The Rhythm of History

They say that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it sometimes rhymes.

I think of that as veterans are fighting to be taken care of for the sicknesses they’re suffering from exposure to toxic burn pits..

..just as earlier veterans had to fight to be taken care of for the sicknesses they suffered from exposure to depleted uranium..

..just as veterans of my generation had to fight to be taken care of for the sicknesses they suffered from exposure to Agent Orange..

..just as veterans of my parents’ generation had to fight to be taken care of for the sicknesses they suffered from exposure to nuclear bomb tests.

History is telling us that “Sign up and you’ll be taken care of” is an empty promise.

High School Football in the Age of Post-Game Praying

A time portal opened and handed me this column from the future, dated November 1, 2022:

Now that high school football season is winding down, it’s time to reflect on the new and unusual action on the field after games ended. This was the first season under the Supreme Court’s blessing of post-game prayer festivals, and our Friday night tradition has inaugurated a wide variety of holy parades.

There was no question that on the first game of the season Christian evangelicals would present an over-the-top display of religious piety. But since all religions are created “equal,” it didn’t take long for other religious traditions to claim their part in the court-sanctioned prayer festival.

It started with a high school on a Wisconsin Indian reservation, where the coach and players play drums and burn herbs in a traditional Native ceremony.

The following week a Muslim coach in Dearborn, Michigan arranged to end games with a Call to Prayer, and many of the coaches and players unfurl their prayer rugs and bow toward Mecca.

A school on a South Dakota reservation now ends games with a pipe circle. Meanwhile in south Florida, a Rastafarian coach has pipe circles of his own. The team doesn’t win many games, since it’s mainly a group of stoners who quickly adopted Rastafarianism once they joined the team.

But when it comes to making a circus out of post-game “ceremonies”, there’s no out-staging California. In Orange County, an assistant coach organized a Satanic ritual, based on having signed up to Satanism as a joke while in college.

In Marin County, a coach legally filed paperwork to create a religion that worships the music of Jerry Garcia. After games, a life-sized “Jerry Bear” is placed at the center of the field. The sound system plays a random Grateful Dead song while coaches, players and cheerleaders spin-dance on the field.

A school in Santa Monica developed a ritual that incorporates elements of Buddhism, Scientology, and New Age spirituality. It mainly involved participants sitting in a circle and humming “Ohm”.

Every case of post-game “praying” seemed to originate from a tiny fraction of the local population: a small but organized group seizing the opportunity to evangelize at a large public event, courtesy of the US Supreme Court.

Everyone else was there to watch local kids play football, and they’re finding the post-game circus tiresome. A cherished community institution has become an extension of somebody’s church. Those who don’t belong to the church feel less of a part of the community, and they are hurt by that.

Attendance at games plummeted. The only remaining spectators are parents of the players, and those who don’t join the post-game ceremony quickly flee the stadium at the closing whistle.

Everybody seems to blame evangelicals and their Republican allies for ruining their Friday night football traditions. The only question is whether their disgust will be expressed at the ballot box in a few days.

Defiance

In the subways of Ukraine
People have come to sleep again
Because the bombing makes their buildings shake
The fear and stress are keeping them awake
But there’s hope in the clever tactics and persistence
Of the resistance
For they define defiance.

There is an island with a fort
Defending a strategic port
The Russian navy said “surrender now
“We’ll bomb you and take over anyhow”
The radio crackled, the reply said “Russian warship,
“Go fuck yourself.”
So says the voice of defiance.

And out in the public squares
The Russian soldiers everywhere
Face grandmas and old men who rant and curse
“This is our country, now go back to yours.”
“Put these seeds in your pocket so that sunflowers grow from your hide
“When you die”
Ominous words of defiance.

The local women can be seen
Filling bottles with gasoline.
So when the Russian tanks come rolling by
A rain of fire will fall from the sky
Till the tanks turn around and go back to from where they came
They’ll see the flames
From weapons of defiance

The Russian army look like fools
Stuck in the mud and out of fuel
Their tanks are wandering the highway
Looking for signs so they can find their way
But the signs said, “Go fuck yourself, go fuck yourself again, go fuck yourself..
..Back to Russia”
Reading the signs of defiance.

Wherever evil stalks the land
Defiant heroes make their stand
With such a paranoid pathetic clown
Taunting and mockery will bring him down
So let’s call that punk tyrant a repulsive piece of shit
And then let’s spit
Into his face with defiance.

Crescent Sunset

Just after sunset on November 6, 2021, our lenses captured the thinnest crescent moon I had ever witnessed.

(Click to embiggen)

Solving the Battle of the Fish Hatchery

It has been interesting to observe the debate over rezoning and repurposing the old Fish Hatchery building in Riverside park.

An architectural and historical jewel prominently located in La Crosse’s flagship park became vacant, so the city sought proposals to rehab the building and give it new life. But when an idea was brought forward, some people reacted as if the world were ending.

Granted, the developers may have botched their sales job by using the words “wedding receptions” and “beer garden” to describe a “meeting and event space.” La Crosse has several event spaces, and this project aims to find its own niche among them.

The opposition has deployed the usual alarms about loud music and alcohol, as if beer will automatically bring herds of frat boys stampeding through the International Friendship Gardens. If residents of the nearby apartment complex are to be believed, they may never sleep again.

These may be legitimate concerns, but they don’t mesh with what I am not hearing from the opposition. I hear no complaints about Riverfest or Moon Tunes, where amplified music fills the park and alcohol is widely available.

And what about Irish Fest or Octoberfest, just a few blocks away? Those events feature an abundance of alcohol and loud music, but I hear no complaints from those who portray wedding receptions in the Fish Hatchery building as the end of civilization.

What I most want to hear from the opposition is a better idea. Unfortunately, amid all the Nimbyism and heckling, I hear no suggestions to solve the problem at hand: How do we pay for the expensive work that this building needs, and create a place that adds value to the park and the city?

An idea to solve this problem is on the table. Suggestions to refine this proposal and make it more acceptable would be helpful. Those opposed to this idea are welcome to submit ideas of their own. But shouting “NO” like a spoiled toddler is not helpful. That’s how you get banished to a corner and ignored.

The Long and Winding Road – Following the Beatles Trail

I started this post in 2019, but now it’s 2021. Yes, it’s taken this long to get back to it,  and then get it sent out for your reading enjoyment. Hope you like it.

As of 2019, it’s been 55 years since the Beatles arrived on our continent to forever change the history of rock n’ roll. As I remember that year 1964, I’d found out that they were going to be on the Ed Sullivan show. My family was more interested in watching the Walt Disney show than Ed Sullivan. So I convinced my neighbor-friends, Patty & Linda, to watch the show. Huddled together in one of their bedrooms we watched the show, screaming with all the other girls across the country, who were also watching. Afterwards we spent months fighting over who would be Paul when we pretended to be the Beatles.

Although I spent most of my early life listening to and playing classical music, I quickly developed a love for the Fab Four and all their wonderful and sometimes quirky music. Knowing that most of my family originally came from the British Isles reinforced my love even more. I hoped that someday I’d get to go to their homeland and visit the places that were important in their lives, and places where they performed.

Read on

Looking Forward to Cannabis Regulation in Wisconsin

I applaud Governor Tony Evers for including taxation and regulation of cannabis as part of his budget proposal. In spite of generations of prohibition, the market for cannabis products has not gone away, and this authoritarian approach creates more problems than it solves.

Without regulation there is no quality control, leaving cannabis users vulnerable to mislabeled or tainted products. Prohibition erodes the trust level of law-abiding cannabis users toward law enforcement.

A well-regulated cannabis industry would offer a lucrative new revenue stream for family farms, small businesses and cash-starved state and local governments. Prohibition forfeits this industry to neighboring states and to the shadowy unregulated and untaxed underground market.

Wisconsin’s tax and regulatory structure for cannabis production must be optimized to support a large number of small producers while discouraging large corporate operations. Other states have seen mega-growers (many backed by the tobacco and alcohol industries) force small and artisan growers into bankruptcy. Wisconsin can do better.

Activists tell me that the biggest obstacle to a Wisconsin cannabis industry is the Tavern League. What if taverns were offered a “taste” of this new industry? Perhaps they could offer an alcohol-free cannabis-based beverage, or they could sell cannabis products “off sale”. Instead of competition, cannabis could give taverns new products to offer their customers.

If we do this right, cannabis regulation and taxation will bring rich new sources of income to our small farms, our corner taverns, and our tax bases. To brush this proposal aside is simply throwing money away.

Hoarfrost

Hoarfrost is not the look you get from a sex worker who just received a lousy tip.

It’s a word that describes the kind of frost you get during freezing fog. Normal frost is a layer of ice crystals deposited on a cold surface. When the crystals are built up into a deep and elaborate structure, you get hoarfrost.

On Sunday, January 3, 2021, we were greeted by a spectacular display of hoarfrost. In some places, it looked like a layer of snow that stuck to everything, but closer examination revealed its true structure.

It was early afternoon by the time we headed out with our camera, but we still managed to capture this rare event. Enjoy!

Joe Biden is No Socialist, But He’ll Have To Do

My family has been receiving weekly Republican Party mailers. With apocalyptic graphics, alarming language, and spooky fonts, they warn that Joe Biden has been “taken over” by “the radical left.”

The only thing more laughable than this desperate and pathetic fear campaign against imaginary boogey-men, is their waste of money sending mailers to people like me, part of this “radical left” they seem so afraid of.

During the primary I supported Bernie Sanders. Most Democrats like him, but many worried that during the general election Republicans would fear-monger over “Socialism”. I said that playbook would be deployed against any Democratic nominee. And here we are.

Socialists (aka Progressives) aren’t scary. We are simply good-hearted people who want a good quality of life for everybody. The morbidly rich may pay higher taxes, but in the end they’ll still be rich.

Joe Biden is not getting his marching orders from Bernie Sanders. He may listen to his ideas, but he will also listen to reasonable Republicans (if any remain).

My message to Progressives and to good-hearted conservatives is the same: America cannot survive four more years of Donald Trump. But we can handle four years of Joe Biden. He is the only viable candidate who will bring stability and credibility back to our government, and return us to “normal.”

But “normal” isn’t good enough. Once we get Biden elected, we need to hold his feet to the fire to build a country that works for all of us.

Shutting Down is Shutting Out

As our nation stumbles thru another primary election season, about half of the Democratic Party’s delegates have been pledged to one candidate or another, and (at this writing) Joe Biden has roughly a 55-45% lead over Bernie Sanders. Many pundits are characterizing this as “insurmountable” (I disagree, it’s only halftime).

But every time I see someone like James Carville saying, “it’s over,” or “we should shut this thing down,” I find myself angrily waving my middle finger at the teevee, and here’s why:

At this writing, there are 26 states and territories (representing 1532 delegates) still waiting their turn to vote. Let’s be generous and say that Joe wins 60% of the remaining delegates. That means Bernie would still get 613 delegates from the remaining states. If the primary were to be “shut down” today, all of those delegates would go to Joe.

So what Carville and his ilk are calling for is a convention without all of those pesky Bernie delegates. They want to shut us out, and to diminish our voice within the party. This is not only undemocratic, but it ignores some important realities.

There are down-ballot races where Democrats and other Progressives are counting on the big turnout that would be generated by a competitive primary. Here in Wisconsin, we have an important Supreme Court race. I’m sure other states and localities have their own races where turnout would vanish if we “shut this thing down.”

The biggest reality is that Bernie has won the battle of ideas. Exit polls confirm that vast majorities of voters favor things like Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, free post-secondary education, and other elements of Bernie’s platform; but they think Joe is more “electable”.

Bernie’s ideas will not be represented by Joe’s delegates. Our party and our nation needs to hear from the hard-working volunteers who have spent the past several years promoting the winning platform. Bernie’s supporters deserve to have their voices heard at the convention in Milwaukee.

So for everybody in a state or territory still waiting to vote: The only way to vote for Bernie’s ideas is to vote for Bernie himself. Every vote will help toward adding another voice to Bernie’s delegation.

We may be behind, but we can still win, and we will not be shut out.