Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I have been both encouraged and inspired to pick up writing on this blog again.  If, only for a little while, it allows me to focus my thoughts and develop insights that I might not have otherwise had, then it will be well worth the effort.

Here's something I'm relatively excited about.  For years on the City Council and Plan Commission, we have been struggling with some mistakes of the past in our downtown design scheme.  It suffers from a schizoid desire to have both a pedestrian-friendly downtown core area and yet have a four-lane highway running through it.  Someone once suggested a compromise to the situation by proposing "speed bumps" on the highway to slow down the traffic to which I snarkily suggested that we already have them and they are called "pedestrians".

Anyway, a new consultant looked at the situtation with a new set of eyes and recognized that we could accomplish the pedestrian friendly goal not by going parallel to the main drag, four-lane highway but perpendicular to it with only one major crossing point on the 4-lane.  It works....at least on paper.

You can read the story here
Well,  I'm back again.

It's going to take some getting used to ....again.... I was gone so long this time that I couldn't even find my old, old password....jeeeeshhhh....that's downright embarrassing......

Monday, January 27, 2014

Some really great insights here...wonder when we'll learn...

When I was in a small, northern Wisconsin city I observed that the economically depressed nature of the community was primarily because the place was so remote that the only industry that could actually be attracted to the area involved extraction of minerals....and the high-profit-get-rich-quick nature of that endeavor.

Here is a remarkable piece that puts our consumer-based, extraction for profit mentality in context...Here's the link:


Gandin knows that almost every literate American knows of Melville's Moby Dick and the infamous Captain Ahab.  He also knows that Ahab has been used as a metaphor for damned near everything in the past 100 years or so...but he says there is more to Melville's story:

But what’s really frightening isn’t our Ahabs, the hawks who periodically want to bomb some poor country, be it Vietnam or Afghanistan, back to the Stone Age. The respectable types are the true “terror of our age,” as Noam Chomsky called them collectively nearly 50 years ago. The really scary characters are our soberest politiciansscholarsjournalistsprofessionals and managers, men and women (though mostly men) who imagine themselves as morally serious, and then enable the wars, devastate the planet and rationalize the atrocities. They are a type that has been with us for a long time. More than a century and a half ago, Melville, who had a captain for every face of empire, found their perfect expression — for his moment and ours.

The article is by Greg Gandin and here are some of the rather profound observations he offers us.

In comparing Melville's Ahab with Amasa, Gandin writes

Insurgents like Ahab, however dangerous to the people around them, are not the primary drivers of destruction. They are not the ones who will hunt animals to near extinction — or who are today forcing the world to the brink. Those would be the men who never dissent, who either at the frontlines of extraction or in the corporate backrooms administer the destruction of the planet, day in, day out, inexorably, unsensationally without notice, their actions controlled by an ever greater series of financial abstractions and calculations made in the stock exchanges of New York, London and Shanghai.

And he concludes:

With Ahab, Melville looked to the past, basing his obsessed captain on Lucifer, the fallen angel in revolt against the heavens and associating him with America’s “manifest destiny,” with the nation’s restless drive beyond its borders. With Amasa, Melville glimpsed the future. Drawing on the memoirs of a real captain, he created a new literary archetype, a moral man sure of his righteousness yet unable to link cause to effect, oblivious to the consequences of his actions even as he careens toward catastrophe.
They are still with us, our Amasas. They have knowledge of their duty and are disposed faithfully to follow its dictates, even unto the ends of the Earth.

You should treat yourself to reading the whole article...you'll find that it repulses you with the same intensity that it draws you into it.   You will see the face of our current form of capitalism as you have never seen it.

Back again....

I've been extremely careful about posting here...or, for that matter advertising to anybody that I am posting here because I am in the public eye A LOT and don't want to give my political opponents any more ammunition than necessary to compete with me.  So I've been a bit cautious.

What prompted me to post today was the sight of three consecutive posts on facebook reporting quotes from three conservative Presidential Candidate Wannabes that seemed so far off-the-charts radical that I couldn't believe any serious candidate for national political office would publicly speak such nonsense...nevertheless, there they were, http://www.salon.com/2014/01/27/dim_and_divisive_rand_paul_self_destructs_again/ and here: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/cruz-obama-should-apologize-obamacare-state-of-the-union and here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/01/26/gov-walker-to-gop-avoid-taking-the-bait-on-social-issues/

So I had to stop and evaluate that for a few minutes.  To whom are these guys speaking?  Exactly who...or maybe more precisely, what segment of American Society are they appealing to? 

...and....assuming there is a political market for this kind of crazed rhetoric, what does this say about our county?

No definitive answers at the moment...just questions.

Monday, March 25, 2013


Am I ever stupid!

I saw this happening and never figured it out until now.

Okay, I guess it’s time to explain what I’m talking about.

It’s about Wisconsin’s infamous Act 10 that stripped public employee unions (except protective services) of their bargaining rights and put such stringent restrictions on them that it didn’t pay for them to “recertify” annually like the bill required.  Hence, most public unions simply ceased to exist.

Like almost everybody else, I figured that the proper reaction to Act 10 was to fight the process and when that failed, to take to the courts to undo this injustice.  I always believed that Act 10 was both the ways and the means for the Republican Party and Scott Walker to cut off the Democratic Party’s prime source of campaign finance and to assure the Republicans a free hand in punishing the unions (primarily the teacher’s unions: WEAC and WTA) for voting for Democrats.  As an extra benefit to the Republicans, they used the “savings” to cut aid to local school boards and governments saying that they had the “tools” to make up the difference: by cutting local salaries and staff members.

It was a real “two-fer” as far as Republicans were concerned.

But I just realized that Act 10 wasn't the end of the Republican strategy.  It was just the beginning.

I mentioned a long time ago that I had read Shock Doctrine! BY Naomi Klein.  I was horrified and angered by what she wrote and although, in some circles, Klein's writing have fallen into controversy, I still believe she was on to something.

...and when I stopped to think about Act 10, it dawned on me that it was part of a "shock doctrine" strategy for Wisconsin.

Filling the vacuum of the loss of Unions was a private enterprise that has done some 40+  "Empoyee Compensation Plans"  ...one firm doing that many...the plans have been sold to local communities under the guise of filling the gaps created by Act 10.  Indeed, local units of government have believed that they "have no pay plans" now that all the Union Contracts are null and void (by lack of re-certification of the unions).

The new compensation plans are said to be meeting the requirement that public wages be more in line with private wages. They were all “cookie cutter” in their approach in that the lower skilled positions be “weighted” to 75% private comparables and 25% public comparables because a government agency was more likely to recruit these positions from local sources and therefore from comparably paid private positions; and conversely, the upper level management positions were to be weighted exactly the opposite (25% private sector; 75% public sector) because the government agency was more likely to have to compete on a statewide level for the specialized government management positions.

Those compensation plans all share one rather startling characteristic: All the wages for the so-called lower skilled and former UNION POSITIONS are “overpaid” and the upper level Management Jobs are “underpaid”. Surprise!

Act 10 was the vehicle to enrich private consultants, freeze public employees pay, kill the unions and give the savings to "business"....

An added bonus?  All the Union Salary Scales are now replaced with these new scales.  If the Wisconsin Supreme Court ever overturns Act 10, those new, lower scales will be the starting point for any new negotiations.

Remember Governor Walker's proclamation?  


...paid for by cuts to pay for union workers.

Monday, January 30, 2012

All you need to know about Conservatives....

Are you pissed off about Newt's demand to repeal Child Labor Laws?

Are you confused by Romney's slavish devotion to corporate profits?

Can you simply not grasp the "vision" of America that the Republican Candidates are trying to sell?

Here's something that will set you straight. In plain, 6th grade level English, Naomi Klein wrote the consummate explanation of Conservative Theory in this article published in Harpers in 2004. It tells us all we need to know about what the "perfect" conservative nation would look like....and why it will never happen.



The honey theory of Iraqi reconstruction stems from the most cherished belief of the war's ideological architects: that greed is good.* Not good just for them and their friends but good for humanity, and certainly good for Iraqis. Greed creates profit, which creates growth, which creates jobs and products and services and everything else anyone could possibly need or want. The role of good government, then, is to create the optimal conditions for corporations to pursue their bottomless greed, so that they in turn can meet the needs of the society.* The problem is that governments, even neoconservative governments, rarely get the chance to prove their sacred theory right: despite their enormous ideological advances, even George Bush's Republicans are, in their own minds, perennially sabotaged by meddling Democrats, intractable unions, and alarmist environmentalists.

Iraq was going to change all that. In one place on Earth, the theory would finally be put into practice in its most perfect and uncompromised form. A country of 25 million would not be rebuilt as it was before the war; it would be erased, disappeared. In its place would spring forth a gleaming showroom for laissez-faire economics, a utopia such as the world had never seen. Every policy that liberates multinational corporations to pursue their quest for profit would be put into place: a shrunken state, a flexible workforce, open borders, minimal taxes, no tariffs, no ownership restrictions. The people of Iraq would, of course,have to endure some short-term pain: assets, previously owned by the state, would have to be given up to create new opportunities for growth and investment. Jobs would have to be lost and, as foreign products flooded across the border, local businesses and family farms would, unfortunately, be unable to compete. But to the authors of this plan, these would be small prices to pay for the economic boom that would surely explode once the proper conditions were in place, a boom so powerful the country would practically rebuild itself.

The fact that the boom never came and Iraq continues to tremble under explosions of a very different sort should never be blamed on the absence of a plan. Rather, the blame rests with the plan itself, and the extraordinarily violent ideology upon which it is based.*

* My emphasis has been added.

The truest words...."the blame rests with the plan itself." Indeed. The modern conservative vision of America is the vision of corporate greed; of the perfect union of corporations and the state. It is, in my opinion a hellish, nightmarish vision that I pray never comes to pass.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Some thoughts about that "Republican Clown Car"

Can you believe it?

Hardcore, conservative, dyed-in-the-wool Republican Senator Danforth called the republican presidential candidate field, "...embarrassing, they're terrible, just terrible for the party."

In recent days, more Republican pundits have referred to the Republican candidates transversing Iowa in search of conservative votes as the equivalent of a "clown car". I don't think I've ever seen such a violation of Ronald Reagan's "11th Commandment" (Thou shalt not speak ill of thine fellow Republican") as I have this year.

The phenomenon has puzzled me for a couple of weeks and I'll have to admit I've been absolutely dumbfounded by the inability of the most organized, well-disciplined, well-financed political machine in history to put forth a candidate capable of defeating a badly-wounded Democratic President like Obama. Fortunately, we had a light snowfall last night and instead of pulling out my beast of a snow blower, I took the time to shovel the porch and sidewalk. Fortunate? Well, actually, yes. Because shoveling a light snow allows the mind to wander and, if necessary, to focus on facts that are not immediately apparent otherwise.

So I started thinking about the "clown car" comment. On the surface, it is pretty factual. The candidates jumping into the fray are trying desperately to "out-crazy" one another. They are for the most part trying to "out-conservative" the other guy (or woman, because Bachman is still technically in the race).

Watching these people trip all over themselves to claim the crown of the "real conservative" in the race is like watching a Marx Brothers Comedy. It's so far over-the-top that you've got to believe that it is actually being done more for the laugh track than any serious political objective.

At least twice this year, MSNBC pundit Rachael Maddow has referred to certain Republican Presidential Campaigns as "performance art". She has been one of the few to recognize that this whole process seems more geared to mass entertainment (and distraction maybe?) than any serious attempt to elect a leader of the free world.

It occurred to me that the problem isn't that each of the candidates is clown-car-crazy but the agenda they are desperately trying to embrace is what is really clown-car-crazy. That would also be why no moderate, sensible Republican is in the race. Because in today's Republican Party, it's all about appeasing the Tea Party Crazies who parlayed a national recession and thinly disguised racism into a pseudo-political movement that (in turn) got hijacked by America's Oligarchy for fun and profit. No respectable Republican wants to be a part of this mess.

Let me be clear about this: The clownish, almost buffoonish cast of characters seeking the Republican nomination for the Presidency is not a function of the quality of the candidates available to the Republican Party, but, instead a function of the agenda the Tea Party has forced them embrace. The agenda itself is the clown car. The candidates are just trying to hop on it and ride it to the White House.

It gets even worse. The money needed to get elected is behind the Tea Party and the Republican Party cannot survive without that money so they have to buy into the clown car agenda.

Is there a bright spot?


Maybe in some dark, smokey back room somewhere, some brilliant Republican Strategist has this all mapped out. Maybe the master plan is to allow the Tea Party to pick the candidate for 2012 and to crash and burn so badly that it even wipes out the Republican Majority in the House of Representatives, thereby cleansing the Republican Party of the the stench of the Tea Party in time for the 2016 elections where they can run against a pure, Democratic agenda.....

I can only hope.