Friday, December 28, 2007

The path ahead

When I was a kid, the "deal" my parents struck with me about extracirricular activities was that I could participate as much as I wanted ...


I had to find my own way home if the activities meant missing the bus.

I walked most of the proud to ask friends for a ride....

I remember that one of the roads I took to get home was straight as an arrow and flat, Florida sand comprised three of the five miles I'd have to walk. I remember coming around the corner and stopping and staring down that road....thinking about the distance I had to a big sigh...and then, just getting on with it....

I just bought my new pocket calendar for 2008 and put the "set" dates into it. I'm looking down that long, long road...


time to "get on with it."

note: I posted about the Bhutto assassination yesterday on this site....give it a read....

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A different Christmas Perspective

I found this interesing and touching from our friend, Hunter, over at DailyKos

It's Christmas Day and, I think, an appropriate time to reflect.....and Hunter does a good job for a MOST unusual way....

snippets follow:

My dog does not know it is Christmas.


The lights strung around a few windows and doorways likewise proved uninteresting. If they made noise, she probably would have noticed, but as simple strings of illumination she found them no more noteworthy than the stars in the sky outside; a simple quirk of wintertime weather, nothing more, to find stars inside the house in strings and rows, and hiding between the branches of a tree.


She does not understand heaven. She knows redemption only by living it; as an abstract concept, it is empty. But she does understand the difference between warm and cold. Outside the frost dusts the fields each night, lasting longer and longer into the morning as winter goes on. But the house is warm, or at least, warm enough for a dog, and that is more than sufficient. The rest of it she does not understand, and as she sleeps on her bed, pretending for the moment to ignore the activity around her, it is clear she does not care.

I invite you to read the whole piece. It says much more about us than it does about Dogs, but being a "dog person" I understand it from this perspective very clearly.

Happy Holidays everybody...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Winding down

The past two weeks have been a particularly busy time for the hizzhoner household....

and no, it wasn't Christmas shopping....(see previous Christmas posts)

Politically things were supposed to be quiet for December. Everybody was supposed to take time off from political skulduggery until after Christmas....but it didn't happen that way and once again, I found myself in the middle of another political fray..actually SEVERAL of them.

What was a bit unusual, is that, for once, I didn't start any of them. They will carry over well into the new year so I'll probably opine about one or more of them on this blog in the near future.

In the meantime, let me share a few things with you....

I heard from alwayshope, a fellow frequent commenter on our favorite all-time blog Last Chance Democracy Cafe' and he left a nice comment on the previous post. alwayshope, please have an enjoyable holiday season with your loved ones and keep those great comments coming. I always (sic) enjoy hearing from you.

The local group of retired Democrats/Progressives/Rabble rousers met for coffee yesterday morning and among our group was Sybylla and Madashell from fame. Sybylla has an absolutely wicked sense of humor and I truly enjoy her company...Madashell has a quiet, sneaky and ...ahem...evil...sense of humor too. It is a lot of fun watching the stauncy, old, good-ole-boy network businessmen get stunned by the conversation at our table....obviously we have much more fun than they do....

Yesterday was, of course, the Winter Solstice so Sybylla invited everybody at the table to join her and her family that night to "dance naked around the bonfire!" You can't even imagine what kind of conversation that spurred around the table! The businessmen must have thought we were nuts.

In the meantime, I've noticed some of my colleagues hustling around getting ready for Christmas and pursuing it with the same enthusiasm that they pursue any other item on their "to do list". Something's gotta give folks...something's gotta give.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

About that looooonnnngggg meeting

I briefly mentioned that I was pretty tired out as a result of a long (and tense) meeting on Monday night...I eneded up with another long one last night...but the Monday night meeting is what I want to talk about.

That meeting was in almost every sense an ambush...a political ambush, but nevertheless it was an ambush. I had heard the "tom-toms" on Friday morning before the meeting but I didn't have any idea what to expect when I walked into the wasn't a straight-forward political challenge, it was the most absurd premise for action I had ever seen. I won't go into the details but it involves some of the worst cases of political favoritism I've witnessed in many, many years.

Now let's get this straight.

I'm not condemning the ambush.

Heavens no..... In my 30+ years of participating in all levels of politics I've participated in(okay, okay, okay,.....I've PLANNED) more than my share of them. I think the only thing I really object to is that it is my preference to be the bushwackER and not the bushwackEE. Having said that, there is the tendency among us old-time politicians to actually congratulate our opponents on a successful gambit and say, "(using my best Jon Stewert voice) WELL PLAYED, Sir"

My objection to the situation is that it shows favoritism to one party that no other member of the public could possibly get and that it rewards bad behavior both administratively and financially.......the technique to get it done was pretty sophisticated but the result was/is pretty unacceptable....

The question is.....what can I do about it?

I need to "go to the mountaintop" to think this through....

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hurry up....and wait

Well, I did the door-to-door thingy to get my nomination papers signed.

It was interesting that this cycle people weren't as mad at the City as the school board and their pending $3MM, am I glad I didn't do that....

Did I mention that it was cold?

The ink in the pens kept freezing up. I had six pens with me (the value of experience, eh?) and kept rotating them to have a workable pen for people to use to sign my papers....

Did I mention that it was cold?

My nostrils froze together after the first hour....

I turned everything in yesterday and, apparently, everything is okay and I'm on the ballot.

Now I just have to wait to see if somebody else will file for my seat....not likely, but possible.

Had a very, very long meeting last night and I was so angry when I go home that I couldn't sleep....still stewing over it.

Did I mention it was cold?

I've got to hurry up and......wait......

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Politics....winding down or starting up

Yesterday was the first day to circulate nomination papers for local offices...City and County in a sense...election season is starting will culminate in the elections on April 1, 2008....April Fool's Day no less....

But at the same time, it' s the holidays and government actions are winding down. With a little luck, tomorrow night will see the passage of the City Budget, unless something extra-ordinary happens it will pass.

Just in case the opposition has a surprise or two for me tomorrow night, I've got my ammunition ready and I've been pacing my favorite spot in front of the picture window (the carpet actually has a worn spot where I pace back-and-forth) trying to figure out every possible tactic, technique and scenario.....(I know, I know, I know....I have NO LIFE!!!!) Anyway....I'm ready for them.

I was thinking last night about the dangers of seeking re-election . No, I'm not talking about having a coronary or a stroke over some bone-headed thing that my colleagues might or might not do. I'm not even thinking about the ever present possibility of being smeared, embarrassed or humiliated by my opponents, or even worse, being humiliated by myself.

Nope. I'm not worried about that.

When I left public service last time, I did a lot of thinking and I found out that I hadn't been quite as good of a public servant as I thought I was. You see, I fell into the trap that awaits politicians who spend large amounts of their life-time in office...especially if that office (or offices) are all in the same town. Pretty soon you start believing that the City can't possibly get along without you; that you are absolutely indispensable to the City and if the public can't see that then they are absolute fools. You start believing your own press releases and that every word you say should be etched into a marble pillar....


I've taken one step that's a saving virtue....I've recognized the trap.

Now I've got to learn to avoid it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I guess I'm not the only one

I found this post by Phoenix Woman (my favorite 'sodie) over a firedoglake. Some interesting insights on Christmas....and a great conclusion

snippets to follow:

In fact, almost all of the trappings of what we call Christmas — the tree and decorations, the mistletoe, Santa (originally the Horned God or the Lord of Misrule or any number of male Pagan fertility gods), the holly and the ivy — are all lifted from Pagan Yule traditions. Yes, folks, that little tree that graces this post is Pagan through and through! Just about the one thing that isn’t lifted straight from pre-Christian traditions is Santa’s red suit — and that comes to us courtesy not of the church, but from the Coca-Cola corporation, which made sure in the 1930s that his raiment was dyed not just any old shade of red, but Coca-Cola red.

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.

The link goes back to Wikipedia, which is amply foot-noted and contains a few gems of knowledge like this:

The identification of the birth date of Christ did not at first inspire feasting or celebration. Tertullian does not mention it as a major feast day in the Church of Roman Africa. In 245, the theologian Origen denounced the idea of celebrating Christ's birthday "as if he were a king pharaoh." He contended that only sinners, not saints, celebrated their birthdays[3].


During the Reformation, some Protestants condemned Christmas celebration as "trappings of popery" and the "rags of the Beast". The Roman Catholic Church responded by promoting the festival in an even more religiously oriented form. Following the Parliamentary victory over King Charles I during the English Civil War, England's Puritan rulers banned Christmas, in 1647. Pro-Christmas rioting broke out in several cities, and for several weeks Canterbury was controlled by the rioters, who decorated doorways with holly and shouted royalist slogans.[9] The Restoration of 1660 ended the ban, but many of the Nonconformist clergy still disapproved of Christmas celebrations, using Puritan arguments.
Hmmmm.....curious ....curious indeed....
It is noted earlier in "Wiki" that according to legend and prophecy, the birth of the Messiah was supposed to be the same date as his death which was placed around March 15. So combining it with other religious holidays around December 25 seems to be a certain man-made device.

But back to Phoenix Woman's post....she puts it in an interesting perspective...


So, then, what is the meaning of Christmas? Not really sure what it is now, other than as the chief means by which US retailers stay afloat. Originally, it wasn’t about Christ at all. And nowadays, among the wingnuts, it’s not really about Christ at all either, except when He can be used as a means to score points off of Democrats, the college-educated, or anyone else they don’t like.
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.


"...Christmas is what you make of it..."

So I can be depressed if I want to....I can disdain the commercialism if I want to...I can decorate my home...or not...if I want to.. because....CHRISTMAS IS WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT.

I'll have to think about that for a while....

Monday, November 26, 2007

It's Christmas time, Charlie Brown.....

You know....sometimes I actually do feel like Charlie Brown.

I remember his deep concerns over "the true meaning of Christmas" and his troubled looks over Snoopy decorating his dog house with as many lights as he could..

I feel that way most of the season...

I don't understand....

Is the strength of your faith measured by how many inflatable, lighted Christmas decorations you have on your front lawn or the thousands of icicles hanging from your eaves?

Is it a sign of status if you have music playing to pulsating lights across the front of your house?


Are you an atheist if you have only a simple wreath hanging from your front door? If I don't put lights in my window am I less of a Christian than my neighbor?

Where in the synoptic gospels, (Mathew, Mark, Luke and John) did it mention PENGUINS? Penguins in Santa Claus hats forcryingoutloud!!!!

Let's get this straight...Christmas...or, more precisely, December 25... is the day that was decided upon to be the celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth...the son of of the trinity of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost...who would, some thirty years later become a great teacher, prophet and ultimately...according to Christian belief, be unjustly crucified to redeem mankind for its sins...

got that?


So where does Santa Claus come in?

And Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer?

And Frosty the snowman?

The Grinch, the whos' and freekin whoville... where did they come from?

The gifts...more appropriately the elaborate gifts and "shop til you drop"....where did that come from?
Just where in the synoptic gospels (Mathew, Mark, Luke and John) do PENGUINS come in? fercryinoutloud....Penguins in Santa hats!!!!!!

I'll continue to think about this stuff.....No wonder I get depressed around this time of year....

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Things are quiet......too quiet....

Yeah,'s a cliche'....but it's true....

Monday, November 19, 2007

The short version.....

I used to refer to this as The Reader's Digest version, but I haven't done that in a while....

Of course, in my last post, I noted that I have been "successful" in getting my proposal through the Common Council.....


What I think I was REALLY successful at was starting a Class A Sh%tstorm. Although, I wasn't alone...other alderpersons were successful in getting their priorities through...the whole world turned ugly for over a week and remains a bit ugly today...

The Mayor used his veto power on three proposals: My proposal on firefighters/Dir of Planning and Economic Development; elimination of a new industrial park; and combining of city engineer/public works director.

I was caught flat-footed on the veto because I didn't have a clue as to whether my proposal would even get a second for discussion so I hadn't thought out the veto scenario at all.

this is the short version....okay...I'll remind myself...

Anyway his veto held by 4-6 vote (I needed 7 votes to override)..and I stood my ground but still lost. I was urged to resubmit my proposal in a different form...e.g. leave off the firefighters and simply eliminate the department head....but that was not what I wanted to do. That was never the intent of my proposal. My intent was to ADD TWO FIREFIGHTERS! The budget rules were that in order to ADD to the budget, I had to SUBTRACT from the I replaced a recurring personal services expense with a recurring personal service expense. I'm not upset that I didn't do it because my principles were upheld....even if my friends abandoned me in the process, I held onto my beliefs....

Time to put this battle behind me and start focusing on the next....and then the next...

the battles never end you know....

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I take no joy in success

I was successful in my proposal last Monday night to add two fire-fighters and to eliminate the position of Director of Planning and Economic Development.

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

Scrambling and posturing

I've watch with some interest since last friday afternoon the Mayor's radio/tv appearance pushing his agenda....or more than likely trying to be vague enough to please everybody....

then...a flash of emails from the staff ...oopsies...I've got a few changes...

I wonder what is on their collective mind?
I think it's my move.......


We'll see tongiht

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Calm before the storm?

My fellow wizards have been really quiet this week. I expected to be lobbied and politely cajoled over some issue or another but.....



(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 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 was literally "the calm before the storm".

So the big meeting is scheduled for Monday night.

And noise...


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Maddening Kabuki Dance

I finished phase two of the budget "workshops" last night. It lasted only an hour (maybe even less) but afterwards I spent the next three hours RANTING about the process.

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.[13]

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 next week.


Is it any wonder why people don't run for local office?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Mental Health day/Attitude Readjustment

I have a bad, bad, bad attitude right now....

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's where I went yesterday...

Wisconsin has built-in relaxing mechanisms.....this one is a good one.....

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Hierarchy of (local government) Values

I used to pound my head against the wall explaining to lay persons in local government that a budget is not a financial document, instead a budget is a POLICY DOCUMENT. This is an extremely timely document because, even as I write, the State of Wisconsin is finalizing its budget which is something like three months overdue, and, on my paltry little, local level, the battle of the budget began in earnest last night and will continue for two more weeks.

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.\\

More later.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What am I to think?

In the past 36 hours or so, I have been confronted with two separate instances where staff people have provided the Common Council with false or misleading information which was obviously intended to justify the expenditure of some pretty substantial sums of public money.

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?

Qui Bono?

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

About that new firestation.....

I participated in a round-table discussion last night concerning building a new fire station for our fair city....actually, the discussion and budgetary emphasis for the past XX number of years (truthfully, I don't know how long it's been in the works) has been to build a new station in the northern part of the city. There are a lot of advocates of this plan but probably an equal number of detractors.

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:

  1. Replace the existing fire station in the central part of town...Honestly, the place is a nightmare.

  2. 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.

  3. 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:

  1. The transportation access to those sites is better than in the Central, East and South.

  2. The construction is more modern, fire-blocked construction for residential units and perhaps even sprinklered for the commercial development.

  3. 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!


Lots to think about....

I've been following some of the discussions on Naomi Klein's new book, The Shock Doctrine, and I'm finding it darkly interesting. I was struck, however, by this post by our friend Digby concerning the entire concept laid bare by Klein.

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

Alan Greenspan

And, in truth, many modern-day capitalist credit their success to Rand's work, but not so 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

Sober reminder

I think one of my first posts on this blog talked about the nature of public service being a pretty profound undertaking. (Here's the link to that post)From time-to-time I forget about that and take my responsibilities in a more light-hearted (okay, okay, okay...irreverent) fashion. Then....something like this happens.

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 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

Longest Month of my life...

has been the four days I spent in Milwaukee....

honestly...I felt like a hostage to the city as soon as the sun went down...I guess I've been living in rural Wisconsin for so long that I'm simply not accustomed to what is considered normal by big-city dwellers....

I suppose I could get used to it but for now I'll just kick back and pour a glass of wine, take off my shoes, put my feet up and relax.

As some of you know I attended the League of Wisconsin Municipalities Convention in Milwaukee. I usually don't attend but I wanted to see one of our favorite bloggers, Al Arnold, the self-appointed (not begrudgingly) Mayor of Commonsenseville, USA, who was conducting two of the break-out sessions of the convention. His first was based upon his book Moving Mountains and Molehills, Local Politics 101, and the second was on his newest project, Citizens against Apathy. He had some pretty good suggestions that I just might try locally but I'm not sure it's going to get off the ground....I'll give it a shot though.

As far as the rest of the conference was concerned, I picked up some new information...primarily on the the new Open Meeting Law Rulings and also on the Public Records informationn. Also some info on Nuisance properties which may be helpful.


By-and-large, these conventions are not, in my opinion, a wise use of my time....I think I'll just keep corresponding with Al and skip the rest of the convention next time.

One of the most productive things that happened at the convention was a series of conversations with my counterparts in which I laid out my theory that, locally, we are in dire need of fundamental change in the way we do business. I know that it's not in vogue now, but the term, CHANGE OF PARADIGM, comes very quickly to mind. I feel that we are caught in a paradigm which is no longer useful or productive to the people we represent and we need to change course. My colleagues seem to agree and if there is any difference of opinion, then it is only on how quickly we need to change. Do we go for "evolution" or "revolution"? Good questions.

When I came back, however, there were several issues that seem to have grown from small brushfires to major conflagurations.... Here we go again...fight off the alligators but don't forget that the need is to drain the swamp!

Monday, October 01, 2007


( Note: photo lifted shamelessly from Firedoglake)


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 via Digby:

Salon reports:
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" 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

The Anger is getting louder...and louder...

I'm beginning to think that the readers of this blog and myself are NOT alone in our disgust with Democrats who act like Republicans....Christy Hardin Smith over at Firedoglake vents a bit for all of us. She starts off with a Fable....which goes like this:

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

With apologies to Garrison Kellior

In "another life" I attended the live performance of "A Prairie Home Companion" and, as luck would have it, it was their "Spring" show. Garrison did a song which I think was called (appropriately) Another Spring in Minnesota. Most of the lyrics were nondescript except for these words which I found strangely appropriate for well as Spring.

Come, dance with me old friend

This time, I'll hear the music.

As I get a little older, I'm determined that I'll dance with my wife and companion of 30+ years, and, yes, this time I will listen to the music.

And this is the "music"

Gimme your me...I'll do the right thing...


Friday, September 21, 2007

What will it take?

I had coffee this morning with a very, very loyal Democrat who is so pissed off at Congress over the MoveOn fiasco that he swears that they'll never get another dime from him.

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


This is an excerpt from the book I will endlessly write and never publish.

I'm printing it here because it relates to what we've been talking about, namely how elected officials behave once they've been elected.

In my days as a Chief Executive Officer, I prided myself (hubris actually) on being a "man of the people". I proudly proclaimed an open door policy and any citizen that wanted to see me could do so as long as I wasn't already occupied. All were welcome into the "inner sanctum".

The trappings of a small town Mayor are intoxicating. How ego-fulfilling is it to have a councilman bring his out-of-town nephew into to meet you and insist on having your picture taken with the How heady is it to have the local Cub Scouts ask to have their picture taken with you? Pretty neat huh?

As you can see, it was not only good management to meet and talk with citizens, it was good politics as well as a tremendous shot of ego gratification, so it was with a great deal of personal self-satisfaction, that I instructed my secretary to usher into the inner sanctum an elderly lady and her ever-present companion, her dog.

The lady's name was Hazel and she was somewhat of a fixture around town. Everybody recognized her and Spanky. Spanky should have been a Collie. In fact, he looked every bit like a collie with the tan and white long coat and the beautifully shaped collie snout, but fate cruelly mixed Spanky's collie genes with the genes of a basset hound. As a result, Spanky had very, very short legs.

When Hazel came in I offered her a seat and then came around to the front of the desk to talk to her. She was very concerned about the sidewalks on the the streets that she used commonly as routes to the drug store, the grocery store and the Senior Citizens Community Center. Some of them, she said, had large cracks in them or were uneven (because of frost heave I assumed) and Hazel was very afraid she would fall and break a hip. I assured her I would have the Public Works Department look after those sidewalks right away and told her we would like to replace more sidewalks but we also wanted to keep from raising taxes so we were only replacing a few per year.

She thanked me and then said, "You know, I didn't expect you to listen to me because, you know...I didn't vote for you." That took me aback for a second, if only because I wasn't expecting it, but at the same time it flashed back to the memory of election night.

That night, while there was a rowdy celebration going on in my house, I had taken some guest's coats up to the bedroom and was walking down the stairs by myself, for the first time that evening, I was alone when the sobering (literally, I think) thought occurred to me that I wasn't elected Mayor for just the folks celebrating downstairs at the moment, I was elected Mayor FOR ALL the citizens whether they supported me or not.

And that's what I told Hazel. "Hazel, that doesn't matter. I'm your Mayor too." I think she actually blushed.

As she prepared to leave, I figured I had one more chance to endear myself to her. I could play with Spanky. I leaned over and petted him and he responded by jumping up on me and placing his paws just above my belt line so I could pet him. I happily did so.

But soon, I noticed that my hands were covered in something "Gee Hazel, it looks like Spanky got into some oil somewhere, I've got it all over my hands.", I said.

Without hesitation, Hazel replied, "Spankys got the mange."

I've always considered that incident to be a cosmic lesson that unless my motives were pure, I'd be punished....sooner or later, I'd be stricken for my insincerity and hubris. It's a lesson that has served me well over the years although I'll have to admit that I have, from time-to-time, fallen off of the humility wagon.

I sometimes wonder if persons elected to higher offices have ever had the same kind of "grounding" experiences. I wonder if they've been filled with so much cocktail napkin conventional wisdom about how to win campaigns and staying on message that they wouldn't recognize such a moment as an object lesson when it happened.

Too bad.

I think every politician needs a lesson in humility like that....maybe more than once.

note to Al and alwayshope....great responses, I'll address them directly in another post.

In Honor of "Talk Like a Pirate" Day

My Pirate Name is

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

More comments from "A different approach"

I'm so grateful for the great comments I got from my post "A different approach". I didn't respond to all of the comments directly but will, in this post, try to keep the conversation going.

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

Okay....the weekend is over

Time for everybody...



to get the #$%@^& BACK TO WORK!

Even Chief Oshkosh thinks so.....

Friday, September 14, 2007

A different approach?

This morning I had the opportunity to discuss yesterday's post with a good progressive friend....actually a very intelligent progressive friend. He had some very definite opinions about the my concerns in the post and I'll share them with you now.

Generally, we agree with the symptoms....Democratic office holders and party leaders deserting the "grass roots" and going for the "big bucks" of big donors and big corporations... but he goes a step (or two ) farther than I do in the analysis...he proposes that there is an underlying cause for this phenomenom. He believes it's because we (as a party) have become focuses on winning elections as opposed to winning hearts. I told him I'd have to think about that a little bit and I cordially invite you to join this discussion also.

I think I understand what he means by "winning hearts". I think he means that we have to actually stand for something.....we have to represent something....we have to represent something of value to the electorate so that they will vote from the heart as opposed to....

as opposed to ....


Why do people vote the way they do?
There was an interesting analysis of that question in the book What's the Matter with Kansas? but that provided more questions in answers because it was clearly shown that while there has been a conservative "outbreak" in Kansas it is equally clear that voting for conservatives is against the interest of most Kansans. There has to be more to it than are a few attempts (feeble?) to find more satisfying answers:

Here's an eye-opening article by Bill Steigerwald over at Moderate Voice from his interview with the authors of How Voters Decide: Information Processing in Election Campaigns, by Richard Lau and David Redlawsk.

Q: Are voters usually rational when they choose a candidate?

A: Well, that depends on what you mean by “rational.” Can voters give you a reason for why they did what they did? Yes, absolutely. A more formal economic definition of rationality is … to very actively and conscientiously consider the consequences of the different alternatives for your own well-being, however you want to define that, and, in this case, vote for the candidate that maximizes your self-interest, however you want to define that. No. Not very many people do that.

Q: What kinds of information or forms of persuasion are voters most likely to be influenced by?

A: They’re most likely to be influenced by two things. To the extent that they have strong prior political beliefs — whether they’re Democrats or Republicans or liberals or conservatives — they really are going to see things in light of their own backgrounds, which is the nice way to say it, or their own biases, which is the less nice way to say it. If you’re a Republican and Dick Cheney tells you something, you are a lot more likely to believe it than if you are a Democrat — and then you’ll listen to Hillary Clinton. That’s one very big factor. The other factor — which those of us in political science tend to overlook a lot because we often don’t have the evidence — is people that you talk to: your friends, your family, your neighbors. If somebody you trust says, “That Mitt Romney is a real jerk,” then it is going to be hard for you — particularly if you don’t know enough about (Romney) to counter that information or argue against it — to reject that person’s statement.

Interestingly enough, it all boils down to just a few items when it comes to choosing a candidate.
You're more likely to choose a candidate if:

  • 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.
So "winning their hearts" may mean manipulating the message and the issues to fit into what Lau and his associate found about voting may mean fitting the entire campaign into that framework.
There are some good articles on the subject, here, here and here, or, in this abstract of a paper...

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:
Marcel Lubbers

I've got to think about this for a while.....

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The System is broken.....

My progressive friends and I travel in somewhat different circles which intersect, happily, at our belief in the ideals of the old progressive movement and an almost child-like belief that the whole point of electing Democrats and Progressives to public office is to make things better.

But electing Democrats to office...(let's face it, who was and when did you see a "progressive republican?) hasn't worked out quite the way we wanted it to....

For instance, one the federal level.....

We can't even mention the word "impeachment" in front of our Congressman. Our Congressional leadership won't discuss it and marginalizes any Democratic Congressman who dares broach the subject.

Our Senate leadership has "caved in" on ending the war...cutting off funds for the war...or putting any kind of restriction on the Oval Office's misbegotten war.

Both Houses "caved in" on authorizing an increase in domestic surveillance...and then told us it was a "technical mistake".

On the State Level:

"Our" people have supported that ridiculous "right to carry" law....they supported the Republican sponsored "liability limitation" law...and they're backing down on the State-wide smoking ban....It's getting so you can't tell the Democrats from the Republicans anymore.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about:
I've mentioned before that I sometimes have a conversation with a die-hard conservative friend of mine...for the sake of making the conversation more understandable, lets call this conservative friend Slats Grobnik....who is, Mike Royko's old fictional conservative buddy so he might as well be mine too.

Anyway...I was talking to Slats last Tuesday night and he asked me, "Hey...what's wrong with your Democrats?"

Me: "Whaddya mean, wrong?"

Slats: "Well...they're voting just like I don't mean just once or twice but all the time...."

Me: "Oh.....that....well, I'm not very happy about it either."

Slats: "You know if you're going to elect Republicans, you might as well vote for the real thing, instead of a wannabe. That way you'll get the gen-u-wine article."

I don't know what I resented more, the smirk on his face or the fact that he was speaking the truth...and we both knew it. Good thing football season started because it's now acceptable to end every barroom political discussion with, "How 'bout dem packers hey?"

Slats was right because Federal, State or Local, the progressives/ Democrats we elect now betray our wishes with veritable impunity.

We elect these folks on their promised commitments to issues we hold dear: Universal Health Care, Education, Workplace equality, civil rights and on and on and on... And time and again, we're betrayed.....they vote WITH the conservatives...they back down when the going gets tough...they capitulate when the right-wing noise machine fires up. And time-and-again....they get away with it.



Because we....those who did phone banks and doors, gave money, volunteered our time and efforts, don't have any other choice but to vote to re-elect them....Our choice is always between a Dem who sometimes votes the way we elected him or her to vote OR a Republican who will NEVER vote the way we expect them to vote.

These elected types know this....and they know some other things the most important political truth they can understand......and the one that bothers me the most:


Once elected, they become the focus of attention of PACS, lobbyists and corporations who will generously reward them for their favorable votes....the money...the donations they get from us local yokels is chicken feed to them and while they're grateful for it, it's just not as important as a $5,000 check from the NRA or WEAC or WMC or any number of "interested parties". And, of course, once all that money starts flowing into the campaign coffers, then they definitely DON'T need the grassroots anymore. They can hire their own phone bankers, they can hire their own "robo-calls", they can buy mailing lists and do their own direct mail solicitations that used to be done by volunteers going door-to-door. They can (and do ) say: SCREW THE GRASS ROOTS!!!! I've personally heard those exact words from people in party leadership positions and elected officials too.
Oh yeah....and in case you didn't get it....once they don't need you anymore....they don't have to listen to a single word you say.

The system is broken.
The system needs to be "rebooted".....The question is how do we "reboot" it?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I'm back

I was gone for four days....four very enjoyable days...(except for the 12 hour "bug" that got me on Saturday morning)...

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

Because I'm lazy, that's why.....

I'm going to cross post this because...

well, because I'm too damned lazy to clip and paste and edit.....

here's the linky-thing

Oh yeah...neat picture huh?

But personally, I like this one too...from the Japanese Anime'

Sumari Champloo

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

"the Battleship Potemkin"

This story in the Washington Monthly doesn't surprise anybody....even the press is starting to recognize that the visits by "dignitaries" to Iraq are nothing but well-staged dog-and-pony-shows. This article points it out well but puts it in a context that resonates with me and points to a much bigger problem...

first..lets look at a snippet or two from the article about the Dora Market in Baghdad:

....After the delegation left, Maj. Ron Minty , 36, said that the generals had wanted 300 shops open for business by July 1. By the day of the delegation's visit, 303 had opened....Still, the Dora market is a Potemkin village of sorts. The U.S. military hands out $2,500 grants to shop owners to open or improve their businesses. The military has fixed windows and doors and even helped rebuild shops that had burned down, soldiers and others said...."The Americans are giving money, so they're opening up stores," said Falah Hassan Fadhil, 27, who sells cosmetics.

We knew that the markets were "fixed" in the sense that they were show places that received special treatment....even when Lieberman and Senator Lindsey (Huckleberry) Graham visited the market, they had to wear flak jackets and be accompanied by a platoon of Marines...even in a false environment created by the military. But this is beyond what I imagined in my most paranoid dreams.

The phrase Potemkin Village rings a bell with me and I think I should explain exactly why it does.

The Battleship Potemkin (Russian: Броненосец «Потёмкин», Bronenosets Potyomkin), sometimes rendered as The Battleship Potyomkin, is a 1925 silent film directed by Sergei Eisenstein and produced by Mosfilm. It presents a glorified version of the Battleship Potemkin uprising, a real-life event that occurred in 1905 when the crew of a Russian battleship rebelled against their oppressive officers during the Tsarist regime.

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.
Eisenstein wrote the film as a revolutionary propaganda film, but also used it to test his theories of "montage". The revolutionary Soviet filmmakers of the Kuleshov school of film making were experimenting with the effect of film editing on audiences, and Eisenstein attempted to edit the film in such a way as to produce the greatest emotional response, so that the viewer would feel sympathy for the rebellious sailors of the Battleship Potemkin and hatred for their cruel overlords. In the manner of most propaganda, the characterization is simple, so that the audience could clearly see with whom they should sympathize.

Are you beginning to understand why the film is considered so influential? Film makers of the time (1925) were just beginning to understand the power of the new media...this thing called "movies"...and Eisenstein sensed, quite correctly, the power that editing could have in evoking emotions from the audience. In fact, he understood that a story edited with simple images could evoke incredible responses.
The event that the movie was based upon, the uprising of sailors on the Battleship Potemkin, actually happened, but the images Eisenstein created, the sympathetic and lovable leader of the rebellion, the cruel and immoral officers and petty officers, the heart rending funeral of the leader of the rebellion, the bloody and (at that time) terrifying Odessa Steps sequence (which has been copied in thousands of movies in one version or another since 1925)..all those were fabricated to evoke the emotional response that Eisenstein wanted the audience to experience.

But Eisenstein wasn't the only one wanting that response...the Bolsheviks wanted it more than anything to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the uprising and remind the masses of exactly why they had to sacrifice under the new regime.

By now you've guessed my larger point.....

Everything the Bush Administration has presented to us has been a staged "Potemkin Village" event. And I'm not talking just about Iraq has been everything...every speech is properly staged with the appropriate props....and on the "prop" front the Bushites have absolutely no shame...they'll use Soldiers (a favorite of the "War President"), children and also the BUF....which stands for BLACKS UP FRONT,(where the camera can see them) in order to prove that he's "the Civil Rights President".

But it's all a sham.
It's all staged for our uncritical, undemanding, uneducated masses. We're not supposed to question anything we see. We're not supposed to look for substance behind the image...we're only supposed to look at the image.
And emotion.
Today is September 3, 2007. In one week we will be observing the 6th Anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Our emotional strings will be pulled hard and the Bushites will remind us in so many subtle (and some not-so-subtle) of the images, techniques, and ethic of The Battleship Potemkin.

We can safely predict:
The term "hero" will be thrown around cheaply to evoke the same sympathetic images that Eisenstein put forward in Potemkin.

We will see countless replays of the towers collapsing in much the same way that we see the "Odessa Steps Sequence"* in Potemkin.
We will see our wise, sorrowful, and valiant leader offer us words of encouragement.
We'll see false, misleading and deliberate attempts to link Iraq to the fall of the towers and we will hear, once again, the chorus of right wing radio talk hosts, parroting the "We're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here." bullshit.

Finally, we are seeing some in the the Washington Weekly article challenge the Potemkin Village that Bush has created for us.

Maybe....and just Maybe...we'll become a "reality-based" country yet.

*About the "Odessa Steps Sequence". Here is Wiki's excellent description of it:

The most famous scene in the film is the massacre of
civilians on the
Odessa Steps (also known as the Primorsky or Potemkin
). 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
. 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, and
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
, 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
I 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?