Sunday, December 31, 2017

Update on Federal Tax Bill

The UBIT provision (regarding taxation of public pensions) was in conference in the House passed bill.
Government sponsored pension plans are exempt from UBIT because they
are treated as exercising an essential governmental function and thus
are exempt.
The House bill would have eliminated this exemption!
This was in a revenue raising part of the bill so it was a real possibility that it would have
made it into law.....they needed the money to pay for the other tax cuts.

The above provision was dropped from the tax bill.


The SPARTA Legislative Committee 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

No, Really, a Spot of Good News

You've got to take good news wherever you can find it.  The courts did the right thing and ruled that the inauguration protesters were protected by the First Amendment.  Read more about it in the link below:

From the website Dispatches from the Culture War:

Inauguration Protesters Found Not Guilty in Unjust Trial

Thursday, December 21, 2017

18 Realistic Ways To Become A Happier, More Chill Person In 2018

Because it was basically impossible to be one this year.

Go to this link for tips on how to get through the next year in a better frame of mind and body:

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Banned Words for the Center for Disease Control

Because we sure don't want the CDC talking about "science-based" anything.

From Talking Points Memo:

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday didn’t exactly deny a new Washington Post report that said agency employees had been banned from using certain words in budget documents, including “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.” But she did repeat the agency’s previous statement that the story was a “complete mischaracterization.”

“I want to assure you there are no banned words at CDC,” Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald began in a series of tweets Sunday, without directly addressing the Post’s reporting that a senior leader in the CDC’s Office of Financial Services had told analysts in a meeting “that ‘certain words’ in the CDC’s budget drafts were being sent back to the agency for correction.”

“Three words that had been flagged in these drafts were ‘vulnerable,’ ‘entitlement’ and ‘diversity.’ [Alison] Kelly told the group the ban on the other words had been conveyed verbally,” the Post reported Friday.

“The meeting did take place, there was guidance provided — suggestions if you will,” the unnamed official told Stat News. “There are different ways to say things without necessarily compromising or changing the true essence of what’s being said.”

They added: “This was all about providing guidance to those who would be writing those budget proposals. And it was very much ‘you may wish to do this or say this’. But there was nothing in the way of ‘forbidden words.’”

For more, check out the full article:

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The GOP's War on Learning

As the Republican-controlled Congress continues to advance tax plans that slash funding from public education, a new report reveals how state and local government officials, especially where GOP leadership dominates, have continued a decade-long campaign to keep school funding below levels that preceded the Great Recession.

There’s little doubt that deep and persistent cuts to education take a toll on student learning opportunities and end the American Dream for millions of young people, especially those who are not white or who are at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Research studies often show a strong correlation between increased education spending and improved student achievement – finding, for instance, that states forced by court order to increase education spending consequently experienced gains in student achievement. And surveys show Americans are generally willing to pay higher taxes for education.
Yet efforts to cut education continue unabated at all levels of government, especially where Republicans have full control.

Taxing Schools Rather Than the Rich
The tax plan the Senate Republicans just passed has little to recommend it over the House version.

Both the Senate and House bills propose an excise tax on private college endowments with assets of more than $100,000 per student. Endowment funds are used to help pay for academic programs, campus facilities, and student services, private college leaders and advocates say.
The biggest threats to local schools in both plans are their proposals to end federal deductions for state and local taxes (SALT) that households take when they itemize. The House plan limits the pain with a $10,000 ceiling, but the Senate plan does away with the deduction altogether.
Any reduction to the SALT federal subsidy will imperil the largest sources of school funding to education by eliminating the federal tax benefit to schools, discouraging new state and local tax initiatives to support schools, and pressuring state and local officials to cut local taxes to appease tax payers who can no longer deduct those taxes from their federal returns.
Another feature of the House bill would increase how much schools pay for long-term debt by eliminating a tax exemption school districts get when they refinance their debts at lower interest rates using certain types of bonds.

According to Education Week, in the most recent year reported, districts carried $409 billion in long-term debt – a rate of $8,465 per student – and paid $17 billion in interest on those loans. Taking away any ability to write off some of that interest as a tax exemption would decrease money districts have to pay for teachers and student learning opportunities.

‘Punishing Decade for School Funding’
New GOP federal tax plans compound the harm state and local government leaders have done to public schools and students.

As a new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains, for the latest year with data available, 29 states currently spend less money per student than they did in 2008. Although some of the 29 states cited by the report have increased education spending lately, the increases haven’t brought back spending levels to what they were nearly a decade ago.
The cuts to K-12 spending have “serious consequences,” CBPP authors contend, including crippling efforts to hire and retain the best teachers, reduce class sizes, expand learning time, and provide high-quality early childhood education.

Of the 10 states that have cut state and local education spending the most – Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada, Georgia, Idaho, Alabama, Oklahoma, Michigan, and Utah (in descending order from 25 percent to 8.6 percent) – all have had a Republican “trifecta” in charge, including a Republican governor and Republican majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.
Unfortunately, some states where the Democratic party dominates have cut education spending too, although nowhere near the levels of the above-mentioned states where the GOP rules. But another analysis has found Democratic governors have a much stronger tendency to increase school district funding, especially for districts with high proportions of Black and Hispanic students.

“Electing a Democratic governor led to an increase of about $500 per student for districts with a majority of black and Hispanic students,” Chalkbeat reports. “Similarly, the study finds that Democratic governors targeted additional money to colleges and universities that serve more students of color.”

Long-Term Harm
The Republican war on learning will have long term negative consequences to the nation.
While the House tax plan’s cut to SALT deductions would “put nearly 250,000 education jobs at risk,” according to analysts at the National Education Association, the Senate plan to end the deduction would plunge the dagger deeper, potentially leading to a loss of $370 billion in state and local tax revenue over 10 years, the NEA calculates, and endangering 370,000 education jobs.

Changes to higher-education tax benefits in the House tax plan “would cost students and families more than $71 billion over the next decade,” The Washington Post reports.
“Our country’s future depends heavily on the quality of its schools,” the authors of the CBPP study argue. The decade-long effort to cut K-12 school funding they chart “risk(s) undermining schools’ capacity to develop the intelligence and creativity of the next generation of workers and entrepreneurs.”

Perhaps, the whole strategy behind GOP tax plans and budget cuts boils down to a short-term need to cut education in order to offset the large cuts Republicans are providing to wealthy families and corporations.

But next year’s mid-term elections – in which a third of the Senate, 36 governors, and three quarters of states’ legislators are up for re-election – will give the rest of us a chance to speak up.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

As If We Didn't Know...

Wisconsin’s anti-collective bargaining law has significantly lowered teacher pay, increased teacher turnover rates and likely harmed student achievement, new study finds
November 15, 2017 
From the Center for American Progress

Following the passage of Act 10, legislation championed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker that eliminated collective bargaining rights and slashed benefits for public-sector workers, Wisconsin’s public education system has seen significant harm. Teacher compensation and experience have dropped drastically and turnover rates have increased — all warning signs to Congress and other states considering similar legislation.

Enacted in 2011, Wisconsin’s Act 10 virtually eliminated collective bargaining rights and slashed benefits for most public-sector workers. Now, the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund has unveiled new research showing how damaging Wisconsin’s Act 10 has been to the state’s public education system. In Wisconsin’s public schools, teacher compensation and experience have dropped significantly and turnover rates have increased — all of which negatively impacts Wisconsin families and students. The analysis was unveiled on a press call Wednesday with Wisconsin Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling, Illinois Senate Pro Tempore Don Harmon (D), and Minnesota State Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL).

“Governor Scott Walker and Republican elected leaders in Wisconsin said that Act 10 would benefit schools and families alike. They couldn’t have been more wrong,” said David Madland, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, senior adviser to the American Worker Project, and co-author of the analysis. “What has actually happened is that Wisconsin’s public education system has suffered a major blow since anti-union legislation was enacted. An attack on teachers and other public sector workers doesn’t just hurt those employees — everyone in Wisconsin will bear this impact.”

“As a result of Act 10, teachers receive significantly lower compensation, turnover rates are much higher, and teacher experience has dropped significantly,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling. “Rather than encouraging the best and the brightest to become teachers and remain in the field throughout their career, Act 10 has demonized and devalued the teaching profession and driven away many teachers.”

Shelly Moore Krajacic, an English and drama teacher from Ellsworth, said consistency was also necessary for teachers as they try to “develop a team that can work together.”  She also said the report’s findings “directly parallels” her experiences teaching in a rural district. “We have seen turnover like we’ve never seen before,” she said, adding that with Act 10 and revenue caps, “there’s just not a mechanism to be able to recruit and maintain the best in any school in Wisconsin.”

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Public Funding of Private Education

Published in the Stevens Point Journal:

To the Editor:
There's a secret sweeping across Wisconsin: taxpayers are now directly responsible for funding private religious schools in their communities.

This year, taxpayers in the Stevens Point School District will pay $542,000 to fund private school vouchers in Stevens Point.  In Wausau, the number is $602,000; in Marshfield, $255.00; and in Wisconsin Rapids, $333.000.  Outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin taxpayers will pay almost $43 million to fund private school vouchers in their communities.

We can't afford two separate systems of education.  While other states have prioritized public education funding in the last decade, Wisconsin hasn't.  Forcing school boards to pay for vouchers results in higher property taxes or fewer opportunities for our children in public schools.

Government is supposed to be transparent, so let's end the secrecy.  We deserve to know how much we are paying to support private schools.  We know how much we are paying to support technical college, the county, the state, our municipalities, and our public schools.

Ask your state legislators to support Assembly Bill 267/Senate Bill 183, requiring your property tax bill to include information showing how much state aid was taken from your public schools to fund private school vouchers.

Jeri McGinley
Stevens Point

A Post 11/9 Warning

Click on this link to read an article about the German Bund rally in New York City in 1939.  It can happen here and possibly has.  The voices on the video sound all too familiar.

German American Bund parade on East 86th St., New York City, October 30, 1939

Book Sale Success!

Once again, the Book Sale Committee carried out a smoothly-run, highly productive book sale.  Together with help from WI/Nicaragua Partners, SPARTA volunteer shift workers, and an unexpected show of muscle power at closing from the Wolfpack, the operation went smoothly.  

Thanks to this huge effort, enough money was raised for us to continue our scholarship and grant programs.

A big shout-out to the Children's Museum for all their support.  They help us out in so many ways, from renting us the property for a tremendously generous rate, posting and advertising the sale, being very cooperative about scheduling, and supporting us in so many other ways.  A BIG THANKS!

See You In November

Stevens Point Area Retired Teachers’ Association
November Meeting Announcement
Agenda, minutes & news attached.
November 13, 2017 – 11:30 a.m.
Program – Mike Thompson of the
Central Wisconsin Never Forgotten Honor Flight 
The Moose Lodge
1025 Second St. N.
Stevens Point, WI
Meal - $11.00
Ham, Scalloped Potatoes, Salad Bar, Roll, Coffee/Milk, Ice Cream and a Cookie
R.S.V.P. by November 9th - Noon
Call – Sherrilee at 715-344-0031or
Make Checks Payable to: The Moose Lodge

Friday, September 29, 2017

Seems About Right

On a more personal level, though, oncologist ought to be on the far right, with obstetrician not far behind. When your cancer or your pregnancy makes the local news,
time to panic.

Read more:

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Read a Banned Book this Week

-American Library Association

Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009

1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
11. Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
12. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
13. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
15. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
16. Forever, by Judy Blume
17. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
18. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
19. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
20. King and King, by Linda de Haan
21. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
22. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
23. The Giver, by Lois Lowry
24. In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
25. Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan
26. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
27. My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier
28. Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
29. The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
30. We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
31. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
32. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
33. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
34. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
35. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison
36. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
37. It’s So Amazing, by Robie Harris
38. Arming America, by Michael Bellasiles
39. Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
40. Life is Funny, by E.R. Frank
41. Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher
42. The Fighting Ground, by Avi
43. Blubber, by Judy Blume
44. Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
45. Crazy Lady, by Jane Leslie Conly
46. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
47. The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby: The First Graphic Novel by George Beard and Harold Hutchins, the creators of Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey
48. Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez
49. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
50. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
51. Daughters of Eve, by Lois Duncan
52. The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson
53. You Hear Me?, by Betsy Franco
54. The Facts Speak for Themselves, by Brock Cole
55. Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Green
56. When Dad Killed Mom, by Julius Lester
57. Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause
58. Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going
59. Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
60. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
61. Draw Me A Star, by Eric Carle
62. The Stupids (series), by Harry Allard
63. The Terrorist, by Caroline B. Cooney
64. Mick Harte Was Here, by Barbara Park
65. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
66. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor
67. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
68. Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
69. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
70. Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen
71. Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park
72. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
73. What’s Happening to My Body Book, by Lynda Madaras
74. The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
75. Anastasia (series), by Lois Lowry
76. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
77. Crazy: A Novel, by Benjamin Lebert
78. The Joy of Gay Sex, by Dr. Charles Silverstein
79. The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss
80. A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck
81. Black Boy, by Richard Wright
82. Deal With It!, by Esther Drill
83. Detour for Emmy, by Marilyn Reynolds
84. So Far From the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Watkins
85. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher
86. Cut, by Patricia McCormick
87. Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
88. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
89. Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissenger
90. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle
91. Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
92. The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar
93. Bumps in the Night, by Harry Allard
94. Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine
95. Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix
96. Grendel, by John Gardner
97. The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
98. I Saw Esau, by Iona Opte
99. Are You There, God?  It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
100. America: A Novel, by E.R. Frank

Just to add complexity to the topic, there's this to consider:

Roald Dahl actually was an awful human being

What did we do to our kids? Dahl was a favorite author around our house, and only now am I learning what an unpleasant person he was.
His early writing in the short story form was impacted by the political situation on the world stage. He believed in a world government and he was extremely sympathetic to Hitler, Mussolini, and the entire Nazi cause. His stories were filled with caricatures of greedy Jews. One suggests ” a little pawnbroker in Housditch called Meatbein who, when the wailing started, would rush downstairs to the large safe in which he kept his money, open it and wriggle inside on to the lowest shelf where he lay like a hibernating hedgehog until the all-clear had gone.” In 1951 he visited Germany with Charles Marsh and luxured in Hitler’s former retreat at Berchtesgaden. His dislike of Jews and especially of Zionists was egged on by Marsh’s Israel hatred, later encapsulated in a revolting letter to Marsh where he mocked the head of East London’s B’Nai B’rith Club.
Suddenly, the Oompa Loompas have context, and it’s not good. When you read how he regarded women, you’ll read The Witches with different eyes, too.

Read more:

Monday, September 25, 2017

Chasing Coral

Considering the latest weather events of extreme droughts and severe hurricanes, this is an important documentary to see. I hope to see you at the UU.
Rita Pachal
A documentary on climate change
Thursday, September 28, 2017
6:30 – 8:00 PM
Universalist Unitarian Church
504 Grant St., Wausau
Free and Open to the Public
Chasing Coral documents the increasing destruction of coral reefs due to the warming of our oceans.  Coral provides a wonderfully productive habitat for a multitude of sea creatures and its loss threatens the stability of ocean life.  This film was three years in the making and highlights our own role in this unfolding tragedy.  The good news is we can still save the coral world; come and find out how.  Produced by Jeff Orlowski (producer of Chasing IceChasing Coral won first place for documentaries at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.  It is a must see! 
Sponsored by Citizens Climate Lobby and Wausau United to Amend

Sunday, September 24, 2017

October Meeting

Our next meeting will be held at 11:15 on Monday, October 9 at the Park Ridge Family Restaurant (formerly the Blue Top.)  Our presenter will be Sandy Williams from the Central Wisconsin Children's Museum (our very kind landlords.)

The meal will be served family style and include:
     roast pork
     mashed potatoes

All for the price of $13, which includes tax and tips.

A good meal, fellowship, and an interesting speaker.  Excellent!

Anyone brave enough to wear their dirndl or lederhosen?

ALEC's Corporate Board Leads…in Federal Violations

Link to this article at PRWatch for the latest ALEC/Koch dealings.

Ready to Get Going?


Saturday October 7, 2017
Registration 8:00 / Event 9:30
Wausau Labor Temple
318 S 3rd Ave. - Wausau, WI
Suggested $10 Donation

Rep. Dennis Kucinich
John Nichols
Martha Laning


Organizing through the Power up Strategy
WPEN Smart Education
Multicultural Participation in the Grassroots
Creating Empathy and Understanding
The Importance of Messaging
Reviving Democracy Through Citizen Action
Environmental Issues Explored
Healthcare, Ticket to A Just Society
Barnstorm: Building Grassroots Power in Rural America
Getting Elected Through Signage


Chad O'Brien
Open Tab

Mike Miller

$5 Suggested Minimum Donation
Brad Emanuel
Shoestring Joe and the Star Thief

For More Information Contact: John Stanley
608-444-8739 /
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September Meeting

Our guest presenters at the September meeting provided us with a taste of the different groups that they represented. 

 Pick Two: All the Things You Never Had Time to Do” featuring Barb Evans from RSVP, Barb Towey with Music. Music, Music, Linda Weber from Nicaragua Partnership, Anne Rogalski from the LIFE program, Jerry Lineberger from Friends of Schmeekle, and Nancy from AMBA 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Volunteer Hours

PLEASE bring your list of volunteer hours to the September meeting!  If you can't be there, please email a copy to Santha Bickford!!  Thank you!!!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Write a Letter

Letter to the Editor, Salt Lake Tribune, August 20, 2017:

I am a 67-year-old American white woman. My parents enlisted in World War II to fight fascism. They both served; my mother was a nurse, my father navigated bombers. They lost friends in that bloody war so that all the world could be free of fascism. They did not fight so that some white people could claim supremacy or that Nazis could openly walk the streets of America.
White person to white supremacist person: What is wrong with you?
People of European heritage are doing just fine in the world. They run most of the world’s institutions, hold much of the world’s wealth, replicate as frequently as other humans. You’re not in any danger here. The world is changing, that’s true. Others want a piece of the pie. They work for it, strive for it and earn it. Technology (robotics) is having a greater effect on your job prospects than immigrants. Going forward, tackling corporate control and climate change will need all of our attention, ideas and energy. Put down your Tiki torches and trite flags and get involved in some real work.
By the way, the world won the war against Nazi fascism in the 1940s, just as America won the war against the Confederacy in the 1860s. Aligning with two lost causes just labels you as profound losers.
And finally, white person to white person: Like my parents before me, I will not stand idly by nor give up my rights or the rights of other Americans because you think you are better than some of us. It doesn’t work that way. All Americans stand shoulder to shoulder against your hatred and bigotry.
                                                                    - Jonna Rarney, 67, of Salt Lake City