Sympathy for the Klutz

We’ve all had incidents at work that we’re not very proud of, but they’re the kinds of incidents that inspire a lot of good-natured banter with our co-workers. The day the wrong file was deleted, or an armload of dishes was dropped, that kind of thing.

A utility worker in the Arizona desert had that type of experience late last week. As he was trying to fix or replace a finicky piece of equipment, he flipped the wrong switch or cut the wrong wire or something, and all the lights went out from Orange County to Tijuana to Arizona.

As much of a disaster as that was, I’m willing to cut the poor worker some slack. We’ve all had our own experiences creating disasters, but things got fixed, and now we laugh about it with our coworkers in the lunch room. Read on

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.

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.


La Crosse Tornado

Today a tornado touched down in our neighborhood. In the Grand Scheme of Things, it was a relatively minor tornado, but it did some strange things to our neighborhood.

Our situation: We’re OK, and our house is OK. There’s a small corner of our metal roof that’ll have to be nailed back down, and some pieces of our neighbor’s maple tree that need to be picked up, but our “damage” is minor compared to others within a block or two of us.

Read our storm story after the jump, and look at our photo gallery of the aftermath.

Read on

La Crosse Tornado – photo gallery

A series of photos from our neighborhood in the aftermath of the tornado we got yesterday (Sunday, May 22, 2011).

You can read our tornado story here.

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.

Third World Wisconsin

Politicians like to drop bad news bombs on Friday afternoons, and last Friday Wisconsin’s Governor Walker dropped a big one: abolishment of collective bargaining rights for all state, county and local government workers. He claims it’s to save money in the budget, but to most of us it’s obviously the fulfillment of a right-wing wet-dream and payback to the corporatists that funded his campaign.

Oddly, this bit of union-busting wouldn’t apply to police, firefighters, or the State Patrol, whose unions were coincidentally Walker supporters. To their credit, the leaders of these unions are standing in solidarity with the teachers and other school staff, road maintenance crews, university workers, building and facility staff, social workers, prison guards, administrative teams, and all the other unionized staff that make our state function. A group of current and former Green Bay Packers players (all union members) also issued a statement of support for public employee unions.

(Disclosure: One of my family members was once a unionized public employee, and a couple of others still are.)

Under Walker’s plan, unions would no longer be allowed to negotiate for anything other than wages, and wage increases would be limited to the official cost of living index. So no negotiation over hours or working conditions, pensions, health care, sick leave or vacation days. Workers would be immediately required to contribute more to their pension plans and health care, effectively cutting their take-home pay by 8%.

As an upwelling of public anger developed over the weekend, Walker turned it into an eruption by playing the “National Guard card.” He said that he briefed the Wisconsin National Guard “in preparation for any problems…”

The area around the state capital in Madison is starting to look like Egypt right now, as angry citizens converge by the tens of thousands – numbers that have grown every day this week. But Walker is dismissing the concerns of “a handful of protesters” while doing the bidding of the monied elites that elected him. He intends to railroad this proposal thru the right-wing legislature (strange behavior for someone who despises railroads) by the end of this week.

This proposal dismantles contracts that have been negotiated in good faith by public workers, who sacrificed wages in order to preserve the benefits that Walker now intends to take away.

I have never met a “rich” union worker (some exist, but I haven’t met any Packers players 🙂 ). Contrary to mythology, most union workers do not make exorbitant salaries, but they do make enough to live comfortably, take care of their health, and save for retirement. I keep hearing right-wing pundits howling about “greedy union workers” and how they make so much more than the rest of us. They should be screaming about how the rest of us aren’t making enough.

Scott Walker now wants to crush the one group of workers that hasn’t already been crushed: public employee unions. After years of starving the treasury through tax cuts, our new right-wing dictator claims the state is too broke to provide a dignified pay and benefits package to the people who make the state function.

For a generation, the wages and benefits of the average worker have been stagnant while the expansion of wealth has been hoarded by those at the top. This latest proposal accelerates that process, which can only lead to a state where a handful of the wealthy elite luxuriate in their lush gated communities, and rule over the rest of us who are left to live in destitution with a toxic and crumbling infrastructure.

That is the vision of right wing Repugnantans like Scott Walker and his rich corporate backers. It is mean-spirited and un-American, and it will condemn the forward-looking people of Wisconsin to live in a third world state.

The Green Bay Packers Are Good For America

There’s a viral email going around (at least around Wisconsin) with the same title as this post. It says that the Packers are great because they beat the Bears, so now President Obama won’t be going to the Super Bowl to root for the Bears, thereby saving taxpayers millions of dollars in presidential travel expenses, yadda yadda yadda.

Why is it that, when the president is a Democrat, it’s a big deal whenever he decides to go (or not to go) someplace?

Funny thing, when Bush was emperor, we didn’t see any viral emails rejoicing that the Cowboys weren’t in the Super Bowl (though many of us WOULD find that to be something worthy of rejoicing), and how we’d save millions of dollars by not bringing Bush and his entourage to the Big Game.

That said, here’s the REAL reason the Green Bay Packers Are Good For America:


They are owned by the community as a non-profit. Any money they make goes back to building the team, NOT to stockholders nor to a greedy billionaire owner. They are the only major sports franchise in the country that’s like that.

Now, send THIS to everybody in your address book. 🙂