Category: Wisconsin politics

The complete and total incompetence of government, no matter who is in charge

Heather Mac Donald:

Over the last four months, Americans have lived through what is arguably the most consequential period of government malfeasance in U.S. history. Public officials’ overreaction to the novel coronavirus put American cities into a coma; those same officials’ passivity in the face of widespread rioting threatens to deliver the coup de grâce. Together, these back-to-back governmental failures will transform the Ameri- can polity and cripple urban life for decades.

Before store windows started shattering in the name of racial justice, urban existence was already on life support, thanks to the coronavirus lockdowns. Small businesses—the restaurants and shops that are the lifeblood of cities—were shuttered, many for good, leaving desolate rows of “For Rent” signs on street after street in New York City and elsewhere. Americans huddled in their homes for months on end, believing that if they went outside, death awaited them.

This panic was occasioned by epidemiological models predicting wildly unlikely fatalities from the coronavirus.

On March 30, the infamous Imperial College London model predicted 2.2 million deaths in the U.S. by September 1, absent government action. That prediction was absurd on its face, given the dispersal of the U.S. population and the fact that China’s coronavirus death toll had already levelled off at a few thousand. The authors of that study soon revised it radically downwards.

Too late. It had already become the basis for the exercise of unprecedented government power. California was the first state to lock down its economy and confine its citizens to their homes; eventually almost every other state would follow suit, under enormous media pressure to do so.

Never before had public officials required millions of lawful businesses to shut their doors, throwing tens of millions of people out of work. They did so at the command of one particular group of experts—those in the medical and public health fields—who viewed their mandate as eliminating one particular health risk with every means put at their disposal. If the politicians who followed their advice weighed a greater set of considerations, balancing the potential harm from the virus against the harm from the shutdowns, they showed no sign of it. Instead, governors and mayors started rolling out one emergency decree after another to terminate economic activity, seemingly heedless of the consequences.

The lockdown mandates employed mind-numbingly arbitrary distinctions. Wine stores and pot dispensaries were deemed “essential” and thus allowed to stay open; medical offices were required to close. Large grocery stores got the green light; small retail establishments with only a few customers each day were out of luck. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer notoriously used her red pen within megastores to bar the sale of seeds, gardening supplies, and paint.

It was already clear when these crushing mandates started pouring forth that shutting down every corner of the country was a reckless overreaction. By mid-March, two weeks before the Imperial College model was published, Italian health data showed that the coronavirus was terribly lethal to a very small subset of the population—the elderly infirm—and a minor health problem to nearly everyone else who was not already severely ill. The median age of coronavirus decedents in Italy was 80, and they died with a median of nearly three comorbidities, such as heart disease and diabetes. The lead author of the Imperial College model has admitted that up to two-thirds of all coronavirus fatalities would have died from their comorbidities by the end of 2020 anyway.

Three months later, this profile of coronavirus casualties still holds true. Public health interventions could have been targeted at that highly vulnerable population without forcing the American economy into a death spiral.

DISINFORMATION

By now it is impossible to attribute the media’s failure to publicize the facts about the coronavirus to mere oversight.

Every story that does not mention, preferably at the top, the vast overrep- resentation of nursing home deaths in the coronavirus death count—above 50 percent in many countries and 80 percent in several of our states—is a story that is deliberately concealing the truth. Casual readers and viewers have been left with the false impression that everyone is equally at risk, and thus that draconian measures are justified.

The media have been equally unin- terested in the scientific evidence regarding outdoor transmission. Coronavirus infections require what Japan calls the three Cs: confined spaces, crowded places, and close contact. The fleeting encounters on sidewalks and public parks that char- acterize much of city life simply do not result in transmission. And yet if you briskly approach someone on one of Manhattan’s broad and now empty sidewalks, the oncoming pedestrian may lunge into the street or press up against the closest wall in abject fear if you are not wearing a mask. You may be cursed at.

The public health establishment has been equally complicitous in creat- ing this widespread ignorance. It has failed to stress at every opportunity that for the vast majority of the public, the coronavirus is at most an inconve- nience. The public health experts did not disclose that outdoors was the safest place to be and that people should get out of their homes and into the fresh air.

Not coincidentally, the experts’ new- found power over nearly every aspect of American life was dependent on the maintenance of fear.

While the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus has been demographically circumscribed and lower than the previous flu pandemics of 1968, 1956, and 1918 when adjusted for population, the economic toll has cut across every sector of the country and every population group. Whole industries have seen their capital wiped out overnight.

Despite a better than expected employment report in early June, the long-term effects of the shutdowns and the continuing mandates to socially distance will prevent a full economic recovery for years to come. 

As of this week the death rate of Wisconsinites who test positive is 0.9 percent. The idiot governor Evers this week asked for Wisconsinites to voluntarily lock themselves down. Since Evers’ statewide mask mandate took effect Aug. 1 the number of coronavirus positive tests has nearly quadrupled. And yet it seems likely that Americans will vote for candidates to destroy the economy further because they are cowards afraid of dying, when, to quote Jim Morrison, no one here gets out alive.

 

 

The AWOL Assembly

James Wigderson:

On Tuesday, Governor Tony Evers (D) used the powers of his latest executive order regarding the Covid-19 pandemic to limit occupancy to 25% for the next month for bars, restaurants and other public spaces.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) issued the following statement in response on Wednesday:

“Cooperation and collaboration are essential to fight this pandemic. The surge of cases and hospitalizations is real. We need everyone to work together to contain the virus: follow CDC guidelines, wear a mask, wash your hands, and maintain social distancing. I applaud the efforts at the local and county levels for their targeted measures and thank the scores of health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic.

“With respect to Emergency Order #3, the governor and secretary-designee may have good intentions but they’re disregarding the law as set forth in the state Supreme Court ruling, Legislature v. Palm. We are confident that if challenged, a Wisconsin judge would find this order invalid as an unpromulgated rule. We are asking Secretary-Designee Palm to submit an emergency rule immediately to the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules as required by law. 

“With cases once again rising, it’s clear the governor’s go-it-alone, grab bag approach to responding to the coronavirus has been a failure. We must work together in order to keep our businesses open and our citizens safe. We would like to request a meeting with the governor as soon as possible to discuss answers to deal with the virus, especially solutions that don’t result in families going bankrupt and thousands being added to the unemployment lines.”

The legislature has the power to repeal Evers’ executive order if both houses pass a joint resolution. The Wisconsin Senate has been prepared to act since Evers’ began issuing a second round of executive orders in July. However, the Assembly has been reluctant to act, relying instead on a lawsuit filed by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL).

An injunction against Evers’ executive order, effectively ending a statewide mask mandate, was requested in September by WILL. Legislative leaders filed a brief in support of the lawsuit on Friday.

That case, Lindoo v. Evers, had a hearing this week. St. Croix County Judge Michael Waterman wondered why he should do anything about the executive order when the legislature has the power to overturn Evers’ order but chose not to.

“They’re asking the third branch of government — the judiciary — to step in and exercise a power that the Legislature reserved to itself,” said Waterman, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. “The court is being asked to do that when the Legislature has apparently chosen for one reason or another not to act.”

It’s a good question.

Vos and his fellow Republicans in the Assembly have a Constitutional role, too. If Vos really believes the governor is acting in an unconstitutional manner, the legislature can do something about it – and they have an obligation to do so.

Indeed, it’s worth reminding Vos and his fellow Republicans that, despite the Speaker’s statement, there is no guarantee of victory in the courts. Given Waterman’s statement, the lawsuit to overturn Evers’ executive order could be stopped simply because the legislature refused to follow the process of repealing the order.

Even if the case gets out of Waterman’s St. Croix courtroom, the last Supreme Court victory by the legislature over Evers’ abuse of his executive orders was a 4-3 decision with conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn joining the liberal minority. The composition of the court has changed with the replacement of conservative Justice Dan Kelly with liberal Justice Jill Karofsky, putting the focus back on Hagedorn.

The only sure way for Evers’ emergency order to be overturned, if Vos truly believes that it is unconstitutional, is for the legislature to act.

Let’s concede that Vos is not in an easy position. The latest Marquette University Law School poll showed 72% support a mask requirement in all public places, over 60% in every region of the state, while just 26% disagree with a mask mandate. On the flip side, a plurality of Republicans, 49% to 47%, oppose the statewide mask mandate.

The GOP is in a trap of their own making. Had the legislature acted in August to repeal Evers’ mask mandate order and then passed their own plan to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, they would be in a better place now. Instead, Evers’ is using the leeway granted by the legislature to effectively kill many of Wisconsin’s bars and restaurants to try to contain the outbreak.

And yes, the governor is playing politics with the pandemic. He could meet with legislative leaders to work out a compromise that would pass the legislature. Instead, we’re likely to get a continued stalemate even if the two sides do meet, as Vos called for in his statement. (We might even get another possibly illegal recording of the conversation for which the governor still has to answer.)

But Assembly Republicans can still act this week to repeal Evers’ executive order and show leadership with their own plan for dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. Vos’ statement about following the CDC guidelines sounds like he’s serious about tackling the issue. In the past, the GOP has claimed to support a regional approach to fighting the pandemic. If there is any semblance of a GOP plan to combat the pandemic, the voters deserve to learn what it is.

The response by the GOP is especially needed now as the number of hospitalized Covid-19 threatens to strain our hospital system to the breaking point.

Instead of following the worst instincts of the faction of the GOP that believes nothing should be done about the exploding number of Covid-19 cases, it’s time for Vos to lead. That means from the front, not following the backside of his party’s crazy faction.

I disagree with Wigderson about that “crazy faction.” (Wigderson must be channeling his inner Charlie Sykes.) There is nothing state government can do that will stop the coronavirus from growing in this state. For that matter, there is nothing the federal government, regardless of who is president, that will stop the coronavirus from growing in this country. Evers’ Safer at Home orders did not stop COVID. The mask mandate didn’t stop it. (COVID positive tests have more than doubled since the mask mandate began Aug. 1.) The 25-percent order will only mean that 25 percent of state businesses will survive the pandemic; it won’t even slow down the coronavirus. Given the effectiveness rate of new vaccines and the annual flu vaccine, COVID-19 is not going to be stopped by any vaccine either.

It is time, however, for the Legislature to stop bending over for Evers and to stop him.

Funny numbers

M.D. Kittle:

As Gov. Tony Evers and his COVID doom squad push their agenda of panic, the Department of Health Services’ death count is coming under fire.

Milwaukee County’s chief medical examiner told WISN 12 News the state’s pandemic death total includes more than 100 people who had COVID-19 but died primarily of other causes.

Dr. Brian Peterson said his office strictly counts COVID-19 deaths, but the state includes in its total COVID fatality figures “other significant conditions” on the death certificate.

“They’re simply lumping everything into one basket, so if they have COVID anywhere on a death certificate, they’re calling that a COVID related death. I don’t believe that’s true,” Peterson told the Milwaukee ABC News affiliate.

Those inflated numbers are being used by DHS and local health officers — and enterprising politicians — to push their power to restrict individual liberty and scare the hell out of the public. No wonder so many Wisconsinites are skeptical of the people in power who are supposed to be acting in the public’s interest.

“It is imperative that state government ensures that all levels of government responsible for collecting this very important data are all singing from the same choir book on what a COVID death is,” said state Sen. Dave Craig (R-Town of Vernon). Failing to do so, the lawmaker said, could do “major further harm in how state government reacts to virus information.”

As of Thursday, DHS reported there have been 1,348 COVID-related deaths since the outbreak in March. It was an increase of 21 deaths from the day before.

But Milwaukee County’s medical examiner will tell you that at least 100 of those deaths resulted from other causes lumped into the same basket.

DHS reported 538 total COVID-19 deaths in Milwaukee County as of Thursday.

The inflation problem goes back to the beginning of the pandemic.

It’s the comorbidity effect — the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases. When serious health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease meet COVID-19, well, it can be like throwing gasoline on a fire.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean COVID is the primary cause of death.

As Wisconsin Spotlight reported in May, Milwaukee County Medical Examiners office data obtained by CRG Network (Citizens for Responsible Government) found that residents 65 and over made up 75 percent of 193 COVID-19-related deaths in Milwaukee County. All but four of the victims had at least one underlying health condition.

Underlying conditions included cancer, COPD, heart attacks, stroke, congestive heart failure. Many of the victims were obese, many morbidly obese. The No. 1 comorbidity among the deceased was high blood pressure; No. 2 was diabetes.

“Moreover, 78% of intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and 94% of deaths (where complete information on underlying conditions or risk factors was available) occurred in those with at least one underlying health condition,” the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology reported in May.

DHS acknowledges that they’re dumping comorbidity deaths into the COVID-19 pot.

“If COVID-19 is listed as a contributing factor by the medical examiner, we will include that,” said Traci DeSalvo, of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, told WISN.

In a mealy-mouthed reply, DeSalvo said policymakers should look at the mix of morbidity in issuing their public health decisions. But neither the Evers administration or much of the press does when reporting the data. They simply report that someone died of COVID-19, when that may not be the case.

But the reporting problem could be worse.

In June, when Walworth County citizens were pushing back on a proposed oppressive health ordinance, Dave Overbeek, a long-time member of the Richmond Town Board, told county supervisors that a friend of his who lived in Walworth County but died of COVID-19-related causes in Milwaukee County was counted as a death in both counties.

As the numbers appear to rise, Evers and unelected bureaucrats issue more restrictions based on inflated pandemic numbers.

Craig said that practice has got to stop.

“It needs to be succinct, uniform and accurate,” the lawmaker said of the data. 

Apparently the state has to be hectored or embarrassed into more accurate counting. The MacIver Institute:

The timing couldn’t be worse for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Hours after its reporter, Eric Litke, attempted to discredit a MacIver study about a mistake DHS was making in calculating the COVID-19 positivity rate – DHS adopted MacIver’s recommendations.

Last week, MacIver published the study that explained why DHS has excluded some 600,000 test results in its daily COVID-19 positive test rate, also called positivity.

DHS was using a flawed formula that has resulted in a wildly exaggerated positivity rate. It takes the number of new positive cases and divides it by the number of people getting tested for the first time. It excludes the results from anyone who has ever been tested before – unless those people have tested positive for the first time.

MacIver recommended DHS begin calculating the daily positivity rate using each day’s number of positive test results and total number of test results. No results would be excluded using this method, producing a more accurate result.

DHS began calculating Wisconsin’s daily positivity rate using MacIver’s recommendations on Wednesday morning.

DHS began calculating Wisconsin’s daily positivity rate using MacIver’s recommendations on Wednesday morning.

The Journal Sentinel, Erik Litke, and Politifact had just rated MacIver’s study “pants on fire” the night before. To do so, Litke rewrote the study’s key points, and then proceeded to dispute them. This is widely known as a “strawman” fallacy.

The fact that DHS was only considering the results from people being tested for the first time is key to understanding why so many results had been tossed and why Wisconsin’s daily positivity rate was wrong. Litke omitted this key fact.

“DHS calculates percent positivity by dividing the number of people with positive test results by the number of people tested in a given span,” Litke wrote.

As the MacIver study explained, DHS did this to avoid counting the same individual cases more than once. Unfortunately, that method resulted in an inflated positivity rate. MacIver did not dispute that the rate was increasing regardless of what method was used.

Litke pointed to Johns Hopkins University. It calculates positivity by taking the number of people who test positive and dividing it by the total number of people tested. DHS did not do this. It disregarded everyone who was not being tested for the first time.

Litke also pointed to the CDC. It calculates positivity by taking the total number of positive tests and dividing it by the total number of test results. DHS did not do this. It only considered new test results from people being tested for the first time. It did not take the “total number.”

Litke asserted that Wisconsin was using an optional method described on CDC’s website.

“Some states use Wisconsin’s approach, dividing the number of people with positive tests by the number of people tested,” he wrote.

This method only works to calculate the overall rate. It does not work when calculating the daily rate, as Wisconsin was doing.

If DHS used this “people-to-people” method to calculate the overall rate, Wisconsin would have a positivity rate of 7.8%. However, Wisconsin used the CDC’s formula to calculate the daily rate, which the formula is not designed to do. It became, essentially, the “cases-to-new people” method. DHS took these incorrect daily rates and produced a rolling average. That gave Wisconsin a positivity rate of 19%.

The method recommended by MacIver resulted in a 9.4% rate for Sep. 29th, which is higher than the 7.8% result from the “people-to-people” method. However, this daily rate is more useful than an overall rate, because it focuses on the current situation. The overall rate will always go up, because the overall total number cases can never decrease. The “new people” rate will become more and more inaccurate as fewer and fewer people exist who have never been tested before.

In an attempt to support the “new people” method, Litke used the false argument that it must be correct because other states appear to be doing the same thing. If those states are applying this method the same way Wisconsin did, their rates are also incorrect.

Litke also believes that DHS’ method was sound because they’ve been using the same method all along. By that logic, there’s no difference between accuracy and consistency. This position is both absurd and ignorant. MacIver never claimed DHS changed its method.

If a navigator makes a mistake at the beginning of a journey, it might appear he is heading in the right direction for a while, but eventually the ship will miss its destination by hundreds of miles. DHS is that navigator, and the daily positivity rate is the ship. It’s getting harder to cover up the initial mistake. The Sentinel is sure trying though.

The new chart on DHS’ website shows how this concept played out with Wisconsin’s positivity rates. The “new people” formula and the correct formula yielded similar results until people began getting retested in great numbers – in mid-June. From then on, the error of the “new people” formula became increasingly worse. By continuing to post the positivity rate results from the “new people” formula, DHS helps illustrate how inaccurate that calculation is. …

“While the two lines follow similar trajectory, you’ll see that they began to split off around mid-June. The 7-day percent positive by person is higher, while the percent positive by test is lower. This is likely because at this point in the pandemic, testing capacity had increased to the point where repeated testing was becoming more commonplace,” DHS explains.

MacIver’s study explained having an accurate positivity rate was important because it was one of six gating requirements the Evers Administration used to make public health policy decisions. DHS has now removed the gating requirements from its website as of Wednesday morning.

All of this puts Eric Litke, PolitiFact, and the Journal Sentinel in a very difficult position. Should they retract the “Pants on Fire” rating they gave to MacIver’s study? After DHS’ shift, they really have no choice.

Why college newspaper experience isn’t always helpful

UW-Madison student Tripp Grebe:

The recent murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police, and the riots and protests that have followed, have forged an essential discussion on police brutality that has been long in the making. In the past, many of us have responded to publicized incidents of police brutality by giving officers the benefit of the doubt because we believe that the other side of the story will justify their actions. We must now reckon that the “other side of the story” does not always absolve police officers’ of wrongdoing. For the first time, many of us now stare directly into the eyes of police brutality’s harsh existence, the same existence that Black people have known to be true their entire lives.

The reignition of the Black Lives Matter movement was undoubtedly justifiable, expected, and necessary in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. As the movement gains steam, it forces us to have difficult conversations and continue to stare into the eyes of police brutality’s existence.

Naturally, the recent movement has stirred up intense passion, coupled with anger and frustration – which is a good thing. How could someone not watch the horrific video of George Floyd’s murder and not be angry? What’s not so good is the burning desire that many Americans have to argue with one another. We’ve seen this desire play out as cancel culture’s recent growth has swarmed and infested public and private life.

We should take solace in the fact that virtually all Americans agree – police brutality is a problem, and police reform is necessary. The idea that a vast swath of the country rejects this idea is unfounded. A CBS News poll recently found that 91% of Americans believe that police reform is necessary. We have been witnesses to the spawning of a significant culture shift in our country, and that’s a good thing.

The vast majority of Americans believe that if we want communities, particularly the African American community, to feel protected against gross negligence and abuse of power, police reform must be pursued and enacted. While we’re virtually all in agreement on the problem, the discourse begins when deliberating the solutions to the problem.

In Wisconsin, we’ve seen the calls for police reform amplified, peacefully and violently, in its two largest cities, Milwaukee and Madison. If you’re from Wisconsin, you know that the state’s residents typically don’t share the same grievances as those who live in the Milwaukee and Madison area.

Despite this, rallies and marches against police brutality have occurred across the entire state since the death of George Floyd. The grievances against police brutality are not limited to Milwaukee and Madison area residents, as towns across the state such as OshkoshAppletonPlatteville, and Kenosha have seen residents join in the fight against police brutality.

Since this issue is not specific to any part of the state, the state’s Assembly, Senate, and Governor must expostulate with one another to address police brutality. People can post on their Instagram stories all they want. Still, no structural change will be created without thoughtful, comprehensive legislation at the state level.

So, what should police reform look like?

The call to “Defund the Police” has been thrust into the forefront of the police reform debate.
In Milwaukee and Madison, street murals reading “Defund the Police” have been painted in giant yellow letters on major city streets. The Milwaukee Common Council is exploring a 10% budget reduction to the police department that would amount to a nearly $30-million-dollar budget cut. State Rep. David Bowen, (D-Milwaukee), and State Rep. Jonathan Brostoff, (D-Milwaukee) have come out in support of Defunding the Police.

This is a bad idea. The majority of the money allotted to police budgets goes towards the officer’s salaries. If we decide to pay our officers less, they have less incentive to do their job well. If we pay officers more, they have an incentive to perform at a high level in efforts to maintain a high paying job. The National Economic Bureau even found statistical evidence that when officers are paid more, their performance increases.

If we’re expecting police officers to be better, why would we be taking money away from them? When schools are failing, we don’t “Defund Schools,” we give them more money and implement new plans to ensure their success. The city of Milwaukee has been defunding the police department for years. This past year the city cut the department’s budget by 60 officers, and the homicide rate in Milwaukee has more than doubled.

We should increase funding for police departments. The solution to police brutality is better policing, not less policing. We should be training our officers more. By paying more and training more, we can improve the performance of our local police officers.

In addition to increasing funding for police departments, the state should extend Act 10 to cover police unions. Police unions present the same danger that other public section unions present; they place their members’ interests over the broader community. Police unions around the country have lobbied against greater transparency in day-to-day policing, public record laws that would make filed complaints against officers’ public, merit-based pay, and banning contracts with private trainers.

Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin), passed the controversial union reform Act in 2011. However, the Act did not apply to police unions. The Act restricted collective bargaining, ended mandatory union dues, and required contributions to benefits. The implementation of Act 10 allowed school districts to evaluate teacher’s disciplinary decisions on an individual basis and not worry about letting a lousy teacher go even if they had tenure. The same would be true if Act 10 were extended to police unions. Instead of an officer being shielded by the union, the department could evaluate disciplinary decisions on an individual basis and have the ability to fire the officer for any wrongdoing.

Under the Milwaukee Police Union contract, officers can only be interrogated during certain hours of the day, which leaves the officers time to get their story straight. Last year, 93 Milwaukee police officers were disciplined for egregious misconduct, but all kept their jobs. If Act 10 were extended to police unions, it would have the same effect that it’s had on teachers’ unions. It would provide departments the ability to promote their officers based on performance, not age. And the ability to individually evaluate the misconduct of their officers without police union protection. All in all, extending Act 10 to police unions would make for a more accountable and effective police force.

As we continue to stare directly into the eyes of police brutality’s harsh existence, let’s continue to fight for solutions. Let’s increase training and funding for police while extending Act 10 to cover police unions. By creating a more prepared, effective, and accountable police force, we can take the first step in helping the African American community feel protected against abuse of power from which George Floyd suffered.

Grebe wrote that for the Badger Herald, which when I was a UW student was the campus’ independent and conservative newspaper. Apparently that is no longer the case, as the College Fix reports:

The Badger Herald, one of two student newspapers at the University of Wisconsin Madison, has dismissed a columnist following his submission of an op-ed that argued against defunding the police and instead spelled out ways to reform police departments.

Tripp Grebe, its author, called for better pay, better training, and police union reforms.

“If we’re expecting police officers to be better, why would we be taking money away from them? When schools are failing, we don’t ‘Defund Schools,’ we give them more money and implement new plans to ensure their success,” Grebe wrote in his submission.

“The city of Milwaukee has been defunding the police department for years. This past year the city cut the department’s budget by 60 officers, and the homicide rate in Milwaukee has more than doubled,” he argued. “… As we continue to stare directly into the eyes of police brutality’s harsh existence, let’s continue to fight for solutions. Let’s increase training and funding for police while extending Act 10 to cover police unions.”

After he submitted it, he was told by the Herald’s opinion editor Samiha Bhushan via email in late August that although the piece was “well written” that it was “too much of a hot take,” and that upper management of the paper was worried it may “alienate” incoming freshmen, according to a screenshot of the email.

“Additionally,” the email continues, “we just posted an editorial board supporting BLM and another article publicly endorsing two candidates who want to defund the police. As a result, your article would cause a lot of backlash that we cannot afford right now.”

Bhushan said if Grebe was open to edits, there was a chance it may be able to run.

But a later email from upper management at the paper changed tune, next suggesting that the issue with Grebe’s piece was solely with sourcing, despite the piece containing nearly 20 different sources from news outlets such as CBS News, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the National Economic Bureau.

Grebe was later dismissed from the Herald via email after they were tipped off to an inquiry on the issue by the Young America’s Foundation. YAF originally reached out to UW media affairs division, which apparently alerted the campus paper of the situation.

“It is of the utmost importance that our work is accurately and relevantly sourced,” reads Grebe’s dismissal letter, “your column was not, hence our decision not to publish this column.”

In a statement to YAF, Badger Herald Editor in Chief Harrison Freuk defended the paper’s decision, saying their emails to Grebe were unclear; he denied that their pro-BLM editorials had anything to do with not running the column, and instead told YAF it was a matter of Grebe’s column containing “inaccurate/irrelevant information.”

Freuk did not respond to a request from The College Fix seeking comment.

On their website, the Badger Herald describes itself as “the nation’s largest fully independent student newspaper,” and states it published items that “reflect the interests and tastes of the University of Wisconsin community.”

Grebe was arguably the most prominent conservative opinion voice at the Herald, which has published five of his op-eds this year, such as the “Constitution should be interpreted as written, not as public opinion changes” and “While racialized attacks are unjustified, Chinese government mishandled COVID-19 pandemic.”

Grebe told The Fix he “enjoyed being the only conservative columnist for a publication like the Badger Herald.

“It’s frustrating that my column was censored because its viewpoint was different from the paper’s editorial stance. Like any writer, I want to work for a paper that will permit me to express my viewpoint in a responsible way without being required to change my opinion to satisfy others,” he said via email.

“It was disappointing to see the Badger Herald editorial staff claim my article wasn’t published due to a sourcing issue, once the story became public,” Grebe continued. “The Herald made it very clear both in their emails and when I met with them personally, that my article was well written and there was no sourcing issue.”

UW-Madison has not improved since my graduation.

All-mail elections? What could possibly go wrong?

Already before the Nov. 3 election we are finding out the things that can go wrong with mail-in ballots.

First, American Military News:

The FBI and the Pennsylvania State Police, investigating reports of issues with mail-in ballots at the Luzerne County Board of Elections in Pennsylvania, have recovered a number of discarded military ballots.

The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday announced the findings of their ongoing inquiry. According to the DOJ, officials recovered nine military ballots so far, all of which were cast in support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The DOJ states the investigation has been ongoing since Monday and Election officials in Luzerne County have been cooperative.

It is unclear from the DOJ statement why the ballots were discarded and where they were found. The DOJ said some of the discarded ballots could be attributed to specific voters and others could not.

“Our inquiry remains ongoing and we expect later today to share our up to date findings with officials in Luzerne County,” the DOJ statement reads. “It is the vital duty of government to ensure that every properly cast vote is counted.”

The news of the discarded ballots comes as Trump has raised concerns, on multiple occasions, about the potential for problems with widespread mail-in balloting.

Katie Pavlich adds:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has found a number of mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania discarded in the trash. They were ballots cast for President Donald Trump.

Next, WFRV-TV in Green Bay:

The Office of Inspector General is conducting an investigation after a box of mail was found in a ditch in Outagamie County.

According to a social media post shared with WFRV Local 5, the box was found on Tuesday and turned over to the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Office.

WFRV Local 5 reached out to the U.S. Postal Service for comment. Officials provided us with this statement:

We are aware of some mail, including absentee ballots, recovered in Greenville, Outagamie County earlier this week. The United States Postal Inspection Service has asked the Office of Inspector General (OIG) to conduct an investigation regarding these issues. The Postal Service will respond to the OIG findings once the investigation is concluded. We have no further information to provide at this time.

There have been some concerns over mail-in ballots in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

A federal judge recently ruled that absentee ballots in Wisconsin can be counted up to six days after the Nov. 3 presidential election as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature appealed the ruling. …

In April, Wisconsin election officials announced they were working with the U.S. Postal Service to locate absentee ballots that never made it to voters in time, including three bins in the Oshkosh and Appleton area. Wolfe said because absentee ballots had to be postmarked by Tuesday, those voters who didn’t vote in person but not have any recourse.

 

The self-defense case

Tucker Carlson:

There was an enormous amount of video shot that night in Kenosha, mostly by citizens with iPhones. We have video of all three of the shootings Kyle Rittenhouse was involved in. Critically, we also have video of the moments that preceded those shootings, the context. We’ve already showed some of that video to you but tonight, we will show you more. New never before seen footage of Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha. Now, what you’re about to see comes from the non-profit “Fight Back” that was formed by Rittenhouse’s defamation attorney, Lynn Wood. For the last month, there’s been an enormous amount of propaganda surrounding this case and virtually all of it has come from the left. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts for example, denounced Kyle Rittenhouse as ‘a white supremacist domestic terrorist.’

Now, there’s no evidence that is true. There never has been any evidence, it’s a lie so far as we know. So the questions is, what else are they lying about? Tonight we will show you context from that night and we’re going to let you decide what happened. Here to begin, is video of Kyle Rittenhouse hours before the shootings took place. Now again, what you are about to see comes from a group, a nonprofit, founded by Kyle Rittenhouse’s defamation attorney. Here it is.

NARRATOR: To prevent the total destruction of their community, good Samaritans united to guard local businesses. Among them was 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse.

KYLE RITTENHOUSE: So people are getting injured. Our job is to protect this business and part of my job is also helping people. If there’s somebody hurt, I am running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle, because I need to protect myself obviously, but I also have my med kit.

NARRATOR: Earlier that day, Rittenhouse volunteered to remove graffiti from [a] high school in Kenosha.

[END VIDEO]

CARLSON: That was the day and then night came. Kyle Rittenhouse found himself in downtown Kenosha in the middle of a riot. He wound up face-to-face with a convicted child molester called Joseph Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum was there protesting on behalf of BLM, apparently he was committing arson. What happened next between the two of them is graphic, but if you want to understand how Joseph Rosenbaum died that night, it’s important to see it. Here it is.

[BEGIN VIDEO]

NARRATOR: Joseph Rosenbaum is seen starting more fires. Around that same time, Kyle Rittenhouse was spotted running with a fire extinguisher. With his face concealed, Rosenbaum emerges, chasing after Kyle Rittenhouse. A single gun shot is fired by a protester identified as Alexander Blain. From this angle, we see the muzzle flash of Blain’s handgun. Seconds later, Kyle Rittenhouse is pinned between parked cars. Directly in front of Rittenhouse, armed with bats and other weapons, a mob is forming a barricade. With no way out and no way to know who fired that shot, Kyle Rittenhouse turns to face Rosenbaum. Kyle Rittenhouse fired four shots. Seconds later, three additional shots are fired by an unknown shooter. One bullet grazed Joseph Rosenbaum’s head, another penetrated his right groin, his left thigh, and his back. With a total of eight shots fired, it remains unclear that all four of his wounds were caused by Rittenhouse.

[END VIDEO]

CARLSON: So to restate what we know, Kyle Rittenhouse fired four shots initially that night. Another four were fired. We still don’t know who fired them all, no one else has been arrested or charged. At this point, the mob turns on Kyle Rittenhouse. They assault him, it’s clear they plan to kill him. Kyle Rittenhouse runs, they follow, Rittenhouse trips and falls, they attack him, he shoots. It’s all on video. Watch.

[BEGIN VIDEO]

MALE #1, UNKNOWN: Hey, what are you doing? You shot somebody?

RITTENHOUSE: I’m going to get the police.

NARRATOR: An unidentified protester strikes Rittenhouse in the head, knocking his hat off. Rittenhouse trips and falls to the ground, another protester attempts to jump on Rittenhouse who then fires two shots into the air. With blunt force, another protester strikes Rittenhouse in the back of the head with a sharp edge of a skateboard, then reaches for the rifle. Rittenhouse fires a single shot striking the man in the chest. A third protester fakes as if he is surrendering, then suddenly has a handgun aimed at Rittenhouse. A single shot strikes the man’s right bicep. While visiting him in the hospital, a friend of [the man who was shot in the bicep] posted the following photo and statement on social media: “I just talked to Gaige Grosskreutz too. His only regret was not killing the kid and hesitating to pull the gun before emptying the entire mag into him.

CARLSON: So that’s what happened that night in Kenosha.

Tony Evers’ bad math

The MacIver Institute:

A fundamental flaw in how the Evers’ Administration calculates Wisconsin’s daily COVID-19 positive test rate has excluded hundreds of thousands of test results and led to a wildly distorted picture of the state’s progress in confronting the virus.

The positive test rate is important, because it is one of six gating criteria the Evers’ Administration uses to make public health policy decisions that affect the entire state. Specifically, the requirement is for the “Downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period.”

Throughout August and September, Wisconsin’s positive test rate steadily increased from a weekly average of 6.2% to 19% (as of Sep. 21st).

The number of new people with a positive test result each day is less important, but gets more attention. That’s not surprising because the Department of Health Services (DHS) posts the number of new positive cases each day prominently at the top of its summary dashboard, while one must hunt for the actual test rate on the page.

As the test rate has steadily ticked up over the past two months, Wisconsin has had five record setting days for the number of new positive cases. Most of the increase has occurred among the 18-24 age group and is tied to college campuses. That’s where public officials are now focusing their efforts, but not every reporter has forgotten the importance of the rate.

“What’s behind the rise in percent positive rates?” Wispolitics’ Stephanie Hoff bluntly asked Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Wisconsin’s Chief Medical Officer on Sep. 15.

This systematic error means DHS is tossing hundreds of thousands of negative test results when calculating the positive test rate. The real rate could be half of what DHS claims.

“Well, it’s a ratio so it has two components: the numerator – the top number of course is the number of positive cases,” he replied. “The bottom number of the ratio is the denominator. That’s the number of people that have been tested overall.”

This was an incredible admission. If the goal is to calculate the daily positive test rate, then DHS is using the wrong numerator and denominator. What they’re actually calculating is the daily percentage of new COVID-19 cases among those who have never been tested before – a fairly meaningless statistic. It is not the positive test rate.

On that same day, Sep. 15th, DHS recorded the rate as 11%. That was calculated by comparing 1,352 new cases to 12,266 new people tested. However, there were almost 20,000 tests collected that day. If DHS compared that day’s number of positive tests to the total number of test results, the rate would have been much lower – possibly as low as 6.7%. They’ve been making this same mistake since the spring.

This systematic error means DHS is tossing hundreds of thousands of negative test results when calculating the positive test rate. The real rate could be half of what DHS claims.

Origin of the Error

When it first started collecting COVID-19 data, DHS recognized that people were getting tested multiple times. Some people tested positive for the virus one week, and then still had it when they were retested a week later. If the department wasn’t careful, it might be accidentally count single cases of COVID-19 over and over, and include them in the official tally. That would inflate Wisconsin’s total COVID-19 cases – a mistake that surely would be caught.

The department decided on a data collection method that would pick and choose which test results to use. Dr. Westergaard explained the reasoning during a June 11th press conference.

“Our data report individuals tested. So, if an individual is tested more than once because they were being followed to see if they cleared the infection or if they were tested a couple times weeks apart, they would be considered a single case and not multiple cases in our data,” Westergaard explained.

DHS acknowledges this method on its data summary dashboard. The fine print plainly states “Multiple tests per person are not included in these summary statistics.”

And so, every day DHS compares the number of new COVID-19 cases to the number of people who were tested for the first time to determine the positive test rate. Under this method, it throws away the results for everyone that has ever been tested before. That means every day thousands of negative test results are not included in the rate calculation.

DHS has discarded hundreds of thousands of results since it began reporting COVID-19 data. Most people who are tested for COVID-19 receive negative test results.

As the pool of people who have never been tested before continues to shrink, the number of negative results getting tossed will naturally increase. Subsequently the positive test rate will continue to artificially rise.

Scope of the Error

Each day’s positive test rate needs to be calculated using all the test results from that day. Only DHS can correct this error, because only it has access to all the test results.

Although DHS’ website is filled with all kinds of COVID-19 related data – it does not post the total number of test results it receives each day. However, it does report the number of total tests collected by health care professionals across the state each day. That figure cannot be used to calculate the daily rate, because there is a lag from the time a test is collected and when the results come back.

Each day’s positive test rate needs to be calculated using all the test results from that day.

However, we can still get a good look at the problem using weekly averages.

Altogether, there have been approximately 2.1 million tests, 1.4 million people tested, and 101,321 positive cases (as of Sep. 20th). Using DHS’ flawed methodology, officials have tossed around 600,000 test results in calculating the daily positive test rate. That results in an overall rate of 7%, while the real rate could be as low as 4.8%.

That might not seem like a big difference overall. However, public officials aren’t looking at the big picture. They’re looking at this rate on a day-to-day basis, and only 14 days back. The inherent flaws in DHS’ formula means the difference between the official rate and the real rate consistently grows.

When DHS first began collecting COVID-19 data, no one had been tested before, and few results were discarded. At that time, the rate calculated by DHS would have been fairly accurate.

However, as time goes on, more and more people are re-tested. That means more and more results are thrown out. Inevitably the rate will become more and more inaccurate unless DHS corrects its calculations.

Testing Capacity

The cracks in DHS’ methodology are beginning to show.

The Evers Administration is increasingly confronted with questions it cannot answer (even when the answers are right on DHS’ website.)

For example, some reporters have noticed that the state’s lab capacity is much higher than – what they believe to be – the number of new test results each day.

In August, lab capacity was around 26,000 tests a day, and an average of 15,600 test were administered each day. That meant labs were running at about 60% capacity. In September, lab capacity increased to 38,000 tests a day, and an average of 20,685 tests were administered each day. That meant labs were running at about 54% capacity. However, the way DHS presents its data could lead some to believe there are only around 10,000 tests being administered each day – or about 26 – 38%.

“Why do we continue to be at a quarter the rate of testing capacity? Is it a shortage of supplies or people just not getting tested?” a reporter asked Palm at a press conference on Sep. 16th.

“This is certainly a complicated question and therefor a complicated answer and some of it is just speculation,” Palm replied.

Clearly, the reporter had confused or did not realize that the number of new people being tested is different from the number of tests being collected. Palm had the opportunity to correct this confusion, but she either didn’t listen to the question or doesn’t understand the issue herself.

Even Dr. Westergaard, who has repeatedly demonstrated his understanding of what data is available and how the rate is calculated, has yet to point out the complete truth of these fundamental issues.

That reporter is not the first one to ask why test numbers always appear to be well below the state’s capacity. Once reporters begin to understand the difference between individuals tested and the number of tests actually collected, they will be able to identify the bad math DHS uses to calculate Wisconsin’s rate. They will then be able to ask why the state is making public policy decisions based on this bad math.

Whether or not the Evers Administration or the Capitol press corps figure this out on their own eventually won’t matter. As the number of new individuals getting tested continues to drop, the day will come when there are more positive test results than new individuals being tested. Once the daily positive test rate rises above 100%, no one will be able to ignore the math any longer.

Solving the Problem

DHS was right to take steps to ensure its total case count was accurate, but the positive test rate is just as important.

DHS should also calculate the positive test rate every day using all the results from that day. Since no one is tested twice in the same day, this will ensure that each day’s rate is accurate. That will ensure the gating requirement is reflecting the correct data.

This is something DHS could start doing today. It needs to start doing this today, because it’s current method is producing inaccurate results – which the Evers continues to use in its gating criteria to make pivotal public policy decisions that affect everyone in Wisconsin.

The positive test rate since this pan(dem)ic began, by the way, is 7.17 percent. The hospitalization rate as a percentage of positive tests is 6.53 percent and dropping. The death rate as a percentage of positive tests is 1.2 percent and dropping.

 

A senator unlike the governor

A news release from the office of state Sen. Steve Nass (R–Whitewater):

Senator Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) issued the following statement in response to Governor Tony Evers illegally issuing his third Covid-19 emergency declaration (Executive Order 90) that allows for the Governor and DHS Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm to issue dictatorial public health edicts. The first order issued today is a renewed statewide face mask mandate until November 21, 2020:

“Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has enabled the continuing illegal conduct of Governor Evers in issuing repeated emergency declarations and a failed statewide mask mandate. The Legislature has the constitutional and statutory authority to call an extraordinary session and put an end to the improper actions of the Governor.

“I fear that some Republican leaders will now hide behind a court challenge to avoid taking an up-or-down vote on rescinding the Governor’s third Covid-19 emergency declaration. A court challenge could take weeks or months to get a final decision, but citizens would still be under the dictatorial rule of an incompetent Governor.

“We can vote to rescind the emergency declaration in extraordinary session and still commence court challenges to the Governor’s abusive actions to prevent future illegal conduct.

“I am calling on Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald to immediately call the Legislature back into session to pass a joint resolution ending Governor Evers’ new illegal and unnecessary emergency declaration. The Legislature is empowered to end any emergency declaration issued by a Governor through the simple passage of a joint resolution that doesn’t require the Governor’s approval.”

Schooling yourself about Biden

Alex Swoyer:

President Trump is pushing schools to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, saying parents want it, the children can handle it and the economy needs it.

Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden says the teachers don’t want it, the children can spread the coronavirus and the country can’t stomach another surge of COVID-19 cases he fears would result.

That gulf between the two men carries through to the rest of their education plans.

Education is usually on the list when voters are asked about issues most important to them, but it ranks low when voters say what drives them to the polls on Election Day.

Rarely, though, has the dividing line been so stark as it is this year. Mr. Trump is calling for major strides in school choice, and Democrats are intent on blocking him.
“The Trump campaign is hoping that an emphasis on school choice will appeal not only to private and charter school families but also to parents in traditional public districts who may be frustrated with how their schools are responding to the COVID threat,” said Jeffrey Henig, an education professor at Teachers College and professor of political science at Columbia University.

For Mr. Trump, school choice is symbolic as well as substantive and puts parents as the priority in education. His campaign also figures it can help make headway with Black voters, who largely support the concept.

Mr. Trump highlighted the issue during his State of the Union address this year and announced he was awarding a scholarship to a Black fourth-grader from Philadelphia.

“In the most important election of our lifetime, President Trump is the only candidate who will work for America’s students over special interests,” said Samantha Zager, deputy national press secretary for the president’s reelection campaign.

Beyond school choice, Mr. Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have rescinded Obama administration rules on school discipline, racial disparities and gender identity, and have given states more flexibility in meeting federal mandates.

They also have submitted budgets that would trim the Education Department, though Congress has rejected the cuts and Mr. Trump has ended up signing budget increases instead.

Mr. Biden counters Mr. Trump’s parent-centered approach to education with a teacher-centered platform, promising the money will flow to public education instead.

He wants to triple federal spending on schools with significant low-income populations and require that much of that cover higher salaries for teachers. He also would increase the availability of student loan forgiveness for graduates who go on to work in education.

Mr. Biden’s campaign says he will hire up to 60,000 more psychologists for schools to help with what he warned is a mental health crisis.

His unity platform, reached with former opponent Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, opposes vouchers that support private schools and takes a dim view of public charter schools.

 

When your governor gets your national party’s attention, and not in a good way

Politico:

Tony Evers pulled off one of the Democratic Party’s biggest feats of 2018: ousting liberal villain Scott Walker after earlier attempts to take out the Wisconsin governor fell short.

But having one of their own atop the critical 2020 battleground isn’t turning out to be the boon that Democrats hoped or expected.

Evers, a longtime school administrator who’s prone to peppering his speech with “by golly” and “holy mackerel” — and who voters chose in part for his no-drama approach to politics — has been thrust into a cauldron of racial tension and violence. It’s an awkward fit for the subdued 68-year-old, and the reviews of his response to the turmoil in Kenosha — among other facets of his job performance — aren’t encouraging.

Evers is drawing heat from some in his own party for not moving quickly enough to tamp down rioting in Kenosha. Like Walker before him, Evers is facing a nascent effort to recall him from office. He’s been steamrolled by Republicans who dominate the legislature and have repeatedly blocked his initiatives, including police reform.

And while Evers is still above water in polls, his approval rating slid 6 points after his handling of the Kenosha unrest.

Democrats say it’s obviously better to have Evers at the helm than Walker heading into November — if nothing else, to protect against what they said would have been an assault on voting access if Republicans controlled both legislative chambers and the governorship.

But interviews with more than two dozen activists, strategists, local officials and voters surfaced serious concern that in such a pivotal year, in such a pivotal state, Evers is diminishing what should be a significant advantage for the party. Rather than act as an attack dog or savvy politico who helps amplify Joe Biden’s message to combat President Donald Trump, they say, Evers instead has allowed Republicans to cast him as weak and ineffective.

That is because Evers is weak and ineffective.