Friday, May 2, 2014

Only Obey Good Laws

The title of this post was the campaign slogan of Eddie Ben Elson, one of the most colorful characters in Madison’s history.  He announced his 1970 campaign for Dane County DA in the nude at the Dangle Lounge, a long-since-disappeared strip joint downtown, telling anyone who'd listen that we ought to obey only the "good" laws.


More on Eddie in a moment.


The “Only Obey Good Laws” bit came to mind when I read an account of the important business our state’s Republican Party will be dealing with at its convention in Milwaukee this weekend.

For the uninitiated, the Republican Party was born right here in Wisconsin – as the logo above points out – in, I believe, an old schoolhouse in Ripon. ‘sconnies know that Ripon is pronounced RIP-en, but it pops up every so often on national broadcasts, where the nooz person invariably says “ri-PAHN”.


Among the important business our state’s Republicans will discuss this weekend is a much ballyhooed proposal to “reaffirm Wisconsin’s right to secede from the union” – hence the image at the top of this post, which I’ve dubbed “Cheesehead Secession”.  The image is from The Daily Beast. You never know when it will be important to secede from the union.  Best to make sure all ‘sconnies are aware that if the need should arise, the Republicans will be ready to guide us.  I think they borrowed the notebook on this from Governor Perry in Texas.


And there’ll be the sideshow put on by one of the looniest Democrats Madison has produced since good old Eddie Ben Elsen, namely Brett Hulsey.  Here he is in a Fox News photo (above) preparing to hand out KKK hoods to the Republican conventioneers this weekend.


But back to the “good laws”.  Another important piece of business the Republicans will take up this weekend is something – I can’t get a clear read on the exact wording – about Wisconsin being able to ignore federal laws.  The ones we don’t like, I guess.


The Republicans have been doing this sort of thing for a long time – putting up items for discussion that are so far out of left field that they’re not even in the ball park.  Like the time a few years ago when they put up a proposal to never hold their convention in a building that did not permit carrying concealed guns.


So let’s talk a bit about Eddie Ben Elson. (The photo of Eddie above is from the Wisconsin State Journal.) My friend Doug Moe, who’s been writing great stuff in the public prints in Madison for decades, probably knows more about Eddie’s history than anyone.  The year before Eddie announced his candidacy for Dane County DA in the nude on stage at the Dangle Lounge – with the “Only Obey Good Laws” slogan – Eddie ran for Mayor of Madison. That was in 1969, and among his campaign promises in that campaign was a plan to paint the city’s police cars in psychedelic colors.  Hey – it was still the 60’s.  That sort of thing was big back then.


Another of Eddie’s stunts was selling tickets to the Comet Kohoutek in 1973. Eddie, like many others at the time (others who may or may not have been under the influence of psychedelic drugs) believed the comet was actually an intergalactic spaceship, coming to Earth to save only the chosen ones.


Yes, Eddie Ben Elson would be right at home at the Republican convention in Milwaukee this weekend. Even though he was decidedly a very liberal personage, he’d fit right in with the arch-conservative fringe that comes up with these schemes to secede and ignore federal laws.

Eddie passed away in February of 1983 – carbon monoxide poisoning, in his car, in the driveway of his home in McFarland.  My friend George Hesselberg wrote a wonderful obit for Eddie. I can't find a link to it right now or I'd post it here.


Eddie's long gone, but his spirit is still very much alive this weekend, at that gathering in Milwaukee.


  1. Meantime, a noted Democrat insists, repeatedly, that a memo headlined "Benghazi" is NOT about "Benghazi."

    Seems that alternative realities are very bi-partisan, indeed.

  2. Madison in the 1970s sounds amazing.

    I like that the doctrine of nullification and the idea of secession can still survive, having been removed from their original purpose (the preservation of the right to own other human beings) by one degree; nowadays, the doctrines are not directly connected to racism/slavery, but these were not ideas that were thrown about when Worst President Ever was using the federal government to take over the banking and educational systems, two deeply unpopular programs that started under a conservative president. They were not doctrines, either, that were discussed when a (white) liberal president first proposed a massive takeover of health care back in the 1990s.

    No, "nullification" and "secession" only arose again as a popular political idea when a black man was elected to run the country, something that caused (some) people to question whether they should be paying taxes (to a black man) or forced to buy health insurance (from a black man) or otherwise live in a country run by a black man.

    While I hate to be on the side of extreme wacko Brett Hulsey, he is right: the Republican party is dominated these days by a thinly-veiled racism that became frightened when a black man got to run the country, and which, while possibly not the majority of the conservative branch of political thinking these days, has certainly become the driving force for it and has garnered all the headlines.

    Nowadays, the secessionists are not overtly arguing for the right to own black people; they are though saying that they don't want to live in a world where a black man can tell them what to do.

    I would like to see states secede if they want to. I would let them secede, but I would warn them that if they try to come BACK into the union, they would be split up, with equal portions of the state being granted to California, Massachusetts, and possibly Oregon. The idea that Wisconsin, or even Texas, could survive as an independent nation without help from the United States is a ludicrous one, but if we just let Texas (and Wisconsin) secede, then the people who watch Bill O'Reilly and who continue to talk about, say, Benghazi, could go live there, watch their country fail miserably, and then shut up for a LONG time.

    And if the country succeeded? If the Great Nation Of TexSconsin worked out? Fine -- I'm not against making the world a better place. But it wouldn't. A country whose founding principal is "No black guy better get elected" wouldn't last long.

  3. We're all racisss now, yah.

    Frankly, it's not that he's black. It's that he's a Communiost.

  4. "Communist." I think you know what that word means, Dad, you know that it doesn't apply to Obama (who, politically, is approximately on the same spot on the spectrum with Ronald Reagan), and you're just trolling here for the entertainment value you find in it.

    This entire secession thing might be the single most maddening fever to hit the Wisconsin GOP in the last several years, which is really sayin' something. It shows a remarkable ignorance of history, politics, and common sense, and the fact that grown-ass adults want to consider it is ridiculous and sad.

    Unless they're just trolling for the entertainment value they find in it.

  5. Calling President Obama a "Communist" - ha! Best friend of the big banks, big insurance companies, big pharma, Wall Street (which, despite the right-wing wailing about the economy - when they're not wailing about Benghazi - is having just a FABULOUS run, the DJIA at 16,513 as I type, this Sunday morning) - a COMMUNIST? Jee-zus Harold Christ - a COMMUNIST????? Great God, even calling Obama a SOCIALIST doesn't even come CLOSE to describing his performance as President over the past 8 years. Oh, he's a redistributor of wealth all EVERY metric, the economy has distributed one hell of a lot more wealth from the middle and lower classes to the upper class in the past 8 years. Communist, Socialist my ASS.

    1. And while you're at it, riddle me this, Batman: When one's closest father-figure is a Communist, like one's close personal friends throughout college and career; when one's closest personal advisor is a Red Diaper baby, and one's law-enforcement executive is (at best) a socialist-leaning despot, .....

      What is one called? A dedicated capitalist?

      Perhaps you, personally, have the capacity to run in certain circles without sharing any of their proclivities at all. You would be an exception, Tim.

  6. First, Tim, change your pants. You pissed yourself.

    Then settle down with a reliable history of the 1917 Revolution, not the Mr Rogers version you have swallowed. Joe Stalin and his successors, right down to Putin, were always very tight with the bankers and resources-extractors.

    What they eliminated was the middle class--the shopkeepers and family-farmers (kulaks).

    It takes large money to finance any country, and it didn't come from the pennies of the "downtrodden."

    You are correct about Obozo's associations and corruption. You just don't have your history straight.

  7. And if you need a little help with a non-UWMadison-approved history of Marxism, go here:

    1. Oh great and wondrous Dad29, my mind was so warped by the commie profs at UW; thank you for leading me to such an unbiased source of information as The American Conservative.....which certainly is a neutral fact-driven organization, unlike the godless commie profs at the big people's college on the lake....

    2. Did you read the essay?

  8. For those that want to secede I have a question for you. What will you do about national defense? You'll be a nation after all. And when you have to tell your seniors there's no social security? Or medicare? How's that going to go. Oh and when your UW System, which everyone agrees drives economic growth, loses $1 billion in grant money, what then? Not to mention telling Oshkosh Truck and Marinette Marine that their government contracts are cancelled. Mitchell air field closes. Fort McCoy closes. And these are just the things I thought of off the top of my head. That's the problem with the kinds of people that just jump on these bandwagons. They don't think.

    1. Wisconsin seceding? That is Texas-grade nonsense, the stuff of yellow snake-flaggers.

      Wisconsin, under the red, white and blue and with great valor, helped hold the union together, an effort that lives in honor in the annals of America.

      The secession buffoons should unambiguously be decried, scorned and repudiated by all patriotic Wisconsinites.

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