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On Wisconsin

Several readers emailed on Saturday asking why I had not mentioned Japan in Interesting Stuff that day. The destruction from the earthquake, tsunami, nuclear meltdown, etc. is almost unfathomable.

The reports are horrifying and heartbreaking, but I did not write about it because I'm pretty sure none of you have missed that news and there is nothing I can add that is helpful.

In addition to watching the Japan news, I spent a lot of time over the weekend following the protests in Wisconsin. This is my favorite tweet:

”If u live in Wisconsin, don't forget 2 set your clock back 50 yrs this weekend”

As you know, in a dubious legislative move, Governor Scott Walker and Republican state senators defeated three weeks of protests along with unanimous polls showing majority support for collective bargaining rights. He signed the bill busting the public worker unions on Friday.

Having lost, you might think the protesters would pack up their signs and go home. But not these Wisconsin folks. They are serious, dedicated and, I hope, a harbinger of what is to come across the U.S. Here's my favorite protest sign:

image

In what police say was the largest gathering yet in Madison on Saturday, 85,000 to 100,000 people massed in the capitol to cheer the “Wisconsin 14,” the Democratic state senators who fled the state to protest the onerous bill. About 50 farmers drove their tractors to town to join the protesters. There were no arrests according to the Wisconsin State Journal:

"'We had 85,000 to 100,000 people, 50 tractors and a donkey, and it all went well from a police perspective,' said Madison Police spokesman Joel DeSpain, who again thanked people for their peaceful exercise of democracy and their patience.”

Actor Tony Shaloub, whose sister who is a teacher in Wisconsin, was there. Another actor, Susan Sarandon, spoke too. One of the Wisconsin 14, state Senator Chris Larson said,

"'Every step of the way they used the process to shut out the public' [and] people will soon be 'trading in rally signs for clipboards.'”

So many right wingers seem always to have their facts wrong (see this from Michele Bachmann), and a lone supporter of the governor and the bill had this to say at Saturday's rally:

"This is not what democracy looks like," Jacobsen said. "Democracy happens in November."

The man seems not to have heard of “freedom of speech...or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” enshrined in the First Amendment.

Redress in Wisconsin is taking the form of legal challenges to the vote on the bill and of recall petitions for the 16 senators eligible for that process. Governor Walker's turn will not come up until he has been in office for 12 months next January.

In another, very smart, protest move, Wisconsin firefighters along with other consumers, made a show of closing their accounts at the M & I Bank which was a large money supporter of Governor Walker's campaign:

“One by one they closed their accounts and withdrew their life savings, totaling approximately $190,000. After the last customer left, the bank quickly closed its doors, just in case the spontaneous 'Move Your Money' moment caught fire.”

Let's hope that good idea does catch fire all across the U.S.

There have been protests in other states already which the news media is mostly ignoring. Here is a map of states with pending legislation that would restrict collective bargaining or affect unions in other ways.

Union_map

Go here for an interactive version of this map with details about activities in each of the red and yellow states.

Wisconsin's moment of real democracy should be an inspiration, a beacon of light, a wakeup call to every one of us. Just look at them all on Saturday (Photo: Michael Sears).

Madison Crowd

We can honor these remarkable people, who kept at it day after day in the freezing cold, by following up in our own states when the time comes. Michael Moore had it right when he appeared at a Madison rally last week:

"America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It's just that it’s not in your hands. It has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich...

“The only thing that's broke is the moral compass of the rulers. And we aim to fix that compass and steer the ship ourselves from now on."

Returning to the subject of the catastrophe in Japan, here is what one of the supporters of the uber-rich, CNBC's Larry Kudlow, said on television Friday when the disaster did not adversely affect the stock markets as some expected:

“The human toll here,” he declared, “looks to be much worse than the economic toll and we can be grateful for that.”

A slip of the tongue? Perhaps only in the sense that these folks are not usually so honest.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Steve Kemp: Secrecy

Comments

Thank you for this post! Wisconsin has been a wake up call!

Thanks for the details of the Wisconsin situation. It seemed to be ignored in the major media, I couldn't find much at all.

As for that remark CNBC's Larry Kudlow made: Good Lord! Disgusting.

The Japanese disaster seems to grow worse every day, and they need our prayers/compassion.

Love the tweet! Turning the clock back 50 years indeed.

I do not think we'll get restrictions on collective bargaining in California, though the unions will be scapegoated some. But they won the last elections (unions did the work) in a sweep for Dems, so there are some limits.

I had a heartening experience yesterday. I was in a meeting of a community organization and got to listen to low income women, housecleaners and street vendors, argue passionately that their group must support the bus drivers union. Bus drivers are not popular here at the moment. They have the kind of union that doesn't understand it must explain its demands to the public; the drivers themselves do a hard job with poor management and deteriorated buses and sometimes can be impatient with passengers. But these poor women, whose income would probably triple if they could get a job as good as bus driving, were vehemently in support of the union.

I think they come to this in part because they are new immigrants, imports from societies where people understand that solidarity is essential to survival. Wisconsin events are recalling us to that. The generation of WWII knew that; can enough of us relearn it?

"Now You've Pissed Off Grandma!"
Love that sign!! I'm going to make that sign to carry in the next protest march here in Southern California.

And you're right, janinsanfran, it's time we showed the younger generations how to light a firestorm and stir up some rightous protest. I've never forgotten how good it felt to march and carry a great big sign ... and wave it proudly in protest of gross misbehavior of our so-called "leaders". ;-)

You have no idea how heartened I am by these GREAT events in our neighbour down south. Keep at it, gang!
XO
WWW

This Grandma is pissed off, too. I just hope the public keep the momentum going until the next election.

The only reason Arizona isn't red on that map is because the Republicans did away with the unions years ago and we are what is termed a 'right to work' state.

I think the recall petition is a great idea. I would love to recall over half of the Ariz. leggies (courtesy of Molly Ivins) and the stupid gov.

Ronni, I love the Michael Moore quote... When I was a girl being a teacher was considered one of the most wonderful things a person could possibly aspire to...and now teachers seem treated pretty much like lowlifes! I love the Wisconsin 14 and everyone who stands up with them. Great column...thanks for putting it all in perspective. BTW, I "get" your headline..."On Wisconsin" .. so appropriate because it is a "fight song"!

I think Gov Walker et al are trying to break up any group that could positively influence the 2012 elections in favor of the opposing political party. It's not about the state budget. It's dirty politics at the expense of the people who work very hard to support their families and communities.

I remain very interested in the Japan disaster for two reasons. Many of the residents of the rural communities were seniors, and I live right on a fault line. Robert Brady makes some excellent comments today.

Most of the folks in WI are appalled. They can't impeach him until he has been in office for a year, but there are other's they can impeach.

The quote by Larry Kudlow expressed the Republican view of the world better than anyone could. To paraphrase Suze Orman: money first, things second, people third! I wonder if the middle class tea partyers who have been duped by the right-wing line will ever wake up. Don't they realize that all of us ordinary Americans are entirely expendable to the likes of the Koch brothers and their bought-and-paid-for political fellow travelers?

What has happened to Japan is beyond belief and SO incredibly difficult for the many older people in that country. This is one instance where money first could actually do some good.


People on a computer forum were talking about the United States and what efforts we were making to help in the Earthquake disaster in Japan.

Someone scoffed and said,"What good is sending a ship going to do to help these people?"

Well, let's think about that.

"Hmmm, let's see, what would be the ideal ship to send to a disaster, now what kind of ship would we want?

Something with its own inexhuastible power supply?

Something that can produce 900,000 gallons of fresh water a day from sea water?

Something with its own airfield? So that after producing the fresh water, it could help distribute it?

Something with 4 hospitals and many doctors and lots of open space for emergency supplies? A ship with every conceivable piece of medical equipment to be used for any injury or illness.

Something with a global communications facility to make the coordination of disaster relief in the region easier?

It's called an American Aircraft carrier and the USS Ronald Reagan is on it's way to help the Japanese people
right now.

That makes me very proud!

Though we weren't protesting any union busting efforts by the governor and the GOP here in Texas (it's a right to work state) my wife and I joined about 12, 000 other parents, teachers, public education advocates in the state capitol this Saturday to protest the GOP's efforts to balance the budget on the back of our teachers.

The governor, Rick Parry, has been reluctant to use some of the $9.2 billion "rainy day" fund for their budget short fall, thinking somehow such a situation isn't deserving.

While there, many of us were identifying our efforts with those up in Madison and in fact felt strengthened by their efforts over the weekend

Hey, I'm somewhere in that picture of the crowd in Madison. My 20-something son insisted that I attend because he knows I'm passionate about the issues - not just the unions, folks, but an attack on the environment, the schools, libraries, Medicaid, the public pension plan (which in Wisconsin is fully funded and solvent), and many other issues. Lots of people from all walks of life, all ages, and while there were some from out of state, mostly Wisconsinites.

This is what Democracy looks like - governor Walker does not represent the people of this state.

At the same time, we are all concerned about the devastation in Japan.

Carrying Michael Moore's comment further, check out the op ed in today's Washington Post...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-if-were-not-broke/2011/03/11/ABhFE6T_story.html

Thanks for you comments on the Wisconsin situation. The photo up State Street toward the Capitol brought back lots of memories of walking up State a half century ago.

Unfortunately, I couldn't make the trip to join the protesters. But I could make a phone call and help support the cause by ordering a pizza for the demonstrators. I did, and it was a good feeling. I'm glad the fight will go on. Badgers are fierce, and stubborn.

I'm a teacher in Minnesota and went to Madison on Saturday to support my colleagues. What an event!!! Very empowering and the energy, WOW. That's all I can say.

Here in Minnesota Republican law makers are now trying to imitate Republican law makers in Wisconsin. Mn. Repubs want to limit our bargaining rights as teachers. Here is their proposal.

A bill introduced Monday by GOP Sens. Mike Parry of Waseca and Gretchen Hoffman of Vergas would make state, city, county and school district employees pay more into their retirement accounts by cutting the government's share of pension contributions by 3 percent across the board.

Another proposal, which was being debated Monday in the Senate State Government and Innovation Committee, would give Minnesota school boards the right to implement new contracts if they can't reach negotiated agreements with teachers. The bill is sponsored by Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie.

(Information was taken from Kare 11's web site)

Republicans also want to take away our ability to strike. They can dream on. That will never happen.

Our lovely Democratic Gov., Mark Dayton, says, "he isn't playing ball." THANK GOD!!! That's all I have to say.

Republicans are going to bury themselves with their arrogance in 2012.

Well, I am a new member and perhaps I did not realize I had joined a group so politically involved. I am curious about the posts from teachers. I never see the children mentioned. I in no way want to start any kind of online argument so please respect that. I just felt I should be able to have an opinion too.

Here in Missouri, the Republican legislature is set to pass laws making us a Right to Work state. In the fall, the voters supported legislation to regulate the abominable puppy mills rampant in Missouri. Now, the legislature is ready to overturn the November election results which would make breeders operate in humane conditions. Republicans say voters did not understand the legislation. It is unclear whether the Democratic governor would veto this - he is running scared as are all Democrats in Missouri.

My concern with ditching teacher unions and tenure is that it will be a way for employers to get rid of older teachers. They'll say that they are rewarding the more productive teachers but in effect it will give them license to do away with, lay off mature people. To me, this is what this is all about.

If anybody believes that Wisconsin's governor was acting on his own personal agenda, they're dreaming. In her powerful and well researched book "The Shock Doctrine" which she published in 2007, Naomi Klein describes the free market ideology that drives the current Republican campaign to rob poor (and middle class) Americans and give to the rich. It was tax cuts for the rich that put Wisconsin in the red and provoked the attack on jobs and Union rights.

The Wisconsin Movement must spread across the entire country now, before all the wealth (and power) is in the hands of the 2% who already have the lions' share.

Thanks,I love my sign too! I tell them "Grandmas United Can Never Be Defeated". And now let's make it so!
Signed, Grandma

Pissed Off Grandma (POG) = opposite of GOP!

Nancy, is that really you in
the photo???? Fantastic. How nice to hear from you. And just so
you know, there are millions of us out here behind you and every
one of the protesters in Wisconsin and we are hoping that you
have set a precedent for unprecedented (sorry ;-) protests
throughout the country. See Lansing today...

My best to you,
Ronni


Ronni
Bennett
Email:
ronni@ronnibennett.com
Phone: 212.242.0184
Skype:
ronni.bennett
Blog: http://www.timegoesby.net/

Larry Kudlow is the head idiot of cnbc. when he took over as one of the anchors on that media, I stopped listening.

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