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Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 07:26 AM PDT

Why I Oppose Gay Marriage

by bangthebuckets

Beginning yesterday, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments regarding gay marriage.  At issue is California's now-infamous Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage in the state, and the Defense of Marriage Act.  It is believed possible that the court's ruling on this issue could in fact have long-standing impact regarding gay marriage throughout the U.S.  A host of people are talking about it.  My Facebook feed is filled with a bunch of pink equal signs, as though changing a profile pic is going to make Clarence Thomas talkative or something.

I was going to bide my time and keep my opinions to myself, because one more opinion on the issue isn't going to make any difference.  I tried to be good, but as time has worn on, my resolve to keep quiet on this issue faded away.  I am a red-blooded heterosexual American male--I've never even been confused on that point--and I should admit that from the start.  Still, I have friends who are gay, and I'm running the risk of offending them by writing this, but I can't keep quiet any longer.  Some things just need to be said, and I will say them below the little orange squiggly thingie.

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Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 09:18 PM PST

Why I'm Changing My Name

by bangthebuckets

To paraphrase a hippie liberal, what a long, strange trip it's been in this Wisconsin gubernatorial recall.  And of course, it had to go and get a little bit stranger:  I'm about to add to the general weirdness of it all.  I have decided to change my name, and I will soon be known as none other than Scott Walker.  If you're curious as to why, please see below the orange squiggly cheese doodle thingie.

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You would have to be a very long-term reader of my own personal blog to remember an old acquaintance of mine that I call SCOTT.  We're not really friends, mostly because he hates everything I stand for; I tend to be somewhat left of center on the political spectrum, while he is happiest cruising the extreme far right.  For those Kossacks who have never heard of him, I call him SCOTT because he doesn't like to be mentioned by name in print; it stands for Social Conservative Opposed to Truth.  I hadn't seen him in months, but then I bumped into yesterday while both of us were finishing up some last-minute shopping.

"Merry Christmas, SCOTT," I said when I saw him in the aisles of our local dollar store (who can afford Wal-mart, in this economy?).

"What do you mean, 'Merry Christmas'?" he demanded.  It was obvious that I had already irritated him.

"I don't mean anything," I replied.  "It's the holiday season.  I know you and I disagree on a lot of issues, but that doesn't mean we can't be pleasant, especially this time of year."

"I don't need to be pleasant to you, at this time or any other time," he said.  "I'm sure Christmas is all well and good for your kind, but I want nothing to do with it."

SCOTT has a way of getting me riled up, even when I know I shouldn't.  Despite the holiday season and the bright and festive store displays, I began to get a little hot under the collar.  "'My kind'?" I asked.  I took a firmer grip on my shopping cart in case I needed to use it to defend myself.

"Yes, your kind," SCOTT said.  "All of you liberals love Christmas, and why not?  It's exactly the kind of thing you would.  Conservatives see it for what it really is."

I could tell he was working up to another rant, but I couldn't help myself.  "And what is it, then?"

He moved his cart alongside mine, so the two of us were blocking the aisle.  "It's a Socialist plot, and you know it."

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Sat Dec 03, 2011 at 11:36 PM PST

Them The People

by bangthebuckets

As a history teacher, there are few periods in all of World or American history that I like as much as I like the Enlightenment.  While it did not always succeed in its lofty goals, the idea that an entire wave of people would seek to live their lives according to reason fits quite nicely with the subtitle of this particular blog.  Of course, one of the finest examples of an Enlightenment document comes in the form of our very own U.S. Constitution, which begins with the familiar words of the Preamble:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

In the weeks and months just past, state and national Republicans have put forth a variety of views as to what exactly it means to be "We the People" in these great United States of ours, and some of those views have been conflicting.  We have seen "Personhood amendments" in both Mississippi and Wisconsin that attempt to define "We the People" as existing from the moment of conception.  Mitt Romney, speaking at the Iowa State Fair this past August, expressed the idea that corporations are people, as well.  So it has become a little bit difficult to determine just who is or is not an actual person, and therefore protected by the rights and freedoms expressed within our beloved U.S. Constitution.

Fortunately, Bang The Buckets has obtained a copy of the Platform of the Republican Party for 2012.  Now, if you search for this online, you won't be able to find it just yet -- the best you'll be able to do is the platform from 2008.  Thankfully, Bang The Buckets has a host of anonymous and imaginary sources with close ties to the Republican Party, and one of them was willing to speak to me on the condition of remaining anonymous and imaginary.  Using the 2008 model which you all can access online, this new section comes right between the 2008 section of "The Democrats plan to raise your taxes" and "The Failed Model of Employer-Employee Relations."  The party platform for 2012 clearly spells out the Republican position, and it is my pleasure to share it here.  The new section is called, appropriately enough, "Personhood."

See blow the orangish squiggle for more.

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Dear Voters of Ohio:

As I write this, about a third of the precincts have reported.  CNN and MSNBC and even Fox News is running your story, and they all tell me that as of right now, more than 63% of you have voted to reject Senate Bill 5.  As of right now, they all say that the bill will be defeated.

Thank you.

I live in Wisconsin.  We know a little bit about attempts to curb collective bargaining rights here in Wisconsin, as many of you are aware.  We know a little bit about a Republican Governor and a Republican-dominated State Legislature attempting to limit the political power of union members and workers.  We know about protests, and we've chanted Solidarity till our throats were raw.  You've done us one better.  You've shown us what Solidarity means at the ballot box.

Thank you.

Your own battle has seemingly reached victory.  Governor Kasich is vowing to pause and take a deep breath and then continue to lead.  You've shown him that if he is going to continue to lead, he better do it in a different direction.

Thank you.

You have reinforced my belief, and the beliefs of many Americans, that the middle class might still have a voice in this great nation.  You've allowed the whole nation to see that the voice of the middle class not only exists, but it has something to say, and that those in power ignore it at their peril.

Thank you.

This fight is a long way from over.  In your state, it is entirely possible that portions of Senate Bill 5 will reappear in a slightly different form.  Please be vigilant.  In our state, we are only beginning the recall efforts to force Scott Walker out of office and try to begin the healing from the great damage that he has done.  We may not succeed in collecting 540,000 signatures, but you have given us new reason to try.  Even if we get those signatures, we may not succeed in voting Governor Walker out of office, but you've given us new reason to hope.

Thank you.

Most importantly, at least to me, is that you have demonstrated the principles that founded this nation.  The TEA Party likes to claim that their movement is more in line with the ideas of the Founding Fathers and Mothers.  But the Founding Fathers and Mothers based their ideals on earlier ideals of the European Enlightenment.  Perhaps the best example can be found in the Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of  Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

You didn't abolish your government tonight -- nor, in my opinion, should you.  But it appears that you did alter it, because it violated the consent of the governed.

Thank you.

You may not understand what this means to me.  I am a history teacher.  I can use this in class tomorrow.  I can stand in front of my class and let them know that -- whether they agree with your vote or not -- the ideas that founded this nation are not some stagnant and meaningless words written by men in powdered wigs that have no relevance to our world today.  I can tell them that the ideas of John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Montesquieu, and Jefferson, and Adams, and Hamilton, and Madison and Jay and Franklin and many others are ideas that are still worth fighting for, because the people of the great state of Ohio fought for them tonight, and as of this writing it seems they have won.

Thank you, Ohio, and thank you again.

(This diary first appeared, with very slight alterations, at the author's blog of www.bangthebuckets.com.  It has been edited slightly here to correct original typos.)

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Fri Oct 28, 2011 at 06:42 AM PDT

Scott Walker Talking Points

by bangthebuckets

Wisconsin's attempt to recall Governor Scott Walker will officially begin on November 15.  As you can imagine, there's a good deal of excitement in my crowd over the possibility of a recall election, but I am concerned about the recall on a couple of levels.  I'm not wild about the precedent, to be honest; if Scott Walker loses a recall to a Democrat, I think its safe to say there will be a recall effort against that Democrat a year later.  But my real concern comes from the message that I hear, even from among my liberal and uber-liberal friends.

Like many on the left, and many in a public sector union who have been hurt by the Governor's politics and his tactics, I will be signing the petition to recall Scott Walker.  I also believe that there are 540,000 of us, or enough to actually trigger the recall election.  But I'm worried that those on the left will be unable to convince those in the middle that they should in fact get out to vote in a recall election.

I fear that a coherent and broad-based message is lacking.  I fear that those on the left are once again leaning heavily on a policy of increasing voter turnout, in hopes that all of those who turn out will vote liberal.  This simply doesn't work.  It didn't work in the European revolutions of 1848, it didn't work when Benjamin Disraeli made his great leap in the dark, and it didn't work when suffrage in America was increased by allowing blacks, or women, or when the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18.  There is no liberal groundswell of support that is waiting around to happen, just hoping to take a shot at the governor.  That being the case, the goal of the recall effort needs to be to educate voters (especially moderates) as to why Scott Walker should go, and the goal of the Democrats is to offer a candidate who can provide an alternative vision for Wisconsin and who can attack Scott Walker on his record.

I don't see that happening yet, and that's why I'm worried.  Among those of my political leanings and many in my profession, the message so far seems to be "Walker sucks."  I believe that those who say this think it is the case.  But he's a sitting governor, and he's going to have a massive war chest of campaign funds; if the best we can come up with is "Walker sucks," we're going to lose.

So this post is designed to offer, but mostly to solicit, talking points for the recall elections.  Rather than "Walker sucks," what do we truly feel people need to know in order to not only succeed in triggering a recall election, but also in helping to make sure that the Governor loses that election?  What bullet points can we put on a campaign mailer, or in the hands of canvassers, that are accurate, can be backed up with sources, and will help the average voter recognize what Scott Walker is doing to our state?  Assuming we can get people to listen to reason, what reasonable argument can be made?

I'll start with my two cents.  Governor Walker campaigned on the promise of bringing jobs to Wisconsin.  His campaign slogan was "Wisconsin is Open for Business."  And yet:

  •    
  • According to a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article dated October 20, the state of Wisconsin has lost jobs for three straight months, both in the private and in the public sectors.  (Source:  http://www.jsonline.com/... )
  •    
  • Wisconsin's unemployment was at 7.4% in February of this year, when Governor Walker's so-called "Budget Repair Bill" was announced.  As of September, it was 7.8%.  If the governor is working so hard on jobs, why has unemployment gone up, and not down?  (Source:  http://badgerstat.org/... )

I freely admit, that's not enough; I can (and will) find more, but I am also asking for your help.  If you have a talking point that you think will work to encourage reasonable people to vote against the governor, please send it along.  Do you have info about his financing?  Verifiable proof that his policies have failed?  Knowledge that ALEC is essentially spoon-feeding the governor legislation? I'd love to know about it.  A couple of caveats:
  •    
  • Please make it something that can be verified, so that a skeptical voter can be shown the evidence to support the claim.  The best possible source would be both reputable and politically neutral.  Send a link or an article or something that allows a potential voter to examine your source material.
  •    
  • Please don't make it personal.  Governor Walker's policies hurt me, too, but I don't think that's enough to convince others that he has to go.  Boo-hoo for all of us, but let's not feel sorry for ourselves; let's change the government of our state.

My aim is fairly simple -- when canvassers begin to go door-to-door and phone calls begin to be made to various houses, I want those people to have a series of reasons, backed with factual evidence, as to why Scott Walker's recall is good for Wisconsin.  My aim is to educate potential voters that might be on the fence, then let them make up their own minds.  My aim is not just to see Scott Walker recalled, but to see him lose a recall election.

I look forward to your suggestions.

(Apologies for substandard bullet-pointing.  A slightly-altered version of this piece first appeared at the author's personal blog at www.bangthebuckets.com)

Poll

Will you be signing the petition to recall Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin?

61%32 votes
11%6 votes
26%14 votes

| 52 votes | Vote | Results

Discuss

Fri Oct 21, 2011 at 06:24 PM PDT

A New Wisconsin Protest Song

by bangthebuckets

Woke up with a tune in my head this morning.  I apologize in advance to the songwriter, Mr. Paul Simon.  I apologize to him for ripping off his tune, for being a much poorer lyricist than he is, and for admitting that despite its place in the American soundtrack, Mrs. Robinson ranks among my least favorite songs that he has written.

Still, the melody and the fragment of the line, "Where have you gone. . ." was stuck in my head, and so I began to see if there were lyrics to be had that fit Wisconsin.  It didn't turn out great, but it didn't turn out horribly, either.  See below the fold if you want to sing along.

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Sun Oct 16, 2011 at 03:23 PM PDT

Under the Liberal Umbrella

by bangthebuckets

The Occupy Wall Street protests went global this weekend.  In cities around the world, tens or hundreds or thousands of people took to the streets and spoke out against what they view to be skewed economic policies not only in the U.S., but around the world.  There were protests in Oslo and Amsterdam, Brussels and Madrid.  People protested in Frankfurt and Stockholm and London, just as they did in Melbourne and Taipei and Tokyo.

And of course, Rome.  Rome led the news coverage of the Occupy protests, because it turned violent.  Cars were lit on fire in the streets, and about 70 people were arrested.  It was, as far as the media was concerned, a much bigger event than anything that happened at any of the other protests anywhere in the world. Maybe not, but it sure seemed like it sometimes.

It is a wonder to me that people still speak of the "liberal media."  There is such a thing, of course, just as there is a "conservative media," but it seems to me as though both sides spend a good deal of time misrepresenting the bulk of liberals out there.  That's not necessarily the fault of the media (though it's not necessarily not their fault, either).  At least a part of the problem is that a rather broad spectrum of society fits under the liberal umbrella.

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(A slightly-altered version of this piece previously appeared on the author's blog at www.bangthebuckets.com)

I have often claimed, since February, that the Republican-dominated Wisconsin Legislature is opposed to Public Education as it currently exists in the state.  I have lamented that Education was a main target of Wisconsin Act 10 (The Union-Busting Bill).  And I will admit, when I heard the news today, I thought for certain that the Wisconsin Legislature was at it again.

This week, Republican lawmakers introduced a bill designed to boost outdoor sports like hunting, fishing, and trapping.  Let me say very clearly:  I am fine with the idea of boosting outdoor sports such as hunting, fishing, and trapping.  I think that's a good idea.  Where my outrage-meter went off was when I heard that part of the plan to boost outdoor sports was to have high schools offer hunter safety courses for credit.

Poll

If someone else is buying, what would you prefer?

19%22 votes
2%3 votes
2%3 votes
0%1 votes
0%1 votes
55%63 votes
18%21 votes

| 114 votes | Vote | Results

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Dear Moderates and Independents of Wisconsin –

As you probably are aware, recall elections will be held next Tuesday, August 9, in six districts within the state of Wisconsin — those are Senate Districts 2, 8, 10, 14, 18, and 32.  Two more recall elections will be held on August 16, in Senate Districts 12 and 22.  If you live in one of those districts, I would like to take a moment to ask that you vote on the Tuesday that applies to you.

A number of Republicans will vote on those days, and so will a number of Democrats.  Of course, they will vote for the members of their parties, regardless of anything else.  Thus, the election will come down to how you vote.

You may have noticed the number of attack ads that have begun to show up on TV in your district.  You may have noticed the variety of mailers that have shown up in your mailbox, which usually are attack ads, as well.  I hope you recognize that it is all for you.  Millions of dollars are being spent on both sides, and it’s all to convince you to vote.

In one sense, I am no different — I am hoping that you will vote.  And I may as well come right out and say it, I hope that in each of the elections you will vote for the Democratic candidates.  I wish I could tell you that you should vote for them because they are paragons of virtue, absolutely spotless human beings with unblemished records who are practically saints walking among us.  I can’t tell you that, because I don’t think it’s true.  I don’t know any of the Democratic candidates personally, but I would be willing to wager that they are human beings, with the same shortcomings that we all have from time to time.

In the last several months, we have seen what has happened in Wisconsin when both houses of the legislature and the Governor’s Mansion are filled with members of the same party.  Republicans are not always evil, and they are not always wrong, but I would ask you to think about the manner in which government worked in the past few months.  Legislation has been railroaded through the Capitol, all designed to play favorites to the party in power, the Republicans.  They have attempted to harm the Democratic bases by attacking unions.  They have required that in order to vote in future elections, a photo ID will be necessary.  They have redrawn districts in order to harm Democrats.  I am not saying that Democrats are somehow above such measures, because I am not sure they are.  I am merely saying that what we have seen in Wisconsin in the last several months has been an example of unchecked party power.

I would like you to vote for the Democratic candidates in the recall elections because if enough of them should win, it would restore a system of checks and balances to Wisconsin government.  Would it stop Governor Walker’s agenda?  No.  It would make Governor Walker have to discuss his agenda, in order to reach civil agreement.  In a state where one of our Supreme Court Justices is accused of allegedly attempting to choke another, civil government is something that I think we need.

I have no better reason to offer you.  I wish I did.  But you have a chance, on the next two Tuesdays, to make your elected officials talk to one another instead of scream at one another.  You have a chance to make your state government work together to reach compromise in order to enact legislation.  You have a chance to let cooler heads prevail, and to move Wisconsin’s government back toward one that serves all of its citizens.

If you think that this makes sense and seems like a good idea, I hope you will join me in voting for a Democratic candidate.  If you think it doesn’t make sense, that is of course your option, and no hard feelings on my part.  Either way, thank you for taking the time to read it and for giving it your consideration.

Sincerely,

Eric Brehm

(This letter was previously published on the author's blog, www.bangthebuckets.com)

Discuss

Ladies and Gentlemen, your attention please for a special announcement:

There is no question that our nation has some difficulties -- we got through the debt ceiling (kind of), we have sharp divisions in our political parties, we have wars overseas, we have a laboring economy at home.  Turning on CNN or FOX or MSNBC or even Comedy Central has become a bit depressing lately.

But Texas Governor Rick Perry has potentially found a solution for this.  Governor Perry has proclaimed this Saturday, August 6, to be a "Day of Prayer and Fasting for our Nation to seek God's guidance and wisdom in addressing the challenges that face our communities, states, and our nation."  (See http://governor.state.tx.us/... for the press release from the Governor's office.)  That's right, a group of people will be coming together at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, to spend a day in prayer to seek God's help for America.

I thought this was a heck of an idea.  I was so pleased to hear of it that I decided to just pass over the fact that as the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry doesn't have the authority to declare a National Day of Tiddlywinks, let alone such a grand undertaking as this.  Truly, this could be a monumental occasion -- people of all faiths coming together to offer up their version of hope to a Higher Power, people joining with one another across all divisions of party or race or faith in order to move toward a higher purpose -- if this thing works it could do more for religious tolerance in this nation than anything else in my recent memory.

I mean, look at the potential.  Democrats are invited.  Republicans are invited.  Catholics are invited.  Lutherans are invited.  Jews are invited.  Baptists are invited.  Blacks are invited.  Muslims are invited.  Whites are invited.  Hindus are invited.

Oh, wait, sorry -- this just in -- Hindus are not invited, after all.  Well, that's unfortunate, but I suppose we have to recognize that there really aren't that many Hindus in America, anyway.  Still, for everyone else to get together and offer prayers --

Wait.  Sorry, I have to cut in again here:  Muslims, you're not invited, either.  I'm sorry to have misled you, I really thought it would be a nice gesture after all the political hoopla surrounding your faith lately, like attempts to outlaw Sharia law, but sorry, you're not invited.  It seems as though Governor Perry is going with a more Judeo-Christian thing.  I'm really sorry, but --

Wait, really?  No Jews, either?  Ladies and gentlemen, I'm really embarrassed to inform you that in addition to prohibiting Hindus and Muslims, Jews will not be invited to the Day of Prayer and Fasting, either.  Turns out, neither will Buddhists.  Taoists -- sorry, you're out of luck.  Atheists -- you're not invited.  Agnostics -- we can't be certain if you're invited or if you aren't.  So, to recap -- there will be a Day of Prayer and Fasting, but only if you happen to be Christian.  While Governor Perry seems concerned about the state of the nation, he apparently feels as though the issues facing our nation will be better served if only Christians seek help from God at this time.

So, please forget that whole business I said about how this could do wonders for religious tolerance in this nation, because I was wrong.  This is instead an exclusionary meeting, because it seems as though Rick Perry might believe he knows God better than you or I do.  The Christian-only event will once again be a day of prayer and fasting, so that the Christians can learn what God thinks should be done to help our nation.

Oh, wait -- this just in.  An inter-faith barbeque has been scheduled for the parking lot of Reliant Stadium this Saturday.  Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Taoists, Hindus, Atheists, Agnostics, and Christians who don't feel like fasting are encouraged to show up early and begin tailgating.  Bring your grills and smokers, bring your slaws and potato salads, bring a healthy appetite and plenty of hot sauce, and bring a dish to pass to anyone of any faith.  This inter-faith barbeque is not in any way sanctioned by or affiliated with Governor Perry or his Day of Prayer and Fasting -- in fact, it is entirely the product of my imagination -- but it does have a chance to still make Saturday a day of religious tolerance.

(Material here was previously published at www.bangthebuckets.com)

Discuss

Fri Jul 15, 2011 at 06:30 AM PDT

If The Tea Party Ran Your Life

by bangthebuckets

Another day, and still no deal on raising the debt ceiling from Washington.  Increasingly, it seems, the hang-up comes from a group of House Republicans who have pledged to have no new taxes, ever.  The idea of a nation unable to raise its own revenue to help itself out of a financial crisis is absurd, unless of course you worship John Galt.

So as the August 2 deadline looms closer, I thought I would put together a look at how your life might go if the Tea Party ran it the way they wish to run the government.  Sorry for the length.  

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