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Dale Schultz

Wisconsin Republican Dale Schultz

Any politician who votes against the party line deserves credit.  Even if we don’t agree with their actual vote, we should least appreciate that by defying their own party they’ve taken a political risk, usually because their principles manage to survive their selfish interests.

Former Rhode Island Republican US Senator Lincoln Chafee’s opposition to the Iraq War comes to mind as one of the best examples of this in recent years.

Now, so too does Wisconsin State Sen. Dale Schultz’s lone dissenting vote the other night when his fellow-Republican colleagues successfully carried out a sneak attack on the middle class.

“Ultimately, I voted my conscience which I feel reflects the core beliefs of the majority of voters who sent me here to represent them,” Schultz said.

Protesters gathered in the state capitol in Madison chanting “Shame, shame, shame” after Republicans in the Wisconsin state Senate used a procedural loophole–and, some argue, broke the open meetings law–to pass a standalone bill restricting collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions.

The fourteen Democrats in the state’s Senate were absent, having fled Wisconsin three weeks ago to prevent a vote on legislation proposed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker.  On its surface, Walker claimed the legislation was aimed at addressing the state’s $137 million budget deficit.  Even though it also contained provisions restricting collective bargaining, which many of the Governor’s critics saw as a direct attack on labor, Walker swore publicly that the impetus behind the legislation was budgetary.  As a budgetary matter, it required a quorum which Democrats blocked by leaving the state.

But, all the budgetary justifications turned out to be just a front after all.  The new version of the bill that the Republicans passed on Wednesday night separated the union provisions from any measures that spend money, thus eliminating the need for a quorum while achieving the legislation’s true intent—to punish Democrat-backing unions.

The legislation quickly moved out of committee and onto the floor of the Senate, where Republicans voted 18-1 to approve it, with only Schultz daring to push back against it on behalf of the working people of Wisconsin.

Mark Miller, the Democrats’ leader, said:

“In 30 minutes, 18 state Senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin. Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten.. Tonight, 18 Senate Republicans conspired to take government away from the people.”

Another Democrat, State Sen. Chris Larson, added:

“This is on the Republicans’ heads right now. If they decide to kill the middle class, it’s on them… This is a travesty is what it is…. I can’t sit by and let them kill the middle class.”

Wisconsin Protests of 2011
Wisconsin Protests of 2011
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The other night, as Christine O’Donnell was arguing for the scientific/educational merits of creationism, she suggested that “the separation of church and state” is not anywhere in the United States Constitution.

Below are two very different media reactions to the incident. (more…)

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It’s hard not to feel bad for Democrats from South Carolina.

Republican Jim DeMint‘s U.S. Senate seat is up for grabs in that state, but on Democratic voters there couldn’t differentiate on primary day between their party’s actual politician, Vic Rawl, and Alvin Greene(more…)

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Earlier this year, California State Sen. Roy Ashburn got busted drunk driving while a gay guy he’d picked up at a gay night club was riding shotgun.

Roy Ashburn is exactly the kind of guy Kirby Dick goes after in the movie Outrage–a conservative politician who engages in gay behavior but consistently votes against gay rights legislation. (more…)

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About a month ago I went to post at one of the blogs I wrote for and found that I wrote for it no longer. Logging onto Jones Town, I learned that Fairlane had replaced his Barbie doll banner with an empty screen, and one last headline: “Everything went black.” No explanation or set of instructions as to where we could find his writing in the future. Just a Shakespeare excerpt, insinuating that all of this vigorous blogging “signifies nothing.”

In a way, he’s right. It’s not that what we’re saying is always all that insignificant. But our would-be readers don’t recognize significance when they see it anyway. Why else would we be where we are as a nation? For all our bloviating about corruption in Washington, that corruption exists on both sides of the aisle. It takes a truly gullible and simplistic to society to know the difference between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. And the fact that we elected them in the first place—much less reelected—these sneaky men who were their capacity for corruption on their face, means that our society sadly has a long way to go before it’s ready to know the truth.

I’m sick of hearing politicians praise the strength and ingenuity of the American people. Candidate John McCain went so far as to attempt to pass off his Freudian slip—“the fundamentals of our economy are strong”—as a hat-tip to the American workers’ resilience.

But maybe being patronized is exactly what those of us at the bottom of the IQ Pyramid need.

Now more than ever, the average American seems either indifferent or incompetent in public affairs. It’s contagious, and I feel myself catching the bug. What is with this latest round of bailouts, and why can’t I bring myself to care the way I did a year ago? Why can’t I hold strong to the hope I had as I feel it fading? Why don’t I care anymore if I get forced into a life that’s not rewarding, the “American dream”—i.e., my life may always suck but by golly I’m gonna make sure my kids’ life sucks a little bit less.

Part of it is that I see it’s not as simple as I thought it was. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are indeed gone, but our troubles are not. And I can’t say with my former, naïve certainty that I know enough to criticize every decision our government makes. Yet I see through its trickery, the gimmicks that fool most people most of the time. And if our safety and security and happiness, collectively, depend on fooling most people most of the time, then where does that leave people like me who aren’t really fooled at all?

What’s more, if we organize our lives around criticizing “power”, how is it possible to hope for a resolution? Many of the blogs I read leave the distasteful impression that if corruption were thwarted and we suddenly lived in a perfectly harmonized world, the authors wouldn’t know what to do with themselves. Their world only has meaning insofar as it is completely and utterly fucked up. I don’t want that to be me, a scowling pessimist whose sense of purpose is tied to the assumption that there can never be a shortage of evil people whose goal it is to make our lives painful and unjust.

I am not strong. I am not resilient anymore. Months and years of no rewards have stolen that from me. The shear ignorance of simple, simple people has taken its toll. It starts to dawn on me, that I care too much about strangers who don’t care about each other, let alone care about me back.

That I haven’t posted anything in two months should have told me that I’m feeling a bit like Fairlane. The way to happiness for me does not travel through this blog. And so alas I realize it’s time for The Public Intellectual to join his legendary Jones Town among the list of blogs on hiatus.

As for political affairs, I may write again, but probably not here. As my first blog, it will always hold a spot in my heart, but it’s just not me anymore. What the hell is a “public intellectual” anyway? I realize I posed that question but never fully answered it. That’s because “public intellectual” is a concept invented by people in academia who briefly lamented that academic research was all about the pursuit of their own private interests. And they regretted this fact just long enough to coin a new phraseology for some obscure, little-read journal within their discipline. Talk about signifying nothing!

Now I’m off to finish writing my dissertation. To those who enjoyed my writing, please check back periodically, as I’ll be sure to post any new developments  regarding my professional progress. Thank you to all who supported and encouraged me when I had a younger soul and still believed one person’s words could make some difference. And as Fairlane has already taken Shakespeare, please accept Live’s “White, Discussion” as my official “swan song”:

“I talk of freedom; you talk of the flag. I talk of revolution; you’d much rather brag. And as the decibels of this disenchanting discourse continue to dampen today, the coin flips again & again & again & again, as our sanity walks away.

All this discussion (though politically correct) is dead beyond destruction (though it leaves me quite erect). And as the final sunset rolls behind the earth, and the clock is finally dead, I’ll look at you, you’ll look at me, and we’ll cry a lot—but this will be what we said.

This will be what we said:‘Look where all this talking got us baby.’”

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obama_apTomorrow’s Chicago Tribune will publish “An Open Letter to Barack Obama” by Robert L. Schulz, chairman of the Foundation for Constitutional Education.

For several years, rumors swirled regarding Barack Obama’s birthplace, with partisans and concerned citizens alike contending that he was not really born in the United States, but in Kenya. The Obama campaign tried to squelch these rumors by posting an official copy of official copy of the candidate’s birth certificate online, at FightTheSmears.com. But that only gave conspiracy theorists a concrete document to inspect and discredit, upping the ante for those committed to bringing down Obama’s campaign.

“Where is the embossed seal,” they asked, “and the registrar’s signature?”

Obama’s detractors knew this could be more politically damaging than attending a church with an unpatriotic pastor. With the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate in question, what choice would voters have but to conclude that the black guy was an un-American liar after all? So the silly questions persisted.

“Why is there no crease from being folded and mailed? And what’s up with the ‘07 date stamp bleeding through the ‘08 document?”

tin-foil-hat

Increasingly, the conspiracy theorists weren’t just playing in Tinfoil Hat City. Some of their questions were genuinely intriguing. And we Americans tend to embrace illogical and scandalous explanations when logical and mundane ones aren’t immediately readily available. The observation that Obama’s birth certificate is a bluer shade of green than most Hawaiian birth certificates, for instance, leads many an uncritical thinker to conclude that Obama’s must be a forgery. Never mind that dyed paper fades over time, or that our laptops’ color and brightness settings may cause digital images to look slightly different from how they appeared in the real life light.

As this game went on, it almost looked like another Swift Boat had arrived to taxi all of us out to sea again. But when nonpartisan watchdog organizations launched their own independent investigations, they concluded that the birth certificate was authentic.

Obama's birth certificate

Barack Obama's birth certificate.

Though the elections are long over, this rumor and its adherents evidently will take one last swipe at the President-Elect in tomorrow’s Chicago Tribune.

Dear Mr. Obama:

Representing thousands of responsible American citizens who have also taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America, I am duty bound to call on you to remedy an apparent violation of the Constitution.
Compelling evidence supports the claim that you are barred from holding the Office of President by the “natural born citizen” clause of the U.S. Constitution. For instance:

  • Legal affidavits state you were born in Kenya.
  • Your grandmother is recorded on tape saying she attended your birth in Kenya.
  • You have posted on the Internet an unsigned, forged and thoroughly discredited, computer-generated birth form created in 2007, a form that lacks vital information found on any original, hand signed Certificate of Live Birth, such as hospital address, signature of attending physician and age of mother.
  • U.S. Law in effect in 1961 denied U.S. citizenship to any child born in Kenya if the father was Kenyan and the mother was not yet 19 years of age.
  • In 1965, your mother legally relinquished whatever Kenyan or U.S. citizenship she and you had by marrying an Indonesian and becoming a naturalized Indonesian citizen.

First of all, the last two bullet points are completely superfluous, though I do appreciate the heads up about four-decade-old citizenship clauses in Kenya and Indonesia. How old his mom was at his birth, and what rights she relinquished when he was a toddler is irrelevant. They only remotely apply if you buy into the first three, in which case we’re drawing straws about whether to deport the guy or just impeach him.

One wonders at this point, what is the goal? Even if Obama’s birthplace can neither be confirmed nor invalidated, the most they can hope to prove is that Hawaii is as bush league as Alaska. As of Obama’s birth in August of 1961, Hawai’i had been a state for less than two years.  Perhaps the Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women & Children had taken its time adopting the standard bureaucratic formats of American bureaucratic forms.  Do the birth certificates of other babies who were born at Kapi’olani in ’61 include their moms’ ages and the hospital’s address; and if not, shall we revoke their citizenships, too? Or perhaps our rule of thumb will be to take everyone at their word as long as they’re less than 49% black.

Regarding the Kenyan affidavits, I’m assuming they contain the “vital information” that Obama’s birth certificate lacks, such as the “hospital address, signature of attending physician and age of mother.” It would be logically inconsistent to offer the former as evidence after calling the latter inadmissible for similar omissions. As Christopher Hitchens once wrote, “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

All of that aside, the tape-recording of old lady hearsay does sound “compelling.”

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Some right wing bloggers have declared today Victory in Iraq Day. I think this is a good idea, actually.  If our goal was to kill Saddam, we’ve killed him. If it was to make sure the US wasn’t susceptible to a surprise nuke attack, that too was accomplished when we confirmed what weapons inspectors and the majority of intelligence insisted all along: that the WMDs never existed in the first place!

Even our improvised afterthought “to give the Iraqi people a chance at freedom” has now been achieved. And what better way to demonstrate independence than for Iraq’s democratically elected government to boot out its occupiers.

If we don’t declare victory soon, we’ll have to redefine our goals again.

I said something to that effect in an online forum the other day and got the following response:

So riddle me this…the war is won, and the people are free…we fought Germany and Japan, two countries who were far beyond the levels of infrastructure and civilization that Iraq was at the time…what’s the rush? We still have military presence in Korea, Germany, Japan, etc…none of which we have annexed…why the fear of colonization? They can boot us when they want, but I believe we will have a presence there for some time…

I’m not concerned about colonization because colonization is impractical. If we officially annexed Iraq, then we’d have to offer its citizens the same rights and benefits that we enjoy here in the U.S. And that’s not happening anytime soon, nor could it, after the debacle that ensued after we invaded.  But that doesn’t mean our indefinite presence in Iraq benefits the Iraqi people.

The Germany/Japan/Korea argument was valid until Iraq explicitly told us to leave. They are in effect testing our claims that we respect their sovereignty. If we don’t leave, then we’ll yet again come across as disingenuous in the eyes of world opinion. More importantly, we forfeit our ability to claim we’re over there for the good of the Iraqi people.

Our military presence in the countries you mentioned was mutually beneficial both to the occupiers and occupied, especially during the Cold War. Our presence in Eastern Europe and Asia during the Cold War decreased the likelihood of a Communist invasion in the countries we occupied. On the other hand, our presence in Iraq lures terrorists into their country; who wish not only to inflict physical harm on American troops, but also attack the Iraqi people in order to create an even greater public relations nightmare for the US.

The damage to the infrastructure in 1946 Europe, was far greater than in Iraq today. While we helped save the economies of the countries we occupied after WWs, we are hurting the economy in Iraq. In post-war Europe, we employed the Marshall Plan. This created jobs for the European and Asian people. Germans construction firms employed German manual labor workers. This enabled the European people to actively take part in their own recovery, and it prevented the economies in these countries from self-destructing. In post-war Iraq, our overbearing debaathification policies left many of Iraq’s most competent men unemployed, forcing many of them to pursue less legitimate forms of work in order to feed their families. Any reconstruction efforts employ American firms, as does much of the war effort in general. KBR, Halliburton, Blackwater, Parsons, TITAN, CACI, etc. have been awarded no-bid contrasts for services ranging from laundry-washing to truck-driving to construction of military bases to firefighting. That some of these corporations are affiliated with Vice President Dick Cheney (and perhaps with high-ranking characters in Obama’s administration, too) makes this a conflict of interest. So not only does the Iraqi economy suffer as the war drags on, but the longer we stay in Iraq, the more money these war profiteers stand to make.

Some of the Asian countries rejected the Marshall Plan, saying that it amounted to economic imperialism on our part. We respected their wishes and did not impose our will upon them. If we overstay our welcome, as you and I agree that we probably will, then this shows yet another disparity between post WWII reconstruction and our current foreign policy.

When our occupation becomes solely about our interests, that’s when it’s time to go.

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