Rest In Peace, MCA

Adam Yauch, better known as MCA of the Beastie Boys, died Friday morning after a three-year battle with cancer. In 2009 Yauch was diagnosed with a cancerous salivary gland, and at the time Yauch expressed his hope that it “very treatable.”

Here’s “Make Some Noise,” the first single from the Beastie Boys’ newest album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two.

An unfitting end to Mariano Rivera’s career?

While it’s well-known that I’m a political junkie, what many folks don’t know is I’m just as equally a sports junkie. Baseball has long been my favorite sport, and while I am a fan of the hometown Milwaukee Brewers, I’m also a huge fan of the New York Yankees.

One of the reasons that I became a fan of the Yankees was because of that organization’s long history, not to mention the truly legendary players that have worn pinstripes. Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Don Mattingly, and Derek Jeter are just a few of the stars in the Yankees universe, along with Mariano “Mo” Rivera, a pitcher many consider to be the greatest relief pitcher (and possibly one of the greatest pitchers period) of all time.

This season was supposed to be the last for the 42-year old star closer, and while I had hoped Rivera would go out on top (perhaps pitching the ninth inning in game seven of the World Series), it appears Rivera’s career will end on the warning track of Kauffman Stadium before a meaningless May game.

Pitchers will play games shagging fly balls, assigning points for good catches, and it’s all fun and games until someone tears an ACL. It was so benign, too. Jayson Nix, a journeyman called up hours earlier, lifted a fly ball toward the track. Rivera retreated, leapt and crumbled.

“Oh my god,” Alex Rodriguez, standing next to the batting cage, said on video shown by the YES Network. “Oh my god.”

Girardi ran toward the outfield. Bullpen coach Mike Harkey whistled for help. Girardi and Harkey lifted Rivera onto a cart that whisked him away, his body and affect limp. Initial tests in the clubhouse gave Girardi hope no ligaments had blown. On the bench, Rivera’s teammates kept asking for updates. Finally, one arrived: torn ACL, torn meniscus, each to be verified by doctors in New York, both almost a certainty to be so.

Nobody pictured Mariano Rivera’s season ending like this.

“It’s bad,” Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. “It’s bad.”

While this was supposed to be Mariano Rivera’s last season in baseball, I hope he’ll consider making a comeback for one more season, because he deserves a proper send-off.

42 Years Ago: Four Dead in Ohio

In response to Richard Nixon’s offensive in Cambodia, begun on April 30, 1970, students all over the nation began  to protest.  In Kent, Ohio, the home of the state’s regional college, Kent State University, the protests were fierce.  Republican Governor James Rhodes, a “law and order” type, brought in the National Guard and personally oversaw operations there on May 2, 1970.  The tragedy occured two days later.  Four United States citizens were gunned down. 

Let us weep.  Here’s a good place to read all about it.  Kent State, 1970

As an aside, I was 13 years old when Kent State happened.  I lived 12 miles away in Hudson, Ohio.  Students often came to Hudson to play frisbee on our idyllic village green.  Our family had dear friends in Kent, and we went in the family station wagon to help them get out.  One of the most indelible memories I have is of National Guard snipers in the trees around the local school. 

Never forget.

ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US

Never has the phrase “ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US” been so appropriate…  Paul Krugman points out in his latest OpEd over at The New York Times that the Republican Party has been completely captured by the 0.01%-ers and along with that comes a “base” of voters to keep the interests of the ultra-wealthy at the top of the agenda.  So not only have they bought politicians, but they’ve been able to capture and convince an army of thralls that the interests of the ultra-rich are the interests of the working man.  Talk about “false consciousness….”  Republican ideology is the ultimate “false consciousness” in America today.

At the risk of quoting Friedrich Engels, let me quote Friedrich Engels.

Ideology is a process accomplished by the so-called thinker. Consciously, it is true, but with a false consciousness. The real motive forces impelling him remain unknown to him; otherwise it simply would not be an ideological process. Hence he imagines false or apparent motives.

And then Krugman is shrill.

The Congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have been making waves with a new book acknowledging a truth that, until now, was unmentionable in polite circles. They say our political dysfunction is largely because of the transformation of the Republican Party into an extremist force that is “dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.” You can’t get cooperation to serve the national interest when one side of the divide sees no distinction between the national interest and its own partisan triumph.

So how did that happen? For the past century, political polarization has closely tracked income inequality, and there’s every reason to believe that the relationship is causal. Specifically, money buys power, and the increasing wealth of a tiny minority has effectively bought the allegiance of one of our two major political parties, in the process destroying any prospect for cooperation.

Leveraging the growing inequality, the ultra-wealthy have co-opted our political system by “purchasing” the GOP.  But what Krugman misses is that they managed to purchase a whole swath of low-information voters who vote Republican because they’ve always voted Republican.  These thralls to Republican ideology who vote with a false consciousness are a huge part of what’s wrong with our political system.  But don’t worry, as we privatize the schools, children will be indoctrinated into the Cult of the Republican earlier and we’ll have a whole new generation of thralls.  Yay…

Don’t mistake me, the Democrats have moved to the right in response to this radicalization of the GOP, but they’re certainly not “captured” in the same way.

Centrism by Driftglass

The folkbum endorsement: Doug La Follette for Governor

Doug! Image courtesy Alan David Charles Photography

One of the nice things about being slave labor at the Zach Wisniewski Home for Wayward Bloggers posting at Blogging Blue is that we have the editorial freedom to write about the things that interest us, and to promote candidates that we feel deserve support.  So even though not all of us are going to agree on whom to vote for on Tuesday, we give each other latitude and respect to make our own choices.

So here’s mine:  I will vote for, and I think you should vote for, too, Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette in the Democratic primary for governor.

I can hear your surprise from all the way over here.  I may well be the only person on the whole internets writing an endorsement like this, but by any measure–at least, the measures that all along in this process I have felt were key to winning this campaign–La Follette is the man.

Last fall, I wrote this:

Finally, if anyone is going to beat Walker, it won’t be Kathleen Falk, as much as she holds a special place in Mike Tate’s heart. Jon Erpenbach, as much as he holds a place in the heart of #WIUnion, isn’t it either. If it were me, I’d be camped out in Dave Obey’s living room. If it takes some buckets and This Is What Democracy Looks Like to talk him into it, so be it. But there’s your winning candidate, especially if he promises to step in as caretaker until 2014, just to clean up the mess.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s a check in my checkbook with Falk’s name on it if she wins this primary, same as there is with Barrett and Vinehout.  I am a Democrat, dammit, and I will support the Democrat whoever it is.  So do not, my brothers and sisters, accuse me of whatever it is you people like to accuse folks of.  This is not the time.

The key part of the paragraph there is the Dave Obey part:  Obey was attractive to me as a candidate because he possessed four key qualities:  He’s a Democrat, he’s got a long history of electoral success, he’s widely viewed as an elder statesman of Wisconsin politics and as such has the respect of moderates and even some conservatives, and he was visibly involved in supporting Wisconsin’s workers during the protests at the Capitol last spring.  Further, as I suggested, an aspect of a winning message, especially from a guy like Obey, would be that he was running not to become a two- or three-term governor, but to step in for the remainder of this term, not seek re-election, but clean up the mess that Walker and the Republicans created–no demagoguery required.

Doug La Follette has all of that, in spades:

1.  He’s a Democrat.  When people make lists of Wisconsin’s most important or visible Democrats, La Follette seldom makes the cut.  Why?  Probably because he’s not, as I hinted above, a demagogue.  He has never sought the spotlight, angled for wider name recognition or the big-money donors.  In this tense primary season, he hasn’t run an attack ad or gone after the other candidates.

But he’s right on the issues.  All of them.  Really!  Pick one:  From fully restoring collective bargaining rights to protecting the environment, from campaign finance reform to ending the Republican war on women, Doug La Follette is on the right side of the issues.

2.  He has a long history of electoral success.  Neither Tom Barrett nor Kathleen Falk ever won a statewide race.  Not that they couldn’t–in 2006, Falk won 1,056,600 votes running for attorney general; in 2010, Barrett won 1,004,300 votes running for governor.  That’s a lot–and I imagine given the antics of Van Hollen and Walker in the years since, a lot of people who voted against Falk and Barrett the first time are really regretting their decision.  I feel pretty confident that either of those two is fully capable of mounting a successful challenge to Walker this year–they just don’t have a big win under their belts yet.

Doug La Follette, on the other hand, has been Wisconsin’s Secretary of state since 1975 (minus four years when the inimitable Vel Phillips served).  He wins re-election handily; in 2006, he got 1,183,000 votes, and in 2010, he got 1,073,900.  Admittedly, he was running as an incumbent and his opponents were not the well-financed, high-profile candidates that Van Hollen and Walker were.  But he has a history of winning that none of the others can match.

3.  He’s an elder statesman.  And I mean this literally–in both senses of the word elder.  La Follette is a spry 71, and his history in Wisconsin is long and without stain.  He’s widely respected and, if he had better name recognition, could easily be beloved.  He’s also a statesman–part of why he keeps being elected is that people know he takes the responsibilities of office seriously, he approaches everyone and every issue with respect.  He consistently earns significant support among Republicans and independent voters, and that’s how he wins.  Ask yourself this:  How many people who would be voting Barrett or Falk on June 5 would vote for Walker if La Follette was the candidate?  Probably near zero.  On the other hand, how many of those who might be turned off by Barrett’s and Falk’s more strident campaigns and more bellicose rhetoric would rather have a calm, straight-shooting man like La Follette to support?  Probably many.

And more than that, picture the debates–college drop-out and pouty-boy Walker versus college professor La Follette, one of whom has destroyed way Wisconsin used to be and one who represents a return to sanity.  Walker simply wouldn’t stand a chance.

Plus, there’s a cow:

Check out La Follette’s campaign, “Returning Power to the People.”  Everything Walker has done to wall off state government from the people of the state, La Follette wants to change back.  In the spirit of his near-namesake–though not his ancestor–Fightin’ Bob LaFollette, Doug La Follette believes that the real authority lies with the people, not with the government.  It’s not merely that La Follette can restore some semblance of sanity and comity to the Capitol, it’s that he will also prioritize returning the people’s voice to prominence.  This deserves our support.

4.  He was involved in the fight to protect Wisconsin’s workers last spring.  Part–hell, most–of what makes La Follette’s candidacy exciting to me is not that he’s a solid rank-and-file Democrat seeking office, but that he is a newly radicalized Democrat seeking an office he’d never seemed to aspire to before.  In campaign stops and forums around the state, he’s explained this.  Quiet, mild-mannered Doug La Follette found himself last spring as the last line of defense for Wisconsin’s public sector workers after the Fitzgerald brothers rammed through a revised Act 10.  “I tried to stop them as long as I could,” he explained at one forum.  “They wanted me to publish the law right away.  I knew better.  I knew what was going on.”  And so La Follette fought for us, in his office and in court afterwards.  He was furious that Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen acted in his name without his consent, and took actions that won La Follette kudos and made Van Hollen look like a cheap partisan hack–so much so he demanded to represent himself in court even though by law and tradition the AG defends the SOS in court.  In more than 30 years of service as Secretary of State, La Follette has never been more needed, and, quite simply, he stepped up.  Here he is last spring:

When given the choice between rolling over and standing firm, La Follette stood firm.

So there it is.  La Follette has not pledged to be the fixer-slash-caretaker governor who will step side for the 2014 election.  I think that kind of bold statement, the idea that he has no reason to sell out or compromise his principles in the service of campaign donations or re-election concerns would have a powerful appeal.  I have always thought so since the idea of the recall first started floating around.

But for all of these reasons and more, Doug La Follette deserves your vote.  Join me on Tuesday, voting for him.

Progressive candidate’s run against Jim Sensenbrenner is no fool’s errand

Some say I’m a fool for attempting to turn Waukesha County “blue” with my blogging and Drinking Liberally Waukesha. But the alternative is to sit around, wring my hands, and lament that things will never change. To me, that would be foolish. I’d rather aim high, take risks and lose than give up or settle right from the start. So would Dave Heaster, a progressive from Sussex who recently filed the paperwork necessary to run against Republican incumbent Jim Sensenbrenner this November. I met with Heaster on Thursday evening in downtown Waukesha to question his decision to run, his chances of winning, and his sanity.

“I don’t have delusions that I am going to come in and win easily,” Heaster told me, but he also said he would not have entered the race if he didn’t think he could win. He said his chances of defeating Sensenbrenner are greater at this moment in time, in light of recent laws passed by the Wisconsin GOP such as The Castle Doctrine, Concealed Carry, and the gutting of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act. Heaster said Wisconsin GOP legislators are “clinging to their ideology” and “the things they come up with are almost insane.”

Conversely, the foundation of Dave Heaster’s campaign platform is “logic and ethics” and he will continually refer to what makes sense, he insists. He wants to focus on transparency by using technology to bring constituents into the decision-making process. To Heaster, real representation means participatory democracy with actively engaged citizens.

Heaster was born and raised in Brookfield, Wisconsin in a “classically middle-class” family. His father sold insurance and his mother worked in the deli at Kohl’s grocery store. She was a member of the Butcher’s Union Local 33. Education is what turned him into a true progressive.

He’s pro-collective bargaining rights, pro-worker, pro-environmental protections, pro-education, pro-science, pro-separation of church and state,  pro-choice, and pro-equal rights for all.

He’s also against overspending, living beyond our means, and he’s worried about the debt. It’s a stereotype that liberals don’t care about debt, Heaster said.“Republicans call us the tax and spend Democrats, but they are tax cut and spend…if you’re a fiscal conservative, why would you give tax cuts and then start wars? It doesn’t make any sense.”

Democrats are not inherently anti-business, Heaster insists, “we can be very pro-business. If you’re pro-business and for a strong economy, it doesn’t mean you have to vote Republican.” Government does need to be fiscally responsible, and some things about government do need to change, Heaster says, “but by the same token, we’re a modern day society and modern day societies should have a certain amount of government, a certain amount of programs to help people. We don’t want to live in the Wild West…that’s not a way to run a country.”

Heaster has a firm grasp on what he needs to do to win District 5: own the youth vote, talk with women and ask them if they’re happy with their representation, and be wholly himself. He’ll also make clear to older voters that he wants to protect Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare.

Still, Heaster realizes that many may find him unorthodox, that some voters might think he’s “too casual.” He’s definitely the anti-Sensenbrenner, not a “dinosaur”, very Gen X. I’m not sure how he’ll be received by the larger public. But, as Heaster himself told me, “Now is the time to get up and do something…I’m going to run on what I believe and people will either buy into it or they won’t.”

Right on.

Dave Heaster, 5/3/12