Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

More "voter, schmoter."

politics, voting, third party campaign ads

Sometimes, the only thing you can say is "what she said!"

In looking for a sample ballot for the Tuesday, April 5, election (not so easy to find), I ran across an editorial by Journal Sentinel community columnist and fellow Tosan Annette Mertens. The crux:

If you don't know who's running, don't vote. Don't guess. Don't disrespect the lives of those who fought and died for this privilege by taking voting so lightly as to choose a candidate at random or just because he happens to belong to a certain party.

There are two crucial positions to fill, County Executive and Supreme Court Justice, and we are saturated with misinformation about the candidates, most of it from third party advertisers. If all you know is from ads, sensational chain emails, and robocalls, don't vote.

Oh: and here, in all its badly scanned splendor, is the sample ballot, just in time. That, too, deserves a little more care if this democracy is as important as we say it is.

Wordshifting: the meaning of "work"

Politics, language, Sarah Palin

When people lament the decline of language—and of the thinking behind it—I am like, all so right there with them. You know?

One of the words undergoing transformation is “work.” Since I’m out of it (work, that is), I have to admit to a conflict of interest in the word and what it means, especially as jobs vanish and work becomes disengaged from formal employment as we've known it.

According to the Urban Dictionary, "work" means two things. One is  “A place where people have to go everyday to get paid. Also known as ‘hell’."

The other is “a supply of contraband to be sold for profit.” This can be low quality “product” or cocaine.

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Sunshine principle, not just for some but for everyone

AIG, Economy, Politics, Sunlight Foundation

On the federal level, lawyers and legislators are arguing for keeping secret the names of the AIG bonus-eaters. They give a lofty-sounding argument underpinned by extreme example: the crazies are making vivid and sickening death threats to AIG members and their families.

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Hating, humor, and the stimulus bill

New York Post cartoon, Obama, political cartoons, Politics

Wednesday the New York Post published a cartoon that's drawing lots of outrage. From the Reverend Al Sharpton to the Huffington Post, people are saying that portraying President Obama as a chimpanzee, and an assassinated one at that, is ugly and racist.

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National security priorities


As long as some of us are talking about congressional districts in Louisiana, I thought I'd weigh in on serious national matters that get as close as Waukesha. Normal 0

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Bailout for the post-election comedy deficit

Fluff, Politics

After years of giddy humor brought on by easy targets in the White House and on the campaign trail, the inflated political comedy bubble burst on November 5, 2008.

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Getting on with it

It's not easy, Politics

At last I get to write something I actually know about: surviving disappointment -- and joy -- and getting on with the business of life. I don't know how long this period of euphoria or grief will last following the presidential election, but I know that it too shall pass.

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Real heroes are in the city clerk's office

Politics, Wauwatosa

When I moved into Wauwatosa seventeen years ago, no one came to my door with a welcoming plate of cookies. But neither did a self-appointed guardian of liberty come demanding to verify my personal information against the voter registration records.

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What happened to the people's voice?

Politics, Wauwatosa

 I could have sworn that I saw a deadline for submitting people's letters to the NOW editor in support of presidential candidates. So I was surprised when I opened the lovely hard copy of Wauwatosa NOW this morning and saw none. No carefully thought out, reasoned arguments. No wacky contentions. No voices we've heard for years and voices that surprise us. I miss that.

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Don't be scared silly

Politics, Wauwatosa

Wauwatosa seems to be divided about a couple things, Halloween and who should be president among them. October 26 was official Trick or Treat day, but the real Halloween is next Friday. Some neighborhoods celebrated this weekend, others are holding out for the real thing. Some of us didn't figure out which until it was too late.

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Parasailing with mooses


I spent half the day today volunteering for the Obama campaign at the West Allis office, where I ran into more Tosans I know than I run into at the North Avenue Sendiks. It's wonderful to be in an environment of hope, surrounded by people from 20 to 80  who are working to make something that matters happen.

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Looking up

Economy, job hunt, Politics, Walking the dog

Now that my world has shrunk to walking the dog and looking for jobs, things look a little different.

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People first, then property

Politics, Presidential debate

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To WEDC or not to WEDC: that is the $95,000 question

Politics, Wauwatosa

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McCain and the BlackBerry


When I started my BlackBerry® riff the other day, I had no idea that Senator John McCain created the device.

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"Are they going to take my BlackBerry?!"


“Are they going to take my BlackBerry?” one "shocked and angry" Lehman Brothers employee asked at a bar this weekend. “Come on, come get it!” 

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Voting with your genes


Maybe you thought people turned out to vote because they were passionate about a candidate.  Or made rational decisions to vote regularly because their civics teachers convinced them that's what good citizens do. Or their parents trained them to vote.

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Politics: write your own caption

Fluff, It's not easy, Politics

    I love this photo of Wauwatosa Mayor Jill Didier's swearing in.  It's so . . . lively and unconventional. And it practically cries for inventive captioning.

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When words don't mean much

Death, language, Politics

 Liz and I were watching the news. The story was about preemptive reduction of cruising in the streets of Milwaukee--stopping it before anything bad actually happens. A police officer intoned seriously into the off-screen microphone, "The problem with cruising is that it leads to stopping."

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Wasting our time: tonight's presidential debate

Clinton, Obama, Politics, Presidential debate

 It's 45 minutes into the Democratic debate between Clinton and Obama, and not a single important question has been raised.

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Why we vote the way we vote

Fire station, Politics, Wauwatosa

Everyone is pretty sure that we vote for candidates based on rational decision-making. But the research says we're not rational. Instead, we are rationalizers. We hunt and sift for good sounding reasons for our decisions after we've already made them.

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Why be negative about negativity?

Politics, Spirituality

When it comes to political candidates, most of us are pretty clear about what we believe makes a good one. There's really not much variety in those beliefs. They fall into the pot labeled "conservative" or the one labeled "liberal," with a few variants and outliers. 

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Getting my mayoral campaign rant on

Jerry Stepaniak, Jill Didier, Politics

Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of Teddy Roosevelt, had an embroidered pillow on her settee that said "If you haven't got anything good to say about a person, come sit next to me."

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Wisconsin supreme court race: written by Grisham


If watching political ads makes you feel like you need a shower, we're at the same heath club. It's bad enough on the executive and legislative sides of our government triangle. But when distortions, exaggerations, misrepresentations, and plain old lies come into play for judicial campaigns, the icky-ness factor doubles.

Judgment Day in Wisconsin is's first installment of their new Court Watch series. But it's the second year in a row that state judicial campaigns have come under scrutiny by the the nonpartisan  Annenberg  Political Fact Check. If the Annette Ziegler-Linda Clifford campaign ads weren't shameful enough, now we have the Louis Butler-Mike Gableman campaign,  "misleading voters about corruption, rape and murder in a battle to oust a Wisconsin justice."
The assault on Butler, a Democrat, is sordid enough for the FactCheck analysts to compare it to John Grisham's newest suspense novel, The Appeal: "All we can say is, John Grisham's story line isn't exactly far-fetched. It's playing out for real in Wisconsin."
The story parallels: business interests want to get rid of an incumbent African-American judge and tip the court balance from liberal to conservative. They start running ads that whip up personal and economic fear using the usual: coddling criminals, being too tough on business (and driving it away). The emotion-grabbing incident in both involves claims of setting a sexual predator free.

"In neither case is the accusation true," says FactCheck. "In Grisham's story, the molester escaped from a local jail and died long before the court campaign. In Wisconsin, the predator remains in the same treatment facility where he was confined when his case went to the Supreme Court."
FactCheck concludes that there are indeed grounds for the outrage brewing in this case. But they are dubious that the misleading ads will stop. The Club for Growth and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce aren't likely to cut off the funds for pro-Gableman ads on television and radio.
It's time for a judgment against campaign ads run by independent special interest groups. Let the candidates' own campaigns take responsibility for the sleazy tricks.

Information, dogma, and the mayoral forum

Mayoral Campaign, Politics

 "Philosopher Robert Anton Wilson defined information as data and ideas that are new to you. If it's something you already know, then it's propaganda or dogma, not information. Philospher Terence McKenna had a similar view. He used the terms 'information' and 'novelty' interchangeably. If you're not surprised, he said, if your curiosity isn't piqued then the messages streaming your way don't qualify as information."

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Who NOT to vote for tomorrow


With the presidential primary just a day away, I'm still vacillating. Apparently, I'm in good company. Wisconsin, a swing state, likes to keep 'em guessing.

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Sometimes, Bush is right: Medicare reform

Medicare, Politics

Not all the way, maybe. But partly.

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Indoctrinate your children well?

Party training, Politics

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Some good news about aging societies

Aging, Politics

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Dean Redman's brave enough to listen to the voters

Fire station, Politics

Needing a new fire station and wanting a new fire station may be two very separate things. That we need a new fire station is pretty clear to me, based on the data that have been presented, checked, and presented again. The endless squabbles that have gotten in the way pretty much boil down to:

  • Where will it be?
  • How stripped down a place can we get away with?

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Enough to make you weep

Hillary Clinton, Politics

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Do you vote smart—or from the heart? Now you can do both

Politics, Project Vote Smart

I’m probably not the only person who thinks she votes from reason but really votes, at least sometimes, from a deeper, maybe more primitive place.

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A preemptive war on knowledge?

language, Politics

President George W. Bush believes that the safety of the United States depends on "preventing (Iran) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."

It's an extraordinary idea, this "knowlege prevention." Google doesn't even recognize the term. Anything you find with both "knowledge" and "prevention" is about avoiding losing knowledge.

The first time I heard the expression "preventing . . .knowledge" in October, I wrote it off as more language blundering. But with the new National Intelligence Estimates-fueled debate about whether Iran really has stopped pursuing nuclear weapons, the phrase is being used with the frequency of propaganda.

I'm not sure how you enforce ignorance. Shut down the schools? Burn the books? Imprison the scientists? The knowledge in question doesn't belong to the United States. It belongs to those who can discover and apply it.

This isn't to say that Iran isn't dangerous. It certainly is. Whatever National Intelligence Estimates show, it seems reasonable to assume that if Iran isn't pursuing nuclear weapons at the moment, it will. Knowledge, after all, is power--nuclear or otherwise.

The work of someone who calls himself the leader of the free world isn't to prevent people from having knowledge. It's to persuade them not to use it badly--the work of diplomacy.

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Politics are scary, so let's talk about Jennifer Love Hewitt's butt

Beauty, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Politics

President Bush is mumbling about World War III. 3,000 Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers have been alerted for service in Iraq. Republicans are leaning toward jovial Mike Huckabee, whose middle eastern solution is "just win it." And everyone's starting to get a glimmer of how deep the financial crisis goes into the banking industry.

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Beauty and the bus

Aging, It's not easy, Politics

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Objectivity? Consider the source

Aging, Beauty, Politics

Nearly everyone "frames" what they report, putting it in a particular context of belief that favors their own viewpoint.

For example, a tax that only affects the very rich sounds like a good idea for the rest of us when it's called "the estate tax." Call it the "death tax," however, and we're all against it because, well, it sounds like those taxes are going to hit the rest of us just like death will.

The big buzz around a new health science report published Nov. 7 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that suggests that Vitamin D may slow aging and prevent aging related diseases is a case study in framing.

“These results are exciting because they demonstrate for the first time that people who have higher levels of vitamin D may age more slowly than people with lower levels of vitamin D,” says team leader Brent Richards, an endocrinologist. “This could help explain how vitamin D has a protective effect on many age-related diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. What's interesting is that there's a huge body of evidence that shows sunshine ages your skin—but it also increases your vitamin D levels. So, like many times in medicine, we find there's a trade-off.”

Dozens of sources reported the study this weekend, and nearly all reports clearly come from the same original source, probably a wire service, and included the paragraph above. But however similar the words may be, the headlines make us see different meanings and implications.

The most neutral headline from a Google search came from France, where Food (Europe)  proclaimed:
Live longer with vitamin D, study says

Most reports from the US and England jumped on a weird take best exemplified by Fox News:
Women Who Spend Time in the Sun May Age More Slowly, Study Says. (No mention that the researchers are talking about 10-15 minutes only of direct sun exposure.)

The American missed a bet when they delivered this pitch:
Wanna live longer? Take vitamin D pills

Fortunately, the Times of India got the Wisconsin frame right:
Milk may provide aging benefits

Now you know why so many scientists hate the news media: they just can't avoid the sexy frame that distorts the facts.

However, I'm sure the Times of India, my new source for all information, is the absolutely objective and just plain. . .right. Here's another health story they report, this time from the Universities of Pittsburgh and California:

Curvy women are cleverer, too: study

Curvy women have been admired for their sensual figures. But, a new study has found that ladies with large hips and small waists are cleverer too, than those with apple-shaped bodies. In fact, according to international researchers, women with an hourglass figure are not only intelligent, they also give birth to brighter children, The Sunday Times reported in London on Sunday.

"The fat around fuller hips and thighs holds higher levels of omega3 fatty acids which are essential for the growth of the brain during pregnancy," the researchers were quoted as saying.

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The majority: right or wrong?

County Government, Politics

Yesterday (November 6), someone told me that my county supervisor, Jim “Luigi” Schmidt, voted against restoring some budget cuts for human services because Tosans, unlike people in other districts, only care about no new taxes.

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To see this Milwaukee news, go to Myanmar

Politics, Spirituality

Yesterday daughter Liz and I spent a couple hours on the lakefront. But we weren't there to watch the kites. We were there to join an interfaith community's silent demonstration against the violence and repression in Myanmar.

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Time for an "Ecumenical Council" in Tosa?


 If you stop in at the Town Square, you'll find more than one discussion clearly dividing members of one church against members of another.

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Tosa pops up at lunch with the County Executive

Community, Politics

After spending Thursday with the County Board Audit and Finance Committee in hopes of overriding the county executive's transit budget, it seemed a little odd to spend the lunch hour today with Scott Walker.

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Most people can get on board with this county budget item

Politics, Transportation

As we sat in the  Milwaukee County Finance and Audit Committee meeting today, the intern turned and asked me "Aren't they supposed to be listening?"

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