Happy Constitution Day! Guest post by Callen Harty

On Reading the Constitution Day (or Wisconsin Irony Day)  

by Callen Harty

Thanks to Callen for reposting here.
September 17, 2012
Dear Governor Walker,

I will be stopping by the Wisconsin Capitol again this afternoon as I have done almost every day since March of 2011 to sing four verses of “We Shall Overcome” in the rotunda.  But because last week you declared today “Read Your Constitution Day” I am also bringing a copy of the Bill of Rights to read after I sing, and I may break out in a rendition of the national anthem after that if I have any voice left.  I so appreciate the Constitutions of both the United States and Wisconsin that grant me the right to speak openly about my government and my feelings about it that I felt it would be appropriate to take advantage of your designated day to offer more than my usual song.

After I am done I plan on stopping by your office to give you the copy of the Bill of Rights from which I will read.  I am presuming in advance that despite living almost 50 of my 55 years in Wisconsin that I have still not accumulated enough wealth to be allowed into your office to see you in person, so I am writing this letter to thank you for your declaration to honor the Constitution.  I want to hand deliver it because my previous letters haven’t received any kind of serious response, unless you count automatically generated replies serious, so I can only guess that someone else is opening them and not passing them on to you.

I’ll let that go for now because the point of this letter is to thank you for your declaration.  In an age where all of your fellow Tea Party patriots firmly believe that the President of the United States is trying to overturn the Constitution and the rights it grants all of us I believe that a day to recognize the importance of the Constitution is a great idea.  While I don’t believe that President Obama intends to undo the foundation of our country I am concerned about certain things like indefinite detention and attempts to limit speech and peaceable assembly.

It is difficult to consider that either my President or my Governor would intentionally undermine or ignore the rights or the will of the people.  Still, I have concerns.  One of the reasons I wanted to give you a copy of the Bill of Rights is because I am afraid that perhaps you are only reading the Constitution as it was originally written and don’t understand that the Bill of Rights is actually considered part of the Constitution.  If you weren’t aware of it, it is really the first ten amendments to the Constitution (and there are many others after those first ten) and all of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights are valid and are legally considered part of the Constitution.

I know that you believe the Second Amendment is important because I have seen how you have paid special attention to it for your friends in the National Rifle Association (NRA).  They are incredibly lucky they have so much money that they can give to you to help raise your awareness.  I can only hope that my simple letter may help you realize that other parts of the Bill of Rights are equally important.  I feel bad that you didn’t know this and that somewhere in your years of educational pursuits you didn’t come across it.  When you read it (or have someone read it for you) you may be shocked to discover that in Wisconsin and in all of the United States citizens have the right of free speech.  We can legally protest our government, hold signs that mock the government, and more.  We have the right to gather in groups—as long as it’s peaceful—so that we can bring our concerns right to the heart of government.  And that’s all just in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, along with freedom of the press and prohibitions on the establishment of religion by governments and protections for those who want to practice their own religions.  It is no wonder we consider ourselves the greatest country in the world, as these are incredible promises.

Clearly, the founding fathers of Wisconsin agreed with the importance of these rights so much that they were enshrined in our own State Constitution.  As citizens of the great state of Wisconsin we have protections of these rights from both our state and federal governments.  As you know (I’m presuming again), a significant part your job, if not the most important, is to uphold the Constitution.  I’m sure that’s one of the reasons that you are encouraging all citizens to read it, so that we, too, can do our best to honor it.  I believe that I do that regularly when I show up at the Capitol to express my point of view through the free speech granted in both Constitutions under which I live and I am really glad to know that you appreciate that.

Thank you again for drawing attention to the Constitution and to the rights it guarantees.  It is too easy as a society for us to forget that we live under a government that was designed to be of, by, and for the people and that our leaders are employed by us.  This reminds us that it is not only our right, but our duty, to make sure the rights granted remain ours as long as this state and country shall endure.

Callen Harty

9/11: On memory and messaging

Dear friends,
I am a reluctant observer of 9/11, whose tragedy came hand-in-hand with a jingoistic and racist fervor that had direct negative impacts on my multicultural family and changed the tenor of American politics forever for the worse. 
I remember exactly where I was when I heard that the Towers had been attacked: I was stopping for a coffee on my way to Arabic class. I remember my friend completely distraught in class, shaking scared as she raced back home so she could be next to the phone to receive news from her family in New York. I remember a heady confusion of shock, tears, anger, concern, hope, pride, and solidarity as people all over the world came together in sympathy and support.  I remember the shockingly immediate negative reactions of suspicion, distrust, and even hatred that I saw right here in Wisconsin, and all over the country. I remember my disgust at how the tragedy was exploited into war-mongering. I remember how within weeks if you didn't plaster American flags all over your car, yourself, your words, you were "with the enemy."  I remember the stories of the victims' families who were not afforded insurance coverage, the rescue workers who continued to suffer injuries, faces of kids who would never again see their parent, parents who would never again see their children. I remember all of that. 
So 9/11 is always uneasy. For all of us.  We want to honor the dead, honor the day. But every year it seems increasingly impossible to do that without politicizing and romanticizing the tragedy, and the way our emotions and memories are so predictably manipulated is growing tedious and offensive. We need to be firm about facing up to the realities that led to - and from - that day, but we also need to keep the humanity of that tragedy in focus.  I found this beautifully sobering photo today on facebook on the Tom Joad page and think the caption really puts things into perspective. I repost it here with permission. 
I hope one day we find a way to honor the dead in a way that disrespects neither the living nor the truth.

Well, it's 9/11 again and that means it's time for us all to remember that we're Americans and put aside our differences, right? It's the day the entire world came together and people from Iran to France, from Brazil to Malaysia, were waving American flags and holding candlelight vigils. Yes, there was a candlelight vigil in Tehran for the victims of 9/11. Do you remember?

No, we don't. We've forgotten all about that. We've forgotten who to blame and how it was allowed to happen. There is all manner of filth and lies being told on conservative Facebook pages today about how Democrats are to blame for the attacks of 9/11. It made me stop and think back to the things that I recall about our national nightmare.

I remember White House counterterrorism coordinator, Richard Clarke, prowling the halls of the West Wing, BEGGING National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice for a meeting - but the responsibilities for counterterrorism had been assigned, by executive order, to the office of the Vice President, Dick Cheney. Mr. Cheney resisted any meeting, finally scheduling one for September 10th. Remember?

I remember CIA counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black's warning to then-CIA Director George Tenet about the likelihood of an attack, within the United States, by Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist organization.

And I remember that George made a compelling case for NSA Rice, pulling together all the fragments of intelligence his agency had gathered, bringing into sharp focus the very real possibility of an attack within our borders. All summer long, the CIA chief kept pressing Rice for a policy position or authorization for assets from the White House.

From all reports, this was weighing heavily on George Tenet. He wasn't sleeping well, because he was steeped in the details of his analysts and told Richard Clarke "I feel it coming. This is going to be the big one." Both men did whatever they could to get the Bush White House to authorize immediate action - and allow the agency to coordinate with other branches of the federal government to take action. They wanted to put defensive positions in place that might curtail, or minimize what they felt would be a devastating attack.

Do you remember what J.Cofer Black said following the CIA's meeting with Sec. Rice? Because I remember him saying "The only thing we didn't do was pull the trigger to the gun we were holding to her head."

I also remember the intelligence brief labeled "Bin Laden Threats Are Real." I remember the Presidential Daily Brief with a similar title: "Bin Laden determined to strike in US." And I absolutely, positively remember that the day after Bush received that sobering assessment of the threats facing the American people, he was carefree and joked with the press corps (while on vacation at his ranch in Texas) about his impending 55th birthday - not the impending attacks.

I remember the Project for a New American Century bemoaning the lack of political will to invest more billions into NextGen military hardware "absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event — like a new Pearl Harbor."

I remember that intelligence services from at least eleven other countries sent urgent warnings to their counterparts in the States about the impending attack.

I remember George Tenet recalling that “the system was blinking red.” And I remember that, despite routinely being scrambled within twenty minutes when contact is lost with any airplane, on 9/11 our fighter jets were on the ground two hours into the event.

I remember Bush reading "My Pet Goat." I remember that millions upon millions of dollars were made in the stock market, betting against American and United Airlines.

And I remember that the Bush administration stonewalled the investigation into what happened on 9/11 for 441 days, until shamed into doing something by the Jersey Girls, four widows of 9/11 who were relentless in their pursuit of the truth. And I know that the truth of what happened, is not contained within the pages of the report finally filed by the The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

I remember 9/11. Do you?

 - by  Tom Joad


Walker takes hypocrisy to the next level in latest E-update

1 September 2012
Dear Scott Walker,

Thanks for your latest E-Update.  Considering that it came just a day after the national brouhaha, I was surprised and disappointed that it did not contain an apology or redaction for your embarrassing tripling-down on Paul Ryan's oft-repeated lie that President Obama is somehow responsible for the closing of the Janesville GM plant that went under during the catastrophic years of wasteful spending under Bush.  Had the plant survived into the current administration, it may well have been saved by the automobile industry bailout that help revive so many other American plants.  Hearing you not only repeat - but further embellish - Ryan's lie was excruciating: an embarrassment to all Wisconsinites and a slap in the face to the Janesville workers still reeling from the job losses there.

But what REALLY struck me was what you did choose to discuss in your taxpayer-funded propaganda E-Update: in choosing this forum to make a shockingly whiny and disingenuous complaint  that the Secretary of Health and Human Services did not respond directly to your bullying demands that the administration not help our most needy (a demand so arrogant that Mitt Romney has it displayed on his campaign website),  you revealed - once again - that your trademark arrogance has not waned a bit post-recall election.  Jumping on the "Romney's lies are my lies" bandwagon, your letter to her ignores the fact that the Secretary's new welfare-to-work proposal would "be focused on improving employment outcomes" for struggling families and makes a number of absurd and deeply offensive contentions about how the plan would instead discourage people from seeking work.

I find it terribly ironic that you complain that Sec. Sebelius didn't respond directly but sent you what you claim is a "form letter" response to your complaints about welfare, given that you don't even give your own constituents the same courtesy.  Well, first of all, she did not send you a "form letter," even though many of her points were probably recycled from other communications. She replied directly and specifically to your concerns.  As someone who receives many auto-responses (like the ones you send) and form letters (like the ones elected officials who respond to their constituents send), I know the difference, and find it very unprofessional of you to misrepresent her response like that to the citizens of our state.  And you're probably not reading this letter, but most people who are know that I have been writing you with my concerns for the past year and a half plus.  (In outrage over your refusal to respond to the concerns of your constituents, I make my letters to you open. They're part of the Open Record, anyway, as you're sure to make threatening note of in your auto-reply.) To date I have received ZERO responses, beyond the auto-reply that tells me you're too busy to care about what I have to say but will nonetheless "keep [my] specific comments in mind."  If your office produces form letters, I have never received one.  Neither, to my knowledge, has a single other person I know. And I know many, many people who write you regularly.

How is it, exactly, that you think you're so much more important than the people you govern?  How is it that you think you deserve courtesies you are unwilling to offer yourself? How is it that you dare pretend to govern those to whom you can not even be persuaded to acknowledge, much less address?

More importantly, though, how dare you brag that Wisconsin so well-serves its poorest families when you broke your own promise not to raise taxes by CUTTING the Earned Income Tax Credit that you claim in your letter to the Secretary helps keep struggling Wisconsinites afloat!?

And how dare you pretend to know ANYTHING about the people in Wisconsin who are suffering under the boot of your tax increases when coupled with your cuts to wages, benefits and social services? How dare you imply that - given just the tiniest bit of Big Government Coddling, we would dance at the chance to never work a day in our lives?  How can you so openly show such contempt and disrespect for the hardworking people of your own state?  I LOVE working.  It's pretty much all I do.  I have four separate state jobs - all of which combined do not provide a living wage post-Act 10.  My husband works full time.  And we still qualify for Food Share, thanks to your helpful "tools" and "reforms."  So maybe next time you write to Secretary Sebelius you can keep those specific comments in mind.  Maybe you'll keep in mind that the policies you support are the ones that led to the unemployment of all those still-hurting Janesville workers. Maybe you'll keep in mind that while the rest of the country puts to work the Obama administration's reforms and sees actual job growth, Wisconsin has led the nation in job losses because of your stubborn refusal to move forward.

And maybe she'll respond with a nice form letter, letting you know she'll keep YOUR specific comments in mind, too.

See you at the ballot box in 2014.  I won't hold my breath about hearing from you sooner.

Heather DuBois Bourenane
Sun Prairie