Monthly Archives: December 2011

Stupid Kills

I know young people can be stupid – I was once one of them. The hope is that they will survive anyway and maybe become a little less stupid. And I know that parents can’t keep their kids from being stupid. But if they do their job right they can usually keep the stupidity from being fatal.

Then I read a story showing neither the kids nor the parents understood what I just wrote.

Two teenagers were injured and three teenagers died this week in northern Wisconsin. In a car crash. But you probably already guessed that part. A car that was going too fast. But you probably already guessed that part too.

It gets worse.

The occupants included a 16 year-old girl, a 15 year-old boy, a 14 year-old boy, a 13 year-old girl and a 13 year-old boy. The car belonged to the family of the 16 year-old girl. She had the car with the permission of her family. She had a graduated driver’s license that limited her to only one passenger. She had four. She probably was the only one in the car with a license to drive it.

She wasn’t driving.

She let the 14 year-old boy drive the car. (No, he did not have a license. Of course he didn’t have a license: he was a 14 year-old eighth grader.) He drove very fast. Faster than 80 miles per hour. He crashed. He died. So did his 13 year-old girlfriend. And the 15 year-old boy. The other two passengers were hospitalized with undisclosed injuries.

Let’s reiterate for emphasis. A 14 year-old eighth grade boy was driving a car full of teenagers at speeds of more than 80 miles per hour on a rural road. He crashed, killing himself, one of his friends, his pregnant 13 year-old girlfriend, and injuring two others.

What!?! His 13 year-old girlfriend was pregnant?? And they were out joy riding instead of staying at home where they belonged having been grounded for life???

Maybe I’m being unkind. Maybe the parents didn’t know. Maybe the kids had busted out of home detention. I re-read the article. Yes, the parents knew.

Where does one begin? Let’s see: your 13 year-old daughter gets pregnant. Or your 14 year-old son gets someone pregnant. The normal parental response is not, “Cool! Go party some more!” The normal parental response is: you are grounded for life.

I don’t know why they weren’t. I don’t know why the parents of a 16 year-old with a limited license would let their daughter drive around illegally carrying more passengers than allowed by her license. I don’t get it.

I really don’t get it.

I’m not making light of the tragedy. I’m trying to get my head around people who think it’s okay for their kids to be stupid and not try to stop them.

Because we’re talking about up to ten parents. Ten allegedly grown-up people not one of whom said: no, you’re not going joy riding with a bunch of your friends because it’s not only stupid, IT’S AGAINST THE LAW AND YOU COULD DIE.

Instead, apparently with parental consent, 5 young people were tooling around rural roads at high speeds at 6:49 on a weekday evening instead of being at home, eating dinner with their families and then doing their homework. And apparently it wasn’t the first time. According to law enforcement, “there’s an indication the five occupants of the vehicle may have previously driven in the area.”

I can’t get past the fact that the parents knew. The bereaved mother of the dead girl said, “She told me she loved me as she ran out the door last night, so that was good.” Her pregnant, 13 year-old, eighth-grade daughter running out the door on a week night to jump in a car with the baby’s daddy and other friends? (Or non-pregnant, I don’t care. No way does an eighth grader need to be running around with anybody on a school night. )

Or the relative of the dead girl who said, “I hope it shows kids that they need to not be stupid when they drive, to wear your seat belt and pay attention to what you’re doing, because things like this happen.”

What?!? We already know they’re going to be stupid. They can’t help it, they’re kids. That’s why they have parents. Because “things like this” don’t just “happen.” “Things like this happen” when parents aren’t doing their jobs. And the job means kids learn to always wear seat belts. And not to drive a car unless they have a license to operate it. And if they have a restricted license then they follow the restrictions. Or they walk. They might get mad and call you names. They might hate you. So what.

They’ll be alive.

At The Front

I did my duty yesterday: I volunteered for a shift at a drive-up recall petition signing station. I am of course referring to the recall of our proud leader, Scott Walker, and his loyal sidekick and former television personality, Rebecca Kleefisch.

I stood at an intersection in the freezing grey off-and-on again mist holding a large recall sign. A really busy intersection.

First mistake: believing a weather report that said it would be sunny and 40 degrees and dressing accordingly.

Three hours of sign waving allows plenty of time for observations: way too many people run red lights. Way too many people use cell phones while driving. Way too many people still don’t wear seat belts. And it’s astounding that we don’t have way too many more accidents caused by the hordes of idiots driving and using cell phones while running red lights. And a 5 pound sign feels like 50 after holding it over your head for 3 hours.

And Walker supporters are illogical and very angry people.

Mind you, we weren’t exactly being confrontational. We didn’t chase people down, push a pen into their hand, then hold a gun to their head (which might tend to invalidate the signature anyway).

Nope, we stood on public property with signs and clip boards waiting for people to come to us. We aren’t trying to convert anyone, merely offering an opportunity to people who want to exercise their right to sign to do so. (We live in one of those wacky states with a constitution protecting the unconditional right of voters to recall elected state officials: Article XIII, Section 12.)

Yet Walker supporters, seemingly affronted by the notion of protected rights, feel compelled to shout things their mothers would not approve of, wave their middle fingers, gnash their terrible teeth and roll their terrible eyes and show their terrible claws. (And rev their terrible engines to make terrible clouds of exhaust to choke the obviously terrible recall volunteers.)

They also spit (which is becoming increasingly popular) – and yes, we are talking about grown ups.

Recalls apparently are something Walker and his supporters don’t like when he’s the one being recalled. (Otherwise they are just fine. When he became Milwaukee County Executive because of a recall, Walker gushed enthusiastically about the process: “You saw people standing up shoulder to shoulder, neighbor to neighbor and saying we want our government back. And in doing so the real emotion on display was about hope.”)

So he doesn’t like it now, even though it started when one of his own supporters filed recall paperwork with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB, which handles recalls). Yes – you read that right. No you aren’t hallucinating. A Walker supporter filed the paperwork ten days before the anti-Walker recall would start. Yes that seems nuts. Until you learn it triggered an exception to the limits on campaign donations: the incumbent in a recall may collect unlimited amounts (none of that wimpy $10,000 per person maximum nonsense). So his supporter gave him an extra 10 days to pass the hat, allowing rich Texan conservatives to send him $250,000 checks.

Making sensible people wonder why rich people from Texas would give him money.

His recall defense strategy continued with supporters fraudulently collecting signatures they announced they would trash  or burn, actions which are considered felonies.

The illegal fraud by Walker supporters concerned voters who wanted to make sure their signatures would be counted, so they took the perfectly legal step of signing again, which caused Walker supporters to accuse them of fraud (and ethically-challenged Wisconsin legislator, Jeff Fitzgerald, to propose a law making it a felony to sign more than once).

This all seems perfectly logical if, in fact, you belong to the fact-challenged Flat Earth Society. Or are an ethically-challenged Wisconsin legislator with the last name of Fitzgerald.

The illegal actions by Walker supporters continued with damaging recall signs, damaging recall petitions (in more than one place) – sometimes ripping them up and walking away,  or ripping them up then driving away, or calling themselves George Washington.

Sometimes supporters attack recall volunteers while shouting seasonal greetings like, “I’m going to kill that blankity, blank, blank”  – and destroying personal property. Other supporters express their unbridled enthusiasm for Walker through “a torrent of abuse and obscenities” and unwanted physical contact.

Meanwhile, some Walker supporters share holiday wishes in the form of death threats or by delivering personal greetings by throwing rocks through windows.

Not to be outdone are supporters who advocate illegally signing petitions as “Adolph Hitler” with a home address of “666 Hell Street (your city),” while falsely claiming it’s perfectly legal to do so.

Now if none of this was enough to convince you that Walker supporters might be illogical and very angry people (if not completely unhinged) consider this: recalls are perfectly legal. Why would anyone interfere with a legal process – unless they feared the outcome. Desperately feared it.

Even though Walker and his supporters insist “it’s working” as Wisconsin hemorrhages thousands of jobs month after month, and even though Walker and his supporters insist that the vast majority of voters overwhelmingly support Walker and that Walker would win in a landslide.

So of course they have nothing to fear and could let the recall proceed without disrupting or interfering with it because Walker cannot lose, right?

Which would mean that Walker would decry the illegal actions of his supporters and demand that they cease and desist and not resort to unlawful conduct. And would mean that he would never have found it necessary to his job security to sue the GAB to slow down or subvert the recall process. If what Walker said was true. But his record for “truthiness” is dubious at best.

Even the less than fair and balanced PolitiFact determined that nearly 70% of the 38 Walker statements it examined are false. He seems to live in an alternate universe where just saying things makes them true. For example in a recent letter, he falsely claimed that, because of his actions,  “Wisconsin is debt-free for the first time in a decade,” when in fact, Wisconsin continues to carry billions of dollars of debt.

Which may be why Walker supporters who aren’t billionaires are all honorary members of the Flat Earth Society, fanatically denying the truth and doing anything – including committing felonies and harassing recall volunteers – to stop a recall they “know” Walker can’t lose.

Attention Parental Units

You have reproduced. Congratulations. Now this may come as a surprise, but you aren’t finished yet.

It seems that some of you are unaware that human offspring do not become autonomous beings at birth. Unlike sea turtles, people babies do not hatch, dig themselves out of the sand, and then race to the water without stopping to ponder the great mysteries of the universe such as where they came from if only because if they did something would eat them. They also do not spring, full grown, from Zeus’s brow.

Instead, human children require a prolonged period of supervision and oversight to develop into responsible, self-sustaining adults.

The normal expectation is that you, the parent, will provide the necessary supervision and oversight.

This means it is inappropriate to drop said children off at the mall telling them you’ll be back in 12 hours. Or the public library. Or at any tempting location except their school during normal school hours (and only on days when school is in session).

This limitation also includes the YMCA. Yes we know that the YMCA is a family friendly place. And we know the YMCA has many activities for human children, healthy activities, activities which help build character.

Frankly my dear, we don’t give a damn.

When we go to the YMCA, we go there for a purpose. That purpose does not include being trampled by a herd of shrieking, unsupervised 8 year-olds running amok. If we wish to be trampled, we will go on safari in Africa where we can throw ourselves in front of a panicked herd of galloping, wild-eyed wildebeests.

We would like to remind parental units that being in the same city – nay – even being in the same building – is not providing the necessary parental supervision and oversight, which requires the parent to actually be able to view the child (keeping in mind this is a primary component of “vision” and “sight”) unless said child is participating in an activity with adequate non-parental adult supervision.

Parents may also be required to act in the unlikely event that their child commits any transgressions, which we understand is nigh on impossible because of course said child is perfect and can do no wrong.

Humor us.

It also means teaching your offspring (even though they are perfect and can do no wrong) that in public places running, pushing, shoving, hopping, jumping, sprinting – in fact, anything beside a sedate stroll is not advisable. Please remind them that maid service will not be available outside their home, so removing articles of clothing and abandoning them in the middle of hallways is not acceptable and may result in non-parental units picking up said clothing – complete with iphones/ipads/any other expensive technology still in the pockets – and accidentally dropping them down the nearest trash chute.

Due to the lack of maid service, they will also have to flush toilets after use and place trash inside (not outside) the trash container.

Thank you. And if anyone wants their iphone back, they might check the bottom of trash chute #3.

The Sky Is Falling

Or: Why Chicken Little Must Have Been a Republican

Conservatives (that means you, Tea Partiers, Libertarians, fundamentalists and Republicans) are fact-challenged. In other words, they don’t let facts get in the way of their beliefs. Rather, they cling tenaciously to the most outrageous concepts (Trickle down works! People had pet dinosaurs! Global Warming is a hoax!) even when  disproved by actual events or something called science. Their response is simply to deny the facts,  ignore them, or change the subject and make personal attacks. (Faith is better than science! Obama is a Kenyan Muslim! You’re a libtard!)

All of these people qualify for free membership in the Flat Earth Society. For Life.

Which brings us to Chicken Little, the bird brain who thought an acorn bonking him in the head was a piece of sky and thus concluded with no supporting factual basis that the sky was falling. Today, Chicken Little would be a Republican candidate for President, a thought which would be humorous if not so painfully true. (And surging ahead in the polls.)

And it’s not just Republican presidential candidates. An entire conservative network has sprung into being, including super PACS, news media, pundits, think-tanks, and assorted “non-partisan” 501(c)’s, all with the sole purpose of disseminating misinformation to mislead the misguided (who don’t bother to question any of it – just accept it as true).

Take, for example, the MacIver Institute, which offers the MacIver News Service as a reassuring alternative to actual journalism.

The latter recently published a breaking story exposing perfectly legal Wisconsin recall activities titled “Problem of Duplicate Signatures Looms Over Recall“.  The story ominously reports that “one statewide liberal group is actively promoting the collection of duplicate signatures.”

Wow. That sounds bad! Very bad! Especially when “the state board overseeing the potential recall election” might not catch duplicate signatures! It must be a deliberate and illegal attempt to fraudulently recall Walker with numerous, invalid, duplicate signatures! Why, it’s possible that only one person signed 540,000 times! What a  terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing to do! And so typical of those liberals!

In case you’ve been hibernating, you might not know that people here in Wisconsin are attempting to recall our governor, Scott Walker. The recall requires a certain number of signatures on recall petitions. The problem is the fraudulent tactics being used by Walker supporters (including collecting  signatures with the intent to not turn them in), causing some signors to worry about the validity of the petition they signed and whether their signature would be counted.

Thus, the “statewide liberal group” issued a statement that:  “You can circulate or sign a recall petition even if you have already signed another recall petitionhowever, that only one signature per person will be counted.” In other words: yes, it’s perfectly legal to sign again.

Which is what  “the state board overseeing the potential recall election” said: “While it is not illegal to sign more than once, we do not suggest people sign a second time unless they have good reason to believe the first petition they signed was somehow fraudulent.”

Which the conservatives immediately toss into their magical deliberate distortion machine, coming out the other end as “Evil Liberals Cheating by Intentionally Promoting Duplicate Signatures.”

And so it goes.  Notice to the fact-challenged: rational discourse and informed opinion require facts and a minimal level of logic. Saying something doesn’t make it true. Repeating it doesn’t do the job either. Nor does it make you right. Or make palm trees grow in Wisconsin.

Papers Please

Mrs. Higgins’ face has turned an unnatural shade of eggplant purple, a color I didn’t think was possible for humans to produce. I’m sure you’re wondering why, but only if you hadn’t read the story about the 84 year old partially paralyzed woman who has to pay $20 to vote.

“Wait a minute!” reasonable minds would exclaim, “This is America, where the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that people can’t be charged to vote!

And you would be partially right. But we don’t live in America. We live in Fitzwalkerstan.

Here in Fitzwalkerstan, we have a new law. The new law requires voters (in order to vote, mind you) to produce a specific form of government issued identification bearing a photograph and current address. Getting the ID’s – a passport or driver’s license or state ID card – requires a birth certificate.

This is so that the people who don’t have the specific form of identification  – who tend to be poor, the elderly, minorities, and students (the people who tend to not vote the way they should) – can’t vote. People like 84 year old Ruthelle Frank, who has voted in every election since 1948. She was born at home and has never had a birth certificate. Never needed it. Now she has to get one, which will cost $20, which, as she astutely noted, seems “like paying a fee to vote.”

She’s not alone: hundreds of thousands of eligible voters are similarly impacted.  like the woman who moved here from out of state, took a $22 cab ride to the DMV for her ID, was rejected because she didn’t have a birth certificate, sent $17 to her birth state for an official birth certificate, and will have at least one more $22 cab ride to the DMV. As Ms. Frank noted, “I feel for other people out there [who don’t have IDs]. I think they just won’t vote.”

If reading the news stories don’t make you the same shade of purple as Mrs. Higgins, reading the many comments from people who think restricting voting rights is a really good idea should do the trick.

“Rights, rights, rights. What about responsibilities that accompany each and every right in this country? If you’re unwilling or unable to assume those responsibilities – for whatever reasons – then you surrender those rights.”

“LAWS CHANGE ALL THE TIME with NEW REQUIREMENTS GET OVER IT ! !”

“Some people need to get out in the world and they would find ‘No Ticky’, ‘No Laundry.”

Excuse me a minute while I try to stop Mrs. Higgins from banging her head against the wall.

[soft Muzak plays]

I’m back. I gave her an aspirin and she’s resting quietly. She asked me to check something while she tries to get her normal color back.

Hmmm. Let’s see. The 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote … shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.”

I called the post office and they confirmed that, at least this week, Wisconsin is still a state. And still part of the United States. So where in the world do these people live?

“Life’s a booger, sometimes. But when you compare what this woman went through to those brave men and women who put their lives on the line to help us hang onto our freedoms, this other stuff seems like a walk in the park.

Let’s see: “those brave men and women who put their lives on the line”? They did it to help people like Ruthelle Frank hang onto her right to vote. Hello? Is this person snorting nitrous oxide?

And this one:

Liberals will always look for the most extreme case possible. This woman looks to be maybe in her 70’s and has had all her life to get this situation straightened out. You mean to tell me she has never needed an ID until now? Really?”

“Get this situation straightened out?” What situation? She’s 84 years old. She’s always voted. She’s never needed a birth certificate. “You mean to tell me she has never needed an ID until now?” Yes, that’s what she told you. Really.

“I feel strongly that you should have to produce evidence of a right to vote.”

And I feel strongly that you should have to pass an IQ test to have the right to vote.

“I think it a great idea to have as few dead people as possible voting”

So do I. But Ms. Frank isn’t dead. Just old. And exactly how long have you been seeing dead people?

“Or maybe this poor inconvenienced woman could glance at the calendar and realize that it’s December of 2011. Ike and Mamie aren’t in the White House anymore, dear. It’s a whole new world and if you cannot manage your affairs, perhaps you could arrange for someone to manage them for you. I find it difficult to sympathize with someone who had 6 or more decades to straighten out this birth certificate issue and didn’t bother.”

If Ike and Mamie were still in the White House we wouldn’t be having this problem. Mamie wouldn’t let it happen. And what is it with this “Get this situation straightened out” nonsense? Not having a birth certificate is not a “situation.” Finding your spouse in bed with three members of the bridge club is a “situation.”

“It’s too bad Ruthelle Frank is a willing pawn in the Democratic Party running plays from the Saul Alinsky playbook to destroy America.”

Where do I begin? Maybe with an intervention and an antipsychotic cocktail.

“Ruthelle can rectify this situation and everyone here knows it. She is 1 democrat vote, compared to the thousands upon thousands of fraudulent votes cast in Wisconsin every election. There is no way to track or rectify that except by requiring a photo ID to vote.”

“The Democrat initiative to neutralize voting reform is in plain sight, as shown in Sunday’s front page article. Also in plain sight is the Democrat initiative to make sure your vote is further diluted with illegal alien arrests at a 40 year low under the Obama regime. Make no mistake, the two go hand in hand to steal voting power from law abiding citizens who can produce valid ID and are citizens of the US.”

So there it is. Ms. Frank (and others) have to pay to vote – or not vote at all – to prevent fraud by the thousands upon thousands of liberal dead illegal alien democrats voting to destroy America with fraudulent votes cast in Wisconsin every election, part of the Democrat initiative to steal voting power from law abiding citizens who can produce valid ID and are citizens of the US.

Of course, both a state wide investigation by a Republican A.G. and a report from the Brennan Center for Justice showed that voter fraud is almost non-existent with a rate of 0.0002% within the state as a whole (and none of which would have been prevented by requiring photo ID at the polls).

Excuse me while I go pound my head against a wall.

The View from the Trenches

Here in Wisconsin a few of us (well, not a few exactly, more like hundreds of thousands) are busy recalling Scott Walker and his intrepid sidekick, Rebecca Kleefisch (who believes that allowing gay marriage might lead to people marrying inanimate objects). And for once I wish the press would get things right.

Contrary to published reports, the recall is not just a bunch of union bosses and union thugs from in-state (or out-of-state) let alone “a group of big government union bosses” as Walker claims. But then, he also claims that this whole thing blew over months ago, that everyone is ecstatic now that we can see the results from his “reforms,” like our property taxes going down $8 a year while our students lose programs, class sizes increase and college tuition skyrockets. Deluded does not begin to describe it. But his delusions have been facilitated by the fourth estate.

I am not a union member. I have never been a union member. I am not a teacher. And I am not a public worker. I am one of those mythical creatures known as a “non-union thug.” And there are thousands of us. However, based on mainstream news reports, most people would never know it: Walker and his financial backers have successfully created the fiction that this is all about greedy public sector unions sucking the taxpayers dry.

That’s their story and they’re sticking with it. Like the newest Koch Machine ad now playing on a television near you (if you happen to live here), which promotes the myth that all Wisconsin’s woes, financial and otherwise, were due to unions, union scams, and the allegedly excessive wages and benefits of government workers, especially teachers, and announces “the facts show [Walker’s] reforms are working.”

The Kochs have successfully diverted attention away from the very real class war being waged against the middle class and the poor. As Warren Buffet noted, the rich are winning. They’ve made unions and union members into scapegoats, falsely depicting them to create an “us [taxpayers] against them [unions]” divisiveness. And the media has been happy to help them.

As Walker fights to stay in office, he has kept the spin going with a website – paid for with our tax dollars – that keeps the focus on those evil teachers and other parasitic public workers. (His list of “Reforms and Results”, which ignores the facts or distorts them, is disconnected from the grim reality now facing public education in Wisconsin as a result of Walker’s devastating cuts, which was confirmed in the recent survey results released by the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators.) And the Kochs are doing likewise with the website “itsworkingwisconsin.com.”

Misleading misinformation will also come from the numerous secretive groups funded by a select group of the ultra rich, including the Kochs. Groups like Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth, The Heritage Foundation, and many, many more.

Enough already.

Let’s blow away the Kochs’ smoke screen to reveal the truth.

People across Wisconsin are mad as hell. Scott Walker is all about private agendas and political payback. We know it and we’re tired of it. We’re tired of tax breaks for millionaires that the rest of us pay for through cuts to education and essential services. We’re tired of losing consumer protections. We’re tired of Walker rewarding his donors at our expense. We’re tired of his $300 an hour private attorneys at public cost, his cushy jobs for cronies, and his throwing the poor, the disabled, the elderly, students, children, women, the middle class and the environment under the bus all to benefit a chosen few. We’re tired of being lied to.

This is a man who hides from his constituents and last winter wouldn’t talk to any of the Democrats, but took a phone call from a man he thought was David Koch – and to whom he admitted he had thought about planting outside agitators among the protestors (bad enough) but didn’t, not because it was illegal or someone might get hurt, but because it might backfire politically (worse).

This is a man who condones running false candidates to force primaries, who condones violating court orders, and who condones end running the state and federal constitutions to pass dubious legislation designed to reward special interests.

For crying out loud, the feds are running a John Doe investigation into illegal Walker campaign activity in Milwaukee County that has resulted in an early morning FBI raid and key Walker staff members seeking immunity.

So yes, we are mad as hell. And we know it won’t be easy. Walker has access to an unlimited supply of Koch dollars. We face threats, violence, and felonious attacks involving recall petitions. Meanwhile, instead of denouncing such actions, and doing the right thing by condemning them and demanding that democracy be allowed to run its course, Walker remains silent. But we are determined. We are Badgers. And we want our government back.