Friday, October 28, 2016

Sundown pipeline routes

Last night's presentation by Dr. James Loewen (Lies My Teachers Told Me, Sundown Towns) was well attended and generated a good discussion about what the La Crosse area can do to follow Dr. Loewen's three step process to change: 1. Acknowledge that we were and still have aspects of being a "sundown town" (not welcoming/purposefully excluding people of color), 2. Apologize and 3. Quit doing the bad stuff (and do the good stuff).

Thankfully, there are forces for good in our community including the City of La Crosse Human Rights Commission, the Greater La Crosse Area Diversity Council, the Martin Luther King, Jr. planning committee, and SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice - link coming soon I hope) among others. While last night's conversation included good ideas and commitments for change, we also heard that often there is a major "say-do" gap - institutional support given verbally is not backed up by budgets, policies, and programming.

One way to combat racism and social justice issues in our community is to 1. Know about them and 2. Activate a network of advocates to make a noise about  problems and demand a fix. That is one way this Coulee Progressives site can help. We will try to work even harder to report on what's happening in La Crosse and what we can do to make positive changes.

To that end, we would like to work with others to create a reporting instrument so that incidents of racial and social injustice - profiling, threats, discrimination, violent acts, hate speech, etc - can be documented. While I'm sure many Coulee Progressives are aware of the constant atmosphere of racism that permeates much of our community, I'm also sure there are many white residents of our community who think there are no problems. At the very least, a report collection tool can document just how bad things are.

This could be based upon the successful UWL reporting tool for students, faculty, and staff to report hate or bias on campus which has exposed countless instances of racism and agression against non-white, non-straight students (though now apparently that is under attack by Republican legislators - who elects these people?! - requiring a disclaimer on the report form.)

But documenting bad behavior without taking action to confront, combat, and change it can be frustrating and maddening, so the second step would be to use social media to activate a network of concerned citizensh and that's another way this blog can help. Again, when we hear of things requiring action, we will help spread the word.

[Update! Fundraiser is over. Today only. Watch for coming events to support 11-15 truckload of support from La Crosse. In the meantime, drop off donations at English Lutheran Church (16th and King) or UWL Cartwright Center.]

Right now we are hearing and spreading the word about the protectors in North Dakota working to stop the fossil-fuel enabling, earth killing, precious water polluting Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). In the latest news, water protectors have set up a line on non-ceded land to block further construction (since the "requests" by the Obama administration have gone unheeded). Increasingly violent militarized police have descended on the peaceful group and have arrested hundreds.

The irony of this particular modern day iteration of the never ending resource wars that have devastated people around the globe for hundreds of years is that the publicly funded police are working with weapons and equipment provided by the US military to push the people who pay taxes (and therefore their salaries and operating expenses) from land that was never ceded to the United States - so Native American sovereign land - to benefit private oil companies which are funded and backed by multinational banks and corportions. So, it appears that sundown towns policies even work when you're on your own property.

In light of the recent aquittal of the Malheur Refuge vandals and law breakers, there is much discussion about unequal treatment by law enforcement of white criminals versus Native and black citizens peacefully exericising their constitutional rights. But, living in a racialized country, this is not new nor a surprise.

Neither of the (only) two major parties has voiced a strategy for rooting out the deep racism that drives our whole society. Neither party has made Native American rights and sovereignty an issue (Bernie Sanders did include Native issues in his discussions and speeches, but he has been absorbed into the corporate Democratic body and is little more than a promised future presidential gut ache. Barack Obama has spoken about Native American issues but he has a major "say-do" gap problem as illustrated by his administration's tepid and impotent reaction to NO DAPL activists). Neither party appears willing to remove deeply embedded Wall Street tumor from the heart of government. And while the Trump effect will undoubtedly usher in a larger, more violent, more extreme, more entitled and openly racist onslaught of white power extremists, nothing in the currently visible Democratic party team or priorities seems to indicate that countering this threat is any kind of priority. Indeed, Hillary Clinton's attitude toward those seeking immediate action on racial justice was outed in her famous dismissl of BLM activists at one of her high buck summer fundraisers has been corroborated by Wikileaks email releasesl.
"In the two-party system, both parties are multi-class and multi-sectoral structures that compete to achieve the upper hand in determining the modalities by which white privilege is dispensed and defended. They cooperate to legitimate a white consensus. Once class is no longer an issue (i.e., once any possible challenge from the white working class has been contained), the question is what then defines the state and whom does it operate for and against. The two sources of the state’s legitimation are the fear (real and imagined) of domestic unrest sparked by Blacks and the global threat, either from international communism in the past, or from anti-imperialist and anti-globalization movements or militant Islam in the present. The subtle and open message of the elite representatives of the racialized state is that it defends white privilege and whiteness against these domestic and foreign threats." - from Race and the Racialized State: A Du Boisian Interrogation

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Philo and Cultural Appropriation Meet Up

Hi everybody,

I had the pleasure to go out to the cultural appropriation event yesterday hosted at Pearl Street Brewery, and run by Philo and the Ho Chunk Youth and Learning Center, and I wanted to share with everyone a little information on Philo.

Philo is an aspiring non-profit that is working to help connect companies and institutions with other non profits, advocacy groups, and awareness raising organizations. They have been both going to businesses and been approached by businesses that are looking for tools and resources to help them integrate education on human rights and social justice into their training, practice, and operations.

They are currently working with Hamilton school in redesigning their curriculum to include information from different social and ethnic groups, and I believe they have one other big project going at the moment keeping them quite busy.

You can check out their website here. I wrote this mostly from memory after talking to the founder last night and I am sure that I am missing quite a bit. Philo is a great resource for our community, and I think everyone should know about and spread word of this resource as more businesses, institutions, etc. in town become more socially aware and are looking for ways to change.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Crock the vote

I had to share this amazing story from Indiana where state police raided a voter registration organization (for no good reason) making it likely that tens of thousands of newly registered voters, mostly black, will not be able to vote. Where is the Justice Department?

Even if they were able to vote, there's no guarantee their votes will be counted. This great Counterpunch article points out that in some cases Trump is right
So why is it so hard for liberals to accept the idea that US elections are undemocratic? Sure, it’s rather easy for liberals to proclaim from the mountaintops their opposition to discriminatory practices such as voter ID laws because those laws target primarily people of color who mostly vote Democrat. It has little to do with a concern for the truth and for the validity of elections, but is rather about anger that the other team is not playing fair.

But when it comes to doubting the entire electoral system and the results of any given election, liberals don’t want to hear that. They don’t want to discuss it. They certainly don’t want to debate it openly and honestly. Why?

And Truthout tells the sad story of voters forced to cast provisional ballots"In the 2012 election, some 2.7 million voters cast provisional ballots, about a quarter of which were disallowed. According to the Election Administration Commission, the top reasons provisional ballots are rejected nationwide are that voters aren't registered (38 percent) or vote at the wrong site (25 percent). But the likelihood that a ballot gets tossed for a particular reason can vary sharply from state to state: In Texas, 15 percent of provisional ballots were rejected for being cast in the incorrect place; in Ohio, it was 28 percent; in Indiana, it was 45 percent."

Thankfully, in Wisconsin our Republican election officials are all over the letter of the law. Witness a Green Bay city clerk who refused early voting places for UW-Green Bay students (whose spring primary voting experiences were not so great because of long lines and limited resources). Her reasoning - students are more likely to vote for Democrats.
But privately Teske gave a different reason for opposing an early-voting site at UW–Green Bay, writing that student voting would benefit the Democratic Party. “UWGB is a polling location for students and residents on Election Day but I feel by asking for this to be the site for early voting is encouraging the students to vote more than benefiting the city as a whole,” she wrote on August 26 in an e-mail to David Buerger, counsel at the Wisconsin Ethics Commission.
In another close call in Republican anti-voter Wisconsin, thousands of Wisconsin absentee ballots will be counted after all. Earlier this fall, in light of a new law requiring absentee ballots to contain witness addresses, there were questions over what exactly makes up a witness address. The Commission was set to disqualify absentee ballots where witnesses had not included zip codes, for example. "A new Wisconsin law states absentee ballots missing a witness address don't count. The law doesn't say how much address information is needed, however. State Elections Commission staff told local clerks earlier this month that they can't fill in missing elements without voter consent."

Remember - you have until Friday, October 28 (at 5 p.m. in city of La Crosse) to vote absentee in person, avoiding crowds and lines. More details at


Tonight (Wednesday) at 6:30 at Pearl St Brewery (St Andrew St) film about cultural appropriation and benefit for Ho-Chunk Youth.

Tomorrow night at 5 pm at City Council chambers (6th & La Crosse Sts) "Sundown Towns" - racism in La Crosse

(And here's a good article about presidential candidate silence on DAPL).

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Jill Stein events in WI

Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka, Green Party candidates for president and vice-president, respectively, will appear at two events in Wisconsin next week. Thanks to D Buzz Davis for the heads up.
Jill Stein, the 2016 Green presidential candidate, is bringing her campaign to Wisconsin this coming week.
Jill Stein’s Green Party campaign for president is a bold, left-wing alternative with real solutions for working people. She calls for a $15 minimum wage, cancellation of student debt, single payer healthcare, and a Green New Deal to tackle climate change.
During this election – between the two most disliked presidential candidates in recent history – we have an opportunity to build a movement to challenge this political establishment. A significant vote for Jill Stein can help set the foundation for a viable new party in this country – a party of the 99%, independent of the Democrats, the Republicans, and their corporate backers. Winning 5% of the vote means the Green Party will receive up to ten million dollars to help build the infrastructure for a presidential campaign in 2020.
Unlike our opponents, the Stein / Baraka campaign is neither misogynistic nor speculating about ordering drone attacks on whistle-blowers. Jill & Ajamu have spent their lives working for social justice and creating a healthy environment for our children and grand-children.

This is a unique time in history to transform our political landscape and create a world that works for all of us. The power to do this is not in our hopes, it's not in our dreams; it's in our hands!

Madison, WI

October 27, 2016 at Noon – 2pm
Memorial Union Theater 
800 Langdon Street
Madison, Wisconsin 53706

Facebook Event Page

Milwaukee, WI

October 27, 2016 at 7pm – 9pm
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Student Union Ballroom  
2200 E Kenwood Blvd
Milwaukee, WI 53211

Facebook Event Page

We're putting People, Planet and Peace over Profit -- and we need your help.  The Stein / Baraka as a matter of political principal, does not accept corporate donations. We're dependent upon small donations from supporters, so please donate what you can.

How Students Can Help

By posting flyers on your campus, starting a chapter of Young Greens, organizing and engaging in direct actions in person and online, dialoguing with other college groups who have over lapping interests, you can get the word out to other students and youth.

Monday, October 24, 2016

ALERT!!! Health care town hall TOMORROW! (Tuesday)

We just learned that the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance is holding FEDERAL HEALTH CARE TOWN HALL MEETINGS around the state and the La Crosse meeting is TOMORROW (Tuesday, October 25) from 3:30 to 5 (perfectly convenient for working people) at the La Crosse Public Library (800 Main Street). 

This is being billed as, "... a forum for citizens to gather information about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), 2017 open enrollment and "auto re-enrollment. Wisconsin is anticipating 37,160 residents to lose individual health insurance coverage in 2017 due to insurers exiting the exchange, also known as the Federally Facilitated Market Place (FFM), or scaling back on previously serviced counties. These consumers will unfortunately endure the harms of 'auto re-enrollment' unless they understand their options moving forward. To alleviate confusion, we will be traveling the state to provide information on the 2017 open enrollment and strongly encourage consumers who will be affected by 'auto re-enrollment' to opt-out and shop for health care coverage either on or off the exchange."

Keep in mind that the Walker administration is an absolute foe of Affordable Care Act and they have done whatever they can to ensure it fails. Walker's first Health and Human Services secretary was the Heritage Foundation's Dennis Smith whose specialty was working to end Medicaid. You may have seen current tv ads for Dan Kapanke touting his support for BadgerCare and Jenn Shilling's vote against it. Shilling in fact backed expanding Medicaid coverage, something the Walker administration refused to do, putting thousands of people in an "uncovered" hole. Just last year, Walker was talking about pushing some seniors out of Wisconsin's SeniorCare program. OneWisconsin has a great compilation of Scott Walker's greatist anti-health care hits at

We need people to attend this event and push back against the anti-ACA narrative its sure to promote. Without the Affordable Care Act, thousands would not be able to afford insurance, premiums would have risen even faster, pre-existing conditions would determine coverage and costs. If you can attend, please do. Go educated and ready to speak.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Progressive Potluck 10/20 Minutes and Discussion Topics

Once again, we had a great time at the potluck Thursday night! There were plenty of new faces along with returning regulars--all appreciated contributions to the space. We explored a variety of subjects, which will be summarized below. Our vision is to provide an ongoing interpersonal (rather than just internet) hub for progressive activists to share ideas, policies, and events and to support one another.

The next potluck will be Thurs 11/3 starting at 5:30 for getting acquainted, eating, and catching up. We plan to sit down for a more focused discussion at 6:30. We are going to try having one individual speak and facilitate discussion for 10-15 minutes on a subject they are passionate about, a project they are working on, or any other item you feel would be a good tool to share. The first volunteer for this is Lewis, who will be talking about budgeting in the city of La Crosse and how we as community members may impact city spending. Please let us know if you would like to educate the group on and invite engagement from other activists. We think it would be best to keep it at 1-2 planned speakers for now, so that people who can't stay very late can still listen and participate; additional ideas can of course be explored after the speakers. As always, please let us know what you think of the potluck and organization feedback so we can keep evolving to better serve everyone, be inclusive, and have fun!

Below summarizes our conversations with a few ongoing ideas revisited and several upcoming events highlighted that are brewing excitement. Some are ideas in infancy (consider if/how you want to see them progress), and some are upcoming events we want to encourage people to show up for and support.

Anti-Racism Film Discussions - There are two movie showings and discussions this week with racial justice themes. The first is is on cultural appropriation, showing a film by Philo, Wednesday 10/26 at 6:30-9:30 at Pearl Street Brewery. Please show up with an open mind to listen and learn while supporting the Ho Chunk La Crosse Youth and Learning Center. Then Thursday 10/27 at 5:30-8:30 at City Hall, anti-racism advocate and sociologist James Loewen (author of Lies My Teacher Told Me) will discuss sundown towns and how La Crosse fits into that (based on research, it IS a sundown town). More info can be found under the events section on the right hand side of this blog. Both nights should be sure to have great discussion, and we hope that many of you can make it out to support these events. Please consider these as important opportunities to better educate ourselves on past and present iterations of racism in ourselves and in our community.

Joining the Democratic Party of La Crosse County - We are still calling progressive voters to consider joining the county party to work on change from within (think of it as an experiment in entryism). We need to try getting involved en masse and pushing real action rather than empty promises.

Volunteering on Election Day - According to City Hall, volunteers for election day this year are lower than usual, and they really need more people to help register voters (if you are an SRD) or just work the polls. I believe they pay at least a bit above minimum wage if anyone wants to make some money and help others perform their civic duty. You can contact city clerk Teri Lehrke at (608) 789-7510 or to get more info or to sign up.

Pearl Street pedestrian walkway - There is ongoing talk of Pearl Street becoming a pedestrian thoroughfare. It is in accordance with the city's plans for transportation changes, but not much has been happening. If we can get momentum behind this, it could be a great change to our city in favor of biking and walking, a step away from car culture.

Divided We Fall showing and millennial march - Kevin is working to get a showing of Divided We Fall with the director present in La Crosse. Cathy is also working to see if their is interest in a Millenial March, possibly connected to the showing.

Running for common council - Jess had mentioned a possible workshop for running for local offices, and there is also the resource posted a few posts back in this blog about an opportunity for women. Every common council seat in La Crosse is open to election this April, and this could be a good opportunity to fill our local political offices with folks who will represent people-focused progressive policy. If anyone has ideas, wants to run, or knows someone who would be great for the council, please share, as April is not as far away as it seems.

Citizens Action Co-op - Some of you have certainly heard about Citizen Action of Wisconsin and their organizing coops. If you have not, it is a group of 200+ individuals in a community each paying a small monthly fee to pay a full time salary to an organizer in their community to fight for the causes they believe in. It is a great asset, and still something that many of us would love to see in La Crosse in the (hopefully near) future. In the meant time, Jeff Smith is the organizer employed by western Wisconsin, and spends most of his time in Eau Claire doing great things. If you want to support this model, please go to their website and sign up to contribute to the western Wisconsin Co-op. If they get big enough, they can hire a second organizer and station them where there are the most supporters needing an organizer. (Hint: That means if we could get all our friends to join, we could get a full-time organizer in La Crosse!)

DAPL Fundraiser - The fight to protect our water and land in the Dakota's continues, and it is quite literally a watershed moment. The need the support of everyone who understands the fight for clean water and air, the fight against the fossil fuel industry, the fight against institutional racism and the abuse of indigenous people in this country. The number one thing we can do is make sure we know what is going on, keep track of it, and speak out. We also need to do everything we can to make their lives easier and help them keep the fight going. with that in mind, I have been brainstorming about having some kind of fundraiser to get our community revved up and collect donations. I was thinking we could have some speakers get together, and have a some bands as well. I have zero experience with event planning at this level though, so I am very open to any support/leadership role people want to take on this. I am working to contact the Root Note owners to see if they are interested, as I think that would be a great venue and I think they are supporters. If anyone has ideas/connections with this please let me know.

Progressive state of union - Cathy, Obbie, Kevin, and other long-term locals shared about this event in years past and proposed having another one in the next month or two. It would be an opportunity for interorganizational collaboration and more long form talkers.

Book Club - In the late night crowd, we heard interest in starting a book club. I will be making a facebook group to invite interested parties. Please let me know if you want to participate. If you don't use facebook, I will make sure that you are included as well so please reach out to me personally.

Solar La Crosse - There was talk of getting a Solar La Crosse project going for 2017. The more people we can get together to commit to going solar, the cheaper it should be to get big projects installed. We need to do more research on this one, and it is a great opportunity that will ultimately pay for itself.

If you hear of other events you think should be on our collective agenda, please share! Stay aware and involved, friends. Hope to see many of you at upcoming events and the next potluck!

Monica and Peter

Friday, October 21, 2016

Sign the Petition - Freedom of Speech & Press

#NoDAPL: Native Americans and our Constitution are under assault

The petition to North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple and the U.S. Department of Justice reads:
"Journalism and activism are not crimes. Ensure that journalists can exercise their constitutional rights to do their jobs without fear of government intimidation or prosecution. Uphold the rights of Native Americans and their allies to peacefully resist the Dakota Access pipeline without threat of violence."
#NoDAPL: Native Americans and our Constitution are under assault
The First Amendment is under attack along the Dakota Access pipeline route in North Dakota. In recent weeks, police and private security forces outfitted in riot gear and armed with assault weapons have used dogs and pepper spray on peaceful Native Americans and their allies protesting at pipeline construction sites.

Now, overzealous law enforcement officials in North Dakota have jailed journalists and celebrities that were performing their constitutionally-protected right to free speech and the press by documenting police attacks on protesters.

These actions are a serious affront to the constitution and to sovereign tribal rights and are an egregious abuse of power by the police and the government in order to protect the fossil fuel industry. North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple and the U.S. Department of Justice must protect protesters’ right to assemble and the right of journalists to do their jobs.

Tell North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple and the U.S. Department of Justice: Stop police abuse and protect the constitution, not the fossil fuel industry.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and members of over 200 other tribes from across the Americas are leading the resistance to protect sovereign land and drinking water from destruction by the fossil fuel industry. It is the largest gathering of indigenous people in over a century.1 However, in an attempt to quell these historic nonviolent protests, Gov. Dalrymple ordered a state of emergency that has militarized the police force, set up a highway roadblock and mobilized the National Guard to intimidate protesters. The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota has called a “State of Emergency for Civil Rights.”2

In September, Amy Goodman, the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, and her crew filmed as armed security forces deployed pepper spray on nonviolent protesters and unleashed dogs that bit tribe members. Her reporting went viral, with over 14 million people on Facebook and millions more through the mainstream media viewing her reporting.

In response, a North Dakota state prosecutor issued charges and a warrant for Goodman’s arrest for participating in a “riot,” which is in direct violation of her constitutionally protected right to work as a reporter. The charges – which were dismissed by a judge on Monday in the wake of widespread condemnation – have been called “a transparent attempt to intimidate reporters from covering protests of significant public interest” by the Committee to Protect Journalists.3

Tell North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple and the U.S. Department of Justice: Stop police abuse and protect the Constitution, not the fossil fuel industry.

In addition to Goodman’s arrest, authorities in North Dakota are actively targeting journalists and others with a wide audience to prevent them from reporting on the protests. Acclaimed actress Shailene Woodley, who filmed the Dakota Access protests for 40,000 viewers on Facebook Live, was singled out by police for her celebrity and arrested on the scene.4 Police also arrested climate documentary filmmaker Deia Schlosberg, held her for 48 hours without access to her lawyer and charged her with three counts of conspiracy that could land her in prison for 45 years – all for simply filming the protests.5

Based on the reports, it appears that government officials are attempting to intimidate indigenous people resisting the pipeline and silence the press from spreading the word. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest is quoted as saying that, in response to the protests, the federal government is looking into “what potential steps could be taken to ensure the safety and security of our energy infrastructure.”6

The injustices perpetrated by the government and the fossil fuel industry against journalists, Native peoples, and their allies are an unacceptable assault on the First Amendment. We must stand with them now and ensure their constitutional rights to assemble and report are fully protected.
Tell North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple and the DoJ: Stop police abuse and protect the Constitution, not the fossil fuel industry.

  1. Life in the Native American oil protest camps,” BBC, Sept. 2, 2016.
  2. Jennifer Cook, “North Dakota’s Governor Declared a State of Emergency to Deal With Peaceful Oil Pipeline Protesters. We Call It a State of Emergency for Civil Rights.,” American Civil Liberties Union, Sept. 13, 2016.
  3. MEDIA ADVISORY: Journalist Amy Goodman to Turn Herself in to North Dakota Authorities,” Democracy Now!, Oct. 13. 2016.
  4. Actress Shailene Woodley arrested during pipeline protest,” BBC, Oct. 11. 2016.
  5. Josh Fox, “ The Arrest of Journalists and Filmmakers Covering the Dakota Pipeline Is a Threat to Democracy—and the Planet,” The Nation, Oct. 14, 2016.
  6. Catherine Ngai and Nia Williams, “Canada-U.S. oil pipelines resume operations after activists halt flow,” Reuters, Oct. 12, 2016.

Egg Rolls

Just wanted to make sure everyone knows about this upcoming event - a way to eat tasty egg rolls and support the Hmong community in La Crosse!

Hi Friends and Supporters:

Our next Eggroll Fundraisers are back at the Hmoob Cultural and Community Agency of this Fabulous Fall Season. Starting on Friday, November 11th and ending on Saturday, November 12th. Sales start at 9 AM and go until 6 PM each day.

Please join us for the most delicious EGGROLLS imaginable!  :)​

We are trying something new this year. Instead of selling eggrolls as singles, we are selling them as packs in order to shorten the wait time for our community.​

Hmoob Cultural and Community Agency logo


Friday, November 11th and Saturday, November 12th, 2016
9:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Eggrolls: 3-pack for $5.00, 6-pack for $10.00, or $15 per dozen
Veggie or Pork

Walks-in Welcome

(Pre-order must be submitted before 4:30 PM on November 10.)

•Cash or check payable to: HCCA•

Hmong Cultural and Community Agency
1815 Ward Ave., La Crosse, WI
(Corner of Ward Avenue and South Avenue)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Hot Coffee

[First, a reminder - progressive potluc tonight 5 to 8 pm. Get directions by emailing couleeprogressive[at]]

Do you know about LinkTV? It's an independent television channel available on cable and satellite tv line ups that digs into the issues most other television channels don't cover.

Today I am temporarily in a house with satellite TV and I'm watching the 2011 documentary, Hot Coffee, on LinkTV. You must watch it.

Here's a blurb from the doc's website:

Because of the success of the public relations campaigns, paid for by tobacco, pharmaceutical and insurance companies, to name a few, our civil justice system is not impartial. Jurors have been led to believe that a large verdict will affect their pocketbooks. Voters believe that we have a court system out of control that needs reforming.  Although there are consumer advocacy groups who have attempted to set the story straight, there has yet to be enough money to launch the kind of public relations campaign for consumers that can even begin to combat and challenge the public relations campaigns of pro-business and tort reform groups. Over the last few years, however, documentary films and independent film festivals have become a vehicle for alternative ideas to get a public forum.

If you have access to LinkTV through cable or satellite, the documentary will air again on Monday, October 24 at 7:30 p.m.

The film begins by telling the story of 79-year-old Stella Liebeck who ordered a cup of coffee from a drive-through window at a McDonalds restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mrs. Liebeck was seated in the passenger seat of a parked car and, as she tried to add cream and sugar to her coffee, spilled the entire cup of scalding hot coffee on her lap. She suffered severe third-degree burns, years of expensive medical treatment, and a lawsuit that soon had the whole country talking.

Following an explanation of what really happened in the Hot Coffee Case, filmmakers show how this case and the myth of frivolous lawsuits was used to "catapult the propaganda" as George W. Bush says to remove basic legal rights of Americans and give a free pass to corporations.

Tort Reform - (or as Ralph Nader calls it, "tort DEform") - a concerted effort to limit or end the rights of citizens to sue when there is harm. Using a misrepresentation of the hot coffee case (and others), Republicans and their business cronies pushed for these limits in state legislatures around the country. In Wisconsin, for example, the Republican legislature in ALEC modeled "tort reform" passed in 2011, limited citizens rights to sue nursing homes for neglect and injury, prohibiting parents from suing over the death of an adult child. (Read more about how Republicans have provided health care providers and institutions with the freedom to malpractice in Wisconsin here.)

Capping damage awards - arbitrary limits on amounts juries can award when they decide that e someone has been harmed and deserves compensation. This section highlights a baby born with severe disabilities due to medical negligence. The jury that heard the case, including estimatees of the funds needed to provide maintenance, care, and living expenses for the victim, awarded a reasonable amount. But a cap cut the award by 80 percent. As a result, it's probable that the victim will need to go on Medicaid for care which will ultimately provide a lower quality of life paid for by taxpayers rather than the people responsible for the injury.

Buying state supremeourts to uphold business-friendly "tort reforms" and damage award caps - John Grisham's great novel, The Appeal, was based upon the 2000 re-election campaign of  Oliver Diaz for Mississippi's Supreme Court which is highlighted in this section. We have seen almost carbon-copy situations in Wisconsin.

Mandatory Arbitration - the practice of forcing people to use arbitration rather than use the courts
Case of a KBR (Haliburton) employee raped and beaten by co-workers, rape kit given to employer and disappears, imprisoned in a shipping container. After rescue by federal troops she was unable to sue for the mistreatment and torture because of the arbitration clause in her employment contract.

Featuring Joan Claybrook, John Grisham, and George Lakoff among others, the film lays out one way that, as President Jimmy Carter has said, "The U.S. is now an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery."
“When somebody goes to court, they’re doing something extraordinary that is hidden. To go to court and to sue is not a simple procedure. You have to go through a lot of trouble. It affects your life. You’re going to be attacked in all sorts of ways. Going to court to gain justice is heroic. That idea has to be out there. When you ‘win a case,’ you win it for other people as well as gaining justice for yourself.” - Professor George Lakoff

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Opportunity for progressive women

This is already an historic year for women, with the first woman ever to be nominated for president from a major political party. But our work is not over. While Hillary Clinton sits at the top of the ticket, our partner, Emerge Wisconsin, is training female leaders here in the state to continue breaking glass ceilings. Emerge Wisconsin, the state’s premier candidate-training program exclusively for women, will accept applications for its 2017 class until Nov. 18, 2016.
If you are a progressive woman who has ever considered running for office, you should apply!

Emerge Wisconsin is an affiliate of Emerge America, which is training the next generation of female Democratic leaders across the country. Women will be selected to participate in the 2017 class that begins in January 2017. Emerge Wisconsin’s curriculum includes training in public speaking, fundraising, campaign strategy, field operations, labor and endorsements, networking, media skills and messaging and ethics in politics.  Participants meet monthly for six months.

Emerge Wisconsin has trained more than 175 women since its founding in 2006.

Application -

The deadline is Nov. 18, 2016. The application is available at the below link or by contacting Emerge Wisconsin at or by email:

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Stopping the TPP (still ticking)

[Ron Kind won another term as Republidem representative from Wisconsin's Third Congressional District in the August  primary (where Bernie handily won a majority in April - where were the Bernie voters in August?) when, with no Republican on the ballor, he defeated Myron Buchholz with 81% of 13% (about 10%) of the voters. We can at least write in Myron Buchholz on our fall ballots to show opposition to the TPP. Cha nces are, the great compromiser Obama will give away the store to get the TPP passed in the lame duck session. More proof that what the majority of people want is not usually what we get in our deMOCKracy.]

Reprinted from The Daily Call, 10-12-16:

Get Ready For What’s Coming Up: We Still Have To Fight The TPP

The fight is in the House, where Paul Ryan is working behind the scenes to try to put the votes together to pass it.

By Scott Galindez
Reader Supported News (10/9/16)
Many of you have heard Paul Ryan say the votes are not there in the House to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Mitch McConnell has said he will not bring it up for a vote in the Senate. Larry Cohen, the past president of the Communications Workers of America and current chair of the board of Our Revolution, is not so sure.
Cohen doesn’t trust McConnell and he told RSN that Ryan is seeking the votes. They don’t say it publicly since there is a very important election coming up. Opposition to the TPP comes from progressive populism and right-wing reactionary populism. So Democrats supporting the TPP face opposition on their left and Republicans face opposition on their right.
The election in November is the big reason there hasn’t been a public push for votes on the largest trade deal ever. Publicly, both presidential campaigns oppose the TPP. With Hillary Clinton we have to wonder if this is an example of her “public position” while privately she supports it. For Trump, it is a nationalist reactionary movement that he is trying to tap into.
What this sets up is a behind-the-scenes push to get the votes in a lame duck session. GOP leaders want the TPP. The leader of the Democratic Party, President Barack Obama, wants the TPP. If they can ram it through Congress in the lame duck session after the election, then the next president’s hands are clean, and the leaders of the two major parties get to deliver a gift to those they really represent, corporate America.
Food and Water Watch describes the TPP as the following:
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed trade agreement between the United States and eleven Pacific Rim countries (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam). If Congress approves this controversial deal, it would not only harm workers and the environment, it could unravel hard-won national and local policies on fracking, food safety, the environment and local democratic autonomy. The rules of the TPP game are rigged for corporations, making it easier to use trade rules to undermine and unravel these domestic safeguards.
Here are just a few ways the TPP would harm our food, our water and our democracy:
    • The TPP grants corporations special rights to sue over policies the companies claim hurt their profits — demanding cash damages for public health, environmental safeguards, consumer protections or local fracking bans that corporations don’t like.
    • The past free trade deals have cost millions of good jobs and contributed to the growing economic inequality in America and the TPP would make it easier to offshore and outsource more jobs.
  • The big food and agribusiness companies will try to use the TPP to weaken U.S. food safety rules and inspection at the border, potentially exposing people to unsafe imports.
Those are just a few of the problems we face with the TPP. If this is true, why does President Obama want the trade deal so badly? Cohen says he is not a psychologist but he thinks it is a legacy thing. He thinks the president is looking for another major accomplishment. The gridlock in Washington has prevented Obama from accomplishing most of his agenda, so the TPP would be a major accomplishment.
How Do We Stop It?
According to Cohen, the votes are there to pass the TPP in the Senate. He is not optimistic that, if McConnell backs down and allows a vote, we can stop it. He believes the fight is in the House, where Paul Ryan is working behind the scenes to try to put the votes together to pass it. Cohen said they got 60 votes in the Senate to pass fast track and they only need 5o votes to approve the TPP, because the vice president would vote for it.
In the House, most Democrats oppose the TPP. Representatives at the Congressional District level are usually influenced by organized labor, so it will be hard for Obama to sway most Democrats. Twenty-eight Democrats voted in favor of the TPP last year. They are:
Terri Sewell (AL-07)
Susan Davis (CA-53)
Sam Farr (CA-20)
Jim Costa (CA-16)
Ami Bera (CA-07)
Scott Peters (CA-52)
Jared Polis (CO-02)
James Himes (CT-04)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23)
Mike Quigley (IL-05)
John Delaney (MD-06)
Brad Ashford (NE-02)
Gregory Meeks (NY-05)
Kathleen Rice (NY-04)
Earl Blumenauer (OR-03)
Kurt Schrader (OR-05)
Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01)
Jim Cooper (TN-05)
Rubén Hinojosa (TX-15)
Eddie Johnson (TX-30)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Beto O’Rourke (TX-16)
Gerald Connolly (VA-11)
Donald Beyer (VA-08)
Rick Larsen (WA-02)
Suzan DelBene (WA-01)
Derek Kilmer (WA-06)p
Ron Kind (WI-03)
If your Representative is on that list, let them know that you oppose their position and call on them to vote against it.
If your Representative is not on the list, they need to hear from you that you appreciate their principled position. Let them know that you have their back. They will be pressured by corporate lobbyists and the White House to approve the deal.
Our Revolution has made stopping the TPP a priority in the coming months. They have also launched a campaign on climate change that will oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline. Josh Fox is touring the country and leading that fight.
Larry Cohen is traveling the country building opposition to the TPP. We must not allow a lame duck session vote to take place. On Thursday night, Cohen was in Des Moines for a town hall meeting sponsored by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. Below is the entire meeting filmed by RSN and streamed by Political Revolution TV.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Reminder - Stand with Standing Rock - Tuesday

Despite a disappointing outcome in the appeals court, the Standing Rock and other actions continue to stop the building of new fossil fuel infrastructure through Native American sacred spaces and under important waterways including the Misourri and Mississippi Rivers. Donate, spread the word, get a shirt, consider going to help out. Do what you can.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

The Nader effect - buyer beware

Many people are warning that a vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein (who will be inserted into tonight's presidential "debate" by Democracy Now! as she was in the first "debate") is a vote for Trump. 

Those of us who lived through the "election" of 2000 have heard this type of argument before. And, following the selection of George W. Bush, years' worth of misinformation have solidified the myth that "Nader cost Al Gore the election."

D Buzz Davis, a longtime Wisconsin progressive activist has sent a link to a great Jimmy Dore show from October 7. Dore clearly and simply walks us through what really happened in 2000. I URGE you to view this video. 

Don't let misinformation and false memories keep you from voting (if you still think that matters) for the candidate you prefer, and consider that whoever beomes president, the make up of the Senate and House maybe even more important. 

And don't think voting is the most you can do. It's barely the least you can do. Do more.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Inaugural Potluck Reflections

Thank you to everyone who joined us last night for what we hope will be the first of many gatherings sharing food and ideas to enrich and progress our community. It was so exciting and heartwarming to see how many of y’all already know each other, the existing connections, and new friendships taking root!

For those who didn’t make it or couldn’t stay the whole time, some topics discussed:
  • Saving Our Unique Land (Rachel). Concerned locals are invited, Monday 10/10 at 1:45 at La Crosse County Courthouse, to visibly support the Town of Holland as it challenges the legal, environmental, and ethical concerns of the Badger-Coulee transmission line in this appeal case. More info at
  • Stand with Standing Rock (Cathy). Show your support for the environmental and indigenous rights lead. Tuesday 10/11 from 5-6 at Burns Park (8th and Main St). More info at
  • Injustice Boycott (Monica). Against police brutality and injustice because Black Lives Matter. Nationwide, starts December 5th, details to come. More info at
  • Potential for joining the La Crosse County Democratic Party (JD). Mixed feelings and dialogue welcome.
  • Training on how to run for office (Jess). County Board member Patrick Barlow has offered to share his experiences and insights. Coming in November, details TBD.
  • Citizen’s Climate Lobby urging national legislation on carbon tax (Peter). Ongoing.

As this was our first time hosting such an event, we learned a lot already! Some logistical tweaks Peter and I have come up with so far:  
  • STARTING EARLIER: We would like to try an earlier start-time. Like 5 pm. We hope to better accommodate families with kiddos, people who work early Friday morning, and anyone who does earlier bedtimes. We are flexible on the end time, so if you still want to stay later to hang that is great too.
  • CLARIFYING GROUP TIME: For similar reasons, we would like to consider a set time to call together the group’s attention for discussing issues and ideas. Like 6 pm. We’d love feedback on that. Last night happened fairly organically, which was nice in a way, but unfortunately it happened later in the evening, meaning that several friends had already left. Every one of you is valuable, and I was sad about the missing voices. I see it as preventable. We want to modify to make it more organized without being too rigid, hoping to enable more people to participate. Some of this will probably trial and error, and again we are very open to input on this.
  • ALL AGES: A reminder we welcome kids of all ages. We have some toys and activities, and of course feel free to bring your own bag of tricks. I will say our house is not “toddler-proof”, so parental supervision is advised for kids at that dangerous explorer phase. But we will have some particularly kid-friendly spaces set up next time. Last night we had some rad babes from 4 weeks to 6 years old, and they were some of the cutest people there IMHO. Bigger kids, teens, and students are certainly welcome too. Especially if they want to babysit :D
  • ACCESSIBILITY PROBS: Unfortunately, our house is not ideal for all abilities. Coming through the front requires six concrete steps (three and three), plus the curb which is not ramped unless you come from the street corner about 100 feet from our door. Coming through the back requires two deck steps and is a wider entrance. We do not have a ramp but the back is relatively friendlier. If these structures pose a barrier to you or someone you want to invite from coming, please let us know, and we can help make it work. There is a bathroom on the first floor.
  • TRANSPORTATION: We are right on a bus route (woo!), so consider that. You can park bikes or wagons in the backyard, and there’s plenty of street parking for cars. If you need the back entrance for accessibility reasons, let us know, and we will make sure there is room for you to park in the alley. We could probably squeeze 4 cars max back there.
  • COMMUNICATION: It might be helpful if we have a scribe during the large group discussion. Something to think about before next time. The day after potlucks, we could post on the blog with a summary and updates. We will share the blog posts on the Coulee Progressives facebook page for easy sharing among FB users. If you would like to write about local issues, let Cathy know, and she can give you access to blog. More content would be great! Relevant events will be posted on both sites, with an emphasis on facebook because that can be a useful way to invite FB users to come to events.

What do you think? If you have feedback, concerns, or proposals for improvement, please feel free to share publicly online for discussion, send Peter or me a message privately, or save for group discussion at the next potluck. We would love to have these hybrid social-strategizing (sociagizing?), fun-organizing (funganizing?) community potlucks every other Thursday. We are happy to host. If/when others want to host, be our guest! (Or actually we’ll be yours :D yukyukyuk.)

The next potluck planned is 10/20. Come alone or invite anyone you feel would appreciate a safe, friendly environment for progressive discussion and organizing. Who are the people you know who want to see change? Who is already working for change? What coalitions can we build in our community? There is so much work to be done in our world. How much more can we do when we all move together?

With hope for the revolution,

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Oct 10 - Badger Coulee appeal at 3rd District Court, La Crosse - public invited to be present in courtroom

Hello fellow progressives - 

This Monday, Oct 10th the Town of Holland representatives and their attorney will appeal issues regarding the high voltage transmission line "Badger-Coulee" before Judge Todd Bjerke in La Crosse. The people of the Town of Holland are not speaking out against this just because this is "in their backyard." They are bringing up the very important environmental questions regarding the effect of high voltage transmission to our lands, water, and wildlife throughout the course of the lines.  They will present data-backed information that questions the actual need for these expensive, monstrous lines that will be with us for decades if they are built to connect to the recently completed Capx2020 and connect with other lines in the Madison area. 

They are asking the judge whether the Public Service Commission (three people appointed by Scott Walker) is required by law to publicly justify how our energy dollars are spent and our environmental goals met. There will be several important questions for the judge to consider. There may be history in the making as it is very difficult to turn around these transmission companies once they have been granted approvals by agencies such as the PSC. 

We are asking for a calm, peaceful presence at the courtroom. Press will likely be there and afterwards may interview persons who have an interest in the transmission issues. People observing will not have any chance to speak directly to Judge Bjerke or during the arguments, but it is hopeful that he will see that these questions are important to the community if there is a strong public presence. The attorney for Holland hopes to bring forth the truth in language that people can understand, compared to the difficult-to-understand language that might be used by the many attorneys for the American Transmission Company (ATC.)

Oral arguments start at 1:45 at the La Crosse County Court House - 333 Vine Street in La Crosse.

I am not personally able to attend due to work commitments, but I would hope that anyone interested and available might be able to attend. If you have any questions I could answer or direct to members of SOUL ("Saving Our Unique Lands") please let me know.

Thank you!

Rachel Teske, Onalaska WI

I am including the recent newsletter from SOUL below:

 The Proper and Prudent Public Discussion of Electricity Costs in Wisconsin
Badger-Coulee Appeal, October 10, La Crosse, WI 

       No public discussion stands to affect our electricity costs and environmental goals more than the possible appeal of the Badger-Coulee transmission line decision.

       In 2015, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) rejected multiple public objections and stamped approval of the costly, 170 mile, high-capacity expansion line between La Crosse and Madison. Oral arguments challenging and defending the approval will be heard in 3rd District State court in La Crosse on October 10th. At question is whether the PSC is required by law to publicly justify how our energy dollars are spent and our environmental goals met.

       The PSC is not rushing to clarify its reasoning in approving the project. Instead, the PSC is asking the court to grant the agency "great deference” in their judgments despite the agency’s refusal to study potential need under current flat and declining electricity use and other irregularities.

       The agency does not dispute that the energy growth assumptions it used to economically justify the Paddock-Rockdale 345 kV line in 2008 never materialized. Rather than discuss how the agency will prevent repeating the same mistake in Badger-Coulee, their request for "great deference” aims to avoid discussions about the bottom line altogether. Such deference would effectively say to the court, to the public, and to the electric customers that such decisions are too complicated for all of us to understand, so we must defer to their “superior" judgment.

       The PSC takes this position despite five years of steady requests for transparency and cost analysis from more than 90 local governments, 12 state lawmakers, and record public participation in public hearings. With electricity use flat and declining, most states are shifting investments to energy efficiency, modern load management and local power development because, unlike utility expansion, they guarantee savings and rapid CO2 reductions. Electric customers, who would assume debt for Badger-Coulee over the next 30-40 years, do not take lightly any dismissal of economic and environmental accountability.

       Proven, lower cost solutions emphasizing efficiency improvements in our homes, farms and businesses were charted by state lawmakers in 2009 when they approved a $1 per month increase in Focus on Energy rebate pools. Though the lawmakers’ request met PSC inaction in 2010, public discussions with state lawmakers revived as utilities starting asking for historical fixed fee increases to pay for expansion and ballooning utility debt.

       Opposition to highly questionable transmission expansion is erupting in every hill and dale in southwest Wisconsin as transmission builders propose another high capacity expansion line between Madison and Dubuque. Cardinal Hickory Creek would be the eighth high capacity line approved in our state in ten years. Persons from these communities will be joining court observers in La Crosse.

       The appeal brought by the Town of Holland is already successful in exposing attempts by a state agency to discourage public discussion of prudent electricity cost accountability. This “day in court” presents a rare opportunity to let one’s presence speak for every concerned electric customer in the state.

       No matter the outcome on the 10th, it is very possible that we will look back at the PSC’s attempt to justify Badger-Coulee as a key turning point in our energy future. Oral arguments start at 1:45 pm at the La Crosse County Court House, 333 Vine St.