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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Paragraph of the day

by folkbum
Since we’re identifying basic goals here, let me name one for the right: degrading the standard of living for the large majority of the American people. You degrade the ability of everyone to make a decent wage by destroying unions, one of the traditional models for how to improve the standard of living of broad groups of the American people. (Including, incidentally, those of non-unionized workers, whose wages were historically inflated due to the threat of unionization.) You eliminate pensions; you replace them with things like 401ks, which don’t provide enough for retirement. You oppose health care reform; in fact, you work to degrade Medicare with a voucher program that doesn’t keep up with the cost of health care. You eliminate social services and government programs everywhere. You do all of it in the name of the free market. Does that sound like a healthier alternative than the supposedly self-defeating leftist plan [the right] describes?

Monday, May 30, 2011

It's Memorial Day

by folkbum

Take some time today to honor the memories of those fallen in service to this great union.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

If this blog were a child, it would be in third grade*

by folkbum

Eight years ago today I started this stupid thing and now, like an actual child, it bugs me and I want it to go away much of the time, but I would be in big trouble if I killed it.

* And, yes, I've already made all the jokes about this blog's maturity and/ or intellectual heft in my head. Don't bother.

Friday, May 27, 2011

McIlheran Watch: Is he innumerate, too, or still just being deceptive?

by folkbum

(Unrelated but kind of update: Tom Foley picks liar.)

One of the most dishonest things anti-tax folk deliberately do to fuzzify the debate over tax rates is to conflate marginal tax rates with effective tax rates. For example, when long-time rich-folk defender Patrick McIlheran retweets (or whatever it is that you call the conservative tendency to "heh indeed" someone else's hard work with a slight smug comment) the Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore's complaints that Democrats in Congress may be thinking about taking 62% of people's income in taxes.

Moore's op-ed is disingenuous in a number of ways besides blurring the lines between effective and marginal rates--which I'll get to in a moment, I promise--such as blending some Democrats' proposed federal income tax changes with actual state and local taxes to inflate his number, and comparing the cumulative effect of all taxes with the income tax rate at some cherry-picked point in the past. And McIlheran adds additional disingenuity too, which I will also get to in a moment. But let's hear from Moore first:
Media reports in recent weeks say that Senate Democrats are considering a 3% surtax on income over $1 million to raise federal revenues. This would come on top of the higher income tax rates that President Obama has already proposed through the cancellation of the Bush era tax-rate reductions.

If the Democrats' millionaire surtax were to happen—and were added to other tax increases already enacted last year and other leading tax hike ideas on the table this year—this could leave the U.S. with a combined federal and state top tax rate on earnings of 62%. That's more than double the highest federal marginal rate of 28% when President Reagan left office in 1989. Welcome back to the 1970s.

Here's the math behind that depressing calculation. Today's top federal income tax rate is 35%. Almost all Democrats in Washington want to repeal the Bush tax cuts on those who make more than $250,000 and phase out certain deductions, so the effective income tax rate would rise to about 41.5%. The 3% millionaire surtax raises that rate to 44.5%.
Moore goes on to add additional numbers, sometimes falsely, to get to 62%. And you'll notice Moore actually uses the words effective income tax rate, which is a bald-faced lie. Let's pretend someone is a millionaire, earning, let's say, $2,000,000 a year. With no deductions except the personal deduction for the millionaire and her husband--no mortgage interest, no charitable donations, no contributions to an IRA or other tax shelter that millionaires tend to access--that couple under Moore's conditions would pay about $765,000 in federal income tax. This makes the effective tax rate, actually, 38.3%, not 41.5%.

This happens because not every dollar you earn is taxed at the same rate. The first $8,500 you earn ($17,000 as a couple) is taxed at just 10%. This is as true for you at whatever crappy low-paying job you tolerate as it is for our millionaire earning $2m. The rate at which additional income is taxed increases at intervals; every dollar from $8,501 to $34,500 is taxed at 15%, from $34,501 to $83,600 is taxed at 25%, and so on. In addition, letting the Bush tax cuts expire on upper-income earners only increases the taxes paid on income above $250,000, and the proposed millionaire surtax (which I bet you a dollar will never pass anyway) will only increase the rate paid on income over $1m.

You may say the difference between 38.3% and 41.5% is small, because either way you're talking about a whole lot of money. Well, yes, when you talk about millionaires, any one percent of their income is in fact going to be $10,000 or more. I would hate to have the kind of life where that were true! The thing is, we're talking about a very small number of earners here, about 1/10 of one percent; Moore and McIlheran want to give the impression, though, that this sort of thing will affect you, too, average taxpayer, and therefore you should be outraged. But less than 3% of all earners (and, I would be bet another dollar, none of either my or McIlheran's audience) make more than $250,000, the ones most affected by the proposed changes. And at those numbers, the difference between marginal and effect rates is huge. Someone earning $300,000 a year pays an effective rate of just 23.4%, even though they're in the 33% bracket. (If the Bush tax cuts expire on them, that $300,000 earner's effective rate would slip upward to barely over 24%.)

And conservatives need to lie to to spread this impression, as noted. Here's another bit of Moore's mess:
Now let's consider how our tax system today compares with the system that was in place in the late 1980s—when the deficit was only about one-quarter as large as a share of GDP as it is now. After the landmark Tax Reform Act of 1986, which closed special-interest loopholes in exchange for top marginal rates of 28%, the highest combined federal-state marginal tax rate was about 33%. Now we may be headed to 62%.
This is the sort of BS anyone with basic numeracy or reading comprehension skills--such as an opinion columnist at Wisconsin's largest daily newspaper--should be able to see through. Moore compares his pile-everything-on imaginary rate to a number that excludes much of what he contorts to include in his figure. His 33% rate doesn't include, as his 62% does, any payroll taxes, for example, making this a massive apples-to-binder clips comparison.

McIlheran himself, not content merely to let Moore's abuse of math slide, offers his own disingenuous comments. He rounds Moore's 62% up to "two-thirds," for example, and again drops his favorite stat: "[T]he top 10% of earners," he says, "pay about 45% of all federal taxes." Which is bad math, again, because McIlheran doesn't give you the context that these same top 10%-ers also earn more than 40% of the income in the US, so that 45% is hardly as shocking as it sounds.

All of this is ginned up to disguise a fact that explains more of the current deficit morass than almost anything else: Federal revenues are lower than they have been since Truman's days. Period. To bemoan the present day--or some imagined future when rates might nudge up slightly--as somehow hellish compared to the good old days of the Reagan years is utter crap. It is a fundamental and deliberate misreading and misrepresentation of the data. No single year of the Obama administration to date has seen more revenue than the lowest year of the Reagan administration.

At the same time as they try to convince us that we can't afford to fulfill the promises of Medicare or Social Security, they also insist that the tax burden is impossibly high already. Neither of those things is remotely true, and it frustrates the hell out of me because a bunch of these liars are, apparently, being paid to peddle those fictions to you.

GOP Priorities, in successive headlines

by folkbum

Gov. Walker Reads to Students

by Bert

Scott Walker is visiting the Banting Elementary School in Waukesha today to read to children. By itself there’s nothing wrong with this. Politicians of all stripes pull this empty, self-serving stunt all the time. But this particular stunt highlights what’s wrong with other stuff that the governor has done.

Walker is actively complicit in the latest effort to demonize teachers as part of the wider strategy to weaken them 1. as democratic supporters and 2. as a tax obligation of the wealthy. The specific tactic at work is good cop/bad cop.

While Walker poses above the fray, his obedient attack dogs highlight teachers who neglect their day-to-day teaching of kids. Some called in sick to protest in Madison. The dogs themselves neglect to explain that these teachers are opposing Walker’s policies that will systematically and more permanently harm the education of children than missing a day in the classroom.

And let’s face it, missing one day of school is not the end of the world. Just ask all the parents I saw on TV at the Brewers home opener explaining that they took their kid out of school to watch baseball.

Meanwhile, in Sept. 2009 the Waukesha Superintendent Todd Gray refused to allow 20 minutes of the Waukesha school day to broadcast a speech from President Obama directed at students. His reason was that it subtracted from real learning.

Now, to the governor’s visit to Banting late this morning. Just for the record, let’s acknowledge that his visit will stop many students at the school from receiving the benefit they get from the normal learning over the time this visit takes. I am only bringing this up to highlight how selective is the concern of the enemies of public education that every moment of every day be the normal classroom moment.

Walker’s visit is wrong because it is Walker paying it. The cynical use of a traditional visit by a governor to read to children is the same shameful tactic that the state GOP leaders are so relishing right now. Because their party can, they hijack government, public service agencies and “news” media to disguise a war for power on Democrats.

So this is no normal waste of Waukesha children’s time. This is a hypocritical show of support for public schools by a leader in the movement to cripple public education in Wisconsin.

It’s like Richard Nixon making the peace symbols with his hands. It’s like those big-headed Martians in the Tim Burton movie Mars Attacks that carry a translating machine along with their lazer guns that broadcasts “we come in peace”. It’s like Judas and his kiss

FriTunes: Summer, where the hell are you Edition

by folkbum

In one sense, 10 days plus exams. In another, eventually there will be temps over 60, right? For the summer:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

McIlheran Watch: Lyin' for Ryan

by folkbum

So earlier this week, a heavily Republican Congressional district somewhere in New York elected a Democrat. The dynamics of any one local race* are seldom indicative of any greater theme, despite everyone's best attempt to say, see, this proves what I've been claiming all along! There are always local issues to consider, individual dynamics of the race and, in this case, an utter wingnut tea-party candidate who may have been a spoiler. But one thing is certain: The DCCC, Democrats' House election arm, did everything it could to make the election about Paul Ryan (R-Galt's Gulch) and his plan to destroy medicare, because the Republican in that race voiced her support early and often for Ryan's plan.

Right there, what I just did, saying that Ryan's plan would destroy Medicare, is what those who have always wanted to destroy Medicare (except in election years, when in a fit of black-is-whiteism the GOP asserts it's Democrats who will destroy Medicare) would call a "mediscare tactic." Funny, eh? But please, recall that since Medicare's inception, the Republican Party has stood for its end, with St. Ronald de Tampico even making a record--yes! a record!--in 1961 opposing the plan and claiming that within a generation the federal government would be telling doctors where they could live and what kind of medicine they could practice. Like Harold Camping's predictions of Armageddon, Reagan's opposition to Medicare seems laughable now.

Except not to Paul Ryan. As we have discussed before on this very blog Ryan is not afraid to invoke Reagan's rhetorical style when it suits him, and for basically the same purposes. So let's be clear: Ryan's plan does destroy Medicare. This is not an exaggeration designed to "scare," but an accurate description of Ryan's plan to institute a completely different system under the same name. (Politi"Fact" finds the semantics of the argument--Ryan still calls his plan Medicare, they say--persuasive enough to call honest opposition to the idea false, which is just mind-boggling.)

And this is where Patrick McIlheran comes in: He blogs to throw out the "mediscare" label and defend Ryan's plan. But he can't do that without lying, because, let's be honest here, a whole lot of Ryan's plan is indefensible. McIlheran:
As Ryan has endlessly pointed out, his plan leaves Medicare completely unaltered for anyone now on it or who is now 55 or older. It manages this feat [. . .] by changing the deal for people 54 or younger into a subsidized selection of insurance plans more or less identical to what Congress gives itself as coverage. This is an “end” to Medicare only if you imagine that our lawmakers have left themselves destitute and tubercular in a gutter when it comes to their own health care.
Of course Ryan's plan doesn't touch the Boomers' and the WWII generation's Medicare; those people vote and they really like Medicare, giving it just about the highest satisfaction rates of any insurance provider in the country. But the next part, about giving everyone else the same health care coverage that Congress gets? That's baloney:
In many ways, the federal plan works a lot like the run-of-the-mill employee-sponsored health insurance plan. The bulk of the costs are picked up by the employer--in this case, the government--with the employee contributing his or her share according to a set or negotiated rate. Under a 1997 law, the government pays a set rate of 75 percent of the costs of the health plans selected by federal employees and members of Congress. The employee (and members of Congress) pick up the other 25 percent. [. . .] The Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan arm of Congress, analyzed Ryan’s plan and estimated that, by 2030, the government would pay just 32 percent of the health-care costs, less than half of what it currently pays. The other 68 percent of the plan would have to be shouldered by the retiree.
That just-like-Congress tale ends up a two-Pinocchio lie. But happily spread by local huckster McIlheran. Who goes on:
And since the alternative, according to Medicare’s own accountant, is leaving things alone until it all goes bankrupt in 2024 and doctors stop seeing recipients, then Ryan’s plan is “immoral” only in the way that it’s somehow wrong to disturb a drunk’s calm by telling him he’s driving onto the wrong-way off-ramp of a freeway.
This is what we call a false dichotomy (and the word false, you know, tells you McIlheran is lying again). This is the new Republican tactic, seen all over the place lately, which is to pretend that Democrats don't have a plan. They do. It's called Medicare--you may have heard of it, and it's a pretty awesome deal.

But not merely the unaltered Medicare that will, indeed, drive federal debt ever higher. Rather, Democrats have been trying to build on Medicare's signature strength, which is that it holds costs down better than private-sector insurance; over the years, Medicare inflation has been significantly lower than inflation in the health-care market as a whole. Ryan's plan, on the other hand, holds payments down, which does nothing to control costs. Indeed the CBO's analysis is devastating:
[T]he CBO conclusion is shocking: The plan would not only fail to decrease health-care costs per beneficiary, it would increase them–-by an astonishingly large amount that grows over time. By 2030, health spending on the typical beneficiary would be more than 40 percent higher under the Ryan plan than under existing Medicare, according to the CBO report.
The short version is that the end of Medicare as we know it under Ryan means an end to the government's ability to make big deals with doctors and hospitals and other providers: When you're on your own with a voucher, you do not have the negotiating power of 40 million other patients behind you. Just you. So where Ryan's plan allows actual costs to skyrocket (but not the size of your voucher), Medicare as is holds actual costs down.

But there's more: Democrats want to further bend that cost curve downward, and the Affordable Care Act starts that process. The ACA establishes an Independent Payment Advisory Board, which is all about finding the most effective and most cost-effective treatments to pay for instead of expensive stuff that doesn't work. However, there's a giant obstacle to this board, and if you guessed the House GOP you'd be right: They want to abandon the additional cost controls that the IPAB would bring in favor of, as we've seen, destroying Medicare instead.

The truth of the Ryan plan and the destruction it would bring to one of the most important entitlement plans we have today is what's really scary. And that's why Ryan and his media enablers like McIlheran have to lie to you in order to sell the plan.

* Steve Benen argues that this is not an isolated case, and that Democrats have been making significant gains, including flipping Mike Huebsch's GOP-heavy Assembly district here in Wisconsin a few weeks ago.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Shorter Aaron Rodriguez

by folkbum

Teachers* are not "people of means," so they deserve a voucher to send their kids to private school, even though they don't deserve a union and should have to pay a lot more for their pension and benefits.

* He doesn't say teachers, but a starting teacher in the Milwaukee Public Schools with two children can qualify for food stamps. If a starting teacher in MPS heads a family of four, she can qualify for food stamps through her fifth year of teaching.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Behold the death of a movement

by folkbum

In the wake of the the May 14 rally at the Wisconsin state Capitol, which was, admittedly, a fraction of the size of early rallies when the number of protestors easily topped 100,000 at least twice, the right was a-flutter with the notion that the Wisconsin pro-union movement was dying. Indeed, the righties declared on the twittums machine, the dwindling numbers proved that Wisconsin protests were a flash in the pan, while tea partiers, whose issues are true and everlasting, will have the staying power.

You probably see where this is going. Photos, please!

(click on the photos for sources)

The first photo is a small part of the crowd at the May 14 rally that was a fraction of the size of the earlier protests--a rally that clocked in between 10,000 and 20,000 people. The headliner for this rally was Jon Erpenbach. Seriously--Erpenbach. 10,000+ people, in the rain, for Erpenbach. (Also, the recalls were in full swing that day; even the failed campaigns drew more than 30,000 signatures to recall the GOP senators who supported the anti-union agenda.)

The second photo was a tea party rally last week in South Carolina. The headliner was potential presidential candidate and tea party favorite Michelle Bachmann. The photo shows SC Gov Nikki Haley. The governor--and, probably, a potential vice-presidential candidate. Don't forget that Sarah Palin, the tea party's prima donna, was outdrawn 3-1 by union protestors in Madison on freaking tax day.

So, yes, one movement is dying. It's not ours.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

If you can read this, I've been raptured

by folkbum

I have pre-loaded this post on the theory that, sometime on May 21, 2011, I and my fellow believers will be raptured to heaven. If that doesn't happen, I suppose I will be around to delete the post before it publishes, disappointed, and you won't even know it was here. Enjoy your tribulations!

Never mind. Forgot to delete. Stupid internet.

Friday, May 20, 2011

FriTunes: Rapture Edition

by folkbum

I could've gone with the Johnny Cash version of this, sure, but I didn't.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Like the NBA finals, but shorter and funnier

by folkbum

The Comedy Sportz Rec League season is at an end, and the playoffs start this weekend. My team--undefeated in regular season play!--has its first-round playoff match against what may be the best team in the league this year, so we need all the audience support we can muster. (Winners of games within a match are usually determined by audience applause, so your support really does matter.) I would really love to see some of you there. The skinny:

Comedy Sportz Rec League Playoffs, Round 1
Sunday, May 22, 4 PM
at Comedy Sportz Milwaukee, 431 N. 1st St.
(facebook event page, for those of you who like that sort of thing)

If you want to come early, other teams play at 2:00 and 3:00, with one more match after mine is over at 4:45 or so.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

So when is it a good time?

by folkbum

I've asked this question before, and never gotten a satisfactory answer. But since one of the MacGuyvers insisted over the weekend that a tax increase is "the last thing we need right now" (in the same edition of the paper that showed skyrocketing income among Wisconsin's wealthiest), I figure I should ask again:

When should we raise taxes?

Let's review: Per capita tax collections, here in Wisconsin and across the land, are lower than they've been in generations. But government--even things conservatives want, like roads and wars and abortion auditors--costs money. So we have to have taxes. Even Reagan's tax rates were higher than today's, and Reagan signed eight different tax increases into law.

So, when does it happen? When would it be okay to raise taxes, and on whom, and maybe even how much? I would like to know this. At the very least, promise me that Healy or Wigderson or some other McIvorati will write an op-ed when it's okay to raise taxes again, so we all see the green flag.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


by folkbum

By which I mean a) I haven't tried blogging since Blogger was bloggered last week and I want to make sure things work, and b) yes, my students are doing another round of standardized testing at school this week. The ACT was three weeks ago, AP exams were the last two weeks, and Round Three of district MAPs testing started Thursday and continues through the week. Despite not including the state's test, this is actually the most testiest time of the school year.

Monday, May 09, 2011

The Joint Finance Committee could stop MPS teacher layoffs by simply fixing the funding flaw

by folkbum

Last weekend I was working on a post--the one that I put off when OBL news took over for a while--about the Milwaukee Public School's proposed budget cuts nearly 1000 positions, news that was bubbling through the grapevine at the time but that didn't hit the media until this mid-week story (and accompanying tsk-tsking editorial*).

I was writing in the context of Governor Scott Walker's absurd promise to create 250,000 jobs in his first term, and the ridiculous nature of promising that while knowing full well he'd be gutting public employment. Though MPS isn't producing 1000 new unemployed people--many of the eliminated positions will be, as the district points out, simply unfilled empty positions after retirements and resignations--hundreds of other school districts, villages, towns, cities, and counties will be cutting, too. By the time the state budget is final and fall rolls around, the ranks of the unemployed will be many thousands larger than it is.

And the kicker to that is the simple fact that the worst enemy of any unemployed person--those disgruntled voters Walker courted with his inflated promises--is another unemployed person, which Walker is about to create in spades.

(Wisconsin is not isolated in this trend. While the US economy broadly has added jobs over the last two years, more than 40,000 public employees have lost theirs, not counting temporary federal census workers. Cuts planned to education and local governments across the country will spike that number over the next six months.)

As to Walker's claim that his budget repair bill gives local governments "tools" to deal with his devastating proposed budget cuts, MPS and virtually every other municipality that has weighed in has said, simply, that cutting employee pay and screwing with their working conditions without fear of reprisal simply isn't enough. MPS would still be $40 million in the hole from where they were expecting to be before the state budget cuts were announced.

But here's a simple way for the legislature fix a long-standing wrong and save a ton of MPS jobs in the process. All the Joint Finance Committee needs to do is fix the voucher funding flaw. In short, because of the Milwaukee Parental Parental Choice Program--the voucher program--the state undercounts Milwaukee's students, making MPS seem more property rich than it is, and therefore deserving of less state aid than the state's funding formula would normally allow. The result, according to MPS,is more than $50 million less for the state's largest and poorest district. (This money is not returned to taxpayers--it's distributed out across the rest of the state to other districts, which is why non-milwaukee legislators are not terribly interested in fixing the flaw.)

If you're doing the math, that adds up to about 500 teaching positions, more than the 468 positions MPS expects to eliminate. Even if the flaw is only partially fixed--say, $30m worth--would stop every layoff. Every teacher layoff, anyway, as MPS is also making steep cuts in administration, contra some local complaints.

MPS last week released a companion document about the proposed budget, and it notes that MPS did not go into this budget year lying down. The district settled contracts** with pay freezes and significant health insurances changes (new administrator, drug plan changes, increased contributions) that will save nearly $20 million next year, in addition to pension savings with some bargaining units. The all-important benefit-to-salary ratio, despite the salary freezes, is falling 7% next year. Such savings had left MPS in a pretty good spot before budget cuts, even counting the ever-present voucher funding flaw.

JFC could spend not one additional dime of tax dollars in this upcoming budget, and simply correct--or at least lessen--that funding flaw. In the process, MPS teachers don't end up on the unemployment line competing with everyone else struggling to get by in this this still-wretched economy. And MPS's students don't bear the brunt of Walker's devastating cuts.

* The editorial falls into the growing oeuvre of complaining about the fallout from actions taken by the gubernatorial candidate they endorsed last fall--the one whose decimation of the state the editorial board, in Walker's own words, should have seen coming.

** There are calls, including in the editorial referenced above, to re-open the contract with teachers. I earlier made such a call myself. But should the budget-repair bill that bans collective bargaining be upheld in the courts, its effective date of mid-March would make any changes made after that simply illegal. It would take a single complaint to unravel all of it. Smartly, the union is having none of that.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Annual New Song Concert Tonight

by folkbum

Tonight at 8 at the Coffee House, my therapy group the songwriting collective I belong to holds its annual new song concert. Doors open and 7:30; suggested donation is $5, and they are always collecting cans for the Central City Church food pantry.

I have, I think, five whole decent songs from the past year to share, which may be a record. Of course, as a union thug discouraged public employee, I have had quite a lot to write about. Below are lyrics to the hopeful one, which will someday become the #WIUnion theme song, and I can retire a rich man and not have to worry about my pension being raided. See you tonight!
Jay Bullock 2011

There’s a quiet snow falling on the heads of tens of thousands
Who have come to walk this mile as one
And to raise their voice in song with those around them
Reunion has begun

I have always been a hopeful believer
That the arc of history is real
Standing arm in arm with these my brothers
History is what I feel

We see the danger now in complacence
In doing what has always been done
We are coming back together as a nation
Reunion has begun

There’s something in us that seeks out something greater
As a compass seeks to point to the north
It’s been buried deep in apathy or anger
It’s time to let it free once more

There’s something in us moves us stronger
That’s different from the market or the gun
It’s the need we share to care for one another
Reunion has begun

We see the danger now in complacence
In letting them do what’s been done
We are coming back together as a nation
Reunion has begun

There’s a quiet snow falling on the heads of tens of thousands
Who have come to walk this mile with me
And to raise their voice in song with those around them
Oh say can you see

I have always been a hopeful believer
That the darkest night will see the sun
So I walk here arm in arm with these my brothers
Reunion has begun

Friday, May 06, 2011

FriTunes: See my show tonight

by folkbum

As noted earlier in the week, I am playing a food pantry benefit show tonight at the Coffee House. I'll be covering these two songs, and a few others that will just have to be surprises!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Star Wars Day links

by folkbum

Too busy to write, but May the 4th be with these:
• Arne Duncan says he appreciates teachers. Teachers disagree in comments there. Another great response is here.
• The best obit of Ben Masel I've seen so far.
• A parent's guide for making sense of the MPS massacre.
• Kudos to Steve Doyle.
• I'll be missing the Milwaukee Democracy Addicts "tweetup" tonight, but you don't have to.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Busy week, performance-wise

by folkbum

One reason things are quiet around here is that this is the annual spring crush of performances for me. I hope to see you at a few of these:
• Friday, May 6, 8pm at the Coffee House: It's a food pantry benefit show called "The Day the Music Died," with me, Gary Kitchin, Basic Joe Holland, and Rich Morgan, Jerry Danks, and the Pardee Boys. We're doing songs written or made famous by artists who've died in air disasters. I'm doing song by both John Denver and Aaliyah, among others, so whatever your preferences, I've got you covered. Here's the facebook event page.

• Saturday, May 7, 8pm, also at the Coffee House: The Portage Road Songwriters Guild's 8th(!) Annual New Song Concert. It's hard to believe that Eric Baer, me, Chris Head, Mark Plotkin, Chris Straw, and Barb Webber have been doing this show and in this songwriters group for as long as we have. But we have! I've got a handful of new material, including at least one #wiunion song, for those of you who find that sort of thing appealing. Here's the facebook event page for that one.

• Sunday, May 8, 3pm AND Sunday May 15, 3pm, at Comedy Sportz Milwaukee: My CSz Rec League team We Fly Coach (undefeated so far this season!) has matches both of the next two weekends. Matches start at 2, 3, and 4pm every Sunday at CSz, and both days my team plays the middle match. This weekend we take on a former teammate David in his new team Brangelina's Children; next Sunday we face last season's second-place team Hot Mess. All matches are free!

• Thursday, May 12, 7pm, also at Comedy Sportz: Rec League Game-o-Matic show. Every season, the Rec League teams all invent new CSz games and debut them in front of adoring, screaming fans. The bar and restaurant are open, so come early for food and drink. This one's also free, and it, too, has a facebook event page.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

RIH (rest in hell), Osama bin Laden

by folkbum

I had a different post loaded to run Monday morning, but, you know, history intervenes and something else needs saying.

And that is that Osama bin Laden is dead.

This is about a decade too late. I say this not because the need to bring the plotters and planners of 9/11 to justice has waned since then--any crime, especially one of that magnitude, demands justice--but because for the last few years bin Laden has been, largely, irrelevant. As I noted on twitter last night as the news was breaking (I'm @folkbum, people; you should all be following me), history has a way of making itself happen without you while you're stuck sitting around in a cave. Consider what is going on right now across the Middle East. True, some al Qaeda affiliates are enjoying the moments of anarchy, and there is a chance secular dictatorships could become theocratic republics, but the people of countries all across the region are going ahead with their own revolutions without bin Laden's help, thankyouverymuch.

Indeed, US foreign policy, now mostly about trying to muddle up a response to the regional uprisings, has not been about anti-terrorism for a long time, and until, apparently, today, the hunt for bin Laden was not terribly hot.

Unfortunately, in the few years between 9/11 and when bin Laden lost his relevance, the damage was done. Hundreds of thousands of civilians, and more than ten thousand coalition troops, have been killed because of him.

I also tweeted about my students, who were all five, six, seven years old on 9/11/01, and for whom, it seems to me, bin Laden is not the evil bastard the rest of us remember. They see him, and honestly I can't blame them, as more like the Riddler, some cartoon villain from another time. The Riddler, of course, was never taken out by a team of Navy Seals.

Many thanks to the US troops and intelligence people who pulled this off. It is no fun to learn of any death, but some do, you have to say, come as a relief. This is one.

NOTE: After I wrote most of this, the twiiter pointed me to this piece, which covers some of the same ground, but from a guy who knows what he's talking about.