One Fine Day

Today's rally at the capitol was both larger and calmer than when we'd attended previously - if there were 80,000 people there two Saturdays ago, there were easily 100,000 there today. We couldn't get any closer to the stage on which the Fab 14 spoke than one quarter turn away across the capitol lawn, and even there the crowd was solid from the outer walls of the capitol building to about 1/3 of the way down Wisconsin Avenue. The crowd on State Street stretched even further.

Today seemed to be about catharsis, or about marshaling one's forces for the fights to come. Two weeks ago, there was a lot of chanting, a lot of anger, a sense from many that the state of Wisconsin was on the verge of a great swindle. Well, since that time, we have indeed been swindled. The Budget Repair Bill was a boondoggle to begin with, and when it passed the state senate in the way that it did -- it's "fiscal elements" stripped, announced and pushed through on the fly to skirt any possible efforts to discuss or publicize what was in the changed bill -- and the first battle on these state grounds was lost due to the treachery and lack of honor of our state Republicans. (When Steps One and Two bring chants of "Shame," you'd think you'd go for a dignity play in Step Three, but these folks have no dignity.) So those that marched today had been badly kicked, but they were not down.

Rather than wallow in anger, we -- my wife and I -- decided to make our signs positive, a heartfelt "Thank You!" to our Fab 14. Walking the capitol and listening to the senators today actually brought me a sense of peace -- a sense that is time to get over the "shock and awe" of the blatant lies, manipulations, and misdeeds of Scott Walker and the Fitzgeralds. It is time instead to get to work: to help fund legal action, where possible, against the contents of this bill; to continue to argue against the proposed 2011-2013 biennial budget; to highlight the under-reported ways the budget and the repair bill will harm Wisconsin workers, families, and students; to dig in on the recall efforts.

Phil Ochs said, "I ain't marching anymore." Today, my state senator, who is also a (fairly recent) alum of the school for which I work, said "Now we trade in our rally signs for clipboards and we take to the streets." Jesse Jackson -- who pronounces the word democracy in a cool Jacksonian way: "democ'zy" -- basically gave us permission to be grouchy and pissy and bummed out until April 4th, but as of Election Day, we need to "Come Alive, April Five." Will do, Rev.

As before, standing in a crowd and thinking of all that is on the line made the day a pretty emotional one. I didn't know I knew the words to "America the Beautiful," but they came through anyway. We couldn't see the Fabs, but we could hear the emotion in their voices, and I really felt -- and continue to feel -- a debt of gratitude for their willingness to sacrifice, to risk petty punishment and derision, to allow the public the opportunity to intervene over the last three weeks. There actions were heroic, and it was strange to hear them thanking us. You have that backwards, Fabs. The most touching moment was one that seemed to come out of nowhere when, while either Lassa or Vinehout was speaking (couldn't see!) about recent challenges, the crowd started chanting "We will win." And we will. We will.

Here are some of the signs, and some of the people, we saw today:

















We returned to two kids we love, who we hope very much will not live long in this era that strips resources from their city, their health, their public school, their future, and their parents. Though they may have had different reasons, they too wanted to march. They too demanded to be heard.



The next photo is not particularly pretty, but it is a photograph taken by a five-year-old of a T-shirt that was screen-printed by some art students at the university for whom I work. I post it only to show what democracy looks like -- it ain't always pretty, folks -- and in the spirit of shared sacrifice.


I take to heart the words of Teddy Kennnedy: "The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on."


All Apologies

I want to take this opportunity to apologize to the taxpayers of Wisconsin on behalf of myself and fellow public employees*. Our Governor has suggested that it is our employer-funded pensions and pretty decent health care, as well as the bargaining rights of some of my fellow employees, that has contributed to the budge mess he has cooked up attempted to fix in his Budget Repair Bill and his proposed 2011-2013 budget. For the last few weeks, in this place and in others, I've opposed his point of view and in fact participated in public demonstrations against him and his policies. It's time, though, that I admit I was just being a typical knee-jerk defensive liberal, and that Governor Walker is exactly right. It's time that I come clean about all I have done to harm our state, our nation, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

In 2005, I accepted a relatively low-paying job with the idea that, if I kept at it for 35 years, I might be able to fund my declining years without taking on low-mobility part-time work in the service sector. I apologize for my short-sightedness. That same year, I married a school teacher and signed up for some of the generous health insurance that her union helped procure. This too was wrong -- I quite literally got in bed with the wrong people. For while my wife was sweet and loving, the WEAC steward was a hasty and demanding lover. Also, my wife had to give him money every month for the services he provided. This might have made my wife feel dirty, were she not so sweet and loving. I now know that having the kind of health coverage that allows you to see the doctor when you have a cold or a broken tibula without a significant co-pay is the kind of wretched excess I should have shunned from the beginning.**

Walker has said that the cuts he's asking for amount to a "modest proposal," only slightly more modest than one suggested by Thomas Paine. Face it, fellow workers, we have this one coming. Just consider the awful things we've done, aside from bargaining our wages for added health and retirement benefits:

-- In the early part of this decade, the unionized janitorial staff from several state buildings met secretly to convince Wall Street bankers to bundle and sell debt, back mortgage-backed derivatives, and aggressively market failing securities, and in the process nearly put Wall Street out of business. Thankfully, the Wall Street banks were -- like the janitors -- too big to fail.

-- Clem Drombowski, a social studies teacher in Rhinelander, WI, spent much of the late 1990's convincing his fellow Americans to buy homes they could not afford in California, Nevada, Florida, and many other places, and forced them all into variable-rate mortgages. This was wrong of Clem, and I hope he comes forward to apologize just as I am.

-- It was a female prison guard in Waupon who, through an eldritch sorcery she did not understand, systematically and steadily lowered the tax-rate on the wealthy throughout the longest period of economic growth this country has ever seen. This was accidental, and has nothing to do with the guard's hatred for the progressive income tax. She'd meant only to conjure a temporary baby-sitter for her two children, but the wiles of magic are not trifling.

--University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh teaching assistant Howard Johnson over-reached when he started a second expensive and unwinnable "forever war" in the Middle East. Johnson, working on a thesis about the films of John Ford, said, "I should have stopped at one. "

--Tachyon displacement caused by the time-stream meddling of Milwaukee tax assessor Big Dave Wiesnewski's steam-powered Wayback Machine led to the aging of a population covered by big government entitlements which now costs the state plenty in Medicare and pension payouts. In my defense, I told Big Dave that one should not play fast and loose with the 4th dimension. Big Dave should have known better, and I should have done more to stop him.

--I must admit one of my own horrid mistakes as well. In 1978, while melting Adam Spangler's Star Wars figures with matches stolen from my father's dresser, I suggested that corporations be granted the same rights as individuals, which led to all kinds of trouble related to campaign finance laws and so-called "527" advocacy groups, and may even figure prominently in our own Governor's rise to power. I shouldn't have said that, and I shouldn't have melted the first-edition Boba Fett figure that would probably now catch Adam a fair price on eBay were it not a charred mass of purple-gray plastic at the bottom of some state landfill.

There are others whose crimes and errors of judgement will come to light in the days to come, but it's important to me, and my civic pride, that I be among the first to say: I'm sorry. I'm so f*cking sorry.***

* Who are also taxpayers, but let's not quibble.

** Thankfully, the "Cadillac Insurance" that WEAC bargained was not sufficient to cover the speech therapy my two children required due to chronic ear infections in their infancy, so I got a little taste of what we should have been facing all along. You see, our luxury insurance policy would only cover such therapy for a "loss of speech," and neither of my boys had speech to begin with, so it could not be covered. The $21,000 bill we are now contesting went some way to convince me how wrong-headed I'd been about the gravy train we're so clearly riding. Mr. Walker's salary reductions also allows me to calculate that the above-mentioned $21,000 bill is equivalent to half of my newly lowered yearly salary, which allows me to save the time I might otherwise have spent working fractions.

*** It would also behoove me to point out that this whole "apology" conceit was flagrantly ripped off from a Facebook post by Dan Brown, and it's exactly this kind of pointy-headed plagiarism that exemplifies just how much I don't deserve good benefits or the protections afforded by collective bargaining. Give it to me rough, Governor. I've been a bad, bad boy.