Thursday, March 31, 2011

Keep Your Government Hands Off My Seniorcare

The right wing spent a lot of time and money last year convincing seniors (erroneously) that the recently-passed health care reform legislation would undermine their Medicare benefits.  Political operatives know that the elderly are more likely to vote than younger people, and they are very concerned about any potential cuts to entitlement programs (because they rely very heavily upon them to maintain their standard of living).

So it was very foolish (but deliciously ironic) of Scott Walker to include cuts to Wisconsin's popular Seniorcare program in his budget. This particular issue is driving a wedge in his control of the State Senate.  He might have been able to keep Darling and Hopper in line, if they weren't facing recall campaigns thanks to the shenanigans of the Fitzwalkerstan administration.

It seems that the Governor has been hoist by the Teapublicans' petard.

Monday, March 28, 2011

J.B. Van Hollen Must Have Another Job Lined Up

He clearly no longer cares about getting re-elected.

It's been a busy Monday at the DOJ:

Van Hollen issued a statement contorting the definition of "publication" under the Wisconsin constitution

DOJ let sexting DA Ken Kratz off the hook

It's like he's channeling Cee Lo Green and singing a song to Wisconsin citizens.

Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Board expects no boost in turnout for the April 5 election.

The remake of They Live can't be completed fast enough.

Kiss Me, Kate

In Shakespeare's play The Taming of the Shrew, a strong-willed woman named Katherina (Kate for short) is brainwashed (through the withholding of food and clothing, among other forms of psychological abuse) into becoming the ideal submissive wife.  Her husband, Petruchio, tests her obedience by insisting that the sun is the moon and that a man is a woman.  Having given up her free will and any desire to think for herself, Kate agrees with Petruchio's absurd assertions.

A frighteningly large segment of American voters have become modern Katherinas. No longer interested in checking facts for themselves or questioning their lords and masters, they willingly accept (contrary to Occam's Razor and all observable evidence) that President Obama was born in Kenya. They not only refuse to believe that human-released greenhouse gases have anything to do with climate change (which is not an outrageous position, since evidence of a strong correlation is not proof of causation), but that average global climates are even rising at all. They believe the expertise of a pampered English aristocrat with degrees in classics and journalism studies over that of actual climate scientists at NOAA or the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Some of them continue to insist that homosexuality is simply a lifestyle choice or a condition that can be "cured" (despite a growing body of scientific evidence to the contrary, not to mention numerous sex scandals by conservative clergymen who have strong incentives to play it straight), and that it is therefore OK to discriminate against homosexuals.

Some right-wingers will undoubtedly claim that the left are the ones who are uncritically accepting a belief in global warming or the normality of homosexuality. They do not seem to realize (or care) that lefties are more likely to question everything. There are some on the left who form their opinions based on tribalism or a desire to rebel against their parents, but the left is not monolithic. There are all manner of free-thinkers and skeptics on the left, and for an idea to survive, it needs to fit the evidence. When new evidence is discovered, ideas and models to explain the world are adjusted and/or discarded as appropriate.  That is part of the scientific method.

From time to time, I find myself in a discussion that feels like I'm being told that the sun is the moon. At that point, I usually despair of having a rational and productive debate. Once someone has submitted to Petruchio, trying to debate the issue is like banging one's head against a brick wall.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

RIP, Gerry Ferraro

Former New York Congresswoman (and 1984 Democratic VP candidate) Geraldine Ferraro passed away at the age of 75.

I never found Ferraro to be a very skilled politician. Although she undoubtedly had to work twice as hard for her achievements early in her career as a man would have, her gender eventually brought her to more prominence than she ever would have had otherwise, so I found it irritating that she never got rid of the enormous chip on her shoulder.

In 2008, Ferraro had one last moment in the spotlight when she excoriated the Democratic Party (and its primary voters) for preferring Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton. People seem to have forgotten how much her words (and the perception of an electoral opportunity that they created) influenced McCain's choice of running mate.

So in the end, Ferraro's most lasting legacy is the national prominence of Sarah Palin.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kasich Out-Yeltsins Walker

Ohio Governor John Kasich, using the same Koch-authored playbook as Wisconsin's Scott Walker, has proposed a budget which deeply cuts aid to cities and privatizes state assets.

Although Scott Walker wants to sell off state-owned power plants with no-bid contracts, much like Boris Yeltsin did with Russia's energy assets, at least he hasn't proposed privatizing Wisconsin's prisons. Yet.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Rock the Casbah

France has gone there, and Gaddafi don't like it.

Let's hope this looks more like the Gulf War of 1991 and less like the Iraq War of 2003-present.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Eumenides

The Oresteia is a trilogy of ancient Greek plays by Aeschylus. The first, Agamemnon, deals with the victorious Trojan War general's return home, not to a hero's welcome, but to a murder at the hands of his wife.  The second, the Libation Bearers, is the account of how the hero's children avenge his death by conspiring to kill their mother.

The third play, the Eumenides, follows Orestes after his matricide. He is pursued by ancient female vengeance demons called the Erinyes (or Furies) in punishment for his deed, even though he acted at the instigation of the god Apollo and thus believed that right was on his side.  Even the Olympians who govern the universe could not give him sanctuary from the lowly (literally chthonic, or subterranean) deities who insist on tormenting him.

In the end, it was settled in court, with Apollo acting as attorney for the defense, the Furies as prosecutors, and Athena as judge.  There was a hung jury, which Athena declared should result in an acquittal.  The Furies would not accept this, however, unless they received something in return.  Giving them their propers, Athena declared that a temple would be built in their honor in Athens, and from henceforth, they would be known as the Eumenides (or "Kindly Ones").

It has been over 20 years since I've read that play, but today I was suddenly reminded of it. Governor Walker and Republican state legislators have found themselves greeted by hundreds of protesters in cities all over Wisconsin. To escape the heat (and raise some much-needed cash for media buys), the chief actors have gone to the nation's capital for a big fundraiser, like Orestes seeking sanctuary in the temple of Athena.  However, a crowd of Furies have tracked them down.

Meanwhile, back in Madison, a Kindly One tormented Glenn Grothman.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hopper Crashes at Employee's McMansion

In the midst of an official complaint that State Senator Randy Hopper has been living outside his district since his divorce last summer, Hopper's policy adviser advised the media that the Senator is officially living in an apartment in Fond du Lac. The media committed some actual journalism, however, and found that the address given is not, in fact, an apartment, but the $600,000 home of an employee of a radio station that Hopper owns.

It's fortunate for Hopper that he has an employee on whom he can impose who happens to own a nice big house in the district.  I hope he's paying rent for the privilege.  If not, I hope he declared the value of the lodging on his income tax return and campaign finance reports.

Time Warp

No, that isn't a humorous reference to Susan Sarandon's appearance on Saturday.  Later that afternoon, I had a moment so disorienting that I wondered for a moment if it was a hallucination brought on by too little sleep and too much caffeine. While marching around the Capitol, near North Hamilton Street, I heard CCR's "Fortunate Son" playing over the speakers at that corner of the Capitol.  I looked around and saw -- I kid you not -- a group of college kids carrying a Students for a Democratic Society banner.  It turns out that this is not the same organization that agitated against the Vietnam War.  Lest you think they are out-of-state professional lefties, I believe this contingent was from UW-Milwaukee.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bank Run at M&I?

M & I Bank, whose executives donated significantly to Scott Walker's campaign for Governor, became the target of protesters yesterday. Members of Firefighters Local 311 withdrew money from their accounts and urged others to do likewise.  The Bank closed early, supposedly due to safety concerns.  It is certainly possible that it was really due to a shortage of cash on hand at that branch if the firefighters indeed withdrew close to $200K in the space of a couple hours.  The Internet is filled with calls to withdraw funds from M&I Bank.

M&I survived the collapse of 2008, thanks to TARP funds but has been on shaky ground ever since.  It was recently bought by a Canadian bank. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Your Lack of Planning Does Not Constitute an Emergency

Scott Walker's acolytes in the State Senate rushed a stripped-down, supposedly non-fiscal version of legislation that strips public employees of most collective bargaining rights last night.  They did so without the 24-hour notice required by the State's Open Meetings Law. The relevant Fitzgerald claims the action passes muster, since the law allows two-hour notice in the event of an "emergency."

What was the emergency?  The fiscal year hasn't ended without a budget.  The National Guard hasn't been mobilized.  There isn't a killer blizzard on the way.  Why the rush?  Oh, right; there are recall efforts underway that could swing control of the Senate to the Democrats.  Oh, and a bunch of people who've never bothered to show up for a Spring election before have pledged to vote for JoAnne Kloppenburg.  I hope they remember to bring their photo I.D. on April 5.

It will be interesting to see if J. B. Van Hollen thinks that partisan electoral concerns constitute an emergency for purposes of Wisconsin's Open Meetings Law.  Does he care about the law (and his job), or is he just a partisan hack?  More importantly, does he think that hitching his wagon to Scott Walker's team of Fitzgeralds will help or hurt his political career in the long run?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rockford Capitalizes on its New Image

Rockford has come a long way since Money Magazine named it the worst city in America in which to live (the same year it rated Madison as #1).  Now it has a hip new cache as a place of refuge for politicians on the lam.  Their convention & visitors bureau put together this video, which puts a positive spin on the city's attractions (although Mrs. Rick Nielsen probably didn't appreciate the disparaging comments about her cooking).

The Daily Show sent John Oliver to Rockford for a bit that aired last night (it appears that no camels were harmed in the making of this video):

Monday, March 7, 2011

North By Midwest

The annual South By Southwest film and music festival gets underway in Austin, Texas next weekend. As always, they have an interesting lineup of musical acts.

It occurred to me, though, that we have had a pretty remarkable music festival of our own here in Madison over the past few weeks. Tom Morello, Wayne Kramer, the Street Dogs, Peter Yarrow, Michelle Shocked, and Ryan Bingham, among others, have played to huge crowds (outdoors in February and March, no less).  We have also had well-known speakers like Jesse Jackson (who could practically qualify as a Madison resident by now, he's spent so much time here), Michael Moore, Jim Hightower (who will speak at the Barrymore this Saturday night) and, on the other side of the aisle, Joe the Plumber (who has been in town on two separate weekends).

I wonder what it would take to get Muse here.  Because that would be really cool.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Maybe It's Time to Bring in the FBI

For crying out loud.  Multiple rounds of .22-caliber hollow-point bullets have been found scattered around the Capitol.

Before you jump on a conspiracy bandwagon, consider that many people were wearing their deer hunting outerwear on Saturday to keep warm.  It's possible that someone still had bullets in a coat pocket that had a small tear in it.  Please, people, check your coat pockets for bullets before you go downtown; there are children around, and we don't want them to pick up dangerous found toys.

Also, keep in mind that a couple thousand open-carry advocates were on the square a couple weeks ago.  Who knows how many of them forgot they still had bullets in their coat pockets?

Finally, there were a lot of extra law enforcement officers from many agencies around the state at the scene on Monday and Tuesday.  It's entirely possible that one or more of them was leaking bullets.  That explanation would make the most sense, considering that bullets were also found inside the City County building, which has not been occupied by protesters.

Given that local and state law enforcement agencies are stretched pretty thin, and that they may be emotionally too close to the situation to conduct an efficient and objective investigation, it might be a good idea to request FBI assistance.  Any investigation headed up by the DCI or the State Patrol is unlikely to instill confidence, given that the security sweep that found the bullets was used as an argument in court to keep citizens from having their constitutionally-guaranteed access to the Capitol during normal business hours.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

No Wonder O'Reilly Thought Palm Trees Grow in Madison

He must have heard that the city's official bird is the pink flamingo.  Where there are flamingoes, there surely must be palm trees, right?

Oh, and there is a rum distillery in town, which also evokes images of warm beaches and palm fronds swaying in the breeze.

Anyone could make that mistake, right? As Stephen Colbert mentioned last night, "Video goes in; video goes out; never a miscommunication."
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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Fitzgerald Hands the High Road Card to Missing Democrats

Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald drafted a resolution to fine the chamber's 14 Democrats $100 a day if they remain absent, as well as force them to reimburse the state for any costs the state incurs trying to force them to return.

Brilliant.  I suspect it is illegal to force anyone to pay for a government stake-out of their house, so Fitzgerald just looks like an overreaching idiot here.

More importantly, Fitzgerald's impatience is undermining his party's attempts to paint the missing Senators as lazy and cowardly.  They had been harping on the talking points that is "time to come back and do the job they are paid to do."

Well, they are not being paid, since the State Senate previously passed a rule to hold their paychecks until they pick them up on the Senate floor.  Now they are also facing mounting fines.  Rather than seeming lazy and greedy, even constituents who are on the fence about whether the 14 should continue their hold-out must see that they are now making significant personal sacrifices for their cause.

Every day, Walker and the Fitzgeralds look more and more like Eric Cartman in his trooper uniform, shouting: "You will respect my authoritay!"