Wednesday, June 6th, 2012


This has been a test of the State of Wisconsin electoral system. In the event of an actual election, everyone would have been able to cast their votes before a winner was declared, and candidates for office would have remained in the election until all the votes were counted. This has only been a test.


test | 5:39 am CST
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Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Broccoli. I can’t open a newspaper, switch on the radio, or surf the internet without being reminded of the wisdom of supreme court justice Antonin Scalia, who wonders if the federal government will be forcing us all to buy broccoli soon.

Gee, Mr. Scalia, would that really be so bad for anybody? Considering what the federal government can already force me to do – fork over thirty percent of all the money I make every year, submit to a search every time I want to get on a commercial plane, pick up a gun and kill people – it would seem to me that making us all buy broccoli is, excuse the mixed metaphor, small potatoes.

mandate | 11:30 am CST
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Sunday, January 15th, 2012

Leaders of various evangelical groups gave their endorsement to Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, because he’s the tall, dark stranger they would most like to have a fling with before resigning themselves to political marriage with Mitt Romney.

I promise I’m not making that up. Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, figures that, “before we marry the guy next door, don’t you think we ought to have a fling with a tall dark stranger and see if he can support us in the manner to which we’d like to be accustomed? And if he can’t, we can always marry the steady beau who lives next door.”

Well, naturally! You might have been going steady for years, and you might be perfectly satisfied that he’s the one for you, but you sure don’t want to go into marriage without knowing what you might have had. If you do, you’ll only spend the rest of your life wondering, right? And, as Mr. Land pointed out, maybe that tall, dark stranger will turn out to be loaded with cash!

But, if he’s not, if it turns out he just wanted to boink you before moving on to his next conquest, well, you’ve always got the steady, dependable guy next door to fall back on. It’s win-win!

So have a good time partying with that Santorum guy, evangelicals! And when you wake up tomorrow morning, see his head on the pillow next to yours and wonder, “What the hell was I thinking?” you don’t have a thing to worry about! There’ll always be Romney, the steady beau, waiting to forgive your impetuous actions and take you back.

By the way, Romney’s loaded too! Just in case you hadn’t heard.

fling | 4:38 pm CST
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Thursday, January 5th, 2012

And now, a summary of every news bulletin, editorial and talking pundit I’ve heard on the radio this week:

Monday: Caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus.

Tuesday: Caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus.

Wednesday: Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Santorum. (Even though they were tied for first. Go figure.)

Wow, am I glad that’s over.

Today, when I turn on the radio: New Hampshire? Are You Kidding Me? This is never going to end, is it?

interminable | 6:41 am CST
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Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Oh, hey, look at that, Romney won in the Iowa GOP primary. That was unexpected. Sure didn’t see that coming. What a surprise. I’m astounded.

According to The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Romney barely beat Santorum by “the tiniest of margins – eight votes.” In the whacky world of politics it’s entirely possible I’m wrong about this, but I’ve always thought that, as far as voting goes, “the tiniest of margins” would be one vote. Eight votes is tiny, I’ll grant you that, but you can’t get less than one vote, can you? Help me out here.

margin | 6:01 am CST
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Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Not that you asked, but here’s my idea for a tax plan: Everybody pays the same percentage that I pay, and when I say “everybody,” I mean corporations too because, as everyone knows, corporations are people.

This cannot possibly be class warfare. I’m asking only that everybody pay the same exact percentage of their income that I pay. Nothing could be more fair than that.

The way this will work is, each year, after My Darling B finishes filling out all the tax forms, I will post the amount paid as a percentage of income, and then you will all send in that amount. If I pay thirty-five percent, then you will pay thirty-five percent. No exceptions, no special deductions, no bullshit loopholes like, “My income’s only a dollar a year because I’m the CEO … and my annual hundred million dollar bonus isn’t technically part of my salary.” If you’ve got money coming in, they call that income. It’ll get taxed just like my income does. Cough it up.

Or, we could turn it around: I pay the same percentage as a corporation that offshores its assets, which, I believe, is zero, or so close to it as to make no difference. Either way, I’m good.

tax | 6:31 am CST
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Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

To The Editor:

In your editorial comment, Capitol Common Sense (Oct 11, 2011), you wrote:

Here’s how a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald made the argument this week for allowing concealed weapons inside the state Capitol.

“So long as the Capitol remains open, our members, their staff and the public have a right to defend themselves,” John Jagler said.

Defend themselves? What about the right of members, their staff and the public to a safe environment?

We backed concealed carry in Wisconsin … Under the law … Municipalities can prohibit weapons in government buildings … weapons can’t be banned from parks and public grounds.

At least John Jagler was being consistent. If legislators believe that the citizens of Wisconsin are responsible enough, given some training, to carry concealed weapons, then why should there be a prohibition against carrying weapons into the capitol? Or any other place, for that matter? If a citizen is deemed responsible enough to carry a concealed weapon into a public park, why not a public building? And certainly anyone should be able to carry concealed weapons into the very building where the legislature that availed us of this right carries out their daily labors.

But if the Editor objects that carrying concealed weapons into the capitol will transform it into an unsafe environment for the legislators, their staff and the public, then why does the Editor endorse a policy of carrying concealed weapons anywhere else? How is the capitol less safe than other public buildings and lands when citizens bring concealed weapons into them? How is the public endangered in a capitol where concealed carry is allowed, yet somehow safe in a public park where concealed carry cannot be prohibited? I would very much like to know how you justify one, but not the other.

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Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Well, I’m stuck. I have no idea what to write about. Whenever I try to think of a subject worth writing about, Michelle Bachmann pops into my head. Talk about writer’s block. It doesn’t get any more blocked than that.

I had the same thing when Donald Trump was running for president. Whenever I tried to focus my thoughts on something I could only get so far, and then Trump! Totally blocked. It was maddening.

We’ve got this idea that anybody can grow up to become president, but really, come on. This has got to stop.

blocked | 9:05 pm CST
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Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

We finally have a law allowing everyone in Wisconsin to stuff handguns down their pants if they want to. This is so very important that the fine people of our state legislature passed this law before they passed a budget.

And of course the law comes with the usual restrictions: You can’t take a gun into a courthouse, or into a school, or past the security checkpoints in an airport. I don’t get that. People who want to carry a concealed handgun have to undergo a background check and must show they’ve been trained, whatever that means. So they’re licensed, they’re trained and they have no criminal record. What’s the reason for restricting them?

bang | 6:36 pm CST
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Saturday, May 28th, 2011

This literally makes my head hurt: Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, listening to testimony regarding man-made climate change, asked a witness if any thought were being given “to subsidizing the clearing of rain forests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases?” Ouch. Really? Ouch. Yes, really. Ouch.

Leaving aside the question of whether or not climate change is being aggravated by human activity, I thought that everybody that’s ever been to school knew that trees take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. I thought everybody knew that trees store carbon dioxide, but emit it as soon as you kill them by cutting them down. I thought everybody knew that there is no way to dispose of a tree that does not emit carbon dioxide.

I thought every person with a basic grade-school education knew these facts. I’m pretty sure I learned about photosynthesis as early as third grade, and I know they threw it at us more than once in grade school, junior high and high school. Just as an aside, it seemed like every time somebody made a film about photosynthesis, and it felt like they did that about once a week, they sent it to our school to try it out on us. Which is why I kind of assumed that anybody with a grade-school education had heard of photosynthesis, but now I’m not so sure.

Maybe Congressman Rohrabacher is not an educated person. Or he went to school but he was sick the day they explained photosynthesis. Or he was there and he read it, but he didn’t believe it. Or, the teachers at the school he went to didn’t explain it because of budget cuts, or because they didn’t believe it, either. The possibilities are endless, really. And they still make my head hurt. Ow.

Mr. Rohrabacher doesn’t believe carbon dioxide causes global warming, as his press statement makes clear (ouch), although the rest of it is confusing. “I simply asked the witness, Dr. Todd Stern, … if he was considering a policy that would address naturally emitted carbon dioxide, which makes up over 90% of emissions.” So even though he doesn’t believe carbon dioxide is a problem, the amount of naturally emitted carbon dioxide is still a concern, for some reason. Ouch.

ouch | 9:12 am CST
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Friday, May 27th, 2011

I just heard a right-winger and a left-winger on a morning talk show debating the latest political circus acts here in the great state of Wisconsin, the most recent being the enactment of a law requiring citizens to present two forms of photo identification in order to vote, but touching on other topics such as the elimination of collective bargaining for public worker unions and the proposal to allow everyone to carry concealed handguns regardless of whether or not they’re trained to use them. The left-winger and the right-winger had nothing new to say, really; I’ve heard the party positions so many times that it doesn’t make me think about the issues so much as it just pisses me off, so I don’t know why I even listen to their crap any more.

The legislature virtually eliminated collective bargaining because, as the governor repeated endlessly, the state is broke. The voter ID law was enacted to eliminate voter fraud. Oddly, there’s very little evidence of voter fraud in Wisconsin. Evidence from the recent recount backs this up and suggests, in fact, that the procedures used by clerks and poll workers to handle ballots are pretty sloppy, but yeah, let’s enact a multimillion-dollar voter ID law.

Hey, I thought we were broke.

I’m sick and tired of that refrain. State government is not a business. Legislators can raise revenue, or they can lower spending, but the state cannot go broke and there’s no semantic issue of laws being the product, or our vote giving us the same kind of choices that consumers get. I’m a voter, not a consumer, and elected officials are not offering us a product that we have any choice in buying because voting one legislator out of office so that another one can shove his product down our throats is not a choice. They’re not asking us for our input any more, they’re telling us what we have to buy. That’s not business.

And the idea that requiring us to show ID to vote is somehow reasonable because businesses ask us for ID when we cash a check doesn’t wash with me, either. First, same reason as above: The government is not a business. I’m not cashing a check, I’m voting. I should be able to walk in and say ‘aye’ and walk out again. That’s voting. Having to prove who I am before I am even allowed to speak is, well, you know what that is. And if your argument is that a vote is so much more important than cashing a check that I should be in favor of more ID, not less, then my argument right back at you is, if it’s that important, then you shouldn’t be asking for an ID card that anybody with a computer printer can make counterfeit of. A nationwide database of every citizen’s DNA would be the only sure-fire way of proving our identities. Would you be willing to have your throat swabbed every time you cast a vote? Don’t even think of saying yes.

Second, have these legislators even been to a store lately? I haven’t presented my ID card to make a purchase by check or charge in I don’t know how long. Nobody asks me to show ID any more. Card goes in, money comes out. The checker at the Menard’s doesn’t even look at me when I pay with a card.

Third, if the state’s going to require that we present two forms of photo identification in order to vote, then they damn well better provide each and every voter with two kinds of photo ID free of charge. make it possible for every last citizen to acquire two forms of photo ID free of charge. As it is now, a driver’s license, the de facto photo ID issued by the state, costs thirty-five bucks. So now we’re required to pay a fee in order to vote. Ever heard of a poll tax?

Lastly – well, no, not lastly. I’m sure I can think of lots more, and though this may be last for now it is certainly not least: Requiring people to show ID whenever a government employee asks for it is the kind of shit we used to make fun of the Soviet Union for, yet for reasons that I cannot grasp, most Americans think this is okay now. It’s so weird. I enlisted to fight the Cold War, and was told that we won. How did I wake up in the Twilight Zone?

[edited to add the part about free voter IDs – and a tip o’ the hat to My Darling B!]

twilight | 12:00 pm CST
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Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Nathan Bootz, Superintendent of Ithaca Public Schools, in an open letter to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in the Gratiot County Herald

Consider the life of a Michigan prisoner. They get three square meals a day. Access to free health care. Internet. Cable television. Access to a library. A weight room. Computer lab. They can earn a degree. A roof over their heads. Clothing. Everything we just listed we DO NOT provide to our school children.

This is why I’m proposing to make my school a prison. The State of Michigan spends annually somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 per prisoner, yet we are struggling to provide schools with $7,000 per student. I guess we need to treat our students like they are prisoners, with equal funding. Please give my students three meals a day. Please give my children access to free health care. Please provide my school district Internet access and computers. Please put books in my library. Please give my students a weight room so we can be big and strong. We provide all of these things to prisoners because they have constitutional rights. What about the rights of youth, our future?!

Fucken A well told.

consider | 7:37 pm CST
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Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Bin laden bin laden bin laden. Bin laden bin laden. Osama bin Laden. Bin laden bin laden osama bin laden.

“Osama bin laden bin laden osama bin laden,” osama bin laden bin laden bin laden.

Osama bin laden bin laden osama osama bin laden bin laden. Bin laden bin laden osama bin laden.

Osama. Osama bin laden.

Bin laden osama, osama bin laden, laden bin osama, bin osama laden.

Osama. Bin. Laden.

Being bin Laden | 6:23 pm CST
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Thursday, April 7th, 2011

I’ve got an idea that could help government at the state and federal level break out of the Republican-Democrat gridlock we’re seeing everywhere. It’s going to sound a little weird at first, but go with me for a little bit and see if it doesn’t make some sense after all.

The trouble that I’m seeing here in our great state of Wisconsin, as well as way up at the federal government level, is that votes are split right down partisan lines, am I right? If I’m not, just pretend I am for the sake of argument because otherwise there isn’t much point to reading the rest of this post and I’ll feel like I went to the trouble of writing it for nothing.

So what I’m thinking is, why don’t we elect one Republican and one Democrat to each of the offices that are up for election? If they can’t vote along party lines they’ll have to actually work toward a solution, which I admit is such a radical idea that they may have trouble grasping the concept, but there’s an even chance they’ll eventually get the idea and maybe even fix a few of the things that are wrong with the country before lobbyists find a loophole and fuck things up again.

I know it sounds like making government bigger but that’s not at all what I’m proposing. My idea is like splitting stock. To use the senate as an example, we’ll still have two senate seats for each state, but we’ll elect one Republican and one Democrat to each seat. Each senator will have half a vote. They’d have to split the salary and benefits down the middle and time-share an office. It might be worth doing just for the fun of watching them fight over who gets to sit in the big chair.

We’d do the same thing to every other elected official. Every governor, every judge, everybody who owed their job to a slimy attack ad. They’d go from having all the political power of their parties to having virtually none, because the advantage every one of them had would be canceled out by the other wheel squeaking to be greased. Suddenly the Republicans and Democrats would all be about as powerful as the Greens.

I really don’t see a down side to this. How about you?

Gridlock | 8:13 pm CST
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Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Watching the legislature work is like watching The Three Stooges trying to fix leaky plumbing. Larry does one thing, Shemp does another, Moe wangs them both over the head with a monkey wrench, yelling “Because I said so!” and makes them do it his way. In the next scene the botched job blows up in their faces and they have to start all over again, except this time substitute Shemp with Curly just to make things even more confusing.

We’ve got this new law in Wisconsin, maybe you’ve heard of it. The governor called it his “budget repair bill” and a key piece of it dismantled the state worker’s union, which he said time and again was necessary to balance the budget. Trouble was, he couldn’t get it through the senate because half the Stooges fled the state to keep Moe from bashing them over the head with it.

As long as the bill had all that stuff about the budget in it, he needed all the Stooges to call a vote, but if he tore off the part about the budget, all he needed was Larry and Shemp. Curly could hop around in the corner and holler “Whoowhoowhoo!” all he wanted. And he did, but the rest of the Stooges voted to pass the bill.

Then Moe signed the bill and we had a new law … or maybe not. The various Stooges can’t seem to agree on this. It was published on Friday in spite of a court order barring its publication. I’m not sure why it has to be published; I thought an act of congress became a law when the executive signed it, or at least that’s what I learned watching Schoolhouse Rock.

But apparently to make it the law of the land it has to be published, whatever that means. Anybody can “publish” it by standing on a corner and reading it aloud, or printing it on handbills that they then staple to telephone poles, which would suit the Three Stooges theme just fine here. The legal definition of “published” seems to be up for grabs, though. At least one news story I read said it had to be published in a newspaper. A newspaper? In 2011? Is that really what the state statute says? I don’t know; I couldn’t find it.

And it appears to make no difference. The administration (Moe) is going ahead as if this new legislation is law (“Because I said so!”) and will let the courts sort out whether or not they checked all the boxes that make it legal even though they’ve done an end-run around a legal injunction to show how much stock they put in the court (“Whoowhoowhoo!”).

The pie fight starts on Monday.

Stooges | 10:37 am CST
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Saturday, March 19th, 2011

Our Saturday morning routine has altered slightly. For months it was: farmer’s market for breakfast & shopping, then co-op for groceries, then book store, then home. But for the past few weeks it’s been: farmer’s market for breakfast & shopping, then march to capitol square chanting “Recall Walker!” and “This is what democracy looks like!” with hoards of angry protesters, then stop at the co-op for groceries, then home. It’s a subtle change, but it seemed significant enough to mention.

I’m impressed that they’re still marching and rallying, to tell you the truth. The rally today wasn’t as big as last week’s, so the rally organizers, whoever they are, don’t seem to have been able to keep the amount of enthusiasm at the levels we’ve seen before. The crowd today filled up the corner of the square facing King Street, but when we walked around the square we didn’t see many people anywhere else on the sidewalk or along the terrace. There was a small knot of people at the top of State Street, but that was it.

My Darling B and I marched with the parade of veterans that gathered on Library Mall at the UW campus up State Street to the square, up Carroll Street and Main Street to the King Street intersection where the rally was held. We wore our old fatigue jackets because we got the impression there’d be a lot of veterans there, and there very well might have been, but only a handful of them wore anything that looked like uniform jackets or fatigue shirts. We sort of stuck out, so much that I was approached by a reporter from the Wisconsin State Journal who wanted to ask me about my impressions of the rally. I was going to tell her no comment, but then I reconsidered and answered her questions. Maybe she’ll quote me accurately and maybe she won’t, but if she doesn’t I’ve got her business card.

Saturday Morning Rally | 4:22 pm CST
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Monday, March 14th, 2011

While I was out for my lunch-hour walk around the neighborhood, I stopped in at a local bakery to pick up an after-lunch snack and heard the gal behind the cash register, who was talking with the guy ahead of me, pass a disparaging remark about Republicans. I knew her from previous visits, so when she turned to me I said huffily, “Hey! I heard that! I could be a Republican, you know!”

“I know,” she answered me, “and I don’t care. That’s the beauty of living on the East Side of Madison.”

nyuk nyuk nyuk

Ride the Elephant | 7:22 pm CST
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Sunday, March 13th, 2011

image of rally in Madison WI 3-12-11

My Darling B and I spent all day yesterday in downtown Madison and all we saw was a lousy two hundred thousand union supporters rallying around the capitol! Man, did we feel ripped off!

We started off the day normally enough, washing up and heading into town to stock up our pantry with various and sundry items from the Dane County Farmer’s Market and, while we were there, we filled our bellies with a delicious breakfast: burritos, hash browns and a few leafy greens. Leafy greens might sound a little unusual to those who have not eaten at a farmer’s market. I thought they were at first, too, but after you’ve eaten breakfast at a farmer’s market for a couple years you not only get used to it, you feel a little guilty if you don’t eat your leafy greens, like maybe you’re cheating. “Hiding your leafy greens under the table mat again?” “No, Mom, honest!”

While My Darling B was shopping I had to run down the street to get first aid for an eyeglass emergency. At first I was just going to duck into Dorn’s Hardware to see if they had any of those little screwdrivers you can attach to your keyring. That would’ve been the quickest and easiest way for me to fix my glasses, if Dorn’s had been open, but they were not, so I ran shuffled on down to State Street to an optometrist’s shop on the intersection with Gorham Street. I’m going to give C. G. Schanel & Associates a plug because not only was he the most pleasant optometrist I’ve even dealt with, he didn’t just hand me a screwdriver and leave me to fix it myself. Instead, he took my eyeglasses over to his little workbench, made sure everything was put together and lined up correctly, cleaned off the glasses and handed them back to me at no charge. “Just come back to me when you need glasses,” he said with a big smile. And I will.

State Street was a steady stream of people walking up to capitol hill and by the time got back to the neighborhood where the farmer’s market is held I was starting to worry that I would never find My Darling B in the crowd. I milled around for a bit in the parking lot, then went into the market itself and looked around, but eventually had to admit to myself that I was never going to spot her and, as it turned out, I was right. She was going to spot me. She came out of the ladies’ room just a fraction of a second after I came out of the men’s room and chased me down. So we didn’t have to wade into the mass of people congregating around the square.

The first time we showed up there it must’ve been about ten o’clock. There were already quite a lot of people crowding the sidewalks around the square, so many that they were already filling the street as they walked around in the customary counterclockwise direction. I wonder who started that, and why? Anyway, we milled around for a bit, collecting pro-union buttons and checking out the signs before we were swept up by the crowd and marched hand-in-hand up Carroll Street to the top of the hill where Hamilton intersects at an angle with the square in front of the Inn on the Square. That’s where we backed up to the curb to wait for the tractors.

This was what My Darling B was most interested to see this morning. Farmers brought about two-dozen tractors (and the inevitable manure spreader — that was sort of required, wasn’t it?) to parade around the square. Real farmers. We knew several of them from the farmer’s market. The parade was headed by an old green fire truck and I’m pretty sure I saw Dan Nichols in the bunch that stood on the back shouting, “This Is Grassroots!” The crowd quickly took up the chant and amped it up to a deafening roar.

As the tractors came up Hamilton Street one by one and turned to head down Main Street at a slow crawl the crowd raised a cheer to each one of them, and when a farmer raised a hand in salute or otherwise acknowledged the crowd they were rewarded with a round of “Thank! You! Thank! You! Thank! You!” from the crowd. It was quite a moment.

After the last tractor turned down Main Street the crowd closed in behind it and marched along in the road. I don’t think we got any farther than halfway down the Pinckney side of the square in a half-hour of marching before we decided to mill around some and see what was going on. What we found was mostly a hundred thousand or so people milling around to see what was going on. Various people were making speeches from the platform set up near the base of the stairs on the State Street corner of the square, but we were too cold by that time to stand still and listen to them, and when My Darling B suggested we pop into Merchant’s to warm up a bit I eagerly agreed.

Merchant’s is a relatively new restaurant on the high-visibility corner of Pinckney and Doty, right across the street from Johnny Delmonico’s. We snagged two stools at the bar and, a few moments later, the attention of the bartender to beg him to fortify us against the cold. B was somehow hungry already, and as soon as she said that I was, too, so we split an open-faced sandwich and chased it with our favorite libations, a Hopalicious from Ale Asylum for me and a glass of Malbec for B. With a fresh supply of antifreeze coursing through my veins I was able to take my coat off … thirty or forty minutes later. I was really cold.

While we enjoyed our brunch, demonstrators streamed past the windows, most notably a long line of bright yellow cabs from the Union Cab Company, honking their horns in syncopation with the chant, “This is what democracy looks like!” (an earworm that no one in Madison can get out of their heads these days) and waving hand-made signs from the windows. When the red light at the corner of King Street stopped traffic, cab drivers would pop out of almost ever cab to take photos of the line. You can google “union cab madison wisconsin” and come up with any number of photos of the cabs lined up in the street yourself right now.

As our brunch came to an end we had to decide: go home, or stay to witness The Return of the Wisconsin Fourteen? The wouldn’t make their appearance until three o’clock, so we would have to find something to do for a while. We debated for a little while longer over another round of bellywarmers, just to keep the juices flowing in the cold, don’t you know, then wrapped ourselves up and headed back up to the square. After a quick stop at a book shop where My Darling B searched but was sadly unable to find just the right kind of journal she was looking for, we plowed back into the crowd to see what we could see.

Not much, as it turned out. It was about two-thirty and by this time the square was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with people. I’ve read estimates of the crowd at about one hundred thousand. Pssht. If it was anything less than a quarter million, I’m a greedy union thug. Oh, wait. I am. Well, I still say it was closer to a quarter million, but maybe that’s my uncontrollable need to collectively ask for too much.

And while My Darling B and I were standing on tippy-toe trying to see who was at the podium, the lady next to me nudged me with her elbow and said in a conspiratorial whisper, hooking her thumb at the gentleman standing in my way, “Do you know who that is?” He looked maybe a few years older than me and wore plain denim work clothes. Could’ve been anybody from anywhere in Wisconsin. I turned back to the lady and shook my head no. “That’s Tom Barrett,” she said. Barrett ran against Scott Walker in the gubernatorial election and lost by a narrow margin. I wouldn’t have recognized him if he’d turned around and introduced himself, but many people in the crowd reached out to shake his hand and give him their regards, and after that happened a couple dozen times the crowd itself turned their cameras from the podium to Barret, snapping away and shouting, “Hello, Mister Mayor!” If you can find any of those photos on someone’s Facebook page, you’ll probably see My Darling B and I standing right behind him.

When the Wisconsin Fourteen finally returned, they were literally welcomed by the crowd as returning heroes. The crowd was signing a hymn to their return. I swear I am not making that up. To the strains of God Bless America they marched up the stairs, took their place at the podium, and one by one thanked everyone for everything.

And of course there was Jesse Jackson. I think he stops by every Saturday now to say a prayer. This Saturday he asked us to pray for the people in Japan and even I ducked my head to thank goodness that the friends I had in Japan were okay.

Tony Shalhoub was the Hollywood star this week, a good pick, I thought. You can’t get any more native to Wisconsin than Green Bay, but I say that with a touch of bias, having grown up in Green Bay myself. He brought his sister Amy along because she’s one of those overpaid teachers you keep hearing about.

We began to make our way off the square at maybe four o’clock, cold and exhausted but happy we stayed. Being part of a crowd like that will be a memory that will stick with us for a while.

Oh, just one more thing: Cows.

Tractors. Cows. 14. A Monk. | 10:42 am CST
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Thursday, March 10th, 2011

It’s hard not to sit down and start typing out some drivel without wanting to babble about what’s happening lately in Mad Town, so I might as well surrender to the urge. You must do what you feel is right, of course.

My Darling B’s at an emergency meeting of her union as I type these words. I’m not sure what they have to talk about, other than the most immediate fact that, in the very near future, their union will be no more, same as mine, or at least that’s what I’m guessing. I suspect that most of the people I work with are in the union because we had to join the union in order to get a job at the state, and I’d back that up by betting an extra-crispy morning bun that, if the union called a general strike effective immediately, most of the people I work with would be at their desks tomorrow morning, if they weren’t scheduled to be off already.

I know I sound like a cynic. I can’t help it. It’s not that I don’t care. If we could legally strike, and if we had a strike fund, and a dozen other ifs, I might start to think that a general strike could be effective, but we don’t have those first two things, and after that the rest really don’t matter, do they? My contract says I can’t strike, and I don’t have to think about it too long to come to the realization that, if I were to join a general strike tomorrow, I’d soon be holding a pink slip for violation of contract.

True, the state made the other half of my contract, but they can change the law, can’t they? Don’t bother to answer that, they already have. It’s almost like magic. Don’t like to be burdened by annoying unfunded pension payments? Can’t stand it that the damned budget refuses to be balanced? Pesky open hearing requirements cramping your legislative style? Oh, hey, you can change the law! Who wouldn’t love being a legislator?

They’re not bothered by all those calls for a general strike, because there won’t be one. If the workers were all truly a union, if each and every last one of us refused to show up for work tomorrow morning, and we stayed away from work indefinitely, that would have one hell of an effect. Even if the state laid us all off and brought in replacements, the bureaucracy would come to a grinding halt and stay that way for weeks, because it would take I don’t know how long to train up replacements. But I won’t have to buy you that morning bun. Everybody will be pushing paper tomorrow. We all have bills to pay.

But at least tomorrow’s Friday. Woo-hoo.

Mad Union | 10:08 pm CST
Category: daily drivel | Tags: ,
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Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

There is surely some weird-ass shit going on in Madison tonight.

You might’ve heard that the senate passed the part of the so-called budget repair bill, the part that does away with collective bargaining. I don’t know understand the legislative system well enough to know how they can pass part of a bill, or how it’s even just a little bit legal for them to do it less than an hour after introducing the idea, but they did. The assembly meets in the morning to vote on it. I’m not holding my breath.

We drove down to cap square after supper because I wanted to see what was going on. I thought there’d maybe be a protest on the square, we could sing “Solidarity Forever” while waving our open cell phones over our heads, something like that. I was absolutely gobsmacked to find the doors to the capitol open and people streaming in. I thought there were strict controls to getting in, but we took a walk around the terrace and it looked to us like every single door was open. Even weirder, there were no uniformed cops inside that we could see, maybe a dozen, maybe two dozen around the terrace.

The rotunda and all the balconies were chock full o’ people when we left at about nine-fifteen, beating drums and chanting “Recall Walker” and “General Strike.” I surely hope this isn’t going to get messy.

Don’t call me Shirley | 10:14 pm CST
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Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

I’m going to call bullshit on our current economic crisis. I think I’ve done this before, but the latest round of budget cuts made by “fiscally responsible” elected officers is really starting to chap my nads and they’re already kind of tender.

The flag-pin politicians who keep repeating “we’re broke” like it’s a mantra are overlooking a key point: The government isn’t a money-making business. It doesn’t go broke. It can spend as much as it wants.

Don’t believe that? Then answer this question for me: How does the war get paid for? (“We’re at war?” “Yes, for the past ten years. Sorry, didn’t mean to wake you. Go back to sleep.”) The government literally spends more money than you can imagine on the bullets and beans to keep that war going, and a huge chunk of that money is “off-budget.” They literally pull money out of thin air!

How do they do that? I have no idea. Maybe the adage “wishing can’t make it so” is a flat-out lie, or maybe it doesn’t apply to money. But time after time politicians have waved a wand over their big magic top hat, reached inside and pulled out stack after stack of million-dollar bills. When they can do hocus-pocus like that, the argument that the government doesn’t have the money to pay for medical care or teachers’ salaries doesn’t make sense.

Another catchphrase I’m already tired of hearing: “I can’t allow the taxpayers to be on the hook for paying teachers who are not teaching.” Taxpayers are not “on the hook” for anything. Taxpayers just pay what the government tells them to. The taxpayers certainly aren’t spending the money. That’s what the government does. If anyone’s on the hook, it’s mealy-mouthed politicians. If taxpayers were the ones “on the hook,” I think you’d see some real changes to how they money was spent.

Frugality schroogality | 6:30 am CST
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Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Saith James Madison, writing as Publius to the people of New York, November 23, 1787:

The latent causes of faction are sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.

And ever shall it be so.

– The Federalist No. 10

Party Politics | 6:50 am CST
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Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Get ready, I’m climbing up on my soapbox.

Manually searching people in airports is wrong first and foremost because it’s a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Not because it’s a health hazard, not because it’s demeaning, not because it’s worthless security theater. Those are valid concerns and I agree with them, but searching people who aren’t suspected of a crime is, at its core, a violation of a basic constitutional right. I don’t mean to belittle the fear of irradiation or the humiliation of being groped in public, but those are emotional appeals that sensationalize an argument that is already pretty sensational. Could we please stay focused on our basic Fourth Amendment rights?

At times like this I wish I’d gone into law so I’d have the education to back up my argument, but do I really need it? The Fourth Amendment is so straightforward, relying on none of the flowery language that makes some other articles and amendments of the constitution difficult to understand:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, papers, houses and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

I am an American citizen, and unless the federal government suspects me of criminal activity, they have no cause to search me. If they have cause to search me, they must present a warrant issued by a judge that states the reason they have to search me and the things they expect to find. Citizens are presumed innocent, not guilty. It’s as plain as that.

As I understand it, the only hitch to the Fourth Amendment is you. You are the barometer that courts use when defining a reasonable search, and if you submit to being searched on the excuse that “this is for the security of everyone on the airplane,” or that “if you’re doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide,” you’re changing the definition. Scanning and groping becomes reasonable because that’s what you expect. That’s supremely important because, after the definition has shifted, we’re all stuck with it for quite a while.

Right now, the standard has been lowered to this: Whether or not you “opt out,” you have allowed that it’s reasonable for uniformed officers of the federal government to stick their gloved hands down your pants, up your bras, in your children’s crotches. I’m not trying to cast them in the role of sexually depraved monsters; they’re only doing as they were told. I’m just stating in plain language what you’re allowing them to do. You’ve allowed them to demand that citizens exhibit their feminine hygiene pads and their urostomy bags. You have even allowed them to take citizens aside to “privacy rooms” to be searched, as if that wasn’t scary at all. This is the current definition of “reasonable search” that you have all agreed to by obediently shuffling through their increasingly invasive security checkpoints.

I beg you not to let this go on because, if it does, then uniformed officers will soon be scanning and searching us before we’re allowed to get on trains and buses, using the same standards of reasonable search that will have been long established and accepted. And how long will it be after that that they’re stopping automobile traffic at checkpoints on the interstate, a federal highway system? You think that could never happen. Did you ever believe we’d have to submit to a full-body search just to travel freely inside our own country? We’re giving them our okay to do that just so we can catch our flight.

And I’m not asking you to make a big, loud show at the airport of standing on your rights. Civil disobedience doesn’t have to involve arguing with an officer who’s only doing his job, or going to jail or carrying a sign or wearing a tinfoil hat. I don’t travel by air because it would be pointless. I would never make my flight, because I won’t let them scan me and I won’t let them use their “enhanced pat-down techniques” on me. My brand of civil disobedience is as simple as that.

As long as I’m on my soap box anyway: The last time I flew, in June of 2005, I was appalled to have a uniformed officer swab my bags, searching for explosives. I was not only a citizen bearing the passport of the United States, I was traveling under the orders of the United States Air Force, a non-commissioned officer sworn to uphold the constitution. They had no probable cause to search my person or my bags, yet I was treated as if I were a criminal suspect.

Down off my soapbox now. Thanks for lending me your ear.

The Cheapening of the Fourth Amendment | 11:16 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, travel, yet another rant | Tags: ,
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Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

It’s National Opt-Out Day! Organizers have set up a Facebook page and a web page to enlist the public’s help in protesting the the, what shall we call it, enhanced security techniques used by TSA. I can’t wait to see how this unfolds. While we’re waiting, here’s my growing collection of links to stories that illustrate how our federal government violates, in the most demeaning ways possible, our fourth amendment rights, to say nothing of personal dignity. Enjoy!

10/20/10 | Pilot Refuses Full-Body Scan: “I’m just not comfortable being physically manhandled by a federal security agent every time I go to work.” – pilot Michael Roberts, as reported by CBS

10/29/10 | For The First Time, the TSA Meets Resistance: “I was the very first passenger to ask to opt-out of back-scatter imaging. Several TSA officers heard me choose the pat-down, and they reacted in a way meant to make the ordinary passenger feel very badly about his decision. One officer said to a colleague who was obviously going to be assigned to me, ‘Get new gloves, man, you’re going to need them where you’re going.'” – journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, writing in The Atlantic

11/1/10 | Opt Out of a Body Scan? Then Brace Yourself: “I was marched from the metal detector lane to one of those nearby whole-body imagers, ordered to take everything out of my pockets, remove my belt and hold my possessions up high. Then I was required to stand still while I received a rough pat-down by a man whose resume, I suspected, included experience at a state prison.” – journalist Joe Sharkey, writing in The New York Times

11/4/10 | The Airport Security Grope: “As a working photographer and lecturer, I fly a lot. The escalating levels of airport security and luggage (read camera gear, not clothing!) restrictions became just another annoying aspect of air travel, a necessary trade-off for rapid access to remote destinations. But this week TSA tightened the screws a little more, and now they’ve gone too far.” – photographer George Lepp, writing in Pixiq

11/4/10 | American Airlines Pilots in Revolt Against the TSA: “There is absolutely no denying that the enhanced pat-down is a demeaning experience. In my view, it is unacceptable to submit to one in public while wearing the uniform of a professional airline pilot.” – pilot David Bates, president of the Allied Pilots Association, in a letter to members

11/12/10 | Protests Mount Over Safety and Privacy of Airport Scanners: “I don’t think anybody would argue the point that the individual risk is small. Whether it’s one in 10 million or one in 100 million, it’s very small,” [Dr. David Brenner] said in an interview. “But multiply that times 700 million people – the number of people getting on planes currently – and that’s the public health risk.” – Shots, the NPR Health Blog

11/13/10 | TSA Encounter at SAN: “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.” – John Tyner, writing in his blog Insert title here

11/21/10 | TSA Strip Searched 5-year-old Boy: “Are they harassing that kid? Nice.” – YouTube video

11/22/10 | My TSA Encounter: “We shouldn’t be required to do this simply to get into our own country.” – Matt Kernan, writing in his blog No Blasters!

11/23/10 | Next step for body scanners could be trains, boats, metro: “I think the tighter we get on aviation, we have to also be thinking now about going on to mass transit or to trains or maritime. So, what do we need to be doing to strengthen our protections there?” – Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, quoted in The Hill

Group Grope! | 6:59 am CST
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Friday, November 12th, 2010

Oh, hai. I don’t have the willpower to make myself drivel tonight, so let me just introduce to you John Shimkus, congressional dorkwad. He’s on a committee that listens to the testimony of people talking about global climate change, so the first thing he did was whipped out his Bible and read aloud from Matthew 12:34, “And lo, I do not hear you la la la la la.” Why do we let people like this run our country? Have we no pitchforks? Have we no torches?

john shimkus | 9:51 pm CST
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Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Okay, I voted. Can the campaign be over now? I’m so ready for it to be over.

I have no idea whether or not it was worth it, but at least I can feel as though I’ve earned the right to bitch about anything the pols do that I don’t like, and it’s an even bet there will be plenty of that. Things I don’t like, I mean. Well, bitching, too.

B and I headed out early this morning to hit the polls when they opened at seven o’clock. I voted a straight Democratic ticket. The Dems have their problems, but conservatives in this state are barking lunatics, so it was a safe bet. I have the feeling B voted the same way, but she took the time to tick the box next to each candidate’s name. She didn’t trust the machine to count it right if she didn’t. That was probably the smart thing to do.

I voted yes for the three referendums on the back of the ballot, too: “Yes” for medical marijuana, just because it pisses people off. “Yes” to float a bond for more construction on the MATC campus. Money for a trade school can’t be bad, can it? Too late if it is. And “Yes” for the infamous “Tax for Trains” to build a commuter rail line through the city, just because I love choo-choos. And maybe especially because that one pisses people off no end. I have serious doubts any of those initiatives will carry but, as I said, I wanted to be able to bitch, and will proudly slap a “Don’t Blame Me” bumper sticker on my car tomorrow.

I hope you voted.

I voted | 7:00 pm CST
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Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

image of Todd Kolosso

Riding home from work yesterday afternoon, we listened to a conversation between Ben Merens and Todd Kolosso that had us hanging on every word. Tod Kolosso is the Democratic candidate for the 5th District seat in Wisconsin, and after Merens let him spout a bunch of the usual crap about being an ordinary average guy who just wants to clean up Washington, Merens asked him: “This campaign is basically just you, isn’t it?”

“No, no, I have a staff,” Kolosso answered nonchalantly. “It’s a small staff, to be sure, but we have a fairly dedicated number of people working for us.”

There was a pause so awkwardly long here that I thought maybe the signal had been cut, and then Merens asked Kolosso, “Are you sure?”

Kolosso choked on the water he was drinking at this point before managing to sputter, “Yes, I have a campaign manager, we have a – excuse me [coughs] – we have a series of volunteers. We have a person who’s running the media end of it … I’m sorry, I got some water …”

Merens: That’s okay, drink the water. The reason I ask that is because, in the last two days, I had a chance to talk to your campaign manager, Leah Horn, who’s on her way back to Colorado, saying she’s no longer with the campaign, that there is no staff to the campaign, and to the treasurer of the campaign, who said there’s no money to the campaign, and to the Federal Elections Commission, who say they’ve written you several letters that haven’t been answered, for filing grievances, and it sounds like this is a campaign in serious trouble … there was a discussion about how forthright you’d be with the electorate about this, and there were no answers given … so I guess I’d ask you again: It sounds like this is truly Todd Kolosso for congress, that there is nobody else.

Kolosso, bless his heart, soldiered on: “Well, as I said, we certainly have staff working for us. I mean, one was in the studio earlier today, obviously. As I said, there are dedicated volunteers still working. I think what you’ve touched on specifically is the issue we’ve had a big problem [with] which is fundraising …”

And here they lapsed into a long, boring discussion about the money Kolosso tried to raise for the campaign but couldn’t before Merens went back to the question of Kolosso’s campaign manager:

Merens: But you said you had a campaign manager. She told me as she was driving out of the state heading back to Colorado …

Kolosso: She’s visiting, she’s visiting Colorado.

Now Merens wasn’t having any of it: “No, she quit,” he said flatly. “She’s no longer with the campaign. She hasn’t been paid since this summer. She was very disappointed in how the campaign has been run, and she’s not coming back.” It reminded me of the parrot sketch from Monty Python, where the man returning the parrot to the store has finally had enough of the store owner’s excuses and verbally beats him into submission: “He’s not pining, he’s passed on! He’s a stiff! Bereft of life, he rests in peace. If you hadn’t nailed him to the perch he’d be pushing up daisies. This is an ex-parrot!”

Kolosso calmly answered him: “That’s the first I’ve heard of it.”

Merens: She didn’t seem to have any doubts when I asked her, because I asked her a couple of times. “You’re definitely leaving?” She said, “I’m gone.”

Kolosso: That’s interesting. That’s the first I heard of it. I knew she was visiting Colorado.

Merens: Okay. [pause] And what about your campaign treasurer? Vicki Mortensen said she also is now former …

Kolosso: Yeah, well, that’s a family issue. She’s a family member, so … we’ve had some internal family strife.

Merens: Her concern was that she has a reputation as a CPA that was being damaged by the way the funds were being handled by the campaign and that you weren’t forthright enough with the electorate and she said well if you don’t want to speak out about this I can’t be part of the campaign.”

And then Kolosso went back to explaining his lack of funds before Merens went to a commercial break.

Kolosso is running against the enormously powerful Jim Sensenbrenner, who will never ever be dislodged from his seat, not even by the Angel of Death, without the use of the biggest bulldozer on the planet, so it’s no small wonder Kolosso was the best the Democratic party had to offer in opposition to him.

Politics usually makes me feel like I’ve got fleas, but every once in a while we’re blessed with a moment like this and then it all seems almost worth it.

Here’s the link to the audio. The good stuff, when Merens asks, “Are you sure?” doesn’t start until 9:21.

Vote For Todd | 6:46 pm CST
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Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

image of Rob Taylor, candidate Yesterday afternoon, talk radio brought us the Constitution Party’s candidate for the federal senate seat coming open next month in Wisconsin, and we kept the radio tuned in and the volume turned up because whenever they have somebody from a political group with a name like Constitution Party or Green Party or American Liberty Party you know it’ll be worth your time listening if only for the phone calls from the Tinfoil Hat Brigade that inevitably call in, although frequently the guest himself is wearing a tinfoil hat himself. If you’re really lucky, he lunched on a nutburger and chased it with a big bowl of Froot Loops before coming on the show.

The guests I love best are the whackos who sound perfectly reasonable for the first five or ten minutes, then answer a softball question from the host with something like, “Funny you should ask that, Ben, because I was conferring only yesterday with my Octopoid friends on the Planet Numbskull via sub-space radio on this very topic …”

The callers can be either maroons or revolutionary thinkers, and I don’t mean revolutionary in the sense of new and improved, I mean it in the good old-fashioned sense of “Off with their heads!” A few of those feral humans come out of the woods every campaign season to wave their guns in the air and warn the rest of us that the end is nigh.

Sadly, the guest yesterday was not chock full o’ nuts and he left his tinfoil hat at home, if he had one. He was actually pretty boring, even when the callers tried to wind him up with questions about gay rights and abortion, two subjects that almost always do the trick. He didn’t want to talk about that; he didn’t want to talk about much of anything but what a sack of bastards all these career politicians in Washington have turned out to be. One of the callers asked him what he thought was so bad about career politicians, a question I’ve wanted to know the answer to for quite a while. Seems to me an experienced politician who knew his way around Washington would be a better candidate than a greenhorn whose priorities included advancing a bill to repeal the seventeenth amendment, one of the Constitution Party’s pet peeves, apparently. Might as well show up wearing a tinfoil hat.

His chief qualification, it turned out, was that he had no qualifications, other than he’d served as an alderman in his town, and he said he was a businessman. A whole lot of candidates have been shoving their business acumen in my face this campaign season, as if that’s something I might think would make them good representatives. Ask them how they would lower taxes and balance the budget, though, and they can’t give a straight answer no matter how simply you try to put the question. I’ve had bosses like this, both in the military and in the private sector. Funny how they’re not that much different from each other.

Our candidate from the Constitution Party kept returning to the refrain that he was just an ordinary guy who wanted to show Washington how things should be done. Maybe I’m too pessimistic for this kind of thing, but I’m pretty sure an ordinary guy from Wisconsin with no political connections who went to Washington with pie-in-the-sky ideas about balancing the federal budget would get stomped flat as a cow pat. Oh, what the hell. Let’s vote him into office anyway. How much worse could he make things?

Let’s Listen In | 6:31 pm CST
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Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

image of congressional pledge-makers

I’m so confused. This Pledge to America unveiled by congressional dorkwads to great fanfare today: It’s just more of the same snake oil congress has been selling us since probably a bit before my time, isn’t it? The gist of it, and correct me if I’ve got it wrong, is: ‘The other guys suck, we rock, vote for us.’ And you can be confident they’re not just telling us what we want to hear because it’s, you know, a pledge.

The thing I’m confused about is, what kind of congenital defect would have to be buried deep in their brains that would let them even think about trying to palm such shitbuggery off on us yet again?

I Got Your Pledge Right Here | 10:36 pm CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags:
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Monday, August 30th, 2010

I was sitting on the back porch of a cabin on the Chain O’ Lakes with My Darling B on Saturday afternoon, taking in the sunshine and enjoying the good company, when six or seven people came trooping past on their way to the boat dock. The last guy in the line, wearing the most beautiful Hawaiian-print swimming shorts either one of us had seen in a long time, was carrying one of those wooden whistles that goes whooo-whooo like a steam train. When he saw us, he raised it to his mouth and blew a couple quick blasts, but instead of “All Aboard!” he said something like, “Everyone in the water!” The lake was full of boats all afternoon and hundreds of people were taking advantage of the gorgeous weather to go swimming.

“Maybe a little later,” I hedged.

“Those are great swim trunks!” B added.

He chuckled at B and turned around to show off his shorts. “Got ’em at a thrift store,” he told us. “They’re kind of big, but, well, you gotta economize now that we got Obama. There’s seven hundred thousand people on the mall today protesting, even though the lamestream liberal media says it’s only ten thousand or so, and that they’re all racists. But I know who to believe!” Then he tooted on his horn again before continuing on his way, laughing as if he’d just delivered the best punchline ever.

After he was gone I turned to B, whose mouth hung open, still amazed. “Where did that come from?” she begged me to tell her.

“Can’t say, ‘Hey, nice shorts!’ to passing strangers any more, I guess.”

nice shorts | 6:53 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, vacation, yet another rant | Tags: ,
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Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

There are times I want to completely give up caring about political crap, like last week when the president said something along the lines of, “I’ll defend to the death your right to build a mosque, but I never said it was a good idea,” or any time Sarah Palin endorses a political candidate by giving out the Mama Grizzly seal of approval. Who can put up with crap like that? Not me.

But then there are days like today, when I get the chance to jump smack into the middle of a political argument so near and dear to my heart it makes me feel as though my lucky star has finally gone supernova. A political pollster called me on the phone. That never happens. Every day I read about thousands of people who get to have their insane political opinions splashed all over the front page of the most-read newspapers and web pages in the country, and I get so jealous I could explode. I get calls from people who want me to buy vinyl siding or carpet cleaning. It’s not fair.

But finally I got a call from a pollster, and it wasn’t just any pollster – this was a call from the NRA! The NRA wanted to ask me about my opinion on gun control! I could make so many comparisons at this point: It’s like the Pope calling Christopher Hitchens to ask for his opinion about the church. It’s like Newt Gingrich calling Howard Zinn to ask for his opinion about immigration. Man, did they call the wrong number!

Apparently what’s been going on is this: That wicked socialist witch Hillary Clinton and her nefarious minions at the State Department have been conspiring with the United Nations to take away all our guns. I’m pretty sure that’s the gist of the message they played for me. It has something to do with an international treaty that’s no doubt being manipulated by the far-reaching tentacles of the One-World Government, or something. Whatever it was about, the NRA wasn’t going to take it, and they were calling all solidly patriotic Americans to stand with them and stop the horrific federal government from tinkering with their sacred second-amendment rights.

After the recording had finished playing, a man who introduced himself as an NRA member came on the line to ask me if I’d heard the whole message. “Yes, I heard it,” I answered.

“So after playing that message for you I have just one question,” he said and paused for dramatic effect so intense it was a virtual drum roll: “Do you want third-world dictators of countries like North Korea and Iran to have a say in whether or not you can own a gun?”

There were probably so many better ways to reply to that question than the one-word answer that squeaked out of me, but this was my first telephone poll, remember. “Yep!” I told him.

“Okay, thank you,” he said, not very sincerely, and hung up.

What? You didn’t expect me to give the NRA a straight answer, did you? It’s not like they’re going to include it in their poll anyway.

Gun/Phone | 6:46 am CST
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Friday, August 13th, 2010

image of news headline

Holy crap, there’s a plan! For months, even years, I’ve been asking people to tell me what the plan is but, up to this point, nobody’s sent me a copy of the memo. Now, finally, I find a news article about the plan for the war in Afgahistan …

… or, maybe there’s not. I read the article from beginning to end but found no plan, just the news that fifty-three percent of Americans support it, whatever it is. They won’t say what it is, only that they like it.

I even read the article more than once, just to make sure I hadn’t skipped over it, in case it might be a very simple plan they could spell out in just a few easy-to-miss words. I don’t think I missed it, though. No matter how carefully I read it over and over, I couldn’t find any explanation of a plan for the war in Afghanistan.

General Petraeus says that we’ve made progress, and he would really like to keep on making more progress, but unfortunately he doesn’t say toward what, so no help there.

So if you’re among the fifty-three percent of Americans who are still on board with the Afghan plan, and you can explain it in a hundred words or less, please shoot an e-mail to O-Broze productions, care of yours truly. First answer gets a prize. I think we’ve got some coffee mugs or t-shirts around here somewhere.

The Plan | 2:34 pm CST
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Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

image of people protesting a rally of the National Organization for Marriage on the steps of the capital building, Madison WI

It’ll be a long time before I forget these protesters chanting, “YOU NEED A HUG! A BIG, GAY HUG!” at the counter-rally on the steps of the capital building where twenty or thirty members of the National Organization for Marriage assembled to tell everyone how scared they were that the Defense of Marriage Act was in danger of repeal.

About twenty or perhaps as many as thirty people turned out to rally in support of the National Organization for Marriage, assembling on the western steps of the capital building this morning. The organization sponsored a whirlwind bus tour across the northeast and midwest U.S.

In response, several hundred people, organized by Fair Wisconsin using Facebook and other social media, marched up State Street to meet them, wave colorful signs and flags, chant “YOU NEED A HUG!” and otherwise give them a big dose of good old Madison hospitality.

I caught up with them as they were marching up State Street. Actually, I found them gathering on Library Mall on the UW campus, but there weren’t very many of them and I figured they weren’t going to amount to much, so I went up the street to one of my favorite book stores. I’d been there about twenty minutes when I heard them chanting as they marched up the street and, sticking my head out the door, I saw that their numbers had swelled to several hundred. I chased them up the street to see what would happen when they got to the capital.

For a little while they hung back, congregating at the foot of the steps and chanting occasionally at the NOM folks from a distance, but they gradually worked their way up the stairs until they were right at the very top, chanting and cheering and making it generally impossible for the speakers to be heard at all. The rally and the counter-rally lasted almost an hour and was quite a lot of fun. There were even kids running around, stopping to led their voices to the chant. If it hadn’t been ninety degrees under a blazing sun I would have enjoyed it even more.

[Link to photo album with more pictures.]

March Against N.O.M. | 12:17 pm CST
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Saturday, July 10th, 2010

I haven’t been paying much attention at all to the media frenzy that erupted when ten captured Russian spies almost overshadowed the monumentally shattering decision by Lebron James to leave Cleveland to play foosball, or something, uh, somewhere else. Sorry, it was way too involved and dramatic for me to absorb it all. I’ll try to take notes next time.

The spy story should have been awesome, though, don’t you think? A cell of Russian spies, living undetected among us for ten years! Russian Spies! Just like in the old days! And not just any spies but moles who adopted fake identities, insinuated themselves into American society, took out an American mortgage on an American house and raised good-old American children. They were so super-secret that their own children didn’t realize mummy and daddy were transmitting secrets to the motherland under cover of their boring day jobs. Bozhe moi!

As it turned out, though, there was just one small problem with this Ian Fleming wet dream: The spy ring these guys were running turned out to be a terrific snoozefest.

Maybe they got hold of information that might one day aid the Russians in their attempt to build a bomb that goes kaboom louder than our bombs. But the way they did it was boring! They were not sneaking around CIA headquarters after hours with a pen light between their teeth, shuffling through file after file in a search for the blueprints to the ultimate kaboom. Instead, they mingled with ordinary people at dinner parties, making acquaintances and chatting them up, hoping to glean a tidbit here, a fact or two there. They networked their way toward their goals. Only Steven Covey could make covert intelligence-gathering sound more dull than this.

Then there’s Anna Chapman, the spy everyone’s been drooling over. She’s the sexy one, according to every single tabloid news outlet on the face of the planet. Seriously? She puts on a bustier, ducks her head a little and gives the camera a smoky glance, and that’s all it takes to win the title of Sexiest Spy Ever to Blow a Kiss? Sorry, honey, but Honor Blackman has you so outclassed in the sexy spy department that you could pout from now until your teeth fell out and you still wouldn’t catch up.

Finally, while I was listening to a news report yesterday on the radio, I heard the ultimate fly in the ice cream: We flew our ten spies to Vienna and exchanged them for four Russian double agents. Our ten sleeper-cell spies were worth four double agents captured by the Russians – they weren’t worth half what theirs were worth!. We really got shafted on that swap. Wal-Mart doesn’t offer bargains that cut-rate.

Bargain-basement spies | 3:24 pm CST
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Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Dear Democratic National Committee: You’re pissing off the independent voters with your telemarketing script. Two of them, anyway.

Mister McChuckletrousers called Our Humble O’Bode on behalf of the Democratic National Committee this afternoon and My Darling B picked up the phone on the second ring instead of screening the call as we normally do. We get calls from telemarketers all the time, even though we’re theoretically on the don’t-call list and we tell every single one we speak to that we’re not interested in their products. We don’t try to be rude, we just tell them no, thank you. You’d think they’d take the hint after a few of those, but they keep calling back, so we screen ninety-nine percent of all the calls we get.

But B was expecting a call so she picked up … and was treated to a hard-sell pitch from Mr. McChuckletrousers. When she could get a word in edgewise (we wait until they take a breath to jump in, rather than rudely interrupt) she told him thanks for calling but we wouldn’t be able to make a donation today.

I’ll say this about most telemarketers and solicitors: Nine out of ten times, that works. You tell them you can’t make a donation and they thank you and move on to the next call in their queue. They’ve got a quota to meet, after all. This dorkwad from the DNC, though, wasn’t going to be put off so easily. “We’re not asking everyone to make large donations,” he said, “a small donation would help us out, too.”

Not that it was any of his business, but B explained that money was a little too tight in our household right now to make a donation of any size to his cause.

“Whatever you could afford would be just fine,” he said. “I’m sure you wouldn’t want the Republicans to get control of Congress again, would you?”

Whoops. Wrong thing to say.

“Look, buddy,” B told him, “I’m an independent. I vote for whomever looks like the best candidate, so don’t assume who I would and wouldn’t want in office.” And it’s not exactly like the Dems have done a bang-up job changing anything after pumping us full of hope, either, she wanted to add, but didn’t. “My husband just lost his job and we’ve got to pay the mortgage on what I make, so we won’t be making a donation, okay?”

You’d think that would have pushed him back a bit, but you’d be wrong. “Well, there are other ways you can contribute,” he said, changing to a new tack and taking a big breath to launch into who-knows-what.

“Thanks,” B jumped in, “I’m expecting a call, so I’m going to hang up now.” And she did.

I don’t know if this would make anyone in the DNC re-think their hard-sell, but here are my two cents:

I can see why the DNC might think we’d be a soft touch for a donation or two. We’re both rather progressive when it comes to our politics. I think the federal government should provide basic health care for everyone, for instance. I don’t know how, but I sincerely believe it could be done at no great increase in spending, and without too much bureaucracy. I also think we should get our military the hell out of Afghanistan and the Middle East. Lend them whatever diplomatic help they need, but pull out our soldiers and refuse to sell them arms.

I said I think these things could be done. I even had some hope we would be seeing changes like these after the last federal election. I know it’s hard, bordering on impossible, to make big changes considering the political climate in Washington and across the nation, but so far I’m not overly impressed by the changes the Dems have made. And my opinion of the Dems sinks even lower when they call Our Humble O’Bode on Sunday afternoon and try to shake down my darling bride for money after she politely tells you we haven’t got any to spare.

If you must call, please don’t call on the weekends. We like to relax on the weekends, and the clanging of telephone bells all afternoon makes us cranky. Cranky people don’t give any money to anybody.

And, when someone tells you, politely, that they won’t be able to make a donation, don’t suggest making a smaller donation. That makes us cranky, too. See above for the result of making people cranky.

Dear Donkey | 8:00 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, messing w/telemarketers, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, story time, yet another rant | Tags:
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Friday, April 16th, 2010

President Obama issued a memorandum Thursday to the Department of Health and Human Services, ordering hospitals to give same-sex couples the right to be with a partner who is sick or dying. The memorandum applies to every hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding — nearly every hospital in the country.

Bravo, Mister President.

J.P. Duffy, vice president for communications at the Family Research Council, said Obama is pandering to a radical special interest group.

“There are many other ways to deal with this issue, whether through a health care proxy or power of attorney, through private contractual arrangements. We have no problem with those situations,” Duffy said, “but the fact here is that this is undermining the definition of marriage.”

Actually, no, Mister J.P. Duffy, the fact is that we have no “definition” of marriage to apply here. A marriage can take place in a church, or in a county courthouse, or in a Las Vegas casino. It can take place between middle-aged people who were high school sweethearts, or between people who met each other in a drunken haze last weekend. And it can be dissolved as capriciously as pissing in a public parking garage.

Does the Family Research Council have plans to mount a persistent nationwide campaign to pass legislation that would mandate classes to prepare for marriage, or to ban divorce? Until it does, you and your ilk can take your empty arguments that allowing a person to sit at the hospital bed of the one they love somehow undermines your narrow-minded definition of what you think we should all view as “marriage” and you can blow it out your ass, Mister J.P. Duffy.

Reference from the story at

Full text of the president’s memorandum

what is the definition? | 8:10 am CST
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Friday, March 26th, 2010

politics, protest, health care, obamacareTo answer the sign-holder in the back: Well of course you don’t have to pay your taxes if that’s how you want to protest a policy. That’s what democracy’s about. It gets you thrown in jail, but that’s sort of the point of bucking authority.

Not paying your taxes won’t keep congress from enacting programs like health care reform, though. You’re imagining that they’re going to tax you to pay for it, when in fact what they will do is make up money out of thin air to pay for it.

Deficit spending: It’s the American way.

[Photo: NPR]

civily disobedient | 6:25 am CST
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Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Now that the nation is committed to Socialism, thanks to the newly-passed health care bill, I thought I’d post just one or two thoughts about the “conversation” going on about health care reform before our totalitarian overlords enslave us all with their mind control rays. It’s a virtual conversation because I can’t actually scream in your face or spit on you, the way most of the “conversation” has been carried on. Send me your address in e-mail and I’ll make up for it one day, if you like.

Can I just say first of all that it’s pretty creepy the way members of congress can read my disappointment, my concern, even my very thoughts? “The American People think this,” and “The American people want that.” It’s amazing. How do they do it? They’re a little indiscreet with broadcasting these thoughts on the radio and television every day, though. I kinda figured that was just something between us.

Considering how well they know my own thoughts, it’s more than a tiny bit alarming they don’t seem to realize they’re part of the government. “The government should have no part in health care reform,” I heard a member of congress say yesterday, speaking as if “the government” were some ravenous, fanged beast he was gallantly fighting saving us from. Then he went on to outline his plan to reform health care.

the American way | 8:16 pm CST
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Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Not a hermaphrodite or transgendered so keep your gay eyes off his wee-weeDuncan Hunter, Republican representative from California and proud to be a Marine, doesn’t want transgendered hermaphroditic gays and lesbians (well, maybe lesbians would be okay) wantonly peeping at his wee-wee. He only wants that ‘special bond’ that exists in ‘very close situations’ in military life, and says so in no uncertain terms in the interview he gave to NPR:

Rep. Hunter: I think the folks who have been in the military that have been in these very close situations with each other, there has to be a special bond there. And I think that bond is broken if you open up the military to transgenders, to hermaphrodites, to gays and lesbians.

Melissa Block: Transgenders and hermaphrodites.

Rep. Hunter: Yeah, that’s going to be part of this whole thing. Its not just gays and lesbians. Its a whole gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual community. If you’re going to let anybody no matter what preference – what sexual preference they have, that means the military is going to probably let everybody in.

Everybody! Dogs and cats! Living together! It’ll be anarchy!

Duncan Lee Hunter | 8:42 am CST
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Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander said on NPR this morning that everyone who paid taxes last year ought to receive stock in General Motors in order to get the federal government “out of the automobile business.”

This is what’s wrong with the federal government. Dorkwads like Alexander think we want them to shower us with shit. Like I want some worthless stock in a crappy car company.

Now, offer me stock in a good car company and maybe you’ve bought my vote.

how to buy my vote | 8:59 am CST
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Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Hard as life must be for Richard “Shoe Bomber” Reed, who got pinned with the dumbest terrorist nickname ever, not to mention that goofy photo, no amount of away time and psychoanalysis is going to let Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab live down the sobriquet “Underwear Bomber.” That’s gotta suck.

Let’s listen in to Fox News Network as they discuss terrorism with Joe Lieberman. These guys got all the answers, I’m tellin’ ya.

Fox guy: “This guy was able to get through security in Nigeria…”

Huh, I wonder how hard that is? Maximum security at American airports is, they make us take our shoes off and confiscate our shampoo. I’m thinking they’re probably not checking underpants in Nigeria.

Fox guy: “…got on this plane with this high explosive, PETN .. does that mean the terrorists are coming up with new weapons that can defeat our technology?”

Lieberman: “Richard Reed had a similar device on him eight years ago …’

So, no.

Lieberman: “A terrorist from Yemen went into Saudi Arabia with this same explosive and blew himself up … only slightly injured Prince Mohammed bin Naiev.”

The shoe bomber utterly failed to blow up an airliner, the underpants bomber failed to blow up an airliner, and there’s this other guy who failed to blow up the Saudi counterterrorism chief … if I was the Quaeda quartermaster, I’d take that lot of plastic explosives back to the factory and threaten to blow myself up if they didn’t give my laundered money back. That’d get a few laughs, I bet. “What are you gonna do, blow up your underpants at us?”

Lieberman: “The 9/11 happened because of a failure of imagination. We could not imagine that people could do what they did.”

Because it would be just impossible to imagine driving an airplane into a building a thousand feet tall. How would that even occur to a sane person? Just unimaginable.

[Oh, Joe, did you really say “the 9/11”? Thank you, thank you so much.]

Lieberman: “There have been privacy concerns about the use of these whole-body imaging devices, but I think those privacy concerns, which are frankly mild, have to fall…”

He says that now, but Senator Lieberman’s tune will soon change after the ghostly image of his pee-pee and buns shows up on the internet.

Pete the Pointing Guy: “We have about 90 Yemenis left in Gitmo. They should stay there. They should not go back to Yemen. If they go back to Yemen we will very soon find them back on the battlefield.”

Okay, then we could shoot them, right? Send them back to Yemen, have a planeload of Delta Force guys paradrop on top of them, as soon as the Yemenis step off the plane onto Yemeni soil, blam. That’s got to be legal. They’re officially enemy combatants. There’s only ninety of them. How long could it take for our boys to mow them all down with Tommy guns? I don’t see the problem here.

Lieberman: “[Guantanamo] is a first-class facility, it’s way above what’s required by the Geneva convention or our Constitution.”

Except maybe for that one teensy-tiny insignificant part about indefinite incarceration without due process, or a right to a speedy trial. Other than that it’s so totally Constitutional that George Washington himself would bust a chubby over it.

Lieberman: “If we don’t act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war.”

Am I presuming too much to hazard the guess that “acting preemptively” translates to “INVASION!”?

all the answers | 6:05 am CST
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