That was part of the message delivered by a crowd of 300-500 people who came out in searing 95° heat in La Crosse today (Sat June 30, 2018). The march started at City Hall just before noon, and followed 7th Street to Burns Park at 7th and Main.
I forgot to bring a real camera, so images from my pocket computer will have to do (click on any image to embiggen)…
Presidential election campaigns get wall-to-wall media coverage for four years, which holds our attention and leads to high turn-out (though one can argue it’s not high enough). But when local elections are held a few months later, turn-out can languish in the teens or in single digits. I believe this is upside-down.
A national election affects the overall attitude and direction of national policy, but its immediate effect on our day-to-day lives is minuscule relative to the outcome of a local election. For instance, an election for municipal judge is widely ignored. But if we have a dispute with a neighbor or an unjust citation, we stand before the municipal judge.
The city council approves zoning rules that determine what we can do with our own property. They hire police officers with the power to arrest and detain us, as well as the officials responsible for the upkeep of our roads and parks.
The members of the school board determine who will teach our children, what they will be taught, and how well we care for the buildings where our kids spend their days.
Yet with all the direct impact that local officials have on our personal lives, local elections seem to be universally ignored. We ignore these elections at our peril.
Now more than ever, we must pay close attention to local elections. Most candidates are only a phone call away. Talk to them about the issues you care about, then show up to vote on April 4.
When I see newcomers hated and disrespected, I remember the story of a war hero named Al Maliki.
Al Maliki’s father was brought to America as a toddler, and Al himself was born an American citizen.
When Al became a young adult, America was at war with his ancestral homeland. But Al Maliki was a proud and loyal American, so he enlisted in the US Army. The recruiting officer told Al that his foreign name might create hostility, so he translated his last name into English and changed it to that.
Al still knew his ancestral language, which made him valuable as an interpreter for one of the generals. Al Maliki was honored for his service and came home a war hero.
This is a true story, but it involves another people at another time.
A century ago, the first world war was raging and Germans were so hated that the German language was purged from Americans’ lexicon. Bratwursts were called “liberty sausages,” sauerkraut was “liberty cabbage” and dachshunds became “liberty puppies.” On the north side of La Crosse, Berlinstrasse was renamed Liberty Street.
In spite of the hate and derision directed at German-Americans like him, a young man named Albert Koenig enlisted in the Army, and changed his name to Albert King in order to get along. Many years later, I got to know him as “Grandpa.”
We feel shame, regret and bewilderment as we look back on the treatment of German-Americans during the first world war, internment of Japanese-Americans in the second world war, the genocide of First Nations, the kidnapping and enslavement of Africans, and countless other injustices and atrocities scattered thru our history. Our grandchildren may feel the same way about us if we continue this shameful history.
There will always be newcomers to our country. Let’s offer our new neighbors the warm welcome that our grandparents were denied.
We live down the street from a major hospital, and over the years we’ve watched that hospital tear down out neighborhood to pave it with parking lots.
Now that four and a half blocks have been taken down, they want to tear down another entire block.
This video illustrates the history with archived aerial photographs and satellite images.
Over twenty years ago, there was a proposal to build a new highway connecting downtown La Crosse with Interstate 90 and the northern suburbs. City residents wanted nothing to do with the “North-South Corridor”, as it would degrade urban livability and encroach on a beloved and ecologically important marsh. So in a 1998 referendum, La Crosse rejected the road by a 2-1 margin.
I remember the DOT presenting traffic studies predicting horrible gridlock in twenty years unless we built a road. But here we are, twenty years later, and traffic armageddon has failed to materialize. Now the DOT has returned with a series of new proposals, insisting that we will suffer horrible gridlock twenty years from now if we don’t “increase the capacity” of our local roads.
There is no reason to believe the DOT’s ominous predictions are any more accurate today than they were twenty years ago, and for La Crosse to allow North-South Corridor 2.0 to be built would be a horrible mistake. Read on
I went to a ribbon cutting today. A new bridge for bicyclists and pedestrians finally opened on the north side of La Crosse, connecting neighborhoods on one side of a railroad yard with workplaces on the other. But this was a celebration that was many years overdue.
I’ve worn a “hoodie” as long as I can remember… I can remember my mother dressing me in a little hoodie (we called it a “sweatshirt”) back in the days when Eisenhower was president.
A hoodie is a great article of clothing for spring and fall… a heavy layer of cotton to keep warm, but not too heavy to carry when the weather warms up. If the sun goes away or the wind picks up, the hood pulls up over the head and draw strings tighten it up for extra warmth. There’s a big “kangaroo” pouch on the front, perfect for inserting cold hands (which rarely happened in my case, as my hands were usually busy with stuff like baseballs or basketballs).
Somewhere along the line, the hooded sweatshirt quit being a utilitarian piece of cool-weather clothing and became a fashion statement. We have friends that have been in the tie-dye business for many years, and they tell us that hoodies are now among their most popular items. Function has become fashion.
But now right-whinge blowhards are demonizing hoodies, saying that a 17-year-old kid walking home from the convenience store got shot and killed because he was wearing a hoodie. If these gutter-dwellers are to be believed, the hoodie is so threatening that if you wear one, a crazy yahoo with a gun can be forgiven for shooting you dead.
That’s the same “blame the victim” BS that forgives the rapist for attacking a woman with a short skirt. In reality, this “logic” is a way of obfuscating racism, since the hoodie is only “threatening” if a black person is wearing it, just as a backwards baseball cap was deemed “threatening” a few years back.
If we’re going to criminalize a clothing style, lets start with suits. After all, it was (mostly) white guys in suits who ripped off our country to the tune of trillions of dollars over the past few years.
In the meantime, it’s a nice sunny day, so I should do something outside. But it’s kinda cool, so I’m gonna wear my blue hoodie.
Establishing and maintaining an activist encampment – whether to blockade a nuclear power plant or to occupy a state capital or a city park – is a major logistical undertaking. The Wall Street occupiers learned a lot about doing this from the Wisconsin capital occupiers of last winter, who in turn represent a major progression from the anti-nuclear actions of a generation ago.
In the fall of 1981, I participated in a two-week “blockade” of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant on the coast of central California. Nearly 2000 people were arrested during this action, and I was two of them. Occupy Wall Street reminds me of many of the things we did at Diablo that worked, and I also see the OWS crowd improving the things that we didn’t do that well.
The improvement I’m most impressed with relates to communication.
At Diablo, there came a time when money and energy were running out and we had to find a way to end the action and go home. A proposal was floated to declare the beginning of a “Phase 2” of the blockade, and a discussion followed to define what that meant. The consensus process we used gave every individual veto power over any proposal, so we started hearing things like, “We will block any statement that contains the word ‘end’.”
Words that anyone disapproved of were removed and/or replaced. Strong language got weak and ambiguous. A reasonable and well-thought-out statement got watered down into a bland mush that offended nobody and excited nobody. And it burned through hours of our time.
OWS did something right in the way it composed and approved its declaration.* It’s well-written and strongly worded, which can be nearly impossible when writing by committee. I can see the markings of a committee in the list of grievances, but something has improved in the process to keep the well-intentioned saboteurs from muddying the text.
On behalf of the veterans of the Diablo blockade, I will take credit for one innovation in meeting management displayed at OWS: the jiggling of fingers in the air as a substitute for applause. I saw this introduced at the Diablo encampment as the size of the meetings started getting larger. A speaker would say something, and many people would cheer or applaud in agreement. This made it difficult for everyone to hear the rest of what the speaker had to say, and it would disrupt the rhythm and the flow of the meeting.
So someone suggested that instead of cheering, we should wave our hands above our heads to signal our approval and agreement. A “cheer” could erupt without drowning out the speaker we’d be cheering.
It may have been something other activists were doing before. But it shows that at the very least, such actions are networking events. Activists representing a wide range of causes, constituencies and age groups have lots of time to hang out with each other and exchange ideas to solve problems.
Each action gets more organized, and new best practices evolve from this stock pot of activism.
* My favorite declaration came from a blogger at the occupation, which concisely and explicitly covered the most important points. It’s brief enough to quote here in full:
We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we’re working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.
Back when Bill Clinton was running for president, his campaign office famously had a sign on the wall that read, “It’s the Economy, Stupid.” It was how they reminded themselves what issue most concerned the voting public. Smart politicians would recognize that most people see corporate greed as the root of our economic problems, and adjust the sign on their wall accordingly.
For two generations, we have watched a handful of rich people hoard the wealth while the rest of us struggle more and more to get by. There’s a limit to how much the monarchs of our world can impoverish the rest of us before angry mobs with torches and pitchforks appear at the castle gates, and Occupy Wall Street is the modern equivalent of that angry mob.
Corporate funded media pundits feign mystification as to the grievances or demands of the 99-percenters. The truth is that these shills can’t say “corporate greed” (grievance) or “economic justice” (demand) out loud. After all, they’re employed by some of the largest corporations in the world, so they wouldn’t dare say anything favorable about the demonstrators. So all they have to offer are insults, ridicule and shoulder-shrugging.
Let me illustrate how greedy the banks have become during my lifetime. My first savings account had an interest rate that fluctuated between 4% and 5%. So if I had $10 in the bank for a year, I had $10.50 at the end of the year. That’s right, I made 5% interest on $10. My student loans had a 7% interest rate, and consumer loans typically were at 9%. Credit card interest rates of 12% were considered an outrage.
So if the bank charged 8% interest on a loan, their “cost” was the 5% they paid the depositors, so they made a 3% profit on the loan. (This sets aside their ability to loan out $5-10 for every dollar in deposits.) Bankers had no problem making a decent living under these conditions.
But now a savings account yields 0.5%, and that’s only if you have thousands of dollars in the bank. Meanwhile, consumer loans below 10% are rare, and credit card interest rates that low are little more than a dream. So the entire (typical) 12% interest rate the bank makes on a loan is gravy, since the depositors get next to nothing. Yet the banksters cry for more, and every time their price gouging is restrained, they find another fee to raise to make up for it.
This is one example among hundreds of how the rich are ripping off the rest of us, and of how the American dream has been crushed. As we were growing up, we were told this was a great country because if you played by the rules, worked hard, and got educated, then you would be taken care of and there was no limit to what you could achieve. But now millions of people who played along find their jobs shipped off to China, and those lucky enough to still have jobs work at poverty wages with no benefits.
So what was once the most prosperous country in the world has become a feudal society, where the money monarchs steal, swindle and hoard the wealth while leaving the rest of us with nothing. And then they wonder what the Occupy Wall Street movement is complaining about.
The great success of the Occupy movement (as of now) is that a national conversation has been started. We are aware that the system is broken, and we know why it’s broken. Now we must develop and enact a series of solutions to bring fairness, equality and opportunity back into our society.
I have a list of ideas that I intend to throw out into the ether for discussion in a series of posts over the coming days and weeks (as time permits). The money monarchs now own every square of the metaphorical Monopoly board we live on, and they’ve also seized all of the money. Now we need to change the rules so that the rest of us can find a way to survive and thrive.
Proposals (updated Nov 9, 2011):
How Much is Enough? The Case for a Maximum Wage