To unseat a Tyrant – the Prelude

By now most of the world knows about the protests here in Wisconsin, the 30th of the 50 United States to be recognized (1848), and luckily a state whose Constitution allows for the recall of elected officials. But in case Libya and Syria have pushed our so far peaceful, non-bloody situation out of your mind, we elected a tyrannical governor in Wisconsin, who — along with his majority in both houses of the state Legislature — stripped most collective bargaining rights from public employees and ended mandatory union dues, effectively killing their unions.

Governor Scott Walker and his Republican Party storm troopers were so pushy and rude about ramming through legislation that oridinary citizens who were not necessarily union members or even liberals showed up by the thousands to occupy our state capitol building, and march around its square for days and weeks and months.

Protest at Wisconsin's capitol

Although many waned to throw the bums out right away. It turns out you have to wait until an elected official is in office a year before you can do a recall. Governor Walker’s first year is about up now and the recall petition process is set to begin on the 15th of this month. We’ll need half a million signatures, which is about 11% of the state’s voting-age population of 4.37 million people. Seems do-able, getting one out of 10 of us to sign a petition. Game on!

82/365 – Construction season begins

How am I supposed to get to work?

How am I supposed to get to work?

They say there are really only two seasons in Wisconsin — winter and construction.

New roadblocks and gyrations in my morning commute reminded me of this, and I managed to have the camera ready to shoot a drive-by sequence.

Have a look. Oh, and I know I should be more careful and not take pictures while I’m driving, but I was going quite slowly and basically just holding the camera up to the windshield and clicking away.

49/365 – Toxic Republicanism

It's hard not to be political when you see this every morning, which is Wisconsin's capitol building here in Madison, which is dominated by Democrats these days.

It's hard not to be political when you see this every morning, which is Wisconsin's capitol building here in Madison, which is dominated by Democrats these days.

I want to share an outline of a political movement I sketched out. Maybe someone can help put some meat on these bones. (This is how a lot of creative work is done in ad agencies and magazines, a stream of thoughts, questions, and ideas are put forth, and then various people work on them.)

Premise: Toxic Republicanism

  • Bush 2 and Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich made the word “Republican” toxic, and took “Conservative” with it, thanks to Limbaugh the Clown
  • Can’t touch anything Republican now, even if there are some good ideas in their platform (Aside: Remember party platforms?)
  • What are some Republican ideas? Conservative? Are they worth rescuing?
  • What should the GOP do now? Disband? Reform as Whigs?
  • How about “New Conservatives”?
  • – is it available?

See, everything has to end up on the Web, so you have to check on the availability of the right domain name.

And this is the point where, being an Internet kind of guy, I log onto and see if I can get that URL. Nope, the Koreans have beat me to it, something called “Unitedeurope Consulting” in Gwangju (never heard of it), although what they want it for is beyond me. It goes to a site about binoculars, of all things. There’s an eyebrow link saying that may be for sale, and I fill out the application for more information.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of other choices available for $9.99 a year, such as NEWCONONLINE.COM, NEWCONSITE.COM, THENEWCON.COM, and one I just might buy, NEWCONNOW.COM.

But wait, you might say, since it’s political, shouldn’t it be a dot-org? Yes, but is also taken, by a firm called Newcon Internet Services in Maryland. So we’re back to NewConNow. (Add an ! and you’ve got a movement.)

All kidding about URLs aside, I’m serious about redefining political parties in the Disunited States of Unconsciousness. More to come on this topic.

47/365 – Perspective on the economy

We'er building hospital additions and academic buildings all the time. The contruction crane is our stae bird.

We're building hospital additions and academic buildings all the time in Madison. The contruction crane is our state bird.

At last, I find some context on the current downturn in the economy.  Is our present economic situation really comparable to the Great Depression?  Apparently not, if we can believe Bradley R. Schiller, economics professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, who had a piece in the Wall Street Journal today.(I’d give you a link, but it’s paid content and the link would only last a week.)

He wrote: “Our current economic woes don’t come close to those of the 1930s. At worst, a comparison to the 1981-82 recessions might be appropriate. In the last year, the U.S. economy shed 3.4 million jobs. That’s a grim statistic for sure, but represents just 2.2% of the labor force. From November 1981 to October 1982, 2.4 million jobs were lost — fewer in number than today, but the labor force was smaller. So 1981-82 job losses totaled 2.2% of the labor force, the same as now.

“Job losses in the Great Depression were of an entirely different magnitude. In 1930, the economy shed 4.8% of the labor force. In 1931, 6.5%. And then in 1932, another 7.1%. Jobs were being lost at double or triple the rate of 2008-09 or 1981-82.”

Here’s his comparison of unemployment rates: 7.6% now, 10.8% at the 1982 peak, and 25.2% at the 1932 peak.

How about decline in the gross domestic product (GDP)? Well, GDP “actually rose in 2008, despite a bad fourth quarter. The Congressional Budget Office projects a GDP decline of 2% in 2009. That’s comparable to 1982, when GDP contracted by 1.9%. It is nothing like 1930, when GDP fell by 9%, or 1931, when GDP contracted by another 8%, or 1932, when it fell yet another 13%.”

Then there are the bank failure stats: A couple of dozen in 2008, compared to 3,000-plus Savings & Loan  failures in 1987-88, and over 10,000 bank failures in 1933.

Stocks? Try a nearly 90% devaluation in the early 1930s.

What I’m getting at is not meant to demean or diminish present-day problems. Everyone who is unemployed is worried and the rest of us don’t know what to think of the future.  But let’s not suffer needless worry because inflated political rhetoric  makes things seem way worse than they really are.  A little cheerleading from the “bully pulpit” would be appreciated. I mean, who even remembers the 1981-82 recession?

[Schiller is the author of The Economy Today (McGraw-Hill, 2007).]

29/365 – Enervating

30 p.m., this is what greets me.
Coming home at 11:30 p.m., this is what greets me.

I sort of whined this morning while waiting to go down on the elevator.  It was 7:30 a.m., and I knew the soonest I’d get back to the apartment would be 10:30 p.m.  That’s a long day, 15 hours, and it was actually 11:30 by the time I got here, what with buying gas and some salad fixings.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy both my day and night jobs, and I also get to spend quality time with my fiancee (we started watching Big Love), but it is a full schedule and will eventually enervate me.

Meanwhile, I live in the little bit of urbanity Madison has to offer, in what is the tallest any building can be around the Capitol — 15 stories — so the dome can be seen for miles. One of many ways the laws around here impede things, but are also kind of cute.