Airing of the Grievances 2020 | WisCommunity

Airing of the Grievances 2020

December 29, 2020 - 4:09pm
Seinfeld Festivus Image

Yes, it's late for Festivus - but the airing of the grievances happens all year long. For a change I'm going to write about them. Don't worry, some time between now and New Years I'll talk about the things in 2020 that I am happy about.

The President -  This goes back four years, of course, and there is way too much to go into, so let's just cherry-pick the recent things. Let's just say it - President Trump lost the election. That simple obvious statement will probably cost me some readers, but so be it. The polls said he would lose. The ballots said he lost. The court system says he lost. Recently even some of the Republicans are admitting he lost. Yet the president continues to insist that he won, that there was massive voter fraud, that the voting machines were rigged, that observers were not allowed, that ballots were counted multiple times. It goes on and on. Still, none of the courts found any of this "evidence" compelling enough to take the administration's representatives seriously. Sometimes the lawsuits were so badly written you could see the judges fighting to not roll their eyes. In a couple cases they didn't even try to suppress it. Trump is still promising us some sort of activity on Jan. 6 when the Electoral College votes are counted. Enough. 

Most recently we had the drama over the omnibus budget bill, the COVID relief bill, and the bill funding the military. On the omnibus spending/COVID Relief bill Trump purposely conflated the two bills which were being treated as a package, trying to stir up his base over claims that the COVID bill was full of things not related to COVID relief. He knew full well that most of this money was just a normal bill funding the government, and that the COVID  bill was something different. He simply wanted to inject more chaos into the process and score some final points with Trump loyalists. He refused to sign the bill for a while, insisting (probably correctly) that the bill should have provided more money in the stimulus payment. Then he buckled and signed the bill, but not until after he delayed it long enough that unemployment payments ran out for many people who are barely scraping by (or not scraping by at all) and who cannot find jobs in this pandemic-suppressed economy. For someone who constantly claims he is defending the forgotten in the country, he seems not to be doing a very good job of it.

As to the Defense bill, he is injecting more chaos by refusing to sign it over the re-naming of military bases named after Confederates, and over a demand that Section 230 be removed, making social media companies liable for everything they allow to be posted. I'm not sure he realizes what a chilling effect this would have on speech in the country - particularly the speech of the people who support him. Most of Congress supports this appropriation as written and will almost certainly hand Trump the first veto override of his administration. This administration comes to an end soon. Let's try to do better next time.

The Menomonie School Board - I probably should not complain, as the videos and articles about the Menomonie School Board have provided many of the high-traffic articles for the past two years. But they continue to be the bickering-est most-dysfunctional government entity in the area. Some of this seems to be personal animosity. Some of it is very different world views, and views of what the mission of the schools should be. Some of it is just bewildering, particularly when at the moment so much is at stake with the pandemic. In any case, it would be great if the board could learn to hold more civil productive meetings rather than looking like a not-particularly-interesting reality show. The board is considering (though not apparently very seriously) getting professional help. I encourage this.

One other thing I should mention - 3 of the seats on the board are up for election in 2021. If you are willing to take this on, it only takes 20 signatures and filling out some forms to become a candidate. If you think you could improve the tenor of the board by being a member, I'd encourage you to give it a whirl. Same with all of the other elected bodies in the Chippewa Valley - don't just complain about them, try to make them better. 

The Pandemic -  What can I say? A tiny virus has ripped lives apart all around the world. I've spent most of the last six months holed up in my house with occasional forages out for food and supplies. I've had very little in the way of social or professional contact with people. Most of the meetings I used to cover are now on-line, and the one that was not (Menomonie School Board) I decided was too much of a risk to me or anyone else to cover in-person. The journalism conferences I have gone to in the past are not taking place. All of this has been made harder by the fact that my wife died last year and I was already feeling isolated before this all hit.

Still, I'm much better off than many. I have a house and farm that belong to me and are paid for. I have a little money tucked aside for retirement (even though I'm only really retired in name). A lot of people are not in that position. Many have been sick. Many have died. A lot of the recovered people will never be quite the same, or at least not for a long time. There's so much we still do not know about how the life of the "long-haulers" will be. And many people are just struggling to survive. Unemployment insurance has been difficult for many to get started. As I said above, the people who were on it under the extended coverage just lost a week due to some ill-advised power triangulation. And many find themselves without a stable home. Like all of you, I am tired of all of this, but I particularly despair that we have it within our power to help so many people who have been affected, and we keep botching it. People deny the fact that we're in crisis, and therefore behave badly (not just plain old ordinary folks, but many people who could have lead the rest of us on this and failed). In Wisconsin, both the courts and the legislature seem to keep doing their damndest to stop effective measures to lower the spread of the virus.

I won't even go into my frustration with our state legislature that seems never to think that an issue is important enough to actually meet and try to improve the lives of our citizens. If this is not a crisis, what is?

Social-media-trained experts - WIsCommunity seems to get less of this than some of the media in the area, but any trip through the comments on some of the Facebook media pages is disheartening. This has been increasingly difficult for the past several years, but the outbreak of the pandemic seems to have made people pull out all the stops.  Wild conspiracy theories spread like a wildfire through the internet. Memes overrule scientific papers and research. People who saw some lame-brained article on Gateway Pundit, Epoch Times, or some pseudo-scientific Facebook page become enraged by advice from people who have spent their whole lives studying a subject. Any criticism of the current administration (or indeed, any politician) results in immediate blowback and claims of fascism, Nazism, or socialism. The local television stations seem to be bearing the brunt of this, mostly from people who believe they are paid off by socialists.

I've recently been dressed down by people for expressing an opinion in an editorial (and I'm sure I'll hear about this one as well). Oh my God, that's not news, that's an opinion!!Yes, that's why it's marked as opinion. It's called an editorial. You're perfectly welcome to disagree (though please keep it civil and if you're making a claim please refer to a reputable source). We welcome letters to the editor. You're welcome to comment if you register on the site. Please folks, the Trump era is going to end in a few weeks and we have an opportunity to start acting like we all live in the same country again. Please stop re-hashing all of the same issues over and over again, and please try to not say things in a way that would have made your Mom send you to your room. As a nation, we're better than that. Knock it off. 

And one last thing. If you really need to continue to talk about things that you've pulled out of thin air, try to do it in something resembling English. It's martial law, not marshall law. The healthcare privacy regulation you keep trying to cite is HIPAA, not HIPPA. And even if you spell these things correctly, you really should understand what they really are before you invoke them. 

The continuing decline of media - Lastly, I'd like to say something about the news. The news about the news is depressing. Local newspapers are drying up like crops in the dust bowl. Many of the newspapers that remain have staff that is shrinking at an astounding rate, and many of the local papers are becoming a pile of locally-contributed articles and press releases. and . We've also seen the rise of completely agenda-driven and often politically funded sites masquerading as news sites, which contribute to the social media issues I already referenced. Perhaps even worse, journalists are also putting themselves in the line of fire, not just in the traditional ways, but . All in all, it's a tough time for journalism.

I get it, WisCommunity is always struggling financially as well, and we're all looking for new and innovative ways to move forward. Investigative reporting in particular has been hard hit, as it's one of the most expensive endeavors a local media organization can undertake, and many of us just do not have the staff or financial chops to do it.  

There are some new plans here for 2021. Watch this space. 

Within the next few days, I'll talk about some of the things about 2020 that gave me hope. And some that just tickled my fancy. 

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Steve Hanson
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