Thomas Paine


Edmund Burke

I am going to go off my usual environmental topic for this post.  Things were very crazy in Madison last week,


What is happening in the Wisconsin State Capitol is related to environment in that it does involve our same newly- elected state government that has named a developer as the head of the Department of Natural Resources.

Does this seem like assigning the fox to guard the hen house?

This past week (as everyone who reads a paper or watches the news knows) Governor Walker announced he was going to push through a “Budget Repair Bill” that would effectively eliminate the ability of state employees to collectively bargain.  He also set in place changes in compensation that seemed like a kick in the gut to state employees.

Also buried in the bill, the Governor  gives himself the power to change state health care assistance to the needy without due process.  Perhaps he wants to increase medical aid to the state’s poor.

At first people seemed to focus on the sudden loss of income, but they quickly realized there was a lot more at stake.  Collective bargaining is a hard-won right, and having it taken away without any chance to negotiate has raised great ire.  State workers have agreed to all his financial terms, but Walker still will not budge unless he can kill collective bargaining — which seems to be his real goal

I’ve been in the crowds at the Capitol.  I’ve been very impressed by the determined but peaceful bearing of everyone around me.

I’ve also been very disappointed in the general media coverage.  A great deal of hype was generated over the expected arrival of the tea partiers Saturday.  I even feared violence.  But very few of the TPs showed up, and their part in the demonstration was underwhelming.  They stood around for a few hours Saturday and were gone again.  Their numbers have been exaggerated in almost every report I have seen.  It makes me wonder about reports of the TP’s activities elsewhere.    That is a positive note in this messy business.

Walker seems unaffected by the outcry.  Those of you with Republican representatives may be having trouble reaching them.  They seem to be turning off their phones and plugging their ears.  My daughter from LaCrosse was at the Capitol Monday.  She reports, “I visited my(Dem) Rep Jenifer Shillings office and got a lollipop when I signed in. I tried to visit (Rep Senator) Dan Kapanke and was turned back by armed Capitol Police.”

I had to go to Platteville on Monday, but my daughters report that  the crowds are not quite as large as Saturday and Sunday, although very nearly.  The resistance surges on in an amazing outpouring.  Despite terrible freezing rain last night that makes moving about much more trouble than usual.  The firefighters have announced they will spend Monday night.

On a cheerful note, a popular campus pizza outlet called Ian’s has been delivering pizza into the crowds for days to keep up their morale.  It began with Wisconsonites living out of state who can not make it home for this process calling up Ian’s and ordering multiple pizzas to be made and served to rally goers   I think Ian’s may be donating pizzas themselves at this point.  It’s good pizza, and I’m sure it’s fortified many at the rally who must be very cold and hungry by now.

I’m here to report that standing out in the cold or inside in the sweltering and increasingly smelly heat, standing on on tired, aching feet and cheering speakers till you are hoarse is not pleasant.  People aren’t doing it for fun.  Many of the people there aren’t even state employees.  I’m proud of my fellow citizens.  It gives me new hope.

Here are a few links that share the feeling: check out this, this and this.




A short update on Feb. 23:

My daughters were at the Capitol Monday, as was the filming crew from John Stewart’s Daily Show.  While viewing the Madison segment on computer today, I saw both my daughters walk behind the Daily Show reporter.  That unexpected event was worth a smile.   A little levity is appreciated in these dark times.


10 replies

  1. I find these kinds of demonstrations so encouraging, people are finally beginning to wake up and demonstrate what democracy is really all, which is people taking an active part in the decision making of their country. We cannot abdicate responsibility to a few elected leaders anymore. It might slow down the numbers of laws passed but that might not be a bad thing. Great work! May it long continue.

  2. The demonstrations have been very exhiliarating. But they don’t seem to be moving the “powers” that be. They seem confident they can do whatever they want, and I’m not so sure that they aren’t right.

  3. They were elected last fall and have overwhelming control of both branches of the legislature and the governor’s office. There are no legal obstacle to their doing what they will. They are acting out Ayn Rand’s visions in The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. But with somewhat more income redistribution to the rich than perhaps she envisioned. The UW is going to see a major outflux of untenured (and some tenured) faculty and will find it incredibly difficult to recruit new faculty. Wisconsin is going to rapidly become a 3rd world state, down there with Mississippi and Alabama. Frankly, I’m glad that I’m retired and my kids are out of school with good jobs. And now the oil markets are going crazy. We do live in interesting (read: terrifying) times.

    • I can’t dispute anything you say, Dennis. One of my daughters was reading that the 5 states that do not have collective bargaining for their schools are at or near the bottom of the 50 states in SAT and ACT scores.
      I am constantly astonished at the low value many people place on education.

      Frankly I think the very wealthy who are now in the process of buying and controlling the government really don’t care how poorly Americans are educated. They can buy cheaper, well-educated workers elsewhere in the world, so they really don’t want to pay for on American educational infrastructure.
      It seems phenomenally short sighted.

  4. “the very wealthy who are now in the process of buying and controlling the government” — I think that statement captures the whole problem in a nutshell. Though I would add so many of the Republicans are driven also by their narrow, market-driven ideology. But then that has been pushed for many years by the very rich also.

    Have you visited Sharon Astyk’s blog “Casaubon’s Book”? She has a recent posting on the recent redistribution of wealth from the poor to the very rich. It’s worth a look.

    A quick question: once you have the first million (or 100 million) dollars of income, why is it so very very important to get more, to get a billion, and then 10 billion dollars? I don’t get it. Must be a failure of my imagination.

    • total agreement, Dennis.
      I have been in LaCrosse at the Midwest Organic Conference since Thursday, but my daughters were at the Wisconsin State Capitol today. They said it was an even bigger crowd than the one last Saturday! They said it was wonderfully validating. Wonderful speeches and a great sense of communal purpose. In excess of the 70,000 last Saturday!
      I’ll be there tomorrow to put my body and voice in the mix.
      Though a part of my brain believes it is hopeless, my heart won’t give up the fight.

      • Are you going to post a comment on the Midwest Organic Conference? How was it? What in particular did you pick up that was interesting?

      • I learned a TON! I’ve got a lot of great material for posts based on the workshops and keynote addresses. I’m coming home with a couple of rootable twigs of elderberry and a headfull of ideas. But my Tuesday post is going to be about a talk I attended at the UW ARboretum Winter Lecture Series last Thursday morning on what’s happening to Wisconsin’s forests. I had to prepare that ahead of time because Monday-Wednesdays I’m teaching journalism at UW-Platteville this semester and feeling squeezed for time.

    • Thanks, Joanna. That is a perspective that we need to have here. I haven’t been to the Capitol for a few days because I was at the organic farming conference and I am teaching in a small state college west of Madison Mon-Wed. But I will be back there when I get home. And I’ll share your inspiring example.

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