We when lost the summer

The Nerfs

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The Joneses after the war

Come play with us and be our love.

Fun fact: Madison is moving up in the world.  As of late May, we became one of a couple other cities to be part of a B-Cycle bike share program.  We are like Paris! That is all you need to know now about Madison:  we have bikes now and we are Paris.

Okay, so how it works is there are six active bike sharing stations in Madison (like the one pictured above).  The plan is to have upwards of thirty stations in the near future. People who want to use the bikes must first pay for one of three types of memberships: 24-hour ($10), 7-day ($30), annual ($65) or student annual ($45–email must end with .edu to receive this rate).  Once you select a membership you can use your credit card to access one of the bikes.  The first half-hour of usage is free, the second half- hour is $2 and each half-hour after that is $4.

The purpose of the fee, according to the B-Cycle people, is to discourage extended rides.  Once there are more stations it will also be easier to avoid fees because one can simply dock the bike at a nearby station, run whatever errands need to get done, and undock the bike–starting a new free half-hour to get home.

The bikes themselves are beautiful Trek  road bikes equipped with baskets and locks.  They also have a GPS so you can later log on to the B-Cycle website to see how far you traveled and how many calories you burned. I think this program has the potential to offer even more Madisonians an opportunity to try biking around town, which is a great thing, especially if it takes some cars off the road.

So I’m very enthusiastic about B-Cycle, but as the program develops I hope the B-Cycle people will consider the following suggestions for improvement:

  1. An Insurance Policy:  If you read through the terms and conditions to use B-Cycle, the bike rider must pay for any damages or theft that occurs while the rider’s checked out the bike.  The replacement fees on the  bikes is $1,000.  It would be nice if annual members could somehow pay more if they wanted to insure themselves against some of this damage.  After all, I’ve had seats stolen and frames bent on my bikes through no fault of my own.  Accidents happen; tires blow out.  Madison is a safe town, but it’s not that safe.
  2. Where’s the near-west-side love?  The map of future stations is promising, but where’s the station at Hilldale? For those of us who live downtown Hilldale is our nearest movie theater and mall.  It would be nice to bike out there for dinner and a movie some summer evening without being charged $18 in B-Cycle fees per person.   While we’re at it, how about stations in Shorewood and on University Avenue or anywhere near West Regent Street?
  3. Make the first hour free.  Right now, it’s hard to avoid charges on B-Cycle.  With so few stations opened one cannot currently dock a bike and run an errand.  And even with all the docking stations open, it may not be possible to get very far within a half-hour on a three-speed bike.  I fear the current pricing model might scare some people away from using B-Cycle.  Here’s an alternative model: First hour free, the second hour $4 and then each half-hour after that would be an additional $4.  This would give everyone time to  run errands at their own pace and would still discourage people from using the bikes for more than a couple of hours.

Well that was a lovely three-month hiatus.  I learned. I grew. I was paid money for work. What a world.  But all things must end and here I am again. Scott Walker is still governor.  Madison is still awesome.  There are so many great poets and gruesome poet deaths to discuss.  Yes, it’s time to reel in the fish and finally cook dinner.

A couple of days ago I posted this video of Scott Walker telling the stirring tale of the recall effort that led to his successful campaign for Milwaukee County Executive. I said that with a few edits, this would be a wonderful campaign ad for Walker’s own recall in a few months.  Well, thanks to the giver of all things, the internet, a clever person has in fact edited the video for just that purpose.  It still includes the majority of Walker’s recall = people taking back the government speech, but instead of featuring Walker’s insufferable mug, his voice is recorded over scenes from the ongoing protests at the capitol. The result is truly inspiring.  (Hat tip, AV Club.)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

Today’s news summary will be a bit harried, as I have a pint of Guinness waiting for me in a darkened pub.  As always, an archive of news clips related to Fitzwalkerstan is available on my “Save the State” page. Here are today’s highlights:

1. Governor Walker will balance his budget on the back of poor sick people

In light of the centuries of oppression and poverty endured by the Irish, today is as good as any to point out that Governor Walker’s budget will do the most harm to the most vulnerable in our community.  They will see tax increases, decreases in education and training funding, healthcare cuts and possibly death. That’s not an exaggeration, read my full post on it.   But, hey, at least the state will have more funding for their funerals!

2. More lawsuits, more ethics inquiries

Today, local activist Ben Masel filed a lawsuit regarding the constitutionality of the state’s new event permitting process at the Capitol. Yes, he’s a marijuana activist, but in Madison our marijuana activists are informed and they know the law.

Also the Democratic Party filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Board over Governor Walker’s meeting with a national republican pollster at the State Capitol.

3. Governor Walker and Wisconsin GOP leaders went to D.C. for a political payoff after “winning” against unions

Just in case you thought the republicans’ policies were based on doing what they think is best from Wisconsin, Governor Walker and the state GOP leadership went out to D.C. last night to receive a massive payout from Washington-based lobbyists and other corporate donors as a thank-you for ramming through Governor Walker’s anti-worker legislation last week. Amazingly, some in the GOP refrained from this payday, which could be a signal that some republicans actually care what people in Wisconsin think about them. From the Capital Times:

Absent from the gathering were the other 16 Republican state senators, including Senate President Mike Ellis, who took the lead in forcing majority leader Fitzgerald to back off his attempt to deny Democratic senators the vote. Capitol aides say that Ellis and a number of other senior senators have grown increasingly ill at ease with Fitzgerald’s erratic behavior and with his inability to recognize the damage that could be done to Republicans by flying into Washington to pick up corporate money in return for passing Walker’s plan.

“There’s just no way to spin this as a positive,” said one aide, who suggested that Ellis would look “like a bagman.”

(Notably, Congressman Sean Duffy, a Republican from northern Wisconsin, contacted media outlets to emphasize that he had not been invited to the event and would not be attending.)

As with anything Governor Walker does lately, there was a large protest outside the D.C.  fundraiser.  Visit dane101 for some some great pictures.

In perhaps the scariest article yet about Governor Walker’s budget proposals, Shawn Doherty with the Capital Times today drew attention to the fact that under Walker’s budget proposals, healthcare coverage for low-income people would take massive cuts.  This includes cuts to care for some life-threatening diseases such as End Stage Renal Disease and a rare disease called Pseudomyxoma Peritonei.  Without these treatments, Wisconsin residents with these diseases will die, which is probably why, as the Doherty pointedly illustrates, the Governor has requested a  $250,000 increase in funding for “funeral and cemetery aids” for low-income people.  That’s right, in Walker’s Wisconsin, the state will no longer pay for the healthcare that keeps you alive, but it will pay for your funeral, because that’s cheaper.  From the Capital Times:

The governor’s budget steps up payments for funerals for people on Medicaid even as it cuts nearly $500 million from the health programs that serve 1.2 million statewide.

Green, 45, is worried she could be one of them if she loses coverage through the state’s BadgerCare program.

The Manitowoc mom suffers from a rare disease called Pseudomyxoma Peritonei that requires surgeries every couple of years and regular monitoring with CAT scans. Last year, her medical costs totaled $140,000. Without help from the state’s public health programs, she says, she would have died. She still will die if she doesn’t get such help again, Green says. Her tumors are sure to return and require surgery in a year or so. After seven or eight of these operations, she says, the disease is usually terminal.

I am unemployed and have little money, but I am willing to pay more of what I do have if it means keeping people on healthcare that will save their lives.  I think it is wrong and disgusting for a government to prioritize any other spending over programs that protect our most vulnerable residents. Killing people is not a Medicaid efficiency.  Also interesting, according to the Capital Times, Governor Walker is not the only Republican governor to think it’s okay for a state to allow poor residents to die because of other funding priorities:

While kicking people off Medicaid who could die as a result may have once seemed unthinkable, it is happening in Arizona, where Republican Gov. Jan Brewer removed nearly 100 patients from organ transplant waiting lists late last year. (Interestingly, Brewer is now the subject of recall efforts for her defunding of Medicaid, which critics equate to “death panels of the poor.”) At least two of these patients have since died. Last December I wrote a blog post on this Arizona situation titled “Death by Budget Cut,” asking if our Medicaid patients in Wisconsin might face a similar fate.

This is the grimmest addition to what is now a clear pattern of Governor Walker targeting low-income people for budget cutting measures.  In addition to letting poor people die, Governor Walker’s budget proposals could force low-income seniors to lose drug coverage, it cuts family planning services for low-income people, and it puts talented, disabled adults at risk of being institutionalized because the state will no longer pay for the quality care that allows them to stay in their homes.  You may have heard Governor Walker say that his budget doesn’t raise taxes, but some Wisconsin residents will see tax increases under Walker’s budget proposal.  Guess who takes the hit? That’s right, the working poor.  And just yesterday we learned that Governor Walker’s education budget formula favors funding for wealthy districts, while cutting Milwaukee Public Schools (lots of poor kids go there) by 8%. For more details see this list by the Wisconsin Council on Children & Families.

Societies are often judged by how they treat their most vulnerable residents; under Governor Walker’s leadership we will deserve nothing but scorn.

Now that Wisconsin news outlets are shifting back and forth between news of Governor Walker’s anti-worker law, news of his budget proposals and news of elections and recall efforts, I plan to pull together short daily news summaries of keys news items from each day.  As I do almost every day, I will also log all news articles, editorials and other resources in my “Save the State” page for later reference.  I hope you find these resources helpful, but if you have any suggestions to make these pages more meaningful, don’t hesitate to send me an email at duchessofstubb at gmail dot com.

Here are Wednesday’s reasons why Scott Walker and the republican leadership are bad for Wisconsin:

1. School cuts to most districts, except wealthy suburbs of Milwaukee:

That’s right, according to the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s analysis, under the formula used by the Governor’s office for his proposed cuts, some of the least-needy districts in the state will avoid any cuts whatsoever.  From the Journal Sentinel:

The Dover School District in Racine County would be the biggest winner in the state with a 17.5% increase. Other local districts that would have gained state aid and their percentages are: Fox Point (4.6%), Mequon-Thiensville (3.2%), Nicolet (2.9%), Pewaukee (7.4%) and Stone Bank (0.7%).

Meanwhile, Milwaukee Public Schools would have seen its aid decrease by 8% and a large number of other school districts would have lost 10% or more of their aid.

Even if your child happens to attend one of the few districts benefiting from this formula, does this seem like a very logical or equitable way to “share sacrifices”? The Governor  gave a news conference today where he touted that districts can off-set his cuts by cutting 10% from their employees’ pay (By the way, this is pretty much the ONLY way districts are allowed to offset these cuts. So much for local control, right). But this was widely disputed by many of the school district representatives who were at the Capitol today but were not allowed to attend the press conference because they would draw attention to the fact that our Governor pretty much lies or misleads any time he opens his mouth.

2. Lawsuits, Lawsuits, and other questionable ethics:

Today Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne filed a civil lawsuit to void Walker’s anti-worker legislation because it was passed illegally in a committee in which republican members knowingly violated state public meeting laws.  There will be a hearing on this lawsuit tomorrow before a Dane County judge.  According to the Journal Sentinel, this judge will on Friday also hear a different lawsuit filed against the Governor by Dane County.

Meanwhile Governor Walker today was forced to settle a joint lawsuit filed by the Isthmus and Associated Press for failing to respond to their public records requests.  Under the settlement Governor Walker will produce the requested records on a CD (so the news organizations are not burdened by printing costs) and will also pay  for the legal fees incurred by the news organizations.  (Actually, the state will pay the legal fees on the Governor’s behalf.)

Finally, Democratic Senators Pocan and Risser today were forced to boycott a different public meeting held by the republican leadership because it was not fully accessible to the public.  The governor claimed afterwards that meeting was fully open, even though key members of the public were not allowed access.

3. Terrible leadership, anti-worker laws causing a massive wave of public service retirements

The Capital Times and Wisconsin State Journal ran similar pieces today on the high amount of public employees retiring because of Governor Walker’s anti-worker measures.  Although the retirements might allow some younger employees to enter the workforce, the sheer amount of retirements will result in a massive  amount of brain-drain in a number of key issue areas.  From the Capital Times:

Despite these short-term assurances, it’s clear from interviews with public employees that the potential for losing benefits in the near future looms large and is one motivation for those heading for the doors. Others are leaving because they are tired of feeling like they have a “target on their backs,” as one put it, and oppose the cuts they fear will hurt the citizens they serve.

As seasoned workers leave, people inside and outside of state government worry about a loss of institutional experience and memory.

The DNR’s Lathrop, for instance, will be hard, if not impossible, to replace, colleagues say.

“Dick is the ‘go-to’ guy regarding lake issues in Wisconsin,” says Ken Potter of the UW-Madison’s department of civil & environmental engineering. “His early retirement is a great loss to the DNR, the University of Wisconsin and the people of Wisconsin.”

From the stories it sounds like many older workers are retiring because the worry about their ability to maintain benefits they planned to retire on.  Others, also feel pushed to retire because programs they helped develop are being undermined or even dismantled by the Walker administration.  One such program is Family Care, which uses innovative approaches to treatments and nursing care to keep adults out of nursing homes.  The program actually saves the state money, but that hasn’t stopped the Walker administration from proposing an eligibility cap that will force people into costly nursing home care.

If you were a public worker who had spent 20 years building a program to cut down on costs and improve services to Wisconsinites, would you want to stick around and watch it fall apart? In addition, losing people who can properly administer public service programs is just another blow to low-income working families in our community.  To learn more, the Wisconsin Council on Children & Families recently released this damning analysis of the effects that Governor Walker’s proposals will have on working families.

People, when are we ready to say that enough is enough?

 

In this amazing political ad from the 2010 republican primary for governor, then-candidate Scott Walker gives a pretty moving summation as to why he should be recalled later this year. In the ad, candidate Walker weaves us a tale about a people so shocked by one leader’s  poor stewardship and reckless cronyism that the people joined together to recall that leader.  As candidate Walker will tell you, it was not about anger, but about the people taking back their government so that it would once again reflect the wishes of its constituents.  Obviously, candidate Walker was referring to the recall election in Milwaukee County that led to his becoming County Executive, but as people on Twitter pointed out, with a few edits (we’d have to cut off the last minute as he starts spewing some confusing Walker logic) this really could be the first ad for the petition campaign to recall Governor Walker. Plus there’s Braveheart music and shadowy lighting:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

As always, for those of you trying to keep track of the State of Wisconsin’s grievances against Scott Walker and the republican leadership, please visit my “Save the State” page, which is regularly updated to help everyone stay informed about these crucial issues.

 

With all the acts of political suicide taking place here in Wisconsin, it’s been hard to keep up with some of the things I enjoy in my normal, non-political life.  These include researching the gruesome deaths of my favorite poets, half-heartedly translating things from German and investigating the beers of the world.  But given the turbulence of local politics, isn’t now, more than ever, the time when I should be turning to the benevolent brewers for comfort? And so, I again dip my toes in that golden-hued pool of discovery as I recently tried for the first time, and probably last, Dogfish Head’s 60-Minute IPA.

The fact that I probably won’t have this beer again doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with its quality, but with the fact that Dogfish Head, based out of Delaware, announced last week that it is ending its distribution efforts in Wisconsin and handful of other states.  Madison Beer Review has a good analysis as to why Wisconsin is both a desirable and difficult market for out-of-state craft brewers, so I won’t try to recreate their analysis.  But I think they hit the point perfectly: In Wisconsin we support craft brewers with a passion, but we favor Wisconsin brewers above others.  I certainly consider myself a typical Wisconsin beer drinker in this respect; unless given a direct recommendation based on my proclivities, I will always choose a Wisconsin beer before anything made out-of-state.

Although this may certainly limit the variety of beers that come and stay in Wisconsin, I think our support of local craft brewers is one of the best things about Wisconsin.  And, for the record, our brewers are fantastic and are generally incredibly inventive.  These, often small-scale, brewers can afford to innovate because they have this local support.

So does Wisconsin need the presence of highly-regarded out-of-state brewers like Dogfish Head? Despite my unending support of Wisconsin brewers, I have to answer yes.  The more variety that can be brought to the state, the more local breweries will have to develop to remain relevant with the public’s taste preferences.  In other words, bring the beer to Wisconsin so that the Wisconsin brewers can make those beers even better.

So how was my first and possibly only taste of Dogfish Head?  Pretty good.

I tried the 60-Minute IPA, the loss of which several of the Fishdog Head mourners of Twitter had especially marked.  The initial taste of the 60-Minute IPA is really golden, almost like a honey feeling. It has an almost-sweet effervescence that eventually leads into a full-bodied hoppy finish, which is bitter but not especially daunting.  Overall, it was a pleasant drink that would go well with many of the heavier meals we cherish here in Badgerland.

My one gripe was that the hops, although well balanced and not overpowering in the beginning do eventually overpower all the other flavors of the beer. By the end of the bottle all that initial golden shimmering on my tongue was no more. It was hops and all hops.  But as the hop trend continues and I am forced to have more and more hoppy beer, I have begun to suspect that this is just the nature of hops.  Once hops get on your tongue for a while they just kill off more subtle flavors.

This is why I find the trend towards hoppy beers pretty annoying.  It’s not that I don’t like a full-bodied beer, but I like to taste all of the beer as I drink down the bottle.  Are we drinking works of art, or are drinking competitions to discover the human tolerance level for bitter flavor?  What’s the point?