Another Data Point

11/27/2013

Thanksgiving Dinner

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 2:24 pm

Just in time for those family gatherings, here are a couple of sources of info to have in your quiver should the conversation turn to politics:

Happy Thanksgiving!

11/26/2013

Don’t stun me, bro!

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 9:11 am

<rant>

So, when was the last time you were truly stunned? Did you enjoy it?

For me, stunned is what you are when you’re hit by a professional boxer, or in my case, when as a child you squeeze a roll of caps in a vise and they all explode at once.

I don’t want to be stunned by my computer screen, a new TV, a stereo system or a woman in a bikini. In fact,  several times a week I probably unconsciously but deliberately avoid being stunned  by slamming doors, people riding bicycles on sidewalks,  poor drivers, etc.

I’ve been stunned, and I don’t enjoy it. So if you’re trying to sell me something, don’t promise that it’ll stun me.

</rant>

11/2/2013

Enough!

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 9:15 am

There are two kinds of people who think assault weapons should be in the hands of civilians: Fools and madmen.

The fools think believe any amount of armament available to them are a) sufficient to protect them from an oppressive government and that it’s even a relevant concern in a democratic republic.

The madmen are be definition not to be trusted with instruments whose fundamental purpose is to kill human beings.

(By the way, these categories aren’t exclusive: There can be mad fools and foolish madmen.)

I, for one, think that when I go into a public place, say an airport, I shouldn’t be at risk of being shot to death by a mad fool with an assault rifle.

As this is becoming more common, I am NOT becoming more resigned to an America overwhelmed by gun violence. I am growing more and more furious at those who are promoting the ownership of these weapons, the people who are enriching themselves by the sale of these weapons, and the representatives who are enabling these outrages upon innocents.

We are hostages to a sophomoric interpretation of the second amendment, supported in large part by persons who, unhappy with the results of our political process, apparently feel compelled to arm themselves against some imagined government oppression – despite the fact that we live in a democracy.

A consequence of this view is that our society is being inundated with instruments that are specifically designed to kill human beings. We’ve seen these weapons fall into the hands of deranged persons who threaten peaceable, law-abiding citizens wherever they may be – in movie theaters, our places of worship or, most horribly, in our schools.

Greater issues may confront our nation, but none whose solution is so completely simple and obvious: Make the sale and ownership of such weapons illegal, buy the weapons back from those who are willing to comply with the law, and prosecute those who don’t.

This will only happen if Americans contact their legislators and insist that their freedom from fear trumps the fear of those foolish and/or crazy enough to own weapons whose purpose is to kill humans.

What are you waiting for? Contact your representative and say Enough!

9/30/2013

House Un-American Activities

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 9:43 pm

Why are we going to have a government shutdown, Daddy?

Because people who hate the healthcare reforms  of the Affordable Care Act think they can stop ACA by threatening a government shutdown. If that doesn’t work, they are planning to threaten the entire world economy by defaulting on U.S. government bonds, probably the foundation of the world economy.

But isn’t the ACA a law, enacted by the process defined in the U.S. Constitution?

Yes it is.

So, a majority people want the law? I mean, Congress enacted the ACA, President Obama signed it, and President Obama was re-elected.

Not only was ACA properly enacted as a law, and basically twice accepted by the American people, but it’s widely held that the bill will be good for all Americans, by ultimately reducing the costs of healthcare and creating a healthier citizenry.

So, how can a minority do this?

There are two answers (each with two parts):

    1. In the Senate, the Republicans have used an astonishingly high number of filibusters or filibuster threats to stop the rule of the majority.
    2. In the House of Representatives, a small number of radicals are holding other Republicans hostage by threatening their incumbency.
  1. (1b) is possible because of redistricting, which has
    1. created incumbents who are almost impossible to defeat, except in primaries by  more extreme candidates; and
    2. enabled Republicans to maintain control of legislatures at the state and federal level without a majority of votes.

But isn’t democracy supposed to be rule by the majority?

It’s the rule of the majority, and the rule of law, which at bottom is the U.S. Constitution (the law about making laws).

As it now stands, the Republican Party is thwarting the will of the majority – on a number of issues – and they are subverting the constitution – a characteristic of Republicans since at least Ronald Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal.

How can this happen?

Well, the watchdogs of democracy are now lapdogs. How many times did you see  the word filibuster in your newspaper? (Hint: It was a tiny fraction of the times Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wielded that weapon.)

But more importantly, many Americans are disinclined to believe just how bad the Republicans are. Many others take the frankly stupid view that “they all do it.” I won’t pretend that Democratic politicians are angels, but between the filibusters of Senate Republicans and the fiscal subversion of the House Republicans, we have an assault on our way of government that has no precedent in modern memory. Together with the warping effects of Republican gerrymandering, we have  a sick democracy on our hands.

Will everything be all right?

Not for some time, I’m afraid.

2/15/2013

Quick thought on the filibuster situation

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 5:14 pm

Like many I was distressed the the effort to reform the filibuster collapsed.

But now, with the Hagel filibuster, I’m beinning to see that this is going to be something that will really, really hurt the GOP in 2014.

So maybe Harry Reid was just giving the GOP enough rope to hang itself with.

1/29/2013

David Clark’s conservative utopia

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 1:49 pm

Is this what we’ve come to?

Since 1980, America’s Gross Domestic Product has risen from roughly $3.5 trillion to roughly $15 trillion.  On the other hand, Americans pay less in taxes than they have since the 1950s.

But according to Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clark, we need to arm ourselves, since we can’t afford sufficient law enforcement to respond to 911 calls.

Our national wealth has increased five-fold, but now we can’t afford cops?

Of course we can. One reason we don’t  is as most Americans’ wealth declines, they are reluctant to provide the necessary revenue (i.e., taxes). And those who have taken the lion’s share of  our increased national wealth largely feel they shouldn’t have to  accept a higher tax burden.

So, buy a gun, I guess.

1/27/2013

Dead-enders

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 5:13 pm

Abraham Lincoln wisely pointed out that you can’t fool all the people all the time, which explains the impending demise of the conservative revolution.

The conservative program of activating white voters out of fear of non-whites, patriarchists out of fear of abortion, and I-don’t-know-what out of fear of gays is at last  showing signs of terminal disintegration in our national elections.

Having lost its electoral advantages, the GOP is now desperately seeking to maintain its political advantages with measures at the state level that will utterly ruin the party for a generation. Republicans are attempting to distort elections through voter restrictions,  gerrymandering and even  a program to game the electoral vote. As people come to see how fundamentally un-democratic (small D) these measures are, voters will develop an abiding distrust of the party that has promoted them.

Ironically, the Republican attempt to reapportion the electoral vote could lead to greater democracy, by making people aware of both the troublesome nature of the electoral college and an elegant way to render it obsolete.

Anyone who wants to make the electoral vote process more democratic (again, small D) should look no further than the National Popular Vote movement, whose aim is to ensure that presidential elections can only be won by candidates who win the votes of most Americans. (You can get details at nationalpopularvote.com.)

If state Republican legislators are serious about democracy, they will join this movement, which will ensure that Wisconsin’s electoral votes go the person who wins the votes of the majority of all Americans, not to the person who wins in gerrymandered districts.

Conservatives have not been able to convince Americans of their failed ideas. If they attempt to retain political power by rigging elections, they will reap the whirlwind.

Don’t take it from me. Take it from the most famous Republican of them all.

12/20/2012

Guns and the Moral American

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 8:59 am

Guns designed to kill humans should not be in the hands of ordinary citizens. I’d rather they weren’t in the hands of police or the military, but that would be a different world altogether.

I’m confident that the intention of the Second Amendment is not  to arm citizens for the purpose of killing fellow citizens, but that is basically the argument we’ve been hearing from “guns everywhere” advocates.

The private ownership of handguns and assault rifles — weapons designed and created almost  exclusively to kill human beings — should be illegal. To remove the tens of millions of such guns already circulating in society, we should establish an aggressive buy-back program. If we have to sweeten the deal, every illegal weapon thus returned would be replaced with a sporting weapon — a rifle or shotgun.

I leave it to others to critique the arguments about training and freedom — my space is limited here. I would only point out that comparing handgun prohibition to the prohibition of prostitution and intoxicants is an attempt to compare an urge that few people act on to urges that virtually everyone acts on.

We can debate, I suppose, whether sex and intoxication are wrong, but I think most of us agree that killing humans is almost always wrong.

So, let’s get the means to do so out of the hands of ordinary citizens.

12/10/2012

Fiscal Cliff is the result of a tax holiday for the wealthy

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 1:02 pm

So, you take a pay cut because someone said it’ll make the business better — in fact, business will be so good, you’ll end up making more money. But despite a loss of income, you keep spending money on rent, medical expenses, saving for retirement, and so on, as if nothing has changed. In fact, you even buy a couple of new cars.

But  a funny thing happens: Your debt soars and the business doesn’t do better — it does worse –  so you really need the money you lost in the pay cut.  (And of course, it was foolish to buy those cars.) But you’re told that you don’t deserve a raise!

If you want government to be run like your household, the scenario above pretty well describes the sort of household the Republicans have been running. The Republican-led government created a big tax cut and two unfunded wars  — and now their solution is cutting Social Security and Medicare?

Let’s get one thing straight: The wrangling we’re seeing over the so-called fiscal cliff is really just a skirmish in the larger war against the social safety net, dating back to the creation of  Social Security in the 1930s.

The conservative game plan for decades has been to manufacture crises like the current one by cutting revenues to the federal government. Restore taxes to a sensible level — and  stop fighting foolish wars — and the crisis goes away.

And let’s stop talking about the revenue solution as though we’re raising taxes. Let’s call it the end of a tax holiday for the wealthy.

11/7/2012

Four more years!

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 9:51 am

Some of my thoughts on the election

  • Woo hoo!
  • Tammy’s win is really gratifying
  • Though Obama’s electoral win was comprehensive, the popular vote was a lot less convincing.  There are plenty of people who need to be brought back from the dark side.   Some people (and I’m afraid Jack is one of them) may never recover from drinking the kool-aid, but I think we can be more convincing to those who can be turned if we regard them not as enemies but as people who need to overcome the anxieties that monsters like Karl Rove have stimulated and exploited. You don’t have to be a bad person to have voted for Romney-Ryan; misguided will do. (And see National Popular Vote for more on rectifying our weird electoral process.)
  • Our national economic policy remains guided by ideas that were discredited in the 1930s. And the 1% is still very much with us
  • Dems in the Senate need to start using the F-word to call out the absurdity of requiring 60 votes for practically any action to be taken.
  • Citizens United was defeated by united citizens, but $2 billion for an election? We can’t continue to line the pockets of consultants and TV stations for the privilege of having our decision-making process polluted by negatve campaigning. If you want  your mind boggled, see this report on OpenSecrets.org
  • The national victories, and Obama’s and Baldwin’s successes in Wisconsin, are  tempered here by our loss of control of the state senate; Republicans control both houses and we still have Walker as governor.
  • Antonin Scalia still need to throw a clot so Obama can appoint a Supreme Court justice.
  • Karl Rove needs to throw a clot so I can dance on his grave.

I’m convinced Obama wants to do the right things, but that requires that his supporters become effective advocates for his policies, and polices like them at every level of government. The fact that Romney won the money game but lost the election can’t have been lost on elected officials, who will continue to pay attention when they hear from informed, organized citizens. We still count votes, not dollars, on election day.

8/17/2012

Ryan lacks clarity on stimulus

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 8:25 am

Paul Ryan: “It’s clear the stimulus didn’t work.”

Um, no.

From the Duh! department

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 7:41 am

News Item: “Mitt Romney accused President Barack Obama in person and in TV advertising Tuesday of cutting Medicare “to pay for Obamacare.” (JSonline/AP)

Why would anyone in their right mind believe that Obama is more likely to destroy Medicare than Romney/Ryan?

Of course, re: global warming, why would anyone believe Exxon Mobile rather than disinterested scientists?

 

8/16/2012

Pulling up the ladder

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 3:52 pm

When I was born in 1954, a Republican President was embarking on the most ambitious peacetime infrastructure in American history, the Interstate  Highway System. The top marginal tax rate was 91%.

When I was 12 years old, Voting Rights Act finally ensured that African Americans enjoyed the franchise they’d been denied for hundreds of years. CEOs were paid 24 times what their workers were paid

By the time I graduated from grade school, Medicare guaranteed a minimum level of affordable health care for the elderly. Before my 12th birthday, Americans walked on the Moon.

When I graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison my tuition accounted for 20% of the cost of my education. Public funds made up most of the difference.

But then something happened. I tend to think of it as Reaganism, but it has since metastasized into something even more grotesque.

Since the 1980s

  • The top marginal tax rate has declined to 35%
  • Around the country, republican-held legislatures are passing laws restricting voter access, in the name of reducing fraud — which demonstrably doesn’t exist in any important way.
  •  In 2005, CEOs were paid 262 times the average worker’s pay
  • Paul Ryan has proposed changes to Medicare that will mean seniors will pay $1,200 more for health insurance by 2030, and over $5,000 by 2050 — but only seniors younger than me!
  • Public funding of the UW system has dwindled to 20% of the cost of education a student.

Baby-boomers have enjoyed better pay, more equal distribution of wealth, well-funded public education, ever-improving infrastructure, a more progressive tax system, and better health care than the generations before them.

Following generations are losing all these things, in large part because their elders are have been fighting for lower taxes.

Seems to me we’ve climbed a ladder to prosperity and are now pulling it up behind ourselves. Following generations be damned!

It’s shameful, really.

8/14/2012

The wiles of Paul Ryan

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 8:40 am

You have to give the Republicans credit: They know how to create problems.

Take the current fiscal mess. Republicans have cut revenues — notably by cutting taxes for people who don’t need tax relief — spent billions on unpaid-for wars, deregulated us into a financial meltdown (thereby lowering tax revenues) — and now are hollering about the looming deficit.

This is not an accident. Republicans have created an enormous deficit as part of a larger plan to eliminate the programs of the New Deal and the Great Society. These programs were created because capitalism, for all its wealth-creating virtues,  tends to unequal distribution of wealth, concentration of power in private hands, and ultimately the brutalization of society. In order for capitalism to survive, society must mitigate its negative effects.

To put it in a slogan, big government counterbalances big business.

Now, it may be that Paul Ryan does not see all this, and sincerely believes that American government is somehow more pernicious than say, the  government of Germany, which somehow manages to have a large government and a thriving private sector.

Or it may be that all the deficit hawkishness is a trojan horse to establish an old-school oligarchy in the U.S.

For my part, I think a social system controlled by the voting public is better than one controlled by people who are simply better at making money than most people.

But to return to the fiscal crisis, all we need to restore the country’s finances is responsible taxation, avoiding costly wasteful wars, and putting a bridle back on the financial sector.

And we can do it without putting the elderly out on the street.

8/3/2012

Romney’s taxes (or not)

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 8:15 am

Since everyone’s speculating about what’s in Mitt Romney’s tax returns, I’ll take a quick stab.

Let’s stipulate that Romney paid no taxes for the last 10 years. Let’s further stipulate that he broke no laws to avoid paying  taxes.

Fine. If someone told me how to legally avoid paying any taxes, I probably wouldn’t send a donation to the IRS. I’m not saying I shouldn’t, I’m just confessing to a selfish streak in myself.

However, I would also say that a tax code that lets a multimillionaire pay no taxes is crazy and needs to be fixed. It’s as though we are deliberately saying, “If you’re rich, you’re above taxes.”

No one likes taxes, but responsible people agree that they are necessary.

So, hold your nose and pay some goddam taxes like the rest of us, Mitt!

8/2/2012

Defense Jobs vs (or as) Public Jobs

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 7:57 pm

So now the right wing is trying to gin up the charge that Obama wants to destroy jobs with the sequestration agreed upon by all parties during the debt ceiling debate of 2011.

Leaving aside the question of whether this is just whining by people who don’t want to take their medicine, it seems fair to ask why the defense jobs — essentially public works jobs, since they’re paid for with public dollars — are more valuable than the public sectors jobs that have been lost by budget cuts at the state and federal level (and local, by virtue of the loss of shared revenue suffered by municipalities).

I would argue that, salaries being equal, they are of equal value economically, though of course politically they are not.

So, the GOP gets to cut jobs to save public dollars, but now they are trying to wriggle out of an agreement by blaming Obama for losing jobs.

And by the way, we’ve been told that government spending doesn’t create jobs, so why should government cuts cost jobs?

America Held Hostage

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 10:10 am

A man walks into a crowded theater and starts shooting, killing 12 and wounding scores.

We can learn two important about our society from this horrifying event

First, the fact that no one returned fire suggests that, while many or most of the theater-goers could have chosen to arm themselves before going to the theater, they chose not to. They rejected the notion that they ought to prepare to kill other human beings before leaving their homes.

That is, they are like the vast majority of Americans.

Second, their assailant was enabled by a small group of people who take the opposite view, that people should be prepared to use deadly force against their fellow citizens. They believe that it s a constitutional right of persons to arm themselves to the teeth with weapons designed for attacking groups of well-armed and prepared enemies. (That is what assault weapons are.)

James Holmes was not a member of  “a well-regulated militia,” yet he was legally armed like a soldier going to war.

This does not make sense to me, nor to most Americans. Yet it was so, and a terrible thing resulted. And why? Because the National Rifle Association has captured our government.

We need to have a discussion about how a well-funded minority can warp the national will, but for now, it behooves Americans to put their local, state and national legislators on notice that the NRA has led us to an unacceptable state of affairs.

Until we do, more families will soon be burying loved ones slaughtered  like those in Aurora Colorado.

3/26/2012

Anti-democracy

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 7:50 am

What do you call people who are against people collectively determining their working conditions and who are for more restrictive voting regulations?

I don’t think you call them lovers of democracy or popular will.

 

A question of balance

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 7:34 am

Re: Voter ID, we’re going to disenfranchise thousands of people to prevent voter fraud which numbers at best a few tens out of millions of ballots cast?

Those concerned about voter fraud ought to spend their energy on making sure that voting machines are above suspicion.

Guns don’t kill people, bullets do.

Filed under: General — Greg Walz-Chojnacki @ 7:30 am

It seems our open season on human beings is just getting started. A shooting of a robber in Milwaukee, the killing of an unarmed  young man in Florida and  the killing of another unarmed man in West Bend are appalling and disturbing.

They are also the consequences of an unholy alliance between the NRA and ALEC.

It’s bad enough that the messengers of the GOP have constantly provoked fear and hatred among Americans. Now they are putting guns into the hands of those they’ve disturbed.

None of these shootings were in defense of human life; they were in defense of property at best, and at worst the tragic consequences of overblown, unrealistic fears.

There is a profound immorality at work here. The makers and promoters of handguns — whose true purpose is to allow humans to kill their fellows  – should be called to task for the lust for money and power that is motivating them.

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