Saturday, November 19, 2011

Recall Walker Pep Rally


The photos from the pep rally are below the fold - I have a tale to spin for you first.

On March 10th, 2011 as my significant other (girlfriend just sounds corny when you are 44) were stepping away from the protest to get something to eat - we passed by the Orpheum movie theater where a young man was on a ladder taking down an old marquee. We probably would not have even noticed he was taking the marquee down had the ladder not been in the middle of the sidewalk. As we walked by I regaled C with with stories about the Orpheum; telling her how my sister had seen The Who open for Herman's Hermit's at the Orpheum, how I had won advance tickets to see Return of the Jedi in the grand old movie house, my almost getting into a fight at a George Thorogood concert (Seriously, a fight at a George Thorogood show). We ate dinner at a newer Mexican restaurant on Gilman street and headed back to the square. The young man at the Orpheum was taking the ladder into the lobby. I decided to look up and saw the marquee that you see in the photo above.

When I took that photo I had no idea that it would go viral. I have seen my photo in Mother Jones (credited to someone else), in multiple places on Facebook and Twitter and I am always surprised at the places that photo shows up.

Now you may ask, "why are you bringing up a photo you took in March?" Well after the Recall Walker Pep Rally I was standing in the lobby of the Barrymore looking around to see if there was anyone I might know. And then I saw it. My photo on a button on a guys jacket. I walked up to him and said,

"Hi, I am the guy who took that photo."
He responded, "I am glad to meet you, what a great photo."

We talked for a bit and then he asked me if I had made any money off of the photo. I said that I had not made a dime and in retrospect, I wish I would have copyrighted my photo.

Then as I drove home I recalled the speech I had heard earlier in the evening given by this man:

Randy Bryce, a Milwaukee Ironworker, said one of the most poignant things of the evening when he said that Scott Walker had actually done one good thing. He brought us together and that our movement has no leader, no one saying you do this, and you do that. There is no hierarchy - we are working together collectively, each of us giving what we can to the movement. Each of using our own strengths to make the movement as a whole stronger. My part of the movement was words and photos. That was and is my strength. We each have had our own strengths in this movement. For some it has been organizing, for others it has been collecting signatures, for some people, like me, it has been recording these moments for posterity. As Randy said, "History is written by the victors and we will write the history of this movement."

My photos and my words helped tell the story of what was and is still happening in Wisconsin. Would it have been nice to have made a little money off of some of my photos? As I look at my Christmas budget this year and wonder how I will buy gifts for my son, a part of me says, "yes." But, that photo means a lot to a great deal of people and knowing that, knowing that people can look at that photo and use it as a rallying cry means more to me than any monetary gain I could have received from it. It is what I gave to the movement and I am proud to have been in the right place at the right time to take that photo and then to have shared it with the world.

On my way to the rally I had to stop and pick up some cash at the credit union. In the parking lot I see a pick up truck with people all around it. They all had clipboards in their hands. They were signing recall petitions.

I hopped out of my car to take a photo an low and behold it Amanda, the leader of the Obama team I was on in '08. She was out in the cold collecting signatures.

Not as cool as the last marquee I took a photo of - but pretty cool nonetheless. vewy, vewy quiet, this cow is going weasel hunting.

Yours truly...signing a RECALL WALKER petition. (Note to self: Wash hat)

The backdrop on the stage

Ben and Sarah Manski - Emcees for the evening.

The Raging Grannies! (Scott Walker really pissed off the wrong grannies)

Phil Neuenfeldt President of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO

Representative Cory Mason (D-Racine) - I wish I had a copy of his speech. He was channeling Winston Churchill at the end of his speech and I could not write my notes quick enough to quote him.

Former Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager - she told a great story about a young man who is working his butt off to support his son...and how Governor Walker is pulling the rug out from under him by slashing Badgercare.

Representative Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) A man I would like to see run for governor.

Representative Andy Jorgenson (D-Gerrymandered out of his district)

John Nichols and his "540,000 magnum petition."


Thursday, October 27, 2011

I am richer than the 1%

Yes, you read that title right, I am richer that the 1%. You may be asking yourself how a guy who is a single parent and is eking out a living is richer that the 1%; especially when I owe money on my house have student loans out the wazzoo and will probably never have enough money saved up to retire.

Well, the answer is really quite simple and I would not trade it away for all of the money in the world. I am richer than the 1% because:

  1. I get to see my son play football every Saturday morning during football season.
  2. I get to see my son play his guitar on stage at local music venues as a part of the “Student Jam.”
  3. I was able to be with my mom for her last days with us.
  4. I am able to chase my dream of becoming a professional writer.
  5. After fourteen years I have moved down to #29,482 on the Green Bay Packers season ticket waiting list.
  6. I am healthy
  7. I was able to go to my last living Uncle’s 90th birthday party.
  8. I get to play rhythm guitar to my son’s lead guitar.
  9. I have good friends that would do anything for me and I would do anything for them.
  10. I am dating the most wonderful, loving, caring woman on the planet. (Who puts up with me).
  11. I had the opportunity to hear stories of the Great Depression from my mom and dad.
  12. I had a great PUBLIC education.
  13. I had the opportunity to serve my country and see the world while doing it during peace time.
  14. I live in a state where the people stood up and are standing up to tyranny.
  15. I do not live my life in the pursuit of wealth.

There is more, but these are just some of the reasons that I and many of you reading this are richer that the 1%. They may have the wealth; however, we have something many in the 1% can never have – true happiness and contentment.

I am satisfied with my life – I never have to worry if I can sleep at night because of something I did or did not do. I don’t have to lie, cheat or steal to get ahead in life. I am raising my son with the values that my parents instilled in me, to do the right thing even if it is not in your own best interests. To treat everyone, regardless of color, ethnicity, religion, social status, etc., the same – with kindness and respect. To never look down on someone, always lend a hand to those who cannot help themselves and to follow your passion in life. That is the secret to being richer than the 1% - Yes, money could make my life one hell of a lot easier – but would it really make me any happier?

Now don't get me wrong I have a good friend who is in the 1% and would give you the shirt off of his back to help you, the point that I am trying to make here is that money is not the root of happiness. Being a good person is the root to happiness and being rich. One does not need wealth to be rich.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Minimum Wage in America - Revisited

In the beginning of the month I wrote diary over at Daily Kos titled Minimum wage in America. It was one of the most difficult and most frustrating diaries I have ever written. A couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail from a student attending Cal State Northridge, unfortunately I did not receive it until today as it got held up in my spam folder (I really need to check it more often).

The comment was so well written that I decided to share it here. I see a bright future as a writer for Judy BenDavid.

Mr. Mark E. Andersen,
In response to the article you have written posted for Daily Kos Labor entitled "Minimum wage in America," I would just like to take the time to let you know that I couldn't agree more. Though you are speaking of a bill proposed by the state of Wisconsin, your point is totally over encompassing and speaks to the country as a whole as it faces its unemployment crisis and stagnant economy. It really seems like common sense to me, and I find it discouraging to realize just how backwards legislature can diminish the lives of the common working man across this nation.

Your main point, that "the minimum wage needs to be pegged to a living wage and it needs to be regional," really drove home for me. It is enraging to think that, with all the ways we can calculate and budget our financial livelihoods based on cost of living for our city, that State officials would allow its citizens to sink below the poverty level due to something as simple as a refusal to raise minimum wage rates. How could it even be considered an option that one be paid a rate that guarantees a lack of survival? It seems more than obvious that in a city like Los Angeles where living costs are high, one would have to be paid more to survive than one would living in a city like Adams, Wisconsin.

The last thing I wanted to comment on was your point regarding creating jobs as a means to stimulate the economy, a major Republican point of argumentation. Having people working, though yes, they will be working (which is not the key point here), at a rate that ensures they will not make yearly ends meet will not stimulate the economy like raising minimum wage rates will. If minimum wage matched the regional living wage for ever working adult in this nation (as pegged to be appropriate for which part of the country they reside in), workers will have purchasing power once again. Thus, consumer demands can be met, products will sell, profits will roll in, and the economy can revive itself. It isn't rocket science.

Thank you for breaking it down to simply and eloquently.

- Judy BenDavid

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wisconsin: Republicans banned from Labor Day Parade

Way to go Wausau and Marathon County!

Randy Radtke of the Marathon County Central Labor Council stated last week:

[we] chose not to invite elected officials who have openly attacked worker's rights or did nothing when state public workers lost most of their right to collectively bargain.

Republican Sean Duffy's office was agape that they were being held responsible for their actions:

[...]the congressman was hoping differences could be set aside for the family-friendly event.

All I can say is about damn time we start holding these politicians feet to the fire! Don't support labor - then you do not set foot near a labor parade or picnic and you better not be kissin' any blue collar babies if you do I hope the baby does what babies are good at doing...all down your Armani suit that cost more than a lot of these workers make in a month.

If you make egregious cuts to education then you better not go into schools to read to children and then expect a liberal author of the book you read to keep quiet!

The American people are getting tired of your astro-turfed tea party movement and the hypocrisy you and your phoney faction represents. So Congressman Duffy, Senator Johnson (how I cringe as I write that, he shouldn't even be a dog catcher) I hope you don't mind that we don't want you anywhere near our family friendly events. They are family friendly for a reason we actually care about what happens to families. Your actions have proven that you don't give a rats ass about Wisconsin families.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Crass Commercialization of America (or, my trip to Six Flags - Great America)

I had fond memories of Six Flags - Great America as a child and teen. It was an amazing place for someone of that age group. The roller coasters, the little rides throughout the park and seeing my favorite cartoon characters (Looney Tunes) come to life. As a recent high school graduate and just a week before I went into the Army a group of friends and I spent the day there. It is, to this day, one of my most cherished memories.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take my son to Six Flags - Great America thanks to my ex-wife. Her employer was offering tickets for $25.00 and it was buy one get one free.  Which I have to say was more than reasonable for an entry fee. Especially when considering that the fee at the gate is $56.99 per person.

Everett and I arrived at the park at 9:30, just a scant thirty minutes to the parks opening. In past trips to Great America I recall the off-ramp being backed up on Saturday mornings at this time of day. I chalked it up to the light rain that was falling and did not think much of it. We pulled into the park and stopped to pay for parking, $20. For parking! I felt that was an absurd price for parking; however, we had purchased the tickets and had already burned through a half tank of gas...turning around and going home was out of the question at this point.

We parked fairly close to the front gates, far closer that I ever recall parking, especially on a Saturday morning. Our tickets were scanned and we entered the security area, not something unexpected in a large public place in this day in age. We went through the metal detectors and my camera bag was searched. Not really a big deal. Once through the security checkpoint we were pounced on by photographers...I really wanted to take a photo of my son in front of the large reflecting pool in front of the double carousel; however, with the army of park photographers acting like paparazzi chasing down celebrities I did not feel that I could.

Onward we went - to The American Eagle, my favorite roller coaster. We were in the first car on the second run of the day. This would be my son's first roller coaster ride and watching my son's stomach leap to his throat on the first hill was priceless!

After the Eagle we walked around the park to plan the rest of our day. This was when I began to notice how much the park had changed from when I was a child/teen. Everywhere you looked was an advertisement and I mean everywhere. One of my favorite rides, The Demon, had one set of cars covered in advertisements about Stride gum. Ads for the new Smurfs movies were everywhere. If you stood in line for a ride you were bombarded my loud music and advertising...even if you were not standing in line for a ride you heard the same loud music and advertising in the background of the park as these messages were pumped through hidden speakers throughout the park.

I also noticed a lot of the smaller rides that were all over the park in my youth were gone. Replaced with carnival games and the inevitable barkers that come with them. Just another way of taking a parents hard earned money away and putting it into the coffers of Six Flags.

After standing in yet another line for another ride I realized I had very little patience for the advertising message that was being pounded into our heads constantly. I broke down and bought a Flashpass. What is a Flashpass you ask? It is a way to suck even more money out of a parent - and also separates the haves from the have-nots. In all honesty, I felt and still do feel guilty that purchased one. What this pass does is set up four different access levels for certain premier rides. The first access level is the general wave of humanity that cannot afford one. They stand in line for hours to ride these rides. The second level of access is the one I purchased. You wait for access to the rides for the same amount of time; however, you do not have to stand in line. You can go and do other things while you are waiting. Then when it is your turn you walk up to the Flashpass entrance and walk right onto the ride. The third and fourth levels (gold and platinum) each give you shorter and shorter wait times and with platinum you can even ride a ride that someone who has been waiting to ride three hours for a second time.

Like I stated earlier, I felt guilty for purchasing one of these passes. I felt, and still do feel, like they create a class system in an amusement park. Some of the people who had been standing in line for hours had some choice words to say to my son and I as we walked up to a ride without waiting two hours in line. Honestly, they are right. This is a very poor system and screams about what is wrong with America today. Money. Money will buy you access to anything. If Six Flags were a decent company they would at least give out the basic level of Flashpass to everyone who has paid admission to the park so that you don't have to stand in line all freakin' day. However, there is money to made, profits before people.

Speaking of profits...lets talk about food service at the park. Should it cost over $23 for two slices of crappy pizza, some soggy breadsticks and a Coke? I was actually undercharged for this combo, evidently the girl did not see the breadsticks. I felt like saying something and under normal circumstances I would have, but in my opinion they were ripping me off...and if I took them for five be it. Later in the evening we were looking for someplace to eat dinner...and wanted something other than the horrible pizza from earlier in the day. We decided on burgers...until we saw the price...$13.99 for a cheeseburger and fries...with no drink. Now at $13.99 for a burger and fries, that had better be the best goddamned burger and fries on the face of the planet. Something both my son and I doubted it was after our pizza experience earlier in the day as such, we by-passed the dinner experience at the park and decided to grab something on the way home. (For the record, we stopped at McDonald's where dinner cost us $9 for both of us...and was probably better than what was offered in the park.

Profiting off of food is not just another way the park gets was hot, in the nineties yesterday. Bubblers (Water Fountains for my non-Wisconsin readers) were few and far between. So you had to purchase drinks. $3.50 per drink plus tax. I spent $30 on drinks one day!

As if all of this were not enough I discovered that new "rides" that had popped up in the park were charging additional fees. My son wanted to ride go-carts so we went over to check them out. When he saw that they were charging $8 per rider he looked at me and said, "Dad, we don't need to ride go-carts, they shouldn't be charging for this."

There were also signs all over the park stating that Great America was the cleanest theme park in the world. While it is clean it is falling into disrepair. In several occasions I noticed things that were points of pride in my youth were no longer kept up. As you enter the park the first thing you see is a reflecting pool with a double carousel behind it. In my youth the reflecting pool was pristine. It was a beautiful blue without a speck of dirt in it. Today the water is clean, but the pool bottom is filthy. The double carousel was a work of art at one time. Today the artwork is no longer vivid, in some cases it is so faded that you cannot make out what it once was. There were other things; however, I do not want to bore you with a laundry list of repairs.

Did my son and I have a good time. Yes, we did. Did my son notice the crass commercialization, yes he did. I asked him at the end of the day if he wanted to take a souvenir home. He chose to take a map of the park home as it was free...and everything else cost too much.

Will we go I cannot see going back the Six Flags - Great America. One, the costs are prohibitive. I cannot imagine going there and paying regular prices with a family of four. Which is why I think the park is struggling right I have alluded earlier the park was not very busy for a Saturday. The parking lot was half empty. I asked one of the employees about it and he said business is down considerably from last year - he said it is the economy. While the economy is a factor I do not think it is the only factor. Six Flags flat out charges too much money for admission, food, drink and everything else. Add on top of that the crass commercialization of the park...and you have a place that stops being about fun and is only about profit. As I said earlier, one of my fondest memories was going to Great America as a recent high school grad...I am not sure that as a recent high school grad I could afford that trip today.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Shooting ourselves in the foot…

Today on my facebook page I came across an article posted by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee titled “Liberal group threatens to pull Obama support.”
Now I will be the first to admit that I am disappointed with our President, the one who gave us so much hope in 2008 – I expected so much more out of him and the democratic majority in both houses. Many of those hopes were dashed by Blue Dogs in the house and a dysfunctional Senate. In 2010 those hopes were crushed again by the Republican wave. Had our President been more forceful in the first two years of his term it is possible that the Republican wave would not have happened. Congress was bogged down in the healthcare debate instead of trying to create jobs. After 2010 with a resurgent Republican Party the chances of getting anything through congress went to nil.
Now the President is negotiating with terrorists…I call the Republicans that as I have no other word for what they are doing. Terrorists who want to see our President fail – If our President fails our nation fails. It is that simple. The Republicans are playing the role of the villain and we need our President to stand up to them, not negotiate with them. However, the political realities of today are never that simple. Do I like the idea of the rich getting tax breaks, corporations not paying taxes and the poor and middle classes having to foot the bill? No, I do not. I do not want to see the President negotiate anything away in terms of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. The political realities are that he may have to in order to prevent the United States from going into default. This is what happens when a fired up, uneducated electorate votes against their best interests, and the progressive base stays home, which is what happened in 2010.
I will support the President even if he does negotiate cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. I will not be happy about those cuts and I will hope that those cuts can be restored in his second term. The risks we run of not supporting the President in 2012 are too horrible to contemplate.  You don’t like the cuts that are being negotiated now…wait and see what happens if a tea party President, and a tea party congress are elected. Think about the big picture…the Supreme Court is also in play in this election. Not supporting the President is a bad idea. If you are a Democrat and you do not support him, you may as well be voting Republican.
I have already ended my relationship with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee…I urge you to so the same.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A funny thing happened on the way to Salt Lake City...

If you haven't heard this yet, Governor Walker and his family had to sleep on the floor of the Denver airport last night. Evidently the Denver area had a hailstorm which caused damage to multiple planes. Now I am not one to wish ill will on anyone, nor am I one to make light of the misfortunes of others; however, I do have to say this, "Karma is a mutherf*cker."

In the Governor's own words (via The Wisconsin State Journal),
“Got stuck in Denver airport & slept on the floor (did get a pillow & blanket),” Walker tweeted from his @GovWalker account.
Walker was traveling with his family. “We slept on the floor in a conference room (security recommended it) on the A concourse,” he tweeted.
The governor also tweeted that he was in the same suit for 28 hours and that “People here r very nice.”

Still no word if Senator Glenn Grothman (R-Asshat) has held a press conference to call the Governor and his family slobs for sleeping in a public building, not washing and wearing the same clothes for an extended period of time.