By Jay Bullock Special to Published Mar 18, 2014 at 3:04 PM Photography: David Bernacchi

When Wisconsin politicos have questions, Jay Bullock has the answers. Let's go to this week's mailbag:

Dear Jay,

Lately I've been having some legal troubles. I think I have a lot of it sorted out--my lawyers are doing everything they can to quash subpoenas and trash the character of the prosecutors and judges, so I've been feeling pretty good about that. But then a friend of mine was on TV the other day and basically congratulated me for doing the things I, um, did not do, if you know what I mean. How should I respond?

Madison Resident

Dear Madison Resident,

I feel you. "Friends" are awesome, especially when you need to coordinate a big event like a surprise party or an election. But they can be a real pain sometimes – we all have that one friend who just doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut.

If you need him and his help to, um, "coordinate" your next "surprise party," if you know what I mean, then you probably want to set up some boundaries if you keep his friendship. You probably want to prioritize things like not breaking the law, so that your "friend" here can't go around claiming you did and offering the kind of evidence that people who don't care for you have been dying to hear all along.

But mostly, RM, I think it's time to let him go, cut him off. People are going to judge you by the people you surround yourself with, and if you have people around you who break the law or act in a way that reflects poorly on you, you will be tainted. It's really that simple.

Dear Jay,

For some reason, everybody thinks I'm racist. Sure, I'm white and rich but come on, who among my class hasn't been oblivious to his own privilege from time to time, or gone inarticulate when talking about his deeply held beliefs? When I blame "inner city" residents for being poor, people claim that's some kind of coded language. When I refer to smart people who have written books and things to back up my opinion, people start throwing around terms like "white nationalist." I guess my question is, how many times should be people be allowed to get offended by what I said?

Ayn Rand Fan

Dear Ayn Rand Fan,

"Inner city"? "White nationalist"? Gosh, I have no idea (wink, wink) who you might be!

One, stop mentioning Charles Murray. This is something I think people should have figured out a long time ago, but for some reason it hasn't sunk in. I mean, Murray is an admitted cross-burner with a history of giving an academic veneer to racists. Look, I can't really tell you what should and should not be a deal-breaker in your own life, but the guy has his own page at the Southern Poverty Law Center – does that send up no red flags?

Two, imagine you have a nice quiche lorraine for brunch, and you end up with a piece of spinach in your teeth, and lost of people start saying, "Hey, you have spinach in your teeth." How many times should people be allow to tell you about the spinach? That's a pretty stupid question, isn't it? You just get rid of the spinach!

What I'm saying, ARF, is if people keep telling you that what you say is racist, then maybe the problem isn't the people but the spinach. Take a look in the mirror, find that spinach, and get rid of it once and for all. It may not be easy, but we'll all be better off if you start leading from a place of genuine compassion, rather than ignorance.

Dear Jay,

I don't know the difference between "equal" and "fair."


Dear Columnist,

First, that's not actually a question. But that's OK! I think I still know what you mean.

Second, the distinction between "equal" and "fair" can be a hard one sometimes, so I can't entirely blame you for not being able to tell the difference. Equal can sometimes be unfair, like when the Oakland Raiders and the Green Bay Packers have the exact same salary cap – a maximum they can spend on players' salaries – even though the Pack brings in more than $100 million in revenue for the NFL than the Raiders. Shouldn't the bigger, better, more valuable team get more to spend, more local control over the way it operates? Wouldn't that be fair?

"Fair" does not have to be – and often isn't – equal. For example, here in Wisconsin current law says that bigger cities with more residents and more flexibility in how they spend resources on elections can have more and longer early-voting hours than small towns without those resources or demands for early voting. This makes even more sense when you consider that a lot of city residents have the kinds of jobs that don't let workers take off in the middle of the day to vote the way, say, a state senator can. Cities and towns have the local to do what's best for them – and that's fair.

Of course, Republicans are trying to change that law to make it (italics equal) without any thought to what's fair, probably because, like you, Columnist, they don't know the difference. At least you cared enough to ask (kind of)! Now that you know, I'm sure your columns from here on will advocate for fairness, right?

Have a question for Jay? Tweet him @folkbum or with the hashtag #AskJay

Jay Bullock Special to
Jay Bullock is a high school English teacher in Milwaukee, columnist for the Bay View Compass, singer-songwriter and occasional improv comedian.