HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN:

HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN - city of big bottoms and small minds.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

WISCONSIN WINTER FINALLY MAKES A REAL APPEARANCE

This is my favorite photo of the office, my little haven out in the middle of nowhere. I really like days like the one pictured because I can fire up the wood stove and get it so warm in here that I can strip down to my long johns!

This past Monday, while my friend Tom was visiting, after supper, in front of a good hot wood stove, we got to reminiscing about a couple of gigs on which he had kept me company for the road and Tom mentioned that he'd seen me at gigs when the audience was really with me, and gigs where there was a distinct feeling of disconnect.

We talked about what performers refer to as "a hell gig" - mine being an after dinner 45 minute set for Phillips Plastics. Should have known there was going to be trouble when the woman who contacted me told me that my fee was too high, talked me down $100, and when we got there we found a table piled with door prizes - enough prizes that by the end of the evening, everybody won something - and not cheap crap, either!

I tried my best to loosen them up and get them to laugh but I became aware that in their estimation, I really sucked. After about ten minutes, some of them got up, went out to the bar, ordered up some drinks, and talked loudly among themselves.

Guess it could have been worse. No prime rib for me, but at least I got my downsized check.

The only bright side of that gig was that it was on our way to Green Bay, the very place we were looking for as we had tickets to a Packer game.

I went into that job thinking it would be really fun!

Then Tom brought up the gig I did down near where he lives. It was one of the winters in which I had slipped and fallen on the ice and I actually did the luncheon from a wheel chair.

So Tom and his good brother Stan came with me to be my "roadies". Can't remember where the supper club was except it was going west out of Madison near Mt. Horeb.

This was for a farm credit organization - so we got there early so as not to be in the way when the members started showing up to sign in for lunch. Farm folk love a "free" meal - who doesn't? so it was a big crowd. Then just before they all sat down, a number of Amish signed in and took seats way in the back corner.

I began to worry when the crowd that had gathered didn't take the conversation level up to a roar - which usually is a good sign that they are tipping a few and relaxing, will be sitting down to good cooking soon, and surfeiting themselves enough to be a good audience -

But this crowd stayed timid right up until the saying of Grace.

By the time they finished eating I was a nervous wreck, mostly because I was certain the Amish were going to really find the show disgusting.

I did my first bit and got an amazingly good response. By mid-show, everybody was laughing - and the Amish were laughing harder than the "Englishers"!

So it goes to show you never can tell. right?

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I love what's going down in politics right now! It's been a long time since the ordinary good guy American has some signs of hope!

This first e mail is one I got today from Mike Tate .. just want to pass it on as it talks abut the first step in getting rid of the King:


Dear Lawrence,

While volunteers from counties all across Wisconsin were turning in more than 1,000,000 recall signatures on Tuesday, Scott Walker was in New York City holding a $2,500 a plate dinner hosted by former AIG Chairman Maurice Greenberg at Citigroup's world headquarters.

Instead of facing the people of Wisconsin, Scott Walker decided that he would rather beg for more unlimited corporate cash from the Wall Street swindlers and fat cat bankers that destroyed the global economy to line their own pockets.

Will you show Scott Walker and his billionaire Wall Street pals that you stand with our One Million Strong people-powered movement by making a donation of $5 today?

https://secure.WisDems.org/donate/Wisconsin-vs-Wall-Street

Your donation of $5 or more will go directly to our legal defense fund to protect the voices of more than 1,000,000 Wisconsinites who want Scott Walker recalled from frivolous lawsuits and challenges filed by hot shot Wall Street-funded attorneys.

Scott Walker is in denial over the 1.5 tons of Democracy that you delivered on Tuesday. He didn't think working, middle-class people could do it. He didn't believe that the people of Wisconsin would rise up and take on his corporate army.

But you did. Now Scott Walker's last hope is to game the court system to toss out the historic number of signatures you turned in on Tuesday.

Their shady Wall Street legal shenanigans will fail. And that's because of the strength and determination of grassroots supporters like you.

More than 1,000,000 Wisconsinites are fighting Scott Walker's extreme vision that puts the interests of Wall Street and powerful corporate lobbyists ahead of working, middle-class families.

Protect their voice and stand with them. Make a donation of $5 or more to our legal defense fund right now.

https://secure.WisDems.org/donate/Wisconsin-vs-Wall-Street

Thank you for your support,

Mike Tate
Chair, Democratic Party of Wisconsin

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So I did! And I have done before! Not much - I don't have much - but every little bit helps! I hope you will consider funding the war on Walker too! Together we can make another glorious chapter in the history of THE GREAT PROGRESSIVE STATE OF WISCONSIN!


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Then there's this! One of the greatest things that has happened in my lifetime is the conscientious attempt to keep our wild life thriving. For me, it was exciting to see large flocks of wild turkeys working their way through corn stubble, to see an occasional coyote along the road, and right outside my door I have seen badger, fox, and eagle.

Now in addition to the polar bear, the wolves, tigers, and god know what else, the North American Bison, which was brought dangerously close to extinction at the end of the 19th Century, and which I thought was making a huge come back, is once again being threatened.



There are few North American wild animals as iconic as wild bison.

Once hunted to near extinction in one of the most shameful episodes in American history, only the bison of Yellowstone National Park survived in the American wild. Today this wild herd still numbers only around 3,500.

But each winter, when they descend from the park in search of forage free of Yellowstone’s deep snow, these magnificent animals are hazed back into the park, rounded up in holding pens or shipped to slaughter, all out of exaggerated fears that they could spread disease to cattle.

With winter well under way now, Yellowstone’s bison are once again at risk of hazing, capture or even slaughter as they search for food outside the park. Will you help them survive?

Help fund our efforts to increase tolerance and expand habitat for wild bison around Yellowstone, and prepare new homes for Yellowstone’s bison on tribal lands. Text WILDLIFE to 90999 now.

Last month, we achieved an important milestone in our efforts to restore wild bison to more places, when Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer approved moving 68 wild Yellowstone bison now in quarantine to tribal lands of Fort Belknap and Fort Peck Indian Reservations to start new conservation herds.

Defenders staff played an important role in these negotiations and in working with tribes to prepare areas for bison, and caring supporters spoke up time and time again in support of the tribes’ requests to help secure new homes for these bison.

Unfortunately, our work is far from finished.

Support our efforts to increase human tolerance and safeguard even more wild bison and other imperiled wildlife. Text WILDLIFE to 90999 now to make a $10 donation.

To date, Defenders of Wildlife is the only national conservation group to help fund bison restoration on the tribal lands of the Assiniboine, Gros Venture and Sioux Tribes. In the months ahead, we aim to increase our efforts to protect this animal we consider to be one of the most important biological and cultural species in North America.

Your $10 mobile contribution now will not only help offset the costs of completing the necessary fencing and other infrastructure needed to make their homes on tribal lands, but it will also support work to expand habitat for bison around Yellowstone National Park, oppose the annual hazing and slaughter of Yellowstone’s wild bison, increase human tolerance, and advocate for other wildlife-saving initiatives.

Why can't we just get along?

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Here is this week's letter from Senator Larson:

This past year has been one of little progress, especially in the area of job creation and economic growth. Below we look at the partisan road blocks that have prevented our state from moving forward.

As usual, please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns or opinions you may have about our community or our state.

Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7



Wisconsin at a Standstill, Forward No More


Wisconsin is the birthplace of progressive reform, the home of progressive leader Fighting Bob La Follette, and boasts the motto "Forward" on its state flag. Our state's history and traditions center around the ability of Wisconsinites to work together to keep our state moving in the right direction.

Unfortunately, under Governor Walker's control, Wisconsin has become divided like never before, bringing common sense reform and work on real solutions to a stand still. Like a car that has run out of gas, our state is currently stalled, even on issues that garner bipartisan support. Below we will examine issues that remain untouched and ignored by Governor Walker and Republican legislators.

Job Creation and Support for Small Business
Governor Walker's major campaign promise was to create 250,000 jobs by 2014. To reach this promise, he should have been creating approximately 5,200 jobs each month. However, his promise remains unfulfilled. Under Governor Walker's leadership, which began in January 2011, the number of jobs Wisconsin has created is quickly approaching zero as we have lost jobs every month since his budget went into effect. Over the past year, Governor Walker has created less than 1% of the jobs he promised.


Governor Walker also called for two special session this year under the guise of prioritizing job creation in our state. Unfortunately, the governor chose to take advantage of this fiscal crisis to give away our school funds and middle-class tax breaks to large corporations in one of the biggest special interest giveaways in state history totaling $2.3 billion.

Democrats, on the other hand, made jobs their main focus this session by:
Unveiling a jobs package of 10 bills on the first day of session designed to put our unemployed Wisconsinites back to work
Introducing legislation to encourage investment in start-up businesses, increase access to capital for small businesses, and expand grant programs to provide training in manufacturing
Proposing an additional package of nine bills aimed at giving our workers much-needed training and connecting skilled workers with potential employers
Despite our hard work, dedication and commitment to advancing these job creation measures, extremists continue to throw up partisan road blocks. As a result, these measures are currently languishing in their assigned committees unable to move forward.

Other Legislative Priorities On Hold
Job creation and economic growth are not the only issue areas with bills being held hostage by the majority party. There are many other legislative initiatives that Wisconsinites would like to see move forward that are being held up by Governor Walker and Republican legislators. Below are just a few examples of bills that continue to be ignored by Governor Walker and Republican leadership despite having bipartisan support or approval from the majority of Wisconsinites:
Strengthening Wisconsin's lax drunk driving laws through increased used of ignition interlock devices
Returning the $35 million cut from our technical colleges, which are crucial for producing skilled workers
Ensuring voters can get the documents needed to obtain a photo ID free of charge
Requiring ethics reports to be filed by members of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to prevent fraud
Applying our Open Meetings Laws to the Wisconsin State Legislature
Providing adequate funding for women's health services such as breast exams, pap smears and birth control
Immediately removing the caps on FamilyCare that were wrongfully imposed by Governor Walker and his administration
Turning down $38 million federal grants to help Wisconsin implement portions of federal health care law, which provides coverage for pre-existing conditions and ensures the majority of funds are spent on patient coverage not profits
Allowing cooperation between municipalities in order to save money
Restoring funding to the recycling program, preventing a cost-shift to local government who already faced cuts to shared revenue in the budget
Wisconsin deserves better. Traditionally, it has been the Wisconsin way to put our partisanship aside in troubled times to get things done. Governor Walker has soundly rejected this tradition.



Wetlands Destruction Bill Passes Committee
This past Thursday, Republicans on the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Environment ignored a scientific and balanced approach to wetlands preservation by rejecting efforts to craft a consensus bill. Rather than turn the bill into something that hunters, anglers, environmentalists and neighbors could stand behind, Republicans voted against a tradition of bipartisan work and in lock-step opposed amendments to decrease flooding and preserve wildlife habitats. As a result, Senate Bill 368, legislation that significantly diminishes environmental protections that keeps our water safe for drinking and recreation and protects our valuable wetland resources, is now available for scheduling on the Senate Floor.

Concerns were raised during the hearing about how passage of this legislation will likely irreversibly degrade our wetlands and contribute to increased flooding. Wetlands are critical in protecting the health of our community. They purify runoff from cities, farms and construction sites, reducing our water treatment costs and ensuring we have cleaner water for drinking and recreation. Furthermore, wetlands are able to store large quantities of water to help prevent devastating shore erosion and flooding in our neighborhoods. The protection provided by wetlands is crucial in the Milwaukee area, which was devastated by flooding in June 2008 and 2009, and July 2010.

Wetlands also play a prominent role in Wisconsin's environment and tourism industry. According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, nearly 40% of Wisconsin's 370 species of birds live in or use our wetlands as well as many mammals, fish, amphibians and reptiles, such as white-tailed deer, waterfowl and walleye. Additionally, Wisconsin's wetlands are home to one-third of the plants and animals on our state's endangered and threatened species list. The nature and wildlife featured in Wisconsin's wetlands provides the perfect setting for recreational wildlife watchers, anglers, hunters and boaters.

Senate Bill 368 became a clear choice of priorities with legislators opting to side with hunting and fishing groups along with environmental scientists or aligning themselves with special interests seeking easier profits. The following are some of the more problematic provisions that remain in this legislation:
Eliminates protections for areas designated as having significant ecological, educational or recreational value
Rolls back the "avoid and minimize" rule that ensures developers consider alternative non-wetland sites to avoid unnecessary destruction of our valuable natural resources
Allows for automatic approval of some permits after only 30 days, leaving our communities at risk if the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is hampered in their review process
Changes mitigation rules to allow high quality natural wetlands to be replaced with lower quality artificially created wetlands elsewhere in Wisconsin



January is Reproductive Awareness Month
This week is national reproductive awareness week. Access to reproductive health care services is directly linked to bettering health care outcomes for women. In addition to the primary purpose of allowing women to plan and prepare for pregnancy, basic reproductive health services also aim to save lives by preventing and treating life-threatening diseases such as HIV/AIDS and breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer through pap smears, breast exams, and screening and treatment for STDs.

I am supporting a resolution to proclaim January 22 through January 28 of this year Reproductive Rights Awareness Week in Wisconsin. This resolution encourages public awareness, conversation and support for reproductive health statewide. Some of the issues highlighted in this resolution include:
Emphasizing the importance of prenatal care in decreasing our infant and maternal mortality rates
Recognizing that reproductive services encourage prevention and treatment of health problems including ovarian cancer and cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease and osteoporosis
Supporting access to contraception for all women to better prevent unintended pregnancies
Acknowledging that issues related to women’s reproductive rights are personal issues that should be decided by women with their families, health care providers or clergy members
The unprecedented assault on women’s reproductive rights by Governor Walker and Republican legislators over the last year have reinforced the need to raise awareness about the grave consequences women face if access to reproductive care is restricted. The attack on women’s health began in Governor Walker's 2011-2013 Biennial Budget, which restricted access and funding for preventative health care services for women.

The health care options for Wisconsin’s young women was also negatively impacted with the repeal of the Healthy Youth Act, which helped ensure that Wisconsin’s youth were kept informed about contraceptive and sexually transmitted disease prevention. According to the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health, approximately 87% of Wisconsin voters support requiring sex education instruction that includes information about both abstinence and contraception.

We owe it to women across the state and future generations to not only bring awareness to the importance of reproductive health services, but to also support these services whole-heartedly to ensure that Wisconsin women will have adequate access to vital and life-saving reproductive care. I will continue to support legislative proposals that keep our state moving in the right direction on women’s health.

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