Saturday, April 14, 2012
In the parallel universe I visited this afternoon there's a topsy-turvy planet, called -- for obscure historical reasons -- T. Parti, where black is white, greed is good, taxes are bad and government is something you drown in the bathtub. Lies are celebrated, truth distrusted and facts are seen as irritating nuisances, which are -- like mosquitoes -- best avoided. Once a year, on something they call Tax Day, the inhabitants gather to drink tea in honor of the deity they hope will protect them from the evil of taxes. Their deity is known as Bright Bart for the brilliance of the wisdom he has handed down to them.
Wearing a “Remember” shirt to honor Bright Bart, Jumbotron speaker Dana Loesch accused Democrats of launching a “war on moms.” A gentleman named Luke Hilgemann estimated there were 6,300 celebrants at the event. Both statements, in the best T. Parti tradition, are completely devoid of factual content. You can read about it in the astronomical journal WisPolitics.com.
They had their little Tea Party at the Capitol today, but it wasn't the same without Sarah Palin and Andrew Breitbart
The Tea Party held their annual Tax Day rally at the Capitol today, and the crowd was so small they hardly needed their Jumbotron. I heard a speaker say there were 6,300 people at the rally, but that was a figment of his imagination.
The Tea Party crowd didn't even make it back to the Hans Christian Heg at the corner, where the anti-Tea Party demonstrators congregated. I've seen similar size anti-Walker rallies (on weekday afternoons) described as "several hundred people." Clearly attendance was down from last year, when they had Sarah Palin and Andrew Breitbart on the program, and when they were outnumbered by thousands of Walker opponents. This year, although there were some protesters, most had better things to do -- like campaigning for Democratic recall candidates.
I'll leave it to others to decide exactly where to draw the exact dividing line is between everyday rightwing craziness and out-and-out fascism, but it never hurts to be reminded of this admonition attributed to Sinclair's Lewis (see note below). There certainly were plenty of flags. And no shortage of speakers spewing the usual over the top rightwing vitriol, often attacking their political opponents' personal hygiene and grooming -- a common rightwing means of dehumanizing those with who they disagree that seems to say more about the speakers and their obsessions than those with whom they disagree.
While speakers at today's Tea Party Rally were rallying behind Gov. Walker, the demonstrators at the outskirts seemed more concerned with the Milwaukee County DA's John Doe investigation of Scott Walker's associates, several of whom have already been charged. "Who's John Doe?" was a popular chant. Signs ranged from one saying "I Am Not a Crook" and showing Scott Walker shaking hands with the long dead Richard Nixon and the always popular "Scott, your money is on the dresser." The visuals made it pretty clear who people thought was the real target of the John Doe probe and would end up behind bars. Exciting times in Wisconsin.
Note: The quote is often attributed to Sinclair Lewis, and in particular his 1935 semi-satirical novel about a fascist take-over in America, and sometimes to Upton Sinclair or H. L. Mencken. In fact, nobody has been able to trace this quote to any of the three authors. As happens so often with famous quotes, it often starts with something said by somebody not famous that gets attributed to someone more famous, and then polished over time (the same thing happened with Vince Lombardi's "quote" about winning). In the case of the Lewis quote, it seems to have started with something journalist Harrison Salisbury wrote in 1971 about Lewis. This natural evolution of quotes into increasingly polished and widely repeated misquotes is analyzed in Nice Guys Finish Seventh, a 1992 book by Ralph Keyes.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Note to state media: It wasn't "outdoor lovers" who voted in favor of a sandhill crane hunt. It was hunters.
Why anyone could bear to shoot one of these magnificent creatures is beyond me. And for Wisconsin, the home of the International Crane Federation, to even consider hunting sandhill cranes seems almost obscene.
Whooping cranes like the one on the right, one of the species the ICF is helping bring back from near extinction, are just starting to reappear in Wisconsin and have been seen hanging out with sandhills. Hunting their cousins just about guarantees some of the rare and endangered whooping cranes will be killed as well.
Rep. Kleefisch's crane hunt proposal died in committee when the Assembly was in session. That didn't keep the Wisconsin Conservation Congress from bringing it back as an advisory question at their spring meetings Monday night. A lot of state media reported Wednesday that "nature lovers" voted in favor of a sandhill hunt. Not exactly. At the Dane County meeting we went to, the best attended in the whole state, nature lovers voted 4-1 against a crane hunt, 243-62 The hunt carried statewide, winning in 67 of 72 counties, 2,559-1,271. But that's because, in most counties, the meetings are chiefly attended by hunters and trappers and non-hunters often don't feel comfortable participating. Voters, especially outside the Madison area, regularly approve of extending hunting to additional species. A few years ago, for example, they voted in favor of killing feral cats.
Lazy and/or biased reporting in state media gives the impression that "outdoor lovers" in general favor a crane hunt, perhaps assuming that, because it has "Conservation" in its name, the group speaks for all nature lovers, and that's far from the truth. (At the Dane County meeting there were even some hunters who spoke out against a crane hunt.) Many outdoor lovers abhor the idea of hunting cranes.
The DNR can recommend a crane hunt, and things now seem to be pointing in that direction, but the state legislature would need to vote it into law and it would have to be signed by the governor before it actually can happen (and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service would have to approve). Strictly speaking, it's not a partisan issue --plenty of Democrats also frequently vote with hunters. But the cranes would have no chance with the GOP governor and legislature that just legalized wolf hunting. With a Democratic governor and a Democratic state Senate, the birds might at least stand a fighting chance. One more reason to recall Walker and the GOP senators.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Greeted by a giant origami crane, citizens speak out on crane hunt proposal at spring wildlife meeting in Middleton
Long lines of people snaked through the lobby of the Middleton Cross Plains Performing Arts Center last night. The DNR Spring Hearings and Wisconsin Conservation Congress County Meetings were being held in every county, and this was the Dane County meeting. The meetings solicited public input on a wide range of topics, but the most controversial, especially in Dane County, was the idea of authorizing a sandhill crane hunt, as a number of other states have done.
Greeting people who came for the meeting was this large origami crane, surrounded by smaller folded paper cranes and covered with inscriptions urging the protection of the cranes. My favorite was, "Sandhills Wear Red Hoodies." The crane -- named "Sandra." of course -- was the creation of Edward Kuharski (standing behind crane, talking to woman with purse) of Madison's Green Design Studio.
The crane hunt was only one of dozens of issues up for advisory votes, but one of the most contentious, at least for the non-hunters attending the meeting, which was remarkably civil, given how emotional many people get about hunting sandhill cranes.
At the extremes, people talked past each other. Some of the opponents of hunting sandhill cranes oppose all hunting, and so their comments were discounted by many of the sportsmen at the meeting. But there also seemed to be a large middle ground of people who are either hunters themselves or have no objection to hunting in general, but who who object to the proposed sandhill hunt. Conflicting arguments were made regarding sandhill impact on agriculture, and it does seem there may be better ways of dealing with the cranes and the corn crop than using hunting to manage their numbers. One argument I hadn't heard before was that whoooping cranes are starting to be found among sandhills and may be confused with them from a distance. Hunting sandhills would increase the likelihood of the rare, protected birds being shot by accident.
The votes are being tabulated and results were scheduled to be released tomorrow.
Monday, April 09, 2012
If you think hunting sandhill cranes should not be allowed in Wisconsin, cast your vote at one of tonight's hearings
After clouding over Easter afternoon, the sun came back out late in the day as we were driving to the Goose Pond Sanctuary -- the 600 acre sanctuary run by the Madison Audubon Society.
This is Erstad Prairie, which is next to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Schoenberg Marsh. (The photos are geotagged, so if you click through the photos to Flickr, you'll find a link to the map locations.) The light was stunning and the scenery was awesome, and we had it all to ourselves. We were surrounded by the wild calls of the sandhill cranes on Schoenberg Marsh. Periodically, a group of cranes would fly overhead, and their primordial call resounded from one end of the marsh to the other (you can hear different sandhill vocalizations if you scroll down on this sandhill crane page of the International Crane Foundation's website.) It was haunting.
Wisconsin sandhill crane lovers who oppose hunting these magnificent creatures in our state breathed a sigh of relief when State Rep. Joel Kleefisch's bill to authorize a crane hunt never came to a vote in the recent legislative session. But now the issue has surfaced again. The DNR Spring Hearings and Wisconsin Conservation Congress County Meetings are being held all over the state, and the WCC is asking the public to comment on the idea of a crane hunt (pdf of meeting locations in each county). The Dane County meeting is from 7:00-9:00pm at the Middleton Cross Plains Performing Arts Center, 2100 Bristol Street, Middleton.
These meetings are heavily attended by hunters -- many, but not all, of whom support the crane hunt -- but the meetings are also open to non-hunting members of the general public. You can cast your vote without staying for the whole meeting. If you want to speak up for the cranes, this is your chance.
In Wisconsin the weather is at its most unpredictable this time of year, and we never know what we'll get for Easter
Four years ago, Easter was on March 23, and Wingra Park was snowbound. If not snowy, Easter is often rainy and/or cold in these parts. But this year we seem to have won the lottery. Hope yours was as beautiful!