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Taking a Ride in the Wayback Machine

For those Wisconsinites who’ve waited far too long to collect unemployment benefits and can’t understand what in the damn hell took so long, perhaps a trip in the Wayback Machine will bring some clarity. Please stay seated during the trip. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. Our first stop is 2001. Wisconsin’s jobless fund, which pays out unemployment benefits, has been severely weakened by the recession. If you look out your windows, a quick stop in 2009 reveals that the jobless reserve is now borrowing money from the federal government in order to keep paying benefits.   I ask

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Political

Shock and Awe? Not So Much

I feel embarrassed. Demoralized. Angry. Afraid, even. But what I don’t feel is surprised. And that, more than anything, makes me heartsick. Anyone else feeling similarly? We’ve heard so many lies during the past four years, thousands of them, told over and over again. Yesterday’s lie (shouted from a podium to thousands gathered in Washington, DC) was that the vice president could somehow break his oath to the Constitution by overturning the results of a free and fair election. And when it failed to come true, the mob attacked. Why would that surprise anyone? After four years of near-constant vilification

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Fiction

Lost and Found

Louisa was washing her hands after spreading yards of mulch when she noticed it: the diamond in her wedding ring was gone. Why hadn’t she taken it off first, or worn gloves?

The jeweler eyed the ring’s fractured prong. “Was it a smallish diamond?”

It hadn’t even been a half carat. Still, her then-boyfriend, now-husband had valeted all summer to pay for it. A blue-collar boy parking cars for white-collar people, Robert had eyes the color of cornflowers and a smile that should’ve been illegal. Tips were good. So good, he graduated college nearly debt-free. He wanted to go to grad school. She wanted to finish her degree in landscape architecture. He said investing in his education was the more practical decision. They couldn’t afford both.

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Political

Silver Linings: Our opportunity to rethink everything

The American economy is like a schizoid yo-yo: On the way up, when times are good and getting better, some say “Government regulation of industry slows down growth–it’s anti-capitalist.” But when times are tough and on the way down, it’s all “Government to the rescue—where’s my bail out?” And it isn’t just industry or businesses sharing this seemingly bi-polar economic belief system. Take this quote from a recent poll regarding whether the federal government is doing too little to deal with the health and economic repercussions of COVID-19: “Gary Tidball, 52, a Republican from Overland Park, Kansas, has been relying

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Non-Fiction

Are You Ready For a Change?

There were mostly middle-aged white people, residents of the city in which I live, congregating on the front lawn of city hall when I arrived that night. A state assemblyman from my district was speaking on a bullhorn, urging people to stay until 7pm, when the curfew would begin. At 6pm, a line of military trucks from all over the state came cruising down the avenue before stopping at the light, flexing their military muscle to the people lining the sidewalk. Residents shouted, “Go home” and “We don’t want you here.” We moved to this community nearly 30 years ago

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Fiction

Monsters

A recurrent childhood dream: I’m in my mother’s kitchen. White ruffled curtains, encouraged by a breeze, float in and out of open windows. It’s like a gunshot when the banging starts, and it’s coming from the door leading to the basement. The door is locked, but the top panel heaves, hinges straining. The wood begins to splinter, fraying like a worn blanket. I sprint to my bedroom, dive under the bed. I hear the crash as the door gives way. The gorilla is coming for me. ### End-of-summer treasure hunt. Bobby discovers a bottle that most certainly contains a magic

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Non-Fiction

Noise

We all make mistakes for which we should all be forgiven,” our yoga teacher announces as class begins. “This morning, I am choosing to forgive the mistake they apparently made out there.” He smiles, then motions with his chin toward the window where, across the street, two men in matching highlighter-yellow jackets are using a jackhammer to break up a new concrete sidewalk poured only a few weeks ago. The workers had become familiar to us, part of a construction crew working on a new development across from our yoga studio, their noise competing with the instructions of our sensei

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Political

A Love Letter

Dear citizens: Some of you, mostly my enemies, wonder how I’ve become such a great and adored leader. The ones who hate me puzzle over how I am able to do and say outrageous things, and still maintain the love and support of an adoring public. My approach is really quite simple and based upon the following: The receptivity of the masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. Therefore, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of

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Fiction

Leadership 101

I’m likely not the instructor you hoped for when you enrolled in the Game of Thrones Leadership Training Program. I’ll be the first to admit I’m no Jon Snow. But what I lack in stature and good looks, I make up for in wisdom. Besides, with only one other client, I’m currently available. I agree–your world needs help. And maybe you are just the leader it’s looking for. After all, it’s more than a little scary out there. I don’t mean “scary” as in “dragons-flying-around-torching-people” scary, like in my world. Here, a fire-breathing dragon qualifies as a real danger and

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Political

The Myth of Rugged Individualism

We Americans are known for our “rugged individualism,” a term coined in a 1928 campaign speech by Herbert Hoover, who fancied himself a “self-made” millionaire. What’s interesting is that during the early days of the Great Depression, Hoover launched the largest public works projects up until his time. So I guess getting help from the government is sometimes okay—like during the middle of a pandemic, maybe? Speaking of pandemics, how has this idea of rugged individualism, of “going it alone” served us here in America, where absent a national strategy or coordinated federal effort, each state (and often, cities/counties within

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