parent of three kids who are currently in college and one college graduate, the value of a college education is something that I have always considered undeniable. Both of my parents had college degrees and I was reared to believe that a college education is the golden ticket to the middle class. The mere possession of a sheepskin opens doors and careers that are otherwise unavailable.

While the actual education is the most important part of college, the campus experience is also a key part of shaping a person for the larger world. Being physically on a college campus is the first time away from home for many people and is where they learn to interact, socialize, work, collaborate, and play with people from vastly different backgrounds and experiences. It is also where one forms bonds and relationships that can help one get started and progress in their careers.

In more recent years, the value proposition of a college education has been eroding. Greased by easy money from the federal government, the cost to attend college has increased far faster than the ability of most people to pay for it. At the same time, the rise of lucrative careers in technology and the global commercial reach of the internet have made a college degree less important as a ticket to wealth. There will always be careers that will require a rigorous advanced education, but a bright kid can do very well for him or herself with a couple of key technical certifications or a catchy online business.

As the perceived worth of a college degree has been slowly declining for many people and the cost of that degree has been increasing, traditional colleges have been investing more and more into the campus experience. To visit some college campuses is to visit monuments to extravagance. Dormitories look like modern upscale apartments. The workout facilities are expansive and beautiful. Lecture halls and classrooms are equipped with the most sophisticated technology. The shared spaces are littered with study nooks, coffee shops, entertainment distractions, movie theaters, restaurants, and more.

All of those campus amenities cost money — a lot of money — and they are part of the reason for the ballooning cost of college. What happens when students are paying for all of those amenities but do not get to use them? That is what is happening for college students all over the state and nation as college administrators decide to lock down campuses, quarantine entire dorms, and move classes online.

Families and their college students might have been a bit more forgiving in the spring when colleges precipitously closed in the face of an unknown virus with scary predictions of millions of dead. Now we are entering a new phase. Colleges are demonstrating how they will react to any future health concern and creating uncertainty that students will ever be able to rely on having a true campus experience.

When a traditional college decides to close the campus and provide all of their education online, they are changing the value proposition of the education they are offering. The students are still paying for all of the amenities that sit empty and unused. The only thing that the students are getting for their money is the education provided through a computer screen as they sit alone in a dorm, apartment, or at home. If that is the case, then why are they paying so much? How is the education provided by UW-La Crosse or Marquette University any better than the education provided by tenured online universities like Capella University or the University of Phoenix? If universities are to be judged solely by the quality of the education they are providing through their online portals, then many traditional universities will struggle to differentiate themselves without being able to use their beautiful campuses to lure students.

The longer that universities forgo access to their campuses and deliver learning only online, the more students will shop around for their college experience. While a student may not be able to put a proper price on sitting on UW-Madison’s Memorial Union Terrace tapping out a research paper with an eclectic guitar player strumming nearby, that student can certainly put a price on sitting in their bedroom listening to a lecture on their computer.

The great commoditization of education happens when the intangibles of campus life are squeezed out and students are left to simply decide if taking Math 240 from Online University A is better or worse than that offered by Online University B. As traditional colleges underwrite the move to online education and close off their campuses, they are hastening their own decline.

 

The commoditization of a college education

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a little snippet.

When a traditional college decides to close the campus and provide all of their education online, they are changing the value proposition of the education they are offering. The students are still paying for all of the amenities that sit empty and unused. The only thing that the students are getting for their money is the education provided through a computer screen as they sit alone in a dorm, apartment, or at home. If that is the case, then why are they paying so much? How is the education provided by UW-La Crosse or Marquette University any better than the education provided by tenured online universities like Capella University or the University of Phoenix? If universities are to be judged solely by the quality of the education they are providing through their online portals, then many traditional universities will struggle to differentiate themselves without being able to use their beautiful campuses to lure students.

The longer that universities forgo access to their campuses and deliver learning only online, the more students will shop around for their college experience. While a student may not be able to put a proper price on sitting on UW-Madison’s Memorial Union Terrace tapping out a research paper with an eclectic guitar player strumming nearby, that student can certainly put a price on sitting in their bedroom listening to a lecture on their computer.

The great commoditization of education happens when the intangibles of campus life are squeezed out and students are left to simply decide if taking Math 240 from Online University A is better or worse than that offered by Online University B. As traditional colleges underwrite the move to online education and close off their campuses, they are hastening their own decline.

Recall Evers at election time

Here is my column that ran in the Washington County Daily News this week:

Governor Tony Evers is proving to be one of the most partisan, nasty, incompetent governors in modern history. Our state is worse off for him having been elected. But we elected him, and he is our governor for at least the next 28 long, long months. The burgeoning attempt to recall the governor, while well-intentioned, is an affront to our system of government and social contract. We elected him. Barring something criminal, we are stuck with him, and that is as it should be.

This is certainly not the first time that Wisconsinites have attempted to recall a governor. In fact, there have been attempts to recall the last two governors. In 2009, after almost two terms of lies and sleaze from Governor Jim Doyle, an intrepid band of earnest citizens attempted to recall the governor. The ill-fated attempt ended as it should have, in failure, and Governor Doyle announced his decision to decline to seek re-election three months later.

Of course, with the taste of recall blood in the water, the liberals in Wisconsin tried the same tactic to remove Governor Scott Walker two years later. They were upset that Governor Walker had the temerity to champion public policies with which they disagreed. They were successful in collecting enough signatures to trigger a recall election and proceeded to rend the political and social fabric of Wisconsin for the better part of a decade.

The process to recall an elected official exists for the citizens to remove a politician who has so abused the public trust that he or she must not be permitted to finish the term. There is no legal or official standard for what action, or lack thereof, defines the threshold for the recall of an elected official, but prudence and respect for representative government demands an extraordinary standard. In the case of Governor Evers, that standard has not been met. It is true that he advocates for policies that are destructive to Wisconsin. It is true that Evers is foul-mouthed, unprofessional, and duplicitous in his dealings with people who do not agree with him. It is true that he is feckless and makes poor decisions when responding to emergencies that afflict our state. It is true that Evers lacks the interpersonal skills to compromise or find common ground. He is a case study for the Peter Principle. All of that is true, but Governor Evers has not done anything for which he deserves to be recalled. He is just a bad governor.

The problem with a recall is that it destabilizes our political system by challenging the will of the people. It is like the people saying, “Yeah, we elected him, but we changed our minds.” The uncertainty that the attempted recall of a governor creates ripples through the state. It roils the electorate and unsettles the economy. The stability of our political system relies on the orderly transition of power and the relative certainty of regularly scheduled elections. The whipsaw of reactive recall elections subverts that stability and risks roiling our state in perpetual turmoil.

The thing with Governor Evers is that his incompetence, dishonesty, poor social skills, and laziness were on full display before the voters elected him. It was obvious to anyone looking. But in a fit of cantankerousness, the good people of Wisconsin elected him anyway. As the old saw goes, elections have consequences.

The frustration that some people are feeling over our governor is a healthy reminder that elections have consequences. The governor is not a boorish house guest that can be shown the door when his behavior becomes too much. We invited him to stay the night and we are stuck with him until morning.

We choose our elected leaders during orderly, regularly scheduled elections. That is where we must spend our time, money, and energy. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Good choices during an election prevent the damage bad choices inflict. Recalling a governor should be reserved for only the most egregious and criminal of transgressions.

Focus on the elections. They matter.

Recall Evers at election time

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

Governor Tony Evers is proving to be one of the most partisan, nasty, incompetent governors in modern history. Our state is worse off for him having been elected. But we elected him, and he is our governor for at least the next 28 long, long months. The burgeoning attempt to recall the governor, while well-intentioned, is an affront to our system of government and social contract. We elected him. Barring something criminal, we are stuck with him, and that is as it should be.

[…]

The thing with Governor Evers is that his incompetence, dishonesty, poor social skills, and laziness were on full display before the voters elected him. It was obvious to anyone looking. But in a fit of cantankerousness, the good people of Wisconsin elected him anyway. As the old saw goes, elections have consequences.

The frustration that some people are feeling over our governor is a healthy reminder that elections have consequences. The governor is not a boorish house guest that can be shown the door when his behavior becomes too much. We invited him to stay the night and we are stuck with him until morning.

We choose our elected leaders during orderly, regularly scheduled elections. That is where we must spend our time, money, and energy. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Good choices during an election prevent the damage bad choices inflict. Recalling a governor should be reserved for only the most egregious and criminal of transgressions.

Focus on the elections. They matter.

RIP, Kenosha

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Go pick up a copy. Here’s a taste to incite you… a little ironic that I use the word “incite” when referring to a column about the Kenosha riots.

On the second night, one videographer followed a young man as he yelled for the children to go home because it was going to get bad. Sure enough, as the sun set, protesters turned into rioters as they tore down street lamps, stood on cars to break their windows with bats, smashed store windows, and looted the contents. Then the fires started. Multiple fires were started simultaneously to overwhelm the fire department, who could not enter the area safely anyway to put them out before they spread. I watched as family businesses burned and nearby homes were evacuated.

On the third night, the chaos worsened; multiple law enforcement agencies took a more aggressive posture to quell the riot. I watched from the angle of the rioters as police formed a human wall and used armored vehicles and nonviolent means to clear the streets. The rioters kept up a steady counterassault with rocks, shields, rolling burning dumpsters, bottles, and fire.

It was on that third night that one journalist came upon several armed citizens who were defending a gas station. They had had enough of the riots and were determined to protect life and property from the marauding horde. I watched as rioters confronted

the armed defenders. Words were exchanged. Spittle spewed. Tempers flared. On my way to bed, I commented to my wife that someone was going to die that night. The next morning, we learned that they did.

Watching several hours of immersive coverage of the riots illuminated a few things. First, traditional media is failing us. When I read the stories in traditional outlets the next day or caught the television newscast, it did not reflect what I watched. This was not a “mostly peaceful” protest where a little scuffle broke out. This was a full riot that raged for several nights. There may have been a peaceful protest during the day, but as soon as the sun set, it was anything but peaceful.

Second, many of the same people who were just shouting and taunting during the day were the same people who were smashing and burning in the night. This was not a case where the peaceful protesters went home at sunset and a shift of criminals and malcontents took their place. These were many of the same people. And many of them are ardent anarchists and Marxists who are intent on destabilizing our republic. You can see it in their graffiti and hear it as they shout it. They are not hiding. The shooting incident that precipitated the uprising was merely an excuse to launch a violent uprising.

Defund government schools

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

The problem we have in America is not in the collective support for education. We have proven time and time again that we, as a people, will dig deep into our pockets to support education. The problem we have is that we have put our trust in too many government schools that routinely fail in their duty to provide the education for which we are paying.

For decades, we have seen educational outcomes remain static or decline as the taxpayers continue to shovel more and more cash into the flames. We are spending more than ever on government schools and our kids are getting a worse education than their parents or their grandparents. Now as COVID has laid bare the priorities of the people who lead our government school systems, we see why. Providing in-person classroom teaching is proven to be the most effective method for educating most kids, but when push comes to shove, educating kids is less of a priority than servicing the political clout of government employees. 

[…]

One cannot claim to support education and then continue to support government schools that are refusing to provide a quality education. We must put our money where our hearts and mouths are and spend our money on people and schools that are striving to educate kids despite the obstacles. We should lavishly fund true educators and cut off those who would continue to collect a paycheck while cowering in their virtual basement.

Wisconsin was an innovator in creating school choice for families to choose better schools for their kids even when their economic circumstances would not allow it. School choice was a conscious acknowledgment that wealthier families have always had the choice to send their kids to better schools and the taxpayers should enable the same choice for all families. The politicians have shackled Wisconsin’s three school choice programs with income restrictions, onerous deadlines, and enrollment caps. The decision by some government school districts to intentionally provide a substandard education provides ample justification to unshackle our school choice programs and allow every family to make the choices that wealthier families are already making.

If we truly believe in the power and importance of education, then we must stop supporting government institutions that have long since demonstrated that they are incapable, and in recent revelations, unwilling to provide the education that our kids deserve. We must redirect our hard-earned and painfully taxed dollars to people and institutions who value education for kids as much as their parents do.

Billions for education. Not one cent for tribute.

Profound societal shifts are underway

Here is my column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday.

Last week I took a mind to head to the pistol range for some practice. After a quick assessment of my current inventory of ammunition, it was clear that I had let it dwindle to the point of needing replenishment. I headed to the store to stock up only to find the shelves stripped bare. All told, I went to five stores that day for ammunition. One store had five boxes that had just arrived but would only sell two of them to me. The fifth store would sell me more, but it cost me almost twice the normal price. Clearly, something is going on.

Earlier this year, a friend approached me about advice on a weapon to carry concealed. A quick search of the internet will find very strong and contradictory opinions on this topic and I certainly have my own thoughts after carrying a weapon for the majority of my adult life. My friend had used a gun before but did not currently own one. However, with the civil unrest, defunding of law enforcement, and general anarchy roiling our nation, my friend thought it was time strengthen his defensive posture for himself and his family.

My friend is not alone. I also sat in a class for concealed carry holders this month and it was packed. One older lady in the class had taken her first handgun class the week prior. A middle- aged couple had long guns already, but had decided to get their licenses to carry concealed. According to the instructor, he has never been so busy as the past few months. The statistics about the incredible rise in gun ownership have been on display for months and much of it is being driven by people who are buying their first gun for the purpose of defending themselves. They have lost confidence in our government to maintain order.

2020 is proving to be a fulcrum year where events are shifting our society and culture in ways yet unknown. The swiftness with which our government stripped us of our rights in an overreaction to a public health concern at the same time that fascist mobs are given license to maraud by the very same government has shocked the sensibilities of many Americans and undermined some of the principles that have cemented our nation’s foundation since its inception. As our society shifts, it will be seen in what people do — not what they say. One thing they are doing is buying a lot of guns.

Another thing that many more people are doing is moving out of cities to more suburban and rural areas. This movement would be a reversal of recent migration patterns. The reasons are myriad. Coronavirus has made some people realize that urban living is a perfect environment for the spread of diseases at the same time that the widespread closures of cultural attractions has diminished the allure of city living. When one combines that with the increase in violence and crime that many cities are suffering, it is easy to see why a young family might choose to look elsewhere to raise their children.

Another enabler of city flight is the move to virtual work. Coronavirus shoved many workers from their offices into their homes. The shock of that movement is over, and many businesses are finding that remote workers are just as productive without the need of providing a large office complex or amenities. Furthermore, virtual workers reduce the potential liability and disruption of a disease outbreak. Right now, many businesses are having to shut down their offices if a single employee tests positive for COVID-19. That is not a risk with virtual employees.

Helpfully for the businesses, many workers found that they enjoyed, or could tolerate, working virtually even if they had not previously thought so. REI has already decided to abandon its eight acre office campus in Washington state in favor of smaller offices and a much larger remote workforce. In Wisconsin, Epic Systems faced an employee revolt when they attempted to force workers back to their desks in Epic’s massive office. Northwestern Mutual’s brand new office tower in downtown Milwaukee sits almost empty and may never reach capacity. The trend of large office campuses and towers is being supplanted by home offices and virtual backgrounds. This trend also makes it economical for knowledge workers to seek communities with a bit more elbow room and less crime.

Societal shifts take years to unfold. The decision to buy a gun can be done quickly, but moving one’s family to a new community may take months or years. As 2020 has shown us, our society can shift very quickly, but America in 2025 looks like it is going to be more suburban, more virtual, and abundantly armed.

Profound societal shifts are underway

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

2020 is proving to be a fulcrum year where events are shifting our society and culture in ways yet unknown. The swiftness with which our government stripped us of our rights in an overreaction to a public health concern at the same time that fascist mobs are given license to maraud by the very same government has shocked the sensibilities of many Americans and undermined some of the principles that have cemented our nation’s foundation since its inception. As our society shifts, it will be seen in what people do — not what they say. One thing they are doing is buying a lot of guns.

Let the school year begin — and continue

Here is my full column that ran this week in the Washington County Daily News.

After a truncated school year and a summer that has been robbed of the normal cultural milestones, it is almost difficult to believe that the new school year is upon us. Yet upon us it is and school districts all over the state are releasing their plans to open.

The science and public opinion overwhelmingly support opening schools with in-person instruction with reasonable precautions to mitigate the spread of disease. The Centers for Disease Control said, “The unique and critical role that schools play makes them a priority for opening and remaining open, enabling students to receive both academic instruction and support as well as critical services.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school. The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020.”

The vast majority of people agree. According to a recent AP-NORC poll, 68% of Americans think that schools should have in-person instruction with some changes to lessen the chance for spreading diseases. The myriad surveys that local school districts conducted came back with even stronger preferences with as much as 88% (West Bend) wanting some form of in-person school instruction.

To their credit, every public and private school and school district in Washington County responded accordingly and is opening with a plan that includes in-person instruction. Some plans are better than others. The West Bend School District is offering in-person, virtual, or hybrid models so that each family can choose what best fits their situation and risk tolerance. The Germantown School District is offering an in-person or virtual model, but the in-person model for high schoolers is a goofy alternating schedule that wreaks havoc on family schedules.

Still, the schools in Washington County will be open for education and that is to be commended. It demonstrates that education truly is a priority when so many other schools across the state and country are choosing to eschew their duty to educate the adults of tomorrow. Opening our schools is not only vitally important for the education of our kids, it is also imperative for their social and emotional well-being.

But we must gird ourselves for the inevitable outbreak of COVID-19 when our schools open. Every parent knows that some sniffle or cough will ravage their household within a couple weeks of school opening every year. It is the unavoidable outcome of the commingling of hundreds of humans with questionable hygiene. The implementation of social distancing, thorough sanitation, masks, shields, and limited or coordinated movement will surely reduce the spread of disease, but nature has a way of finding holes in any defense. There will be outbreaks of various contagious diseases and, undoubtedly, one of those will be COVID-19.

Davy Crockett was fond of saying, “Be always sure you are right, then go ahead.” That is the attitude we will need from our school leaders and parents when outbreaks happen. The science is sound. Our kids need to be in school and they cannot afford to miss any more. The risk of kids suffering severe harm from COVID-19 or spreading it is low. The short- and long-term educational, emotional, and social harm our kids will suffer if they miss more school is immense.

When the outbreaks come, and they will, we must not panic. We must act, but we must not panic. And when we act to isolate the infected and mitigate the spread, we must do so with the overarching goal of keeping our schools open.

The schools must open. They must stay open. We are sure we are right. We must go ahead.

 

Let the school year begin — and continue

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

Still, the schools in Washington County will be open for education and that is to be commended. It demonstrates that education truly is a priority when so many other schools across the state and country are choosing to eschew their duty to educate the adults of tomorrow. Opening our schools is not only vitally important for the education of our kids, it is also imperative for their social and emotional well-being.

But we must gird ourselves for the inevitable outbreak of COVID-19 when our schools open. Every parent knows that some sniffle or cough will ravage their household within a couple weeks of school opening every year. It is the unavoidable outcome of the commingling of hundreds of humans with questionable hygiene. The implementation of social distancing, thorough sanitation, masks, shields, and limited or coordinated movement will surely reduce the spread of disease, but nature has a way of finding holes in any defense. There will be outbreaks of various contagious diseases and, undoubtedly, one of those will be COVID-19.

Davy Crockett was fond of saying, “Be always sure you are right, then go ahead.” That is the attitude we will need from our school leaders and parents when outbreaks happen. The science is sound. Our kids need to be in school and they cannot afford to miss any more. The risk of kids suffering severe harm from COVID-19 or spreading it is low. The short- and long-term educational, emotional, and social harm our kids will suffer if they miss more school is immense.

When the outbreaks come, and they will, we must not panic. We must act, but we must not panic. And when we act to isolate the infected and mitigate the spread, we must do so with the overarching goal of keeping our schools open.

2nd Amendment advances as 1st Amendment retreats

Here is my column that ran in the Washington County Daily News earlier this week.

Our country is engaging in cultural and civic (not civil, yet) war that is challenging some of the national principles that used to be held inviolable. As we watch the 1st Amendment make a confused retreat, we are seeing the 2nd Amendment make a vigorous advance.

The 1st and 2nd Amendments refer, of course, to the Constitution’s prohibition of the federal government from infringing on our natural rights to speak (among other things) and to keep and bear arms, respectively. But they are also used as shorthand to express our collective support for the underlying natural rights.

While the practice of our 1st Amendment right to free speech has ebbed and flowed throughout our nation’s history, the general ethos has been robust support for people to say anything they want as long as it does not drift into defamation or incitement – and even then we have generally been very generous with where that boundary lies.

I am reminded of a comment by Jim Croce: “I don’t care, as long as they don’t be putting their hands on me. I don’t mind people talking and saying different things. Everybody gotta say something.” That pretty well sums up what our attitude used to be about people speaking their minds. Now we are seeing the onset of outrage mobs that seek out people who express opinions with which they disagree and try to destroy them personally and professionally. This is the so-called “cancel culture” where we no longer meet objectionable speech with more speech. Instead, these mobs consider contrary opinions to be so fundamentally immoral that they must not be spoken, and the people speaking them must be ruined to force adherence to the current, if fluid, orthodoxy. What is even more chilling is that the opinions being canceled are views that were mainstream as recently as a few months ago. Support for law enforcement, standing for the National Anthem, celebrating Independence Day, honoring George Washington, etc. are things that were commonplace and integral parts of the national psyche. Now such views are just as likely to attract an online or physical mob to your doorstep. There has been a very rapid and scary retreat of our collective support for free speech.

Meanwhile, support for the right to keep and bear arms is exploding. I recently witnessed a couple of protest marches in suburban communities. In both cases, firearms were plentiful and visible in the hands of both protesters and counter-protesters. Furthermore, as the mobs and the elected Democrats who support them defund the police and force law enforcement into a defensive crouch, The People are taking the hint and arming themselves for personal protection.

Across the nation, federal background checks, which serve as a proxy for measuring the sale of all guns, were up 69% in June versus last year. Background checks specifically for handgun purchases were up 80% over last year. In many cases, people are buying multiple guns at a time with Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting showing a 145% increase in guns sold in June compared to the same month last year. The June estimates are on top of similar trends for April and May. According to industry analysts, roughly 40% of gun purchases in the past few months are being made by first time buyers. A quick trip to any gun store will find empty shelves and depleted inventories.

At the heart of the surge in gun ownership are two trends. First, there is the general concern for personal safety. Democrats are echoing the mob’s demand to defund the police and several cities have already started the process. With fewer police with fewer resources, law-abiding people are empowering themselves to defend themselves and their families. The old saying that “when seconds count, the police are minutes away” has become a stark realization for many people.

Second, Americans are watching Marxists and anarchists violently take over parts of our country. Often, they are doing so with the permission or support of government officials. We are witnessing the violent overthrow of portions of our government with the intent to rebuild something that is no longer American. The right to keep and bear arms has always been the last resort for a free people to ensure their right to self-governance. An armed citizenry cannot be easily subjugated.

Our natural rights, as secured in our Constitution, are the bases and guardians of our government and way of life. While we continue to push our nation toward our founding ideals, we must never surrender the ground we have fought so hard to gain.

 

2nd Amendment advances as 1st Amendment retreats

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

I am reminded of a comment by Jim Croce: “I don’t care, as long as they don’t be putting their hands on me. I don’t mind people talking and saying different things. Everybody gotta say something.” That pretty well sums up what our attitude used to be about people speaking their minds. Now we are seeing the onset of outrage mobs that seek out people who express opinions with which they disagree and try to destroy them personally and professionally. This is the so-called “cancel culture” where we no longer meet objectionable speech with more speech. Instead, these mobs consider contrary opinions to be so fundamentally immoral that they must not be spoken, and the people speaking them must be ruined to force adherence to the current, if fluid, orthodoxy.

What is even more chilling is that the opinions being canceled are views that were mainstream as recently as a few months ago. Support for law enforcement, standing for the National Anthem, celebrating Independence Day, honoring George Washington, etc. are things that were commonplace and integral parts of the national psyche. Now such views are just as likely to attract an online or physical mob to your doorstep. There has been a very rapid and scary retreat of our collective support for free speech.

Meanwhile, support for the right to keep and bear arms is exploding. I recently witnessed a couple of protest marches in suburban communities. In both cases, firearms were plentiful and visible in the hands of both protesters and counter-protesters. Furthermore, as the mobs and the elected Democrats who support them defund the police and force law enforcement into a defensive crouch, The People are taking the hint and arming themselves for personal protection.