Thursday, March 31, 2011

And No One Listened

Published: The Huffington Post 2011.03.31

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How would you feel if you went on a hunger strike, emaciated yourself, and then died?

And no one listened?

That appears to be what is going on in Madison, Wisconsin right now. Matt Schauenburg has been on a hunger strike since March 3rd (Link) as a protest to how the state government is taking away worker rights. I have called various news outlets in Madison to verify he is legit and on the radar screen (Link).

He has a blog about this entire experience: The entry from March 24th talks about him passing out on the floor of the Capital in Madison and thinking to himself that he's some sort of wimp. I cannot call a guy a wimp when he pushes himself to the limit and is pushed aside.

We honor those who put their lives on the line for our country.

Those serving in the military here and overseas stand in this warm light along with cops, firefighters, EMTs. All of these folks are part of a command structure set up by the government to do things for us.

What about the individual?

When we hear about the hero who breaks up the robbery or gun fight they are rightly honored as a special peacemaker. There is a level of violence in all of these things.

What about putting your life on the line in a non-violent manner?

It was a proud moment in Wisconsin's tapestry to see about a month's worth of non-violent protest in their capital. Ironically, the only person I saw roughed up was an elected state representative by a rent-a-cop. The cop looked a little too happy doing his job for my tastes.

It was a brilliant non-violent protest by the Wisconsin 14 to leave the state, and not allowing the GOP to ram bad legislation through the system. To listen to the Wisconsin governor's office it sounded like they were about to hire bounty hunters to bring them back.

Ironically, I wonder how many of these Senators or their staffs step over Matt on the way to do their business. Can anyone say "Parable of the Good Samaritan"?

What about the unions?

This guy is going to the limit to stick up for them? I hope there are some folks passing this article to the union powers that be, or the article (Link) that got thrust in my face on this.

I keep hearing about how the union is a brotherhood. One of your own is falling. You need to catch him.

I wonder where the media is on this.

For an industry that thrives on an if-it-bleeds-it-leads attitude, you have to wonder how jaded this industry is to allow someone to emaciate themselves right in public; right in front of them. They can't turn a camera on?

Even from a ratings standpoint -- they could use the cynical model from the movie Network and at least turn a buck on this man's demise. Come on TV guys -- you are sleeping here. If this man is going to die for you on camera, the least you can do is allow his cause to be broadcast.

Think of it as someone paying with their life for air-time. It's not like he's buying a 30-second spot on Super Bowl Sunday. We are not talking a huge amount of money here. This man has decided as a final wish to stand up to the system. What is his life worth in your ad revenue stream?

Wasn't there some guy in Tunisia who did his own government protest by dousing himself in gasoline and lighting up? His action is still taking governments down. I guess having Matt fade away doesn't give the same graphics.

The news industry can whip up sentiments for anything. It doesn't even have to be true -- remember Duke Lacrosse or Richard Jewell?

Hey -- mainstream media, give this guy the treatment. I will bet you get the ratings you cravenly desire.

It is the ultimate political statement to say, "I will check out slowly and in front of you." Matt appears to be asking for dignity and his rights. He really is living the motto: Live Free or Die.

Thinking about this some more, the people in Wisconsin have used every available peaceful means to say to its government: "NO, We Do Not Want You To Take Our Rights Away".

Yet the government is still taking steps to do so. Even after a court order (Link) specifically stating that the union busting laws cannot go into effect; the judge came back with a wimpy, don't-do-this-again admonishment of the state executive branch after they attempted to circumvent her. I don't know what the rules of contempt of court are, but if those actions aren't dripping with contempt, please show me what the real definition is.

What is the end result if this man does pass away without his demands even being aired?

The entire concept of non-violent protest working is that it is done for show. It is done so other, decent people can see what is being done. Those decent people need to have their consciousnesses touched.

Update (April 2, 2011 6:45pm EST)

Matthew Schauenburg has declared a partial victory today and suspended his hunger strike.

Upon learning of Judge Maryann Sumi's court decision of April 1, 2011, to allow arguments to be made until May 23 on Wisconsin's controversial union legislation, Schauenburg has ended his hunger strike. For now.

This is according to (Link), a citizen journal that has been covering this story.

Efforts to reach Schauenburg for direct comment are in process.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Alabama, Yeah, It's Funny...

Personally Published (Opinion) 2011.03.23

There is enough funny stuff out there in real life that you don't have to make it up. Just spend some time on You-Tube...

I saw an article by Ian Squires on the Huffington Post (Link) that was making fun of a GOP Congressperson's effort to round Pi down to the integer 3.

"Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Ala.) is sponsoring HR 205, The Geometric Simplification Act, declaring the Euclidean mathematical constant of pi to be precisely 3."

Given the current environment of how the GOP is dealing with education, this was too close to what could really be going on not to be taken seriously. So I search Thomas.Gov for HR 205. There does not appear to be an HR 205 in the current Congress. HR 205 in the 111th Congress had to do with the death tax.

Yeah, at one level it's funny to see the government try and take an irrational number and make it rational; but there are just too many collateral targets in between.

When calling the Congresswoman's office, I could tell the receptionist was really irritated to take the call when I mentioned this. After all, she is on the government dime and has had to take a lot of calls about this article. She said it was a prank. I mentioned that I was a Democrat with a Math degree who blogs on the Huffington Post and I wanted to do an article on this. I left my info for the press person who called me back about 10 minutes later.

The press person's response was - "yeah, he got us - ha, ha, ha". There really is no other response that a Congressional Office can give.

Talked to the press person for a few minutes as she was very nice to give me the time. We talked about how Alabama gets a really bad rap. If you have even been to Huntsville, you might notice that it populated by a bunch of rocket scientists - literally. It is where we build and design rockets.

There is a quiet bigotry we need to get past. It is killing our country. People from the coastal urban areas look down their noses at everyone else. I am tired of it. The article is a good cheap laugh, but at what cost?

Is it really humor when substantial numbers of people are calling Congressional Offices to check this out? Is it really cool to use an actual, if obscure, Member of Congress if you are writing satire? If you are going to write a fictitious bill, why not make the Congressperson have a really warped name from Alabama's 35th district (knowing it doesn't exist). Why not hold this until April First - where it is really fun, and not somewhat mean.

Martha Roby is a freshman Congressperson. She has enough on her plate. Looking at her bio (Link ) she doesn't seem half bad. She is a family person who is really involved in her community. Aside from what her politics are (that is between her and her district), she is the type of person we need to step up. She has degrees in both Music and Law. So if anyone is going know about ratios associated with Pythagorean Tuning, it is going to be this person. Music is mathematical at its core.

Taking cheap shots at real people widens the gap a little more between the Left (those on the right are stupid) and the Right (those on the left are stuck-up snobs). That means more people in the middle look at both ends and think - they are all nuts.

Why should anyone get involved in the political process?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Want to Scare the Hell Out of the NFL?

Published: The Huffington Post 2011.03.22

The NFL Owners are now locking out the players. It is March and it really isn't that big of a deal.

But I started thinking about the last championship football team here in Philly.

The 1960 Eagles -- nope.

The Philly Soul from a few years back -- indoor football; seriously?

(Did the fans ever get that Bon Jovi concert they were promised?)

It was the 1984 USFL Philadelphia Stars. QB Chuck Fusina WOULD NOT LOSE. Coach Jim Mora was fantastic.

The USFL was an upstart league of misfits, free agents, and really good players that operated as a spring league until Donald Trump convinced the other owners it would be a good idea to compete directly against the NFL in the fall. That move alone should disqualify The Donald for the presidency.

Reggie White played in the USFL as well as Sam Mills, Sean Landetta and a stack of players that would later make real marks in the NFL.

Instead of the players complaining about the owners -- why don't the players start making a move towards forming their own league?

Seriously, what do they need the owners for? They have been paid enough cash. Kinda like doing the Keith Olbermann thang. Make your own network.

Why can't this group of players hire a bunch of lawyers and accountants to negotiate their own TV deal with FOX, CBS, and NBC. Why can't the players be given access to all these taxpayer funded facilities that sit across the country?

Since the players are being locked out, would that void the contracts they have signed, so they are all essentially free agents? Each of those players signed their contract under the rules of their union, since the union doesn't exist anymore...

The players can reconstitute their "union" as a group of free agents who wish to do business together.

They could set up shop immediately in Los Angeles, since the NFL hasn't bothered to put a football team there for a while. Could you see Peyton Manning in LA?

And in 30 years we could be saying, remember the NFL?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Antidotes and Anecdotes from a Westboro Church Non-Protest

Published: The Huffington Post 2011.03.14

This morning I woke to see a front page headline about Westboro Baptist Church arriving to protest at a funeral about 10 miles from my house. This is a funeral for a family that died in too horrifically to describe here. I don't want to sully their memories with the mention of the Westboro Baptist Church in the same article.

I wanted to be part of the counter-protest. We all need to stand up and speak when these folks come to town. You can speak silent volumes just being there for the families who are about to be abused by this group.

Before going to the church, I started thinking about other times I had seen their protests online. I was struck by the fact they used their kids as human sign posts. Since they were going to be in my county, I called the Commissioner's Office and asked if it is possible to deploy the Child Welfare Department to the protest site in case any of these kids are being used as human pawns. I am asking with respect to a parent that would put a child in a toxic situation that Westboro Baptist is expert in creating. Does this child need to be evaluated with respect to the environment? After all, are we witnessing child abuse when Westboro Baptist places their children in a potentially dangerous situation? Like, what kind of parent does that to their kid?

An investigation could be initiated that may take a couple of days to complete. I am sure the taxpayers in my county would not have a problem footing the bill to make sure these children are not damaged in any way. Our foster care system would be a good spot for these kids as things are checked out. The county can take it's time and do everything by the book.

As I was looking online for information, I was having some trouble finding where to go. I had hoped to access one of the Westboro Baptist Church's many sites. It would have been handy to know exactly where they were going, however, it has been hacked. I'd like to ask the hackers who brought these sites down via denial of service attacks to at least leave an updated schedule accessible so we know where to go for the counter protests. I know it is fun to kick these guys in the shins in the virtual world, but there are some of us who want to fight bad speech with good speech in the real world.

On my way to the Church there were a number of police cars from both local and state jurisdictions. Once I got there, I parked at another church across the street. (This is Pennsylvania -- We like God here -- He has a lot of houses that He likes to stay at.)

Getting out of the car, I met a few people who were also waiting for the arrival of the circus. Those who wanted to counter-protest were being directed across the street to the parking lot in back. While walking to that spot I found myself walking near some of the mourners. This is a devastating situation as emotions are running very high. There are really no words you can say to folks walking into the sanctuary.

I felt at that point both heartless and helpless. I resented what these people from Kansas are doing to people in my area. I don't want to see these people abused or used for this group's aims. They are now empowered with the Supreme Court Seal of Approval to continue inflicting pain. We need to get more creative in countering these people.

As I arrived at the back of the parking lot I saw about 100 folks. The best thing about this, if there can be a best anything in this situation, was the incredible cross-section of people who showed up. Older folks to toddlers being held by their fathers; teenagers and twenty-somethings all the way up through middle age all stood respectfully in the cold as the parking lot filled with the real mourners. Socio-economically and politically, we were just as diverse. Some reporters wandered around.

As we stood there we talked about what brought us there. We all wanted to let Westboro Baptist Church know we don't think much of their faith. We all wanted to let those attending this funeral know we wanted to protect them. A couple people really knew the comings and goings of the Westboro Group. Dave was one guy who really knew his stuff.

Looking at the full parking lot, I started to think about where Westboro Baptist would park their rig. I had this vision of seeing 20 or 30 cars sealing it into a parking lot so it could not move out. If each of those folks had flattened tires so that they could not move their cars, could you imagine how long Westboro would be stuck in a community?

Eventually, the woman who organized this counter protest walked up and said that Westboro Baptist would be a no show today. Everyone exhaled the sigh of relief. As people peeled off small groups of folks continued talking about where do we go from here.

People are frustrated at Westboro and the Supreme Court. When I expressed the thought that the Supreme Court may have gotten it right, I could see some eyes slit. But keep in mind that if they had gone the other way with their decision, it would have been a continuing civil right avalanche that started with Citizens United. We talked as we walked to our cars for about 20 minutes more until the local police chief walked by.

Bending his ear for a moment we found out that it could cost well over $3,000 in preparation and police services to protect the community from the beast known as Westboro. The Chief basically said there is no way the town can recoup the costs since Westboro did not file a permit. He said this is basically a media thing.

We had broken up by this time.

On my way home, I started thinking about how we can put Westboro Baptist out of our misery. I realized, while Westboro did not formally file for a permit, they did, in fact, issue a notification that they would be appearing at this church (Link second page). Taxpayer money was spent on their word, only to be wasted when they did not show up. If I were a resident of Towamencin Township, Pa, I wonder if I would have legal standing to get my tax dollars back in small claims court? After all, they just wasted my taxes with making my police chief run around trying to prepare for their arrival.

Wouldn't it be cool if a bunch of residents filed individual claims against this group in each little town they teased? Wouldn't they need to fight each claim? If they lost a claim, could get a jury trial. Would this be the financial death of a thousand cuts?

Would the thought that you could help solve the Westboro Baptist Church problem make you want to serve on a jury?