Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

THE Unreasonable Man: Tim Wong

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

A very dear friend recently died. For 25 years we were brothers in bikes, water & energy conservation, anti-consumerism and so much else involved in community building.  Below was my contribution to his Celebration of Life last weekend (this is the disco version; my talk was a much more condensed version). I hope to add further posts about all things Wong over the next few weeks. -MB

Tim was THE DEFINITION of The Unreasonable Man. As George Bernard Shaw said, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

Progress in Madison toward a better biking future, a more energy sustainable future, a more water efficient future happened in great measure because of Tim and his unreasonable ways.

And the thing is, people hated him for it. But the way some of us saw it, the more people hated him, the more we knew he was on the right track.

Circa 1980, this unreasonable headline blared across the top of the front page of one of his many underground newspapers (a succession of which, he was routinely booted off of, btw): “$5 a Gallon and a Pound of Sugar in Every Gas Tank!”

And the fight against the deathmobile was on. But it was, of course, on before that.

Not long after high school (ca 1860?!), Tim joined in the defense of a minority neighborhood in Washington DC. It was the beginning of Tim vs. the highwaymen. That fight never abated for the entirety of his life. The DC highway fight was moral combat against environmental racism even before there was a term for it. The middle class black neighborhood that was slated for the bulldozer fought back. Tim joined that fight. They won. That neighborhood is still healthy & happy. Compare to the fates of once-successful minority neighborhoods across the country that went under the bulldozers. From Chicago’s Bronzeville to vast swathes of St. Louis, now they are just husks of their former selves.

Tim was in the thick of the fight to unshackle Madison’s minority neighborhoods from their highway entombement. An early 90s example: The Williamsburg Way/Beltline underpass that would have eased highway segregation was fought by the racists on the one side of the highway. Tim was on the other. He was in the thick of the fight to build the underpass and thereby push the all-neighborhood connectivity forward. Another example: The Beltline overpass was denounced by the aristocrats over in the Dudgeon-Monroe neighborhood on the grounds that “those people” would sneak into their backyards and rape their daughters; their property values would crater. Tim pushed for the overpass and for all-neighborhood connectivity there too. It was built. Crime is still negligible in the surrounding neighborhoods. Property values have soared. Hmmm.

At no point could Tim be construed as a ‘leader’ in any given fight. That would be anathema to him. But he was always there. Providing spine, bombast, data crunching, analysis, and snark. Basically, he was the villager that needed to be destroyed in order for the highwaymen to keep “saving” our villages from traffic. Saving us always meant more traffic, of course.

And they did keep trying to destroy him. At one point, he was the chair of the city’s ped-bike subcommittee. The highwaymen & others tried every strategem possible to shut him down. But they just couldn’t. So they did the midwest nice thing, and did away with the committee altogether.

When he was on the Transit & Parking Commission, he used the city’s own data to show how awfully they were managing Madison Metro’s resources. This really pissed off the powers. Eventually Mayor Pave summarily threw him off of the commission for the crime of analyzing data.

I think the apotheosis of all things Tim came through our neighborhood’s plan, The Schenk-Atwood-Darbo-Worthington-Starkweather Plan of 2000. They made the “mistake” of making him an official appointee. A mistake because he just wouldn’t act at all like an official power broker (as all too often happens with people in appointed positions). It soon became apparent that Tim was not about to accept the boiler plate pro-car neighborhood plan that the Planners wanted to shove down our throats. But what made this the pinnacle of Tim’s power was not Tim’s POWER. He was more about just getting the ideas out there. Bombastically, YES. But he was about putting the onus on others to follow their own consciences to just do the right thing. Vote their own true consciences. The problem is, most people, once in power, even low level power like a little neighborhood committee, believe that it is their duty to submit to powers above them, to the detriment of ethics, morality, just doing the right thing. In most activist endeavors, victories are scarce. But it was different on this committee. It was made up of others who were dedicated to doing the right thing, powers be damned. And almost all could hear past Tim’s bombast and understand that what he was ultimately pushing for was really just a more civilized community and sustainable environment. Every traffic calming measure was a blow for civilization. Every bikeway, another push for the people. In militating against zoning and parking regulations that strangled our neighborhood business district, Tim and the whole committee made this neighborhood the cool place it is today. But the point was, it was the whole committee. That was where Tim was most comfortable: when ordinary citizens banded together as co-equals to push for the good & the just. If someone had made Tim King of the World, he wouldn’t have liked it. Remember his standard salutation: SLAY A LEADER!!!! If he were designated a leader, he would have just killed himself instead of being boss! The most natural order for a dedicated anarchist like Tim: A united front of co-equal citizens working in the trenches together.

Neighborhood was Tim’s laboratory for doing the right thing, for a more sustainable future, a more just future. He never had that liberal angst about other places being “denied” because of our efforts. His idea was that our neighborhood could serve as an exemplary beacon for doing the right thing. Indeed, once our neighborhood plan started making its way through the city committees, alders started asking the planners why their neighborhoods couldn’t have the same pro-community things. The green eyed monster worked for good! And here is what started happening: the zoning regulations that strangled cool neighborhood business districts started getting suspended. Our older hoods started to flourish (and how many of Tim’s beloved micro-brewpubs sprouted because of it?!!!). Eventually, thanks to the successful example of Tim’s collective efforts with his neighborhood, the entire zoning code was scrapped in favor of zoning that allows neighborhoods to look like our old hoods built before the dominance of the deathmobile. Mayor Pave & his powerful sycophants could never understand what was happening over here, but it was Tim and co-equal cohorts that got the ball rolling and transformed this city from a boring highway to the suburbs into the cool place it is now.

His life’s way was a) read everything there is to read about a subject, b) process it through a moral lense (is it good for lowering our pollution output? Is it good for community? Does it reduce the need for engineered bossiness (or any bossiness)? c) to get the truth out there, d) let people follow their own consciences once they have this information. No bossiness allowed. Bombast, yes, bossiness, no. The problem, of course, was that most people couldn’t hear the truth for the bombast. Some of us loved the bombast as much as the underlying truth. Because the bombast was just a wayfinding sign to the truth.

Tim is perhaps best known for his bike advocacy. But his activism went well beyond. In my google perusals I even found a comment Tim left for the Securities & Exchange Commission, excoriating them for some random de-regulation of the banksters. One of his more memorable fights for me is one that probably only 3 people know about: Water conservation policy.

As Dan Melton, former president of the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara Neighborhood Assn., said in an email around the time of Tim’s death:

Here’s a little “resume” Tim put together, in 2011 (sent at 1:50 AM–one of his favored times to send email).

Of all his many civic activities, one I’d like to call attention to — because not many got to see it — was Tim’s vital involvement in 2011 in the Madison Water Utility’s East Side Water Supply Citizen Advisory Panel (ESWS CAP). It was grueling work, important work — and, frankly, I wasn’t sure Tim was up to it. Boy, WAS he. Former City Engineer Larry Nelson was the eminence grise on the ESWS CAP. Larry knew everything–about everything. If you wanted to challenge Larry, you had to know your stuff–inside-out. Tim did. Tim was the ONLY citizen on the ESWS CAP who would directly challenge Larry. Tim didn’t just spout slogans, he KNEW his printouts. I’m not sure how he did it but Tim would go printout to printout with Larry. Tim made some important points to nudge the City Water Utility towards more conservation–and less willy-nilly well-building. Tim pushed Madison to come up with a water rate structure that would “punish property owners for over-watering their pesticide grass”–(‘their pesticide grass,’ a typical Tim flourish). Tim and Dan Moser (who know lives in NYC) worked hard with Larry to craft a Conservation Advisory statement. Tim suspected the ESWS CAP was “sort of window dressing more than anything” but he was willing to swallow his doubts, and put in the work, work that no one else was willing to do, to help nudge the Water Utility towards more conservation.

From bikes, to water, to people, He was the true Renaissance Man of Activism.

But as with those Renaissance greats of yore, Gallileo, Dante – jailed, run out of town– Tim pissed off just about everyone he came into contact with, most especially the powerful, the sycophants & suckups, the propriety obsessives, the moral peacocks. The snowflakes on every listserv he was on wanted him to drink hemlock. Listmarms were left clutching pearls at Tim’s every e-utterance. For those with a less pinched view of the world, we could listen past his bombast and actually hear the truth of what he was saying. Deathmobile? Well, yeah, it’s the #1 killer of all people ages 4-44. What else you gonna call it? Pesticide grass? Well, why else would suburban lawns look like astroturf?

Tim was very much the community’s moral compass. I will so very much miss him.

To close with another George Bernard Shaw, so channeling Tim:

“I hear you say “Why?” Always “Why?” You see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say “Why not?”

 

Dane County Circuit Court Judge Race: Karofsky v Townsend

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

VOTE APRIL 4! 

Below is a questionnaire I recently sent to the judicial candidates on the ballot. 

***

Dear Candidates for Dane County Circuit Court Judge,
We are in the process of making decisions about the upcoming elections for Dane County Circuit Court Judge. In the past we have been quite generous with our work and resources on campaigns for erstwhile good candidates. We vote in every spring election, as do our numerous friends and acquaintances. Unfortunately, most of those we have supported have gone on to betray the very ideals they campaigned for in very fundamental ways, so we hope you might understand that we wish to have your positions stated clearly before you take office.

1. If you become a Dane County judge, do you intend to uphold, defend and interpret the Constitution of the United States of America *as it is written* or will you merely follow the interpretation handed down over recent decades by increasingly reactionary superior court judges?

2.a. In light of the above, what will the following sentence mean to you when peaceable protesters, and ‘petitioners of government for redress of grievance,’ are hauled into your court (as they routinely are in Dane County) for alleged “crimes” of, well, protesting and petitioning for redress of grievance?

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

2. b. Specifically, does “no” mean “no”?

3. Bicycling Outlawed: Through a number of legal perversions, Dane County prosecutors and judges have effectively outlawed bicycling in Dane County. Through routine abuse of the vaguely worded Disorderly Conduct statute, for over 25 years a succession of Dane County prosecutors–rising then to circuit court judgeships and now into the appellate level–have pursued cyclists in a most vindictive manner. Bicycling victims of murderous motorized road rage have been repeatedly prosecuted by current and past Dane County district attorneys for the crime of, well, bicycling. This is happening despite the fact that:

-the offending drivers involved in *all* of these cases have a long history of criminality, violence and reckless driving while the cyclist invariably is a professional (or in training) with no criminal–or even civil– record whatsoever (and are thus easily intimidated into bogus pleas).
-despite the fact that State, Dane County and City of Madison policy is to promote bicycling. See the City of Madison Platinum Bicycle Plan here (PDF): https://www.cityofmadison.com/trafficEngineering/documents/PlatinumAdopted040808sm.pdf).
and,
-despite the fact that the bicycle is defined as a legal vehicle by state statutes.
-For more on the Dane County prosecutor’s routine re-victimization of victims of automotive road violence, Google “Ozanne’s Crackdealer” or “Blanchard’s Beloit Crackdealer” Or just go to:
http://www.urbanthoreau.com/blog/?p=2095

*Will you end the vindictive prosecutions of bicyclists?*

4. Will you educate yourself about the rights and responsibilities of bicyclists in this state by attending a Wisconsin Department of Transportation “Enforcement for Bicycle Safety” seminar within the first six months of your swearing in?Information can be found here:
http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/safety/vehicle/bicycle/education.htm#law-enforcement
(There is also a version of this course specifically for judges and prosecutors.) Will you properly instruct juries as to the legal standing of bicyclists and, furthermore, instruct that the societal bias–fully infecting local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies–in favor of the driver/against the cyclist has no role in a court of law? And will you have the courage to throw out cases arising from the current atmosphere of prosecutorial vindictiveness toward cyclists?

5. Equal Protection:

The Dane County “Justice” system routinely charges, prosecutes, and imprisons black men at SIX times the rate of white men with similar prior records, for similar crimes. By allowing these disproportionate numbers of prosecutions to even appear in court, the Dane County judiciary has made Dane County an international embarrassment of injustice. What will you do to ensure that justice is administered in a fair and equitable manner consistent with the 14th Amendment (and by extension the 15th Amendment given the disproportionate disenfranchisement through disproportionate felony convictions) of the United States Constitution?

I have copied this query to several other Dane County residents who are interested in justice in Dane County. This will include a large group of cyclists. And they vote.

If you use the old cop-out of “I don’t address specific cases,” We will call you out on it. Because we are not asking about your opinion on specific cases. We are asking about your intentions to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, the Constitution of the State of Wisconsin and adherence to state statutes–*as they are written*–as cases come before you.

Thank you for your time and your work in your candidacy.

Sincerely,
Michael D. Barrett and Pamela S. Barrett
XXXX XXXX XX
Madison, WI XXXXX
(XXX)XXX-XXXX

Trump is Just Symptom of Clinton’s Disease

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

Dunno how this one is going to turn out, but just wanted to get some thoughts down about how badly our “Betters,” the Very Serious People, the élites of the country, have so screwed us, and thus brought us to this pass. And they know it, too. They belatedly realize that “those people” Beyond The Hudson and Outside of the Beltway actually–gasp!–vote. Now our betters are in a panic. And at least paying lip service to the 99%. There have even been some mea culpas trotted out by the old bulls of foreign policy: Please, please, pretty please, ye unwashed, give us just one more chance!

Then there’s this Atlantic article, another in a long series of what I’m calling The Great Panic of Aught 16 (ie, the establishment in a tailspin over The Bern and The Donald):

It’s actually quite good. Basically explains the genesis of the Democratic Leadership Council Democrat (the sellout wing of the party funded by the Koch Bros.) whom I so vehemently abhor. HRC is the latest in a long line of these turncoats. Also helps explain the link between these bankster-friendly neo-liberals and the pro-war neo-cons, a link which I had always found bizarre but understand better now.

But, sorry neo-liberal élites, Hillary et al, you’ve had your chance, and you blew it. Win or lose, you have blown it. You should have read your What’s the Matter with Kansas back in Aught Four and paid attention to its prescience. You should have paid attention to the data which so clearly showed the crushing of the poor and the middle class. Instead of ensuring a more just and equitable America, you just doubled down on:

  • Economics of Cruelty–Your unfair “free” trade pacts and tax policies that crush the 99% while gilding the preciousness of the 0.1%
  • Torture–You let them off the hook, shaming this nation, enfeebling our moral standing.
  • Warmongering–You voted for those wars.
  • Stasiland–You turned the people’s government into a surveillance state, shredding our Constitution. It was a coup and you were part of it.
  • Banksterism–You rescinded Glass-Steagall and other reasonable regulations, allowing the banksters to drive our economy into a ditch, then let them steal people’s houses. And when that wasn’t enough, you let them loot the treasury. And now you cozy up to them. Yes, Hillary, brilliant idea you proposed at that Goldman Sachs dinner: let the banksters regulate the banksters.
  • Global Warmism–You send us into multiple wars for oil to keep cars well-fueled, then the economy goes into a tailspin from sky high fuel prices thanks to your pro-highway policies (remember your ‘drive til you qualify’ housing policies?), your solution is…to build more highways! Thanks to your pro-gluttony transportation policies we are cooking the climate.

You and your party had it all from 2009 to 2011–the presidency, congress, everything– and you did nothing to rectify the worst excesses of the Bush years. Indeed, you people just gave it your Democratic imprimatur.

And then you wonder why the people revolted.  From 2009 to 2011 you had it all. And you just doubled down on the cruelty.

We’ve had quite enough of you people. Even if you eke out a win we’ve had it with you.

Basically, we the people have but one very blunt instrument available, and that is the vote. We couldn’t get the likes of Hillary to hear us, so masses of us voted against her in the primaries. It shook her up and made her adopt a more, shall we say, 99%-friendly posture. But the emails prove that she is busy staying cozy with the banksters and the 0.1%. And I will never be able to forgive her for her Iraq War vote. So, I’m done with her. (Don’t worry, I won’t be voting Trump though.)

 

1937: Krugman’s Victory Dance

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
How to NOT balance a budget

How to NOT balance a budget

As a Krugman fanboy, I’ve been getting a big kick out of his victory dances of late– rubbing it in the faces of the rightist ideologue economists, the austerians from the Austrian School of Economic Destruction. His latest end zone taunt is a blog post entitled, simply, 1937. (If it really were a football game, he’d have a yellow flag thrown in his face for excessive taunting. Yet the crowd roars for more! The dance goes on to be a huge hit known as The Macro-ena! Ok, sorry.)

As he has so patiently (and not-so-patiently) explained over lo these many years, 1937 was a particularly inauspicious year in applied macro-economics as the Roosevelt administration rapidly pulled back from its alphabet soup economic stimulus programs. It was a futile attempt to balance the budget. As everyone who took Econ 101 should have learned, it had the exact opposite effect, throwing the economy right back into a depressionary tailspin, making budget balancing just that much more difficult/impossible. FDR essentially snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Obama repeated the mistake, rapidly drawing down his somewhat successful–if under-amped–Recovery Act, thereby muting the incipient recovery.

But at least it was something.

The Europeans got straight up austerity from the get-go resulting in all the unmerited, self-inflicted suffering of sky-high unemployment that continues to this day.

Indeed, the oh-so-much-smarter-than-Americans Germans are relearning that lesson–again, and again, and again– even as we speak.

The lessons of 1937 have been a long-running theme of Krugman’s. Every time he references it, I keep thinking back to a very prosaic, but telling remnant literally written in the landscape in an older neighborhood of Norman, Oklahoma…

…I present, my 2013 photos, “1937: The End of Road for the Works Progress Administration’s Work”:

How to NOT balance a budget

How to NOT balance a budget

 

Or, maybe “The Depression that Wasn’t Ended Now”:

IMG_20130506_154428_182

Where was Obama’s Recovery Act when our pedestrian infrastructure needed some help? This is looking pretty shovel-ready to me!

 

I keep thinking Krugman could use these as a centerpiece/banner graphic for his blog….!

Needling the Power: Rummel’s High Road Strategy

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

I’ve always admired Salman Rushdie’s hammering of the arrogant, the powerful. This is classic.

Very much brings to mind the dynamic on our neighborhood’s listserv (SASYNA-Discussions@yahoo.com). People who question the arrogant power-wielders get routinely trashed by the listserv-marms. Those enforcers of civility (well, their short-sighted version thereof) are (at best) mute to,  and (more accurately) apologists for actual, physical abuses of power. Our local alder, Marsha Rummel, for instance, is all about destroying air, land and water with her paving ways, but the establishment progressives come rushing to her defense the moment her policies come into question. To question–with words–her physical abuse of our environment (and the people who drink water and breathe air) brings denunciations of, “Cyber-bully!” or snide condescensions of “That’s not how we do it in the 6th.” And the ultimate: question her votes for trashing the air we breathe and the water we drink and you get thrown off of your city commission (or, alternately, your appointment gets blocked). As you can see from my previous posts, her violence against our aquifer is now starting to cost us–in cash–as ratepayers and taxpayers. I’ve written extensively about its effects on our city finances over the years; here’s a classic. (Make sure to click through to the “Madison is paving itself into oblivion” article–yes, she voted for all of those extreme paving budgets except for the ’09 budget.)

RummelScapes

Rummel’s “High Road Strategy”

But the defenders of Rummel’s pollution-as-usual policies are always successful in cowing those ready to move forward from her 1950s mentality. Every election her oh-so-sensible defenders sniff, nose in the air, with condescending disgust, their “disappointment” that an opposing candidate would have the temerity to actually run against such a progressive saint as Marsha Rummel. The stalwarts of progressive piety denounce as blasphemy any opposition: To merely run against Rummel brings on denunciations of not being sufficiently “high road” to represent the district; “That we just don’t do negative campaigns in Madison;” etc. To run against Rummel is to invite the wrath of God Herself. And the district bows down before the icon; the last two elections it voted in droves for the symbol over substance–70% for Rummel.

And thus continues the paving, the annihilation of our drinking water and the air we breathe, the diversion of city resources from the poor, from basic services. Yup, the most proudly liberal/progressive district in the universe voted for it.

More to come on all that, I’m sure.

Lanford’s Evasiveness, St. John’s Sycophancy: What’s a Voter to Do?

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

T’is election season and I’ve got something questions of the current crop of candidates, starting with the candidates for Dane County Circuit Court Judge.

First, we all know that Rebecca St. John promotes vindictive, groundless prosecutions and relishes throwing away the keys regardless of guilt. (For more on her authoritarian judicial philosophy,  here is a link to her application (PDF) for judgeship to the governor;  here is a ten point analysis of her legal work; here is a journalistic he said/she said take on it and an editorial.) As a Walker sycophant she is immediately disqualified in my book (oh, blog).  So no need to even bother asking her anything.

So I decided to pose some important questions to her opponent:

Dear Ms. Lanford,

We are in the process of making decisions about the upcoming elections for Dane County Circuit Court Judge. Craig Spaulding has been doing great volunteer campaign work for you, and has asked that we put a sign on our very prominent corner lawn (right behind the Harmony Bar). We have, in the past been quite generous with our lawn for good candidates. Unfortunately, most of those went on to betray the very ideals they campaigned for in very fundamental ways, so we hope you might understand that we wish to have your positions stated clearly before we put our own reputations on the line.
1. If you become a judge, do you intend to uphold, defend and interpret the Constitution of the United States of America *as it is written* or will you merely follow the interpretation handed down over recent decades by increasingly reactionary superior court judges?
2.a. In light of the above, what will the following sentence mean to you when peaceable protesters, and ‘petitioners of government for redress of grievance,’ are hauled into your court (as they routinely are in Dane County) for alleged “crimes” of, well, protesting and petitioning?
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
2. b. Specifically, does “no” mean “no,” or something different to you?
3. Through a number of legal stratagems, Dane County prosecutors and judges have effectively outlawed bicycling in Dane County. For over 20 years a succession of Dane County prosecutors–rising then to circuit court judgeships–have pursued cyclists in a most vindictive manner. Victims of murderous motorized road rage have been repeatedly prosecuted by current and past Dane County district attorneys. This is happening despite the fact that:
-the offending drivers involved in *all* of these cases have a long history of criminality, violence and reckless driving while the cyclist invariably is a professional with no criminal–or even civil– record whatsoever (and are thus easily intimidated into bogus pleas).
-despite the fact that State, Dane County and City of Madison policy is to promote bicycling. See the City of Madison Platinum Bicycle Plan here (PDF): https://www.cityofmadison.com/trafficEngineering/documents/PlatinumAdopted040808sm.pdf).
and,
-despite the fact that the bicycle is defined as a legal vehicle by State Statutes.
Will you educate yourself about the rights and responsibilities of bicyclists in this state by attending a Wisconsin Department of Transportation “Enforcement for Bicycle Safety” seminar within the first six months of your swearing in? Information can be found here:
(There is also a version of this course specifically for judges and prosecutors.) Will you properly instruct juries as to the legal standing of bicyclists and, furthermore, instruct that the societal bias in favor of the driver/against the cyclist has no role in a court of law? And will you have the courage to throw out cases arising from the current atmosphere of prosecutorial vindictiveness toward cyclists? 
I have copied this query to several other Dane County residents who are interested in bicycle safety issues in Dane County. I will also forward your answer to a large group of cyclists and others.
Thank you for your time and your work in your candidacy.
Sincerely,
Michael D. Barrett and Pamela S. Barrett

Here’s the response I got:

Dear Michael and Pamela:

Thank you for your thoughtful email about the Dane County Circuit Court Judge election.  It is a very important election, and I am thankful that people are seeking as much information as possible about the race.
The questions you ask in this email relate to specific issues that may come before the court.  While I know it is not a popular answer, I cannot state specifically how I would rule in any case, as I am precluded by the judicial code of conduct from doing so.  I can promise and pledge that I will look at each case individually, considering the rights of everyone involved, and that everyone will be treated fairly and with dignity in my court.  I have known Craig Spaulding for almost 20 years, and I believe he can attest to my character and values that I bring to the bench.
What I bring to this position is over 16 years of trial court experience and an independent judicial philosophy.  This is critical at a time when the trial courts will be hearing important and complex issues.  My opponent, Rebecca St. John, has stated in her application to Governor Walker that she believes one of the best decisions in the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the last 30 years is a decision written by Justice Gableman, joined by Roggensack, Prosser, and Ziegler, which says that the legislature can limit the trial court’s power to act in the interest of justice.  I do not believe the legislature has such power, because I believe the judiciary is an independent, equal branch of government that derives its power from the Constitution and the people.  The role of the court is to do justice, and that role should not be limited by either of the other two branches of government.
There is a real choice in this election between me and my opponent.  I ask that you see visit my website:  www.LanfordForJudge.com for more information on my experience, and my many endorsements including Congressman Mark Pocan, MTI, AFSCME PEOPLE, Wisconsin Progress, SCFL, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Fair Wisconsin, SEIU and TAA.  Thank you for reaching out.
Rhonda L. Lanford

The lamest non-answer I’ve ever received from an aspiring office-holder. I tried to contain my disgust in my response:

Dear Rhonda,

Thank you for responding.
We get the sense that you didn’t read the questions because they were indeed very *general* constitutional questions, and not about a specific case. Nothing in that hallowed judicial code of conduct prohibits you from expressing a clear defense of the Constitution of the United States of America. If Wisconsin law allows Gableman to race bait and get away with it, you can most certainly mount a philosophical defense of the First Amendment.
We simply wanted to know whether your courtroom will be a place of respect for our Constitution–something Pam & I put our lives on the line for. We didn’t get an answer to that.
We also wanted to know if you will treat bicyclists as citizens or as just so much roadkill. That is a discussion of law and an interest in your further legal formation, not a specific case. We didn’t get an answer to that.
We are sorry, but we won’t–in good conscience–be able to put a sign in our yard.
Sincerely,
Michael and Pamela Barrett
Ask Rhonda Lanford why her opponent can cite specific cases in her campaign for office in that application to Scotty, but she, Lanford, can’t. Ask Rebecca St. John why she wants to put innocent people away, forever.

Lanford’s Evasiveness, St. John’s Sycophancy: What’s a Voter to Do? As per usual in these judicial or district attorney races, I’ll seriously consider writing-in Jefren Olsen, a public defender with a ginormous legal brain and a rock solid moral compass–an exceedingly rare combination.

Nicole Foss: “The Great Recession, Energy Depletion, and Political Turmoil,” at Goodman TONIGHT

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Nicole Foss will be speaking tonight at 7 at the Goodman Center (details below). She is quite a speaker. I went to see her when she was here back in 2010. Her thinking is amazing–bringing together economics, social relations, and the natural/physical world in one very all-encompassing view. She is very good at demonstrating–jargon-free–the physical/energy resource limits we are up against on this earth. As the son of a geologist, and being a geographer myself, her thesis rings true. She then illustrates how we are papering over the inevitable energy crunch with debt–personal, corporate and government. (Think Wile E. Coyote right after running off the edge of the cliff, but just before falling into the canyon; that’s where we are now!) Being a fan of Krugman, her economics ring true as well. But it isn’t all doom & gloom. She has a somewhat hopeful outlook for those willing to move away from the world of consumerism & consumption. (Heads up permaculturists & local community-builders!)

And for whatever it is worth, this talk will go a very long way toward explaining why some of us have been fighting for decades for sustainable ways of getting around, land use patterns that are amenable to walking, biking and transit (i.e., community) and hyper-energy efficiency in our buildings. Given all of the paving, parking & inefficient buildings going in all over the place right now, we’re going to be seeing a lot of what they call “stranded capital” in the not-too-distant future.
You’ll be calling up your friendly neighborhood energy auditor right after this talk, I guarantee it!
-Mike

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Hans Noeldner <hans_noeldner@charter.net>
Date: Fri, Dec 30, 2011 at 9:04 PM
Subject: Tue Jan 3 – Don’t Miss!
To: Hans Noeldner <hans_noeldner@charter.net>

Please join us this Tuesday evening for a special repeat appearance in Madison: Nicole Foss: futurist, international lecturer, and co-author ofthe top-rated financial blog  www.TheAutomaticEarth.blogspot.com The Great Recession, Energy Depletion, and Political TurmoilFree and open to the public Date/Time: Tuesday, January 3rd, 7:00 PM Location: The Goodman Community Center149 Waubesa StreetMadison, WI 53704Map:     http://tinyurl.com/7r2u3f4 Sponsors: WORT, Madison Peak Oil Group, UW Madison Energy Hub, Transition Madison Area, RENEW Wisconsin Pre-event Publicity:  Nicole Foss will be interviewed live on WORT during an hour-long program starting at noon on Monday, January 2nd.  Richard Heinberg, James Howard Kunstler, and Dmitry Orlov – leading luminaries in the Peak Oil/Post-Carbon world – will be calling in as guests.Matt Rothschild of Progressive Radio will also be interviewing Nicole on Wednesday Jan 4th.  It will be available here:     https://www.progressive.org/radioweekly For more information please contact Hans Noeldner     hans_noeldner@charter.net     608-444-6190 Intention:During the past year, tremendous political and economic turmoil has rocked the United States and the world.  Wisconsin – the center of the developing storm last February – has witnessed an unprecedented resurgence of citizen interest and engagement.  In this midst of this upheaval we find ourselves challenged to re-imagine politics, economics, and government itself. Meanwhile the aftershocks of the Financial Meltdown of 2008 continue to shake the world.  With the Great Recession showing no signs of abatement, and with the Euro on the verge of collapse, events are unfolding very much as futurist Nicole Foss predicted several years ago.  With 1000 postings and counting at the website www.TheAutomaticEarth.blogspot.com , Nicole and her writing partners have provided readers with many insights into the interplay between “Peak Oil”, finance, and monetary policy.  Not only did Nicole warn that a Financial Meltdown was imminent well before it occurred (a prediction which eluded leading economists like Nobel-prize-winning Paul Krugman and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke), she foresaw the NATURE of the violent oscillations in energy and commodity prices that would ensue. Having lectured widely in North America and Europe during the past few years (including Madison appearances in September and October 2010), Nicole Foss is returning for another presentation – one which is generating widespread interest and excitement. How do these forces and trends intersect?  What might be our vision for the future – one which combines a sober recognition of Earth’s biophysical limits…with a human-centric economic system…financial and government reforms…and an engaged, informed electorate?  It is our hope that events like this will inspire Wisconsin citizens to engage in vigorous, respectful, and open-minded debate.

Walker Planning Martial Law

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Indeed.

Herr Walker has been violating a court order to return open access to the Capitol for some months now. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he has now activated the National Guard to develop military responses to further dissent.

So the military — every officer, every soldier, individually — comes to that line: To kill, maim, brutalize their own citizens; or, to dig deep into their moral being.

This is the time for each & every officer and soldier to review their oath, and understand the constitution — as well as it’s amendments — which they swore to uphold & defend. A quick review of Nuremberg precedents is in order as well.

While I’m no fan of the Egyptian military, and I’m not saying they behaved perfectly this spring, but, civilized people everywhere should applaud their moral bearing in respecting their civilian populace’s right ‘peaceably to assemble.’ In civilized societies, militaries have no business in politics.

This will be a true test of our National Guard’s moral mettle.

As someone who has commissioned service under his belt, I know which side of the line I would be on.

Now.

 

 

Why I’m Voting for Twink

Monday, April 4th, 2011

I’ve gotten several queries about the various campaigns in the offing. Here is an adaptation of an email I just sent out to a neighbor regarding the 6th District race with Twink Jan-McMahon bravely going up against Progressive Dane icon Marsha Rummel.

Hi [name withheld],

Thanks for asking. Before I launch into this, I just kind of want to lay out where I’m at in terms of the two biggest issues facing us as Madisonians as well as civilization as a whole:

  • Energy — A future with a lot less of it (not necessarily a bad thing if we manage it right, which our current alder is not).
  • Drinking Water — There will be a lot less of it, and it will be a lot dirtier, thanks to bad policy decisions by the incumbent alder and mayor. It doesn’t have to be this way.

So I should also warn that,

a) Most of the world — even among my more liberal/progressive friends —  is still in denial about the importance of energy and water issues and their integral nature with our land use and transportation decisions, and,

b) Though there has been much teeth gnashing amongst neighbors regarding perceived personality flaws of each of the candidates, the personality stuff means about zilch for me. That said, I pretty much agree that both Jan-McMahon and Rummel can come across exactly as you described them (and after some cajoling, Jan-McMahon has come some ways in working out many of those issues). But I just don’t care about personality quirks. I only care about results. And, personality quirks or no, Jan-McMahon has done quite a lot for the neighborhood (certainly more than the incumbent) even while wielding no formal political power, and while active in a political environment that is hostile to activism. Rummel, on the other hand, continues to block citizen-led initiatives at every turn.

A brief synopsis of Jan-McMahon’s accomplishments & vision are summarized here and here.

And she knows how to give heartburn to very powerful people; witness this little hissy fit from Isthmus. It reads like a Rummel press release, being quite redolent of conventional wisdom. How dare she run against Marsha! it screams. (The dig about Eastwood Drive was likely fed to the author, Joe Tarr, directly from his employer’s associate publisher. The latter threw a tantrum back in 2009  at our neighborhood meeting about plans to re-invigorate the Schenk’s Corners business district through returning our neighborhood’s public land to civilized uses. Many in the neighborhood, including yours truly, looked forward to reconnecting our residential neighborhoods to the business district by eliminating the expressway slashing them in two. There were publisher claimsed that it would have increased traffic in front of her lakefront homes. She That is mistaken. It ain’t 1970 anymore. We know how to keep traffic off of neighborhood streets now; we didn’t then. [See: Update 2.])

Anyone who can irritate powerful people whom are in favor of blasting giant highways through our cherished neighborhoods gets my vote.

I absolutely understand the confusion about all the back & forth on the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara listserv (SASYNA-Discussions@yahoogroups.com) about the two candidates. The discussion, though lively, doesn’t include a lot of people who are still quietly holding back what they really feel. Even Rummel supporters are disappointed in her lack of dynamism. Thus, we have yet another example of why it is so hard to go up against an incumbent. In this case, a 1970s icon who enjoys, as the political philosopher Max Weber put it, “the authority of the eternal yesterday” (i.e., historical prestige, an iconic reminder of the good ol’ days, an enduring symbol of life back in the day).

So here are a few reasons why the Jan-McMahon campaign happened at all:

  • Cars before people. Before Rummel ran the first time (’07), I had considered running. Before the campaigns even started, she approached me, we discussed, and, based on my stated concerns, she assured me that she would rein in the wasteful highway expansions. Why was that my priority? Energy, economic/fiscal prudence, drinking water supply damage, unhealthy air, etc. are directly related to Madison’s road expansion mania. (More information below in a little capital budget analysis I ran; also here, here and here.) Instead of reining in highway spending, she ended up voting again & again for highway budgets that expanded roads at ten times the rate of population growth. Over the course of her four years in office, Rummel boosted total highway spending by 46%, road debt by 50%, & on & on. Meanwhile, she voted to either flatline or slash most everything else in the budget.
  • A green Williamson Street denied. The big one was this, right in our hood: Anne Walker, Jo Schilling, John Coleman and several other neighborhood activists have been vigorously engaged in making Willy Street a truly green project. They researched, analyzed and found successful examples of strategies to promote:
    • good water infiltration
    • less pavement
    • buried utilities to protect our trees
    • keeping the existing trees, and,
    • ways of bringing it all together in a synergistic whole.

Very little of this civic work made it through the process. Yet, Rummel brags about the meager accomplishments as if they are major. While there was a little progress, what little was accomplished happened in spite of Rummel, not because of her. She tried to stymie the neighborhood activists at every turn. Finally, when she heard footsteps on the campaign trail, she decided she would allow a couple of tiny “pilot projects” using the green measures. Too little, too late, as far as I’m concerned. We could have had a much better project if Rummel hadn’t stood in the way.

  • Overpumping and Overpaving. Why is green street infrastructure important? I don’t know if you’ve been following the water saga or not, but the crux of the matter is this: we must re-establish a healthy hydrologic cycle with better infiltration replenishing our aquifer, the source of our drinking water. Most of the chemical contamination emerging in our drinking water (predicted to get worse) can be attributed to two processes set in motion by city policy: Overpumping & Overpaving. Rummel has done nothing on either front. (Ok, except to make things worse.)
  • Edgewater debacle: She voted for it before she voted against it. The March 17, 2010 minutes of the Urban Design Commission (pdf) show that she voted in favor of the project when a vote against could have killed the project.  (Rummel’s comments start on page 6.) Although she may have fought long and hard against the project later on (maybe after her constituents reminded her that the 6th district doesn’t look kindly upon taxpayer-funded corporate boondoggles), the fact remains that, when it really mattered, she voted in favor. (H/t Tim Wong for some of these insights).
  • Trashing our civic values. And while it is true that Edgewater needed to be redeveloped, it should have been carried out,
    • within the existing development processes (i.e., respectful of neighborhoods, our shared heritage, and existing urban scale), and,
    • with no public funding. The developer, Hammes Co., is headed by one of the largest donors to the Walker campaign. So by giving public treasure to the likes of Hammes, we are digging our own grave.

In sum, someone was going to run. If Jan-McMahon had not stepped up, there were several others who were going to. In other words, this isn’t a personality contest, it is about the issues, pure & simple.

As you read the analysis of Madison’s road building budget below, keep in mind that the roadbuilders are also among the biggest donors to Governor Walker and the rest of the Republicans. (More information about how the roadbuilders are rewarding the Republicans here.)

************************************

CAR-FRIENDLY BUDGETS ARE BROKEN BUDGETS: A Budget Analysis of the Road Expansion Budgets Approved by Ald. Marsha Rummel

Road building is the #1 budget buster. The city’s looming budget crisis isn’t due to city workers. It isn’t citizens demanding more services. It isn’t wasteful government agencies. The budget problem can, in a large part, be attributed to wasteful, robotically planned, road expansions, all approved by Marsha Rummel. Most of the road expansions are occurring at the extreme periphery of the city. The expansions do not benefit city residents; they benefit exurbanites who don’t even pay taxes here. Worse yet, the city has undertaken a risky borrowing scheme to pay for these extravagant acres of paving, putting our fiscal house in jeopardy.

Specifically:

*In the year alder Rummel took office the road building budget (major streets) was $46m.

*By 2011 she voted for a whopping $66m road building spree.

*In each year of her tenure (except 2009), she voted for road expansions at *more than 10 times* the rate of population growth.

*The total: an outrageous 46% increase in road spending in her 4 years in office.

*By far the single largest capital budget item is road building (major streets); that hasn’t always been the case. In 2001:

*The road construction budget was only $12m. Now it is $66m.

*Road construction was only 17% of the total capital budget

*Now it is a whopping 27% of the total capital budget, with Ald. Rummel’s support

*Borrowing for roads has increased by 50% under Ald. Rummel’s tenure (from $25m in 2007 to $37m in 2011.

*This isn’t for fixing existing roads, these budgets are all about road expansions; 17% of each of her roadbuilding budgets is dedicated to road expansion, in a time of population growth at only 0.8%, inflation is nonexistent, and more people than ever are using alternatives to driving.

*Debt service for roads is now squeezing the operating budget, resulting in cuts for Madison Metro and other essential city services.

In sum, the Rummel/Cieslewicz paving spree is occurring at a time when more Madisonians than ever are taking the bus, carpooling, walking and biking. Now is not the time to be spending so much on gilded highways. The city’s total debt burden, driven by Ald. Rummel’s suburban paving spree, has reached historic highs. The debt squeeze is already on. Debt — much of it due to over-building roads — is predicted to gobble up nearly one in every six dollars in our operating budgetby 2015, according to our city comptroller, Dean Brasser. A squeezed operating budget means lower quality services. As we have seen with the current mayor, the first to take a hit will be Madison Metro. We’ve got to protect the essentials: our basic services, our programs that protect the weakest in our community, our lakes, our aquifer, our air and everything that makes quality of life so great in this city.

***************

By building roads far beyond that which is necessary, we are simply making the Republicans stronger. It is time to start connecting the dots, folks. When: Voters support-> Liberal/progressive politicians who support->big highways which support->roadbuilders who support->Republicans…we get FitzWalkerstan.

Please think about those relationships on April 5.

So there you have it, the world according to Mike. And thanks very much for asking.

See you around the hood if the weather ever gets nice again!

-Mike

Update 1: More on how roadbuilders use public monies to subvert the public good.

Update 2: Isthmus reporter, Joe Tarr, informs me that he got the information about Eastwood Drive from other council members, not the Associate Publisher as I had mistakenly suspected. Apologies for the error.

Cycle Chic and Urban Revival

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

It’s happening…the hipsters are taking over the world, and infiltrating the fashion world! Next thing you know, bloomers will be back in vogue!

The whole bike fashionista thing has long been brewing here in Madison, and the best viewing perches are Cafe Zoma and Mermaid Cafe on the East Side, and, of course, any cafe on State Street.

And most hopefully, the hipster crowd is rebuilding detroit, one pedal stroke at a time (and here and here).

Maybe there is hope after all…! Sometimes it takes a depression to build a better society.