Thursday, January 30, 2020

Punishing, Wisconsin style


With very little notice, the State Assembly announced a hearing for tomorrow, Thursday, to consider the so-called "Tougher on Crime" bills that were introduced recently.  Collectively, these bills would be a huge step backward for Wisconsin.

For those who are available, please show up at this hearing.  Even if you cannot stay or do not wish to speak, you can register as being against the bills.  If you cannot come to the hearing itself, there are other ways to let your views be known (see below).  It is important for legislators to know that, not only are these measures not sensible, they are also not popular: the days of blind "tough on crime" policies being good politics are over.

Thursday (January 30)
9:00 a.m.
State Capitol, Room 412 East

There are nine bills being proposed.  Some are pretty minor matters, and some are mostly symbolic, as they wouldn't really change anything. 

Some with them are truly dangerous:
  • Assembly Bill 805 would REQUIRE the Department of Corrections to move to revoke people on Supervision back to prison if they are CHARGED with a "violent crime."  Not if they are found guilty; if they are charged.  Understand that a person convicted of a new crime will almost certainly be going to prison.  This bill would only serve to punish the innocent.
  • Assembly Bill 807 would create a mandatory 6-month jail sentence for a third offense of SHOPLIFTING, no matter how minor the offense or how far apart the three offenses were.
  • Assembly Bill 806 would seek to move even more juveniles into the adult criminal justice system.
  • Assembly Bill 809 would make it even harder for people to get earned release from prison or early discharge from probation, even though Wisconsin is already an outlier in the amount of time we make people spend on Extended Supervision.
These bills would not make us safer; as a matter of fact, there is evidence that we are LESS safe when we incarcerate more people than necessary.  And, they would cost us a fortune. 

If you can make it to Madison on Thursday, we need to let our legislators know we oppose these measures.  If you can't make it, you can contact members of the committee by e-mail or phone, to let them know your thoughts. Their contact info is HERE.

You might also want to contact your own Assembly representative.  To find your Legislator, CLICK HERE and go to "Who Are my Legislators?"

I am grateful that so many of you went to the Capitol today for the Lobby Day.  Between these two days, I hope the message is heard that Wisconsin is NOT wanting to double down on the failed "tough on crime" policies that have already done so much damage.

David Liners, Director

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Drum major passing torch

On Monday, three determined activists were honored at the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration.A full house watched these local leaders receive well-deserved recognition and heard the remarkable civil rights activist Lynda Blackmon Lowery describe her experiences as a teenager with civil rights leaders as they attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery over the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Tracy Littlejohn received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership award. High school student Johah Harlan received the Lynda Lowery Student Leadership award. And a new award, the Drum Major Legacy Award, was given to Irving Balto. 

Irv's story of activism demonstrates that all things are related in the work to bring a more just, peaceful, cooperative society into existence and that there is a long and continuing braid of people who make change happen.

Here's his acceptance speech:

Thank you to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King La Crosse celebration committee for this award and those who submitted my nomination.

The picture of me, cropped from others who were present, was taken 50 years ago on May 4th 1970 at the University of Minnesota,two weeks after the first Earth Day. At the time, the U.S.was engaged in the Viet Nam war. There was an encroachment into Cambodia. The student left organized a nationwide non-violent campus strike and four students were murdered at the Kent State campus in this action by the Ohio National guard.

The 60s are noted as a time of incredible social change facilitated by the cultural zeitgeist. The Civil Rights Movement provided a template for change. Young people understood that the way things were was not the way things had to be. Individuals provided vision and inspiration. But, change came from many, including faith communities.There was an understanding that all work for justice was connected and at times needed to be disruptive.

The change of that time was informed and came from the work of 50 years and more of previous struggle, the work, especially, of the NAACP, founded in 1909, first wave Feminism achieving voting enfranchisement in 1919, the old left, and environmental advocates such Wisconsin's own John Muir and Aldo Leopold.

Why this history? We again are at a cultural tipping point 50 years from the iconic changes wrought in the past. The world is on fire in so many ways. Many who have worked to this moment are now in their 70s, perhaps in poor health. We are passing the torch of change to those who understand history and will continue the struggle for a more just society. The time is now and La Crosse is the place to be. A  good web site to be informed of local actions is Coulee Progressives. Pick up the torch and become involved. We are the leaders we have been waiting for.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Planned Parenthood

 from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin

La Crosse Planned Parenthood will be at Pearl Street Books on January 22 from 4 PM - 7 PM to mark the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. We’ll have a table set up to sign up interested volunteers & a photo booth for folks to share why they vote on social media!

47 years after the Supreme Court ensured the right to safe and legal abortion in its landmark ruling, Roe v. Wade, the threat to reproductive healthcare has never been in more danger.

With two Trump justices on the Supreme Court, it is neither non-partisan nor fair with a strong leaning toward protecting the rich and powerful. Anti-choice extremists are passing radical laws in the states with the goal of overturning Roe v. Wade.

In the United States, abortion may be legal, but it is not accessible for many Americans. Even if Roe stands in the Supreme Court for decades to come, we have a lot of work to do to ensure that your ability to get an abortion doesn’t rely on your zip code.

The only way to hold our elected officials accountable is to vote, and we know your vote in Wisconsin matters. Trump only won the state by .77%, which means that if we just increase voter turnout here in La Crosse and in the surrounding areas, we have the power to change the course of the next election. On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are asking you to share with our elected officials why you plan to vote in 2020.

Planned Parenthood is unapologetically committed to fighting back against the attacks on our right to abortion and other reproductive rights services. That’s why we’re here today. We know that by building a community of people in Wisconsin who want to fight for our rights, we can show our elected officials here in Wisconsin that we expect the same from them. And if they don’t fight for our rights than we plan to vote them out.


We definitely can’t do this alone, so we are asking the people of La Crosse to show up and share their commitment to voting.

If you are available to help table and collect petitions,at upcoming events, we are asking volunteers to sign up for hour-long shifts. Please email to get involved now!

For more info about coming opportunities to support Planned Parenthood and women's rights including paid family leave, and the rights of free and equal citizens to control their own bodies and life and health choices, visit Planned Parenthood Wisconsin,.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Local Martin Luther King, Jr. Events

On Sunday at 2 p.m. there will be a program highlighting the words and works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at 2 p.m. at the Pump House. Dr.King's Call for Justice. Are We Still Listening?

On Monday, the La Crosse County Democratic Party will hold its monthly meeting early - at 5:30 p.m. - and include a brief talk by Dr. Jeremy Arney, assistant professor of political science at UWL, on the experiences of Lynda Blackmon Lowery in the early years of the Civil Rights movement.  Everyone is welcome to the meeting which will be held in the Ho-Chunk Three Rivers House, 724 Main Street.

At 7 p.m., the community's annual Martin Luther King celebration will be held at the Viterbo Fine Arts Center. The keynote speaker is Mrs. Lynda Blackmon Lowery. Arrive early for good seats. Free.

The Progressive Magazine's recent article, Martin Luther King and 'God's Children' on Both Sides of the Border, reminds us how broad and timeless were Dr. King's causes.

This 2018 program from DemocracyNow! encourages us to understand the true depth of Dr. King's work and not let the comfortable middle bleach the passion out of it. Similarly, this commentary by Bob Hennelly, gives us Dr. King's own warning about the disappointment of moderation.

A recent program on PBS Wisconsin about the women's suffrage movement was a good reminder that moderation can be a way to obstruct and delay. After more than 75 years of struggle, organizing, lobbying, marching, picketing, and being beaten, imprisoned, tortured, and killed, women' "won" the right to vote only when one young Tennessee legislator bucked his party, his employer, and his constituents to follow the wishes of his mother. The recent passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in Virginia, must now wait for another hurdle - an arbitrary deadline - to be overcome. And meanwhile, other hard fought victories, from voting rights to environmental protections, are being wiped away.

Moderation is often advised by those who are not in the fire. They can see the glow from their balconies, maybe, but the burn of the continuing and increasing inequality is hypothetical for them. The person whose house is burning doesn't convene a committee to study which fire hose to consider purchasing and what price can be afforded. The fire of inequality and inaction - millions without health care, a planet on fire, centuries of institutional racism, an economy that can't provide basic incomes and affordable services to a huge proportion of its population, endless war,... is already raging.

We need more candidates and electeds from the "fire" class who will not be moderate in their urgency and in their solutions. We need leaders who are not afraid to call out the obstructionists and slow-walkers. We need fellow activists and voters to work and act for others, to understand the struggles the status quo creates for our own friends and families and so many others, to consider where a "just us" attitude is taking us.

In his "Beyond Vietnam" speech at Riverside Church in April, 1967, Dr. King was talking about America at war when he said, "We are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor."  It's just as true when "moderation" keeps us from thinking outside the lines, connecting with others, acting and speaking up. 

Monday, January 06, 2020

Planet or Plastic

[Cross-posted from Coulee Region Sierra Club]

Friends at Viroqua Plastic Free alerted us to this new issue of National Geographic Magazine. Most of the issue is devoted to plastic pollution and potential solutions. At the very least, we can Take the Pledge.

Interestingly, the BBC recently highlighted a short video on the nation of Vanuatu which has begun banning plastic bags and single use utensils. In just a year, their environment became much cleaner, but their ultimate victory over plastic pollution depends on others since they import so much of their food and other necessities.

In October, we learned that the Ocean Cleanup Project successfully completed a first pass of inventor Boyan Slat's device to tackle the vast plastic islands in our planet's oceans.

WISPIRG has a new initiative encouraging support for the RIGHT TO REPAIR things like electronics and cell phones which would reduce the amount of waste our communities must deal with. They are also collecting petition signatures to support a ban of single use plstic foam items.

If your New Year includes a pledge to do more to rid our planet of the scourge of plastic pollution, check out the Plastic Pollution Coalition, a growing global alliance of more than 1,000 organizations, businesses, and thought leaders in 60 countries working toward a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impact on humans, animals, waterways, the ocean, and the environment. 

At the very least, make sure you have a supply of reusable shopping bags and food containers (and use them!), a reusable water bottle, and a sustainable green food kit (reusable food storage container plus reusable utensils) to use when you eat out and have left overs OR when you are offered plastic plates and utensils.Find and use places that give the option of buying in bulk so you can use your own containers where allowed. Last but not least - make sure to mention NO PLASTIC PLEASE! at every store and restaurant you visit.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

An invitation

Fifteen years ago, we started Coulee Progressives so people working on issues dealing with a livable planet, war and peace, social and economic justice, health care, voting rights, and all the other issues we are still working on would be able to find each other and help each other. It's no good when you have three different groups working on the same thing but not connecting on ideas and energy. It's frustrating when you've been trying to get a group together to work on a problem and then you find out that someone else is trying to start a different group to work on the very same issue.

Now we have manipulative and exploitative social media (and destructive) and all kinds of wondrous tech miracles, but we still have trouble connecting and working together on issues we all care about.

We are planning another Progresstival this year with the theme LEAP INTO ACTION! because we really need, not just to get ourselves organized, but to actually DO things that will cause a change for the better. To be sure, many of us have been doing things and have accomplished things, but we need to invite and include many more of our neighbors to join us because this year may be our last chance.

So, that's invitation number one: Put the 2020 Progresstival on your calendar right now (flyers will be out in about a week or sooner). It's on Saturday, February 29 from 1 to 5 or so at the Concordia. We'll have booths and we want every tabler to focus on at least one specific action people can do with that group. Sign your group up using this form don't schedule anything else on that day, and help spread the word. Watch this space for updates.

Invitation number two: It doesn't work if one person has to find out everything that's happening and write posts and update the calendar! WE NEED YOU TO BLOG HERE! WE NEED YOU TO SUBMIT YOUR EVENT FOR THE CALENDAR! Please consider sending a report about what your group is doing, an update about what your organization is planning, your own invitation for people needed to write letters or attend a meeting, etc. Email couleeprogressive (just one) at hotmail to be added as a regular blogger here OR to submit a post for this blog.

Invitation number three:  We can't all go to everything, but maybe we can at least go to one thing a week or a couple of things a month. And we can certainly encourage or take our neighbor or friend or co-worker to go with us. We need as many people as are interested in the outcome of a Central-Logan game to be just as interested in whether the planet is burning up or our water is being polluted by animal factories blurping out bacon. We need as many people who will run five miles to raise money for cancer research to be as motivated to work and vote for candidates who will ban cancer-causing pesticides.

Send us your info, your hopes, your own invitations to action. Let's get organized!

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Go if you can. Donate if you can. Sign up to phone- or text-bank if you can. (We have BERNIE yard signs - email to get one.) The Iowa primary caucus is just about a month away.

Bernie wants national clean drinking water standards, fair taxes so our citizens can thrive, a just legal system, free college tuition for a necessary 21st century education (just as our ancestors made high school free for their future work force), an end to institutional racism, living wages, a halt to endless war, and an immediate all out emergency efferent to tackle global burning among many other progressive policies and programs.

And, ICYMI, who will represent the millions of incinerated animals and whole species in international court?