Handling guns at the Wisconsin State Journal Careful where that thing is pointing

Today the Wisconsin State Journal came halfway close to the truth in this editorial:

Can Congress not even ban bump stocks?

First, the good:

  • High marks for handling a fraught topic. Newspapering is a business and they could lose a handful of gun-obsessed readers. So far so good.
  • Very high marks for addressing Paul Ryan directly. “Move the bump stock ban to the House floor, Mr. Speaker. What are you waiting for?”

Then the bad:

  • Look at that headline — “Can Congress not even ban bump stocks?” And this in the body — “If Congress can’t get this one tiny thing accomplished when the vast majority of the public and elected officials agree on action, what can Congress do?”

The bad part is pretty terrible. It’s not “Congress” as a whole that is fumbling here. It’s Republicans. It’s Republican leaders Ryan and McConnell. It’s Republican majorities in the House and Senate. It’s the modern Republican Party that is in thrall to the gun lobby. The first action Donald Trump took as President was to roll back a safety measure that prevented severely mentally ill Americans from buying guns, passed a week earlier of course by the Republican House and Senate. Republicans own this mess. It’s not a failure of “Congress”.

It’s like this little bit of sloppy language: “The insect world is screwing up our summers!” Um, no. It’s not insects in general. It’s specifically the mosquitos and ticks that we hate.

Frankly, there are malign interests that do not want the American or European democratic experiments to succeed. (Lookin’ at you, Vladimir.) We should avoid the cynicism that self-government no longer works, never works, cannot work, gripe-itty-gripe… when actually we just need to elect better people.

Let’s bring back the old technology Paper Ballots

Even older than this

We need paper ballots.

Every single time computer scientists examine an electronic voting machine, they find vulnerabilities. It’s idiotic to expose our voting systems to the world’s most skilled and deep-pocketed state-sponsored hackers, and hope that nothing goes wrong. It’s just purely barmy.

Yesterday, Michael Chertoff, former secretary of homeland security, and Grover Norquist, notorious anti-tax lobbyist, co-authored a piece — We need to hack-proof our elections — in the Washington Post:

President Trump has already endorsed this framework, declaring: “There’s something really nice about the old paper ballot system. . . . You don’t worry about hacking.”


And in the Senate, a bipartisan group of six lawmakers recently introduced the Secure Elections Act, which presents a sweeping set of security fixes including federal grants to install systems that use voter-verified paper ballots. The best estimates show that we can replace all paperless voting machines in the United States for about the cost of a single F-22 fighter jet — and in fact, the Senate bill would not add to the deficit because it offsets any new spending.

Scott Fitzgerald and Robin Vos need to go

The Wisconsin State Journal produced one of its better efforts in its latest Sunday editorial (“Scott Fitzgerald and Robin Vos should drop their vendetta”) saying,

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, have been calling for the resignations of the Elections and Ethics administrators in recent weeks — without offering any evidence of wrongdoing.

Well, yes. This is open and shut. There is no evidence of wrongdoing at the Elections or Ethics boards, but there is plenty of evidence that Vos and Fitzgerald are (again) using their positions to unethically cement their own power and longevity in the legislature. They’ve gerrymandered legislative districts, they’ve made it harder for Wisconsinites to vote, they’ve wrecked the independent Gov’t Accountability Board, they’ve greased the wheels for secret money in our elections. And now  — outrageously — they want to fire these two relatively underpowered watchdogs for no good reason.

So the Wisconsin State Journal was right, although they didn’t go far enough.

It’s not enough to say that Vos and Fitzgerald are wrong, possibly just out of pique, trying to fire these two board administrators. A one-time rebuke is justified, but just the start, more is required. The way to hold elected officials “accountable” is to vote ’em out at election time. The State Journal should call for that to happen, and do it repeatedly.  There’s a primary this year on August 14 and a general election on the first Tuesday in November.

Replacing these two enemies of good government won’t be easy (maybe not even possible) because of the self-serving gerrymandering and other steps they so eagerly put in place as soon as they achieved their leadership positions. No matter. Wisconsin deserves better. We call on the State Journal to get very, very serious about making the case that gerrymandering, voter suppression, lack of rule-following, secret cash, coordinating with outside groups and petty vendettas are disqualifying at re-election time. And we call on the State Journal to say it over and over, amen.

Eeek! A Mouse!!! State Journal fails to note elephant in room

We had noted earlier that the editorial board over at the Wisconsin State Journal had slept quite soundly as the US Senate slapped together sweeping changes to the tax law. Well, a little update: eventually the State Journal did regain consciousness long enough to comment, sort of.

Their main concern turns out to be that the tax bill adds to the federal debt. Now there are many ways to hate the Senate tax bill, and people do hate it, although mostly not because of the thing the State Journal hates. FiveThirtyEight reports that it’s less popular than any previously passed tax bill. But let’s just focus on what the State Journal hates.

For some reason the State Journal focuses narrowly on Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh).  Johnson had promised never to support a tax bill increasing the national debt, and now he’d voted for, well, precisely just that. So Johnson’s kind of a hypocrite and that’s the long and short of our local newspaper’s analysis.

But wait, in reality it’s not just Johnson who deserves to be featured in honest editorials throughout the land. It’s the GOP as a WHOLE — the GOP Senate and the GOP House — now racing to combine their separate GOP messes into a consolidated GOP mess for our self-dealing GOP president to consider (ha-ha-ha) and sign. All that earlier GOP fear-mongering about the debt? That was just GOP tactical theatrics while a Dem was in the White House. No one should ever have taken it seriously. See what they’re doing.

That’s the right editorial. It’s not about Ron Johnson.