Saturday, November 3, 2012

Warrior politics

We are nearing what will be perhaps the most important election of our lifetime. I have spent considerable time lately reflecting on the political viewpoints of my brothers and sisters in the police and fire services, as well as those who serve our great nation in the armed forces.  I have watched the GOP assault on public workers across the country, and have watched a Republican House of Representatives block one bill after another designed to assist our nation's veterans.  After careful consideration, I have become convinced that many in my profession have been voting against their own interests.  On the eve of this election, I feel it is time to frankly acknowledge a harsh truth:  today's Republican party is no friend to our country's law enforcement officers or soldiers.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bread and Circuses

"We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately"

                         -Benjamin Franklin, at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, 1776

Last year, in a highly publicized series of events, Scott Walker ended the collective bargaining rights of most public employees in Wisconsin.  What was less well publicized were massive cuts to public education that came in the budget that followed Act 10.  These cuts would eventually total over a billion dollars, and were some of the highest cuts per pupil in the entire nation.  

Based upon Wisconsin's history of tremendous public schools, I would have expected that these draconian and unnecessary cuts would have brought people in the streets much like the attack on public sector workers had.  In addition to losing their collective bargaining rights, our teachers would see class sizes increase and resources dwindle.  Every parent that has a kid in public school had a stake in this situation, as did every employer that relies on a workforce educated in Wisconsin. Yet there has been relative silence since the protests around Act 10 ended.  

In my more frustrated and cynical moments, I would routinely remark to my wife that the one scenario that would finally cause outrage would be if the budget cuts resulted in high schools disbanding football teams.  I feel safe in saying that if this occurred, Wisconsinites would absolutely lose their minds.

Monday, September 3, 2012


"A rising tide lifts all boats"

                -John F. Kennedy, 1963

Today is labor day.  This should be a day of celebrating the achievements of the labor movement in providing dignity and a voice for all workers, yet this year I am filled with a sense of both urgency and alarm.  Workers in this nation are in real trouble, and many don't even know it.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The weapon of words

"But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought."

― George Orwell1984

Over the past year, I have thought often of George Orwell's novel "1984."  Certain aspects of Orwell's dystopian vision of the future have lingered with me since I first read his 1949 novel as a high school student, more years ago than I care to discuss.  One of the parts of the book that made a lasting impression on me, far before my political consciousness fully emerged, was the use of doublespeak, language that deliberately distorts or reverses the meaning of words. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

While Rome Burns

Over the past week, multiple articles and editorials have appeared in Madison print and internet media bearing a central theme:  Now that the recall elections are over, we must put divisiveness aside, forget the sins of the recent past, and move forward together.  The corollary to the primary “let’s all get along” theme is the “get over it, you lost” theme directed at the left.  I read these articles and tried to feel the emotion of reconciliation these articles preached.  I really tried.  Yet, I felt nothing but numbness.  I watched as Governor Walker announced his “beer and brat” summit, while at the same time his communications director Ciara Matthews tweeted taunts and insults at the Democrats for the failure of the recall.  Yet I still felt nothing.  Until, that is, I read an essay published by the Wisconsin State Journal/ on Saturday, June 9th.  The article was written by Kenneth Mayer, a University of Wisconsin political scientist, and was titled “Time for healing to begin.” Upon reading the superficial yet shockingly condescending piece, I felt anger.  And, as is often the case lately, I felt like writing.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fitzgerald's contempt, redux

Back in January, I wrote an essay entitled "Contempt, thy name is Fitzgerald."  That piece was, in large part, born from the reservoir of moral outrage and disbelief that pooled in my psyche after watching the events that transpired on March 9, 2011 in the halls of the Wisconsin State Capitol.  The horror of bearing witness to Wisconsin democracy dismantled in the dark of night was a major influence in my decision to start writing this blog.  I also had a front row seat to many of the incredible stories of the Wisconsin protests, and I did not want these stories lost to the passage of time and fading of memory.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Lord of the Flies

"The world, that understandable and lawful world, was slipping away."

                       - William Golding, Lord of the Flies

Question of the day:   What interest would a corporate lobbyist group have in expanding the rights of citizens to shoot and kill each other?

A great deal has been written about the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and Bo Morrison over the past several weeks.  I don't need to rehash that conversation, as there is little I can offer regarding specific facts of those cases.  What I would like to do instead is examine why these Castle Doctrine/Stand Your Ground Laws have been promoted with such enthusiasm by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

As Lincoln weeps

The morning after the Illinois Republican primary, I was running on a treadmill at my gym watching the morning news.  I just can't stomach Morning Joe on MSNBC anymore, particularly after watching Scarborough pander to the sociopath Grover Norquist while Norquist shamelessly peddled his new book entitled "Poor Children Deserve to Die."  Ok, the book is actually called "Debacle," which is a wonderfully fitting title for a book by the guy who somehow convinced countless politicians to sign a pledge that he conceived when he was twelve years old.   Therefore, I grudgingly settled on CNN to accompany my morning run.  The lead story at the top of the hour was Mitt Romney's win in the Illinois primary.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

One year later

What an amazing time of reflection and hope this past weekend was in Madison, Wisconsin.  The sneak preview of We Are Wisconsin was shown to a sold out crowd of over 1,300 at the Orpheum Theater.  Unfortunately, hundreds more were turned away, but the movie is sure to return after the film festival circuit and before the summer recall.  Amie, Kathryn, Melissa and the entire team truly captured the very essence of what occurred in Madison a year ago, and the power of the film has lingered with me for days.  On to Toronto in May for the Canadian International Documentary Film Festival.  This weekend also saw 65,000 Wisconsinites gather together at the State Capitol for a truly inspiring anniversary rally.  The speeches were a tremendous mix of reflection and looking forward to a better future.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Right turn only

In my prior post titled "Not your average liberal," I discussed how the incessant compromise on the part of the political left in this country has assisted radical, corporate conservatism in dramatically pushing our political discourse to the far right.  One of the premises of that piece is that we are at the point in our country where positions which were once considered extreme are now considered moderate, and positions which were once considered moderate are now labeled as socialist or communist.

Rachel Maddow did an extraordinary job of explaining this phenomenon a few nights ago on her show on MSNBC.  She validated, with research and facts, the reality of this political shift in a way that leaves little room for argument to the contrary.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Enemy at the gates

When Scott Walker released his budget in March of 2011, it was such a radical redistribution of Wisconsin's finances that it was difficult to identify all of the areas of Wisconsin life affected by this agenda.  Over a billion dollars in cuts to education, the worst per capita in the United States.  Tens of thousands of people kicked off of Badger Care.  Increased tax liabilities of the working poor due to elimination of the earned income tax credit.  Devastating cuts to shared revenue for Wisconsin's municipalities, affecting police and fire departments, parks departments, municipal offices, and other vital services.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

State of Disgrace

"We cannot afford to differ on the question of honesty if we expect our republic permanently to endure. Honesty is not so much a credit as an absolute prerequisite to efficient service to the public. Unless a man is honest, we have no right to keep him in public life; it matters not how brilliant his capacity"
-Theodore Roosevelt

"The deterioration of every government begins with the decay of the principles on which it was founded." 
-Charles de Montesquieu.

It's time to recognize the fact that these quotes represent the revolting state of affairs of the Wisconsin government at this moment.  Every day we deny the gravity of the current situation, we lose a piece of what made this state great, and more importantly, we lose a part of ourselves.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Trading the soul of a nation

In my last post, The Plague, I began a discussion of influence of money in politics in our society, particularly in the areas of trade, taxation, and banking policy.  Since my epiphany after watching Dylan Ratigan's impassioned rant, I have read everything I can related to the monumentally important issue of money in politics.  When you are actually looking for it, you see evidence of this influence everywhere.  In this vein, two articles caught my attention in the last few weeks.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Plague

Human beings, when faced with a crisis that threatens their survival, often exhibit what is known as tunnel vision.  We concentrate with intense focus on the immediate threat right in front of us, but our field of view narrows tremendously.  For our ancestors, it was about focusing on the predator that was about to eat us.  For police officers, it means focusing on the man holding the gun who intends to kill us.  The rest of the world fades away as our mind gathers as much information about the threat as it can, preparing us to fight for our life.

While this strategy has immediate benefits of focus and singularity of purpose, it also has some long term drawbacks.  One of those is not perceiving crucial elements of the battle which may be just outside the scope of our narrowed vision.  We just don't see that accomplice standing in the shadows, waiting for his opportunity to attack.

Simply put, sometimes we fail to see the forest through the trees because the trees are just too overwhelming.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Contract

There is a contract you enter into with society when you become a police officer.  You sign up for the job with the full understanding that you will never be wealthy.  You accept the fact that you will work nights, weekends, and holidays.  You will work in the blistering heat of the summer and the Arctic chill of the winter. You understand that there will be family events cancelled at the last minute due to a chaotic work schedule.  Little League games and piano recitals will be missed.  You will consistently see the worst that human existence has to offer.  You know that, statistically, you will die younger due to heart disease and stress-related illnesses than the average person (the most generous study has police officers surviving to an average age of 66, compared with 73 for the average US male population).

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Petition your government, in 2 minutes or less

In March of 2011, as Wisconsinites were still reeling from the shock of the Budget Repair bill, the Governor introduced his 2011-2013 budget.  I attended the Governor's budget address as one of the 20 guests for which the Democrats were allowed tickets.  The gallery was packed full of Walker supporters, and there was a noticeable contrast between the mostly working class Democratic party guests and the hundreds of immaculately-clad Walker supporters.  I could feel eyes burning into the back of my head when I failed to applaud during the speech, and I was actually hissed at when I failed to rise to give the Governor a standing ovation as he outlined his plan to dismantle our state piece by piece.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Why Manitowoc Matters

Wisconsinites have become very adept at their protest skills during the past year.  One of the dangers of these mass movements,  however, is the tendency to lose our peripheral vision.  What I mean is that we spend so much time on the “big ticket” items, like recalls or protesting a terrible piece of legislation, that we don’t pay attention to other smaller danger signs. 

Sometimes real danger lurks in very small packages, like the tiny piece of plaque that breaks free from an artery wall and results in a massive heart attack.  These small dangers are often overlooked with catastrophic results. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Contempt, thy name is Fitzgerald

This blog entry is dedicated to Lori Compas and her Recall Fitz team.  Lori single-handedly created a truly grassroots effort to recall State Senator Scott Fitzgerald from Wisconsin's 13th Senate District.  She did so on her own, without the backing or machinery of any of the large political organizations until the very end.  Lori embodies the warrior spirit I wrote about in "Not your average liberal," and speaks truth to power.  Due to my work schedule (cops4labor sometimes has to be just "cop") and being spread incredibly thin among various efforts, I was not able to join the canvass in the 13th District, but I have a tremendous amount of admiration for Lori and her team.  This post is for them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Not your average liberal

My journey into the world of political activism during the past 12 months has been a little strange, to say the least.  I have reflected on this quite often lately, and am acutely aware of the fact that I am not what some consider a "typical" liberal.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Donuts change the world

On Thursday, February 10, 2011, I was living my life in Madison, Wisconsin.  My focus, as it was for so many years prior, was on being a good husband to my wife, father to my three children, and police officer in my community.  Among my duties with my department at the time was my role as a member of the executive board of the police union.

On Friday, February 11, 2011, those of us on the union board got emails and phone calls from Jim Palmer.  Jim is the executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Officers Association.  Jim told us that the

Compassion Lost

A CEO, a tea party activist, and a union member are at a table.  A waiter brings in a tray of a dozen cookies.  The CEO takes 11 of the cookies, looks at the Tea Partier, and says "hey, watch out, that union guy wants your cookie."

Sympathy with the devil

Please allow me to introduce myself:  I am a 41 year old husband, father of three, and cop for the past 15 years.  I am a detective by trade, SWAT officer when called upon, and recovering attorney.  For my entire adult life, I have hovered just to the left of the center line of the political debate in this country.  For the past 15 years, I have been focused on raising a family and protecting and serving my community.  I liked to consider myself well-read and somewhat politically aware.  Truth be told, I was totally politically inactive, and sat on the sidelines while our nation crumbled.