Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Bigot of the Week Award: December 13, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner

13 Dec
BIgot of the Week

Bigot of the Week

Thanks to my dear friend and ally of the oppressed, Bruce Kestelman for supplying this week’s bigot. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R – WI) has a long history of nasty behavior. He helped lead the impeachment hearings of President Clinton and was a primary sponsor of the so-called PATRIOT act. He is a long-time denier of basic science, including climate change. He has supported vicious anti-immigrant laws including the draconian Real ID act. He opposed providing aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina (my how Barbara Bush of him). He threw a famous tantrum as chair of a hearing on PATRIOT act renewal; incensed that Democrats wanted to discuss the civil rights violations permitted in the law, he shut off the lights and microphones in the hearing room and literally took his gavel and went home.

With a career like that, it should come as no surprise that Sensenbrenner finally earns his first BWA. Sadly, he earns it for a stunning display of racism and disrespect. At a meeting in his district, he loudly opposed President Obama’s decision to fly flags at half-mast in mourning for South African President and social justice pioneer Nelson Mandela.

Lowering the flag should be for mourning Americans and not for foreign leaders.

Let’s ignore the fact that US Code stipulates that the President has full authority to decide when to lower the flag and includes international leaders and dignitaries in the list of possibilities. After all, Sensenbrenner has shown that facts aren’t his strong suit. Instead, let’s look at the horrific gall that it takes to spit on the legacy of one of the 20th Centuries greatest leaders. Let’s consider the shocking lack of sympathy for the oppressed around the world — including his own district — who mourned a great man. Lets’ look at the fact that the only reason he was likely to bring it up at all is because it was a decision by that guy in the White House, the duly elected leader of this nation whose every move Sensenbrenner aggressively opposes.

We all earn our legacies. Good ol’ Rep Sensenbrenner just confirmed his. I am curious as to what is with the state of Wisconsin–the state  of  Joe McCarthy, Scott Walker, and Jim Sensenbrenner.

Hero of the Week Award: July 12, Judge William Conley

12 Jul
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

This week it is a pleasure to celebrate another judge standing up to the unconstitutional overreach of institutionalized misogyny.

Frustrated by the continued existence of women’s rights to make their own health and reproductive choices, Republican-controlled legislatures around the country are trying their best to create de facto abortion-free zones of their states. Invasive ultrasounds and needless waiting periods aren’t enough. The latest trick is creating cumbersome requirements for doctors at clinics that provide abortions as part of their services.

Wisconsin is the latest, with a new law — signed by charm-free Gov. Scott Walker — that requires hospital admitting privileges, something no other clinics require. Planned Parenthood challenged the law, and U.S. District Judge William Conley sided with them.  Let us remind our selves that Planned Parenthood provides greatly needed health care for women that could not other wise afford simple things like pap smears that test for cancer.

Noting that “there is a troubling lack of justification for the hospital admitting privileges requirement,” Conley placed a stay on the law until he can hold further hearings. Citing Roe v Wade, the judge added “Moreover, the record to date strongly supports a finding that no medical purpose is served by this requirement.”

Judge Conley will no doubt be accused by the so-called  family values crowd of “judicial activism” for actually doing his job. Insisting that access to care must be equitable is the right thing to do. Thank you, Judge Conley, for standing up against the War on Women in Wisconsin–not an easy battle when going up against the racist, homophobic, classist, neo-fascist, Scott Walker.  Mr. Walker, have you no decency?

Bigot of the Week Award: October 19, Jason and Tommy Thompson (with a dash of Linda McMahon)

19 Oct

Bigot of the Week

This week the Wisconsin Senate campaign of Republican Tommy Thompson hit a new low. At an RNC fundraiser Thompson’s son Jason, campaigning for his father and for Mitt Romney, decided to inject a little racism into things.

[Let's] send President Obama back to Chicago—or Kenya.

REALLY? Are the Republicans still hooked on the racist themes of birtherism? Have they no real issues to run on? Jason Thompson offered a nonpology saying that his boss and his dad were irritated with him and he is sorry if anyone was offended. Nice way to avoid responsibility for the actual racist words you said. Tommy Thompson, meanwhile, has denied that his son actually said anything offensive, despite the ample online evidence of him uttering those very words. Not too big a shock from a man who has also violated a campaign pledge to stick to issues but consistently points out his opponent’s, Tammy Baldwin’s, sexual orientation–nothing like good old racism, homophobia, and misogyny coming from the Republicans.

Not wanting to be left behind, Connecticut Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon dished out some crazy this week too. (Thanks to my friend Jennifer Carey for this dishonorable mention.) Trying to pretend she’s pro-choice while placating her far-right base, McMahon argued against asking religious hospitals and employers to provide contraception. Dancing around the issue, she managed to create a whole new phrase: “emergency rape.” Nobody’s quite sure what she meant or how it differs from other GOP constructions like legitimate, honest, easy, or forcible rape. But of course words don’t have to mean anything as long as they get you votes.

Hero of the Week Award: June 8, Jason Alexander

8 Jun

Hero of the Week

Actor and comedian Jason Alexander made a spectacular transition from Bigot of the Week nominee to HWA winner. The former Seinfeld star appeared on Craig Ferguson’s The Late Late Show on CBS last week. During a conversation about British and American sports, Alexander made a number of disparaging comments about the sport of cricket. The bulk of his jokes had to do with cricket being “gay” and “queer” with an emphasis on things he found effeminate.

After many in the gay community took offense at his comments, Alexander resisted making a knee-jerk response, instead taking the time to consider what he had said and why he said it.

…a few of my Twitter followers made me aware that they were both gay and offended by the joke. And truthfully, I could not understand why. I do know that humor always points to the peccadillos or absurdities or glaring generalities of some kind of group or another – short, fat, bald, blonde, ethnic, smart, dumb, rich, poor, etc. It is hard to tell any kind of joke that couldn’t be seen as offensive to someone. But I truly did not understand why a gay person would be particularly offended by this routine. However, troubled by the reaction of some, I asked a few of my gay friends about it…As we explored it, we began to realize what was implied under the humor.

Based on this reflection, Alexander offered a sincere, complex, and thoughtful apology via Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAAD). The entire apology is worth reading, but two parts are especially powerful.

It is not that we can’t laugh at and with each other. It is not a question of oversensitivity. The problem is that today, as I write this, young men and women whose behaviors, choices or attitudes are not deemed “man enough” or “normal” are being subjected to all kinds of abuse from verbal to physical to societal. They are being demeaned and threatened because they don’t fit the group’s idea of what a “real man” or a “real woman” are supposed to look like, act like and feel like. For these people, my building a joke upon the premise I did added to the pejorative stereotype that they are forced to deal with everyday. It is at the very heart of this whole ugly world of bullying that has been getting rightful and overdue attention in the media. And with my well-intentioned comedy bit, I played right into those hurtful assumptions and diminishments.

So, I would like to say – I now get it. And to the extent that these jokes made anyone feel even more isolated or misunderstood or just plain hurt – please know that was not my intention, at all or ever. I hope we will someday live in a society where we are so accepting of each other that we can all laugh at jokes like these and know that there is no malice or diminishment intended. But we are not there yet. So, I can only apologize and I do. In comedy, timing is everything. And when a group of people are still fighting so hard for understanding, acceptance, dignity and essential rights – the time for some kinds of laughs has not yet come.

Given how many celebrity missteps go viral, it is heartening to see Alexander acknowledge that he should have known better from the outset. Even more significantly, he refuses to rely on the standard non-apologies offered by many (like Tracy Morgan) that consist of a feeble “I’m sorry you were offended.” Instead, he took the time to reflect on his words and actions, realize his mistake, and offer a sincere apology. Let’s hope both the realization and the apology can serve as models for other celebrities.

Honorable mention this week goes to Democrats in Wisconsin. Although they lost the effort to recall their loathsome governor, Scott Walker, their efforts should be applauded. Despite spending barely 10% of what Walker did, they managed to come close to victory. Given how many voters indicated that they oppose recalls on principle, this is impressive. Even more impressive was the turnout, with Madison having 119% of registered voters appear at the polls. (Wisconsin allows same-day registration.) The loss is bitter, but the effort was valiant.

Bigot of the Week Award: June 8, Dr. Drew

8 Jun

Bigot of the Week

I need to thank my good friend Jay, a social rights advocate and LGBT ally, for inspiring me to write this article. This week’s bigot is a complicated celebrity doctor. Drew Pinsky, known to millions as Dr. Drew for his many regular media appearances and his shows about battling addiction, is a bit of a conundrum. He spoke out strongly against Prop 8 and allowing people to vote on civil rights. However he also served as an apologist for Tracy Morgan’s homophobic rant, accepting the lame apology while minimizing (although not accepting) the hate speech. He’s also had crazed homophobe Adam Carolla as a guest on his show for no apparent reason.

While he offers good advice about addiction, he is not particularly sex-positive, railing against anal sex and helping build the myth that it is medically harmful. He has also stated that gay men are either tops or bottoms and can’t change.

This week he went off the rails with “ex-lesbian” guest Janet Boynes. A proponent of ex-gay “reparative” therapy based on religion, Boynes is closely associated with the clinic of Marcus Bachmann. She also works with the Anoka-Hennepin school district which has had numerous LGBT suicides resulting from bullying. It’s curious why he had her on the show at all, given that she preaches change in a way that goes against all medical advice. Even worse, he was scheduled to include Jallen Rix, a survivor of ex-gay therapy and sexologist as a balance guest on the show. Instead, Rix was demoted to faceless call-in; Pinsky cut him off and gave Boynes the opportunity to play the religious oppression card as the last word.

REALLY? This is the kind of person that a doctor wants on his show? This is exactly like mainstream media giving hate group mouthpiece Tony Perkins airtime to spew his bile in the name of “balance.” What’s particularly confusing is that Dr. Drew himself made a case AGAINST ex-gay therapy in an interview with Anderson Cooper a year ago. While he was far too apologetic about the “legitimate treatments” that are used for false ends, he sounded opposed to this harmful practice. So now a practitioner of this damaging myth is worthy of airtime? What’s up, Doc?

Dishonorable mention this week goes to the majority voters in Wisconsin who refused to recall their loathsome governor, Scott Walker. His success seems to have hinged on two things. First, of course, is money. Thanks to the Fecal Five and Citizens United, Walker had ten times the war chest that his opponent had. Second, however, was the sense of many voters that a recall isn’t justifiable. If that’s the case, why is it allowed by state law? Badly done, Wisconsin, the state that gave us Sen. McCarthy and Rep. Paul Ryan…

Ayn Rand and Paul Ryan: He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not?

28 Apr

The Love Song of Paul Ryan

It appears that Mitt Romney is not the only major liar in the GOP. With statements from Rep. Paul Ryan like:

“The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” – 2005

AND

“I give out ‘Atlas Shrugged’ as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it. Well… I try to make my interns read it.” – 2003

It is surprising to see Rep. Ryan say this recently in an interview with the National Review discussing Ayn Rand:

I reject her philosophy…It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas. Don’t give me Ayn Rand.

When I first read this on Think Progress I did a double take and assumed this must be an attempt at being like The Onion. I’m afraid that is not the case. Even though he has now dissed his hero, and appears to be going for a more “Godly” approach, we should notice that he has not dissed his budget cuts plan (inspired by his hero Ayn Rand) that would cut important social programs like Medicare and Food Stamps, and give trillions in tax cuts to corporations and the rich – thus shifting more tax burden onto the poor.

What I find amusing about all of this is that Rep. Ryan calls Rand’s selfish philosophy an “atheist” philosophy despite noting that as a Christian he followed her philosophy and admitted to getting into politics because of her. Obviously, the “virtue” of selfishness, as Rand referred to it, is not exclusive to atheists, but can be found in any walk of life.

The big question is, what is the catalyst for his change of mind? The answer could be videos like this from The American Values Network.

The video is clearly designed to clarify, “Look, the GOP are following an ATHEIST! That does not reflect the values they should have as Christians.” Rep. Ryan was even asked recently why he based his budget plan on Rand and not on Biblical principals like sharing and caring for everyone. His bizarre claim that his budget is based on his Catholic faith has been demolished by numerous groups of Catholic leaders and scholars.  He has not answered the question or the criticism; this pressure could be another reason why he has lied.

I do not believe that Rep. Ryan had any sort of epiphany or his budget would have also changed. We all know that you can follow a person’s philosophy without adopting the religion (or lack of religion) that person has. For example, I am a non-believer but I can still appreciate Biblical views of a loving nature without having to claim Christianity…By TSM Contributor James Queale

Bigot of the Week Award: April 13, Glenn Grothman and Scott Walker

13 Apr

Bigot of the Week

The recent attention that the Republican War on Women has received sure has the GOP stirred up. They’re so nervous about the factual attention to their misogynistic policies that every third Republican politician and spokesperson seems to be trotting out an obfuscation, false denial, self-hating woman, or irrational explanation to try to distract the American public. That leaves us with an embarrassment of riches on the BWA nominee front!

Thanks to friend and regular contributor James Queale for this week’s winner. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker gets the first half of the award for his recent repeal of his state’s equal pay act. Wisconsin women earn even less on the dollar (75 cents) than the U.S. average and, thanks to Walker, have lost a valuable tool in fighting unfair pay practices. Given Walker’s anti-woman and anti-worker behavior since taking office, this awful act is hardly surprising. As an added twist of the knife, the repealed act also provided pay protection based on race, age, and sexual orientation, so he got to smack down all his party’s favorite targets in one swipe of the pen.

Perhaps more nefarious (in this case) is Wisconsin state Senator Glenn Grothman. He led the efforts to pass the repeal bill in the legislature so that it could get to Walker’s desk. Celebrating its passage, Grothman demonstrates his malice and ignorance in a horrific blame-the-victim approach:

Take a hypothetical husband and wife who are both lawyers. But the husband is working 50 or 60 hours a week, going all out, making 200 grand a year. The woman takes time off, raises kids, is not go go go. Now they’re 50 years old. The husband is making 200 grand a year, the woman is making 40 grand a year. It wasn’t discrimination. There was a different sense of urgency in each person… You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday, may be a little more money-conscious. To attribute everything to a so-called bias in the workplace is just not true.

What a great way to avoid looking at all the societal factors that lead to this hypothetical scenario, not to mention the absurd notion that all men are working 60 hours a week while women wimp out and stay home. Oh, and men have more financial sense than all those silly women! He also is flat-out wrong about the breadwinner scenario — despite pay inequity, 2/3 of American households have women as primary or co-breadwinners. Can’t let a little thing like facts get in the way of rolling back rights, though, can we Glenn?

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