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.

Move La Crosse Community Theatre to the Hollywood Theatre

This was submitted as a letter to the editor to the La Crosse Tribune in reference to this story.

I wanted to feel excited about the plans for a shiny new theatre building along the river, but the more I thought about it the less sense it made. I’m not completely condemning this idea, I just think there are better ways to spend that amount of money.

If the La Crosse Community Theatre needs more space, and if La Crosse wishes to pay more than lip service to being a “historic” city, then the LCT should consider buying the Hollywood Theatre and adapting it to its needs. For $6.7 million, LCT could probably buy the building, bring it up to code, and divide the space into a main theatre, black box, etc. The end result would be a historic jewel of downtown La Crosse brought back to life, with more seating than in the current proposal, plenty of parking in a nearby ramp, and millions of dollars left over to do other good things that this city badly needs done.

The Hollywood Theatre has been a fixture in La Crosse life for generations. LCT can build on its history and give a new generation of theatre-goers the chance to see a play in the same room where their grandparents first saw a movie together; and it can give actors a chance to perform on the same stage where Arlo Guthrie, Johnny Winter and Leo Kottke once played.

The Hollywood Theatre is a historic jewel that needs to be a performance space again. LCT needs a bigger home. For anybody who can’t connect those dots, I have a bridge to sell.


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.

An Open Letter to the Tea Party

As a progressive, I share a lot of fundamental beliefs that you Tea Partiers promote.

You say you want your country back. I’d like my country back, too, and I think we’re talking about the same country. It was the country we knew as kids, where families made a comfortable living on one salary, where there was plenty of honest work for good wages, and where people helped out their neighbors in a time of need.

But now it takes two salaries to support a family (if you’re lucky) while the wealth we produce is hoarded by greedy Wall Street investors who think nothing of dismissing thousands of workers to gain 1% in profit margin.

I’ve been victimized by the same economic injustices that you have, so I can understand the frustrations behind your anger. What I can’t understand is why you are supporting Republicans.

Don’t you know that Republicans are the party of Big Business? They’re sponsored by the same fat cats who trashed our economy, and if elected they will continue to do the bidding of this uber-rich elite. There are no true advocates for working people in the GOP.

Check out the front groups sponsoring your Tea Party rallies. The people paying for those expensive stage sets, tour buses, sound systems and promotion are the same oil billionaires, Wall Street banksters and job exporters who’ve ripped off our country.

If elected, they will resume their orgy of casino capitalism, and they’re tricking you into endorsing it.

What Kind of People Are We?

There’s a popular bumper sticker that says a lot in three words: “Mean People Suck.” Because the world would be such a better place if it weren’t for the small minority of mean people we have to put up with.

Most of us are not mean people. I’ve been lucky enough to have travelled overseas, and there are nice people all over the world, just as there are nice people all over La Crosse and the rest of America. But the actions of our government reflect badly on us as a people.

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Pro-war Party Debates with Insults

During a recent public hearing, a leader of the La Crosse County Republican Party made references to the Green Party that fell somewhere between fighting words and slander.

This is something we can expect to see a lot of during the upcoming debate on the Bring the Troops Home referendum: with no rational arguments to support their case, they will resort to irrational ones. Expect a lot of lies, distortions, distractions, insults and personal attacks.

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What If?

Consider a scenario in which partisan roles are reversed:

What if the election process in Ohio and Florida was supervised by the chairman of the Kerry campaign in each state?

What if the computerized voting system was designed and built by Apple Computer, where CEO Steve Jobs is a known Kerry supporter? What if there were countless “irregularities” involving these machines, all favoring Kerry?

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Two Kinds of Christians

I am an atheist, but I grew up with enough Catholic indoctrination to recognize that there are both good people and bad people who call themselves “Christians”.

The “Good Christians” can be found feeding people, comforting the sick and their families, or working for peace and justice. They spend more time practicing than preaching, and they don’t impose their faith onto others.

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Taxpayers should not pay for campaign rallies

When George Bush travels to read to kids or to lay a wreath, he always pops in to a party fundraiser afterwards. It’s as if he’s doing a fundraiser because he happens to be in town. In truth, the ceremonial appearance is an excuse to bill the taxpayers for Bush’s round trip on Air Force One, which would otherwise be billed to his campaign.

This kind of thinking is in play locally, where the richest campaign organization in the history of the world is passing its expenses onto local governments who can least afford them. Mayor Medinger must be applauded for standing up on behalf of local taxpayers in the face of shameless Republican operatives on the Common Council and mean-spirited ranters on the letters page.

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Highways and Neighborhoods Don't Mix

Among people who commute regularly between New York and Los Angeles, there is a small clique who refer to the rest of us as “fly-over people.” I think of this every time I cross West Avenue, when I have to face down aggressive suburban traffic charging through our city. Too many of these drivers show the same arrogant disdain on those of us who live here as their jet-setting counterparts.

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