Why I’m a Conservative

I often participate in a discussion group where someone recently asked, “Is America center-right or center-left?” It got me to thinking about labels, and how they’ve been twisted, distorted and co-opted. Many respondents criticized the use of such labels, arguing that human character is far too complex to divide into black and white categories.

I felt compelled to weigh in, and I’ll share my answer with the rest of the class:

As I can see from previous answers, trying to use labels like “left,” “right,” “liberal,” “conservative,” etc. is too simplistic, and each label carries a certain amount of baggage that it doesn’t deserve.

I abhor environmental waste, the way that our culture frivolously destroys resources that may take millions of years to replace. By the same token, I don’t think we should be frivolous with money either. I would think that those are both “conservative” positions.

I also feel that we should treat one another with respect and dignity, that we have a duty as responsible community members to look out for each other and help each other out in times of need, and that if someone else’s lifestyle choices are no harm to me then they’re none of my business. When did any of this stop being a “conservative” position?

I think much of the American public falls in line with my “conservative” positions, but the politicians and pundits who talk this way are labelled “liberal” or “radical.” Many authors have pointed out studies and polls indicating that if politicians pursued policies that the public wants, the USA would be much more like Sweden.

Scott Walker’s Opposing Positions on Biomass

Scott Walker must think Wisconsinites have short memories.

Walker’s predecessor initiated a project to install a biomass boiler at the state-owned Charter Street power plant in Madison, where an aging coal boiler was due for replacement. Even though a biomass boiler is more expensive initially, it saves a great deal of money in the long run because the supply of biomass is more reliable and less expensive than natural gas, and it would be supplied by Wisconsin farmers and forests.

When Walker became governor, he immediately killed this project, and with it he killed a new green industry in Wisconsin and the jobs that would come with it.

Why am I bringing up a story from nearly a year ago? Because last Friday, Scott Walker was singing the praises of biomass.

Gundersen Lutheran Hospital in La Crosse has a 40-year-old gas boiler that needs replacing, and they just got a $140,000 grant from the Wisconsin Bioenergy Grant Program to install a biomass boiler. For some reason, Scott Walker believed that he was the appropriate person to personally deliver the oversized check.

So the same person who killed the Charter Street upgrade in January is now posing in front of the TV cameras in La Crosse as a champion for biomass. Setting aside the discussion of whether or not biomass power plants are a good thing, one has to wonder how to explain the inconsistencies of Scott Walker’s position.

Voter Suppression and Journalistic Bias

The latest power grab by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is the “Voter ID” bill, or more accurately, the “Voter Suppression” bill. It requires the presentation of a photo ID with the current address before one is allowed to vote. For most of us, that means a drivers license.

But students wouldn’t be able to vote where they live for most of the year, since their drivers licenses (if they have one) usually have the address of their parents’ home. Student IDs don’t meet the requirements of the law. Many older people and urban people don’t have drivers licenses. Coincidentally (NOT!), these groups tend to vote for Democrats.

The legislature railroaded this thru the other day, violating a host of procedural rules in the process. Republican leadership refused to consider a host of amendments which would have made this bill less of a barrier to legitimate voters. At the signing ceremony in Walker’s office, a member of the opposition managed to infiltrate the press pool and ask questions about this.

As reported by The Progressive, the reaction of the rest of the press corps was unprofessional at best:

…several of the reporters who had until then been busily taking notes put their pens down, crossed their arms over their chests and rolled their eyes at each other. What is arguably one of the central questions of this crisis in Wisconsin state government — the majority party not listening to the minority party or masses of their constituents — was evidently not worth reporting on.

So somebody raises serious questions about a legitimate issue affecting the core of democracy, yet the people we depend on for “news” react as if this were an annoyance. I’d like to know who these “journalists” are, because to me it sounds like they’re little more than cheerleaders for the corporate Repugnantan agenda.

Pulled from the Shelves!

Back in late March, we published this post about boycotting products from Koch brothers companies. Among those products is Georgia-Pacific toilet paper.

Peoples Food Coop in La Crosse, as it looked during a snowstorm in February, 2004

We were distressed to learn that the single-roll toilet paper we’ve been buying for years from our local co-op bore the Georgia-Pacific logo. I brought this to the attention of Margaret, the grocery manager, who shared our motivations to remove this product from the shelves. She instructed her buyer not to stock this product any more, and even though it took several weeks for the existing stock to be exhausted, it was replaced by another type of single-roll toilet paper.

It turned out the co-op’s main supplier only carries this one type (Georgia-Pacific) of single-roll toilet paper, so they had to go “above and beyond” to find a source of an alternative product. They didn’t have to do it, but they did it anyway.

We can often be quick to complain about the things that businesses do that annoy us, so it feels important to applaud the People’s Food Coop for doing something right.

Breaking the Koch Habit

The Koch family has a long history of funneling money to the most extreme right-wing organizations and think-tanks. Fred Koch was a founding member of the John Birch Society, and his sons Charles and David are sponsors of the Cato Institute, Americans For Prosperity, and the new crop of crazy Tea Party Republican politicians.

The Koch brothers get all of their money thru Koch Industries, the largest privately held company in the United States. They’re into coal mining, oil refining and pipelines, and they own Georgia Pacific and Invista. They’re also into climate change denial, dismantling of environmental regulations, and union busting.

We don’t want to give any money to the Koch brothers, but we recently discovered we were inadvertently giving them money when we spotted the GP logo on our toilet paper. Needless to say, we now buy a different brand of toilet paper.

After the jump, I’ll take you on a tour of the brands to avoid if you don’t want to give the Koch brothers any money either.

Read on

Dooh Nibor

Scott Walker claims that he must bust unions because “Wisconsin is broke.” Actually, the only reason we have a $137 million deficit is because he gave away $140 million to corporations in the form of tax breaks. So in order to pay for gifts to the rich, he wants to steal from programs that help the poor.

That makes Walker into a modern-day Dooh Nibor… Robin Hood in reverse. Newly elected Republican lawmakers nationwide are acting like an army of Dooh Nibors, giving away the treasuries to rich people, and then crying that there’s no money to help poor people.

After the jump, there’s a great chart showing how we can pay for important parts of the social safety net by rolling back specific giveaways to rich people.

Read on

CEOs, Tea Partiers, Union Workers, and Cookies

A tale of our times that’s been making the rounds…

A CEO, a tea partier, and a union worker are sitting around a table where a platter of 12 cookies is delivered.

The CEO instantly chows down 11 of the cookies. He then turns to the tea partier and says, “Watch out for that union guy, he wants part of your cookie.”

This perfectly describes the political and economic forces at work, where the rich are playing one group of exploited workers against the other. But since the average CEO makes 1000 times what the average worker makes, to be mathematically accurate the plate would have to contain 500 cookies, of which the CEO eats 499. That would not only illustrate the greed and arrogance of the current CEO class, but also its grotesque gluttony.

Hat tip to Thom Hartmann.

The Crowd You Weren’t Allowed to See

La Crosse is usually a “slow news” town. That means that the five news organizations that cover this part of the world often struggle to find compelling copy to fill their time or their pages. They spend a lot of time covering inane stuff like high school show choirs or cute kids doing charity fundraisers.

There have been times when Tea Party rallies came thru town, and all the cameras and microphones would converge on an event attended by only a few dozen people. So when hundreds show up for a hastily planned town hall meeting for workers rights, that must surely be news, right?

Apparently, no. Not one reporter showed up. I asked some of the organizers if they had called the media. They said that not only did they tell the media it was happening, but once the hall was packed they called again and said, “There are close to 500 people here, you should come.”

If you don’t see a picture of this meeting at the top of the page, then click here.

If the “professional” media isn’t biased, then someone needs to explain to me why a dozen tea-baggers foaming at the mouth is newsworthy and several hundred progressives gathering on short notice isn’t.

UPDATE Thursday Feb. 23: Yesterday afternoon we attended a solidarity rally for union supporters outside City Hall, where hundreds of people held signs and chanted to passing rush hour traffic, and passing drivers honked their horns in support. One TV camera was spotted at the rally, but since no report could be found on any local media web sites, this video will have to do:

Busting Democracy

For groups of people to elect representatives to advocate their interests is a foundational principal of American democracy.

Imagine a scenario in which a president dictates how tax money is to be spent, and then announces that he is dissolving Congress and stripping citizens of their right to vote. The population would be unified in its outrage, and rightly so.

This is why Scott Walker’s proposal to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights is so disturbing. Unions are nothing more than groups of employees who elect representatives to advocate on their behalf. Republicans in Wisconsin are trying to eliminate democracy in the workplace.

The right wing claims that this must be done to balance the budget. Bovine excrement! For one thing, the governor inherited a surplus, gave money away to his rich corporate buddies, and the”hole” in the budget is exactly the size of those giveaways. In spite of this, the state employee unions are willing to make the economic sacrifices outlined in this proposal in exchange for retention of their collective bargaining rights.

Walker greeted this gesture of compromise and accommodation with the words, “nothing doing.” This proves that the “save the budget” reasoning was a lie. This is all about crushing unions – dictating working conditions and shutting down any possibility of future negotiation.

This is mean-spirited and un-American, and it must not stand. I am ashamed of our governor for proposing this, but I am proud of our fellow citizens who are resisting.

A Peek at the Democratic Process

Follow this link, and you’ll find a video of firefighters marching into the capital in Madison, complete with bagpipes and full regalia. (The video quality is not the best, but then it’s not ours.) The second video on that page has much better quality, and it’s a great summary of what the area around the capital looks like this week. There are also several cool pictures.

We also recommend this video (scroll down the page and watch part 4), provided by Wisconsin Eye (our state’s equivalent of CSPAN). Like many videos of government proceedings, it’s punctuated with long boring parts. It’s from yesterday afternoon’s session of the state Assembly, which was scheduled to begin at 5 o’clock. While the Democrats were in caucus, the Republicans started taking votes at 4:57. At about 3 minutes into the video, the fun starts as the Democrats show up while voting is already underway.

Angry words are spoken about rules being broken and – amazingly – the Republican leader finally says to his colleagues across the aisle, “you’re right”. The earlier votes are annulled, and battles are rescheduled for next week.