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:
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.'”
"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.
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).
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.