Briefs are posted every weekday morning, M-F
It starts with a text from a random number and an offer that sounds too good to be true.
“Hi! It’s Wisconsin Takes Action,” the mysterious texter begins. We are helping to elect a progressive majority to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. We are offering an opportunity for you to earn $250-plus by talking to your friends and family about voting.”’
It’s not nearly that simple and in fact amounts to Election Bribery, a felony in Wisconsin punishable by a maximum sentence of more than three years in prison.
The texts have been sent to thousands of Wisconsinites, many of whom have jumped at the chance to, in the words of one Wisconsin Takes Action organizer, “not only get paid…but also to influence a really important election.”
Those who respond to the text expressing interest in the offer are given instructions to log in to a live training session on Zoom in which organizers explain how the program works. A video recording of one such training session the day after the Supreme Court primary reveals that people aren’t just talking to their friends and family about voting, but rather adding their names and contact information to Wisconsin Takes Action’s database and then repeatedly contacting them to ensure that they vote for liberal candidate Janet Protasiewicz.
This was made abundantly clear during the hour-long training session.
“The primary was just last night for the Supreme Court so we know who will be on the ballot in the general election,” said one organizer who introduced himself as Christian. “We have Dan Kelly, the conservative former Supreme Court justice and then Janet Protasiewicz—the progressive circuit court judge currently—and she is the progressive candidate who just won the primary.
“Of course, Wisconsin Takes Action is focused on putting forth progressive ideas and implementing progressive laws, so, you know, we really are looking forward to her as the candidate for this upcoming election.”
To get her elected, Christian explained, the group is using a technique called “relational organizing.”
“It’s really simple. In traditional organizing in campaigns, we may think about campaign offices, someone making a call to a constituent and telling someone to go vote, someone they don’t know. In relational organizing, you’re talking to people who you do know and that’s really effective because you talking to your father to go vote or your sister or your friend is a lot more effective than me telling them to go vote because I don’t know them. But with you, there’s a lot more connection or relationship built and more reason for them to be compelled to go vote.”
However, people who take part in this relational organizing campaign—whom the group calls “community mobilizers”—are paid per person who they deliver to the Wisconsin Takes Action database and, ultimately, to the polls to cast a vote for Protasiewicz.
This is in direct violation of Wisconsin Statute § 12.11, which provides that “any person who offers, gives, lends or promises to give or lend…anything of value…to, or for, any elector, or to or for any other person in order to induce any elector to go or refrain from going to the polls, vote or refrain from voting [or] vote or refrain from voting for or against a particular person” commits felony election bribery.
In its Zoom training, the Wisconsin Takes Action staffers made it abundantly clear that they were offering money only if their mobilizers would induce their friends and family to go to the polls and vote, preferably for Protasiewicz
—Dan O’Donnell, Newstalk 1130 WISN Milwaukee
The Legislature’s top Republican signaled Wednesday he would again examine the idea of implementing a tolling system in Wisconsin in an effort to boost revenue for roads and bridges.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has unsuccessfully pushed for tolls in Wisconsin for a decade. He downplayed its chances of ending up in the final 2023-25 state budget but told reporters Wednesday he would try.
“I’m going to look at it again,” he said after speaking. “I am going to make an effort to say we need to figure out a long-term answer, but I have had challenges. I don’t think Governor Evers is necessarily there. And I’m not sure my Senate Republican colleagues are necessarily there. So I certainly am going to keep trying to talk about it because we have to pay for our roads. It can’t just be more money from the federal government when we know that that spigot eventually is going to end.”
Vos and then-Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who now represents Wisconsin’s 5th Congressional District, pursued the idea by proposing funding in the state budget to study a tolling system in order to infuse Wisconsin’s highway system with cash. Evers vetoed the funding.
Britt Cudaback, spokeswoman for Evers, said the revenue that would come from tolling wouldn’t materialize for years. She said Evers has proposed new revenue for roads in the current budget that would be accessible immediately.
Evers has proposed taking portions of revenue from the state sales tax on electric vehicles and on the sale of auto parts, tires, and repair services toward infrastructure improvements. The proposal would transfer nearly $190 million from the general fund to the transportation fund over the next two years, according to the governor’s office.
Republican lawmakers who control the state Legislature and Evers have begun negotiations on the 2023-25 state budget. Evers proposed a two-year $104 billion spending plan in February, which will be largely ignored by Republicans on the Legislature’s budget-writing committee. The panel will begin taking up the budget piece by piece in the coming weeks.
Vos said Wednesday if lawmakers had agreed to implement a tolling system a decade ago when the idea was last robustly considered, the transportation system would be “fully funded.”
“Imagine it’s 2013 when we first started talking about tolling — we have more money than local roads,” Vos said. “We have a system that would actually work over the course of the next 100 years as we decide whether or not to transition away from gasoline. We couldn’t get that done. Unfortunately, we now sit with a worse problem 10 years later.”
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Milwaukee-area Catholics, corned beef is fair game this St. Patrick’s Day.
The patron saint of Ireland’s feast day falls on a Friday this year. During the season of Lent, Catholics are to abstain from eating meat on Fridays as an act of penance.
Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki announced Tuesday that he had granted the dispensation from abstaining from meat for St. Patrick’s Day, March 17.
“A feast day in the Church means what it says – it calls for celebratory feasting,” Listecki said in a statement. “However, Catholics who partake in the St. Patrick’s Day feast are encouraged to engage in another sacrificial or charitable act that day or give up meat on another day.”
Listecki previously granted a dispensation that allowed area Catholics to eat meat when St. Patrick’s Day last fell on a Friday, in 2017.
That year, bishops of more than 80 dioceses around the U.S. granted dispensations for St. Patrick’s Day, according to news reports.
Lent began Feb. 22 and extends until April 6.
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Former President Donald Trump is gaining support from Republican voters and widening his lead over potential 2024 candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, according to four new polls.
Trump received 55% of the hypothetical 2024 GOP primary vote, more than twice that of DeSantis, who received 25%, according to an Emerson College poll released Tuesday. A poll from Emerson last month showed that Trump led DeSantis 55%-29%.
The latest Emerson poll also showed that Trump would beat President Joe Biden in the 2024 general election at 46% to 42%. DeSantis would lose to Biden by 4%.
A Yahoo News/YouGov poll Tuesday showed that Trump leads DeSantis 47% to 39%, a major surge compared to the outlet’s surveys over the past three months that showed Trump trailing DeSantis.
Trump also surged over Biden in the hypothetical 2024 election. Earlier this month, Biden led Trump 47%-41%. Now, Trump is ahead of Biden 45%-43%, which is still within the margin of error, but a massive jump.
Echelon Insights, a Republican polling firm, found in a poll released Sunday that Trump would lead DeSantis 46%-31%, up from Trump’s 2-point lead over DeSantis in January.
Meanwhile, a Fox News poll projects Trump beating DeSantis 43% to 28%.
—Just the News
Your 11-year-old son walks down the street to play with a friend after school.
When dinnertime approaches and he hasn’t returned, you call his friend’s mom and ask her to send your son home. Distress is palpable in her voice as she tells you he isn’t there. He left 45 minutes ago.
You panic, running down the block to make sure, but there’s been no mistake. Your son is gone.
Your fingers shake as you dial 911.
What happens next depends on where you live.
Law enforcement agencies across the country operate under a patchwork of rules that govern how intensely they search for missing children. The degree of effort often depends entirely on a child’s age or an officer’s discretion. As a result, kids the same age can disappear under similar circumstances and receive vastly different responses from police.
In dozens of cities and towns, the child’s age alone can move them to the bottom of the priority list, according to a USA TODAY analysis of standard operating procedures for more than 50 law enforcement organizations. Once that happens, it takes a preliminary investigation or an officer’s initiative to move them back up.
More than 60% of the agencies examined by USA TODAY set a maximum age at which missing children are considered “critical” or “at risk” and therefore worthy of thorough investigation regardless of the circumstances. In Louisville, for example, the cutoff is 10. For the New Hampshire State Police, it’s 17. That means a missing 11-year-old in Louisville would typically draw less attention from law enforcement than a 16-year-old in New Hampshire.
If children are over the age limits, their cases require special circumstances – such as a health condition that requires medication or a drug addiction – to warrant extra effort. That gives the first patrol officer who speaks to a missing child’s family enormous power.
That officer’s opinions about the child’s maturity, mental health or relationship with their parents can dramatically affect the quality of the investigation – or whether there is an investigation at all. That discretion can result in discrimination.
In Milwaukee, the maximum age for more intensive searches is 11 unless certain other conditions are met, down from 12 in 2008, according to Sgt. Efrain Cornejo, the department spokesman. He said he didn’t know why.
Data released by the National Center for Educational Statistics, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Education, shows that Catholic school teachers, on average, work slightly more time each week than pubic school teachers–but get paid less while producing better results than public school teachers.
The NCES published a report in December entitled, “Characteristics of 2020-21 Public and Private School Teachers in the United States.” The report was based on a survey the Census Bureau conducted on behalf of NCES that interviewed public and private school principals and teachers.
Public school teachers, the survey indicated, spent an average of 52.0 hours per week on teaching and other school-related activities. Catholic school teachers, by contrast, spent 53.0 hours per week on teaching and other school-related activities.
Regular full-time K-12 public school teachers earned an average base salary of $61,600 in the 2020-2021 school year. Regular full-time K-12 teachers in Catholic schools, by contrast, earned an average base salary of only $45,200. That was $16,400—or approximately 26.6 percent—less than the average base salary for public school teachers.
While public school teachers are earning higher salaries than Catholic school teachers, their students are earning lower test scores.
In NCES’s 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading test for fourth graders, public school students had an average score of 216, while Catholic school students had an average score of 233. Among eighth graders, public school students had an average score of 259 on the reading test, while Catholic school students had an average score of 279.
In the NAEP reading test given to 12th graders in 2015, public school students scored an average of 285, while Catholic school students scored an average of 311.
In the 2022 NAEP math scores, Catholic school fourth graders scored 246 while public school fourth graders scored 235. Catholic school eighth graders scored 288 in math while public school eighth graders scored 273.
A California panel on Wednesday denied parole for Robert F. Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan, saying the 78-year-old prisoner still lacks insight into what caused him to shoot the senator and presidential candidate in 1968.
The ruling was a reversal of the ruling two years ago by a different California parole board that voted to release Sirhan. But Gov. Gavin Newson rejected the decision in 2022.
Sirhan’s lawyer Angela Berry disputed he lacks insight, and his psychiatrists have said for decades that he is unlikely to reoffend or be a danger to society.
Berry said she believes the new board members on Wednesday were influenced by Newsom and by the lawyers representing Kennedy’s widow and some of his children — several relatives of the slain politician are opposed to Sirhan’s release, though not all are.
In rejecting Sirhan’s freedom last year, the governor said the prisoner remains a threat to the public and hasn’t taken responsibility for a crime that changed American history.
In a 3 1/2-minute message played during a news conference held by Berry in September, Sirhan said he feels remorse every day for his actions. It was the first time Sirhan’s voice had been heard publicly since a televised parole hearing in 2011, before California barred audio or visual recordings of such proceedings.
Sirhan shot Kennedy moments after the U.S. senator from New York claimed victory in California’s pivotal Democratic presidential primary in 1968. He wounded five others during the shooting at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.
A Christian Palestinian from Jordan who suffered childhood trauma from the bombings in the Middle East, Sirhan has acknowledged he was angry at Kennedy for his support of Israel, but he has insisted he doesn’t remember the shooting and had been drinking alcohol just beforehand.
Sirhan, who was convicted of first-degree murder, originally was sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to life when the California Supreme Court briefly outlawed capital punishment in 1972.
It was a wild winter.
The end of February marked the close of “meteorological winter,” which spans December, January and February and is a designation separate from the astronomical seasons, capping a string of months when weather played out in unexpected ways.
Across the Northern Hemisphere, many normally frigid spots experienced dry and warmer-than-usual conditions, while others were plagued with heavy snow and damaging ice storms. Some cities in the southeastern U.S. recorded temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit last month — one place in Texas even hit triple digits.
Although official numbers won’t be confirmed for a few weeks, experts say this winter is all but sure to rank among the 10 warmest on record.
“It has really been quite a roller coaster,” Bob Henson, a meteorologist and writer for Yale Climate Connections, an online news service, said of the winter extremes.
And warmer winters have real consequences: Vegetation, including spring leaves on trees, is blooming days and weeks ahead of schedule in some parts of the country. In Washington, D.C., for instance, cherry blossoms are appearing earlier than expected, and they are projected to reach their peak roughly four weeks from now.
“The concern there is if it turns out we do get a cold mid- to late-March, it could really do a number on early-blooming crops or flowers,” Henson said.
They’re single but they’re not mingling.
New data from the Pew Research Center has shown that 63% of men under 30 are single – up from 51% in 2019.
COVID isolation and women’s high expectations for something serious are the main reasons they’re avoiding going out and coupling up, young guys say.
“Dates feel more like job interviews now. Much more like ‘What can you do for me and where is this going?’” said Ian Breslow, a 28-year-old high school teacher who lives in Astoria.
“The ‘getting to know you’ period is gone and that doesn’t feel so great after coming out of isolation.”
He recalled a recent first date that went quite well until the woman interrogated him on their walk home.
“She literally asked me, ‘Would you rather our kids go to public or private school?’ Followed by several more extreme questions about getting married. I just started responding with what I knew she would hate the most to get her to leave,” Breslow told The Post.
Experts agree that women are certainly wanting more than ever before.
“The overall picture [is] that if a woman is going to go on a date with a man, chances are it’s not for a casual fling,” Ronald Levant, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Akron, told The Post.
“Especially if the woman is kind of getting close to 30, [she’s] thinking about the biological clock and wants to have a family, he added.
They’re not bananas about this measly meal option.
A passenger on board a Japan Airlines flight was outraged when he received a single banana as his vegan meal — and a pair of chopsticks to eat it with.
Kris Chari was traveling from Jakarta, Indonesia, to Tokyo when he ordered the vegan meal for the seven-hour flight.
Chari reported his disappointing meal on the air travel forum FlyerTalk, saying he had thought it was a pre-breakfast snack — not the entire meal.
“Before takeoff today my flight attendant confirmed that I ordered VGML and that my breakfast was a banana, by which I mistakenly assumed she meant that breakfast included a banana,” Chari wrote on Feb. 21. “When she served the banana after takeoff I thought it was just an underwhelming appetizer — but it was in fact the entire meal service!”
Chari then told a flight attendant he was “frankly quite shocked” to learn that the banana was a catered meal.
“It’s a bit insulting to be served a single banana while others are given a far more substantial and flavorful menu,” he told Insider. “It seems especially important given the growth in the number of vegans and vegetarians.”
Although Chari admitted it was a “really good banana” — in fact “one of the best” he’d eaten recently — the confused passenger was still appalled it was classified as an entire meal.
Chari described his subsequent vegan lunch as “barely seasoned spaghetti” and said although their other meals with Japan Airlines have also bad in the past, nothing has been quite as “insubstantial” as the single banana.
First, it was supposedly a conspiracy theory. Then, it was banned. Finally, it was true.
The so-called “lab leak” theory of the origins of COVID-19 — the theory that COVID-19 originated in at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and then was unintentionally loosed — was always the most probable explanation for the outbreak of the deadly virus.
After all, as Jon Stewart correctly joked in 2021, “‘Oh, my God, there’s a novel respiratory coronavirus overtaking Wuhan, China. What do we do?’ ‘Oh, you know who we could ask? The Wuhan novel respiratory coronavirus lab.’ The disease is the same name as the lab. That’s just a little too weird, don’t you think?
But for well over a year, it was considered verboten to mention the lab leak theory. When Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark., posited the possibility of a lab leak in February 2020, he was roundly mocked by the media. The New York Times headlined, “Senator Tom Cotton Repeats Fringe Theory of Coronavirus Origins.” Scientific American headlined — in March 2022! — “The Lab-Leak Hypothesis Made It Harder for Scientists to Seek the Truth.”
Facebook actively quashed attempts to disseminate the theory; Dr. Anthony Fauci went on national television and downplayed the theory.
Two reasons are obvious. The first: powerful institutions had a stake in downplaying the Chinese origins of the virus in order to shift blame to the rest of the world. Certainly, that was China’s game: In all likelihood, COVID-19 was spreading in China as early as October 2019, and the government covered it up for months. But that was also the game of the World Health Organization. Members of the American government like Fauci also had a stake in smothering questions about American funding for gain-of-function research in Wuhan.
Then there’s the second reason: all the wrong people were repeating the lab leak theory. As one of MSNBC’s resident hacks, Mehdi Hasan, admitted on Twitter, “The simple reason why so many people weren’t keen to discuss the ‘lab leak’ theory is because it was originally conflated by the right with ‘Chinese bio weapon’ conspiracies and continues to be conflated by the right with anti-Fauci conspiracies. Blame the conspiracy theorists.”
As Nate Silver correctly noted, “The Bad People thought the lab leak might be true, therefore as journalists we couldn’t be expected to actually evaluate the evidence for it.”
And that’s precisely what happened with COVID-19. Whether it was ignoring the actual evidence regarding masks and mask mandates, the evidence regarding post-vaccination transmissibility or the evidence regarding the lab leak theory, experts decided that the wrong people had to be ignored. But they were wrong. And now they have no credibility left.
It’s about 10 months before anyone casts a single vote in the 2024 primary season and I’m already sick of all of it. All I really care about at this point is someone emerge and beat holy hell out of Joe Biden or whatever unimpressive, doesn’t know what a woman is Democrat the left props up, anything else is gravy.
My concern is whoever ends up being the Republican nominee will have so many gaping holes in them they’ll bleed out before the general, metaphorically, of course. It’s so far away that a little more than 1 percent of the population will have died before it, so it’s time to give it a rest for a bit.
Not that you’ll die, I don’t want that. What I do want is the candidates, real and imagined, to grow the hell up, and their supporters to stop acting like jackasses too. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask, but every cycle it becomes a bigger and bigger lift.
The candidates are announcing earlier than ever and we’re far from done hearing from new ones, but who gives a damn.
I’m all for the Republican nominee, and I don’t care who it is. There are some who it obviously won’t be – looking at you Larry Hogan – and there are some I’d prefer it not be, but even if it is them they will have my vote. I want the Democrats to lose, period.
That having been said, give it a rest already. No one is a frontrunner or entitled to a damn thing in a general election that is almost 2 years from now, and polls on that election mean nothing. I know a lot of people have their choices made already, just ask 2016 nominee Scott Walker how important it is to get an early lead in the polls.
Whatever you think is going to happen is unlikely to happen, and everyone will end up getting wildly angry before it really even gets started, that’s just how these things work.
Also, your life will be significantly better if you avoid blind loyalty to any politician because, and I promise you this, it will never, ever be returned.
Anyway, I could do without all of this right now. There is a time for it all, just not yet. We have a common enemy, or at least we should. Only one of these people will win the nomination, and anyone who says it’s their way or the highway is on the team of that enemy. Maybe check yourselves a bit, there will be plenty of time for fighting over the direction of conservatism after liberalism is vanquished.
–Columnist Derek Hunter
Randi Weingarten — the nation’s top teacher, in a sense — seems ignorant of what any child could learn about government from “Schoolhouse Rock.”
The American Federation of Teachers boss made that painfully clear (and we mean painfully) Tuesday by launching into an unhinged tirade in front of the Supreme Court, as justices were hearing challenges to President Joe Biden’s college-loan-forgiveness plan.
“This is what really pisses me off,” she fumed, literally screaming and jumping. During the pandemic, “small businesses were hurting, and we helped them. . . . Big businesses were hurting, and we helped them. And it didn’t go to the Supreme Court.” Yet, “all of a sudden, when it’s about our students . . . the corporations challenge it, the student-loan lenders challenge it.”
Hello? Yes, federal aid helped businesses during the pandemic but only after Congress passed COVID rescue packages to keep the economy afloat. Neither President Donald Trump nor President Biden unilaterally ordered handouts to anyone.
Yet Weingarten (a lawyer as well as an educator!) claims it’s now fine for Biden to forgive hundreds of billions in debt from student loans without lawmakers’ say-so. And that it’s “not fair” for anyone to even challenge that in court.
If only she’d watched those “Schoolhouse Rock” shorts, explaining the separation of powers: Congress passes laws and holds Uncle Sam’s “purse strings.” If student loans are wiped out, that counts as a hit on the US Treasury, even if funds covering those balances (as much as $1 trillion) get rolled into the national debt, as they would.
The president is supposed to execute laws Congress passes; he can’t simply shower mountains of taxpayer dollars on whatever causes he chooses. And if he tries, Americans have every right to ask the courts to stop him.
—NY Post Editorial Board
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY – In 1962 American basketball player Wilt Chamberlain scored a record 100 points in a National Basketball Association (NBA) game.
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