Monday, July 18, 2011

Know who has absconded with our democracy

Hi Friends - as earlier reported, I am not able to blog much here in July, and then I will check the weather to see if it makes sense to continue.

However, even in the midst of craziness, I wanted to post again about ALEC - because we all need to know who is taking over our government at the state and federal level. One of the more naive things we could think these days is that our democracy is under threat but continues to function, that it's just a matter of winning an election or two to turn things around. But now elections themselves are tainted (as we know so well here in Wisconsin, starting with Waukesha County) and we can no longer trust results. We have let right-leaning technology companies take over the polling process, exposing our votes to hacking and various ways to program miscounts (see, for example,, or this intriguing article that shows you how to steal an election, .

Meanwhile, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), made up of a very few corporate donors and rightist pro-corporate legislators is writing the legislation that is coming before our state governments all across the country.  I just want to say this: the threat to our democracy is real and profound.  It's why during all the tumult of last winter and early spring, I kept insisting that, while the threat to collective bargaining rights was important, something even more crucial was taking place. If we lose democracy, many other rights will be lost as well.

So, my quick message this morning - to know what's happening, to care, to not give up, to engage beyond party or sector interests but on behalf of the greater common good.  We may not all face the same threats to our well-being, whether public sector union rights or access to public education or clean water or health care, etc. Some of us face various forms of discrimination, unemployment, mortgage defaults, and more. But what we share in common is our claim to the right to democratic participation in a process not rigged by corporations and a rightist party seeking a permanent majority on their behalf. Without enforceable defense and protection of that basic right, we are all in trouble.

Here are links to the two articles that woke me from my blog slumber this morning:

ALEC Exposed, by John Nichols

A Discreet Nonprofit Brings Together Politicians and Corporations to Write 'Model Bills', from ProPublica

Merry reading! But don't get depressed, get focused!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Best government money can buy

Should any of this surprise us at this point? Unlimited donations flooded into the coffers of the Joint Finance Committee while they deliberated on the budget legislation. This was made possible by the recall campaigns. Talk about irony! 

Meanwhile, it appears that our fearless gov received contributions from 10 donors for his gubernatorial campaign that exceeded the legal limit of $10,000. Their names are listed in the JS today. One of them, Ted Nickel, was appointed by Walker to be state insurance commissioner.

Alberta Darling, co-chair of the committee - $30,000 from just one donor.

Well, money decides a lot of things in politics these days. Those of us who don't have much, or any, well, tough luck.  This is nothing new in U.S. politics, of course; but in recent decades, there have been attempts to pass laws to eliminate some of the most egregious imbalances. Our own former Sen. Russ Feingold was one of those stalwart backers of campaign finance reform (and got his reward from the corporate right in his last election campaign). But the Supreme Court has been shredding those laws, claiming that corporate money spent on election campaigns amounts to 'speech' under the Constitution.

That we have come to such a point, when a court of ideologues can say stuff like that with no popular rebellion, is a sad state of affairs indeed. It turns the original motivation of the original Boston Tea Party on its head. But then these guys have made off with that revolutionary brand as well.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The tearing of our fragile social fabric

Hi again - I know, it's been a while. I'm trying to figure out what to do with this blog, but so many outrageous things are going on, it's hard not to vent here. If you get something out of these posts, maybe you could share the link with friends and invite them to visit, and then we'll see.  For now, I will try to post a couple times a week.

What inspired me to break the silence was today's JS headline: "Bus system may cut routes, fares." If you have read it, then you have a sense of the breadth of the cuts coming for public transportation around here. Walker's 10% cut in state support for transit translates into a $6.8 million loss for the Milwaukee County Transit System - per year!

The guy hated county government when he was our woeful executive, and he hates public services for the non-wealthy, as proven in his budget repair bill and his biennium budget. He also seems to hate anything that gets people out of their individual cars to save on energy, environmentally unfriendly and costly road-building, air pollution, and congestion.

But of course the worst thing is that buses are the main way the not-so-wealthy folks get around - like to jobs or schools. But if you are in the company of the Ayn Rand crowd (like Paul Ryan who makes his staff read her vacuous baloney), the descendents of John Birchers (the Koch brothers certainly come to mind), and the corporate bosses who donate to your campaigns and put mediocre thinkers and ideologues into public office, I guess services for those poor dumb masses is just not your priority.

Really, friends, it feels that bad. I can't write that in a serious journal, but I can write it here - because in my heart of hearts, that is what I think is really going on.

My heart sank reading of the mob attack in the Riverwest neighborhood the night of the fireworks (Flynn's comments being distinctly unhelpful). It is so easy to blame the thugs who sent several people to hospitals to get stitches, but if we don't understand what creates that kind of behavior, especially the disdain in which the attackers appeared to hold those they were attacking, if we don't address what is really tearing our social fabric apart, what it means when people like Walker, the Fitzgeralds, and people like Vos or Darling inflict - with an arrogant attitude, mind you - more suffering and marginalization, more hardship, on populations already reeling from stresses both historic and new (esp. since the 2008 criminally caused financial meltdown), then we can look forward to more signs that that social fabric is indeed unraveling.

Poverty and racism cannot be overcome with more poverty and racism.  Really, it's true.

A lot of attention is focused right now on recalls, and that's a fine thing. But let's not leave for later the urgent need to address the attitudes and values that are at the root of these vast inequities, examining them within ourselves and our families, and overcoming them in all our social interactions, in our communities, churches, as a counter-witness to those who believe affluence and privilege, or the power of political offices, or - let's just say it out loud - their white skins, give them a right to enhance their privilege further at the expense of those they do not see as equals and for whom they feel no connection, no responsibility - as if their wealth and privilege is not a direct result of long and deeply-rooted attitudes and injustice.

It's just gotta be said out loud. These people are implementing policies that are going to bring out the worst in us. We have to counter with a commitment to the best in us, an overwhelming assertion of the best in us.