Menu

We, the Irrelevant

Formerly known as We, the People

Oct. 29: This is Who We Are

I keep hearing people say, "This is not who we are." Mostly, those who say it are privileged white people like me.

I don't presume to speak for anyone other than myself, but if I had to guess, I'd guess that African Americans know better than we do who we are. The same might be true for brown-skinned immigrants, for Muslim Americans, for LGBTQ Americans....the list is long and getting longer.

We were born of white supremacist fathers who built this country on the backs of slaves. Hundreds of thousands died in a war to keep us one nation, but the stain of white supremacy remained. In every generation, it has seeped through the fabric of our civility leaving us to wonder, "Will it ever end?"

I can't answer that question, but I know this: White supremacy is our national chronic disease. Periodic treatments of marginalization can give us only remission. As soon as we feel better about ourselves, we're suddenly awakened by dog whistles that have become trumpets and indulgent laughter that has become the roar of hate. Gun shots ring out, fires blaze, children are ripped from their parents and put into cages, people who are not me are, with good reason, more afraid than ever.

Historically, moral leaders have helped us treat our illness. Many of those leaders died for their efforts. But, we now have leaders across this country who want us at each others' throats.They want some of us triumphant and the rest despairing. They do not want remission. They want disease.

I will not allow it. I will not shut up and go away. I will begin by acknowledging that, yes, this is who we are. But, until my dying day, I will fight to prove that this is not who we must be.

Oct. 26: Democracy Under Attack

I am nearly sick with outrage. 

  1. Republicans in Georgia don't want black Americans to vote. They were tossing absentee ballots until a Federal judge stopped them.
  2. Republicans in North Dakota don't want Native Americans to vote. They are requiring mailing addresses where none exist.
  3. Republicans in Texas don't want black college students to vote. They have changed the rules and moved the polling place.
  4. Republicans in Wisconsin don't want Democrat votes to count. They have blatantly gerrymandered districts to stay in power.
  5. Trump's unrepentant vitriol against anyone who challenges his authority just brought us closer than we've ever come to the mass assassination of political rivals.
  6. Trump, who promulgated the unconscionable policy of ripping children out of their parents' arms, now wants to close our southern border to those seeking asylum while simultaneously cutting aid to their home countries. 
  7. Corruption and self-dealing run rampant in this administration with the example coming right from the top.
  8. Courageous women who love their country are vilified as liars or as confused or as spotlight-seeking. They are dismissed like unruly children disturbing the grown ups at dinner.
  9. Privileged old white men with a solidly-entrenched sense of entitlement look upon citizens seeking redress of their grievances as a mob, as rioters, or simply as repugnant pests.

10. Constitutional checks and balances no longer function. 

I have never been so afraid for my country. If those who oppose the far-from-inclusive list above choose to stay home on Nov. 6, the message to Trump will be clear: "Do what you want. I don't care."

Please don't deliver that message. Vote early if you can, or vote Nov. 6...but VOTE! 

 

Aug. 7, 2018: We the Irrelevant Makes News!

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (WCIJ) cooperates with the U of Wisconsin, providing experiences for journalism students. The Center's project for this school year is entitled UNDEMOCRATIC: SECRECY & POWER VS. THE PEOPLE. For several months, students heard from legislators, academics, and ordinary citizen activists. I spoke to the class about We the Irrelevant in February, 2018. Nicole Ki interviewed me in April, and her piece has just been published here. Edited versions of Nicole's piece have appeared online in the following publications: the CapTimes; the Wisconsin State Journal; the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; the Post Crescent; the Superior Telegram; and the Washington Times. Stay tuned.


July 3: Take a moment

As you celebrate Independence Day, I wish you joy and perhaps a bit of awe. Our country's ideals are worthy of awe as are our struggles to live up to those ideals. Sometimes, we forget what they are. Other times, we change our interpretation of them. Occasionally, we act as though they no longer exist. 

I confess to never having read the complete text of the Declaration of Independence. If you have 5 minutes, here it is. I encourage you to read what Thomas Jefferson wrote. Below I've pasted the paragraph that resonated with me this morning. It reminded me of the nobility, courage, and determination that is our heritage. I wish you inspiration.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

What You'll Find Here

This site houses data compiled from multiple Open Records Requests (ORRs) sent to Wisconsin's Republican state legislators beginning in October, 2015. We asked for citizen correspondence concerning the dismantling of the independent Government Accountability Board. We got more than we asked for.

Volunteers combed through hundreds of pages of documents furnished by the legislators. Each time a citizen mentioned the GAB, whether for or against dismantling it, a tally mark was made on a specially designed spreadsheet. Frequently, citizens included their feelings about two other concurrent bills - exempting politicians from secret John Doe investigations and changing campaign finance laws to allow coordination between candidates and special interest groups. These comments were also tallied. 

Every effort was made to keep accurate tallies. Most records remain with the legislators. The volunteers would have had to pay hundreds of dollars in aggregate to have copies of all of them in order to document their results. 

Anyone wanting proof of accuracy will have to submit their own ORR, asking for the same records within the same time period and be prepared to review records in the respective Chief Clerk's office or pay for the cost of searching, printing, and perhaps mailing them.

You can use the site in several ways:

April 11: Records Runaround

The CapTimes just published this enlightening piece about the accessibility (or lack thereof) of public records.
 

Your Right to Know

April 4: Here's a link to this month's "Your Right to Know" column from the WI Freedom of Information Council. Gag orders, muzzles, and stonewalls cannot, must not be our "new normal". I urge you to read this article and to share it widely.

https://goo.gl/SzJkMz

March 11: Sunshine Week

Today marks the beginning of Sunshine Week when Wisconsin focuses attention on open government.

Here's the link to the WI State Journal's editorial regarding two legislators who have refused to supply electronic records in response to open records requests. One of these cases began with We the Irrelevant

March 9: Thank You!

We the Irrelevant's number of unique visitors has just passed 100,000. Thanks to all of you who care enough about open government to check out what this website has to say. 

Feb. 9: Foxconn & the Great Lakes

The WI DNR has opened the public comment period regarding the diversion of 7 million gallons per day of Lake Michigan water. The water will flow through Racine to Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics company. Of those 7 million gallons, 2,730,000 million will be lost to evaporation or disappear into Foxconn's production process. 

It's hard to get one's mind around a number as large as 2,730,000.

Here are a couple of comparisons: If you began counting from 1 now, it would take you about 6 weeks to get to 2,730,000. In terms of seconds, 2,730,000 of them would equal 4 weeks, 3 days, 14 hours, and 20 minutes.

We the Irrelevant has published data showing that more than 2,000,000 Wisconsin citizens believe that water is a public trust, not to be given away to private interests.

You can send your comments about this massive diversion of public waters to: DNRRacineDiversionComments@wisconsin.gov

Feb. 5: Your Right to Know

Here's the link to the Your Right to Know column in today's WI State Journal. It's written by John Foust, a member of the WI Freedom of Information Council.

http://host.madison.com/wsj/opinion/column/john-foust-citizens-have-a-right-to-electronic-records/article_01ee214f-16d7-541a-8418-4c4dde0529cf.html

Jan. 18, 2018: Who's In Charge?

Below is the link to Wisconsin State Senator Kathleen Vinehout's (D-Alma) recent column. In chilling detail, she lays out the process by which Wisconsin's democracy is slipping away from the control of its citizens. I urge you to read it.

Sen. Vinehout is a candidate for Governor. Her regular columns will give you an insight into her policy principles.

 

http://www.kathleenvinehout.org/how_haste_empowers_the_shadow_legislature

Jan. 11, 2018: The Racist in the Oval Office

The racist in the Oval Office has revealed himself once again. We are fooling ourselves if we think he's hit bottom with this latest insult to the country he pretends to lead and to the world looking on in dismay and disgust. There is no bottom to his hatred of people of color nor any hope of one.

What will we do about it? We will chatter to one another as we often do. We may call our legislators as we should. We might write letters to editors; I recommend it. But, there is more.

  • I suggest we contact the League of Women Voters, and support their registration efforts with our money and our time.
  • I suggest we put signs on our lawns and in our windows that say, "He doesn't speak for me!"
  • I suggest we volunteer as election inspectors in our respective municipalities. The average age of WI election inspectors is 72. Younger people need to step forward.
  • I suggest we contact our local Indivisible group, join them, and work to retrieve our democracy before it disappears under the mountain of muck that the Republicans, for reasons of their own, have no wish to confront.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke

 

Don't do nothing.

This site houses data compiled from multiple Open Records Requests (ORRs) sent to Wisconsin's Republican state legislators beginning in October, 2015. We asked for citizen correspondence concerning the dismantling of the independent Government Accountability Board. We got more than we asked for.

Volunteers combed through hundreds of pages of documents furnished by the legislators. Each time a citizen mentioned the GAB, whether for or against dismantling it, a tally mark was made on a specially designed spreadsheet. Frequently, citizens included their feelings about two other concurrent bills - exempting politicians from secret John Doe investigations and changing campaign finance laws to allow coordination between candidates and special interest groups. These comments were also tallied. 

Every effort was made to keep accurate tallies. Most records remain with the legislators. The volunteers would have had to pay hundreds of dollars in aggregate to have copies of all of them in order to document their results. 

Anyone wanting proof of accuracy will have to submit their own ORR, asking for the same records within the same time period and be prepared to review records in the respective Chief Clerk's office or pay for the cost of searching, printing, and perhaps mailing them.

You can use the site in several ways:


As tyrants take control of democracies, they typically:

1. Exaggerate their mandate to govern -- claiming, for example, that they won an election by a landslide even after losing the popular vote.

2. Repeatedly claim massive voter fraud in the absence of any evidence, in order to restrict voting in subsequent elections.

3. Call anyone who opposes them "enemies."

4. Turn the public against journalists or media outlets that criticize them, calling them "deceitful" and "scum."

5. Hold few press conferences, preferring to communicate with the public directly through mass rallies and unfiltered statements.

6. Tell the public big lies, causing them to doubt the truth and to believe fictions that support the tyrants' goals.

7. Blame economic stresses on immigrants or racial or religious minorities, and foment public bias and even violence against them.

8. Attribute acts of domestic violence to "enemies within," and use such events as excuses to beef up internal security and limit civil liberties.

9. Threaten mass deportations, registries of a religious minority, and the banning of refugees with particular religious beliefs.

10. Seek to eliminate or reduce the influence of competing centers of power, such as labor unions and opposition parties.

11. Appoint family members to high positions of authority and power.

12. Surround themselves with their own personal security force rather than a security detail accountable to the public.

13. Put generals into top civilian posts.

14. Make personal alliances with foreign dictators.

15. Draw no distinction between personal property and public property, profiteering from their public office.

These warning signs should be of concern to everyone, regardless of political party. In fact, historically, conservatives have been especially vigilant against potential threats to our constitutional rights.

All Americans must join together to protect American democracy against tyranny.

Consider yourself warned.

Robert Reich