Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Scott Walker is the candidate for you...if you pretty much hate everything

Infantilize women? Loathe working people? Fear youth? Despise teachers? Oppose educating future generations? Favor theocracy to the constitution? Prefer indoctrination to education? Think Wisconsin would be better off if only we had fewer educated people? Fetishize fetuses, but don't give a damn about women's lives? Love people who lie to your face?

Brother, have I got a candidate for you! Name's Walker. Scott Walker. And he's the man for the mission. Why, already in his first term he's tackled the hard stuff. Just take a look!

He's attacked education. Boy, has he ever. He's enacted the largest cuts to education in the state's history. He's cut higher education so much that he's got 40,000 + students on waiting lists for aid. He's funneled hundreds of millions from public schools to private schools -- ostensibly because these schools do better than public schools. Even though the opposite is actually true -- Wisconsin's worst public schools outperformed the private schools that were supposed to save the day. Oh, and that money that Walker has been taking away from public education? Well over one hundred million of it has been to failed private schools. And while he ultimately failed, we think he still deserves anti-education points for trying to destroy the UW system. Bonus points: he's made a point to stir up animosity against teachers and public workers. If you hate education, Scott Walker is the man for you.

He's attacked working people. Again, and again, and again. Not just by cutting their educational opportunities -- impacting current and future generations in profound fashion. He's gone after labor unions. Early in his career, he sponsored right to work legislation -- legislation that completely busts unions and devastates workers' pay and safety. While he's slippery about committing to "right to work" now, he declared his union busting only a "first step". But it's not just busting unions and cutting educational opportunities. Why, this fine gentleman has declared that a minimum wage serves no purpose at all, and staunchly refuses to raise it to a living wage (despite it being, you know, Wisconsin law...because why should a governor have to put up with THAT noise, am I right?). Yes sir, this brave man thinks that you and your children should have limited educational opportunities, should be stripped of the workplace protections unions secure, and, as a bonus, live in abject poverty. Because, really, what "purpose" is there to any of that? The rights of working people are second to the profit of business.

He's steadfastly refused to allow poor, working Wisconsinites access to healthcare. This is important to the point above, but deserves a mention all on its own. Yes sir, Scott Walker has adamantly refused to expand healthcare access to the working poor. It's not that any sane person can pretend that a person working full-time on minimum wage has enough spare cash for health insurance; it's more that providing health care for the poor really serves no purpose. Serfs are expendable. And, yeah, his general contempt for working Wisconsinites is literally endangering lives and costing the rest of us as well, but the wealthy are doing fine, so it's all good. If you can't afford healthcare, your life doesn't matter.

He's attacked women. In the war on women, Scott Walker is General, not Governor. He's repealed equal pay protections (and then had the chutzpah to release an ad bragging that he didn't make pay discrimination legal...leaving out the whole "we removed penalties for violating it" bit...presumably on the thought that women are too silly to even notice. After all, we're probably better suited to dating sites than that thinking stuff, am I right?!). Bonus points? Champion of the effort, Walker ally and missing village idiot Glenn Grothman, championed the move by explaining how any disparity is really our faults anyway, because money is just "more important for men" than women. Walker has also withdrawn funding in order to shutter women's health clinics -- resulting in closure of many that did not even provide abortions -- because the idea of a woman exercising her right to choose is really terrifying to Walker. Yes, it makes no sense to shutter clinics that don't provide abortions (that, in fact, prevent them by providing family planning services) because you hate abortion; but, really, screw logic...as long as it hurts women, it's all good. Walker also opposes abortion in every case, and advocates a 100% "pro-life" agenda -- that is, banning abortion even in cases of rape, incest and when the life and health of the woman is at stake. Granted, a non-viable fetus can't survive if its mother is dead, and a viable fetus can be birthed early rather than aborted -- so, in effect, opposing abortion when a woman's life is on the line literally just means demanding that she dies too. But, come on, we're not seriously still pretending this is about loving fetuses rather than punishing women, are we? Also, Scott Walker was one of the ultrasound governors, singing into law a mandated ultrasound. And, despite conservative protestations to the contrary, this means mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds for women who are early in their pregnancies (for whom the less invasive ultrasound will not work). Also a Walker achievement? Admitting privileges, targeted at abortion providers -- unnecessary, arbitrary and designed to erect hurdles to practicing medicine (only, of course) for abortion providers. Bonus points? While patronizingly pretending to sympathize with women and respect abortion rights in public, Walker makes no pretense about his true views in private. Because, you know, we're too stupid to catch on to that. And beyond these policies directly targeting women, Walker's indirect impact on women is devastating too. So, in short, if you hate your mom, your sisters, your daughters, your girlfriend or wife, and women in general, Scott Walker is your man.

He has attacked gay rights. And wasted lots of money in the process of trying to curtail the right of gay Wisconsinites to get married. And, rather than being shamed by his defeat on this front, rather than reevaluating his theocratic bigotry, Walker cites it as a reason for endorsement. He might have quieted down publicly about his bigotry, but make no mistake: he is as much a bigot as he ever was. Walker wasted state time and money attacking gay people, and is proud of it.

He's crafted his policies around the interests of wealthy supporters without regard for their impact on Wisconsinites. Brother, Scott is a man of principle. And his defining principle is "the love of money". He listens to the millionaires and the billionaires, to big business and moneyed interests. He does what they want, and they pay him accordingly. Remember, it was to a billionaire supporter that he promised to "divide and conquer" Wisconsin unions as a "first step" to right to work (her question, specifically, was about making Wisconsin a right to work state). He crafted a mining policy extremely beneficial to the mining company that donated $700,000 to support his election. Despite formerly being opposed to mining. You know, before the cash drop. His WEDC gave Ashley furniture a $6,000,000 tax credit to build headquarters in WI -- with permission lay off 1,900 employees (half its workforce), and no new job creation requirements. Did I mention that Ashley furniture owners are big Walker supporters, who promptly donated $20K to his reelection? And let's not forget the Koch brother prank call.  Long story short, Scotty is as bought and paid for as they come: he'll destroy worker rights, pollute our waters and land, reward business for firing employees, etc., etc. -- as long as there is a payout at the end. His priorities are the lords, and the serfs can take a flying leap.

On top of it all, Walker abhors honesty. Walker makes a regular habit of prevarication. Whatever the topic, he's got an angle at odds with the truth. Jobs? Bah! Don't trust those numbers (that I told you last election were the gold standard). Choose these ones (that we said were untrustworthy last time), because they look better for me! Abortion? Well, that's a woman's choice! (Unless I get my way...) And the list goes on. Seriously, pick a campaign topic; there's a great chance that Walker has outright lied or significantly misrepresented it. If he's talked about it, he's probably lied about it.

In short, my friend, if you hate everyone but yourself, if you're wealthy, male and a raging douche canoe on top of it all, Scott Walker has got your interests at heart. You should vote for him. If you're anything else, and you support him, you're at best uninformed. Look at the facts, my friend, before it's too late. And we're all stuck suffering for your ignorance.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"Taking back your democracy"

So, Stephan Pastis of Pearls Before Swine is at it again...infusing his (excellent) comic strip with truth:

Midterms are notorious for low voter turnout. Everywhere where the GOP has control, they've been working hard to make sure the "wrong kind" of voter (i.e. Democrat) turnout is even lower. Wisconsin is a great example -- where, until this late implementation was halted by the Supreme Court, Walker & co were going to implement a voter ID law that required a state issued ID (and sometimes difficult to attain original documents to get it) two months before the election...despite the fact that the DMV's in some counties wouldn't even be open until after the election or the day of the election (meaning that people without driver's licenses would somehow have to get a ride to a different county, or to the DMV and then the polls the day of the election [where it was open that day]). There are 300,000 Wisconsin voters without ID; the GOP did everything they could to ensure that they couldn't vote. Putting a roadblock -- insurmountable, in some cases (where, for instance, a person lives in the county where there is no open DMV before the election, and they, obviously, cannot drive to one in a different county) because of a non-issue (there has only been one actual case of voter fraud in Wisconsin -- and it involved a Scott Walker supporter) is a blatant attempt at voter disenfranchisement. The Wisconsin GOP's plan is on hold for now, thanks to the Supreme Court.
 But the fact that they tried it at all, that they will implement it for the next election, should speak volumes. Voter turnout is something they fear, so much that they're willing to target it.

And if we sit on our duffs this election, if we stay home because we're tired, or don't think we'll win, or have better things to do...we've done their work for them. If you want to keep your democracy, get out there. Vote. It doesn't matter if your line is long, if it's cold, if you'd rather be somewhere else. Your lines will never get shorter if you stay home because they're too long (the GOP has been cutting voting options nationwide, deliberately making it as unpleasant as possible to exercise your right to vote; that's not going to change if they get back in). And there's very little more important than deciding whether people who want to strip women, LGBT people, and working people of as many rights as possible will be running this country; there's little that's more important than deciding if the government will have your interests, or big business', at heart. These are things that will inconvenience your life far more than standing in line in November could ever do. Even in Wisconsin. So, please, for your own sake and this country's, get out there and vote. Before the REPO man really does show up.

I'll see you at the polls, my friends.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Incredible images from Norway

Rustad Media (http://www.rustadmedia.com/) has produced a truly stunning time-lapse video compilation of Norway’s many and varied beauties. The video is the result of 10,000 miles of the photographers' travels, through all 19 counties of Norway. It's just about five minutes long, and covers everything from southwestern fjords to northern snowscapes, countryside to city scenes, waterways to landscapes. It's amazing.

Rustad Media also has an amazing collection of photos up under their photo page. Including these masterpieces. Wow.

Lots more at Rustad Media.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Norwegian-American WWII vet gets Viking funeral

On September 29th, 2014, WWII veteran and Norwegian immigrant Andrew Haines made his farewell journey in true Viking fashion. USA Today reports:
“[Coast Guard] Station Atlantic City fulfilled the final wishes of service veteran Andrew Haines, a New Jersey resident who died in late August at age 89. Haines spent more than a decade planning his own Norse-style send-off, even building a funeral ship to carry his cremated ashes and then be burned.”
Haines had built his 54-inch ship based off of blueprints from Norway, sent by a cousin. The original plans were for a 100 foot long ship, however; Haines worked at scaling the plans down, and eventually created the replica that took him on his final journey.

All of this was done, it should be noted, with one hand: Haines had lost his other arm in an accident in 1975.

Andrew Haines’ Viking funeral 

Andrew Haines was born in Norway, but emigrated to the United States in 1927. He was a child at the time. He then went on to serve in WWII.

Burials at sea are free to military veterans, but notes Atlantic City’s operation officer, Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Christopher Fonseca, “Scattering ashes and flowers is pretty much the norm.” Despite the funeral request being unusual, the Coast Guard worked with Haines’ family to accommodate his last wishes.

And on the 29th, “three miles off the coast…” the Coast Guard “brought the miniature Viking ship down to a recess in their boat, lit the wood shavings inside on fire with a flare and sent it out to sea.

It took about 20 minutes to burn, he said. The family said some last words, and one crew member read a nautically themed Alfred Lord Tennyson poem, Crossing the Bar.”

Monday, October 13, 2014

Some of the more clueless things you'll see this Columbus Day

Compliments of the right wing religious clowns at The Political Insider:

Genocide? Slavery? Rape? Don't worry, it's all cool: Columbus found "sweet consolation" in his god. He's forgiven, it's cool. Happy Columbus Day!

And this isn't the stupidest thing I've seen emanating from the right today. No, that dubious honor goes to professional crackpot Allen West, for turning Columbus Day into an opportunity to get back to...Islam!
But, today we celebrate and remember this Italian explorer who realized the world needed a new trade route because of Islamic conquest — and just so you know, the Umayyad caliphate was followed by the Abbasid caliphate. And here we are today, some 1400 years later, still confronting Islamic conquest by violence, displacement of other indigenous religions by Islam, and the establishment of a caliphate.

We thank Christopher Columbus, but now the world needs another Charles Martel.
I swear, it's like six degrees of Kevin Bacon with West: except six is probably way  more than he needs, and it's all about Islam.

Scott Walker's women's outreach: shutting clinics, repealing equal pay, mandating ultrasounds and more

Ardent women's rights advocate, Governor Scott Walker
During the first 2014 Wisconsin gubernatorial debate, Scott Walker wanted to assure voters that he's very reasonable in regards to abortion, and really just has women's health in mind. He's pro-life, but he can't imagine the difficulty of the situation; he just wants to make sure women are safe. Ultimately, the choice is hers. That's what he says. Turns out, he's a liar.

Come on now, pick yourself up off the floor, sit back down, and let's go over his women's outreach strategy for the past four years. What Scott Walker says and does when he's in power -- not just the month before the election.

First, there's the repeal of equal pay protections. Like many of his other controversial measures, signed into law right before the weekend. It's almost like he doesn't want voters -- women, and men who give a damn about women -- to know that he's making gender based wage discrimination easier. Because, as champion of the repeal, Wisconsin State Senator and village idiot Glenn Grothman argued, "money is more important for men." Walker was happy to do Grothman's and other misogynist Republican's bidding, signing the repeal.
Item One on Scott Walker's Women's Outreach Program: limit women's recourse for gender-based pay discrimination

Of course, withdrawing funds from (leading to the closure of) health clinics that primarily serve women is another win for Walker. Not women, but who cares if they need cancer screenings, birth control, wellness screenings, etc.?  This, of course, was part of his anti-abortion vendetta. The kicker? Some of the clinics that had to close didn't actually provide abortions. (Nevermind that limiting family planning options leads to more unplanned pregnancies, and consequently more abortions). Oops!
Item Two on Scott Walker's Women's Outreach Program: close multiple Planned Parenthoods (even clinics that don't perform abortions) because he hates abortion

Speaking of abortion, part of Walker's women's outreach includes the goal of making abortion illegal. In every circumstance. Even if the mother's life is on the line. Walker talks about abortion being a woman's choice (notably, in the present tense -- that is, it is "today it's her choice") now, during the election. But in the past he's proudly owned his radical views. To Scott Walker, a woman's very life is inconsequential, if she's carrying a zygote, embryo or fetus. As he has made clear.
Item Three on Scott Walker's Women's Outreach Program: outlaw abortion, even for rape and incest victims, and even if the woman's life is on the line

While we're on the topic, Governor Walker decided to boost his appeal to women and decent human beings in general by mandating ultrasounds for women seeking abortions. And, again, this was signed on a weekend, this time in private and quietly announced on a Friday (sensing a pattern here?). So, now women who need abortions have to get ultrasounds. They can be external, if the fetus is large enough to be picked up. But if it's too early, you know what that means: mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds. Thanks to Wisconsin's own gyonotician-in-chief.
Item Four on Scott Walker's Women's Outreach Program: mandate invasive, costly and medically unnecessary procedures as a prerequisite to attaining an abortion

Still on the topic (yup, the governor's all about it being the woman's choice...)...in the same mandatory ultrasounds bill, Walker signed into law a requirement that abortion providers must have admitting privileges at a hospital. This is an absurd requirement, as complications are extremely rare; and one you do not see applied to any other comparable set of providers. This follows a nation-wide pattern by extreme anti-choice governors and legislators, in forcing abortion clinics to shut their doors by erecting too many hurdles to their continued operation.
Item Five on Scott Walker's Women's Outreach Program: erect more hurdles to safe abortions

 While Governor Walker isn't busying himself specifically targeting women, he tends to take stances that disproportionately (and negatively) impact women. His dismissal of setting a minimum wage that covers basic living expenses, for instance, has a highly skewed impact on women. Wisconsin women are more than twice as likely as men to work in low-paying jobs. Scott Walker's solution? Save up for an education with your minimum wage earnings. Nevermind that an income below a living wage means no extra cash lying around for tuition; nevermind that Scott Walker cut education so steeply that 40,000 + people are on a waitlist for financial aid in this state. Nevermind that many of the women working these jobs are working mothers -- meaning their dollar, and time, has to stretch that much further.
Item Six on Scott Walker's Women's Outreach Program: deny working people, overwhelmingly women and mothers, a chance to earn a living wage

Blaming the poor because they don't have the money to improve their situation in life is Walker on a good day. Otherwise, it's full-on demonizing. "My belief is we shouldn't be paying for them to sit on the couch, watching TV or playing Xbox," Walker told cheering campaign volunteers recently, as he promised to pursue drug testing for food stamp recipients. This is straight up Heritage Foundation-esque propaganda, in the Republican effort to convince their base to kick downwards, at the over-privileged and undeserving poor. (Also? Illegal. Federal law prohibits it. It's just pandering rhetoric, meant to incite hate against the poor "other"). And how does that impact women? Because women are, as noted above, more than twice as likely to work low paying jobs than men, and twice as likely as men to need foodstamps at least once.
Item Six on Scott Walker's Women's Outreach Program: demonize poor people (overwhelmingly, women and their children) who need food assistance

So there you have it...our illustrious governor, working hard to infantilize, restrict and limit women by cutting recourse for wage discrimination, cutting healthcare options and availability, mandating unnecessary medical procedures, limiting educational opportunities, demonizing the poor, etc., etc. Whether it's directly targeted at women, or if women are mere collateral damage, Scott Walker's impact on Wisconsin women has been demonstrably harmful. We have fewer healthcare options, less legal protection when facing discrimination, more barriers to access and care, and a governor who completely disregards us -- except to implement patronizing, patriarchal laws.

That is Scott Walker's women's outreach. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Wisconsin sinking millions into failed private schools

Long before Scott Walker was governor, he was a proponent of voucher schools; since becoming governor, he's continued to expand public monies for private schools. I've mentioned specific examples of failure before, discussed why funneling public money to religious schools is a bad idea, and pointed out that the vaunted private schools are actually doing worse than their worst public peers.

Turns out, Wisconsin taxpayers have been pouring millions of dollars into failed voucher schools.
Wisconsin taxpayers have paid about $139 million to private schools that ended up being barred from the state's voucher system for failing to meet requirements since 2004, according to a newspaper report.

State Department of Public Instruction data shows more than two-thirds of the 50 schools terminated from the state's voucher system in the last 10 years had stayed open for five years or less...Eleven schools, paid a total of $4.1 million, were terminated from the voucher program after just one year.
Of note, Scott Walker's campaign refused to answer questions or agree to an interview on the subject. Challenger Mary Burke, however, "said the spending data on terminated schools illustrates the need to scale back the program."
"I'm shocked that the program has continued to be expanded without the type of accountability that really needs to be there," said Burke.
I guess we can file this under yet another brilliant Scott Walker plan gone awry...