Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Winter of our Discontent

"Now is the winter of our discontent" William Shakespeare - Richard the III

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves"William Shakespeare - Julius Caesar

"Poor country!  It hardly knows itself."  MacDuff

There are a lot of bad things that can be said about Donald Trump.  I won't bother to repeat them in detail.  In summary it can be said that he is a bigot and a huckster selling and thereby enabling the worst of what Americans can be to say nothing of his sickening relationship with Vladimir Putin.

If you believe that elections reflect the character of a country then I do not recognize this country any more.  But is Trump truly the choice of the people or is he instead the winner by default?  There is a lot of evidence that Democrats simply handed the Presidency to him and that the Clintons were complicit in their own defeat.  

We knew this.  In his series of what happened to the Democratic Party Thomas Frank began by describing how the Republican Party was operating in his book, "The Wrecking Crew".  They would first campaign as reformers claiming that government was broken and then proceed to break it completely.  Then, using the resulting chaos to confirm their original premise... that government was broken!

In his next book, "What's the matter with Kansas?" he described the demise of a once entirely Democratic state after the Great Depression and dust bowl days into perhaps the most broken and ultra conservative one he carefully documented how the D Party abandoned the farm towns and main streets of that very rural state for the caverns of Wall Street..

In his most recent book he is considerably more blunt.  It was the Clintons who wrecked the Democratic Party!  Memories can be short in politics, a malady often attributed to those of the members of the TEA Party.  But Frank provides such a clear refresher course you are left with little doubt of how we came to this dark moment in American History. For decades it was FDR and the New Deal that had guided the party and provided it with its greatest moments.  It was the Clintons that put a stake through its heart.

Specifically they brought about "The end of welfare as we know it", "Three Strikes" laws that filled the prison pipeline, undermined long time Democratic allies by passing NAFTA and most notoriously the "Commodities Modernization Act" which kicked down the barriers that the Glass Stegal Act had put in place to cure the causes of the Crash of 29 and Great Depression.  More so than any of the Bushes, it was the Clintons that set the stage for the crash of 2008 and the mortgage securities bubble.

As well documented and within our memories these events are, if it was the sole claim of a single author the argument might be blunted.  But it is'nt.  In a pre-election piece the well respected PBS show Frontline did a profile on both Trump and Clinton and the detail of how that came about is all the more damning. It began with the Clinton "Third Way" which effectively enabled any number of Republican issues that they could never have passed even under Reagan or Bush without also total control of Congress.  It starts out well enough showing that at least at the beginning, Hilary believed that the purpose of politics was to make the impossible possible and that she was capable of speaking that truth to power, but in partnership with Bill learned to compromise her principles for short term victories.  In the end, it was the involvement of Dick Morris that put her on the track for this historic debacle.  But for her, the ends justified the means.  Principles took a back seat to political survival.

There is a certain logic to that.  The Clintons themselves were fond of saying that "You can't achieve your goals unless you get elected!"  True  enough.  But from a Democratic point of view in looking back at the 90s it is increasingly difficult to see what goals were achieved other than keeping the Clintons in the White house.

" I have no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself, And falls on th' other."  MacBeth, Act1 , Scene 7

But what of her own career?  In the Frontline piece it is noted that on the day that the Senate failed to evict her husband from office her office in the White House was already filled with political maps of New York beginning the plans for her Senate run.  Having survived the political attack there were several lessons Hilary might have learned.  One could have been that centrism wins you not loyalty but derision.  They had after all been attacked with all the ferocity had they been Communist moles.  No recognition, no quarter had been given for their support for conservative programs.  But that is now what she learned and it was not what we saw.

If only she had been able to free herself from the lessons learned with Bill we may have seen a different, freer Hilary Rodham as she began her career.  But that did not happen.

What she did learn was that political shape shifting was the way to succeed.  The problem was that it was the way for her to succeed, not the party, not working people and certainly not New Dealers or modern Progressives who would have benefited from a strong advocate of "the impossible" as she said in her Welsley graduation speech which originally propelled her into the public eye.

Given the choice of winning on principle vs. survival by rebranding she sadly took the latter option and set the trend for the Democratic Party for two decades of cascading failure.  By blurring the lines between the parties she undermined the party brand that had served us so well. You've heard it.  "They are all the same!"  Yes, it would seem that they all are.

The age of the Clintons is over.  It can be no other way.  If she returns and achieves national prominence again it will in fact destroy the party forever which at that point might be the only option.  I hope not.  The question is, what will we now learn the lesson she failed.  The first question on that test should be an easy one.  Just what is it that you stand for?

The party is now on life support and it can choose to live or die but it must also decide if its own survival will be worth more than the mere existence of a label.  We need if not that party but some party to take up its old causes.  I wish it to stay because as the Weyrd Sisters asked themselves, "When shall we [] meet again?" except in that party?  And I ask, shall we again draw the wrong inferences from their spells?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Paul Tittl's Little Shop of Horrors II - Its a Gas!

Back in 2013 I took note of how State Rep. Paul Tittl manages his aging row of shacks rental
Tittl's "business"
and vacuum cleaner retail store as a metaphor for how he approaches legislation in his Assembly job.   Never did I think how this might come up again in such a stunningly blatant way until Halloween played the ultimate joke on his tenants that began with a 911 call about people feeling sick at his properties.

From WFRV TV Green Bay news piece.  Paul sizes up his liabilities.
It turned out that the building had become flooded with carbon monoxide so badly that it has seeped into virtually every unit including the small Cafe on the first floor sickening seven people there as well.

A total of 17 people were transported to local hospitals out of which 4 had to be taken to St. Luke's in Milwaukee to be put into oxygen hyperbaric chambers in order to purge the CO from their blood.  One was so critical that he/she had to be flown by Flight For Life after being extracted from one of the apartments when fire fighters forced open the apartment door and found the victim unresponsive.

Its fairly evident that multiple State Statutes were broken here including 101.149 that requires working CO detectors to be placed in all common areas in apartment buildings where combustion devices are in use.  The fact that it spread through the entire complex tends to indicate that a single furnace heats all of the units which is yet another State code violation for forced air systems.  Each unit is required to have its own separate ventilation system to avoid just such a catastrophe though the building and system are probably so old there may be a grandfather clause at work here.  Replacing the system may end that escape clause however.

According to my conversations with Paul over the years he inherited this property.
$300 fine for your lawn but this is just fine.
His personal investment in it is basically ZILCH.  Improvements he put into it are in the same class too - ZILCH with the exception of things the city has forced him to do such as the vinyl siding we see in the photo above.  The city has been on a beautification tare downtown.  I received a similar notice about some window framing they weren't happy with.  Recently Mayor Justin Nickels announced on his facebook page that the new city policy is to fine people who do not cut their lawns $300.  All this in the shadow of the crumbling Mirro building which has stood as a monument to impotence of local government to stand up to corporate interests.  You just can't make this crap up!

Here's what pisses me off...  I own a building just one block from this mess.  I put a lot into it
including a total face lift for 3 of the 4 units, a new heating system, wiring, plumbing, new efficient windows and storms.  It wasn't cheap!  And I get inspected all the time by multiple city agencies including the Fire Department which always checks at least the common area smoke and CO detectors.  Beyond that I have a TEA Party business man neighbor who dislikes my politics and uses these city agencies as a way of taking out his frustrations on me by calling in bogus ordinance complaints - a sore point with me and the city over their willingness to let him get away with it.

So, it is a puzzlement to me as to how his set of aging fire traps could possibly have fallen off the radar with a city government that has plenty of time and resources to inspect my building, send me letters and other notices that have been more about cosmetics than any alleged violations of consequence.  It would seem that office holding has its privileges.

But on the bright side notice that in the top photo Paul is dressed in his Legislator costume.  He was obviously not in his store when disaster struck.  (It isnt clear that the store is still open)  No doubt he was down in Madison hard at work passing more deregulation legislation.  It might be said that he is keeping his campaign pledge to be our "Full time representative"!  Too bad that means being an absentee landlord.

God help us!

11/9/2016 Note: It is not entirely clear how Paul came to own this entire complex of old buildings.  In reading the inspection records of the units at least some of the main section appears to have belonged to Kadow Realty which he probably purchased as opposed to have inherited.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Monsters Among Us


NOTE: This letter was not printed at (Manitowoc Herald Times) so Im printing it here.
It should be noted that the usual cast of right wing letter writers have had free reign there lately.
This is now the second letter of mine that the HTR has rejected this year.

I've been watching the horror show that has become the Republican 2016 campaign with a combination of both amusement and revulsion. Most interesting has been the flight of frightened candidates trying to saw their own legs off in order to extract themselves from the Trump tower of terror in which they are now locked.

It is after all both election and Halloween season and just as the Green Bay “Gags the Clown” horror film promotion has gone virally wrong with imitators doing real harm now Republicans (not just Trump) have been taking the “creepy clown” act into the all to real realm of public policy.

Then State Senator and now Congressman running for re-election Glenn Grothman authored a bill that would have criminalized single parenthood (SB507) claiming that raising a child without a father is the equivalent of child abuse even when spousal abuse is the cause.

At the same time we saw now Senator Ron Johnson publicly testify in favor of legislation that would have blocked law suits holding the Catholic Church responsible for covering up and reassigning pedofile priests allowing them to offend again.

Now we see that Governor Scott Walker laundered $750,000 in contributions from lead paint interests in exchange for legislation effectively blocking still other law suits by children who were permanently damaged by those companies and their products.

Trump may be that scary clown selling fear and loathing but he is just a shadow of these real monsters who rape the public interest and bring crime into our state houses. They manifest their twisted nature into real policy and that should be what we fear the most. The cure for fear is courage and we must find that courage to realize our mistakes and show up at the poles to end their reign of terror.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Brothers and sisters, we are here tonight to fight the devil...

Buy Tickets!

"Brothers and sisters, we are here tonight to fight the devil... "  Anything Goes!

"If she says your behavior is heinous Kick her right in the Coriolanus!  Kiss me Kate

Life often imitates art:

I am currently in rehearsal for a Cole Porter review which, in my mind has become a metaphor for the current  With the Clinton nomination now a forgone conclusion it is interesting to note that at the same time that California was deciding that race I was rehearsing two numbers that seem to speak directly to the campaigns of both major party candidates.

The singular call to the Sanders voters is not that Clinton is a good person or even a good Democrat, but that Donald Trump is a bad person and, well... A Republican.  Benghazi and other bullshit aside, Clinton's record sucks as Thomas Frank clearly point out in his book "Listen Liberal".  In fact, no one has done more to destroy the legacy of FDR than the Clintons and few people
are more responsible for many of the ills of modern America either.  Whether we are talking about the school to prison pipeline, free trade generated economic decay, the housing bubble and banking collapse or the war in Iraq, the Clintons have been the great enablers of Republican neo-con policies in ways that Republican Presidents of the same era could have never dreamed of.  Bill Clinton rose to power by coopting Republican policies better than they could present them themselves.

Only in the convoluted world of modern TEA Party erzatz populism could then, a TV host of a reality show host that elevated social Darwinism to a religion could then turn the tables and coopt real populist (formerly Democratic policies) as those of the Republican party leaving Clinton with what effectively is a more conservative set of positions than Trump.  With perhaps the most anti-populsts, anti-Progressive record, her entire campaign now appears to be that Trump is the devil.

In "Anything Goes" the character Reno sings,

Brothers and sisters, we are here tonight to fight the devil... Do you hear that playin'? 
[COMPANY]Yes, we hear that playin'! 

I've been a sinner, I've been a scamp, 
But now I'm willin' to trim my lamp, 
So blow, Gabriel, blow! 

Oh, I was low, Gabriel, low, 
Mighty low, Gabriel, low. 
But now since I have seen the light, 
I'm good by day and I'm good by night, 
So blow, Gabriel, blow! 
Just declaim a few lines from Othella...
And at the very same time in New York Merril Streep invoking Kiss Me Kate.

 Humorous lyrics portraying two clueless mobsters trading artless advice on how to attract female attention cuttingly mirror the tactics the two politicians are sure to employ to win over the hearts of the American people before the coming election."

Yes, life really does imitate art.
Wherever he is, Cole Porter and his wit are having the last laugh.
I only wish it were funny.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Can't Fight This Feeling Anymore

"It takes a village.."   Hillary Rodham Clinton's book title

"We had to destroy the [village] in order to save it."
 Quote attributed to a US Major by reporter Peter Arnett February 7th 1968, about the bombing of civilians in the provincial capital Bến Tre in Viet Nam.

 When I attended the Bernie Sanders rally in Sheboygan earlier this spring a man was working his way down the line with a microphone and (I think) another one was holding a video camera asking a simple question.  "If Bernie loses the primary who will you vote for in November" or something very near that.  My unhesitating response then was, "Oh, I'll vote for Hillary!"  I am now rethinking that.

In recent weeks, as Sanders has continued his surge winning contest after contest, steadily closing the gap I have increasingly seen both outright corruption and an increase in personal attacks not just on Sanders but myself personally simply for asking that the entire election be played out and that super delegates consider election results in their own state.  My faith in the system was shaken by the Nevada State Convention where rule changes were implemented in secret putting all questions to a voice vote only and giving the chair sole discretion in determining the outcome of those votes.  My confidence was lost forever when I saw the video of the vote which clearly showed the chair ignoring the actual outcome and ruling in Clinton's favor.  It was obvious that the fix was in.

Hitler claimed the socialists did it
Then, when I read the charges that the Sanders people reacted violently and even throwing chairs.  But that was followed by video showing the charges were patently untrue.  You knew it was more than a fix, it was more like the Burning of the Reichstag.  Obviously the socialists did it!  Right?

Since then Ive seen a rising tide of vitriolic personal attacks, not just on Sanders but people like myself who support him calling him and us "pathetic losers" and "lunatics".  At the first level, this is upsetting especially when it comes from people or their acquaintances who profess to be your "friends".  But it is also perplexing as Clinton and those same supporters are calling for unity.  Last time I  checked "unity" does not spring from derision.

Consider this...  Aren't these the exact sort of attacks used by Donald Trump to fluster and silence his opponents?  Is this what American politics has become?
Las Vegas metro police-Nevada State (Democratic Convention. (Photo: Angie Morelli)

Increasingly I can't fight the feeling that both parties are completely broken and being manipulated not by leaders with integrity but by master propagandists whose true motives remain hidden.  Perhaps its simply a thirst for power.  That's not hard to believe of either Clinton or Trump, is it?
I do not nor have I ever listened to the conspiracy theorists.  I oppose Clinton on the merits.  DOMA, Three Strikes, repeal of Glass Stegal,  bad trade agreements failure to support single payer and the big one.... IRAQ - are all good enough reasons to think that she would not represent me if elected.  This is why we have elections, right?   But back room manipulation, false propaganda and bathing herself in the very big money she decries in the Citizens United case (which involved a conspiracy film about her!) have effectively destroyed any confidence I might have had in her Presidency.

That's a feeling I just can't fight anymore.

And I can't fight this feeling anymore
I've forgotten what I started fighting for
It's time to bring this ship into the shore
And throw away the oars, forever

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Jim Brey Master Inquisitor

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed..."      

     6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

 "I will never forget the look in Steven Avery’s eyes when he was being brought into the courthouse ..., I know a person cannot be convicted based on that, but I made up my mind that day. Avery was guilty."

 Manitowoc County Board Chairman Jim Brey 

The re-emergence of the Steven Avery case has done much to damage the reputation of our community. Certainly the original rape case was bungled. Nationally we have seen any number of such travesties. But, we like our politicians and judges who profess to be “tough on crime”. The electoral pressure to convict over the need to serve has lead to a bias in our officials that has served us poorly. The Halbach case (and perhaps Halbach herself) are in many respects the victims of that.

Despite all that, having followed the this second case at the time and now going back and reviewing the published evidence and appeals court decisions I remain convinced that the verdict in that case was the correct one. Both Avery and Dassey are where they belong – this time.

Now we see the revelation of the emails of County Board Chair Jim Brey who wrote that he could tell
that Avery was guilty by looking into his eyes.  Prejudicial bigotry like that is central to the problem. In the the famous Miranda case that lead to the requirement of police advising suspects of their 5th Amendment rights before making statements involved an officer who said that he knew that people were lying when their bellies shook. But Brey never misses an opportunity to pander so civil rights be damned. Not one lesson was learned.

Brey, a fake Democrat who is continually re-elected without opposition while receiving fewer votes than any other candidate by half yet holds not one, but two offices in addition to being County board chair is perhaps the worst politician in modern Manitowoc history. A man with any sense of decency would resign after such a revelation but his ego and appetite for power would never permit that. Meanwhile the damage continues to mount.

Bernard J. Starzewski
Valders Wi.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Don't Do As I Do!

The following piece was printed in the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter the week of Feb 22nd 2016 but never posted online.
Van Halen
 "Don't do as I do.  Do as I say do!" - (unknown)
“The hell with the rules. If it sounds right, then it is.”Eddie Van Halen

Rep. Tittl
When Paul Tittl first ran for his assembly seat in 2008* he criticized then Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer for holding both that seat and his County Executive jobs and vowing to close his vacuum and sewing shop if elected. His banners read “Your full time Representative!” Voters seemed to disagree as he lost that race rather badly.

By 2012 he had taken a full 180 with him openly admitting he “was wrong about that.” Certainly he has not closed his business since finally winning that seat. That slogan disappeared from his campaign. Now in 2016 his opinion seems to have shifted yet again with his vote in favor
of legislation designed to prevent Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris from running in (and probably winning) a race for the State Senate.

When Tittl first leveled that charge, Ziegelbauer was still officially a Democrat but by 2012 had left the party and Tittl was trolling for an endorsement. Harris still identifies as a Democrat and may in fact actually be one.

I will be waiting impatiently to see the going-out-of-business sign on his shop, but won't be holding my breath either. Tittl's opportunistic and partisan flip-flopery is nothing short of shameful.

* Edited - the original piece incorrectly pointed to the 2010 race. 
Well, maybe I was wrong about that? No, as long as it doesn't apply to me!  WHEW!  I was worried there for a second!