Lending a hand to neighbors near and far
I remember a night when 66 tornadoes ripped through Oklahoma (and Kansas) and flattened entire subdivisions around Oklahoma City -- all just two hours to the north of where I then lived.
My step-mother left dinner at a restaurant that evening just 20 minutes before it was destroyed. Friends' homes were gone; some lost loved ones (48 people were killed in total). The church youth group of which I was part pitched in after the destruction to send water and food to those in need. Most folks in the state did the same.
I remember watching the storm raging outside and wondering why on earth so many houses in that part of the world, including my own, did not have basements. In fact, the only person I knew with a proper below-ground level was from a very wealthy family. Turns out the soil in that part of the country is so moist that basements tend to become moldy and smelly, so unless you have a lot of money to sink into serious sealant technology, it's not worth it to have one. Neither do building codes require it (as they do up North where a house's footing has to go below the frost line).
Knowing that, and still having friends and family who live in the area, I watched the severe weather that unfolded there again on Tuesday with white knuckles. Like the havoc wreaked by tornadoes just a few days prior in Joplin, MO, the storms were deadly.
There's only so much you can do to prepare for acts of nature like that, of course. The meteorologists in Oklahoma are rock stars, but even still... the best thing any of us can do now is to lend a hand to those now in need.
There are a number of local charitable organizations on the ground in the affected areas that are accepting donations of supplies and money. See the full list here and lease consider giving what you can.
To help the people of Joplin, check out this list of where to donate, too.
It's always times like this that I can't help but think how much more financially able we would be as a country to respond to natural disasters if we weren't spending so many billions on things like wars and bank bailouts. It's not even a partisan thing. It's just a wish for a more humane prioritization of our resources. I suspect the people of New Orleans, for instance, would agree.
Credit: NOAA photo library
The quick, systematic destruction of democracy
Yes, the above headline is a bit hyperbolic.
Only a bit.
In the same week that Gov. Walker signed into law the Voter ID Bill-essentially disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin citizens under the guise of preventing fraud that doesn't exist-the Republican-led Joint Finance Committee also voted to end public financing of campaigns.
Money that had previously gone toward a statewide attempt to level the playing field between candidates for public office (even just a little) will instead go toward funding the incredibly costly provisions of the Voter ID bill.
That is some clever, if not terribly subtle, maneuvering. Put roadblocks to the polling place in front of as many left-leaning demographics as possible, and remove completely any financial assistance for less wealthy/connected potential candidates who might sympathize with them.
Honestly these bills aren't good for anyone, regardless of party affiliation (or lack thereof). I believe our Constitution guarantees unencumbered access to the polls for every citizen of legal voting age no matter their political beliefs, race, gender, disability, etc. Not everyone who will be disenfranchised under the bill is a Democrat-but, for whatever reason, none of that seems to matter to the folks who pushed this thing through to Walker's signing desk.
Can we recall them yet, please?
FYI: A new poll from Public Policy Polling shows Walker's job approval ratings in the dumps at just 46% (with 52% disapproval). Wisconsin residents are also 50% ready to recall their governor right now. Former Senator Russ Feingold would win in an election against Walker by a margin of 52-42. "Democrats are more committed to replacing Walker than Republicans are to keeping him, and independents go on the side of swapping him out for Feingold or Barrett as well."
Turns out if you mess with people's fundamental rights and resources-the kind that transcend party loyalties or county lines-they're likely to turn on you. Republican New York state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin just learned that the hard way. Her support for Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare-bombing plan became the wedge issue that saw her unseated by a Democrat in a traditionally heavily Republican district. (Ryan's measure failed in the Senate yesterday, thankfully-though it's worth noting that Wisconsin's own Sen. Ron "Not Such a Blank Slate Anymore" Johnson voted for the bill.)
Walker, like Ryan, may well be turning into political poison. Frankly, after all of the damage he's managed to inflict on our state in such a short span of time, the mephitical change would be well deserved.
Video of the panel discussion I took part in a short while ago about the role of social media in the organization of the protests at the capitol is now online, should you feel so inclined to sit through it (long, but interesting topics and questions brought up).
Not only is the DOA's lockdown of the Capitol building in violation of a court order to reopen it, but now they're also running afoul of the Fire Marshal.
Once-Again Mayor Paul Soglin is publicly denouncing plans to transfer operation of the Overture Center to a nonprofit organization. This does not make Alder Mark Clear (or presumably anyone else who supported the move) happy.
WISC-TV, on the job for us, finds some startling waste in outsourced contracting: "In the first four months of this year, it cost taxpayers a total of $13.8 million extra to have private engineering consultants do work on projects rather than state employees, WISC-TV reported." Walker's dragging his feet on the issue, apparently because now he thinks Wisconsin has plenty of money to go around. (P.S. This is what happens when you try to privatize everything without any oversight or forethought.)