“UPRISING” by John Nichols – a Review, Sort of

While I have often used the word “joy” to describe how it felt to be part of the big rallies in Madison last year, there were frustrations. For me, one of the biggest frustrations was the inaccuracy in the reporting of events. I only spent one night in the capitol, but I spent a lot of days there. After a day of protesting, I would go home and watch the news and wonder how they could get so much wrong. I’m not talking about subjective things, I mean basic facts like someone’s name or job title.

I remember being downtown at a rally in the middle of the week. The teachers had returned to work after a few days of calling in sick, but there were still about ten thousand people at the noon rally. One of the major television networks had finally decided to send a crew in to do a story after days of protests and job actions. I watched their news broadcast that evening. The reporter described the controversy as a fight between Scott Walker and the teachers unions over pension and health care costs (no mention of other public employees or of collective bargaining rights), then stated that “ten thousand teachers” had attended a protest rally that day, even though the teachers were back on the job and the protesters that day were everybody but teachers.

John Nichols of The Nation magazine and the Capital Times became the only reporter we could trust to tell us what was going on. He got it right every time, and he gets it right again in his new book, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street.

In his foreword, he ridicules Fox News for their use of “Fair and Balanced” and describes that sentiment as a fantasy. He then admits that he, John Nichols, is not an unbiased observer, he is a Wisconsinite. So, while fair and balanced Fox News showed images of the rare tundra palm trees, the “biased” John Nichols nailed every detail while educating us about Fighting Bob La Follette, Gaylord Nelson, and dairy cooperatives. In his new book, Nichols continues the lessons and connects the Wisconsin uprising with the leaders of the American Revolution, the framers of the Constitution, and the Occupy movement.

My receipt from the University Book Store confirms that I purchased a copy of “Uprising” at 12:18 pm Sunday.

It’s 8:51 pm as I write this. In those eight and a half hours I did some grocery shopping, picked up my daughter from her driving school lesson, cooked dinner, and watched some golf on television.

In between all that I read “Uprising”, which I can describe as page after page of “yes!” for anyone who has been a part of the struggle over the past year. This book is so accurate it’s scary. It’s almost spooky. It makes me wonder if John Nichols has devised a way to personalize the narrative for every person who participated in the uprising.

I’m one of those people, so it would be silly of me to “review” this book in the traditional sense. I’m still in the middle of all the craziness that is FitzWalkerstan. It’s still raw. I can’t even watch videos of the rallies from last February without crying. So, instead of trying to pretend that I could objectively evaluate this book for some unidentified reader who has never heard of Wisconsin or its uprising, let me list the reasons why I cannot review this book.

First, I admit I’m addicted to John Nichols. I’ve lost count of how many times over the past year I’ve nodded my head when I heard John Nichols explain why things were happening in Wisconsin. I have listened to him almost every morning on WTDY radio for the past year, and almost as often I have watched him on The Ed Show on MSNBC at night. I even subscribed to The Nation. Man, those puzzles on the back page are really hard.

I knew I’d have an even harder time trying to write a review of this book after I read page 1. Nichols begins the book with a quote from Walt Whitman, then an excerpt from a letter written by an Egyptian activist, then this:

I THOUGHT CAIRO WOULD BE WARMER —- protest sign, Madison, Wisconsin, February 2011

The exact date that sign was written and first seen on the capitol square was February 17th. It was a reference to Republican Congressman Paul Ryan’s accurate but sarcastically delivered comment that Madison was beginning to look more like Cairo. How do I know all this? Because it was my sign. I saved it, and I just pulled it out of the stack of protest signs in my garage. Here’s a picture:


And here’s a portion of what I wrote on Daily Kos about that day at the protests:

I watched the ticker on the local news this morning and was delighted to see that my children’s school was closed. My son hitched a ride with a friend, protest signs in tow, and met up with some classmates on ground zero – the capitol rotunda.

My daughter and I quickly made some more signs and the two of us joined the pilgrimage to Madison shortly after. Perhaps you saw my sign when I held it up behind a Fox “News” anchor as he interviewed someone. It said “We’re Ba-ack!” on one side and “I Thought Cairo Would Be Warmer” on the other. I swear the cameraman grinned.

Finally, in a chapter about the “Next Media” that helped organize events and then covered them in a way that traditional media wouldn’t, Nichols says Wisconsin-based blogs recognized what many mainstream media outlets did not – specifically that the protesters were not just union members, but a diverse group of Wisconsinites who recognized the value of organized labor and collective bargaining for everyone.

Then he mentions Blue Cheddar as an example of one of those blogs.

I’m afraid to look at the notes in the back for fear he’ll have my dog listed as a source.

The man is so accurate on the names, times, quotes, and events that you just can’t argue with him when he says James Madison would be proud of the Wisconsin protesters. Of course he’d be proud. You think James Madison is going to doubt John Nichols?

You want a review? This is the other bomb. There’s your review.

I believe, Mr. Nichols. I believe in the ghost of Fighting Bob. I believe in democracy. I believe in Wisconsin. But how did you know which copy of your book I would pick off the shelf?

Part 1: My notes and The Speeches of Fighting Bob Fest 2011

The night before:
Arthur of the facebook page Shit Scott Walker is Doing to My State had a brief conversation with Senator Sanders at a fundraiser Friday night. 1:35 minutes

Later Senator Bernie Sanders, the man many consider to be the most outstanding progressive in Washington D.C., appeared at the Friday night kickoff event and he said thank you to a standing room crowd at the Barrymore Theater. Really, if his “thank you” were the only thing that happened to me, I would have been thrilled with the evening:

“You may know this, or you may not know this, but you have been the inspiration to the people of Vermont and people all over this country so thank you very much. What you have told America is that in these tough times, we are not going to let the crooks on Wall Street or the corporate bandits destroy this great nation. That when we say together and demand the creation of millions of good paying jobs, when we demand the transformation of our energy system, when we say loud and clear to Republicans and to some Democrats you are not going to cut Social Security, you are not going to cut Medicare, and that together standing together we are going to bring about a Medicare for all single payer healthcare – I am here tonight from the bottom of my heart to thank you, to thank your great firefighters, to thank your public employees for your leadership in inspiring us all. We are going to beat the right wing. We are going to create an America that works for all of our people. Thank you very much for your leadership. Thank you.”

Here’s the video of Senator Sanders’ thanks.

We also heard the familiar bagpipes of our local firefighters who’ve serenaded each of our rallies: Local 311. And speeches so fiery I could almost smell the brimstone.

Oddly enough, I especially perked up to hear Thom Hartmann say we are either about to experience bliss or destruction: either a resurgence in progressive energy like we’ve never seen before OR we are on the road to the death of progressive politics at the hands of the Republicans.

When he said this, the crowd did a little awkward wiggle in its collective seat. A few dry coughs were expelled. I am not doing justice to his speech at the moment. He also talked about the notion of libertarian “freedom” and how close it is to the freedom to die in the street like a dog. He also talked about the travails America went through even as early as the presidency of John Adams – a leader who turned out to be a tyrant. But I dwell on that note he gave – that we are on a precipice of some sort – because it was the perfect pinch of reality tossed into an evening of hyperbole and it’s what I’ve been thinking, too.

All of the speakers were dynamic. But Dennis Kucinich was possessed. Senator Kucinish is a very short and slight man. But after seeing him bounce with this much of the progressive holy spirit, I’d say you’d best not ever cross him. He sent us out into the night with this:

Youtuber Paul Baker (at last look) also has videos from the same evening of Jim Hightower, Stan Gruszynksi, and Phil Neuenfeldt – President of Wisconsin’s AFL-CIO.

The day of: Fighting Bob Fest

Fighting Bob Fest just about filled the vast Alliant Energy Center Auditorium. I really love twitter, facebook, this blog and the whole internet ball of wax. Yet there is nothing like the energy of being a human surrounded by thousands of other humans all hearing a message. We remain communal and enjoy each other in the flesh despite all of the technology we put between ourselves. Then also consider that there is an added layer of resonance when echoing at rock star volume before you in a stadium are these heroic people that the mass media usually keeps quiet [remember Senator Sanders’ fillibuster that went just about nowhere on conventional media?]. Seeing a respect and dignity granted to these progressive voices revives your own progressive political and fighting spirit. Heady stuff. And this is all thanks to Ed Garvey, who has been making Bob Fest happen for a decade now and who John Nichols credits for rebuilding the Democratic Party in Wisconsin.

Still, if I were to ask “How can Bob Fest be improved?” I’d have a few answers: add high speed internet to your site and add social media training. Add more young people, and draw in more people of color. Add more tactical ideas to take away and add ways for us to break down in groups so we’re networking at the level of each county in Wisconisn and/or geographic areas. I aknowledge that some of this was provided in the breakout sessions, and in its way, at the booths and informally.

I also think of the wisdom of @4SHCrane of twitter who said to me (paraphrasing): There are plenty of progressives. You can do all of the things you do not see at Bob Fest on your own.

I expect that WORT FM and Fighting Bob will in time have full audio and/or video of the speeches. When it’s up, that’ll be in part 2. For the moment, here are what I can provide or have access to:

A brief selection from Bernie Sanders’ speech. 4:57 minutes.

Bernie Sanders’ speech in full. 43 minutes

Film by ontheearthproduction

Cornel West 6:05 minutes

Film by ontheearthproduction

Tony Schultz 17:37 minutes

Film by ontheearthproduction

A brief selection from Mahlon Mitchell’s speech. Chanting included! This gives you a sense of how many people were there. You’ll see a lot of folks age 50 years and up. That’s about normal for Fighting Bob Fest.
0:51 minutes

Other Bob Fest Reporting:
Fighting Bob Fest attendees say it’s up to the people to recall Scott Walker – Cap Times

Madison’s Channel 3

Fighting Bob Fest audience

Photos from Fighting Bob Fest, Madison Wisconsin, September 17, 2011

The top slideshow are 20 of my favorite photos from Fighting Bob Fest in Madison September 17, 2011.

Some people wanted to get copies of photos of themselves posing with Thom Hartmann etc. You should be able to right click on images in the image list at bottom and then save to your own computer. And if you’d like to share some on facebook, I have an album of the same images right here.

The photos in the image list also get much larger than the slideshow.

Republishing is OK, just please…: If you republish these to your personal page or blog, that’s fine, but please give a credit to “the blue cheddar blog” and a link back here. Thanks much.

[nggallery id=17]

Interview with John Nichols at today’s march against Walker’s budget

Here’s an interview of John Nichols discussing Walkerville, today’s march against Walker’s budget, and Wisconsin Act 10.
I was doing some live Ustreaming and ran into him on Carroll Street.

He’ll be in Washington D.C. tonight to stand with National Nurses United. More information on a national registered nurse rally is HERE.

If you’d prefer to see this with video, John starts talking at the 48 minute mark on my archived Ustream from today:

Video streaming by Ustream

Grab bag of Wisconsin Solidarity, News, and Views

Wisconsin Act 10 Stalls

Today 3/31 Judge Maryann  Sumi ordered that the law “has not been published within the meaning” of Wisconsin law and “is therefore not in effect.”’

Pictured: Dept. of Justice response to Judge Sumi.

And following Huebsch said, “given the most recent court action we will suspend the implementation of it at this time. DOA will continue to abide by the court orders, like the department has done all throughout this process.”


I think that “A” on First Draft is feeling about the way I feel…

It’s so very very generous, to agree to sit down after somebody smacks you in the face with a bag of nickels and yells SIT DOWN MOTHERFRAKKER two dozen times. It’s such a kind concession to say yes, the law is the law, and in order that I might avoid actually getting arrested and/or frogmarched out of my offices (because Wisconsin Democrats have gigantic balls, unlike the Dems during the Bush years), I, Governor Deadeyes, will compromise by doing what I have to do anyway. More at First Draft

And to seek an attorney’s blogging on Dane County & Fitzwalkerstani legal drama, see illusory tenant

Emily Mills of Isthmus’ The Daily Page

Nice article. Just a bit – a selection of Mark Pocan’s quote:

There’s no way a person who is a non-sitting judge, whose name is ‘Kloppenburg,’ is supposed to beat a sitting incumbent Supreme Court Justice… it’s very possible with the interest right now, if people decide to motivate and get out the vote, that Kloppenburg wins. If that happens, that’s like the nuclear option for Walker. He at that point goes, ‘oh shit.’

More at Why the Kloppenburg Vote is Crucial

March 29 Protest of Governor Walker in Janesville

The artice from GazetteExtra says 100’s showed up for a protest of Governor Walker’s presence at a business dinner in Janesville. GazetteExtra did a pretty good write-up and also has a brief video, which is worth your time.

John Nichols and Sly of WTDY talked about the protest outside of the Forward Janesville dinner as well as the usual Wisconsin crisis stuff you’d expect. That’s archived right here at WTDY

On March 29, Joy Cardin featured the topic of Charter Schools vs. Public Schools in Wisconsin.

Joy spoke with Sarah Granofsky, Program Director for the Wisconsin Charter Schools Association for 30 minutes, and she then spoke with Dan Rossmiller, Director of Government Relations for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.

Ed Schultz Interviews John Nichols from Madison’s Capitol Square

Ed Schultz talking to John Nichols at the top of East Washington Avenue. I was about 20 feet away and could not see Ed. That was OK. The spirit of the crowd and their great signs made up for that. [below]

Ed got possession of an email from the “Club for Growth” which urges Continue reading