The Far Side


on a recent sunny Saturday, an Americans for Prosperity sponsored anti-tax rally took place on the Capitol Square in Madison. Camera in hand and curious, I decided to observe the event. I’ve never spent any time listening to “The Other Side” on right wing

talk radio, and boy, did I get an earful.

I was absolutely astonished as I listened for fifteen minutes to hate-filled, inflammatory lies from one of the speakers. At one point, when he mentioned the millions of dollars worth of damage union thugs had inflicted on our Capitol, I burst out with a “that’s just not true!”

The guy standing next to me said, “Well it was a couple hundred thousand.” (According to a recent statement by the Walker administration, the Capitol sustained no damage, rather $200,000 of “accelerated wear and tear—seven million was the original damage claim.)

“So you agree that was not a true statement,” I said.

His reply still puzzles me, “Well they killed a lady’s puppy.”

I’m dismayed at the misinformation that is used to simply rile people up. As I‘ve said many times, I’ve been at the Capitol on almost a daily basis for over a year and have followed debate and legislation closely. I was there at the rallies listening to the speakers on “Our Side”. I never heard anything mean or inflammatory. And to the best of my first-hand knowledge, the statements were true. That doesn’t mean we weren’t angry, but we were dismayed by real events, not lies.

How do we help people check out their sources of information, and how do we end the divisiveness of hate-filled talk radio?

And here is a great link... read about it here or in the comments section.

Solidarity, Please!


Last week the four Democratic candidates for Wisconsin governor made their pitches to a standing-room-only crowd in Madison. I attended apprehensively, fearful of seeing them in ugly political attack mode, but I came home very encouraged. They were respectful about their minor tactical differences. All four candidates are smart and are united in their views, including support for clean, green job policies, a return to higher state funding for public schools, technical colleges and the University of Wisconsin System, and the restoration of collective bargaining for all state workers.

I decided I would be more than happy to have any one of them take the reins from Governor Walker. Here’s what I felt best about: they were all in favor of reversing the rule-making, crony-appointing powers the GOP has made part of Wisconsin law,

thus affecting all future governors. The candidates recognize those powers are a dangerous power grab, no matter what party controls the office. Their theme was “Power Back to the People”.

Here’s a link to the candidate forum so you can see for yourself

I ask that the four candidates show solidarity until one of them is chosen by voters in the May 8 primary. The people of Wisconsin protested and collected petition signatures as one, so we demand nothing less from them. We want to show the rest of the country that there is a better way to run for office.

And the world is still watching Wisconsin.

What Citizens United Look Like


A year ago we chanted together for the first time: “The people united will never be defeated.” We need to remember that daily, because the flip side is that if Walker opponents are divided and attack one another during the recall elections, we will be defeated. Millions of dollars can not defeat us. The kind of divisive, ugly politics we have just witnessed in the Republican primaries could defeat us.

Remember when candidates Obama and Clinton fought long and hard for the 2008 presidential nomination? At the end of that time, President Obama honored Hillary Clinton by asking her to serve as his Secretary of State. Can you even imagine a Republican survivor of the 2012 primaries inviting one of his opponents to serve under him? That’s how far we have sunk in just four years.

Last week I watched Lori Compas deliver 1,800 nomination signatures to the Government Accountability Board office. Four hundred signatures were required within 10 days, but volunteers gathered those in just two days. Here’s what Lori said when she turned them in:

“There’s something amazing going on here and it isn’t about one person, and it certainly isn’t about one party. It’s about the people’s desire to return to our state’s best traditions of civility, good government, and a bipartisan commitment to progress.”

During this short campaign season, let’s find ways to unite as citizens of the state we all love. Visit

May Wisconsin continue to show the rest of the country that there is a better way to run for office and, when elected, to govern. The world is still watching.

In Lori’s Living Room


i love these words wrtten by Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of the magazine The Nation:

"Our effort shouldn’t just be about making politicians into allies; it should be about making allies into politicians. We need the activists, the marchers and movement makers to run. And we need it to happen this year. As we fight to get corporate money out of politics, we must fight to get the things that are bigger and stronger than corporate money into politics."

Lori Compas is one of those “movement makers” who decided to make her first run for public office—for the seat of Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, no less. I was in her living room last Saturday with other volunteers, jotting hundreds of handwritten thank-you’s on postcards she will mail to her contributors. Meanwhile other volunteers went door to door knocking on their neighbors’ doors.

It’s time again for action. The recall elections for for Governor Walker, Lt. Governor Kleefisch, and four Republican Senators have now been certified and set—the primary on May 8 and the general election on June 5. We can be proud of the great job collecting millions of signatures on six different recall petitions. Here’s how we did:

•  Of the 540,208 signatures to trigger Walker and Kleefisch recalls, at least 900,938 valid signatures were turned in for Walker with slightly less for Kleefisch. The validity rate of signatures came out to just under 97% for the Walker recall and 96% for Kleefisch, despite accusations of fake names and fraud.

•  At least 18,282 valid signatures out of 20,735 were turned in against Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, more than the 16,742 needed.

•  At least 19,142 out of 23,712 turned in against Sen. Van Wanggaard were valid. They needed 15,353.

•  At least 18,657 out of 20,907 valid signatures were submitted against Sen. Terry Moulton. Circulators needed 14,958.

•  At least 18,511 valid signatures out of 21,022 were submitted against Sen. Pam Galloway. They needed 15,647 signatures.

It’s time for Wisconsin People Power again! This time around we ask our neighbors to pay attention and vote in the upcoming elections, to volunteer to help, and to give a donation if they can. To beat millions of dollars pouring into Governor Walker’s campaign chest, we need thousands of volunteers to rev up and join the “fight to get the things that are bigger and stronger than corporate money into politics.”

It will be a delightful task to visit doors over the next two months—the weather is so much nicer than it was when we collected all those signatures. Visit to learn about events and opportunities for you to become a movement maker.

Wide Awake in Wisconsin


here's a picture of my friend holding the sign I made to commemorate the one year anniversary of the Wisconsin uprising. I gave a lot of thought to what I wanted to say on my sign, and decided that “Wide Awake!” are the words that best describe me and many others in our state.

Last week I was honored to be part of a small group that accepted the ACLU of Wisconsin's Civil Libertarian of the Year award on behalf of the Solidarity Sing Along. Most weekdays since last May, I’ve been singing at the Capitol during my lunch hour along with hundreds of other regulars, some who participate daily, some who participate once a week or once a month.

As Chris Reeder, our leader, said in his acceptance speech, “We started off with a very simple concept: Show up. Sing. Come back the next day and do it again. Repeat until you are heard. Be peaceful, be positive, be polite. But be strong, stand firm, endure. (And, when you can, be melodious.)

We are in many ways an unlikely group to be seen as standing up for free speech. Certainly most of us never imagined that we’d be singing protest songs at the Wisconsin State Capitol, well over 300 times now. And we certainly never imagined that we’d be receiving this kind of an award from the ACLU.

But it’s been an unusual year, to say the least. Not only had many of us not been politically active until one year ago, many of us had never even sung in public before. We’re a loosely assembled group of teachers, students, union members, non-union working people, parents, grandparents, activists, retirees. People from all walks of life, from all kinds of backgrounds, from all across the state have joined us. But we are brought together by what we believe in.

And one of the things we believe in, strongly, is making sure that the people of Wisconsin have the right to speak out. That the people of Wisconsin have the ability to assemble and make sure that our elected officials can hear us.

The past year has been a learning process. We have learned so many things over the past year. We’re learning about participatory democracy. We’re learning that our government doesn’t listen, unless we talk. We’re learning that voting is not enough. That being informed is not enough. We have to show up. We have to be involved. We have to act.”

We are Wide Awake.

Creativity, Continued


On March 10, a sunny unseasonably warm day, about 40,000 Wisconsinites gathered at the Capitol to commemorate the one year anniversary of Governor Walker’s infamous budget repair bill. It was a small group compared to the 150,000 who took to the streets last year on that day, but it was a huge turnout by current American standards of protests.

During the past year, whenever some new outrage has occurred, we have channeled our anger into activism. In the process we’ve created unique and remarkable signs, songs and events. Our creativity brings us positive energy, hope, and solidarity.

We’ve learned that our protests do not have the power we thought they might have to change GOP plans, but our protests bring us together and we gain strength for the fight. Ordinary citizens now believe they can and should run for public office, people who had never before given a thought to that idea.

An example is Lori Compas, who is running for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s seat after having spearheaded his recall. As she puts it, the Senator convened the legislature in the dark of night without giving even two hours’ notice as required by law. He used his power to lock citizens out of the Capitol and shut them out of the political process. The GOP broke the law that night, but they didn’t break our spirit. They only strengthened the resolve of the people of Wisconsin.

Here’s what Lori said to the gathered crowd at the rally.

“Last night at sunset I saw a pair of sandhill cranes flying low over the cornfields outside our town. Sandhills, for many of us here in Wisconsin, are one of the first signs of spring-- we watch for them in the skies, we listen for their calls, and every year their return reminds us that even after the most difficult winters, new life is stirring and new beginnings are underway.

We’ve come together on this beautiful day not so much to mourn what happened here a year ago, but to celebrate what happened next, and to gather our strength for what’s ahead.

Change is in the air, I can feel it! Can you?”

The New Grassroots Politics


In Wisconsin, we’ve come to believe that politics need not be “politics as usual”.

I first realized that politics could be unnusual when our 14 Democratic Senators fled the state last February. We were stunned—and thrilled. Our representatives actually risked their jobs to represent us, their constituents?! Many of us did not want to see Governor Walker’s Budget Repair Bill hastily rushed through the Senate to become the law of the land, and we’re grateful for the Senators’ creativity and courage. They did their best to slow down the process and stop the bill.

From that point on, the unnusual and historic became the norm in Wisconsin. Our rarely used constitional recourse to recall was first used this summer to show just how desperately citizens want honest and representive government. On the national level, the Occupy movement began to make its voice heard. And now four Wisconsin Senators, our Governor and our Lieutenant Governor face recall.

Lori Compas of Fort Atkinson calls herself "an ordinary person who started paying attention" to politics. People like Lori are just who we want to represent us. This week she declared her candicacy for the state Senate seat currently held by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who faces recall.

Lori says,“If elected to the Senate, I will focus on job creation and true economic development, rather than wasteful corporate giveaways. The Walker administration continues to throw money at this problem without looking for

creative solutions that can really make a difference here at the local level. Small and micro-businesses have a great potential for job creation. Business owners and entrepreneurs need help to make the leap from part-time side jobs to full-time businesses with employees. A crucial step in order to allow them to make that leap is affordable access to healthcare.

"We've found that healthcare is also an issue for farm families, who are often shut out of the larger healthcare system unless they take jobs off the farm. We owe the people who produce our food access to an affordable healthcare system. Over all of this, we have heard repeatedly that the people of our district would like to see a return to good government."

I wish I could vote for Lori, but I don’t live in her district. If you reside in District 13, you’re very fortunate indeed. Find out how to help Lori’s grassroots campaign at

The Birth of Hope


last week, first-time father Chris Reeder returned to the Solidarity Sing Along he has led every weekday for nearly a year. He’d been absent for two weeks, ever since his new son, August, was born. We carried on with our noon singing without Chris, but we missed him—and we were eager to congratulate him. A cheer went up on Friday when he appeared on the street and joined over a hundred of us on the snowy Capitol steps.

Reunited for an hour, we celebrated August’s birth with a shower gift from all of us, hundreds of cupcakes, some hot cider, and a lullaby for a baby boy. We were beaming as we sang through tears. To be honest, crazy as it may sound,we feel like August’s extended family of aunts, uncles and grandparents.

The birth of “our” Sing Along baby is a sign of hope. We’ll watch him grow and keep watch over the kind of world he and children all over the world will grow in.

This is what we sang, with the usual assortment of visitors—that day from Egypt and Germany and Minnesota—joining in:

“August's Lullaby”

Go to sleep now little August, While the grown-ups sing and cry. You won't hear guitars or drumming Until a few more weeks go by.

We'll be singing when you get here, 'Cause Scott Walker's got to go. Today you're in the nice warm indoors But soon you'll join us in the snow.

We know Scott Walker causes trouble. He causes trouble everywhere. But when you toddle in the Cap'tol, He won't be the Gov'nor there.

We know Wisconsin has some problems, But they aren't here to stay. We'll recall Walker and his cronies Well before your first birthday.

So go to sleep now little August, Then later give our songs a try But if you can't sleep just try humming That's our August's lullaby.

Lyrics by Jim Murray