Thursday, February 24, 2011

On Wisconsin

My mother used to say that "we get to choose our friends but God chooses our neighbors."  It's a sweet sentiment and in the case of neighboring Wisconsin, an accurate one.  I don't even begin to claim I understand those cheeseheads but they certainly are interesting.  And they are excellent neighbors.

The first thing someone should understand about Wisconsin is that it became a state in that tumultuous year of 1848.  It was a year for revolutions in Europe and during the uproar, a guy by the name of Marx would pen his Communist Manifesto. In the political crackdown following these mostly unsuccessful revolts, many would be forced to emigrate and some of the more gifted of Germany's intelligentsia washed up in the new state.  They were called the 48ers and their ranks included a guy named Carl Schurtz who helped organize the Republican Party and made sure it had a strong abolitionist plank.

And then there was Robert LaFollette--the giant of Wisconsin politics and perhaps the ultimate Progressive.  He was a Republican but was the antithesis of what the modern Republicans have become.

But Wisconsin is also the state that sent tail-gunner Joe McCarthy--the pluperfect reactionary dingbat--to the Senate.  A raging alcoholic who saw "Commonists" under every bed, he would crystalize post-World War II USA paranoia into a movement that pushed politics far to the right.  An interesting detail--he was a graduate of Marquette University in Milwaukee--the same Jesuit school that has now given us the newest Wisconsin reactionary by the name of Scott Walker.

So in Madison today we see an excellent example of the ongoing Wisconsin conflict between the LaFollette / Schurtz politics of light and the dark forces of tail-gunner Joe.  The hand-made signs seen at the protests are in many ways an interesting distillation of over 150 years of their history.

Late Night: Cheeseheads Unite
By: Allison Hantschel Monday February 21, 2011 8:00 pm 
Hi, I’m Allison and I’m a cheesehead.
I may live in Illinois now, but I was born a cheesehead and a cheesehead I remain. I cheer for the Packers. I eat protein and carbs. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, one of my pet ferrets is named Buckingham U. Badger, and I have been known to sing On Wisconsin in the shower. I breathe a sigh of relief when I hit the border and am once again among my own people. You can take the girl out of the frozen tundra, but you can’t take the frozen tundra out of the girl.
The national press discovered Wisconsin this month, thanks in part to the Packers winning the Super Bowl, but mostly due to tens of thousands of people who told the governor where to stick his union-busting bill and his crappy attitude and his contempt for working people. Since then it’s been an onslaught of satellite trucks and protest tourists, who want to be where the action is but may be perplexed by the local customs. So I’ve put together some information and advice about my native state that those blowing into town to bigfoot local reporters would do best to heed.
The food is not a joke. Sure, show headless shots of fat people walking around and talk shit about bratwurst if you want, but that stuff is delicious. Until you’ve had one, charred on the grill and full of hot juicy goodness, don’t knock it. Beef sticks are the food of the gods. Summer sausage is a reason to live. People still hunt and fish just to feed their families. And we’re serious about our cheese. Don’t come around with any of that Velveeta or that supermarket “sharp” cheddar that looks and tastes like cardboard. We’re so serious about cheese we give people a degree in it. We want the good stuff. More than that, we want to share it with you, so dig in with both hands.
You know what else isn’t a joke? Madison. Hee hee, liberal college town, hee hee, bastion of activisim, 30 square miles surrounded by reality, isn’t it just so cute? Let me tell you something: There are a lot worse things in the world than people who care about others enough to protest their ill-treatment, be those union workers, AIDS survivors, pot smokers, the people of Tibet, and any other group on behalf of which college students and others organize. There’s a lot to criticize when it comes to activism, but the very spirit of activism is something our state takes great pride in, so take your ironic detachment someplace else.
Yes, there’s a lot of drinking in Wisconsin. It’s cold. Something Wisconsinites drink a lot of that I’ve never noticed being particularly prevalent elsewhere? Brandy. Brandy and Coke, brandy old fashioneds, brandy in a fancy glass that you can sniff before you chug it, brandy everywhere. Looking for a warm-up on a chilly late winter night? Brandy. My great-uncle Chris used to make it in his basement with cherries. Yum. more

Cenk Unger claims Wisconsin is an ideal place to launch the fight-back against the last 35 years of reactionary politics in USA.  He is right for a host of historical reasons.

The big news is Scott Walker got pranked by a lefty blogger who claimed to be David Koch.  Koch is the right-wing oilman who funds the craziest of the loony right.  Transcript here.

Best local link for following the events in Wisconsin IMHO.

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