Monday, February 28, 2011

Oi gente, é carnaval!

This past Saturday night, rather than freezing my butt off for another few hours at the Capitol, I was instead covering a hot, hot, hot event: Brasilian Carnaval (that's Mardi Gras to y'all) at The Majestic. The Handphibians, A Madison Wisconsin based community percussion ensemble, dedicated to promoting the music and cultural traditions of Brazil and special guests rocked the joint for four and a half hours.


The evening started off with Masamba Dance's Cody Jussel teaching the crowd how to do Samba dance. She got a pretty good chunk of the crowd out on the floor for the lesson, a rare feat.

The Handphibians (DS3_3970)
The Handphibians

Other diversions throughout the night of excellent music included a brief capoeira demonstration ...

Capoeira Demonstration (DS3_4120)

... and of course, Samba dancers wearing little but feathers.

Samba Dancer (DS3_4358)

Some paying gigs are definitely more interesting than others! I love the opportunities such work offers me to work in a crowd, see and hear amazing music and dance, and maybe even have a beer while doing so (though the Majestic is mighty proud of it's beer based on the charged price).

I hope these few pics warmed you up just a bit.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one

Today, Day 14 of the protests in Madison, had a new wrinkle. It seems the Republicans (in power) decided they had had enough of the homegrown democracy that had taken up residence in the Capitol. So they changed the rules to keep We The People out. Today the Capitol building was to be closed - and locked - at 4:00. All protesters were to be rousted.


As you can imagine, We The People were annoyed by that. Fortunately for all involved, this is a PEACEFUL protest.


There was much chanting and yelling, but no throwing of bricks or otherwise abusing the police. I did choose to mention to some out of town cops barring entrance to my seat of government that, "I'm just following orders seldom plays well in history. Abu Graib?" I was not malicious or angry with the officer, just reminding him that he was following orders that prevented peaceful protest in a government building that reflects what is supposed to be the seat of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. He had the grace to look a bit distressed.

Fortunately, the press was around. There were folks from Fox Lies - and the protesters cut them no slack, including me - but also this nice chap from the Washington Times.


As the Fox camera man walked below my vantage point (up on a plinth) I crouched down and said quietly, "Tell the truth." He meebled about how he had no control. I replied, "You choose where you work." He jolted as though I had shocked him. Good. I hope he thinks about the disparity between what he witnesses with his own eyes and ears and what his employer chooses to broadcast. ‘When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.' (Edmund Burke)

As those occupying the Capitol were escorted out - peacefully - they were greated by the crowd outside as rock stars. You can see what a batch of hardened rabble-rousers they are in this photograph.


As has become my habit, there are more photos for you to view in a SLIDE SHOW. Today's photos are up front.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Faces of Protest in Madison


This afternoon I shot for pleasure. My own, and hopefully yours. These are some of the faces in the crowd of 40,000 100,000 or so protesters. The snow made it quite beautiful.



There are more, of course, in a SLIDE SHOW. The show contains more photos than shot this afternoon, but the new ones are up front.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

The Face of the Protest

Yesterday our Governor here in Madison, Wisconsin, was recorded saying that he considered bringing in paid agitators to stir up trouble at the peaceful protest rallies that were occurring. He did not indicate that it was wrong to do so, merely that he did not think it would work.

Ponder that.

Today I offer you a look at the face of the protest. These are the people that Governor Scott Walker thought it would be OK to put at risk by bringing in paid thugs (if only it would work).






91, and looking to kick Walker's butt.

Our Governor considered introducing thugs into this crowd to stir up trouble. He did not decide against it because it was immoral or unethical, but rather, that the wrong political message would be sent ("My only fear would be if there's a ruckus caused is that would scare the public into thinking maybe the governor has to settle to avoid all these problems.").

What a Prince, eh?

UPDATE: Forgot to include the link to the rest of the photos in the SLIDE SHOW.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Game of John Galt

It is getting really tough to know where to go with the coverage of events here in Madison.


Do we go with the fact that our Governor seriously contemplated introducing agents provocateur to start trouble in our otherwise peaceful protest? And that the only reason he did not do so was that he thought it would not work? What sort of a weasel thinks stirring up trouble in a protest with kids (infants even!), moms, dads, grandparents, and police officers is either ethical or wise? That he might be willing to put all of us, protesters and police, in jeopardy to score media points is morally reprehensible.


Do I talk about the broader topic of the corrupting influence of Corporate dollars on politics? The idea that "Citizens United" is law of the land is a joke. I will say this once: Corporations are not people. They are amoral constructs created solely to indemnify the officers of said corporation from being personally liable for misconduct. Without regulation they are the opposite of moral. For my proof I will simply point to the condition of Lake Erie in the late 1960's and early 1970's. That was how large corporations behaved when they were not regulated. They are for profit, and the concept of for the people seldom enters the discussion.


Perhaps it makes more sens to talk about wages, and the trend lines since Reagan took office in 1980. I will not waste time with a link since this information is readily available to anyone willing to look at it. (oh what the hell.) Ordinary worker salaries have remained flat for THIRTY YEARS while executive compensation - those at the top - have shot through the roof. I choose the phrase morally reprehensible once more to describe this situation. Yet, a 3% proposed increase on the taxes of the super rich (whose marginal tax rate is less than their secretary's) is trumpeted as Socialism by our supposedly Liberal media. And here we have a Governor proposing to balance a budget shortfall on the wallets of the flailing middle class. This cannot stand.

Flag In Distress

America is in distress, and Her masses need to wake up and recognize the peril. Once done gutting public labor unions - teachers, librarians, bus drivers, and yes, office workers - the Republicans will not cease. They will then focus their attention on private labor unions - steel workers, plumbers, electricians, and builders of Harley Davidson motorcycles. Once unions are broken, and collective bargaining is a thing of the past, it becomes every man and woman for herself. Once flat wages will fall. Work weeks will creep up (after all, you should be grateful you even have a job). Overtime? Vacation? Workers compensation? Chiseled at and trimmed until a token of what they are. Think I am indulging in hyperbole? A Missouri Republican introduced a bill this year to roll back child labor laws.


The Republicans are playing a game of John Galt here. So if you are prepared to take 100% care of grandma, or your special cousin Tom, then good for you, but I suspect most Americans do not have the time or knowledge to do so. And interestingly, Galt was tortured by the leftists, not by the Good Old Protagonists.

I refuse to play this game of dice with our least able, our elders, our least fortunate. I urge you to think about what Gov. Walker's bill does not what you wish it would do. Read it. Understand it. And contemplate the effects of terminating a third of our teachers; ending programs to care for our mentally ill; driving down wages; driving tuition at our showcase university up by a minimum of 20%. Is that really what we want in Wisconsin? And ultimately, in these United States?

There are more photos in a SLIDE SHOW, with the newest photos up front.

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Who Has Our Back Here At Home?

Take a look at this signboard in the Capitol:


Is your favorite business on there? If yes, thank them. If no, consider asking them where they stand. Engage the owner or manager, politely and respectfully, to determine if they are someone with whom you want to do business.

Money talks.

If small businesses in Madison and around the state think that you might not spend your money in their establishment, it gets their attention. If you are among the first to ask them where they stand, they may not pay attention to your concern. But if TEN people ask, they will notice. If they are undecided, just suggest to them that wage earners spend money, while unemployed or about-to-foreclose people do not. Ask them if things were really so dire in their mind a month ago. If they are leaning towards support, ask them to consider putting a modest sign of support in their window or next ad.

Be aware that there are MANY businesses who have not had a high profile presence who still support the cause of our state workers, so be nice when you ask. Do not assume that no sign means no support. You just want to have them start thinking - really - about their own conscience, and their wallet.

Power to the peaceful!

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Spring is Still Under There

Some were worried that the ice and snow that fell after I posted the photos of my crocus popping up would kill them. I was not worried. Crocus are TOUGH. Plus, they are near the foundation of my house on the southeast corner, so they get the benefit of the warmed concrete.

Spring is Still Under There

As the snow and ice recedes again today, I see they are still doing fine.

Spring is Still Under There

Carry on...spring is.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dateline Madison - Not Over Yet

Day 9 of the People's Revolt against Governor Scott Walker in Madison, WI, is half over. The rallies are smaller as people return to work and their life, but nevertheless, there is a noteworthy presence of peaceful protest. The crowd was much more spread out today, so it was difficult to make a headcount guess, but I will anyway. I estimate 4,000 inside the Capitol, and another 4-6,000 outside.


The real story continues to unfold as We The People read the bill and learn - as Paul Harvey would say - the rest of the story. Among the things in the bill is a section that gives the Gov. the authority to sell off public utilities, for any price deemed appropriate, with no bids required. Can you say an unabashed play to sell state resources at fire sale prices to whichever big corporate interest wants to pillage Wisconsin? And frankly, the Koch brothers have both an interest in WI power plants, and the wherewithal to make a deal like this happen. Even if no buyer is lined up (which I doubt) this is a bad deal for Wisconsin.


Despite false reporting to the contrary, the protest has been non-violent and pretty friendly. People say "Excuse me" when they bump into me while we are jammed in like sardines in the rotunda. If this is what Fox News wants to call "rioting", then I would love to see such riots in Madison every day! Everyone is helping everyone.

Today added a new twist to the protest as focus expanded to include Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, a business group that is often at odds with Liberals in Wisconsin. It is clear from their Legislative Agenda that they support the Governor. At the protest outside the Monona Terrace Convention Center where WMC was having their annual conference, a number of Wisconsin speakers shared their thoughts, including Ben Manski, Andy Heidt, and John Nichols.

John Nichols speaks to the crowd

Nichols had much to say about the breaking news that Gov. Walker took a call from a reporter pretending to be billionaire David Koch (Walker has refused calls from WI Dem Senators and most others since the protests began, so his choice to take this call was...interesting). The transcripts are on YouTube (two videos), and are pretty disgusting for a state that prides itself on clean government. The second contains statements so damning that a criminal investigation seems possible.

We are not done here.

There are more photos in a SLIDE SHOW. The newest images are first, and the set contains photographs back to the start of the rallies. Moving your mouse over the image will bring up controls so you can pause to read some of the signs. At any time you can hit the space bar to stop and start the slide show.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Day Seven - I Think

Today was Day 7 of the assembled mass of protesters at the state Capitol in Madison, WI. Freezing rain and a need to return to real life held numbers down today. There were perhaps 5,000 protesters in evidence when I was there this afternoon. There is much evidence that the protest is not likely to end any time soon.


The message was a bit more focused as well. It is now pretty clear to all concerned that this is not really about a budget shortfall. After all, worker representatives have already agreed to the proposed financial concessions. So the illusion is gone, and it really IS about smashing the power of the labor unions.


Of course, sometimes it IS about the money:


As usual, there are more photos in a SLIDE SHOW. There are photos from prior days as well, but the most recent ones are first.

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Signs of Spring

I simply cannot be 'all protest all the time.' It is not in my nature. I am too happy-go-lucky to stay all bent out of shape just because our state government is making an unprecedented power grab in conjunction with Republicans at the national level. I need spring! Fortunately, spring is arriving right on schedule.


This past week I noted that I have a bunch of shoots on the southeast side of my house. The insolation there jump starts bulb growth. I put them there on purpose: By this time in winter, I need spring. Having early green is a needed treat. In addition to these crocus, there are daffodils and day lilies up. Happy day!

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wisconsin Point:Counterpoint

Democracy requires the hearing of all voices. For most of the week here in Madison, the protest has been the voice of those protesting Gov. Walker's bill. The protest existed, of course, because those voices had NOT been heard, and the Governor's bill seeks to silence those voices pretty effectively by ending the tradition of collective bargaining. Nevertheless, the conservative voices wanted to back their man, and support the proposed bill, and Saturday was their opportunity.

Tea Party Responds To The Protest

There were about 5,000 counter-protesters in support of the Gov. and the bill. They were ringed in by 45,000 protesters circling the square and rallying on the opposite side of the Capitol. In general, things were peaceful. There were some heated conversations, but no altercations and Madison police issued a statement praising the peaceful demonstration.

Tea Party Responds To The Protest

Most of the Tea Party signs focused on the budget - about which I have already spoken, but I'll reiterate that while the Gov. claims we have a budget deficit, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported that the fiscal year ended with a modest surplus. Any shortfall is the doing of this Governor. Many of the signs voiced opinions against labor unions. The speakers at the noon rally railed against unions in general, and teachers in particular. The crowd cheered.

While I generally avoided taking pics of crazy signs on both sides (comparisons of Gov. Walker with ousted Egyptian President Mubarak, for example), I was compelled to snap this shot because the talking heads on the Right insist that this sign never appears at Tea Party Rallies. It's condition says otherwise.

Tea Party Responds To The Protest

To the loonies on both sides: Hyperbole hurts your case and makes you look idiotic.

There are more pics from Saturday's rally in a SLIDE SHOW, primarily of the Tea Party group, but it was hard to ignore the other 45,000. The most recent photos are up front.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Nation Hears Wisconsin

Finally, the national media is starting to pay genuine attention to what is going on in Madison, Wisconsin. We are now starting Day 6 of peaceful protest over the newly elected Republican Governor's plan to break the state worker's unions. The crowd yesterday was the largest so far, and while I have not seen an official estimate, I guesstimate it at 40,000. My estimates all week have been pretty close, so if I am off, I will put in a correction later.

Born in the USA

Let me state - categorically and emphatically - that this protest is not merely about wages and spending cuts as the Governor would have people believe. There is a fiscal crisis in Wisconsin only - ONLY - because this Governor created it in six short weeks. What this protest is about is a concerted effort by the Republican party to break unions across the nation. As goes Wisconsin, so goes the nation. Why does that matter? What good are unions to you? Let me explain.

Bake sales versus Billionaires

There are the usual selling points that unions brought us fair wages, weekends, 8-hour workdays, child labor laws, and so on. Those are surely important to most of us. But this is more insidious than merely wanting to have an easier time of controlling wages.

Seven of the Top-10 donors to political candidates in 2010 are PACs representing Corporations and assorted billionaires like the Koch brothers. They contribute - primarily - to Republican candidates. The other three donors in the Top-10 are labor unions who donate - primarily - to Democratic candidates. Break unions, state by state, and in short order, national elections will be solely funded by Corporate interests and Republicans will win all elections. It is as simple as that.


The national media early in the week was reporting this as a "budget issue" as the Governor hoped. As journalists looked into the story however, they became aware of the larger story. Especial thanks goes to radio and television voices like Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz for getting the real story out. The first newspaper I noted that had the real story was The Guardian UK. This morning I see the link in the New York Times alerts I get reads:

The unrest in Wisconsin this week over Gov. Scott Walker's plan to cut the bargaining rights and benefits of public workers is spreading to other states.
Rush Limbaugh has been stirring the conservative voter pot for the last few days, and last night buses began rolling in to Madison bearing Tea Party and Republican counter-protesters. That is fine, democracy can use open discussion. Let us remember though, that this rally generated tens of thousands of home state protesters. The counter-protesters are being bused in from other states.

There are photos from yesterday - Day 5 - in a SLIDE SHOW. There are also photos from prior days, but the newest ones are first in the set.

On Wisconsin!

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today was Day 4 in the ongoing protest in the capitol city of Wisconsin. Again today, in excess of 20,000 teachers, students, fire-fighters, bus drivers, garbage collectors, maintenance people, electricians, plumbers, families, young people, old people took to the street and marched on, and into, the capitol building. We were protesting the radical "budget bill" the newly elected Republican governor is trying to ram through without discussion. Among other things, the bill would terminate collective bargaining for all city workers and effectively break the back of public unions. Those things, of course, have nothing to do with the ginned-up fiscal crisis the Governor is creating to make this transparent power grab. Republicans across the country have been gunning for labor unions all year. Republicans are NO FRIEND to the working class of America.

Wisconsin is first on the block. Other states are sure to follow. In the words of a friend, Wisconsinites "are as happy to take to the streets for union causes as they are to go to a Badgers/Packers game. It's the same joyful sense of community." And take to the streets we have. Day and night for four solid days. There has been 80 hours of public commentary aimed at our legislators. Sometimes quietly, sometimes vociferously.

This Is What Democracy Looks Like
Protester, who loves her state, stands proudly and speaks loudly

The bill was supposed to come up for a vote late this morning so that the Governor could unveil his Bold! New! Plan! later today, not at the state capitol where the business of the people is conducted, but rather at a corporate site. One of his financial backers, no doubt. Corporate cronyism, wrapped in the flag. Unfortunately for him, 16 senators had another idea.

This Is What Democracy Looks Like
Wisconsin flag, flown in distress

Those Sixteen - all 14 Democrats and 2 Republicans - left the state. Rumor has it that, when charged with retrieving the missing senators, the law enforcement department (unionized...) refused to carry out that charge. The Sixteen are now out of the state, and will remain so until they deem it appropriate to return. Early statements indicate that will happen when Governor Walker agrees to actually meet and discuss his proposals with those who will be affected. You know, ruling through dialog rather than fiat. Democratic-like.

This Is What Democracy Looks Like
View looking up State Street towards the Capitol

Wisconsin has garnered the attention of the national media at last. Last night and today our plight - and it is a plight - were aired on CNN and MSNBC, and perhaps other networks. Articles ran in the New York Times and the Guardian UK (the most accurate, ironically enough). Tonight there were numerous media trucks in evidence, and sorta-lefty Ed Schultz was doing his MSNBC show live from Madison.

Tomorrow will bring more of the same. This fight is not over. This Governor is a believer who thinks he knows the answer. He is paternalistic and unreasonable. He will not change his mind. Like W, he's a decider. Like W, he sees himself as smarter than everyone else. Like W, he is an idiot. We have delayed the vote. We have rattled the cage. We have the attention of the legislators and the media. Hopefully, some of those legislators will realize that this bill over-reaches, and a more moderate approach is prudent.

As a final warning to my fellow Wisconsin citizens I offer this: Do not be so relieved that "the worst" has been averted that we settle for "bad".

There are more photos in a SLIDE SHOW. The set contains photos from all 4 days, but the most recent ones are first.

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Al Khemia at the Hookah Lounge

Because it cannot be all about the unrest occurring in Madison, here are some great photos of local Madison band Al Khemia performing at the Mediterranean Hookah Lounge Tuesday night.

Al Khemia Plays the Med Hookah Lounge

The band was relaxed and having fun, and fronted by a talented dancer.

Al Khemia Plays the Med Hookah Lounge

There is a fun SLIDE SHOW of the rest.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rally Against Gov. Walker and All He Stands For - Day Two

Tonight there are 30-40,000 people protesting at the state capitol. Why is this not making national news? Are you outside of Wisconsin and want to help? Consider calling our legislative leaders to tell them that "You Are Watching Wisconsin". (Thanks!) Here is the link for leaders and numbers.


Our Governor hates Democracy.


The people have noticed. Walker does not care. Like G. W. Bush, he's "a decider". Facts do not concern him.


Here is the SLIDE SHOW of today's pics. There are pics from yesterday as well, but the newer ones are first.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rally Against Governor Walker and All He Stands For

There were big doings in Madison, WI, today. Our newly elected Governor, in office for approximately 45 days, has managed to so anger sane Democrats and even some Republicans, that in excess of 10,000 of them took to the Capitol and the sidewalks outside to rally in protest of his so-called "Budget Repair Bill". Heck, 700 students from my former high school (Madison East) walked the three miles to participate in active democracy.

Rally Against Gov. Walker and All He Stands For

The rotunda of the Capitol was quite full, and when the slogan-chanting occurred it was impressively loud. Still, there were not more than a couple thousand people in there, and I was wondering if that was it. Then I went outside.

Rally Against Gov. Walker and All He Stands For

It was really, really difficult to find a spot to capture the size of the crowd, and I do not have a wide-angle lens (gotta remedy that). I did make an effort at one point to count a section to try to extrapolate, but gave up. Suffice it to say that there were many thousand more out at the State Street entrance, filling that walk way, and also the sidewalks from Wisconsin Ave to W. Washington. In general, the crowd was polite, peaceful, and seriously pissed off with the Gov.

Rally Against Gov. Walker and All He Stands For

Among other boneheaded, wrong for Wisconsin things, the Governor's bill would strip collective bargaining rights from state employees and make it a fire-able offense for them to participate in a job-action or strike. Basically, worker's rights would return to a status not seen in Wisconsin since the 1920's. Other proposed cuts would deeply affect BadgerCare, the state's health care safety net for the poorest citizens; attack funding for Planned Parenthood; cut funding to public schools; cut funding to the University (especially targeting departments the political Right finds galling); and to generally eviscerate unions in general. The list goes on, and I think it needs to be repeated that this Republican Gov wants to reduce taxes on corporations and the wealthy at the same time. Typical of current Republicans, this places the entire burden on those least able to bear it. If his plan is to make Madison's unemployment rate (and foreclosure and bankruptcy) the highest in Wisconsin, he is going about it the right way.

Rally Against Gov. Walker and All He Stands For

I took a lot of photos today. You can find twoscore of them in a SLIDE SHOW for your inquiring mind.

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