Saturday, March 17, 2012
Another mid-seventies day in March, and it's technically still winter. St. Patty's Day, in fact. Found the pump, put some air in the tires, and we went for a short bike ride. Pretty much guarantees it will snow again. At least once, maybe more.
Friday, March 16, 2012
Wisconsin state legislature wins coveted Black Hole award from the Society of Professional Journalists
The Wisconsin State Legislature is one of three state legislatures to win the second annual Black Hole Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. The coveted award is given in recognition of "the most heinous violations of the public's right to know. " The Badger State was an underdog in the competition, given its long-time reputation for clean and open government. The controlling GOP majority faced a daunting task. But with mad ferocity and the sense of purpose of true ideologues, they managed to (mostly) shut out the public and nail down the award. Among their accomplishments, according to the SPJ:
The Wisconsin State Legislature ignored the state's open meetings law in hastily passing a collective bargaining bill in March 2011, then successfully urged the state supreme court to exempt it from this law.And that's not even including the blag plastic trashbags taped over the windows in the door to the Assembly chamber, put there to obstruct the view of representatives conducting their infamous "war on women."
Additionally, tasked with redrawing voter boundaries based on the 2010 Census, the legislature's Republican leadership hammered out new maps behind closed doors, even having their members sign secrecy agreements. The maps were unveiled less than a week before the only public hearing on the bills, which promptly passed. Afterward, the leaders fought court orders to release records showing what they had done, drawing an uncommonly sharp rebuke from a federal judge.
The Wisconsin legislature also passed a law barring even police from knowing who may be carrying concealed weapons. And while opening the state capitol to these weapons, it cracked down on the use of cameras by citizens in the state assembly.
It's not a true black hole, of course. Gravity keeps everything from escaping from a real black hole, even light. This is more like a rusty, leaky black hole, spewing toxic sludge in the form of divisiveness, bad policies and worse laws. The legislature needs to be fixed. The repair job starts this June in the recalls and will continue until it's finished in the November election.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
This was taken last Saturday at the Reclaim Wisconsin Rally at the Capitol. She might be referring to either or both of two big upcoming celebrations:
June 5: Recall Election Day. That's the day the 99% take back the governor's office and half of Our House, the State Senate. There will be dancing in the streets.
Nov. 6: Presidential Election Day. That's the day every member of the state Assembly will be up for reelection. The GOP clowns who control the Assembly didn't think it was enough to vote blindly for the agenda of Scott Walker, ALEC and the Koch brothers. They felt they needed to start a war on the women of Wisconsin before leaving town. Last night was disgraceful, and it sounds as if Thursday will be just as bad. They need to leave. On Nov. 6 their constituents can give them a permanent one-way ticket home. That's how we reclaim Wisconsin and finish taking back Our House.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Interesting sky last night. Looking like a pair of headlights approaching in the night sky, Jupiter (low beam) and Venus (high beam) are in conjunction. Today they reached their closest apparent proximity in the sky, separated by just 3 degrees. Of course, their apparent closeness to each other is just an illusion. Venus lies between us and the sun. It's separated from Jupiter, a giant outer planet, by hundreds of millions of miles. We're actually looking past Venus to its neighbor, deep in the outer solar system, 483 million miles from the sun (in contrast, Venus is just 36 million miles from the sun). Their relative brightness is deceptive, too. Jupiter is far larger and brighter, and when Venus isn't dominating the sky as the morning star or evening star, Jupiter is the brightest planet in the sky,
brighter than any star.
Venus is enroute to an April 1 rendezvous with the Pleiades star cluster, the fuzzy patch above and to the left of Venus. The Pleiades are called the Seven Sisters in Greek mythology. Seven is the number of stars seen clearly by someone with really good eyesight with the naked eye, but actually there are about 1,000 stars in the cluster. The approach of Venus to the Pleiades is also more apparent than actual, since the Pleiades are some 400 light years away.
Even further away is the Orion Nebula, which is the middle "star" in Orion's Sword that hangs from his belt and is not actually a star at all. It's some 1,300 light years away. The Orion Constellation (see note) dominates the winter night sky but now is dropping lower in the horizon.
I took the photo in Wingra Park, and -- unusually for me -- actually used a tripod rather than shooting handheld at an insane ISO.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Will they grow up in Fitzwalkerstan, or will Fitzwalkerstan just be a distant, bad memory from their childhood?
They're the ones who -- unless things change -- will pay for Scott Walker's tax breaks and giveaways for the rich. (Photos taken at the Reclaim Wisconsin rally, Mar. 10, 2012.)
"Taxes pay for civilization," a sign said at the rally, quoting Oliver Wendell Holmes. Wisconsin used to be a progressive state that was proud to pay the taxes that provided the services that made this a great place to live, work and raise a family. Scott Walker didn't start this steady erosion of our quality of life, but his stealth agenda turned what had been a worrisome trend into a raging flood washing away our jobs, healthcare, quality of education and even our political freedoms.
That's what the Walker recall election is all about. What sort of state are we? What sort of state do we want to be? Do we want to live in a house of cards built on a foundation of lies and corporate greed? It's about government of the people, by the people, for the people -- and whether we care enough to preserve it for our children.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Madison Democrat Fred Risser at the Reclaim Wisconsin rally at the Capitol yesterday. He has never lost an election. First elected to the Wisconsin Assembly in 1956, he is the longest-serving state legislator not only in Wisconsin history, but in U.S. history as well.
A year ago, at the age of 83, he gave up the comforts of home for life on the road when he became the senior member of the Wisconsin 14, the the group of Democratic senators who left the state in order to deny Senate Republicans the quorum they needed to pass Scott Walker's union-busting budget bill.
The bill eventually passed, but the Wisconsin 14's courageous holding action provided valuable time for a mass movement to organize. That led directly to last summer's recall of two Republican state senators. And that, in a nutshell, is why the atrocious strip mining bill -- written to the exact specifications of an out-of-state mining company -- was defeated last week. Thank you, Senator Risser!