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I recommend the federal government consider the same strategy.

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Here's another letter to which I do not expect to receive a response.

Sen. Ron Johnson, who I did not vote for, gave an interview to Salon Magazine , and had little interest in actually conversing with the reporter. Instead, Sen. Johnson hemmed and hawed his way through tea party talking points. As a recovering journalist, I, in particular, enjoyed the snotty cutoff at the end at the end of the article.

October 8, 2013

328 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Sen. Johnson,

Thanks for sitting down with Salon Magazine. I really appreciate it when elected officials say silly things in print, even if it’s on the internet.

For example, you said that the potential failure of the United States to pay its bills is “no cause for concern.” You said: “We have more than enough revenue flowing to the federal government, if the spending was properly prioritized, there’s no reason whatsoever to default on any of the debt.”

What I think you’re saying here, and tell me if I I’m getting it wrong, is that you believe that some debt counts and some debt does not count?

This makes me think of a time when I was a young man. I had just received my first credit card; it was a $300 line at Kohl’s Department Store. Upon opening the card, I bought a bunch of nice shirts and some new jeans for work. At the end of the month, I only had enough money to pay my rent and about half of the minimum payment due to the Kohl’s card.

So I payed my rent, and I decided not to make a payment to Kohl’s that month, because I wanted to buy food and food is more important to me than debt service.

Turns out, that prioritizing my obligations like that didn’t work out so good. Because a few months later, I found out that Kohl’s went ahead and reported that failure to pay that obligation to the credit bureaus.

So I called Kohl’s up. And I told them I had “properly prioritized” my spending, and so they had no reason whatsoever to report me to the credit bureaus. They disagreed with my prioritization.

So I went out and raised some extra money and paid my debts. Needless to say, it took a few years and some honest bookkeeping to get my finances back in order.

I recommend the federal government consider the same strategy. Please stay out of the way of that effort, ok?


Your good friend and constituent,

Gabriel D. W. Wollenburg

Watertown, WI

This government shutdown nonsense is hurting people

This letter is 100% sincere. The inflammatory name-calling aside, I don't see how an elected official can look at the *facts* presented in the article referenced and not see that they are doing the American people a great disservice.

I would love to get an answer from Mr. Sensenbrenner, but I don't expect to get one.


October 4, 2013

120 Bishops Way, #154
Brookfield, WI 53005

Dear F. James Sensenbrenner,

Regarding the ongoing federal government shutdown, you should read the Oct. 1, 2013 article from Esquire Magazine titled “The Reign Of Morons Is Here.”

I know it’s long, I don’t know if you have time to read things on the internet, so I’ll highlight one of the better clips for you:

"We have elected an ungovernable collection of snake-handlers, Bible-bangers, ignorami, bagmen and outright frauds, a collection so ungovernable that it insists the nation be ungovernable, too."

Is that a fair characterization? I like to think its untrue, but I’m not sure. You are part of that system. You tell me.

Only you, Mr. Sensenbrenner, have the power to change that characterization. Only you, Mr. Sensenbrenner, have the power to stand up and shout: “No! You are wrong! I am not a snake handler, bible banger, ignoramus, bagman, or outright fraud! I am compassionate, intelligent human being, and I will do what’s right and end this government shutdown nonsense because it is hurting people and I am not a monster!”

Will you do that, Mr. Sensenbrenner? Or is the Esquire Magazine article right? You tell me. I’m not seeing evidence to the contrary, that’s for sure.

Please forward this letter to as many of your colleagues you feel would benefit to see it. I don’t even mind if you read this message verbatim and pass the words off as your own. I won’t tell anyone.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Constituent,
In love and friendship,

Gabriel D. W. Wollenburg
Watertown, WI

'This is not something you can experience on Facebook'

The speech given by John Greendeer, President of the Ho-Chunk Nation speaking during the powwow following the Penokee Hills Education Summit on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2013, is as good as explaination as any as to why my family and made the trek up to the Whitecap Resort to be part of the Penokee Hills Education Summit.


'It is our duty to protect her'


John Greendeer, President of the Ho-Chunk Nation, told the Penokee Hills community that the Ho-Chunk Nation is committed to supporting the ongoing efforts to protect the Penokee Hills from destructive and unnecessary mining.

“This place is not something you can experience on Facebook,” he said. “You have to travel up here and be part of this to understand.”

Every difference we have ever had is set aside while we get together to protect Mother Earth, Greendeer said. This is our grandmother. It is our duty to protect her.


Its about the water.

Posting this before the big summit this weekend.

Protect the Penokee Hills

This is footage I shot at Tyler Forks and Peterson Falls in Ironwood and Ashland counties a few weeks ago. The audio comes from the speech given by Mel Gasper at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources public hearing held at Hurley High School on Aug. 15.

If you can’t be at the Penokee Hills Education Summit this weekend, you should watch Indian Country News’ live announcements from the Summit at White Cap Mountain Sept. 20 and 21. The live broadcasts are planned for Friday and Saturday, or on their livestream.

In Memory of A Friend

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Many of us lost a good friend yesterday. I remember Ty, and what is remembered, lives.
To his memory, I offer this:


In Memory of Tyler


The D&D Games that will never be played
and the Pink Floyd songs that will never be the same
remind us of the struggle and the pain
that accompany talent and an almost limitless potential.

Escape comes too soon, my friend.

It was one of those sticky hot days of summer when you were young
that I held you on my lap to make sure you could breathe.
The air was thick on the island and we brought you water to drink and hid your shaking body in the cool shade of the willow trees along the river.
I was one of your many friends who held you that day.

If only we could have done it for you one more time.

Remember when you were young, you shown like the sun.
Shine on, you crazy diamond.






An Open Letter Re: Syria

Here's an open letter to my congressional representatives urging non-agression in the resolving the current crisis in Syria. I stole the opening line from my friend Bob.

September 6, 2013


Dear Sen. Ron Johnson,
Sen. Tammy Baldwin,
and Rep. James F. Sensenbrenner,

Regarding Syria: It’s clear there are no good options. However, when there are no good options, the best of them likely does not involve missiles. Please refrain from authorizing the use of force in resolving the current situation in Syria.

Instead, I recommend watching this fantastic clip from Micheal Moore’s TV Nation. This clip demonstrates Moore’s effort to get the ambassadors of Croatia and Serbia to get together to eat pizza and try to work out a peace plan for the former Yugoslavia.

Even this type of "Pizza Diplomacy" would be more productive and less damaging to the United States than any attempt by the United States to use force to resolve the crisis in Syria.

Thank you,

Gabriel D. W. Wollenburg.

Letter on Public Hearing on Penokee Hills Mine

Today the DNR is holding a public hearing at Hurley High School to hear public testimony about issuing a bulk sampling permit to Gogebic Taconite LLC. Those who cannot make the hearing have until September 3 to mail or email testimony.

Here's my letter.

Larry Lynch, DNR
101 S. Webster Street
Madison, WI 53707

August 15, 2013

Dear Mr. Lynch, DNR

I have walked through the Penokee Hills site of the proposed Gogebic Taconite LLC (GTac) Mine. Following the core drilling they did earlier this year, GTac left behind bright orange snow fences, inorganic riprap, and hay bales that do not stop erosion. The deep trenches cut into the hillside by GTac’s heavy machinery are filled with a bright red watery sludge and will take years to recover.

This is all evidence of GTac’s inability (and perhaps unwillingness) to work this public land in a manner that is respectful to the Penokee Hills. It is an ugly walk through a formerly beautiful swatch of land that will now forever bear the scars of GTac’s agenda.

Here are some additional reasons why I urge you to deny not only GTac’s bulk sample permit, but any application for additional mining within the ceded lands in Wisconsin.

  • Wisconsin Geological Surveys show grunerite, one of the most toxic forms of asbestos, on and near the proposed mine site.
  • GTac’s response to the potential of asbestos in the proposed mining site is rhetoric and denial. Good science demands non-invasive sampling of the proposed site and comprehensive testing for dangerous and toxic compounds.
  • GTac has a history of providing the DNR with misinformation, including repeatedly denying their involvement in the drafting of Assembly Bill AB426.
  • GTac has a history of aggressive anti-public behavior, including the July 2013 hiring of an un-permitted paramilitary militia to guard core drilling sites.
  • Any mishandling of the mining activities on the proposed site has the potential to have significant impact on the world’s freshwater.
  • A Wisconsin Sierra Club document on the environmental track record of taconite mining states, “The evidence from neighboring states demonstrates that all taconite mines are polluters.”

It is my sincerest desire that the Wisconsin DNR deny the bulk sampling permit to GTac.

Thank you,

Gabe Wollenburg

Johnny Cash watches over the public hearing

A tale of two camps

Tomorrow, at some point, I will have to wash the blood-red mud from my boots that collected as I wandered through the Penokee Hills this weekend.

I brought my Mother-in-law and her friend up to the LCO Harvest Camp on Saturday, August 10, 2013. We had two stops in mind. The first was the Harvest Camp itself. The second was to try to see, first hand, what the impact commercial mining interests are having on the land up there. It is a tale of two camps, really. Two different approaches to working the land.

The LCO Harvest Camp

It was my second time visiting the camp; I am not a local. I am not native to Iron County in any sense of the word. I’m a guy who believes in the healing power of nature. Both times I’ve stepped into the Harvest Camp I have been greeted warmly, offered dinner, and showed great hospitality. I meet people for the first time and I know that I am among friends.

Harvest Camp

The campers have made homes away from home in the woods, and are harvesting its bounty while doing healing work to the land and to our culture. Around every corner is a welcoming sight: a row of squash, a collection of firewood. A wigwam built just in case someone decides to stay overnight even though they didn’t bring any gear.


The Harvest Camps trails and pathways are sculpted using natural methods; putting the lay of the land and the method of ingress at balance with each other.


My daughter made fast friends with other kids at the camp.She learned how to identify at least six different types of edible plants growing in the camp itself. She and another little girl parked down the hill for some time and raided the raspberry bushes. My mother-in-law wanted to stay and talk politics and swap protest stories with the other folks at the camp. I wanted to wander off into the woods and see what there was to see.


We came to the camp as protesters, and we left it as human beings. There is magic in the camp; magic in its bounty and in it’s people. There is magic in the whispering winds and the lightening strikes and the pile of discarded cooking materials that the campers have cleaned out of the public lands and put on display.

There is a magic in this camp that comes from the union of people, tree, flora and fauna.

The site of the ongoing mining

A mile up the road is a site of another kind. Visitors are not welcomed with warmth and compassion, but by a gate bound with a lock and chain. Although both lands are public, this site is fenced and the only greeting a visitor receives from is a callous yellow sign demanding that visitors to this parcel of not ride motor vehicles, and do not stay overnight.

There is no face to great you. No name to welcome you. No friend to see that you are well. On this site, there is Only the cold hard path of destruction wrought with the carelessness that only a corporation can.

While we were on our hike our little family van was cased several times by men driving black trucks. We found walking sticks to help us up the incline and around the muddy trenches that have been carved in the side of the hills by heavy machinery. The path is lined with synthetic riprap and optic orange fences. At certain points the riprap funnels runoff into a couple of hay bales that do not seem to be doing much in the way preventing erosion.


As we walked, the mud grew thicker and the pathway became more torn up. The woods here is different. Not less beautiful, (industrial trenches notwithstanding), but different. Here, the woods is somber. Is it hurting?

And even still, life grows here. The aformentioned hay bales have sprouted, as if succumbing to the land’s great fertility. Mushrooms and toadstools take advantage of the disruption in the forest floor to grow quick and die young.

Toad Stool

I spotted a small prayer bag dangling from a tree. The ribbon was made from raffia and the bag was made of cotton. It contained wishes for healing, no doubt. It was certainly left as a gift from the human campers down the road. I stopped and silently added my own wish for an end to this unbalanced and unnessesary destruction of our natural resources.

Prayer Flag

My thoughts were interrupted when I hear a man yawn in the woods. I can’t be sure, but I am convinced I hear the sound of someone stifle a yawn and then a branch shake. I spun around to look at where I think the sound came from. I looked deeply into the woods. I did not see anyone. I looked deeper. Still nothing. But I am convinced there was someone there. We were being watched.

Turning back

At that point, I decided was time to return to our car. The path had become mostly impassable for foot traffic without doing some serious off-roading and I’m not sure I wanted to startle the sleepy spy over in the trees by accidentally treading on him.

It is a far, far better thing I do now

A tale of two camps. One seeks to build communion with the land and the
other seeks to take resources from it. One camp seeks to healing the rifts that separate flora from fauna, and the other seeks to dividing and conquer both.

Come to the land. Listen to it. See if with your own eyes. There is beauty there. It is public land. It is open to you. You owe it to yourself to set foot on the Penokee’s sacred soil and feel her sing beneath you feet as you hike.

A road that takes you home.

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There is a road that takes you home no matter which way you are traveling.

My friend Sgt. Pete and I are headed out on County Trunk X, northbound. The sun is setting in the west as I roll both driver and passenger windows down and let the springtime breeze throw my hair around and this song comes on.

The Long Winters’ Blanket Hog. It might not, thematically, be the appropriate piece of poetry for the moment I was feeling, but it certainly was the right song.

I’ve driven, bicycled, walked, and skateboarded down this road before. I have been traveling on this road betwixt my homes for 38 some years. Now I am at a stage in my life where I am literally driving both to and from home.

There are people in this world who will never come to this place.
And fewer still who find a good song playing on the radio when they realize this.

Broken, Unworkable Things.

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Crind is Broken.

Some systems are simply unworkable.

This is a fact. There are things in this world that, for whatever reason, have become unworkable. They are broken.

These broken, unworkable things are not made to spite you or to annoy or damage you personally. They’re simply unworkable, broken things. And eventually, they will fail. Darwin. He was smart. However, the sad, painful realization that you are embroiled in an unworkable system is probably the more interesting thing to consider, really; what do you do after you’ve realized:

  • This system, thing, project, hardware, lifestyle choice is unworkable.
  • It’s not about me.

At that point you have three pretty clear choices.

  1. You can walk away.
    This is a pretty good choice, really. Most of the time. Let broken things that aren’t about you stay broken. Darwin will take care of them. It’s scary though– the broken thing is familiar. You’re walking away into the unknown.
  2. You can try to fix it.
    Great idea. But what about the second bullet point up there? It’s not about you. Unless you have considerable agency over he broken thing, this is a bad choice. Without the agency to fix it, trying to work the unworkable thing is going to frustrate you. And that’s not much better than living with the unworkable thing in the first place, is it? Because now, not only is it unworkable, but you’re fighting it every step of the way.
  3. You can love the unworkable thing for what it is.
    If you can’t walk away, and you don’t have the agency to fix the thing, this is all you’re left with. The unworkable thing is broken and you’re not going to either be ok with that or take one of the other two choices. End of story.

The thing is, not all broken things long to be fixed. Some are completely happy to be broken. And, maybe they even know that they could be better. And that’s sad, really. But that’s the nature of broken unworkable things. Love them. They are what show us the beauty of our complete, workable things. They are what inspire us to be better. The broken, unworkable things show us the way not to proceed, and point us in the direction of wholeness, completeness, and fulfillment.

Thank you, broken unworkable things. Thank you.