Saturday, February 19, 2011

the handbasket accelerates

Sorry to be so quiet; just normal coping with Life, The Universe, And Everything. Stuff like one virus after another, transmitted via kindergarten, and a mare that is a month and a half overdue in delivering her foal, and slogging through out of season thaw mud, and teetering on ice everywhere after winter came back.

And the world is in such a serious state that I just have a hard time writing about everyday stuff. The world is changing. And the change is speeding up. And, in case you hadn't noticed; nobody is in charge.

And, what happens next is really, truly, entirely unpredictable. Maybe, for example, as a result of the exuberance in Tunisia and Egypt, we will have a shooting war in the next few days, in Wisconsin. Right next door to me.

Everything is that unstable; that insane.

It was learning something I hadn't realized about the situation in Wisconsin that motivated me to write this post. I had, I thought, been paying attention; but this little bit of background information had escaped me. It showed up in Gail Collins' NYT column. I read her regularly; and am very fond of her sense of humor, intelligence, and common sense. But the Wisconsin information was not something I expected to find, given the rest of her subject matter; and it hit me very, very hard.

You know, of course, that the newly elected Republican Governor of Wisconsin, along with the Republican controlled state Senate, is trying to pass legislation that will not only cut pay and benefits for the various public employees of the state, but which will also rescind their right to collective bargaining. Making them second-class citizens, with fewer rights than those who work elsewhere. You know, also, that the Democratic Senators have left the state, to deprive the Senate of the quorum needed to pass the legislation; since that was the only tool left to them.

Here was what I did not know, and what I have seen mentioned nowhere else:

"In Wisconsin, the new Republican governor, Scott Walker, wants to strip state employees of their collective-bargaining rights because: “We’re broke. We’ve been broke in this state for years.”

"Wisconsin’s Democratic state senators went into hiding to deprive the Republican majority of the quorum they need to pass Walker’s agenda. The Senate majority leader, Scott Fitzgerald — who happens to be the brother of the Assembly speaker, Jeff Fitzgerald — believes the governor is absolutely right about the need for draconian measures to cut spending in this crisis. So he’s been sending state troopers out to look for the missing Democrats.

"The troopers are under the direction of the new chief of the state patrol, Stephen Fitzgerald. He is the 68-year-old father of Jeff and Scott and was appointed to the $105,678 post this month by Governor Walker.

"Perhaps the speaker’s/majority leader’s father was a super choice, and the fact that he was suddenly at liberty after having recently lost an election for county sheriff was simply a coincidence that allowed the governor to recruit the best possible person for the job. You’d still think that if things are so dire in Wisconsin, the Fitzgerald clan would want to set a better austerity example."

Does that stink? Why yes, it does. Elitist power politics at its very, very worst, most corrupt, most Un-American, most obscene.

And it's being soft-pedaled by our press.

Remember, too- though usually considered a liberal-leaning state, Wisconsin also gave us McCarthy, and Proxmire; two politicians who did vast and enduring damage to the US democracy.

It does seem that the handbasket we are all in- is speeding up, daily.


Anonymous said...

Hey, Greenpa, I live in Wisconsin and a friend sent me the link to your blog. Very nice. One thing that surpsrised me though, was your mention of former WI US Senators Joe McCarthy and Bill Proxmire in the same sentence, stating that both had done irreparable harm to the democracy.

McCarthy I agree with you on, but Bill Proxmire I have to question you on. He was a budget hawk, but a hawk with a heart, and I don't recall his austerity measures ever posing a threat to a deserving program or segment of the population. Are you perhaps basing your condemnation on insufficient information, or are you privy to some particular bit of information that has been concealed from us in the Badger State.

The situation with Walker is disgusting, his election was fueled by David Koch and other outside corporate interests and he is now doing their bidding in his attempt to bust unions here.

Greenpa said...

Hi Anon- I might indeed be privy to uncommon information- though that had not occurred to me. Very true, those two birds had totally different feathers, and Proxmire had a good rep as a good guy for his early years.

He completely lost that rep in my world - science. The link I put on his name is to his "Golden Fleece Award" - which was, in fact, a hideous anti-intellectual pogrom. Take a look at the link, and the list of things that he declared useless/ridiculous/waste.

I don't know any scientists who don't consider his behavior there literally despicable; know-nothing bigotry and pandering to the worst in his constituents.

Basically - he attacked funding for scientific projects - based on their titles. He never bothered to ask a scientist "is this actually a good study?" - if he thought it sounded silly - hey, he could award a Golden Fleece to it (the reference is to the taxpayer being fleeced by idiotic expenditures); he could get his name in the papers all over the world, each time, and he could frighten some people.

End results:

1) a lot of excellent science was castrated and killed.

2) the titles of scientific projects are now designed to be completely incomprehensible to those outside of the specific sub-specialty. Not kidding. This is not really a good thing.

3) the American public was taught, by a respected Senator, that scientists are greedy scam artists. Many, perhaps most, now believe or suspect that. The repercussions there will be with us forever; they're already a disaster.

My impression is that this was really Proxmire's entire doing; now metastasized; and done for tawdry purposes- in his fading years.

gaias daughter said...

Anonymous, you hit on a critical point -- that our elections are being funded and fueled by big money -- some of it corporate, some of it foreign -- and now legally anonymous. We are in the danger zone when a hedge fund manager in New York is allowed to anonymously donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to the campaign of a nut job in Oregon as part and parcel of a personal vendetta.

Instead of policing the world, promoting democracy in nations far and wide, how about we re-institute it here at home?

Ellen said...

Ad hominem attack. Unacceptable for a logical discourse.

Beelar said...

Ellen- what, exactly, is the thing you consider an ad hominem attack? I'm not clear on that.

Anonymous said...

Greenpa, anonymous here (if I end up a frequent poster, I'll adopt a pseudonym).

I still think you're being overly reactive to Proxmire and his "Golden Fleece Award" though I can understand why if he targeted some particular program you were involved in. If that's the case, perhaps you could share more details with us. Many of his "awards" were bestowed on the military, and many others targeted businesses receiving federal monies, or Congress itself.

In my opinion, he was absolutely right in his belief that far too many tax dollars were being spent on frivilous and overly expensive programs, many of which should never even have been considered for public funding. Reasonable minds can disagree, however, and I wouldn't presume to insist that you are wrong, particularly on this blog which you have obviously invested much of yourself in, and which I think has real value. I just find it unfortunate that you seem unable to find any good in the service of Bill Proxmire, someone I personally admire, though I certainly do not see as flawless.

As for Joe McCarthy, you can villify him to your heart's content and expect no complaint from me. He was a drunken, arrogant, mean-spirited ass and an embarrasment to the state of Wisconsin, much as Scott Walker seems destined to become.

Michelle said...

Ah, nepotism in the finest. Keeping it all in the family, eh? You're right; I hadn't heard that tidbit.

However, what I've heard on NPR is that collective bargaining rights are only on the chopping block with regard to *certain* aspects of contracts, not all aspects.

What it seems to me is that this encapsulates a great many topics: the state employees are trying to cling to a system that is out-of-date, has bankrupted governments and corporations, but is known and familiar. Likewise, people want to continue other unsustainable practices, which ought to be let to fall by the wayside - things like driving everywhere, spending money they don't have, assuming that governments have the best interests of citizenry at heart (that might just be a delusion, not an anachronism, actually). To let go of that contract control is to acknowledge that the world has, indeed, changed, and what used to work - or simulate working - is no longer viable.

Greenpa said...

Anony- There's no doubt whatever that huge amounts of money is wasted in government- that really should come as no surprise to any. My beef with Proximire is really limited to his attacks on science; there, he was truly anti-intellectual and jingoist.

I don't have any trouble admiring some of his efforts; but it's a common phenomenon that good people can go off their trolleys later in life.

It's the consequences of the anti-science movement that are so disastrous. For example:

And Proxmire really was a pioneer in science-bashing, laying the groundwork for this kind of insane witch hunting.

Yeah, I'm not entirely open minded about it. :-)

Science is my religion, if you want to put it that way; and he fed a bunch of innocents to the lions. And his descendants are taking over the world.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't stuff like this get bigger press? Why isn't a salary like that posted on the state website or put up for public comment?

I agree with "anon" that the system is outdated but the idea that unions should be busted is simply crap. Unions are, at their core, the power of the many codified. Yes, union organizers may be greedy in some cases, corrupt in others, but the basic idea stands.

So very sad that Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, China, and others *get* what people here no longer understand.

gingeranne said...

Hi Greenpa-- thanks for this. I had seen about the ties to the Koch borthers and the delightful taped phone call revealing that this budget business is, as per usual, a political front, but had heard nothing on the nepotism aspect.
I've been reading your blog for several years now and have a favor to ask: if your schedule permits, would you do a post on what you would advise young people if you could? If you were in your twenties/early thirties, knowing what you know, would you choose this life, in this country, all over again? Husband, baby and I are trying to quit the big-city rat race, buy some property cheap (no mortgage if possible) and transition to as self-sufficient a lifestyle as possible. But as my awareness has grown of the depth and breadth of the problems in the country, I truly wonder whether it is even worth trying to stay here to do so. I am appalled by the way we truly seem to be going to hell in a handbasket environmentally, economically, societally and otherwise, and disheartened that most people seem too zombiefied to care. Surely there are other places in the world where sanity and humanity and common sense hold more sway? Or is that just the idealism talking? Your wise insights much appreciated. if you want to email me instead. Many thanks.