Boots & Sabers

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Tag: Washington County Daily News

People are policy

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

After another election cycle where the Wisconsin Election Commission did everything they could within and without of the law to tilt the election results to the Democrats, there is talk again of restructuring or rebuilding the WEC to make it less partisan. The problem is not with the structure or mission of the WEC. The problem is with the people who run it and the refusal of lawmakers to hold them accountable.

 

The history of the WEC is important to remember. The WEC came into existence in 2016 as a response to the corrupt Government Accountability Board. The GAB was an allegedly bipartisan board that was responsible for the oversight of elections and ethics. Particularly after Gov. Scott Walker won in 2010 and Republicans won majorities in the Legislature, the GAB was involved in multiple scandals as they used their power over elections and ethics to advance the cause of Democrats. It was one of the many cases of Democrats weaponizing a purportedly unbiased government agency for political gain.

 

But the GAB was created for the same reason as the WEC. The GAB was only in existence for less than a decade. It was formed in 2008 to assume the combined responsibilities of the State Ethics Board and the State Elections Board. The GAB was created because the State Ethics Board and State Elections Board had been involved in multiple scandals where they used their authority to influence outcomes instead of acting fairly and, ironically, ethically.

 

Do you see the pattern? While the response of politicians to the rogue actions of one of their creations is to reshape it with the vain notion that structure can be a substitute for leadership, they ignore the root of the problem. The problem is not the structure. The problem is the people.

 

The structure of the WEC is designed to balance competing interests. The commission is comprised of six appointed commissioners who serve staggered five-year terms. Two of the commissioners are appointed by the governor. Two commissioners are appointed by the Senate majority and minority Leaders. Two commissioners are appointed by the Assembly speaker and Assembly minority leader. As structured, no single political party would ever have complete control of the commission, but one party could control a majority of the commissioners.

 

The commissioners are responsible for leading the WEC, but they hire a staff that does most of the work. The staff is also responsible for making recommendations to the commissioners on public policy matters. The WEC is not a lawmaking body. The extent of their mandate is to manage Wisconsin’s elections within the firm boundaries set forth in state statute. It is in the intentional violation of their legal boundaries where the WEC most often runs afoul of their charge.

 

In just the last few years, the WEC has bent or broken the law in a number of ways. They refused to purge the voter rolls in a timely fashion as directed by law. They reportedly allowed nursing home staffers to cast votes on behalf of residents in violation of the law. They allowed municipalities to use unattended ballot drop boxes, closed polling locations, prohibited special voting deputies from entering nursing homes, and repeatedly used the pandemic as an excuse to ignore state law. All of these actions made it easier to cheat and made our elections less likely to actually represent the will of the people.

 

Beyond the affirmative violations of the law, the WEC exploited its regulatory authority to favor Democrats. In almost every single dispute about an election process or action, the WEC ruled in favor of Democrats. It is remarkable that a purportedly nonpartisan and unbiased commission would make decisions in favor of one party so consistently.

 

The structure of the WEC is supposed to prevent such biased actions. The fact that the WEC is an appointed commission that is accountable to elected officials is supposed to hold them accountable to the law and mission of the commission. Here is where the actions, and inactions, of people is the root of the problem.

 

When the WEC was created, it was staffed almost entirely with the same Madison bureaucrats who worked in the GAB. Since the GAB was discredited and dissolved because it was corrupt, it was ludicrous to move the same staff to the new commission, but that is exactly what happened.

 

With the same biased and corrupt staff, the new commissioners of the WEC have the power and responsibility to act legally and fairly. Here again, the commissioners have failed in their duty to use their power to keep Wisconsin’s elections free and fair.

 

Even as the commissioners are failing in their duty, it is the duty and responsibility of the governor and legislative leaders to hold their appointees accountable when they violate the letter or spirit of the law. Here again, the elected leaders are failing in their duty.

 

The WEC has three layers of leadership and accountability, and all three layers are failing because of the weak and/or corrupt people who are in those leadership positions. There is no alternative commission structure than could instill ethics or backbone in people who do not have them already.

 

The problem with the WEC is not the structure. The problem with the WEC is the people responsible for running it. Until the people of Wisconsin hold elected officials accountable, the problem of corrupt and sloppy elections in Wisconsin is not going away.

People are policy

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

After another election cycle where the Wisconsin Election Commission did everything they could within and without of the law to tilt the election results to the Democrats, there is talk again of restructuring or rebuilding the WEC to make it less partisan. The problem is not with the structure or mission of the WEC. The problem is with the people who run it and the refusal of lawmakers to hold them accountable.

 

[…]

 

The WEC has three layers of leadership and accountability, and all three layers are failing because of the weak and/or corrupt people who are in those leadership positions. There is no alternative commission structure than could instill ethics or backbone in people who do not have them already.

 

The problem with the WEC is not the structure. The problem with the WEC is the people responsible for running it. Until the people of Wisconsin hold elected officials accountable, the problem of corrupt and sloppy elections in Wisconsin is not going away.

Keep our schools open

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News earlier this week. Last year at this time, this column would have been controversial. This year, I’m on the bandwagon.

Think back to your childhood. Maybe you were 6 years old and excited to get to school to play with your friends. Maybe you were 12 and learning that instrument that would spark a lifelong love of music. Maybe you were 17 and sweating through your ill-fitting suit as you danced with the girl who would become your wife. Those were formative years. They were important years.

 

Now go back into your memory, pick any year or two, and erase it. Replace it with a picture of yourself sitting at home – alone – staring at the world through a screen and trying to understand it. Hour after hour. Day after day. How many opportunities are lost? How many relationships are never formed? How is your life different?

 

As the omicron variant of COVID-19 sweeps through Wisconsin, some school districts are already thinking about closing their doors to pretend to do virtual learning. The Milwaukee Public Schools and the Madison Metropolitan School District, Wisconsin’s two largest school districts, have already decided to go virtual (read: abandon education) and delay opening for fear of omicron. Other school districts might soon follow.

 

This must stop. We are almost two years into our experience with COVID-19 and there are two things we know for sure: COVID-19 is almost no threat to kids, but closing schools is devastating to them on many levels. We must prioritize the education and mental health of our kids over the minimal threat of COVID-19.

 

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1,040 kids under the age of 18 have died of COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic almost two years ago. Bear in mind that the CDC’s accounting of COVID-19 deaths has been intentionally hyperinflated by including people who died with COVID-19 in their body even if something else might have killed them.

 

COVID-19 can be a serious or deadly illness for a few kids, but for the vast majority of them, it is no worse than a seasonal cold. To put it in perspective, in 2019, according to the CDC, more than twice as many kids committed suicide; more than twice as many kids accidentally strangled or suffocated; more than twice as many kids died of heart disease; more than ten times as many kids died from accidents; more than three times as many kids were murdered; and roughly the same number of kids died from influenza and pneumonia.

 

Parents should be as concerned about COVID-19 for their kids as they are about the flu. Parents should be much more concerned about their kids’ substance abuse, driving safety, and mental health than COVID-19. Sadly, by the time the CDC crunches the death statistics for 2020 and 2021, we can expect to see child deaths by suicide and drug overdoses to have skyrocketed.

 

While COVID-19 poses a nominal physical threat to kids, we have seen ample evidence that closing schools has a detrimental impact on their education and mental health. According to researchers at Stanford University, they “estimated that the average student average student had lost one-third of a year to a full year’s worth of learning in reading, and about three-quarters of a year to more than 1 year in math since schools closed in March 2020.”

 

According to the CDC, more than 85% of teachers reported seeing a significant learning loss in their students compared to previous years. Wisconsin’s test scores mirror the research and studies as math and reading scores plummeted after the widespread closure of schools.

 

It is too early to know if the school systems can ever fill the hole left in the kids’ educations. Some kids will likely be able to get back on track, but far too many will never fully recover those lost months and years. The kids who will be hardest hit are those who are already on the other side of the yawning socioeconomic gap in education and kids with learning difficulties.

 

In addition to the detrimental impact on kids’ education, the impact on their mental health is truly tragic. According to the CDC, nearly 25% of parents whose children were forced into virtual or hybrid education reported a decline in their children’s mental or emotional health. Kids also had worse diets, exercised less, and spent more time alone.

 

Closing schools is having a devastating impact on our kids and their futures, but there is no evidence that closing schools reduces the incidence of COVID-19 for kids. The rate of COVID-19 in communities that closed their schools and neighboring communities that kept them open are identical. Closing schools is politically motivated pandemic theater and our kids are paying the price of admission.

 

When it comes to closing schools, our kids’ futures and their very lives are on the line. Closing schools is far more destructive to our kids than COVID-19 ever will be. Keep our school open. Our kids are depending on us.

Keep our schools open

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

Think back to your childhood. Maybe you were 6 years old and excited to get to school to play with your friends. Maybe you were 12 and learning that instrument that would spark a lifelong love of music. Maybe you were 17 and sweating through your ill-fitting suit as you danced with the girl who would become your wife. Those were formative years. They were important years.

 

Now go back into your memory, pick any year or two, and erase it. Replace it with a picture of yourself sitting at home – alone – staring at the world through a screen and trying to understand it. Hour after hour. Day after day. How many opportunities are lost? How many relationships are never formed? How is your life different?

 

As the omicron variant of COVID-19 sweeps through Wisconsin, some school districts are already thinking about closing their doors to pretend to do virtual learning. The Milwaukee Public Schools and the Madison Metropolitan School District, Wisconsin’s two largest school districts, have already decided to go virtual (read: abandon education) and delay opening for fear of omicron. Other school districts might soon follow.

 

This must stop. We are almost two years into our experience with COVID-19 and there are two things we know for sure: COVID-19 is almost no threat to kids, but closing schools is devastating to them on many levels. We must prioritize the education and mental health of our kids over the minimal threat of COVID-19.

A prayer for the new year

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News this week. May you all have a joyous 2022.

As I sit here contemplating my final column of 2021, there is no shortage of contentious political and cultural issues about which to write. But resting in the warmth of family and the quiet wheezing of a year in its final moments, writing about one of the many societal frictions seems indecent. You don’t want to read it. I don’t want to write it. Instead, I offer a fervent prayer for the new year.

 

Lord, thank you for another year living in your grace. Thank you for your son, Jesus Christ, who lived amongst us to die to atone for our sins. Thank you for reminding me that while 2021 was a very tough year for so many, we are transients on this planet and destined for an eternity in your everlasting light of pure joy. May this knowledge comfort and salve the wounds, seen and unseen, inflicted in this world.

 

Lord, I know that you are with the poor and the oppressed; the cold and the infirm; the lonely and the sad; the hated and the haters; the hungry and the hurt; the lost and the elderly; the children and the wanderers. You are with all without reserve or deserve. May I open my heart to those who struggle as your son taught me to do.

 

Lord, the clouds lurking in the predawn of 2022 are dark and ominous. I hear the drums of war thumping in faraway lands. I see the worrying signs of potential economic ruination. I have been made all too aware of the power of disease to disrupt society. I know the evil purposes of some to use the fear of all these things to abuse and oppress. Please grant our leaders wisdom, restraint, patience, resilience, and humility to make the correct decisions to guide us through these turbulent times.

 

Lord, this year saw a huge increase in the number of people being victimized by criminals. Many criminals are broken people who struggle with addictions or mental illnesses. Please heal them that they may fully participate in our society. For those criminals who are simply evil, please protect the rest of us from them. Please protect those police officers who bravely stand a watch to maintain our civil society from those who would ravage it. May 2022 bring with it the peace of a lawful society.

 

Lord, with the pandemic and our misguided public policy responses, more people are suffering from forced or voluntary isolation. You made us to be social creatures and the isolation is unnatural. It foments depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Please bring comfort to the isolated with the knowledge that even when alone, they are loved. Even if they don’t love you, you love them.

 

Lord, like many others, even when I am with other people, I feel the emptiness of those who are no longer with me. Grief is the price paid for love, so as I grieve, let me reflect on the price that you paid for your love of me. May my faith turn grief to joy as I celebrate that my loved ones feel no pain; shed no tears; carry no burden as they sing your everlasting praises.

 

Lord, while my powers to change the world are limited, your power to change me is infinite. May your power swell my heart, wither my pride, heal my wounds, and give me the courage to fix a few pieces of this broken world before my time on it is done.

 

If life is the childhood of our immortality, as Goethe contends, then let me live as a child. Laugh without trepidation. Trust without doubt. Help without expectations. Give without taking. Love without reserve.

 

Lord, thank you for 2021. May 2022 be a year of growing closer to you.

A prayer for the new year

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. It’s a little something different. Here’s the intro:

As I sit here contemplating my final column of 2021, there is no shortage of contentious political and cultural issues about which to write. But resting in the warmth of family and the quiet wheezing of a year in its final moments, writing about one of the many societal frictions seems indecent. You don’t want to read it. I don’t want to write it. Instead, I offer a fervent prayer for the new year.

Eliminate the state income tax

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

In my last column before Christmas in 2013, I climbed back on my old hobby horse to once again advocate for eliminating Wisconsin’s income tax and replacing some of the tax revenue with an increase in the sales tax. Eight years later almost to the day, former Governor Scott Walker is leading the charge with a group of tax reform groups to do exactly that. Armed with a study by Noah Williams at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy, Walker and fellow reformers say that it is time for Wisconsin to become the 10th state without a state income tax.

 

Our government extracts money from all of us in myriad ways. Most state governments get the majority of their revenue from the income tax and the sales tax. In Wisconsin, those two taxes account for 84% of general purpose revenue in the state budget with the income tax filling 52% of the state’s general purpose revenue bucket.

 

The model used in Williams’ study shows that state government could maintain the same intake of revenue after eliminating the state income tax if it increases the state sales tax from the current 5% to 9.43%. But the sweet spot for the overall benefit of the state is to increase the state sales tax to 8% after eliminating the income tax. While this would result in a 12.55% decrease in state revenue, thus requiring spending cuts, it would increase economic output by 7.93%, employment by 6.87%, consumption by 7.19%, and, perhaps most importantly, increase average after-tax income by 9.35%.

 

One of the primary reasons cited by the study for eliminating the income tax is to make Wisconsin more competitive with other states. Our society is more mobile than ever — particularly for the middle and upper classes. People weigh a lot of things when deciding where to live, where to work, or where to start a business. Whether or not there is an income tax is one of those important factors. People are voting with their feet as Wisconsin exports people to states like Florida, Texas, and Nevada. Wisconsin already has an uphill battle to attract workers, retirees, and entrepreneurs with brutal winters, high taxes, and a steep regulatory burden. Eliminating the state income tax would encourage people to take a harder look at Wisconsin when deciding where to live, work, and play.

 

Beyond attracting more people to move to and stay in Wisconsin, the sales tax is fairer than the income tax. By its very definition, the income tax is only paid by people who earn an income. It is a tax on earning a living that the idle rich, the idle poor, and the intentionally unemployed do not have to pay. It is a tax that only those people who jump out of bed every day to go to work have to pay to support state government.

 

The sales tax, on the other hand, is paid by anyone who spends money on goods and services. It is paid by the rich lady who buys her fourth home, the middle-class family buying a used car, and the unemployed twenty-something buying beer for the weekend. Everyone pays, which spreads the tax burden more equitably across all Wisconsinites.

 

Furthermore, it is much more difficult for politicians to manipulate the sales tax to favor or punish people. With the income tax, politicians have created a labyrinth of a tax code that gives breaks to the people they like and punishes those who they do not. Other than exempting particular goods or services, the sales tax is more resistant to political maneuvering.

 

While I strongly support eliminating the state income tax for a hundred reasons, such a move does not correct the biggest problem with state funding. The question of how we fund state government is less important than what we are funding. Wisconsin state government taxes so much because it spends so much. Every single state budget in my lifetime has increased spending from the prior budget.

 

Irrespective of the economic cycle, which political party is in power in Madison, population trends, or the ability of Wisconsinites to pay, state spending always goes up. It is more predictable than the tides. Until we control state spending, we will never take meaningful steps to lower the tax burden. All we are doing is finding better ways to pay.

 

*** For my fellow Christians who are celebrating the Birth of Christ this week, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

Eliminate the state income tax

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a taste. Merry Christmas!

In my last column before Christmas in 2013, I climbed back on my old hobby horse to once again advocate for eliminating Wisconsin’s income tax and replacing some of the tax revenue with an increase in the sales tax. Eight years later almost to the day, former Governor Scott Walker is leading the charge with a group of tax reform groups to do exactly that. Armed with a study by Noah Williams at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy, Walker and fellow reformers say that it is time for Wisconsin to become the 10th state without a state income tax.

 

[…]

 

While I strongly support eliminating the state income tax for a hundred reasons, such a move does not correct the biggest problem with state funding. The question of how we fund state government is less important than what we are funding. Wisconsin state government taxes so much because it spends so much. Every single state budget in my lifetime has increased spending from the prior budget.

 

Irrespective of the economic cycle, which political party is in power in Madison, population trends, or the ability of Wisconsinites to pay, state spending always goes up. It is more predictable than the tides. Until we control state spending, we will never take meaningful steps to lower the tax burden. All we are doing is finding better ways to pay.

Don’t let politics ruin your holiday gathering

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

I have read several opinion pieces over the last few weeks about how people are telling their family that they will not celebrate the holidays with them because of politics or COVID or both, since COVID has become inexplicably intertwined with one’s political views. In order to help keep the peace, allow me to suggest some conversation topics that will not ruin a good family Christmas gathering.

 

First, let it be said that if you are forgoing a traditional family gathering because you disapprove of some of your family’s political views, then you should really reevaluate your priorities. Politics are important, but there is a lot of life to be lived outside of them. If your politics are more important than your family to the point that you cannot even spend a few hours in their presence, then your priorities are wrong.

 

Second, if you feel the need to scold a family member about their politics or COVID protocols when you decline an invitation to attend their holiday party, you are a jerk. There are plenty of polite ways to decline a party without insulting the person who invited you. Consider who the intolerant one is in this situation.

 

If you are going to be a grown-up and attend a family gathering with people of different political and social stripes, here are a few handy topics to make the time enjoyable.

 

Sports are always a safe refuge of conversation. A lively conversation about the Packers, Brewers, or Bucks can fill hours. If you are not a fan of sports, just take a few minutes and learn a few things about your family member’s favorite team before going. Just bringing up the topic will bring out the discussion from the sports fans in the room.

 

Speaking of learning something, take a little time to read up on some of your family members’ favorite hobbies. If they like to bake, fish, hunt, ski, travel, etc., taking a few minutes to learn something about it and ask a few questions is a courtesy that shows respect while also making for a fun conversation. People love to share the things about which they are passionate.

 

One of the greatest parts of family holiday gatherings is the food. People bring a dish to pass or the kitchen is full of old family recipes. Talk about the food. Who wrote those old family recipes? Any cooking tips? Cooking shows and competitions are enormously popular because people love to talk and learn about food.

 

It is increasingly difficult to talk about television shows in the age of microbroadcasting. We do not have as many of those widely watched shows to discuss. There are, however, more television shows and movies available through dozens of streaming services. Talk about your favorite shows and jot down the shows that others are watching. Not only is it a good conversation, but it provides good tips for shows to watch later.

 

Family gatherings provide the opportunity to talk about family. Everyone is busy and family gatherings are a great way to catch up on the latest news. Talk about how the kids are doing in school, how work has been going, the latest vacation, the new roof on the house, and all of the other events small and large that we spend most of our time doing.

 

Since you are gathered for the holidays, talk about that. Why are you together? In my case, it is to celebrate the birth of my lord and savior, Jesus Christ. For others, they may be celebrating a different faith or just a secular holiday. Whatever the case, talk about the reason for the season.

 

Finally, if you are unable to or unwilling to carry on a conversation without launching into a political diatribe, just listen. Ask questions, and listen. Even if you disagree with something your family member said, just listen. Smile. Nod. Move on. There is nothing to be gained from venting your spleen onto a family member during a family gathering. Be mature enough to recognize that fact even if your family member is not.

 

The holiday season is a magical time to stop, reconnect, repair, and recharge. For just a few hours or days, set aside your rabid political passions and build relationships with your family on a more meaningful level. Faith. Family. Football. A great Packers coach would agree.

Don’t let politics ruin your holiday gathering

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

I have read several opinion pieces over the last few weeks about how people are telling their family that they will not celebrate the holidays with them because of politics or COVID or both, since COVID has become inexplicably intertwined with one’s political views. In order to help keep the peace, allow me to suggest some conversation topics that will not ruin a good family Christmas gathering.

 

First, let it be said that if you are forgoing a traditional family gathering because you disapprove of some of your family’s political views, then you should really reevaluate your priorities. Politics are important, but there is a lot of life to be lived outside of them. If your politics are more important than your family to the point that you cannot even spend a few hours in their presence, then your priorities are wrong.

 

Second, if you feel the need to scold a family member about their politics or COVID protocols when you decline an invitation to attend their holiday party, you are a jerk. There are plenty of polite ways to decline a party without insulting the person who invited you. Consider who the intolerant one is in this situation.

 

If you are going to be a grown-up and attend a family gathering with people of different political and social stripes, here are a few handy topics to make the time enjoyable.

Abortion extremism in Madison

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

In the same week that the United States Supreme Court heard arguments about a challenge to the Mississippi ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, Gov. Tony Evers wielded his veto pen to demonstrate just how radical abortion supporters have become. We have come a long way from the time when abortion supporters advocated that they be safe, legal, and rare.

One cannot rationally support human rights and also support abortion. While there was a time when the period between conception and birth was filled with mystery and myth, modern medical science has opened the womb for all to see. We know that from the time of conception, the child is a unique human with unique DNA.

 

Eventually, the child will develop a heart, lungs, skin, eyes, bones, and become ready for birth, but it all starts with a blueprint in a single cell. To assign the origin of life to any point after conception is to do so based on arbitrary distinctions that are designed more to assuage the consciences of older humans than on science or logic. Once a human exists, they are, “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” That being the case, we who are able are responsible to defend the rights of those who cannot defend themselves.

 

But the Supreme Court is not deciding if unborn humans have a right to life or whether abortion should be outlawed. They are potentially deciding which level of government gets to decide. The court could uphold Roe v. Wade, thus making it a federal court decision; the court could completely overturn Roe, thus making abortion a state issue; or the court could find a narrow middle road.

 

Should the Supreme Court overturn Roe and return the power to regulate abortion to the states, Wisconsin has an existing statute that makes it a felony for doctors to perform abortions. Time will tell if Wisconsin’s Legislature would rescind that law to replace it with a statutory infrastructure that permits and regulates abortions.

 

As we await the Supreme Court’s decision, the Republican Legislature passed several bills to enhance regulation of abortions and Governor Evers vetoed them all. In doing so, he demonstrated how extreme Democrats have become in their support for abortion and how difficult it will be to create a new abortion regulatory structure should Roe be overturned.

 

One of the bills would have made it a crime for a doctor to withhold medical care from a baby who survived an abortion and was born alive. While very rare, it happens. It is more common than an infant dying of COVID. As I wrote above, to assign the beginning of a life at any point after conception is arbitrary, but as a society, we at least once agreed that children who were born were considered human and worthy of protection. There is no logical distinction in the rights of a baby born during a failed abortion and a baby born in other circumstances. It is a living, breathing, feeling baby. And there is no logical distinction between a doctor letting a baby die for lack of care and a parent doing the same thing. In vetoing this bill, Evers has sanctioned infanticide.

 

Another bill would have banned women from aborting their baby based on the baby’s sex, race, or national origin. It would have given the same protections against discrimination that our laws extend to the born. It is a logical extension of the recognition that unborn people have human rights too. In a logical extension of his unscientific opinion that unborn humans are not humans at all, Evers vetoed this bill too. In Evers’ Wisconsin, a woman may abort her child if she doesn’t want a girl or a brown son at her discretion. In-utero discrimination is the law of the land.

 

While I strongly advocate for the end of all abortions, at the very least, we should not be using abortion as a way to curate the population for favored races and sexes. We should also all be able to agree that once a baby is born, it deserves protection from being killed through intentional neglect. Unfortunately, there is no such agreement anymore.

Abortion extremism in Madison

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

In the same week that the United States Supreme Court heard arguments about a challenge to the Mississippi ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, Gov. Tony Evers wielded his veto pen to demonstrate just how radical abortion supporters have become. We have come a long way from the time when abortion supporters advocated that they be safe, legal, and rare.

 

[…]

 

One of the bills would have made it a crime for a doctor to withhold medical care from a baby who survived an abortion and was born alive. While very rare, it happens. It is more common than an infant dying of COVID. As I wrote above, to assign the beginning of a life at any point after conception is arbitrary, but as a society, we at least once agreed that children who were born were considered human and worthy of protection. There is no logical distinction in the rights of a baby born during a failed abortion and a baby born in other circumstances. It is a living, breathing, feeling baby. And there is no logical distinction between a doctor letting a baby die for lack of care and a parent doing the same thing. In vetoing this bill, Evers has sanctioned infanticide.

 

Another bill would have banned women from aborting their baby based on the baby’s sex, race, or national origin. It would have given the same protections against discrimination that our laws extend to the born. It is a logical extension of the recognition that unborn people have human rights too. In a logical extension of his unscientific opinion that unborn humans are not humans at all, Evers vetoed this bill too. In Evers’ Wisconsin, a woman may abort her child if she doesn’t want a girl or a brown son at her discretion. In-utero discrimination is the law of the land.

 

While I strongly advocate for the end of all abortions, at the very least, we should not be using abortion as a way to curate the population for favored races and sexes. We should also all be able to agree that once a baby is born, it deserves protection from being killed through intentional neglect. Unfortunately, there is no such agreement anymore.

We must not be ruled by fear

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

As Americans returned to the festive Thanksgiving celebrations that many forewent last year for fear of the dreaded virus, a new threat rose across the Atlantic. The newly dubbed omicron variant of COVID19 has aggressively swept through southern Africa and has made beachheads in Asia, Europe, and North America. It will only be a matter of time before we find it in America.

 

While we are still learning about the omicron variant, we have learned that the short- and long-term consequences of overreacting to a virus are incredibly damaging. The stock market, as a leading economic indicator, has already begun factoring in more destructive public policy responses to omicron. We must do all we can to prevent more reactionary and damaging public policies.

 

What we know about omicron is developing quickly. It seems to spread much faster than the original virus — similar to the delta variant. It does not appear to be more deadly than the original version of the virus out of China. We do not yet know if the current vaccines will do much good against it, but natural immunity seems to be as strong as ever. We also know that attempts to keep it out of America are futile. It is a highly transmissible virus and will find a way to burn through available hosts.

 

What we absolutely know for certain is that shutting down our economy, shuttering schools, and abandoning normalcy has been devastating to our society. We are still reeling from disastrous public policy decisions and the willingness of people to subserviate everything to the cause of virus mitigation.

 

With the thought that we must prevent people from being close to other people to prevent the spread of the virus, we allowed our government to close businesses. This act forced many people out of work and businesses into bankruptcy. We also allowed our government to force people to stay in their homes and in the futile hope that the virus would pass us by.

 

In hindsight, such actions did very little to stem the spread of the virus. The spread of the virus in states and cities that had draconian lockdowns differs little from those that were more liberal with their policies. The economic statistics and personal toll from the places with more aggressive lockdowns are heart-rending. We must not be ruled by fear and allow our government to force us to lock down again.

 

In response to the fact that the government forced people out of work and businesses into insolvency, our federal and state governments overreacted with poorly thought-out welfare schemes. This, coupled with the nation’s socialists seizing the opportunity to advance their unpopular agenda under the cover of pandemic relief, has launched a bevy of destructive programs and unleashed the scourge of high inflation that we have not seen in a generation. We must not be ruled by fear and allow our politicians to “fix” the problems they created.

 

The shutdown of our government schools will harm our children and our society for a generation. The evidence from private schools that remained mostly open versus schools that shut their doors shows that denying children education had little to no impact on stemming the virus. It did, however, have a cataclysmic impact on the children’s education. Recent school report card data in Wisconsin shows a dramatic decline in educational performance even after they lowered the standards. Those are months and years of education that our children will never get back. We must not be ruled by fear and shut down our schools.

 

For both adults and children, the negative impact of shutdowns and lock-outs on mental health has been horrendous. Suicides, drug addiction, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues have increased dramatically since our government began overreacting to COVID-19. We must not be ruled by fear and force people into isolation.

 

In conjunction with the societal deconstructing pro-crime insurgency of antifa and others, our public policy responses to COVID-19 have precipitated an explosion in crime — particularly violent crime. With less employment, more addiction, and defunded police departments, criminals have more freedom to wreak havoc than they have in decades. One could argue that the lengthy court delays in Milwaukee due to closing courts contributed to keeping the alleged Waukesha Christmas Parade killer on the streets well after he should have been imprisoned for previous crimes. We must not be ruled by fear and prevent speedy and judicial enforcement of the law. Finally, last year we allowed our government officials to completely abandon our electoral system for fear of the virus. We spent centuries crafting an electoral framework to allow free and fair elections where laws were made in the light of day by elected officials. We threw all of that in the garbage last November and allowed government officials to make up the rules as they went along. We must not be ruled by fear and abandon self-governance.

 

COVID-19, of any variant, is something to take seriously. Please take the time to wash your hands, avoid unnecessary contact, stay home if you are sick, get vaccinated if you choose, and take other reasonable steps to keep yourself and your loved ones from getting ill. But we must not be ruled by fear and give up our way of life. The virus is here to stay in one form or another. We must get on with living.

We must not be ruled by fear

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

While we are still learning about the omicron variant, we have learned that the short- and long-term consequences of overreacting to a virus are incredibly damaging. The stock market, as a leading economic indicator, has already begun factoring in more destructive public policy responses to omicron. We must do all we can to prevent more reactionary and damaging public policies.

 

[…]

 

In conjunction with the societal deconstructing pro-crime insurgency of antifa and others, our public policy responses to COVID-19 have precipitated an explosion in crime — particularly violent crime. With less employment, more addiction, and defunded police departments, criminals have more freedom to wreak havoc than they have in decades. One could argue that the lengthy court delays in Milwaukee due to closing courts contributed to keeping the alleged Waukesha Christmas Parade killer on the streets well after he should have been imprisoned for previous crimes. We must not be ruled by fear and prevent speedy and judicial enforcement of the law. Finally, last year we allowed our government officials to completely abandon our electoral system for fear of the virus. We spent centuries crafting an electoral framework to allow free and fair elections where laws were made in the light of day by elected officials. We threw all of that in the garbage last November and allowed government officials to make up the rules as they went along. We must not be ruled by fear and abandon self-governance.

 

COVID-19, of any variant, is something to take seriously. Please take the time to wash your hands, avoid unnecessary contact, stay home if you are sick, get vaccinated if you choose, and take other reasonable steps to keep yourself and your loved ones from getting ill. But we must not be ruled by fear and give up our way of life. The virus is here to stay in one form or another. We must get on with living.

What the Rittenhouse verdict reminds us about government power

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

The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse has aggravated several of America’s seeping cultural sores. In the swirl of public debate about race, Second Amendment rights, First Amendment rights, crime, policing, and myriad other issues, 12 brave jurors did the right thing and justice was done.

 

The case was very simple. Irrespective of why Rittenhouse was where he was at the time he was and for what reason, all the jurors had to decide was whether he was reasonably acting in self-defense when he killed two men and maimed a third. Thanks to the continuous live coverage of several news outlets, all of us could watch the trial in real time and see all the evidence presented. If you think that the jury should have returned anything other than an acquittal, you are objectively, demonstrably, and categorically wrong.

 

The greatest crime perpetrated was that Rittenhouse was ever tried at all. Given the overwhelming evidence from multiple videos and witness testimonies, there was never any doubt that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense. Yet, despite that overwhelming evidence, the district attorney and his deputies decided to prosecute Rittenhouse anyway for reasons that can only be explained by their political and personal biases.

 

For the people who distrust the police and prosecutors to act fairly and responsibly, you are right. They should not be trusted. In fact, our entire system of government is replete with strong protections for individual rights, diffused power, checks, and balances was designed that way precisely because we should not trust our government and the people who are in it.

 

Any student of history should know that government can never be trusted, but one does not have to look very far in our modern America to find examples of abuse of governmental power. Less than a decade ago, a team of rogue prosecutors sought to criminalize protected political speech by launching multiple John Doe investigations against conservatives in Wisconsin. Their black-booted raids and secret proceedings were designed to silence political opponents.

 

For five years the corrupted FBI has been using lies, raids, and thuggish tactics to undermine former President Donald Trump and his allies based on a Russian dossier that they knew was fake all along. They knowingly used lies from Trump’s political opponents to attempt to topple or undermine an elected president. The same corrupted FBI has now been turned against parents who are voicing concerns about how government schools are performing.

 

The vast majority of police, prosecutors, and judges are good people who are doing hard jobs to uphold the rule of law. They deserve our support and respect. But do I believe that a prosecutor might unjustly railroad a person because of their political biases or racial bigotry? Absolutely. Do I believe that a police officer might let their personal prejudices guide their decisions? I would be a nutter not to. The vast majority do not, but it only takes one rotten government agent to unjustly ruin someone’s life.

 

For this reason, we have erected an entire infrastructure of jurisprudence that is rightfully designed to make it very difficult for the government to punish a person for a crime. Resting on the principle voiced by the great English jurist William Blackstone that, “it is better that ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer,” our American system leans heavily to protecting the accused from the potential abuses of government.

 

If you have a healthy distrust, with respect, for our government law enforcement agencies, that is good. You are in the right frame of mind to be an engaged citizen of a self-governing society. Now you must extend that distrust to all of the other government agencies. While a corrupt or abusive police officer or prosecutor can negatively impact your life, so, too, can a corrupt or abusive Department of Revenue agent, game warden, school superintendent, or mayor. We give these people extraordinary power over our lives as the price paid for a civil society, but we must do so grudgingly and with extraordinary oversight. We have been blessed with more than our fair share of superb elected and unelected government officials, but we have also had our fair share of the corrupt and the stupid.

 

At its best, Thomas Paine tells us, “government is a necessary evil.” Nobody in their right mind would trust evil, which is why we must be skeptical about our government and the people in it. We should also not allow that evil to grow too large as to become uncontrollable. I fear that we have already crossed that Rubicon.

What the Rittenhouse verdict reminds us about government power

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

The greatest crime perpetrated was that Rittenhouse was ever tried at all. Given the overwhelming evidence from multiple videos and witness testimonies, there was never any doubt that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense. Yet, despite that overwhelming evidence, the district attorney and his deputies decided to prosecute Rittenhouse anyway for reasons that can only be explained by their political and personal biases.

 

[…]

 

If you have a healthy distrust, with respect, for our government law enforcement agencies, that is good. You are in the right frame of mind to be an engaged citizen of a self-governing society. Now you must extend that distrust to all of the other government agencies. While a corrupt or abusive police officer or prosecutor can negatively impact your life, so, too, can a corrupt or abusive Department of Revenue agent, game warden, school superintendent, or mayor. We give these people extraordinary power over our lives as the price paid for a civil society, but we must do so grudgingly and with extraordinary oversight. We have been blessed with more than our fair share of superb elected and unelected government officials, but we have also had our fair share of the corrupt and the stupid.

Wisconsin’s regulatory burden is suffocating

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

All of the tools are there, and have been there, to rein in Wisconsin’s suffocating regulatory burden. What has been missing is the will and energy to use those tools. Normal Wisconsinites do not have a lobbyist who can attend the meetings to weigh in on a regulation. They rely on their elected representatives to be their voice in lightening the weight of government regulation. Far too often, politicians of both parties grant wide latitude to unelected regulators to micromanage Wisconsinites in almost everything they do. The politicians become the voice of the bureaucracy instead of the voice of the people.

 

Wisconsin’s Republicans must take on the regulatory monster because the Democrats never will. There are a few simple questions that politicians should ask themselves before approving any regulation. First, if the regulation supported by law or is it a new law? If a regulation is not in support of a law passed by the people’s legislature, then it should be denied.

 

Second, is the regulation absolutely necessary? There are a lot of good ideas out there or things that people should do, but that does not mean that the government should regulate it. Freedom is precisely the right to do things of which other people disapprove without government sanction. If a regulation is not absolutely necessary, it should be denied.

Aaron Rodgers is human after all

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

Aaron Rodgers has always had an independent streak. It is a character trait that has made him one of football’s greats on any given Sunday and made people scratch their heads at his unconventional grooming choices. In hindsight, it seems obvious that Rodgers would chart his own course to protect himself from COVID-19.

 

The bones of the story are rather dry. Rodgers did not want to take a COVID-19 vaccine and chose a homeopathic protocol to boost his immune system instead. He has subsequently come down with COVID-19. Our collective experience shows that he could have just as easily contracted COVID-19 if he had been vaccinated, but the revelation that he is unvaccinated has invited scrutiny.

 

The flesh of the story is full of depth and nuance that bring to the surface the entire national conversation regarding vaccines, mandates, health care autonomy, natural rights, responsibility, privacy, and honesty. While the confines of this column will not allow us to explore the entire body, let us pick at a few scabs together. Thankfully, Rodgers took the time to wax expansively about the issue on “The Pat McAfee Show.” His explanation was like one of his expert fourth-quarter game-winning drives — aggressive, thoughtful, creative, layered, and difficult to counter. In his interview, he spoke truths that many Americans know, but are fearful of expressing for fear of a repressive response from the government/ media/Big Pharma/Big Tech medical totalitarians. First, many of the rules that government and businesses have enacted in response to the pandemic are idiotic. They defy logic, ignore the science of how viruses spread and disregard our actual experience or results of these rules. Many of the rules are designed to allow people to demonstrate the virtue of subservience to authority and shame those who think independently. Making a speaker wear a mask at a podium when everyone else is vaccinated and unmasked “makes no sense,” as Rodgers said. It makes even less sense when we know that vaccinated people are spreading and becoming infected with COVID almost as easily as the unvaccinated. Our national experience is that the greatest value of the vaccines seems to be in lessening the severity of an infection — not preventing the spread of it.

 

Second, “health is not a one-size-fits-all” proposition, said Rodgers. Doctors have known this for centuries and there are entire health care practices built around leveraging knowledge and technology to deliver personalized health care. The human body is an intensely complex creation. To think that there is one treatment or drug that is universally effective and necessary defies centuries of learning. In Rodgers’ case, he claims to be allergic to two of the vaccines and considered the risk of negative effects of the vaccines to be greater than the risk of a healthy young man getting a virus that is statistically less dangerous to him than driving to work every day.

 

Third, Rodgers asserted his freedom as a thinking American to make a choice for himself based on the information he chose to consume. He made a health care decision for himself that would have been a private choice as recently as two years ago. He thinks that health care decisions should be private, and up until the pandemic melted privacy laws, it would have been. While some may make the case that Rodgers’ case is different because he is a public figure, consider that our federal government has just enacted a mandate for tens of millions of Americans that will force Americans to disclose their medical status on pain of pauperism.

Which brings us to the very definition of freedom. What is it? Are Americans still free in the age of COVID? Freedom is the broad latitude to exercise one’s natural rights without restraint. It is the ability to speak one’s mind without punishment. It is the power to decide what medical treatments to receive, if any, without coercion. That is not to say that freedom can be exercised without criticism, but that nobody — especially one’s government — can wield coercive power to stifle the exercise of one’s rights.

 

We cannot be said to live in a state of freedom when we cannot express opinions to make our own health care decisions without being penalized by our government whether that government is acting directly or reaching through our employers with the fist of regulation. We do not have freedom if we are only permitted to speak, pray or receive health care that is approved by our new pharmacratic overlords.

 

At its core, freedom means that people can speak and make personal medical decisions even if they are self-destructive, kooky, or just plain stupid. Whether you agree with Rodgers’ decision about his health care choices, it is his choice to make. In a different era, we allowed our government to exercise power over us only when there was heat created by the friction of opposing freedoms grating against each other. We no longer live in that era. Now we live in an era where we allow our government to wield direct and indirect power to regulate our personal medical decisions and silence speech that does not conform with the current government-approved canon. Rodgers has said that his thoughts on the pandemic will make the left cancel him and the right champion him. Perhaps, but for me, his thoughts humanize him because he is an American who has the same rights as the rest of us. He is frustrated and angry about the increasingly heavy boot of oppression that is suffocating our liberty with the garrote of public health policy.

Aaron Rodgers is human after all

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

We cannot be said to live in a state of freedom when we cannot express opinions to make our own health care decisions without being penalized by our government whether that government is acting directly or reaching through our employers with the fist of regulation. We do not have freedom if we are only permitted to speak, pray or receive health care that is approved by our new pharmacratic overlords.

 

At its core, freedom means that people can speak and make personal medical decisions even if they are self-destructive, kooky, or just plain stupid. Whether you agree with Rodgers’ decision about his health care choices, it is his choice to make. In a different era, we allowed our government to exercise power over us only when there was heat created by the friction of opposing freedoms grating against each other. We no longer live in that era. Now we live in an era where we allow our government to wield direct and indirect power to regulate our personal medical decisions and silence speech that does not conform with the current government-approved canon. Rodgers has said that his thoughts on the pandemic will make the left cancel him and the right champion him. Perhaps, but for me, his thoughts humanize him because he is an American who has the same rights as the rest of us. He is frustrated and angry about the increasingly heavy boot of oppression that is suffocating our liberty with the garrote of public health policy.

Wisconsin Center District breaks ground on money pit

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

The Wisconsin Center District broke ground on a huge expansion of Milwaukee’s convention center including a 112,000-square-foot expansion of the expo hall. On the heels of a pandemic and at a cost of $420 million, they must be high.

 

The Wisconsin Center District is a government entity that runs the Wisconsin Center (convention center), UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, and Miller High Life Theatre. It also owns Fiserv Forum, but that venue is operated by the Milwaukee Bucks. The WCD is funded by revenue from operating the venues, a special sales tax on hotel rooms, a sales tax on food and drinks in local restaurants, a sales tax on car rentals, and a hotel room tax in Milwaukee County and the city of Milwaukee. If you have ever dined or stayed in Milwaukee, you have helped fund the WCD.

 

Milwaukee has always struggled to consistently attract convention business, but with this new expansion of the Wisconsin Center, the WCD is hoping to change that dynamic. The expansion will expand the Wisconsin Center to 300,000 square feet of contiguous space. It will also add 24 additional meeting rooms and at least 400 indoor parking spaces. Finally, the WCD will add six loading docks, an executive kitchen, and a ballroom that will seat at least 2,000 people for dinner.

 

Unfortunately for the WCD, there is very little to support the supposition that the reason that Milwaukee has not been able to attract a substantial number of conventions is because the convention center is too small. The convention center has been expended over the years and the results remain the same. The reason that Milwaukee does not attract many conventions is because it’s Milwaukee.

 

Downtown Milwaukee is lovely and boasts a handful of fun attractions, but there just isn’t enough there to compete with so many other cities contending for convention business. When you couple the meager attractions with runaway crime, an inhospitable city government, and the long, brutal winters, the WCD has always been overly optimistic about the prospects of turning Milwaukee into a destination city for conventions. Furthermore, nobody is really sure if the pandemic- collapsed convention business will ever fully bounce back. Businesses have found other ways to market their wares, and some may never return to their previous convention spending.

 

The WCD has never been shy about spending taxpayer money on fanciful projects despite the slim prospects for success. After all, it’s not their money. For this expansion, the WCD borrowed $420 million.

 

They will pay back those bonds with the venue and tax revenues that they collect. But the state of Wisconsin has guaranteed $300 million of those bonds with state taxpayer money. If the whole thing is a failure, state taxpayers will shoulder the majority of the expense.

 

It is also worth remembering that the WCD’s finances have been in shambles for years. For the last six years, the WCD has run an operating loss every year. In 2014, they ran an operating loss of $16.5 million. In 2015, they lost $17.9 million. 2016; lost $15.1 million. 2017; lost $20.5 million. 2018; lost $24.1 million. 2019; lost $30.2 million. 2020 – the pandemic year; lost $35.7 million. Given the success of the Milwaukee Bucks winning the championship in 2021, the WCD might have eked out a profit, but probably not. The WCD was on the verge of defaulting on its loans last year until the pandemic caused the Federal Reserve to drop interest rates to near zero and the WCD refinanced its loans.

 

Given WCD’s previous financial record, it is a wonder that they could borrow even more on top of what they have already borrowed. But when the payback of the loans are supported by local tax revenue and Wisconsin state government has guaranteed the lion’s share of the loans, the WCD can continue to borrow and spend with abandon.

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