Truth is stranger than fiction. With the Republican wrecking crew in charge nationally and in Wisconsin, truth is becoming increasingly stranger. A random walk through the news demonstrates what I mean. There are many seemingly small issues that speak volumes about where we are heading as a nation. One can only wonder what is wrong with these clowns? What are they thinking? 

No age limit to hunt in Wisconsin

On November 13th, Walker signed a Republican bill doing away with the minimum age to participate in a “mentored” hunt. Children under 11 years old must hunt with a “mentor.” The mentor must be within “arms length” but both may carry a weapon. Children 12 to 18 must pass a hunter safety course and must hunt with an adult within visual and voice contact. 

DNR data this year shows the agency sold 1,814 mentored hunt licenses to children age 9 or younger.  Fifty-two licenses went to children under age 5, with 10 going to children under a year old. A  four year old was the youngest licensee to register a kill during the recent deer hunting season. Seven deer kills were registered by five year old “hunters.”

Does anyone honestly believe that infants were being “mentored” or that 4 and 5 year old children actually shot and killed these deer? Does anyone believe that these children were “actively participating in the hunt” and “are in the field” as required by the Wisconsin hunting regulations? These regulations also state, “While group hunting, a mentor may not fill any of their mentee’s deer tags.”  It should be obvious that someone is lying and these were not legally bagged deer. But this is not what concerns me. Illegal deer are shot by the thousands every year. 

The important question is what motivated politicians to make these changes? What burning public policy need drove this decision? Have they nothing better to do? Or are they so blinded by their anti-government ideology (or the National Rifle Association campaign contributions) that they can’t think clearly?   

Apologists for the the changes say parents are best able to judge the maturity of their children and should be allowed to make these decisions. Really? Using that standard what is next? Will parents decide when children can drive? Or go to work? Or drop out of school? Will we go back to eight year old brides? Thirty-four other states have no minimum hunting age so crazy is not limited to Wisconsin. 

Symphony for a broken orchestra

PBS had a bizarre story of our neglect of education. In Philadelphia the school district had over 1000 musical instruments that needed repair but they didn’t have the money. To draw attention to this David Lang, a Pulitzer prize winning composer, wrote a “Symphony For a Broken Orchestra.” The symphony required a lot of improvising to use whatever sound(s) the broken instruments could produce. The symphony was performed using 400 broken instruments played by musicians ranging from members of the Philadelphia Orchestra to public school children. The goal is to get those broken instruments repaired and back to kids. 

One might think this is a story of ‘good ole’ American ingenuity and doing more with less. I think we should be ashamed. This reminds me of the bumper sticker, “It will be a great day in America when the schools get all they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to build a bomber.” 

More “thoughts and prayers”

The Republican controlled House of Representatives finally took some action on guns in our society. Unfortunately it is not an action likely to prevent future tragedies. It is an action that leaves you wondering why? What needed public purpose will this address?
The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act would treat concealed-carry permits like driver’s licenses, allowing them to be applicable nationwide. A person with a concealed-carry permit and a photo identification would be able to have a concealed weapon in any state that allows them, regardless of a state’s permitting restrictions. 

The bill also allows off-duty and retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed weapons in school zones nationwide. Why would off duty police be at out-of-state schools? Why would retired police be prowling around school yards anywhere? Why would RETIRED officers WANT to carry a gun on school property? Clearly the only purpose of this legislation is to undermine state gun control efforts. It has nothing to do with increasing public safety or protecting 2nd amendment “rights.”

 Anybody know what is in the budget bill?

News reports tell us the budget legislation coming out of Congress was thrown together at the last minute with senators scribbling changes in the margins even as it was being debated on the floor. Apparently no one really knew what they were voting on. This is not uncommon in our “democracy.” Legislators often don’t actually read the legislation they pass. But usually there is some time for their staff, advocacy groups, and citizens to review the ramifications.

Clearly middle-of-the-night “deals” to buy support for poorly written legislation is guaranteed to produce bad public policy. If their “reforms” had real merit the proposals would stand up to critical scrutiny, open debate, and public review. This process is a lousy way to govern.
The driving force behind this scramble is face saving. Despite complete control, the Republicans have failed to get any of their legislative agenda passed. They had to get this tax cut fiasco passed. They had to have a “victory” regardless of the impact on the deficit, people, or the economy. 
All this is typical of conservatives’ mindless anti-government ideology. Shrinking government, cutting taxes, and eliminating “regulations” is their sole purpose (except for the regulations that keep people in their place like voter ID, abortion restrictions, or limiting unions).  Republicans want to go back to the 1870s when everyone, especially business, was “free” to do whatever they wanted. 

But the “good old days” are the memories of things that never were. Harking back to a mythological time when “all the women were strong...” and government was off our backs is a fool’s paradise. Unfortunately there are too many fools running the show in Madison and Washington.