Saturday, March 31, 2012
I took these photos in February of last year at the Capitol. The sign in the center is one of my favorites of the entire Wisconsin Uprising, because it captures so clearly what happened after Scott Walker dropped his union-busting bombshell on the state of Wisconsin -- the sense of common purpose that united a broad cross section of the entire state against Walker and his agenda.
Critics, scoffers and Walker's allies said the recall was divisive, costly and unnecessary -- and, anyhow, organizers would never be able to gather more than half a million valid signatures (Wisconsin sets a very high threshold for recall elections). But in January the recall drive filed petitions with 1 million signatures for Walker's recall, almost double the amount needed, a total that had seemed unimaginable months before. And yesterday the Government Accountability Board made it official. The recall is on. Make that plural. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch is also being recalled, as are four more GOP state senators, including Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.
Lots of people are still skeptical that Walker can be recalled. They point to record amounts of out-of-state money already flooding the state with Walker ads. They say many people share Walker's anti-union stance. They say that Democrats are divided, that none of the candidates have the money or name recognition to be competitive, and that Democrats will be at a huge financial disadvantage. A lot of Democrats seem unenthusiastic about the announced candidates and wish they had a better one. Some still dream of Russ Feingold coming in and saving the day, which isn't going to happen.
Democrats are a contentious lot. They fight tough, no-holds-barred primary battles and people's feelings get hurt. It can look like a self-destructive, disorganized farce to people who prefer their politics neat and tidy, with everyone falling into line behind their leadership. But guess what? The primary is May 8th. On May 9th Democrats will rally behind whoever wins. You'll see a unity and sense of purpose that will match the Wisconsin Uprising of last year. It will match the intensity and determination of the people who collected recall signatures one by one in the snows of midwinter. Scott Walker should be afraid, very afraid, not just of the current John Doe investigation, but of Wisconsin's voters.
The Marist/NBC News poll coincidentally released yesterday seems to confirm this. A generic Democrat holds a small lead over Walker -- 48 percent to 46 percent. Granted, that's within the margin of error. But that's before the Democrats have a candidate. Or even a campaign. Seems like a good omen.
Friday, March 30, 2012
Thursday, March 29, 2012
When the laws of self defense provide cover for the senseless killing of two black kids, the laws must change
I was deeply moved by the campus Speak Out for Trayvon Martin and Bo Morrison at the UW-Madison's Library Mall last Tuesday. Trayvon and Bo were young black men -- kids, really -- who were shot by white men who were not charged. Both shootings involved controversial ALEC-sponsored laws -- Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law and Wisconsin's "Castle Doctrine" -- that dangerously broaden the legal concept of self defense.
People listened intently as speakers spoke out about racism, racial profiling, and gun laws that make it all too easy to act out our fears by pulling a trigger. Rally organizer Dan Suarez called the two deaths "lynchings."
"They were murdered because of the color of their skin," Suarez declared. "We have been taught in the United States to be afraid of young black men."White fear of young black men is widespread. Several speakers talked about what it's like to be young and male and black in a liberal city like Madison and how careful they always have to be that people don't misinterpret their actions -- or attack them for no reason at all. Madison West student Vance is 17, just like Trayvon. He said he lived in a good, safe neighborhood, but that after Trayvon's killing, his mother said, "Vance, you're staying in the house. I don't want you going out alone." Racial profiling isn't just something police do, and it's not going to go away just because we try to sweep it under the rug.
Fear is a powerful force. When people are afraid, their emotions take over, and sometimes they lash out impulsively and violently. The traditional laws regarding self defense took this into account and built in a "time-out" to give people time to think twice. That's why a person who felt threatened traditionally was obligated to retreat from a perceived threat and was allowed to use armed force only if it clearly was the only way to avoid death or bodily harm.
Laws like the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground remove the obligation to retreat and to think twice. They enable people to shoot first and ask questions later simply because they feel threatened, and for one person to act as judge, jury and executioner in a split second -- often in situations that don't even involve a capital crime. In a nation where racial fears drive a lot of our actions, that sounds a lot like the recipe for legalized lynching.
What constitutes self defense is too important to be left to the gun lobby. These laws need to be radically changed, or ideally struck from the books. They're unnecessary and encourage reckless violence.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
This is what they were doing three years ago today, during a more typical Wisconsin spring.
I took these photos over the weekend at Longenecker Horticultural Gardens, UW-Madison Arboretum.
With more than 2,000 plants on display, this 50-acre area north of the Visitor Center is the premier collection of trees, shrubs and vines in Wisconsin. Recognized internationally, plantings were begun when the Arboretum was founded in 1934. Today, the Gardens hold major displays of lilacs (one of the nations largest), flowering crabapples (one of the most up-to-date in the country), viburnums, conifers (including a very large collection of arborvitae cultivars), and dozens of other plant groups.It's a spectacular place this time of year, especially with our unbelievably warm early spring -- one for the record books -- when everything seems to be blooming at least a month ahead of its normal schedule. No matter what the weather, it's worth a trip. If it's raining, take an umbrella -- there's a magical meditative stillness to the place in a light spring rain. And on a pleasant, sunny day, everything is erupting into one wild celebration of spring. And when Some of the lilacs have already bloomed, and the entire lilac collection is about to burst into full bloom. The magnolias also reflect this year's accelerated clock. The white ones are mostly beyond their prime already, with each tree shadowed by a ring of white blossoms on the ground below. The darker shades were just starting to bloom over the weekend.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Usually when I take a photograph of the moon, it's a sudden impulse shot with what I have at hand. Often I do everything wrong, shooting telephoto handheld at a slow shutter speed at an insanely high ISO. Sometimes it sort of works, in a blurry, expressive sort of way.
Last night, the moon and Venus (cropped out here) were close together, and the shadowed part of the moon was illuminated beautifully by earthglow. I thought I'd do it up right this time -- but everything went wrong.
I set the D90 up on a tripod with an 80-200 zoom. I turned the ISO way, way down. I turned off image stabilization, the way you're supposed to on a tripod. Turned on Long Exposure Noise Reduction, because I was tired of noisy night skies. I wanted a rich, deep black. Well, I got the black background. That's about it.
The multiple ghost moons are the result of "DSLR mirror slap." That's when the mirror in a DSLR swings out of the way of the film or sensor at the moment of exposure. It comes to rest against the pentaprism housing with a loud slapping sound. The resulting vibration during a time exposure -- especially with a bright subject against a dark background -- creates ghost images like this. Or in softer lighting, just a general softness. That's why most serious SLRs used to have a way to lock up the mirror after you composed your picture. Now many DSLRs don't, including my D90. So I experimented with different shutter speeds to no avail.
Then I remembered that the D90 has a workaround, buried deep in the display menu -- Exposure Delay Mode. When the shutter is pressed, this holds the mirror up for a couple seconds, letting the vibrations settle down, before taking the picture. I tried it. It works. But I noticed the moon still looked pretty soft, and Venus looked more like a micro star trail than a point of light. I was using such a long exposure -- 20 sec., don't ask why -- that the moon and Venus were visibly moving across the frame, visibly streaking and blurring.
Finally figured that out. I reset ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. I was set to take a technically flawless tripod shot of the moon and Venus. Looked up to frame the shot, but there was no moon. Clouds had moved in for the night.
Monday, March 26, 2012
Sunday was pleasant and sunny, a perfect day to visit the Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Their Meadow Garden is one of Madison's seasonal treasures, featuring low-maintenance fescue grasses and spring flowering bulbs.. And like just about everything else, the flowers seem to be blooming a month earlier than usual. Photos I took there other years were dated April 29 and May 4. This time, however, the flowers seem to have gotten a head start on the apple trees, which haven't blossomed yet. When they do, they'll make a perfect background for the rumpled, wild beauty of the Meadow Garden.