Can you help Ruthelle to keep her right to vote?

April 10, 2012

An 84-year-old Wisconsin woman, told she can’t vote for the first time in 75 years, because she lacks an “appropriate” birth certificate, and perhaps she’s been spelling her name differently from how Wisconsin wants her to spell it, for more than 80 years.

Meanwhile, has anyone ever found any voter fraud that I.D. can stop?

Since voting is a civil liberty, the ACLU is working to keep Ruthelle voting.

Volunteer to help, here.


Republicans lose only two in Wisconsin

August 10, 2011

Opening paragraph in this morning’s Post-Crescent in Appleton, Wisconsin:

By Steve Contorno, Gannett Wisconsin Media

Sen. Rob Cowles blocked one of six attempts by Democrats on Tuesday to oust a sitting Republican lawmaker from office, putting his party in a position to maintain control of Madison and continue its unchecked, aggressive agenda.

That’s about as polite as it is possible to be.

Democrats faced an uphill battle, but took two out of three seats from Republicans.  It is not enough to flip the majority in the Senate.

Will it be enough of a scare to make Republicans talk sense?  You’d think that, after watching the damage done to the stock market, almost as bad as the attack on the World Trade Center, Wisconsin voters would have been more circumspect.

But these six Republicans were well-entrenched.  33% is better than nothing.  It means 33% of Wisconsinites appear to have awakened to the wolves at their doors.

How to wake up the rest?

Two Democrats face recall elections next week, revenge for the recall elections this week.

Will the assault on U.S. values, education and public institutions, continue?

_____________

This morning, according to AP, Wisconsin Democrats said they will push forward to recall Gov. Scott “Ahab” Walker, just as soon as he is eligible for recall.


Wisconsin Republicans ignore Wisconsin voters’ views, and teachers

June 16, 2011

It is now quite clear that the people of Wisconsin disapprove of the union-busting, school-busting, library-killing antics of Wisconsins’ Republican Gov. Ahab Walker, and the Republicans in the legislature.

So, why don’t the Republicans do what the people of Wisconsin want, instead?  Why are Wisconsin Republicans acting as a special elite, ignoring voters’ wishes?

Forbes columnist Rick Ungar wrote:

A Rasmussen poll out today reveals that almost 60% of likely Wisconsin voters now disapprove of their aggressive governor’s performance, with 48% strongly disapproving.

While these numbers are clearly indicators of a strategy gone horribly wrong, there are some additional findings in the poll that I suspect deserve even greater attention.

It turns out that the state’s public school teachers are very popular with their fellow Badgers. With 77% of those polled holding a high opinion of their educators, it is not particularly surprising that only 32% among households with children in the public school system approve of the governor’s performance. Sixty-seven percent (67%) disapprove, including 54% who strongly disapprove.

Can anyone imagine a politician succeeding with numbers like this among people who have kids?

These numbers should be of great concern not only to Governor Walker but to governors everywhere who were planning to follow down the path of war with state employee unions. You can’t take on the state worker unions without taking on the teachers – and the teachers are more popular than Gov. Walker and his cohorts appear to realize.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Wisconsinite Jean Detjen.


Updates on Wisconsin, the War on Education, the War on Americans in Unions, the assault on public employees by Wisconsin Republicans, etc., etc.

April 1, 2011

First, be sure to read Zeno’s work over at Halfway There.  Zeno’s writing will make your mouth water, your pupils expand, your pulse quicken, your hands go all Galvanic on you, and otherwise get your attention — but in this case, his topic is important, too.  Zeno explains the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) with a peek inside ALEC’s  sumptuous, legislator-seducing red tent.   He’s got documents from ALEC, secured through not completely legitimate means (but neither are they illegal), and he lays the group bare.  It’s not a pleasant sight if you’re not fond of adipose tissue and necrosis.

Second, at Desmogblog you should check out John Mashey’s work on loose political organizations joined to politically oppose scientists learning about global warming, to oppose publication of findings about global warming, and to oppose government action to do anything to stop global warming.  Interestingly enough, Mashey informs me, the current cast of malefactors in Wisconsin, appear earlier as malefactors in the discussions and actions about global warming.  Coincidence?

And then stay tuned.  There is more to come on the issue of the Republican Party’s rebirth of McCarthyism, and the witch hunt they wish to conduct against historian Bill Cronon, I’m sure.


Historians back Cronon against Wisconsin witch hunt

March 31, 2011

Just the news, folks.  Just the news.

The Organization of American Historians Speaks Out on Academic Freedom and Defends OAH Member and University of Wisconsin–Madison Professor William Cronon

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 30, 2011

For more information, contact:
Katherine M. Finley, Executive Director
Organization of American Historians
112 N. Bryan Avenue, Bloomington, IN 47401
ph 812.855.7311; fax 812.855.0696

The Executive Committee of the Organization of American Historians (OAH), led by President Alice Kessler-Harris, R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of History at Columbia University, issued the following statement on March 30, 2011, supporting academic freedom and deploring the recent efforts of Wisconsin politicians to intimidate OAH member and professor William Cronon:

The Executive Committee of the Organization of American Historians deplores the efforts of Republican party operatives in the state of Wisconsin to intimidate Professor William Cronon, a distinguished and respected member of our organization and currently the president-elect of our sister association, the American Historical Association. As a professional historian, Professor Cronon has used his extensive knowledge of American history to provide a historical context for recent events in Wisconsin. Requiring him to provide his e-mail correspondence, as the Republican party of Wisconsin has now done, will inevitably have a chilling effect on the capacity of all academics to engage in wide public debate. The timing and character of the Freedom of Information Act request for Professor Cronon’s e-mail correspondence leave no doubt that the purpose of this request is to use the authority of the state to prevent William Cronon from freely exercising his rights as a citizen and as a public employee.

Cronon, a professor of environmental and U.S. western history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, has come under fire from the Wisconsin Republican party. A longtime member of the OAH and a former member of its executive board, Cronon is the incoming president of the American Historical Association. He has been thrust into the spotlight for his March 15, 2011, blog post and for a subsequent op-ed piece in the New York Times, critical of the Wisconsin legislature and Governor Scott Walker. The OAH Executive Committee believes that the action of the Wisconsin Republican party in requesting e-mails sent by Professor Cronon will have a negative impact on academics who engage in wide public debate.

For Further Reading

American Historical Association, “AHA Deplores Effort to Intimidate William Cronon,” online posting, March 27, 2011, AHA Today http://blog.historians.org/news/1293/aha-council-deplores-recent-intimidation-efforts-aimed-at-cronon.

William Cronon, “Who’s Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn’t Start Here),” online posting, March 15, 2011, Scholar as Citizen, http://scholarcitizen.williamcronon.net/2011/03/15/alec/.

William Cronon, “Wisconsin’s Radical Break,” New York Times, March 21, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/22/opinion/22cronon.html.

William Cronon, “Abusing Open Records to Attack Academic Freedom,” online posting, March 24, 2011, Scholar as Citizen, http://scholarcitizen.williamcronon.net/2011/03/24/open-records-attack-on-academic-freedom/.

Posted: Mar. 30, 2011


FOIA “request” in Wisconsin could be violation of whistleblower protection law

March 27, 2011

Wisconsinite Jean Detjen sent me a note correcting my misinformation:  Wisconsin does indeed have a whistleblower protection act.  The law protects Wisconsin state employees, against retaliation for disclosing information about wrongdoing.

William Cronon, Frederick Jackson Turner Professor of History, University of Wisconsin

William Cronon, Frederick Jackson Turner Professor of History, University of Wisconsin - University of Wisconsin photo

My reading suggests that, since professors are not specifically exempted, Prof. Cronon, at the University of Wisconsin, is specifically protected.

If the University of Wisconsin gives that answer to the Wisconsin Republican Party, however, the Party will argue that it is not a government official prevented from retaliating against a government employee.  That would be ample reason for the state to deny the FOIA request of the Party flatly and completely.

There is another, potentially more pernicious angle here:  The Republican Party in Wisconsin is, in this case, an agent of the Republicans in the state legislature, those whose tails are on the line for violating Wisconsin law, and as Prof. Cronon outlines it, Wisconsin tradition and historical norms.  It’s likely that the Party is acting at the direction of legislators.

In short, it’s kind of an organized crime action.  I think that the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) would cover this sort of action — any retaliation for hire, or by an agent, which creates a pattern or practice of organized crime activities.  Worse for the Wisconsin Republicans, if there were an ambitious U.S. attorney out there somewhere, there is no scienter requirement on RICO actions — that is, there need not be a clear formation of criminal intent.  The mere actions of an organized crime group, even with no intent to break the law, can be a RICO violation.

Even worse for the Republicans, RICO is available for anyone to use.  Were I Prof. Cronon, and were the Republicans to press their FOIA request to court, I’d counterclaim in federal court with the RICO statute.

That’s a nasty escalation.  But in these days, in this case, where a state party organization has gone to the employer of a university professor to get his job after he merely reported history, I wouldn’t take chances that the Republicans would later play fair or nice.

Every step against Cronon, every press release, every statement from a legislator or party apparatchik, provides more evidence of the coordinated effort, and establishes further the “pattern and practice” of organized crime activity.

Maybe cool heads will soon prevail, maybe patriotism and love of the First Amendment will break out among Wisconsin Republicans, and they will retract their demand that Prof. Cronon deliver them all of his e-mails as a professor at  the University of Wisconsin.

Maybe badgers will fly.

“Badger” is supposed to be the mascot of Wisconsin’s top-flight university, not a tool of partisan politics.


Surely ALEC wouldn’t be purging e-mails that are now evidence, would they?

March 26, 2011

You could write a soap opera about this stuff.

You remember Wisconsin?  Remember the teachers, cops, firefighters and other public employee unions?

Of course.  And it’s still a mess.  Gov. Scott  “Ahab” Walker signed into law a bill that would have the effect of abrogating union contracts without any bargaining, but the skullduggery used to sneak the bill through the Wisconsin legislature opened the door to charges that Wisconsin open meetings laws were violated, and a judge has stayed the implementation of the law.

In the meantime, a Wisconsin historian stepped up to lend historical perspective to the whole affair.  He thought he was turning on some lights, but Wisconsin Republicans have treated it like great heat.

[Off-topic note:  Some creatures are negatively photo-tropic, which means they avoid light.  You know, like the way the cockroaches in your first New York apartment scattered when you'd turn on the light.]

So, just as Virginia Attorney General and Chief Inquisitor and Witch Hunter Ken Cucinelli tried with those pesky scientists who keep finding the global temperature rising, Wisconsin Republican legislators have turned on the historian.  Here’s how the  New York Times‘ editorial, “A Shabby Crusade in Wisconsin,”  described it:

The historian, William Cronon, is the Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas research professor of history, geography and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin, and was recently elected president of the American Historical Association. Earlier this month, he was asked to write an Op-Ed article for The Times on the historical context of Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to strip public-employee unions of bargaining rights. While researching the subject, he posted on his blog several critical observations about the powerful network of conservatives working to undermine union rights and disenfranchise Democratic voters in many states.

In particular, he pointed to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group backed by business interests that circulates draft legislation in every state capital, much of it similar to the Wisconsin law, and all of it unmatched by the left. Two days later, the state Republican Party filed a freedom-of-information request with the university, demanding all of his e-mails containing the words “Republican,” “Scott Walker,” “union,” “rally,” and other such incendiary terms. (The Op-Ed article appeared five days after that.)

American Legislative Exchange Council.  ALEC, in K Street lobbyist parlance.

But, Dear Reader, do you see the potential problem here for Republicans in Wisconsin?  They have based their request on a Wisconsin law that prohibits private use of state-supplied e-mail — no politicking, no religious proselytizing.

What about all those ALEC e-mails to Wisconsin Republican legislators?  Sure, they’re more than fair-game for such a witch hunt, too.  And, since it’s the state Republican Party, and not a state or other public official making the FOIA request, surely that means the Republicans would not mind a similar request to cover contacts legislators had with the Wisconsin Republican Party, to the National Republican Party, or even ALEC itself.

Fair is fair, right?

ALEC generally has better lawyers than state legislators, and so we’d expect a group like that to recognize they could be in trouble.

Of course, purging of e-mails now would be a crime, a Watergate-style cover-up, destruction of evidence and obstruction of justice — after it’s become clear that there could be court action and claims of violation of law.

Jean Detjen provided links to the stories of the attacks on the distinguished Prof. Cronon over the last couple of days.  In a Facebook exchange, I noted that ALEC is fair game for such a witch hunt fishing expedition FOIA inquiry, too.

Don’t look now, Ms. Detjen said — but the ALEC site is down.

Server Error

The server encountered an internal error and was unable to complete your request.

JRun closed connection.

[Here's a general link -- try it, and let me know when the site is back up, if Paul Weyrich and the other ALEC-ians don't skip to Brazil.]

Surely ALEC wouldn’t be illegally purging e-mails to Wisconsin, New York, Ohio, Texas, Idaho, Washington, California, Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana and Florida legislators, would it?

Update:  As of this evening, March 26, 2011, the ALEC site is back up.  Why was it down?

The NYT editorial closed with this:

The party refuses to say why it wants the messages; Mr. Cronon believes it is hoping to find that he is supporting the recall of Republican state senators, which would be against university policy and which he denies. This is a clear attempt to punish a critic and make other academics think twice before using the freedom of the American university to conduct legitimate research.

Professors are not just ordinary state employees. As J. Harvie Wilkinson III, a conservative federal judge on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, noted in a similar case, state university faculty members are “employed professionally to test ideas and propose solutions, to deepen knowledge and refresh perspectives.” A political fishing expedition through a professor’s files would make it substantially harder to conduct research and communicate openly with colleagues. And it makes the Republican Party appear both vengeful and ridiculous.

Well, yeah, Wisconsin’s Republicans wouldn’t want to be caught stifling discussion, nor taking revenge on a whistle-blower — because certainly if Cronon’s e-mails are discoverable with an FOIA request, he is a Wisconsin state employee.  “Whew,” the Wisconsin Republicans might wheeze:  Wisconsin has no specific whistleblower protection.  Ah, the plot thickens:  There are general laws that would appear, to me, a no-longer-practicing-in-that-area lawyer, to offer some protections for any employee engaged in general political speech, or in speech protecting the employee’s rights, or in speech designed to shed light on a wrongful or wrongfully executed official act — that is, Cronon’s evidence showing the unsavory and potentially illegal links of legislators to businessmen and business groups, and the potential conspiracy issues of ALEC’s nationally-directed efforts to use state legislators to gut union laws.

I wish Ahab would just get Jesus and quit thickening the plot.

More, resources, links from Jean Detjen and others:

Obviously, big tip of the old scrub brush to Jean Detjen, in Wisconsin.


Quote of the moment: Goodbye unions, goodbye democracy

March 20, 2011

Nelson Lichtenstein, University of California - Santa Barbara

Nelson Lichtenstein, University of California - Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Independent photo

Most jobs in America are not in manufacturing or subject to international competition. So the service sector, retail, construction — there are a huge number of jobs where international competition has nothing to do with it. The obstacles there are domestic. Labor law is totally dysfunctional. Workers really don’t have the right to form unions of their choosing. So you’re right to be pessimistic, just for different reasons.

I also have a mega-historical answer to that question, though. If you look at the last 150 years of history across all nations with a working class of some sort, the maintenance of democracy and the maintenance of a union movement are joined at the hip. We’ve seen this dramatically reconfirmed in Spain and South Korea and Poland over the years. If democracy has a future, then so too must trade unionism. Sadly, that doesn’t offer much hope for my lifetime. But there is such a thing as conflict between capital and labor.

Nelson Lichtenstein is arguably the most influential living historian of American labor; interviewed by Ezra Klein of the Washington Post blogs, March 10, 2011


Homework for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (and it was due a few days ago . . .)

March 13, 2011

Eric Brehm teaches in Wisconsin. Now you know the answers to any questions about bias you may have.

It’s been more than three weeks, and Mr. Brehm has gotten no answer from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.  It’s not exactly like Walker is a student who hasn’t done his homework, but it’s close enough.

From Brehm’s blog, Bang the Buckets, the letter:

On Saturday, February 19, 2011, I sent the following letter to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.  It has since been reposted and blogged a number of times, for which I am grateful.  However, this blog would not be complete unless I included a copy of it here.  And so, here is where it all began:

To the Duly-Elected Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker (and anyone else who gives a hoot):

It has only been a week, and I grow weary of the political struggle that your Budget Repair Bill has caused.  I am tired of watching the news, though I have seen many of the faces of those I hold dear as they march on the Capitol.  I am tired of defending myself to those who disagree with me, and even a bit tired of fist-bumping those who do.  I am tired of having to choose a side in this issue, when both sides make a certain degree of sense.  And so I offer you this desultory (aimless or rambling) philippic (angry long-winded speech), because at the end of the day I find that though this issue has been talked to death, there is more that could be said.  And so, without further ado, here are my points and/or questions, in no particular order.

1.  You can have my money, but. . .. Ask any number of my students, who have heard me publicly proclaim that a proper solution to this fiscal crisis is to raise taxes.  I will pay them.  I have the great good fortune to live in a nation where opportunity is nearly limitless, and I am willing to pay for the honor of calling myself an American.  Incidentally, Warren Buffett, the second richest man in the nation (and a Democrat) agrees with me.  Your proposed Budget Repair Bill will cost me just under $3000 per year at my current salary, with the stated goal of saving $30 million this year on the state budget.  I say, take it.  You can have it.  It will hurt me financially, but if it will balance the budget of the state that has been my home since birth, take it with my blessing.  But if I may, before you do, I have some questions.

According to the 2009 estimate for the U.S. Census, 5,654,774 people live in the state of Wisconsin.  Of those, 23.2% are under the age of 18, and presumably are not subject to much in the way of income tax.  That still leaves about 4,342,867 taxpayers in the state of Wisconsin.  If you wished to trim $30 million off of the budget, that works out to about $6.91 per Wisconsin taxpayer.  So I must ask:  Is it fair that you ask $3000 of me, but you fail to ask $6.91 of everyone?  I know that times are tough, but would it not be more equitable to ask that each taxpayer in the state contribute an extra 13 cents a week?

  • Would you please, kindly, explain exactly how collective bargaining is a fiscal issue?  I fancy myself to be a fairly intelligent person.  I have heard it reported in the news that unless the collective bargaining portion of this bill is passed, severe amounts of layoffs will occur in the state.  I have heard that figure given as 6,000 jobs.  But then again, you’ve reportedly said it was 10,000 jobs.  But then again, it’s been reported to be as high as 12,000 jobs.  Regardless of the figure, one thing that hasn’t been explained to my satisfaction is exactly how or why allowing a union to bargain collectively will cost so much money or so many jobs.  Am I missing something?  Isn’t collective bargaining essentially sitting in a room and discussing something, collectively?  Is there now a price tag on conversation?  How much does the average conversation cost?  I feel your office has been eager to provide doomsday scenarios regarding lost jobs, but less than willing to provide actual insight as to why that is the case.  I would welcome an explanation.
  • Why does your concern over collective bargaining, pensions, and healthcare costs only extend to certain unions, but not all?  Why do snow plow drivers and child care providers and teachers and prison guards find themselves in “bad” unions, but firefighters and state police and local police find themselves in unions that do not need to be effected by your bill?  The left wing news organizations, of course, state that this is because these are unions that supported your election bid, while you seek to punish those unions that did not; I would welcome your response to such a charge.  You have stated that the state and local police are too vital to the state to be affected.  Can I ask how child care, or prison guards, or nurses or teachers are not vital?  Again, I would welcome a response.
  • Though you are a state employee, I have seen no provision in your bill to cut your own pension or healthcare costs.  The governor’s salary in Wisconsin was about $137,000 per year, last I checked.  By contrast, I make about $38,000 per year.  Somewhere in that extra $99,000 that you make, are you sure you couldn’t find some money to fund the state recovery which you seem to hold so dear?  As you have been duly elected by the voters of Wisconsin, you will receive that salary as a pension for the rest of your life.  I don’t mean to cut too deeply into your lifestyle, but are you sure you couldn’t live off $128,000 per year so that you could have the same 7% salary reduction you are asking certain other public employees to take?

2.  Regarding teachers being overpaid and underworked. I don’t really have many questions in this regard, but I do have a couple of statements.  If you haven’t already figured it out, I am a teacher, so you may examine my statement for bias as you see fit.  I admit I find it somewhat suspect that teachers are mentioned so prominently in your rhetoric; those protesting at the Capitol are indeed teachers.  But they are also students, and nurses, and prison guards, and plumbers, and firefighters, and a variety of other professions.  If you could go back to “public sector employees,” I would appreciate it.  But as far as being overpaid and underworked . . . I grant you, I have a week’s vacation around Christmas.  I have a week off for Spring Break.  I have about 10 weeks off for summer.  With sick days and personal days and national holidays and the like, I work about 8.5 months out of every year.  So perhaps I am underworked.  But before you take that as a given, a couple of points in my own defense.

  • The average full-time worker puts in 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year, with two weeks’ vacation time.  That makes for a grand total of 2000 hours per year.  Part of the teachers’ arguments regarding their time is that no one sees how many hours they work at home to grade papers, or create lesson plans, or things of that nature.  I am in a rare state, in that I am not one of those teachers.  I work an hour from where I live, and I like to keep my work at work.  I, therefore, do not bring work home with me, but rather stay at school, or come in early, so that I can grade papers or create lesson plans while at school.  So I am more prepared than most to explain the hours it takes to do my job.  I also supervise an extra-curricular activity (as many teachers do), in that I serve as the Drama Coach for my school.  The school year, so far, has lasted for 24 weeks.  I have, in that time, averaged 78 hours per week either going to school, being at school, or coming home from school.  If you remove my commute, of course, I still average 68 hours per week, thus far.  That means I have put in 1,632 hours of work time this year, which works out to over 80% of what your average full time worker does in a calendar year.  If you include my commute, I’m over 90%.  If ikeep going at my current pace, I will work 2,720 hours this school year (or 3,120 hours if you include my commute).  That means I work 136% to 156% as much as your average hourly worker.
  • As to underpaid — I’m not sure I am underpaid in general, though I do believe I am underpaid in terms of the educational level expected to do my job.  I have two Bachelor’s Degrees, and will be beginning work toward my Master’s this summer.  By comparison, sir, you never completed college, and yet, as previously stated, you outearn me by almost $100,000 per year.  Perhaps that is an argument that I made the wrong career choice.  But it is perhaps an argument that we need to discuss whether you and others like you are overpaid, and not whether teachers are.

3.  Regarding the notion that teachers that are protesting, or legislators currently in Illinois, are hurting the state. Very briefly, if I may:

  • Teachers have been accused of shirking their duties by protesting for what they believe to be their rights instead of being in school.  The argument has been, of course, that no lessons have been taught when classes aren’t in session.  I must submit that lessons in protest, in exercise of the First Amendment right to peaceable assembly, in getting involved as a citizen in political affairs, have been taught these past few days.  The fact that they haven’t been taught in the classroom is irrelevant.  Ultimately a very strong duty of the school system is to help students become citizens — I think that has clearly happened this week.
  • As to the legislators, it seems to me as though they feel their constituents deserve to have a length of time to examine the proposed bill on its merits, not vote it straight up or down three days after it was presented.  As the current budget does not expire until June, this seems to me like the only response left them in light of your decision to fast-track the bill without discussion.  Give them another option, and perhaps they will come back.  I can’t say that I agree with their decision, but I can say that I understand it.

4.  Regarding the notion that protestors at the Capitol are rabble-rousers and/or thugs. Such name-calling on the part of conservatives in the state and the conservative media could be severely curtailed if you would speak out against it.  True, most of the people protesting, if not all, are liberals.  Historically, liberals have always tended to think that they have far more support than they actually do.  They also (in my opinion) have a tendency to get extremely organized about three months too late, if at all.  So you can fault them for their decision-making, but I would ask you to speak out against the notion of thuggery.  Again, very briefly:

  • So far, 12 arrests have been made.  Estimates say there were about 25,000 people at the Capitol today, and about 20,000 yesterday.  Let’s be conservative (mathematically) and say that 40,000 people protested over two days.  That would mean that officers arrested .0003% of all protestors.  By almost any definition, that is an extremely peaceful demonstration, and of course you are aware that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of peaceable assembly for a redress of grievances.  So in the main, these people have done nothing wrong.

5.  If I may provide you with a sense of history. You work in the largest and most magnificiently appointed state capitol in the nation, built by Bob LaFollette (a Republican).  You work in the same building where Phil LaFollette (a Republican) helped guide Wisconsin out of the Great Depression.  You work in the same building where Gaylord Nelson (a Democrat) was the first in the nation to offer rights to unions of state employees, rights that you now seek to overturn.  And you work in the same building where Tommy Thompson (a Republican) provided more state funding to education than any other governor before or since.  Are your current actions truly how you would choose to be remembered?

6.  Finally, Governor, a note of thanks.  Whatever the outcome of the next several days, you deserve a certain degree of credit.  As an educator, I understand how difficult it can be to get young people interested in politics.  You have managed to do this in the space of one week.  A number of Wisconsin’s youth support you.  A number of them do not.  But whatever else can be said of you, you have them paying attention, and thinking about voting, and walking around the Capitol, and turning out to be involved.  You have taught your own lessons this week, Governor, and that has its own value.

Thank you for your time,

Eric Brehm

XXX North XXXXXX Street

Endeavor, WI  53930

While I recognize that the governor has many issues on his plate, I should note that I am still waiting for a response.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Mother Jones, and Positively Persistent Teach.


What trains? An insult to fascists . . .

February 25, 2011

XKCD cartoon on difficulty of dealing with fascists in jurisdictions where Godwin's Law applies

XKCD cartoon on difficulty of dealing with fascists in jurisdictions where Godwin's Law applies

Earlier today I stumbled on this claim that Godwin’s Law has been suspended:

3. Godwin’s Law

Made obsolete by the Neocons.
Thanks to the Neocons, Godwin’s law is now obsolete.

And then Jim made me smile with this one, in comments down below that really need to be lifted up a bit to higher visibility:

The Anarcho-Libertarianism advocated by the Tea Party and much of the modern GOP is far, far more dangerous. You see, say what you will about the Fascists…but they make the trains run on time. Under the Anarcho-Libertarians, there either ARE no trains…or they operate when and where the privatized rail companies please…and without such pesky intrusions or encumbrances like safety checks. Who needs safe tracks anyway? Let the buyer beware, right? Sure…the market will solve everything. If one trainload of passengers (or toxic waste) derails…not to worry! The free market fairies will sprinkle their magic free market dust all over the wreckage and next time…it won’t happen. Probably. Maybe. Well…what do you expect? We can’t have gub’mint involved, can we?

And of course, the screaming irony here behind trains and fascism and anarcho-conservatism and Scott Walker is that he queered the deal on high speed rail to begin with. Who needs thousands of new jobs in this humming economy?

Yeah, I know. I am all over the place on this one. But I really do agree with you. Equating Governor Walker with a stupid and evil form of governance like fascism is just plain wrong.

And an insult to fascists.

Of course, Leo Strauss’s reductio ad hitlerum does not mean that, anyone’s noting that an idea’s having been shared by Hitler does not make it bad, also does not make the idea good.

Yeah, I tracked the cartoon down — it is, indeed, from XKCD.


Interesting parent/teacher conference coming in Wisconsin

February 24, 2011

What do you want to bet Wisconsin Gov. David “Ahab” Walker will skip the conference with his son’s teacher next time?

(From the Wisconsin Democratic Party)

The woman, Leah Gustafson,  is very brave.  This is the sort of thing that invites local retaliation by administrators, without even consulting with the governor’s office.  Let’s hope her district’s administrators have a clear understanding of the law, and will back her right to state her views.

Heck, let’s hope they agree with her views.  If they don’t, they should get out of the business.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Michael A. Ryder.


Did Kennedy say it? Why is it on the minds of thinking people from Tehran to Madison?

February 21, 2011

Banner of Kennedy quote, Pueblo, Colorado, by Wavy1

Banner photographed by Wavy1 in Pueblo, Colorado, featuring quote from President John F. Kennedy

Stuck away from my library, I can’t confirm that John Kennedy actually said it, only that he is reputed to have said it:

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

[March 13, 1962, White House reception for Latin American diplomatic corps,
on the first anniversary of the Alliance for Progress]

The ruling families of Libya and Wisconsin pledge to fight to hold on to power, splitting their nations if necessary rather than concede to democratic forces.

Was Kennedy right?

(What did he really say, where and when?)

Photo of banner from Pueblo, Colorado, by Wavy1.


Lorrie Otto, environmental warrior

June 9, 2010

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel carries the news that Lorrie Otto has died.

When DDT spraying killed birds and bats in her yard, Lorrie Otto went to work to stop the destruction.  Otto won.  Someone should step up to take her place, in each of the things she did.

‘Nature Lady’ Otto helped lead DDT fight

Lorrie Otto leads Natural Landscape Tour in Milwaukee - Journal-Sentinel photo by Michael Sears

Caption from the Journal-Sentinel: Lorrie Otto (left) leads the "Natural Landscape Tour" along the banks of Lake Michigan in the 9700 block of N. Lake Drive. A video crew from NBC News photographed the event for a segment. Journal-Sentinel photo by Michael Sears

She began with natural yards, progressed to national causes

By Amy Rabideau Silvers of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: June 2, 2010

Lorrie Otto understood that it wasn’t nice to mess with Mother Nature.

And so the woman known as “the Nature Lady” planted her Bayside yard with native species and wildflowers – fighting for the right to keep her land natural and teaching others how to do the same. She rose to become an environmental warrior, a leader in the battle to ban DDT in Wisconsin and then nationally.

She shared her vision that average people could make a difference by eliminating the standard lawn for more ecological alternatives. The well-manicured lawn was not, she said, a healthy green space.

“They look like golf courses,” Otto once said, then corrected herself. “They look like cemeteries.”

Otto died of natural causes Saturday in Bellingham, Wash., where she moved in 2008 to be near her daughter. She was 90.

Otto served as a founder and leader with groups including Citizens Natural Resources Association of Wisconsin, the Riveredge Nature Center and Wild Ones. She became a nationally recognized naturalist and speaker, called “the godmother of natural landscaping.” Media credits include everything from Martha Stewart Living to “NBC Nightly News.”

“In recent years, a New Yorker article credited her and Rachel Carson for leading the movement,” said daughter Tricia Otto, referring to the author of the famous book “Silent Spring.”

Lorrie Otto, Milwaukee environmental activist, in 1999 - Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal photo

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel photo: Lorrie Otto, shown in 1999, kept a lively prairie garden.

Otto was named to the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame in 1999. The Schlitz Audubon Center’s annual natural yards tour is named in her honor.

“If suburbia were landscaped with meadows, prairies, thickets or forests, or combinations of these, then the water would sparkle, fish would be good to eat again, birds would sing and human spirits would soar,” Otto said.

She was born Mary Lorraine Stoeber, taking the name Lorrie after marriage. She grew up on a family dairy farm in Middleton and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

During World War II, she saw an advertisement for the Women Airforce Service Pilots – what the ad called the “Cream of the Crop” – her daughter said.

“You had to be college-educated and have a pilot’s license,” Tricia said. “She went to the local airport and, with her own money, became a pilot.”

WASP pilots were civilians and the first women to fly American military planes. Just before she graduated, the war was coming to an end and the program quickly disbanded. She married her high school sweetheart, Owen Otto, and they settled in Bayside about 1952.

For Otto, the battles for natural landscaping and against DDT began in her own yard.

The former farm girl planted the family’s yard in a natural way, mostly to create “an enchanting place for my children to play.”

Soon Otto was confronting what she called “the lawn police” in Bayside. One day, a crew arrived and mowed part of her yard. She fought back, proving that her yard might look wild but that it did not contain weeds.

“She was so passionate,” Tricia said. “She would appear in court as an expert witness to defend someone whose yard was being persecuted.”

In the late 1950s, she learned of plans to develop the Fairy Chasm woodland area in her area. “She finally triumphed in 1969, when the Nature Conservancy purchased Fairy Chasm,” according to a copyrighted article by the National Wildlife Federation.

Those were also the days of routine DDT spraying, first to kill mosquitoes and then to kill the beetles destroying elm trees.

“Robins would go into convulsions. . . . I’d see the dead robins near the road,” she told The Milwaukee Journal in 1992. “Red bats would be dangling dead in the rosebushes.”

“She carried big bushel baskets of dead robins into village hall,” Tricia said. The official response ranged from indifferent to angry. “They said, ‘What do you want, lady, birds or trees?’ ”

Otto took the fight to the state level, finally deciding to sue. She contacted the Environmental Defense Fund, a fledgling out-of-state group that won a national reputation for action in Wisconsin. In 1970, Wisconsin banned the use of DDT. The federal ban was approved in 1972.

“She invited scientists from all over the country to her house, and they worked on the paper to present to Congress to get the ban on DDT,” said Dorothy Boyer, a friend and president of the Milwaukee North chapter of Wild Ones. “She had scientists sleeping in sleeping bags in her living room.”

Years later, she was still making new friends and encouraging others. One younger couple, Susannah and Lon Roesselet, began their own natural landscaping in Bayside a few years ago.

“One day the doorbell rang and this little white-haired woman was there, saying, ‘Hello, my name is Lorrie Otto,’ ” Susannah Roesselet said. “We knew about her. She stepped in and became our mentor. Our entire yard is now natural; she is everywhere. She’ll be missed, but she left her mark.”

When Otto finally had to leave her own home, she moved to Washington state to live with her daughter on a hundred acres of natural land.

“She was just having a ball,” Tricia said. “Living here, she said, you could believe the world was happy and whole.”

And Otto made plans for her own last plot of land, delighted to find a green burial cemetery and planting flowers on what would be her own grave. She will be buried without benefit of embalming or chemicals, returning to the earth she loved.

Otto is also survived by her sister, Betty Larson.

A Wisconsin gathering is being planned by friends.


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