Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Don't Count Your Conspirators Before They Crack Their Windows

On Friday night, I had a very strange encounter with a gentleman who asked to sign my petition. It was around 7:00 pm in front of the Walgreens on Koehler. A blue station wagon pulled up behind me and a man asked to sign my petition. When I patted my ironing board and indicated for him to come up and join me on the sidewalk, he asked me to bring the petition to him. Since the Christmas tree seller who was renting the corner of the parking lot where the man was parked had seemed supportive, I decided to go ahead and take the petition to him.

As he was filling out his address, he said to me, "You're probably going to have a whole bunch of people coming to sign, but you're not going to like where they're coming from." At this point, my warning flags were replaced with flashing lights and sirens. "Oh?" I asked politely. "There's a whole bunch of Republicans on Facebook who've decided we're going to sign to help you finish this and just get it over with." I had an overwhelming urge to snatch the clipboard back from his hands before he could finish signing, but instead I told him that he shouldn't be signing my petition unless he wanted to recall Walker. He told me that he supported Walker, but that he and his fellow Facebook group members wanted to recall him in order to prove in a year that a Democrat couldn't do any better and then they'd recall the new governor. He told me that someone had posted my location in the Facebook group and that I should expect a bunch more to show up.

All in all, he understood what he was signing, though I didn't agree with why he was signing it. I didn't have a reason to not allow him to finish, but I didn't feel comfortable with this at all. He told me that Walker was doing what the people wanted, and that putting a Democrat in power would prove that when the new governor ultimately failed. He made it sound like he fully supported Walker but would recall him, vote against him to elect someone new, then recall the next governor. He was a mild-mannered man who looked to be in his 40s, a recently-returned Iraq vet who was proud of his certification as a storm chaser.

As we exchanged some polite but baffled (on my part, anyway) banter on Walker and his policies, I tried to size up this man and his motives. I felt like there was a large chunk of the conversation that was missing at times, like he was operating out of knowledge that he assumed was Gospel fact of which I would also be aware. He was armed with some pro-Walker talking points, some of which I was able to address, some of which were supported with things I'd never heard before (something about Milwaukee schools doing better because they were hiring two special education teachers and didn't need any other teachers). When he praised Walker's balancing the budget, he said that he knew that Doyle hadn't balanced the budget because so-and-so had a sign in his yard that said he hadn't. When I mentioned the Balanced Budget Act, he'd never heard of it.

I try not to make assumptions about people, but I found myself trying to explain why this man was in the parking lot, signing my petition. He talked about being a vet, and he seemed proud to have served his country. He talked about being a storm chaser, and he focused on the role of the storm chaser in providing 15 minutes of warning rather than just 5 minutes and how that saves lives. He was very proud about being a certified storm chaser (he credits Walker with coming up with funding; I'd never heard of this, and a Google search isn't supplying any useful answers), and I wondered if the same things that motivated him to join the armed forces had motivated him to chase storms. He also seemed very trusting. He was willing to believe something he'd read on a sign in someone's yard because he'd trusted the person who'd erected it. I suspect that he drove down to sign because he'd read that I was there on Facebook, and while I have no idea which group he was referring to or its content, I have a nagging feeling that people were speaking hyperbolically about what they should do so they didn't have to see people like us out on the streets anymore, never intending to actually follow through. This man took them seriously, I suspect because he believes that everyone is as honest as he is.

We parted amicably, but I wondered if I should consider calling it a night. He was only my 29th signature, and I'd originally hoped to end the day with 35 signatures, one for each of my 35 years. I waited nervously to see if the influx of Facebook conspirators would arrive. I debated with myself how I should handle people who came to sign from this group. While others might say that I should be happy to have more signatures, I also have to sign off on the bottom of the page at the end of the day. I want to make sure that I feel comfortable with every signature on there. I have told people before that I didn't want them to sign my petition, that they should instead do some research first and then stop in at the office on the corner of Main and Merritt if they decided that they want to sign. As I waited, I alternately imagined cheerfully collecting their signatures with grasping my clipboard to my chest and refusing to let them sign.

When the first vehicle stopped after that, I was a little on edge, ready to interrogate my potential signer before proceeding, but the woman who arrived was someone who'd already signed, bearing gifts of hot chocolate. It was a huge relief and encouragement to stay. Only three more people showed up to sign in the next hour, and I half-jokingly asked them if they were part of this Facebook group. None of them were. Another woman stopped with hot chocolate. When that cup was done, I decided to call it a night. I was relieved that my storm chaser was the only person who stopped with this story, because I still wasn't sure how to comfortably deal with any others. It was odd and unsettling, and I needed time to process it. Ultimately, I think the suggestion on the group was just talk. It's the rare Walker supporter who goes out of his way to engage with circulators beyond yelling out a car window. In retrospect, I shouldn't be surprised that the only person actually willing to drive out in the snow and wind to sign my petition was a storm chaser who wanted to do what he thought would best benefit his community.

The Warmth of Kind Women

Despite Walker's implications earlier this recall season, I have yet to meet a paid circulator in Wisconsin's recall petition drive. I have, however, met many an activist. Many, like myself, would not have considered themselves activists before this year. As activists, we volunteer our time to gather signatures, expecting nothing more than personal satisfaction at working for a brighter Wisconsin future. As we stand outside in the cold, we get paid in warm fuzzies.

Occasionally, we are rewarded with something more. On Friday, I decided to collect signatures for my birthday. I spent about six hours outside that day, so I was grateful when Paulette stopped to offer me a hot chocolate and a cookie during my second shift. A little later, a woman stopped with some coffee for me. "I'm from out of state, so I can't sign. This is the best I can do," she apologized. As she was pulling out, another woman who was waiting noted that her license plate was from Texas. I'm not a coffee drinker, but I warmed my hands on the cup as the wind picked up and the snow started to fall. Upon deciding to drink it, I was pleasantly surprised that it was mocha-peppermint. Later, during my third shift, another woman stopped to bring me hot chocolate, this one a double-sized cup. About a half hour later, another woman stopped and offered me a hot chocolate.

For those of you keeping running score at home, that's four hot beverages and a cookie. In light of the blowing snow, it was very helpful in fueling my ability to remain outside in order to collect the 32 signatures total I brought home that day. That's six women so far this recall season that have offered me hot beverages, but of those six, only one was from out of state. All of the others had already signed. So if you're worried about who is fueling this recall, in my experience, only one in six beverages are purchased with out-of-state funds. (Yes, I say that with my tongue firmly planted inside my hot-chocolate-warmed cheek.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Police Visit and a Christmas Tree

"On the 36th day of recall, Scott Walker gave to me..."

Yesterday I had my first visit from a police officer while I was out collecting signatures. At about 2:00 I'd set up my ironing board signing station on the sidewalk between Walgreens and the Christmas tree sales location, and so far only two people had stopped to sign, though I'd had quite a few friendly beeps and waves, and only a few negative responses. I got a thumbs up from a car with Marine Corps plates and democrabeep from a Dodge, plus a couple of disagreements by muffler, one of those also from a Dodge.

My first signer came up from behind me and was either using understatement well or seemed a little underinformed for my tastes in an ideal petition-signer, so I made sure that she understood exactly what the document was and why I was collecting signatures before I let her sign it. (Am I the only circulator who has stopped someone from signing her petition?) Shortly after, a car parked behind me, and a woman yelled from the passenger seat, "I signed in Appleton, but my mom needs to sign!" I hollered back, "Come on down, Mom, you're the next contestant on 'The Governor Isn't Right!'" Mom's response? "Great! What do I win? A recall?"

It was a bit after the second signer that Officer C.A. showed up to check on me. He said someone'd phoned in a complaint that traffic was slowing down because I was there. He asked if I'd noticed any cars slowing down on the road in front of me wanting to sign. Since both of the other vehicles had approached from behind, and since I keep an eye out for how drivers respond in the interest of being aware of my surroundings, I could honestly say that wasn't the case. The officer was very nice about it, said it was probably just a Walker supporter that was upset I was out there at all, and mentioned that they get calls like that all the time. "I understand--I hear you get called out to visit Bob B. all the time, don't you?" He laughed in response, gave me a light parting pat on the shoulder, and told me to have a good day.

After he'd left, I was able to put it all together and see why someone would think that I'd been the cause of traffic slowing. When you approach the roundabout from the south, unlike other local roundabouts, you can only go straight in the right-hand lane. My location was pretty close to the place that people figure out that they have to change lanes if they don't want to turn left, and I watched several cars slow down to merge into the other lane. My guess is that someone observed this and assumed I was the cause rather than an unrelated circumstance. After his visit when I'd made the connection, I'd remembered that a vehicle had seemed to be changing lanes in a hurry right around where I was, but I'd discovered the driver wasn't paying any attention to me and was just in the wrong lane, so I'd dismissed if from mind. I'd had the same thing happen to me at least twice while I was driving this road recently, the second time because I forget at which of the two roundabouts on Koehler you can't go straight from both lanes. I suspect it was an honest mistake and concern for public safety on the part of the caller, not realizing that the traffic that slowed wasn't related to my presence. The caller and myself are both concerned with the wellbeing of the public, the officer was nice, so it's all good.

While things started out overcast, the sun came out for a while and I almost felt too warm collecting signatures in my multitude of layers. My third signer was like a slightly cuddlier version of Archie Bunker, and he focused on WWII imagery and suggested that it wouldn't be long before Walker and crew lined up the old folks around a hole, shot them, and covered them with lye. I was a little uncomfortable with the level of his intensity, but he presented himself humorously, so I wasn't overly alarmed. As he was signing, someone drove by and yelled "Walker's the best!" out their window. My signer stopped writing, looked incredulously at the passing vehicle, then flipped them off with his thick working-man's finger before returning to his task. While I wouldn't have done that or encouraged him, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't humorous to watch. Two other people pulled up to sign as well during this time. While they waited, a fourth person approached - someone from the Christmas tree sales lot. If he wasn't a supporter of the recall, the man is a marketing genius. One of my signers almost bought a real tree to replace his fake one.

Someone went by and yelled something indiscernible out the window, and I must once again remind you, gentle readers, if you yell from a car window, your argument must be both short and loud if I'm to understand you. A young man with absolutely gorgeous hair pulled in to tell me that he'd signed the petition the first day but that he'd wanted to stop and thank me for being out there collecting signatures. An older woman in the passenger seat of a passing sedan shook her hands like she had something distasteful on them. At least two more people democrabeeped (or attempted to), and drivers of several pieces of construction equipment, a coach bus, and a delivery truck all gestured favorably.

A couple of young men, one with a rainbow tattooed into his ear, pulled their tiny smart car in to sign my petition. A woman was supposed to sign at her aunt's on Thanksgiving but wasn't able to make it. She turned around to sign my petition. "I keep seeing you guys on Witzel, but by the time I notice, it's too late for me to pull in. I keep saying I'll do it at the next one!" A couple who had actually stopped to buy a Christmas tree had a similar story and were happy that they could sign and get their tree in one stop. The man who'd almost bought a tree before came back with his sister. When she said he'd made her come, I told her I didn't want her to sign unless she wanted to, and she indicated that she was in favor of signing, just not of coming out in the cold. "I used to live in San Diego--I'm freezing!" She wasn't wearing a winter coat.

Around 3:30 the temperature started to drop, and I was starting to feel cold. I'd originally planned to take off around 4:00, but I waited another twenty minutes in hopes of reaching 17 signatures for the day. Finally, a man and woman pulled in to sign. He was a CNA who was concerned about how Walker's budget was affecting his patients, and she was an unemployed woman about on the edge of giving birth who was losing her Badgercare. "What am I supposed to do?" she asked. I didn't have an answer for her.

Later that night I heard from my organizer that a man in a white sedan had waved a written threat and a noose in his direction while in front of Fleet Farm that day while three of them were collecting signatures. The other two had been busy, and it had been such a surprise that no one got a plate number. It's too bad no one got the plate number, because writing threats and waving nooses crosses the line. I know that many of the Walker supporters who shook their heads and fingers at me would do the same at him. We can disagree about things, but there's no call for threats. Both sides need to remember this as emotions continue to rise across the state.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Ten Reasons to Sing

Today the Solidarity Singalong took a stand against the new anti-protesting rules in the capitol. Reports vary in the number of singers today's event drew, likely somewhere between 500 and 1,000. While the new rules state that a permit is necessary for gatherings of four or more--excluding families and lobbyists--there are apparently no plans to arrest anyone who isn't in compliance, which makes them more suggestions than guidelines, as far as I can tell. In all honesty, I think the new rules are rekindling the desire to be physically present at the capitol. I can't see how this is a win for Walker or his friends: even if it pulls petition circulators off the beat for an hour plus commute each day, the singalong inspires protesters, not just in Madison but also beyond. It's also poor timing on Walker's part, since TIME magazine has just named the protester the person of the year for 2011. These new rules are not only unconstitutional; they come at a time when people are ready to step up and oppose them as such. With all of this commotion, how could we keep from singing, whether we can be physically present in Madison or not?

After monitoring today's Solidarity Singalong, I spent two hours in front of my local Walgreens. I would say that positive reactions outweighed negative ones. I don't know if more people are supporting the recall or if more people are simply resigned to the fact that flipping me off will not make me leave. Cold, however, eventually will, and while the bank clock claimed 40˚, there was a bit of a wind that chilled extremities. I ended up with ten signatures, starting with a state employee who met me on the sidewalk before I could even take my place and ending with a couple of women who used the roundabout to come back and sign once they realized I was collecting signatures. That places me at 559 signatures. Still, ten more signatures are ten more reasons to sing!

I'm starting to doubt that I'll reach 1,000 signatures, but I don't expect to stop trying. I think the days of 100 signatures in an outing are gone, though. Perhaps when we switch to doors it will pick up a little again. Perhaps not. Either way, I'll put in the time.

On a side note, my brother-in-law, who lives near Detroit, observed a car on the freeway with Michigan plates and a "Recall Walker" bumper sticker. This made me smile. Just one more reason to sing. :)

A Moving (Re)Call to Action from Cognitive Dissidence

I don't have a satisfactory new entry for you yet, but I wanted to share this moving entry by Chris Liebenthal on his blog, Cognitive Dissidence. It's important enough that telling you to read it is the only thing I plan to do in this entry. So read it, and you'll see what I mean.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Windbreak: 501 signatures

After posting about Bob reaching the 1,000 signature mark, I went down to the library and collected another eight signatures in about an hour. I met a few interesting people, including a vocal woman who was very concerned about affordable public transportation. My 500th signer was a woman from Kaukauna. I stuck around a bit afterward, but when no one else signed, I decided to call it a night and get back to working on my applications.

I spent yesterday finishing up application materials, paused long enough for the announcement that we have more than 507,000 signatures, then got back to work. Last night I was scheduled to help the UW - Oshkosh student Democrats collect signatures outside Scott Hall. Wind gusts peaked yesterday at 43 mph, so it was not a successful outing. Aaron came out to check on me after about an hour, in which time three people had stopped to comment on the brutality of the weather and a delivery driver for a food company (reportedly, one of their drivers may have stopped to sign elsewhere on a delivery run) gave me what I hope was an encouraging honk. I ended up abandoning Scott Hall (they did have tables inside in the dorms) and headed over to the library, where I stood for maybe 40 minutes and received one signature. I tried to stick around for more, but when the wind gusts started picking me up off the ground for the second time--all 12 stone of me--I figured it was time to call it a night. My toes were pretty cold at this point, but at least I got one more signature.

I did have one weird moment at the library, though. When I was walking toward the doors, I noticed a car with both a Ron Johnson and Scott Walker bumper sticker that appeared to be issued by the NRA. I really noticed because I also saw a PETA bumper sticker on the other side, and I assume if I'd stopped I'd have read "People Eating Tasty Animals" underneath. Later a car that was leaving the library pulled up near the sidewalk and idled behind me for a minute or two. I heard it there, but I didn't turn to look at it. It inched past me, and it was the same car. I don't know what the person was doing there, but if it involved calling the police or taking pictures, I'm sure they were disappointed in the results. It may have been as simple as stopping to dig a chap stick out of a purse, but with all the reports going on around the state, I did have to wonder. Nobody even yelled out a window at me, though, or flew me a free bird, so it may have been nothing at all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Fighting" Bob Reaches 1,000 Signatures!

This just in: today my Yoda, "Fighting" Bob of Oshkosh, reached (and no doubt exceeded) the 1,000 signature mark! Way to go Bob!

I'm supposed to be working on job applications, but I'm taking a few hours off to try to at least get eight more signatures so I can break 500 before returning to my task. Thank you, Bob, for being an inspiration to us all and for being a major leader in the fight to recall Scott Walker.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Overdue Black Friday Recap

So, as you may recall (heh heh, I said 'recall'), I was up north for deer season on Black Friday and ended up driving about an hour to the nearest shopping metropolis, Eau Claire, in order to properly occupy Black Friday with my recall Walker petitions. I wanted to be as dedicated as shoppers, but I settled with arriving shortly before 2:00 a.m. and set up on the sidewalk in front of Jo-Ann Fabrics, which wasn't open but which faced the main exit from Best Buy. During this time, I received what has been to date the most compelling defense of Walker's actions by one of his supporters. A curly-headed youth, possibly old enough to vote, stuck his head out of a passenger window and yelled, "Fuck you, Walker's the shit, Bitch!" Indeed, son, indeed.

I only got a handful of signatures in two hours, then decided I needed a bathroom break and a brief warm-up. I thought about checking in with the locals, but the volunteers I'd noticed collecting signatures near Target were gone. I'd planned to fill my car up with gas, too, but it turns out the gas station by WalMart never got the memo about midnight sales, and since pay-at-the-pump doesn't take cash, I settled on using the bathroom in the mall instead. Security was crawling all over the parking lot--later I'd hear from local volunteers that petition circulators had already been ousted from the property. I got a hot piece of pizza, left the parking lot, and decided I might rest in another parking lot for a bit in the car before trying again.

Around 6:00 I tried the gas station again and was able to fill up. While I was waiting for the bathroom, a woman noticed that I was wearing my Recall Walker Volunteer badge on my coat zipper like a ski pass and she struck up a conversation with me, then followed me to my car to sign the petition.

Since my mother, who is anti-recall, had announced that she wanted to be at Jo-Ann's at 6:00 when they opened, I decided I'd try something over in Chippewa Falls for a bit to minimize conflict. I realized the courthouse wasn't going to be open for the day and the library wouldn't be open for hours. I drove back to the Golf Road area of Eau Claire and stopped in to check with the fresh batch of recall volunteers who had taken over the location near Target. The amazing women there were a pleasure to talk to and let me know that the volunteers before them had collected around 90 signatures. There were now volunteers across the street by Kohl's, too, but as I drove into the parking lot to thank them, a manager was coming out with what I imagine was a 'concerned citizen.' While their table was not on Kohl's property, people were driving up behind them in the parking lot and honking for them to bring the petitions to them in their vehicles, which technically removes them from public property. I had to settle with a democra-beep and hoped that they'd make out OK. When I got back to Jo-Ann's and Best Buy, both sides of the sidewalk were occupied. I parked in a lot, talked to volunteers on my side of the road, then walked down towards Oakwood Mall.

There is a public sidewalk around the mall. There's only a small portion of it extending along the side onto which Highway 53 dumps its mallbound traffic, but there was an Olive Garden lot, then empty, right behind me, which meant that anyone who needed a place to park while they signed could manage easily. There was a mixed result from the traffic, as expected, but I was in the bounds of public property, and no police or security came to shoo me off. Twice women in their 30s to early 40s rolled down their windows, got ready to yell something at me, made eye contact, and chickened out. Maybe it's the smile, maybe it's the fact that I reportedly look 10 years younger than I should, maybe it was simply realizing I am, in fact, a real person, but whatever they thought I needed to hear suddenly evaporated from their lips. While I got a lot of yelling from vehicles, no one actually got out and harassed me, since shopping for bargains was clearly more important. I felt bad for one couple who had stopped to sign. A passing motorist screamed, "Get a job!" They said that they'd just been laid off and were at the mall to do exactly that.

Since I was planning on going hunting in the woods for the afternoon, I decided to call it a signature-gathering day at about ten with 26 signatures. It was a small amount for the number of people who had passed by, but better than nothing, and I tipped the nearby volunteers off to the success I'd had with the mall sidewalk. These would be the only signatures that I would collect on my trip up north. My afternoon hunt wasn't much better, since my gun jammed after my first shot at a small buck, but my cousin on the next stand over dropped it, and I was able to bring home a side of venison for our larder after all.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hot Chocolate's Good for Another Hour

At three this afternoon, I parked on the street and took up occupation on the sidewalk in front of my Pick 'n Save again. The first fifteen minutes took forever until my first signer showed up, then I had two more before 3:20. Lots of mixed response from drivers again, and two or three attempts by people to holler out the window with complete confusion.

(Drivers, keep your message short, simple, and loud, or I won't know if you're yelling that Scott Walker is great or that I'm great. Also, if your windows are darkly tinted, I don't know if those are two happy beeps or two angry beeps. I just know that you noticed me.)

At four, since I hadn't had any more signers, I crossed the street to see if I'd have better luck standing on the sidewalk in front of Walgreens. The advantage of being on the corner by Walgreens is that there is actually street parking on Kentucky, so if people don't want to get out of their cars and come to me on the sidewalk, I can motion to them to drive out and park on the street. Since there are plenty of parking lots around, the street parking is rarely in use.

Things were a little busier on the Walgreens side of the street, though not exactly booming. There were only three hecklings of note, including a woman in her late 30s to early 40s who tried to insult me with the "Loser" hand gesture, to which my mouth smiled, my hand waved, and my brain thought, "Lady, that hand signal lost its relevance about the same time as your hairstyle"; some Walgreens' customer who shouted "go home!" while I was collecting signatures from a man in a truck, who laughed when I blew them a kiss; and a group of probably high school kids who shouted at me like they were Walker supporters yet perplexingly yelled anti-Walker sentiments.

I'd originally told myself that I wanted to try to stay out for a full 17 signatures if I could. Around five I was stalled at 12 signatures and was starting to shiver a little bit in what the bank-clock claimed was 31˚ weather. Just as I was seriously considering calling it a night, a woman hopped out of a vehicle in the parking lot and came running over with a Starbucks cup in her hand. "My last name is Halliburton, but I'm a big-time Democrat! It's peppermint hot chocolate from across the street." I thanked her and drank it gladly, and I was able to stick it out until 6:15 and get another six signatures. (Three more signatures, just three more signatures.....two more signatures, just two....) I almost gave up on the last signature, but just then a woman rolled down her window and asked if she could sign. I came around the corner so we could sign it at her car in the street parking, and while I was collecting her signature, another woman noticed us and also asked to sign. So I wound up with 18 signatures for the night, bringing my total up to 487.

So, Ms. Halliburton, if you're reading this, your hot chocolate helped me stay out for another six signatures. Thank you for your contribution to the cause! Wisconsin thanks you for supplying heat to its Forward line!

The Purgatory of Walker Supporters

One of our signature challengers, @BatmanWI, had a weird personal-space invasion by a Walker supporter this evening and wanted to share the incident in a Facebook note so that people could think about what they might do if faced with a similar situation. It's certainly not the first unwanted contact between petitioners and Walker supporters, and not likely to be the last.

While both sides of the issue have done good jobs of painting each other as bogeymen, incidents are surprisingly low given the strength of sentiment in the state. I've talked to some obnoxious Walker supporters, but none of them have tried to invade my personal space or deface my petitions, which is a good thing for both of us, because, like many other volunteers, I've thought about what I would do if the situation arose. (Incidentally, it involves tackling anyone who messes with my petitions, then picking his back pocket for his wallet to get his ID. Getting a license plate number is my backup plan.) I do think, however, that the announcement of being over halfway there in 12 days has been a reality check for some Walker supporters.

Let's face it, it's not easy to be a Walker supporter right now. While activists like you and I are out there busily gathering signatures, there's nothing for them to do right now except donate money, and how many Walker supports are actually in a position to do that during the holiday season? Some of them are bound to be feeling helpless because they can't control the outcome and they really don't have anything constructive they can do right now. They're stuck in a waiting game with an inadequate funding of patience. Unfortunately, that's a recipe for elevated incidents to occur.

At the same time, though, it's important not to let your imagination run away with you. The majority of incidents described by people seem to be intimidation attempts. They want to scare you into not circulating petitions. The solution to most of these situations is to simply not be scared. Do be cautious and keep your wits about you, but don't let them intimidate you into not volunteering, because then they win. And right now that's the ONLY strategy Walker supporters with shallow pockets have available to them until the recall election is certified as a success. It's a sad little corner of purgatory to occupy. We should know--we've been there for months, but at least we had the knowledge that we could look forward to this time of recall activity. Walker supporters have been in denial about the true desires of Wisconsin residents for too long, and only now are they realizing that Walker will have to reapply for his job after all. It's a scary place for them to be. I don't condone any of the intimidation tactics, but I think I understand them. That understanding will not, however, keep me from marching on the Forward line.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Tips from the Trenches

Here are a list of random tips gathered from recall volunteers. Some are more serious than others. Feel free to adopt the more useful ones for yourself.

• Dress in layers.
• Mom was right: wear a hat! Bomber hats are indeed the bomb.
• Invest in hand-warmers.
• Snow pants aren't just for snow: they're great against wind, rain, and plain cold.
• Wear mittens over stretch-gloves. The mittens offer greater warmth, but when you have to remove them for dexterity, your fingers won't be bare.
• Drink warm fluids before going out, but not so many that you have to pee right away.
• If you're not going to be in a densely crowded area, consider a hot meal rich in legumes for time-delayed release of heat. (Beans, beans, the musical fruit....)
• To increase circulation while you're waiting, play air-piano with your fingers and wiggle your toes.
• If you start to shiver, it's time to go in and warm up. No, don't stay out for just five minutes longer. You're done.

• Gel pens don't freeze.
• Ironing boards make great instant signing stations. Can place on a public sidewalk without blocking traffic. You can also attach signs to it.
• Plastic storage clipboards allow you to stash signed petitions safely as they are completed. You can also store extra pens inside.
• Always carry extra pens.
• If you find yourself out with normal ball-point pens in freezing weather, you can store them inside your coat so they stay warm, swapping out a new one as the one in use freezes.
• You can make a good two-sided clipboard with a rectangle of particle board and binder clips.
• A large rubber band around the lower section of your clipboard can keep pages from flapping in the wind.
• Use legal-sized plastic protectors to protect completed petitions.
• Carry an umbrella in wet weather and hold it over the petition (and elector) while it's being signed.
• You can hang a clipboard around your neck from a lanyard to keep it close to you at all times but keep your hands free.

• Public sidewalks are always fair game for recall signature collection.
• Your local HQ has been compiling lists of good signature collection locations in your area. You don't have to search for spots blindly yourself.
• Public libraries are gold mines for signature collection. You will need to stay outside most libraries to do this, but most libraries also only use one entrance. Plus, you can park in their lots and you can stow your petitions in your car while you step inside to pee or get a drink from the fountain at intervals.
• Public sidewalks in front of closed businesses are great places to set up, because many have a handy place for people to pull out of traffic easily to sign. Since the business isn't open and no one is using the lot, it's unlikely that the owner will be inconvenienced and ask you to leave.
• Fleet Farm and Farm & Fleet are frequented by rural customers who otherwise might not see many petitioners in their communities. However, do NOT park on their lots--park somewhere else, walk, and stay on the public sidewalk.
• Check your local recall HQ for a list of events. Share any events that you know of with your local HQ.
• High traffic doesn't necessarily equal high signature numbers. If traffic is too heavy, people will focus their attention on other vehicles and tune out your presence. If it's not easy to pull in and out of your location, that will also play a factor.
• Be aware of usual traffic flow. Know your events, shift-changes, lunch breaks, rush hours, etc.
• Grocery stores before a Packer game are generally a solid signature outing.

• Visibility is everything. There are more than enough people who want to sign the petition--we just have to give them the opportunity.
• Neon colors show up well.
• Laminate your sign to weatherproof it.
• If your coat isn't overly visible, add a bright vest over top. You can find inexpensive ones at your local thrift store.
• You can use a kitchen broom as the base for a double-sided sign, homemade ones or yard signs. Depending on your coat, you may be able to put the handle in your pocket for hands-free visibility. For stability, add a zipping vest over your coat to keep the handle close to your body so it doesn't flop around.
• Figure out at what level you will hold your sign before attaching the handle. Make sure that both sides are visible above your head.
• You can make lighted signs using Christmas lights.
• Balloons are great for grabbing attention.
• If you'll be in a location after dark that isn't well-lit, bring a flash light for petitions and for your sign. Hands-free flashlights work well for petitions.
• You can use reflective paint on your sign.
• If you have good, visible signs, you don't have to ask people to sign your petition: they ask you if they can sign it.
• If you're able to have your car on the property, you can put recall signs on your car.
• Attaching your recall badge to your coat zipper like a ski pass means you can 'forget' it's there and have people ask you to sign petitions when you're not carrying your clipboard. You can also use recall "ask me" buttons to accomplish this.
• Hold your sign so that traffic comes toward the writing. It's much easier to see a sign facing you when you're driving than one you have to turn your head sideways to read.

• If a signer wants confirmation that you're the real deal, consider showing your ID. Your Recall HQ badge is also helpful. Finally, if you didn't print out your petitions yourself at home, look for the union-printed seal on the bottom. Whatever lengths people might go to in order to destroy petitions, anything with the union seal on it came from a recall HQ office, and these offices take down all your info and ask you when you're bringing them back, too. Probably too much trouble for most fakers.
• If you have a cell phone, program in the non-emergency number for your local law enforcement agency as well as your recall HQ phone number.
• Bring a camera. Document anything suspicious.
• Be prepared to get the license number of a vehicle if the driver threatens or otherwise harasses you or signers.
• Don't needlessly engage in debate. You're there to collect the signatures of people who WANT to sign. You can supply helpful information, but you're not there to change anyone's mind. You won't change anyone's mind, so enter all discussions with that knowledge.
• Stay cool. Bullies will try to provoke you. You're better than that.
• If people claim you don't have a life but insist on continuing to verbally attack you, feel free to remind them that they are wasting their own valuable time. Nothing they say will make you leave. Ask them what they hope to accomplish.
• Look people in the eye. Smile.
• As the circulator, you are able to fill in anything but the signature. If someone has shaky hands, you can help them. Also, you can have people simply sign the Kleefisch petition and fill in the rest from the accompanying Walker sheet later, which is especially helpful if it's really cold, people are in a hurry, or you have several people waiting in line. Make sure you find out from your local HQ what things you need to initial if you do this.
• If you find yourself on private property and you're asked to leave, do so happily. Just make sure that the person who asks you to leave has the authority to do so. A subtle way to do this is to ask the person to write down his or her name and number for our records in case we need to follow up in order to make sure this doesn't happen again.
• It's good to have a buddy to increase visibility and to offer each other bathroom breaks, but being alone doesn't mean you can't collect signatures anyway. Even women can collect signatures alone. Keep your wits about you and you'll be fine. (Note: BattiestGrrl is almost always alone when she collects signatures. Sure, there've been some bozos, but nothing serious.)
• Trust your gut. You're picking up on cues you haven't processed yet. Until you know otherwise, your gut is right.
• Create an emergency signature kit in your car so that you can collect signatures at any time. It should include at least one good sign, blank petitions, and pens.
• Set goals for yourself and schedule time to go out.
• Carry a 'rape whistle.'

• Carry granola bars or other semi-healthy snacks in your pocket.
• If your nose tends to run in the cold, use Halls cough drops to control the drip.

Feel free to send in your own tips! Forward!

The Challengers Report

With all of the 1,000 Signature Challengers reporting in their numbers, we've reached 2,146 signatures amidst the lot of us. "Fighting" Bob is in the lead, followed by me. The tag-team of @wisocialworker & @BoxmanSigns are barely edging out @ktuerk, who's closing fast. @BatmanWI is next, with @amadorlicea trailing, but with working two shifts that's completely understandable. The whole point of the challenge is to have fun while we work towards a goal, so no real pressure here. I'm sure there are volunteers who haven't officially taken the challenge who've single-handedly made it to 1,000 signatures already, and I am grateful for every single signature they've each collected. It's a friendly competition, and we all win.

We've introduced some new items in Oshkosh for fun and games, including a signature leader board to track the progress of individual volunteers. (It turns out that Bob & I combined are responsible for around 1/3 of the signatures that have been turned into Oshkosh.) We've also introduced a new game which awards ladder-rungs to volunteers for various abuses that they endure while out in the field. Since some people have had some pretty awful things happen to them in the line of duty, it's meant as a way for people to laugh at these things with their fellow volunteers. So the next time some young man yells, "Fuck you, Walker's the shit, Bitch!" I get to move my marker up the ladder one rung for the F-bomb. (Personally, I'd hope that masterful argument would be worth more points--I might be able to get two since it also contains a "Walker is the best" type of sentiment in addition to the F-bomb.) First person to reach the stars wins!

Speaking of stars, here's another good recall diary read to check out. All of you fabulous volunteers out there, please stay safe and keep those signatures coming! You are all, as @theadingo coined it, DemocStars!

Pre-Packers Signatures: A Gain of 21.

After church let out, I took the route home that led by Festival Foods and democra-beeped the volunteer collecting signatures there, then parked on the street near my local Pick N Save and took up camp on the sidewalk. I had three signers right away, then a short lull. At this time, a woman in an SUV rolled down her window, thanked me, and asked me if I wanted a coffee or a hot chocolate. (There's a Starbucks in the mini-mall right behind where I was standing.) I thanked her, but I hadn't been there long enough to get cold yet. If she'd driven by an hour later, I'd have surely taken her up on her kind offer.

When my fourth seemingly mild-mannered signer joined me on the sidewalk, he was quite eager when I asked him to also sign for Kleefisch. "She used to work in my profession, and I thought she was a bitch - excuse my language - then." I've only had three signatures less for Kleefisch than I have for Walker, though not everyone knows much about her other than she's Walker's second-in-command. For many, she's just guilty by association, though those of you familiar with our LT know that she has a wide range of personal flaws, not the least of which is embracing a mindset that allows her to equate gay marriage with marrying a dog or a table. I encourage anyone who has doubts about Kleefisch to visit You Tube, search "Rebecca Kleefisch," and allow her to convince you to recall her in her own words.

I had my first person in uniform sign, though he didn't want to be seen signing in uniform so he stayed in his vehicle, and while I was collecting signatures another volunteer, Twitter's unkybunky, beeped and waved as she pulled into Walgreens across the street. A few minutes later she came back out, moved her car to street parking, and broke out her sign and clipboard. Almost immediately she had two cars waiting to sign pulled up next to the sidewalk. I talked to her briefly in the midst of things and she said that she'd gone in for a prescription but that there were eight people in line, so she decided to come out and collect signatures until after the Packer game started. That, my friends, is dedication! Not to mention a reminder that we should always show up prepared.

After three sub-seventeen signature days in a row, I was thrilled when a couple signed and put me at 18 signatures just before 2:30, but since I'd been there since around 12:30, I was starting to get a little cold. I was cold enough to strongly consider packing up when the bank clock down the road read 2:45 instead of waiting for actual kickoff, when a red car pulled up behind me, beeped, and motioned for me to come to his window. As I always do, I shook my head and motioned that he needed to come to me on the sidewalk. After he attempted several more times to get me to come to him, he exited the car and walked halfway towards me as I explained that I had to stay on public property. He was a retirement-age gentlemen, and he asked me why he should sign the petition. By now, this response is a warning flag for me that the person approaching is a Walker supporter. I gave him the standards of union-busting and restrictive voter ID laws, answered a couple of questions politely, then he told me I wasn't doing a very good job of convincing him.

At this point, I asked him directly and evenly if he was there to sign the petition or if he was just there to give me a hard time. He assured me that he wasn't there to give me a hard time, that he just wanted to know why he should sign. I told him I was only there to collect signatures from people who really wanted to sign the petition, and that if he wasn't sure I encouraged him to go home and do some research on reasons to recall Walker. I told him politely that I didn't want him to sign my petition today and that he could go to the HQ office to sign after he'd researched the issue if he felt that was the right thing to do. I hadn't noticed this, but my co-collector across the street told me afterward that his body language had gotten increasingly combative and he kept speaking more loudly, and she was wondering if she'd need to come and supply backup. After more discussion, I had to ask him again why he was there and what he hoped to accomplish. "If you're just here to give me a hard time, it's not going to make me leave or stop me from collecting signatures."

Finally the other shoe dropped, and he wasn't able to maintain what he had hoped was an illusion of open discussion, as he retorted that the company that he'd worked for had closed, and then proceeded with some union-bashing (he had made it point to argue earlier that eliminating collective bargaining wasn't union busting, which, technically true or not, is another red flag), and told me, "You people working for the state need to stop crying and get over it," as he moved back towards his car. I smiled. "Do I look like I'm crying? Also, I don't work for the state. And I'm not a teacher, either." (Well, not the kind of teacher he thinks I am, anyway, and I won't have a teaching job again until January.) His response was to say that it didn't matter, because "You're not even 25, anyway!" and slammed his car door behind him.

I know I snorted before I hollered back, "Excuse me, I'm 34!" but I'm pretty sure he didn't hear me. Not that my age matters, but for a second I had to fight down the urge to pull out my ID and run into the parking lot to tap on his window before he threw the car into reverse. It was a ridiculous way to end an argument, and it doesn't surprise me that he went for the personal shot at my age, however wrong he was. I was happy to have a woman stop to sign shortly afterward as she was racing in for pre-Packer bacon for BLTs, and then I collected what I consider to be a celebrity signature from the Woman Who Walks Everywhere, only now I know here name, too! (No, I'm not going to tell you!) One more friendly signature, and I called it a day with 21. That puts my running total for signatures at 469. Hopefully I can make up some more ground on my total before another weekend at Emerge training. I haven't a prayer of catching Bob, but that's not going to stop me from trying. He's up to 703 signatures to recall Walker. He'll be out there tomorrow, and he'll make every minute of it count, too.

Friday, December 2, 2011

My Yoda: "Fighting" Bob, the Recall Master

I apologize for falling behind on updates. I've been struggling with energy levels since I got back from my northern excursion. I collected 23 signatures at the library on Monday, 119 at the library on Tuesday, I stayed in to try to catch up on things around the house on Wednesday, managed a measly 9 on Thursday, and only came up with 13 today before I called it a day at half past cold. I'm scheduled to collect at an event at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, and it looks like I'd better take the bright orange "happy crab" umbrella with me. I'll also be giving the ironing-board signature station its maiden voyage tomorrow.

Because I'm feeling such a drain from my personal life right now, I'm trying to put my all into the recall, but, other than Tuesday, it feels like it's turning out to be a pretty meager mustering this week, and not just from a numbers perspective. As I struggle through my days right now, I know that there are others out there that are so much more worthy of the spotlight that I had no idea would be pointing my direction on Monday. For instance, Elias and has amazing recall backpack. But especially my very own Yoda, Oshkosh's "Fighting" Bob, who is kicking my tail in signature collection as of this moment.

While I'm lodged at 441 signatures, last night Bob already had 648 signatures. He had more than 500 on Sunday night. When I talked to him after the HQ meeting on Sunday, we discovered that our tally systems were different and I didn't feel quite so inadequate (he'd been counting the signatures for both Walker and Kleefisch, while I was only counting Walker; the numbers you see here now are reflective of my Walker-centric way of tallying--double his numbers and imagine how inadequate I initially felt). Still, I'm absolutely amazed at Bob's ability to go out there and get those signatures, no matter what.

Bob left me with this bit of wisdom: he said it didn't matter what he'd already done, it just mattered what he'd go out and do tomorrow. Since I'm feeling challenged today, I'm trying to focus on Bob's philosophy. OK, so I've got 441 signatures so far. So I only got 13 signatures today. That's in the past. What am I going to do tomorrow? At this point, I plan to make sure that I'm to my post by 10:00 a.m. with a smile and my umbrella and hope that this event turns out for us. No matter what happens, I should plan to go out again on Sunday. And the day after that. And the day after that. If he's not working crazy shifts, I know Bob will. And he'll make every moment count. I want to follow his example and do the same. May the Forward force be with you. It's strong with my Yoda, Oshkosh's "Fighting" Bob, and I'm grateful for his guidance.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Eau Claire & Chippewa Counties: Thank You!

I spent last Wednesday through Sunday in the small town of Holcombe in northern Chippewa County to visit my family and participate in the annual whitetail hunt. I love my family, but we don't see eye to eye regarding the recall. While we were able to be mostly civil with each other, there were some tense moments during the extended stay. I had been prepared for that possibility, but Walker's latest ad featuring "Kristi" aired on WEAU NBC 13 every single commercial break, four to five times an hour, made things more difficult than they needed to be.

On the way to Holcombe, I drive through Cadott, and I was happy to see a pair of women with signs stationed halfway between the North Pole and the equator (give or take three miles). When I left on Sunday, those women or their co-activistas were still there, occupying the halfway mark. It was a heartening sight, even more so the second time around, and I democrabeeped them both coming and going.

I also want to send out mad respect to the Eau Claire area activists who occupied Black Friday in the general vicinity of Golf Road. The women stationed at the light that leads to Target (Janis, Joelle?, and the woman with the sign) said the crew I'd noticed around 2:00 a.m. had collected around 90 signatures. While that corner had been the only other one occupied when I'd decided to take up occupancy across from Best Buy, when I came back for my second round, I found that there were circulators everywhere around 8:00 a.m. Special thanks to everyone from my home stomping ground in Chippewa County and Eau Claire who put in the time to collect signatures, and special thanks to everyone who stopped to sign.

I'll have a more thorough Black Friday report later, but for now I wanted to recognize these amazing volunteers, some of whom I spoke with, some of whom at which I only beeped and waved. You are an inspiration to me. It's clear from the heavy rotation of anti-recall ads in the market that Walker wants your souls. Thank you for continuing to struggle on the Forward line to help create a better future for Wisconsin!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Briefest of Updates - 300,000 Signatures!

I have recall updates from Black Friday and today yet to type up, but I wanted to let you know that A United Wisconsin has announced that we are over halfway there with more than 300,000 signatures!

As of today, I've only got 300 of those signatures, but the recall challenge and my blog still managed to make it into the recall spotlight. I smell a fresh influx of trolls on Twitter. Too bad for them that I'll be too busy collecting signatures to Billy-Goat-Gruff them up. I'm already scheduled to spend all day tomorrow outside of the Oshkosh Public Library to collect signatures during the book sale tomorrow. :D

Keep those signatures coming in, everybody! Let's double the number before Christmas! We're averaging around 100,000 signatures every four days! Forward line, march!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Forward Line Days 7-8

After two days off for Emerge, I had a slow start on Monday. I stood at the park and ride near the outlet malls for around two or three hours and wound up with 17 signatures--just enough to reach my daily goal, but not a single signature more. I had a mix of responses, though nobody too obnoxious. One guy yelled twice loudly from his van window for me to put my sign down (shook my head and hollered "Nope!" while wishing I'd had time to yell "You'll pry it from my cold dead fingers!"), one woman yelled the word "jerk" out her window (it was unclear if she meant me or Walker), and there was a car of three young men coming back from hunting, two of whom wanted to sign, one who didn't want to but only made minimum fuss because his buddies outnumbered him.

Today things went a little better for me numbers-wise. I managed 39 signatures in front of the public library this afternoon/early evening. When I started, I had a continuous flow of signers. Most people were very positive at the library, with a couple exceptions. One pretty woman in a skirt was there with her daughter and said that she supported Scott Walker and planned to come back with a card for people to sign for him. I said that was perfectly fine, as did the librarian who had poked her head out. Pretty Lady was happy that he'd balanced the budget and supported abstinence--she listed something else but I don't remember it. She harrassed one of my signers afterward and then said to her, "Aren't you happy that Scott Walker balanced the budget?" I interrupted then and told Pretty Lady that Walker's balancing the budget wasn't special due to the balanced budget act and that he could have balanced it in other ways. She was just a little too bright and shiny in her responses, and you could see that underneath the gentle church lady demeanor, she seemed to be someone who thrives on adversity to the point of going out and making it. She said she'd come back out with her sign and card and I told her with a smile that I hope that she does. I did not tell her that I hope that it's on a day when I'm there so that I can see just how many people would recall Scott Walker versus how many people would thank him. I don't think that she realizes the factors that make library patrons more likely to visit me than her.

I had a couple of young men take a verbal snipe at me, saying that it didn't matter if we recalled Walker because he'd get elected again. I told him he was entitled to think that. Apparently his friend expected me to tell him something else and thanked me. Of course, why other people they may have taunted in other places may have responded unfavorably seems to have escaped them. Either that, or they just assumed that's what would happen.

There was also one rude woman who yelled at me that if anyone should be recalled, it should be Obama. I tried to tell her you can't recall at the federal level. She went on to say that people have to do something wrong, that you can't recall someone just because you don't like him. "Wrong. That's exactly what recall is for. There are other means to remove politicians who break laws." I doubt she used her time in the library to look up her state constitution or to investigate what a recall is.

I also had another woman tonight who didn't understand what 'recall' meant in the legal sense and almost signed my petition when she actually supports Walker. While many may laugh and say it would serve her right, I don't want anyone to sign my petitions erroneously. (Someone else pointed out that if the GAB had called to see if she'd signed to recall Walker, that she'd answer 'yes' since she didn't understand what it meant. Still, I wouldn't want that.) She thought of recall more in the sense of remember, and therefore she thought it was an honor for Walker. As she was getting ready to sign she mentioned that she and her sister were generally on opposite sides of things, and that her sister was a state employee who didn't like Walker but that she was happy with what Walker was doing. I stopped her before she put pen to paper and told her that if she supported Walker, she didn't want to sign this petition. She thanked me and was friendly with me on the way out, recommending TV shows. I think she was embarrassed at the mix-up and wanted to make up for it in her own way.

Someone let me know about optimal times to revisit the library, including the upcoming book sale. I started getting cold but only needed two more signatures to complete another sheet, so I told myself that I would stay just until I filled it. When I snagged the last signature, I gathered my things to head to the car when another library patron flagged me down, and I added two more signatures to my collection before heading over to the warmth of HQ to check things over and transfer some of the info from the Walker sheets to the Kleefisch sheets. Since a circulator can fill in anything but the signature, I frequently have signers fill in the Walker sheet and simply sign the Kleefisch sheet because it saves them time and gets them out of the cold faster. It also offers me an opportunity to carefully look over their information while I'm copying it over. It costs me more time, but it's worth it.

With 17 signatures Monday and 39 today, I'm up to 252 total so far toward my goal. Bob B. came in as I was finishing, and he's up to a blistering 612 signatures after this evening. He's agreed to join the challenge, and I expect I'll come back after going up north to find that he's past 1,000. I didn't get all of the details, but Bob actually had to stop in at the police station this evening because someone was harassing the people signing his petitions. I've only had the one guy at Fleet Farm who harassed people, and all it took was for him to think that I was gay for him to leave. Other people have been having harassment issues as well: you can read about another instance here.

I'll be up north for a few days hunting to put meat in the freezer for myself and my extended family, but I'm hoping to still go out and try to pick up a few signatures. I'm not sure how well it will go over in Holcombe and Cornell, but I'm not letting that keep me from trying after hunting. I'm also going to try to head over to Eau Claire for a bit on Black Friday. Since BF activities start so early these days, I should be able to both hit the sales to hunt signatures and go hunting whitetail without conflict.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Emerge Interlude #1

With Emerge training this weekend, I didn't have any real opportunity to collect signatures. It was, however, exciting to find so many of my classmates helping to lead the recall efforts in their own backyards. I'm proud of my classmates' commitment to a better future for Wisconsin and their willingness to invest themselves in the long and tedious work of petitions.

I visited Gesu Catholic church on Marquette campus this morning, and as I sat through the homily, it occurred to me that either it was purposefully subtly coded as pro-recall or else the priest must have been thinking about recall in the back of his mind when he wrote it. In stressing that we needed to thank God for the things that have been given us, the priest insisted we 'recall' these things at least three times, possibly more, instead of just saying remember. It's hard to believe right now that anyone could accidentally use that word with the level of politically charged atmosphere currently in Wisconsin, and Jesuits usually keep themselves educated and informed. That alone might not have convinced me, but when the list of things that we should recall and be thankful for came up, the land/environment was first and education second. It seemed just a tad too convenient, but it was well-played in my opinion.

I'm enjoying seeing accounts from other activists in their recall efforts. Tammy sent me this one, and I'm currently contemplating the logistics of a small cart. If we exchange ideas, hopefully we will find ways to increase our success by learning from each other's successes as well as failures. For all of you out there with your boots on the ground: thank you!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Fourward! (If I Had a Hammer)

First, thanks to and for joining the 1,000 signature challenge as a tag team. So far they have an impressive 171 signatures. Their addition makes a total of 5,000 signatures pledged via the challenge!

Today was a fabulous day for numbers for me--I managed to snag 100 even, which is more than my past three days combined. This was my first really successful day standing in front of a business on the public sidewalk. Both times I tried this at Pick N Save, I had one signature per hour. In front of Fleet Farm today, I collected my 100 signatures in less than six hours. I showed up sometime between noon and one, ran out of petitions at three and ran back to HQ, and was back with more by 3:30. I hiked back to my car around six.

I had a two-sided "Recall Walker: Sign Here" sign duct-taped to a broom with the handle tucked in my coat pocket, making it visible just over the top of my head, one side neon red, one bright blue. I'd heard a rumor that someone had been chased out of the parking lot earlier, so I'd parked somewhere else and walked to the sidewalk. I wore my Trap & Trail magazine shirt, my treebark hunting boots, and had the blaze orange fleece remnant from the custom gun case a sewed a couple years ago for myself--it doubles as a scarf when it's not on the gun, so you always have your case when you reach a vehicle. I'm not sure how long it took to attract a signer--probably only 10-15 minutes--and then things started hopping. At one early point I had six or seven signers gathered together on the sidewalk at once.

I had a lot of public responses to standing there, both good and bad. Lots of beeping and thumbs up, lots of thumbs down and a few free birds, and I did have a few 'gentlemen' yelling out their windows. Some yelled about Walker: "He's the best thing that ever happened to this state!" and "How can you recall a man for doing his job?" were favorites among his supporters. Others liked to try for personal attacks. "Stop wasting my tax money!" "Get a job!" I smiled and waved at both. "Get a life!" I smiled and yelled cheerfully, "Thanks! I already have one!" I flashed peace signs and blew kisses to a few other rowdies.

The worst behaved included a handful of young bucks in a Cadillac who had to yell out the window, drove back, cruised the parking lot, and came back to deliver more. For their last volley, they yelled, "You queer!" I laughed and shot back, "Thanks! Oh, did you mean that as an insult?" I think it bothered them that a half dozen people were waiting to sign. My other worst trouble maker of the day was also a homophobic bully. When he first pulled into the drive nearby, he rolled down his window and started yelling. This left a vehicle that was turning behind him stuck in traffic. I hollered to him, "Sir, I'd be happy to discuss it with you, but you're blocking traffic. Park and come talk to me." Apparently he went and did his shopping first, because I'd forgotten about him until he came tromping up later, mouth blowing full steam. I'm guessing from his tax diatribe that he's probably heavy duty tea party. Claimed to be self-employed with a successful business and paying more than 50% in taxes. Doesn't send his kids to public schools because you won't learn anything there. He was the kind of blowhard who doesn't let you answer back and insists on yelling over anything you say, simply because he feels self-entitled. Self-entitled to block traffic, self-entitled to spout whatever he wants and interrupt the other party instead of having an actual discussion. He got into it with two of the three signers left around me, maybe thinking he'd make them uncomfortable enough to leave without signing. I actually thought an older gentlemen who was signing the petition at that time was going to punch the whistling tea kettle, who was probably in his 40s. The blowhard stuck around, and when I turned my back on him he proceeded to move around in front of me. At one point he asked me what I do for a living, and when I answered it was none of his business, his response was, "You don't do a damned thing." I only half-listened as he continued to get all steamed up (somebody tip him over and pour him out already), and then he had to go on about his two friends who got jobs with the county, I think, and the only reason they kept those jobs is that they were "pussy jobs."

Those of you who know me might know what happened next. I interrupted him, which he hadn't been ready for since I'd just let him run unchecked at the mouth, so I actually managed a few words before he was talking over me again. "I'm sorry, did you say 'pussy' and mean 'weak'? Because a pussy is tougher than a testicle any day." It didn't register with him, and he went on again to explain what pussy jobs they were and how his friends were worthless (I wish his so-called friends could hear him), and I said, "Look, a pussy is way tougher than a testicle. Go grab a hammer and I'll prove it. Go on, get a hammer, I bet my pussy can take a lot more punishment than your testicle." At this point something started to sink in, though I'm not entirely sure what, and Ima L. Teapot backed away toward the parking lot shaking his hands in front of him, saying, "Great, just what we need, another homosexual!" and kept retreating while tossing gay slurs my way. I just shook my head at this non sequitur and was glad for the ensuing lull.

Encounters like these make me wonder at some people's mindsets. I'm certain that this man was a bully in high school, and he feels justified because the people he bullied had it coming to them. Of course, most misogynists and homophobes do feel that way. I still marvel at people who think that calling me gay is going to insult me. There's nothing wrong with being gay, so I don't find it insulting at all. When homophobes calls me gay, I tend to thank them and don't try to deny their assertion. As a heterosexual woman, I recognize that I have the advantage of invisible privileges that don't extend to my homosexual brothers and sisters. I feel that trying to correct someone like Mr. Steamed Up only reinforces his idea that calling someone gay is bad, because, in his tight little book, being gay is bad. Since he wasn't open to logic or to listening, and I wasn't giving him the response he wanted, he tried to get under my skin by trying to get under my sexual orientation. It was easier for him to save face by shrinking away from my imaginary gay cooties than it was to admit that he couldn't even win at picking a fight, let alone the battle itself. I'm sure he told his buddies something completely different, even his two worthless friends with the pussy jobs. That his behavior is evidence of his own insecurity will probably never occur to him.

Later, the older gentleman beeped and waved when he drove out of the parking lot after he and his wife finished their shopping. "I just wanted to make sure that jerk didn't punch your lights out!" I laughed and waved. I still wonder if he'd stuck around after signing if he might have ended up punching out Teapot's lights.

There were lots of wonderful people to meet, though. I was excited to have a woman stop by with her daughter, who had just turned 18, and I was happy to tell her that she could sign even though she wasn't registered to vote yet. I was honored to witness her first official election-related act as an adult. Another woman saw me and used the roundabout to make a U-turn to come back to sign. A man from UAW-578 stopped by, and we talked a little about the marches and rallies earlier this fall. A former Fleet Farm employee signed and asked me if they'd given me any grief, since he knew they were really strict about solicitations on premises. Earlier a woman who'd been in Fleet Farm had said to me that they were inside trying to figure out a way to get rid of me, but that they couldn't because I was on the public sidewalk.

No one officially said anything to me until I'm guessing the night supervisor came on shift around twilight, and he walked over to tell me that he respected my right to be on the sidewalk as long as I respected that there was private property behind me. "We have a strict no solicitations rule." He started looking around. "I don't see a car over here, you aren't parked in the lot are you?" I think he hoped I'd say yes so he could have a way to get rid of me, but I was truthfully able to say that I had parked somewhere else and walked over. I'd done my best to stay on the sidewalk and let people come to me for the past 80 signatures.

Even though I wore long underwear under my jeans, I started to shiver just a little toward the end. After the manager talked to me, there was a brief lull, and I thought about calling it a night, but I didn't want to leave right after he'd talked to me. Then people started to stop again, though I was stuck for a while at 95 and had to challenge myself to stay out for a full 100. After I got home and was going over my signatures to see if corrections were needed, I noticed a surname that matched someone in my husband's fantasy football league. "Huh, I wonder if this guy is related to Lippy?" My husband asked, "What's the name?" I told him. "That IS Lippy!" Since I've only met him in passing twice, I hadn't recognized him at the time.

So, I ended my day with 100 new signatures and a running total of 196 for the week. That seems like a big number, but I know that my signature-Yoda, Bob, has more than 260 so far, and he'll be in Madison tomorrow at the big rally and will probably come home with even more. I have Emerge training in Milwaukee this weekend. I'm looking forward to learning with and from amazing women, and then I'll be back on the recall circuit, possibly with hammer in hand.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Forward Line 3/Challenge Update

I'm pleased to announce that Twitter's @BatmanWI has also joined us in the 1,000 signature challenge. That's four of us now who've officially signed on for the challenge.

As days go, day three on the Forward line was not much to brag about. Apparently strapping on the Rollerblades for four hours after not using them for a couple months left an impact on my muscles, most notably on the shoulders. (This may also have been fallout from the rock that lodged in my skate on Wednesday.) Crawling out of bed to roll again was a little tougher than expected--nothing major, just general stiffness. I only managed 13 signatures today. Twelve were on doors, though some of my signers were not on my list. At an apartment complex for seniors, a woman noticed I had my "Recall Walker" clipboard while I was buzzing the apartments on my list and pointed it out to the older woman (possibly her mother?) she was dropping off. The banter was amusing. The younger woman told me that while they'd been out they saw a Walker bumper sticker, and she'd joked to her companion that she wished she had some eggs to throw at the car. The older woman's response? "That would be a waste of perfectly good eggs." Feisty grandmothers are a good way to start the collection process.

I've been finding that when signers recommend visiting specific neighbors about signing, the response is mixed. I've found mostly that when people say, "so-and-so works in trade X, they should sign," more often than not so-and-so isn't interested. I suppose that Midwestern politeness, in which you don't talk about politics, is partly to blame, and people try to assume their neighbors' views based on their occupations. One woman, however, gave me a very helpful tip today about a couple that had just moved to a condo and put their house up for sale, so I wouldn't have had accurate information about where they were living now. Another woman politely debated the politics of recall with me toward the end of my doors, which slowed me down, but truthfully, if I hadn't spoken with her I'd have missed collecting the signatures of a pair of sisters, in the nun sense of the word, because they pulled in as I was leaving. Also, on my way back to my car, another woman who'd been gone had just arrived home, so the delay may have helped more than it hurt. The extra time spent standing in one place, though, did result in my fingers beginning to go numb, which made it very difficult to remove my skates. Thankfully, I had scissors for the duct tape.

After a brief stop home to change and grab some warm cookies, I taped a sign to a broom and tried to gather signatures at my local Pick N Save, at which Bob had success, but I may have gotten there too close to sundown. I only attracted one signature, though a couple would have signed if they'd seen me before they were lodged firmly in the turn lane. I let them know about the location of the office downtown. I'm hoping to get to bed sooner tonight and to take a painkiller to see if that'll help with the stiffness. I plan to be outside for most of the day tomorrow in a couple of different places, and I'm trying to adapt some of the methods Bob described for attracting attention. He's way better at collecting signatures than I am, and I hope to benefit from the experiences that he's shared. And tomorrow's supposed to crack 40˚, which seems downright balmy after today and even yesterday.

Ninety-six signatures down, 904 to go toward my challenge goal. Forward line, go!

Second Day on the Forward Line: BattiestGrrl Rolls Again!

Today I stalked the chicken scratches of the elusive snowbird before it flies south for the winter. Of course, many retirees are non-migratory in nature, but they're more likely to fly the coop for an entire season than those who still have to work. If you count each and every apartment I buzzed, that's 37 doors, from which I collected 27 signatures. In addition, I picked up a few more signatures at my Emerge classmate Diana Lawrence's party to announce her candidacy for the 56th Assembly District (Michelle Litjens's seat), and then stopped back at the office, where I picked up a few more while everyone else was tallying: a grand total of 36 for the day. That puts me at 83 signatures toward my 1,000 signature goal.

I really like knocking doors, and I was thrilled with the responses I received from the people with whom I talked. The majority of them were not only willing to sign the petition, but they were even eager. (Special thanks to Randy Hopper for giving us the opportunity to gather a strong database of people likely to sign a recall petition.) Many of them were tickled with my mode of transportation, as well: I once more duct-taped my trusty Rollerblades to my ankles and sped along between my well-spaced addresses.

As exhausted as I was yesterday when I got home after just standing while I gathered (or, as the case with North, wished I was gathering) signatures, after four hours zipping around in the cold breeze I felt pretty good. Even though I rolled over a rock which wedged in my skate and caused me to take a digger, I've got nothing more than a slightly bruised elbow, and no skin or clothing was harmed during the making of that dive.

I didn't gather as many signatures as I did yesterday, but I really enjoyed the hunt today. Today was a good people day, and instead of freezing in place waiting for people to come to me, I got to go and seek them out and generate my own heat in the process. When I got back to the office, Volunteer Bob B. wandered in shortly after I did with news of a successful couple of locations that he's discovered and more than 100 signatures collected as a result. I'm planning to complete my list of potential snowbirds tomorrow, but I'm hoping to try out one of his spots on Friday. I'll be in Milwaukee for Emerge training on Saturday and Sunday, so I'll have little time to gather signatures over the weekend. I want to pad my numbers to make up for the lack of signatures I'll get then, but I also ideally would like to reach my goal early and set a new one.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Recall Racket: The Value of a Signature? $14.25

While I was out helping with the recall efforts, Twitter's @ alerted me to this stunning anti-recall rhetoric from Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch.

Click here to witness the horror.

Rebecca Kleefisch wants you to know that your signature is worth 7.7 million dollars when it comes to signing a recall form. That's how much she estimates it will cost the state to hold a state-wide special election to recall the Governor. (She doesn't mention anything about herself being the target of a recall--this is all about Walker.) She urges Wisconsinites not to sign the petition because they might be taking $7.7M from education or health care or other noble causes to hold the election. She carelessly fondles a football autographed by Bart Starr and jokes that her husband wouldn't want her handling it, letting us know that Bart's autograph costs more than $300, which pales in comparison to the value of YOUR signature.

There's so much to deconstruct here. First, let's look at her use of the football. Besides being a blatant attempt to associate herself and her message with the Packers, she tries to show us her confidence by firmly grasping the ball and thrusting it toward the camera. At the same time, by making a joke that her husband wouldn't like her touching it, she suggests that under most circumstances, she wouldn't carelessly juggle her husband's ball, but the circumstances are so dire that she would risk his displeasure to bring this very important message to you, the taxpayer, who is about to accidentally rip yourself off by signing a recall petition. Never mind the fact that Joel is probably the one running the camera. (I know, so many bad joke possibilities here, so little time.) It also helps that Bart Starr was never caught with his pants down in a dixting scandal. If Kleefisch talks about Bart Starr and you like Bart Starr, you should like Kleefisch by association, right? Of course, the fact that Bart Starr was a union man is left out of the video.

Sitting down in the Kleefisch home is supposed to make you feel like she's your neighbor or friend. (She admitted to you she was touching her husband's ball without permission, didn't she?) I have to assume that light pink sweater is to make you think that she's feminine, because the color isn't doing her any favors. I've noticed a trend toward ultra-feminine pastels on tea party women, so I suspect it's somewhere in the secret tea party play book. It's too bad that they forgot to let her know that the amount of eye make-up that she's wearing doesn't track with the 'soft' color of the sweater. (I know, it's poor taste to pick on her looks, but I'm fairly certain she's relying on her appearance to create a certain perception for the viewer, and I feel quite comfortable critiquing that construct.) The beautiful fall day outside her window, with the neighbor's house with the American flag flapping in the breeze, a pumpkin in the window, and a cartoonish lawn ornament (is that a snowman?), really sets the scene as the Good Wholesome Neighborhood in Which Everyone Should Want to Live. Rebecca for Real is Really at Home, and she's invited you there to visit with her. What could be more trustworthy?

Now that she's gained your trust, the numbers! Let's face it: if a $300 football is out of your economic reach, the thought that signing a piece of paper would cost $7.7 MILLION is pretty unbelievable. Even if the figure is accurate, and let's face it, the governor's office doesn't exactly have a stellar record with quoting figures in the $7M range,
the amount is small compared to the amount of money that Walker has cut from programs. While Kleefisch tries her best to convince you that the money for the election will come from a program towards which it was already allocated, even if we believe the lie that the money perhaps could be taken from education, she fails to mention that Walker has cut $834M from public education already. Let's drop the millions from the figure for a moment. If someone took $834 dollars from you, would you be willing to pay another $7.70 to make sure that they couldn't do it again? I thought so.

Kleefisch also tries to take advantage of the recall fatigue that many areas, such as my town, experienced during the last round of special elections when both volunteers working directly for candidates and those working for other independent groups targeted the same voters. She asks you if you want your tax money going toward more campaign advertisements. Of course, the truth is that none of your tax money goes to political campaigns, and certainly not to political ads. In fact, under Walker's leadership, there is no more public funding for any candidates in Wisconsin. Somehow, Kleefisch's pink sweater resists going up in flames as her pants begin to blaze. (Joel will probably be very unhappy if she accidentally burns his ball.)

For all Kleefisch's attempts to twist (or outright break) the truth, there is one thing she forgot to consider in the equation. Math. Kleefisch claims that your signature on a recall petition is worth $7.7 million. Your signature alone could cost the state 7.7 MILLION dollars. Except that it can't. One signature won't recall the governor. It requires 540,208 signatures to recall the governor. One signature is worthless, unless it is accompanied by 540,207 other valid signatures. If you divide $7,700,000 by 540,208 signatures, it works out to roughly $14.25. Fourteen dollars and twenty-five cents. That's what your signature is worth, if, and only if, it is accompanied by 540,207 other valid signatures. Not even enough to purchase a football WITHOUT the autograph.

BattiestGrrl's advice to you is this: sign the petition to recall Walker. If we collect enough signatures to recall Scott Walker, then your signature is worth less than $15. If we don't get enough, your signature is worthless. Oh, and make sure you remember to recall Rebecca for Real while you're at it.

The First Day on the Forward Line

(Photo credit: Kevin Kopplin)

Ideally, I wanted this blog to be a snapshot into the experience of what it's like to collect signatures for the recall, but I'm already seeing some of the problems with this plan. Since I have an advanced degree in writing, I'm struggling with the need for substance and pithy observations. As an activist, I'm struggling with the serious need for sleep. This is going to be a long two months.

I collected only 47 signatures today, including my downstairs neighbor, a Republican who's been telling me for months now to bring my papers by as soon as I have them. I'm on track to collect 1,000 signatures so far, but I would feel better if I'd collected many more. I want to be optimistic and say that we will definitely recall Walker, but we really need to have more people actively out there gathering signatures if we're going to do this comfortably, especially with the coming undoubtedly-snowy months ahead.

Spirits were high and eyes wide at the pajama-less pajama party at recall HQ. Trinity ran the video recorder while I gleefully signed recall papers. After a false start, we camped out in front of Taco Bell before moving closer to Pick N Save, spending about an hour out in the cold wind. Despite only getting one signature and being drunkenly wooed by fourth-meal consumers, being out in the cold dark of night was exhilarating. When we got back to the car, Orion, patron saint of hunters, was parked approvingly low in the southern sky.

I almost made it back for bar close, but not quite. After I got home, though, there was no way I was going to sleep after being out in that bracing wind and riding high on the excitement of participatory government. Later, I gathered about half of my signatures on the public sidewalk near Polk Library, where a rally discussing the state budget was being held. Police were absolutely friendly when they stopped to make sure that I knew that I'd have to stay on the public sidewalk. Even Walker supporters were polite, something I expect will wear off as the recall progresses. A woman from Osseo signed, as well as a couple of men standing on the sidewalk en route back to my car. I was able to hand in my first two sheets before heading for home.

When I was nearly home, traffic was pouring out of a business nearby at shift change, so on a whim I stopped with my recall sash and clipboard for 20 or 30 minutes. Two cars pulled over to sign. Lots of other vehicles gave encouraging beeps and gestures, and if anyone flipped me off, I didn't see it. I planned to get to the rally at the sundial early and collected probably another 20 signatures there before heading over to the parent-teacher conferences at North High at 5:00.

Conferences were scheduled from five to eight, and I was alone, and I struggled with whether or not I should push myself to stay out the full three hours. While I want to challenge myself, I gave up after two hours and only one signature from a woman out walking her neighbor's dog. The only parent to talk to me was a conservative father who didn't volley his misinformed shot until he was several yards past me, and I was too numb--both fingers and brain--to bother with him. He was smug. He wasn't going to sign. The wasted time at North gave me much to think about, though, regarding better use of clothing and a burning need to find my headphones and possibly upload some books on CD to my iPod. Despite the fact that a Wisconsin flag whipping in the streetlit wind is pretty fantastic, clearly it didn't attract the right kind of attention for which I'd hoped. I'm debating whether I will go back to try to collect signatures again on Thursday. I'm leaning towards 'no' at present.

I've asked to be put on some doors as soon as possible. I'm comfortable with doors, and while the official word is that they want to focus on events because you get more signatures there, I'm positive that I could muster more than one signature in two hours on doors. Hopefully times without events will soon be filled with snowbird outreach before the annual southern migration.

Despite the fact that I've been all over town today, I didn't expect to be so exhausted when I got home. I canvassed for Jess King in all kinds of weather this summer, almost every day, walking or skating for hours, but I think I'm more tired than I ever was during her campaign. Tired or not, I'm due in the office tomorrow in the late morning, set to head back out on the forward line.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The BattiestGrrl 1,000 Signature Recall Challenge

Because I hit more than 3,000 doors for Jessica King this summer, some consider me a recall rock star, but I have a confession to make. I didn’t collect signatures for the last recall. While other people were out collecting signatures, I sat out, convinced that I couldn’t make a difference. Then it occurred to me: if I wasn’t willing to go out and work for a better future, how could I expect anyone else to? I couldn’t just sit back and wait for someone else to do it; I needed to go out and make it happen.

By mid-June, I was canvassing regularly, and I began tweeting how many doors I hit each day. Inspired by my diligence, friends (@SpudLovr, @4SHCrane, @matt_t1) organized the BattiestGrrl Door-Knocking Challenge, and we were able to raise more than $2,000 for Democratic recall candidates by challenging people to pledge a set amount per door I knocked. I also used my daily door tallies to reach out to other potential volunteers, giving 140-character pep talks to try to motivate them to go out and do the same.

Naturally, when early numbers for the Walker recall were suggested, I started trying to motivate my followers and fellow cause-supporters. On October 18, I tweeted the following:

Dear #WIUnion: We have a lot of signatures to collect next month, averaging around 12,000 a day. Prepare yourself. #RecallWalker #WIRecall

I added an afterthought:

So far, I'm setting a goal of getting 1,000 signatures. I don't know if that's attainable or not. I'll reassess after a week or two in, I think.

It was a tentative commitment, but Karen “RecallWalker” Tuerk (Twitter’s @ktuerk), wasn’t going to settle for that:

I so want to start a competition with you. Bring it! : ) 1,000 is my goal too, btw.

And then it was officially on. I threw out the challenge on Twitter to others, but so far only @amadorlicea has taken up the challenge officially and pledged to also attempt the goal of 1,000 signatures. Karen was kind enough to point out that 1,000 signatures collected over 60 days only amounts to about 17 signatures per day, but no one else has taken up the challenge yet.

When I started knocking doors, I had no idea that I’d make it to 3,000 doors in two short months, especially since the idea of talking politics with strangers absolutely horrified me. However, I challenged myself to move out of my comfort zone and to take an active part in reclaiming my government. So what about you? Will you join @BattiestGrrl, @ktuerk and @amadorlicea as they take the 1,000 Signature Recall Challenge to remove Governor Walker from office? If 1,000 signatures seems too daunting, how about 500? 200? 100? 50? Or will you challenge your friends to see which of you can collect the most signatures in 60 days? Don’t wait for someone else to do it, and don’t wait to help until you have time. Make time. And if you’re not ready to challenge yourself, let me do it. A thousand signatures. Are you in?

Yours in solidarity and putting the "all" in "recall",

Joanne Staudacher
AKA @BattiestGrrl