Sunday, March 1, 2015

#202 March 1, 2015- Truly Credible Threats

“Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it,” is a statement often quoted when we are experiencing events that approximate those of the past.  It is also an example of the constant state of fear and tension that we find ourselves in on a regular basis.  Politicians, the media and others who rely on conflict as a means of maintaining both their power, and their relevance need us to exist in this state of anxiety.  This is why they are constantly referencing catastrophic events and individuals from the past all in an effort to guide our thinking in a particular direction.    

Yet, those who study history carefully and who are thoughtful in their analysis of our shared past know that the conditions that caused previous events to occur don't guarantee the same results.  We may see connections and patterns, but at the same time differences exist between different time periods.  This is true whether they are separated by centuries, decades or even a few years.  If nothing else, our knowledge of the past will impact our actions in the present.  Knowledge of history provides us with ideas, precedents and evidence to support opinions, but it doesn't provide us with a blueprint to follow that will guarantee a specific result.

Unfortunately, we live in a time when hyperbole and rhetoric rule the airwaves and shape the discourse around topics of vital importance.  In the process we lose perspective and become a nation divided by a shared, but misinterpreted past.  History becomes a tool that is manipulated and used to create similar outcomes, but it is a history created by those in power, the "winners", and not one that is truly representative of the people involved or the actual events.  In effect, history becomes a weapon and not a tool.  We end up threatening each other with a distorted view of past events and reduce our ability to effectively move forward as a collective group.    

All of this becomes relevant as we enter another round unrest around issues involving workers' rights here in Wisconsin.  The events appear eerily similar to those of 2011 when the attacks focused on public sector workers and the Act 10 legislation.  The tactics used by Republicans in many ways mirror those used in the recent past, quick introduction of a fast tracked bill, cutting hearings short, heightened security and reduced access to events and individuals involved.       

Shortly before 6:30 p.m., a public hearing on Wisconsin's fast-tracked right-to-work bill was abruptly adjourned due to what committee chairman Steve...|By Jessie Opoien | The Capital Times

Democratic senators say Wisconsin doesn't want the measure. The Republican Senate Majority Leader calls it one of the most important jobs bill of the session.|By Dee J. Hall | Wisconsin State Journal

The bill’s fast track and the lack of consensus about its effects are concerns.

There have been a few differences from 2011, most notably the reduced number of protestors who appeared in Madison during the week.  Unlike 4 years ago those protesting number in the thousands and not the tens of thousands.  At the same time the media's distorted coverage continues unabated.  Words like "apathy" don't describe the feelings of many workers in Wisconsin.  A rally of Walker supporters numbering 2,000 would be touted as a significant number and one that represents a larger, "silent" group of "taxpayers."   

For two straight days this week, 2,000 union members converged on Wisconsin's Capitol to rally against a new right-to-work bill, chanting, marching and hurling...|By Chicago Tribune

To me, the most troubling aspect of the misuse of history and the misrepresentation of current events is the fact that it represents a clear effort to manipulate a public that is too often unwilling, unable, or too dogmatic to see beyond the imagery used.  Politicians and other "leaders" are able to shroud themselves in a mystique of patriotism, hyperbole and rhetoric that masks their true intentions.  We as a society end up debating on their terms and ignoring the reality behind the policies and legislation that ends up harming us all. 

In the end there are those who will end up believing that protestors caused over $7 in damage to the Wisconsin capitol in 2011, and who will end up equating protestors with terrorists.  They will forget that protesting for equality and our rights is much more in line with American ideals than restricting access to power and silencing dissent.  They will also begin to see threats where there are none, and see their neighbors as enemies.  This is no way to lead in a democratic society.  We can mock this type of thinking all we want, but in the end it represents a truly credible threat to our nation's political, social and economic health. 

A Republican committee chairman in the Wisconsin state senate cut short a hearing on an anti-union bill.|By Teresa Tritch

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Thursday said his experience undermining labor unions in Wisconsin has prepared him to take on...

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says his home-state battles against labor unions prepare him to take on terrorism -- but he denies he's comparing the two. Walker drew attention at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday with his response...|By By Eric Bradner CNN

UPDATED 2/27/2015 with more memes and a sobering video at the end. Earlier today, when asked about ISIS, presidential...

The misuse of history and misrepresentation of events is at the heart of the divide and conquer strategy.  In essence, those applying it are attempting to create a mythology that will help them manipulate citizens into believing that they are acting in their own interest when in reality they are doing exactly the opposite.  Conservatives have done this effectively in their effort to destroy the power of labor unions in America.  Right to work is simply the next step in the plan to dismantle their political opposition.    

A fact-based primer on "right-to-work" and what it really means.

Who really benefits from|By patty

Four years after mass protests, state’s GOP governor lauds depleted unions as he eyes presidential run.

Yet, if right to work isn't really in the best interest of the people, who would want to push to make it a reality?  The answer to that is relatively clear, the people who stand to gain the most from this type of legislation are a small number of wealthy individuals and their political allies.   

Scott Walker has promised to sign ‘right to work’ bill that watchdog claims bears stark resemblance to model legislation drawn up by conservative group Alec|By Ed Pilkington

It's been more than two decades since Gov. Scott Walker (R) first pushed right-to-work legislation as a state lawmaker in Wisconsin. Now, all these years later, the famously anti-union governor may finally be getting his wish -- whether he...

There are a wide range of opponents of right to work beyond those directly involved in organized labor.

The NFL players’ union has come out against Wisconsin’s right-to-work legislation on Tuesday and went after Gov. Scott Walker in a statement to the...|By Kendall Breitman

"This is going to hurt Wisconsin employers terribly in the long run, as the workforce gets more angry," Schultz told ThinkProgess.

More than 400 Wisconsin firms in construction contracting oppose the Republican push for a
This opposition to right to work, and the efforts to inform the public can give us hope for the future.  We also know that over time we will see a rebirth of organized labor in some form.  This is part of the cyclical nature of history.  While the events won't unfold exactly as in previous years, human nature is consistent in many ways.  People will eventually look for ways to organize and regain a voice in their workplaces and in the political arena. 

Connecting decision makers to a dynamic network of information, people and ideas, Bloomberg quickly and accurately delivers business and financial...

We can always hold on to hope, but at the same time the short term prospects for labor, and social justice in general, is bleak here in Wisconsin.  No matter how loudly we state our case, legislators here will follow their leadership and move ahead with the platform shaped by the far-right.  They have vast amounts of power and wealth, and at the same time have shown no reluctance to employ all of their resources in an all out effort to dominate the discourse around important issues in our society.  Many citizens have, in essence, given up hope and resigned themselves to a future dominated by a small number of conservative voices.  After all, if 100,000 protesters and a recall can't stem the tide, what is left for us to do?

Once again we can turn to history for lessons, ideas and hope.  While our current situation is definitely dismal, we still retain a significant amount of power and live in a place where we can change the direction our society takes.  Out of the ashes of despair we have seen tremendous growth occur.   

It begins by recognizing what we have, and maintaining those things that promote social justice causes.  Unions, while weakened need to be supported, organizations and individuals speaking out against the conservative policies need to be heeded and their message broadcast.  Every conversation, action and event that occurs is one more step on the pathway to a better society for all citizens.  We need to rally around institutions like our public schools, and not allow attacks based on falsehoods and misrepresentations to go unchallenged.  It may seem easier to throw in the towel and accept our fate, but we must recognize that our opponents will not stop until they have entrenched themselves in powerful positions and created systems that benefit only themselves.          

Building a broad base of grass roots opposition, holding legislators accountable are key, say participants in a forum at Edgewood College.|By Pat Schneider
The lessons of history are there for us to learn from.  Silence and apathy have never created a positive environment for all citizens.  Silence and apathy are the true credible threats to our democratic society.  Organize, teach, protest, write, speak, argue and inform!  These are our tools and they need to be used effectively and often.     

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .
The Good . . . There are many ways to continue to resist the "reforms" and other efforts to destroy public education in our nation.  Here's one strategy.

United Opt Out National serves as a focused point of unyielding resistance to corporate ed. reform. We...
The Bad . . . In community after community across Wisconsin the proposed budget takes its toll.

Governor Walker released his 2015-17 biennium budget on Feb. 3, 2015. The budget at the state level always has a significant impact on the budget for the School District of Lodi.
The Ugly . . . Does this signal a return to the "bad old days" when individuals were arrested and held without just cause?  The DOA in Wisconsin has already lost in court cases that involved a use of these questionable tactics, yet they appear to be intent on repeating their mistakes. 

By Jason Huberty, February 26, 2015 As Republicans rushed through a so-called "Right to Work" bill in the Wisconsin State Senate on Wednesday, some people...

Interesting that Walker's personal security detail is getting raises, while those who protect and serve the rest of us wait for a pay increase. 

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