Monday, February 28, 2011

The Evil Of Polarized Thinking

Breaking news: Libya has decided to make Charlie Sheen its new dictator. Meanwhile, NBC has offered a contract to Momar Gaddafi to do the next season of Three and A Half Men. This, the first move of the new Insane Celebrity Foreign Exchange Program, promises to solve two national crises a the same time.

Of course, I'm totally bullshitting. But isn't it interesting how, when people have been inside their own little world for a long time, they just don't seem to see things normally anymore? Charlie thinks he's beyond mentally healthy, beset upon by hordes of stupid network executives. Gaddafi insists that all his people love him, even the ones who have taken over the Eastern half of his country, and are threatening to take over his capital city.

The point is, when people insulate themselves from the truth long enough, the comfortable lie becomes too comfortable to let go, for some. But the essence of truth is to embrace reality no matter how painful it is.

If only that were to be realized more in politics.

Led by an ever-growing right-wing media hype machine, the tug of war has not significantly pulled the rope much one way or the other. But it has gotten more people on one side of the rope or the other than ever before. The more people get on one side of the rope and pull, the more others feel compelled to get on the other side and pull harder. Thus, when Washington Democrats rightly bitched about the irresponsible use of the filibuster for every damned, little thing, Wisconsin Democrats went and did what amounts to the ultimate filibuster. They didn't do it to be hypocrites. They did it because they felt they had no other choice (and they were right).

Comedian Paul Provenza said it best on this weekend's edition of 'Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!' the NPR news quiz show. Isn't it just like the Democrats, he said, to finally stand up to the Republicans and have a winning strategy against them, and it involves running away.

There was a better time when the rope was seldom pulled. There used to be lots of moderate Republicans and Democrats who would meet in the middle, come up with good compromises, and make fair solutions. Oh, things weren't perfect then, naturally. But they were a whole lot better than they seem to be right now.

Then, one era, a bunch of people - pissed off, white, religious, affluent or possessing delusions of future affluence - decided they couldn't let something as trivial as freedom to allow America to transform into something that didn't conform to their preferences. So they picked up the rope, and started yanking on it desperately to the right. All those who favored balance suddenly had no other option but to get on the other extreme and yank the other way. Now, it's become two gigantic hordes of yankers -- a confederacy of literal jerks.

To those who are seeing the culture war erupt into much more than mere metaphor in Madison, all I can say is, this is the way you wanted it, all you people on the right. This is the conflict you craved. This is your culture war. And you're not winning.

It's STILL a tie!

Where have all the moderates gone? Sadly, they've become an endangered species. There are a few moderates who are left of center, but to the right of that center, it seems like a barren wasteland until one comes to the extreme end of the right wing. There, it's suddenly quite crowded, not unlike a horde of lemmings massing on the edge of a cliff, about to jump off.

The unions have offered a compromise. It's a damned good compromise. And if Walker really wants to bust those unions up, he has four long years to cook up endless strategies that he and his majority in both Assembly and Senate can implement. There is simply no need to engage in this kind of trench warfare now, or ever.

But this is the danger of polarized thinking. It blinds people to rational agreement. It transforms our fellow neighbors into enemies. It makes enemies of coworkers, friends, family members, even blokes at the local pubs, which, as the Journal Sentinel reports, have had to disallow talking politics inside their establishments - it leads to fights these days.

Economist Noreena Hertz cites an enlightening study in human nature in a recent TED Conference talk. In this study, participants in an MRI machine were asked to listen to an expert in a given topic. Amazingly, the area of the brain that governs acceptance lights up, meaning that we tend to follow "the experts" blindly, without criticism. How interesting!

Even more interesting is that "the experts" are often wrong. Doctors mis-diagnose four out of ten cases. And you're probably better off preparing your own taxes than going to a tax expert in most situations.

We need the maturity to challenge "the experts," not follow blindly, and make our own judgment. That doesn't mean getting a Ph.D. in everything, but it does mean challenging those who do have the doctorates. It means demanding that they explain things in clear, concise terms. They'll be annoyed at having to do this, but tough.

Walker has no room for seeing things from both sides. He demonstrably could care less, in fact. The experts he's listened to have convinced him that he's married to this conflict, and it will make him or break him. He's trapped. But the rest of us don't have to be so silly. We can choose to weigh both sides for ourselves. I suggest we all do so.

Then, just maybe, we can all be friendly Wisconsinites again.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

I Love Voter ID!

Well, it seems like there may be voter I.D. in Wisconsin, meaning that if they want to vote, they're just going to have to do the same thing they already have to do if they want to drink, buy cigarettes, or get a job. Yes, people will required to show their drivers license at the polls.

Now, I'm at the age where I like getting carded. I only wish that this particular example of getting carded meant that I looked young enough to pass as a college kid. So I don't mind having to show my I.D. before going to vote against the people who implemented it. But it seems like Democrats somehow feel that such a provision would damage their electoral prospects. The rationale is that it would make it more difficult for young people to register to vote, and because young people vote predominantly Democrat, this would damage the vote totals for the Left. This view somehow seems to be shared by the Republicans (Finally! Something both sides agree on!), which is why they're trying to implement it.

Bullshit! Data have shown in states with voter I.D. requirements that young people vote more frequently. In fact, people young and old vote more frequently overall when there is voter I.D. in place. Why? Because an electorate which feels secure that their vote will count is more likely to vote. Young people especially are disenfranchised more easily, wondering if their newly-minted voting process gets watered-down by the din of the masses, or outright countermanded by voter fraud. With an I.D. requirement, they feel less jaded, and go to the polls. Furthermore, since the general electorate leans left of center anyway, more people voting leads to more Democrats elected. An additional unintended side-effect of voter I.D. is that elderly people will find it more difficult to vote. If they can no longer drive due to impaired vision or other health reasons, they must rely upon the shuttle service at the assisted living center to get them over to the DMV so that they can register for a general state I.D., and that's a major hassle for them. Many of these elderly -- a MAJOR voting bloc for Republicans -- may simply give up.

You know, it's beautiful when both political parties end up doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. When the beneficiary of a given bill ends up opposing it while its proponent stands to unwittingly lose, well, it warms the heart, it really does! It reminds us all that sometimes politicians are too stupid to do the wrong thing. But regardless of which side voter I.D. favors, Republicans do have a legitimate point about it. Namely, it's the right thing to do. We as voters need to be assured that the voting process is done with integrity, and it ultimately benefits no one to have fraud of any sort during an election.

Of course, the ultimate in voter fraud is when politicians try to make things so hopelessly complicated that voters simply don't vote, thus giving more power to those with the time and wherewithal to pay close attention. No proposal has ever come up to deal with that sort of voter fraud, but that's the subject of a later blog. (I've been saying that a lot, lately!)

Meanwhile, In the absence of the 14 Democratic State Senators, who have splendidly done their jobs to the best of their ability by vacating the premises (we're all mature enough to know the difference between commuting and telecommuting), Republicans gave initial approval to the measure without debate. Since it's a fiscally-related bill, it also can't receive final passage until one of the 14 Senators comes back. But the fact that it was brought up without debate from the opposition was clearly a move meant to lure Democrats back. Didn't work, but nice try.

The measure will likely pass when this all blows over. Good for them. Good for us all.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Call For Arbitration

Occasionally, possibly rarely, some ordinary person who is not a mover and shaker among the Controlling Heights comes up with an idea that's so good, and so right, and solves so many problems, that it needs to be implemented right away. Unfortunately, because that person's not in any sort of position of power, he can't get his idea voiced, the idea never gets implemented, problems don't get solved, disaster ensues, and people suffer.

I have such an idea. All I hItalicave is a blog and you seven readers. But I need to get this idea implemented, because I think this idea will end the impasse between Republicans and Democrats over the governor's budgetary bill. I need your help! And if our Democratic Senators don't hear this idea through the din, I fear the worst. Just hear my idea, and if you like it, join my voice in trying to get our lawmakers attention over it. Please!

I also have a second idea, to be heard by union leaders. I'll get to that later.

BUT FIRST, an observation:
I know not everybody reads the Shepherd Express. But I picked up a copy this past week, just to see what it said regarding the crisis over Walker's bill. The crisis apparently is still too new for any in-depth reporting to be done by a weekly rag, because only one editorial comment covered much about it, and it was merely an op-ed. However, what really got my attention was a cartoon, called This Modern World. For those who aren't aware, This Modern World is a cartoon that features stylized 1950's-style fatherly faces, the kind one might see on an old-fashioned public service message. Sometimes it features commentary from a penguin wearing welding goggles. Well, this week's Modern World cartoon took aim at President Obama. Slamming him for trying to have it both ways with everything, it depicts him as a jumpsuit-clad superhero named "Middle Man," whose superpower is taking the middle ground with everything. In this case, he tries to take middle ground while turning on his post-cold-war ally, "The Strongman" (a.k.a. Hosni Mubarek).

In a way, the "Middle Man" slam is as pivotal a moment, in my view, as when Doonesbury attacked President Bill Clinton by depicting him as a gigantic waffle. It's one thing to be attacked by the political opposition, but when a normally liberal-leaning cartoon starts lampooning its own president, its a sign of severe disappointment within the left. And for good reason. Most of us who voted Democrat thought we'd get the most liberal president we've had in 50 years, and to hear the right-wing A.M. radio shows and FOX News, that's exactly what they accused him of being. They insisted, again and again, that he was more liberal than Hillary Clinton. Boy were they ever WRONG! Little did we all know that he was actually Mr. Compromise. Mr. Capitulate. Mr. Be-A-Nice-Guy-To-Those-Who-Treat-You-Like-Dirt.

You know, I might be wrong here, but I think it's fair to say that the Republican party may have gotten more out of President Obama than they would have from John McCain! And they still think he's the Antichrist.

As if the Antichrist would ever have let himself get stomped on by the likes of Joe Liebermann!

Which brings me, finally, to my BUH-RILLIANT idea!

The Democrats of the State of Wisconsin need to call upon President Obama to arbitrate in this matter. Right now, we're on the verge of a deadline for state financing, and if a resolution can't be reached, there will be thousands of forced layoffs due to lack of funds. Then, inevitably, the blame-game will begin, with Walker blaming Senate Democrats and Democrats blaming Walker's bull-headedness. By calling on Obama to arbitrate, Democrats look as though they wish to bring speedy resolution regarding their compromise. If Walker refuses arbitration, then, come time for the forced layoffs, he assumes 100% of the blame, even if he tries passing the buck onto the Democrats. If Walker accepts arbitration, we have a balanced budget. And it's likely that Obama will give Republicans even more concessions than the unions have surrendered so far, since that's what Obama does these days.

Middle Man to the rescue!

There is precedent. POTUS has involved himself in labor disputes ever since Teddy Roosevelt got involved in the Coal Strike of 1902. Reagan dismissed striking air traffic controllers in 1981. George Bush, Sr. refused to intervene in an American Airlines Strike in 1989, but the mere threat of his involvement helped broker resolution. Clinton intervened in an airline attendant's strike in 1993. The list goes on and on.

Of course, there are no airlines in this case. This isn't business vs. labor. It's government vs. labor. But isn't that even more reason our President should be involved? Education is a top priority for Obama, and this bill directly affects how educational quality will be determined. It may just be (I can only hope!) that he will insist MPS drop its residency requirement and that all Wisconsin public schools implement a results-based pay structure.

Here's where I need help: I'm e-mailing, calling, and writing physical, hand-written letters to every Congressman and Senator I can think of. They need to hear this idea! If you join me in writing and calling, this little voice turns into a megaphone. I haven't contemplated going to Madison before, but I just might make up a sign that reads: "Have Obama Arbitrate!" and march around with it, just to make sure as many people have this idea as possible. This is the right move, at the right time!

And now, my idea to help union leaders, in the form of a letter to them: *Ahem!*

Dear leaders of the Milwaukee Public School Teachers' Union,
Walker's Budgetary Repair bill is but the first volley of a series of attacks which are coming your way. Our new governor has only been in office for barely two months, and already he has you locked in a desperate arm-wrestle. So far, it looks like your side has gone over the top -- for now. But even if you win, it will only be the end of the first wave. He has four, long years to plot against you. Walker will keep attacking and attacking.

The only way to put an end to this is to make sure that Walker has no excuses to attack you. He sees your presence as a hindrance to quality education in Milwaukee, and (let's be honest) the track record is not on your side. To upend this, you'll need to improve the quality of the education in your city, immediately and decisively, and there are two ways you can do this with swift results.

One is to end the residency rule. This has historically been very difficult for you, but desperate times call for desperate measures. You need the best teachers from every nook and cranny you can scrounge them from, and limiting yourself is as foolish as going into battle with your hands tied behind your back. You simply must remove this rule or die, it's that simple.

The other is to implement results-based pay for teachers. Again, there will be strong opposition to this, but if such a structure is suddenly put in place, Walker has no excuse to attack, and you win in the court of public opinion.

These changes are absolutely essential, and are the only means the Teachers Union can survive. Need I remind you all that Mayor Tom Barrett could take over administration at any time? It is in your best interests to implement these changes immediately if not sooner. Please do so.

We will all be very grateful for it.


Eric Hildeman

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Law of Unintended Consequences

So far, the fight over Gov. Walker's Budgetary Repair Bill has focused on the rights of public employees to unionize and/or collectively bargain. What seems to be getting missed are the dirty little details which go beyond just that. The devil, it has wisely been said, is in the details. Let me show you some of the little devilry hiding in this particular bill:

For example, the Department of Health Services for the state is required to do a study to find ways to cut spending to Medical Assistance programs given to the poor and needy. No problem, there. But it's also required to request a waiver from the Federal Department of Health and Human Services for any new rules they might have to implement. Okay, here's the catch: If they don't receive said waiver from the Fed by the end of 2011, then ALL Medical Assistance to the poor becomes ineligible for those making more than 133% of the federal poverty line, which is the bare-minimum required under federal law. (Section 112)

'So what?' you might ask. But have you seen what the federal poverty line is? If you're single and under 65, the poverty line is little more than 11K per year. That's so low it's a joke! It means if you were barely scraping by on $15K per year (and you would almost have to live in your mother's basement to do so), you would not be eligible for aid if you contracted a serious illness.

Are you kidding me?

If you're a family of four with two kids, the poverty line is a little less than $21K per year. Meaning you're ineligible if you're at about $27K per year. Okay, maybe if your kids ate grass off the lawn you could live on that, but seriously, how likely is that to be the case? One of the kids gets whoping cough, and your shit outta luck? Your kid gets to spread the disease to anyone not immunized who happens to get too close? Bullshit!

Here's another tidbit my friend, Charlotte Schnook, shared with me. Under this bill, the state would gain the right to sell any public power, heating or cooling utility, with or without a bid. (Section 44.) That means that Wisconsin could sell off part or all of WE Energies. To whom? Well, the Koch company is the wild rumor. And it's a good bet that they won't hesitate to turn off the heat in the dead of winter if you don't pay your bill. Current rules prevent WE Energies from doing that.

Cutting funding to teachers is one thing. Hammering the poor is quite something else. Chris Rockwood asked me earlier about dire consequences. Well, there you go. One can hope that amendments will be proposed that will stop this nonsense from making a class of poor so desperate that drug dealing will be the only option left.

Yes, we want to keep the safety net from becoming a hammock. But there's a difference between booting the slumbering trapeeze artist off of it and throwing him off a jagged cliff instead! We can certainly find a way to balance a budget without doing that.

When we try to balance state and federal budgets by not asking the fattest to tighten belts, but rather telling the skinniest to go fucking die, I get off the patriotic bandwagon.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Sick Of The Walker Budget Crisis Yet?

Well, I must say that I'm a little bit surprised.

What I somewhat expected from Walker was something my father insisted would probably happen. Namely, that Walker would first oversell his cuts, and in so doing get a compromise deal through which would balance the budget. Sure enough, he got his compromise offer. State unions are willing to grant all budgetary cuts, provided they retain their right to collectively bargain.

Walker says no.

Ooooohhhkay? Really? You could have a balanced budget today, and you say no?

That betrays what Walker's really up to.

But before anyone jumps to any conclusions about what that "up to" really is, please understand it's not what you think. Walker, in a very poignant interview with a WTMJ-4 reporter, was eloquent, decisive, and gave his reasons rather clearly. He's not the kid I assumed he'd be. But he let us all know what he's doing. The interview in question is here:

Walker is directly asked by Charles Benson, whether the concessions offered by the unions would be a deal, he said no. The reasons? First, he lists the number of municipalities and school districts -- impressive, but irrelevant -- and states that he won't be able to balance future budgets if the collective bargaining is not removed.

Okay, bullshit. Collective bargaining isn't working when it gives additional money for public schools, particularly MPS, because the structure is flawed, meaning it won't matter how much money is given, the kids educations won't improve until the rules of MPS are restructured.
If Milwaukee Public Schools are not allowed to hire outside the city (and right now they're not) then Walker's cuts will result in a school system which is already hampered in its ability to be able to hire quality teachers to be hampered even further. Meaning fewer quality teachers than we have now, and the inability to hire quality teachers in the future.

Nationally, the Powers That Be are seeing this as a post Citizens-United fight. Now that big corporations are allowed to glut funds to Republican political campaigns with all the money they can scrounge, the only entities capable of threatening them are unions. So, target them and break them, and no Democrat will ever be able to raise enough money to challenge a Republican ever again. Personally, I think that issues and public opinion should decide elections rather than which candidate has the bigger purse, but that's just me. In point of fact, I'd cut out all public funds and PAC donations to politicians altogether. Politicians should go out, glad-hand, stump, and burn some shoe-leather to get elected. But that's another blog post. In the meantime, this fight has national implications.

But Walker doesn't see it that way. He probably doesn't give two hoots about the Citizens United decision at this point. What he really wants is to get back at the unions who blocked him time and again as County Exec. This is what he wants more than anything. This is payback. This is what he ran for governor to do - get revenge on those assholes who, in his view, kept him from doing his job time and again for eight long years. This is vendetta! Especially for the schools.

I can forgive Walker his misunderstandings. Under-performing public schools have been a bug-bear for all of us for way too long now. And school teachers shouldn't be abandoning their charges to go off and do a protest rally. A day or two, I can maybe forgive. But a week or even weeks on end? That's too much! So I can understand why people are pissed. MPS has had its funds increased again and again, and improvement in education hasn't happened. Not even school vouchers did much good in improving the education quality, either here or in D.C. (and that deserves a separate blog post). So Walker and his ilk assume that money isn't the problem, and decide to slash funding, as if that's somehow going to help the public schools, either. What we'll get is public education which will go from bad to complete hell.

Money wasn't ever the problem. The problem is the underlying structure.

Forgive me for going off on a tangent, but how do we REALLY fix that underlying structure? Not by hauling off and slashing funding without a plan, that's for damned sure! Here's how to do it right:
1. END THE RESIDENCY RULE!!! Shit, I'm so sick of this one I can't even say. Get the best teachers into Milwaukee's schools! I don't care if they come from Timbuctu!
2. END THE DRUG WAR!!! I have to keep harping on this until it happens. Drug dealers prey on kids in schools because they get lesser juvenile sentences in courts, thus making law enforcement less able to get them off the streets while dealing. By ending the drug war and legalizing at least cannabis, we cut the gang-lords out of our schools. Instead of cutting the incomes of teachers HOW ABOUT WE CUT THE INCOME OF DRUG LORDS?!?!
3. INSTITUTE RESULTS-BASED PAY!!! A teachers pay really should be commiserate with how well the student has learned, and there's no other way to evaluate that than to see how they do on standardized testing before and after the school semester.

Walker will find that with these reforms, money spent on MPS will come down on its own, even with collective bargaining. Now, if THAT's what Republicans were willing to start riots for, I'd be totally on their side. Instead, he's trying to break the unions for breaking the unions sake, because of old injuries. Well, fuck that.

The well-meaning are about to enact some pretty damned severe unforseen consequences. So don't say I didn't warn you. The good intentions that pave the road to hell have constructed an eight-lane highway. Whether we go down that road, is up to us.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Emergency Post: Correcting Media Errors!

Okay, in continuing with correcting the media misinformation out there, it's time to set some things straight. First, it seems like the missing fiscal position reports are STILL missing. However, the general fund statement has been found by Rachel Maddow. Essentially, this is the statement of the Wisconsin state bank account. A link to this important document is found on Rachel's blog. You can read this official report here:

As you'll see from reading this, total revenues amount to 13.57 billion, while outlays (spending) amounts to $13.45 billion, making for a budget surplus of about 120 million. Subtract the 65 million required minimum balance by statutory requirement, and the state has an extra 55 million (rounded).

Now, that really doesn't settle this issue just yet. This bank account balance may be positive due to state borrowing. We won't know about that until I get to read the actual financial position reports, and those, we hope, will surface soon. Rachel errantly reported this as meaning that Wisconsin has a budget surplus. (Oops!) I've e-mailed Rachel regarding this error, and hopefully one of her aides will bring it to her attention. It could be very embarrassing for her if she doesn't learn of it, either from me or from some other source. In the meantime, I still want to know why the financial statements for Wisconsin are more AWOL than the Democratic State Senators.

Next, I must attack the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for getting it's "Politi-Fact" column just dead wrong on key points regarding this watershed event. Taking Ed Schultz's recent claim on MSNBC that union workers could lose up to 40% of their income overnight if this bill passes, the Journal Sentinel rates this as false.

Bullshit! The Journal Sentinel failed to account for the benefits package which includes tuition reimbursement for public school teachers. If this bill passes, that gets lost, and all that tuition, in some cases amounting to more than $80,000, needs to be paid back by the teacher, out of pocket. That means monthly payments which will, in fact, decrease net income by well MORE than 40%. So Ed Schultz got it right, and the Journal Sentinel got it wrong.

For the other two Politi-Fact errors that the Journal Sentinel screwed up, namely Alberta Darling correctly pointing out how this bill would reduce compensation to what it is in the private sector, and the AFL-CIO's contention that this bill will effectively destroy the unions, I must refer readers to my previous post. That makes for not one, not two, but three consecutive errors by the Journal Sentinel regarding one of the most important legislative issues ever. Certainly, the biggest during my lifetime.

This is no time for journalistic fuck-ups!


Madison In An Uproar (And My Solution)

I came home this afternoon having taken a mandatory course in CPR from my employer, only to find once I'd gotten home that it was our State government which had a cardiac arrest!

Apparently, disgusted that Walker is trying to balance a budget and break a union at the same time, all the Democrats in Madison decided that the only way to prevent a disaster was to make a run south of the border -- the Illinois state border, in this case.

What a circus! I haven't seen people this pissed off since the vote on the Miller Park too-small-to-even-notice-it sales tax hike. You might remember, the one that got Racine state congressman George Pitak tossed out on his ass in an impeachment recall? Anyway, nowlots of those Racine people are wearing Brewer shirts and lining up for tickets, but this item, the one that really matters, is on the current docket. And it's a confusing mess! The more I watch the news, the more I listen to the pundits, the more confused I get. I hear bitching and moaning on both sides, and when it's over, I'm no closer to learning the true substance of this debate than I was when I started. Shit, that's frustrating! I'm sure all of you out there are in the same situation.

But it occurred to me that this fight pertains directly to me. After all, I'm trying to become a science teacher, and that achieved goal is right around the corner. It just might be that I'll have fought so hard to direct a classroom, only to find that Gov. Walker yanked my paycheck away before I've even gotten there. As such, I thought I'd really research this one fully so that I know for damned sure whose side I should take on this one.

And, just to be generous, I thought I'd share what I discovered with you. But this is a multi-faceted debate, with lots of twists and turns. So forgive me if this blog takes a bit longer than my usual rants.

Since Republicans are insisting that this needs to be done because of a 137 million dollar shortfall. I started by trying to read Wisconsin's financial position reports. This 2011 budget deficit was one very unspecified bastard, because it was first reported to be 2.2 billion, then changed to 3.3 billion, then went mysteriously down to 530 million (that's million, with an "m", or half a billion), and is currently quoted at 137 million. What's going on here? And if Walker has done so nicely shrinking the budget already, why go after public salaries now? So, I went to the Wisconsin government website to get some budgetary answers. I wanted to know exact revenues vs. exact outlays for fiscal years 2009, 2010, and projections for 2011.

You know what? I couldn't find them! The URL of the website (for financial statements CAFR) is missing from the government web site! Now that's fucking interesting, isn't it? At this exact moment, when we need those numbers the most, they're removed. Gee, is someone in Madison trying to prevent someone coming up with an obviously alternate means of saving $137 million? Hmmmmm?

So, I read the Budget Repair Proposal, which is the source of all this commotion.

The bill deals with MERA, the Municipal Employment Relations Act, and SELRA, the State Employment Labor Relations Act. These previously enacted bills allow for collective bargaining with the state regarding pay and benefits. What this new bill of Walker's proposes about these prior arrangements is two things: One, that they'll be changed so that only collective bargaining for base wages is allowed. No negotiating changes to benefits. And two, that wages can only be bargained upwards to a maximum based upon a percentage increase of the consumer price index. In other words, no increasing wages faster than inflation or buying power.

Essentially, this renders the unions toothless. They can only bargain for what they'd likely get anyway. Does this break the unions? Essentially, yes. The unions themselves would still exist, for a little longer, anyway. But since they have no real power to increase wages or benefits, they'd wither away and die. After all, who wants to pay dues for nothing? Hence, the outrage.

Interestingly, police and firefighters are ruled out. That's not what the bill actually says, however. It says "public safety employees" are exempt. Wonder why it might be phrased that way? Oh, wait, maybe it's because a member of the National Guard might be considered "public safety!" After all, can't have a Guardsman called upon to defend a bill that will cut his salary and benefits, now can we? (Probably only some of said guardsman's salary comes from state sources, but still... interesting.)

So, with police, fire, and any state funds to guard members ruled out, the primary victim... er, I mean, subject, of the bill, is teachers. Mostly public school teachers, but also Tech schools and the UW system.

I get the issues at stake, here. We want a balanced budget. We also want to cut out the fat. And public schools and state-subsidized colleges are a nice, juicy target. After all, in Milwaukee Public Schools, for instance, enrollment has declined while the budget has increased for each and every year since 2001, causing a net increase in spending of about 50% per student, ending at over $16,000 spent on every student in MPS in 2010. Meanwhile, teacher salaries at MPS average at over $52,000 per year, while benefits weigh in at $49,000 per year, for a total compensation package of $101,000 annually, per teacher. And for this money spent? We get failing students, incompetent in math, reading and science. Clearly, throwing money at schools is not solving the problem.

So, here comes Walker, ready to bust the union and save the schools, right? Well, no. The union is a problem because it retains bad teachers and fails to adequately reward good ones, this is true. But the fundamental problem is deeper. After all, wouldn't you think for $52K per year and huge benefits, plus summers off, would be a perfect gig? I mean, you'd think people would be lining up outside the MPS offices for work, wouldn't you?

But, no. In fact, most people would rather eat broken glass than work for MPS. New teacher turnover at MPS is something like 15%! In spite of the sweet deal! Now why is that?

Well, we know the usual culprits: Drugs on the streets, parents who don't give a damn until the kid is killed in a gang-crossfire and then, when the camera comes on, the weeping, overweight mother cries and bawls, "He was such a good kid!" (Puh-LEEZE!) But there's an even deeper cause. It's the most evil, most pernicious, and most wasteful pisser-away of taxpayer money piece of bullshit ever invented. It's called:

Residency Requirement!

In a nutshell, it means this: If you want to work for MPS, you have to live in Milwaukee. After all, you can't have people working to educate the city's children and not be willing to live there, right? That wouldn't be fair!

Yeah, except for the part where your pool of potential teachers gets severely limited as a result. Then, it's simply supply and demand. Low supply of teachers plus high demand for them means really big salaries get forced onto the state! Bad teachers get to stick around, because they're less fireable than a pedophile Catholic priest. Good teachers can't stand the crap that gets heaped upon them from the bad teachers, compounded with the lack of parental support, get frustrated, and leave. And this system of rewarding teachers whose only skill is being able to show up and keep the kids from killing each other for eight hours a day gets stronger and stronger.

Shit, there are outstanding potential teachers in West Allis, Tosa, Greenfield and, heaven forbid, Whitefish Bay! We can tap into that great resource and improve test scores overnight! Besides, have you taken a look at a Milwaukee map? The city border is a joke! If a teacher lives in West Milwaukee, and thus lives right near the inner city, he can't get a job at MPS. But if someone lives up near Butler, or the sliver of Milwaukee territory located Northeast of Alverno College, then he can always get a job, even though he doesn't have any inner city issues. What a crock!

So, end the residency rule, and what happens? Why, suddenly, the supply of teachers is high, and the demand for teachers is low. Wages come down, and the state of Wisconsin saves at least 137 million, maybe lots more! Schools are stocked full of quality teachers who work collectively to pester slovenly parents, and education actually happens!

Now doesn't that make a whole lot more sense?

You know, they say that the problem is that kids can't do math. But I rather think it's the adults who can't do math instead. More money isn't the solution. But then, money was never the problem. The structure of the system was the problem! And unless that's fixed, then cutting teacher salaries is going to make our schools WAY worse!

Oh, and incidentally, the big benefits package I mentioned earlier is so very large because of a program which pays back tuition to those people who become teachers. This encourages people, specifically people like me, to complete a degree in math or science and enter a teaching career in mid-life. Of course, if that gets taken away, then Walker's pretty much sodomized me with a splintered broom-handle, financially speaking! Still, it's about what's best for everyone, and it's not just about me.

I have way more thoughts on this. Like dozens of ideas to save money in the UW system, for example. Or why MATC is really worth the money, in spite of past corruption and the recent bargaining agreement which was sped through to head-off Walker's bill at the pass. I'd like to mention how a teacher leaving school to protest is fine for a day but wrong for a week. I'd even like to say how I support school choice vouchers so long as the religious schools are left out of it. But I think I've made my case. All those other speeches can wait. If Walker really wants to break the Milwaukee Teachers Union, he can simply give MPS over to Tom Barrett, which is yet entirely possible.

In the meantime, I side with Labor. Walker's an idiot!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tightening The Belt? Try Adding Some Green!

Well, we all knew it had to happen sometime. Our government is doing the necessary work of trimming the fat from the budget - by putting YOU on a diet, and tightening your belt for you. This, because we've excused the fat cat from the treadmill, at least for the time being. Still, we can't keep maxing out our credit card forever, can we? So here come the budget cuts. We all know about cutting discretionary spending. But no budget can be balanced unless we do one of four other things:

1. Cut Social Security
2. Cut Medicare/Medicaid
3. Cut Military Spending
4. Raise or levy a tax.

Any politician who tells you we can balance the budget without doing all four is lying. This is because our deficit is nearly 50% of our total tax revenue, and so eliminating that deficit means throwing away a full 1/3rd of the pie. That's one hell of a big cut! Even if all discretionary spending were tossed aside, the deficit still wouldn't be eliminated. That means some "entitlement" spending simply has to go, and some additional money has to be raised, and there's simply nothing else for it.

Yet I persistently hear politicians say that they can balance the budget by ruling out one of the above four items. On the right, they say that military spending is sacrosanct. On the left, that Social Security and Medicaire will not be tampered with. The right is screaming for tax cuts, and the left is screaming for infrastructure spending programs, as if we can afford to do either.

But wait! There is something that might, just might, make it possible to balance the budget and leave one of the four above items alone.

Really, you ask? What on earth could it be?

Simple. Stop wasting 18 billion dollars every year on a failed drug war, then legalize and tax cannabis, thus generating hundreds of billions in revenue!

I mean seriously, when our Little Boy Blue of a governor is blowing his horn about putting the National Guard on his own citizens' right to redress the government for grievances, was there ever a better time to stop lighting nearly 20 billion on fire every year? And for what? What does that 20 billion buy us? It buys the destruction of our inner cities and the strengthening of Mexican drug cartels, that's what!

The puritans who once burned witches have not gone away. They're still here, hiding amidst the DEA and the FCC, and still seemingly irrationally paranoid about toking kids who might try to end a war in Vietnam. If ever there was a time for inflexible old men to shake the cobwebs out of their skulls and get a clue, it's now!

Talk about reefer madness!


Monday, February 14, 2011

Stabilizing A Democracy. (No, THIS One.)

Just a quick thought, really. I was reflecting on my most recent post, and I realized I'd missed something. We all want the best for Egypt now that it's taken the important first step of giving its dictator the heave-ho, and we're all keen on Islamicists such as those in the Muslim Brotherhood not taking over. In short, we want a secular Egypt. Well, fair enough, but in essence, what we therefore want is a strong separation between church and state in that country. (Or, mosque and state, as the case may be.)

Isn't the best way to help achieve this to lead by example, by strengthening the church/state barrier in this country?

It just seems odd to me that the same conservative interests who want religious leaders shut out of the process in a foreign country are so very keen on letting religious interests run rampant within our own. Of course, they don't see the hypocrisy of this because they're batting for Team Christianity. I, on the other hand, am batting for Team Freedom, and so don't want undue favoritism given to either Christianity here, or Islamism in Egypt. Or Iraq. Or even Iran, where protests against that regime have started up again recently.

In our country, we committed wholesale slaughter against the Indians because we saw ourselves as a kind of New Israel, conquering the savage Promised Land for God. And today? We have the Wisconsin National Guard being ordered out upon its own citizens just to balance a budget, while behind this smoke screen women's reproductive rights are being taken away wholesale. We dare Puritanically censor the supposedly free airwaves if four-letter words like the ones Dick Cheney bluntly used on the Senate floor ever get uttered, and even put monotheistic endorsements loudly proclaiming the falsehood of time-honored religions like Hinduism and Buddhism upon our very money.

In short, we're so afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood over there. What about the Christian Brotherhood over here?

Any religion which is frightened of playing on a level playing field with other creeds is a weak religion, incapable of standing on its own without clutching, haplessly, to the crutch of government support.

I say, let's kick the damned crutch out from under 'em!

Benjamin Franklin said it best:
"When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, 'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one."
(From a letter written to Richard Price, October 1790.)

We Americans put dictators like Mubarek, Hussein, and the Iranian Shaw in power because we, in our immature and irresponsible use of democracy, put the Cold War ahead of the Pan Arabian good. It is therefore wrong to cast their nations as too immature for the democratic process. Like us, Egypt will have its problems, and its atrocities. But they will be their challenges to overcome. Not ours.

Let's hope we can do a better job of leading by example in the future.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Glenn Beck On Egypt

I don't normally take time to deal with the inanity of Glenn Beck. If his own rants aren't enough to send his little cult of personality running for the hills and screaming, then there's nothing I can do or say that will snap them out of their trance. Yes, I'll admit that I've been tuning in to his television show just to see what he might have to say about the Egypt crisis, and one thing was immediately apparent to me: Beck is no longer a news commentator. He's a preacher. And so long as he remains a preacher, he will remain insulated inside his little cult.

But I do have a brilliant juxtaposition to make regarding what he's been saying recently, and so I will make it here. Apparently, Beck is deathly afraid that the revolution in Egypt will result in the Muslim Brotherhood's takeover of that country. From there, he says, a new Caliphate will arise, which will spearhead the effort to make the entire world Muslim. He is therefore warning people about it ahead of time, tacitly, if not implicitly, making the case that Egypt might be better off with a dictator who keeps the Islamic agenda at bay rather than a democracy which Jihadists might be able to take over.

Okay, I can't say it's wrong to be concerned. There is a very real possibility that the Muslim Brotherhood might take over, this is true. It is also very true that Islam does have an agenda of spreading Islamic law everywhere. (Christianity has a similar agenda, known as the Great Commission, which may be less militant but which still wants the whole world under one religion.) So Glenn does have legitimate grounds for worry. We'd be naive to think the removal of a dictator doesn't carry the risk that a worse regime might arise.

That's simply no excuse for opposing a dictator's removal!

Dangerous as the removal of a dictator might be, and as fickle as a democracy may get when a majority of its population belongs to an intrusive religion, the march towards human freedom demands that we must seize the chance at obtaining freedom over fascism wherever we can get it. Yes, there's danger, but that pales in comparison to the danger of doing nothing.

And here's my main point: Beck would clearly rather a dictatorship be in place in Egypt to prevent religious extremism from taking over. Fine. But isn't this exactly the same argument which was used by liberals about why we shouldn't have invaded Iraq? Didn't they argue, back in 2003 and 2004, that it was better to have a secular dictator like Hussein in power rather than risk Wahabi extremists gaining a foothold? Indeed they did!

This is why political polarization is so terrifying in its power to consign what would otherwise be a brilliant mind to stupidity. Glenn Beck's position is essentially the same as the Liberal position of only a decade ago. And this indicates that he's no longer thinking in terms of political sides. He's not seeing things as either Left or Right. He's seeing them as "us" vs. "them." It's no longer about political positions so much as it is about wanting "his team" to win!

That, my friends, is one serious level of crazy.

Beck says that if we think he's crazy for his neo-Caliphate fears, that we can go to hell. Yeah, well, if I, for one, end up going there, it won't be by the order of that guy!

The belief that the Arab world is too religiously extreme and immature to handle democracy is prevalent in our culture. But this is a form of fascism, pure and simple. The difference between it and traditional fascism is that it believes the fascism is better for other people, and not us. But we've seen a transformation in Arab attitudes. Arabs look at a tiny nation like Albania ascending to democracy and feel utterly ashamed that such a tiny nation gets the right to vote, while their nations languish under the jack-boots of dictators. (This, from a recent Slate article by Christopher Hitchens.) Arabs have been festering with this shame for some time, letting the hunger for democracy grow ever more steadily with each passing generation. When tiny Tunisia fell to democracy, the Arabs inhabiting the land of one of the oldest and proudest civilizations in history finally decided that they'd had quite enough. They want freedom! I say, give it to them!

Yes, they might not be ready for it. But neither were we! Yes, some religious nuts want to seize control of their democracy to advance their world-conquest agenda. But that's true here, too! Hell, Glenn Beck is one of them!

But then, it's not about Team Islam winning. He's more scared of Team Mormon losing, because he knows Islam is intolerant enough to give Mormonism a run for its money.

Of course BOTH sides fear the non-religious, a sect which is growing twice as fast as both those creeds combined! But that's the subject of a later blog post.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Michelle Obama Wears Commie Red Dress

It's official: Michelle Obama has betrayed the Obama family's Communist leanings by wearing a red dress at the state dinner held for the Chinese president. This, according to Matt Drudge, who called the First Lady's dress "China Red," which was a theme picked up on and echoed by numerous right-wing pundits and bloggers. By the time the dust settled, Michelle's dress was a veritable confession as to her Commie leanings.

Well, what can I say? They got us fair and square on this one. The First Lady wearing a red dress is absolutely an indication of her husband's political leanings, and tantamount to wearing litmus paper for her political party. Want to know what the Pres. is thinking? Don't look at him, look at his wife's wardrobe. There's a dead giveaway, there! You know, we were doing a pretty good job of masking our President being a Communist, but those clever Republicans have sniffed us out by looking, not at the President, but at his wife. For that matter, look at the President's tie, or the trim on his sportcoat. If his tie happens to be red, you've got him! No true-blue American President would ever wear a red tie! Yet Mr. Obama has been seen in a red tie on several occasions, recently. It's as clear as crystal just how Communist this means our President is.

Those Republicans are so very clever!


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What A Wonderful World

It's 11:00, and all's mostly well. At least, it is from my vantage-point.

Egypt is falling to democracy. Bill O'Reilly got exposed as a disrespectful hack, by our president, on national TV. I'm acing calculus. The Green Bay Packers are Superbowl Champions again. And Keith Olbermann is coming back to TV.

Yes, Current TV (channel 226 on Time Warner Cable), the network co-founded by former Vice President Al Gore, is bringing Keith Olbermann back for a new news and commentary program, to be revealed later this year. You knew he'd get scooped up by a small network, which suddenly becomes a major network as a result. I hope MSNBC feels the fool for it.

But boy, Current TV needs Olbermann! Have you seen the lineup? Oh, sure, Current TV does have some cool stuff, like the documentary series, Vanguard. They also have The 50 Greatest Viral Videos, and Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews. But other than that? It's pretty much NPR television. And no Garrison Keillor! Some plot-driven thing called Bar Karma is supposed to magic-TV people into watching. There's a show called (I'm not making this up) Kill It, Cook It, Eat It, where the ones who eat the bacon actually butcher it themselves first. (Where's PETA when you need 'em?) They actually broadcast a television version of This American Life. This American Life! The radio program that has driven away more donors during pledge week than poverty, and it has its own television program!

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot!

That does it. We demand a new Star Trek franchise! We demand the return of Firefly! We want all the programs that made Discovery and the Science Channel great back on the air! More Desmond Morris! More James Burke! Bring back Paleoworld!

I'm so sick of ghost-hunting, chopper-building, architectural, dirty-job, cash-taxicabbed, Stargated, cooking-show, deadly-catch, baby-bringing, truck-driving, Bear Grylls-pretending-he's-an-outdoorsman, pitch-men BULLSHIT on my television!

This American Life! Honestly! Craptacular on a cuestick!

If it wasn't for Mythbusters, I'd say raze the whole thing and start over!

Oh, wait, there's Brewmasters. I forgot. And some new show coming called Curiosity, which sounds good. There's hope yet!

Okay, I'm done ranting. Sorry about that.

So what else is going on? Well, in the midst of the pro-democracy Egyptian protests, while Muslims in Cairo prayed, they enjoyed the protection of a Christian-Coptic-Jewish bodyguard. And while Christians held mass, and Jews held synagogue, the Muslims, in turn, protected them. Prayer in the square! Egypt is so ready for democracy!

Now, if religion could only be like that all of the time. It would be a much happier world, wouldn't it?

Bill O'Reilly? Jeezus, he gave more respect to Jon Stewart than he gave to our president. Why is the non-serious guy taken seriously, while the serious guy is not taken seriously in O'Reilly's world? It could only be because he's the partisan-blinded fool we always knew him to be. And now, he's stepped in it.

During the WONDERFUL Superbowl victory, I got into it a little bit with some fool at the bar. Remember the KIA commercial? No, me neither. But it sparked this particular asshole giving a rant about foreign cars.
"Hang on," I said, "there's somebody in Kentucky who has a job building those cars,"
"Yeah," he yelled back, "But they sell us cars, and they refuse to buy any of our goods!"
I started to say that I wasn't too sure about that, but he interrupted me. "No! When Mr. Asshole went over there to do his treaty with South Korea, he gave away the store! They keep all the profits for themselves!"
I backed off, saying I hadn't researched it. "First I do the research, then I argue," I told him.

But what grated me was the "Mr. Asshole." part.

Look, when George W. was president, I hated his ass. Still do. But I respected him, and the Presidential office. Why? Because he was FUCKING PRESIDENT, that's why! Now it's the conservative's turn to give the respect absolutely due the officeItalic, and our president isn't being given the respect due a first-year state congressman.

Know what? FUCK that! I'm willing to call it the black-man-hating racist bullshit it is. It's time to call a spade-hater a spade-hater.

Take that, O'Reilly.

By the way, the guy was dead wrong. South Korea is one of our top buyers of grain and beef. Only China and the E.U. buy more. So they sell us the cars they pay American workers to build, while we sell them food. I like this deal.

Okay, speaking of cars, notice that a government commission found that nothing was wrong with Toyota after all? So what was the deal with all those Toyota cars going haywire with their accelerators?

I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist, but I find it an odd coincidence that this Toyota crisis just happened to take place just in time to save GM's ass, and that GM's ass got saved just in time to save the government's investment. Maybe I'm crazy, but there might be a connection, here. Again, I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but it might be worth looking into.

That's it for now. I'm done!


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gun Control and Revolution

In other news, America's favorite groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil (yes, I spelled it right, look it up!) has been frozen in his hole in Pennsylvania. His extraction, encased within a block of ice, means that his usual winter prediction will not happen until zookeepers manage to thaw him out in front of a space-heater...

Okay, seriously, that's a slight exaggeration. But it's nice to not have to deal with the usual Groundhog Day nonsense, at least for another 24 hours.

Anyway, it seems that Mubarek has taken to some dirty tricks to put down the growing revolution in his country, sicking plain-clothes thugs on his own people, while at the same time, the debate about gun control continues to go on as Gabrielle Giffords recovers. As usual, I see things a little bit differently on both issues, and find that the two are actually interlinked.

First, the whole point of having a 2nd amendment in our Constitution was to make sure that occasional revolutions would take place. The blood of revolutionaries was to be the natural manure of freedom's growth, according to Jefferson. And if the government got too big, it was time for the people to revolt. Hence, every household should have a gun.

Reality check: In today's world, we have harrier and tomcat jets, black hawk and apache helicopters, napalm, night vision, satellite surveillance, cruise missile frigates, aircraft carriers, wire-tapping and, of course, nuclear warheads. If our government were faced with a revolt, it could easily put it down within minutes.

Unless the military were either cooperative or ambivalent to the revolt. In which case, we'd have a situation similar to that in Egypt. And in Egypt, were there to be any shots fired by the people, it would only be political fodder internationally for world leaders to oppose the movement.

In short, the age for revolts with guns are O-VER! Jefferson himself would agree. Deal with it.

So do we therefore enact gun laws because we're all screwed anyway? Well, no. I refuse to side with the liberals on the agenda of outlawing ammo clips, as if six shots fired at a Congressperson were somehow better than sixteen shots. The very idea itself is ludicrous. No, I am very much in favor of every citizen owning defensive weaponry. That means that a state which allows handguns and disallows tasers is a hypocritical, upside-down, Micky-Mouse-level insane administration which needs to reverse such nonsense immediately.

No, instead of outlawing guns, I say -- LICENSE their asses!

Think that's too harsh? The NRA would certainly think so. But think about it: Requiring a license is not an "impingement" upon keeping or bearing arms. It is an extra hoop to jump through, yes, but one can do it. And our crackpot, Loughner, would not have even been able to buy his glock, much less a clip for it, were he to have been required to have a license first. Had he applied for a license, his obvious insanity would have barred him. And if someone goes crazy afterward, and allows the license to expire (because those who don't take regular medications seldom do other things that require regular maintenance), then there is an information network which allows authorities to take the guns out of the hands of the insane! Any person without a license to purchase and carry a gun would not be able to do so. Drug lords would have a significantly more difficult time arming themselves (which helps enhance the silly drug war against cannabis, but that's another subject). Sure, the odd sociopath would still get a gun, but that's always been the case. At least obvious nutballs, like Loughner, wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell of arming themselves with HVP's.

Here's the cycle we must break: Some insane idiot goes and gets a gun. He shoots someone. There's outrage, and laws try to get passed. The NRA and its cronies block it. The law fails. Then, another insane idiot goes and gets a gun. He shoots someone... etc. etc.

Does anyone else think this is a bit fucked up?

Okay, we want citizens to be armed in order to defend themselves, and us, against assailants who violate the law with guns. I'm down with that! But let's have those law-abiding citizens carry a license to, well, carry. Is a criminal holding up a convenience store really going to be less surprised by a citizen who is licensed to buy, and then carry, a concealed weapon vs. one who isn't?

If you really think this is extremist or far-fetched on my part, let me offer the following list of comparisons. You see, we need licenses for damned near everything else! Yet for buying or using a gun, we require no licenses whatsoever. Bullshit! It's perfectly reasonable to expect a license to buy or carry a gun, given all the other shit we need licenses for. Here's my list, and pay attention, there will be a quiz later:

You need a license to drive. So to propel 2,000 pounds of metal at 60 MPH, you need a license, but to propel .60 ounces of metal at 2,000 MPH, you don't.

You need a license to hunt or fish. So to shoot an animal, you need a license. To buy the gun you shoot the animal with, you don't. Or to shoot a human being, you don't.

You need a license to build a building. So to build the store that sells a gun, or the range you can shoot the gun, you need a license. But not to get and fire the gun itself.

You need a license to get married. So you need a license to lead someone to the altar, but not to fire lead into the altar.

You need a license to sell liquor. You need a license to own a bar. You need a license to be a bartender. In some states, you need a license to drink. So you need licenses to sell or buy Jack Daniels, and you might need a license to do a shot of Jack Daniels, but you don't need a license to shoot a man named Jack Daniels.

You need a license to sell cigarettes. You also need a driver's license to buy them. So you need a license to smoke, essentially. But you don't need a license to smoke someone.

Get this: You need a medical license to practice being a doctor or a nurse. So you need a license to take a bullet out of someone's body. You don't need a license to put one into someone's body in the first place!

You need a license to practice dentistry. In other words, you need licensing to put a cap in someone's tooth. You don't need a license to put a cap in someone's ass!

And finally, my favorite: You need a driver's license, or some other form of I.D. to vote (or you will in Wisconsin, when the Republicans eventually get their way). So you'd need a licence to vote for a Congresswoman. You don't need a license to shoot her!

We need licenses for gun ownership. Enough is enough! And I'm NOT an extremist for saying so!

They can take my gun license when they pry it from my cold, dead hands!

Go, Egypt!


P.S., Shame we can't also require licenses for people before they get pregnant so that insane or stupid people can't breed. But that's a subject for a later blog.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Global-Warming Blizzard?

It's the middle of a winter snowstorm right now, and the flakes are really coming down.

No, I don't mean snowflakes. I mean the flakes who deny global warming. They're saying that as we, in Wisconsin are getting dumped upon by more than a foot of snow, that it's the same as getting dumped on by a mountain of evidence that global warming is a hoax.

Could someone PLEASE tell me why global warming is only a hoax during a winter snowstorm!? How quickly we forget the record high summer temperatures we were all sweltering under this past year. How quickly we forget how early Spring arrived after "Snowpocalypse." How quickly we even forget how relatively warm our early November was.

Shit, we have a short memory.

In a nutshell, warm air temperatures in the upper Atlantic sea basin are forcing the Arctic air masses right down on top of us. Those cold, Arctic air pockets can't cross Eastward over the North Atlantic the way they used to, so they have nowhere to go but back, where they make higher pressures over Nova Scotia, and drive low-pressure centers down the only direction they have left -- SOUTH. Relatively high temperatures are being felt RIGHT NOW in Iceland (tomorrow's forecast, 30F, -2C), Edinburough, Scotland (40F, 8C), London (38F, 6C), Paris (41F, 9C), Berlin (37F, 5C), and Oslo, Norway (32F, 0C).

Meanwhile, relatively high temperatures over Seattle, Vancouver, and the entire Pacific Northwest are contributing massive amounts of moisture up into Canada, where it can collide with those south-headed cold air masses coming down toward us, and dump us with more snow that we can handle for a second straight year. Current temperatures RIGHT NOW in Seattle are 35 degrees.

Here's what really frosts me (pun intended). RIGHT NOW in Anchorage, Alaska, where Sarah Palin should be able to see better, the temperature at this very moment (1:20 a.m., Central Standard Time, February 3, 2011), is a very comfortable 32 degrees, and partly cloudy.

So, to all you global warming deniers, on behalf of the residents of the Pacific Northwest, Iceland, the UK and EU, please...

Go fuck yourselves!


Is Egypt Ready For Democracy?

The ongoing unrest in Egypt is hell bent on blossoming into full-fledged revolution. Egyptians are hungry, out of work, and pissed off. Hosni Mubarek must go, and nothing else will make them happy. Mubarek firing his entire cabinet and hiring a new government is nothing short of a joke to them. You can put new flesh on an old skeleton, but the disease is in the marrow.

This all creates a very disturbing situation. If a new Egyptian government comes about, will it honor its prior treaties with the United States, Great Britain, and Israel? Will the Muslim Brotherhood come to power in that nation, and declare war upon Israel, possibly touching off what could only be described as world war three?

You can hear the Bible prophecy people now, saying that this harbors the end times. Funny how none of them saw it coming from Egypt. They all thought the former Soviet Union, Iraq, or Iran would be the flashpoint.

Ah, hell. The psychics didn't see 9/11 coming, either.

One thing's for sure: The Egyptians want democracy. Bully for them! But suppose they get it? What if Egypt, the world's largest Arab nation, succumbs to democracy. What then? Would the people elect politicians who are nothing but Islamic extremists? Would they put Hamas or Al Quaida in power?

Is the Arab world even ready for democracy?

I think it helps to remember that we here in America weren't ready for democracy either. No sooner did we have a government run by the people, free from any religious dictatorship, than several states tried violating secularism by enacting an official State religion. (They all failed, of course. Separation of church and state is just plain fair. But it's important to remember that religious bastards did try their level-best to wreck everything from the get-go.) The Danbury Baptists, oppressed by the Episcopalians in Virginia, pleaded to Thomas Jefferson for help, who reminded them, and indeed all of us, that the first amendment creates a "wall of separation between church and state," which is where the phrase comes from. Hell, Massachusetts had only just recently gotten over hanging people for witchcraft at that time, and John Nelson Darby had planted the seeds of what would become today's evangelical fundamentalist whack-jobs. Our constitution lacked provision to grant freedom for slaves, guaranteeing suffering for an entire segment of the population, and planting the seeds of a future civil war. It lacked the recognition of rights to aboriginal Americans, and the newly minted United States wasted no time in systematically annexing all Indian land it could, by rook or by crook, and killing off any redskins who got in their way.

Yet in spite of ourselves, we overcame, and built a (mostly) free society, king of the world's economies, and bastion of freedom to the world. We weren't ready, but we did it. How dare we say that Egypt, a civilization far older than ours, isn't ready?

Yes, there is a very real threat that the Muslim Brotherhood, or some other Islamic-based nonsense, will attempt to take over. But I don't think that will happen. I think there's one overriding factor in that region: tourism! Egypt's tourism is its lifeblood. Everyone there knows it. And they won't dare enact any Sharia reforms that offend the infidels who want to come to their country and spend lots of money seeing the pyramids of Giza, the temples of Luxor, or the city of Karnak. The economy of Egypt depends upon cooler heads prevailing, and so they shall. They will hold their Islamic extremism at bay, at least just enough so that lots of blasphemous men and (to their eyes) naked women will come there and spend money to keep their nation thriving. And with it, will thrive their democracy. As their tolerance grows, so will their secularism. As the most populous Arab nation becomes more Westernized than ever, it will spread the taste of freedom throughout the Muslim world.

And freedom, my friends, is the most addicting drug there is.