At long last, an e-cigarette opinion in print
To everyone who's emailed me over the past couple of months wondering where the heck my promised follow-up on the electronic cigarette issue was, the wait is over! Please pick up a copy of this weeks' print edition of Isthmus for my piece on the subject.
It's by no means a final word, of course I suspect we'll be collectively wrangling over the problem for awhile but it does represent quite a personal journey/change in attitude on my part, at least, since the first time I wrote about e-cigarettes back in June.
I would sincerely encourage anyone with further opinions on the subject to write in response letters to Isthmus or right here on my blog. Keeping up a good dialogue is what it's all about, after all.
Walking away from Scott Walker
Really, this guy has already had far too much time to mess up lives from a position of elected authority. Wisconsin needs to listen to the folks in Milwaukee County who know what Walker is really all about: negligence, incompetence and blind ideology.
Let's talk about Walker's hand in the abysmal state of the Mental Health Complex that falls under his purview as Milwaukee County Executive. In his haste to cut spending and shrink government like a good Republican automaton, Walker slashed the budgets of several crucial public services including mental health.
Because of that insatiable urge to purge, staffing levels at the facility have fallen dramatically in recent years despite the fact that case loads have gone up. Where they had 1,053 full-time positions in 2001, just this year Walker proposed cutting it all the way down to just 746.
Walker also approved the "money saving measure" of putting violent male patients in with female patients, with the direct result that the incidences of sexual assault skyrocketed something then-administrator John Chianelli described as an acceptable "trade-off" to help lower rates of overall violence.
I'm not saying Walker is the only one to blame for the serious problems at the facility there's plenty of responsibility to go around but he sure doesn't act like someone who is at least partially guilty.
It was only after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a scathing investigative series about the problems at the Mental Health Complex, and an advisory board made recommendations to improve the environment there, that Walker finally conceded to adding more funding for mental health to his budget for next year.
Which isn't to say there aren't still problems with his plan: Walker's new budget would "designate 54 additional patient care positions, but it funds only 47 of them." And it doesn't help that the county previously allowed its hospital accreditation to lapse entirely.
The county is still stonewalling the auditor who is trying to assess safety concerns at the complex by refusing to release a 2008 consultant's report they commissioned.
I should also point to Walker's incessant whining about Wisconsin being the "most taxed" state in the country, blah blah blah, and then note that that's simply not true. I certainly support a lower tax burden on those in the lower income brackets and with small businesses but let's be honest, that's never who actually gets the tax cuts from Republican officials. They talk a big game about helping out the little guy, but all they're ever really after is a way to further line the pockets of their already wealthy benefactors (or, in RoJo's case, himself).
Real fiscal conservatives would be talking about closing tax loopholes for the most moneyed companies and individuals, slashing unnecessary pork projects and expensive, illegal wars. Instead we get this faux-populist crap from candidates more out for themselves and their friends than the regular folk they're trying to trick into voting for them.
All of this points to some deeply flimsy leadership on the part of Walker and his cronies. Someone who knowingly allows things to deteriorate like that, and only bothers to attempt cleaning up the mess once publicly shamed for it, is not someone I want running my neighborhood association, let alone my entire state.
Do the right thing in the first place or get out.
Choosing the lesser of two evils still leaves you with evil
Chris Walker, writing at Dane101.com, recently posed an interesting question regarding the big state elections this year: "...who would be worse for Wisconsin, an incompetent leader or an ignorant one? In other words, who is a bigger threat to our state: Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker or Republican senatorial candidate Ron Johnson?"
His two takes on the question are well worth a read, but both he and I can't help but wonder do we really want either of these guys in charge? No, not really.
Both men pose serious dangers to our state, but since I've already spent some time ripping Walker a new one, I'd like to reiterate RoJo's not entirely enlightened stance on the rights of victims of sexual abuse. This came up awhile back, but video recently surfaced of Johnson's testimony wherein he opposed the Child Victims Act on behalf of the Green Bay Diocese. Give it a look and tell me that's someone who should take Russ Feingold's place in the Senate.
The Capital Times recently dropped some faint praise on Johnson, though, giving him credit for coming out in favor of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Yes, because when the majority of Americans already support its repeal, several prominent military and political leaders have publicly spoken against it, and now federal judges have ruled it unconstitutional, it ain't exactly hard to know the tide has thoroughly shifted.
It may be less easy for a Republican to state support for DADT's repeal than it is for a Democrat, but it isn't exactly hard anymore, either.
Plus, even those of us who staunchly support all efforts at full equality for the LGBT community don't tend to be one-issue voters. RoJo may have lukewarm feelings about the gays at least when they want to put themselves in harm's way on his behalf, saving him the trouble but compare that with Feingold's incredibly positive record on LGBT issues (and pretty much everything else) and it's hardly even a competition.
Feingold has been a consistent supporter of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, supports ending DADT, voted against DOMA, supports the legalization of same-sex marriage, authored and helped pass a resolution opposing the proposed, vile Ugandan bill that would make homosexuality punishable by death, and so on and so forth.
He is, simply put, one of the few truly progressive, rational actors left in national office. Paul Wellstone was taken from us. Don't choose to lose Feingold. Get off your duff and vote this November for one of the strongest supporters of Wisconsin and the nation we still have left.