Monday, March 28, 2011

Sure plays a mean pinball....

Play while reading:
at full volume

Ever since I was a young boy
I've played the silver ball
From Soho down to Brighton
I must have played them all
I ain't seen nothing like him
In any amusement hall
That deaf, dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball

He stands like a statue
Becomes part of the machine
Feeling all the bumpers
Always playing clean
He plays by intuition
The digit counters fall
That deaf dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball

He's a pinball wizard
There has to be a twist
A pinball wizard's got such a supple wrist

(How do you think he does it?)
I don't know
(What makes him so good?)
Well... He ain't got no distractions
Can't hear those buzzers and bells
Don't see lights a-flashin'
Plays by sense of smell
Always has a replay
Never tilts at all
That deaf dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball

He can't beat me now
I've always been the champ
I know every trick
No freak's gonna beat my hand

Even at my usual table
He can beat the best
His disciples lead him in
An' he just does the rest
He's got crazy flipper fingers
I've never seen him fall
That deaf dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball

He's a pinball wizard,
There has to be a twist
A pinball wizard's got such a supple wrist

He's a pinball wizard
He scores a trillion more
A pinball wizard
The world's new pinball lord
He's scoring more
He's scoring more

I thought I was
The Bally Table king
But I just handed my Pinball crown to him
To him
To hi-i-i-m

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wisconsin citizens will not forget:


Wisconsin’s Radical Break

Madison, Wis.

Chris Silas Neal

NOW that a Wisconsin judge hastemporarily blocked a state law that would strip public employee unions of most collective bargaining rights, it’s worth stepping back to place these events in larger historical context.

Republicans in Wisconsin are seeking to reverse civic traditions that for more than a century have been among the most celebrated achievements not just of their state, but of their own party as well.

Wisconsin was at the forefront of the progressive reform movement in the early 20th century, when the policies of Gov. Robert M. La Follette prompted a fellow Republican, Theodore Roosevelt, to call the state a “laboratory of democracy.” The state pioneered many social reforms: It was the first to introduce workers’ compensation, in 1911; unemployment insurance, in 1932; and public employee bargaining, in 1959.

University of Wisconsin professors helped design Social Security and were responsible for founding the union that eventually became the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Wisconsin reformers were equally active in promoting workplace safety, and often led the nation in natural resource conservation and environmental protection.

But while Americans are aware of this progressive tradition, they probably don’t know that many of the innovations on behalf of working people were at least as much the work of Republicans as of Democrats.

Although Wisconsin has a Democratic reputation these days — it backed the party’s presidential candidates in 2000, 2004 and 2008 — the state was dominated by Republicans for a full century after the Civil War. The Democratic Party was so ineffective that Wisconsin politics were largely conducted as debates between the progressive and conservative wings of the Republican Party.

When the Wisconsin Democratic Party finally revived itself in the 1950s, it did so in a context where members of both parties were unusually open to bipartisan policy approaches. Many of the new Democrats had in fact been progressive Republicans just a few years earlier, having left the party in revulsion against the reactionary politics of their own senator, Joseph R. McCarthy, and in sympathy with postwar liberalizing forces like the growing civil rights movement.

The demonizing of government at all levels that has become such a reflexive impulse for conservatives in the early 21st century would have mystified most elected officials in Wisconsin just a few decades ago.

When Gov. Gaylord A. Nelson, a Democrat, sought to extend collective bargaining rights to municipal workers in 1959, he did so in partnership with a Legislature in which one house was controlled by the Republicans. Both sides believed the normalization of labor-management relations would increase efficiency and avoid crippling strikes like those of the Milwaukee garbage collectors during the 1950s. Later, in 1967, when collective bargaining was extended to state workers for the same reasons, the reform was promoted by a Republican governor, Warren P. Knowles, with a Republican Legislature.

The policies that the current governor, Scott Walker, has sought to overturn, in other words, are legacies of his own party.

But Mr. Walker’s assault on collective bargaining rights breaks with Wisconsin history in two much deeper ways as well. Among the state’s proudest traditions is a passion for transparent government that often strikes outsiders as extreme. Its open meetings law, open records law and public comment procedures are among the strongest in the nation. Indeed, the basis for the restraining order blocking the collective bargaining law is that Republicans may have violated open meetings rules in passing it. The legislation they have enacted turns out to be radical not just in its content, but in its blunt ends-justify-the-means disregard for openness and transparency.

This in turn points to what is perhaps Mr. Walker’s greatest break from the political traditions of his state. Wisconsinites have long believed that common problems deserve common solutions, and that when something needs fixing, we should roll up our sleeves and work together — no matter what our politics — to achieve the common good.

Mr. Walker’s conduct has provoked a level of divisiveness and bitter partisan hostility the likes of which have not been seen in this state since at least the Vietnam War. Many citizens are furious at their governor and his party, not only because of profound policy differences, but because these particular Republicans have exercised power in abusively nontransparent ways that represent such a radical break from the state’s tradition of open government.

Perhaps that is why — as a centrist and a lifelong independent — I have found myself returning over the past few weeks to the question posed by the lawyer Joseph N. Welch during the hearings that finally helped bring down another Wisconsin Republican, Joe McCarthy, in 1954: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

Scott Walker is not Joe McCarthy. Their political convictions and the two moments in history are quite different. But there is something about the style of the two men — their aggressiveness, their self-certainty, their seeming indifference to contrary views — that may help explain the extreme partisan reactions they triggered. McCarthy helped create the modern Democratic Party in Wisconsin by infuriating progressive Republicans, imagining that he could build a national platform by cultivating an image as a sternly uncompromising leader willing to attack anyone who stood in his way. Mr. Walker appears to be provoking some of the same ire from adversaries and from advocates of good government by acting with a similar contempt for those who disagree with him.

The turmoil in Wisconsin is not only about bargaining rights or the pension payments of public employees. It is about transparency and openness. It is about neighborliness, decency and mutual respect. Joe McCarthy forgot these lessons of good government, and so, I fear, has Mr. Walker. Wisconsin’s citizens have not.

William Cronon is a professor of history, geography and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Kindness personified

Tip of the hat!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Much bigger than Madison

Power Concedes Nothing Without a Demand



You never heard a folk song written by a Republican (author unknown)

Posted on Mar 14, 2011


Thursday, March 17, 2011

A gift on St. Patrick's Day

Here is a primer for those who, like us, have never made it through Joyce's Ulysses, though intentions have ranged from half-hearted to high.
Frank Delaney, who we heard on Irishwoman Kathleen Dunn's WPR broadcast this St. Patrick's Day morning, has a website on this book he considers among the best of the Irish writings.
The site is
Better late than never........

Monday, March 14, 2011

Prevent the budget slashers from harming Public Radio

We are looking forward to the arrival in our mailbox of the book which is so well-reviewed (see below) in The Washington Post by Roger Rosenblatt. We heard a program on Wisconsin Public Radio last week, an interview with the esteemed author and educator, Arnold Weinstein of Brown University, probably known to some raccoondite readers.

The hook for us at the beginning of the broadcast was a discussion of the riddle of The Sphinx. [We served in the US Army from 1958 to 1962 with still good friend, Special Agent Bob Heeschen, now a railroad museum docent, St Paul MN. We were in a branch known as the USA Counter-Intelligence Corps, the 113th, in Chicago. The emblem of the CIC was a sphinx. To some, it was a mysterious plain-clothes way to fulfill one's obligation to the country.]

Here, we have been interested in things Sphinxian. But beyond that, this book sounds right for us on our trajectory in its theme of life's stages as augmented by literature.
Following the Wash. Post review, find info on Arnold Weinstein.



Arnold Weinstein's "Morning, Noon, and Night," on literature's lifelong effects

Sunday, February 13, 2011

If there is a riddle attached to the riddle of the Sphinx, it is why no one but Oedipus was smart enough to solve it. Luckily for readers, Arnold Weinstein has made more of the riddle than I have with "Morning, Noon, and Night," his study of literature as it illuminates the three stages of being human. The substance of this book is an ecstatic celebration of the gifts that great books bring to our lives. The shadow of the book is Weinstein's own life, which, either because of his inborn diffidence or too much hard labor in a classroom, hides within the text like a Shakespearean character behind an arras. When, from time to time, this character peeks out, we want more of him, and we are reminded of something that unwittingly undercuts Weinstein's thesis - that literature, for all its value to life, is not life.

But first to the thesis, the idea that great works are indispensable to living young, old and in between. The idea is not new, nor is it meant to be, though the tripartite structure suggested by the lady-lion riddler offers Weinstein an orderly way to deal with it. Neither the thesis nor the writers invoked to support it could have a more thoughtful or careful proponent. He brings more than a first-rate mind to the likes of Balzac, Dickens, Faulkner, Hemingway, the Bronte sisters, Dostoevsky, Strindberg, Alice Walker, Jean Rhys and other major and minor leaguers. He brings them a loving heart. Thus he sees more than most critics have seen in Dickens's Pip, for example. Rather than reading "Great Expectations" merely as a primer on moral maturity, he unearths Pip's deep sorrow and examines the boy's many lifelong wounds. At the outset of the novel, Pip is in a cemetery, staring at the gravestones of his mother and father. Weinstein peers into his soul: "Getting clear of the dead may not be easy."

Looking at the end of life, he presents a brilliantly sympathetic understanding of Hemingway's maritime old man, seeing Santiago not as an abstraction of courage, but rather as a living, feeling being whose body is corrupted with age. Santiago must make use of his hard-earned knowledge of fishing - lines, winds, currents - to battle the marlin in "The Old Man and the Sea." He must use bone and muscle. Any old man who once was an athlete knows the value of moving slowly. Weinstein's Santiago shows us every practiced gesture employed in staying nobly alive.

Which brings me to Weinstein's own practiced gestures and their effect on his book. The best teachers we have are those who worry about the material in public, as we students listen. Weinstein is a wonderful worrier, and his book shows it. Yet there is another book within this one, whose author says some remarkably telling things when you least expect them. Such as: "You never quite forget the beauty you long ago had, a beauty whose every feature you remember with bitterness." Such as: "Enduring love is the daily effort to convert insentience into sentience, silence into language, indifference into interest, lumps of flesh into people sharing food, wine, and conversation around a table." Such as: "I look back at my own education, and want to weep."

This last confession makes us want to weep for Weinstein's hidden book in "Morning, Noon, and Night," for it hints of his own imaginative life, born of reading. He calls the present work "the most personal" he has written. Yet there is evidence of a far more personal and moving book pacing around offstage - one that does not defer to the great texts, but rather tells of a life they inspired, perhaps failed. A professor's memoir minus the professorial caution or modesty or whatever - the story of the fellow who believes that enduring loves can turn insentience into sentience.

Weinstein has a bad habit of diluting assertions with the word "arguably," the professor's arras. The book I wish for him, and for his readers, has no "arguably" in it. Arguably, he has written the best book ever on the practical and spiritual uses of literature. When he reads that sentence, I hope he shudders.

Roger Rosenblatt's most recent book is "Unless It Moves the Human Heart."


Finding the Meaning of Life's Stages Through Books

By Arnold Weinstein


On Arnold L. Weinstein, no doubt known to many raccoon readers:

Edna and Richard Salomon Distinguished Professor:
Comparative Literature

Arnold Weinstein researches European and American narrative, Scandinavian literature, American fiction, literature and medicine, and the city theme in literature. His publications include Vision and Response in Modern Fiction (Cornell University Press, 1974), Fictions of the Self: 1550-1800 (Princeton University Press, 1981), The Fiction of Relationship (Princeton, 1988), Nobody's Home: Speech, Self and Place in American Fiction from Hawthorne to DeLillo (Oxford University Press, 2003), A Scream Goes Through the House: What Literature Teaches Us About Life (Random House, 2003), Recovering Your Story: Proust, Joyce, Woolf, Faulkner, Morrison (Random House, 2006).


Arnold Weinstein received his B.A. in Romance Languages from Princeton University (1962), and both his M.A. (1964) and Ph.D. (1968) in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. He studied at the Université de Paris (1960-61), the Freie Universität Berlin (1962-63) and the Université de Lyon (1966-67). His doctoral thesis dealt with the impact of William Faulkner's novels on the French nouveau roman. Professor Weinstein came to Brown University in 1968: his initial appointment was in the French Department, but soon his full-time appointment was in the Department of Comparative Literature. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1973, to Full Professor in 1978, He was named to the Henry Merritt Wriston Chair in 1990, and he became the Edna and Richard Salomon Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature in 1995.

Professor Weinstein's books include Vision and Response in Modern Fiction (Cornell UP, 1974), Fictions of the Self: 1550-1800(Princeton UP, 1981), The Fiction of Relationship (Princeton UP, 1988), Nobody's Home: Speech, Self and Place in American Fiction from Hawthorne to DeLillo (Oxford UP, 1993), A Scream Goes Through the House: What Literature Teaches Us About Life(Random House, 2003), and Recovering Your Story: Proust, Joyce, Woolf, Faulkner, Morrison (Random House, 2006). He has published articles on American, French, German and Scandinavian literature. He was Associate Editor of the journal,Literature and Medicine, from 1998 to 2003, and he edited a Special Volume of Literature and Medicine: Infection and Contagion in 2003.

Professor Weinstein's honors include a Special Fellowship to the Freie Universität Berlin (1962-63), a Woodrow Wilson National Teaching Fellowship (1963-64), a Fulbright Grant (1966-67), a research Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1971-72, a Fulbright Professorship in Stockholm, Sweden in 1982-83, a stint as Professeur Invité in American Literature at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris in 1996, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellowship in 1997-98. He received the John Rowe Workman Award for Best Teacher in the Humanities in 1995. In 2005 Oprah Winfrey asked him to give four lectures on William Faulkner, to be produced online in her Summer Book Club.

Professor Weinstein has given six courses for The Teaching Company: 'The Soul and the City: Art, Literature and Urban Life' (8 lectures, 1991), a segment of 'Great Authors of Western Literature' (21 lectures, 1993), 'Drama, Poetry and Narrative: Understanding Literature and Life' (64 lectures, 1995), 'Death and Disease: Using Literature to Understand the Human Side of Medicine' (10 lectures, 1995), '20th Century American Fiction' (32 lectures, 1997), and 'American Literary Classics' (84 lectures, 1997). These lectures have been produced in audio, video and DVD format.

Professor Weinstein has been Director of 'Texts & Teachers' from its inception in 1998 to 2006. 'Texts & Teachers' is an NEH-funded and Brown University-funded collaborative program in educational reform (nationally and regionally), designed to create a partnership between the university professoriate, high school English teachers, and their respective students.


Arnold Weinstein has been director of Texts & Teachers from its inception in 1998 to 2006. Texts & Teachers is a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) funded and Brown University-funded collaborative program in educational reform (nationally and regionally), designed to create a partnership between the university professoriate, high school English teachers, and their respective students.

He is currently completing a book-length study, Breaking Through: Power and Expression in Scandinavian Art and Literature, under contract with Princeton University Press. He is also beginning work on Literature and the Phases of Life: Growing Up and Growing Old, under contract with Random House. Further projects include a volume on the character of urban life as reflected in literature and art.


Special Fellowship, Freie Universität Berlin, 1962-63

Woodrow Wilson National Teaching Fellowship, 1963-64

Fulbright Scholar, Université de Lyon, 1966-67

Younger Humanist Award, National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), 1971-72

Salomon Incentive Grant, summer 1977 and summer 1980

Fulbright Senior Lecturer Award, Stockholm, Sweden, 1983

Visiting professor of American Literature at Stockholm University, 1983

Brown University Incentive Grant (Scandinavian literature), summer 1983

Member of the Academy of Literary Studies, 1984-present

Director, NEH-funded Program in Great Books, 1988-present

Invited to give paper at British Comparative Literature Triennial Congress, July 1989

American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Travel Grant to deliver a paper at the British Comparative Literature Association (BCLA) in Leicester, England, summer 1989

Named the Henry Merritt Wriston Professor and Professor of Comparative Literature, Brown University, spring 1990

Named the Edna and Richard Salomon Distinguished Professor and Professor of Comparative Literature, Brown University, spring 1995

Received the John Rowe Workman Faculty Award for Best Humanities Teacher of the Year, Brown University, spring 1995

Guest professor of American literature, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, spring 1996

NEH Fellowship for University Teachers to pursue research on literature and medicine project,A Scream Goes Through the House: Art and Illness, December 1997


Academy of Literary Studies

Modern Language Association

American Comparative Literature Association





Download Arnold L. Weinstein's Curriculum Vitae in PDF Format

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tremblors to tectonic plate shifts:

In case you were interested in how the Japanese earthquake fits in the overall scale of quakes, this may help to understand it. This is only the earthquake and does not take into consideration the even more destructive Tsunami.
Approximate Magnitude
Approximate TNT for
Seismic Energy Yield
Joule equivalent Example
0.0 15.0 g (0.529 oz) 63.1 kJ
0.5 84.4 g (2.98 oz) 355 kJ Large hand grenade
1.0 474 g (1.05 lb) 2.00 MJ Construction site blast
1.5 2.67 kg (5.88 lb) 11.2 MJ World War II conventional bombs
2.0 15.0 kg (33.1 lb) 63.1 MJ Late World War II conventional bombs
2.5 84.4 kg (186 lb) 355 MJ World War II blockbuster bomb
3.0 474 kg (1.05×103 lb) 2.00 GJ Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb
3.5 2.67 metric tons 11.2 GJ Chernobyl nuclear disaster, 1986
4.0 15.0 metric tons 63.1 GJ Small atomic bomb
4.5 84.4 metric tons 355 GJ
5.0 474 metric tons 2.00 TJ Seismic yield of Nagasaki atomic bomb (Total yield including air yield 21 kT, 88 TJ)
Lincolnshire earthquake (UK), 2008
Ontario-Quebec earthquake (Canada), 2010[10][11]
5.5 2.67 kilotons 11.2 TJ Little Skull Mtn. earthquake (Nevada, USA), 1992
Alum Rock earthquake (California, USA), 2007
Chino Hills earthquake (Los Angeles, USA), 2008
6.0 15.0 kilotons 63.1 TJ Double Spring Flat earthquake (Nevada, USA), 1994
6.3 42.3 kilotons 178 TJ Christchurch earthquake (New Zealand), 2011
Rhodes earthquake (Greece), 2008
6.4 59.7 kilotons 251 TJ Kaohsiung earthquake (Taiwan), 2010
6.5 84.4 kilotons 355 TJ Caracas earthquake (Venezuela), 1967
Eureka earthquake (California, USA), 2010
6.6 119 kilotons 501 TJ San Fernando earthquake (California, USA), 1971
6.7 168 kilotons 708 TJ Northridge earthquake (California, USA), 1994
6.8 238 kilotons 1.00 PJ Gisborne earthquake (Gisborne, NZ), 2007
6.9 336 kilotons 1.41 PJ San Francisco Bay Area earthquake (California, USA), 1989
Pichilemu earthquake (Chile), 2010
7.0 474 kilotons 2.00 PJ Java earthquake (Indonesia), 2009
Haiti earthquake, 2010
7.1 670 kilotons 2.82 PJ San Juan earthquake (Argentina), 1944
Christchurch earthquake (New Zealand), 2010
7.2 938 kilotons 3.98 PJ Vrancea earthquake (Romania), 1977
Baja California earthquake (Mexico), 2010
7.5 2.67 megatons 11.2 PJ Kashmir earthquake (Pakistan), 2005
Antofagasta earthquake (Chile), 2007
7.8 7.52 megatons 31.6 PJ Tangshan earthquake (China), 1976
Hawke's Bay earthquake (New Zealand), 1931
Luzon earthquake (Philippines), 1990
Sumatra earthquake (Indonesia), 2010
8.0 15.0 megatons 63.1 PJ Mino-Owari earthquake (Japan), 1891
San Juan earthquake (Argentina), 1894
San Francisco earthquake (California, USA), 1906
Queen Charlotte Islands earthquake (British Columbia, Canada), 1949
México City earthquake (Mexico), 1985
Gujarat earthquake (India), 2001
Chincha Alta earthquake (Peru), 2007
Sichuan earthquake (China), 2008
8.1 21.2 megatons 89.1 PJ Guam earthquake, August 8, 1993[12]
8.35 (approx.) 50 megatons 210 PJ Tsar Bomba - Largest thermonuclear weapon ever tested
8.5 84.4 megatons 355 PJ Toba eruption 75,000 years ago; among the largest known volcanic events.[13]
Sumatra earthquake (Indonesia), 2007
8.7 168 megatons 708 PJ Sumatra earthquake (Indonesia), 2005
1883 eruption of Krakatoa
8.8 238 megatons 1.00 EJ Chile earthquake, 2010
8.9 336 megatons 1.41 EJ Sendai earthquake (Japan), 2011
9.0 474 megatons 2.00 EJ Lisbon Earthquake (Portugal), All Saints Day, 1755
9.2 946 megatons 3.98 EJ Anchorage earthquake (Alaska, USA), 1964
9.3 1.34 gigatons 5.62 EJ Indian Ocean earthquake, 2004
9.5 2.67 gigatons 11.2 EJ Valdivia earthquake (Chile), 1960
10.0 15.0 gigatons 63.1 EJ Never recorded by humans

Thursday, March 10, 2011


John Nichols: What Michael Moore gets about Wisconsin … and America

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“You will live in the history books!” Michael Moore shouted from the rotunda of the state Capitol to the thousands of Wisconsin workers, teachers and their allies who had come Saturday to protest against Gov. Scott Walker’s assault on public sector unions and public services. Speaking without a microphone, in a voice that was worn but enthusiastic after addressing tens of thousands of protesters outside the Capitol, Moore told the crowd inside: “You have inspired so many people. You have inspired the whole country. I just had to come and thank you.”

In response came the now familiar chants of “Thank you! Thank you!” that greet every speaker who gets what this uprising in Wisconsin is all about.

And Moore does get it. He gets it in a fundamental sense, the sense of having waited a very long time for some mass of citizens, somewhere in America, to say: “We have had it!”

A dream deferred long enough can give way, even in the most optimistic and hopeful of Americans, to cynicism and despair.

Three weeks ago, the smart bet was that the economic powers that be would score another victory, perhaps their greatest victory of recent years, in the progressive heartland of Wisconsin. Walker had proposed to strip state, county and municipal workers, as well as teachers, of their collective bargaining rights. Union leaders and members were in shock. This was the most aggressive assault on the free speech and freedom of association rights of working people Wisconsin has ever seen. And it was the beginning of a national push to undermine the political power of unions to such an extent that the balance would permanently tip toward corporations, which were freed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling to spend whatever they like on the buying of election results.

It wasn’t just the naive and disconnected punditocracy that imagined Walker was certain to win the day. Many of the governor’s most ardent critics doubted that his move would stir much more than a moan of mixed indignation and resignation. Instead, the governor’s overreach was met with something unprecedented in recent American history: a push back from working Americans that developed into a movement that has stalled Walker’s initiative and, as Moore says, “aroused a sleeping giant — the working people of the United States of America.”

This is what matters about the uprising in Wisconsin. Working families were battered before Walker announced his plan. Working families will be battered no matter what happens in Wisconsin. Much is needed — the renewal of manufacturing towns, the restoration of rural communities, the re-establishment of progressive taxation and accountability for banks and speculators to balance budgets and usher in an era when government works for the people rather than billionaire campaign contributors. All of what must be accomplished is at the other end of the arc of history that is being bent in Wisconsin.

But the arc has begun to bend toward justice. Something fundamental has shifted. And Moore came to Wisconsin because he recognizes how precious this moment is, not just in a political sense, not just in an economic sense, but in an emotional and idealistic sense. It is possible to believe again.

What Wisconsin has provided is a response to the closing scene of Moore’s remarkable 2009 documentary, “Capitalism: A Love Story.” After Moore has gone to Wall Street to try to get America’s money back, after he has marked off a “crime scene” where hundreds of billions of tax dollars were diverted to bail out the very banks and corporations that caused the financial meltdown of 2008, he speaks to the American people about how frustrating it is that such wrongdoing has not inspired an uprising on the part of working Americans.

After recounting Franklin Roosevelt’s “Economic Bill of Rights,” and detailing the nation’s drift from FDR’s faith that America could be a just and democratic land, Moore details how the hedge-fund managers and CEOs got bailed out while working Americans got layoffs and foreclosure notices. “I refuse to live in a country like this and I’m not leaving,” he says. “We live in the richest country in the world. We all deserve a decent job, health care, a good education, a home to call our own. We all deserve FDR’s dream. It’s a crime that we don’t have it. And we never will as long as we have a system that enriches the few at the expense of the many. Capitalism is an evil and you cannot regulate evil. You have to eliminate it and replace it with something good for all people … and that something is called democracy.”

That’s the political point of Moore’s film, but he finishes on what is actually a more profound note. Worn and worried, he says: “You know, I can’t really do this anymore unless those of you who are watching in the theater want to join me. I hope you will. And speed it up!”

It took the better part of two years. But on the first cold Saturday of March 2011, Michael Moore stood before tens of thousands of public workers, teachers, farmers, students and their allies who had come to hear him attack the lie that “America is broke” with the truth: “The country is awash in wealth and cash. It’s just that it’s not in your hands. It has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich.”

Speaking of the bankers, the speculators and the corporate CEOs, Moore said: “They have created a poison pill that they know you will never want to take. It is their version of mutually assured destruction. And when they threatened to release this weapon of mass economic annihilation in September of 2008, we blinked. As the economy and the stock market went into a tailspin, and the banks were caught conducting a worldwide Ponzi scheme, Wall Street issued this threat: Either hand over trillions of dollars from the American taxpayers or we will crash this economy straight into the ground. Fork it over or it’s goodbye savings accounts. Goodbye pensions. Goodbye United States Treasury. Goodbye jobs and homes and future …

“The executives in the board rooms and hedge funds could not contain their laughter, their glee, and within three months they were writing each other huge bonus checks and marveling at how perfectly they had played a nation full of suckers. Millions lost their jobs anyway, and millions lost their homes. But there was no revolt. … Until now!”

The look of delight on Moore’s face when he uttered those words, and the knowing roar of approval from the crowd, was the most powerful moment Saturday.

It was followed not by the poignant plea for engagement that closed “Capitalism: A Love Story,” but rather by a celebration of the answer to that plea.

“On, Wisconsin!” Moore shouted. “Never has a Michigander been more happy to share a big, great lake with you! You have aroused the sleeping giant known as the working people of the United States of America. Right now the earth is shaking and the ground is shifting under the feet of those who are in charge. Your message has inspired people in all 50 states and that message is: WE HAVE HAD IT! We reject anyone who tells us America is broke and broken. It’s just the opposite! We are rich with talent and ideas and hard work and, yes, love. Love and compassion toward those who have, through no fault of their own, ended up as the least among us. But they still crave what we all crave: Our country back! Our democracy back! Our good name back! The United States of America. NOT the Corporate States of America. The United States of America!”

The crowd took up the chant: “The United States of America,” “The United States of America,” “The United States of America!”

It was clear that the American story of submission and surrender was done. Now, finally, the American story — not just the Wisconsin story but the American story — of the fight for a republic that might yet realize FDR’s dream of economic liberty has begun.

Michael Moore is not alone anymore when he says that he refuses to live in an America defined and deranged by banksters and crooked CEOs. Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of Americans are coming, as their ancestors did, to the village green, to the city hall, to the Capitol Square and declaring: “We refuse to live in a country like this and we’re not leaving.”

John Nichols is the associate editor of The Capital Times, Wisconsin’s progressive newspaper.


Film clip from The Progressive

Madison Rally



on Fighting Bob

About Robert "Fighting Bob" La Follette
By John Nichols

ON March 25, 1921, at the age of sixty-five, Robert M. La Follette Sr. took the greatest risk of his long political career. Four years after he chose to lead the Congressional opposition to World War I, La Follette was still condemned in Washington and in his native state of Wisconsin as a traitor or--at best--an old man whose political instincts had finally failed him. But La Follette was not ready to surrender the U.S. Senate seat he had held since leaving Wisconsin's governorship in 1906. He wanted to return to Washington to do battle once more against what he perceived to be the twin evils of the still young century: corporate monopoly at home and imperialism abroad.

The reelection campaign that loomed just a year off would be difficult, he was told, perhaps even impossible. Old alliances had been strained by La Follette's lonely refusal to join in the war cries of 1917 and 1918. To rebuild them, the Senator's aides warned, he would have to abandon his continued calls for investigations of war profiteers and his passionate defense of socialist Eugene Victor Debs and others who had been jailed in the postwar Red Scare.

The place to backpedal, La Follette was told, would be in a speech before the crowded Wisconsin Assembly chamber in Madison. Moments before the white-haired Senator climbed to the podium on that cold March day, he was warned one last time by his aides to deliver a moderate address, to apply balm to the still-open wounds of the previous years, and, above all, to avoid mention of the war and his opposition to it.

La Follette began his speech with the formalities of the day, acknowledging old supporters and recognizing that this was a pivotal moment for him politically. Then, suddenly, La Follette pounded the lectern. "I am going to be a candidate for reelection to the United States Senate," he declared, as the room shook with the thunder of a mighty orator reaching full force. Stretching a clenched fist into the air, La Follette bellowed: "I do not want the vote of a single citizen under any misapprehension of where I stand: I would not change my record on the war for that of any man, living or dead."

The crowd sat in stunned silence for a moment before erupting into thunderous applause. Even his critics could not resist the courage of the man; indeed, one of his bitterest foes stood at the back of the hall, with tears running down his cheeks, and told a reporter: "I hate the son of a bitch. But, my God, what guts he's got."

This was the La Follette that his friend Emma Goldman referred to lovingly as "the finest, most inconsistent anarchist" of his time. This was the man so fierce in his convictions that he would risk consignment to political oblivion rather than abandon an unpopular position. The antithesis of the elected officials whose compromises characterize our contemporary condition, La Follette genuinely believed that the inheritors of America's revolutionary tradition would, if given the truth, opt not for moderation but for the most radical of solutions.

It was this militant faith in the people that enabled him to win reelection to the Senate in 1922 by an overwhelming margin. And this faith guided the Midwestern populist as he embarked on the most successful leftwing Presidential campaign in American history.

Running with the support of the Socialist Party, African Americans, women, organized labor, and farmers, La Follette terrified the established economic, political, and media order, which warned that his election would bring chaos. And La Follette gave them reason to fear. His Progressive Party platform called for government takeover of the railroads, elimination of private utilities, easier credit for farmers, the outlawing of child labor, the right of workers to organize unions, increased protection of civil liberties, an end to U.S. imperialism in Latin America, and a plebiscite before any President could again lead the nation into war.

Campaigning for the Presidency on a pledge to "break the combined power of the private monopoly system over the political and economic life of the American people" and denouncing, in the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan's resurgence, "any discrimination between races, classes, and creeds," La Follette told his followers: "Free men of every generation must combat renewed efforts of organized force and greed to destroy liberty." La Follette's 1924 crusade won almost five million votes--more than five times the highest previous total for a candidate endorsed by the Socialists. He carried Wisconsin, ran second in eleven Western states, and swept working-class Jewish and Italian wards of New York and other major cities--proving that a rural-urban populist coalition could, indeed, be forged.

La Follette declared in a post-campaign article for the national publication he edited, La Follette's Weekly, which would soon be renamed The Progressive, that, while threats and intimidation had weakened the 1924 drive, "the Progressives will close ranks for the next battle."

Though he did not live to see it, La Follette would within a decade be proven right.

The 1924 campaign laid the groundwork for the resurgence of leftwing populist movements across the upper Midwest--the Non-Partisan League of North Dakota, the Farmer-Labor Party of Minnesota, and the Progressive Party of Wisconsin. It spurred labor-based independent political action by New York's American Labor Party and other groupings. And La Follette gave inspiration, as well, to those who swung the Democratic Party to the left in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Harold Ickes Sr., a key aide to La Follette's 1924 campaign, would become an architect of the New Deal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt who, in the words of historian Bernard Weisberger, "completed the elder La Follette's work."

Roosevelt acknowledged the inspiration of La Follette. But the Wisconsinite's truest heirs were of a more radical bent--people like his sons, Bob Jr. and Phil, who served respectively as U.S. Senator from Wisconsin and governor of the state; Minnesota's Floyd Olson, who was very possibly the most radical figure ever to govern an American state; author Upton Sinclair, whose 1934 foray into gubernatorial politics borrowed heavily from La Follette's 1924 platform and promised to "end poverty in California"; and New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, a veteran La Follette partisan who nominated the Senator for President in 1924 with the announcement that "I speak for Avenue A and 116th Street, instead of Broad and Wall."

In 1941, when U.S. Representative Jeannette Rankin, Republican of Montana, the first woman elected to the House of Representatives, cast the sole vote against entering World War II, she recalled La Follette's lonely opposition to the First World War. And a full four decades after La Follette's death, the two U.S. Senate votes against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that committed the United States to all-out war in Vietnam came from Oregon's Wayne Morse, a Wisconsin native who had imbibed La Follette's anti-imperialism as a youth, and Alaska's Ernest Gruening, who had served as spokesman for La Follette's 1924 campaign.

In the Upper Midwest, La Follette's legacy lives on. As recently as the fall of 1998, Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold made that legacy a centerpiece of his reelection campaign against a significantly better-financed Republican challenger. Feingold, who traces his role as the Senate's leading foe of special interests to his own father's youthful involvement with the Progressive Movement, told supporters on the night of his reelection: "Now we have the chance, 100 years after the great Fighting Bob La Follette, to send a message to Washington. . . . Out of the Upper Midwest will come political reform, will come political change, will come the principle of one person/one vote once again."

WHAT is it about La Follette that has made him such an enduring figure? It comes down to a single idea: America, La Follette argued throughout his political life, cannot live up to its ideals so long as militarism and corporate power warp our democracy.

Steeped in the ideals of Jefferson and Lincoln, La Follette developed his revulsion for corporate capital as a young man--taking his cue from Edward Ryan, a fiery Irish radical who rose to the position of chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court during the great populist upsurge of the 1870s.

When Ryan spoke to University of Wisconsin students in 1873, young Robert M. La Follette heard the jurist declare: "There is looming up a dark new power. . . . The enterprises of the country are aggregating vast corporate combinations of unexampled capital, boldly marking, not for economic conquest only, but for political power. For the first time in our politics, money is taking the field of organized power. The question will arise, and arise in your day though perhaps not fully in mine: 'Which shall rule--wealth or man? Which shall lead--money or intellect? Who shall fill public stations--educated and patriotic free men, or the feudal serfs of corporate wealth?'"

Those words served as La Follette's mantra as he embarked on a career that would take him to Congress, the governorship of Wisconsin, and the U.S. Senate. La Follette's election as governor came after a decade-long crusade against the timber barons and railroad interests that dominated his own Republican Party. When he took office, he pledged to end the rule of "corporation agents and representatives of the machine," who had "moved upon the capitol."

Declaring that "the spirit of democracy is abroad in the land," La Follette successfully pushed the legislature to double taxes on the railroads, to break up monopolies, to preserve the state's forests, to protect labor rights, to defend the interests of small farmers, to regulate lobbying, to end patronage politics, and to weaken the grip of political bosses by creating an open-primary system.

By the time he was elevated to the U.S. Senate in 1906, La Follette was already a national figure. He soon emerged as a leader of the Senate's burgeoning progressive camp and by 1912 was a serious contender for the Republican Party's Presidential nomination. The fight for the nomination exposed divisions within the progressive camp, however, as La Follette's more radical followers battled supporters of a more centrist reformer who also claimed the progressive mantle: former President Teddy Roosevelt.

The Roosevelt/La Follette split grew more pronounced five years later, as the nation prepared to enter World War I. While Roosevelt urged U.S. participation in the war--the position supported by the nation's political establishment--La Follette emerged as the leading foe of a war he described as a scheme to line the pockets of the corporations he had fought so bitterly as a governor and Senator.

La Follette personally held up the declaration of war for twenty-four hours by refusing unanimous consent to Senate resolutions. From the Senate floor, La Follette argued: "We should not seek [to] inflame the mind of our people by half truths into the frenzy of war." He painted the impending conflict as a war that would benefit the wealthy of the world but not the workers, who would have to fight it. And he warned: "The poor . . . who are always the ones called upon to rot in the trenches have no organized power. . . . But oh, Mr. President, at some time they will be heard. . . . There will come an awakening. They will have their day, and they will be heard."

Those words sounded treasonous to some, and La Follette's constant efforts to expose war profiteers only heightened the attacks upon him. He was targeted for censure by the Senate, portrayed in Life magazine as a stooge of the German Kaiser, and denounced by virtually the entire media establishment of the nation--including the Boston Evening Transcript, which announced, "Henceforth he is the Man without a Country."

As mounting domestic oppression sent more and more anti-war activists to jail, La Follette emerged as their defender, berating his colleagues with the charge that "Never in all my many years' experience in the House and in the Senate have I heard so much democracy preached and so little practiced as during the last few months."

His critics declared that La Follette would never again be a viable contender for public office.

And yet, less than four years after the Armistice, running on a platform that explicitly recounted his opposition to the war and his opposition to imperialism, La Follette won reelection with more than 70 percent of the vote in Wisconsin. And two years later, he earned one out of every six votes cast for the Presidency of the United States.

The 1924 Presidential campaign was the last for La Follette. Within a year, he was dead.

NOT long after the Senator's passing, my great-grandfather and the other members of the Blue River, Wisconsin, village board renamed one of the handful of streets in their tiny community "La Follette." I make it a point to walk that street every year. I go not merely to honor the most courageous political leader this nation has ever produced, nor even to recognize the movement that my great-grandfather and so many like him saw as the way to reclaim democracy for the people.

As one who has reported for too many years on too many political compromises, I go because I know that, more than any other leader in American history, La Follette understood this country's promise. And I go because I know that, so long as we keep his vision alive, that promise may yet be kept.

John Nichols is the associate editor for The Capital Times, in Madison, a newspaper that was founded to support Robert M. La Follette Sr.'s fight against World War I. A version of this article originally appeared in the Progressive magazine's 90th anniversary issue in 1999.

"Is this a private fight, or can anyone join?"
-Old Irish saying