Wednesday October 18, 2017

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Blue Jean Nation 'The taproot of our many problems'

Posted by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue
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on Wednesday, 16 August 2017
in Wisconsin

Real peopleWe have a poisoned political culture that glorifies greed, dooming us to a government that works for a wealthy and well-connected few at everyone else’s expense.


ALTOONA, WI - Wisconsin is up to its eyeballs in problems. Our state has lost its way. It is becoming a shadow of its former self. Same goes for the country as a whole.

The problems vary from place to place. Go to Trempealeau County and you see hills and bluffs disappearing and hear fears expressed over the effects of breathing the fine dust that hangs in the air or drinking water that has turned an amber color. In the Central Sands region you see lakes and streams drying up because a few are being allowed to drill high-capacity wells and hog all the water. In Kewaunee County you are told about massive industrial feedlots and how a third of private wells have been poisoned and you see someone turn on a water tap and what comes out of the faucet is brown and smells like cow manure. A few counties away parents are frightened about what old lead pipes in their community’s water system might be doing to their children.

Somewhere else you run into young Millennials buried under a mountain of student debt. One owes $30,000. Another $80,000. A third carries over $100,000 in debt. All of them wonder how they are going to dig out of the hole they are in. All of them wonder when — or if — they will ever be able to buy a car or make a down payment on a house. Another place you meet a farmer who now is expected to file payroll taxes online but has no Internet access out on the farm.

At the next stop everyone is talking about the criminal justice system and racial profiling and mass incarceration. And how impossible it is to make ends meet earning the minimum wage. Then you meet some former factory workers who used to make $25 an hour working on an assembly line but could only find work paying $11 or $12 an hour after the plant closed. Their standard of living has been cut in half. They find little comfort in the news that the state’s unemployment rate is coming down some. They can find a job. What’s next to impossible to find is work that keeps them in the middle class.

Down the road a piece are town officials agonizing over a decision to tear up paved roads and go back to gravel because they can’t afford to maintain the pavement and keep filling all the potholes. Next you arrive in a community where the townspeople are resigned to their local school closing. They know how that school is a hub of local activity, and they know losing it will be a death sentence for their town.

The problems vary widely from place to place. But they all grow from the same taproot, a poisoned political culture that glorifies greed, dooming us to a government that works for a wealthy and well-connected few at everyone else’s expense and an economy that benefits a privileged few and leaves so many behind. The issue is inequality, both political and economic. The problem is privilege, both political and economic.

Solving the many problems plaguing Wisconsin and America depends on remedying the one behind them all.

— Mike McCabe

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"Loving Us" Pow Wow Encourages Recovery

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
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on Tuesday, 15 August 2017
in Wisconsin

At the “Wogixete Wi" traditional pow wow hosted by members of #StoptheStigma and the Ho Chunk Nation, Sen. Vinehout learns about their efforts to remove the stigma of drug addiction and give people a place to seek help in a loving and nurturing environment.


ALMA, WI - “I lost my granddaughter to heroin addiction,” Anita told me. “We’ve lost so many people,” Tena added.

Recently, former Marine Tena Quackenbush and her friends, including Quincy Garvin, Jasime Funmaker, Lori Pettibone, Cindy Ward hosted a gathering to promote and encourage recovery from addiction, especially the scourge of heroin addiction.

Ms. Quackenbush started #StoptheStigma, an organization with a mission to stop the stigma of addiction. She was joined by members of “Natives Against Heroin” in hosting the event.

“Wogixete Wi” was a traditional pow wow. Translated from Ho-Chunk, wogixete wi means “Loving Us.” Reaching out with love to those in recovery and to those still suffering from addiction was the theme of the pow wow.

I was honored to be one of the speakers at the gathering.

“You are making a difference,” I told the pow wow attendees. “Building a culture that heals. Putting aside our differences and working to bring love and healing to all who suffer.”

Traditional drummers joined us, including the Red Bone drummers from Minneapolis. The Andrew Blackhawk Legion Post #129 assisted in organizing the event. Ho-Chunk members of all ages danced in brightly colored costumes adorned with intricate beadwork.

Eighty-one year-old Clyde Bellecourt mesmerized the group with his stories. The famous Native American civil rights organizer co-founded the American Indian Movement (AIM). Mr. Bellecourt is a White Earth Ojibwa. He shared how a group of a few motivated people can change the world.

“AIM was started with fewer people than you have here,” Mr. Bellecourt told us. “And mostly women and children.”

At the potluck dinner following the pow wow, I was seated with some of the elder women. They shared with me many sad stories about the scourge of heroin addiction.

Celeste told me, “My grandson OD’d in my home. I didn’t even know he was there.” She found all types of drug paraphernalia hidden in her house. The boy just turned 25 and is now in jail.

Tena showed me a photo of the dresser in the room where a woman recently succumbed to addiction. On it were two bottles of Naloxone, more commonly known as Narcan, which blocks the effects of narcotics. Even with this prescription antidote, the woman died of an overdose of heroin laced with a deadly elephant tranquilizer.

“This is murder,” tribal elder Anita told me. “Johnny just buried his daughter yesterday.” Johnny was sitting right behind me. As I gave him a big hug, he thanked me for coming to the pow wow. “We don’t want her to die in vain,” Anita continued. “This is all so senseless…we are fighting. We need something done immediately.”

The discussion continued with important questions asked but not answered. Why the moms and dads didn’t pay attention to their young ones? Why the police showed up too late to an area where a “heroin party” took place? Why are the young girls willing to “sell” themselves to the dealers who got them hooked? Why aren’t the tribal police watching the “party houses”? Why aren’t the abandon “party houses” boarded up?

“We have to close down the houses,” Anita said. “They talked of policies and procedures, but people are dying.”

Closing up the abandon houses as soon as possible is something Tena’s group #StoptheStigma is working hard to accomplish. They boarded up some abandon buildings. There are policies and procedures to work though, but the group has been successful. Tena even received permission to open up one of the buildings as a house of sobriety and recovery.

Getting people into treatment is a challenge. “It shouldn’t take three weeks for an assessment and six months for treatment,” Tena told me. People need “a safe place to go. They are in immediate crisis and they need intervention.”

For all of us, as Tena says, “Our goal should be saving lives.”

Tena and her friends started the group because they and their mentees/sponsees in recovery suffered hateful posts on Facebook. They realized the stigma of addiction not only added to the difficulties of recovery but also made it harder for someone suffering from addiction to BEGIN the long recovery journey.

Changing the culture takes longer. The Wogixete Wi Pow Wow was a beginning. Each one of us can continue “loving us” and act to help #StoptheStigma.

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Americans are Far More Sane than Washington Warmongers

Posted by Buzz Davis, Stoughton
Buzz Davis, Stoughton
Buzz Davis, now of Tucson, AZ, a member of Better With Bernie Gone Green and Tre
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on Saturday, 12 August 2017
in Wisconsin

war2A veteran who served in Korea believes too many juveniles in the White House, Congress and the military, are like high school wise guys saying “Nobody can tell me what to do".


TUCSON, AZ - I was fortunate to serve as an Army officer in S. Korea rather than being sent to S. Vietnam in 1969.

The Korean people are a vigorous, smart group of people who want their country can be re-united someday.

Seventy six million live on the Korean peninsula. Nearly 128 million live in Japan a few miles away. Then there is China which considers N. Korea part of its empire - just as the US thinks of S. Korea.

Everyone knows wars are easy to start but very hard to stop. Decade after decade the weapons keep getting worse. Only a fool thinks their family can live through nuclear war. Forty five to 85 million died in WWII. Enough innocent children have died. We must stop the killing.

Our problem is we have too many juveniles in Washington in the White House, Congress and the military. By juveniles, I mean they’re like wise guy high schoolers - “Nobody can tell me what to do. I’m so smart!”

Fortunately a scientific public opinion poll of nearly 1,000 voters shows Americans are, once again, far ahead of our leaders in wisdom.

  • 86% of Americans think “…[d]irect talks with North Korea should be tried before taking military action.” ( action.votevets.org/NKPoll )
  • 57% say no preemptive strike.

The Washington crowd will listen if enough people contact Pres. Trump and their Congress members and demand “Diplomacy NOT War!”

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A Better Deal Requires Fair Courts

Posted by Tim Burns, Supreme Court Candidate
Tim Burns, Supreme Court Candidate
Tim Burns is a partner at a law firm in Madison, Wisconsin. He is a former co-c
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on Tuesday, 08 August 2017
in Wisconsin

Late last month, the Democratic Party’s Congressional leadership announced their “Better Deal” program.  With the program’s name harkening back to the Democratic Party’s central role in America’s economic success in the first three quarters of the twentieth century, the plan seeks to rebuild our once strong middle-class economy by focusing on increasing wages, reducing costs for working families, building economic infrastructure, and lessening the power of big money in politics.  Like most Americans, I hope that the “Better Deal” has the same success as the Democratic Party’s earlier economic bargains with American voters.  Wilson’s New Freedom, Roosevelt’s New Deal, Truman’s Fair Deal, Kennedy’s New Frontier, and Johnson’s Great Society strengthened our democracy by expanding our middle-class economy.

Our democracy—our insistence on self-government—is our great accomplishment as a people.  But we cannot have a great democracy without strong small farms, strong small businesses, thriving workers and a thriving workers’ movement, public education, and vibrant diverse communities.  These bulwarks of the middle-class also are the essential ingredients of a democracy.

We also must keep in mind that the success of the Better Deal, like the success of all the Democratic Party’s earlier bargains with voters, will depend on America’s courts.  The fair and impartial courts of the mid-twentieth century strengthened our democracy and middle-middle class economy by working with Congress and state legislatures to implement and enforce common-sense economic legislation that made our nation stronger for everyone.  The judges of that era did not try to find drafting errors in Congress’ great economic legislation and use those errors to undo the legislation.  Those judges made the legislation work by interpreting it to further, not to thwart, Congress’ purpose.  And, our middle class expanded and prospered.

For the past forty years, however, right-wing judges have been chipping away at the laws that protected our democracy and our middle-class economy.  Examples abound.  John Kennedy’s New Frontier passed the Equal Pay Act, but women still receive much less pay for the same work as men because courts weakened the protections of that great law.  Earlier generations of Americans, like our current generation, sought to keep money out of politics, but the United States Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case made those efforts a dead letter.  Here in Wisconsin, we passed the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act, forbidding employers from firing workers because of their age, but the right-wing majority of our Supreme Court made that law a hollow promise for parochial school teachers.

“Deals” matter.  They have lifted all of us—not just the top half of the top one percent.  But, for “Deals” to work, we need fair courts without a right-wing agenda.

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Blue Jean Nation "Democrats will win again when. . ."

Posted by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 08 August 2017
in Wisconsin

wisdemsDemocrats will win again when they show discomfort with the current political culture and all the ladder climbing and nest feathering and back scratching gives way to actual public service and sacrifice for the greater good.


ALTOONA, WI - Over the course of my 57 years, I’ve never seen a time when our public institutions were more disrespected and distrusted. And with good reason. I’ve also never seen a time when government was less responsive to regular people. Over and over, our government is put to work for a privileged few, the wealthy and well-connected. People notice this. They realize their own voices aren’t being heard and their own interests are not being served. That’s a sure recipe for disrespect and distrust of public institutions.

These conditions are especially poisonous to the Democratic Party. The Democrats are widely seen as the party of government. There is reality to that perception. Of the two major parties, it’s the Democrats who most strongly believe that government is essential to a civil society and can have a positive and constructive impact on people’s lives.

But here’s the problem for Democrats. It’s next to impossible to be popular as the party of public institutions at a time when so many people have so little faith in those institutions. People see public officials climbing the ladder, advancing their careers, feathering their own nests. They see those officials exchanging favors, scratching the backs of those who scratch theirs. None of that looks much like public service.

This is why Democrats have been on a decades-long losing streak and are in worse shape as a party than at any point in my lifetime. It’s why Democrats do not control either house of Congress or the White House. And why they are not calling the shots in two-thirds of state capitals, including Wisconsin’s. Being the party of disrespected and distrusted public institutions explains why Democrats have lost more than 1,000 seats in Congress, state legislatures and governor’s offices across the nation just since 2008.

The current political culture celebrates greed. It emphasizes self advancement over the common good. It treats public service as just another opportunity for self dealing. When such a culture flourishes, it’s today’s Republican Party that much more comfortably fits the role of the party of the times we live in. Democrats can say they are concerned for the common good and are acting in the public interest, but when they appear to be operating comfortably within the system as it works today and when they cater to a few constituencies at everyone else’s expense, voters inevitably see them as hypocrites. In a political culture where greed is triumphant and self dealing the norm, Republicans are credited for at least being upfront about their intentions and Democrats are punished for hypocrisy.

Democrats will win again when they show genuine discomfort with the current political culture and the way the system presently functions. Democrats will win again when the political culture is changed, when all the ladder climbing and nest feathering and back scratching gives way to actual public service and actual acts of sacrifice for the greater good. Democrats will win again when today’s me politics becomes tomorrow’s we politics.

And not before.

— Mike McCabe

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