Tuesday, May 26, 2009

West Bend Library supporters rally on Friday.

Hi everyone,

Jake Jurrs wrote a nice guest editorial in the WB Daily News today encouraging readers to attend this Friday's event at the WB Library. Supporters will be staging a "read-in" in support of free speech.

It's usually better to read books than to burn them.

Jake included a couple of links for more information. Check out the Facebook page and http://openingbooksopeningminds.blogspot.com.

By the way, did you know that Where's Waldo is on lists of banned books? Yeah, it is.

That's where all of this is headed.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Unpacking Cheney's lies.

Hi everyone,

What Mr. Obama hasn't understood about the undead is that you actually haven't stopped them until you drive a stake through their heart and cut their heads off. This country isn't going anywhere until we cut out the entire cancer.

Matthew Alexander: Former Senior Interrogator in Iraq Dissects Cheney's Lies and Distortions

And while we're piling on, it's nice to see Colin Powell talking sense on this.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day needs more memorial, less beer

Hi everyone,

Saturday's column.

Memorial Day needs more memorials, less beer

Even as a kid I was a bit prickly about holidays that didn’t do what they said they did: Christmas didn’t really celebrate Christmas, nobody worked on Labor Day and Easter – for reasons I now understand but which remain tucked safely away from public view – had more to do with chocolate eggs and bunnies than, well, with Easter.

Memorial Day is another one. Originally observed on May 30 it was moved in 1971 to the last Monday in May – in order to accommodate a three-day weekend and summer kick-off picnics.

Holidays are supposed to remind us of things that matter more than Christmas presents, Easter eggs, and – and I know this threatens my Wisconsin citizenship – more than beer and bratwurst.

Memorial Day was established by General Order 11 of the Grand Army of the Republic as Decoration Day, a day set aside in the wake of the Civil War to remember that America is a complicated union, and to honor those who died for that idea by decorating their graves with flowers.

West Bend, like the rest of the country, is engaged in some small, mostly civil, wars and it’s appropriate this weekend to remember that, regardless of where you stand on taxation or censorship, we’re all in this together. We can disagree and still live together, civilly.

It’s complicated and it can’t be something else. That’s the real lesson of Memorial Day.

Here’s a story.

I have a strange and wonderful job and Memorial Day, weirdly enough, is one of the reasons I wound up spending my life studying philosophy.

During my first year of college I took a class that studied Plato’s book “Crito,” which considers this question: If the state asks you to do something unjust, do you have to do it? Plato says yes.

Today, the topic sounds a bit humdrum and academic – but I first heard it in the spring of 1976. Here’s where it gets interesting.

In 1974 President Ford had issued an amnesty for draft resisters who’d fled the country. Quite a few of those boys were sitting in the front row. Sitting next to them was a handful of veterans going through college on the GI Bill.

Get the picture?

It’s more complicated than it looks. The freshly returned draft dodgers were not cowards. Most of them refused to serve because the country they loved had asked them to do something they knew was unjust. History agrees. Equally, the guys sitting next to them, recently back from Nam, were not gung ho robots. Most of them knew full well the war was unjust and that “I was only following orders” could never be an excuse. They went because they knew it was their obligation as Americans. Plato agrees with them.

This is not a simple matter of “America, love it or leave it” as the bumper sticker morality of those days suggested. Both groups had good reasons to think they did the right thing.

That’s the set up. Here's what happened next:

Things had progressed as you’d expect in a philosophy class: We read old books, we argued about fun philosophical questions (Can you prove God exists? What is reality? Does the light go off in the fridge when you close the door?) and, in general, everyone was enjoying the class – until we read Crito.

Crito is the story of what happens after Socrates is sentenced to death on trumped-up charges. Socrates argues that even though he was sentenced unjustly, he still has to follow the laws of the state that made his life possible. He can’t abandon it, he claims, simply because a powerful few misused the laws.

We arrived at this point in the text around Memorial Day. I remember it vividly.

“OK,” the professor began, “Plato argues that if the state asks you to do something you know is unjust, you still have to do it. What does everyone think?”

All hell broke loose. The room exploded. My classmates morphed into troops of shrieking baboons. Faces contorted with anger. People howled like wild animals. Chairs and a desk were thrown. Security was called.

As an 18-year-old college student sitting in the back of the room, all I could think was:

“Whoa. Philosophy is cool.”

And here I am.

So, who was right?

We're still working it out.

You can help.

This weekend, before the brats, take some time to remember those who, on our behalf, answered this question with their lives.

And, then, ask yourself: What are our obligations to each other?


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Wisconsin Library association now joins.

Hi everyone,

West Bend's Common Council refused to rescind their previous vote, denying four of the current professional folks reappointment. The Council was expressing displeasure that the board, despite the fact that it acted on advice of counsel, took too long dispatching the Maziarka's complaint.

And so it goes. The WLA is now in the house.

From The WLA Blog

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Open letter to West Bend

The WLA recently sent an open letter to West Bend's Mayor, Common Council, library board, library staff, and citizens regarding the complaints about the library's collection:

The Wisconsin Library Association strongly supports the staff and trustees of the West Bend Community Memorial Library as they carefully consider challenges to the library's collection policy, while continuing to provide a library collection that represents the diverse views of the users of the library.

Free access to ideas and freedom of expression are bedrock principles of this country enshrined in the United States Constitution. Public libraries are institutions dedicated to the freedom of expression and inquiry necessary for a democracy to survive. The public library is the provider of access for all citizens to the full range of ideas, including controversial or unpopular ideas.

It is contrary to the democratic principles of this country for any group to impose its views on others through efforts to limit access to views they oppose. It is also contrary to democratic principles for attempts to be made to place control of a library in the hands of those with a narrow political agenda.

The Wisconsin Library Association commends the courageous West Bend librarians, public officials, and citizens who are standing up for free access to ideas and freedom of expression.

I suspect they'll be banning Tom Paine next.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Karl Rove in Milwaukee sponsored by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC)

Because Karl Rove is the exactly the kind of guy to represent the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.

From The Journal

Rove will be in town at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Milwaukee Athletic Club to provide a briefing to WMC members on the Employee Free Choice Act. His talk is expected to last 1 1/2 hours.

WMC spokesman Jim Pugh said the event is not open to the general public. He declined to say who was underwriting Rove's talk.

"That's a private matter," he said.

The employee choice act, a federal bill currently before Congress, would make it easier for unions to organize by allowing one to form if a majority of the employees sign cards saying they want to unionize. Last year, the measure passed the House but stalled in the Senate.

Private? Hm. It is for now.

The Milwaukee Area Labor Council suggests showing up and letting him know how you feel: from Xoff: Rave at Rove on Tuesday
Let's talk up the unions and show America that working people in Wisconsin back the EMPLOYEE FREE CHOICE ACT. Come and show your support!

Date: Tuesday May 19, 2009
Time: 8:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m.
Where: Milwaukee Athletic Club, 758 N Broadway, Milwaukee, WI


First the library, next the public schools?

Hi everyone,

A comment from a previous posting deserves a higher profile.... as anticipated, it looks like West Bend's Puritans have moved on to the public schools.
This group has begun work on the next 'issue' by requesting the names of all of the books currently used in the public school system. So this book/library issue will not go away. And no one should be fooled, it IS about homosexuality.. and those who support anyone who is homosexual/questioning.

It will not stop.

I agree that the people of this group have every right to believe what they choose to believe, but they cannot force their religious positions on the population of our community at large. I am tired of them. I am tired of their divisiveness and their hate and their sense of entitlement that their every demand be met.

We'll find out how far this goes -- a lot of human thinking has changed since 1636 and, for these folks, all of it needs to be squashed back into pre-Enlightenment darkness.

At least they'll always have work.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

In a tight economy, hyacinths for the soul are even more important

Hi everyone,

Sometimes my editor's prose gets a bit purpler than mine. His headlines are below.

I've also noticed the paper doesn't use proper "Oxford" commas. This, to me, seems an infinitely greater danger to civilization than swine flu. :)

Saturday's column

Turn to hyacinths, creme de menthe
Enrich your soul, if not your pocketbook

My adopted grandmother, Virginia Austin, used to say that during the Great Depression, no matter how bad things got, she always kept a bottle of crème de menthe and a tube of caviar in the fridge – that way, she said, even when they had nothing else to eat, they could keep their spirits up. When I would point out that caviar didn’t sound like a cost-effective choice, she’d point out that the most important economies are not financial – and then she’d quote from Sa’di, a poet most famous for this little rhyme:

If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

It’s hard to argue with someone who quotes medieval Persian poetry at you, but during the years that followed, when I was living on free soup bones from the butcher, beans and rice, and had worked out a deal with the local grocery store to pick through their vegetables before they threw them into the dumpster, I kept a small bottle of crème de menthe in my ice box. It reminded me that, during tough times, you have to enjoy the little things even more.

The economy promises to make this summer tougher than previous summers, but there are still plenty of little things in West Bend to help us remember to enjoy our lives. I waded through a bunch of the local summer schedules and picked out the sort of hyacinths Virginia might have suggested.

First, plant a garden. The reason for planting a garden isn’t simply to grow less expensive food but because, when money’s tight, you should always eat the best food you can afford. If your thumb isn’t green, West Bend is lucky enough to have a great Farmers’ Market on Saturdays from 7:30 to 11 a.m., June 6 through Oct. 31. We buy most of our vegetables and eggs there, plus you get to spend the morning drinking coffee and bumping into people you know.

Second, fortify yourself with some inexpensive fun. West Bend offers quite a list.

On Thursday nights this summer you can enjoy the free Music on Main series in Old Settler’s Park (from June 11 through Aug. 20, 6:30 to 9 p.m.) or, starting June 25, pile into the West Bend Community Memorial Library’s free family entertainment nights (sing-alongs and storytelling). They also have reading programs for all ages planned all summer long.

West Bend neighborhood parks provide a free Supervised Playground Program from June 15 to Aug. 6, Mondays through Thursdays from 1 to 4 p.m. at the playgrounds in Barton, Decorah Hills, Regner, Riverside, Wingate and Ziegler parks. And don’t forget to run the kids around the trails at Lac Lawaan, or up and down the Eisenbahn Trail and the Riverwalk. They need the exercise. So do you.

How about free movies? Glacier Hills Credit Union and the West Bend Park, Recreation and Forestry Department are showing Friday Night Outdoor Movies starting at 7:30 p.m. On June 12, July 10, and Aug. 21 the movies will be shown at Regner Park and, on June 26, July 31, and Sept. 4, at Glacier Hills Credit Union, 2150 S. Main St., south of Paradise.

Of course, there’s swimming at Regner Park (you can save on the swim passes if you pick one up before June 12) and the Rec Department has tons of inexpensive programs. Think “Adult Kickball.” You can catch up with them at 335-5080.

My favorite summer event was, is and will always be the annual Duck Races at Regner Park on the Fourth of July. Better yet, call the Kiwanis, buy your own duck and spend a few weeks with the kids decorating it into a spectacular work of art.

Finally, remember to let your grass grow; cut it higher and less often. Longer grass keeps your weeds down without herbicides, leaves the lawn healthier, saves gas and gives you an excuse to sit on your porch enjoying the afternoon. Less yard work also leaves time for the most important hyacinth of all: get the neighbors together for a block party. There is no better hyacinth for the soul, and no more valuable currency, than the economy of good neighbors. With good neighbors even a tough summer can leave you rich.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Union, not just for breakfast anymore.

Hi everyone,

For every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. The guys on Wall Street and the corporate boards, insulated from stock holders, asked for it.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Book banning in West Bend continues: no common sense on the Common Council.

Hi everyone,

Enough already. I'm calling shenanigans on the city council.

Saturday's column.
Where's the Common Sense on the Common Council?

OK, time out.

The library book-banning fiasco has finally mushroomed into a Mad Hatter's Tea Party, complete with hookah smoking city aldermen and a chorus of March Hares demanding a bonfire of books, plus cash, because they’ve “suffered mental and emotional damage due to the book’s very presence at the Library.”

Are we in America? Or are we in Bizarro World?

Normally the Marziarkas’ complaint would have been vetted through the library’s grievance process and then chopped into confetti by the U.S. Constitution’s protection of free speech and our country’s instinctive distaste for people telling us what we should or shouldn’t read.

But it hasn’t gone away. It just gets more embarrassing.

Last month, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Information Studies wrote a “Statement of Support for the West Bend Library” and, within the past week or so, The National Coalition Against Censorship, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the PEN American Center (an international association protecting free expression), and the Association of American Publishers joined to condemn the common council’s handling of the situation. They wrote a very polite letter reminding the Common Council of the essential details of constitutional law – in particular Sund v. City of Wichita Falls (N.D. Tex., 2000), involving similar complaints about literature with homosexual themes – as well as the difficulty of classifying books as legally obscene.

None of the books listed in the Maziarkas’ complaint are legally classifiable as obscene. West Bend is finally internationally famous for more than toaster ovens. Nice, nice, very nice.

Whose fault is this?

The truth is, it is not the Maziarkas’ fault. They exercised their right to complain. I disagree with them, emphatically, but I’ll defend their right to do so. That’s why we have a Constitution and public policies to address grievances. On the other hand, their constantly shifting complaint has exacerbated the process of getting it heard and resolved.

The Library Board, too, is blameless, despite the hair-triggered judgment of aldermen who believed the board was taking too long. The Library Board was not dragging its feet. It was acting on the advice of counsel to re-boot the complaint procedure after the Maziarkas went public and their original complaint mutated from one constitutionally unsupportable life form into another.

So why it is still alive? Because someone’s been feeding it.

It’s always easy to blame the media. The local news has had a field day reporting that the Maziarkas were angry about sexually explicit materials being available to children in the library. This left the impression that sexually explicit materials were, in fact, available to children. So far as I’ve seen, the press never asked whether any of the material in question was actually 1) sexually explicit or 2) shelved in the children’s section. The answer to both is no.

But I’m afraid those most responsible for making West Bend look like a bunch of bookburning yahoos are the Common Council members who voted precipitously against the library slate and, by prolonging this Mad Hatters Tea Party, have attracted the worst kind of national attention.

I’m sad to say my own alderman voted without reflecting carefully on the facts.

“They're all good people,” said my alderman – of the board members he’d just fired. Presumably “good people,” like a local attorney, a retired school teacher, a retired professional librarian with 24 years of experience on the board and a brilliant, young high school teacher don't have the experience, or morality, my alderman wants on the Library Board that decides what kind of books West Bend should make available to its residents. Does this mean he thinks they’re good, but immoral?

I know. It doesn’t make any sense to me either, but here we are.

So, here’s how the council can spare West Bend further embarrassment: On Monday night the council needs to gather up some common sense and move to reconsider or rescind their previous vote on the library board candidates – whichever will cause less parliamentary discomfort – and then seat the board. The board can then provide the proper public hearing, as policy and law require, for whatever the Maziarka’s complaint happens to be at this stage of its evolution.

Afterward, the board can render an informed decision and we can get back to worrying about the Brewers instead of whether West Bend is going to become known as a town that supports book burning.

But listen up: Nobody’s going to burn my Elvis records.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Should Joe The Plumber help burn books in West Bend?

Hi everyone,

Maybe the CCLU needs to ask Joe The Plumber (sic) to help out with the gay-problem at the West Bend Library.
Joe The Plumber Slurs Gay People: I Would Never Let "Queers" Near My Children
They've figured out he wasn't a really licensed plumber, right?


NetNanny prevents viewing Maziarka website.

Hi everyone,

Our friends at The Other Side of My Mouth have discovered that NetNanny is successfully keeping their kids from viewing the WISSUP site.

Irony is the only true weapon against those who are tyrants of their own souls.

Tiddly pom.


Saturday, May 02, 2009

Outside help called in for book banners in West Bend

Hi everyone,

It looks like our local book banners have called in some friends from outside.

From the WB Daily News.

The Milwaukee branch of the Christian Civil Liberties Union (CCLU) has filed a legal claim that says a book that is available in the West Bend Community Memorial Library is offensive.

Robert C. Braun of West Allis, Joseph Kogelmann of Milwaukee, Robert Brough of West Bend and the Rev. Cleveland Eden of Milwaukee, representing the Milwaukeebased group, filed the claim with the city of West Bend clerk's office.

Named in the claim are the city of West Bend, Mayor Kristine Deiss, the West Bend Library Board and Library Director Michael Tyree. The group is seeking $30,000 per plaintiff, Deiss’ resignation and a racist book be removed and publicly burned or destroyed as a deterrent to repeating the offensive conduct, the claim states.

At least it looks like they've finally found someone who's bothered to look at the law.

I love this county.


Swine flu: Prevention is the only sure cure

Hi everyone,

And now, back to more pressing matters. Remember to wash your hands!

Saturday's column.

Swine flu: Prevention is the only sure cure

The sixth question from the top of the Center for Disease Control’s Key Facts about Swine Flu this week is “Can I get swine influenza from eating or preparing pork?” The answer is “no.” Under normal circumstances this might have raised a smile but these aren’t normal circumstances and this year’s swine flu – or, to give it its full name, the H1N1 flu virus – is serious business.

Public health preparations are under way around the world. The World Health Organization raised its pandemic alert to Level 5, its second-highest level, to bring worldwide preparedness plans online; the Center for Disease Control has reported 109 confirmed cases in the United States; the governor of the Mexican state of Puebla has canceled his trip to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Milwaukee next week; and the Milwaukee Health Department has started closing schools. In Wisconsin, as of April 30, 144 suspected patients have yielded only three cases classified as probable and none has been confirmed as actually infected with swine flu. Yet.

But as the scary reports begin to come in, remember to maintain some perspective.

People often forget that Wisconsin, and Milwaukee in particular, are historic examples of the best way to cope with a flu pandemic. In 1918 when the “Spanish flu” killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide, Milwaukee had one of the lowest contagion rates in the world: 30 percent to 50 percent lower than other American cities. Why? A first-rate public health system.

The first six cases of Spanish flu were reported in Milwaukee on Sept. 26, 1918. By Oct. 2, four people had died. By Oct. 7 there were 256 new cases and nine more deaths. The epidemic spread out into the rest of the state, but Wisconsin was ready.

The point man for Wisconsin’s public health system was Dr. Cornelius A. Harper, appointed in 1902 by Gov. Robert M. La Follette, Sr. As state health officer during the epidemic and, like most Progressives of that era, a strong believer in activist state government, his actions made Milwaukee one of the safest cities in the world in which to ride out the pandemic. On Oct. 10, 1918, he closed schools, churches, and nearly every public space other than factories and offices. Wisconsin’s response was the most comprehensive in the nation and Harper kept quarantines in place until the epidemic subsided that December.

You can’t mount a massive response like this single handedly, and Harper didn’t have to.

In 1883 our Legislature required every Wisconsin municipality to appoint a local public health officer and board of health and, by 1918, if you can imagine this, there were 1,685 local boards of health around the state to implement Harper’s orders. Thirty years of work by reformers and Milwaukee’s socialist politicians created a public health system that tallied some of the lowest infection rates in the country.

That public health system is still in place so, if we have to have an epidemic, Wisconsin is one of the best places to live through it. Don’t forget that.

Here’s a factoid to put things into perspective. How many Americans do you think die from the flu, or complications, in a normal year? I was surprised. During the 1990s the CDC estimates that, on average, 36,000 Americans died each year from flu-related causes. During these years, the number of estimated deaths ranged from 17,000 to 52,000. Thirty-six thousand a year. So far this epidemic as produced 109 confirmed cases and one death.

Here’s another factoid: The greatest advances in human health, over the past 200 years, have come not from developing new drugs but from public health measures, like improved sewer systems, clean drinking water and even washing your hands. Simple prevention has produced far greater benefits to public health – and cut off the spread of epidemics – than any other development in medicine.

So much for perspective. Now: What can we do?

The official textbook advice goes like this (and even though it doesn’t sound like much, it works like a charm): Get enough sleep and exercise to stay healthy, chill out to keep your stress levels low, eat right, stay home if you get sick and avoid people who are sick. And, most importantly, wash your hands. Seriously, Mom was right. Wash your hands.

For up-to-date information see pandemic.wisconsin.gov.


A reader disagrees with my comments about tea party goers.

Hi everyone,

Ed Duquaine from West Bend didn't agree with my observations about the "Tea Parties" over Tax Day. He doesn't answer any of the questions I raised -- specifically the question about why so many people who got tax breaks this year would protest against taxation; that is, why people from the middle class, who he claims made up the majority of these "protesters," would protest that they were not being represented when the tax code is fairer to precisely this income group than it has been in 40 years.

But maybe someone will.

Here's Mr. Duquaine's letter to the editor.


Basic freedoms allow, inspire tea parties

You can’t get much more grass roots than this


Iwrite in response to Mark Peterson’s slanderous editorial on the tax day tea parties.

Hundreds of thousands of hard working, tax-paying United States citizens assembled on April 15 across this great country of ours with hopes of sending a message to their elected officials. To try and mock the authenticity of this grass roots movement is not only ludicrous, but also ignorant.

I did attend the April 15 tea party in Madison. It was a first for me. I was not contacted by Dick Armey or anyone else from the Republican Party. I was not funded by Coors, the Koch Foundation or even ACORN for that matter. I did, however, hear a blip about it the tea party on the radio From that point, I called and got pricing on bus rentals. Next, I sent an e-mail to everyone in my mailbox asking if anyone would like to join me. Then I asked them to send the e-mail to everyone in their mailbox. Seven weeks later, I found myself standing in front of two buses in a local parking lot trying to make sure that the over 60 people who had responded to my e-mail were boarding the buses. Many of these people were complete strangers to me. How much more “grass roots” could it get? To describe the tax day tea parties as “Astroturf lobbying” is not only absurd, but quite offensive. Not only is it offensive to me, but likely to the thousands of tax paying Americans who took time out of their busy schedules to attend these rallies.

There is one main point that has been completely overlooked by the media and critics in regard to the tea parties. These demonstrations were not about Republicans vs. Democrats, left vs. right, or red vs. blue. These grass-root rally sites were made up of disgruntled taxpayers from all political parties and from all walks of life.

In Madison, I viewed a melting pot of concerned tax-paying citizens. Citizens concerned with the direction our country and state is heading. Citizens concerned that our government (both sides) are spending our hard-earned money at biblical proportions and mortgaging our children’s and grandchildren’s futures. I saw tax-paying citizens who feel they have been misrepresented, if represented at all.

There are a couple of documents that define now and have always defined just what America is. If our government would just follow these documents, instead of shredding them on a daily basis, hundreds of thousands of tax-paying people would not have had to miss work on April 15 (just think how much that hurt the tax base): 1. Declaration of Independence and 2. U.S. Constitution.

Please read them both, and then make a decision as to the authenticity of tax day 2009.

(Ed Duquaine of West Bend owns Duquaine Concrete & Masonry, town of West Bend.)

The ideologically grounded press coverage and funding process for these events also seems to have eluded him, along with the 16th amendment to the Constitution. And I don't remember seeing him on the barricades where many of us faced vicious ridicule during the last 8 years for pointing out that large national budget surpluses were being turned into deficits and drained into the bank accounts of the President's political cronies.

Maybe he could answer for that as well.