With the Christmas season and other holidays upon us, our thoughts turn to giving - not the giving we do, but the giving we ask you to handle. You're the one with the fancy workshops, cheap labor and ability to break into people's homes. So do your job, Nick, or we'll find someone else.
That doesn't mean we aren't willing to help. We come bearing ideas for gifts that you could give. And if it turns out that you don't really exist, like President Obama's spine, maybe some readers can deliver these gifts themselves.
Gov.-Elect Scott Walker could sure use a calendar, or several thousand of them, so he can keep track of the days until Jan. 3, when he actually becomes governor. Maybe then he'll stop presuming he's already in charge of everything from state employee contracts to heating plant renovations.
Another nice gift for Walker would be a train set - a top-of-the-line choo-choo loaded with jobs, money and opportunity that he can toss in the trash.
For Gov. Jim Doyle, who is stepping down after eight years, we suggest a gift certificate to one of the state's many fine bed-and-breakfasts, for his post-gov days. He could relax after a job pretty well done and not have to worry about fulfilling campaign promises or tackling tough issues in creative ways. It will be just like when he was in office!
And how about getting Sen.-elect Ron Johnson the game of Clue? It might give him a clue as to how to deliver on his campaign promises to erase the deficit and create millions of jobs while extending tax cuts for the super-rich (which will add $700 billion to the deficit) and being a mega-maverick. That he had no ideas for doing any of these things didn't seem to matter to voters, but this knowledge could come in handy now.
Johnson could also use a copy of George Orwell's 1984, with its chilling vision of a society that alters history to suit current needs. This might help him explain how, after getting elected by blasting the influence of lobbyists and vowing to be a "citizen legislator," he promptly hired big-time Washington lobbyist Don Kent, who's represented defense contractors, agribusiness interests and major drug companies, as his chief of staff.
Russ Feingold, whom the voters dumped after 18 years in the U.S. Senate, could really use a platform. It could be a job where he can continue to oppose reckless military interventions and spending money we don't actually have. It could be a political campaign - Alex Cockburn of The Nation suggests that Feingold make a third-party run for president in 2012. Or it could be an actual platform that he could set up in front of his Middleton garage to do webcam broadcasts for those who can't stand another minute of C-SPAN. Does anyone doubt he'd be worth watching?
For the Brothers Fitzgerald, Scott and Jeff, who now run the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly, respectively, we suggest scads of incense and easy-listening CDs, like Yanni, to mellow them out.
"There's almost an expectation we're going to shake things up," Scott recently told The Capital Times, gleefully imagining going after any "niche group," program or union that might argue it should be left alone: "They can be as loud and vocal as they want to be because I have a constituency back home that is going to say this is exactly what we wanted to have happen. And that is going to empower us."
Count to 10, find your center, breathe deeply....
In fact, the entire Wisconsin Legislature deserves a special gift from all of us, in the form of an extended vacation. Then it won't have to deal with the state's most pressing problems. Problems like:
- Not enough firearms being toted by people convinced they might have to open fire at any minute.
- Too much lucrative and potentially life-saving research using fertilized eggs that would otherwise be destroyed.
- Too few obstacles in the way of poor people who want to vote.
- Too many protections for consumers and the environment from predators and polluters.
- An overabundance of state workers enjoying family-supporting salaries and decent benefits.
Instead of coming to Madison to address these woes, maybe the Gang of 132 could take (at least) the next two years off, on us. The cost would be the same as if they were working, and it would spare us all a lot of grief.
And surely, if Scott Fitzgerald were to offer his constituents the option of having no state Legislature at all, a sizable majority would say this is exactly what they want to have happen.
Bill Lueders (firstname.lastname@example.org) is news editor of Isthmus. His new book is Watchdog: 25 Years of Muckraking and Rabblerousing.