Thursday, December 29, 2011

Some thoughts about that "Republican Clown Car"

Can you believe it?

Hardcore, conservative, dyed-in-the-wool Republican Senator Danforth called the republican presidential candidate field, "...embarrassing, they're terrible, just terrible for the party."

In recent days, more Republican pundits have referred to the Republican candidates transversing Iowa in search of conservative votes as the equivalent of a "clown car". I don't think I've ever seen such a violation of Ronald Reagan's "11th Commandment" (Thou shalt not speak ill of thine fellow Republican") as I have this year.

The phenomenon has puzzled me for a couple of weeks and I'll have to admit I've been absolutely dumbfounded by the inability of the most organized, well-disciplined, well-financed political machine in history to put forth a candidate capable of defeating a badly-wounded Democratic President like Obama. Fortunately, we had a light snowfall last night and instead of pulling out my beast of a snow blower, I took the time to shovel the porch and sidewalk. Fortunate? Well, actually, yes. Because shoveling a light snow allows the mind to wander and, if necessary, to focus on facts that are not immediately apparent otherwise.

So I started thinking about the "clown car" comment. On the surface, it is pretty factual. The candidates jumping into the fray are trying desperately to "out-crazy" one another. They are for the most part trying to "out-conservative" the other guy (or woman, because Bachman is still technically in the race).

Watching these people trip all over themselves to claim the crown of the "real conservative" in the race is like watching a Marx Brothers Comedy. It's so far over-the-top that you've got to believe that it is actually being done more for the laugh track than any serious political objective.

At least twice this year, MSNBC pundit Rachael Maddow has referred to certain Republican Presidential Campaigns as "performance art". She has been one of the few to recognize that this whole process seems more geared to mass entertainment (and distraction maybe?) than any serious attempt to elect a leader of the free world.

It occurred to me that the problem isn't that each of the candidates is clown-car-crazy but the agenda they are desperately trying to embrace is what is really clown-car-crazy. That would also be why no moderate, sensible Republican is in the race. Because in today's Republican Party, it's all about appeasing the Tea Party Crazies who parlayed a national recession and thinly disguised racism into a pseudo-political movement that (in turn) got hijacked by America's Oligarchy for fun and profit. No respectable Republican wants to be a part of this mess.

Let me be clear about this: The clownish, almost buffoonish cast of characters seeking the Republican nomination for the Presidency is not a function of the quality of the candidates available to the Republican Party, but, instead a function of the agenda the Tea Party has forced them embrace. The agenda itself is the clown car. The candidates are just trying to hop on it and ride it to the White House.

It gets even worse. The money needed to get elected is behind the Tea Party and the Republican Party cannot survive without that money so they have to buy into the clown car agenda.

Is there a bright spot?

Maybe.

Maybe in some dark, smokey back room somewhere, some brilliant Republican Strategist has this all mapped out. Maybe the master plan is to allow the Tea Party to pick the candidate for 2012 and to crash and burn so badly that it even wipes out the Republican Majority in the House of Representatives, thereby cleansing the Republican Party of the the stench of the Tea Party in time for the 2016 elections where they can run against a pure, Democratic agenda.....

I can only hope.

Friday, December 23, 2011

It's Christmastime


A "rocking Toucan" for Christmas? Doesn't everybody?

It sort of sneaked up on me this year.

I've been hearing people talk about it...I've watched as a bunch of good-intentioned people have turned the park and zoo into an electric-light extravaganza for the purpose of stocking the local food pantry...I've watched the frenzy of Christmas shoppers in the retail stores as well as grocery stores...but...somehow I never felt Christmas would actually be here.

It's all, I don't know...anti-climatic?

I'm not going to do my annual rant about the commercialism of Christmas. I'm also not going to rant about the divergence between what Christianity ACTUALLY says about Christmas and the myths that have grown up around it....although I cannot resist mocking the sight of a lawn decoration that had Santa Claus in the Manger scene....I think my soul is far too callused to feel anything about those issues anymore. I have no delusions that society will suddenly come to its collective senses and start addressing the real problems that face us as a country, as a society, and hell....even as a species!

I think I'm just going to sit back and enjoy the company of the few members of the family who have gathered here and savor the time together. There will be good food, companionship and celebration of our common heritage and that....that should be enough.

To all my friends, I'll repost this ...just for you.

In my little corner of Wisconsin I have friends who are proudly of the Jewish faith. I have friends who are various denominations of Christian faith. I also have dear friends who are equally proud pagans. (I once politely demurred on joining them to dance naked around the bonfire on the solstice) and I have some friends who are vocally and proud atheists. The point is they all celebrate the season in different ways (or perhaps not at all) but that doesn't diminish my respect for them in any way. I want to wish them well on this season and sort of struggled on how to do it. I've worked hard to make Christmas/greeting card to them all and here's what I came up with:

Soooooo...from our house to yours.......may all the joys and happiness of this season belong to you and yours and may you truly enjoy celebration of this season according to the richest traditions of your faith or belief.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

About that "war" on Christmas


I tuned in to a local radio talk show today and heard the host promoting tomorrow's program where he will have a guest on to discuss the "war on Christmas" and, in general a "push back against Christianity" because of the current Tebow craze.


To be fair, he made a very interesting distinction. He said that most of the effort to assert either position, either Christian or Secular was that it is a two-part proclamation. The first part establishes you as either secular or religious..and the second part is the implied, "I am christian/secular and you should be too." He claimed that it was this second part to which people seem to object.

Well.....yeah...there is that...but my take on it is slightly different...

I think that we should remember why we greet somebody with "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" or even "Happy Hanuka " we are doing it with a sincere expression of good will and joy of the season to THEM....NOT to elevate ourselves or to show them our "brand".

What we should be doing is recognizing the beliefs of that person and wishing them happiness within the context of their beliefs, NOT OURS. If I am in the home of some of my atheist friends, I won't wish them a Merry Christmas. Not because I don't want to offend them, but because I want to wish them the best of the season within the context of their belief, not mine. I want them to enjoy the blessings, happiness, rewards WHATEVER of the season according to whatever set of beliefs they might subscribe to.

I suspect there are some who wish to do the evangelical duty and use the greeting as a way to proselytize for their own religious belief. If your particular brand of religion instructs you to proselytize and you are being true to that faith, fine. Go ahead and do so but don't whine about persecution if somebody rebuffs your evangelical attempts. That is as much their choice to rebuff as it is for you to witness or recruit. But again, you're thinking of yourself and not others.

There are indeed some who go around wearing their religious beliefs on their sleeves not as a matter of being proud of their faith but to try to insinuate some sort of moral superiority over others because they believe that they are somehow or another chosen and you're not. There is no reason for that other than pure selfishness. Again, you shouldn't complain if you are shunned or rebuffed in your efforts because you have taken the unwanted step for your glorification and not honored or given true best wishes to the friend, associate, or acquaintance you insinuated your religion upon. It's not a rejection of your religion. It's a rejection of you.

The other side of the coin is equally true....that other side being that people who take offense at the carelessness of either religious or non-religious people in aggrandizing themselves as opposed to making a sincere wish for joy and happiness of the season. Those people need to consider it an INDIVIDUAL act of selfishness and not a condemnation of the entire faith. Just because some idiot comes up to me and asks (warning, silly example ahead) if I "have heard the good news of the flying spaghetti monster." I'm not going to condemn the whole faith...just the idiot who thought more of his own need to aggrandize himself and feed his own frail ego.

There is one place where I personally will ALWAYS draw the line.

I do not want any religion of any flavor endorsed by government, sanctioned by government, favored by government, taught in government schools or mandated in any classroom anywhere in this nation.

In short, I believe in the absolute separation of church and state....that put me in the same category as two radically different American Icons: Thomas Jefferson and Senator Barry Goldwater.

I have some friends who are directly involved in religious activities (they are called Ministries btw) and several of them hold the same view as I do. They don't want government mandated prayer in government meetings and they don't want government mandated prayer or religious devotions in public classrooms. To these friends I offer my sincerest thanks for their thoughtfulness and scholarship

But there are a few of my more zealous friends who still maintain that all the ills of society can be blamed on the fact that "Children can't pray in school anymore." (In fact Republican Presidential candidate Rick Perry has been running an ad saying exactly that!) First...kids can pray all they want in school...it's just that a teacher cannot force them to pray or ascribe what prayer the child can or cannot say in school. The restriction isn't against prayer...it's against government inserting itself into a preferred religion or faith. Such claims are pure political propaganda; the likes of which Senator Goldwater warned the Republican Party against in 1963.

This is almost turning into a rant....and I didn't want it to be that.

I've been pretty busy lately and next week promises to be a true "hell week" for me as each unit of government tries to cram the remaining schedules of the month into the first two days of next week. I mention this because I probably won't be able to post much until after the holidays.

Soooooo...from our house to yours.......may all the joys and happiness of this season belong to you and yours and may you truly enjoy celebration of this season according to the richest traditions of your faith or belief....

Monday, July 25, 2011

from a friend


"I was never a religious person but I was once a libertarian.

Ayn Rand was the sacred prophet
Atlas Shrugged was the gospel
Ronald Reagan was a demigod
The invisible hand of the market was God who would reward everyone with prosperity if appeased
Government regulation was a devil, corrupting the proper order
Heaven was a utopian society in which government regulation was unnecessary because the markets would take care of all problems with flowing abundance and prosperity for all.

So the evangelical movement and Randianism is just two religions that have joined together in a common interfaith cause."

I think he's right....and I am afraid for my country.

We're watching the end-game of a generation long assault on America. God help us.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Shock and awe ...

Let's start with two premises:

First you are a "free market economist" and believe that the New Deal was a betrayal of the American Dream and it must be reversed, eradicated, and totally obliterated from American History.

Second, you believe that the American People have become "spoiled" by the New Deal entitlements and will never willingly give them up.

So what do you do?

If you're the noted Economist Milton Friedman, you hypothesize that only a disaster, natural or man-made will cause enough shock to the public where they will accept return to "free market" principles as the least objectionable alternative to all other alternatives. In the process of "creative destruction" you create a "blank slate" for new economic rules to be written upon....and once the "shock" subsides, the Conservative Utopian FREE MARKET complete with rainbows, sunshine and unicorns (and ponies too!) will magically appear. In short, a society must be SHOCKED into the perfect free market. With a little help from the IMF (International Monetary Fund ) , the WTO (World Trade Organization) and the World Bank countries finding themselves in financial crisis could be blackmailed into becoming laboratories for Friedman's theories. (Pictured at right, Ronald Reagan with Fredrieck Hyek, founder of the "Austrian School" and mentor to Milton Friedman)

The first laboratory for Friedman's Shock Doctrine was Chile and it gave the world Pinocet.
It was followed by Bolivia, Argentina, and the so-called "Horn of South America". The Chicago School of Economics, inspired by the "Austrians" ...the school of economics that preached the end of the new deal like the Sermon on the Mound...quickly instituted their holy trinity of shock principles: PRIVATIZATION, DEREGULATION and ELIMINATION OF SOCIAL PROGRAMS.

It failed everywhere it was tried and instead of being "shocked" into submission, the populaces reacted with rebellion ...which in most cases was quickly put down by brutal, murderous methods...(remember reading about the "disappeared" in Argentina?) In one case, to avoid repeating the mistakes of Pinocet, the dictator sent the army into the Ford Motor Company plant to arrest union stewards. The army was joyfully assisted in arresting the union officials by the managers of the plant. The union officials were sometimes tortured in rooms provided by management on the site itself or, sometimes, taken to the back of the site and shot. Shock and awe indeed.

These "failures" didn't deter the Friedman faithful. The tried it in Poland, Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and eventually in the Pacific Rim during the Asian Crisis in Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan. (As I type, the IMF and World Bank are imposing the same formula on Greece and it is being met with fierce resistance)

The Conservative wet-dream laboratory was IRAQ. Here, they could literally destroy the entire economy with the force of weapons and dismantle a functioning economic system in days. Once this was done it could be replaced with what Coalition Provisional Authority leader Paul Bremmer called, "the world's largest free trade zone." No Iraqi citizens need apply; Iraq's infrastructure and indeed its entire economic system was sold off to the highest foreign bidder in order to maximize profits. Bremer famously said, "Iraq is OPEN FOR BUSINESS".

NOTE: DID YOU NOTICE THAT GOVERNOR SCOTT WALKER SAID THE SAME THING AFTER HE DID AWAY WITH THE PUBLIC EMPLOYEE UNION BARGAINING RIGHTS?

We all know how well Bremer's petri dish of capitalism in Iraq worked.

But as with all conservatives, the failures are never their fault. They take no responsibility for anything. Chile failed because Pinocet was too brutal. Peru, Bolivia failed because the reforms weren't instituted fast enough. Russia failed because there was too much corruption inside the market. Poland failed because Solidarity didn't act fast enough.

So they tried it again.

In 2004 in Sri Lanka after the Tsunami. Didn't work there either

In 2005 in New Orleans. Didn't work there because there was too much corruption.

And what about now?

In Ohio, Maine, Tennessee, Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin we are told we are in a "fiscal emergency" and we must....ready for this?....PRIVATIZE, DEREGULATE AND CUT SOCIAL SPENDING!

If it all sounds familiar to you its because it is the same SHOCK DOCTRINE being used on the people of the United States. Written, produced and directed by the same Republican Think tanks that brought you the Austrians and the Chicago Boys with the same dream of creating a capitalist utopia in every state in the union. Under the mantra "A rising tide raises all boats!" it is claimed that helping the "producers of jobs" by cutting their taxes, deregulation of their businesses and cutting out the "leeches" of society (poor, elderly, unions etc) eventually everybody's "boat" will rise.

Paul Volker said that the shock doctrine would be like an elevator to the top of a 50 story building. Everybody starts out at the bottom and the elevator takes a small amount of people to the top on each trip until eventually EVERYBODY gets to the top floor.

People of Poland, Russia, the Southern Horn have been waiting for that elevator your decades. The people of Iraq haven't seen even the first load of people go to the top. The displaced (permanently ) from New Orleans will never see the elevator nor will the humble fishermen of Sri Lanka whose beach property was confiscated and sold to developers of luxury resorts.

We, in each of the states are waiting for an elevator that exists only in theory.

And those at the top who told us to wait are laughing at us.

Read SHOCK DOCTRINE by Naomi Kline....you'll be glad you did.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Failure of Liberalism

The Failure of Liberalism

I was surprised to see the name "Happy Rockefeller" on this post but it's a great read and I highly recommend it.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Thank you Henry Clay

I'll have to admit that my blood pressure soared recently when an acquaintance called to my attention that I had been "raked over the coals" by a political opponent on his blog site for what I considered to be a highly successful "Listening Session" for people in my ward.

Against my better judgment, I gave the opponent's site a "hit" and read his post.

It was polemics at its worst and the equivalent of a long "hiss" from him as an audience.

Then I stumbled across this anecdote from the famous abolitionist, Henry Clay.

While giving an abolitionist speech one day, Henry Clay found himself struggling to be heard above the incessant hissing of a number of slave-owners.

"Gentlemen," he finally exclaimed, "that is the sound you hear when the waters of truth drop upon the fires of hell!"

Thanks Henry...I feel much better.

Friday, May 20, 2011

I'm getting closer...I think



I just finished reading Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas? and I have to say that it has given me a clue (I think) to the quandary I have been in about our current state of affairs in this country. Let me restate this in a practical way:

How in the hell can people be supporting the Conservative agenda which is so clearly, unequivocally, blatantly in direct opposition to their personal interests? Or, more bluntly, Why the hell would anybody want to join the Tea Par-Tay?

The first few chapters of the book dealt with the term "backlash" which I associate in a way far different from how he meant it. I remember "backlash" in terms of the Southern Conservative Democratic Party's reaction to the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and I didn't immediately see the connection Frank was trying to make.

As I read on I began to understand that what had happened in Kansas, the backlash, was organized by pretty much the same cast of characters who have been active in the current
conservative revolt or Tea Party movement and it fit a very, very similar pattern. And when I got to the end of the book, I found that Frank realized, after the 2004 election, that he wasn't witnessing something strange about his home state but something that was a petri dish for a conservative movement across America.

He had no idea how right he was.

Here are some quotes:

"American conservatism depends for its continued dominance and even for its very existence on people never making certain mental connections about the world, connections that until recently were treated as obvious or self-evident everywhere on the planet. For example, the connection between mass culture, most of which conservatives hate, and laissez-faire capitalism, which they adore without reservation."

Okay....here's how it works according to Frank. Conservatives have painted the liberal democrats as elitists, you know, the "latte-sipping, Birkenstock-wearing INTELLECTUALS, who want to impose their values on the good, old, Christian, salt-of-the-earth working man by poisoning movies and TV and all other popular culture and (most importantly) killing babies in abortions. The Democratic party has helped this along by trying to become more "business friendly" and making Democratic Economic policies only slightly less conservative than Republican Economic Policies. So if there's no difference in economic policies, then VOTE VALUES. But by doing so, you are making the true beneficiaries of Republican Economic Policies wealthier and playing into the hands of the true elites.

Frank goes on:

"As a social system, the backlash works. The two adversaries feed off of each other in a kind of inverted symbiosis: one mocks the other, and the other heaps even more power on the one. This arrangement should be the envy of every ruling class in the world."

Frank recognized in 2004-2005 that this could spread:

"Maybe Kansas, instead of being a laughingstock, is actually in the vanguard. May what has happened there points the way in which all our public policy debates are heading."

Wow! Ya think so????? I did head this way. The same corporate players involved in turning Kansas into the "reddest of red" states have been at play all over the country...Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Florida...13 states in total. All using the same formula and all having the same degrees of success.

I haven't figured out how to counteract this on the local or even state level yet but What's the Matter with Kansas has given me some insights into the techniques, tactics and motivation of the conservative movements. I'll figure out the rest after I read, study and inwardly digest more on the subject. One thing I do know, however, the Democratic Party needs to return to its roots...right now it's just a slightly less conservative Republican Party.

much more later

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"...not with a bang, but a whimper...."

My hero of olden days, T. S. Eliot wrote in The Hollow Men, the famous lines:

this is the way the world ends
THIS is the way the world ends
not with a bang
but a whimper.

And that is how the local campaign to recall our State Senator ended on Monday.

After all the bluster, bravado, and hoopla, the campaign led by a former friend of mine gathered only a little over 6,000 signatures of the required 15.800 needed to force her to stand for recall. It was heralded as something just short of the second coming and accompanied by calling her a "union thug" and saying she was "worse than Hitler"....because she was one of the Wisconsin 14.


Well, it's over....the organizers have gone underground to try to figure out how to spin this epic failure...

and me?

I'm "waxing poetic" again...


To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing
.


Shakespear, McBeth

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Talk about coincidence....

This is strange....I spent a good part of the afternoon blasting plastic golf balls around the back yard and arguing with an imaginary...(don't call the guys in the white jackets yet, please keep reading)..opponent about economic theory...(put the phone down and listen)...Before you think I'm totally insane, I'll explain: I often test out my beliefs, my political positions and arguments by arguing with a well-schooled but nevertheless imaginary opponent. This way I can call BULLSHIT on myself by discovering flaws in my reasoning before I publicly air those arguments and make a complete fool of myself. So it's therapeutic and practical.

I am not insane....really...
photo by Getty images...

I was developing my thesis on the absurdity of current conservative economic premises and having trouble calling to memory those economists who posited those same positions...when I came back in to check through the blogosphere, I happened to click on a long-forgotten bookmark called "The Baseline Scenario" which happens to be written by one of the more prominent economic theorist of the current era, Simon Johnson...and he turned me to this link. It was as refreshing as a sip of water from a desert oasis.

Here's the gist of it:

My opponent is a firm ( firm? try DEVOUT) believer in the theory of free markets. He believes all government interference in ANY market is wrong. He is a true follower of Adam Smith in that he believes the "invisibile and unerring hand" of the "market will take care of everything. This borders on Randian or libertarian beliefs but we won't go into that....

The article I stumbled upon is an interview with Peter Temin, a noted Professor of Economics at MIT. This interview gave perfect voice to my positions...here are some examples:

"In my opinion, macroeconomics has lost its way. The kind of models that many people use—general equilibrium models—start from assumptions of perfect competition, omniscient consunmers, and various like things which give rise to an efficient economy. As far as I know, there has never been an economy that actually looked like that—it’s an intellectual construct."

The "free market" never has and never will exist. It is an economic construct used to build a theory of macroeconomics that has never worked anywhere in the world. There's more...

But many people claim that the outcomes of
that economy are natural outcomes. When you say “natural,” you already have an emotionally laden term. Deviations from the “natural”—say, like, minimum wage laws, or unions, or governments that give food stamps, or earned income tax credits—are interferences with the natural order and are therefore “unnatural."

This is where the current union-bashing, public employee basing, anti-social welfare and anti-government sentiment itself is coming from...

And this part has a troubling overtone to it:

The general equilibirum (sic)view tends to lend support to those who want to make the economy more efficient in the sense of having fewer “distortions”—you know, all of these neutral economic words—from taxes, from labor unions, from minimum wages, and so on. Now, what has happened in the last thirty years—and this is what Hacker and Pearson note in their book [Winner-Take-All Politics]—is we have gotten ourselves into a feedback situation. As people have gotten richer, conservative people have funded organizations which generate economic research promoting their political views.

Like...maybe the Koch Brothers? Like maybe what has happened at Florida State University?

And he has something to say about Wisconsin too....you should read the whole article. It's short and too his credit, it is one of the most easily understood economic essays I've read in a long, long time...

I'll quit arguing with myself now...

n.b. My golf swing still sucks...

Friday, May 06, 2011

Reading List



I've got two books going at the moment:

What's the Matter with Kansas?






and

Democracy Inc.












Of the two, Democracy Incorporated is by far the more scholarly of the two even though both are footnoted amply and documented thoroughly... (unlike several well-know right wing authors works, the footnotes ACTUALLY relate to the subject "footnoted".) Democracy Incorporated is harder to follow and requires more careful reading...almost like reading a legal brief...and filled with social science theories and historical notes of prominent political and commercial movements in the United States.

As most of you know...I'm a curious sort...always looking for "the answer"....I think it's buried somewhere inside Democracy Incorporated....now if I could just remember the question!!!!!

At Least Krugman is consistant.



My Republican and Libertarian friends think Paul Krugman is a socialist. He's not anything of the sort but I'll never convince them. I think Krugman is probably "center-left" which would have been completely unacceptable to any Democrat worth his salt just a short two decades ago, but now passes for what is left of liberal thought in this country. (Don't even get me started on that)

But back to the point.

I think Krugman is "mostly" right. The emphasis in DC should not be on the deficit but on unemployment....it should be what Boehner promised from the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. That is: "....an unrelenting focus on jobs, jobs, jobs...." (instead it's been abortion abortion abortion). Krugman points out, again correctly, I think, that the dangers from high and persistent unemployment greatly outweigh the (imagined) fears of hyper-inflation or rapid and catastrophic devaluation of the dollar.

Instead, there is a complete fixation with "the deficit" and constant cries of "we're broke" while there is scant or non-existent evidence of either inflation or rapid devaluation. (Quantitative Easing is deliberate inflation and somewhat controlled and not evidence of rampant inflation) There is no acknowledgment by either side that if unemployment were brought back to "normal" levels (3-5%) there wouldn't be any deficit...or "crisis"...or that we would not, in fact, be BROKE.

The part that I think Krugman is missing is that there should be not just a "jobs" policy but also an "INDUSTRIAL POLICY" ...Simply put, there won't be any job creation until we have a manufacturing/industrial base to provide those jobs.

And yet...

Nobody is talking about this.

To my Republican and Libertarian friends I have a warning. If you continue to blindly follow the "cut, cut cut" philosophy without addressing unemployment, you will make your worst fears a self-fulfilling prophesy....the only thing left will be socialism because if there are no jobs then the only way to prevent riots in the street, starvation, lawlessness whatever is...your greatest bogeyman fear....socialism.

Read the article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/06/opinion/06krugman.html?_r=2


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Now that you mention it.......










there IS a striking resemblence:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Generally I'm against the idea of recalls. This may confuse some of my friends who know that I have stood with them on the subject of recalling a number of Senators from "the other side" but if they look at the events leading up to this during late January and my posts regarding them, they will understand that this was the basis of elected representatives completely ignoring the wishes (and the polite but somewhat desperate PLEAS) from constituents to compromise or at least slow the process down. In some cases the threat to recall was used as a last resort.

On the other side there is the (feigned) outrage of the right-wing over 14 State Senators "fleeing" the state in order to deny a quorum on the vote to strip Public Employee Collective bargaining units of most of the bargaining rights. I've seen some pretty outrageous comparisons claiming that these Senators leaving the state were tantamount to "soldiers abandoning their posts in a time of war"...(really?) and that they were "cowards". The most disingenuous claim I've seen is the one that says that the Republicans never did this when Doyle "rammed a $1Billion tax increase down our throats".

(for the record the $1Billion tax increase they seem to be talking about was closing the loophole that allowed Wisconsin corporations to "headquarter" in Las Vegas and avoid paying Wisconsin taxes)


True. The Republicans didn't leave the state when the legislature rammed the budget through at 4AM (OI think it was that early in the morning)...but then again, no Governor, including the devil-incarnate Jim Doyle, ever tried to simultaneously take away collective bargaining rights and strike a death-dealing blow to the opposition party like this bill was designed to do. If Doyle "forced a budget down their throats" they would still live to fight on another day. If, on the other hand, the Democrats simple accepted their fate as dictated by SB11, then all Union Dues became voluntary, every year the Union would have to stand for a recertification election, dues could not be deducted from paychecks and automatically forwarded to union accountants, and, "fair share" would have been immediately eliminated which would have made a huge dent in Union dues collections. In other words, voting for SB11 was a suicide pact.

Face it: The stripping of collective bargaining rights was designed to break the unions, rob them of their membership dues and ultimately deprive the Democratic Party of their donations. For the first time in my memory, one party has gained complete power and USED that power to permanently wipe out the opposing party FOREVER. That's what the stakes in this battle were. It has NOTHING to do with balancing the State Budget.

In short, the 14 Senators saw this as an existential threat to not only the existence of public employee unions bnut alsot to the Democratic party itself. They could march into the Republican controlled Senate, debate for one hour, be allowed no amendments, no compromises would be entertained and then be lead into the veal pen for slaughter. They had one, constitutional, desperate move left: deny a quorum.

They knew damned well it would result in Right-wing (faux) outrage and more than likely recall positions. But when your choices are to take your chances with a recall or swallow the poison pill.....well....which choice would you make?

Do I agree? No. But I don't see where they had much choice.

Walker hasn't learned yet that opposition solidifies and strengthens when you make all the choices for the other side "existential". That is, when you give your opponents only the choice of being "hung with a new rope or old rope?"...they will take neither and fight you tooth and nail to keep from being hung at all....no matter how futile or costly the fight.

You see...they have absolutely nothing to lose.

When your opponents have nothing left to lose, they become extremely dangerous. That's what the recalls are all about. They seek to take back at least one house of the legislature in order to keep Walker from making every legislative issue "existential" for the Democratic Party.

There is a way to avoid making every choice "existential". Generally speaking it involves the judicious use of power as opposed to the arrogant use of power. Having dinner one night with an old, soon to be retired southern State Senator and one of the finest gentlemen I ever met, I recalled one of my moronic, callow, political triumphs to him on and detailed how I had left my opponent "ruined" on the political battlefield. The old gentleman asked, "...and how did you allow him to preserve his honor?" I had not done anything like that and I said so. He took a slow puff on his pipe and said, "Then you weren't a politician, you were a bully." He went on to say that the key to politics was to remember who you worked for and whether "destroying" your enemy was really working for your constituents or yourself; for their good or your own ego gratification. Besides, the other person has a constituency also and you shouldn't disrespect their choice. So the answer is always, use the law, procedure, public opinion, whatever you have at your disposal to back your opponent into a corner, but in doing so, ALWAYS, ALWAYS ALWAYS, paint an honorable way out for him to take to avoid humiliation.

There was always a certain genteel nature to southern politics and with few exceptions it was practiced here until the last couple of election cycles. Somebody threw away the rule book for orderly discourse in the public arena and replaced it with the theory that if one guy brings a knife to the fight then you bring a gun and if he brings a gun you bring more guns....in other words, endless escalation of the stakes, the rhetoric and eventually violence.

Paint your opponent into a corner? Yes. Do it honorably, cleverly and well. But paint an honorable way out.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The maddness continues

So many of my associates have expressed the belief that the entire universe has gone completely mad that I'm beginning to think it is true....we are in the midst of madness.

I cannot believe that extremism has taken the place of reasonable political debate and lies are commonly accepted as the normal course of conversation.

And now, today, April 20, 2011...it's SNOWING again and we're forecasted for snow flurries and marginally cold temperatures through the end of the week.....madness....even the climate has gone mad.

Monday, April 11, 2011

And from August J. Pollack

A more "light-hearted" take on the same subject:

in cartoon form.

More and more...we're speaking out...

here is the text of a rant by a fellow liberal blogger.....what I think this signals is that when we (liberals) try to be civil and respectful of Republican/Conservative/Tea Party ideas, people actually take their bat-shit crazy ideas seriously...

here's the rant.

Letting the mantel of fiscal responsibility be grabbed by the Tea Party and Republican Conservatives.
Even calling that an epic fails to capture the magnitude of that failure. Each and every Republican who opens their mouth to decry the growing deficit should immediately be laughed off the stage if they voted for or advocate continued increased tax cuts for the rich. They pound their chests and fight to cut 80 billion dollars in expenses one day while brazenly calling for cutting 5 trillion dollars from revenue the next day. Then they blame Democrats for not caring about balancing the budget. And they still get taken seriously and treated as sincere advocates for government living within its means, even by the President.

That in nonsense, that is lunacy. That is as blatant a con job as stores that hike prices 100% and then hold 50% off sales, and EVERY American knows enough about balancing a check book to know that Republicans are blowing smoke when they claim the key to fiscal solvency is simply tightening the belt on spending. Americans know about having fixed expenses. They know what it feels like when the knife hits the bone, and before they let that happen they scramble to generate more income; even if it means the sacrifice of having to work extra days each week.

And even if no additional work can be found there is one thing NO American family will resort to after they already eliminated lunches and still can't make their mortgage. They won't ask their employer to please reduce their hours at work and voluntarily cut their income further.

The entire Tea Party premise is a FARCE but Democrats are going along with taking that gibberish seriously. And so we "negotiate" with our backs to the wall. Never before in my life time has the Democratic Party ot any level, local state of federal, ever approached negotiations on budget shortfalls agreeing to keep all talk of revenues OFF the table, only program cuts can be considered. I have NEVER seen that, until now. But it's even worse than that. Republicans are merely chided when they continue to call for further cuts IN REVENUE. Sure, Democrats start out opposing it but Republicans manage to get it onto the table. So now we bargain with Republicans demanding more huge revenue AND service cuts. Will the Democratic counter off end up agreeing to huge service cuts only?

by Tom Rinaldo...

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Even though it smells really bad.....



it's probably legitimate.

Of course I'm talking about the dramatic and stranger-than-fiction turn of events that changed an apparent 204 vote victory for JoAnne Kloppenburg into a 7500 vote, recount proof victory for incumbent David Prosser. In case you missed it here's a brief recap.

Because of the actions of Governor Scott Walker, the normally mundane race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court took on a distinct partisan tone. Prosser said he would be a "compliment" to Governor Walker and Kloppenburg claimed she would be neutral..a claim.to which the Republicans scoffed loudly.

The race turned expensive and ugly. Unions backed Kloppenburg and directly spent about $1.5 Million in her behalf...mostly attacking Prosser and aligning him with Walker. 5 separate 527's spent about $2.1 Million attacking Kloppenburg in support of Prosser...all five of them traced back to either Americans for Prosperity or Tea Party Express; both Koch brothers front organizations.

Election night was a nail biter...and the results weren't conclusive (although unofficial) until around noon the next day. When the dust settled...it was Kloppenburg by a mere 204 votes.

and then....this happened

Somehow or another the County Clerk in Waukesha County "by human error" left out 14,000+ votes cast in the Republican stronghold of Brookfield.....only the 14,000 + cast in the contest for Supreme Court Justice; all other races in Brookfield were reported.

Here's the fun part:

The Clerk was a former employee of Prosser's when he was the Majority leader of the Assembly. She worked for the Republican Assembly Caucus and was not indicted for the scandal that took place there because she received immunity in return for her testimony.


The Clerk has been involved in election-related scandals involving inaccurate vote counting and lax security measures in recent history (2005 and 2007 and another in 2010).

Her explanation as to what happened (as you can see from the post) is ludicrous.

And yet....

The Brookfield City Clerk's figures given out on election night jived exactly with the late reported figures that she gave out on Thursday. The canvassers included a few well-respected Democrats who claim that the canvassing procedure worked and the mistake was found...AND the results are legitimate.

I hate it.

But it's probably true...

But I still hate it.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Do you know what day it is?

IT'S ELECTION DAY


VOTE DAMMIT!


Sunday, April 03, 2011

Astroturf....and other outrages

Being the political junkie that I am.....I find it somewhat unnerving when a political candidate I like is attacked by others on the radio or television. What's worse to me is when that attack ad is coming from a "grass roots" organization. Because I am, like most of my generation, pre-conditioned to believe that a "grass roots" organization must mean that there are hundreds if not thousands of people out there who have contributed money, time or effort to the organization running the attack ad, and, therefore my candidate must be disliked or at least opposed by a goodly number of people.

Did I mention that I'm a naive fool? Look at this link.

That's one VERY NASTY AD against Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice candidate Kloppenberg that alleges she put an 80 year old farmer in jail for refusing to plant "native grasses" on his farm....

Let's get the truth out there first: Here's the PANTS ON FIRE AWARD from Wisconsin Politifacts...a fact-checking organization. Joanne Kloppenburg did NOT put an 80-year-old farmer in jail (a judge did for contempt of court) and it wasn't for refusing to plant native grasses (it was at the end of an 11-year ordeal to get him to stop polluting a lake) and Kloppenburg herself asked the judge not to impose a jail sentence.

So why the ad? And what the hell is ASTROTURF anyway?

The ad is because the same folks who are pushing the anti-union/anti-worker laws in Wisconsin are trying to make sure that the last stronghold of progressive power is destroyed by the electorate. They need the electorate to give them control of every last bit of checks and balances: the Assembly, the Senate, the Governor's office, the Attorney General's Office and now, the Supreme Court.

And if you follow the first link you will find that the ads aren't run by 100's or even 1,000s of people...it's the same TWO PEOPLE who have been manipulating the electorate in Wisconsin for the last two years.

KOCH.....

I'm pissed....it's fake grass roots....it's ASTROTURF

Saturday, March 26, 2011

CQ...CQ...IS THERE ANYONE OUT THERE?


The headline is of course paraphrased from a famous and chilling line in the great Orson Wells' War of the Worlds. A city, and perhaps a civilization has been destroyed by horrible alien creatures and a lone "Ham" radio operator gives the universal call "CQ" for anyone to answer his call and, finally, in desperation, he calls out "Is there anyone there? IS there anyone?"

What brings this to mind is that a friend of mine told me recently that there were two factions at odds with each other in the Republican Party in Wisconsin. There's the upstart "TeaBag Movement" and then there are the old, tradionalist Republicans. At present the TeaBag Coalition seems to be in control of the party both in the State of Wisconsin and in Washington D. C. . It is said that the traditionalists are simply "using" the TeaBaggers to get control of the legislators and from there they will exercise "sensible", traditional conservative ideals....like those of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.

I have trouble believing this.

Not trouble believing that the traditionalists are using the Teabaggers, but that they actually believe they are in fact in control the monster they've created.

From several sources and friends who are more traditional Republicans, I hear that they are privately troubled and disgusted by the antics of a number of newly-elected Republican Governors and the failure of the House of Representatives leadership (Boehner) to rein in the fire-eating freshmen Congressmen who owe their office, in a large part, to the TeaBaggers.

Really?

Are you really disgusted?

If you are then why, oh why do you let these crazy bastards get away with the bat-shit crazy laws they're implementing in D.C., Wisconsin, Ohio, Maine, South Dakota...actually about 13 states in total have implemented or tried to implement the same anti-union, anti-workers rights stuff that came out of A.L.E.C.. It's a brilliantly coordinated plan and I believe the traditionalists were caught just a "flat-footed" as the Democrats were.

My traditionalist friends are telling me that if the TeaBaggers go too far they'll step in an take control again so my question for them is this...JUST EXACTLY WHAT IS TOO FAR? I am begging my traditionalist Republican friends to do what only they can do at the moment: Purge the party of the radicals; restore sanity, order and reason to the process of government. If you don't, then in a very short time, there will be deep wounds in the flesh of our citizenry that may take longer to heal than those wounds inflicted by the War Between the States.

I have to ask myself why haven't the Traditionalists stepped up yet?

I have a fear that there are no "traditionalists" left out there...I think the monsters of the Tea Party have devoured them (or, like Zombies, eaten their brains) which is an obvious reference to the fact that the traditionalists actually LIKE what the TeaBaggers are doing...or maybe they are just in hiding.

So I put out this call to the Traditionalists...be they there at all...

CQ

CQ

Is anybody there?

Is there anybody?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

....just a thought....

March 14 of this year brought a reminder from a few of my fellow "nerd" friends that the day was "Pi Day".

I hear crickets.....

Okay. We'll start with the basics, the first being a relatively painless revisit to your 8th grade geometry class. Pi is the mathematical symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter of the circle. It is represented by a symbol that looks sort of like Stonehenge (how ironic) and it is ALWAYS THE SAME VALUE...it is always equal to 22/7 or 3.1416. Look at the first three numbers: 3....1....4 or 3/14...March 14....got it? okay...cool..

Being as old as I am is sometimes a blessing because I actually lived through things which the current generation, and even my son, now refer to as "ancient history". Well it's not all that ancient when the space race with the Soviet Union was launching (pun intended) itself straight for the moon and talk of conquering space, exploring distant worlds and looking for intelligent live in the universe was the hot topic of conversation at the local coffee shops and late night road trips with your buddies....well, my buddies anyway.

Here's where Pi comes in: There were people who argued at the time that the rather costly and dangerous proposition of sending expensive hardware and human beings into space was wasteful and unnecessary. They proposed that if we really wanted to see if there was any intelligent life in the universe there was a much easier way to do it.

It was a well-accepted scientific proposition that the radio and television signals we were sending out even at that time would escape the earth's atmosphere and travel unimpeded through space forever. While the strength of the signal would diminish, it would still be discernible to anyone (or anything) who might care to listen. Hence, there was a program launched called "Pi in the Sky". It was absolutely elegant in its simplicity.

There was a radio antenna set up which beamed a constant numeric signal. I'm sure I'm simplifying it but it was a simple series of pulses that were something like: *** * **** * ******
3 pulses, 1 pulse, 4 pulses, 1 pulse, 6 pulses...3.1416.

Brilliant. Humans have known about Pi for a couple of thousand years. Any civilization advanced enough to build devices to detect a radio signal, would be advanced enough to get the significance of the pulses. Neat huh?

Okay if you're not a nerd like me I forgive you.

But what if somebody had actually picked up the message? Would they have cautiously tuned in to find out more about us?

That brings up a terribly disturbing thought....if an alien being listened in to our electronic communications going out over satellite or radio/TV tower, what would they think of us? How would they perceive us?

Would they consider us to be deficient in science or technology?
Would they consider us to be warlike and aggressive toward not only one-another but to anybody who was "different?
Or, would they, like the magnificently warped and creative mind of Rod Sterling portrayed it, consider us as LUNCH?

I may write more on this later. There is a rich field of inquiry to be farmed here.

Council meeting follow-up

Unless you are one of the two or three people who follow this blog you probably have no idea what I was talking about on the post concerning the Tuesday night council meeting.

To see what I meant, go HERE and tune in at the 5:00 minute mark. It's only about two minutes long.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

About Libya....

Like most others, I am sickened that we find ourselves in another war...or, if not war, another "police action". I think the first non-war/war/police action was Korea in 1950. Then, of course the was the non-declared action in Viet Nam....then there was...oh hell...I forget...there have been so many.

Some of my liberal friends are debating if not straight out opposing our involvement in Libya and Conservative friends are torn between outright Obama-inspired denunciation of the war and rah-rah cheer leading that is so characteristic of "national defense" conservatives.

Even worse, some of the more thoughtful liberal sites on the web are telling us that there is great confusion on the part of our administration as well as that of our allies as to who is supposed to run this show, what the objective of the show really is, and, most importantly, how it will end. There is criticism of the Obama Administration in not being decisive in a timely manner as well as being militarily incompetent also. I concede that both criticisms have merit.

I've only heard two view points in justification of our involvement which impress me.

First, and probably most important, is that Ghaddifi (spelling of his name seems to be free-form art among the media)was slaughtering his own people. I don't particularly care WHO'S people they were, the wholesale murder of any group of people is unacceptable and should be stopped and an international coalition appears to be the only legitimate source of military muscle to do it.

In defense of this first point, I will only briefly mention that after WWII there was a lot of finger-pointing taking place over allegations that both the United States and her Allies knew of the genocide against Jews taking place in Eastern Europe by the Nazi regime and yet the Allies and United States did not intercede until their personal interests were attacked. From that point on prevention of genocide, or prevention of wholesale slaughter of a distinct population has been seen as a legitimate reason for intervention...preferably with an international coalition. As truly objectionable as any war is, this is about as close as one could come to one of St Augustine's "just wars".

The other reason was a rather strange one and new to me. I'm not sure what to label it but it had to do with using Ghaddifi as an "object lesson" in the middle east. It goes something like this: We are experiencing the "Arab Spring". A time when rank and file Arabs of many different nations find their way to overthrow the hierarchical rulers who have oppressed and robbed them for years and set up their own forms of governments (hopefully democratic). I subscribe to the idea that the International Community should demonstrate that brutal crackdowns resembling wholesale murder will not be tolerated. And I also acknowledge the slippery slope that develops from such a policy.

Let's just hope Obama can pull this off and get us out quickly.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Joseph Heller had it right...


In case you can't place the name, Joseph Heller was the author of one of the greatest American novels ever written: Catch-22. I often revisit the novel and spend time with one of my favorite characters, who, strangely enough is unnamed except that he is know as the Father of the famous Major Major Major. And as those of you familiar with the novel also know, Major Major Major enlisted in the Army as a private and, in the infinite wisdom of the military, they immediately promoted him to the rank of ...Major.

But the Father is a more fascinating character to me; more so than Major Major Major Major because as Heller put it, mediocrity was "thrust" upon him but the Father was far more a master of his destiny. Read the following passages and see if the Father doesn't remind you of some people we all know.

Major Major's father was a sober God-fearing man whose idea of a good joke was to lie about his age. He was a longlimbed farmer, a God-fearing, freedom-loving, law-abiding rugged individualist who held that federal aid to anyone but farmers was creeping socialism. He advocated thrift and hard work and disapproved of loose women who turned him down. His specialty was alfalfa, and he made a good thing out of not growing any. The government paid him well for every bushel of alfalfa he did not grow. The more alfalfa he did not grow, the more money the government gave him, and he spent every penny he didn't earn on new land to increase the amount of alfalfa he did not produce. Major Major's father worked without rest at not growing alfalfa. On long winter evenings he remained indoors and did not mend harness, and he sprang out of bed at the crack of noon every day just to make certain that the chores would not be done. He invested in land wisely and soon was not growing more alfalfa than any other man in the county. Neighbors sought him out for advice on all subjects, for he had made much money and was therefore wise. "As ye sow, so shall ye reap," he counseled one and all, and everyone said, "Amen.

Look at the themes Heller gives us in this short dissertation:

Freedom-loving, God-fearing,-Law Abiding, rugged individualist, creeping socialism, unearned(earned by not earning in Catch-22 tradition), wealth = wisdom, obedience to the words of wealth.

Just in case we missed the point, Heller added:

"The Lord gave us good farmers two strong hands so that we could take as much as we could grab with both of them," he preached with ardor on the courthouse steps or in front of the A & P as he waited for the bad-tempered gumchewing young cashier he was after to step outside and give him a nasty look. "If the Lord didn't want us to take as much as we could get," he preached, "He wouldn't have given us two good hands to take it with." And the others murmured, "Amen." Major Major's father had a Calvinist's faith in predestination and could perceive distinctly how everyone's misfortunes but his own were expressions of God's will.

For lack of a name provided by Heller, I'll just call our hero, "Father Major". Sit back and think for a minute. How many "Father Major"'s can you find among us?

Before I leave this post, I can't resist one last quote from Catch-22. This one describes Major Major Major himself and is one of my all-time favorites:

Major Major had been born too late and too mediocre. Some men are born mdiocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three. Even among men lacking all distinction he inevitably stood out as a man lacking more distinction than all the rest, and people who met him were always impressed by how unimpressive he was.

Heller! You are magnificent!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Council Meeting next Tuesday night....


If you read the agenda for next Tuesday night there's really not much there. It's only if you read the minutes of the various boards, commissions, and committees that it gets interesting. There, you will find out what government is REALLY UP TO.

I'm not going to give anything away but I will take this opportunity to comment on the differences between, say, a COMMITTEE and, also say, a COMMISSION.

A committee is part of the governing body entrusted with oversight of a particular subject matter in order to provide the governing body with advice and recommendations about how to handle that particular subject.

But a COMMISSION is a different matter: A commission is given the authority to act in behalf of the governing body. Think of it in terms of the derivation of the term, commission, itself. Officers in the military are granted a "commission" from the Government to command it's troops in the field of battle. Likewise, a naval ship is "commissioned" to do the service of the Government in keeping the seas safe, etc..

The City has a number of independently operating commissions. The two most important ones are the UTILITY COMMISSION and the FIRE AND POLICE COMMISSION. The Fire and Police Commission has complete....and I do mean COMPLETE control over the fire and police departments. The only authority the City Council has is over the total, lump sum, budget of the departments and the construction of the buildings those departments are housed in...except we got that sort of weaseled away from us recently. The Commission can spend the money within it's budget any way it wants without Council approval.

The Utility Commission is the same way. They built a $36 Million dollar power plant with sham approval from the City Council.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau is granted by Statute and Ordinance the powers of a Commission. Hence, the Common Council has no say over the collection or expenditures of room tax dollars.

Are you beginning to see what's going on?

Good.

I'm probably going to raise hell with one of those commissions on Tuesday night....and...with a little luck, it will look like the picture above.