A Back to School Plea: Be Kind to Teachers

Pasted below is a message from Kati Walsh, a Wisconsin educator who asks us to take a minute at the beginning of this school year to give a little extra love to the teachers in our lives. As our kids go back to school, let's keep in mind that their educators are dealing with drastic cuts to their take home pay, administrators and parents who may be ambivalent (or worse), and a political climate in which teacher-bashing is commonplace, even among elected officials, as teachers get blamed for policy matters totally beyond their control.

Please take a minute to read Kati's plea and then let the teachers in your life know that you appreciate all the work they do - often on their own time and at their own expense - to make our communities better places to live and work.


August 25, 2011

I know you all know that teacher morale is super low right now. It's really not going to be an easy year. I'm very blessed to have an amazing principal and staff. Also a wonderful group of supportive parents. Most teachers don't have any of that.

This was posted on MTI today:
"If you improve a teacher's self-esteem, confidence, communication skills or stress levels, you improve that teacher's overall effectiveness across the curriculum.
- Elaine MacDonald

This was a teacher response: "Mine is low . . . lots of troubling changes at my school already this year. Feeling like my hard work doesn't matter."

I'm seeing this across the board. If you have a few extra minutes (not money, just time) please send a teacher a note of encouragement as school starts this year. Did someone really make an impact on you that is still teaching? How about your child's teacher? Or just someone you know that is a teacher?

Let's take Kati's challenge to heart. Care about our educators like they care about our children! Let teachers know that you're on their side. Just taking the time to send a note or let them know will mean so much.

And remember - educators are not so deeply involved in the struggle in Wisconsin just to protect their own wages and benefits - they are in this fight to protect the future of public education for our children. And I, for one, want to make sure they know how much I appreciate that.  

Thanks for sharing this note, Kati! And a big THANK YOU to all the teachers out there who are returning to their classrooms ready for new set of challenges! We support  you! And we will not give up the fight to regain your rights and the right of our children to quality public education!

Walker's Ready to Compromise (His Integrity)

18 August 2011
Dear Scott Walker,

It is with the usual disgust that I read your latest interviews, and after listening to the full audio clip of your conversation with WisPolitics on Monday (8/15), I feel compelled to write you once again, to remind you to stop lying about "what you've heard people say."
What has Walker given up so far, besides his integrity? Photo

Ever since the Republicans lost two seats in the Senate, and even moreso now that the Democrats have retained their own, you've been trying to build a case for yourself as the Moderate Middleman, the Great, Misunderstood Conciliator. Using vocabulary a child perhaps scripted for you, you repeat the same lame lines about bipartisanship and how you're suddenly so ready and willing to work together and compromise and move past the recalls and jobs jobs jobs jobs...

As charming an attempt this may be to quick trick people into forgetting about what a bullying brute you are, I'm afraid it comes too late. And we're not fooled in the least.

Because we aren't about to forget how many times you told us "there's nothing to negotiate." We aren't going to forget how you and your lackeys shut down debate, ignored public and professional testimony, and continue to pretend that you simply don't hear the voices of dissent exploding all around you.

Your arrogance in thinking you can earn back the trust and the support of the people of Wisconsin (much less the legislators of this state who now know you'll throw anyone under the bus!) is staggering. And it's rivaled only by your disrespect for the intelligence of your consituents in thinking (wrongly, of course) that we're just going to "move on" and forget the fireworks that were your detonating the bomb that split this state apart.  

Your sudden willingness to "work together" and "compromise" only proves what we already knew: that the only thing you'll ever compromise are the principles that you campaigned on, your allegiance to the people, and your respect for this state. All of those have been compromised quite enough already. Your integrity, assuming it ever existed, was apparently compromised long before I heard your name. Please spare us the humiliation of seeing you "compromise" anything else.

Representative Peter Barca has already called you out on this nonsense, reminding us that 
When he went to Washington, D.C. to testify before Congress under oath, Gov. Walker said, "bipartisanship is not so good."
And the very day that voters were going to the polls last week to remove two Republican senators in a historic rebuke of the governor’s extreme, divisive agenda, Gov. Walker hid his signing of the most partisan redistricting laws in Wisconsin history.
On the floor of the legislature, Gov. Walker's Republican rubber-stamps have rejected 375 Democratic amendments out of hand, even though many were common sense measures that emphasized accountability or saved money.  And exactly zero Assembly Democratic bills have passed this session.
It is  Gov. Walker's unwillingness to give up his extreme agenda and double-talk that have Wisconsinites feeling so betrayed that half of the state feels that he needs to be removed from office immediately.
If Gov. Walker sincerely wants to work with Democrats he needs to first stop using bipartisanship as a cover for his own partisan actions. If he doesn't, then he ignores the will of the middle-class and the recall election results at his own peril.
Your schoolyard psychology doesn't work on us, Scott Walker. To put it in the terms that bullies like you understand most clearly, you can't take away all the marbles and then say "I'm ready to play nice." There are consequences for bad behaviors and in this case, you're going to get a time out. A nice, long, permanent political time out.  We call it a RECALL. You can think of it as a recess.

Or, you could just drop out again, like you did in college. Maybe you can even get one of your sponsors to buy you a VP bid and you can run away to bigger and better things like your idol Palin did, too. Whatever you choose, I wish you the worst, in all of your endeavors.

In the meantime, stop lying. Stop ignoring us. Like we always say: We won't forget. We will recall.

And I would really appreciate it if you would just resign, since you apparently suddenly care so much about how much elections cost. This will save us a lot of trouble.  

Yours in dissent, and also fury,

Heather DuBois Bourenane
Wisconsin voter, taxpayer, parent and person whose specific comments you refuse to keep in mind

P.S. What are your supporters going to do with all those "He's got nads" shirts now that you're a moderate centrist?  Your base must be so disappointed in you! Little girls whose parents let them wear profane shirts to school and companies that are being capitalistic must feel very threatened by this terrible news.

Onward Christian Soldiers: Kim Simac's Northwoods Crusade (review)

(revised 8/14/2011 to correct the misattribution identified in the comments below. Apologies for the original error. hdb)

Kimberly Jo Simac is on a crusade.  

The Tea Party candidate for the Wisconsin recall election in District 12, where incumbent Jim Holperin risks losing his State Senate seat on August 16, Simac raises horses and writes books. To date, she has written four books for children (with a fifth due out in early 2012), as part of her "I Can Be a Star" series that began, interestingly, with two books about hockey: When I Grow Up, I'm Going to Be a Hockey Star! ("For all who dream of playing hockey!") and its sequel, Girls Play Hockey Too! ("For girls who dream of playing hockey!"). The next three books in the series, though, take "being a star" to the next level, readying children for the (apparently likely) event that they will have to defend their country against threats to God's plan for America.

Simac's books are sold here.
American Soldier Proud and Free (2007), self-published by Simac's own company, Great Northern Adventure Co. (a riding club and equestrian facility) in Eagle River, WI and printed in China, reads like an entry in a 5th grade poetry contest: full of cliché, false and clumsy rhymes and a meter so embarrassingly disjointed that the book is almost impossible to read aloud. The awkwardness of the text is rivaled (perhaps even surpassed) by the amateurish crayon illustrations by "self taught artist" Donna Goeddaeus. These drawings seem to have been purposefully rendered as childish as the poetry to lend the book some continuity, an argument which finds further evidence in the unfortunate choice of the world's most painful-to-read font, the dreaded Kristen ITC, typeset so huge that the book could easily be placed in Large Print section of library shelves. And if you disregard the content (as I hope to demonstrate below that you should), the highest compliment I can pay to this book is that all of these things together do contribute to the reader's impression that the narrator, an elementary school-aged boy, actually wrote and illustrated this book.

But, alas, a child did not write this book, and as tempting as it is to expand this critique, Kim Simac's book doesn't really warrant a literary analysis, because it's not literature. It's propaganda.

The book, on the surface, seems an innocent enough celebration of patriotism. It's dedicated "To all who love America..." It opens and closes with reverent respect to the boy's grandpa, who "served for you and me. So that all of us here could have freedom guaranteed" (see what I mean about the rhyme?).  The boy goes to school, admires the flag, recites the Pledge:
We say the "Pledge of Allegiance."
I hold my hand
over my heart.
The words
"liberty and justice for all"
are one of the best parts.
He plays army with his friends ("I have to stand guard and be ready, should my enemies pay me a call") and says his prayers at night, asking God "to keep the world a happy place where all children can be safe to play."

But, completely devoid of plot, the book amounts to nothing more than catalog of reasons to fear for the safety of national security, and thinly veiled innuendo that all of the things of value in being American are threatened by some unnamed and mysterious forces. Call it jingoism lite.

In his favorite class, history, for example, our narrator learns
How soldiers gave their lives
to set others free.
How brave men changed
the world so God's
plan could be.
At the 4th of July parade, he stands on the curb, holding a balloon that says "God Bless America."  His father informs him that "there may come a time when we may have to say... "This land belongs to you and me, and it might take a war to keep it that way!" The illustration for this page shows a family of at the breakfast table, watching television, the twin towers engulfed in smoke.

God's plan? Mysterious people trying to take our land? The need for war? All of the Tea Party rhetoric of American exceptionalism, isolationism, and anti-intellectualism is neatly woven into the fabric of this book and its illustrations, dangerously normalizing a perspective that ensures a new generation of blindly jingoistic thinking, fear and suspicion. 

There's a famous expression that's usually attributed to the 1935 novel, It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis: "When fascism comes to America it wil be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." While this quote isn't actually in that text, it sums up the argument Lewis makes in his novel. For all their talk of limited government, Tea Party politics confirms precisely the sort of threat Lewis predicted: a religious agenda of irrational, reactionary politics with a decidedly anti-intellectual bent that severely limits individual freedoms in its attempt to forcibly impose and enforce the illusory "freedoms" it resolutely self-defines. A less-quoted line from Lewis' book exposes this threat even further:
I am convinced that everything that is worth while in the world has been accomplished by the free, inquiring, critical spirit, and that the preservation of this spirit is more important than any social system whatsoever. But the men of ritual and the men of barbarism are capable of shutting up the men of science and of silencing them forever.
This is the danger of not taking "innocent" books like Simac's seriously. Her crusade is based on purely ideological aims - she recently admitted she can't name a single piece of legislation in the works in Wisconsin that she either opposes or supports. She doesn't trust ("believe in") science. She fears public schools. She thinks God loves America more than any other country. She is on record comparing public schools to Nazis, and in October of 2010, she posted the following on her blog: 
The scary comparisons of the indoctrination tactics of our youth today and those of the Hitler Regime of past.

I am done raising my kids but if I was a young parent today I would take my kids out of the public school system today. At what point will we stop talking about the comparisons to what is occurring today and what actually happened by the regime of the Nazi's in the past?... Take the commercial that Glenn Beck showed from British Progressives that explains to little children that if they do not listen to their teachers recommendations on subjects such as carbon emissions, they could have their heads blown off. Add to that Kindergarten Sex Ed classes and I really wonder how it is American parents smile and kiss their children good bye every morning and in good conscience hand their most precious resource over to the hands of such questionable people. 
"Such questionable people?" Nazi regime? These can't be the same people teaching the boy in the book that "God's plan" demands the military defense of America at any cost? 

To be fair, let's listen to Simac's defense of this quote (and, ironically, its removal from her website):
"That posting was talking about how we need to be careful about how the world is changing. About how we need to be careful about what it is we are putting into our schools. And we are being careful. We do need to have parent involvement and to make sure that we all work together to make sure that our American values are protected, and defended. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that."
Our American values. There you have it. For Simac, and the Tea Party that supports her, it all boils down to "our American values."  But what is implied here is that "our" values are not shared by all Americans, and  - worse - that "others" (foreigners, teachers, minorities, Democrats, Hollywood types, Unitarian Universalists, etc) possess "values" which are a direct threat to their very way of life. 

On the website advertising her book, American Soldiers is described as a book which "relays the importance of protecting America's freedoms and our fragile way of life."  Our fragile way of life. Simac, and her Tea Party supporters, believe they are more patriotic than the rest of us. They believe they are more religious than the rest of us. They believe that God is on their side, and against the rest of us. They say things like "love it or leave it" to people who disagree with them on policy points. This is not a patriotic view. It is an insular, reactionary, divisive, and, ultimately, fallacious view that is dangerous to all of us, but particularly catastrophic to our children.

The fourth book in Simac's series, With a Rifle by My Side: A Second Amendment Lesson (2010), won the  Christian Small Publishers Association's  2011 Book of the Year award for books ages 4-8. The fact that it won this award speaks volumes, considering the eligibility standards for the CSPA award:
Books must be Christian in nature, promote the Christian faith, and intended for the Christian marketplace. The Christian marketplace is defined as the marketplace that is served by CBA member retail stores (mainly individuals who maintain Catholic or Protestant beliefs and doctrines).
While it's somewhat of a relief to know that this book is not on the shelves of local libraries (and worth noting that the autographed Madison Public Libraries copy I received of American Soldier was donated by the Eagle River Rotary Club "In appreciation to those who have served to protect our great country"), I am still waiting for it to arrive via interlibrary loan and haven't had opportunity to review it yet. I look forward to receiving it, so that I can get some answers as to the mysterious connection Simac must make within its pages to connect gun ownership and use to "promoting the Christian faith," and learn how exactly she positions the second amendment within the parameters of "Catholic or Protestant beliefs and doctrines." My guess is that she does so by continuing the Manifest Destiny myth she promotes in American Soldier: God wants me to live in America. God wants me to have a gun. America is a Christian nation which must be protected from outsiders at all costs. But that's just speculation.  I'll reserve judgment until I read the book. Maybe it's good. My hopes are not particularly high, though. Simac publishes her books through her own company because, in her words, "I couldn't find a publisher." There's good reason for that.

The fifth book in her series, When Life Began for Me, will be published in 2012.  Simac describes the books as follows on The Great Northern Adventure Company website:
"When Life Began for Me" is a book about life and when it actually begins. This book will support the pro-life movement and work to teach young children that though we have a special day we were born on, each life actually begins at a much earlier time. Simac hopes to provide youngsters true knowledge about conception so that it may be drawn upon later in life.
Still think Simac's not pushing an agenda in her "literature"?  If Simac thinks propaganda like this is the best way to reach children, it's no wonder she sees public schools as "Nazi" indoctrination camps. Indoctrination is the only "education" she understands.

Kim Simac sells Tea Party propaganda to children, pure and simple. She wraps it up in an American flag and calls it patriotism. Despite their friendly and childish veneer, her books breed fear, isolationism, xenophobia and encourage a profound misreading of the Founding Fathers' vision of a secular state where all have equal rights, freedoms and opportunities. Kim Simac does not believe in the separation of church and state. She does not believe in equal opportunity. She does not believe that all Americans are entitled to equal rights. She does not support the Wisconsin Idea of education as the pinnacle of our intellectual freedoms. She, like her Tea Party cohort, has hijacked the very idea of patriotism and corrupted it into a jingoistic mess of anti-American talking points, which she force-feeds on children through her propagandist books. Ironically, in an attempt to counter what she sees as a threat in public education and the loss of "values," Simac's books represent the very thing she fears.

American Soldier Proud and Free closes with the words "I believe America is something worth fighting for." It is my recommendation that parents who agree with this statement do not let their kids anywhere near Kim Simac's books unless they want to use them to teach kids a lesson about intolerance, distrust and fear-mongering. Kim Simac may be a Tea Party star at the moment, but her "You Can Be a Star" series is little more than a crusade to impose a very narrow, very restrictive, very un-American agenda on our children. And yet she ironically dedicates her book to "all who love America." If you're one of these people, and you live in Wisconsin's District 12, I highly recommend you vote for Jim Holperin on August 16. 

Don't believe what you've read here? Or just can't get enough of Kimberly Jo Simac? Watch this video to hear Simac discuss her lack of understanding of the U.S. Constitution, her disbelief in the separation of church and state, her thoughts on the 2nd Amendment, and her theory that homeschooling is the best way to avoid the dangers of free-thinking that come with attendance in public schools. (This video is Part C of a 3-part series. Check out the rest on YouTube)

Editor's note: Readers may be interested to know that Kim Simac's children's book about gun ownership may have impressed the CSPA, but the National Rifle Assocation has endorsed Jim Holperin for Senate, giving him an A rating and citing his "strong and vocal support of our right to keep and bear arms”
Jim Holperin has also received the endorsement of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association: "The Wisconsin Professional Police Association (WPPA) announced its endorsement of Jim Holperin in his reelection campaign to represent the 12th State Senate District. The WPPA’s board of directors, which is comprised of active law enforcement officers from all across the state, overwhelmingly chose to support Holperin after closely evaluating his record against that of his challenger, Kim Simac." 

New word: tooljob

Tooljob (n): (1) one who talks incessantly of providing jobs and tools without delivering either. (2) a complete and hypocritical failure, undeserving of respect or affection.
cf: Governor Scott Walker
Example of usage: Scott Walker is a total tooljob. I can't wait to recall that guy.
"Tools! Jobs!" said Walker, demonstrating the incompetence that led to his inevitable demise as Wisconsin's most infamous tooljob. Photo

Editor's note: This is my humble contribution to the political lexicon. Because the words people are currently using to describe this phenomenon (douchebag, asshole, liar, traitor, bastard, etc) really aren't entirely accurate, appropriate or sufficient. We needed a new word for this particular condition.


Dear Scott Walker: CHECK YOUR EMAIL!

10 August 2011

Sorry I haven't written for a while - I was so focused on the recall elections (hooray! historic victory! can you believe it?!)  and trying to expose your collusion with special interests against the interests of the people you claim to represent that I didn't really have time to write. But when I saw what you said this morning to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, I knew I had to write today to remind you of something very important: CHECK YOUR EMAIL!  

It seems you haven't been getting my messages or something.  At first I got all excited - thinking you were talking about ME when I read that you said "I've heard repeatedly from people who are just disgusted" but then I read on. You weren't talking about me. You were talking about some other "people" you've allegedly heard from:
I’ve heard repeatedly from people who are just disgusted at all the (campaign) ads, disgusted at all the money. They’re tired of seemingly year round campaigning and whether it’s a gubernatorial recall, any other recall, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of enthusiasm for having a whole another [sic? or did you really just say "a whole another?"  How embarrassing! You're so inarticulate!  Don't you wish you'd stuck in college long enough to take that speech course?!] wave of ads and money come into the state of Wisconsin.
Which is an odd thing to say, considering how many times I've written you to say otherwise, and how many times you've written right back, promising to "keep my specific comments in mind."  But just in case you overlooked my many, many previous messages, or forgot some of my specific comments, let me just make this crystal clear for you:
  • I am disgusted at your abuse of power and your refusal to listen to, acknowledge, or engage in conversation with,your constituents.
  • I am tired of special-interests funding campaign ads and outside influences buying elections in Wisconsin. And I am absolutely disgusted by the shameful display of hubris you have the nerve to put forth today in suggesting that you actually care about how much money is spent in these elections - after keeping silent when your own party wasted $400,000 of taxpayer money trying to run fake Democrats in the primaries. Equally disgusting is the pinnacle of hypocrisy which was the American Foundation for Children's press release today.  This Michigan-based special interest group poured an obscene amount of funds (at least half a million dollars just on tv ads) into these campaigns in an effort to secure their place at the legislative table - a space they've clearly already bought through Alberta Darling - and then had the nerve to claim that these results were "a rebuke of divisive, special interest-sponsored recall efforts." Given that workers' rights and public schools are the "special interests" that your party opposes, it is absolutely baffling to me that you garner a single vote.  These divisive statements only cement my resolve to both expose the dangers of these collusions with special interest groups like the AFC, hell-bent on privatizing our public education system and destroying the middle and working class for good.
  • I do have a "whole lot of enthusiasm" for another recall. In fact, I have so much enthusiasm about seeing you recalled that I am almost giddy with excitement about it. 
Picking up two seats in the Senate yesterday was great. But getting a partisan majority was never my own personal aim. Sure, it would've been nice. But these recalls weren't about getting the majority. They were about getting justice. They were about calling out the corrupt politicians who sided with you and your big-money policy pushers over the interests of this state and were willing to sacrifice the rights of public workers and the future of public education in a power-hungry frenzy of partisan greed. They were about standing up and saying NO! to your selling of our state to the highest bidder, and showing the rest of the country that there is hope for democracy yet. And we did all that. So good for us. 

"Ask not for whom the red balloon tolls. It tolls for thee."  Photo source
But that was not my goal. My goal is to recall you. That has been my goal from day one and if anything, yesterday's result only strengthens my resolve to see you out of office as quickly as possible. I'm just one person, I know. Alone I can't do much. But I'm doing my part to make it happen, and at the very least, I have made my views known - to you and to anyone else who cares to listen.  I just wish you would care to listen. Because you keep saying you can't hear us.  But here I am. Here we are. Check your email. You'll find all the details in there. And read carefully. Listen very closely, because here is what we're saying: We want to recall you. We have "a whole lot of enthusiasm" about recalling you. It's going to happen.

Unless of course, you resign. Which I highly recommend.

In dissent,
Heather DuBois Bourenane
Taxpayer, voter and person whose voice you have heard, but ignored, for many, many months

P.S. I almost forgot to mention how absolutely unconscionable I found your signing into law the most divisive, partisan redistricting maps imaginable yesterday - on the day of the elections, an hour before the deadline, and behind closed doors. What a sneaky, slimy, cowardly move. How do you sleep at night? Seriously. How do you sleep? Representative Brett Hulsey got it exactly right today. He said "Governor Walker and the GOP leaders complaining about recall elections today is like arsonists complaining about the fire, smoke and damage they created with their highly partisan attacks on Wisconsin’s families and freedom."

This one is for you: How do you sleep at night, anyway?

This one is for us: We didn't start this. But we'll end it. 
When you're recalled and we can put things right.

in search of the monologue and/or the dissent

Dear friends,

In commemoration of having served our 20,000th customer, I present the top twenty actual searches that have let people to Monologues of Dissent, in no particular order of hilarity.  I started keeping track of these when it was brought to my attention that this blog could be finding using search #20.  I tried to link them to their obvious homes, where possible.  Thanks to all you googlers for searching me out and stopping by. Hope you'll stick around. Enjoy!

With love from your friend,
Dissent face

  Top 20 Actual Searches That Have Led People, Perhaps You, To This Blog:
  1. buffalo occidental hotel ladies room
  2. i hate scott walker
  3. dissent face 
  4. got teachers? no + scott walker
  5. happy international day against homophobia
  6. hater monologues
  7. how to make something easy for dissent
  8. how to not let friendship problems ruin your summer
  9. how to survive without money
  10. i hate mothers monologue
  11. inappropriate disney princess monologue
  12. leftist cats
  13. legal size certificate of proclamation
  14. little baby who hates scott walker
  15. monologues about lies
  16. please don't put anything down in toilet sign
  17. tea parter + irate letter about bathrooms not being open in racine
  18. teddy bear town hill city sd hours open
  19. when is dissent a good thing
  20. you are an arrogant selfish egomaniac with delusions of grandeur
Bonus update! (8/11/2011)

This one just in today:
 #21: thank a republican
 Uh. No, thanks. But enjoy the blog!

Breaking News: Scott Walker accidentally says something true (again!)

“I believe if given the facts they’re going to make good decisions. 
Sometimes they’re going to be decisions that side with me, 
sometimes they’re going to be with others, 
but I’m going to respect their decision."
- Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on the upcoming recall elections, in a rare moment of truth, 
after being publicly shamed by his constituents at the opening of the Wisconsin State Fair
5 August 2011
Dear Scott Walker,

I could not be more thrilled to learn that, for the second time in your career as most hated governor in America, you have said something true!  Congratulations!  And THANK YOU for acknowledging that now that people are informed, they will do the right thing and recall of the Republicans who betrayed their constituents by voting along with your education and job-killing budget and taking away the rights of the people they represent. It must feel so liberating to be honest, after all that lying and pandering and misleading and betrayal and deceit!  I'll never forget the first time you said something true, and now that it's happened again, I feel like anything is possible.

I like your new look. Human. It suits you. Source
I'd also like to congratulate you in staying in character for so long, which must be really hard to do. I was surprised to learn from your second accidental truth that the word "respect" is actually in your lexicon after all, which makes it all the more remarkable to me that you are able to maintain your public persona and walk through your days as if you are not - literally - being followed at every step by the taxpayers with whom you refuse to communicate. How do you ignore us so well? How can you pretend that people are not shouting "SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!" at you every time you speak beyond closed doors or invite-only events? How do you smile and wave and pretend we do not exist?  I tried pretending you don't exist, too, for a while, but it only lasted one pay period, because when I got my check I couldn't help but remember that, alas, you do exist, as evidenced in your palpable presence in the hole that was once the money I need to survive and support my family.  So I congratulate you, and sincerely, on being able to pull off your act in the face of such resistance. Shy of Cheney and Rumsfeld, I can't think of any greater political instance of public douchebaggery. Your critics (*myself included) can say what they want, but we've got to hand it to you on this one: you are consistent and you pull off your public smuggery better than almost anyone. In fact, this photo is the first I've ever seen of you where you actually look concerned, or worried, or capable of sincere emotional response to external stimuli. I like it! You should act human more often!

Your lack of public displays of humanity aside, though, I like to think that your recent accidental truth is evidence that maybe you are hearing us. And maybe you are waking up to the reality that the recall elections are looking pretty good for those who have been "given the facts" about how seriously your "business model" is failing this state.  Because it sounds to me like you're getting ready to deal with the very likely prospect of not owning the Senate anymore. Who knows? Maybe it's all talk.  Or maybe one day I'll even hear you say you're ready to start a dialogue with your constituents, too. Or maybe the time for that has come and gone. It does seem kind of a waste, what with your own recall so close at hand. Maybe next time, if you ever say anything true again. My guess it that day will be at your farewell ceremony: "It was an honor to serve the people who paid for me to hijack this state and I have no regrets..."   I plan to be there in person. And I promise not to interrupt, so everyone can hear your speech. Look for me! Maybe we can chat after, assuming you'll lift your moratorium on communicating with dissidents once you're no longer an elected official.

In closing, I'd like to quote you - yes you - and your brave words the first time you said something true:

"People are ready to move on."

Yes, we are. We're already moving on. Forward! Toward retrieving democracy from your partisan stronghold and getting the people their voice back. Toward your recall, or your resignation, whichever comes first. Because here's something else that's true about these recalls: they're all about you. They're about your abuse of power, your bullying and your strong-arming of your own party into cheating the people of Wisconsin out of its proud tradition of bipartisan collaboration and its ability to maintain essential social programs and excellent schools while balancing its budget and ensuring workers' rights. You can't just hijack that history and try to make it your own. Like soon-to-be-ex Senator Alberta Darling prophetically said this week, "elections have consequences."  I hope you'll enjoy them. I know I will, once we clean up the mess you've made of our state.

Thanks again for the refreshing departure from your usual lies!

Yours sincerely,

Heather DuBois Bourenane
Wisconsin taxpayer, parent, and impatient demander of your resignation

Scenes from the opening of the Wisconsin State Fair, in which Walker is shouted down in protest of his refusal to communicate with his constituents. Video by Shit Scott Walker Is Doing To My State.

Stop Scott Walker. Save Wisconsin. Save America.

Wisconsin Recalls: It's (Also) About Saving Our Schools

An open letter to anyone who cares about public education, and to anyone who thinks the Wisconsin recall elections are just about public employees and collective bargaining.

3 August 2011

Dear friends,

You may have noticed, in the past few weeks, a couple of events coming out of Wisconsin news: The first is that our recall elections are coming up, and on August 9 and 16 the people will vote to see which of our recalled Senators will remain in office.  Up for recall are both Republican and Democratic legislators, and the stakes are high around the state as the balance of power could potentially shift in our Republican-run regime. The second thing you might have heard about is our participation at the Save Our Schools event in Washington, DC, which had a large Wisconsin contingent. These two events are not unrelated.  Public schools are under attack, and the recall elections might be our last chance for a while to fight for them. I ask that you take a few minutes to consider the evidence and the potential impact of these elections on policies that directly effect our children, and their schools.

Exhibit A: Alberta Darling, the Republican Senator from District 8 who famously admitted that she does not listen to public testimony during the budget hearings because (1) people had "already spoken" on this issue "at the ballot box" (a lie in the extreme, when you consider that Scott Walker did NOT campaign on his education-killing budget), (2) the people who testified didn't matter because they weren't "taxpayers" (since taxpayers would be working at that time - the time she purposely selected to limit potential testimony) and (3) the hoards of people testifying against the bill were irrelevant to her, because they didn't represent the "silent majority" of Wisconsin citizens who were too busy or too lazy to speak up in support of the budget.  That Alberta Darling, you should know, is being sued for her violation of the Open Records Law in refusing to produce her correspondence and appointments with out-of-state groups like the American Federation for Children, who have poured over $500,000 into Wisconsin recall ads and contributed to the campaigns of Republican legislators across the state. Other legislators have complied with similar requests. Why won't Darling produce these records? What is she trying to hide? Exhibit B might provide some answers to that question.

Exhibit B: The influence of ALEC and the AFC on Wisconsin's trickle-down education legislation.
If you've been following the news about Wisconsin, you know that one of the things Wisconsin citizens are most angry about is the draconian, unnecessary cuts to public education - over $1.7 billion (!) in cuts to our schools, which are forced now to balance budgets by forcing teachers into early retirement and cutting programs that are essential to our most at-risk students. These cuts, however, don't come in vacuum. While Walker repeatedly claims these cuts are just mandatory hits that show how we all have to "tighten our belts," not all belts in Wisconsin are getting tighter. These cuts come hand-in-hand with corporate tax breaks, a 15% increase to road construction and to other areas that benefit funders of Walker's campaign, as well as increased funding to charter schools - including the use of public funds to provide vouchers for rich children to attend private schools, legislation that comes to us directly from the coffers of one of Wisconsin's major campaign contributors: Amway/Prince mogul Betsy DeVos and her astroturfing front-group, American Federation for Children, a group which has a national aim to privatize public education.  Michigan-based Betsy DeVos is perhaps most famous for her openness in acknowledging that she expects a "return" on her political investments - "buying influence," she calls it - a return that her Wisconsin investments, Scott Walker, Scott and Jeff Fitzgerald (the brothers who serve as heads of the Wisconsin Senate and House), Senator Alberta Darling, Representative Robin Vos (the current WI head of ALEC), and others (including some Democrats) are apparently more than willing to provide. It's also worth noting that Scott Jensen, the former Wisconsin Assembly Speaker who was convicted of felony charges of abuse of office, sits on the AFC board as "Senior Advisor" to its "Governmental Affairs Team." The conservative group The Presidential Coalition, an offshoot of Citizens United, has spent $300,000 in ads supporting Republican Luther Olsen in his race against Fred Clark in District 14. Ethics violations have been filed against tax-dodger Kim Simac, who's challenging incumbent Jim Holperin (D) in District 12, for failing to included the "paid by" on her tv ads. While both sides have raised significant funds at the grassroots and local level, the number of out-of-state special interest groups pouring money into keeping the Wisconsin Senate Republican is directly linked to the national movement to privatize public schools, a fact that voters should not overlook when entering the ballot boxes in the upcoming weeks. What return do they expect on their "investments"? Is the quality of your child's education a price you are willing to pay for it?

Exhibit C: Scott Walker, national pawn poster boy for "school choice." 
Code for privatizing public education, "school choice" legislation slowly defunds public schools as it builds up programs to fund private education.  With millions of dollars pouring into these efforts, our own Scott Walker has become the national model for the shameless exploitation of public funds in the name of "education." When he signed into law the voucher bill that conservative news outlet Newsmax glowingly called "the largest expansion to the state’s school choice programs in history," Betsy DeVos sang his praises: “Governor Walker and state legislators pledged to put Wisconsin’s children first, and today that important pledge has become law. We encourage governors and state legislators across the nation to be equally bold in fighting for the creation and expansion of school choice programs.” Claiming to represent minorities and low-income interests, the AFC garners misleading "support" from conservative front groups like School Choice Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Council of Religious & Independent Schools, Hispanics for School Choice, and Democrats for Education Reform, all of which have similar goals of using public funds to support private education with the elimination of income caps, district regulations, teacher accreditation, testing and curriculum requirements, and the legal requisite of citizen input and transparency.  In short, the privatization and deregulation of public education, which can be more simply and accurately referred to as the destruction of public education as we know it. And Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is marching at the forefront of this movement, proudly presenting the keynote address at the AFC's annual national conference in Washington, D.C. this spring. Dean Pagani sums up Walker's speech perfectly:

The keynote speech at the AFC summit was given by Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, who has become the symbol of the taxpayer battle against public employee unions. His remarks however did not dwell on the labor/management aspect of the choice movement. Instead, Walker made a direct connection between school choice and economic expansion. More than half a dozen times during his remarks he came back to the idea that statistics in his state show the more choice has expanded the more the economic strength of the state has “expanded on a parallel track.”
Walker and those who supported his education-killing budget know exactly what's at stake here. They are willing to sacrifice the good of our schools and the quality of public education for the benefit of the few, and the already-affluent. They do not have my children's interests in mind, and unless you're rich, they don't care about your kids, either.   This is why we need to recall Scott Walker, Alberta Darling, and every other Wisconsin legislator who supported this bill. They all ran on a pro-education platforms, and have since done everything in their power to defund public education in favor of a privatized, tax-payer funded private school system.  Ironically, they continue to depict outraged Wisconsin citizens as 'out-of-state' dissidents or union thugs, while they meet behind closed doors with members of ALEC and the AFC, selling our kids to the highest bidder and asking us to pay the price.

I ask that you join me in sharing with your friends and neighbors in Wisconsin the importance of these recall elections - to us, and to the rest of the country as they watch these elections unfold. People need to know what is really at stake here. It's not just about unions. It's not about money, or partisan politics, or collective bargaining. It's about all that, and more. It's about transparency. It's about voter rights, worker rights, human rights. It's about protecting our state from national policy-pushers whose policies will only benefit the few. It's about protecting our schools.  It's about our kids.  And my kids are not for sale, and their education isn't either. How about yours?

Heather DuBois Bourenane
Wisconsin taxpayer, parent, and supporter of public education

Scott Walker's keynote address at the AFC national policy summit. "National policy," eh? What about states' rights and local governance?  Who do you want deciding on the curriculum at your kids' school? If you want to remain a part of this process, these recall elections matter more than you realize. When public schools are privatized, citizen input and publicly elected school boards are a thing of the past.  The Wisconsin legislators who voted in blind partisan support of Walker's policies have abandoned our schools and the communities they serve. That is why I'm working to see them recalled. They have broken their promises and sold out our kids. It's about the children.  It's about the schools.

UPDATE: On Aug. 3, 2011, a day after a lawsuit was filed against her for withholding public information in violation of the Open Records Law, Alberta Darling produced the requested information regarding her relationship with the American Foundation for Children, currently pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into her campaign.  See more here and see the emails, which clearly show the AFC's hand in authoring the Wisconsin legislation, here.