Dan Shafer
Winners & Losers

TCD’s week in review

The "Cheesehead Mafia" rises at the Republican National Convention, Paul Ryan gets fact-checked, Johnny Thomas is acquitted, Harleys rumble into Milwaukee, and much more.

By - Aug 31st, 2012 08:13 am


Harley Weekend 

Labor Day weekend in Milwaukee means the rumble of Harley-Davidsons and the arrival thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts from all over the world. Personally, I am not a fan of motorcycles—I think they’re the loudest, dumbest things you can own. But this is America, so far be it from me to let my personal opinion of hogs get in the way of a great Milwaukee tradition that unites so many passionate people looking to celebrate something they love. I don’t understand it, and that’s fine by me. Ride on!

Johnny Thomas: Acquitted 

Back in early February, former Milwaukee County Supervisor Johnny Thomas was the overwhelming favorite to be elected as the new Milwaukee City Comptroller. But then Thomas was charged with bribery and misconduct after accepting a $500 cash bribe in a sting operation involving county official Patrick Farley on Dec. 6. Charges came forth as part of the ongoing John Doe investigation. Last Friday, Aug. 24, Thomas was acquitted and jurors raised questions about Farley’s motive in the operation.

The Milwaukee Film Festival

Milwaukee Film announced a slew of films for the Sept. 27 – Oct. 11 festival lineup this week. Major announcements include Sound Vision, which features eight music documentaries and accompanying after-shows at Hotel Foster, and Cream City Cinema, which features new work from local filmmakers, including the seemingly always newsworthy documentary “As Goes Janesville.” The rest of the lineup is on its way, as next Saturday, Sept. 8, 91.7 WMSE‘s 4th annual Backyard BBQ at Cathedral Square Park will include the MFF 2012 official Program Book Launch along with free live music from 3 – 11 p.m.

The Air Up There

Efforts to better understand potential wind energy resources in the air over Lake Michigan is moving forward. The WindSentinel research platform launched onto the lake is capturing some of the first research about wind speeds hundreds of feet above the lake. The $3 million project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the State of Michigan, We Energies and the Sierra Club, is yielding promising results.

The “Cheesehead Mafia” 

Love them or hate them, they’re here to stay. With Scott Walker’s victory in the recall election, Reince Priebus’ growing prominence and influence as the head of the Republican National Committee and Paul Ryan’s ascent to vice presidential candidate, the hard-charging conservative faction being called the “Cheesehead Mafia” is exerting tremendous influence in both the Republican Party and the national conversation. Media outlets far and wide are talking about Wisconsin as the home of conservative backlash toward the Obama administration. In the media onslaught surrounding the Republican National Convention, this has been highlighted by pieces like “Wisconsin: Capital of the Obama resistence,” (Politico), Ryan, Walker, Priebus and the ‘Cheesehead Revolution,'” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), “Wisconsin Is Celebrating ‘Cheesehead Domination’ At The GOP Convention (The Business Insider), Ryan, Walker, Priebus: Surprising rise of Wisconsin Republicans,”  (The Los Angeles Times) and “The Cheesehead Mafia: Paul Ryan and the Rise of Wisconsin Republicans,” (The Atlantic), and many more.


“You Didn’t Build That”

There are many ways to criticize the administration of President Barack Obama. This is the case regardless of whichever party you consider yourself to be aligned. Every American politician in this day and age is deserving of criticism. But in this year’s presidential election, whether it be in specific policies or overall ideology, there are clear-cut differences between the GOP and the Obama administration. Troubling, however, is the GOP’s decision to highlight an out-of-context statement by Obama and use it as a cornerstone theme of its convention and a major rallying cry in Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. While the remark speaks to notions of Obama’s anti-business, pro-government approach (and there’s debate to be had in terms of the truth of that perception), by trumpeting “you didn’t build that,” the GOP blatantly disregards what Obama actually said. Here’s the full text of that July 13 speech. There are better debates to be had than ones based in distorted inaccuracies. Speaking of which…

Local Boy makes good up his own facts

Paul Ryan took center stage at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night, and his speech was met with an almost instantaneous response by fact checkers pointing out several inaccuracies in Ryan’s speech. And once again, the political conversation turned to Wisconsin, specifically, to Ryan’s home town, Janesville. Here’s what the vice presidential candidate had to say:

“My home state voted for President Obama. When he talked about change, many people liked the sound of it, especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory. A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: “I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.” That’s what he said in 2008.

Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.”

As the Washington Post Fact Checker (among many other sources) notes, the plant was largely closed by December of 2008, during the Bush presidency, with only 100 workers remaining into the Obama presidency to finish a contract that ended in April 2009. This wasn’t the only fib in the Wisconsin congressman’s speech. To quote The Wire, “A lie ain’t a side of a story. It’s just a lie.”

Tammy Baldwin

Tammy Baldwin storyCongresswoman Tammy Baldwin, who will speak at next week’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, trails Republican Tommy Thompson in the race for U.S. Senate. The Marquette University Law Poll has Baldwin trailing 41 percent to 50 percent, while the more liberal Public Policy Polling has her behind by a smaller margin, 44 percent to Thompson’s 49 percent. The Wisconsin Democratic Party has been decimated in recent years, with Gov. Walker defeating Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in two gubernatorial elections, Russ Feingold losing to Sen. Ron Johnson, and the retirements of longtime congressman David Obey and Sen. Herb Kohl. Baldwin now stands one of the few prominent state Democrats, and polls show she has quite the uphill battle if she is to advance in the political ranks.

Virtual Schools, unsuccessful students

Online schools have operated in Wisconsin for 10 years, and the results have not been successful. According to Gannett Media Wisconsin, “Enrollment in Wisconsin’s online schools has doubled in the last five years, but students who have chosen class without a classroom often struggle to complete their degrees and repeat grades four times as often as their brick-and-mortar counterparts.” Last year, as part of Gov. Scott Walker’s budget, the enrollment cap on virtual charter schools was eliminated.

Latino Community Center

Milwaukee’s Latino Community Center is downsizing due to struggles in the economic downturn. In the process, the Latino Community Center will lose its Violence Free Zone program, which is currently in 14 MPS schools, though the program will be taken over by the Running Rebels organization. The Latino Community Center will also sell its two-story building on 14th and National.

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