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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Forward Social Justice Conference

Add to the list of important gatherings coming soon, this one hosted by the Havens Center for Social Justice at UW-Madison on June 2-3. The conference will be held at Edgewood College and will focus on the current crisis and its implications for the struggle for social justice in the midwest.

If you plan to go and want to ride share, please email.

FORWARD is an annual gathering of community activists, students, and educators committed to social justice.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Coming up this week (and beyond)

Please note and attend these community events coming up this week!

[If your event is missing, PLEASE SUBMIT INFO FOR OUR CALENDAR! (If your stuff is only on FB, I challenge you to try getting full info from your page without a FB account. It's very frustrating!)]

Monday, May 22: At 3 pm, it's Gardening Day at the Kane Street Community Garden AND  Bluffside Neighborhood Association has a meeting at the 1st Congo at 6 p.m. AND at 7 p.m. the Uptowne Collective will have board elections: "If you or someone you know who lives, works, or owns a business in the area and would like to have your voice heard on this important change to the City's Northside Business District on Caledonia Street should attend this meeting as Board members will be elected by those who are there with discussion as well. To be nominated to be on the board please send the nomination to"

Tuesday, May 23: At 6 p.m., the Upper Northside Logan Neighborhood Association will meet at Trinity Lutheran Church AND at 6 p.m., the Washburn Neighborhood Association will meet at St. Paul's Lutheran Church (West Ave) AND 6:30 at Java Vino, join the League of Women Voters book club discussion of  "The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker" by Catherine Cramer.

Wednesday, May 24:  From 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. attend the City of La Crosse Public Works Open House at their facilities, 1000 Marco Drive. The event includes demonstrations, kid friendly events, and tours from participating departments - Streets, Recycling, Parks, Water & Waste Water, and Safety AND American Heart Association's Go Red for Women luncheon fundraiser AND at 5 p.m. attend State Rep. Steve Doyle's birthday party/fundraiser at Piggy's (or you can donate online - Democrat Doyle is being heavily targeted by Republicans for the 2018 election) AND at 5:30 p.m. the City of La Crosse is hosting an info session/workshop for planning for a potential Avon Street "greenway" (more friendly to bikes and pedestrians) at the Black River Beach Neighborhood Center.

Thursday, May 25: At 11:30 a.m., the La Crosse Area Diversity Council will host UW-Stevens Point professor, Maisee Yang Herr, in a talk about "Being a Female Hmong Professional."

In addition, there are a few big events coming up soon that may also be of interest to our community. 

The Wisconsin Democratic Party Convention, June 2 and 3, is in Madison this year. It's too late to attend as a delegate, but you can still attend and join the discussion about the future of the party.

The People's Summit will take place June 9-11 in Chicago hosted by an alliance of progressive groups including Our Revolution, Progressive Democrats of America, People Demanding Action, Democratic Socialists of American, and others. "We envision this Summit as further deepening the relationship between participating organizations rooted in principled anti-corporate politics, development of community leaders, direct action not based on partisan identification, and strategic organizing to build power. The Summit itself will include plenary and workshop sessions devoted to key issues such as the Fight for 15, mass incarceration and criminal justice reform, voting rights and expanding democratic participation, a tax on Wall Street speculation to fund human needs and jobs, climate justice toward a sustainable economy, improved Medicare for All, the fight for free and debt-free higher education, secure retirement through expanding social security, ending HIV/AIDS, achieving Constitutional pay equity for women, and ending deportations and support for DREAMers, among others." Speakers include Sen. Bernie Sanders, Naomi Klein, Roseann DeMoro, and Shaun King.

The 28th Annual Midwest Renewable Energy Association Fair will be in Custer, Wisconsin June 16-18. Now in its 28th year, The Energy Fair brings people together to learn about clean energy and sustainability, connect with others, and take action towards a sustainable future. The Fair features interactive workshops, exhibitors, live music, inspiring keynote speakers, family fun, great local food, and more. (This year there will be a second fair in Minneapolis in September, too.)

Our Wisconsin Revolution Founding Convention will be held in Stevens Point on June 23 and 24.
We begin Our Wisconsin Revolution with a bottom-up, grassroots organizing process because we believe in cultivating the popular democracy we seek to realize in the government of our state. This will lead to local chapters and a founding convention. We will generate the input and feedback from the people who will join Our Wisconsin Revolution as members, activists and leaders to shape the organization and its work. The product of this participatory organizing process will be put up for adoption at our founding convening.Following the organizing process and adoption of an organizational structure, governing rules, platform and program at our founding convening, we will carry forward the direct work of building the political revolution in our state and building Our Wisconsin Revolution.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Hate Speech Is Not Free Speech

This past December in Milwaukee, white supremacist Milo Yiannopolous used a picture of a transgender UWM student in his speech, intentionally using the wrong pronouns and using phrases such as, excuse me, “trannie” and “man in a dress”.  That student subsequently left the school in rage, humiliation, and fear.

In January, a UW-Madison student attempted to start organizing for the “American Freedom Party”, a white supremacist organization based in "Third Positionism", antisemitic ultranationalism.

Early in March, Charles Murray, the author of the book “The Bell Curve” was prevented from speaking at a college in Vermont.  “The Bell Curve” argues that black people are inherently less intelligent based on average standardized test scores, even though IQ correlates more to poverty than to race (and, of course, black people are more likely to be impoverished, due to racism rather than any kind of inherent capability).

Also in March, a white supremacist flyer from the neo-nazi website “American Renaissance” appeared at UW-Superior, imploring readers to ‘be proud to be white’.  Other flyers were found at a university in Chicago calling for an end to “Jewish privilege”.

In April, a so-called “Free Speech Rally” in Berkeley was organized by explicitly white nationalist and antisemitic groups such as the “Traditionalist Workers Party” and “Identity Europa”.  A few days later, leader of the “Alt-Right” Richard Spencer spoke at Auburn University, where he called for making America an all-white “ethnic homeland”.

In his May 1st column, syndicated "writer" Rich Lowry twisted reality in order to present anti-humanist demagoguery as somehow within the realm of reason. As with Charles Murray, who Lowry defended several months ago, Ann Coulter, whose columns can be found on the aforementioned white supremacist website "American Renaissance" does not engage in what Lowry laughably calls "reason", nor is she "an intellectual threat", with "a dissenting viewpoint". No. Coulter openly calls for mass killing of Muslims and spreads other blatantly racist drivel.

It's a complete joke to hear the right-wing whining about "free speech".  This is the first time in history that right-wing "ideas", namely racism and sexism, are being targeted.  The historical targets of restrictions on speech, other than the Sedition Act, have been advocates of abolition, labor unions, birth control, and communism- hardly right-wing causes.  These open-throated screaming right-wing defenses of freedom of speech are completely farcical.

Democrats and liberals say that the bill ordering universities to punish students who disrupt speeches would itself be against free speech, but they are completely wrong.  Disrupting a speech is not an act of expression of free speech.  No, the real reason to be against this bill is that its purpose is to make campuses safe for white supremacists.  For the last several months, there has been a push by right-wing activists and white supremacists to try to make campuses safe spaces for hate speech, claiming that they are acting in defense of "free speech".  This push seems far too coordinated to be a coincidence, and if it is coordinated then we need to understand that this is coordination between conservative fools and outright neo-Nazis.

We must be steadfast in ensuring that hate has no place on university campuses.  This attempt to cry “free speech” has been used across the country by the right-wing, upset about not being allowed to preach hatred.  When they say that they are “silenced” for views that people “disagree” with, they are attempting to say that racism and sexism, for example, might have some kind of intellectual merit.  But free speech only works if the participants are abiding by certain basic principles, such as that they are honestly pursuing truth. Hate speech does not meet that criteria.

To quote from the University of Wisconsin System mission statement:
“The mission of the University of Wisconsin System is ... to discover and disseminate knowledge … Basic to every purpose of the UW System is the search for truth.”

Just because your mouth is open and noises are coming out does not mean that what you’re saying is worthwhile or protected speech.  Libel and slander are not speech.  Fraud is not speech.  They are not speech because they are lies, and to spread lies, particularly on a university campus, is to sabotage the search for knowledge.  If someone were to come and argue in favor of phlogiston or the luminiferous aether, we would not debate their theories but wonder about their motivation or sanity; if they attempt to use lies to fool people into agreement, we would be right to refuse them a platform to engage in this fraud, because they have crossed the line from “wrong” to “malicious”.

The UW system is a bastion of free speech under the idea of “sifting and winnowing”.  But the literal meaning of “sifting and winnowing” is that you throw away the chaff.  The only purpose of hate speech is to delegitimize human beings.  It is chaff.  We must continue to take a strong stand against it, and allow hate no foothold on campuses.  At his "Free Speech" talk late April, Republican M.D. Kittle, when asked about derogatory language, said, and this is an exact quote, "Protecting racial slurs is idiocy". Let's uphold that idea by rejecting hate speech, which amounts to nothing more than long-winded slurs, and not allow it a platform in any form.

The humanity of black, Muslim, and LGBT people, and other targets of hate "speech", is not up for debate. By attempting to cast hate in the light of 'intellectual dissent', people like Lowry are smearing mud on real intellectual discourse.  We have seen enough of the uselessness and falsehood of racism, sexism, homophobia, and transmisogyny.  To disallow and dismantle hate and the intentional spreading of ignorance is to act in defense of true free speech and intellectual discovery, like white blood cells removing pathogens and dead tissue.

When the right-wing whines about "free speech", they are trying to make the universities a safe space for hate, and that must not be allowed.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Republican bill puts money over people (quelle surprise!)

While we are busy gaping at the clown and his antics, the real work of, "the most dangerous institution in world history" continues apace at the state and federal levels (bolstered by Republican judges who apparently believe that it's the right of partisan lawmakers to benefit their constituents by denying citizens the right to vote, for example).

Wisconsin state senator Kathleen Vinehout has sent an alert about one of the latest creeping (and creepy) projects by the party that worships money above all things. 

"REINS Act" -  New Power for Leaders to Stop Public Protections

This is the broadest, most dangerous bill you’ve never heard of.” I told my colleagues during a recent Senate debate. “It’s an obscure way to shut down government from doing something that the Legislature intended to do.”

Senate Bill 15, known by the initials REINS, would allow leaders of the Legislature to shut down the implementation of new laws if the leader found the new law too costly to implement. A version of the bill is moving toward passage at both the state and federal levels of government. I expect the state Assembly will soon take up the bill.

A little background; after a bill becomes law, agencies work on writing the details of how to implement the law. These details, known as Administrative Rules, are vetted by the Legislature through a committee and vetted by the public through hearings.

“Administrative Rules are the fine details of laws written by policy experts at state agencies.” said long-time Capitol reporter Shawn Johnson in an NPR story on the Senate passage of the REINS Act.

In 2011, majority members voted to change the rulemaking process to give the governor exceptional authority. Under what became known as “Act 21” the rulemaking process now begins and ends in the governor’s office.

Chief sponsor of the REINS Act argued the bill “shifts the power back to us, the elected officials.” Curiously, the bill did not change the portion of the process that begins and ends with the governor.

What the bill did do is allow leaders – the Senate Majority Leader, Assembly Speaker, or Chairs of the administrative rules committee – to stop the implementation of a law if their own commissioned study shows the total cost of implementing the new law is over $10 million. 

However, the study would only evaluate the costs of the new law, not the benefits. Therefore, the bill only considers one side of the equation – the costs to business not the benefits to the public.

Consider this hypothetic example: a manufacturing process caused the death of thirty people. Implementation of a rule to change the manufacturing process statewide would cost over $10 million. The value of the business costs would be weighed but not the value of human lives saved because of protections put in place by the rule. 

The cynical observer of the political process might say the REINS Act allows a legislator to vote for a new law that has broad public support, but after action by a few legislative leaders, satisfy a select group by never implementing the new law.

The REINS Act would affect every portion of state government, but there are five areas for which the majority of Administrative Rules are written: Agriculture and Consumer Protection; Natural Resources; Transportation; Economic Development and Workforce Development (Labor).

The effect of the REINS Act on these areas of state government could be wide reaching. New laws that could be stopped might be related to consumer protections; human, animal and plant health; workers compensation, unemployment and discrimination protections; road and bridge construction; food, water and air pollution. Even clawing back state money from companies that refused to deliver promised jobs.

The groups supporting the REINS Act reads like a “Who’s Who” among factions trying to influence the Republican Party: Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, various utility companies, American Petroleum Institute, the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity, to name but a few.

According to the Center for Media and Democracy, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) a corporate lobbying-sponsored group supports the bill. Some Wisconsin legislators are among ALEC leadership and members.

In Washington, a similar REINS Act is moving through Congress. The Act was passed by the House of Representatives and is under consideration in the U.S. Senate.

In a letter to Congress, the nonpartisan League of Women Voters wrote, “If you think you might ever protect your constituents from dirty air or water, drinking water contamination, disease spread by food, lead in toys, predatory banking practices or any known or yet unforeseen threat, you need to vote against the REINS Act. The Act would simply be the most fundamental step away from protecting the public in U.S. history.”

The REINS Act is promoted as a cleverly devised pun to rein-in run-away government. However, in reality, it is a way for large corporate interests to manipulate our political process to their own ends, sacrificing our people’s health and safety.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Candidate Training

Wisconsin Progress is the premier candidate training organization in Wisconsin. Over the past seven years, we've helped hundreds of activists, volunteers, and engaged community members take the next step into being candidates and elected officials. 
Two years ago we announced a new training - a training for those who've thought about running for office but were never sure if it was right for them. We call it our Getting Ready to Run training. We had over 50 people show up from all corners of Wisconsin and received great reviews!
Our first Getting Ready to Run Training is coming up in Steven's Point next month. Click here to see all the dates!