Archive for May, 2009

A few words on Liberty University banning College Dems

May 29, 2009

This happened last Friday but I’d like to comment a little on Liberty University’s decision to no longer “recognize” the campus chapter of the College Democrats. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Liberty is the college founded by the late Jerry Falwell and currently directed by his heir to the throne, Jerry Falwell Jr. It’s the largest Evangelical university in the world, and its reach extends far from its little pocket in Virgina – the school boasts thousands of online students as well.

So it’s really not surprising and shouldn’t be controversial – at least not any more controversial than the very existence of the university itself. I’m frankly alarmed that such a club even exists at Liberty – the university is by no means conservative – it is an unabashed right wing conspiracy. It and several other evangelical universities, notably nearby Patrick Henry College, have made it their mission to train an elite breed of evangelical activists whose chief mission is the destruction of the separation of church and state. They don’t believe in it, they are convinced that it is a sham, and therefore, Americans have unfairly been deprived of Christ in so many domains – particularly in schools.

What’s most amusing about the story is that the College Dems had previously gained recognition of the school by agreeing to support an unequivocally pro-life and anti-gay marriage platform. However, after they supported Democratic candidates last November, including that son-of-a-Muslim running for president, the university reasoned that even though they didn’t explicitly endorse evil themselves, they were nevertheless supporting it and were therefore collaborators.

“The Democratic Party platform is contrary to the mission of Liberty University and to Christian doctrine (supports abortion, federal funding of abortion, advocates repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, promotes the “LGBT” agenda, hate crimes, which include sexual orientation and gender identity, socialism, etc.)”

Note the reference to socialism. Can somebody direct me Christ’s condemnation of socialism? I’m sure it’s in the Bible somewhere if Jerry Falwell’s friend says so but I can’t find it on this online Bible.

Allegations of racial discrimination against MPD

May 28, 2009

The front page of the State Journal yesterday doesn’t mince words: Tasers used more on minorities.

The wording of the crucial part of the article is poorly worded, so I’ll try to summarize.

Although twice as many whites as nonwhites were arrested last year, twice as many nonwhites were tasered. Since the MPD first bought tasers in 2003, whites have been tasered 118 times versus 145 times for blacks.

Most important to me, however, is the fact that over half of those tasered during this time were being arrested for non-serious offenses.

The racial disparities at every level of the Wisconsin criminal justice system are a disgrace. Only two states, Iowa and Oklahoma, imprison blacks at a higher rate than we do. I don’t have the data on sentencing disparities in other states, but the situation in Wisconsin is horrible. Blacks are twice as likely to be sentenced to prison for a drug conviction than whites. The more you look at the numbers the easier it is to realize that the justice system merely reflects a much deeper problem of racial ghettoization throughout the state.

This article in the Herald from over a year ago discusses Madison’s inability to integrate its community in just about every way imaginable.

Dane County on cost-cutting rampage

May 28, 2009

Paul Soglin discusses the county’s decision to shut down the Tenney Park Locks for three days a week to save Dane $5000 a year.

“It may not sound like much in terms of service reductions and savings, but it is the beginning of a series of significant changes Madison and Dane County residents can expect in the next eighteen months.”

What I find more interesting about the post is Soglin’s discussion of Madison as a primarily “public sector” town.

“Even as recently as the 1970’s, only one of the ten largest Madison employers was from the private sector – Oscar Mayer. The rest were government (the State of Wisconsin, Dane County, the City of Madison), educational institutions (the UW and the Madison Public Schools), and health care (Madison General, St. Mary’s, Methodist and the UW hospitals).”

How much has this changed and who in Madison will fare better in recession – the public sector or the private sector? This question overlaps with my discussion yesterday, of Madison being chosen as one of the best cities to live in the country. The study seemed to indicate that Madison benefitted from education, technology and research. As the post below indicates, state employees in Madison have already taken a hit in the form of pay cuts, and the governor is aggressively pursuing attempts to cut back on state jobs and is even proposing 16 day furloughs for state employees to reduce this deficit.

Also, seriously, when is this country going to get back to the war bond tradition? Granted, you could say we’ve been doing it all along, since so much of our stimulus money is funded by Chinese investors. But what about low interest bonds for ya know…patriots? All we need is one rich guy to ponie up $5000.

UW employees get shafted..again

May 28, 2009

Tens of thousands of state employees can kiss goodbye the two percent pay raise that had been promised to them for the next two years.

Who’s getting hit? Non-union workers, of course. And then – the part that must really tickle our continually active friend Steve Nassroughly 19,500 University of Wisconsin faculty and staff.

Hence, the legislature is obviously shying away from negotiating with unions to reduce pay, yet it doesn’t seem to have the same problem when dealing with pesky academics.

“The disparate treatment between union and nonunion workers is expected to intensify a push among some UW faculty and staff to form unions of their own. A plan granting them collective bargaining rights passed the Legislature’s budget committee this month and is expected to be approved as part of the state budget in coming weeks.”

Well wouldn’t that be ironic? The legislature denies them pay and then allows them to unionize, assuring an almost immediate conflict with the new union about pay.

Luckily, Madison native son Sen. Fred Risser was on scene to criticize the plan.

“It’s quite a morale buster to tell people you’re trying to hire that you’ll have no anticipation of a pay raise” and face furloughs and higher health insurance premiums, Risser said.

“I don’t know how you’re going to recruit the best and brightest that way. It bothers me but you have no alternatives for the next two years.”

Granted, the governor is currently between a rock and a hard place. However, until he proposes drastic cuts in prison spending, it’s hard to argue that UW faculty should be giving up pay in the midst of a recruiting crisis at UW. Predictably, district attorneys were spared of the pay cuts because they supply the inmates to the monster prison system that has contributed more to the governor’s campaign warchest than any other separate industry.

By the way, where the hell is Biddy Martin?

A few of my favorite things: T-Pain & talk shows

May 28, 2009

These guys are geniuses. It goes to show that mixing T-Pain and politics can work, despite the conventional wisdom to the contrary.

Meaty tax revenue spoiled

May 27, 2009

This is a new one for me: a statewide slaughter fee. Meaning a tax on every beast killed in a Wisconsin slaughterhouse. It looks like it may be history now but it’s what Gov. Jim Doyle was trying to get into this year’s budget until it was rebuffed yesterday by the Joint Committee on Finance, as both Democrats and Republicans cited concerns over the potential competitive disadvantage the tax could put Wisconsin meat producers at. How pathetic.

To understand the essence of Republican scare tactics on the economy, you really ought to read this report. Two Republican representatives, Al Ott and Karl Van Roy are on the record as saying the plan would put Wisconsin producers at a “significant disadvantage.” If for no better reason than calling out these two blowhards, Wisconsinites really have to start getting better at math.

Even Lakeshore Laments, who calls out Ott and Van Roy’s nonsense, seems to miss the point when he says this provision is meant for paying down that $6.65 billion deficit. If this fee was anything bigger than practically nothing, I’d agree with you LL, but what this fee really is meant for is to generate a bit of pocket change to add a few jobs to an under-employed meat inspection agency. The estimate by the governor put the projected revenue is wait for it….. $750,000. Yes, the salary of a well-paid NCAA football coach.

From the report before the committee, Doyle proposed a tax of 14 cents on every cow, pig, and calf slaughtered in the state, as well as a 1 cent fee on every chicken.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection reports it is only operating at about 65 to 70 percent capacity and now it looks like the feds are on our backs about our meat inspections, or lack thereof. Despite state inspectors making inspections of roughly 340,000 slaughtered animals a couple years ago, the U.S. Dept. of Ag released a report in 2008 saying that Sconz inspectors weren’t fulfilling their basic duties and were not present during slaughter, as they are required to be by law, in many of the states slaughterhouses. The department is simply under-staffed and this is a logical way to raise money. As much as I detest the hysteria surrounding the Swine Flu epidemic, for real guys, this is how you prevent it.

Looking through the report makes you realize just how arcane the agriculture industry (note those are not oxymorons) in this country is. The amount of money the federal government pours into the states in the form of “reimbursements” would have anyone who works outside of the ENORMOUS agricultural department building in D.C. scratching his head. For instance, the 2008 farm bill requires that the federal government reimburse states for 60% of the costs of conducting inspections of meat production.

911 Center Trouble Again

May 27, 2009

A new case has emerged, this time concerning the 911 board’s handling of a call to the MPD’s non-emergency number. Nevertheless, the result is just as heartbreaking – it appears a man might have died as a result of the negligence. From the State Journal:

“Police were not sent by the center to respond to the call, which came in at about 10 a.m. from a neighbor who spotted the idling truck. The body of Farrell Kurlish, 32, was discovered at about 5 p.m. inside the truck parked on Cumberland Lane on the city’s East Side. The truck had a faulty exhaust system, authorities said.”

Here’s the transcript of the call:

Call taker: “Police and fire.”

Caller: “Yeah, there’s a pickup truck that’s been idling in front of my house for one half-hour. Is that legal?”

Call taker: “Sure.”

Caller: “Hmm?”

Call taker: “Yeah, sure.”

Caller: “In the street?”

Call taker: “Uh-huh.”

Caller: “Holy (expletive), what’s the town coming to?”

Madison 7th best American city

May 27, 2009

This from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Madison’s low unemployment rate and concentration of technology jobs helped land it as No. 7 among the “10 Best Cities” named by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

Madison is one of five capitals – four state capitals and the District of Columbia – on the list of cities that Kiplinger’s expects “will suffer less during the recession and will have a head start toward growth when the recovery takes off,” according to a news release issued Tuesday.

The list is based on research from the Martin Prosperity Institute, led by Richard Florida, and gives extra credit to communities with employment heavy in fields such as science, engineering, architecture and education.

Interesting. That tidbit at the end about “SCIENCE, engineering, architecture and EDUCATION” could have come right out of the Obama stimulus plan. It’s interesting to wonder how much these researchers based the projections on the federal money coming in the next few months. The entire state of Wisconsin is in a relatively privileged spot in relation to any stimulus funds from Washington, considering that Rep. Dave Obey is the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, perhaps the most influential and, consequently, most corrupt committee in Congress. Sen. Herb Kohl sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee and other members of the congressional delegation sit on crucial infrastructure related committees like transportation and natural resources, including our own Rep. Tammy Baldwin.

So essentially these people think Madison is a good place because there are jobs there. Fair enough, however I think the large number of small bars and coffeehouses makes Madison a particularly pleasant place to live without a job.

However, props to this commenter on Caffeinated Politics for bringing up an important caveat:

Madison is a great place to live if you are a white, middle class person like I am. If you are a poor person of color, then your job prospects are probably not that good, the Madison schools are failing your children and Dane county arrests 21 times as many non-white people as they do white people (number from the Dane Country Equal Opportunites Commission Racial Disparity Task Force).

Prison disparities…that’s a whole other set of posts. Suffice it to say for now that Dane County emprisons blacks at 33 times the rate that it does whites.

Good News for Domestic Partnerships

May 27, 2009

A strong and moral and legal precedent in Wisconsin in the realm of gay rights is establishing ground in the proposed state budget. The legislature’s Joint Finance Committee just voted in favor of a budget with a provision to recognize domestic partnerships. This would extend a series of crucial legal rights to domestic partners, such as “hospital visits and end-of-life decisions,” as Paul Soglin notes. What I especially liked about Soglin’s commentary was his discussion of the drastic rise in public support for gay rights in just the last few years. It’s something the media seems to have just understood – even last Novemeber the talking heads seemed to accept that the victory of Proposition 8 in California as a defeat for gay rights rather than a marked improvement from the last time Californians voted on the issue.

Passage of this provision really shouldn’t be a problem. First off, the Wisconsin Legislative Council Not only will the Democratic majorities be able to stave off any Republican opposition, but frankly, there’s very little fear of Democratic desertions on the issue. If it was “gay marriage” it would be more controversial (and impossible because of the constitutional amendment) and there would still be a lingering fear, especially in rural Democratic districts, that the issue could work again for the Republicans come election time. That simply isn’t a problem with domestic partnerships. Not only is support for them much higher than full marriage rights, but the issue does not touch a strong enough nerve to merit, say, stalling the budget. If it were something more , Republicans could make the case that “Democrats are using our budget to promote their radical social agenda” or something of that genre.

As polls show our generation in support of gay marriage, and several states have already legalized it or are in the process of doing so, it is only a matter of time before states like Wisconsin repeal the unfortunate legacies of bigotry left by the older generations and invite gay couples to fully integrate into society by allowing them to marry and raise families. Just as southern politicians from the segregation era eventually apologized or made up excuses for their opposition to human rights during the civil rights movement, mainstream Republican politicians will one day have to distance themselves from the type of homophobia that they once used so effectively to win elections.

The total absence of the gay marriage issue from the 2008 presidential campaign was already a huge improvement. Even though the economy obviously trumped all other concerns at the time, if you compare it to 2004, when Republicans still trumpeted the issue in the midst of an awful war and a paralyzing fear of terrorism, it’s safe to say there was a calculation within the GOP to let the issue rest. Granted, I say this after hearing McCain’s campaign manager himself say that the GOP should “drop opposition to gay marriage.”

Booze & Golf Courses

May 27, 2009

For most people who have ever bothered to play 18 holes of golf, the 3-6 hours of misery spent trying to emulate Tiger Woods is only worthwhile if followed by a stiff cocktail at the 19th hole. Unfortunately, due to liquor license quotas established by the state, it appears that some northern Wisconsin golf courses have been unable to offer this crucial service to their customers. Either that or Rep. Gary Sherman (D-Port Wing) simply perceived the threat of this happening in the future – hence his proposal to amend the state law on municipal quotas for liquor licenses to EXCLUDE:

“Any full-service restaurant with a seating capacity of 75 to 100 persons and that is located on a golf course.” (Full Bill Here)

BACKGROUND: All towns and cities in Wisconsin are restricted, based on their populations, on the number of liquor licenses they can give out. There are two types of liquor license — Type A and Type B. The refers to retailers — liquor stores, grocery stores etc. that sell alcohol to be consumed off the premises. Type B refers to places like bars and restaurants, which actually serve customers drinks. However, if you want to start a bar or a restaurant but the municipality has already given out the maximum number of liquor licenses, you’re simply out of luck. Unless of course you go and talk to your legislators, like some golfing entrepreneur obviously did in this case, so that an exception can be established in law for you.

All this really demonstrates is the absurdity of the system. If anything should be restricted, it should be Type A licenses, not Type B. If you’re trying to crack down on say, teen drinking, limiting the number of alcohol retailers would be much more effective than limiting the number of bars and wine/beer serving restaurants. The same charade is played at the local level in Madison with the Alcohol License Density Plan. Although opponents of the ALDP (everyone on campus who’s ever heard of it) are exaggerating when they say the plan will “push more students into unregulated house parties,” the basic truth, which doesn’t seem to be understood by government, is that more drinking locations does not equal more drinking, and certainly not heavier drinking.

If anything, diversifying the selection of drinking places is a counter to the binge drinking culture because it allows moderate drinkers to go places that are not made with the explicit purpose of getting shit-faced. Places where for instance, you can listen to good music, eat good food, and avoid douchebags. However, when liquor licenses are severely limited, often the only establishments that will go through the trouble to get them are those based solely on partying, and where drinking yourself into a stupor is the only way to make up for the terrible music, the terrible food, and the terrible company (think Wando’s).