Saturday, February 26, 2011

Don't stop... writing the plurals of words however you want to write them. Reach for those stars! (Awesome Covers of Already Awesome Songs.)

When I got up this morning and had to get the Babies! ready for a rare Saturday visit from their therapists -- we call them their "friends" and encourage them to be excited -- I opted to try to get Mr F pumped up for what's essentially a day of being pestered by singing about his day-to-come, to the tune of Don't Stop Believing. The lyrics were:

Just a little guy
Has to get up early, why?
Friends are coming here to play
So let's get up.

Sweet, right? It's like I channeled Steve Perry. But that got me in the mood to hear "Don't Stop Believing", which I think might actually be the best song ever... I haven't made up my mind yet... only I didn't want to hear the original, I wanted to hear covers of the original. And, as you'd expect, there were covers a-plenty.

I began with what I knew would be out there: A ukulele version of the song. There's tons of those; America is filled with ukulele players, judging by Youtube. This was the best of them:

Then I went for classic Petra Haden, who, prior to today, had the absolute best cover of Don't Stop Believing I've ever heard:

And I'm not including Glee's cover in this list because I'm sort of Glee-d out. Petra Haden's cover is incredible, though, and I thought it'd never be topped except that it was bested -- [SPOILER ALERT!] twice. First by this, which starts out rough but stick with it:

And then, by this next video, which I'll introduce by saying that I wanted to see if it was possible that someone had covered this song on the harp, and it's not only possible, but phenomenal:

I played that about four or five times, with the results being that I was pumped up to clean up the house, put Batman shorts and a pirate shirt on Mr F, get Mr Bunches into his Spider-Man shirt, mop the floor, and even vacuum. This song is awesome, in whatever version it takes.

Yes, whatever version:

In conclusion, I'd like to note this: When I first started writing this post, I had the song as Don't Stop Believin', but I thought "that must be wrong," even though it's the way I always wrote the title to the song and I've always believed that was the title. I changed it because there's lots of things I always do and have always believed even though I know they're wrong, like how I write the plural of nacho -- I write it nachoes even though I know that's wrong because it looks right. So I just write nachoes that way and ignore the fact that it's wrong, because who cares? It's not like I use it in formal writing:

Dear Supreme Court and/or Pope: Would you like to come over for the Oscars? We're serving nachoes, if that's a plus. Signed, me.

I don't do that. I'd probably just call them.

But when I started posting this, I thought "It's probably not called Don't Stop Believin' " so I'd better not post it that way, and I wrote believing instead, only to then actually go google it and find out I was wrong about being wrong, or that I'd actually been right when I thought I was wrong, or however you want to say it, but I'm too lazy to go back and change it.

The moral of the story is: Now I'm kind of hungry for nachoes.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies (Friday's Sunday's Poem/Hot Actress )

Let America Be America Again
by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!


About the poem: While Wisconsin's Governor Patsy continues to sell Wisconsin to the Koch Brothers and the other top bidders who won his soul in the last year's auction, I thought it appropriate to remind people that America isn't supposed to be about crushing people; it's supposed to be about helping people achieve dreams and equality and freedom. For over two hundred years, America has largely been about the struggle of the poor and up-and-coming to break free some rights from the upper classes. What's changed is that the poor and up-and-coming used to band together to fight for freedom, and the upper classes originally wanted them to have those things, too, so wealthy men like Washington would band with the poor to throw off royalty.

Eventually, the rich realized that they could divide and conquer, pitting middle class government workers against middle class private sector workers (among others) for their own benefit, which is why we're all watching unions protest at the Capitol while Governor Patsy takes calls from billionaires waiting to buy up power plants at low prices -- and Governor Patsy plans to cut school funding and Badgercare funding.

America's not going to be America until people stop turning against each other, and start realizing that we are the richest country in the world, and that if everyone paid a fair share of money in taxes -- which means the rich must pay higher percentages than the poor -- we'd have more than enough money to go around.

About the hot actress: Sweetie the other day watched an episode of Sex and the City three times -- making Mr Bunches watch it with her, in what can only be her effort to sink to my level of parenting.

That episode contains this scene, which Sweetie thinks is second only to Miss March as the funniest in history:

Challenge Accepted! #4

I tried this one last night, using stale gum from a wind-up chicken that I bought Mr F the other day; and yes, I know that parts of that sentence make little sense.

4. Chew bubble gum, and try to blow as many concentric bubbles one inside the other as you can.

3. Using your food, sculpt or otherwise create a portrait or picture of someone or something. Show it to at least one other person and make them guess who it is.

2. Find a stranger who looks like a celebrity... and tell that person who they look like.

1. Before the day ends, insert into a conversation a quote from a Van Halen song.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

An actual, nonsarcastic, long-term structural solution to Wisconsin's hypothetical budget woes (Publicus Proventus)

How much do Republicans like rich people? Almost as much as they like hypocrisy and not investigating the facts, judging by few recent examples.

Example number one, of course, is Gov. Patsy's willingness to take a phone call (and potentially a free trip to California) from a rich campaign contributor -- all the prank called had to do was pretend to be the man who bankrolled the counterprotests in Wisconsin and he got through to the Governor, who, if he wasn't raising campaign money on state time using state resources, was a hair away from doing just that. (On a side note, it's interesting to see that it's not just racism motivating the Tea Parties; it's also rich people. Rich white people, that is.)

Example number two of the love the GOP has for rich people -- combined with not checking the facts -- is Mike Nichols' hypocritical, biased page 2 piece in the comically-tiny Wisconsin State Journal on February 23. Nichols cites numbers without explanation -- a typical Republican tactic -- and repeatedly asks young people protesting at the Capitol "Who's gonna pay?", using the word gonna to indicate a commonality with reg'lar folks that doesn't exist.

Mike, a better question to ask is why didn't you pay? You've been supporting and voting for people for years that wrote checks without checking the balance first; can you find a time that you refused a government benefit because it wasn't funded? Did your kids go to school? Did you drive on the newly-plowed roads? Did you drink the municipal water supply that the GOP wants to now stop requiring be clean? You did those things without ever asking whether they were paid for, and now you say, hypocritically and without any examination of the facts, Who's gonna pay?

And Nichols' answer? Government employees, who already are paid less than the median in Wisconsin. That is, Nichols adopts Gov. Patsy's, and the Republicans', answer: The poor are gonna pay. Because they love the rich, whether or not they are the rich.

Example number three that the GOP belongs to the rich comes in the form of a Daily Beast/Newsweek poll that shows that Donald Trump -- Donald Trump-- would get anywhere from 8% to 41% of the vote from Republicans in a primary or general election; Trump's numbers on the poll show him taking votes exclusively from Republican candidates. So Republicans would rather nominate, and vote for, an unqualified rich white man than almost anyone else. (Still wondering how Ron Johnson got elected, Wisconsin? I'm not; I'm wondering where he went, him and Herb Kohl.)

Finally, here's a policy reason that proves that the GOP loves rich people and wants the poor and middle class to support their policies giving away the state: The GOP could fix the so-called budget crisis with a structural change in Wisconsin's government that wouldn't affect collective bargaining at all, and wouldn't hurt poor people or the middle class, and would be relatively simple to impose -- plus would put more money into the hands of local government.

Sounds good, right? It is, and it's simple-- but it's not considered at all, so far as I can tell, by the Gov. Patsy brain trust, maybe because no rich white guy has yet suggested it, and won't.

The solution: Amend the "Uniformity Clause" in the Wisconsin Constitution. That clause exists to protect the public from preferential treatment being given to wealthy landowners, which means it seems to be a good idea right now, when Gov. Patsy would almost certainly exempt rich white people's property from taxation, but it prohibits property from being taxed at different... progressive... rates.

Right now, states and the federal government tax income, and do so progressively. Taxing income is counterproductive: Income is useful money, money not sitting around in land or bank accounts, and a tax on income produces a disincentive to produce income. Taxing property -- the method used to fund schools, among other local projects -- would reduce that disincentive and put a tax on passive investments such as real estate.

But property taxes are regressive: they're applied a the same rate to all property in the state, by Constitutional rule. If the Uniformity Clause were amended to allow property to be taxed progressively with higher rates applied to more valuable property, the legislature (or local governments) could impose a higher tax rate on more valuable property.

In Wisconsin, the median value of owner-occupied homes was $112,000 at the last census. That means that 1/2 of all houses in Wisconsin are worth more than $112,000. If the Uniformity Clause were amended to allow a 0.5% increase in property taxes on homes worth 2 times the median value -- or homes worth more than $224,000 -- that would raise a lot of money, and would raise it mostly at the local level and from people who can afford to do it...

... and it would provide those people with a tax deduction at the federal level, allowing, in effect, Wisconsin residents to refuse to send tax money to Washington and keep it here at home. What's not good about that?

I'd support that plan -- and something more radical, an extra 2% surcharge imposed on homes worth more than $500,000, which would raise even more money. What schools we could get, roads we could build, sick people we could take care of, if we did that...

What things we could do, if we had state leaders who were actually interested in governing rather than punishing the poor and middle class to make rich white people happy.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

UPDATE: There IS an indoor playground? How quickly can they move it to my neighborhood? (Stuff, and Junk.)

And they probably owe me royalties, since I'm pretty sure they read my post the other day and then went back in time to invent this. But I'll settle for a lifetime pass.

Anyway, I said that there should be indoor playgrounds, and outlined the beginnings of an idea that would ultimately make me the Playground King of The World, and "anonynmous" commented on the post by pointing out that such a thing already exists. Which just goes to show my power.

The playground is called "The Big Backyard," and it's in New Berlin, Wisconsin; they have a website here. For about $0.50 a day, you can get your kid an unlimited pass. I'm not being paid for this, mind you -- I just think that my brilliant idea, put into effect so quickly by The Big Backyard, deserves to get some attention.

In the interest of fairness, I'll agree this seems over the top. (Publicus Proventus)

Is is just me, or does the cover of this week's Capital Times insert in the local paper...

Appear to be hanging Governor Patsy?

That's actually a flag behind him in the picture, but as I walked by that box this morning, I thought "Is that a noose?" I wonder if it was accidental, and I doubt it was. Look at how his neck is crooked.

Wisconsin IS NOT in financial trouble, no matter how many lies Scott Fitzgerald and Patsy Walker tell. (Publicus Proventus.)

While Tea Partiers fantasize about Governor Patsy Walker running for president someday -- he has the only quality they look for in a president [being white] -- the rest of us have to put up with increasing lies combined with the fact that "fiscal conservatives" who are anything but are now starting to fill up the (supposed) gaps in budgets by taxing the poor while giving money to the rich.

The latest liar on the financial front, at least from Wisconsin, isn't Governor Patsy's empty threat to lay off 1,500 workers -- he won't do that -- it's Senate Liar Scott Fitzgerald, who, when he's not trying to turn his family into the Northwoods version of the Daleys, is simply making up facts. On the "Northwoods Patriot" blog, he writes (or is quoted as saying):
This problem is NOW. If we twiddle our thumbs and do nothing, our state will, plain and simple, run out of money in the Medical Assistance program, the Public Defender’s office, and the Corrections Department. The state owes $200 million to the Injured Patients and Compensation Fund, and almost $60 million to Minnesota in reciprocity payments. Even if you don’t count that $200 million debt, and you ignore the $65 million positive balance the state is legally required to carry, we’re still more than $136 million short this year alone.

That ignores the LFB's projection of a surplus this year, and assumes, as I've written, that Wisconsin will pay all those bills by June 30, which I haven't heard it plans or is legally required to do. But we know that Republicans will simply lie and ignore the facts when it suits them.

And Fitzgerald doesn't stop at simply lying; he also misrepresents what will happen if he's not allowed to follow through on his corporate bosses' instructions to break the middle class: he says that the SPD and other offices will "run out of money," but that happens pretty much yearly, as the state never fully funds that office.

Fitzgerald The Liar also ignores the fact that Wisconsin's pension fund is above 99% funded and is considered one of the safest in the nation -- so Wisconsin can meet all of its state employee pension obligations even after the recession and without additional appropriations.

But this is just the beginning, as I've said and others have said. Still not discussed much are the fact that Fitzgerald the Liar, with his GOP buddies working for megacorporations, is going to transfer more power to Governor Patsy, let him make 35 more patronage appointments, and take $900 million away from public schools... and next they'll probably follow the lead of ultraconservative states that are hiking sales taxes, a regressive move that punishes the middle class and poor by taking money out of their pockets.

The budget "crisis" isn't a crisis, and the State could raise revenue through a variety of innovative means, including amending the state Constitution, progressive taxation of luxury goods, and public-private investment. I'll start detailing those ideas as I go along, because I can't just sit and complain.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The picture is of the time The Boy locked himself in handcuffs. (Question of the Day, 75)

Is it okay to put mayonnaise on toast?

The Boy, in the midst of what will hopefully be just one semester off from college, is staying with Oldest in her apartment, because we don't let people live at home if they're above 18 and not in school.

Sunday, Oldest mentioned to me that The Boy had cooked breakfast -- the only thing he can cook, outside of frozen pizzas, and he always burns the eggs -- and that because they had no butter, he'd put mayo on his toast. We both agreed that was gross-sounding and that we wouldn't do it -- but then she mentioned that The Boy had then finished up by putting an egg and some bacon on toast, making me wonder first, how can you have bacon in the house but not butter? and, second, why does it seem gross to put mayo on toast... but only if you're not going to put it into a sandwich?

Because I put mayo on toast when we make BLTs, and I like that -- but the idea of just a piece of toast with mayo on it sounds disgusting to me. So the act of turning that toast into a part of a sandwich somehow transforms it in my mind.

Then, I mentioned that to Oldest, and said that I still wouldn't just have mayo on toast. "I like pickles, and peanut butter," I said, "But I'm not going to combine them."

To which she said "Oh, pickle and peanut butter sandwiches are great."

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I like gambling, but not with my own money.

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Make sure you gamble carefully, and use it just for entertainment: but if you like gaming, check out Bonus 7's listing of site that'll keep you entertained for hours.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Most of the time, I don't bother taking a picture of the restrooms (I Get Paid For Doing This)

But today was a different kind of day. On my way home from a hearing in Vernon County today, driving over icy roads there and back -- and having slower drivers make me 15 minutes late for the hearing in the first place, so that I was frustrated and agitated on the way there, a feeling that carried on my way back...

... I stopped at a gas station in Viola, Wisconsin, a town I only ended up in because I took a wrong turn leaving Viroqua and had to rely on my GPS to get me back home (and by mentioning "GPS" I now think I can write off my new smart phone on my taxes. That's how it works, right?)

Anyway, I stopped for gas and went in and paid and then used the restroom, and then, after finishing up, went out to my car and back in again, this time carrying my camera phone -- to the apparent consternation of the old woman running the cash register, as she watched me go back into the bathroom to take two pictures.

This is the first one:

And it's not immediately obvious, is it, why I went back in -- so I took a closer-up one of the graffiti on the wall that made me smile, both because it was funny and because I didn't expect to see it in on a gas station wall in a tiny town:

It says "Be right back.-- Godot."

I had to explain to the lady at the cash register, and the guy there, why I'd come back in and took a picture of their bathroom, and they both gave me blank stares when I explained it -- and I didn't hang around to give them more background, because, well, I didn't think they'd want to spend a lot of time talking to a guy who just took a picture of their bathroom and then said he's going to post it to their blog.