Saturday, June 25, 2016

Do you know why teachers are being murdered?

I learn about a lot of goings on through social media. I actually prefer learning what's going on in the world that way. I get to choose who I pay attention do - the media doesn't get to choose what I see.

One story that caught my eye was on the verge of being unbelievable. It had to do with teachers. In Wisconsin, we are aware of the kinds of attacks that are being faced every day. After Scott Walker was elected dictator, one of the first things that he did was go after public employees - to include public educators - with Act 10. Not only did this take away the teachers' voice with regard to working conditions, but, his budget also included the largest funding cuts to public education in the history of the state!

Attacks on education are going on all across the world. Working and living conditions are bad here, but, teachers are not being imprisoned or killed for standing up for their students.

At least not yet. Not here.

The story is different just south of the U.S. border:

"On Sunday night, June 12, as Ruben Nuñez, head of Oaxaca’s teachers union, was leaving a meeting in Mexico City, his car was overtaken and stopped by several large king-cab pickup trucks. Heavily armed men in civilian clothes exited and pulled him, another teacher, and a taxi driver from their cab, and then drove them at high speed to the airport. Nuñez was immediately flown over a thousand miles north to Hermosillo, Sonora, and dumped into a high-security federal lockup.

Just hours earlier, unidentified armed agents did the same thing in Oaxaca itself, taking prisoner Francisco Villalobos, the union’s second-highest officer, and flying him to the Hermosillo prison as well. Villalobos was charged with having stolen textbooks a year ago. Nuñez’s charges are still unknown." (source)

If jail isn't bad enough for trying to tell the world what is happening there is always another method to shut someone up:

If you'd like to know a little more about what's going on, please check out the following link from "In These Times"

On Friday night a few friends got together on the front lawn of the Mexican Consulate in Milwaukee to do what friends do - stand up for each other. We wanted to bring attention to what's going on in Mexico and educate the public.

It's what educators do. I'm not a teacher, but, who I am is a result of them.

Please - read about the story. Make some calls. Let people know.
Here is a list of numbers and contacts.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Senator Ron Johnson Should Renounce Donald Trump -Op-Ed Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel - 6/20/2016

At a campaign event last week, Donald Trump accused American troops of stealing funds earmarked for rebuilding Iraq. Naturally, after an immediate backlash to Trump's bizarre attempt to score political points by smearing servicemen and women who served honorably in Iraq, his campaign backpedaled and tried to claim that he wasn't actually referring to American soldiers. But the damage was done; Trump showed his true colors and the disdain he feels for America's veterans.
Of course, this isn't the first time Trump has demonstrated a total lack of respect for veterans. After he bragged about having raised millions of dollars, including $1 million of his own money, for veterans' causes back in January, it became clear that this claim was dishonest. Not only did the fundraiser raise far less than he claimed, Trump did not actually donate the $1 million of his own money until it became the subject of intense media scrutiny four months later. 
As a veteran, these incidents are particularly painful for me to watch, but as an American I am also shocked and angered on a daily basis at Trump's slanderous comments about women, people with disabilities, immigrants and Muslim Americans. 
Trump has proved himself to be not only vulgar and offensive, but also unpredictable and irresponsible, with little respect for freedom of the press or our rule of law. Having Trump in the Oval Office — and at the helm of America's military — would pose a serious threat to our security.
Unfortunately, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has refused to show the political courage to denounce this dangerous demagogue. He said that he would "support" the nominee, but not endorse him, as though there is any meaningful difference, and even went so far as to say he would campaign with Trump in Wisconsin. In spite of his recent claims that he does not support Trump's proposed ban on Muslim immigration to the United States, Johnson has still not denounced Trump or acknowledged the threat he poses to our country.
Choosing his party and his political career over the interests of our nation is indefensible, and history will not judge kindly those who stayed silent and failed to show leadership in this critical moment.
Birds of a feather flock together. Johnson has an opportunity to be a leader by unequivocally denouncing Trump and all that he stands for. If he does not support Trump's racist rhetoric and his attacks on America's veterans, it's time he said so. 
Randy Bryce is an Army veteran who serves as president of the Veterans Chamber of Commerce and chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party's Veterans Caucus.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Don't Expect Mushy Posts Like This on a Regular Basis...

One of the better things to be found in my divorce documentation is the part that states that I get to be with my son on Father's Day.

I get along very well with his mother these days. Nearly all of our communication deals with things that our son needs, or, what is going on in his life. We also text pictures to each other of fun things that we are doing with him. 

There were times when I wondered how a divorce would affect him. I wondered if he would be resentful that his mom and dad were no longer together. Thankfully, it never became an issue.

I don't get to see him as frequently as I would like, but, I understand that his mother misses him just as much when she isn't with him as I do when he's with her. We both dread when "our time" is up, but, both know that he'll be happy as soon as we hug each other goodbye.

In a way it's a good thing. Because the time we share isn't done every day, the hours that we have together mean that much more. For some odd reason, the kid never gets tired of hearing how amazing he is.

He really is.

More than that though, he genuinely is a miracle.

Not too long after getting out of the Army, I was diagnosed with Cancer. I didn't have insurance at the time, but, was lucky enough to get steered to the Medical College of Wisconsin. I was kind of a guinea pig. The treatment often consisted of a group of medical students being present. I did have a doctor that was in charge, and, I'll never forget him. The reason I bring this up is because the treatment involved surgery to remove the tumor. A lot of surgery. I was told that I probably wouldn't have children as a result of everything that they did to me.

Well, I did.

When we found out Ben's mom was pregnant, I was stunned. (in a good way) Almost in disbelief. We already had a house together, and were in a committed relationship, but, the news changed everything. It pushed a wedding ahead of schedule.

I may no longer be a husband, but, I will always be a son. And a dad. Even though the marriage didn't last, I can honestly say that my appreciation for fatherhood and motherhood increased.

I'm getting ready to go pick my son up now at his mother's house. (We split everything up 50/50. She got the inside of the house. I got the outside :))

Right now I miss him, but, that is soon going to change. He's helped me learn not to start counting down how much time we have left, but, to fully appreciate every moment that we have together. Every minute that I'm with him is proof that miracles take place.

When we're not together, I have dedicated my time to making sure that his future is brighter. These days it's taking a lot more effort than I'd care to expend, but, it keeps me occupied. It helps speed up the time that we're not together.

When I go to pick him up after school, I always have a smile on my face. That place is filled with miracles. Maybe one of your miracles is there?

Not only am I thankful on Father's Day to have a dad, but, I am thankful to be a dad. I'm thankful to believe in miracles. They take place every day. I'm thankful to those of you reading this who help me make a better future for our miracles. It's like lighting someone else's candle with your own. The light on yours doesn't get dimmer while you do it, but, it helps everyone by doing so.

So, THANK YOU! is what this is basically all about. Happy Father's Day everyone. Appreciate what you have to appreciate. It's not what you don't have that's important, but what you do have and being grateful for.

Without a son, I'm not a dad - and the sooner I hit the "publish" button to magically make this appear on the interwebs, the sooner I get to share some smiles with my miracle...

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Forward Wisconsin

With the Democratic nomination process coming to a close (even if one wishes to wait until the convention in Philly) I feel that it needs to be brought up that indeed, all politics are local.
I think that's one thing that we all can agree on.

I can't think of one place that has gone through more turmoil than we have in Wisconsin. We went from disagreeing with a smile to full-blown uncivil war. It's not just the horribly extreme scorched economy policies that Walker Inc. has brought to our state, it's the division. This division isn't collateral damage. It was the intent. Divide and conquer.

Before I continue, let me ask you - how has the White House directly helped what has been going on here the past few years?

I don't think I need to tell you what the race for the White House is doing TO Wisconsin. (and other places as well) It's helping Scott Walker do what he does best - "divide and conquer".

Everyone is aware by now that there will very likely be Supreme Court seats to fill. There is one open now. Those spots are selected for life. ("Life" is a bit longer on the timeline than one Presidential term for those who haven't been following) We've learned in Wisconsin what a state supreme court can allow. Basically,  the Extreme GOP majority can write up anything that they'd like no matter how insane the bill is. Someone with two nickels left to rub together then sues to stop it. It goes up the legal chain to the (bought and paid for) Wisconsin supreme court where the conservative majority assures us that it's not a crazy idea. Sometimes a Conservative Wisconsin Justice will try to strangle someone, but, that will probably happen with less frequency now that Prosser is retiring. On a statewide level, we. are. screwed.

Well Badgers, there is a "higher power" that we can look to for help after our highest court shows why the Right spends millions on getting their Justices elected for a ten year term. It's not the White House. It's who the person in the White House picks - the U.S. Supreme Court.

Public unions almost had a ruling made against them that would have been disastrous for the Labor movement. A seat remains to be filled, and, the majority Republican Senate refuses to fill the spot by doing what they are paid to do.

This brings me back to my original train of thought.

Wisconsin can do our part to help regain control of the U.S. Senate. We can end the embarrassment of having CEO Ron Johnson polluting the D.C. air. We can, and, we will elect Russ Feingold later this year.

That is - IF we keep our act together.

It's no secret I spoke at a Bernie rally during the Wisconsin primary. People who know me - know me.

How much has the White House done to save "Our House"? Honestly, not as much as I would have hoped to see.

Fact is, regardless of Hillary or Bernie winning, it will still be up to us to get things done. That is, unless Trump wins. In that case, not only is the entire country screwed, but, you can put the final fork in Wisconsin. We will be done.

I'm not writing this to guilt you into voting one way or another, but, I am telling you that there are a lot of votes needed to be cast for local races in Wisconsin. Start at the bottom and work your way up on the ballot.

One more thing. There's all of this bullcrap fighting going on. It's a civil war that we got going within the uncivil war that Walker unleashed. Knock it off!

I honestly think that with Trump's unfavorable rating at 70%, the Presidential election will be a blowout win for the Dems - especially with him now going full blown crazy by accusing veterans of stealing government money.

I'm not going to tell you who you need to vote for, but I am going to remind you that we have a full ship of Banana Republicans who need to be shoved off. When we need to sail, it doesn't help to have people drilling holes in the floorboards.

The primaries are over.

We are the ones who are going to need to work together. Don't create your own "divide and conquer". Remember who was standing next to you when we were over 100,000 strong in Madison. All of us. Together
We have power.

Use it.
Or lose it.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Unite. Vote. Win.

Not surprisingly, I attended the recent Democratic Party of Wisconsin 2016 State Convention. There was one surprise when I checked in. It consisted of a "free upgrade" to the "Ceasar Suite". (I'm convinced the cleaning woman never had an easier time, or that room had a more boring night than the one that I spent in it)

I have the honor of being the Chair for the WisDems Veteran Caucus. It was going to be the first meeting that I had the privilege of "chairing". We had the honor of being visited by Russ Feingold and Senator Tammy Baldwin. We had Congressional candidates. We also were very happy to get a visit by Democratic Representatives to the Assembly Dianne Hesselbein, Christine Sinicki, and Tod Ohnstad. They sit on the Assembly Veterans Committee. The meeting was scheduled to last for 45 minutes. It went on for an hour and a half.

Nobody was in a hurry to leave. Most of what took place was positive. Actually, all of what took place was positive. When veterans talk - even if we complain, and, someone listens - it's a positive thing.

Veterans have EARNED the right to be heard. It would be easy to go off on a tangent right now into a patriotic rant, but, that's not the reason why I decided to sit down and throw some words together. Let me just end this thought by writing that I really look forward to annually being in a room of those who signed on a dotted line to put their lives on another line if need be. Veterans from all different periods were in attendance. Some complained about the "exclusivity" of certain vet groups, or needing to meet certain criteria before being recognized in groups outside of the one that we were in. The WisDems Veteran Caucus is the only one that accepts everyone.

The remainder of the evening was filled with amazing speeches from members of Congress, the U.S. Senate, and, ended with the current Secretary of Labor Tom Perez firing up the crowd in a big way.

Saturday began by wiping sleep out of my eyes due to an early start. The Resolutions and Bylaws voting was to take place. I put forth a resolution that would help Building Trades unions with a "Responsible Bidder" provision. Prevailing Wage is to be repealed in 2017 thanks to a political attack on us that will only serve to make it more difficult for local contractors to win bids. The provision states that jobs using tax dollars requires contractors who place bids to be responsible. That's basically the jist of it. Don't cheat, don't lie, and, pay into state funds that take care of our workers. The resolution passed.

I had been contacted earlier in the week by State Rep. Dianne Hesselbein who asked if I would be interested in another resolution that would address an earlier attack on how veterans receive help from the state. It was written up, and, it also passed. Rep. Hesselbein is to be commended for her energy directed at taking care of all who Served. (to include her husband, a veteran)

Both of the resolutions were victories. They weren't written about in local papers, or, advertised on television. Nevertheless, they passed, and, became part of who we as Democrats are.

Later in the morning I had the honor of nominating Jason Rae to be reelected to the DNC. He won. (actually WE all won as a result)

Now for the more difficult part of this piece.

This year the motto was "Unite. Vote. Win."

I was curious how the two days would go after reading about a few states where the conventions became contentious.

The only time this year's convention had grumblings was during the raffle when a few people won more than one basket. Hardly an occasion to wear tin foil.

Overall there was a tremendous amount of unity on display. Even all of the candidates running for the four DNC spots were cordial to each other. I would have worn all of their stickers had I not publicly endorsed  two of them. (Jason Rae and Glendale Mayor Bryan Kennedy)

A moment of excitement was looking forward to the vote on whether or not the DPW officially chose to change the "superdelegate" rule. Personally, I am in favor of changing it. It went through with a huge majority of those in the audience.

When it all came to an end, I almost wished that it would have lasted another day. I really look forward to seeing everyone from throughout the state that I don't get to see very often.

Mission accomplished for the #Unity part. As far as the next step - it's not always good Democrats voting who lose an election. It's good Democrats who don't vote that cost us elections.

There is too much at stake to not get every single person to the polls in November. We need a big win in Wisconsin in so many seats.
There's also a Presidential election I am told. (I will be addressing the POTUS election separately)
Within the state we can't afford to be divided. We need to bring sanity back.

Get. Out. The. Vote.

Unity. Vote. Win.

It really is that simple.

Friday, June 3, 2016

A union guy and a member of the DNC executive committee walk into a bar....

Well, we didn't actually walk into a bar. By the headline, you may be expecting something to make you laugh. Consider your attention "grabbed".

The union guy would be me - a dad who currently is part of a crew building the latest skyscraper addition to the city of Milwaukee's rapidly changing skyline. The DNC executive committee member is Jason Rae - a political dynamo who is creating an incredible amount of positive change as well.

Did I mention that Jason is not "just" a member of the Democratic National Committee but part of the executive committee? That's huge. ("YUGE" even) Wisconsin has more than just a little say with what direction the DNC goes. We currently have a voice within leadership. 

I read quite a bit about people being dissatisfied with the way things currently are going. I know for a fact that Jason is aware of this as well. He's the one who shared this with me: 

Above is a link where you can share testimony regarding the DNC platform. It's not just a "token" attempt. You can submit written, recorded testimony, or even arrange to testify in person. (after having my own testimony cut off after waiting for an entire day by Wisconsin Republicans during their "ambush legislating" of the RTW4L bill - I can "testify" that I appreciate others who are willing to hear what I have to say)

I'm not going to make this into an extremely long post as I'm still getting ready to drive to the WisDems convention in Green Bay, but, I thought that there were a few things that people should be aware of.

One story that I'm pretty sure nobody knows about is how Jason Rae stood up for a veteran group that I've become a part of - The Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce. In our infancy, we were blindsided by that ever reliable source of misinformation - "MediaTrackers". They put out a "hit piece". It caught the attention of WMC. (yes, that WMC - Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce)
Initially they bought what was written about us. It was Jason who made the noise that got them to take us for what we are - an entity without political leaning who are solely committed to helping veterans either get a job, or, create jobs. (thank you Jason!) Anyone who stands up to WMC and can make them listen has a very special voice.

Staying on the subject of "chamber of commerce", most people know that Jason is the executive director for the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce. He has taken that group to receive some incredible national recognition. 

Not too long ago, working on construction job sites was how I spent the majority of my time. Many reading this are aware of "the change" that took place in me following the extremist incursion of Wisconsin following the election that allowed Scott Walker to turn our state into a Banana Republic. (subject for innumerable future posts)

When I went through my transformation, I looked for help. We needed all of the allies that we could get in order to mount a counteroffensive. Jason was there. If anyone had a question, Jason was one of "thee people" to ask. Not only could you ask, but, you'd get an answer.

I don't consider myself to be anything "special". I do what I can. I always do what I feel is the correct thing to do. Always. I consider it a privilege to be part of an incredible team that is fighting to take back Wisconsin and make it into something that we recognize. I do put my "all" into it. It causes me to lose sleep. It causes me to miss work. (luckily belonging to a union - it is understood when I take off)

At the heart of what makes me who I am is just a guy who busts his backside in order to provide a better world for his child. I appreciate the people in this world who spend their time making it a better world.

Jason Rae is one of those people. I completely trust him. Complete trust doesn't come easy these days, but, he has it. It has been earned. He's had my back, and, I will watch his.

Jason could have asked anybody in the entire state of Wisconsin to nominate him this upcoming Saturday morning in his bid to continue serving on the DNC, and, it would have been a huge honor no matter who was asked. Huge. (YUGE even) (check out this huge list of supporters)

So, who did he ask?

He asked some guy that really isn't special in any measurable sense that sometimes limps to his car after work carrying a lunchbox who just cares about making things better.

He asked me. 

The only hesitation in accepting was allowing it to sink in that the conversation was taking place. Not just because it was me being asked, but, the situation of where we were. An everyday ironworker had been asked to nominate a leader of the DNC to be reelected.

For a working guy, this tells me all that I need to know about who is going to stand up for people like me. For us. This at a time when Unions are under attack and fighting just to exist.

If you are the convention this weekend, I hope you'll join me in casting a vote for Jason Rae. As a proud Union supporter, I will also be casting a vote for my Union Brother - Mayor of Glendale Bryan Kennedy.