To unseat a Tyrant – the Prelude

By now most of the world knows about the protests here in Wisconsin, the 30th of the 50 United States to be recognized (1848), and luckily a state whose Constitution allows for the recall of elected officials. But in case Libya and Syria have pushed our so far peaceful, non-bloody situation out of your mind, we elected a tyrannical governor in Wisconsin, who — along with his majority in both houses of the state Legislature — stripped most collective bargaining rights from public employees and ended mandatory union dues, effectively killing their unions.

Governor Scott Walker and his Republican Party storm troopers were so pushy and rude about ramming through legislation that oridinary citizens who were not necessarily union members or even liberals showed up by the thousands to occupy our state capitol building, and march around its square for days and weeks and months.

Protest at Wisconsin's capitol

Although many waned to throw the bums out right away. It turns out you have to wait until an elected official is in office a year before you can do a recall. Governor Walker’s first year is about up now and the recall petition process is set to begin on the 15th of this month. We’ll need half a million signatures, which is about 11% of the state’s voting-age population of 4.37 million people. Seems do-able, getting one out of 10 of us to sign a petition. Game on!

143/365 – I love Paris in the springtime!

 This was our very firt cafe, the Philosphe on [rue to come] where two jetlagged lovers opened the place about 10:30 a.m.  The waiter showed us Obama on the cover of the newspaper and was thrilled when Dearest said he was her hero.  That's the new litmus test for Americans -- be for Obama and the suddenly love you!
 This was our very first cafe, le Chaise au Plafond (Chair on the Ceiling) on Rue de Treson, where two jetlagged lovers opened the place about 10:30 a.m. The waiter showed us Obama on the cover of a French newspaper and was thrilled when Dearest said he was her hero. That’s the new litmus test for Americans — be for Obama and the French suddenly smile at you! 

PARIS — Reporting from 33 rue du Roi de Sicile (that’s 33 King of Sicily Street, a whole three blocks long), I am absolutely thrilled to be in this historic capital, especially with my soulmate and tour guide, my Dearest.

Yesterday was dreamlike for both of us, first of all from jetlag — you fly about 8 hours and your body thinks it’s 1:00 a.m., but it’s 8:00 a.m. here, so you stay going, as if pulling an all-nighter during the day, if that makes any sense.  Finally a four-hour nap from noon Paris time set us up for a wonderful late afternoon and evening out and about, making for a very fulfilling first day, strolling the streets and alleyways of the Marais and the Latin Quarter — which has gone ultra touristy and the Greeks have driven away all the Algerian food carts, Dearest tells me.  But that was in her student days and some things change, while Paris in spirit will never change.  Will is change my spirit?

Wonderful meal at Chez Marianne in the old Jewish section of the Marais, Lebanese sisters run the place with fierce intensity and warmth.  We selected 10 items which all come on one plate: felafel, hummous, pastrami, feta, some variety of eggplant, tabouli, I forget the other 4, but it was all delicious.

Photo albums to date (6/9):

The Eiffel Tower like you’ve never seen it

Paris with Jane and Paul

134/365 – Keillor threatens to join GOP

Seems everyone is taking a poke at the Republican Party, from Time magazine to Garrison Keillor.  I outlined a premise about how I thought that Bush 2 and Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich had made the word “Republican” toxic, and nearly took “Conservative” with it, thanks to Limbaugh the Clown. (See #49 back in mid-Feb.)

Keillor wrote that it he might consider becoming a Republican because it would be “a whole lot more satisfying to be part of a militant righteous minority than to be in the anxiety-ridden confused majority — to be a nightrider and ambusher rather than one of the people in the long wagon train — to be free to juke around and say wild stuff and know that it doesn’t make a dime’s worth of difference.”

Tempting indeed. He quoted part of former Vice President Cheney’s recent talk about the meaning of Republicanism, how there are certain things Republicans believe in, and how maintaining their loyalty and commitment to those principles is vital to their success.  He added, “A good thing to say, and many a president of the Elks, the Odd Fellows, the Moose, the Knights of Pythias, and the Ancient and Mystic Order of Hoot Owls has said something similar: We will not bend our principles so as to please people we didn’t like in the first place.”

I still want to explore what ideas and principles the GOP has that might be worth defending, perhaps under a different name.  But meanwhile, it’s kind of fun to see the elephant stumble around in confusion.


Moon over Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Capitol Square, Madison

Moon over Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Capitol Square, Madison

126/365 – Brooks agrees on importance of commonality


Oh give me a home, where no Republicans roam.

Oh give me a home, where no Republicans roam.

No sooner had I written about commonality(125) when my man David Brooks came out on the same wavelength:

He wrote, “People … in the densely populated parts of the country … understand that their lives are profoundly influenced by other people’s individual choices. People there are used to worrying about the health of the communal order.”

Brooks was opining on the death of the Republican Party from the viewpoint of their overemphasis on individualism, a great insight.

“The party sometimes seems cut off from the concrete relationships of neighborhood life. Republicans are so much the party of individualism and freedom these days that they are no longer the party of community and order. This puts them out of touch with the young, who are exceptionally community-oriented. It gives them nothing to say to the lower middle class, who fear that capitalism has gone haywire. It gives them little to say to the upper middle class, who are interested in the environment and other common concerns.”

I had been looking for a way to say that the Grand Old Party had become Geriatric Out-of-touch Poops, and Brooks provided the perfect metaphor.

“Republicans generally like Westerns. They generally admire John Wayne-style heroes who are rugged, individualistic, and brave. They like leaders — from Goldwater to Reagan to Bush to Palin — who play up their Western heritage. Republicans like the way Westerns seem to celebrate their core themes — freedom, individualism, opportunity and moral clarity. But the greatest of all Western directors, John Ford, actually used Westerns to tell a different story. Ford’s movies didn’t really celebrate the rugged individual. They celebrated civic order.”

While free markets do produce wealth, they also cause massive disruptions for individuals who need to feel someone is looking out for them.  The Democrats provide that reassurance.  And while tax cuts are a good strategy in some circumstances, they are a tactic that shouldn’t be elevated to a cure-all.  What is the end point of any strategy?  For the populace, it must be peace and order, civility and compassion, not just propping up the stock market.

With a nod to Madison Avenue, Brooks wrote that Republicans need to “stylistically decontaminate their brand.” But like asbestos, there may be no way to make it clean again.  If I were working on the Elephant’s account, I’d be recommending a complete rebranding, perhaps borrowing from our parliamentary partners in Canada and Europe a term like Social Conservatives.

125/365 – We’re all connected, commune or not


A shipment of old polictical gas for recycling.

A shipment of old polictical gas for recycling.

“If I had lived back then, I’d have been a Communist, too,” said Dearest as we watched something about Jewish cooperative apartments in the ’30s.  I thought a minute, then realized I had no longer had any idea what Communism originally stood for, even though I did a semester of “The Economic Theory of Socialism” in college.  I mean, since Stalin, Mao , and Pol Pat shed oceans of their own people’s blood in the name of “Communism,” failing to achieve even a hint of a worker’s paradise, how can anyone not spit at the very mention of this thoroughly discredited political philosophy, as my adopted Jewish grandmother Sophie used to spit at the TV whenever a swastika appeared?

So I looked it up, and it actually sounds great!  “Communism (from Latin communis = ‘common’) is a socioeconomic structure and political ideology that promotes the establishment of an egalitarian, classless, stateless society based on common ownership and control of the means of production and property in general.” [Wikipedia]

The trouble has always been in making the transition from private property and bourgeois control.  Mostly commies have simply killed the capitalists and any others who resisted common ownership.  Since that’s out, I thought of another way, an argument that can’t be resisted yet is as peaceful as a sunny day: We are all connected, and everything you do affects everyone else.  You can’t opt out of the environment, you can’t divorce yourself from the human race.  Every decision you make, every action you take, affects the common good.  You can’t leave the commune.  We all share the same planet, the same atmosphere, the same forests, and if you actions cause harm, the commune should move to correct you – by nonviolent means if possible.  (See this is probably when the Stalinist took over, saying, “Ah hell, just shoot ’em!”

So welcome to the commune; there is no escape, so let’s learn to work together.