John Scepanski 519.80pc

John Scepanski

John Scepanski's activity stream


  • April Progressive Partners Quarterly Get-together

    Thanks to Tim S. for getting PP a blog on the WGN site. That is great coordination and cooperation, Tim, thanks! DeForest Area Progressives is hosting the April gathering of PP with a tentative -- TENTATIVE -- date of April 20th. Our facilities committee and publicity committee are busy beavers getting our act together, and you will be hearing more from us soon. The PP agenda committee will be meeting, too, in a couple of weeks to start planning the program. It will respond in some way to the priorities identifed at the last get-together in Waunakee. Tally-hoe, gangs! John Scepanski

  • published Reply from Judge Rebecca St. John in Opinion Blog 2013-01-30 14:56:23 -0600

    Reply from Judge Rebecca St. John

    As a supporter of Judge Rebecca St. John I offer this reply to allegations made against her in this blog.     John Scepanski, DeForest Area Progressives

    A Message from Judge Rebecca St. John

    Dear Friends,

    Recently, a number of allegations and unfortunate misstatements have been made in emails, on Facebook and in blog posts. I want to set the record straight and share with you, in my own words, the approach I bring to my decision-making on the bench.

    1. Contrary to allegations and insinuations, I am not and have never been a member of the Federalist Society. Nor am I am “closet” supporter. Period.

    2. As a Judge I took an oath to uphold the Constitution. Laws passed by the legislature must comply with the requirements of both the United States and Wisconsin Constitutions. Put simply, as a Judge I have an independent duty to enforce the Constitution and to invalidate unconstitutional laws. I believe deeply in the role of an independent judiciary, as a third branch serving as a check and balance in our democratic form of government.

    3. Among the 34 judges endorsing me (31 more than have endorsed my opponent) are Judge David Flanagan, Judge John Markson, Judge Frank Remington, Judge Mark Frankel, Judge Brian Blanchard, Judge Paul Lundsten, Judge Sarah O’Brien, Judge Steven Ehlke and Judge William Foust. They are independent and intellectually rigorous. As Judges they, and I, take seriously our obligation to interpret and apply the law, fairly, impartially and without fear or favor.

    4. My career choices are a good guide to my values. I’ve spent the vast majority of my career in public service, as an attorney for a non-profit and as a State employee at the Department of Justice. I have done extensive pro bono work for the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the American Diabetes Association, Lawyers for Children and as a court advocate for abused children. I personally believe in equality for all people under the law; I personally believe health care decisions are between a woman and her doctor; I personally believe more people should be encouraged to vote and that voting is a cornerstone of our democracy.

    5. I stand with my colleagues on the Dane County bench in rejecting personal attacks against Judges made by Governor Walker. My Dane County judicial colleagues work hard every day to fairly and honestly apply the law, consistent with our constitutional form of government. I have expressed my view that while the governor, like any litigant, has the right to disagree with decisions Judges make and to appeal those decisions, Governor Walker’s sharp personal attack on Dane County Judges are unfounded, inappropriate and undermine the public’s confidence in the independent judiciary I care deeply about.

    6. Our Courts are much too important to be held hostage by partisan political gamesmanship. As a Judge, I decide cases that have a profound impact on the day-to-day lives of children, families, and individuals. I would have applied to be a judge no matter who was governor because I want to be a part of the criminal justice system that works on the areas of the law to which I have dedicated my career: children, particularly child victims of abuse and neglect, in the courts; racial disparity; mental health and dependency issues; domestic violence. Innuendo, inaccuracy and misinformation have no place in this campaign. And, Justice should not be for sale. That is why I am voluntarily limiting campaign contributions and refusing special interest money and encourage my opponent to do the same.

    Ultimately, my approach as a judge mirrors my objective in every case: giving people their day in court as a fair and impartial decision maker. I cannot give people their day in court unless they know in advance what rules apply. I also cannot give one side a fair shake without giving the other side a fair shake too.

    I hope you will feel free to contact me directly with any questions or if there are other issues you wish to discuss.

    Sincerely,

    Judge Rebecca St. John

    [email protected]

    www.judgerebeccastjohn.org


  • commented on Website Devoted to Our Beloved Republican Senator 2013-01-30 14:20:48 -0600
    Did you see his cross-examination of Secretary Clinton about the Benghazi incident? Ron Johnson is an embarressment to us all.

  • commented on Women's Equal Pay 2013-01-11 18:48:27 -0600
    Karen, with 20 women in the U.S. Senate now, we should see more women’s issues on the agenda. No, I am not forgetting that many good male senators are on board with these issues too.

  • published the gap in Opinion Blog 2013-01-11 18:43:33 -0600

    the gap

    These are a few short quotations from Robert Reich's latest book, Beyond Outrage.  I include them here to give you an idea of the set of information I draw my conclusions from.  The ordinary people -- perhaps Romney's 47% -- in the USA are beginning to become aware of these things, and they don't like it. 
     
    Conservatives should be outraged at these things, too, because they contradict conservative values and principles.  John

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

     

    BEYOND OUTRAGE: WHAT HAS GONE WRONG WITH OUR ECONOMY AND OUR DEMOCRACY, AND HOW TO FIX THEM  

    We created that virtuous cycle in which an ever-growing middle class had the ability to consume more goods and services, which created more and better jobs, thereby stoking demand. The rising tide did in fact lift all boats. On the other hand, during periods when the very rich took home a larger proportion—as between 1918 and 1933, and in the Great Regression from 1981 to the present day—growth slowed, median wages stagnated, and we suffered giant downturns. 

    New data from the Commerce Department show employee pay is now down to the smallest share of the economy since the government began collecting wage and salary figures data in 1929.  

    Even though the rate of unemployment has begun to fall, jobs still remain scarce, and the pay of the bottom 90 percent continues to drop, adjusted for inflation. But CEO pay is still rising through the stratosphere. Among the CEOs who took in more than $50 million last year were Qualcomm’s Paul Jacobs ($50.6 million), J. C. Penney’s Ron Johnson ($51.5 million), Starbucks’s Howard Schultz ($68.8 million), Tyco International’s Ed Breen ($68.9 million), and Apple’s Tim Cook ($378 million). The titans of Wall Street are doing even better. 

    The sad lesson of the Dodd-Frank legislation is that Wall Street is too powerful to allow effective regulation of it. We should have learned that lesson in 2008 as the Street brought the rest of the economy—and much of the world—to its knees. The Street’s leviathans do not generate benefits to society proportional to their size and influence. To the contrary, they represent a clear and present danger to our economy and our democracy. The best way to avoid another bailout is to break them up and then put a cap on the maximum size of the biggest banks. 

    Personal responsibility is completely foreign to the highest echelons of the Street. Citigroup’s stock fell 44 percent last year, but its CEO, Vikram Pandit, got at least $5.45 million on top of a retention bonus of $16.7 million. The stock of JPMorgan Chase fell almost 22 percent, but its CEO, Jamie Dimon, was awarded a package worth $17 million. The higher you go in corporate America as a whole, the less relationship... 

    I have never been as concerned as I am now about the future of our democracy, the corrupting effects of big money in our politics, the stridency and demagoguery of the regressive right, and the accumulation of wealth and power at the very top. We are perilously close to losing an economy and a democracy that are meant to work for everyone and to replacing them with an economy and a government that will exist mainly for a few wealthy and powerful people. 

    Millionaires and billionaires aren’t making huge donations to politicians out of generosity. Corporations aren’t spending hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbyists and political campaigns because they love America. These expenditures are considered investments, and the individuals and corporations that make them expect a good return. 

    The tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003—and extended for two years in 2010—in 2011 saved the richest 1.4 million taxpayers (the top 1 percent) more money than the rest of America’s 140.89 million taxpayers received in total income. 

    In 2010, eighteen thousand American households earning more than half a million dollars paid no income taxes at all. 

    Most people also face the increasing risk of not having enough to retire on. Three decades ago more than 80 percent of large and medium-sized firms gave their workers “defined benefit” pensions that guaranteed a fixed amount of money every month after they retired. Now it’s down to under 10 percent. 

    The CEO of Bank of America raked in $10 million, while the bank announced it was firing thirty thousand employees. 


  • Enhance & Expand Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid

    There has been a lot of talk since the big compromise on "The fiscal cliff."  Some are saying now that we have provided for the revenue enhancements, we must be working on cutting expenditures, especially the so-called entitlements and especially Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  I.e., they want to cut the best of the U.S. people programs.

    Heck, I think we should be looking for ways to ENHANCE and EXPAND Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  They are all programs that work well to accomplish vital improvements in our American civilization.

    People in the United States pay less in taxes now than we have for many decades.  There is nothing wrong with increasing taxes, especially taxes on those who can best afford to pay them, in order to make these good systems even better.


  • commented on Let's jump off the "Fiscal Cliff" 2012-12-27 17:28:12 -0600
    Tim, progressive taxation systems should always be at or near the top of our progressive agenda. I’d like to see dividends and capital gains taxed the same as earned income (even though the wife and I enjoy a small amount of dividend income ourselves). Also, I’d like to see our Congress get interested in a small tax on financial transactions on Wall Street. Think of the enormous revenue source THAT would be, even at a very low rate. John

  • published Wisconsin Retirement System in Opinion Blog 2012-12-27 17:16:50 -0600

    Wisconsin Retirement System

    For those of you interested in this topic, here is some info. that just circulated from DETF.                          John
    ===================================================================
     
    Department of Employee Trust Funds
    December 27, 2012

    Preliminary Effective Rates and
    Annuity Adjustments for 2013

    At this time of the year, many Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) members want to know what to expect for next year’s effective rates (applies to active employees) and annuity adjustments (applies to retirees) for the Core and Variable Trust Funds.


    The projections shown below are based on the State of Wisconsin Investment Board’s (SWIB) preliminary investment returns as of November 30, 2012. Please note: Year-end finalized investment returns through December 31, mortality and other actuarial factors will affect the final rate setting process.

     

     

    Core Fund

    Variable Fund

    SWIB Investment Return

    12.10%

    14.7%

    Effective Rate

    1.8% to 2.2%

    13% to 15 %

    Annuity Adjustment

    0% to -13%

    7% to 9%

     

    Core Fund gains or losses for each year are “smoothed” (recognized) in equal increments over five years to cushion the effect of market volatility. Members in the optional Variable Fund experience the full effect of market gains or losses—returns are not smoothed.

    The Core Fund annuity adjustment calculations for 2013 will be based on the investment experience from 2008 to 2012. A member’s Core annuity can never go below the original amount (“floor”) received at retirement.

    Under the system’s five-year smoothing process, 2013 is the last year in which the annuity adjustment rates will reflect the investment decline caused by the stock market crash of 2008.

    Watch for these upcoming important announcements:

     

    • Final investment returns in mid-to-late January,
    • Final effective rates in February,
    • Final annuity adjustments in March,

     

    Individual annuity adjustments for retirees are reported in their annual annuity mailer in April (annuity adjustments will be reflected on the May 1 payment).

     

    The unique risk-sharing feature of the WRS provides a stable and guaranteed income in retirement, despite market conditions. The WRS is in sound financial condition and positioned to pay all of its benefit promises—both now and in the future.


  • followed Drug test the goobernor 2012-12-18 16:28:53 -0600

    Drug test the goobernor

    In the December 15, 2012, issue of The Progressive Populist, Jason Stanford of Austin, Texas, takes a few good natured pot shots at Texas Goobernor (oh no, I'm channeling Jim Hightower again!) Rick Perry.  Incidentally, just think, we could have elected Rick Perry president of our United States.  What a thought.  Anyway...

    Mr. Stanford writes about the governor's support for a requirement that "welfare" recipients be required to take tests for illegal drug use before they qualify for assistance.  He notes that in Texas, moms with three kids who qualify can get a whopping $260 a month in assistance.  The governor thinks those moms should have to pass a drug test before they get that $260.  Never mind the abortive results of that policy in Florida awhile back.

    I think if we accept that sort of thinking in Wisconsin, then, that Governor Walker ought to have to pee in a cup before he gets his government check each month, don’t you?  So should the Fitzgerald brothers.  Come to think of it, now, that's not a bad idea.  What are those guys on?

    Mr. Stanford also thinks that corporations, since we now consider them people too, should have to pee in a cup or give up some blood through a needle in the arm before they get their subsidies and tax breaks.  The only trouble with that idea is....


  • published Health Care and Entrepreneurship in Opinion Blog 2012-12-18 16:07:10 -0600

    Health Care and Entrepreneurship

    I thought this article that appeared in The Progressive Populist offered a little different angle on the subject of the new, reformed health care.  This is part of what I mean when I think about forging ahead into 21st century ways of doing things.  We progressives and liberals should not be afraid to embrace good capitalism and entrepreneurship.
    =====================================================================

    Health Coverage a ‘Gift’ to Ourselves by Froma Harrup

    One of the more curious “gifts” in Mitt Romney’s list of ways Barack Obama allegedly bought off voters was letting young people up to the age of 26 stay on their parents’ health plan. It was a gift all right, a gift to America.

    How so? Consider this finding in a RAND study on whether employer-based health insurance is a barrier to entrepreneurship: The rate of new business formations jumps at or around age 65 (particularly in the month that the person turns 65). What happens at age 65 is that Americans qualify for Medicare.

    The authors of the study (Robert W. Fairlie, Kanika Kapur and Susan M. Gates) found the spike in business starts by those around 65 to be the purest evidence of “entrepreneurship lock” — the notion that many would-be entrepreneurs stay stuck in jobs for fear of losing health coverage.

    Isn’t 65 traditionally retirement time? Apparently, not for many. The study looks into the possibility that Social Security, pensions and other retirement plans kicking in around that age would make some feel more secure about taking on financial risks, but found no link. (The appearance of new income streams could just as easily help these folks retire and do nothing. My thought, not the researchers’.)

    Let’s go down the age ladder. The RAND study noted no change in business ownership rates among people 55 or just under. Those in their 40s and 50s are probably under the most severe entrepreneurship lockdown. These are adults who may have gained a good deal of expertise in their jobs. They may have saved up money and are ready to go out on their own. But the older you get, the more expensive your health coverage becomes.

    If you are responsible for children, you may not want to risk their health coverage, even if you’d roll the dice on your uninsured self getting sick.

     

    And if you or a child has an expensive pre-existing condition, insurers may refuse to cover you at almost any price.

    Romney didn’t include the rest of Obamacare in the list of “gifts” he didn’t approve of, but other elements of the Affordable Care Act could also help free wannabe entrepreneurs from job lock. One is guaranteed coverage for all regardless of above-mentioned pre-existing conditions. Another is the state-created health exchanges that help the self-employed find coverage at a reasonable price. And a third is peace of mind: If you exhaust all your savings and mortgage your house to start a business and the enterprise fails, leaving you broke, your family can get subsidized health coverage.

    Go back to a gift Romney did cite — coverage on the parents’ plan to age 26. Think of the 23-year-old, out of school in a tough job market but with a boatload of computer skills. Energetic and possibly not supporting others, these young Americans are at a perfect age to test an idea in the marketplace. True, they are probably healthy and more willing to skip getting insured, but still.

    The deal in Obamacare is that everyone must obtain health coverage, but everyone can get it at a price they can pay. No American family faces financial ruin because a member falls ill and needs expensive care.

    The whole idea of employer-sponsored health coverage is a historical oddity from the wage and price controls of World War II. Obamacare offers a step away from that irrational link.

    So here’s a government benefit that actually encourages the creation of new entrepreneurs. Guaranteed health coverage is a freedom card for those who want to spread their wings in a business of their own. It’s a gift to ourselves.

    COPYRIGHT 2012 THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL CO.

    DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

     


  • V. of DeForest 5-Year Comprehensive Land Use Planning

    11/30/12

    To:                   DeForest Area Progressives

    From:               John Scepanski

    Subject:    DeForest Planning & Zoning Commission meeting 11/27/12

    On Tuesday, November 27, 2012, I attended the Village of DeForest Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.  (Note FYI that this is a "commission," not a "committee."  There are important distinctions that matter in Wisconsin state law, which I can inform D.A.P. of at another time.)

    Item #10 on the agenda was "Discussion/Presentation on Comprehensive Plan update, focusing on housing mix policy."  As you know, I had attended the previous P&Z Commission meeting as well, during which the similar discussion focused on building development phasing and transportation.  These P&Z discussions are preliminary to revision of the village's comprehensive land use master plan (commonly known as the comprehensive plan or the master plan).  The revision of the plan occurs about once every five years or so.  Typically, the Commission will schedule public hearings some time into the process to gather public input during its deliberations.  If D.A.P. desires, we might want to plan to offer some testimony at those public hearings.

    Most of the discussion at this evening's P&Z meeting revolved around consultant Mark Roffers' draft policy on housing for the village: "Housing Mix Policy DRAFT 11/8/12."  The interest here is in defining and setting a goal for a percentage mix of single family and multi-family housing in the village.  The question is this: should the desired ratio of single family housing to multi-family housing be 65% to 35% or some other ratio or no stated goal at all?  According to Mr. Roffers, the current % of single family is about 60%.

    Mr. Roffers and the Commission often refer to the "Future Land Use Map" in these discussions.  There is a corresponding "Map 2" (I think) in the FUDA report -- more of FUDA (Future Urban Development Area) later.  See the village website for the FUDA report and maps.  It is a good report, and I recommend it for up-to-date, sound, "progressive" land use principles.

    Discussion included references to a "planned neighborhood" category in the plan, future multi-family housing, and high standards to be maintained in materials used in building, design, appearance, upkeep, etc.  Some of the discussion went like this:

    Jim Simpson (Comm. member).              Has heard employers in the DeForest area complain that  affordable housing is lacking in the DeForest area for their employees.  Hard to get employees when they have to live elsewhere and commute too far.

    Mark Roffers (staff consultant).             Developers in the current building climate and market seem reluctant to build multi-family housing (apartments, duplexes, etc.)  There seems to be a disconnect between the village's desire to promote more business development in the village and builders' reluctance to build more affordable, multi-family housing where workers can live close by.  There is flexibility, though, within single family development, along the lines of lot size, density of population, number of living units per acre, and so forth.

    Simpson.          Can get a lot of living units on a smaller plot of ground if higher densities are approved, i.e., more families living on smaller plots of ground: e.g., five lots per acre rather than four lots per acre.

    -----------------------------------------------------------

    There seems to be a dilemma here between the desire of the village to promote more economic development and the desire to promote relatively exclusive, single family housing (upscale suburban subdivisions, if you will).  Note, too, that the FUDA project resulted in DeForest residents' overwhelming preference for "compact" neighborhood design, which may also be in conflict with my perception of the commission members' preference for upscale single family residences.  I may be wrong at this preliminary stage, but it seems to me that upscale, large-lot, suburban-style, single-family residential development might conflict in other ways, too, with the FUDA results.

    Q.'s for thought:

    1. Will the P&Z Comm. conform to the residents' desires along the lines of neighborhood design, as expressed through FUDA, or will they choose another route when making comprehensive plan revision decisions about neighborhood design? 

    2. How much attention will the Commission pay to the FUDA outcomes?  They are not obligated to pay any attention to FUDA at all.

    I (John) am disappointed that there have been, as yet, no substantive references to FUDA at these P&Z Comm. meetings.  NOW is the opportunity to implement bold new, "progressive" FUDA-like ideas for the future of the village and surrounding territory, in my opinion.  We’ve missed so many opportunities in the past.  I hope we don't squander this one.

    As you know, I like the FUDA report and think that it reflects mostly progressive land use ideals: more on that later.  In short, though, at this juncture I get the sense from sitting in on these two meetings, so far, that the DeForest P&Z Commission is not very interested in FUDA. 

    Commission members seem to me not to have much enthusiasm when it comes to future land use planning for DeForest, which is okay, I suppose.  Status quo thinking seems to prevail.  That is pretty much as it has always been.  After all, status quo is status quo, and status quo can be either good or not-so-good.  Personally, I could wish for more imagination, though.  Maybe that will change at future comprehensive plan meetings.

    DeForest has a lot going for it and can and could and may and might be unique in some wonderful ways.

                                       -end-

    cc:        Mike Centinario, Kevin Brown


  • published Wisconsin's C-Span in Opinion Blog 2012-11-29 17:04:09 -0600

    Wisconsin's C-Span

    Did you know that Wisconsin has its own version of C-Span?  You can sign up to get regular, daily updates of programming.  Check it out.

    www.WisEye.org


  • Lest we liberals/progressives get too smug about our national electoral successes ...

    http://www.salon.com/2012/11/23/republican_supermajorities_turn_red_states_redder/

    Nov 23, 2012       Republican supermajorities turn red states redder

    It's one-party rule across much of the South and Midwest, which could affect abortion, same-sex marriage and more

    By David A. Lieb

    There’s a new superpower growing in the Great Plains and the South, where bulging Republican majorities in state capitols could dramatically cut taxes and change public education with barely a whimper of resistance from Democrats.

    Contrast that with California, where voters have given Democrats a new dominance that could allow them to raise taxes and embrace same-sex marriage without regard to Republican objections.

    If you thought the presidential election revealed the nation’s political rifts, consider the outcomes in state legislatures. The vote also created a broader tier of powerful one-party governments that can act with no need for compromise. Half of state legislatures now have veto-proof majorities, up from 13 only four years ago, according to figures compiled for The Associated Press by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

    All but three states—Iowa, Kentucky and New Hampshire—have one-party control of their legislatures, the highest mark since 1928.

    The result could lead to stark differences in how people live and work.

    ...

    If the parties make full use of their enlarged majorities, residents of similar-sized cities in different parts of the country could soon experience a virtual continental divide in their way of life.

    ...

    States already have different approaches to taxes, the economy and care for the poor, but they have been tempered by compromise. Now the middle ground may begin to disappear in favor of stark extremes.

    Supermajorities can allow lawmakers to override governors’ vetoes, change tax rates, put constitutional amendments on the ballot, rewrite legislative rules and establish a quorum for business—all without any participation by the opposing party.

    ...


  • published 47 % irony in Opinion Blog 2012-11-21 17:46:57 -0600

    47 % irony

    Liberal schadenfreude is about to reach overdose levels. Dave Wasserman at Cook Political Report projects that the final count of the popular vote, which is still ongoing, will show Romney winning 47 percent of the electorate. In addition to proving that Obama handily won the popular vote, the final tally makes Romney the official candidate of the 47 percent —a delicious irony, liberals say, given that Romney infamously claimed that Obama was the candidate of the 47 percent of Americans who "believe they are victims" and are "dependent on government."

                  - quoted in The Week magazine


  • published Good news for us: they're still at it. in Opinion Blog 2012-11-15 14:45:26 -0600

    Good news for us: they're still at it.

    IT IS EXACTLY THIS SORT OF THINKING THAT IS RAPIDLY LEADING TO THE DEMISE OF THE GOP; GOOD NEWS FOR OUR SIDE.

    "A group of Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin say that they would back a bill that would declare the Affordable Care Act illegal, and allow law enforcement to arrest any federal officials who try to implement it.

    "The nine lawmakers were responding to a survey from the conservative advocacy group the Campaign For Liberty, and responded 'yes' to the question: 'Will you support legislation to nullify ObamaCare and authorize state and local law enforcement to arrest federal officials attempting to implement the unconstitutional health care scheme known as ObamaCare?'

    "Gov. Scott Walker has until Friday to decide whether he’ll create a health care exchange in the state as mandated by the law, or let the administration handle it.

    "Rep. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he still believes the law is not constitutional, despite a Supreme Court ruling to the contrary. 'Just because Obama was re-elected does not mean he’s above the constitution,' Kapenga said.

    "Another lawmaker said that he would also support a bill to require Walker to get permission from the legislature before implementing an exchange.  “That seems reasonable,” Republican state Rep. Don Pridemore told the Journal Sentinel. 'It was making a statement to the federal government that we don’t want Obamacare.'”

    Via ThinkProgress.                     11/14/12

     Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at [email protected]

     

     

     


  • Meeting Notes, 9/17/12

    DeForest Area Progressives (D.A.P.)

    Meeting September 17, 2012

    John's Notes

     

    Fourteen members met from 6:00 to 8:00 at HQ, 6610 Lake Road, Windsor, Wisconsin.  It was a rousing meeting, one of the most energetic we’ve had recently!  Behave, you all!  There is a lot going on at D.A.P.

     

    Mary S. made sure we were all set for the movie showing this Saturday of Gasland, the documentary about fracking and drilling.  Good going, Mary, and you others who have worked to make this project go!  Some of us will be meeting this Saturday afternoon at HQ to set up.  Social hour (i.e., half-hour) is at 6:30, movie 7:00 to 8:30, and discussion led by John-Ski after the movie.  Keep talking it up and bring your friends and neighbors.

     

    Ginny and John G. reported on the sign they are putting on John's truck for election day, complete with message, lights, maybe music, and other hoopla.  J   John St. is also involved with this.  Wanna be in on it too? See one of the above.

     

    Marcia reported on this weekend's canvassing jointly with OFA (Obama for America).  About 20 people anticipated from Portage and other surrounding areas, including D.A.P., of course.  Almost all of the target districts were covered.  Well done, people!  The group put together and distributed a packet that included President Obama, Mary Arnold, Paula Cooper, and Tammy Baldwin.

     

    Karen reported on her and Judy's attendance at the Village of DeForest Planning and Zoning Commission's public hearing and regular meeting, in which the new changes to the DeForest signage ordinance were discussed.  John-Ski had also checked in on it at the Village Hall with Mike Centenario, the Village Planner, and let Mike know of D.A.P. interest.  There is a copy of the new ordinance changes available at D.A.P. HQ.  Karen said the issue involved mostly a need to allow for a commercial sign at the new high school stadium in a residentially zoned neighborhood.  Also involved are requirements for entrance signs to the village.  Mr. Centenario said that it had to do with appeal at the entrances to the village.  It does not appear as though any of this will affect our on-going political and message sign projects.  Be that as it may, we once again let our presence be known.

     

    Carl reported on his membership and attendance at the VillageParks and Natural Resources Committee.  Further reports on this committee will be forthcoming from Carl.  Other D.A.P. members are encouraged to find a local government committee they might be interested in and volunteer for appointment by going to the Village or Town Halls and filling out a form.

     

    Frank led a discussion on this Saturday's Yahara River Cleanup, sponsored by Friends of the Yahara.  We should hook up with that organization as a sister outfit with similar interests.  Volunteers will meet at VeteransPark in DeForest for assignment to a section of river to work on.  Bring tools you have such as saws and chain saws, boots and work clothes.  Work will include brush removal and trash pickup.  The event is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., but you can work any period of time.  D.A.P.-ers are meeting at 10:00 a.m. at the park to work together and let it be known that our organization is there in a group: more community networking.  Further information can be found at the Friends of the Yahara website.

     

    John Glowacki told about the changes he perceives are coming to The Mic and other progressive radio.  He sees more recorded programming that does not allow for call-in.  He sees programming on Sundays being replaced with sports broadcasting.  He thinks there might be a conspiracy afoot to disrupt liberal radio programming.  There is a new source called "Progressive Voices" that people can check out, having to do with internet, web, IPad, etc., access to progressive radio.  There is also Tune-in Radio and Head-on Radio.  It might be a good idea for D.A.P. to start a resources list or file, where interested parties can go to find these sorts of alternatives, books, magazines, videos, etc.

     

    Isabelle reported that the food collection project for the striking workers at Palermo in Milwaukee is going well.  Much non-perishable food was collected last night for her, Ginny, and other D.A.P. members to take in a van down to Centro Hispano.  Isabelle and Ginny will represent D.A.P. in this worthy and serious project.

     

    Someone mentioned that a new CostCo is opening soon in Sun Prairie and that the CEO of CostCo is an active supporter of President Obama.

     

    The Wisconsin Grassroots Network Festival is scheduled for February 16th.  Tens of thousands were in attendance last year (just kidding, but there were hundreds).  There will be a Grassroots fundraiser October 7th at the Lake Wisconsin Country Club (note: Lake Wisconsin, not LakeWindsor) in SaukCity.  Make a dessert to be auctioned off or participate in the silent auction.  There will be a meal served, a bar, singing, and other entertainment.  It was a blast last year and promises to be the same this year.  By the way, the Wisconsin Grassroots Network (WGN) steering committee meets at our D.A.P. HQ and will be there this Wednesday; drop in if you like.

     

    John St. reported that there will be a voter registrars' meeting this Wednesday at D.A.P. HQ.

     

    John also said that message-sign painters are needed.

     

    There is a fundraiser October 27th at Rude's Lanes for the people whose house recently burned down.

     

    Due to John St.'s efforts, we made $50 from button manufacture and sales at Bob Fest last Saturday.  Yay, John-boy!  Other D.A.P. members attended Bob Fest as well and reported another great time, meeting and mingling with progressive soul-sisters&brothers from all over the midwest and the country, as usual.

     

    Carl went to a breakout session at Bob Fest that had to do with mining, and he passed around some literature he picked up there on iron mining.  There was also discussion of the adverse effects of silicon sand mining for fracking drilling operations.  Frank attended the session too and said that it seems that some blasting is done to get the sand out, and the blasting is suspected of leaving minute particles of silicon in the air, which are then breathed in.  Also, it is suspected that fine particles are left on plant life, which can then be ingested if eaten.  Mary noted that even though Wisconsin is not on the maps describing where fracking is being done, Wisconsin figures in prominently due to the big sand mining operations here.

     

    John St. mentioned something as well about the dangers of wire electrical transmission.

     

    Al Greene brought back some information from the monthly Dane County Democratic Party meeting last week (John Scep., Cindy, and Beth attended too).  Al's information stemmed from his meeting Ethan Corson there.  Ethan is Deputy Voter Protection Coordinator for OFA.  A handout was provided on voter protection and is available at D.A.P. HQ.  Contact Ethan at [email protected] or 608-556-1302.  We all heard a lot about regional Wisconsin plans to get President Obama re-elected, Tammy elected to Senate, and other campaign efforts.  "Fired up!  Ready to go!"

     

    Finally, Mary informed us of an upcoming event at MATC on October 11-13: the Economic Democracy Convention.

     

    Good work, one-and-all!  See you Saturday and/or at next Monday's meeting, 6 - 8:00 p.m., the 24th, at 6610, the usual.

     

    John Scepanski


  • published Big Ideas? in Opinion Blog 2012-11-12 15:49:08 -0600

    Big Ideas?

    I'm hoping that President Obama (and it looks like he might be teaming up with the Clintons) will use his status of no obligations to anyone to put into effect some truly large ideas.  Bill's worldwide consortium and Hillary's worldwide contacts mght be just the thing to put them over the top on some really good things.


  • published Fiscal compromise in Opinion Blog 2012-11-12 15:23:34 -0600

    Fiscal compromise

    I think what we are going to see will be a compromise on this fiscal cliff thing really soon that will include $x in tax reform in the form of tax expenditure removals, along with some serious, albeit slight, changes $3-10x) in how SS, Medicare, and Medicaid work, and some closings of some very old and very unnecessary military bases and the cancellation of some porky defense contracts. 
     
    It will amount to a compromise that does in fact raise taxes some and cut expenditures some, as everyone knows what needs to happen; but the tax raises won't be called that, so as to pull the rug out from under the Grover Norquist tax pledges.  "We didn't raise tax rates, we reformed tax expenditures."
     
    All of those moves have been neatly packaged within the bureaucracy by competent bureaucrats for a long time, just waiting for the right political moment, which is now that the "cliff" looms and the president is beholden to nobody.
     
    Welcome to American political governance.  What a country!  You heard it here first.
     
                                                 Publius


  • published "The Rolling Jubilee" in Opinion Blog 2012-11-10 17:36:45 -0600

    "The Rolling Jubilee"

    Now, THIS one is really going to !!!! some people off.  Remember last year when I mentioned about all the creative tactics the "occupy" peoples are discussing?  Boycotts?  Stuff like that, besides actual occupations of territory?  Well, this one is new even to me.  I find it all pretty amusing.  "Power to the People"  :-)     J.
    ===========================================================================
     
    This time last year, Occupy Wall Street participants were regularly storming through Lower Manhattan, snaking around the financial district and beyond in boisterous marches and defending their Zuccotti Park home base in tense street battles with the NYPD. Twelve months later, Occupy is pouring energy into buying up debt bonds.
    It’s not incongruent.
     
    The Rolling Jubilee — borne of Occupy offshoot group Strike Debt — is best considered one among many Occupy tactics that aim to challenge or disrupt our current socio-political economic conditions. And as far as tactics go, this one is pretty clever. The idea is this: Occupy plans to buy up distressed debt — debt which is in default — and then forgive it (or, “abolish” it, as the ever-dramatic Occupy parlance puts it). Banks sell on distressed debts at pennies on the dollar (since the debts are in default, they’re not making money off them and prefer to get rid of them). There are a number of websites where anyone can go and then buy this discharged, cheap debt. So, you or I or Occupy could buy $16,000 worth of debt for just $500 and then either make a profit by recovering the difference or just cancel it. Occupy and Strike Debt plan to do the latter on a large scale.
     
    The Rolling Jubilee campaign, also dubbed “The People’s Bailout,” kicks off with a good, old-fashioned fundraiser telethon in New York on Nov. 15 with big-name musicians such as Jeff Mangum performing. Occupy has already started taking donations for the project, and Strike Debt announced Friday via Facebook that the effort has already erased $100,000 worth of medical debt. The hope, then, is to get it “rolling” — to create snowballing networks of debtors using what money they can to buy off and cancel more and more debt. Ideally, a pay-it-forward attitude would compel individuals who have their debt forgiven to help buy up and cancel more debt.
     
    The plan is legally sound and has been tested in successful experiments, which began with buying and forgiving $14,000 of credit debt for $466 some months ago. Discharged credit card debt, medical debt and private student loan debt can all be bought. (Government-backed student loans — since they’re government-backed — don’t get sold on.)
     
    The New Statesman’s Alex Hern noted that despite the “legal mechanics” of the Jubilee idea working in Occupy’s favor, the effort may face other obstacles. “Debt collectors really can cancel the debt if they want. The problem is that if you try to actually do that, you may find very quickly that people stop selling you debt.” Hern explained a similar plan concocted by a group called American Homeowner Preservation, in which they would buy a foreclosed house in a short sale at the market price, and then lease the home back to the ousted homeowner until the homeowner had the ability to get a mortgage and buy it back at a pre-set price. Felix Salmon wrote about the effort:

     

    The idea might have been elegant, but it didn’t work in practice because the banks wouldn’t play ball: they (and Freddie Mac) simply hated the idea of a homeowner being able to stay in their house after a short sale and often asked for an affidavit from the buyer saying that the former owner would certainly be kicked out.

     
    The banks’ behavior here, as Hern points out, was telling: They have no reason to care what happens to a house once they’ve sold the mortgage, but they did care when it came to the American Homeowner Preservation project. “The best explanation for their stubbornness is that they fear that organizations like American Homeowner Preservation are creating a sort of moral hazard by reducing the penalties for defaulting on mortgages.”
     
    And certainly Occupy and Strike Debt seek, with efforts like the Rolling Jubilee, to disrupt the moral obligation that underpins the contemporary treatment of debta moral obligation that renders millions broke, fearful and unhappy for whole lifetimes. If the Rolling Jubilee helps create the conditions to rupture the way debt is conceived, there’s little doubt that banks and the authorities will fight back. Lest we forget — an encampment in a drab Manhattan park brought out militarized police when business- and politics-as-usual seemed under threat.
     
    When the Rolling Jubilee launches, critics from all sides will jump on it. Radicals will call it reformist, others will call it ineffectual. Matt Yglesias has already missed the point in asking “why is this a better idea than just giving money to poor people?” — the answer being that this project seeks to challenge assumptions about debt and debtors as political subjects; it’s not just about clearing some debt.  More important, however, it is just one tactic — and quite a clever one at that — in forcing a rethinking of debt. Earlier this year, Strike Debt put out “The Debt Resistor’s Manual,” a 100-page advice guide to defaulters and those struggling in debt, with well-informed tips on resisting debt. Neither the manual nor the Jubilee project offer “the answer”; forgiving lots of debt won’t bring down capitalism. It might erase some crippling debts; it might forge new networks and affinities. It’s certainly an intriguing experiment.

     

    November 9, 2012 -- Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing.


  • followed The Fiscal Cliff 2012-11-09 18:10:33 -0600

    The Fiscal Cliff

    I like the commentators who call it a fiscal "curb" or a fiscal "slope," because it isn't really as drastic as a cliff.  Fox News blows everythng so out of proportion, don't they?

    A friend tells me the drop in the stock market indeces is due to the re-election of the president.  Obama is bad for business, he says.  I joke to him, "Now you got me worried."

    Actually, listening to the commentators on CNBC, it sounds like investors are more worried about this fiscal cliff thing and the Europeans than who got elected president.  I suppose though that the stock and bond indicators are at least indirectly related to the election results.  Don't worry, things will get back to normal soon.  It's all mass psychology.

    I'm looking forward to this "fiscal cliff" drama, or is it going to be a comedy?  The politics of it are incredibly fascinating, don’t you think?  It's the best show in town right now.