NEWS/OPINION BRIEFS – Monday, March 27, 2023

Briefs are posted every weekday morning, M-F


With the future of abortion rights and redistricting hanging in the balance, all eyes are on the April election for Wisconsin Supreme Court. But for people who find themselves in front of a judge, two questions on the ballot could have more substantial consequences than who controls the state’s highest panel.

A proposed constitutional amendment will let voters choose whether it should be harder to get out of jail on bail. Early voters have reported confusion over what the proposal would do and how the questions are worded.

The first question asks voters if they think judges should be able to set conditions to protect the public from serious harm when releasing people before trial. The second asks whether judges should be allowed to consider past convictions for violent crimes when setting bail for someone accused of a violent crime.

The questions may seem vague and unimportant, but they would let judges set higher cash bail amounts that could disproportionately keep poor defendants behind bars, said Alison Shames, director of the Center for Effective Public Policy. The measure’s Republican sponsors say higher bail amounts would protect the public.

“It traps people with little money in jail when the judge may in fact not even intend for that person to be staying in jail,” Shames said.

Bail is meant to ensure a defendant returns to court and isn’t supposed to be a punishment, since the defendant hasn’t yet been convicted. Research shows that people who stay in jail before trial because they cannot afford their bail are more likely to be unemployed and reoffend in the years after their case ends.

“Even just a few days of jail can disrupt someone’s life, can cause them to lose jobs or housing or contact with their family — essentially all of the stabilizing factors that help someone keep out of trouble with the law,” said Matt Alsdorf, who works alongside Shames to study bail policies.

Many details of the Republican-backed plan to overhaul bail in Wisconsin were laid out in a separate bill passed last week by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Opponents raised concerns about how that bill defines the two key terms referenced in the ballot questions: serious harm and violent crime.

Under the bill, which can only go into effect if the amendment passes, judges would have broad discretion to set stricter release conditions for any defendant they believe could physically or emotionally hurt someone or inflict damages of more than $2,500 while on release.

The bill also names more than 100 offenses as violent crimes. Opponents say the list is too broad and contains offenses that should not make it harder to get out on bail, such as watching a cockfight or leaving a firearm where a child gains access to it.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers could still veto the bill, but he cannot veto a constitutional amendment. If Evers vetoes the bill and voters ratify the amendment, judges would have to decide what violent crime and serious harm mean. The governor’s office has not responded to messages asking about his plans for the bill.

In the case that voters approve only one of the two questions, only that part of the amendment and clarifying bill would go into effect.

Republican Rep. Cindi Duchow and Sen. Van Wanggaard, who sponsored the bail measures, say the legislation will keep communities safe by making it easier for judges to hold people they deem dangerous on high bail amounts.

The stricter bail policies gained traction in Wisconsin after Darrell Brooks drove his SUV through a Christmas parade in suburban Milwaukee in 2021, killing six people and injuring more than 60 while out on $1,000 bail for a prior charge of domestic violence. Brooks’ bail for the parade killings was set at $5 million.

Police organizations and conservative funding groups have voiced support for the bail amendment. Meanwhile organizers such as Ex-Incarcerated People Organizing, or EXPO, the ACLU, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin and Milwaukee-based Black Leaders Organizing Communities, or BLOC, oppose it.

—Wisconsin AP

A Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton collaboration was deemed too controversial to be performed by students at a Wisconsin elementary school – a move that was blasted by some in the school community.

Originally, first grade students were set to perform “Rainbowland” which is a duet between the pop star and country legend that praises acceptance, before administrators for the Waukesha school district vetoed the selection ahead of the spring concert, according to reports.

“I was very confused,” parent Sarah Schindler, whose daughter goes to the Heyer Elementary School, told CBS 58, adding her daughter informed her the song was no longer in play.

Superintendent Jim Sebert said the school received two inquiries about the 2017 song from parents.

After which, Heyer Principal Mark Schneider and another school administrator erred against allowing it at the concert, according to the television station.

“It was determined that Rainbowland could be perceived as controversial,” Sebert reportedly said in a statement, referencing school board decision. “The main question was is the song appropriate for the age level and maturity of the students.”

Among the parents and teachers irked by the decision was Melissa Tempel, a first grade teacher at the school, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“My first graders were so excited to sing Rainbowland for our spring concert but it has been vetoed by our administration,” she said in a tweet last week. “When will it end?”

Some of the song lyrics from Cyrus and Parton include “Wouldn’t it be nice to live in paradise / Where we’re free to be exactly who we are” and “Brush the judgment and fear aside / Make wrong things right / And end the fight / ‘Cause I promise ain’t nobody gonna win.”

Schindler told the LA Times the school board had a “conservative flip” in recent years that led to policy changes and caused controversy in the school community.

“I know, Miley Cyrus kind of has a past, in the spotlight with, you know, talking about drug use, and sexuality, and all of that,” she told the newspaper. “And Dolly Parton supports drag queens, and you know, that’s another thing going about in our country these days.”

—NY Post

In a long speech full of by-now-familiar grievances, insults, self-defense, self-promotion, and exaggeration, former President Donald J. Trump told a crowd in Waco, Texas on Saturday that he will win the 2024 election.

“When this election is over, I will be the president of the United States,” he said to applause.

And if he doesn’t win, he later added, “I believe our country is doomed.”

Trump slammed his many critics, but thanked the current Republican-led House, singling out two lawmakers, Reps. Jim Jordan and James Comer, by name, calling them “great people” for the investigations they are leading.

—CNS News

A recent survey of taxpayers shows a large number of Americans anticipated a tax refund that is either the same size or larger than last year’s.

The survey, released by tax-preparing software firm TaxAct this month, showed that only about 30 percent of Americans anticipated “receiving less of a refund on their 2022 returns” despite recent warnings from the Internal Revenue Service and other tax experts. Another 24 percent said in the survey that they “don’t know what to expect.”

The smaller refunds come as many Americans are saving less and are increasingly expressing worry about decades-high inflation, according to a TaxAct release. Tax experts have said that federal government pandemic programs as well as tax credits have ended for many.

“Refunds are predicted to go down 11 percent from last year,” Curtis Campbell, president and CEO of TaxAct, stated in a press release. “And it’s important for people to be prepared to receive less or even owe money this tax season.”

Citing recent changes to the tax code, he noted that “we can expect to see lower tax refunds across the board this season being there was no stimulus relief this past year and other tax advantages, like the Child Tax Credit, reverted back to their lesser 2019 values.”

“There is a lot of economic uncertainty right now, and for the majority of customers we serve, their tax refund is their biggest paycheck of the year,” Campbell added. “U.S. citizens are saving less money, and therefore, relying on their refunds to help make ends meet.”

Data released by the IRS earlier this month show that tax refunds are 11 percent smaller, on average, than the same time a year ago. Still, the IRS has sent out more tax refunds this year than last year, while a greater number of processed returns triggered a refund so far with less than a month to go before the April 18 tax-filing deadline.

The average tax refund amounted to $3,028 as of Mar. 3, down from $3,401 during the same time period in 2022. So far, the IRS has sent out 42 million refunds this year, compared with some 38 million that were sent during the same time period last year.

—The Epoch Times

Republican Gov. Brad Little signed a bill allowing execution by firing squad, making Idaho the latest state to turn to older methods of capital punishment amid a nationwide shortage of lethal-injection drugs.

The Legislature passed the measure March 20 with a veto-proof majority. Under it, firing squads will be used only if the state cannot obtain the drugs needed for lethal injections.

Pharmaceutical companies increasingly have barred executioners from using their drugs, saying they were meant to save lives. One Idaho death row inmate has already had his execution postponed repeatedly because of drug scarcity.

The shortage has prompted other states in recent years to revive older methods of execution. Only Mississippi, Utah, Oklahoma and South Carolina have laws allowing firing squads if other execution methods are unavailable, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. South Carolina’s law is on hold pending the outcome of a legal challenge.

“While I am signing this bill, it is important to point out that fulfilling justice can and must be done by minimizing stress on corrections personnel,” Little wrote in a transmittal letter after signing the bill, the Idaho Statesman reported. “For the people on death row, a jury convicted them of their crimes, and they were lawfully sentenced to death. It is the responsibility of the state of Idaho to follow the law and ensure that lawful criminal sentences are carried out.”

—NBC News

The Florence museum housing Michelangelo’s Renaissance masterpiece the David on Sunday invited parents and students from a Florida charter school to visit after complaints about a lesson featuring the statue forced the principal to resign.

Florence Mayor Dario Nardella also tweeted an invitation for the principal to visit so he can personally honor her. Confusing art with pornography was “ridiculous,” Nardella said.

The board of the Tallahassee Classical School pressured Principal Hope Carrasquilla to resign last week after an image of the David was show to a sixth-grade art class. The school has a policy requiring parents to be notified in advance about “controversial” topics being taught.

The incredulous Italian response highlighted how the U.S. culture wars are often perceived in Europe, where despite a rise in right-wing sentiment and governance, the Renaissance and its masterpieces, even its naked ones, are generally free of controversy. Sunday’s front page of the Italian daily publication Corriere della Sera featured a cartoon by its leading satirist depicting David with his genitals covered by an image of Uncle Sam and the word “Shame.”

Carrasquilla believes the board targeted her after three parents complained about a lesson including a photo of the David, a 5-meter tall (17 foot) nude marble sculpture dating from 1504. The work, reflecting the height of the Italian Renaissance, depicts the Biblical David going to fight Goliath armed only with his faith in God.

Carrasquilla has said two parents complained because they weren’t notified in advance that a nude would be shown, while a third called the iconic statue pornographic.

Carrasquilla said in a phone interview Sunday that she is “very honored” by the invitations to Italy and she may accept.

“I am totally, like, wow,” Carasquilla said. “I’ve been to Florence before and have seen the David up close and in person, but I would love to go and be a guest of the mayor.”

Cecilie Hollberg, director of the Galleria dell’Accademia, where the David resides, expressed astonishment at the controversy.

“To think that David could be pornographic means truly not understanding the contents of the Bible, not understanding Western culture and not understanding Renaissance art,” Hollberg said in a telephone interview.

Michelangelo Buonarroti sculpted the David between 1501-1504 after being commissioned by the Cathedral of Florence. The statue is the showpiece of the Accademia, and helps draw 1.7 million visitors each year to the museum.

—Associated Press

Texas Republican Rep. Troy Nehls rebuked Rep. Jamaal Bowman for being flippant about the dangers TikTok poses to youth mental health after the New York Democrat attributed Republican support for a ban on the popular, Chinese-owned video sharing platform to a lack of “swag.”

Currently, many Republicans in Congress and a growing number of Democrats are in favor of a nationwide ban on TikTok, for reasons ranging from national security and user data privacy to the targeting of the young with harmful content.

During a protest outside the Capitol Wednesday, Bowman, a progressive Democrat opposed to the ban, impugned the motives of ban advocates in the familiar terms of identity politics, urging Congress to “not be racist towards China and express our xenophobia when it comes to TikTok.”

Bowman also took another, somewhat head-scratching, swipe at his opponents.

“Republicans ain’t got no swag, that’s why they want a ban,” he declared.

Asked for a response, Nehls ripped Bowman for trivializing a serious issue.

“Give me a break,” Nehls retorted. “What are we teenagers? What is this high school? … Is this a popularity contest? Am I running for class president? This is serious stuff.

Nehls continued, alluding to a mother who sued TikTok last year, alleging her daughter died from imitating a dangerous stunt that the app’s demographic targeting algorithm curated for her. “How would Bowman feel if we get the mother of the 10-year-old that committed suicide?” Nehls asked. “You think he’s going to look her in the eyeballs like I’m looking at you and say, ‘I want to talk to you a little bit about swag’? Give me a break. This is serious business.”

Nehls is in favor of banning TikTok, in part, because it is owned by ByteDance, the Chinese company which has access to personal data related to the platform’s millions of users.

“We have to act responsibly,” Nehls said. “We have to put the American people first and their children. We must do it today. I don’t see the fight here. I don’t see the arguments. I don’t see the argument other than the guy in the White House. He’s owned by China.”

—Just the News

A Mississippi meteorologist, shocked by radar images of a tornado belt headed for a small town in his viewing area, broke down on Friday and prayed live on-air.

WTVA‘s Matt Laubhan was overcome as he watched his radar screen while delivering the weather. He saw that the tornado was heading directly toward the town of Amory shortly before 11 PM on Friday.

“Here’s the thing about this, y’all trust me too much,” he said on the newscast. “I tell you where it’s going to go and some of you guys are like, ‘That’s where it’s gonna go.’ The reality of this, this could be changing direction. So, Amory, we need to be in our safe place.”

Laubhan kept his gaze fixated on his radar screen during his segment, at one point leaning down on his table.

“Oh man, North side of Amory, this is coming in,” he said. “Oh, man. Dear Jesus, please help them. Amen.”

The tornado has so far claimed 23 people in Mississippi, with several in Monroe County, where Amory is located.

—The website Deadline

Keep an eye to the sky this week for a chance to see a planetary hangout.

Five planets — Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Uranus and Mars — will line up near the moon.

Where and when can you see them?

The best day to catch the whole group is Tuesday. You’ll want to look to the western horizon right after sunset, said NASA astronomer Bill Cooke.

The planets will stretch from the horizon line to around halfway up the night sky. But don’t be late: Mercury and Jupiter will quickly dip below the horizon around half an hour after sunset.

The five-planet spread can be seen from anywhere on Earth, as long as you have clear skies and a view of the west.

“That’s the beauty of these planetary alignments. It doesn’t take much,” Cooke said.

—The Associated Press

Whether you wear shoes in your home usually comes down to personal preference. Kicking off your sneakers at the end of the day can be a creature comfort that also extends the life of your carpeting and makes mopping your hardwood floors an easier chore. But cozy vibes and aesthetics aside, should you leave your shoes at the door for the sake of your health? Spoiler: If you want to keep feces, bacteria, lead, pesticides, and other potentially harmful other chemicals from entering your home, it’s probably a good idea.

Jill Litt, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, recommends people take their shoes off before entering their homes in order to reduce tracking in dirt and feces (yup, from dog poop) that your shoes inevitably pick up when you’re out and about. But how germy, really, are our shoes? A University of Arizona-led study in 2008 set out to quantify just that by swabbing new shoes worn by 10 participants over the course of two weeks. On average, 421,000 units of bacteria clung to the outside of the shoes. E. coli, which is known to cause intestinal and urinary tract infections and other health problems, was prevalent in the samples. (The small study wasn’t published in a peer-reviewed journal; it was supported by a shoe company testing out machine-washable shoes.)

One thing parents should keep in mind: Hand-to-mouth contact is one of the primary ways children get exposed to toxic substances and infectious disease agents, Litt points out. In urban areas with high levels of lead-based paint (older homes built before 1978), researchers have found high levels of lead in dust in the home and one of the main sources is dust tracked in from outside. Research has also shown you can even bring in pesticide residue from gardens via shoes, Litt says.

“The factors that influence how these particles and dirt move through the indoor environment include climate, design of the entrance, and whether there are exterior mats and interior mats,” she says. (Shoe and boot scrapers can help keep germy intruders out, too.)

The highest concentration of debris is in the interior entryway, and levels go down as you move from this area, Litt explains. Carpeting, though, retains a lot of dust, she points out, and unfortunately vacuuming is very good at dispersing those particles rather than just removing them.

If you’ve got some dirt spots or pesky white stains from salt and de-icing chemicals that are extra stubborn to remove from your flooring, try some at-home cleaning solutions, suggests Alicia Sokolowski, the president and co-CEO of AspenClean. Here are a couple solutions Sokolowski recommends trying.

• Vinegar and water: Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution on the mud or dirt stain and let it sit for a few minutes. Use a clean microfiber cloth or sponge to scrub the stain gently, starting from the outside and working your way inward. Rinse with clean water and blot the area dry with a clean towel or cloth.

• Baking soda and water: Mix baking soda and water to form a paste. Apply the paste to the stain and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Use a stiff-bristled brush to scrub the stain gently, and then rinse with clean water. Blot the area dry with a clean towel or microfiber cloth.



During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden welcomed immigrants from around the world to enter the United States. In a 2019 Democratic Party presidential debate, Biden said, “You want to flee, and you’re fleeing oppression, you should come.”

This message was heard by migrants worldwide as illegal immigrants from 160 nations have been encountered at the southern border. It is especially concerning that the number of Chinese nationals who have been apprehended at the border has increased 900% since last year. According to author and analyst Gordon Chang, “We have to assume that the Chinese regime is taking advantage of the situation by smuggling in their agents.”

This development should worry every American as communist China is our foremost enemy. There is also a high probability that Chinese spies and terrorists are among the 1.2 million illegal migrants who “got away” and escaped from U.S. border agents during the Biden presidency.

Overall, there have been approximately 189,000 border encounters per month during the Biden presidency, a 370% increase since the Trump administration. During the last two years, illegal crossings were one million higher than during the entire four years of the Trump presidency. In just 2022, there were more than 2 million illegal border crossings.

Obviously, this is a massive problem that should have the full attention of the Biden administration. We do not have enough resources deployed at the border. At a minimum, we need to finish the border wall, boost the number of border patrol agents and swiftly deport illegal aliens who enter our country.

With an open border, fentanyl and other illegal drugs are pouring into the United States. Fentanyl overdose was the primary cause of 70,601 deaths in our country in 2021. This was approximately 65% of the 106,699 drug overdose deaths which were recorded that year, an all-time record.

With drug overdose deaths and illegal immigration at the highest levels in American history, this country is facing a severe crisis. Unfortunately, the Biden administration has totally failed to provide adequate border security.

What are the American people concerned about? According to a recent Gallup poll, the top four priorities are poor leadership, illegal immigration, the weak economy, and the escalating inflation rate. The issue of the “environment” came in last among respondents at 3%.

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Minority Leader, stated the war in Ukraine was the most important issue facing Republicans.

Not surprisingly, the American people do not share this ridiculous belief. The Gallup poll indicated that the war in Ukraine was not even mentioned by 1% of respondents as our top problem.

—Talk show host Jeff Crouere is political columnist

One of the more comical moments early in the tenure of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was in 2019 when she triumphantly raised both fists over her head a la Rocky Balboa upon executing five push-ups. She later Tweeted, “Don’t judge me, I def fell off the workout wagon.”

This is lighthearted behavior but it illustrates how Leftists routinely implore people not to be judgmental. In truth, people make judgments all the time. Whether you’re deciding if you should run a yellow light or hit the brakes, deciding what clothes to buy, or whether to associate with someone or politely avoid them, we all make judgments. It’s how we survive.

Judgment can be tricky. If it is made absent inquiry, it’s usually unwise. That’s why most people ask questions before arriving at a conclusion. It’s what people do when trying to make judgments about politics or public policy. But some questions are deemed good while others not so much, particularly when they involve the most pressing issues of our time.

If you ask questions in pursuit of judgment on climate or COVID policy, you’re liable to be branded a denier. If you ask questions about sexuality, you’re a homophobe. If you ask about critical race theory, you’re a racist.

This is how the Left betrays the vapidity of its positions. On one hand, if you ask the questions necessary to arrive at a responsible judgment, Leftists hurl slander and threats. On the other hand, you’re castigated about how you shouldn’t be judgmental if the Left disagrees with you.

When we’re pilloried for asking questions and excoriated for wrongthink, the people scolding us for being judgmental leave us with one remaining option; to agree with them – or else. This is a time tested strategy of totalitarians; people who disagreed with Soviet Communism were systematically imprisoned in psychiatric gulags.

The Left does not want us to make judgments. They simply demand we buy whatever they’re selling, no questions asked.

The American Left hates it when we make judgments about their policies because they are bad policies. Most people don’t like them and they know this. Even our attempts to learn about these policies by asking fundamental questions is attacked. Rather, we’re told to sit down, shut up and obey.

We need to be more judgmental. Discerning judgment is indispensable to a well run civil society, and it is incumbent upon us to ask the questions necessary to judge policies and account for our judgments. In evaluating the ideology of the totalitarian Left, people quickly learn that it seeks to prohibit the discerning kind of judgment Christ taught us. That’s a leading indicator of the fruits of Leftism right there.

—Scott Hogenson is president of Hogenson Communications, a Dallas-Fort Worth public relations and crisis management practice.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY – 111 years ago today, the first of 3,000 Japanese cherry blossom trees were planted in Washington, D.C. — a gift from the Mayor of Tokyo, Yukio Ozaki, and in 1935 marked the date of the inaugural Cherry Blossom Festival in the nation’s capital. Ozaki gave the trees to enhance the growing friendship between the United States and Japan and also celebrate the continued close relationship between the two nations.

One thought on “NEWS/OPINION BRIEFS – Monday, March 27, 2023

  1. Pingback: My Most Popular Blogs (04/03/2023) | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

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