Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gun-Nutty Republicans Go Bananas

In the race to see who can be more ridiculous taking advantage of the radical Republican stranglehold on Wisconsin government, it’s hard to top the sponsors of the concealed-carry bill currently on its way to the Senate floor. 

Even the primary lobbyists for the manufacturers who would supply the killers and potential killers on the fringe of the gun-totting world, the NRA, have always supported some kind of background check and/or training and/or permitting before setting the twisted victims of Small-Man Syndrome loose in the general public with loaded guns in their pants. 

But not those Wisconsin Republicans, no-siree.  They aren’t going to be talking into half a bad idea when they can have the whole thing.  Permits are for pussies – do I get to carry my piece, or what?  I don’t need no stinking permit.  Churches, day care centers, domestic abuse shelters, the Capitol – no place of peace or protection is too good for a little hot lead at the ready, just in case. 

Naturally, the NRA has now has reversed itself on permitting and supports the anything-goes, Wild-West version that has made it through committee.  All the better to get more guns sold to more people faster, the safety of the general public and innocent bystanders be damned.  The out-of-state interests in the death industry driving the NRA even poll-tested a friendly label for the notion that nobody needs to review exactly who is walking around with itchy trigger fingers – “constitutional carry”.

According to the Cap Times, “A relatively new trend as far as gun-related legislation goes [read: a new way to sell a bad idea], constitutional carry is based on the premise that it is a citizen's constitutional right to carry a weapon. No training, permits or license are required to do so”. This is like saying there is such a thing as “constitutional speech” that you can use to cry “fire” in a crowded theater or maliciously libel someone for personal gain. 

It is amazing how quickly the phrase “constitutional carry” has crept into the discussion in the Journal Sentinel and other publications, without quotation marks and without peels of laughter at such a ludicrous notion.  Leaving aside for a moment the issue of whether the Second Amendment creates an individual right to own firearms (I disagree with the conservative wing of the US Supreme Court that ruled it did), any constitutional right can be controlled or restricted for a legitimate purpose.  It is not surprising that the thumb-sucking “I can do what I want” demand of the loud bullies promoting the bill has had such an effect on the Republican legislators who are spurred to action by supposed “purists”, lest they be labeled RINOs or, worse, reasonable.

After reading internal polls showing independents running away from the GOP in droves at the very notion of the completely unregulated arming of a particularly angry part of the public – much less young men in their 20s, who in Milwaukee County currently get 60 days to six months in jail, just for having a gun in their car – many of the well-paid Republican operatives polluting the airwaves, newspapers and blogs in Milwaukee are advising their fellow travelers in the legislature to come to their senses – on this issue, anyway. 

Radio clowns Charlie Sykes and Mark Belling are encouraging Republicans not to commit political suicide by permitting would-be civilian Dirty Harrys not to be permitted.  Rick Esenberg has taken a break from offering his bad advice to the Walker legal team fighting to bust unions in the state to issue his personal tut-tut (“a sound principle too far”, he says about the unsound taken to its logical conclusion). The bill is even more the Journal Sentinel’s in-house wing-nut. Patrick McIlheran, can stand.  The nut-bag state senator pushing the bill, Sen. Pam Galloway (R-Wausau),  is “right in principle and wrong in practice”, he says, admitting to the lack of adherence to principles he regularly berates in others. 

But the self-appointed monitors of radical Republican ideology can’t get off the hook that easy.  If Galloway is “right on principle”, as Esenberg and McIlheran say, then what is their problem with her following through on that principle?  Their encouragement for her to be unprincipled is simply borne of political expediency – they “know” she’s “right”, but following her there is just too much for the preservation of Republican power.  They are stuck with the people they have promoted to power and the logical results of their own sanctimony. 

Peace Through Music 2011

With the radical Republicans in Madison going gun-crazy, the 10th annual Peace Through Music benefit for the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort (WAVE) and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Handgun Violence couldn’t come at a better time.  Join us at Linneman’s this Sunday night, May 29th, for a night of great local music, starting at 7 p.m. and going all night.  I will be hosting all night and playing with Fat Pig at 9.  In the words of my great friend Marcus Smith: Don’t meet me there – BEAT me there!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Recall the Journal Sentinel

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has obscenely served as handmaiden and enabler as the radical Republicans in Madison continue to take a blunt ax to state government and democracy.  The paper has sat on the sidelines, alternately cheering, offering encouragement and laughably trying to talk some sense to the nonsensical.  Having endorsed Scott Walker for governor, the Journal Sentinel will have nothing but blood on its hands as the Republican jihad continues to damage the middle class and the working poor, while lavishing supposedly scarce state funds on the rich and the road builders.

On its news pages, the paper has been bad enough.  Its PolitiFact project has run interference for Walker and his fellow travelers (not the least of which: would-be Medicare-killer Paul Ryan), “ruling” that black is white and red is blue on numerous occasions – always for the benefit of some Republican scheme or personality. 

When state school superintendent Tony Evers had the temerity to call out the school choice scam as the fraud that it is this week – especially when the public schools are taking an $834 million hit in Walker’s radical budget document – the news story on the entirely justified rant by Evers was staged as a point-counterpoint exercise where everything Evers said was allowed to be countered by some dweeb at the heavily-right-wing-funded School Choice Wisconsin prop “organization”. 

“Low-income students in MPS have higher academic achievement, particularly in math,” says Evers; “choice” “students” graduate at a higher rate, says the flunky.  “Choice” “schools” are dependent on public funding, says Evers; an “exaggeration”, says the Koch-funded mouthpiece.  It’s an amazing piece of slanted reporting, pitting the elected DPI chief with over 25 years in school advocacy and administration against a hired gun for out-of-state interests interested only in destroying the notion of public education.

But, if you expect bad from the increasingly talk-radio-inspired right-wing tilt of the news pages managed by George Stanley, you can expect the absolute worst from the pathetic editorials supervised by the new editorial page editor, David Haynes. 

The latest outrage among many for the editorial “we” in the sad Walker era is a “laurel” the paper bestowed on the governor in Saturday’s paper for an alleged “upswing” in the perception of Wisconsin as a “good place to do business”.  The excuse for this undeserved award was a new ranking of Wisconsin in the supposed “best states to do business” in Chief Executive magazine. Wisconsin jumped 14 places in the annual survey of 500 Monty Moneybags running businesses from the rarified air of their penthouse suites and mahogany-appointed offices around the country. 

Thus did Wisconsin (24) leap-frog over supposed business hell-holes like Oregon (33), Minnesota (29) and New Mexico (32) to join such august company as North Dakota (21), Kansas (25) and Alabama (26).  I mean, what state doesn’t aspire to be as attractive as Alabama? Still literally in the middle of the pack, Wisconsin has a ways to go to claim the same lofty heights as Texas (1), Indiana (6) and Georgia (5).  Be ye not too bold Wisconsin – with any luck, next year we can be as “good” as Oklahoma (11).

This is all nuts, of course. Nobody with any sense would choose any of those places over Wisconsin to live or do business.  The quality of life has always been the most attractive incentive for people to do business here.  The fact that Walker’s attack on the middle class and the environment might make the state more attractive to those who are only interested in raping and pillaging both is not a good thing.  Making Wisconsin safe for strip mining should not be anyone’s goal, regardless of how many dirty, dangerous, unhealthy temporary jobs it might create.

But the CEOs who casually position copies of Chief Executive on their office credenzas to read while their assistants fetch their lattes to read up on the best way to spend their perks of power (“the trick to buying second homes is always following your heart — and never having to pack”) are the last people to decide what is best for the state of Wisconsin.  As they fly over the dusty flat land of, say, Nebraska (20) in their private jets, they see – if the politicians are cooperative enough – opportunities not to make the world a better place, but to exploit resources and a weakened, powerless workforce without having to deal with the inconvenience of effective government.

For the Journal Sentinel to fall for this bullshit in a glossy niche magazine with a circulation of about 40,000 as evidence of anything is the height of deliberate cluelessness.  Unable to call the Madison Republicans out for the radicals they are, the Kings of State Street act as willing fluffers to Scott Walker as he prepares to wind up and deliver the next item on the Koch brothers’ agenda.  Their weakness, even when they have to disagree (“legislators need to think carefully” about throwing state money at the rich in the form of venture capital. Whoa, take it easy there, Haynes.  You wouldn’t want to be accused of having an un-talk-radio opinion) is pathetic.

“Perception isn't everything, but it does count for something” starts the ridiculous “laurel” to the radical governor. Yes, it does.  And the Journal Sentinel stands perceived as a ludicrous enabler of a dangerous, power-drunk Republican party in Madison.  Just like “my” state senator, the soon-to-be-recalled Alberta Darling, the paper stands by, makes excuses and, when push comes to shove, props up the wrong people and casts the wrong votes.  Darling will be recalled, fired and sent home.  The Kings of State Street deserve the same fate.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Darling Signs Up for Attack on Democracy

After sitting like a stump, glassy-eyed, while Scott Walker and her other radical Republican buddies used illegal legislative tricks to take a blunt ax to public employee collective bargaining and other important aspects of the social fabric, “my” state senator, Alberta Darling, is suddenly pretending to be independent. 

Threatened with now-certain recall, she has been given permission by the ruling junta to peel off on minor issues that Walker will win on anyway, such as looting the general fund for the benefit of wealthy GOP donors in the Roadbuilders Association (the state equivalent of the defense industry), the end of the state’s commitment to recycling and the attempt to throw seniors seeking prescription drugs out on the streets of the more expensive, less-adequate and Ryan-threatened federal Medicare program. 

But these issues are small, half-baked potatoes compared with the the overall gist of the radical Republican jihad still driving disastrous policies in Madison.  For all of her mild scratching at the thin veneer of FitzWalkerstan’s disembowelment of Wisconsin state government as-we-know-it, Darling is all-in for the Koch-driven Unfortunate Revolution.  Her handlers have even pulled out spin from the Nixon era, having her declare that a “silent majority” of Wisconsinites are supposedly all for tax cuts for the rich, union-busting, the decimation of BadgerCare, state control over local government decision-making, slashing school funding and shared revenue, giving handouts to the rich to supplement their kids’ attendance at Marquette High School, taking dozens of positions out of the civil service system to provide patronage positions for the sons of Walker contributors and the mistresses of also-recalled state senators, etc.

Despite all of this toadying behavior, Darling will try to flaunt her supposed independence in her upcoming, heavily-funded campaign to save her sorry ass from recall.  In fact, her campaign already has ads up on heavy rotation claiming just that.  The inevitable protection that will no doubt be provided by the right-wing Journal Sentinel notwithstanding, that should be a hard sell, as she continues to back the worst parts of the governor’s budget and is on-board with all other pieces of the Republican plan to decimate Wisconsin government. 

In fact, she has already signed up as a co-sponsor of yet another outrageous power-grab by the Republicans.  After a month of relative calm in the Capitol, the radicals roared to life this week, beginning the process of ramming a revised version of the vicious attack on Wisconsin democracy known as the Photo ID voting bill through the legislature.  Darling’s sponsorship of the measure designed to disenfranchise tens of thousands of eligible Wisconsin voters puts the lie to any notion that she is moderate, independent or anything other than a rubber-stamp for whatever Walker’s puppet-masters in right-wing Washington think-tanks want. 

With one of the WMC Four on the Supreme Court (apparently) just barely squeaking by in the April election, it is not a surprise the anti-democracy Republicans would move quickly to make sure that never happens again.  The new version of the Photo ID bill (AB7) contains some interesting post-Prosser attempts to disenfranchise potential Democrats far beyond the bad-enough photo ID requirement.

  • Student IDs were not included as valid identification in the latest bill, necessarily disenfranchising thousands of students who have no reason to run to the DMV while going to school at the various state campuses.  Now, the Badger Herald reports (this proud Daily Cardinal alum is quoting the BH, which started as a right-wing prop? Uh, yeah…) that student IDs are now included, as long as they have a current address on them.  I’ll leave it to you and your memories of your transient college days to decide how practical that is, assuming colleges statewide change their policies to include a campus address on the IDs.
  • In recent years, you have not had to declare a reason why you wanted to vote absentee before doing so. This has led to a dramatic increase in absentee voting – from 6% to 21%.  All this democracy run amok was apparently too much for the Republicans, who now would now only reinstate the requirement that a reason be stated but also reduce the absentee voting window from 30 to 7 days before the election.
  • You just moved to your new crib three weeks ago and want to vote in your new district? Good luck, pal – go back to where you came from and vote there.  The bill changes residency from 10 to 28 days before the election. Was that place you came from somewhere far away or out-of-state?  Aw, poor baby.  No voting for Democrats for you.
  • Hey, let’s take up the challenge of the new bad law and have a bunch of registration drives! Yeah – good luck with that.  The bill eliminates the age-old ability of advocacy organizations on all sides to get their members certified by county clerks to seek and collect registration cards.  No more.  You either go to the county clerk yourself or wait to register at the polls; a process that is retained only to avoid the federal requirement of motor-voter registration at the DMV, another too-much-democracy bugaboo for Republicans.

Alberta Darling is all for this attack on the very democratic process that elected her and that has worked well in Wisconsin to make it easy and effective to exercise our essential right to vote.  It is just one part of the radical Republican agenda that should be rejected in the upcoming recall elections and forward. 

The only difference between Photo ID and the rest of the radical Republican agenda in Madison is that we knew Photo ID was coming.  So much of the rest of it – from the union-busting; to the defunding of education and local government; to the seizing of control from local governments to the state – was not part of the Walker campaign or any of the other Republicans who took power in January.  Recall itself is a drastic measure – a re-do made necessary by radical overreaching and the abuse of unchecked power.  Lock-step Republican flunkies like Alberta Darling will feel the wrath of an outraged electorate this year.  Next year, it’s Scott Walker’s turn.