Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The People's Filibuster

Last night in Texas we saw such impressive courage and conviction, coming not only from shero of day State Senator Wendy Davis, who exhibited extraordinary stamina and determination, but also her colleagues, particularly State Senator Leticia Van de Putte, who left her father's funeral to be at the capitol. When acting Senate President Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst repeatedly ignored Van de Putte while recognizing other senators, she finally queried, "At what point must a female senator raise her hand, or her voice, to be heard over the male colleagues in the room?"

But the real heroes of the evening were the people of Texas, who finished Senator Davis's filibuster with one of their own, raising such a roar that they interrupted the proceedings on the floor. Republicans tried to alter the clock, and the AP even reported that the bill had passed, but in the end Republicans had to concede that the vote had not taken place before midnight, as required.

From Texas blogger, Presbyterian minister, and activist Jim Rigby, who was there last night:
After the Republicans appeared to have won the day and passed a bill that added a horrible burden on poor rural women seeking reproductive healthcare, as soon as it became clear that the Republicans were going to make up the rules as they went along, including a final dirty trick of letting the bill pass after time had expired, it was clear that the women of Texas had had enough. ...

At the time, I could not make out what people were saying, but the men were chanting a refrain and the women were answering. It turns out the chant began with the men asking, "Whose house is it?" and the women responding in deafening thunder, "Our house!" Through the early years of this movement in Texas I always expected to be one of a handful of men at such a gatherings. My eyes filled with tears as I realized those days are over. The women of Texas have found their beautiful angry voice and the men of Texas have their back. We have all begun to realize that reproductive choice isn't just a woman’s issue. It is a human rights issue as basic as any other.
Today I am cheering for Texas State Senators Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte and all the women of Texas and the men who stand with them. Thank you for not letting them shut you down or shut you up.

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Many thanks to You can't have a Tea Party without some Fruitcakes and Nuts for the shutting-that-whole-thing-down meme!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Rainy Days and Crappy State Budgets Always Get Me Down

The absurdity of what passes for a state budget in Wisconsin is really getting to me. I don't think I'll ever be able to eat another bite of kringle again, as the pastry now symbolizes the fat toxins in this horrendous budget.

In his speech about why he was voting against it, State Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) said this about the budget: "Maybe the kringle or the cream puff should be designated the state pastry. But it doesn't belong in the state budget." Neither did all the other non-fiscal stuff Schultz's fellow Republicans included.

From Rebecca Kemble, in the Progressive Magazine:
Joint Finance Committee co-chair state representative John Nygren said he was proud of his colleagues on the committee and of the budget process he and co-chair state senator Alberta Darling oversaw. Under their direction the Republican-stacked committee added nearly 100 non-fiscal policy items, many of which were introduced in the middle of the night on the last day of the body’s deliberations. ...

The seeds of big money and special interest influence planted in the 2010 elections are now bearing fruit. Last year Scott Fitzgerald said, "If you think this budget was scary, wait until the next one!" The "next one" just passed, and it has made the struggle of public school defenders, health care advocates, environmental conservationists and anyone who still believes in the concept of public goods and public investment to maintain a basic level of public services exceedingly more difficult. [Emphasis added!]
How long will it be before the citizens of Wisconsin realize what having twice elected the "goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin" hath wrought? That they and their neighbors are becoming increasingly impoverished? That their public schools no longer have the resources needed to provide their children with a good education and that the private voucher schools that siphon funds away from public schools do even worse? That our natural resources are being decimated and state properties are being sold out from under us? That we're paying more for fewer Wisconsinites to be covered by medical insurance?

Charles Uphoff, who fasted this week to express his deep concern about what this budget would do to education in the state, spotted one of its most bitter ironies:
Many legislators fail to see the irony in a budget that tells a family of four earning $24,000 that they are too wealthy to qualify for medical assistance through Badger Care while a family of four earning $77,000 can get pubic assistance with the cost of sending their children to a private religious voucher school.
It's just as Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca exclaimed, "Mr. Speaker, you and your colleagues are putting extremism before logic."

If it weren't for my singing activist community, I think I would go completely 'round the twist. My deepest gratitude to my friend Ryan Wherley and all the rest for relentlessly singing truth to power. Notice the verse Ryan added: "We shall have a voice, we shall have a voice, we shall have a voice someday...."

Today, we mourn—and sing. Tomorrow we get busy (and keep singing). The goggle-eyed homunculus is not invincible, and neither are his minions in the legislature.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What's So Bad about the Forced Ultrasound Bill?

I came across an interesting comment last week in response to my post about the shameful aborted debate in the Wisconsin State Senate on June 13. The commenter, whom I commend for having gone to the trouble of actually reading the forced ultrasound bill (SB206), asked what was so horrible about it. The perplexed commenter thought it didn't sound all that bad. After all, the more invasive form of the procedure, vaginal ultrasound, was not required, and an exception was included for cases of rape or incest.

Dear perplexed commenter, I'm so glad you asked.

The bill specifies that the technician performing the ultrasound "provide a means for the pregnant woman to visualize any fetal heartbeat." Most abortions are performed in the first trimester of pregnancy, during which time it is usually not possible for a fetal heartbeat to be detected using any means other than a vaginal probe. So essentially the stipulation that a fetal heartbeat be detected and confirmed to the pregnant woman is the same thing as requiring a transvaginal ultrasound.

So the assertion that this bill represents rape by the state is a valid one. Please note the irony of the current state law requiring that the physician certify that the woman is not being coerced into having an abortion, while stipulating that she be forced to have a vaginal ultrasound. Apparently the GOP figures that coercion is bad unless they're the ones doing the coercing.

The exclusion in cases of rape or incest may sound good on paper—until you consider that the vast majority of cases of rape and incest go unreported. Rep. Mandy Wright (D-Wasau) spoke on Thursday about her own experience of having been raped repeatedly by a cousin when she was eight years old. She began by apologizing to her parents for sharing this family secret. "This has been kept private with my family for good reason. It was not reported. There's a reason that only 19 percent of rapes are ever reported." So the rape exception actually applies only to reported rapes, and given that such a small percentage of rapes are reported, it's not much of an exception.

Pregnancy presents substantial difficulties for many women, and there are still medically problematic pregnancies that endanger the life of the woman. Imagine that just being pregnant was posing an immediate danger to your life, and yet, to procure a necessary, life-saving, perfectly legal abortion, you would have to have this unnecessary, invasive procedure in which the technician must "provide a medical description of the ultrasound images including the dimensions of the unborn child and a description of any viewable external features and internal organs of the unborn child; and provide a means for the pregnant woman to visualize any fetal heartbeat." For many women, this would amount to state-mandated torture.

Pregnancy poses significant dangers especially for young adolescents. Imagine a young girl already traumatized by rape, who then becomes pregnant as a result of that rape, and who is further traumatized by having to publicly report her rape. And then she would be traumatized—and violated—yet again by being forced to go through the ultrasound procedure prescribed by this bill. In the words of Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Cross Plains), "what you're doing [by passing this legislation] is cruel, absolutely cruel."

Rep. Sondy Pope. Photo by Leslie Amsterdam 

Rep. Pope spoke on Thursday about her personal experience:
I don't like talking about personal stuff, because it's personal. I went through five pregnancies, and I have one child. My husband and I went to the doctor for my second pregnancy, and ... he said, “Here’s the deal. This baby’s going to be born sooner or later, but you’re not going to have a live child. Now, I can admit you tomorrow morning, and we can get this over with. Or you can wait until nature takes its course. And I’ll give you a few minutes to decide what to do.”

Abortion. We’re talking abortion. That was the procedure that I could choose. Or just walk around like a time bomb waiting for this child that we so desperately wanted, to be born and die. Women don’t want to grow up and have abortions. These are not choices that we like. ...

I'm appalled, just appalled, that you feel your morals, whatever your church dictates to you, has got to play out in my life. That's disgusting. The only amendment that didn't get offered today that should have was that a legislator be in the room. Some places, some decisions do not belong to you. You can’t have them. You just can't. You can't hurt people this way. You aren't immune to it. Someday your daughter, your sister, maybe your wife is going to be faced with something like this, and then maybe I hope you remember this. Because what you're doing is cruel, absolutely cruel.

Another troubling aspect of this "not-so-bad" bill is that it requires that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the doctor's clinic. As Harriet Rowan points out on PRWatch, this is "an onerous provision for clinics located in less-populated areas of this mostly rural state. Opponents see the provision as a blatant attempt to close a Planned Parenthood facility in Appleton, the only abortion clinic in Wisconsin outside of Madison and Milwaukee."

Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) wrote in the Cap Times yesterday:
Women used to die from abortions. Women used to become sterile from abortions. Limiting access to abortion does not end abortion. Instead, it makes it unsafe for women, as it was in the days before Roe v. Wade. Wisconsin is moving so far backward that it's not "if" women are going to start dying, but "when," especially considering Sen. Mary Lazich’s, R-New Berlin, words during the debate on the ultrasound bill: "I think we ought to be doing a lot more. You're probably going to see a lot more laws from me ... this is a small step today." Women of Wisconsin should be alarmed that these direct attacks will continue.

All in all, the forced ultrasound bill is meant not only to discourage women from having abortions, regardless of their circumstances, but to victimize and shame those who seek an abortion, to limit their access to the extent that some will choose dangerous, life-threatening options rather than jump through the hoops prescribed by the GOP.

This bill, dear perplexed commenter, is nothing short of an assault by GOP lawmakers on the women of this state. They seem to think that they know better—better than women, better than their doctors, better than their families—what's best for Wisconsin women. And they believe they have the right to violate women in this most personal of ways to try to influence a private decision that is none of their business.

Lady Forward Grieves

Two short, tumultuous years ago in Wisconsin:

Close-up of the plaque at the base of Lady Forward:

Forward: Wisconsin Women's Memorial of the Columbian Exposition, 1893.
Photo by Ryan Scot Conner

And now we have come to this:

Stop the war on women. Photo by Michael Martin

Lady Forward and her people grieve for Wisconsin.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Forever Forward: Speaking Out Against the Escalating War on Women in Wisconsin

Guest post by Ryan Wherley
After a day that had already seen the silent protest of brave citizens silenced by a Republican cabal intolerant of dissent, I was disappointed that I didn't get a chance to vent my emotions through song on Thursday, June 13th. Following the horrifying and emotionally draining session that resulted in the passage of the forced ultrasound bill for women seeking legal abortions, I couldn't stop shaking and mere words seemed insufficient. Nevertheless, once the gavel dropped and the session was adjourned, I was so infuriated that I made a spontaneous decision to respond to what had just happened—Wisconsin Senate Bill 206.

I stood up and as I was leaving the gallery, I yelled down to the Republicans on the floor that they should all be ashamed of themselves and that they should be especially ashamed for raping the state of Wisconsin and for legislating the state-ordered rape of women in our state. I am not proud that I did it, but I felt that I simply couldn't let them silently leave as if the unconscionable action they just took had never happened, so I didn't.

As I was on my way out of the gallery, I was followed by two of the nine Capitol Police officers who had been closely monitoring my friend Bill and me. They proceeded to follow me down the hallway outside of the gallery and eventually told me I had to leave the building. I knew what they were up to as soon as they followed me, but the attention was unnecessary overkill, since I hadn't disrupted the proceedings and had left the gallery of my own volition. I said I understood them not allowing me back into the gallery but that the rules passed by the Republican Assembly in January said nothing about individuals removed from the gallery being forced to leave the building. I was then called by my first name by Ofc. Bauer (whom I have never introduced myself to but who has seen my name on the citizen blacklist maintained by the Capitol Police) and told that if I chose not to leave, I would be placed under arrest. I opted to leave, casually escorted out of the building by the two officers.

Unfortunately, my personal police escort put the brakes on the melodic outpouring I had planned on unleashing in the nearly deserted Rotunda. Having just witnessed the Repugs appallingly and flippantly legislate away a woman's right to make medical decisions regarding her own body, lord knows I needed the release. As far back as I can remember, singing has always has always been the emotional rock I have clung to when the stormy seas of pain and despair were churning all around me. This night was definitely no exception.

My new job prevents me from attending the Solidarity Sing Along that has come to mean so much to my soul and to my outlook that someday, things will get better, no matter how long it takes. So, I took a page out of Callen Harty's book on Friday, stopped by the Capitol after work and belted out “We Shall Overcome" from the acoustically perfect blue diamond on the floor of the Rotunda. There was barely a person around and likely no legislators, but after what I witnessed Thursday night, singing from that hallowed ground was the only thing that could even remotely rebuild my frayed nerves and demoralized soul. The thought of walking back into that building without crying seemed impossible otherwise.

My lonely song of defiance certainly didn't change a thing. After all, GovernEr Scott Walker recently expressed his unabashed support for the bill while intentionally underscoring the magnitude of its implications, telling AP reporters, "I don't have any problem with ultrasound. I think most most people think ultrasounds are just fine." At some date in the coming weeks, Walker will assuredly be signing SB 206 into law in some back alley of Wisconsin, surrounded by his right-wing extremist sycophants and away from the prying eyes of the women and men appalled by this despicable governmental intrusion.

My song certainly didn't change a thing in Fitzwalkerstan, but it did strengthen my resolve, elevate my spirits and remind me that no matter how bleak and futile things seem, we just have to keep on fighting.

To echo Michael Moore, I refuse to live in a state like this. And I'm not leaving.

Wisconsin is my home and I'm not giving it up quietly. Forever Forward!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

WI GOP to WI Women: Sit Down and Shut Up

Along with many others, I was shocked by what transpired in the Wisconsin State Senate last Wednesday. The clearly unhinged State Senate President Mike Ellis abruptly cut off debate about a very controversial—and not-especially-popular—ultrasound bill that had been introduced on June 4 and had had only one public hearing less than two days later.

Senator Fred Risser (D-Madison), the longest-serving state legislator in the country, said: “I’ve been in the Legislature over 50 years, through different majorities and different minorities, and I have never experienced the abuse of power by the majority party that I experienced today. The arrogance shown by the Republican Majority today is unprecedented.” Given what Sen. Risser has already witnessed from this legislature, that is really saying something.

I was so appalled—not just by what was being done (which was no surprise), but by how it was being done—that I felt compelled to be at the capitol the next day to witness what would happen to the bill in the State Assembly. Before heading up to gallery, I went to the Solidarity Sing Along at noon in the rotunda to bolster my spirits—it always has that effect.

Toward the end of the sing along, I stopped singing and put tape over my mouth to signify having been silenced in the way this bill was being rammed with lightning speed through the legislature. Just putting the tape over my mouth brought me to tears, because it drove home the indignity of being silenced, of being excluded from discussion of this intensely personal issue.

Capitol Police in the west gallery of the Assembly. Photo by Leslie Amsterdam
When I arrived in the south gallery, I saw more than half a dozen capitol police in the west gallery. A couple were in the south gallery as well. Clearly the intent was to intimidate. Then I saw that the spectators with tape over their mouths in the west gallery were being told to remove it. Apparently taped mouths constitute a “public display or demonstration.”

That's me on the left. Photo by Rebecca Kemble
It was maybe 10 minutes or so before a red-jacketed page (who I strongly suspect likes her job) told those of us in the south gallery that we had to take the tape off our mouths or leave. We were handed a small sheet of paper (about 2-1/2 x 4 inches) with type too small for me to read listing the Assembly Gallery Rules. One of my friends wryly pointed out to the page that reading the rules violates the rules, as reading printed materials is prohibited.

Rep. Melissa Sargent
Photo by Leslie Amsterdam
Meanwhile, on the Assembly floor, discussion began about AB216, which prohibits the state health program from covering abortions and allows religious organizations to deny contraception coverage. Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) spoke about a woman who had had eight children and then was told that having another child would endanger her life. So for the sake of her family, and in consultation with them and her physician, and after having sought and received dispensation from the Catholic Church, she procured the contraception that would prevent a life-threatening pregnancy. Under AB216 that woman would not have been able to procure what she needed to protect her life. At the end of her testimony, Rep. Sargent revealed that the woman in the story was her grandmother.

I listened (with glee, I confess) when Rep. Janet Bewley (D-Ashland) said, “I do not see vasectomy anywhere in this legislation. I don’t hear anyone talking about denying a man the right to have that procedure covered. ... I’m not sure why we are so focused on women. ... I’m waiting for the day when we can have your anatomy on trial.”

During this and the often moving testimony of other Democratic legislators, many GOP representatives were talking, milling around, or just absent, as though nothing of any significance was happening. A confab of representatives was huddled next to the Speaker's podium. As a first-time visitor, I found it confusing and chaotic. While minority leader Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) told about a college friend who was raped, Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer, whose job it is to see that decorum is maintained, was laughing and joking around with other legislators. When Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) pointedly asked the Speaker if he was listening, he shrugged, as if to say “What’s the big deal?”

Finally, Rep. Terese Berceau (D-Madison) requested a roll call because, you know, “this is important stuff.” Apparently, it’s not enough for GOP legislators to ram through their anti-woman legislation with lightning speed. They have to do it cavalierly, without even pretending to care how it will affect the women and families of this state. It reminded me of a rape victim being laughed at and dismissed by her rapist. Seriously.

When Rep. Sandy Pasch (D-Shorewood) described the bill’s author as “seriously out of touch with the reality of women,” a small smattering of applause broke out from some of the spectators in the west gallery. This unseemly outburst was quickly stifled by Speaker Kramer with a bigger outburst of his own. Stopping the assembly proceedings so that he could castigate the evildoers, he ordered that an entire row of spectators be removed from the gallery, not just those who had clapped, but everyone in the second row, including Rep. Bewley’s husband.

Sara Andrews being removed from the gallery in handcuffs.
Photo by Leslie Amsterdam
Sara Andrews committed the same unforgivable transgression as Rep. Bewley’s husband. She complied when told to remove the tape, opting then to put her hands over her mouth. She didn’t clap when others did because she knew it was against the rules. But having committed the grave folly of sitting in the second row, she was told she had to leave by the Capitol Police. Feeling she was being unfairly treated, she replied that if they wanted her to leave they would have to arrest her. And they did. I watched in disbelief as she was taken out of the gallery in handcuffs. I started to have that unreal feeling, like I was in a waking nightmare. I think it was at that point that I started shaking.

After two hours of holding my hands over my mouth and crying on and off, I had to leave because I had another commitment. I’m not sure how much more I could have endured in any case. When I left, they hadn’t started talking about AB206, the ultrasound bill. However, since then I have watched videos of what occurred after I left. One of the most moving videos was that of Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Middleton), who described the painful experience of deciding to terminate an unsuccessful pregnancy. She concluded: “Some decisions do not belong to you. You can’t have them. You just can’t. You can’t hurt people this way. ... What you’re doing is cruel, absolutely cruel.”

I’m so proud of the brave fighting women legislators of Wisconsin—Senator Kathleen Vinehout, Representatives Chris Taylor, Melissa Sargent, Sondy Pope, Mandy Wright, to name only a few—and so grateful to them for sharing their painful, personal experiences, especially in front of a legislature that is so obviously unmoved and indifferent. They stood up and spoke on our behalf, for the women and families of Wisconsin, at no small cost to themselves, so that others could see what this bullying legislature and governor are doing to us and the contemptuous way they’re doing it.

Add to that not only the circumvention of all but the most minimal public input, but also the quashing of even the mildest form of public protest imaginable. Our silent objection to being silenced—putting tape over our mouths—was forbidden. Our role has been relegated to that of passive, voiceless recipient. Is it any wonder that many of us feel that GOP legislators are abusing the women and families of this state, not only by forcing those seeking a legal abortion to get an unnecessary and invasive medical procedure, but also by excluding us from the legislative process, even when it concerns us so very personally and directly? Even the state's medical professionals have not had any input. While our voices are silenced, this is the loud and clear message of the Wisconsin GOP to the women of the state: Sit down and shut up!

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Many thanks to Leslie Amsterdam and Rebecca Kemble for their excellent photos!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


The Wisconsin State Senate today passed a bill requiring that Wisconsin women seeking an abortion undergo a medically unnecessary ultrasound procedure, after which the physician must give an account of the number of “unborn children” present, the characteristics, dimensions, and location in the womb. Because, of course, women are too ignorant to know “what they’re carrying in their womb and what they’re doing” unless it's rammed down their throats. Senator Mary Lazich (R) has proclaimed that “it’s time for women to know the facts.” Because how could we possibly “know the facts” about what’s happening in our own bodies without her and her Republican colleagues forcing them on us?

Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D) pointed out that not a single one of the constituents in her district asked for this bill or expressed support for it. She related the concerns of a couple of her constituents, one of whom pointed out that only 16 percent of rapes are reported, that one in six women in the U.S. will at some point in their life experience rape, and that that comes to more than 400,000 Wisconsin women.

Senator Lazich dismissed Sen. Vinehout’s “theatrics” (before proceeding with her own) by pointing out that the bill exempts rape and incest. Does it also exempt unreported rapes? Because those are the rapes Sen. Vinehout was referring to. In case you forgot, that’s 84 percent of rapes.

Here’s how it went down:

For those who don’t have the stomach to watch the video (and believe me, I don’t blame you one bit—watching it over and over again to get all the juicy quotes was truly nauseating), let me describe to you the “very cold, cold procedure and what happened, and the cold environment” in which democracy was dealt yet another death blow in Wisconsin.

Your voice and the voices of many of your legislative representatives were dismissed and discounted. After Senator Lazich’s animated testimony, Democratic senators tried to continue, but they were silenced. Senate President Mike Ellis came completely unhinged and shouted while slamming down his gavel so hard that it broke: “You’re out of order! Sit down! You’re not recognized! The question before the house is nondebatable. Call the roll!”

So that’s how democracy dies in Wisconsin. At least it was with some drama and the perfect symbolism of a broken gavel. And once this bill passes, we will have to live with it “day after day after day after day” for the rest of our lives. The women of Wisconsin will have to “live with this trauma” of having our voices silenced, of having our knowledge and judgment questioned, of having unnecessary medical procedures forced upon us by a legislature that refuses to hear our voices or even consider our concerns. “And it’s time for that to end.”

It’s time for those whom Senator Lazich and Senator Ellis purport to represent to know the facts about how their senators are carrying on in the state capitol in their name and what they’re doing when they reelect these legislative bullies over and over again. “If you have a loved one that’s thinking about” voting Republican, “for crying out loud, you want them to have full information. ... You want them to know what’s going on” in that legislative body and “what they’re doing and that they’re not going to be able to change that for the rest of their life. They make that decision. It’s over. It’s over in a few minutes, and then later on they can live with the fact that" with that one decision in the voting booth, they supported the death of democracy in Wisconsin.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lisa Simpson, Singing Truth to Power

I stumbled across this video on The People's Songs today.

Come gather 'round children,
It's high time you learned,
'Bout a hero named Homer
And a devil named Burns.

We'll march till we drop,
The girls and the fellas,
We'll fight till the death
Or else fold like umbrellas.

So we'll march day and night,
By the big cooling tower,
They have the plant,
But we have the power.

So we'll march day and night,
By the big cooling tower,
They have the plant,
But we have the power.

I don't watch much television, and back when I did, I didn't regularly watch The Simpsons. So maybe the rest of you have known about this awesome song for ages and it's totally old hat. The one small downside to not watching TV is that you occasionally miss out on a gem like this until some kind soul posts it online.

Even so, I have watched enough of The Simpsons to know that Lisa is one awesome rockin' kid. Part of the reason why I hold her in especially high esteem is that when my 8-year-old self was presented with all the band and orchestra instruments I might want to play, I chose the saxophone. I liked its smooth, mellow sound. When I got home and told my mom, she explained that, no, really I wanted to play the violin. My inner Lisa was crushed. But she did not die. She lives on. Alas, she does not play the saxophone, but she does play the guitar.

Lisa Simpson has a heart and she knows how to use it. If she does something, then you know it's okay. It's more than okay. It's great. If Lisa Simpson ran for office, I'd vote for her in a heartbeat. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Matt Groening will receive special rewards in heaven just for having created Lisa.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Outsiders of North Carolina

Like many of you, I have been paying close attention to the weekly actions in Raleigh, North Carolina, known as Moral Mondays. (The link is to their Facebook page. Please go give them a "Like" to express your support.)

Moral Mondays participants in Raleigh are protesting the same ALEC agenda that is plaguing us here in Wisconsin: voter suppression, refusal of federal funds to expand Medicaid in the state, and an onslaught of anti-family, anti-worker, anti-woman, anti-education, anti-democracy legislation, along with a proclivity for plunder and corruption. North Carolina governor Pat McCrory proclaimed this weekend that he wouldn't back down on the ALEC agenda. Just like his pal Walker, McCrory claims that "outsiders are coming in and they're going to try to do to us what they did to Scott Walker in Wisconsin."

So what does it take to be an insider in Wisconsin and North Carolina? Well, naturally, you have to be a $upporter of the governor, regardless of where you're from. So the cash that poured in for the campaigns of both governors from all over the country? That wasn't outside cash, because by definition $upporters are insiders. Whereas you rabble who have the nerve to voice your objections to the ALEC agenda, you are the essence of outsiders, even those of you who were born in the state and have lived there all your lives.

As a Wisconsin outsider, I'd like to take this opportunity to express solidarity with the outsiders of North Carolina for raising their voices, for putting themselves on the line for the sake of justice and democracy, for being willing to be arrested.

Melissa Harris-Perry has this to say to Governor McCrory:
If you thought you had your hands full with "Moral Mondays"—get ready for "Witness Wednesdays." You may want the protesters to go away governor, but they are just getting started. And so are we.
Here is the Madison Song Circle singing "Forward Together," which was written in honor of the Moral Mondays protesters in North Carolina and is sung regularly by the Solidarity Sing Along in the Wisconsin State Capitol.

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Many thanks to Lisa Wells for the photo used for the meme.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Kudos to LeRoy Butler and St. Dunstan's

I'm so jazzed about Leroy Butler coming to speak at St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church (6205 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53705) on June 30 (12:30pm). Mr. Butler is catching a lot of flack just because he congratulated Jason Collins via Twitter on his coming out more than a month ago. This story was on the front page of today's State Journal, "Beloved Packer LeRoy Butler lands amid ugliness of culture wars."

“I’m getting gay-bashed and I’m not even gay,” Butler, 44, said in an interview. “I didn’t know that so many people hated gay people. I knew they didn’t approve of the lifestyle, but to hate them?”

Butler said he’s still getting 10 to 15 hate-filled messages a day. “The f-word, the n-word, you name it, and all I did was congratulate a young man for coming out,” Butler said.
Congratulations to St. Dunstan's for stepping up when another church cancelled Butler's speaking engagement because of his tweeted support for Collins. I rejoice that Christians who are supportive and welcoming of our LGBTQ sisters and brothers are becoming bolder and more outspoken in their support. I'm sick at heart when those who hate in Jesus' name are the de facto spokespersons for the church. Fortunately, that's changing. The progressive church is finding its voice, and it's the voice of love and welcome and inclusion. Hallelujah!

St. Dunstan's has managed to raise about half of Butler's speaking fee. If you'd like to help out, click on the "Donate" button on the St. Dunstan's website.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Vote with Your Pocketbook

Ellis Jones writes a useful little book, The Better World Shopping Guide: Every Dollar Makes a Difference, 4th edition, 2012.  This shows, for many shopping categories, which companies are environmentally responsible and respect workers' rights.

Voting with our pocketbooks in such ways has long been a goal; this book (and website) ferrets out information to make it more possible.  The 4th edition paperback and Kindle data are as of July, 2012.  The website data is dated 2006.

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Madison's Worker's Rights Center and Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice have published a Just Dining Guide for downtown Madison: rating restaurants on worker pay and rights.

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There's a living wage calculator at

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Nobody Important ... Just a Protester

Special guest post by Ryan Wherley
After my job interview Thursday, I decided to walk over to the Capitol to catch the tail-end of the JFC hearing and see how many layers of shit they were spreading across the state. I had an actual suit and tie on so I figured it would be a good opportunity to hob knob with my sleazy, school "choice" lobbyist brethren. The hearing was just clearing out as I reached the 4th floor and saw Republican Senator Luther Olsen approaching.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Wells

Olsen has been an outspoken opponent of Scott Walker's budgetary plan to expand unaccountable, public school-defunding, private school vouchers throughout the state. Currently, the legislature and school "choice" lobbyists are attempting to hammer out an absurd compromise that would expand the voucher program to EVERY school district in the state in exchange for a woefully insufficient increase in public school funding.

The final result of this critically important issue remains yet-to-be decided in the JFC. So as Olsen passed by, I said, “Stand firm on school vouchers, Senator Olsen." He turned and must've asked who said that, because one of his staffers muttered something and then clearly said, "It's nobody important...just a protester." They all turned away and kept walking.

This is the disdain with which the entire bunch of Republican lap dogs and their staffers view the general public. I am NOT a fucking “protester." Do I protest the brazenly jaw dropping injustices that are being thrust upon our state on a daily basis? Absolutely, and I couldn't live with myself if I didn't. I am a citizen of Wisconsin, just like Sen. Olsen and the woman who made the condescendingly dismissive remark, and an extremely concerned one at that. I wasn't protesting anything at the time. In fact, I was giving him encouragement for his first contentious stance in the last 3 years that I can agree with, which just so happens to relate to something I care deeply about: public education.

Photo courtesy of Susan Cohen
However, I am a citizen who cares enough and has the time allowing me to actually show up to actively observe and participate in the process. Also, I'm a citizen who is stereotyped easily enough to be labeled an opponent of the ALEC agenda being rammed through our state by politicians like Olsen. Thus, I should be ignored and anything I say should be discounted as without merit, regardless of the message.

These are public officials elected to serve all the people of our state and act in the public good. His staffer is also a public servant paid with public tax dollars to which I contribute. Yet even when the only thing I have ever said to this man was encouraging him not to waver on standing up for the people of the state instead of the corporate privatizers for once, I am too insignificant for them to respond.

The reality is no surprise at this point but this exchange was indicative of the tenor of daily life in Fitzwalkerstan. In their eyes, I'm not a citizen, merely an unimportant “protester" because I am one of the many who continue to bear witness first-hand to the rise of fascism under Scott Walker's rule. That is their view of anyone who disagrees with the desecration of Wisconsin, even on the miraculous occasion when we agree on an issue. All the suits in the world won't change that.