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Blue Jean Nation "The data trap" PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Thursday, 05 January 2017 11:47

voter-dataTo hear professional political operatives tell it, winning elections is all about data. They're wrong. There is a human dimension computers can't account for.


ALTOONA, WI - To hear professional political operatives tell it, winning elections is about nothing more or nothing less than mathematical calculations. It’s all about data and it’s algorithmic. You gather all kinds of data about voters, use that data to target those most likely to vote for your candidate, write a formula for reaching your “win target,” plug all the data into your formula, and out pops a victory.

Sounds great, all scientific and everything, until what pops out is a loss. The latest and most glaring example of data gone wrong is the 2016 presidential election. Clinton headquarters had the math all figured out. They shunned “persuasion” campaigning, meaning they didn’t want to waste time trying to win over voters their computers told them were not likely to support the Democratic nominee. They saw it purely and simply as a “base turnout” election. In other words, their data told them that if those identified as core Democratic supporters went to the polls and voted as expected, Hillary Clinton is elected president. In the places that mattered most, places like Michigan and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, that didn’t happen.

What they didn’t factor into their equation was Clinton’s unpopularity and her inability to persuasively communicate reasons to support her. That left her base unenthusiastic and her opponents energized.

This is not the first time voters have confounded the political mathematicians armed with all their data and their computers, nor will it be the last. In 2014, I repeatedly heard from Democratic operatives in Wisconsin that if turnout was high in the election for governor, Mary Burke would win, and if turnout was low, Scott Walker would be reelected. Voter turnout ended up being a record high for a regular election for governor in Wisconsin, and yet Walker won.

Like Team Clinton in 2016, Wisconsin Democrats concentrated on turning out their base for Burke in 2014. If their computers said you were a likely Burke voter for one reason or another, you were hounded. You got phone calls, you got emails, you got texts, you got junk mail, people knocked on your door. You got so many reminders to vote that you were ready to scream. If the Democratic algorithm didn’t have you down as a target, you were left alone. You were given no reason to think about voting for Burke. Turns out their algorithm was wrong.

There’s good reason why political algorithms are unreliable. Elections aren’t algorithmic. Politics is more art than science. How voters make decisions can’t be reduced to mathematical equations or scientific formulas. There is a human dimension computers can’t account for.

Elections are about representation. Voters are looking for someone who gets them, someone who is saying what they are feeling, someone who reflects their own thinking and will be at least somewhat likely to act accordingly. They look at candidates differently than computers do. They look at who a candidate is, where they’re from, what they stand for. They look for someone they can relate to, someone they feel a connection with.

No algorithm can be written to produce that.

— Mike McCabe

 
What it is Like to be a New State Legislator PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District   
Tuesday, 03 January 2017 15:47

wisconsinVeteran Senator Kathleen Vinehout writes about what it is like to be a newly elected legislator. Newly elected individuals sworn in as members of the Wisconsin State Senate and State Assembly face a daunting task preparing to make all the critical decisions that are required.

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Blue Jean Nation "Gators don’t drain swamps" PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Monday, 02 January 2017 09:19

donald-trumpPresident-elect Donald Trump promised to “drain the swamp” during his campaign, but his cabinet picks represent a who's who of billionaires, conservatives, and Wall Street insiders.


ALTOONA, WI - America’s president-elect famously promised to “drain the swamp.” Surrounding himself with alligators is a curious way of going about making good on that promise. Alligators like swamps.

Donald Trump hasn’t made all of his appointments yet, but the cast of characters he’s pulled together so far has more wealth between them than the poorest one-third of American households. That’s 17 men and women who have more money than 43 million families combined.

There’s oil tycoon Rex Tillerson. Trump wants Exxon Mobil’s chief executive in charge of international diplomacy as Secretary of State.

The “king of bankruptcy” Wilbur Ross is being put in line to become Commerce secretary. If Trump gets his way, Ross’s deputy at Commerce will be Todd Ricketts, the billionaire son of the billionaire founder of the brokerage firm Ameritrade.

Linda McMahon, the billionaire co-founder of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) is being tabbed to head the Small Business Administration. McMahon is Trump’s biggest single political donor, having given $7.5 million to a pro-Trump super PAC, which was more than a third of the money collected by the political action committee.

Betsy DeVos, the daughter-in-law of the founder of the home care and beauty product distributor Amway Corporation (since renamed “Quixtar”), is Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education. DeVos’s brother, Erik Prince, started the shadowy soldier-for-hire company known as Blackwater. Her qualifications to oversee the nation’s schools pretty much begin and end with her family’s lavish spending to push taxpayer-funded subsidies for private and religious schools. Anyone paying careful attention to elections in Wisconsin should be familiar with DeVos’s political handiwork. Her front group known as the American Federation for Children has poured more than $5 million into Wisconsin just since 2010 to sway state legislative races and cement legislative majorities favoring privatization of education.

Then there’s Goldman Sachs.

Trump told South Carolina voters “I know the guys at Goldman Sachs” when he was trying to talk them out of supporting Texas Senator Ted Cruz. “They have total, total control over him. Just like they have total control over Hillary Clinton.”

That was then. This is now. Trump picked Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn to head up his White House National Economic Council. His choice for Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, spent 17 years working at Goldman Sachs. Trump’s chief strategist and White House counselor, Steve Bannon, started his career at Goldman Sachs as an investment banker.

Quite a crew being put to work draining the swamp. Alligators all of them.

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 January 2017 11:43
 
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign 'Shortfall!!!' PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign   
Tuesday, 27 December 2016 11:22

wis-democracy-campaignAs we approach the end of 2016, our friends at the Democracy Campaign need your support to continue their good work.


MADISON - I hope you had a nice holiday weekend.

I’m back at work today, going over our fundraising figures for 2016, and I had hoped that we’d be further along than we are in meeting our budget, but I see that we’re $10,000 shy.

So if you and our other faithful supporters could send us a tax-deductible gift right now, we’d be in a much better position at the start of 2017 to throw our energies into the urgent task of defending our democracy, which is in peril both here in Wisconsin and now in the country. Note: Walker has actually been telling Trump to do to the country what Walker did to Wisconsin!

With your support, we’ll expose the corruption, the power grabs, and the dangerous policies, and we’ll campaign for a real democracy, where everyone has an equal voice and an equal chance.

You can send your tax-deductible gift electronically when you click here or you can mail it in, as I usually do with my own donations. Our street address is 203 S. Paterson St, Suite 100, Madison WI 53703.

I look forward to hearing from you in the next few days, and to working with you in the year ahead.

Best,

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

****

The Democracy Campaign is working for a real democracy that allows the common good to prevail over narrow interests. We specialize in tracking the money in state politics and work for campaign finance reform and other democracy reforms. WDC is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and charitable contributions supporting our work are fully tax deductible.

 
Looking Back on 2016 PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District   
Monday, 19 December 2016 22:07

trump-clinton-debateSen. Kathleen Vinehout hopes to find common ground on the issues of concern to Wisconsinites. For the residents of the 31st Senate District, most of were related to water. People were also frustrated with the negativity of the past election cycle.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 December 2016 10:40
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Blue Jean Nation 'We are better than this' PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Tuesday, 13 December 2016 13:54

Franklin Delano RooseveltFDR and the greatest generation of WWII had the courage to expect freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear for the whole world. Today's Americans are just afraid.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 December 2016 14:30
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'Making friends with discomfort' Blue Jean Nation PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Friday, 09 December 2016 13:32

trump-ryanThose alarmed by the actions of the radical right are going to have to warm up to agitation and provocation. American now stands at a crossroads.


ALTOONA, WI - Several decades ago three young students journeyed through dusty rural California in hopes of meeting famed migrant farm worker organizer Cesar Chavez. Once they found Chavez, they sat with him and asked, “Cesar, how do you organize? ” Chavez replied, “well, first you talk to one person, then you talk to another person, then you talk to another person….”

The students assumed Chavez misunderstood their question and clarified that they wanted to know how mass movements are built. Chavez repeated, “first you talk to one person, then you talk to another.”

The key to making change is as elementary as Chavez’s secret of organizing.

It comes down to discomfort.

Comfortable people don’t move. They stay where they are because they are comfortable where they are. To make them move, they have to be made uncomfortable.

It’s like the basic law of physics . . . and object at rest will remain at rest, unless some force makes it move. A corrupt political establishment will stay corrupt and a failing political system will keep failing us, unless some force makes the powers-that-be change their ways.

That force is discomfort.

Last Updated on Friday, 09 December 2016 14:06
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Blue Jean Nation 'Should write ’em off but can’t' PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Wednesday, 30 November 2016 15:07

wisdems-flagThis country needs a Democratic Party that is both healthy and relevant, and a Republican Party with unchecked power will run our government into the ground and our country over a cliff.


ALTOONA, WI - I am one of those people who has every reason to write off the Democratic Party. But I can’t.

I am the son of non-college educated working class people. Dairy farmers. I grew up in what is now red America. That place and that upbringing made me what I am. My values were shaped by the work my family did seven days a week from before dawn to after dusk. And by barn raisings where people came from miles away to help a “neighbor” struck by the misfortune of a tornado or fire. And by Les Sturz, who came to our aid in muddy fields to help us harvest our crops only weeks after burying his father who hung himself in a shed after learning the bank was foreclosing and their farm was going to be taken from them.

They taught me the value of hard work. But they also taught me the importance of looking out for each other, and how we are all in this together. They taught me about the common good. They taught me none of us is self made. If my accomplishments ever stand out, it’s because I am standing on the shoulders of others. Of the four people who were unquestionably my most influential and impactful teachers, not a one of them had a college degree.

My dad and mom lived through the Depression and revered FDR, and that reverence made them lifelong Democratic voters. They both passed away many years ago, but while they were with us they told me so many things that now make me think they’d probably not care much for today’s Democrats if they were still living. Like so many non-college educated working class people, they’d have reasons to feel today’s Democrats look down on them and write them off.

Considering where I’m from and who brought me up, I should probably hate Democrats. But I can’t. It’s not that I don’t believe they deserve the scorn directed at them. They do. It’s not even that I choose not to hate because of how counterproductive hating is. It’s like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die, but it also is a powerful and virtually irresistible temptation and sometimes I succumb.

The reason I can’t write off Democrats the way they’ve written off so many in places like where I’m from is that I love my country and my country needs a Democratic Party that is both healthy and relevant. Today’s is neither. I believe in checks and balances, and a Republican Party with unchecked power will run our government into the ground and our country over a cliff.

Returning the Democratic Party to health and relevance will not happen until Democrats stop regularly breaking the first rule of politics and cease insulting and disrespecting people like those who were my best teachers. And regaining health and relevance also will not happen until Democrats move beyond identity politics and stop disregarding the first law of governing: What government does needs to be done for the whole of society. Everyone pays, everyone benefits.

— Mike McCabe

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 November 2016 15:18
 
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign '5 Reasons to Recount in Wis!' PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign   
Tuesday, 29 November 2016 17:22

trump-clinton-debate3The recount is important for five reasons, (1) it was close, (2) late deductions were from Trump, (3) Outagamie County had more people voting than voters, (4) Trump’s wild charge on illegal voters, and (5) it’s always good to test the machinery.


MADISON - I’m glad there’s going to be a recount here in Wisconsin.

Here’s why:

Five valid reasons for the Wisconsin presidential recount

Requiring an accurate count is a bare minimum for our democracy.

Another bare minimum is respect for the Fourth Amendment. But the Wisconsin Supreme Court, sharply and oddly divided, just took another whack at it, as I explain here:

Wisconsin Supreme Court shreds 4th amendment

One more thing: Today is Giving Tuesday, when people all across the country are encouraged to make charitable online donations. So I’m urging you to make a tax-deductible donation right now to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. It’s easy: All you have to do is click here.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 November 2016 10:52
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Stein’s Recounts Will Hopefully Affirm the Integrity of the Vote PDF Print E-mail
Commentary
Written by Buzz Davis, Army Veteran & Activist   
Tuesday, 29 November 2016 11:39

jill-steinStein is acting to preserve your right to know your vote is recorded and counted accurately, and she is paying the tab to do so.


MADISON - Friday Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein filed a recount petition asking for hand tally of all WI votes cast.  On Monday petitions were filed in Pennsylvania counties and Stein filed a sister petition with the courts.  She intends to file her Michigan recount petition on Wednesday.  These are the states with the closest Nov. 8 election results.

Stein is acting to support the most basic power in a democracy:  The right to know your vote is recorded and counted accurately and that all votes cast are so counted/recorded.

veterans-seniorThe America Revolution led to the establishment of our Constitution.  Under that framework, our laws have been developed by elected state and national legislatures.  The specific purpose of this government is to create a political environment wherein the Rule of Law is top dog  --  NOT the Rule of King or Queen whose every word or whim becomes law and violation of which is punishable by death.

Though our founders put the Rule of Law on the throne of power, they were certainly not pure.  Their groups of men and women working together as parties were as corrupt as many human beings before or after the Revolution.

You may remember the 1960 Kennedy Nixon presidential election. The famous Nixon campaign quote, the gist of which is, “they stole the election fair and square.”  Then, as today, political parties were corrupt.

Americans understand the VOTE is the only real power we have in our democracy “to throw the bums out” and put in new people.  Americans are very concerned about the corruption in the voting process.  Five in ten Americans say they have ”little” or “only some” confidence that their votes will be accurately counted.*

Stein petitioned the WI Election Commission (WEC) to require a hand recount of 100% of the ballots cast.  Election experts urged her to request recounts in three states:

  • Because of the close vote totals,
  • Because of the wide ranging hacking and attempted hacking of computers in the Democratic Party offices, campaign officials offices, federal and state government offices taking place and allegations of foreign powers doing the hacking, and
  • Because of the ease with which various voting machines can be hacked.

Stein says citizens in a democracy deserve to know their votes are recorded properly.  These recounts will reassure Americans three election systems are reliable.  Or these three states will prove the need for radical changes to American election laws, equipment and procedures.

In the unlikely event that Clinton is declared the winner in these three states, she then would become president.  (Clinton’s lawyers have now said they will help Stein’s lawyers.  Clinton has filed no recount petitions.)

Over 130,000 people contributed an average of $45 to help Stein raise $6.4 million thus far to pay for the recount and the lawyers’ efforts.

Wednesday Stein is due to pay the estimate $1.1 million WI recount cost to WEC.  The recount will start Dec. 1st.  The federal deadline to get all local and state work done in WI, PA and MI is Dec. 13th.  Electoral College votes Dec. 19th.  Jan. 6th the Joint Session of Congress meets to review results, raise objections if any, and certify the winner.  The new president is sworn in Jan. 20th.

In our democracy, our vote is the only way we can remove or elect our federal leaders.  We cannot recall them, as we can in WI.  Only the federal Congress can impeach and remove federal officials.

Thus, we have only our “VOTE” to protect us from tyranny.  When we are denied the right to vote, or when our votes are not counted accurately, that is when we have lost the power of democracy!

Of all the presidential candidates, only Stein had the courage to start and implement the largest presidential recount effort in our history!  May she succeed.

****

Buzz Davis, now of Tucson, AZ, a member of Better With Bernie Gone Green and Treas. of Progressive WI – Lets Rebuild America, is a long time progressive activist, member of Veterans for Peace, a former VISTA Volunteer, Army officer, elected official, union organizer and retired state government planner.    This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 November 2016 11:57
 
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