One Big Day

Tomorrow is kinda a big deal – election day.  I’ve been repeating a lot of themes over the last week, so I’ll put them all here to keep people from having to ask the same questions again and again.

First, all celebrating I do tomorrow and, really, up through Friday, is going to be because oen way or another, this is over.  On Friday, I may be willing to celebrate victory or cope with defeat, but given past electoral history in Wisconsin, and the fact that absentee ballots, of which there are a lot, don’t have to be received until Friday, I’m going to go ahead and assume nothing is certain before then.  I’d advise you to do the same.

Secondly, ignore all the polls and the doom, gloom and dismay people seem to be having in response to them.  All of the ones with sound methodology are within the margin of error, all the ones without wind up that way when corrected.  This election is going to come down to turn out, plain and simple.  We wouldn’t be in this situation if the Democrats hadn’t stayed home in 2010, so hopefully they’ve learned their lesson.  If GOTV is as organized in the rest of the state as it is in Madison, I’m pretty confident we’ll do well.  The ground game is, for once, well run.  We can thank the Obama campaign for that.  Walker doesn’t have a ground game, as far as I can tell, just tons of money.

Thirdly, even for people who aren’t in Wisconsin, this election should be fascinating to you.  You’d be hard pressed to find a better experiment for testing the actual efficacy of money in politics.  The Republicans have dramatically more money than the Democrats in this fight; the Democrats have dramatically more volunteer and organizational support.  If the Republicans win, everybody upset by the Citizens United ruling has a much better case for their position than I have, up to this point, felt they have.  If the Democrats win, I’ll probably actually sit down and write that blog post about money in politics that’s been stewing in the back of my head for a while.  (In other words, I’m waiting to make sure I’m right before telling other people to quit whining.  Being wrong on the internet is for other people)

Finally, if you are an eligible voter in Wisconsin, I strongly urge you to go vote tomorrow, if you haven’t already, and to vote for Barrett.  If you aren’t going to vote for Barrett, I strongly urge you to instead avoid the lines and stay home.  Watch a movie or something.  Of course everybody should have their say in government, but just now, there are certain says I’m not interested in hearing.  I’m sure you understand.

The Marriage Equality Fight, and Who’s More Equal

I am about to shock precisely nobody by mentioning that I’m a big supporter of legalizing same-sex marriage.  The way I came around to it is a bit unconventional, though, so I’ll share.

Way, way back in the day, when first Anaea pondered the question of marriage equality, she felt about marriage about the same way she feels about it now, i.e. I’m okay with other people shooting heroine in the privacy of their own home, so I suppose they can get married if that’s what they want.  If we were going to mix up the legal framework for marriage, though, I was in the “get the government out of marriage entirely,” school.  Turn marriage into a strictly religious and cultural event, get rid of the legal protections for marriage, this all sounded great to me.  I’d spent maybe a whopping forty seconds thinking about this, but the position felt consistent and coherent and I didn’t really care.

Then one cheery afternoon I happen to be listening to a radio interview with an anti-same-sex marriage guy.  He’s going off on a tear, enjoying the sound of his voice, and says something along the lines of, “If we let gay people get married, what next?  Plural marriage?”

Wait one hot minute Mr. Slippery Slope Man, you’ve just made this conversation about me.  And so I spent an additional five minutes thinking about the subject and concluded this: My original position was correct, valid, and worthy of an ideal world designed along Anaea’s utopian principals.  It also makes me an asshole.  We are never going to live in a utopia designed by me, so making real world decisions that affect real world people based on an impossibility when I’m practical in plenty of other positions is neither fair, nor reasonable.  Legalizing same sex marriage could feasibly happen (see the evidence of the intervening years) whereas abolishing the legal institution of marriage is as likely as me getting a mainstream presidential candidate who doesn’t make me gag.  Furthermore, there’s an element of dickery involved in saying, “I’d rather get rid of this thing than let you have it.”  Not intentional in the original position, but it’s there, and must be acknowledged.

So it was that my position evolved, I flipped my flop, and came out in support of same sex marriage way back before Ellen made it cool.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is why this article has me rolling on the floor laughing.  I’m not even offended, just amused beyond belief.  Or breathing, really.  Oh, Overton Window, how we shift thee.

h/t to Noah for the link.


Recall Primary Voting Today

If you’re an eligible Wisconsin voter, today is the last day for voting in the Recall primaries.  There are roughly four candidates you can vote for to help get rid of the guy who took away my train, went about being evil badly, then trapped me in a building with people who are not nerds for a week.  I can’t let that kind of behavior slide, and neither should you.

He’s also driven a few industries out of the state, is under investigation for major ethics violations, and signed really egregious anti-women’s-health legislation, if you’d like more common reasons for being upset.

Protect the world from boring mis-management: Get rid of Walker.  Today.  By voting.


(I voted for Art about ten days ago.  This is encouraged, but not required.)

My Official Wisconsin Primary Endorsement

This is a harder decision than you might think.  There are four candidates running in the primary for the Democrats.  None of them inspire me.  Worse, at this point, all but one of them have managed to annoy me, or have others annoy me on their behalf.  (Note to campaign organizers everywhere: I gave my email address to those lists because I want to recall Walker, not because I want six emails a day asking for five dollars)

I was getting crabby about the decision, especially since so many people look scandalized when I tell them I don’t bleeding care which of the Democrats win; I’m anti-Walker, not pro-Dem.  My decision was going to come down to staring hard at polling data and then holding my nose.  We all know how much I love doing that.  Then something brilliant happened – a candidate who inspires my enthusiasm.

This is me announcing that I’m officially backing Arthur Kohl-Riggs in the primaries.  I’ll go so far as to announce that if he wins the primary, I’ll break my temporary ban on voting for anybody on the Republican ticket and vote for him in the general election, too.  I like his campaign.  I like his policies.  “Less of a joke than Scott Walker,” is going to be my favorite campaign slogan forever.

Seriously, this is a personal wet dream of politics.  I get to do the right thing by voting for a Republican, and still feel evil for doing it.  Do you believe in doing the right thing?  Art for Gov.  Do you want to be evil? Art for Gov.

Do you want to recall Walker?

Art for Gov.

Guys, let’s win this thing a month early.  Art for Gov.

Note to anybody looking for more substantive data in the endorsement: I know this guy.  He was there the week I spent in the capitol.  He’s sensible, thoughtful, working with good people on his campaign, and practical enough that if he does become Governor, he will not screw it up.  If you want more information, let me know and I will make sure you get it.

While we’re on the subject of my uterus

Let’s get one thing straight before we start: innate, natural, unmanipulated gender equality is a myth.  The golden age of matriarchy and free, independent women is a fable and never happened.  The perception that women can be as free and functional as men is an artifact of modern life.  Why?  Because it is not possible without safe birth control and abortions.

Without birth control women have one of two choices: Abstain from sexual intercourse or risk  having their life utterly destroyed.  That is, if they’re in a society where they actually have that choice.  That usually doesn’t happen all that often and even then, generally only happens for women in certain pockets of society.  The first choice, should a woman opt for it, means she’s missing out on a healthy, positive activity in which men can engage without risk or fear.  It means that every relationship with a man is colored by how she is not going to have sex with him, no matter how much she might want to, and that some portion of her energy will always be devoted to resisting temptation.  That right there is enough to handicap the whole gender, but then we add in the fact that women, like men, are human, which means as time approaches eternity, the odds of them successfully resisting temptation every time reach zero, and everybody knows that.  Anything a woman does which getting pregnant would interfere with will always be fraught with the knowledge that in addition to all of the risks inherent in depending on a man, she might get pregnant and screw everything up.  This is not a tenable solution.

And when, with the second option, I refer to it as having their life utterly destroyed, that’s not just my infamous child-hating rearing its head; I mean that.  A society that doesn’t have the ability to provide safe abortions and birth control is almost certainly a society that doesn’t provide the care needed for pregnancy and child birth to be safe.  Pregnancy is still dangerous today, if unlikely to kill you.  Without modern medical care, pregnancy is a game of Russian roulette, except with more bullets, and more trigger pulls.  Even if motherhood is the all-consuming magically fulfilling, better than anything else you could do with your life fantasy it frequently gets pitched as, you must first survive to see it and that’s not a guarantee.  It takes modern society to make even that much of it feasible.

Yes, it’s true that hormonal birth control is useful for things other than just preventing babies, and we should talk about that.  My only experiment with regular hormonal birth control was, in fact, for treating ovarian cysts, with the anti-baby measures a happy side effect.  (It turns out that even very low dose hormones make me moody and bitchy in ways I do not like, so I decided the cysts were better).  Let’s just put that out there: Anaea, who is so allergic to the idea of raising children that her own devoted sister has legal documents ensuring potential nieces and nephews will not be remanded to her care, only used hormones to treat another condition.  That’s how common using hormonal birth control for things other than enabling consequence-free sex is.

And yes, the point of safe birth control (there are forms of birth control without other uses, like my beloved IUD) and abortions is to enable consequence-free sex for women.  Men get consequence-free sex as a default.  Women need that crutch in order to stand on the same ground in the gender equality game.  Without that crutch, women are not equal; they’re time-bombs.  Without the power to turn imminent motherhood off, the threat of it is in fact enough to reduce women to brood mares.

Which is bad for society because if you give them that crutch you have twice as much human capitol as you did before.  Even with the variously shoddy, faulty or incomplete research we’ve been able to conduct so far, the differences between men and women are founded mostly in experience and expressed mostly in terms of style rather than material differences.  The recession has done a lot to scramble the bad assumptions clouding that.  For every woman like me, who is not meant to go anywhere near motherhood, there’s a man better suited to being a traditional mom than dad.  Most people hover around the middle of the spectrum.

I say all of this because I want you to understand very clearly where I’m coming from when I say that I am not interested in having a debate about abortion, or access to birth control.  There is no debate.  Either you agree that I should have legal access to both or you do not want me to be a fully functional, adult, contributing member of society.  You’re allowed to opt for the latter, but I’m under no obligation to think you’re worth a thing as a human in general, or to me personally, if you do.  I’m rather invested in my adulthood and independence.  Anybody who wants to take them from me because I have tits, or because I need a crutch to hit the same baseline as half the rest of the world, can suck my fist.  It costs you nothing to let me have these things, so fuck you for trying to stop me.

Say what you like about the GOP’s war on women.  I don’t care.  When you take away what I need in order to be the independent adult I so intensely value being, I couldn’t care less about what you want, intend, or who else you’re upsetting.  That’s a personal attack by you against me.  Forgive me if I don’t thank you for it.

Dear Republicans: I’m still here, eager to get out of bed with the Democrats.  Keep this shit up, and I’m going to have to vote for Obama out of sheer self-defense.  I still haven’t forgiven him for voting for the FISA restructuring bill and he hasn’t done a thing I think balances that, but the only thing I’m more protective of than civil liberties in general is my ability to be a person.  Maybe you’d like to take a minute and step back from this particular landmine so I can continue my tradition of voting for a third-party write-in?  You see, I was sorta hoping that you’d be on the path to recovery by now.  It’s not like my standards are all that high.  You can have me back the second you remember that being evil is supposed to look like fun, not fumbling stupid.

My Hoodie

About twelve years ago I got a black hoodie for Christmas.  It has Jack Skellington’s head on it with a zipper down the middle, and “Tim Burton’s the Nightmare Before Christmas,” printed in white text inside the hood.  It’s the one article of clothing I wear year round.  It’s extra insulation in the winter, is handy for covering my arms when the A/C is blasting too much in the summer, and the extra pockets are always handy because there’s no such thing as too many pockets.

It would not be an exaggeration to say I love this hoodie.  I love this hoodie so much that I’m still wearing it even though the cuffs are frayed to the point where they are more flaps at the ends of the sleeves than cuffs.  The seams are full of holes.  and there are spots of it so threadbare that the insulation the hoodie provides is more psychological than realistic.  Yet I wear this hoodie.  Six years ago I decided it was too worn and fragile to keep machine washing and that I ought to replace it.  I’ve been hand washing it ever since, and haven’t yet found an adequate replacement.

When I was in Disney World last summer they had the exact same hoodie, except brand new and a bit thicker (which could be nice, if Wisconsin ever has a winter again).  I stared at it.  A long time.  My sister ridiculed me for even stopping to think about it when, clearly, this was the perfect solution to my conundrum.  I stared at it some more.  “Maybe I’ll buy it for myself for Christmas,” I said.  And then I hugged my tatty, worn hoodie and felt like I’d escaped a near tragedy.

Most of the time nobody recognizes the picture on the front of the hoodie, because unless I zip it up, there are just some weird white lines hanging on the sides.  Once in a while they’ve either seen the hoodie before or I was actually chilly enough to zip it up, and if they recognize Jack’s head, we have a nice chat about holiday mashing and how Halloween is the best holiday on the face of the planet ever, no really.  A couple times I’ve spotted somebody with their own version of the hoodie, and felt a bit of camaraderie.  “Ah,” says I to myself, “They know what it’s like, my precious, precious hoodie.”

I wore it all the time while living in Maryland, D.C., Chicago and Madison, while visiting a dozen other cities and three other countries.  I’ve worn it while wearing cargo pants and a T-shirt, sunglasses, with disheveled hair and a palpable bad attitude.

Despite that, if somebody got out of their car and started following me down the street, the automatic assumption would be that the guy doing the following is a creep and I’m about to, at best, get mugged.  If that person shot me, nobody would consider citing my hoodie as a factor, or believe for even a moment that he’d felt intimidated.

Without saying anything else about anything, I will say this: A hoodie, on its own, is not intimidating.  To feel intimidated by somebody walking down the street wearing a hoodie, there must be something else at play.  Claiming otherwise is absurd.

Oh, Mittens

I have a confession to make: I’m cheering for Mitt Romney.  There’s not a chance I’d vote for him – my time-out for the entire Republican party doesn’t expire until 2014 – but I have a vague sort of respect for the guy, and I kinda want to see him do well.  I also don’t want a Republican anywhere near the White House just now – even the good ones are in bed with really, really unacceptable people and ideas – it’s just, well, I appreciate his “mistakes” so much.

For example, the etch-a-sketch comment.  No, you should never, ever say that in public.  When you are running for office, you look the people you’re courting in the eye and you tell them that you’re their guy, now and forever, no way are you going to change or flirt with other people/ideas/forces of logic.  That’s how the game is played, and anybody with the least bit of political savvy knows it.  They also know that it’s garbage, that you always run on a more extreme platform during primaries than you do during generals because they’re primaries, and that’s also how the game is played.  The crime here isn’t that the plan is to refocus and shift come the fall, it’s that somebody from the campaign said so in public.  Eric Fehrnstrom should probably never be allowed on national television while representing a candidate ever, ever again.  But you know what?  He was doing exactly what everybody claims they want politicians to do: he was being honest.

The angry foamy part of me has to respect that even while the calculating manipulative part wants to shriek at the sheer incompetence of it.  Mitt Romney causes me deep inner turmoil.

People have been loving to hate on Romney’s “flip-flopping” and tendency to wander off from approved paths to actually get things done.  Okay, fine, we know that people who brashly claim to know what they’re doing inspire more confidence than the appropriately tentative, that people prefer leaders who brazenly ‘stay the course’ rather than pausing to think.  Except, I don’t.  I’m okay with somebody who’s willing to change their mind, even if it’s just because it turns out nobody likes their good idea.  I’m rather fond of the idea of a leader who is willing to say, “So, in order to do X, I think we should do Y and you think we should do Z, but since X is the goal, let’s scramble letters until we get it, k?”  It’s really bad politics, but it’s good leadership.

Really, I’d rather see people ragging on Romney for his underwear choices than for being a Republican who does things Democrats like, or for being willing to be the leader his constituents want, or for running a campaign where, once in a while, a staffer accidentally blurts out the truth.  Picking on his underwear is just as silly, but at least then you aren’t discouraging the kind of politics I’d like to see.

In conclusion, I give you a funny video. (h/t Noah)

As Best I Can Recall

Last week the Wisconsin state assembly passed a measure that’s the first step toward amending the state constitution for recalls.  I don’t think anybody has to think very hard to figure out my opinion of the effort.  If you do here it is: It’s a dumb, petty, pointless effort put forth by cravens and cowards.  Buy me something tasty and I’ll tell you how I really feel.

Since last week was just a hair on the unreasonable side of busy, I saved the article to blog about it but didn’t get around to it.  This far behind the ball I’d normally just let it go.  Except.

Under current law, no grounds are needed to seek a recall.

This line, or one very like it, is cropping up in all the reporting about it, and it’s driving me nuts.  It’s one of those technically true things that come up in order to lie.  True, the current constitution doesn’t say anything about what constitutes valid grounds for a recall.  What it does say is this:

SECTION 12. [Recall of elective officers.] The qualified electors of the state of any congressional, judicial or legislative district or of a county may petition for the recall of any incumbent elective officer after the first year of the term for which the incumbent was elected, by filing a petition with the filing officer with whom the nomination petition to the office in the primary is filed, demanding the recall of the incumbent.

(1) The recall petition shall be signed by electors equalling at least twenty-five percent of the vote cast for the office of governor at the last preceding election, in the state, county or district which the incumbent represents.
(6) After one such petition and recall election, no further recall petition shall be filed against the same officer during the term for which he was elected. (7) This section shall be self-executing and mandatory. Laws may beenacted to facilitate its operation but no law shall be enacted to hamper, restrict or impair the right of recall.

Bolding and underlining mine, because this is where the technical truth, rhetorical lie dynamic comes into play.  There is nothing there about criminality, incompetence, ethics violations, insulting grandma, or whatever else somebody might consider valid grounds for a recall.  What it does have are two rather important restrictions on how a recall can be done and what it takes for it to be successful.  And these restrictions accomplish the function of specifying what constitutes grounds for a recall far more effectively than actually enumerating the valid critera.

Let’s take a look at the first bit I bolded, the part about having to wait a year to file a recall. This means several things.  The first is that nobody is likely to ever file a recall petition against a member of the Assembly.  They only have two year terms, so at best you get somebody out a few months early.  It’s not worth it.

The second is that you can’t immediately turn around and redo the election if a lot of people are suddenly unhappy when the results come out.  Say a third party split the vote on one side and all of a sudden a majority isn’t happy because they agree the guy who won is a bad idea.  Tough, wait a year, and while you’re at it, learn some electioneering.  You know what?  After a year, the squabbling side split by the third party is going to be squabbling again.  Don’t believe me?  I’m going to claim the long, long history of no recalls even over close elections as evidence to support this claim.  You could counter-argue that nobody was paying attention before.  I’ll rest my case on your counter-argument.

What this provision does is give the candidate time to actually serve in office, and protect them from punitive recalls that have more to do with the election than their performance.  It also annoys the hell out of me, because there’s nothing stopping a candidate from doing unquestionably unacceptable thing x on inauguration day and then getting away with it for a year.  On the other hand, there are other ways for dealing with anybody who does unacceptable thing x on inauguration day if leaving them in office for a year is going to be catastrophic.  It’s not like one person has the power to quash protest.  And even if that did happen, there’s protection in separation of powers.  Or, well, there’s a reason I love the whole Bill of Rights and not just the starting bit.  (No, you cannot quarter troops in my house.  I won’t let you!)

So there’s already protection against backlash, punitive recalling that isn’t based on things done while in office.  The second bit I highlighted is even more important.  In order to have a recall, you have to get a signature from a number of electors (that is, people eligible to vote) equal to 25% of the people in the relevant district who voted for governor.  That’s not just for gubernatorial recalls, that’s for any recall.  In other words, the constitutional provision creates a burden that is based on the biggest potential number of voters.  Executive branch elections get the highest voter turn out.  Most people only vote for president, with the other executive offices generally also enjoying privileged status.  They’re just sexier to voters, and always have been.  So if I want to recall my state senator, it doesn’t matter if me and my two crotchety neighbors up the street are the only ones who voted for him; if my entire district turned out to vote for governor, I need 25% of my entire district to help me overrule my two crotchety neighbors.

Now, I could file for a recall and start collecting signatures, but do you have any idea what the return on investment is for canvassing?  It’s crap.  We got a million signatures for the Walker recall, not because we went door to door or called a tons of people, but because if you were standing on a street corner with a clipboard and a “Sign here” sign, traffic would stop to come to you.  That.  Doesn’t.  Happen.  Especially not in the absence of something that really pisses off a ton of people.  I would suggest that any list of acceptable reasons for a recall that does not include something which can motivate people to that degree is a terminally flawed list.

The current design of the recall provision in the Wisconsin constitution is actually a really great piece of law.  It does exactly what I think any law should do.  It’s clear, specific, and designed so that it maximizes desired outcomes in a fashion both flexible and portable to changing conditions.  Standards for what unacceptable behavior by an elected official change.  By not citing them directly, but instead creating a burden that functionally requires a violation of those standards, the law is automatically self-updating.  It gets my highly desired seal of approval.

And even if this proposed amendment had been part of the constitution a year ago, I’d probably get my recall anyway.  Scott Walker likes making things easy for me just that much.

Opening up About Newt

I’ve got to admit, the kerfluffle around Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife’s interview has me annoyed with just about everybody.  I’m annoyed with conservatives for being giant hypocrites and not caring when, ahem, CLINTON.  And I’m annoyed with just about everybody else for accepting that an open marriage is a punchline.  So let’s take a moment to clarify the situation.

Newt Gingrich’s crime was not that he dared to ask his wife for an open marriage.  In fact, I rather respect him for doing that.  Deciding to engage in lifestyle that, as a prominent Republican, would potentially endanger his career rather than abandoning a wife and family about which he cared is a reputable choice.  The solution, the desire, that was not the crime.  Newt’s crime was one of timing.

Cheating is not okay.  Breaking the rules you have established with somebody in order to get what you want is, at a minimum, disrespectful to the people with whom you’ve established those rules.  Engaging in behavior that can harm or directly damage people you’ve committed to caring about, either through bringing home disease, acquiring the financial burden of a child, or shattering their trust in why you didn’t come home after work, is unacceptable behavior.  I am adamantly, aggressively opposed to sleeping around behind the backs of the people you’re sleeping with.

Newt Gingrich’s crime was one of timing.  He should have asked for an open marriage before living as if he had one.  There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you want your wife and family, and another woman.  Lying, cheating, and then asking to have the rules changed to accommodate you indicates a lack of character, foresight, and just plain decency that really ought to be the conversation, if we’re going to have one about Gingrich’s sex life at all.

Dude’s a douche, but let’s condemn him for the right reasons, okay?


Almost exactly ten months ago, I put up a list of goals I had for the whole protest/recall/Wisconsin is screwed movement.

The budget got passed, so I missed the first goal.  We got six recall elections but didn’t win all of them, so I vaguely missed that goal, too.  There are several things I could point at as potential Anti-Tea Party things, so I’ll call that goal in progress with likely success.  The fight access to the capitol continues, and there’s a whole clutch of people who make a point of waging it, so I have definitely nailed the last goal.

Which leaves us with the second goal; getting rid of Scott Walker.  (Public flogging on the square is still acceptable to me)  The project to recall the governor has changed my plans, everything from when/where I go on vacation to which jobs I’m willing to take.  And bitches, I’m winning that fight.  Over one million signatures when just over half that were required.

You’ll hear stories about fake names, duplicate signatures, and that they’re all from the deluded hippie land that is Dane county.  These stories are not true.  There are going to be lawsuits, and primaries and Republicans screaming about out of state paid workers and out of state money while they’re fundraising in Texas, and at the end of the day what matters is this: One.  Million.  Signatures.

Maybe instead of bookshelves, my next carpentry project could be a stockade.