Thursday, March 31, 2011

Secret Admirer

You might remember a few weeks back that a death threat was delivered to Wisconsin lawmakers. I wrote about it at the time; it was a very sweet, loving message:
Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your familes will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks. Please explain to them that this is because if we get rid of you and your families then it will save the rights of 300,000 people and also be able to close the deficit that you have created. I hope you have a good time in hell. Read below for more information on possible scenarios in which you will die.

WE want to make this perfectly clear. Because of your actions today and in the past couple of weeks I and the group of people that are working with me have decided that we've had enough. We feel that you and the people that support the dictator have to die. We have tried many other ways of dealing with your corruption but you have taken things too far and we will not stand for it any longer. So, this is how it's going to happen: I as well as many others know where you and your family live, it's a matter of public records. We have all planned to assult you by arriving at your house and putting a nice little bullet in your head. However, we decided that we wouldn't leave it there. We also have decided that this may not be enough to send the message to you since you are so "high" on Koch and have decided that you are now going to single handedly make this a dictatorship instead of a demorcratic process. So we have also built several bombs that we have placed in various locations around the areas in which we know that you frequent. This includes, your house, your car, the state capitol, and well I won't tell you all of them because that's just no fun. Since we know that you are not smart enough to figure out why this is happening to you we have decided to make it perfectly clear to you. If you and your goonies feel that it's necessary to strip the rights of 300,000 people and ruin their lives, making them unable to feed, clothe, and provide the necessities to their families and themselves then We Will "get rid of" (in which I mean kill) you. Please understand that this does not include the heroic Rep. Senator that risked everything to go aganist what you and your goonies wanted him to do. We feel that it's worth our lives to do this, because we would be saving the lives of 300,000 people. Please make your peace with God as soon as possible andsay goodbye to your loved ones we will not wait any longer. YOU WILL DIE!!!!

Some very nice touches there. Well, now we know the author of that particular love note:
A 26-year-old woman was charged Thursday with two felony counts and two misdemeanor counts for allegedly making email threats against Wisconsin lawmakers during the height of the battle over Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair bill.

Katherine R. Windels of Cross Plains was named in a criminal complaint filed in Dane County Criminal Court. According to the criminal complaint, Windels allegedly sent an email threat to State Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay) March 9. Later that evening, she allegedly sent another email to 15 Republican legislators, including Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau).

The report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is pretty deadpan:
The subject line of the second email was: "Atten: Death Threat!!!! Bomb!!!" In that email, she purportedly wrote, "Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your families will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks."

"I hope you have a good time in hell," she allegedly wrote in the lengthy email in which she purportedly listed scenarios in which the legislators and their families would die, including bombings and by "putting a nice little bullet in your head."

According to the criminal complaint, Windels told investigators “I sent out emails that I was disgusted and very upset by what they were doing.”

Well, I guess "very upset" is one way of putting it. I would also suspect that we could have the J-S reporter drop the "alleged" business, but perhaps she just sent it out and it was some other criminal mastermind who actually wrote the thoughts. Or maybe they took turns. But I digress.

The internet is a remarkable thing, because it makes it very easy to learn things about people. So what do we know about Ms. Windels? Well, you can pull up this site and learn the following -- she apparently graduated from Madison Area Technical College in 2003 and has a psychology background. Abnormal psychology, apparently, but again I digress.

But you know what's really nifty about Windels? Her work history includes "Wexford Head Start" and the "Red Caboose." Do you know what the Red Caboose is? It's a day care center. That's right, folks -- she is someone who wants to educate young children.

At a certain level, I almost feel sorry for this obviously disturbed young woman. She's 26 years old and should have a long life in front of her, but she's committed a serious offense and is going to have a difficult time finding a way to escape her past. At the same time, I don't feel sorry for her at all. She's let hatred blind her to the implications of her actions. And I sure the hell wouldn't want her working in a day care center.

There's a real sickness in the heart of a lot of people. I wrote earlier today about haters and this young woman has a great deal of hate welling within her. You wonder what happened to her along the way. According to the online profile, Katherine Windels has lived in Madison, Cross Plains (a lovely little town west of Madison), Jericho, VT and in our area, in Inver Grove Heights. I've not been to Jericho, but it appears to be a lovely little town like Cross Plains. Inver Grove Heights is a comfortable, middle class suburban enclave. It's difficult to imagine that this young woman has ever faced any real hardship, at least financially. Something else has to account for the hate that seems to have creeped into her heart, a hate so all-consuming that she would threaten to put a "nice little bullet" in someone's head. I hope that someday she'll be able to move beyond the hatred she has now. But I also think a little stay in Taycheedah is in order, too.

Politics ain't beanbag. I get that. Still, this needs to be said. If you find yourself openly wishing for misfortune to fall upon your political opponents, you really need to start thinking hard about the role you've chosen to let politics play in your life.

The condition of your soul matters a heck of a lot more than whether or not your side prevails on any issue. Lately I've been reading things, written by people that I have considered lifelong friends, that make me believe that they have, as the British would say, lost the plot.

As Longfellow wrote: If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. To translate it into 21st century terms, don't be a hater.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Thug Life in Cheeseland

This is lovely:
Members of Wisconsin State Employees Union, AFSCME Council 24, have begun circulating letters to businesses in southeast Wisconsin, asking them to support workers’ rights by putting up a sign in their windows. If businesses fail to comply, the letter says, “Failure to do so will leave us no choice but (to) do a public boycott of your business. And sorry, neutral means 'no' to those who work for the largest employer in the area and are union members."
What a bunch of brownshirts. There's more:
In the letter from [Jim] Parrett to some businesses, he says that, “It is unfortunate that you have chosen ‘not’ to support public workers rights in Wisconsin. In recent past weeks you have been offered a sign by a public employee who works in one of the state facilities in the Union Grove area. These signs simply said, ‘This Business Supports Workers Rights,’ a simple, subtle and we feel non-controversial statement gives the facts at this time.”
Parrett is a "field representative" for AFSCME Local 24. Yeah, his approach is subtle. Subtle as a flying mallet. Let's think about what these swells are doing. They are demanding that people who would rather not be involved in their dispute become involved. They are conscripting people into a battle that isn't their particular concern. And they are threatening economic harm to those who do not comply with their wishes, regardless of the reason. This is the worst sort of behavior -- raw, unmediated thugishness.

One of the things that I cherish the most about this country is that, in the main, we have built a society in which coercion is disdained. It is difficult for me to imagine the kind of mindset that believes the cause of justice is served by coercing people to toe anyone's particular line. This is the worst kind of behavior and, since law enforcement seems to be siding with the unions in Wisconsin, it appears to be going on with impunity.

Riddle me this -- why should someone like Jim Parrett win? And what is happening in the State of Wisconsin that a guy like Jim Parrett feels like he can comport himself like this?

True and Irritating

Over at Fraters Libertas, Chad the Elder makes a point I've been meaning to make:

So this year when spring again rolled around (at least on the calendar), my wife decided to call the Twins ticket office and see about getting some ducs. And that’s when she learned that the Twins are too busy counting their money to worry about whether families can afford to attend their games. I guess you can’t really blame them. When it comes to sports, Target Field is the hottest ticket in town and with demand outstripping supply there’s really no reason for the Twins to offer discounts to anyone (well, except for those noble federal employees). Still, there’s something grating about an organization that was more than happy to dip their hands into the public coffers to scoop up as much as they could to build their magnificent facility not making more of an effort to allow more of the people who are paying for Target Field everyday to actually set foot inside it.
Just so. I don't know if you've priced tickets for Target Field, but it's getting damned near impossible for a family of four to attend the game for less than $100. If you want to sample the ballpark fare, you can safely assume you'll end up shelling out $150, or even $200 for the experience. As it happens, I have a family of four and I'm guessing we'll be able to attend 1, maybe 2 Twins games this year. While the Metrodome was a poor place to watch a baseball game, we were able to get there numerous times a season. Target Field is for the carriage class right now and unfortunately I'm not a member.

If you want to see the Twins and don't mind a longer drive, you might want to go see them in Kansas City instead. There's plenty to do in KC and if you make a mini vacation out of it you'll have a very good time.

Bottom Line in Wisconsin

You've probably seen the latest hijinks, in which Divine Right Monarch Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi has now turned her restraining order into fiat:
Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi said that her original restraining order issued earlier this month was clear in saying no steps should be take to advance the law. The GOP governor's administration did so after the bill was published Friday by a state agency not named in Sumi's earlier temporary restraining order.

"Further implementation of the act is enjoined," Sumi said.

"Apparently that language was either misunderstood or ignored, but what I said was the further implementation of Act 10 was enjoined. That is what I now want to make crystal clear."

I don't know who died and made a circuit court judge the arbiter of such things. It should be clear to anyone who thinks the matter through that (a) Sumi has no standing, as a county judge, to essentially veto a law that the legislature passed and that the governor signed into law; and (b) that the Secretary of State doesn't have veto power, either.

The goal here has always been to push the thing until after the state supreme court election. Democrats and their union pals believe that a supreme court with a 4-3 Democrat majority, which would be the case if challenger Joanne Kloppenburg defeats the incumbent, David Prosser, would find some pretext to invalidate the law.

That might happen, of course. But would it really be a victory for anyone? The economics haven't changed in any fundamental way. Wisconsin has a huge structural problem with promised pension benefits and the overall compensation formula for state employees. The unions might be able to stop Gov. Scott Walker and the legislature from enacting reforms, but all that would mean is that the day of reckoning will come sooner and that the available choices will be a lot worse.

No one is going to be able to bail Wisconsin out. That's the bottom line. Wisconsin can either start to solve its problems now, as Scott Walker is attempting to do, or it won't. If it doesn't, when the day of reckoning comes, no one will be singing the praises of Joanne Kloppenburg, Maryann Sumi or any of the other luminaries who have been throwing spanners in the works.

And one other reminder. We face the same issues in Minnesota, but we won't be addressing things any time soon, because we have Brave Sir Mark Dayton, the bug-eyed DFL/union firewall, in the governor's chair. The legislature has been passing bills with regularity in this session, but Dayton will veto anything that might actually help. The drama going on across the St. Croix is a preview of what we might see here in 2015.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


The Obama Doctrine: operating from the seat of your pants while simultaneously maintaining an impeccable crease in your trousers.

Just a reminder

The current President of the United States, Barack Obama, was born in Hawaii.

The "long form" birth certificate may (emphasis on may) hold information that Obama would prefer not to have known, but there's no reason to believe he wasn't born in Hawaii.

His mother was an American citizen. That means he would be eligible to be president, even if he hadn't been born in the United States. Which he was.

Even if there was a massive conspiracy concocted to fake all evidence concerning the origins of the president's birth, there would be no mechanism to remove him from office. Of course there is no conspiracy afoot.

There are myriad reasons to oppose this president, all based upon public policy considerations. There will be ample opportunities to air these considerations in the next 19 months. I fully expect that this feature will participate in those discussions.

Finally, I don't care what Donald Trump thinks. Neither should you. Just some friendly advice.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Spores of Tripoli

I didn't watch President Obama's speech, since I was taking an after-dinner walk around the neighborhood instead. Seemed like a better use of my time. After having read the speech, which you can find here, it was definitely a better move. A few quick comments, based on the text. One thing that caught my attention was this passage:
Despite the success of our efforts over the past week, I know that some Americans continue to have questions about our efforts in Libya. Gaddafi has not yet stepped down from power, and until he does, Libya will remain dangerous. Moreover, even after Gaddafi does leave power, forty years of tyranny has left Libya fractured and without strong civil institutions. The transition to a legitimate government that is responsive to the Libyan people will be a difficult task. And while the United States will do our part to help, it will be a task for the international community, and – more importantly – a task for the Libyan people themselves.
Translation: you're on your own, dudes. Bottom line here: we told Iraq the same thing in 1991. You might want to ask those Iraqis who sought self-determination how it turned out, but it would be difficult to do so without a seance, because most of them have been dead for about 20 years. Obama also couldn't resist a dig at his predecessor. Of course he couldn't:
The task that I assigned our forces – to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger, and to establish a No Fly Zone – carries with it a UN mandate and international support. It is also what the Libyan opposition asked us to do. If we tried to overthrow Gaddafi by force, our coalition would splinter. We would likely have to put U.S. troops on the ground, or risk killing many civilians from the air. The dangers faced by our men and women in uniform would be far greater. So would the costs, and our share of the responsibility for what comes next. To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq. Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our troops and the determination of our diplomats, we are hopeful about Iraq’s future. But regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.
This is pretty much crap from beginning to end. Bush took nearly a year to assemble a coalition for the Iraq theater. We had a variety of allies involved. What's more silly is the notion that somehow, now that we have intervened in Libya, we'll just be able to walk away and that the coalition that Obama has ostensibly assembled will just take it from there. Not a chance. And, of course, it wouldn't be an Obama speech without some high-minded nonsense:
There will be times, though, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and values are. Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and common security – responding to natural disasters, for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce. These may not be America’s problems alone, but they are important to us, and they are problems worth solving. And in these circumstances, we know that the United States, as the world’s most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help.
Africa is a vast place, but there is a country not far from Libya that puts the lie to this statement quite conclusively -- Sudan. We've known that genocide has been ongoing in Darfur for many years now and we've done little of anything to stop it. We also know that Bashir Assad is gunning down inconvenient sectors of the Syrian populace with impunity right now. We are doing nothing about that either, nor will we. It would be better, and a hell of a lot more honest, to stop pretending that we will do things we have no intention of doing. Barack Obama has chosen to get involved in Libya for reasons that could be defended. Perhaps some day he'll make a more compelling case for the actions he's taking than he did tonight.

Open thread

We had a fun weekend here in the Neighborhood, highlighted with a chance to visit friends and colleagues at the MOB Party and an Eagle Scout Court of Honor, which Mrs. D details below. As for what's happening in the world? Haven't a clue. Sometimes that's a good thing. So we'll call this an open thread and encourage you to post on any topic that interests you today. As always, bonus points if you can work in a song reference.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Be Prepared for Life

Today we had the privilege of attending an Eagle Scout Court of Honor for one of the young men in Benster's Boy Scout troop. The rank of Eagle Scout is the highest award in Boy Scouts. A Boy Scout has to earn twenty-one Merit Badges in order to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. The Boy Scout also has to do an Eagle Scout service project, which includes planning the project, lining up the materials and the help for the project and leading the volunteers who work on the project. All the requirements for the rank of Eagle Scout must be completed before the Boy Scout's eighteenth birthday.

Congratulations to all Boy Scouts who have earned the rank of Eagle Scout. These young men have developed the skills to be leaders within their Boy Scout troop and within their high school.

Someday they will also be the leaders in our community.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Bullseye and the not-so-public square

And now, another edition of Stuff I Actually Know About.

Dateline -- San Diego. We get another report of corporate perfidy. Those weasel gay-bashers at Target, right? You heard the latest?

A San Diego superior court judge will hear arguments Friday as to whether a local LGBT grassroots group should be prevented from canvassing in front of a Target store, San Diego Gay and Lesbian News reports.

In court documents, Target Corp. has alleged that the group, Canvass for a Cause, violates the retailer's no-solicitation policy and has exhibited "angry and aggressive" behavior toward shoppers outside a Target store in Poway, near San Diego.

Needless to say, the defendants are hardly feeling defensive:

"It's very David versus Goliath," Canvass for a Cause executive director Tres Watson told NPR. "We understand they're the Goliath in the room. They've got all money in world to get us to stop talking about gay marriage."

I worked for Target for nearly a decade in the 1990s and early 2000s in their store operations division. Target may be many things, but it has no desire to be an arbiter or advocate for or against gay marriage. They just don't want people out in front of their store. From the article:

In a statement to The Advocate, a spokesperson for Target wrote, "In response to feedback from many guests, Target long ago established a solicitation policy at our stores nationwide. To provide a distraction-free shopping environment for our guests, we do not permit solicitation or petitioning at our stores regardless of the cause or issue being represented. Target actively and consistently enforces its solicitation policy and, if necessary, takes legal action against solicitors who do not comply with requests to cease their activity. Our legal action was in no way related to the cause of the organization and was done so to be consistent with our long-standing policy of providing a distraction-free shopping experience by not permitting solicitors at our stores. Target has taken similar action against a number of organizations that represent a wide variety of causes and issues."

This is true. I know this because I personally played a role in the administration of this policy. I managed the vending machine management program when I worked for Target. Assuming you even pay attention to such things, you may have noticed something about Target that is very different than its competitors. When you walk into a Walmart, you run a gauntlet of candy machines, kiddie rides and other coin-operated vending. Sometimes it is right in the vestibule, other times it's in a separate room, but it's always there. If you walk in or out of a Cub Foods store, you see the same thing, along with soda vending in the exits.

When you walk into a Target store, you don't see that. Target doesn't want its shoppers solely focused on shopping, so there is no public vending at Target. We only allowed vending machines in the team member lounges. I had vending machine companies approaching me every day. I was offered opportunities to place public vending on Target property that could have made millions of dollars for the company. I turned down those offers every time and my superiors were delighted that I did.

The same policy of avoiding distractions holds for anyone soliciting on Target property. Target had once let the Salvation Army operate during the holidays, but Target put a stop to that about 6 years ago -- in fact, that decision was the topic of one of my very first blog posts here. You just don't see anyone soliciting on Target's property -- Girl Scouts don't get to set up a card table to sell cookies, there's no one selling wreaths or Tootsie Rolls. It's not the most neighborly policy around, but it makes good business sense. And there's another reason Target holds this policy about soliciting -- barring solicitors makes it easier to keep the grocery unions from trying to organize the workers in its stores.

I can assure the folks at Canvass for a Cause that, as a matter of public policy, Target is utterly disinterested in the topic of gay marriage. As the old saying goes, it's not personal, it's just business.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bachmann for President?

So is Michele Bachmann going to run for president? Sure. Why not?

She might as well. As a practical matter, she's got no other path to higher office in Minnesota, because she would be highly unlikely to win statewide office. There's no clear favorite in the race up to this point and Barack Obama is going to be vulnerable. Bachmann is ambitious and she'll have a chance to advance her brand in ways that could lead her out of the box she's in here.

In the end, I don't suspect Bachmann could win the GOP nomination and I'd imagine that Bachmann actually knows that, too. My guess is that she's in the race for two reasons:
  • She wants to move the debate to the issues she cares about, which are primarily fiscal, despite her reputation as a social issues politician. While there's been a certain amount of opportunism involved in her effort to capture the Tea Party banner, she has been pretty consistent concerning the need to cut spending and the size and scope of government. And because she isn't especially interested in compromise, she isn't compromised.
  • She's also a bit of a stalking horse for two other candidates. The obvious one is Sarah Palin, who is acting like a presidential candidate in some ways, but may not run this time around. The other is Tim Pawlenty. The conventional wisdom concerning the relationship between Pawlenty and Bachmann is that they are competitors and the pool of available voters for their respective campaigns is finite. I'm not convinced of this. Mitch Berg has posited that Bachmann can play a similar role to that of Brian Sullivan, a businessman with rock-solid conservative credentials who ran a tight race against Pawlenty for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2002. Sullivan effectively pushed Pawlenty to the right then and in most ways, Pawlenty governed Minnesota as a bona fide conservative. Will Bachmann's red meat approach lead Pawlenty to be a bit more bold? Potentially.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Guilty Pleasures Part Seventy-Seven -- Fearless Maria Gets Groovy

Fearless Maria is here this evening and she's been thinking about some really old music.

Yep -- so old that the Ojibwe Indians even sang it!

Are you sure about that?

Oh yes, of course, haven't you ever read a 5th grade history textbook? Or did you skip 5th grade, too?

I didn't much like 5th grade, to be honest. We moved across town that year and I had to go to a new school and the kids weren't so friendly at first.

Crying. Should I be crying, Dad? Sounds pretty sad to me! Maybe we should pick out some songs, because sad stuff is boring and no one wants to read boring stuff. Like your political posts, right Dad?

I do value your honesty, Maria.

Somebody has to keep you in line! Honest and fair, friendly and helpful, something something something is in the Girl Scout Law after all, and I am a Girl Scout!

Sounds like you need to brush up on the law, though. . . .

Hush! Hush! Wait a minute, I think that's the name of a song from 1968!

Funny you should mention that, Maria. It is. Here's Deep Purple, hanging out someplace that we can't in good conscience recommend, but the clip isn't too bad:

Boy, that singer has some shiny pants! I think that's why the organ player needs sunglasses! And what's with their hair -- maybe a hairspray malfunction? It looks like a bunch of hairy Old English Sheepdogs with tight shiny pants! I bet they had to call the Humane Society!

But did you like the song?

Nah nah nah nah. Actually it was pretty good. But I bet you can find something better. Should we stay in 1968?

We can. I don't know if I can find better, but I can definitely find weirder.

I was afraid you were going to say that, Dad! What do you have this time?

How about a guy named Arthur Brown with a flaming headdress?

I think that guy needs help, Dad. Professional help. I mean, what were they? A bunch of Lord Voldemort wannabes giving a seance? And is it true that the band used his flaming headdress to roast marshmallows over later on? I just hope they never get this confused with that cartoon aardvark Arthur on public television, because that would scare the little kids!

Maybe they could use him for a pledge drive?

A pledge drive? Absolutely not! In the name of wacky headdresses, incorporated!

I bet Garrison Keillor would look good wearing one of those on A Prairie Home Companion.

C'mon, Dad. Now you're just being weird. That would be more like a prairie fire home companion!

Okay, I take your point, Maria. But 1968 had some other stuff that was weird in a different way. How do you feel about sassy country singers wearing go-go boots?

Dad, how am I supposed to feel about it? Oh dear, this sounds (begin Southern accent) lahk one rampage in the humdingah shack, y'all! Livin' a little to hah on the hawg! (end Southern accent).

Already doing dialect in the fifth grade? Well, I guess that's okay. Anyway, as promised, here's a look back at Miss Jeannie C. Riley:

You know what the good thing about this post is, Dad? Now I have a lot of possible candidates for my next Halloween costume! Maybe I could wear a flaming headdress and robe, but with white go-go boots! And I can bring all the candy to the Harper Valley PTA! The song was all right -- I like the pedal steel guitar, but she must have used, what, 14 or 15 cans of hair spray on that do? Is that why they say there's a hole in the ozone layer, Dad? Should I be sending a letter to Jeannie C. Riley? Or maybe a bill?

You can try, Maria. But she wasn't the only one to blame. Consider the strangely lush hairstyles sported by this next band. It's Steppenwolf, flying through the hole in the ozone layer on their:

You know what, Dad?

Tell me what you're thinking, Maria.

I think I'm going to take their advice and close my eyes so I don't have to see that bushy hair, especially on that organ player guy! How many wigs were they wearing? I don't think it's a magic carpet, I think it's just a ride on a shag rug just to make money!

Well, I don't doubt they made money, Maria. Perhaps enough to get a haircut eventually.

Well, they might consider using hedge clippers. Just keep them away from that Arthur Brown guy and his flaming headdress!

Seems like good advice. But the thing about 1968 was that even the pop bands were a little weird. Consider the clothing choices made by Tommy James and the Shondells:

Yeah, yeah! So Dad, did these guys just come back from New Orleans?

Actually, I think they were from Michigan.

Are you sure -- they wearing Mardi Gras beads! And maybe they got hair style recommendations from the parade marchers! I do know this -- Mardi Gras beads and a Nehru jacket is a pretty weird combination. Though I must say I liked the song. It's catchy and a lot of fun. And they even got through it without using a flaming headdress! I'm glad someone did.

I take it that you weren't that impressed with Arthur Brown, then?

Not unless he brings marshmallows, Dad!

I'll tell him to stop by the market before he comes over. Anyway, it's getting to be time to wrap this up.

You did reject a few songs, right?

That's a relief, Dad! Okay, people! Vote for your favorite in the comments section! Maybe if you're lucky, we'll send you a toasted marshmallow in the mail And lay off the hair spray!

Good advice, Maria -- I'd especially lay off the hair spray if you're near Arthur Brown.

The Ghost of Christmas Future

In Lisbon, Socrates quaffs the hemlock:

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates submitted his resignation Wednesday after parliament rejected his minority Socialist government's latest austerity measures.

The rejection "had taken away from the government all conditions to govern," Socrates said in a televised statement. He said his government would remain in power in a caretaker capacity.

The parliament's rejection of austerity measures—as well as Socrates' resignation—comes just a day before a European summit.

Socrates has said rejection of the austerity plan would force the debt-laden country to follow Greece and Ireland and seek an international bailout, which he opposes.

There's a lot in those few paragraphs, but I thought the key thing was the quote from Socrates. Portugal, like Greece and Ireland, is effectively bankrupt. They have no way to pay the debts they owe, many of them structural because of benefits promised to a bloated government sector. Socrates is a socialist, so if he's pushing austerity, it's safe to assume the situation is dire.

The problem is that the government workers are the ones who are making it impossible to govern:

Large protests have been held against austerity on the past two weekends and on Wednesday train drivers went on strike to demand higher wages, creating traffic chaos around Lisbon as commuters were forced to take their cars to work.
If this sort of thing sounds familiar, it should. We saw similar protests in Greece last year and what's been happening in Madison has similar roots. We saw calls in Wisconsin for a general strike when the budget repair bill was passed, so it would be foolish to imagine that we are immune from this sort of behavior. And are we on the same path as Portugal? Well. . .

The United States is on a fiscal path towards insolvency and policymakers are at a "tipping point," a Federal Reserve official said on Tuesday.

"If we continue down on the path on which the fiscal authorities put us, we will become insolvent, the question is when," Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher said in a question and answer session after delivering a speech at the University of Frankfurt. "The short-term negotiations are very important, I look at this as a tipping point."

But he added he was confident in the Americans' ability to take the right decisions and said the country would avoid insolvency.

"I think we are at the beginning of the process and it's going to be very painful," he added.
As Scott Walker can attest.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Answer to a question you weren't likely asking

So whatever happened to Cindy Sheehan?

Res ipsa loquitur. And then some.

Just so we're clear

I think it's official, at least in my experience. Worst. Winter. Ever.

What does that tell you?

One of Jay Nordlinger's readers asks yet another good question, this time concerning the BBC, but one that by extension can be asked about other news gathering organizations:

Our reader further writes, “The people who claim to be feminist and pro-gay” — i.e., the crew at the BBC — “oppose the one country in the Middle East that does not subjugate women and persecute gays. What does that tell you?”

What does it tell you?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Limits of Schadenfraude

Writing at Patterico, Aaron Worthing asks a fair question concerning Hillary and Barack's Excellent Adventure off the shores of Tripoli:

But before we hammer the President too hard, ask yourself a simple question. Is he right, right now? Forget what he said when he represented one of the most liberal jurisdictions in America, but is he right, right now? If he is, then we have, to a degree, a patriotic duty to put those criticisms aside. Maybe the President is too small to admit it, but either 1) he was full of it when opposing the Iraq War, or 2) he has changed his mind. And if you think he is making the right decision, we shouldn’t make it too difficult, politically, to do the right thing, or else he might stop doing the right thing. In other words, please lay off.

As I wrote on Friday, I'm skeptical that our incursion into Libya is the right thing to do, especially so late in the game. But there's a larger question involved, which Worthing gets to later on:

Yes, yes, we watched the left unfairly and dishonestly malign the Iraq War, giving our enemies aid and comfort as we fought that war. Hell, we have watched our media give out enemy propaganda that has actually led terrorists to kill our troops. The temptation to turn the screws on them is powerful. But sometimes patriotism requires us to suck it up and/or bite our tongues.

Then again, we were told, rather a lot as I recall, that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. So should we really get in line even if we doubt the decision?

These are not easy questions. It's one thing to ask our military to obey orders and execute a strategy, it's quite another to expect lockstep from the civilian population.

I've never thought it wise to expect lockstep from anyone, anywhere. We are a quarrelsome species and we will disagree in fundamental ways. I do marvel at the worldview that some on the Left seem to have, in which Scott Walker is a greater enemy than Gadaffi -- I've seen signs to that effect in the protests in Madison. I can't ever hope to understand how someone could draw such a conclusion because I'm just not wired that way.

Rather than having a little schadenfreude, what I hope is this -- that people on the Left now understand is that the previous administration faced a lot of bad choices and were, in the main, quite honorable in how they approached those choices. Were there mistakes along the way, and were some of the bad choices the result of questionable decisions? Of course. And it's not a problem to say as much. Perhaps some day those on the Left who were quick to condemn, including the current Leader of the Free World, might acknowledge that there was honor involved. But if they don't, there's not much we can do about it, except to be as honorable, and honest, as we can be.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Events are in the Saddle

Assuming this is true, it could get really interesting:

There have been serious demonstrations against the Assad regime all over the country for weeks now, with near-zero coverage. Yet, from the standpoint of American interests, this is way more important than Libya, since Syria is a vital cog in the Iranian-led war against us.

That's the opinion of Michael Ledeen, who is one of the more astute observers of events in the Middle East and beyond. Syria is pretty much the Keyser Sose of the region, with a hand in just about everything that goes on. The thing about the Assad regime is that Bashir Assad, like his father, is an Alawite, an minority offshoot sect that is considered heretical by some Muslims, so he has had to maintain power by force alone. Assad's father was an especially brutal man who thought nothing of wiping out entire villages when it suited his purposes. Things could change quickly if the protests in Syria start to gain traction.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Forget it Andrew, It's Chinatown

Dawn breaks slowly over (at) the Atlantic, as at long last Andrew Sullivan is forced to board the clue bus:

There is no actual or imminent threat to America from Libya. I supported Obama against first Clinton and then McCain because I knew full well that both Clinton and McCain were unrepentant fans of presidential war-making powers and had both supported almost every war in their political lives. I wanted someone with more restraint. But the president we supported is not, it is now clear, the president that we have.
Dennis Green knew. Dennis the Peasant knew. Dennis the Menace probably knew. Heck, even Flounder got the story eventually. Maybe Al Gore can clue you in. Most of these clips are NSFW, by the way, although the one without profanity might be the most offensive to some readers.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

As usual

The Onion got there first. Compare the images of slacker screedmonger Jim Shankman and his obvious role model, Onion "columnist" Jim Anchower.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Why bother, especially now?

You want to ask the girl to the prom. The prom is scheduled for a Saturday from 9 to midnight. You wait and dither and vacillate about it. As it happens, the girl hasn't been asked to the prom, but you still wait.

As it happens, the girl has been trying to get away from a long-standing, abusive relationship, which is over, but not really, because it's never really over. The day of the prom arrives and you still haven't asked her out. You wait all day and most of the evening, because you're still not sure you can muster the courage. Finally, at 11:45 p.m., you decide to surprise the girl and show up at her doorstep with a corsage. As you approach the door, you realize that she is lying in the front yard of her home with a butcher knife in her abdomen.

Kinda gruesome, you say? Well, yeah. And not much different than declaring a no-fly zone in Libya at this point:

The UN resolution imposes a "ban on all flights in Libyan airspace", with aid flights the only exception.

It authorises member states to "take all necessary measures" to "protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack", including in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, short of an putting an "occupation force" on the ground.

It also calls for an immediate ceasefire, an end to the violence, measures to make it more difficult for foreign mercenaries to get into Libya and a tightening of sanctions.

As it happens, the initial draft of this resolution also called for strengthening the hand of the rebels by allowing them to sell the raw silk that comes out of Ban Ki-moon's butt, but apparently the UN thought better of it.

Jeebus. Where to begin? Well, let's start with the obvious: if the UN, or NATO, or whoever the hell is authorizing this pointless exercise, is unwilling to put boots on the ground, there's no reason to believe that Gaddafi is going to blink. He's spent the last two weeks pounding holy hell out of the rebels and has killed thousands of people. But now, at this late date, he's supposed to answer the call for a ceasefire and end to the violence, even though he knows that he doesn't face any real danger, especially of losing? We shall write you a letter!

The more important point is this: we, and by that I mean the United States, since no acronym-bearing organization can wield any power without the United States, need to decide whether we are going to be the world's policeman or not. The Europeans were willing to provide bupkis until now, apparently. Given our current commitments elsewhere, I'm hardly convinced that the United States has the capability of solving the Libyan conflict by deposing Gadaffi, but if we were so inclined, the time to make that decision passed a long time ago now. We didn't, which is a defensible (if unsightly) decision. But going in now is a fool's errand.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Greetings, Citizen Althouse!

Really, I don't want to turn this blog into a satellite of Ann Althouse, but this deserves a comment or two. It's a threat against Althouse and her husband, Meade, who have been doing excellent work covering the nonsense going on in Madison. Apparently their work hasn't gone unnoticed. Some really sweet language here, which I'm going to excerpt exactly as it is. Does it contain F-bombs? Mais oui:

Do you have any idea where you live? Let us spell it out for you. We understand that you like to eat on the square. You like the Baked Potato at the Old Fashioned, do you? There were five of us in there last Tuesday. You like to eat at Fresco? We're in the Overture eating, serving, cooking, playing, and performing. At least twenty of us have worked for Food Fight. You like to fucking drink at FAIR TRADE do you? At FAIR TRADE? You are citizen-BANNED from Fair Trade. We will Walker you straight out of the place whenever you show up. We are at every coffee shop on State, open to close, all the time. We will hang up wanted posters of you everywhere you like to go. We will picket on public property as close to your house as we can every day. We will harrass the ever loving shit out of you all the time. Campus is OCCUPIED. Statestreet is OCCUPIED. The Square is OCCUPIED. Vilas, Schenk's Corners, Atwood, WillyStreet – Occupied, Occupied, Occupied, Occupied. Did you really think it was all about the Capitol? Fuck the Capitol, we are the CITY.

We are hard-drinking, weed-smoking, rude, obnoxious, auto-didactic, uppity fucking TOWNIES. We know you hate us. We know you hate us because we ruin your imaginary, Men's Magazine, UW Admission's Pamphlet, Madison Magazine, Isthmus Artsvision of our City. You think that our town should be on perpetual vigil just in case you need a little peace and quiet. You think we should go down quiet while Walker economically rapes us because you want to lead a fucking tour group? Sorry babe, not gonna happen. And because you couldn't even show a modicum of fairness, integrity, or neutrality and because you had the iron fucking stones to try to pull this here, on OUR campus, in OUR city, in OUR state in OUR country (and that is about the only reason we have any grudging respect for you), now YOU are a target.

Charming, huh? There's certainly a lot of stupid bravado in this section (trust me, there's a lot more of the snappy patter at the link), and some of it is apparently supposed to funny, maybe in a Gilbert Gottfried sort of way. At one point they claim it will be on "like Donkey Kong," which shows a keen sense of the zeitgeist of what, 1993? So there's a possibility, a remote one, that this is just a bunch of twaddle.

But then there's this: what's especially troublesome is the specificity of the threat. It would appear that the author (or authors) of this manifesto have a pretty good read on where Althouse goes and what she likes to do. That takes the threat to another level.

What's also striking is that people apparently feel no constraints about making threats of this sort, at least in Madison, in 2011. The most disturbing aspect of the events of the last month is the perfidy of the local constabulary, which seems to be all in with the unions. They have, on more than one occasion, let bad elements have the run of things. No matter what you think of Scott Walker's policies, this represents an erosion of the rule of law. If law enforcement, and more importantly the protective duties of the police, become contingent on whether or not you curry favor with them, we're in a very dangerous place.

Althouse and her husband will deal with the threat and, I hope, the threat will turn out to be nothing much. Posting something like this on Scribd is a sign that maybe, just maybe, there wasn't a lot of clear thinking going on. What we need to watch is this: is it now acceptable to threaten and shout down anyone you disagree with in Wisconsin? We have had pretty specific death threats delivered to legislators and now a more generalized threat is given to a private citizen. I sincerely hope that the unionized law enforcement in the Madison area takes this sort of thing even half as seriously as they take their prerogatives.

Home Truth

James Taranto writing in the Wall Street Journal, discusses the case of a too clever by half academic named Brian Leiter:

Referring to government policies of which he disapproves--specifically, curtailments of public-sector "collective bargaining" privileges and funding for public universities--Leiter, a scholar of philosophy and law at the University of Chicago, wrote on his blog: "At some point these acts of brazen viciousness are going to lead to a renewed philosophical interest in the question of when acts of political violence are morally justified."

Leiter's not inciting anyone, natch, he's just asking questions, or at least proposing to. Leiter's intellectual parlor game set off Ann Althouse, who called Leiter's remarks "disgusting." Taranto takes a different view:

We find this amusing rather than menacing because it is so pathetically weak. Again, contrast [Frances Fox] Piven with Leiter. She came right out and called for "something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece"--a despicable sentiment, but one that at least has the virtue of clarity, in contrast with Leiter's coy insinuation that there may be challenging academic papers in the offing if his political foes aren't careful. Piven, a woman who will be 80 next year, is acting manlier than Leiter, decades younger and male.

Althouse does not profess to find Leiter's statement menacing either but "disgusting." (Nor does she urge that he be silenced.) If we read her correctly, her disgust is largely the product of what she, as an academic with integrity, sees as his abuse of his scholarly authority: "He's inclined to approve of the impulse toward violence on the left and willing to mobilize the discipline of philosophy to generate rhetoric to support its political goals. It's quite disgusting."

The reason we find Leiter's comments amusing rather than disgusting is that we, unlike Althouse, are not part of academia and thus have no personal investment in the ideal of disinterested and honest scholarship. Rather than offend our ideals, Leiter reinforces our stereotype of academia as being filled with fools and knaves. You can see why this would bother Althouse, a scholar who does not fit the disparaging stereotype.

I think this is 100% true. We are, often enough, most perturbed with those who share our profession, or our creed, who then pervert the station they have. I don't want to believe that knavery is rampant and ubiquitous, even though there's ample evidence to support that conclusion. What I personally try to remember is that knaves, in the end, inevitably reveal their knavery. And once the knaves are exposed, they lose their power. There's a lot more at the link and you should, as they say, read the whole thing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Getting Ready for A-Klo

Andy Aplikowski has resurrected archival material from the Kennedy vs. the Machine blog, which was the precursor of the now defunct and much missed Truth vs. the Machine blog. Andy, Gary Miller, Bogus Doug and Learned Foot were just some of the key Minnesota bloggers who graced KvM and it's likely that what they documented during the 2006 campaign will again prove useful.

It also raises a question I've been thinking about in recent days. Amy Klobuchar, our now senior senator, is one of the emptiest suits I've ever seen. Klobuchar has mad skills for touchy-feely photo opportunity causes -- she did a masterful job exploiting a tragedy involving a faulty pool drain that caused a fatal injury to a young girl a few years back, and she's your go-to person whenever lead poisoning needs to be denounced -- but has been an absolute cipher otherwise. Klobuchar would make a pretty good consumer reporter for WCCO television, but we really need a much better senator representing this state.

But who should be the nominee for the Republicans? I'm curious what you think about it. Drop a note in the comments section with your thoughts.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bensterology (with Limited Advice from D)

Hi, I'm the Benster. Look, let me set it out for you. You don't need Joe Lunardi. Bracketologists? Psssh. If you've arrived here, you know what's coming.


That's right, old dude. I can do way more than pick college football, noob. Allow me to demonstrate my mad basketball picking skillz, because it's time for. . . BENSTEROLOGY!!!!!

Well, thanks for the warning.

You have a lot of wise guy remarks for a guy who needs to buy his Metamucil by the carload. But I'll let you offer your opinions, too, Decrepit. Because I need something to mock. Besides Tubby Smith, that is.

What's wrong with Tubby, young fella?

Somehow the Gophers are sitting at home. Meanwhile, Dan Freaking Monson has led Long Beach State to the NIT. If you can't even get invited to the Not Invited Tournament, you are in danger of being on the C-List.


C as in Crappy, of course!

Glad I asked.

I know I have to explain many, many things to you, Mr. Short-Term Memory Guy! But for now, it's time to pick some tournament stuff. Watch me work.

East Regional: I probably will never be welcome in the State of Ohio after this, but Ohio State will NOT make it to the Final Four. Yes, I said it. Deal with it. When I look at this bracket, I see teams that are dangerous, and Ohio State is very beatable. I recommend playing a matchup zone against Jared Sullinger to shut off his passing lanes. He likes to kick it out to the 3-point shooters, like Jon Diebler and William Buford. However shooters need to have the ball. So is there a team that can deny the shooters the ball? Yes. Do not overlook North Carolina, which has athletes galore, especially young Harrison Barnes, who somehow found his way out of Iowa and ended up in Carolina. What's up with that? I'm looking at you, Fran McCaffrey! I would also keep an eye out for Princeton, which could knock out Kentucky right away. My pick for the Final Four is the team with the masterful matchup zone that can take out Ohio State -- SYRACUSE.

One way that Ohio State could lose, in my view -- if they get in foul trouble in some game. They have very little depth beyond the 7 guys they play. All 7 guys are pretty good, though. I'm not so impressed with Syracuse myself, as they struggled down the stretch, but Carolina could be a tough out. My beloved Marquette Golden Eagles are here, but they'll have a tough time getting past the first weekend. I'm going with Ohio State.

West Regional: I find the West interesting because San Diego State is a pretty good team with something to prove. If the Aztecs get on a run, look out. However, San Diego State plays in the Mountain West, which is not a powerhouse conference by any means. In fact the Mountain West was very top heavy, with San Diego State, BYU and UNLV and not much else. So it's tough to know if San Diego State is the real deal or not. I've only seen them on television once and they were not as impressive as they seem on the ESPN highlights. I have to go with UCONN. They ran the gauntlet in the Big East tournament last week and if they aren't completely worn out from that experience, they are battle tested. So my pick is: UCONN!

Not much to say here. The most interesting team to me is Tennessee, which is enormously talented and dysfunctional as Bruce Pearl's godawful orange sport coat. They could get hot and really do some damage. I think Texas and Arizona are overrated, so my guess it that it will be between UConn and the Dukies. Duke is hard to pick against in the context, so I'll go with Duke. But I'm not confident about it.

Southwest Region: Let's give a shout-out to my favorite team in the tournament, the mighty Peacocks of St. Peter's College. They are the runaway winners of the wimpy mascot award and they won't be around long, because Boilermaker Pete holds the Hammer of the Gods! Whether that means that Purdue will win the region is another matter, though. I would keep an eye out for the Richmond Spiders, who have perfected the art of the early-round upset and have a less-than dominant Vanderbilt squad on the docket. Even though the Morris twins are two of a kind, I'm not sure that Kansas will be able to get through the region, because I predict the winner to be PURDUE. The Boilers have senior leadership, excellent coaching and the Hammer of the Gods! How are you going to stop that?

I think Kansas is overrated and I'm not convinced they have the guards to get to the Final Four. Notre Dame? Well, I oppose them on general principle. Purdue is not a bad pick for this region, but my thought is that the best team in the region is Louisville. Preston Knowles is an outstanding guard and they were very tough down the stretch. Pitino obviously has been there before, too. I think athleticism and depth will tell the tale here, so I'm going with Louisville.

Southeast Region: You have to believe in the Gospel according to Jimmer. That's right, it's Jimmer Fredette, the guy with the coolest/dorkiest name ever. I'm just not sure which. But he's got game, baby! Jimmer could score on anyone, even though he's not allowed to because of the BYU honor code. Did I say that? Yeah, I did. I'm 15 years old and my mind just works that way now. Deal with it. Anyway, back to basketball. I don't know that Jimmer and the rest of his BYU teammates have enough mojo to get through this region, because they have a tough road, beginning with mighty Wofford! We love us some Wofford around here, because they are a fun team filled with Minnesota dudes (Tubby? Where are you, Tubby? Earth to Tubby? Tubby, please pick up the white courtesy phone) and we love watching small schools get schooled. I'm probably going to get accused of favoritism for this pick, but I'm going with the BADGERS! They have had a few hiccups down the stretch, but this is a winnable region and no one should scare them after beating Ohio State. So yeah. I like the BADGERS. And I hope some day to have hair even half as epic as my boy Mike Brusewitz.

Yeah, I can see the love for Brusewitz's hair -- he's got that Simply Red/Johnny Whitaker thing going. And I think the Badgers do have a chance, since I'm not convinced that Pittsburgh is that good. But I have a feeling that there's a deep seed that could win this region. The question is whether it's Old Dominion, or Gonzaga, or Utah State. I think all three will win their first round games and it's possible that one of them could do much, much more. Then again, lurking on the other side of the bracket is underachieving Michigan State, which always seems to play well when they don't run into George Mason in the first round. In other words, I'm torn. I just can't pick the Badgers, because they are prone to a horrible shooting game that would doom them. So I'm gonna guess Pittsburgh, although my best guess for a dark horse is Old Dominion and I would not be surprised if they beat Pittsburgh in the round of 16.

So let's recap our picks.

Benster says: Syracuse, UConn, Purdue and Wisconsin

Decrepit says: Ohio State, Duke, Louisville and Pittsburgh

If you want to play against us, feel free to offer your lame commentary in the comments section. Just know that you are playing for second place as the Benster will rule. Ben out!

Cojones the Size of Buicks

Sorry for working a little blue in the title of this one, but this story dents even my utterly ossified cynicism:

Madison —A Democratic state senator wants to make it impossible for senators in the future to block legislative action by leaving the state.

Sen. Tim Cullen of Janesville was one of the 14 Democrats in the Senate who sought unsuccessfully to block Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair law by driving to Illinois on Feb. 17 and only returning last week. That law drew massive protests by repealing most collective bargaining by public employees in the state.

Yeah, you might say that. Cullen proposes the following:

Cullen said his proposal for a constitutional amendment would simply eliminate the requirement currently in the state constitution that three-fifths of state senators be present for the body to vote on certain fiscal bills, including those that contain spending items.
So why is a constitutional amendment needed, when just common decency might have sufficed? Allow Cullen to explain:

"The main point I want to make is that what we did we had every legal right to do. It was an extraordinary step against an extraordinary bill," Cullen said. But "the institution of the Senate is not well-served going forward by having this particular avenue available."
Hard to argue that, but it is instructive to know that the senator's conscience can only be circumscribed by constitutional stricture. Cullen would also like you to know that the apple from the Tree of Knowledge really wasn't that good anyway.

Remember, you can't spell "sullen chutzpah" without Cullen. I would also suggest that the institution of the Wisconsin State Senate would be well-served if Tim Cullen simply resigned in shame, but it's evident he has none.

Cheeseheads Behaving Badly, Day 28 (at least)

Yeah, I know, this is a Minnesota-based blog, but as a guy who grew up in Wisconsin what's been happening there is too interesting to ignore. We have two things to think about this morning.

First, Ann Althouse provides a lovely scene back at the Capitol, in which schoolteachers encourage their charges to provide rote chanting of WEAC talking points. Nice stuff. At some point you'd want to consider whether or not to go the next step and get the kids some matching blue neckerchiefs, as one of Althouse's commenters mordantly suggests.

Using kids as political props is always morally questionable behavior, but for teachers to do so is beyond the pale, especially since these kids are the ones who will be on the hook to pay for the pensions of the teachers. I suspect that at least some kids will remember this field trip years later as they write the checks.

Next, we have the continuing saga of the Clock Tower 14, a/k/a the "Fleebaggers." They returned to the ardor of their adoring masses of the Chanting Class at the Capitol over the weekend, but now they aren't getting much love from Senate Leader Scott Fitzgerald:

In a sign that Republicans are still smarting from the exodus of Democrats during deliberations on the budget, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) told his caucus on Monday that Democrats remain in contempt of the Senate.

That means, he said, that Democrats can't vote on bills or amendments.

Fitzgerald wrote: "When taking roll call votes on amendments and bills during executive sessions, Senate Democrats’ votes will not be reflected in the Records of Committee Proceedings or the Senate Journal. They are free to attend hearings, listen to testimony, debate legislation, introduce amendments, and cast votes to signal their support/opposition, but those votes will not count, and will not be recorded."

Not surprisingly, the Conquering Retreaters aren't pleased about this:

Sen. Robert Jauch (D-Polar) said the letter appeared to be a "mean-spirited response from a man who lost the battle of public opinion."

Jauch said the issue of the senators' presence is moot: The budget bill was passed last week and signed by the governor.

"I am not sure what purpose this serves," Jauch said.

I can think of two -- first, there's no reason why the Fleeing 14 should get by with what they did. They aren't conquering heroes at all -- they are shameful individuals. I saw another quote elsewhere in which one of the 14 complained about how his constituents aren't being represented because of Fitzgerald's decision. Hell, you'd think those constituents would be used to it by now.

Second, it beggars belief that the Democrats can complain about mean-spiritedness, considering the behavior of their allies over the last three weeks, including multiple death threats. Do you feel any sympathy? I might, but it's hard to express it over the top of the chanting.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The New Civility Files

If anything good has come out the cavalcade of crappy behavior we've seen in Wisconsin over the past few weeks, it's this: I think we can safely say, Mr. New Civility, he dead.

It's what we like to call a Moment of Clarity. As you might remember, I wrote about the death threats that the Republicans in the Wisconsin state senate are facing. Meanwhile, Time Magazine offers this lovely headline:

Wisconsin's Governor Wins But Is He Still Dead Man Walker?

Considering the number of death threats that Walker has personally received, that's a particularly thoughtful headline, I'd say. Meanwhile, Walker went north for a fundraising event on Saturday night and encountered this scene, in which protestors/thugs were messing with the cars of people attending the fundraiser and writing down the license plate numbers. Since campaign donations are a member of public record, the thugs can easily find out the identities of people supporting Walker, so the writing down of license plate numbers is meant solely as intimidation.

Of course, the good news is that this sort of thuggery is receiving wide exposure and condemnation in the mainstream media, which were rightly concerned about threats of violence to politicians in the wake of the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords earlier this year. Wait, I stand corrected:

Not taking this seriously were ABC, CBS, MSNBC, NBC, and NPR. LexisNexis
and closed-caption dump searches of "Wisconsin and 'death threat'" produced zero
results for these so-called news outlets throughout the month of March.

I did my own Google search and found that, other than blogs, such reporting has been limited strictly to local media in Wisconsin. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has been consistently the best place to find out what's been happening, along with Ann Althouse's blog.

We've been through all this before. There's no point in complaining about the objectivity of the MSM, since they rarely pretend to be objective any more. If you are a conservative, you shouldn't ever expect to get a fair shake from the old media. If you hadn't understood that before, the last month has been highly educational.

The larger question is why the thuggery that's going on can continue without interruption. But that's another post.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


There's just too much news right now. The enormity of what has happened in Japan is beyond my ability to comprehend. Earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear plant scares and even a volcanic eruption -- it tends to put many of the things I worry about in proper perspective. All you can really do is pray and open the checkbook, which I assume everyone who reads this feature would do without my prompting.

Friday, March 11, 2011

More Advice That Won't Be Taken

It's easy to offer advice when you know it won't be heeded. But that shouldn't stop us from doing so. As we've seen from the 3-week tantrum that has taken place in Wisconsin, the entitlement mentality among unionized public sector workers seems to know no bounds. But now that the die is cast and the union reforms are on the books, the Democrats have choices to make. Mostly they are vowing revenge. Is that the right approach? I suppose it is, if you're a catharsis junkie. But in the end, I don't think it will work.

So what might work instead? Let's throw out a few suggestions:
  • Put the bongo drums away. I have talked to people about the spectacle in Madison and one unmistakable conclusion that people have made is this: there's no way that such behavior would be tolerated in the private sector. While there's some sympathy out there, it has its limits. Self-indulgence is not a pretty thing.
  • Go home. To the extent that the protestors weren't college students or hessians from Chicago and elsewhere, there was never a reason for anyone to overtake the state Capitol. No matter how well-intentioned a group of people might be, no one likes a mob.
  • Get back to work. I sense that at least some public sector workers are going to draw precisely the wrong conclusion from what happened and will use some of the classic maneuvers we see from organized labor -- you'll see people slowing down their efforts, doing less, etc. That's precisely the wrong way to influence public opinion. If public sector workers go out and demonstrate their professionalism and stop complaining about how terrible Scott Walker is, they'll have better results in building lasting support.
  • Take a look around. No matter how the news media report it, the economy is not surging right now. There are still a lot of people who are looking for work, or who have taken jobs that don't pay nearly as well as the jobs they have lost. There are a lot of people who are having to get by on less these days, even as prices on food and gasoline continue to rise. If public workers are willing to take one for the team, so to speak, they'll garner considerably more goodwill. Rightly or wrongly, at this time there's an adversarial tone to the debate. That has to end.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Demonstration Project

More love from my home state:

Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your familes will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks. Please explain to them that this is because if we get rid of you and your families then it will save the rights of 300,000 people and also be able to close the deficit that you have created. I hope you have a good time in hell. Read below for more information on possible scenarios in which you will die.

WE want to make this perfectly clear. Because of your actions today and in the past couple of weeks I and the group of people that are working with me have decided that we've had enough. We feel that you and the people that support the dictator have to die. We have tried many other ways of dealing with your corruption but you have taken things too far and we will not stand for it any longer. So, this is how it's going to happen: I as well as many others know where you and your family live, it's a matter of public records. We have all planned to assult you by arriving at your house and putting a nice little bullet in your head. However, we decided that we wouldn't leave it there. We also have decided that this may not be enough to send the message to you since you are so "high" on Koch and have decided that you are now going to single handedly make this a dictatorship instead of a demorcratic process. So we have also built several bombs that we have placed in various locations around the areas in which we know that you frequent. This includes, your house, your car, the state capitol, and well I won't tell you all of them because that's just no fun. Since we know that you are not smart enough to figure out why this is happening to you we have decided to make it perfectly clear to you. If you and your goonies feel that it's necessary to strip the rights of 300,000 people and ruin their lives, making them unable to feed, clothe, and provide the necessities to their families and themselves then We Will "get rid of" (in which I mean kill) you. Please understand that this does not include the heroic Rep. Senator that risked everything to go aganist what you and your goonies wanted him to do. We feel that it's worth our lives to do this, because we would be saving the lives of 300,000 people. Please make your peace with God as soon as possible and say goodbye to your loved ones we will not wait any longer. YOU WILL DIE!!!!
I realize it's probably a fool's errand to fisk a death threat, but a few observations seem to be in order:
  • Regarding the "300,000 people" this brave anonymous terrorist purports to represent, so which is it? Is the goal to protect their rights, or avoid a ruination of their lives, or to actually save their lives? Still, I'm not sure that the just cause goes quite far enough I think if this individual would have managed an additional paragraph or two, he/she/it would be claiming that killing Walker and the Republicans in the Wisconsin State Senate would essentially guarantee eternal salvation for the 300,000 people. He probably shouldn't undersell the potential efficacy of his efforts.
  • And why leave out the State Assembly? After all, Democratic Assemblyman Gordon Hintz has already made a promise or two along similar lines..
  • As to the miscreants this avenging angel is addressing, I'm not sure how a group of individuals can "single handedly" do anything, but supporters of the unions have a demonstrated lack of ability to handle numbers, so I suppose we need to let that assertion pass. I would say that killing people by blowing them up is an odd way to adhere to the "democratic process," but as a conservative struggling with nuance has always been problematic for me.
  • I am disappointed with the last assertion: "YOU WILL DIE!!!" Anyone who has studied the linguistic traits of the humane left knows that it should be rendered "YOU WILL DIE!!11!! ELEVENTY!!!"
  • I would also suggest the decaf.

All the white people in the house say ooh (ooh), alright (alright)

Feel the love. As always, Ann Althouse and New Media Meade were on the scene. Go there and just keep scrolling.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

So, About That Republican Bashing Post I Wrote Earlier Today

I stand corrected.

The Senate - without Democrats present - abruptly voted Wednesday to eliminate almost all collective bargaining for most public workers.

The bill, which has sparked unprecedented protests and drawn international attention, now heads to the Assembly, which is to take it up at 11 a.m. Thursday. The Assembly, which like the Senate is controlled by Republicans, passed an almost identical version of the bill Feb. 25.

So, the game of chicken is over, and now mob rule is afoot in the Capitol.

A few quick observations:
  • It would be helpful if we'd finally stop saying that the bill eliminates all collective bargaining for most public workers, as that's not true. What it does do, most crucially, is make state government an open shop. It also will force unions to spend more time on actually doing the hard work of collective bargaining, as opposed to buying politicians wholesale.
  • As we discussed earlier today, Walker had made a number of concessions that the Democrats rejected. Guess that didn't work out so well for Sen. Miller and the rest of his itinerant crew.
  • Who else is amused to hear the people who held the legislature hostage for nearly 3 weeks decry that what happened tonight is not democracy? So then, what is democracy? Mob rule? Taking your ball and going home? The way it works is that legislatures are elected. They vote. If the party that loses objects strenuously enough, they take the matter back to the people in the next election. If the support for the Fleeing 14 is as strong as they imagine it to be, they'll be swept back to power soon enough. Just a guess -- their internal polling doesn't really indicate that, or else they would have taken the vote.
  • According to the Journal Sentinel article, now that the die is cast, the Fleeing 14 are coming back tomorrow. Let the pigeons loose, I guess.

Why Democrats Win

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has been doing some outstanding reporting concerning the ongoing drama in Madison. The latest dispatch shows one thing conclusively -- fleeing the state can work quite well, because Republicans are wimps.

We learned rather a lot yesterday about the state of play. First, Gov. Scott Walker released a series of e-mails that show that, while he isn't quite caving, he's certainly got some loose dirt cascading:

The changes discussed would be made not in the budget-repair bill itself but in later legislation, Werwie said. In the latest offer Walker aides e-mailed to Jauch on Sunday evening:

• Public employee union bargaining over wages would no longer be limited to the rate of inflation.
• Unions would be allowed to bargain over certain economic issues, including mandatory overtime, performance bonuses, hazardous duty pay and classroom size. On this set of issues, both labor and management would have to agree to discuss them for bargaining to happen.
• Unions could bargain over workplace safety, but that would be limited to workers' physical health and safety. It would not allow bargaining over hours, overtime, sick
leave or family leave, work schedules or vacation.
• Unions would have to vote every three years to remain active, with the first of those votes coming within one year of the bill becoming law. The current version of the bill would require unions to vote to recertify every year - starting this April - and require them to get at least 51% of workers' votes.
• Employees of the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics Authority would not lose all union bargaining rights.
• The Legislature's budget committee would have to approve changes to state health programs for the poor sought by the Walker administration. The budget-repair bill gives Walker broad powers to reshape those Medicaid health programs, which cover more than 1 million state residents.
Of these items, the only one that really matters is certification. The actual dollars and cents issues are always negotiable, no matter how much the Democrats whine about them. From the start, there only three issues that matter:
  1. The ability to negotiate over pensions;
  2. Annual certification; and
  3. The one that really matters -- mandatory collection of union dues.

The last one is the key to everything that is happening here. The unions don't care so much about the money, which is why they caved almost immediately on the pension contribution piece. They assume that they can, in the end, outlast Walker and any reform movement, and that at some point people will forget and vote a Democrat back into office, who would immediately paper over any financial concessions.

No, the thing that matters is the money machine that compulsory union dues provides to the unions. If the unions have to collect their own money, they lose in two ways: first, they face a much larger operational cost, because thugs don't work cheap; and second, if they have to go get the money, the workers will understand how much money they are actually paying and some might demand a little more accountability. Can't have that!

Walker knows all this, of course, which is why these things were in the bill in the first place. The Democrats need the union money and so they have a vested interest in colluding with the unions. As we've said before, making the unions play by the same rules as everyone else would cripple the unions and undermine the symbiotic relationship between unions and their political protectors. Can't have that, either!

But the real reason Democrats win in standoffs like this is simple: Republicans aren't willing to play hardball. If you doubt that, consider this tidbit from the Journal Sentinel article:

Republicans have been pressuring Democrats to return to Wisconsin in several ways, but for the second time Monday they stepped back from fining Democrats for missing a session day.

Republicans last week passed a resolution saying senators could be fined $100 for missing sessions if they had missed two sessions without a valid excuse. But they canceled their Friday session - sparing Democrats fines on that day - and on Tuesday decided not to vote on the fines.

Republicans have also threatened to withhold paychecks from Democrats for missing sessions, but on Friday they sent out their checks. Fitzgerald said in a statement they were sent because negotiations with Democrats were going well at that time and because the ability to withhold the checks was in a legal "gray area."

Let me translate that for you. The evil Republicans are actually a bunch of swell guys who mean well. They are also wimps. Don't say you're going to withhold pay unless you mean it. And the business about negotiations going well is transparently false. If negotiations were going well, they'd be going on in Madison. It's also really sweet of the Republicans to cancel sessions so their misunderstood tormentors don't get dinged. Maybe they can sit in the comfy chair, too.

If you want to win, you have to be prepared to do what it takes to win. The Republicans never are willing to do what it takes. The Democrats know this. And that's why this thing continues to drag on.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Fierce Moral Urgency of Status Quo Ante

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss:

President Obama signed an executive order Monday that will create a formal system of indefinite detention for those held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who continue to pose a significant threat to national security. The administration also said it will start new military commission trials for detainees there.
But wait, there's more:

The executive order recognizes the reality that some Guantanamo Bay detainees will remain in U.S. custody for many years, if not for life. The new system allows them the prospect of successfully arguing in the future that they should be released because they do not pose a threat.
Cindy Sheehan was unavailable for comment. Actually, that's probably not right -- I'd be willing to wager that she's readily available for comment. But you won't hear it any time soon.

Michael Barone Explains It to You

The old saw is that generals often lose the war they are in because they fight the last war. Michael Barone suggests that the union movement is fighting an enemy that no longer exists:

Who's to blame for the unions' plight? I blame Frederick W. Taylor. Most readers will ask, who? And those who know the name might wonder why I pin the blame on someone who died in 1915.

Some ideas outlive their original proponents, of course. The ideas of Frederick W. Taylor certainly did. Barone explains why in the linked piece, and why opposition to Taylor's ideas remains a big part of what we see in unions today. I recommend it.

Back to Gitmo

Even if you are President of the United States, you have to deal with the world as it is:

President Obama's decision to resume military trials for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will open the door for the prosecution there of several suspected 9/11 conspirators, including alleged mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Obama's order, which reverses his move two years ago to halt new trials, has reignited arguments over the legality of the military commissions, despite ongoing U.S. efforts to reform the hotly debated system.

Actually, with this move the debate is pretty much over. It was always going to be a nonstarter, because you can't treat people who are at war with you as though they were civilians. KSM and the rest of these individuals may not have worn a recognizable military uniform, but they have been conducting a war against the United States, and the West generally, for rather a long time now. And it won't work to pretend otherwise, as the Obama administration has come to realize.

Monday, March 07, 2011

I Ain't Gonna Play Sun City

One of the advantages of getting older is recalling how things used to be different. In the 1980s, the United Nations used to keep a register of performers who had performed in South Africa. There were more than a few and they were roundly condemned for it -- Ray Charles, Linda Rondstadt, the Kinks, just to name a few I remember.

While I don't put much stock in boycotts, I can understand why these folks were excoriated. There is no possible brief for apartheid. Now, in 2011, we are learning that entertainers weren't so shy about performing for a monster on the other side of the African continent:

What a relief that Nelly Furtado has decided to give away the $1-million fee she received for performing for the loathsome Gadhafi clan. Now that blood is running in the streets of Tripoli, other entertainers are rushing to follow her example. Mariah Carey says she feels “horrible and embarrassed” by her New Year’s Eve performance for the Gadhafis three years ago, and although she has refused to donate her rumoured $1-million fee to charity, she’s promising to give away the proceeds from a new single to human rights. “I was naive and unaware of who I was booked to perform for,” she explained.

Entertainers are one thing. Others who should know better took Gadhafi's money, too. There's a lot more at the link and you should read it all.

Go figure

I remember it well, and I'm sure you do, too. Back in the horrible Bush years, we were told rather a lot that torture was happening, that it was repugnant, and it had to stop.

Thank goodness that sort of thing doesn't happen on Barack Obama's watch, right?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Home Truth

Mark Steyn:

Almost every problem facing the Western world, from self-detonating jihadists to America’s own suicide bomb — the multi-trillion-dollar debt — has at its root a remorseless demographic arithmetic. In the U.S., the baby boomers did not have enough children to maintain their mid-20th-century social programs. I see that recent polls supposedly show that huge majorities of Americans don’t want any modifications to Medicare or Social Security. So what? It doesn’t matter what you “want.” The country’s broke, and you can vote yourself unsustainable quantities of government lollipops all you like, but all you’re doing is ensuring that when, eventually, you’re obliged to reacquaint yourself with reality, the shock will be far more devastating and convulsive.

Si se puede, baby.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Captain Ed Explains It to You

Begin rant.

If you want to understand how daft the Left really is, consider this shrewd observation from Ed Morrissey:

The global economy still requires mass manufacturing, mining, construction, and other traditional labor-intensive tasks. However, globalization and the heavy cost of unions to business has pushed much of those activities out of the country, except for those industries tasked with deriving the natural resources from America. Organized labor will still play a part in those industries, but ironically, those are the industries most under fire from the politicians that get elected with union dollars: Democrats. Oil, coal, and gas extraction could create millions of new well-paying and union jobs, but the unions keep contributing to those politicians most likely to block the extraction and use of all three. That’s another reason why the unions are fast becoming an anachronism.

Emphasis mine. Think about it, since these boneheads won't: if the public-sector unions gave a damn about their brethren in private sector union, they wouldn't support the environmentalist Left candidates who spend their days gumming up the works. Instead, they are in an alliance with the Al Gores of the world, providing a variety of, ahem, inverse services that delay or deny permitting, exploration and implementation of energy extraction, to say nothing of siting and permitting of refineries and the like. Private sector unions standing in solidarity with their public sector brethren are being played for fools. Meanwhile the price of gas at the SuperAmerica down the street is $3.60 a gallon this afternoon. Remember when we heard people saying "drill, baby, drill?" Guess not.

And while all this is happening the young people of Madison are chanting "si se puede" in the Capitol building as they rally to the defense of clerks who favor their own sinecures over all else and cast their own appetites as intrinsic to the public good. And the young people, who will receive the bill for the continuing largesse our clerks demand, are doubling down on their behalf. Will these noble dunces chanting "si se puede" be paying a hell of a lot more money, and have a hell of a lot fewer choices over the conduct and range of options available for their adult lives, if they somehow manage to shout down Scott Walker? No cabe duda.

I believe the term Lenin used for such people was "useful idiots." I also believe the term is too charitable.

End rant. Further affiant sayeth not.

Friday, March 04, 2011


So the last of the squatters were finally evicted from the Capitol building in Madison last night. About time.

These people are idiots. There's no point in saying it otherwise. What they did wasn't about free speech, or democracy, or anything else they claimed it was. It was about mob rule, a boundless sense of entitlement and addled thinking.

Do you doubt that last part? Check out the video on this page, in which we are informed that Noodles & Company is as much of a dictatorship as the nightmare that Scott Walker is apparently imposing. There is one four-syllable expletive uttered by an AFSCME goon that essentially renders it NSFW, but hilarity ensues at 3:38 or so.

The young fellow interviewed at length in the video is the sort of person I'd see from time to time during my college years. About once a semester the Spartacus Youth League would come down to the Beloit College campus from their redoubt in Madison, set up a card table in the basement of the student union, and hand out mimeographed nonsense for a few hours. Most of the students walked on by, although occasionally one of our more addled trust fund babies might engage them in a conversation. I talked to them once but was creeped out so quickly that I walked away after about a minute. The only other time I felt a similar sensation was when I went with some buddies of mine to see the kooks who built this notorious Wisconsin landmark.

What the silly socialist and a lot of other people in his generational cohort fail to understand is this: they are protesting against their own interests. Scott Walker, and John Kasich in Ohio, have moved against the public employee unions for three reasons, only one of which is overtly political.
  • The promises that previous administrations have made regarding long-term compensation, pensions and benefits cannot be paid. Nor will they be paid.
  • In order to stop things from getting worse, public employee unions must no longer have the ability to control both sides of the bargaining table.
  • And yes, if the public employee unions are defanged, it will benefit the Republican Party.

For me, the truth of the matter is this: the fortunes of Republicans are a secondary consideration at best. What I see is a string of gigantic, almost incomprehensible bills coming due that my generation has charged off to the credit cards of our children. The bills come from all levels -- federal, state and local. Until we can remove the current adminstration in Washington, there's not much we can do to stop the madness there. Nor is there much we can do in St. Paul, at least for the moment. But those who have the opportunity to change things, as Scott Walker does, really have to do it. If we leave our children with bills they cannot pay, we will deserve the fate they will choose for us.