Tuesday Afternoon Reads: Fun in Festering Fitzwalkerstan, Fakes for Caveat Emptor, and Yoko Ono is 80?

Dying Camellias 1 Here in the Fitzwalkerstan, epicenter of the NeoConfederate North, we live the good life by clinging to a barbarian code not unlike that of this famous thief: Conan, what is the best in life (see video below).

At one time, we were known as the home of Progressivism, then we were Wisconsin. But since 2010 we’ve acquired a new character and a new appellation: Fitzwalkerstan.

Our new name is an affectionate conjunction referencing the subsumption of our state by simulacrum Scott Walker, mimicking a Governor, aided by his aping sibling-minions, the Fitzgerald brothers: Scott, State Senate Majority Leader and Jeff, Speaker of the Assembly. After a failed U.S. Senate bid, losing out to Tammy Baldwin, Jeff has since left the Assembly – sort of. He’s now a state lobbyist for American Traffic Solutions. We all miss him. We miss the bare fisted nepotism when Walker had the Fitzgerald brothers heading up both branches of the state legislature, gumming up the government and retooling it for their own ends.

Jeff’s departure for the revolving door didn’t diminish the pace or the agenda, however. Scott Walker has since run rough shod over what was once Wisconsin. Given he spends more time out of state than in, it’s kind of crazy that he can get so much done. But where there’s a will there’s a way as they say. Cognitive Dissidence, one our local blogs recently compiled a short list of Walker’s achievements:

Dying Camellias

I would assume that the protests which erupted in Madison, our state capitol, and the subsequent Lincoln-like flight of our Democratic legislators escaped no one’s attention in 2011. These are the events that put Scott Walker, the Rock Star, on the map. His celebrity status may have faded a little bit by now, but it had just erupted in February of 2011 when he “dropped the bomb” by unleashing the union-busting atrocity known as Act 10.  And a rock star he was, indeed, at the Tea Party Patriots American Policy Summit, occurring ever so fortuitously at the end of February. But no one paid attention to that event despite Scott Walker being a gushed at guest speaker. I believe I alluded to the summit in a comment at one point, and I believe I also pasted the poem I wrote in response to it. I mention it again because Dakinikat wisely warned us that what happens in Louisiana can happen anywhere. Right she was.

The Tea Party Patriots American Policy Summit occurred over a three day period. I did not attend. I did watch the majority of it piece meal when the Tea Party Patriots still had the stream posted on their website. It was painful. It was ghastly. But it was worth it. By the end of that terrible weekend, the summit had outlined every nasty maneuver the GOP has initiated during their reign of terror in DC and in statehouses across the country. From hostage politics, shut-downs, voter disenfranchisement, the war on women… all laid out in its hideous glory. A grand strategy with a tactical mechanism to make it happen at every level of government. I’ve watched the goals of that summit play out over the last two years in my state, many others, and certainly in DC. Walker and Jindal operate from the same playbook reflecting the strategy laid out  at the Tea Party summit in 2011.

The Cognitive Dissidence post begins by referencing Mike Tate, chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party.  Tate has adopted Howard Dean’s 50 state-strategy, and is applying it to our 72 counties. I hope it will work. When I think on the Dean strategy I think more of the South than I do our NeoConfederate North. Perhaps this is the strategy that can turn the South from red to blue? This is probably a topic that has received coverage already, but if anyone could speak to it now, I’d be extremely interested in a discussion about Southern political dynamics, also bruising the Red West until it is a lovely shade of blue or blue-green.

Digression alert: Blue-green is sacred to Wadjet, Ancient Goddess of Lower Egypt. No Egyptian deities had names that could ever be uttered, so no one knows their true names. Wadjet, the epithet and the color refer to the color of papyrus hence her epithet, Wadjet, means Papyrus-Colored One. That’s a digression which hasn’t anything at all to do with shifting political landscapes, I mentioned it because blue-green always reminds me of the Wadjet color, and I think Wadjet is pretty groovy, and I think I want my own epithet. Maybe She-Who-Digresses would be fitting.

Now might be a good time to explain the photos. They are part of a series of photographs I call “Dying Camellias.” Though, they’re not camellias. They’re peonies. I photographed thousands over 2 seasons during various stages of decay. I love the decay process, and peonies have an exceptionally bizarre decay process. I include them because this post is about the process of decay.

We see it in my state inflicted by Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP. But Walker really can’t muster an original thought in his head. He hasn’t the capacity for complex thought let alone strategy. He dropped out of college or was kicked out for substandard performance; he doesn’t speak about it so no one knows which is the more accurate.

He’s one of the most inarticulate politicians ever, yet his predigested talking points, no matter how inarticulately executed, work phenomenally well. And they get regurgitated by the populace. It’s an astounding phenomenon to observe. Yet, he has improved due to what I suspect is the same grooming Paul Ryan received for the presidential stage. I think that polish has a distinct cast recognizable as the Koch-sheen.

I believe Walker’s talking points take on the same gleam, and his obfuscating rhetoric succeeds because he speaks the secret language of conservative dog whistles, a language any conservative anywhere in the U.S. would hear. Those are the dog whistles of the right wing political machine that is moving across the land. It’s the same machine that has groomed Scott Walker from an utter buffoon to a skillful politician and the very same cookie-cutter homogenization juggernaut steamrolling over all 50 states. It  is as coordinated an effort as it gets. It is, itself, a process of national decay fueled by regression.

The strategy – the Tea Party strategy – is fusing the Libertarian and Evangelical wings of the Right.  In the long run, I don’t think that strategy will work, these two factions aren’t natural allies. I think we can already see the bonds decaying between more traditional Conservatives like Chris Christie and Libertarian wingnuts like Rand Paul. Yet, to use an appropriate epithet – the Political-Machine-That-Festers will initiate long-term rot if the rot machine continues unabated. The pace of rot since the 2010 sweep, no doubt, indicates the desire to do as much agenda-cementing as fast as possible prior to their demographic death. On that note, hear hear to a little festering! Let the beauty of decay begin!

dying cams z14 8x10

Speaking of swindlers and shenanigans, I love this:

‘Caveat Emptor': An Art Exhibit Made Entirely Of Forgeries Confiscated By The FBI (PHOTOS)

I must admit I’m torn by the question posed:

 Should exceptionally executed forgeries have a value all their own? How much should an artists’ name affect the worth of a work?

Also on the art front: one who doesn’t seem in decline or decay is Yoko Ono, whose diverse art platforms spanning fifty years of expression went on display at Louisiana’s Museum of Modern Art in June. The exhibit, commemorating Yoko’s 80th birthday, runs until September 29. Should any of our Southern Sky Dancing sisters make their way to the exhibit, I should very much like a review! Admittedly, I’ve never concluded an aesthetic opinion on Yoko Ono’s work. At the same time, one can’t deny she is a dynamic woman worthy of a level of respect she has not perhaps received in decades past, yet absolutely deserving of mention in a post about decay – she’s weathering her withering well.

A look at Yoko Ono’s 50-year career « AMA

YOKO ONO HALF-A-WIND SHOW – Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

And you, Sky Dancers, what is now upon your minds? What questions occupy your thoughts today?

GOP Electoral Vote-Rigging Scheme Is Losing Steam


Good News

It looks like the Republican plans to change the way electoral votes are assigned in swing states may be dead in the water. This afternoon, a Virginia Senate committee voted to kill the state’s proposed bill and Republicans in Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin are expressing serious doubts about similar bills in their states.

In Virginia:

The measure appeared headed for defeat after Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) came out against it Friday, as did two GOP senators who sit on the committee that would decide the bill’s fate.

Earlier Tuesday, McDonnell said during a televised interview that he was “afraid people will ignore Virginia” if the commonwealth switched to an electoral college system that picked winners by congressional district.

The governor told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that the winner-take-all system most states use is the way to go, and that splitting up electoral votes by congressional districts is a “bad idea.”

In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder isn’t bullish on the proposed changes.

In another blow to the push to replace the winner-take-all method for awarding electoral votes, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said he is “very skeptical” of a Republican proposal in his state to adopt the congressional district system for allocating the votes.

“You don’t want to change the playing field so it’s an unfair advantage to someone, and in a lot of ways we want to make sure we’re reflecting the vote of the people, and this could challenge that,” Snyder, a Republican, said today on Bloomberg Television’s “Bottom Line.”

“I don’t think this is the appropriate time to really look at it,” he said.

And the Michigan Senate majority leader has indicated the measure probably won’t be put up for a vote. Michigan Live reports:

Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville is wary of a proposal to split up Michigan’s Electoral College votes by district, suggesting that such a move could diminish the state’s importance in presidential elections.

“I don’t know that it’s broken, so I don’t know if I want to fix it,” Richardville said Tuesday, becoming the first high-ranking Michigan Republican to question a bill that state Rep. Pete Lund is poised to reintroduce in the House.

“We’ll take a look at it,” Richardville said. “I’ve heard these things before, all or nothing versus splitting it up. I want to make sure that Michigan’s voice is a loud and clear voice, so I’d be a little concerned if we ended up splitting the difference.”

Other Michigan elected officials noted that presidential candidates would be less likely to campaign in the state if they knew they could win only a small number of votes in favorable districts.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker says the plan is “risky.”

Walker said Tuesday it’s an interesting idea, but not one he spends time thinking about. He says because Wisconsin is a battleground state, presidential and vice presidential candidates have an incentive to make repeated campaign stops here. He says he’s wary that changing the system could dissuade candidates from visiting.

Finally, in Ohio, several GOP leaders, including Secretary of State Jon Husted, oppose the plan.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Count Ohio’s Republican leaders out of a GOP-backed effort to end the Electoral College’s winner-take-all format in the Buckeye State and other presidential battlegrounds.
Spokesmen for Gov. John Kasich, State Senate President Keith Faber and House Speaker William G. Batchelder told The Plain Dealer this week that they are not pursuing plans to award electoral votes proportionally by congressional district.

Batchelder went a step further, saying through his communications director that he “is not supportive of such a move.” And Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted, the state’s chief elections administrator, emphasized that he does not favor the plan either, despite Democratic suspicions based on reported comments that he said were taken out of context.

“Nobody in Ohio is advocating this,” Husted said in a telephone interview.

That just leaves Pennsylvania and perhaps Florida. Would those states want to discourage candidates from coming in to campaign?

It certainly looks as if the GOP electoral vote-rigging scheme is a loser.

Early Morning Open Thread: Are We Living in Atlas Shrugged?

Sen. Ron Johnson, fellow Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, and some other guy

Sen. Ron Johnson, fellow Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, and some other guy

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson’s time in the glow of media attention isn’t quite over yet. He’s still making an ass of himself without realizing it. Via Mother Jones, The Republican Senator who was humiliated by Hillary Clinton during last week’s Benghazi hearings gave an interview on January 16 to The Atlas Society, an organization who raison d’etre is the celebration of the odious Ayn Rand novel Atlas Shrugged.

Johnson is such a huge fan of the novel that he and a friend (Tea Party leader and campaign fundraiser Ben Ganther) bought a giant statue of Atlas holding up the world and today it sits outside his friend’s contracting business in Osh Kosh, Wisconsin. Engraved on the statue’s base are the words “Fight to be free.”

atlas johnson

Johnson told interviewer Laurie Rice that he “absolutely” sees “parallels” between the U.S. today and the plot of Atlas Shrugged.

It’s a real concern. As I talk to business owners that maybe started their businesses in the ’70s and ’80s, they tell me Ron, there’s no way– with today’s regulations, today’s levels of taxation– there’s no way I could start my business today. And I’m certainly concerned a lot of the generation of baby boomers that have had successful businesses, they just might shrug. With all the regulations, with the increasing taxes, they may say I’m going to give it up.

According to Johnson, we’re headed for disaster because of the national debt and because of the New Deal programs that have been in effect since the 1930s with no ill effects, but are suddenly going to bring the country down. Does this man know that Ayn Rand took both Social Security and Medicare?

I see two tipping points– the financial tipping point, which really is, talking about the debt crisis, the point where world creditors look at the United States and say I’m not going to loan you any more money, not at that rate. And interest rates start increasing, and then our interest costs explode, crowds out all their spending. That’s the financial tipping point.

The other one I’m talking about is the cultural tipping point, where we really have developed this culture of entitlement dependency that is not what America’s all about. I mean, America– and that’s, of course, what Atlas Shrugged is about– is individuals aspiring to build things. To make their life, and as a result the world, a better place. And when we shift to a culture where people are just saying I’m happy to sit back and let the government provide me with things, that becomes a very dangerous point in time for this country.

Apparently Johnson knows better than Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who isn’t at all worried about rising interest rates or a sudden lack of interest in Treasury bonds. But Johnson’s biggest fear is…wait for it….


I think Americans are a little bit like a bunch of frogs in that pot of water and the water’s being brought up to a boil. And I think we’re losing freedoms across the board. The reason I ran really was in reaction to the passage of the health care law, which I think is really the greatest assault on our freedom in my lifetime.

During the original oral arguments at the Supreme Court, I was the only Senator that attended all four days of those arguments. And prior to attending those, I was being interviewed by somebody and I had this concept that we’re all suffering collectively from the Stockholm Syndrome. That’s where people who have been kidnapped are grateful to their captors when they just show them a little bit of mercy. And collectively, we just don’t understand the freedoms we’re really losing.

So we’re going to the Supreme Court, begging them please, please allow us this one last shred of freedom. Allow us the freedom to decide what product we’re going to purchase or not purchase. And unfortunately for Americans, for our freedoms, we were denied that right.

But Johnson assures us he’ll never give up fighting for our freedom to live without health insurance.

I guess when you take a look at the book Atlas Shrugged, I think most people always like to identify with the main character– that would be John Galt. I guess I identify with Hank Rearden, the fella that just refused until the very end to give up. And I guess I’d like to think of myself more as a Hank Rearden– I’m not going to give up.

America is something far, far too precious in the span of human history. I’ll never give up hope on America. I hope everybody that’s watching this will never give up hope.

Watch the whole interview if you dare!

Via Dave Wiegel, in 2010 when he first ran for office, Johnson discussed his love for Atlas Shrugged with WaPo columnist George Will.

Before what he calls “the jaw-dropping” events of the past 19 months — TARP, the stimulus, Government Motors, the mistreatment of Chrysler’s creditors, Obamacare, etc. — the idea of running for office never crossed Ron Johnson’s mind. He was, however, dry tinder — he calls Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” his “foundational book” — and now is ablaze, in an understated, Upper Midwestern way. This 55-year-old manufacturer of plastic products from Oshkosh, Wis., is what the Tea Party looks like.

As for the novel that helped form his bizarre world view, Johnson told Will,

What Samuel Johnson said of Milton’s “Paradise Lost” — “None ever wished it longer than it is” — some readers have said of “Atlas Shrugged.” Not Johnson, who thinks it is “too short” at 1,088 pages.

Noting that Massachusetts “is requiring insurance companies to write polices at a loss,” he says, “We’re living it,” referring to the novel’s dystopian world in which society’s producers are weighed down by parasitic non-producers.

He probably takes the Bible literally too. Are there any Republicans left who don’t get all their ideas from fiction and folklore?

I’ll be back later with a midmorning reads post. Have a great morning and a fabulous Tuesday!

The Amazing Stupidity of Ron Johnson, Part 2

Ron Johnson 1

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson has really raised his media profile in the past couple of day. Yesterday he was humiliated by Hillary Clinton during the Senate Benghazi hearings and today it was John Kerry’s turn to make a fool out of Johnson during Kerry’s confirmation hearings for Secretary of State. Sadly, Johnson doesn’t understand that he’s getting all this attention because he’s a complete loon.

Why is this man so obsessed with whether or not there was a spontaneous protest in Benghazi on the day of the attacks on the American consulate there? He can’t even explain why it matters except to say that the American people deserve “the truth.” For Pete’s sake, we didn’t get any kind of investigation of 9/11/2001 for a couple of years after the attacks!

Hasn’t Johnson noticed that even John McCain and Lindsey Graham stopped harping on the protest vs. terrorist attack “issue” after it came out that Susan Rice’s talking points were prepared by the intelligence community and that former CIA Director David Petraeus signed off on them? Unfortunately, Johnson is just too stupid and too full of himself to realize everyone else has moved on.

Wisconsin blogger Ed Garvey got a kick out of the way Hillary handled Johnson yesterday:

Had the Hillary Clinton-Ron Johnson episode been a prize fight they would have called it after a couple of exchanges between the bright, articulate and gutsy secretary of state and Ron Johnson, the inarticulate, not-so-gutsy Wisconsin senator. I almost felt sorry for the guy. He reminded me of a kid who can’t swim being pushed into into the deep end of the pool.

You have to see it to believe it. Advice to Senator Johnson: Spend some prep time before taking on someone much smarter than you. And, dear Ron, your effort to win the debate after it was over placed you in the rube category.

This morning CNN’s Soledad O’Brien tried to get Johnson to explain why after being smacked down by Clinton in the Senate, he ran to right wing media outlets and accused the outgoing Secretary of State of faking emotion over the deaths of four State Department employees in order to evade his (Johnson’s) questions.

Johnson used his amazing stupidity to evade O’Brien’s questions.

During Kerry’s confirmation hearing, Johnson tried to get Kerry to agree to work with him to get “the truth” about the Benghazi attacks.

From Politicus:

Sen. Ron Johnson started his tea party what really happened at Benghazi shitick today, but like Hillary Clinton yesterday, John Kerry was having none of it. Kerry responded to Johnson’s repeat performance of what really happened at Benghazi by asking, “Were you at the briefing at the tapes?” Johnson answered, “No.” Kerry continued, “Well, there was a briefing with tapes, which we all saw, those of us who went to it, which made it crystal clear. We sat for several hours with our intel folks, who described to us precisely what we were seeing. We saw the events unfold. We had a very complete and detailed description.”

Senator Stupid still doesn’t get it, but surely some of his constituents in Wisconsin must be kicking themselves for electing this moron. Back to Politicus:

Johnson and the other tea partiers in Congress are obsessed with Benghazi because they are trying to create a political opportunity to exploit. For them, these hearings aren’t about finding out what really happened in order to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Sen. Johnson and others of his ilk are trying to use the murder of four Americans for political gain.

Sen. Johnson is embarrassing himself and his state, and the only fact that has been uncovered by his line of questioning is that Ron Johnson doesn’t belong in the United States Senate.

I can’t wait to see if Johnson goes running to Politico to brag about how he handled John Kerry.

Please used this as an open thread.

Another Day in American Life: Domestic Terror against Religious Minorities & Gun-based Mass Murder

By now, you’ve probably heard about the death of 7 people in a Sikh Gurdwara in Wisconsin. The FBI will be investigating this as an act of domestic terrorism.  There are three gun shot victims in critical condition in the hospital.  One is a police officer who was responding to the 911 call and was ambushed by the shooter.

Gun violence in the United States claims so many victims that events like these seem every day.  How many people need to die before we can challenge the NRA and its stranglehold on our elected officials?

I can only imagine what horrible details are going to come out about this shooter who was shot dead by the injured police officer’s partner.  The crime scene and the perpetrator will be investigated over night.

Today, we should remember these victims and all the victims of senseless gun crimes enabled by a society with a gun fetish masquerading as an appreciation of a constitutional right.

Please share your thoughts and links with us.

Om Shanti Om.