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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!

Orange you glad you live in Tosa?

Snarky, Wauwatosa, Brookfield, Hooters

Whenever I start feeling too agitated about Wauwatosa politics, I take a deep breath and look to the west. Nothing like a little Brookfield brouhaha to give you a sense of perspective.

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When conventional wisdom isn't

Job hunt, economy

It's always seemed like a good idea to question conventional wisdom.

I am thinking of the story of a woman who, after years of cutting off the end of her roasts before cooking, asked her mother why. "That's what my mother did," she replied. Fortunately, Grandma was still alive, so the two called her: "Oh, I never had a pan that was long enough," was the answer.

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Tired ground

Kids, Marilyn French

Some 32 years ago, Marilyn French wrote a powerful and difficult novel, The Women's Room. It was about women whose only purpose was to reproduce and make possible the lives of the men they'd married--the job for which they'd been carefully bred and over-educated. 

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Let's really confuse 'em

Kids, Bristol Palin

What we see has more influence than what we hear. And who says the words matters as much as what she says.

Want a spokeswoman for marriage? The National Organization for Marriage has selected Carrie Prejean, Miss California and opponent of gay marriage, who has never been married herself but never mind that. She has all the qualifications for being a wife. . .

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What I wish I'd done for Mother's Day

Mother's Day, Mom

When I was about 9 years old, I spent most of a year's savings on a figurine to give to Mom for Mother's Day. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen: a young girl in a long white dress, lots of frothy lacey procelain pettiskirts, some sort of haloish flowery thing around her head. It was, I now realize, a Catholic first communion piece.

Mom, a Norwegian Lutheran, accepted it with extravagant praise and put it high on a shelf where it would be safe from accidental assault. And even the view of visitors.

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Now it's up to Wauwatosa

Wauwatosa, Economy, Development, County Grounds

One of the key players in the development of the Milwaukee County Grounds wasn't at the table today. But the Milwaukee County  Economic & Community Development committee agreed that nothing will happen with the UWM Foundation plan for the engineering campus and other related development  "unless and until (it is) approved by the City of Wauwatosa."

If you've ever wondered why it matters who your local elected officials are, here's your answer. The whole vague area of "ancillary development"--shops, restaurants, "boutique hotels," and anything else that might end up there--depends entirely on the kindness of Wauwatosa zoning.

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Trump trumps US Senate in upholding freedom

Democracy, Carrie Prejean, Donald Trump, US Senate, single payer health insurance


What do California beauty queen Carrie Prejean and activist pediatrician Margaret Flowers have in common, besides blonde hair and infectious smiles?

Both spoke ideas that others didn't want to hear.

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Didn't know abuse was a crime?

Weakland, abuse

When Archbishop Rembert Weakland wrote,  "We all considered sexual abuse of minors as a moral evil, but had no understanding of its criminal nature," families of victims were outraged. "It's beyond belief. He's either lying or he's so self-deceived that he's inventing fanciful stories," said Midwest director for the Surviviors Network of those Abused by Priests, Peter Isely.

Is it possible that a man as brilliant as Weakland didn't understand the cost of abuse to its victims, never mind the church? That he didn't know it was a crime?

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County's new budget plan: litigation

Milwaukee County, economy

Almost everyone seems to agree with the Kansas City Business Journal's odds-setting:

Here’s a safe bet for 2009: Business litigation is going to go up as the economy nose-dives.

Strike the modifier "business." Litigation is going to go up, and some law firms are going to do very well from people's economic misery.

Milwaukee County is doing its part to drive the litigation economy. In the recent settlement from pension actuary Mercer Inc., the county stands to get some $30 million, while the rest will get eaten up in legal fees.

One third of the money that's intended to punish Mercer sounds like a lot. But then, the litigators aggressively hunted down the information they needed to prove flaws in the Mercer plan and its presentation to the Milwaukee County Board. They earned their cut.

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Helping consumers?

Credit cards, economy

Awhile ago, I vented about a credit card company changing my interest rate capriciously. No late payments, no decline in credit score, and yet they shifted me from a single digit interest rate to a rate over 20%.

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Brat rules

Wauwatosa, Sendiks, bratwurst

That's "braht," as in bratwurst.

This is bratwurst weekend in Wisconsin, with the world's "largest brat fesival" underway in Madison as of this Friday morning and lasting through Monday.

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Vets, empathy, and justice

Memorial Day, Empathy, GI Bill

The old vet in his envelope cap and wheelchair called to me as I hurried into Pick N Save Friday.

“Take this,” he said, holding out a red paper poppy, “and wear it.”

I started my “sorry” shrug: all I had was a debit card, no cash. But he stopped me before I could get shoulders and the palms of my hands up.

“It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to pay for it. Just wear it. Please,” he commanded.

And so I did. He paid for it, and I wore it.

Try as I might, I can’t imagine his experience. Whether he had been in Korea or Vietnam, he experienced things that only other soldiers can really comprehend. Most of them don’t try to make us understand, either because they want to protect us or because they’ve given up on us.

So we wear our poppies to say thank you, knowing how short the gesture must fall.

I feel humbled by my failure of empathy.  That’s a word much in the air these days, as the President gets ready to appoint a new Supreme Court justice. He dared to use the "E" word, and his political opponents have seized on it and begun the long, ugly process of turning empathy into a bad thing.

A simple definition from a faculty website at a community college in Alabama calls empathy the intellectual & emotional awareness and understanding of another person’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior, even when they are distressing. The emphasis is on understanding.

It’s one tool every judge should use in collecting and considering information. Empathy informs the intellect; it doesn’t replace it.

Senator John Kyle (R, Arizona)  has threatened the filibuster against any appointee  who decides on "emotions or feelings or preconceived ideas." “Simply deciding on the basis of feelings” is a phrase that shows up over and over in a Google search.

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Good policy: establishing naming criteria

Wauwatosa, Community Development Committee, naming rights

While I’m not a big believer in rules for the sake of rules, I can see where guidelines and policies might be a good idea. Having a naming rights policy for Wauwatosa public property is a good idea for all sorts of reasons.

So I wanted to know why new Alderman Robert Dennik found the proposal by Community Development Committee colleagues Don Birschel and Dennis McBride “overkill.”

“For what?” he asked.
“For naming rights,” I replied.

“Theoretically,” he said. “I know, but for what?” he said again.

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