Thursday March 23, 2017

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Have Veterans Damaged Their Future Health by Voting for Trump?

Posted by Buzz Davis, Stoughton
Buzz Davis, Stoughton
Buzz Davis, now of Tucson, AZ, a member of Better With Bernie Gone Green and Tre
User is currently offline
on Saturday, 07 January 2017
in Wisconsin

veteranAcross the country, 61% of veterans who voted chose Trump over Clinton. But how will a Trump - Republican administration affect the VA healthcare system which 7 million vets depend on for all or part of their medical care?

TUCSON, AZ - Vets helped Trump clinch the White House.  Across America, veterans cast 4 million more votes for Trump than Clinton.

Eighty percent (80%) of America’s 22 million veterans voted Nov. 8th. Exit polls reveal 61% of the vets said they voted for Trump and Republican House candidates while only 34% voted for Clinton and 38% voted for House Democratic candidates.

Some Republicans are working hard to PRIVATIZE the VA healthcare system which 7 million vets depend on for all or part of their medical care.

These Republicans who want to send vets to private for-profit and non-profit hospitals/clinics for healthcare at 30% higher cost, which computes to billions of tax dollars wasted, are doing an egregious disservice to our Nation’s veterans.

The effort to privatize VA care has never been stronger.  Wealthy citizens, such as the billionaire Koch brothers, have been spending millions funding groups calling for VA privatization -- a move that would create for them even more wealth.

Such privatization schemes will increase the profits of insurance companies, hospitals and clinics by enrolling America’s veterans.  Wall Streeters will then encourage insurance and hospital systems to merge making ever higher profits at the expense of veterans.

The 2014 Choice program is the strongest privatization law ever passed.  It enables any vet who lives 40 miles or more from a VA clinic or gets a VA appointment 30 days or more from the present to receive care in the private sector.

“Choice” has not been a blazing success -- because of all the veterans who use the VA, 72% of them oppose privatization!

Veterans, veterans’ organizations, unions, good government groups and activists have two years to stall the privatization efforts in Congress and to help veterans understand that voting for Republican privatizers in the Nov. 2018 Congressional races WILL NOT BE IN THEIR OWN BEST INTERESTS.

America spent 20 years in Vietnam and 16 years in Afghanistan/Iraq in illegal wars of aggression, trillions spent, millions killed – we veterans called to serve, or drafted, are asking:  “What do we have to show for it?

Three wars lost, countries and peoples ruined and hundreds of thousands of our own families destroyed.  The military/industrial/political complex is richer than ever, oil corporations continue their quest to grab the world’s oil while trying to use the US military as an enforcement hammer.  Our Nation is actively arming friends, gangs and terrorists worldwide while sending men and women to fight across the Middle East and Africa in countries most people can’t even find on the map.

The aftermath of these wars is millions of vets need healthcare for physical, mental and emotional wounds/illnesses.

Yet, decade after decade, disregarding opposition by a multitude of our Nation’s citizens, presidents and Congress argue “Sorry, we just don’t have money to fully fund and staff the Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals across America.  In fact we don’t have money to fund America’s public schools or infrastructure either.  We only have money for more weapons and wars.  We do this only to protect you!”

We Americans have duped ourselves and been duped by our leaders falsely warning there are Commies and terrorists behind every tree.  They knew/know they were lying but they fear looking weak - so they pump up the propaganda, packaged up the kids and sent them off to wreak havoc across the world.

Today we have 22 million veterans still alive.

While millions of WWII and Korean War vets may not feel ‘’used”, many Vietnam Era and War on Terror soldiers/veterans DO feel used and abused.  More than 7 million of us receive all or part of their healthcare from the VA.  We, in general, are sicker than the average hospital/clinic population with many of us needing the specialized care for wounds, injuries and illness for which only the VA provides high quality care.

But in the 2014 and 2016 elections as vets we may have figuratively “shot ourselves in the foot.”

Those Republicans advocating privatization seem determined to destroy the VA healthcare system.

We veterans have less than two years to educate ourselves for the 2018 House and Senate elections and vote for candidates who OPPOSE privatization.  Will we be able to do it?

Or, will those human vultures driven by greed, who want to make a fast buck on war and misery,  destroy the VA.  Pushing all veterans into the already overloaded private care system will bankrupt the care for America’s veterans.


Sign petition here:

Written by Buzz Davis & Ian Smith, veterans

Buzz Davis, of Tucson, AZ, a long time progressive activist, is a disabled veteran, a member of Veterans for Peace and 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

Ian Smith, an Army Veteran, a native of Madison, WI, retired from a successful career with the VA spanning 40+ years, and is a long time, staunch Unionist having served two terms as President of a 1,400 member Local 1732 and remains a delegate to SCFL and WI AFL-CIO.   This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Blue Jean Nation "The data trap"

Posted by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 05 January 2017
in Wisconsin

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.

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Blue Jean Nation "Gators don’t drain swamps"

Posted by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 05 January 2017
in Wisconsin

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.

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What it is Like to be a New State Legislator

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 03 January 2017
in Wisconsin

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.

MADISON - “Good morning, Senator,” said a Capitol staffer. It took me a moment to realize the man was talking to me. That was ten years ago.

This week fifteen new lawmakers raised their right hand and swore to uphold the Constitution. They celebrated with a day of family, photos and receptions.

kathleen-vinehoutI recall how exciting the day was and how that excitement quickly turned to the daunting challenge of adjusting to my new role of Senator.

Following Election Day, the new legislators-elect attend orientation sessions, which provide vital information relating to all aspects of the Legislature. I remember thinking there was too much information packed into a few days. I realized, as my new colleagues will, the orientation is simply a glimpse of what they will need to learn over the course of the coming months.

Most new legislators come into office with ideas about changes they want to see in state government. Fresh ideas can be a good thing. Wisconsin does face difficult problems that require innovation. However, it’s hard to innovate when, as a rookie legislator, you are just learning the language. There are new acronyms, new processes, and new agencies.

Our state government consists of nearly 40 agencies and state authorities. Add in another 200 or so commissions, councils and boards. These groups serve critical roles and provide citizen input in state decisions. For example, the Medical Examining Board oversees the practice of medicine; the Council on Veterans Programs gives veterans input.

Five support agencies help lawmakers. For instance, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) prepares nearly 100 information papers on key programs. Whether learning about school funding or transportation, citizens and lawmakers alike can access the work of the LFB. As budget deliberations progress, LFB analysts write over 700 budget papers providing lawmakers with critical information during deliberations on the state budget.

Working on complex budget issues dominates a lawmaker’s workload in the first six months of a new legislative session. Many hours are spent reading the LFB summaries or the “Cliff Notes” of the state budget bill. Last budget, the final summary was over 900 pages.

All this to say a new lawmaker has quite a lot of information to master in a short time period. At the same time, hundreds of new friends will want to visit. Wisconsin has some hundreds of statewide associations – from AAA (automobile drivers) to WWOA (woodland owners). Many groups hire lobbyists or send their own members to visit legislators.

Nearly every group that visits their legislators brings a “leave behind” – a one-page summary of the issue(s) about which they are concerned. Given that a new legislator may have 8 or 10 “visits” in a day on topics ranging from livestock feed to prison reform, leaving behind details is essential.

The challenge for all lawmakers comes in understanding the agenda of those “leave behinds.” What is the need? What story is not told? Who speaks for the other side? Who is the other side?

Many of the details discussed in those meetings either are or do become bills. Last session, members of the Assembly introduced 1026 bills and Senators introduced 804 bills. Those bills are examined in greater detail during legislative public hearings. The deliberative process of public hearings in both houses of the Legislature gives us all the opportunity to learn about how a bill might help Wisconsin citizens or have unintended consequences.

A vital part of a legislator’s role is communicating with constituents. Every Senator represents some 170,000 people. About 5,000 of these people (with some exceptions) will be engaged in offering an opinion or needing some assistance.

Most of the help requested by constituents involves working with the myriad of state agencies, and local governments. For some, we must seek assistance from federal officials.

To help constituents, the lawmaker and his or her staff must navigate both relationships and the complexities of the law. And to change the law takes teamwork. You will need a yes vote of 17 Senators, 50 Assembly members and a governor who will not veto your plan.

Congratulations to all our new lawmakers. Just like the rest of us, those new legislators will need you, those whom they represent, to be involved and be in touch!

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Looking Forward to the Challenges of 2017

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 27 December 2016
in Wisconsin

sand-mining-wiThis week Senator Kathleen Vinehout writes about the many constituents who have offered solutions to Wisconsin’s troubles in 2016, while also encouraging folks to send new ideas for 2017.

ALMA, WI - The turn of the calendar to 2017 brings us hope for better prospects in our public affairs. I am particularly inspired this season for the many who wrote with solutions to problems facing our state.

The many letters from readers gives me optimism for a coming bloom of civic mindedness. Certainly your notes and letters bring a fresh approach to lingering problems.

I do see signs on the horizon that our state may be stumbling.

Deep budget cuts have affected the forward progress of our University of Wisconsin System. Faculty have left UW and taken their research dollars with them. For the first time in 45 years UW Madison does not rank in the top five universities in research spending according to the National Science Foundation.

A second trouble spot is the low number of start-up businesses in Wisconsin. For the second year in a row, Wisconsin ranked last in the nation in start-up business activity according to a Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation report.

Investment in research at the UW spurs start-up businesses. Growth in new companies translates to growth in our economy. According to a report released earlier this year by the UW Center for Community and Economic Development, new businesses are the source of over a quarter of new jobs in Wisconsin.

Our economy is sputtering. Wisconsin lagged compared to the national economy in recovering from the 2008-09 recession. Our state took six years to gain back all the jobs lost in the Great Recession – a whole year after the nation recovered and two years after Minnesota recovered.

Another trouble spot is the lack of teachers and students going into education. Schools of education are reporting fewer graduates and local districts are reporting fewer applicants for open teaching positions. Future budgets must invest in K-12, technical college and the UW to assure us of our needed talented and trained workforce.

Competing with education funding in coming budget debates will be transportation needs. Our road fund is basically bankrupt. Spending has outpaced revenue for several years. Now, nearly a quarter of every dollar must be used to pay off debt.

Even the General Fund (used to pay mostly for schools and colleges, health care, local government, and corrections) has financial struggles. Earlier this year the governor refinanced debt – kicking the can down the road – to free up cash for the new budget.

Other signs of trouble include late, altered and missing financial reports. Most recently the state missed the mid-December deadline for the release of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

Troubles on the horizon will, fortunately, be met with insights gained from new knowledge. Soon the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) will release an audit of the Department of Transportation. Later this spring a report from the LAB on the operations of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation will help us understand the agency responsible for state efforts to create jobs.

The best solutions for our problems come from the ingenuity of the people of our great state. Thanks to people who wrote with ideas for new legislation. Many of you wrote with ideas for fixing roads and funding schools.

Several people wrote me asking to limit state money going to private schools. Kathleen of Arcadia suggested new money for private schools be only from new funds and never taken out of public schools. Mary wanted to use monies going to private schools to pay for road construction.

Others wrote of improving broadband, lowering health insurance costs, protecting water resources and restoring local control.

Still others wrote about fixing our political system including the drawing of new nonpartisan legislative districts, more civic education, and a brighter light shown on who is writing new legislation.

I support these ideas. I am also hopeful nonpartisan redistricting may happen as part of a pending court case.

The New Year will bring new faces to the Legislature. But a familiar face won’t be seen in the Assembly Chambers. Our Senate District sends a big thank-you to Representative Chris Danou. My heart is filled with profound appreciation for the tireless advocacy Rep. Danou provided us in western Wisconsin.

Wishing a happy and prosperous New Year to you, dear reader. Don’t forget to write.

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