Wisconsin Becoming Kansas II

Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker appears to be a clone of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.  Both are are leading their states in a downward slide of economic devastation, where schools find it more difficult to educate, the roads become havens of potholes and health care dries up for those with few resources.

Brownback has been leading a five-year crusade to create a state that shows that lower

Brownback

Kansas Gov. Brownback

taxes and trickle-down economics can lead to economic prosperity.  Only it hasn’t worked. The promised growth has been disappointing, with the state’s gross domestic productivity increasing only 0.2% compared with the national average of 1.6%. As the New York Times editorialized June 9:“State revenues dwindled along with job growth. Budget deficits ballooned. Education funding plummeted, and the state suffered multiple credit downgrades as Mr. Brownback played the mad doctor of supply-side economics.”

Finally, however, Kansas voters have wised up.  Recently legislators bolted from Brownback’s no-budget increase policy to call for a budget boost of $1.2 Billion, even overriding a Brownback veto.  The governor had lost much of his support for his failed policies in the last election when a dozen of his most ardent supporters were ousted from their legislative seats.

Walker

Wisconsin Gov. Walker

Gov. Walker’s single-minded quest for “no tax increase economics” has plunged Wisconsin into a similar abyss.  Wisconsin schools are continually being robbed of funds, while Walker argues that school districts are able to make up for the drop in aids, thanks to the “benefits” of Act 10 that freed them from dealing with teachers unions and gave districts a right to cut teacher salaries and benefits (with larger class sizes).  This anti-education policy can only lead to disaster, since Wisconsin employers are constantly pleading for more qualified workers and that won’t happen with out a good school system.

Similarly, Wisconsin’s highway program is being starved with Walker’s refusal to entertain gas tax increases or license fee boosts.  Ongoing highway projects — with their accompanying road delays and detours — are being threatened for delays or postponements while potholes wreak havoc on the front ends of our cars and trucks.  Walker’s only answer now seems to be a hare-brained scheme to charge tolls to out-of-staters or to rob funds from other state programs, most of which help the poor and needy.

Meanwhile, his conservation policies are threatening our wetlands, our clean water needs and our wildlife.  That’s hardly a wise course for a state that relies upon its lakes, rivers and the Great Lakes as lures for one of its best economic resources: tourism.

There are signs that even the most conservative of Republican legislators may balk at Walker’s “no-tax-increase” policy, with many favoring a gas tax increase, for instance.

Sadly for us Wisconsinites, the six years of Walkernomics have proven to be a disaster; the promised new businesses have failed to materialize as Wisconsin remains among those states with the poorest record of job-creation.  (Note: Walker can honestly boast of a drop in the unemployment levels, but that has been accomplished as the state stagnates in population growth and in wage levels.)

While there are encouraging signs in the Republican legislature of resisting Walker’s failed “trickle-down” policies, it’s a good bet the conservative leaders in both houses will not go far enough in turning back this trend toward turning Wisconsin into a backwater state without a good future.

The answer lies in the 2018 election when voters will speak again.  Maybe they’ll show they’re no longer going to be fooled by Walker’s backward economic thinking, just as the voters in Kansas have shown. – June 9, 2017

Celebration of Life of Ann Germanson

Family and friends will celebrate the life of Ann E. Germanson, who died April 22, 2017 after a short but difficult struggle with melanoma cancer.

2006 xmas - Copy

Ann E. Germanson – Feb. 11, 1930 – April 22, 2017

Sunday, June 11

Beulah Brinton House, 2590 S. Superior St., Milwaukee

Reception and visiting from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Reflections on the life of Ann at 4 p.m.

See notice of Ann’s death. https://advoken.wordpress.com/2017/04/24/death-notice-ann-elizabeth-germanson/

DEATH NOTICE: Ann Elizabeth Germanson

Ann Elizabeth Germanson, 87, died April 22, at her home, ending a four-month battle with melanoma cancer.  Beloved wife of Kenneth and children, Laurie Stott, David Germanson and Joanne (David) Monyelle, all of Milwaukee, and Richard (Susan) of New York City, five grandchildren, nieces, nephews and friends.  A daughter, Jill Lozier, preceded her in death.

Ann was born Feb. 11, 1930, in Mason City, Iowa, and raised in Gordon (Douglas County) WI, where she graduated from high school.  She graduated in 1951 with a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota, where she won Phi Beta Kappa honors.  After graduation, she worked as a reporter for the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald where met her husband.  They married June 19,1954.  After her husband’s naval service, the family moved to Milwaukee in 1957.

Ann was dedicated to her children and grandchildren and instilled in them all a sense of community, an understanding of all cultures, an appreciation for the environment and support for progressive causes.  A master of the English language, she was the family Scrabble champion and an accomplished crossword puzzle solver.

Services and cremation will be private.  A Celebration of Ann’s life for family and friends will be scheduled later.  Donations to the charity of your choice will be appreciated.

(Click here to read a diary in verse, entitled ‘Watching a Loved One Die: A Diary’ by Ann’s husband.)

Lament about chocolate sodas

A recent New York Times obituary of a prominent member of the arts community brought forth a weird recollection.

During my high school years (1943-47), I worked at the corner drug store*, employed as a soda jerk, clerk and stockboy.  If you’re under 40 you may not know what a soda jerk was, but he was the equivalent of the neighborhood bartender, only for high school kids; we dispensed soda and ice cream from drug store counters, complete with barstools.

Anyway, every night we closed the fountain at 10 p.m.  As anyone who has worked restaurant jobs knows, when you get near closing time, you begin cleaning up so that you can leave work on time.

It just so happened that this family (a dad, mom and boy about 12) came in about twice a week just about ten minutes before ten, at a time when I’d have the fountain nearly totally cleaned.  Right on cue, they’d order three chocolate sodas.  How I grew to hate the sight of that family and their son that would force me to clean up a second time.

The memory of that family popped into my head when I opened the New York Times on Feb. 21st to see a large obituary (a full half-page with picture) for Richard Schickel, longtime movie critic for Time Magazine and one of the nation’s most respected, who died at age 84.

Schickel not only reviewed movies; he wrote and directed them.  He also authored 37 books mainly about the movies.  This esteemed person was indeed the little boy who frustrated me many nights in my youth when his family arrived just before closing time for their chocolate sodas. Ken Germanson, Feb. 23, 2017.

  • For those familiar with Milwaukee, the drug store, Whipp’s, was located at N. 72nd St. and W. North Ave.  For years the building has housed the Chinese Pagoda restaurant.

Time to be scared? Let’s hope not

 

world-fed-club

This photo appeared in 1947 Cardinal Pennant, the Wauwatosa, Wisconsin high school annual. These students had hope for world peace. Is that hope dead?

I am as scared today for the future of humankind as I have ever been in my 87 years.

Mind you, I’m not personally scared; I’ve far too few years left for that. My fright, of course, is for our children, grandchildren and the generations to follow.

In three weeks, President-elect Donald Trump will be inaugurated, elected on a wave of xenophobic sentiment that bodes ill for any form of peace in the world.  He wooed his crowds with promises of tough talk to destroy ISIS (the Islamic State) while welcoming an “arms race” that he says the United States could easily win.  Trump threatens to seriously decrease, and perhaps end, U.S. support and involvement in NATO and the United Nations.

Most seriously, he has called for beefing up our nuclear weapons arsenal, ending a process toward ending nuclear proliferation that began more than thirty years ago in the Reagan Administration and has been embraced as a bipartisan policy of this nation since.  Such action on the part of the United States would certainly lead other nations to do the same and eventually plunge the world into an “arms race” that no nation could win.

*****

To the present day, the nuclear nonproliferation treaties have stopped nations from developing these devastating weapons, a policy that led to the recent treaty that halted Iran from advancing its nuclear weapons program.  Such world-wide consensus on nuclear weapons (except for the outlaw nations like North Korea) has saved the world from nuclear devastation.

The president-elect further wants to spend billions more on the military and close our borders to all but white Christians and Jews, vows that won wide hoorays from his worshippers.  It appears his goal is to mold the United States into a bunker mentality – a situation of false security.  He’s too young to remember the Maginot Line created by the French after World War I to protect it against invading Germans; the fortress of cannons shooting from concrete bunkers failed miserably in World War II when the Nazis simply maneuvered around it to invade France and march triumphantly down the Champs Elysees in Paris.

Repeatedly, Trump blamed President Obama for creating a “mess” in the world, blaming him for weakness and indecision.

*****

In this old man’s view, President Obama has done remarkably well in maintaining a modicum of peace in an extremely “messy” world.  We need go back no further to President George W. Bush’s ill-advised Iraq war against non-existent weapons of mass destruction to see that Obama inherited a world in which terrorism would be nutured.  The invasion of Iraq helped to build a sentiment among many Muslims that the United States was engaged in a “holy war,” and became a rallying cry for those terrorists who wished to spread their hate and violence throughout the world.

One can argue with some of the tactics of Obama (his ill-advised drawing of a “red-line” in the Syrian use of chemical weapons, for instance), but if you believe in a peaceful world you can’t argue with his general strategy of building coalitions with like-minded nations to fight terrorism and by seeking to strengthen the United Nations.

Trump’s “go-it-alone” strategy would change all that, forcing this nation to bear even greater military and armament costs, possible loss of military lives and the ill-will of much of the world.

To be sure, Trump is an enigma and has a facile ability to do just the opposite of what he promised.  Maybe all of his bluster and braggadocio was merely campaign talk and he will become a more serious leader; so far, he hasn’t exhibited such a possibility.

Meanwhile, the Far East is in turmoil with a bellicose North Korea, a growing expansionist threat from China and unrest in Malaysia.  President Obama has been seeking to build up our presence in the area and it’s an area we can’t neglect.

On January 20th, our new president will inherit a tense world.  It is my hope for the coming New Year that he will shed his ego, his pettiness and tendency to act without thinking and listen to wiser heads.  In any event, it’s up to the rest of us to do what we can to sound off in the best ways we can to head off our new President from his worst nature.

*****

Seventy years ago, the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 – a date that has lived in my mind all these years.  The devastation to that Japanese city was unbelievable to my sixteen-year old mind.  It was then that the possibility of a World War III became unthinkable. In my junior year in high school I joined with about fifteen other kids to form a school-sanctioned chapter of the United World Federalists, then a popular movement that called for ending the nation-state that led to wars.  In its place we believed we should create a “United States of the World,” a one-world government.

While our idealistic dream never came true, it did form the basis for the belief that peace can only come by breaking down borders and by realizing that America may be a “great ” nation, but that it is not the only great nation and that we must learn to live with all the nations of the world.  Donald Trump appears to have different ideas.  I believe I am right to be scared for our nation and our world. — Ken Germanson, Dec. 30, 2016. 

 

 

A date which will live in infamy

Seventy-five years ago – Dec. 7, 1941 – was in the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt “a date which will live in infamy,” so named because of the sneak attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor.  Most Americans may know the day from the history books as the historical event that prompted the President to declare war and place U.S. soldiers, sailors and marines into direct conflict against the Axis nations of Germany, Italy and Japan.

day-of-infamy-draft1-page1

Draft of President Roosevelt’s address to Congress on Dec. 8, 1941, declaring war. Click here to view.

You’ve got to be at least eighty years old now to have vivid memories of that day and the bloody battles and home front sacrifices that followed.

I was twelve years old and at about two o’clock on that dreary December Sunday was with my brother, who was just a year younger, pestering our dad to hurry up and get the train table set up in our basement.  It was a pre-Christmas tradition that dad would put our Lionel trains together on a ping pong sized table he had built.

Mom interrupted that father-and-sons annual event when she yelled down the stairs that the Japanese had attacked Hawaii.  My dad stopped what he was doing and yelled something back to mom and we could sense something was wrong.

“Boys,” my dad said.  “I think we’re at war.”

My brother Jerry and I reacted shamefully.  We hooted and hollered in glee, since war would be exciting and glorious.  We only saw soldiers using guns and shooting at the enemy, just like we did almost daily with our neighborhood friends, dodging in and out of bushes and from behind garages in our make-believe skirmishes  of “cops and robbers” and “cowboy and Indians.”

My dad was furious, firmly telling us how serious war can be and that people would be killed.  Dad had just missed being drafted into the Army in World War I, having been scheduled for induction on Nov. 11, 1918, the day of Armistice for that horrific war.  But he knew that tragic events lie ahead.

*****

Jerry and I, along with our youngest brother, Tom, felt the impact of Dec. 7th almost immediately when our bachelor uncle (who had lived with us and helped raise us) learned he was facing re-entry to the Army within weeks.  He had been drafted in 1940, but the Pentagon had decided to release draftees over the age of 28 in late November.  He had been home only about a week when the bombs fell.  He was back in uniform before Christmas and would spend four years in the states and the Philippines before we saw him again.

By April, 1942, the horrors of the war came home to roost; we had seen reports of the Bataan death march when courageous GIs sought to hold out to overwhelming superior Japanese forces only to be captured and put into a long march and starvation.  Reports came in of enemy submarines off the coasts of California and New Jersey.  In our inland city of Milwaukee, we had regular air raid drills.  Dad was made a block warden and was charged with walking around the neighborhood in his hard hat to look for families who may have left a sliver of light break into the darkness.  The nation was girding against bombing raids like those on London by German bombs in the Battle of Britain.  It was a bleak time.

As the war continued, I continued my junior and senior high school years just as kids had done years before.  But things were different with us wartime teenagers.  We studied about the war; we saw seniors being drafted before their graduation; we huffed and puffed through gym classes as instructors sought to prepare us for eventual service to our country.  The war finally ended in August 1945, just before my junior year.  We continued our usual teenage worries about whether the cute blonde girl I admired would agree to be my date for the prom or about how our football team would do against Shorewood. Always the war lurked in the background with such daily realities as limiting our use of the family car because of gas rationing.

More importantly, we couldn’t ignore the news reports, since we knew that unless the fighting didn’t end soon we’d soon be drafted into the thick of it.  Some of us also were saddened at the seemingly unnecessary horrors that developed against innocent non-combatants.  For me the most horrifying event came with the announcement on Aug. 6, 1945 that the United States – the country that we heralded every morning when we said the Pledge of Allegiance – had dropped the atom bomb with an equivalence of 100 blockbuster bombs on the citizens of Hiroshima.  See earlier comment.

With the simple reasoning that rules the teenage mind, we argued that there had to be a way to end to national disputes that usually turned to war.  With my two best buddies, we discovered something called United World Federalism.  It was the logical answer to ending wars forever.  Just as the United States was created into a federal government that controlled the armed forces, why couldn’t the whole world work in the same way, thus taking away from nationalistic governments the tools of war?

The idea briefly had wide appeal in the war’s aftermath with key supporters among a handful of politicians of both parties.  As we all know, the dream faded, leaving us with a largely powerless United Nations and giving way to power blocs such as NATO and SEATO.

*****

Today the world is in chaos.  Nations are hunkering down into their bunkers and growing more suspicious of each other while terrorists using religious fervor as a recruiting tool threaten all of us.

The answer to some, particularly in the incoming administration, is to arm ourselves to the teeth and to use the weapons as a simplistic way to defeated a supposed enemy.  In a way, those people remind me of that afternoon seventy-five years ago when my brother and I strutted around our basement yelling “hooray” because we could turn our playtime soldiering into the real thing.

Even today, I am shamed by our behavior in 1941.  The next four years taught me about the senseless horrors of war.  Surely, I reasoned, there had to be a better way. – Ken Germanson, Dec. 6, 2016.

 

 

Can Progressivism Survive in Wisconsin?

For the first time since Ronald Reagan beat Walter Mondale in Wisconsin in the 1984 Presidential election, the state went red.

How could that happen?  It’s simple arithmetic: lack of voter turnout.

Hillary Clinton could have easily won the Badger State if those voters who could be expected to favor her had turned out.  She lost by only 27,000 votes out of the 2.94 million cast, less than a percentage point.

Now here is the shocking story:  Voter participation in Wisconsin was down by almost 124,000 in the state, compared with 2012.  Turnout was 66.2%, the lowest since 1996.

election-photoHillary Clinton suffered severely from the low turnout.  She received 239,000 fewer votes than President Obama did in 2012, while Trump garnered only 1,500 more than Mitt Romney did.  (There were 150,000 votes for third party candidates; likely most of those voters went for President Obama four years ago.)  Read more.

*****

Why did potential Hillary voters not show up at the polls?  Here are some theories:

Restrictive voter laws.  The Republican-passed voter ID laws were specifically designed to discourage low-income voters, mainly minorities.  The voter suppression strategy may have worked; there were 62,000 fewer voters in minority-rich Milwaukee County, with Hillary’s totals about 40,000 short of Obama’s in 2012.

Over-confidence toward a Hillary win.  Polls leading up to the election showed her winning Wisconsin by four to six percentage points; thus voters who faced inconvenient work schedules, child care issues or other conflicts may not have taken time to vote.  The cutback of early voting hours – by GOP-supported state laws – may have added to the problem.

Lack of enthusiasm for Secretary Clinton.  No doubt the thirty years of constant attacks on Clinton’s trustfulness, whether warranted or not, helped to build voter doubts.  Trump repeatedly called her “liar” and encouraged his crowds to yell “lock her up;” that helped to reinforce in many voters’ minds a most repulsive (though grossly  wrong) image of her.

The Bernie effect.  Bernie Sanders trounced Hillary Clinton in the April Wisconsin primary.  Most of his supporters, we’re sure, heeded Sanders’ call to support Hillary in the general election, but enough found their bright illusions so dimmed that when Bernie failed to get the nomination they either stayed away from voting, cast a third party ballot or failed to get involved.

Secretary Clinton failed to campaign in Wisconsin.  Though several Clinton surrogates showed up, especially Chelsea and VP Candidate Tim Kaine, they could never garner the attention that the candidate herself could have.  A reprise of the Clinton campaign strategy tells us that Bill Clinton strongly urged greater concentration on the white working class voter, but was overruled by Hillary’s campaign bosses.

A weakened Democratic Party effort.  There’s no question that Wisconsin Democrats have become impoverished since 2010.  With the redistricting forced upon the state by the Republican-controlled legislature, most legislative districts have become gerrymandered so severely that Democratic candidates stand no chance; thus the party withers in those sixty or so largely rural counties and never seek to get Democrats on the ballot.  Lack of down-ballot candidates, even in GOP-trending areas, will cut into Democratic votes at the top of the ticket.

A smaller labor movement.  The impact of the 2011 passage of Act 10 ending collective bargaining rights for public employee unions and the 2015 enactment of so-called right-to-work laws was truly felt in this election.  The labor movement (traditional Democratic party allies) has lost so much membership that the state’s level of unionization has fallen below that of Alabama’s.  The result: there were fewer members to encourage to vote for progressive candidates and fewer numbers available to make phone calls, talk it up at the workplace and do door-to-door canvassing.

The impact of these seven factors, plus others not listed here, combined to make a perfect storm to bring about Secretary Clinton’s defeat.  Some of them also affected Russ Feingold’s effort to unseat Republican Senator Ron Johnson.

*****

No one is quite certain just what President-elect Trump will do, or how much he will be able to accomplish.  To progressives everywhere, the prospects are scary.

In Wisconsin, however, it is certain what will happen; it can only be worse for working people, the poor and minorities.  There will be attempts to weaken labor even more, there will be no increase in the minimum wage, there will be cutbacks in life-supporting assistance such as food share and Title 19, and weakening of the health care system.  All that was promised on the day after the election by Republican leaders of the state.  Read more

The 2016 election is behind us and the question is: what do we do now?

First, what we don’t do is to sit on the sidelines in despair, fretting as we watch the Packers blunder through another season, perhaps awaiting a Aaron Rodgers “Hail Mary” to miraculously bring joy to us cheeseheads.

Secondly, what we must do is to stay alert to every action being planned by the legislature, continuing to question issues with whatever strategy that seems to work, whether it is to storm the Capitol with masses of protesters, to write letters to the editor (or to tweet) or to plan for next election.

Thirdly, we must figure out how to rebuild a progressive movement in Wisconsin.  The possibilities include revitalizing the Democratic Party, working through such groups as Citizen Action, Move On, and Wisconsin Now or by building a whole new movement.

To regain Wisconsin, progressives have to figure out how to win in the rural counties; it means reaching out to a heavily white population, while not losing touch with the minorities that are part of the heart and soul of the progressive movement.  Trump won 59 of the 71 counties, and that ratio needs to be reduced somehow.  The state built its now-fading progressive nature on the old La Follette coalition of organized labor, big-city Socialists and rural Progressive Republicans.

This won’t be easy, but it’s necessary to save the state from being destroyed by a single party dictatorship that threatens to make its citizens among the poorest in the nation.  Ken Germanson, Nov. 10, 2016