Friday, December 28, 2007
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Thursday, November 29, 2007
The Puritans, the ultimate Christian Fundamentalists, certainly knew all about this. (Well, they didn’t know about the Coca-Cola angle, as it hadn’t happened yet, but it wouldn’t have surprised them one bit.) That’s why they outlawed keeping Christmas wherever they controlled the local governments, either in England or America. It had almost died out in England until a concerted effort was made in the early 19th century to ressurect it, once the power of the Puritans had long since receded and the ruling Anglicans had got over their fears that bringing back Christmas would lead to the Catholics getting out from being trod underfoot (Catholics in England weren’t quite as lacking in civil rights as were Jews or women, but they weren’t far from it). The repression was even more pronounced in America, particularly in Puritan-founded New England; it wasn’t until 1870 that it was made a public holiday in the US.
I guess the moral here is this: Christmas is what you make of it. Let’s see if we can make it into something good. Oh, and if you ever have the chance to debunk a right-wing e-mail smear being circulated all over the place, grab that chance with both hands.
Monday, November 26, 2007
So where does Santa Claus come in?
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
My priorities are right I believe....we can't have a bureaucracy in City Hall Tower while our basic mission, Protection of the Citizens, is in jeopardy. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't do that...
To be honest, I had no idea if my proposal would be successful. I didn't know how much or how little support it would have...I had some guesses but "open meeting laws" being what they are, I had to be very careful about approaching fellow alderpersons. I think I was as surprised as anybody when it passed 7-3.
That being said, I take no joy in it.
I can't because it's never a joyful moment when you eliminate another person's livelihood.
In all candor, I cannot say that I personally like the person whose job was eliminated but that's not why I took the measures I took. I chose her position for a number of reasons:
First, the City "rules" are that I couldn't add costs (firefighters) to the budget unless I proposed cuts of an equal amount. That's about $120,000 a year.
Second, If I was going to ADD recurring costs, then I'd have DELETE recurring costs. I couldn't take the "easy way" out and just cut out a street project for this year, it had to be a cost that came up year after year, or, maybe a recurring cost and some minor capital costs to get by for this year.
Third, almost all the major planning initiatives have been contracted out. We'll continue doing that.
Fourth, there are no "junior planners", or planning assistants, or just even categorical planners (community development, land use, recreation etc., etc.) ...there is (was) just a "director". It isn't a "department" in any real sense except that the GIS coordinator and Zoning administrator report to the "director" but that's all. And, in truth, the GIS coordinator takes a large part of his input from engineering and rightfully belongs in that department. Building Services (inspection, building permits, etc, ) are also a pretty good "fit" with Zoning Administration.(edited on Thursday for clarity)
Fifth, economic development is the "holy grail" of every public or quasi public organization and in our city, EVERYBODY AND THEIR BROTHER gets a "piece of the action". From the chamber, the mainstreet organization, two city committees, the Mayor's office claims a piece of it and so does the Administrator's office, and a quasi-public organization...they've all got their hands in it....Why did we need a separated City Department?
Given all that, the choice of WHICH department, was easy.....
doing it was hard.
I take no joy in it.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Thursday, November 01, 2007
(sound of crickets chirping)
I remember a few summers ago, standing up on the hill to the west of my house watching the meanest, nastiest-looking, terrifying thunderstorm I've ever seen approach on the horizon. I mean...folks this was a monster....it must have been 20 or 25 miles away and had a huge "tower" or "chimney" in which you could see flashes of lightning, the clouds were so dark black that it was actually frightening......
but there wasn't a breeze in the air. The air was perfectly still and the storm was still too far away for the sound of thunder to reach me. It was eerie....it was literally "the calm before the storm".
So the big meeting is scheduled for Monday night.
And yet....no noise...
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
In short, it was the administrator's rule that no changes could be offered to the budget at these two sessions and at the next session, each alderperson will be given one chance, and one chance only to offer changes to the budget. So last night was Act II of the Administration (and Administrator's ) Kabuki Dance.....
For those of you not familiar with the term (or, more accurately Art Form) here's a short lesson:
Kabuki, like other traditional forms of drama in Japan as well as in other cultures around the world, was (and sometimes still is) performed in full-day programs. Rather than attending a single play for 2–5 hours, as one might do in a modern Western-style theater, one would "escape" from the day-to-day world, devoting a full day to entertainment in the theater district. Though some plays, particularly the historical jidaimono, might go on for an entire day, most plays were shorter and would be arranged, in full or in part, alongside other plays in order to produce a full-day program
and what makes it relevant is:
Nearly every full-length play would be performed in five acts, the first one corresponding to jo, an auspicious and slow opening which introduces the audience to the characters and the plot. The next three acts would correspond to ha, speeding events up, culminating almost always in a great moment of drama or tragedy in the third act and possibly a battle in the second and/or fourth acts. The final act, corresponding to kyu, is almost always very short, providing a quick and satisfying conclusion.
the "quick and satisfying conclusion" is passage of the Administrator's/Administration's budget without change.
How bad is it when the local newspaper and radio don't even show up for a Common Council Meeting?
In addition 4 of the 10 Alderpersons weren't at the meeting last night. I suspect they had good reason...(two were out of town on business if I recall correctly) but still that was an indicator of how seriously these "workshops" are taken.
It was a useless exercise, complete with what I suspect were scripted, or at least transparently supportive, dialogues between Administration apologists and staff members, high praise to staff members from Alderpersons over embarrassingly small "efforts to reduce costs"...all played out for the TV cameras and to set the stage for the inevitable, "You should have asked that last week" charge if anybody dares question the budget at the final act...er...ah....workshop next week.
Is it any wonder why people don't run for local office?
Sunday, October 28, 2007
From my perspective, which is, admittedly, purely personal, the forces of evil won a big one on Friday....and now I have to decide whether to accept it or raise the "ante" and push it to the next level...
Need to calm the mind and think clearly...what's best for the City?
Here's where the good mental health state comes in....here's where I went yesterday...
Wisconsin has built-in relaxing mechanisms.....this one is a good one.....
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
To me the distinction is so obvious that it needs no further explanation but, apparently, I'm wired differently than other folks. So let me...for the umpteenth time...espouse my views on budgets and policy documents.
An unfortunate fact in local government is that everything you do, costs something. It costs either money or effort (manpower) which in itself costs somebody, something. Another unfortunate fact is that money is a finite resource. We in local government get most of our money from taxpayers through the property tax and some of it through "user fees" and still some more through "intergovernmental transfers" , which is a nice term for State or Federal Funds.
Contrary to what some citizens believe, local officials do not (and as far as I know, they never have) looked upon taxes as a bottomless pit. Additionally, for as long as I can remember, the State legislature has imposed levy limits on municipalities to keep them from raising taxes at will and for as much as they needed in order to impose some cock-eyed form of "fiscal responsibility" on municipalities. Truthfully we never needed it. The nature of local politics being what it is, raising taxes was (and still is) moderated by the very real fear that it will trigger the dreaded "taxpayers revolt" which will swiftly remove tax and spend local politicians from office.
So the amount of money available is finite, either through self-discipline or state-imposed mandates and that means that you can't fund everything you want to fund and you have to make choices....and it is those choices that will be a direct reflection of POLICY.
What it amounts to is WHAT DO YOU VALUE MOST?
Where will you put your precious resources?
What programs will you fund and which will you let wither on the vine?
When you "get back to the basics" of funding local government, you come down to the primary mission of City Government...which just happens to be the same that the first, ancient, organized tribes held dear:
Protection of Health, Safety and Welfare of the City (tribe)
That means that the first money always goes to Police Protection, Fire Protection and Street Department...the safety of your citizens depends upon these pillars. These shall be the first to be funded and the absolute last to be cut. It is also important to note that when you start "screwing around" with these services - perhaps by consolidating with another jurisdiction (e.g. Central Dispatch, fire districts, private contracting of snow removal, etc., etc.)- you'd better make DAMNED CERTAIN that service levels are maintained and even if you've thought once, or maybe even twice about any of those actions, you'd better think again before you jump.
Almost everything else we do as municipalities is secondary to these services although I've witnessed some making vague, ambiguous ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT activities either on par with or even more important that the public safety issues. This too is a matter of policy, and, in my opinion, an example of BAD POLICY.
Protecting the WELFARE of the city is in my opinion becoming one of the most overlooked policy aspects in local government budgeting. If we are truly concerned about our communities we need to protect the integrity of our neighborhoods and that means to make sure that the housing is decent, safe and sanitary, that roads and sewers are serviceable and safe and that the neighborhoods have local, easily accessible playgrounds and public facilities appropriate to the neighborhood size and character. A good, sound, CODE ENFORCEMENT program is necessary to implement this along with and equally sound Community Development Plan.
It is also important to note that there is a trend in suburban and small town Park and Recreation Departments to build "mega parks" or consolidated community parks. These are usually large complexes with playground equipment, sometimes even camping facilities but almost always with picnic area and ballparks or soccer fields attached to them. They usually have sanitation facilities attached to them.
The problem with these consolidated parks is that they are difficult to access from neighborhoods and are usually crowded gathering spots. We need to "decentralize" those recreation facilities and provide for more simple, less expansive (not to mention expensive) facilities. Hell...........just a big, vacant field where three or four neighborhood kids can play ball within a couple of blocks of their homes would be good.
So what will you fund?
What is your policy?
There's so much more I could write but I'm not sure there's that much more you could read.\\
Thursday, October 18, 2007
In both instances, the information was provided to the public as well as the Common Council.
But in both instances, the information was wrong.
Now what am I tho think?
Were the public officials who provided this information mistaken? Mistakes do happen. It's not uncommon.
Were the public officials who provided this information incompetent? Dis they not check their data? Did they not know how to analyze the data? That happens too, I suppose
Or, were these public officials acting dishonestly?
Who was to benefit from this? That's what I've got to determine....
I've told my companions that our job is to be skeptical. To refrain from taking anything at face value.....there's good reason to be skeptical, apparently....skeptical indeed.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
After listening to the debate last night, it became clear to me that there is no, single COMPELLING rationale behind building a fire station in the northern part of town, but there is ABUNDANT rationale for doing three very important things as soon as possible:
- Replace the existing fire station in the central part of town...Honestly, the place is a nightmare.
- Hire more firefighters. We've been understaffed for years and we're literally "whistling past the graveyard" pretending the potential for loss of life and disaster don't exist as long as we don't do it. WRONG! We're gambling with the lives of our citizens as well as those dedicated public servants we call firefighters.
- Pass the @#%$#^& SPRINKLER ORDINANCE! Cheeeeeeezzzzzzzzzz......This has been on the agenda since 2002 and we still haven't done anything about it.
Our City is cut almost perfectly in half by some heavily-used railroad tracks. And, truthfully, the greatest potential for HAZMAT disasters rests with what's transported over those tracks. Prior to the construction of the "Boulevard" in our fair City, there were only two access ways from the fire station to the north under those railroad tracks. In those times, there was absolutely no question that a second fire station on the north side of the tracks was required...but it was never built....
After the boulevard was built, the need was less obvious because a new underpass was built and the old one completely rebuilt and modernized with a four-lane road under it, but the momentum to build "north of the tracks" was still there....
It's also, equally true that a great deal of the commercial development and a significant amount of residential development is taking place in the North end....but that is counter balanced by:
- The transportation access to those sites is better than in the Central, East and South.
- The construction is more modern, fire-blocked construction for residential units and perhaps even sprinklered for the commercial development.
- There is less elderly and low-income residential and group homes in that area.
Not to throw some more "crap" in the game.....
In 2011 or 2012 a major US Highway will be four-laned on the City's SOUTH side....there will be "interchanges and exits" in that area immediately south of the City limits. We're hearing rumblings about retail and commercial (fast food) enterprises scrambling for land in that area and we'll see some semblance of growth, both commercial and industrial in the arterial roads leading to that four-lane.
What will our emergency services needs be then?
Deal dealer deal!
The underlying principle of The Shock Doctrine is "disaster capitalism" and Klein does a splendid job of documenting examples of how disasters have lead certain companies and individuals to great wealth and, disturbingly, how "shock doctrine" is used as a means to the ultimate end...personal, individual wealth. I don't want to get distracted by the fascinating and ultimately horrifying effects of disaster capitalism, instead, I want to "riff" on Digby's idea.
And it's a shocker...
Digby believes that the great entrepreneurs of disaster capitalism and, indeed the biggest corporate "shakers and movers" of our modern times are disciples of the late Ayn Rand, and, more specifically, disciples of her "magnum opus", Atlas Shrugged. (indeed....a few right wing blogs are dedicated to Ayn Rand's works, or, claim in their masthead that they were inspired by Atlas Shrugged.)
Take a look at this praise of Atlas Shrugged....and then I'll SHOCK you by telling you who the quote belongs to.
Shortly after “Atlas Shrugged” was published in 1957, Mr. XXXXXXX wrote a letter to The New York Times to counter a critic’s comment that “the book was written out of hate.” Mr. XXXXX wrote: “ ‘Atlas Shrugged’ is a celebration of life and happiness. Justice is unrelenting. Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment. Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should.”
Note the date: 1957
The passionate advocate of Atlas Shrugged and that "Parasites....perish as they should" is none other than the guru of American Capitalism
And, in truth, many modern-day capitalist credit their success to Rand's work, but not so fast....is her work really a celebration of capitalism?
Digby doesn't think so, and neither does Gore Vidal, who says,
For years, Rand’s message was attacked by intellectuals whom her circle labeled “do-gooders,” who argued that individuals should also work in the service of others. Her book was dismissed as an homage to greed. Gore Vidal described its philosophy as “nearly perfect in its immorality.”
Digby coins a new phrase for modern "Randy Conservatives" and I think I agree with her.
They are "...modern manifestations of cruel free-market fundamentalism".
The whole misadventure in Iraq was caused because of the modern neoconservative movement that was documented in the book Iraq, Day One, in which Bremer and his merry band of fundamentalists (both religious and economic) tried to make Iraq into a capitalist Utopia immediately after the invasion.
I'll riff more on this later because the real world is demanding my attention...
(why am I talking on two telephones at once?????)
Monday, October 08, 2007
The council approved first reading of the request last month, when Ward tearfully explained that his barbershop would go under — with most of the 101st Airborne deploying to Iraq — if the council did not approve the request.
“If this (zone change) doesn’t go through, I lose my home, I lose my shop, I lose everything I got,” he said then.
After Thursday’s 5-7 vote was cast, Ward stood and walked steadily toward the council.
“Johnny (Piper), I know I can’t speak,” Ward said over the mayor, who was telling Ward the public comment period had ended.
“Y’all have put me under,” Ward said, pulling out a small silver handgun.
“I’m out of here.”
A gunshot punctuated his sentence, and Ward fell at the feet of those sitting in the first row. He appeared to have pulled the trigger with the gun in his mouth.
What we do. What we say. The decisions we make affect real people in very, very real ways.
I don't think anybody could have done anything about what happened in Clarksville, Tennessee, last week. And, truthfully, not every applicant for rezoning is suicidal....as a matter of fact, this is the only case I've actually seen documented in my 30+ years of public service...but nevertheless..
The sober reminder is to treat all our decisions with dignity and compassion. To understand that in local government, more than any other governmental endeavor, we are directly affecting the lives of our friends, neighbors (and oh yeah, our political adversaries too).
Friday, October 05, 2007
Monday, October 01, 2007
Finally, the truth appears in headlines.....even if they are only headlines in a sub-third-tier liberal blog......but at least the truth will appear somewhere.
In case you don't know what I'm talking about, here's a snippet from Salon.com via Digby:
A powerful group of conservative Christian leaders decided Saturday at a private meeting in Salt Lake City to consider supporting a third-party candidate for president if a pro-choice nominee like Rudy Giuliani wins the Republican nomination.
The meeting of about 50 leaders, including Focus on the Family's
James Dobson, the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins and former
presidential candidate Gary Bauer, who called in by phone, took place at the Grand America Hotel during a gathering of the Council for National Policy, a
powerful shadow group of mostly religious conservatives. James Clymer, the chairman of the U.S. Constitution Party, was also present at the meeting, according to a person familiar with the proceedings."
The conclusion was that if there is a pro-abortion nominee they will consider working with a third party," said the person, who spoke to Salon on the condition of anonymity. The private meeting was not a part of the official CNP schedule, which is itself a closely held secret. "Dobson came in just for this meeting," the person said.
The decision confirms the fears of many Republican Party officials, who have worried that a Giuliani nomination would irrevocably split the GOP in advance of the 2008 general election, given Giuliani's relatively liberal stands on gay unions and abortion, as well as his rocky marital history. The private meeting was held Saturday afternoon, during a lull in the official CNP schedule. Earlier in the day, Vice President Dick Cheney had traveled to Utah to deliver a brief address to the larger CNP gathering. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also addressed the larger group.
The decision has also been reported in an unsigned article by WorldNetDaily, a conservative online news service. "Not only was there a consensus among activists to withhold support for the Republican nominee, there was even discussion about supporting the entry of a new candidate to challenge the frontrunners," the article said. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, WorldNetDaily's editor, Joseph Farah, attended the larger CNP gathering.
Did you catch the significant phrases?
This is a "biggie":The private meeting was not part of the official CNP schedule, which in itself is a closely held secret."
So among the radical religious groups meeting in Salt Lake City, there is an even MORE radical SECRET right-wing religious group that is sending a clear message to the front-runners for the party's nomination: Conform to OUR radical agenda...OR ELSE!
Digby, Firedoglake and a few others have picked up on the story and riffed on the theme upon which I started this post....namely, why isn't the vaunted MSM screaming at the top of their lungs that the radical elements of the Republican party are taking control just like they were screaming about the radical "leftist" MoveOn.org taking control of the Democratic party.
Why aren't they?
Because their true allegiances lie with the Republicans and they would rather have their collective tongues cut out rather than criticize their sources of power...or at least, perceived power.
So the story is really two stories...the blatant power play on the part of the Taliban wing of the religious right and the fact that the MSM won't report it.....
Thursday, September 27, 2007
I heard this tale in India. A hat seller, on waking from a nap under a tree, found that a group of monkeys had taken all his hats to the top of the tree. In exasperation he took off his own hat and flung it to the ground. The monkeys, known for their imitative urge, hurled down the hats, which the hat seller promptly collected.
Half a century later his grandson, also a hat seller, set down his wares under the same tree for a nap. On waking, he was dismayed to discover that monkeys had taken all his hats to the treetop. Then he remembered his grandfather’s story, so he threw his own hat to the ground. But, mysteriously, none of the monkeys threw any hats, and only one monkey came down. It took the hat on the ground firmly in hand, walked up to the hat seller, gave him a slap and said, “You think only you have a grandfather?”
And then....then she DRIVES IT HOME!
"The moral of the story: You want my vote? My phone banking time? My door knocking abilities? My knowledge of my community — and that of every person who reads here or any other online blog or for any other progressive political group? You earn it. Every damn day. "
I'm glad to see this kind of indignation coming through....remember the old rule about playing poker? It goes like this, "If you look around the table at a poker game and can't spot the "rube" (fool, pigeon, target, etc), then YOU'RE the Rube!" We've been the "rube" for far too long. It's about time we started holding these people accountable for our vote.
Christy has some good examples about just how they can "earn our vote, every damned day" and I suggest you read the whole post.
Way to go Christie!
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Friday, September 21, 2007
But you know what?
I don't think the Democratic Office-holders care...
I posted about why I believe that before but now I'm almost completely convinced.
The arrogance of 25 Democrats to ignore the grass roots and vote against MoveOn is unbelieveable....
I'm personally disgusted.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
What amazed me most about the comments is the wide range of perspectives it drew from all of you....and I think...maybe...that's a hint....
The very question, "Why do people vote the way they do?" evokes a galaxy of opionions and even with research from leading political scientists the anwer is still subject to debate.
But the bottom line is still this....the electorate consistantly votes against its own best interest...time and time again....whether they are mislead by the media (as alwayshope suggests) swayed by massive campaign advertising (reform of which melissam talks about) or whether they are following the charisma of the candidate (as Al suggests), the result is still the same....a one-way ticket to hell because of the choice.
Given these proclivities of the electorate, a politician is faced with some interesting choices. He/she can pander to the perceived whims of the electorate and put on the appropriate dog-and-pony show, knowing full well that its all bullshit....but convinced that "the end justifies the means."
He/she can try to "play it straight" and honestly address issues, political and personal, in an earnest and forthright manner and "let the voters decide".
I think the first option is where 90% of us fall....
What do you think?
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Friday, September 14, 2007
- The candidate "confirms" what you already believe.
- The candidate belongs to "your" political party...sort of a short cut to deciding if the candidate is suitable.
- And amazingly, candidates are usually chosen based on LESS not MORE detailed information about the issues. If I knew how to make those words flash I would.
Abstract. The traditional class approach to politics maintains that the working class 'naturally' votes for left-wing parties because they represent its economic interests. Such traditional voting patterns have, however, become less typical, giving rise to the 'Death of Class Debate' in political sociology. Against this background, using data collected in the Netherlands in 1997, this article examines why so many people, working and middle class alike, vote for parties that do not represent their 'real class interests'. Critically elaborating Lipset's work on working-class authoritarianism and Inglehart's on postmaterialism, the article confirms that 'natural' voting complies with the logic of class analysis. 'Unnatural' voting, however, is not driven by economic cues and class. Right-wing working-class voting behaviour is caused by cultural conservatism that stems from limited cultural capital. The pattern of voting for the two small leftist parties in Dutch politics underscores the significance of this cultural explanation: those with limited cultural capital and culturally conservative values vote for the Socialist Party ('Old Left') rather than the Greens ('New Left'). Breaking the traditional monopoly of the one-sided class approach and using a more eclectic and open theoretical approach enables political sociologists once again to appreciate the explanatory power of the class perspective.
This article is cited by:
Thursday, September 13, 2007
The system is broken.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
I'm luckier than most people, I think.
I have family who I actually ENJOY spending time with...I couldn't ask to have married into a better family of good, honest, moral people(not religious, mind you, MORAL...there's a big difference). I enjoy being in the company of people who read; who create; who understand creativity and perspective; who understand philosophical concepts and are capable of seeing those concepts at play in the larger society as a whole; who know the lessons taught to us by the great writers and artists of the past and who can apply them to modernity.
It was great.
Now if somebody could do something about the Illinois Tollway traffic.............
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
The phrase Potemkin Village rings a bell with me and I think I should explain exactly why it does.
Potemkin has been called one of the most influential films of all time, and it was even named the greatest film of all time at the World's Fair at Brussels, Belgium, in 1958.
The most famous scene in the film is the massacre ofsnip
civilians on the Odessa Steps (also known as the Primorsky or Potemkin
Stairs). In this scene, the Tsar's Cossacks in their white summer tunics march down a seemingly endless flight of steps in a rhythmic, machine-like fashion,
slaughtering a crowd, including a young boy, as they attempt to flee. After the
boy falls, his mother picks up his body and yells at the soldiers to stop firing. They do only to shoot her minutes later. Toward the end of the sequence, the soldiers shoot a mother who is pushing a baby in a baby
carriage. As she falls to the ground, dying, she leans against the carriage, nudging it away; it rolls down the steps amidst the fleeing crowd.
The scene is perhaps the best example of Eisenstein's theory on montage, andI was privileged to see "Potemkin" in college in a History of the Motion Pictures class. It was unforgettable. It was made even more remarkable when we understood the state of the technology in 1925 and the imagination of Eisenstein and his willingness to experiment. Who knew that it would become the template for all propaganda films to follow?
may have influenced many of Leni Riefenstahl's similar images in the Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will. It has been endlessly referenced in many motion pictures, with famous homages occurring in Francis Ford Coppola's The
Godfather, Brian De Palma's version of The Untouchables, and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. It was also spoofed in Woody Allen's Bananas and Love and Death, Terry Gilliam's Brazil, and the ZAZ film Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult