Time for another addition of random ramblings from your editor.
It has been quite a week in Wisconsin, so of course I am not there. I am out in Western Massachusetts at my daughter's house, taking a little vacation. While I have been gone a few things have happened.
Act 10 -
Of course, Act 10 was declared unconstitutional. Right on cue, Gov. Walker and the right wing started once again complaining about activist judges in liberal Madison. Spare me. Somehow any ruling by any judge that doesn't agree with the right wing of the Republican Party is automatically "activist". Constitution be damned. We're still not completely sure what this portends in practical terms, and it's most certainly going to cause a lot of confusion and litigation. It may be a fleeting victory. In any case, I'm hoping that the 10 AM press conference this morning will help to make things a little more clear. No matter what the outcome, it's another example of the unthinking Governor and legislature pushing their own agenda whether it is legal or right, and in the long run it will likely end up costing the Wisconsin taxpayers more. It's a simple extension of the phliosophy and outcomes that Walker pushed while in Milwaukee County, moved to the entire state.
Sand Mining -
A slightly different victory occurred up in my part of the state last week, as the rail spur being proposed in rural Dunn County was turned down by the county planning commission. The proposal was defeated after a great deal of grassroots opposition to the zoning change required to build the spur. There were many concerns about the impact of truck traffic on rural life, the health issues raised by jagged silica particles in the air, and the economic impact of the spur on the local governments. All of these were cited in the decision by the planning commission, along with the possibility that the re-zone would be illegal as spot zoning. I think this may be a turning of the tide in sand mining here, since it is a first proof that it is actually possible to push back against the juggernaut of sand mining by imposing legal restrictions. I'm sure this will be a continuing story. The proposal now goes to the full county board, which could override the recommendation of the planning commission, but that seems highly unlikely.
Cheeseheads - They're Everywhere -
i was reminded of this yesterday when I discovered that the charming young woman serving my beer at MacNeil's in Brattleboro Vt. was from Waukesha. Raised in a conservative family, and drifting further toward being a liberal. We had a nice chat about the troubles in Wisconsin (sadly the news about Act 10 had not yet broken, or we would have had good reason to have another great beer). I very often meet people from Wisconsin when I'm out of state, and it is always a nice reminder of home. I think we are slowly taking over the world (and not necessarily in the way the GOP is depicting). I also had a very nice chat with the owner about beer and brewing. I love this part of the country as well, and it's our home away from home. And a sprinkling of Cheeseheads just makes it better.
The Capitol Crackdown -
Although I can in a sense understand the people who would like to see a little more control of the protesters in the Capitol (not that I agree with them, but I can see how things might seem out of hand at times to some people) the current regime in the Capitol is nuts. The Capitol Police are creating an environment of a police state in a building that many of us love. There have been events in the past where I would not have found it surprising if arrests had been made - but what is going on is well beyond acceptable. The police seem incapable of outlining a clear set of rules of what is and is not acceptable behavior, but if you violate these rules they will come to your house at night and ticket you. So much less messy than an actual confrontation that the public and press can see.
Now they have taken to harrassing people by videotaping them and threatening reporters and ACLU representatives in the Capitol. The general rule seems to be that if you are at all annoying to the police, or a "known character" to them, you may be ticketed or arrested. The rules are being enforced in a totally capricious manner, and seem to be a punishment for those the police find distasteful. I find this totally unacceptable, and am fairly sure the courts will feel the same.
The Presidency -
I know that a lot of our readers are disenchanted with President Obama. There are quite a few days when I feel that as well. On the other hand I know perfectly well that a country with Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in charge will just be the huge version of a Wisconsin with Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleifisch in charge, and I cannot tolerate the idea. Yesterday Robert Reich wrote an article that what we really need to do is to get Obama elected and then to continue to pressure him to be tougher on the GOP (and in some ways, I think, tougher on himself). I think there is a clear choice here, and every time Romney or Ryan open their mouths they make it clearer what the choices are. I know there is a lot of momentum among some progressives to vote for a third-party candidate, and I hear you. But - if you REALLY feel that way, then what you'll need to do is to start working early in the election cycle to make a third party candidate viable - not to bail at the last moment because you're disillusioned.
I was in the crowd at the Democratic Convention in 2008. I remember thinking as I sat in the football field waiting for Obama to take the stage that it was both exciting and inspirational - and a little frightening. Because I knew full well that the hopes that were being espoused at the convention were a little over the top and irrational -that no president could make the range of changes that people were expecting of Obama - and that, frankly, he really was a moderate business-oriented candidate, and that if people in the crowd expected otherwise, they were wrong. It's just that the political winds have shifted so strongly in the country that someone who would have been middle-of-the-road 30 years ago now looks like a wild-eyed socialist to people, and folks like Romney and Ryan look (and God knows I am confused by this) middle-of-the road to folks. It's a crazy time and I keep reminding myself that it will eventually pass if only we can hold on.