Looking Forward to Cannabis Regulation in Wisconsin

I applaud Governor Tony Evers for including taxation and regulation of cannabis as part of his budget proposal. In spite of generations of prohibition, the market for cannabis products has not gone away, and this authoritarian approach creates more problems than it solves.

Without regulation there is no quality control, leaving cannabis users vulnerable to mislabeled or tainted products. Prohibition erodes the trust level of law-abiding cannabis users toward law enforcement.

A well-regulated cannabis industry would offer a lucrative new revenue stream for family farms, small businesses and cash-starved state and local governments. Prohibition forfeits this industry to neighboring states and to the shadowy unregulated and untaxed underground market.

Wisconsin’s tax and regulatory structure for cannabis production must be optimized to support a large number of small producers while discouraging large corporate operations. Other states have seen mega-growers (many backed by the tobacco and alcohol industries) force small and artisan growers into bankruptcy. Wisconsin can do better.

Activists tell me that the biggest obstacle to a Wisconsin cannabis industry is the Tavern League. What if taverns were offered a “taste” of this new industry? Perhaps they could offer an alcohol-free cannabis-based beverage, or they could sell cannabis products “off sale”. Instead of competition, cannabis could give taverns new products to offer their customers.

If we do this right, cannabis regulation and taxation will bring rich new sources of income to our small farms, our corner taverns, and our tax bases. To brush this proposal aside is simply throwing money away.

Joe Biden is No Socialist, But He’ll Have To Do

My family has been receiving weekly Republican Party mailers. With apocalyptic graphics, alarming language, and spooky fonts, they warn that Joe Biden has been “taken over” by “the radical left.”

The only thing more laughable than this desperate and pathetic fear campaign against imaginary boogey-men, is their waste of money sending mailers to people like me, part of this “radical left” they seem so afraid of.

During the primary I supported Bernie Sanders. Most Democrats like him, but many worried that during the general election Republicans would fear-monger over “Socialism”. I said that playbook would be deployed against any Democratic nominee. And here we are.

Socialists (aka Progressives) aren’t scary. We are simply good-hearted people who want a good quality of life for everybody. The morbidly rich may pay higher taxes, but in the end they’ll still be rich.

Joe Biden is not getting his marching orders from Bernie Sanders. He may listen to his ideas, but he will also listen to reasonable Republicans (if any remain).

My message to Progressives and to good-hearted conservatives is the same: America cannot survive four more years of Donald Trump. But we can handle four years of Joe Biden. He is the only viable candidate who will bring stability and credibility back to our government, and return us to “normal.”

But “normal” isn’t good enough. Once we get Biden elected, we need to hold his feet to the fire to build a country that works for all of us.

Shutting Down is Shutting Out

As our nation stumbles thru another primary election season, about half of the Democratic Party’s delegates have been pledged to one candidate or another, and (at this writing) Joe Biden has roughly a 55-45% lead over Bernie Sanders. Many pundits are characterizing this as “insurmountable” (I disagree, it’s only halftime).

But every time I see someone like James Carville saying, “it’s over,” or “we should shut this thing down,” I find myself angrily waving my middle finger at the teevee, and here’s why:

At this writing, there are 26 states and territories (representing 1532 delegates) still waiting their turn to vote. Let’s be generous and say that Joe wins 60% of the remaining delegates. That means Bernie would still get 613 delegates from the remaining states. If the primary were to be “shut down” today, all of those delegates would go to Joe.

So what Carville and his ilk are calling for is a convention without all of those pesky Bernie delegates. They want to shut us out, and to diminish our voice within the party. This is not only undemocratic, but it ignores some important realities.

There are down-ballot races where Democrats and other Progressives are counting on the big turnout that would be generated by a competitive primary. Here in Wisconsin, we have an important Supreme Court race. I’m sure other states and localities have their own races where turnout would vanish if we “shut this thing down.”

The biggest reality is that Bernie has won the battle of ideas. Exit polls confirm that vast majorities of voters favor things like Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, free post-secondary education, and other elements of Bernie’s platform; but they think Joe is more “electable”.

Bernie’s ideas will not be represented by Joe’s delegates. Our party and our nation needs to hear from the hard-working volunteers who have spent the past several years promoting the winning platform. Bernie’s supporters deserve to have their voices heard at the convention in Milwaukee.

So for everybody in a state or territory still waiting to vote: The only way to vote for Bernie’s ideas is to vote for Bernie himself. Every vote will help toward adding another voice to Bernie’s delegation.

We may be behind, but we can still win, and we will not be shut out.

Send the GOP to Time-Out

When discussing the lack of comity and collegiality in the halls of government, there’s usually someone who says, “both sides are responsible.” This is a myth.

We Democrats always try to “get along.” After all, that’s the kind of people we are – we want to make everybody happy.

Republicans used to be the home of reasonable civic-minded businessmen; but they’ve become a mob of mean-spirited bullies representing the wealthy elite and trans-national corporations.

Consider the corrupt lying blowhard now in the White House. He shares national security secrets with our enemies, kidnaps children and puts them in cages, incites violence against his critics… the list of atrocities goes on and on.

The Republican Congress is derelict in its duty to hold this president accountable. Their silence equates to complicity.

Something is gravely wrong with the Republican party. It has become the party of anger, cruelty, racism, hatred and ignorance.

We need parties that work together to solve problems, negotiating their differences in good faith to find solutions that work for everybody.

Steve Schmidt (John McCain’s campaign manager) believes that the only hope for the Republican party is to “burn it to the ground” by electing Democrats across the board. Eventually a more responsible party would grow from the ashes.

In this case, I agree with Schmidt. The Democrats are the only party who can defend America from the authoritarian impulses of the rich and powerful. For the sake of our country, please vote for every Democrat on your ballot.

Who’s On Your Side?

In a recent news report on the 2016 election, impoverished West Virginia coal miners were asked why they voted for Trump. They said “he seems to be on our side”. I believe they were gravely mistaken.

Trump and the Republican Party are not on the side of working people and they never will be. Republicans like Trump are manipulative con artists who fool people into believing empty promises that are instantly broken on inauguration day.

Whose side are Republicans on? Meet Don Blankenship, who owned a big coal mining company in West Virginia. He played fast and loose with safety regulations until his criminal negligence led to a massive explosion, killing 29 miners. Don briefly went to prison for this, but he’s back in West Virginia running for the US Senate as a Republican.

Republicans are on the side of mine owners like Blankenship. Democrats are on the side of the miners themselves, looking out for their safety and fair treatment.

If you work in a factory, it’s the Democrats who are on your side. Republicans are on the side of the corporate bosses who treat their workforce as a commodity to be overworked, underpaid and discarded.

Democrats are on the side of farmers – people who work the fields, tend livestock, and harvest and process our food. Republicans are on the side of the corporate food processors who underpay the farmers, overcharge their customers, and overpay themselves.

Republicans are on the side of those who poison our air and water, crush our wages, degrade our quality of life, and muffle our voices thru voter suppression and union busting.

So unless you’re a rich and greedy sociopath, it’s the Democrats who are on your side. Please remember that in November.

Local Elections Matter Most

Presidential election campaigns get wall-to-wall media coverage for four years, which holds our attention and leads to high turn-out (though one can argue it’s not high enough). But when local elections are held a few months later, turn-out can languish in the teens or in single digits. I believe this is upside-down.

A national election affects the overall attitude and direction of national policy, but its immediate effect on our day-to-day lives is minuscule relative to the outcome of a local election. For instance, an election for municipal judge is widely ignored. But if we have a dispute with a neighbor or an unjust citation, we stand before the municipal judge.

The city council approves zoning rules that determine what we can do with our own property. They hire police officers with the power to arrest and detain us, as well as the officials responsible for the upkeep of our roads and parks.

The members of the school board determine who will teach our children, what they will be taught, and how well we care for the buildings where our kids spend their days.

Yet with all the direct impact that local officials have on our personal lives, local elections seem to be universally ignored. We ignore these elections at our peril.

Now more than ever, we must pay close attention to local elections. Most candidates are only a phone call away. Talk to them about the issues you care about, then show up to vote on April 4.

What Ron Kind Was Afraid to Listen To

My statement for Ron Kind’s “listening” session was occupying my brain cells for several days before-hand. In spite of showing up early and following all of the rules, most of the people who got called on showed up long after I did.

I can only conclude that either the process for choosing people to call on was grossly unfair, or unappealing questions were filtered out of the pile. I suspect a combination of both. At any rate, after three hours invested in my attempt to participate in democracy, I was never called on.

Here is what I would have said if Kind had had the courage to call on me:

Congressman…

The last time we spoke, it was during breakfast one morning last summer in Philadelphia. Our encounter was hurried and awkward, and it didn’t go well for any of us, and I apologize for that. So let me take this opportunity to respectfully and politely explain why so many people have a problem with your position on international trade deals.

We are not against trade per se, but we prefer FAIR trade over “free” trade. The problem with NAFTA, CAFTA, SHAFTA, the TPP, and all of the other trade deals you support so enthusiastically is that when they were negotiated, the only people at the table were representatives of trans-national corporations.

Those who represent working people were not given a seat at the table.

Those who represent the interests of the environment were not given a seat at the table.

The entire process was conducted in the dark, and the general public  – even members of Congress – was forbidden from knowing what was being negotiated in our names.

If these agreements had been negotiated openly, and with advocates for workers, local communities, and the environment at the table, then we might have reacted differently.

But the biggest deal-breaker is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement provision. ISDS allows a foreign corporation to sue a domestic government for passing a law that may affect potential future profits. For example, there was a state that wanted Country Of Origin Labelling on food products, but a Canadian food processor sued for potential (NOT actual) lost profits.

This is an attack on our national sovereignty, as it puts the interests of foreign corporations against the will of our own people. I really hope you can reconsider your position on such international trade deals in the future.

Perhaps my mistake was being truthful when I filled out the space on my sheet with my question. “I’d like a response to some concerns on trade.” I don’t remember hearing ANY questions where trade was the central topic.

During the last half-hour of the “listening” session, I could see Kind sifting thru the pile of question sheets in front of him. Some were discreetly shuffled to the side. I suspect the word “trade” got my sheet shuffled to the side.

“I’ll be holding another listening session in La Crosse,” he said as time wound down. But I’m not going to waste my time showing up unless those of us who didn’t get called on are guaranteed to be at the front of the line next time.

A DNC Perk

It appears that having been a delegate to the DNC got me on the White House (at least Obama’s White House) Holiday Card List. It was a Really Cool surprise to find this in the mailbox this morning:

Elections as Football

In eighth grade, I was a bench-warmer for my Catholic grade school’s football team. Our star receiver was a guy that was always a dick toward me on the school playground. In fact his name was Dick, and his friends called him Dickie.

One Saturday morning we were playing a road game. I was standing on the sidelines (as usual) when our quarterback threw a bomb to Dickie who then sprinted toward the end zone. As I was jumping up and down screaming, “go, Dickie, go!”, a little voice in my head reminded me, “hey, don’t you hate that guy?”

Indeed, I did hate that guy. But at that moment, he was part of my team and he was helping my team to win, and it made everyone on the team happy.

As a National Bernie delegate, that’s how I feel about voting for Hillary. I have problems with her hawkish foreign policy and her coziness with Wall Street. On the other hand, she has adopted most of Bernie’s playbook; and a growing number of “Bernie players” are on the team.

We all would have preferred to have Bernie as our quarterback, and we feel sore about how the choice was made during tryouts. But Hillary is now our quarterback, and there is nothing we can do now that will change that. For our team to win, we must respect and support our quarterback, just as I cheered for Dickie in eighth grade.

Remember, Bernie people: we’re winning! If we elect Hillary and flip the Senate, then Bernie Sanders becomes one of the most powerful people in Washington. So do his allies such as Elizabeth Warren and (hopefully) Russ Feingold. These are OUR people, and Hillary can’t do anything without their help and approval.

So this is no time to walk off the field in disgust. To support a third party this year is a waste of effort, like picking a high school team to win the Super Bowl. We need to make sure our team keeps the ball. Letting it fall to the other team would be a disaster.

With our players on the field, and the quarterback running our plays… that puts us in a good position to get our quarterback on the field next season.

The game doesn’t end on election day. That’s when the second half begins.

All Republicans Are Disqualified

You can learn a lot about someone by looking at the company they keep, so it’s disturbing to see the Republican Party hanging out with the repulsive sewer-rats of humanity.

Ever since their “southern strategy” of the Nixon years, Republicans have appealed to bigots with “dog whistle” terms only racists would understand. When white nationalists flocked to the party like flies to a cow pie, Republicans doubled down. They saw only votes where they should have seen vermin.

Now the vermin have promoted a sleazy bullying con-man to the top of the Republican ticket. Party leaders express outrage when he says (in plain English) what Republicans have said in carefully coded language for generations. But the somber condemnations always end with, “He has my vote.”

I’m sorry, that is unacceptable. Any candidate running as a Republican is disqualified from holding any position of public trust.

By nominating Donald Trump for president, the Republican Party embraced hatred, bigotry and mean-spiritedness. The American people must loudly and unambiguously demonstrate to the world that this is not who we are, and we must do so by rejecting every Republican on every ballot in the nation.

The Republican Party has degenerated into a party of white hoods, brown shirts and dunce caps. Democrats may not be perfect, but their candidates are sincere good-hearted people working to improve everyone’s quality of life thru public service. Democrats are far more worthy of our votes than the creeps and clowns on the other side of the ballot.