Christian Schneider

Author, Columnist

Category: Isthmus

The 2011 Year in Review

My Year in Review column for the Isthmus is up.  It discusses, naturally, the goings-on in Wisconsin politics over the past year.  Here’s a snippet:

It was a year that granted the definition of the word “democracy” a previously unimaginable elasticity. While bullhorns around the Capitol blared “this is what democracy looks like,” 14 Democratic state senators fled to Illinois to prevent democracy from occurring. Later, a single Dane County judge would overturn Walker’s law, which irony-deficient Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca called “a huge win for democracy in Wisconsin.” The law would later be reinstated by an incredulous state Supreme Court.

It was these same “democracy enthusiasts” who decided to use Wisconsin’s 85-year-old recall law to cast a number of democratically elected Republicans from office. Since the law was passed in 1926, only two state elected officials had been recalled from office; in 2011, nine state senators faced that fate, demonstrating that this is what democracy has never looked like. Despite over $40 million being spent on the senate recalls, Republicans won four of the six contested seats and retained control of the state senate by a one-vote margin.

In some districts, Republicans won by more comfortable margins than they ever had before. Of the two GOP senators who lost, one was in a district Barack Obama carried by 18 percentage points. The other was embroiled in a personal scandal involving a 25-year-old mistress. Thus, after the rancorous recall process, the enduring lesson was: It\’s probably a bad idea to cheat on your wife.

It was a year where Madison teachers showed parents how much they valued their kids by walking out on them for a four-day sick-out. Some teachers even brought their pupils down to the Capitol to help them protest. When a group of Madison East high school students were asked why they were marching on the statehouse during a school day, one young man said he was “trying to stop whatever this dude is doing.”

Read the whole thing here.

Just Who Don’t the Public Employee Unions Consider to be “Whores?”

My latest column for the Isthmus is online – it discusses AFSCME leader Marty Beil\’s routine sojourn into the meretricious arts:

As the nation endeavors to usher in an era featuring a “new tone” in politics, AFSCME’s Marty Beil thinks the old tone suits him just fine, thank you.

In December, outgoing Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker shocked his Democratic colleagues by voting against a last-minute attempt to ram through 19 public employee union contracts. Beil, the executive director of AFSCME Council 24, representing state workers, responded by calling Decker a “whore.” “Not a prostitute, a whore. W-H-O-R-E,” Beil proudly intoned, as if he were a pimply middle-schooler conquering a spelling bee word.


So Marty Beil will continue to do what he’s paid to do, but he’ll be doing it against a tidal wave of public and legislative sentiment. He may even continue to call people names.

But being a “whore” means you’re paid for your work. If Beil continues to agitate in such a juvenile manner, the Legislature would be happy to screw his members for free.

Read the whole thing here.

2010: The Year in Review

My year-in-review column is up over at the Isthmus website.  A sampling:

Of course, Walker did win, beating languid Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to take over the governorship from the unpopular Jim Doyle. Throughout the campaign, Barrett had the confused look of someone wondering how Lady Gaga managed to turn meat into a dress.

Even before he took office, Walker stood up to supporters of building a train between Milwaukee and Madison. He argued that the $810 million allocated to the project by the federal government would be better spent elsewhere and killed the project.

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, a supporter of the plan, chided Republicans for not being open to “new” ideas, like, um, trains. Perhaps Cieslewicz will now offer a futuristic plan to run rickshaws between Milwaukee and Madison.

Sadly, my references to 2010’s biggest star, Antoine Dodson, didn’t make it through the editing process:

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I’m Not Getting Used to This

It sounds awfully pretentious to call yourself a “writer.”  But I get paid to write stuff, so I guess it’s fair to say I am (even though I don’t own the requisite number of turtlenecks.)  And I’m not getting used to it.

This week, I have a column in the Isthmus newspaper, a local weekly here in Madison.  You can pick it up for free at select eateries and such.

The column is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek look at what the state Department of Transportation does and doesn’t allow on its license plates.  As you can see in the article, there’s some pretty inoffensive stuff that they ban – if people want to pay extra to put that stuff on their plates, why not let them?  Anyway, the piece is a (questionable) attempt at humor. (A sentiment lost on the column’s sole internet commenter, who rips me for the “uneducated” article.)

As I was sitting yesterday at Chin’s eating my Mongolian beef, I noticed an older gentleman pick up a copy of the newspaper, walk over, and sit down.  (Side note:  Why do we still eat Mongolian beef?  Like, Genghis Khan was known for murder, rape, looting, and… a delicious stir fry?  That’s like saying “Stalin was a murderous dictator… but have you tried his chicken salad recipe?)

As the guy started flipping through the Isthmus, I have to admit – I couldn’t stop watching him.  I peeked over every few seconds to see if he had gotten to my page yet.  He read pretty slowly as he shoveled sweet and sour chicken under his giant mustache.

Then, he finally got to the page with my column.  I started sweating.  All I wanted was a chuckle.  Maybe just a sweet and sour hesitation while he read a line he liked.

Nothing.  He flipped the page and moved on.  I slumped.  My attempt to expand my audience to chicken-loving mustachioed-Americans failed.

As I finished my beef, I got up to leave.  Just then, I saw another guy walk over with a copy of the paper in his hand.  I actually considered staying to watch him read.  One for two would be pretty good, right?

But then I saw a danger sign:  HE WAS WEARING A FANNY PACK.  Definitely not my crowd.  As we know, fanny pack wearers are devoid of humor – otherwise they’d always be laughing at how ridiculous they look.

I slunk out.  Damn you, Chin’s.  Damn you, newspaper reading public.  I AM A WRITER!

On a positive note, the old guy with the mustache and I are now dating.