Sunday, March 13, 2011


Anger is a very powerful and destructive thing. 

As I’ve watched the events in Madison unfold, it’s been interesting and disconcerting to watch protests, things said and done, and the continued fire that causes people to go out into the cold and voice their position on the budget repair bill, passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Walker on Friday.

The part that bothers me is the desire to injure the opponent.  Now, I don’t mean from a physical standpoint, although there have been random threats, but from an economic or reputation standpoint. 

There seems to be a sentiment of “if i don’t get mine, you can’t have yours.”

I was hoping we could be bigger than that, that those on the “losing” side could pick up and use positive ways to balance the ledger.  Nobody wins when another is torn down.  And, in this case, spending your time in taking away from others is a very negative pursuit. 

I think I’ve made it plain that I believe there is a better way to negotiate pay than is currently done.  And, I believe unions have become barnacles on the hulls of our economy.  They don’t bring value to goods and services, costing hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost of doing government business in Wisconsin.

Union leadership doesn’t teach a class, plow a road, mow a lawn, or build anything.  They are lawyers and negotiators who take our money and use it for means that don’t necessarily line up with the interest of the community.

That said, I am impressed by the impassioned protests and the zeal of people who believe otherwise. 

I would hope that those protesting would find ways to use that anger to promote and improve their position instead of tearing another’s down.  That is how good things happen.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Last week, we saw NPR blow up over comments made by their president over the Tea Party and their supporters, a very broad brushed attack on all members.  This is the same organization that didn’t renew Juan Williams contract over comments that could be seen as similar about Muslims.  In my mind, it’s clear that NPR has a political point of view and is somewhat intolerant of others. 

So, why do we fund it?  If we fund that, shouldn’t we fund XM radio, which clearly has a singular national reach, many points of view,  and would be available to anyone, anywhere?  In my mind XM, has a unique platform, offering all kinds of content, not left or right, but all, and is available to anyone with access to the sky.  In my mind, it is a better platform for public funding because of its availability.

In my world, government shouldn’t fund anything like this, either XM or NPR.  Support for NPR could easily be made up privately, and the bulk of their funding comes from private sources anyway.   They’re very good at asking for money, they just should ask for a little more.   I know I’ve supported them, probably more than most of their ardent supporters.

I believe NPR is a legitimate platform for news and opinion.  And, I like the measured way they approach topics, with the ability to parse and nuance.

While valuable, NPR’s time of public funding is past.  It will survive.  And, completely free of government funding, it will be able to say what it wants, without worry.  But, it will have to pay taxes and be subject to the rules of the rest of the world.  What a novel concept.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

we deserve better…..

Have you ever gotten yourself so inside an argument that no longer resembled the argument you started, but just needed to win, no matter how stupid it looks to those on the outside?

I think that’s what happened at the Capitol in Madison last night as the Republican Senate jammed through legislation to curb union negotiating rights.

Now, I’m no friend of unions.  They have their place, but I think they’ve turned into political organizations, not labor organizations.  I believe they inflate the costs of goods and services, not because of payroll, but work rules and pensions.  I believe they cost jobs, not save them.

That said, our state government has acted like the petulant lot they’ve become, more interested in winning the point, than negotiating the proper future.  They need to start representing us, and not the special interest groups that seem to be pulling the strings. 

It was interesting to hear how John Erpenbach, the senator from Waunakee, and now TV star, was completely unaware of the negotiating between the governor’s office and the Senate 14 who fled to Illinois.  His leadership didn’t seem to think it was necessary to brief him with information that might have been helpful in solving this mess.  It seems his leadership was being directed from another venue, and it wasn’t Wisconsin.

And why, exactly, did the Senate 14 find it necessary to legislate from Illinois.  They don’t deserve to be considered if they feel that the proper route is to run our government as a hostage situation. 

And, in listening to the non-debate that occurred last night prior to the bill being passed, the yelling and shouting in the chambers sounded like something you’d be hearing outside the building from protesters, not inside the building where cooler heads should prevail.

Shame on the Republican Party for not allowing some notice to get this done.  An ethical approach would have been to allow a day’s notice.  But, ethics didn’t seem to be important last night.

They had every right to pass this legislation, but they didn’t have to look like thugs doing it.  

You don’t have to like what they did, but you have to respect our laws.  The opportunity will come in two years to reverse this, like any other law.

This has been an embarrassing few weeks for our state.  What used to be held up as a model for clean government has been tarnished in a way that will be difficult to reverse. 

They were all wrong.   And they all deserve their piece of the blame.  We deserve better.

Friday, March 4, 2011


I was in Omaha, Nebraska today for business.  It used to be a weekly thing when I lived in Lincoln, just 45 miles away.

I had a little extra time and decided to take a look at our old neighborhood.  I bought my first house in Lincoln in 1979, when I was just 22.  A few years later, we built a house in the same area.

So, I wanted to see what happened in the thirty years or so since those days.  I pulled into the subdivision, and I really didn’t recognize much.  I did remember the street names, so that helped.

Gradually, I came up to the first house.  I think we paid $51,000 for it back then.  I remember mowing the lawn cross ways like they do in the baseball stadiums.  We planted red and white petunias, lots of them.  We played catch in the yard.  We planted trees.  We knew our neighbors.  We had cookouts. 

It was a dump.  How disappointing, the house I first loved fell into disrepair.  What used to be a cute little neighborhood turned into tract housing with little regard for maintenance or care.  I felt a little defeated, like the part of me that cared for that home meant nothing.

I went to the second house.  Same thing.  We planted these great trees.  I built a wood fence and painted it.  More flowers.  We built a two tiered deck for parties.  It was really nice in a nice neighborhood. 

When I saw graffiti painted on a little shed on the back, I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I had to leave.

I wish I wouldn’t have gone.  I wish my memories of those houses were those of 10:00 this morning instead of 1:00 this afternoon.