Author: Steve Prestegard

How not to win friends and influence voters

The Wisconsin State Journal:

Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley said voters who reject local tax increases are “not smart” during a Wednesday webinar of legislative leaders — comments the Democrat later attempted to walk back as a “failed attempt at sarcasm and poor choice of words.”

During a prerecorded Wisconsin Counties Association online panel that aired Wednesday, leaders in the state Assembly and Senate discussed a proposal in Gov. Tony Evers’ budget that would allow counties and some municipalities to raise their sales tax to fund operational needs, a proposal Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, rejected.

“There is no chance this is going to happen,” Vos said. “Dead on arrival.”

Bewley, D-Mason, spoke in favor of the half-cent tax increase but acknowledged that, if put before voters, such a measure could likely fail. When asked by Vos if that would imply voters don’t support the tax increase, Bewley replied, “perhaps it means that they’re not smart.”

Vos asked Bewley if she wanted to rethink her statement, adding, “I disagree with people a lot, but I don’t think people who disagree with me are dumb. You just basically said all constituents are dumb who disagree with you.”

Bewley didn’t immediately retract her comment but issued a statement following the video’s airing in which she said the statement was an attempted sarcastic reply to Vos’ comment that voters were smart enough to vote a certain way.

“I hope that we can focus on the serious issues that were discussed during the taping of this roundtable, and not on my failed attempt at sarcasm, and poor choice of words,” Bewley said in a statement. “Lives and livelihoods are at stake and we have to do better than play political ‘gotcha’ games.”

James Wigderson reported further:

The senator was advocating for a provision in the governor’s budget proposal which would allow counties to raise the sales tax an additional .5% if approved by the voters. She pointed out the need for higher taxes by mentioning four townships in her area that are unable to provide ambulance services.

“Have they gone to referendum already and asked the voters to increase their own revenues?” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) asked.

“They haven’t had time yet but they’re thinking of it, yes,” Bewley responded.

“They have option now, right?” Vos asked.

“Yes they do,” Bewley responded. “And the voters will turn it down and they are going to be in the same position that they’re in right now.”

“So if the voters turn it down, doesn’t that mean that they don’t support what you’re advocating for?” Vos asked.

“No. Perhaps it means they’re not smart,” Bewley said. “You know. Sometimes we have to do things that allow them the ability – we, as the state have to do things that are part of the state’s responsibility that should not always be linked to one group. If they can’t provide it, don’t we have some collective responsibility to help those communities that depend on volunteer emergency services?”

“Janet, do you want to re-think that?” Vos asked. “I disagree with people a lot but I don’t think that people who disagree with me are dumb. You just basically said your constituents are dumb who disagree with you.”

“Well, the reference to Walworth County didn’t go over to well with me, so…” Bewley responded, referring to an early comment by Vos about Walworth County using their existing sales tax authority to lower property taxes.

One way to avoid “political ‘gotcha’ games” is to not make statements that make you “gotcha” bait in the first place.

Evers’ proposal is an example of what proponents would call “local control.” Of course, state politicians use those words when localities would provide, they think, the outcome they desire, which is why in this case most Republicans would be opposed to this form of “local control,” since it leads to higher taxes, for which Wisconsin is legendary.

Jordan Morales explores that point:

As a Milwaukeean who supports Governor Tony Evers’s sales tax proposal, this is extremely frustrating. A key point of the proposal is that any increase would have to pass a referendum, which means that the people could very well say, “no, thank you.” That does not make them dumb, it may just mean that those specific communities have a different vision for what services their local governments should be providing.

Secondly, it is frustrating that Bewley let her ego get in the way of getting the sales tax proposal through the Republican-held legislature. Vos didn’t even say anything that I would have considered offensive, yet she just had to get a sarcastic word in while she’s supposed to be winning his support. Talk about “not smart.”

But while Vos was rightly taken aback by Bewley’s ill-advised retort, he may be wandering into the same erroneous mindset with the comments he made after the meeting. He said that there was zero chance that the sales tax proposal was going to happen, calling it “dead on arrival.”

Again, a key component of the sales tax proposal is that the voters would have to approve any sales tax increase in their jurisdiction. Why would Vos be against the ability for residents to determine what revenues their municipalities or counties should be able to raise, unless he thinks they are “not smart” enough to vote the way he believes they should?

Even though the Wisconsin League of Municipalities endorsed the proposal, Vos specifically mentioned Milwaukee as the main culprit for why it is being asked for in the first place. It is true that things have been mismanaged in Milwaukee; there is very little doubt about that. Most Milwaukee politicians railed against policies such as Act 10, without which the city’s fiscal crisis would be ten times worse than what it is today, specifically the pension crisis. But that does not mean we can just let the city crash and burn as penalty for its past errors. There are a lot of great people that live here and we need help.

The city is currently paying $71 million for pension obligations but by 2023 it will be $160 million, a spike that will result in deep cuts to services such as the Police and Fire Departments. Already Milwaukee is having to cut between 100 and 150 police officers per year to make the budget work. Homicides, shootings, and reckless driving are on the rise, so the police department cuts come at an especially inopportune time. The Fire Department is also stretched thin leading to an increase in structure fires and fire-related deaths as it has had to pause door-to-door fire prevention efforts.

Earlier this year, Milwaukee’s Common Council was debating accepting the COPS Grant because the city was apprehensive about being on the hook for the officers it would provide after three years (when the pension crisis will hit) per the grant’s terms. But many of us in Milwaukee emailed, called, and knocked on doors to get our aldermen to support it, hoping that the state would look upon us with mercy if they saw that we weren’t just trying to “defund the police.” We were successful and the Common Council ended up accepting the grant.

But now we need the state to cover our rear, otherwise it will be the Wisconsin Legislature that is “defunding our police.”

That assistance can come one of two or even both ways. The first way would be to allow the people of Milwaukee to empower our Common Council to raise new revenues through a sales tax with a referendum. This gives us local control, and truly gives the people the power to determine the city’s destiny, rather than politicians who work in Madison that don’t live here AND big tax-and-spend Milwaukee politicians. No sales tax could be raised unless the people ask for it.

The other way is that the city can continue to be overly dependent on state welfare through the shared revenue program, from which we would need a substantial increase in order to avoid disastrous cuts to city services. As a Milwaukeean, I would like to see both options employed for the city, but at the very least we should get the ability to determine our sales tax through referendum.

Milwaukee is a city with lots of potential. The residents just need to be given the tools that other cities in the country have: a much more blended revenue structure, including a sales tax.

We can solve our problems if we are given the power to do so through referendum. Speaker Vos, we the people are smart enough to handle it.

That’s one view — the small-D democratic view, perhaps. Another is that Milwaukee County voters (and voters in Dane County and several other counties in this state at least) would of course choose to raise their taxes. And when people raise their own taxes, you become a tax hell, which Wisconsin remains, particularly when any effort to cut government spending is termed “disastrous.”

In a general sense, though, I do favor required voter approval of all tax increases through referendum as part of a Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which should be part of the state Constitution instead of trusting that the voters will make correct choices in who decides spending and taxes, since the voters failed in that regard in 2018 and 2020.


Presty the DJ for March 5

Today in 1955, Elvis Presley made his TV debut, on “Louisiana Hayride” on KWKH-TV in Shreveport, La.

The number one album today in 1966 was Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass’ “Going Places”:

The number one single today in 1966:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for March 5”

Dr. Seuss today, you tomorrow

John Daniel Davidson:

Dr. Seuss has been cancelled. Some of his work has been deemed racist, and we can’t have that. On Tuesday, the entity that oversees the estate of Theodor Seuss Geisel announced it would no longer publish six of Geisel’s books because they “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.”

Among the works now deemed unfit for children are Geisel’s first book under the pen name Dr. Seuss, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” published in 1937, and the much-beloved, “If I Ran the Zoo,” published in 1950. The former depicts a “Chinaman” character and the latter shows two men from “the African island of Yerka” in native garb.

There’s not much point in quibbling over whether these and other such illustrations in the condemned Dr. Seuss books are in fact racist or bigoted, or whether Geisel held racist or xenophobic views. By all accounts he was a liberal-minded and tolerant man who hated Nazis and, as a political cartoonist, mocked the antisemitism that was all-too-common in America during World War II.

He was also a man of his era. Later in life, he regretted some of his political work during the war that stereotyped Japanese Americans, which, as jarring as it might seem today, nevertheless reflected attitudes that were commonplace at the time.

But context and nuance don’t factor into the inexorable logic of the woke left, which flattens and refashions the past into a weapon for the culture wars of the present. What’s important to understand is that this isn’t simply about banning six Dr. Seuss books. All of Geisel’s work is, in the judgment of left-wing academia, an exercise in “White supremacy, paternalism, conformity, and assimilation.” It might be easy for conservatives to laugh that off as nonsense, but they shouldn’t, because this isn’t really even about Geisel.

To grasp how a man known as much for his messages of tolerance as for his artistic genius could be canceled for racism, you have to understand what’s actually happening here. The left’s war on the past, on long-dead authors like Geisel, isn’t really about the past, it’s about the future. It’s about who gets to rule, and under what terms.

There’s a predictable pattern to what we’re seeing now. It’s predictable because it has happened before in much the same way it’s happening now. During China’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and ‘70s, the Chinese Communist Party, at the direction of Mao Zedong, called for the destruction of the “Four Olds”: old customs, old culture, old habits, old ideas. All of these stood in the way of Mao’s socialist ideology, so they had to be destroyed.

Children and students were encouraged by the communist government to inform on their parents and elders, to shame and condemn them in public. The guilty were forced to recant in “struggle sessions,” during which they were mocked and humiliated, sometimes tortured, sometimes murdered. Before it was over, millions were dead.

We’re obviously not there yet, but the woke revolutionaries who now run our elite institutions and exert outsized influence in the corridors of power are following this same pattern.

First, they come for the monuments, destroying the icons of the past and re-writing history to turn even our national heroes and Founding Fathers into enemies. The animating ethos of the mobs pulling down Confederate statues is the same as The New York Times editors who gave us the 1619 Project. And because there is no limiting principle to iconoclasm, they have moved on from Confederates.

The City of Charlottesville, for example, having removed or tried to remove every last Confederate monument, is now pleading for someone, anyone, to haul away a giant statue of explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. The 18-foot-tall bronze statue, which was erected in 1919 and depicts Lewis and Clark with Sacajawea crouched behind them, is free for anyone who can prove he knows how to move it safely—although at this point it’s a wonder the city doesn’t just dynamite the thing to rubble, Taliban-style.

Then they come for the books, destroying any ideas or literature that challenges their ideology—like Ryan Anderson’s 2018 book on the dangers of transgenderism, which Amazon summarily canceled last month. Even seemingly unobjectionable books can be targeted, if not for their content then for the race of their author. Just ask Jeanine Cummins, whose novel “American Dirt” drew the ire of the left last year simply because Cummins, who is white, wrote a book about Mexican drug cartels. The list goes on and on.

So much for statues and books. At some point, the left will come for actual people, because the ideology of revolution demands that dissent—and therefore dissidents—be silenced, by force if necessary.

If you think that’s an exaggeration, recall what happened all across the country last summer when Black Lives Matter “protesters” took to the streets. They didn’t just march and chant, they rioted. They attacked businesses, destroyed entire city blocks, and carried out a campaign of intimidation, harassing, and in some cases attacking random people if they didn’t kneel and repeat the slogans of the revolution. Dozens of people lost their lives in the chaos and violence that ensued.

The people behind the statue-toppling, the digital book burnings, and the street violence won’t stop until all three of these things—history, ideas, and dissidents—have been destroyed. These are all impediments to their cultural revolution, and they mean to eliminate them.

So forget about Dr. Seuss. Forget about the statues and the books. Those things are just the beginning. It could easily get much worse. The woke revolutionaries of the left can’t be bargained with or appeased. They believe this is a zero-sum game, that one side will win and one side will lose. And they’re right.

Presty the DJ for March 4

The Grammy Awards premiered today in 1959. The Record of the Year came from a TV series:

Today in 1966, John Lennon demonstrated the ability to get publicity, if not positive publicity, when the London Evening Standard printed a story in which Lennon said:

Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first — rock and roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.

Lennon’s comment prompted Bible Belt protests, including burning Beatles records. Of course, as the band pointed out, to burn Beatles records requires purchasing them first.

The number one single today in 1967:

Today in 1973, Pink Floyd began its 19-date North American tour at the Dane County Coliseum in Madison.

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for March 4”

The non-conformist(s)

Nick Gillespie:

“I was still a Marxist after taking Milton Friedman’s course [at the University of Chicago],” says free market economist and social critic Thomas Sowell. “One summer in the government was enough to let me say government is really not the answer.”

Known for provocative and best-selling books such as Knowledge and Decisions, A Conflict of Visions, and last year’s Charter Schools and Their Enemies, the internationally renowned scholar is the subject of a new documentary and biography, both authored by Jason L. Riley, a Manhattan Institute senior fellow and Wall Street Journal columnist. Beyond the breadth and depth of his interests, what sets Sowell apart is that he “puts truth above popularity and doesn’t concern himself with being politically correct,” Riley tells Reason‘s Nick Gillespie. “It’s an adherence to empiricism, to facts and logic and putting that ahead of theory. [Sowell] is much more interested in how an idea has panned out…rather than simply what the intent is.”

Among Sowell’s chief insights are the realizations that there are no perfect solutions, only tradeoffs, and that information, knowledge, and wisdom are dispersed throughout society, often in unarticulated ways that experts and elitists ignore. As Sowell wrote in his memoir, growing up poor and segregated during the Depression, he had “daily contact with people who were neither well-educated nor particularly genteel, but who had practical wisdom far beyond what I had,” which gave him “a lasting respect for the common sense of ordinary people, a factor routinely ignored by the intellectuals among whom I would later make my career.”

At age 90, Sowell is still writing and publishing. His greatest scholarship may be behind him, but his body of work will continue to have a profound impact on our understanding of the world long after he’s gone.

Note the mention of Friedman, who tried to get on the faculty of UW–Madison, but ran into the anti-Semitism of the progressives of the economics faculty.


Presty the DJ for March 3

Today in 1966, Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Richie Furay formed the Buffalo Springfield.

The number one British single today in 1967:

Today in 1971, the South African Broadcasting Corp. lifted its ban on broadcasting the Beatles.

Perhaps SABC felt safe given that the Beatles had broken up one year earlier. (SABC was South Africa’s radio broadcaster, by the way. TV didn’t get to South Africa until 1976.)

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for March 3”

Presty the DJ for March 2

The number one British single today in 1961:

The number one single today in 1963:

Today in 1964, the Beatles began filming “A Hard Day’s Night,” and George Harrison met Patti Boyd, who had one line in the movie.

Boyd later would become the subject of an Eric Clapton song (in fast and slow versions), and then Clapton’s wife, and then Clapton’s ex-wife, while inspiring enough songs, between Harrison and Clapton, for an entire album.

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for March 2”

Biden’s war on biology

Jim Geraghty

… noted on the Corner the perplexing reaction (from all the usual suspects) to Senator Rand Paul’s entirely legitimate line of questioning aimed at Rachel Levine, Biden’s pick for assistant health secretary. The absurd headlines and “hot takes” keep on coming.

“Exchange between GOP senator, transgender nominee draws fire from Democrats,” reports the Washington Post. “Rand Paul’s ignorant questioning of Rachel Levine showed why we need her in government,” opines a writer for the same publication.

“1st transgender nominee deflects inflammatory questions from GOP senator,” reports ABC News. “Rand Paul Launches Into Transphobic Rant Against Trans Nominee,” opines The Daily Beast.

“Rachel Levine Responds to Rand Paul About Transgender Medicine,” reports the New York Times, neglecting to mention that Levine’s “response” was one of sheer evasion.

Talk about burying the lede. Contrary to what progressive pundits insist, the real story of interest here is not Levine’s transgender status, but rather the fact that Levine refused to answer a crucial and highly topical question related to child welfare.

Here’s the real story. What Senator Paul asked and what Levine refused to answer was this: “Do you believe that minors are capable of making such a life-changing decision as changing one’s sex?” And this, “Do you support the government’s intervening to override the parent’s consent to give a child puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and/or amputation surgery of breasts and genitalia?”

As Senator Paul referenced, these are the very same questions that appeared before the High Court in England and Wales last year. In his questioning of Levine, Senator Paul cited the plaintiff in that case, Keira Bell:

I would hope that you would have compassion for Keira Bell, who’s a 23-year-old girl who was confused with her identity. At 14, she read on the internet about something about transsexuals and she thought, “Well, maybe that’s what I am.” She ended up getting these puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, she had her breasts amputated.

But here’s what ultimately she says now, and this is a very insightful decision from someone who made a mistake, but was led to believe this was a good thing by the medical community.

“I made a brash decision as a teenager, as a lot of teenagers do, trying to find confidence and happiness, except now the rest of my life will be negatively affected,” she said, adding that the medicalized gender transitioning was a very temporary superficial fix for a very complex identity issue.

Having reviewed the evidence from all sides, the judges in Bell’s case concluded that it was “highly unlikely that a child aged 13 or under would be competent to give consent to the administration of puberty blockers,” adding that it was also “doubtful that a child aged 14 or 15 could understand and weigh the long-term risks and consequences of the administration of puberty blockers.”

Accordingly, the court ordered a National Health Service moratorium on the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for gender-dysphoric young people.

The end of women’s sports if you allow this

Ryan Saavedra:

Former President Donald Trump slammed President Joe Biden during his Sunday CPAC speech over the issue of women’s sports.

“Joe Biden and the Democrats are even pushing policies that would destroy women’s sports,” Trump said. “Lot of new records are being broken in women’s sports. Hate to say that, ladies, but got a lot of new records that [are] being shattered. You know, for years, the weightlifting, every ounce is like a big deal for many years. All of a sudden, somebody comes along and beats it by 100 pounds.”

“Now, young girls and women are incensed that they are now being forced to compete against those who are biological males,” Trump continued. “It’s not good for women. It’s not good for women’s sports, which worked so long and so hard to get to where they are. The records that stood for years, even decades, are now being smashed with ease, smashed. If this is not changed, women’s sports, as we know it, will die, they’ll end, it’ll end. What coach, if I’m a coach, you know, I want to be a great coach, what coach, as an example, wants to recruit a young woman to compete if her record can easily be broken by somebody who was born a man? Not too many of those coaches around, right? If they are around, they won’t be around long because they’re gonna have a big problem when the record is, ‘We’re 0-16, but we’re getting better.’ No, I think it’s crazy, I think it’s just crazy what’s happening. We must protect the integrity of women’s sports — so important.”

“Is that controversial?” Trump asked as the audience cheered.

I’m waiting to read a defense of men — and dress however they like, and get whatever surgery like, anyone who was born XY will be a man until he dies — competing in women’s sports.