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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Nov. 28, 2014

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In Milwaukee Buzz Commentary

Jay Bullock hits the mailbox. (PHOTO: shutterstock.com )

Dipping into the (this time real) mailbag


A couple of months ago, I wrote a satirical advice column, where I made up letters from people I wanted to make points about. A commenter astutely wrote, "Sorry, I'm not familiar with this column... Is.. is this supposed to be real? I'm having a hard time believing these are legit letters."

I had figured that the fake-advice column trope was old enough and common enough that it would be obvious. Apparently not.

Anyway, this column is not fake, instead looking back at a couple of recent OnMilwaukee columns to pull out actual comments received on this site, via email, or through other means, and responding or extending my argument a little.

Surprisingly (to me, anyway), last week's column about the intersection of my atheism and the week's news, got more response than anything else I've written here. On the site, my friend from real life Brett Kemnitz offered a correction.

While I wrote that the top 25 hedge fund mangers in the country earned more than every kindergarten teacher put together last year, Brett writes that "the hedge fund managers received lots of money but they didn't earn it." True! Consider the record corrected.

Another friend from real life, Nick Schweitzer, left this comment: "So you hate the idea of the State enforcing Christianity ... unless its in cooperation with Catholics redistributing wealth?"

Let's be clear: If I were king, I would vigorously pursue policies to reduce income inequality and reward work over wealth, not because it is the Pope's idea, but because it is the right thing to do. In real dollars, I'm sure the hedge fund guys paid more in taxes than the kindergarten teachers last year. But not as a percent of income.

Consider that probably every dollar the hedge fund managers made was taxed at a lower rate than the teachers (see, for example, here). This is wrong whether or not you're a religious person. I wouldn't tax those hedge fund guys into kindergarten teacher-level poverty, but I would make sure that the important (and much harder than hedge funding) work of teaching young children was better compensated.

One more on atheism quickly. I got an email from another friend that included this great point: "While I like much of what the new pope is up to and what he espouses, I could never join the Roman Catholic church. Never. Women are still fourth class citizens. Moving money to the cemetery fund here in the archdiocese rather than paying sex abuse victims is unconscionable. And let's not forget their declaration of bankruptcy."

The Catholic church does have two millennia to answer for, and one better-thinking pope isn't going to make up for it -- and it certainly won't get me in the door.

When my story about the sale of the Milwaukee Bucks was published here under the "Sports" category, I was pretty stoked. In more than a decade of writing professionally, I have never been published in the sports section of anything. Unsurprisingly, my fish-out-of-waterness elicited some criticism. "Stick to dungeons and dragons," offered one helpful commenter. Full disclosure: I have not played Dungeons and Dragons in 25 years.

Despite the column's being in the sports section, I thought it was much more about the racial attitudes of the Milwaukee metro region. We're the most segregated city in the country by race and by poverty and in the worst state to grow up black in, and the way people treat the Bucks vs. the way they treat the Brewers is, to me, a microcosm of the larger problem. So I shouldn't have been surprised by the racial animus that showed up in the comments.

Under the guise of adding "kernels of truth" to the conversation, someone going by the name of fetlarpo launched into a pretty starkly racist rant, including some factually challenged statements about African American teenagers' behavior to support this statement: "You say this is the worse (sic) state to be black in but there never is a solution."

I mean, I might be stupid here, but isn't reducing the segregation and poverty around here a solution? Oh, yeah, it is! For example, when I googled fetlarpo's accusation that "most young black children have sex before they are 15," I found that he's wrong -- the median age is over 15 and only 10 months earlier than white children -- and that it seems likely that segregated cities are a contributing factor to the difference. The recent research says, "Our study indicates that residential racial segregation may help to explain this disparity."

Though fetlarpo didn't talk about schools, there are plenty of similar studies showing that minority students in integrated schools do better than those left behind in heavily segregated schools, like the majority of those in MPS -- something to think about as we just passed the 60th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education. No doubt more searching than I have time for now would provide more examples beyond sex and education.

This is fetlarpo's conclusion: "Part of the reasons that young blacks have it so bad is that they are in a poor environment but if you keep voting for one party you kind of get what you paid for."

I see; he's making this a Democrat-Republican issue. It's no secret I'm a Democratic partisan, and this guy seems to prefer Republicans. If we've learned anything from the last decade, there's little hope either one of us is going to convince the other to change his vote. I could go on and on about how it's Republicans who are abandoning the city, and he'd counter than Democratic policies drove them there, blah blah blah.

But that should't matter. If we care about the success in life of all children -- something at least as important as where to put a basketball arena -- then we shouldn't care about the politics, just the best solutions, and figuring out how to reverse 40 years of segregation in the region is a good place to start. If the fetlarpos of the world can set aside their racist view of the world long enough, we can get it done.

Talkbacks

AndrewJ | May 22, 2014 at 9:40 a.m. (report)

Whoa... way to butcher my comment there. That's not what was submitted at all.

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fetlarpo | May 21, 2014 at 8:49 p.m. (report)

Jay, just let you know. A lot of these hedge fund guys like Appalooosa s David Tepper who made $2.1 billion dollars last year are Democrats. Donald Sterling Billionaire gave to Democratic causes. Do you remember when Obama had a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House between 2009 thru 2011. He could have screwed the Hedge fund guys but he chose to take their money instead.

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fetlarpo | May 21, 2014 at 8:28 p.m. (report)

This 2013 Wisconsin teenage survey is from another impoverished educator. Tony Evers, of Wisconsin who made $120, 000 in 2013. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey asked Wisconsin high school students these questions. Have you had intercourse yet? 62 % of African Americans said yes. Whites answered 32 %. Did you have sex before age 13? 11 percent of African Americans said yes. Whites answered 1%. Have you had sex with more than four partners 22% of African Americans said yes. Whites answered 8 %. Thanks for using me in your article, your favorite racist who resides on 21St and Silverspring.

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AndrewJ | May 21, 2014 at 12:59 p.m. (report)

I'll give you credit for one thing: Unlike your candidate for Governor, you at least make your opinions and feelings known. The arrogance in some of your statements however is god-awful (<- atheism pun). You state in pretty clear terms that hedge fund managers are, essentially, crooks, whereas kindergarten teachers are the saviors of society. I wonder if you'd even consider the argument that a person with the responsibility for managing thousands of other peoples money, which they use to educate, feed, and clothe their children, is somehow less important than a proverbial nanny-with-a-pension-plan teacher. A hedge fund manager makes a bad decision, a large swath of families are taking out loans to send their kids to college, or are working another 5-10 years before retiring when they originally planned. Your kindergarten teacher decides to cut nap-time short and a toddler gets sent home crabby. Sure, maybe you value a childs crabbiness over another kid going to college, I suppose that's possible. But consider the thought that maybe not everybody would think that way. Oh, and such a typical Liberal move, calling fetlarpro a racist. C'mon. Be better than that.

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emills81 | May 21, 2014 at 12:07 p.m. (report)

Ha, your first funny article. D&D is a litte dated. More World of Warcraft these days?

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