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Member since: Thu Apr 29, 2010, 02:31 PM
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Legendary UW-Madison student prankster Leon Varjian dies


A legendary University of Wisconsin-Madison student government prankster best known for putting a foam Statue of Liberty on a frozen Lake Mendota and 1,000 plastic pink flamingos on Bascom Hill died suddenly in New Jersey, where he was a beloved high school math teacher.


Varjian was 25 when he arrived on the UW-Madison campus in fall 1977. He already had a degree in mathematics from New Jersey's Montclair State. (There, he set up the Miss Montclair Steak Pageant, a spoof of the university's beauty pageant.) He also had been a student at Indiana University at Bloomington, where he sponsored a Banana Olympics, which included a banana toss and a search for a banana hidden in a haystack.

Varjian didn't go to UW-Madison to earn a degree. He took one-credit classes in the late 1970s and early 1980s so he could remain eligible for student government. He was a student senator when he and sidekick Jim Mallon hit on the idea of making up a Pail & Shovel Party, and running a mock campaign later described as "one continuing performance-art piece on the corruption of government."


Varjian was such a legendary prankster, a case number was devoted to him in the book, "If At All Possible Involve a Cow: The Book of College Pranks." Varjian and Mallon didn't just prank elections, they openly squandered student government funds on beer, parties and other high jinks, including bringing the Statue of Liberty to Madison. It was to have been set up in the dead of night, facing campus, on the ice of frozen Lake Mendota. But the statue took three days to build out of chicken wire, papier-m ché and plywood. It was just the head, arm and torch so it would appear partially submerged. They also flocked Bascom Hill with 1,000 pink plastic flamingos — a tradition that was later embraced as a beloved fall fundraiser, recognizing alumni donors.

And when the student government funds ran low, Leon sent Jim Mallon to Vegas to try to run up some more cash. This before the State of Wisconsin started a lottery. RIP Leon.

Compare and contrast

America's Right Wingers Welcome the Pope

The Progressive Launches New Project to Defend Public Education: Progressive Education Fellows




A fundamental struggle for democracy is going on behind the scenes in statehouses around the country, as a handful of wealthy individuals and foundations pour money into efforts to privatize the public schools. The Progressive is launching a new project to help pull back the curtain and reveal what is at stake—to follow the money and expose the privatizers—but also to celebrate the resistance and the hard work of people on the front lines of public education. Our goal is for all parents, teachers, and concerned citizens to understand what is going on and connect with each other to stick up for schools.

The “Progressive Education Fellows,” is an online gathering of twelve prominent, advocates, activists, thinkers, and writers in the progressive education movement. Throughout 2015 we'll be posting submissions from them on all things public education and democracy. Here's the backstory on why we feel this project is needed.

We're kicking things off with this dynamite talk from Jesse Hagopian, straight from the Seattle picket line (read the story here):

Jesse Hagopian's address to Bob Fest 2015 was terrific. Highly recommended for anyone interested in public education in America.

Brian Williams returns as “breaking-news anchor” at MSNBC, though to hear him tell it ...

Brian Williams returns as “breaking-news anchor” at MSNBC, though to hear him tell it, he’s president of the network.

BREAKING: Koch brothers petition Supreme Court to reverse Citizens United “before we squander all our money on losers like Scott Walker.”

@realDonaldTrump called Scott Walker a loser.

FACT: Walker dropped out of race because he had no support.


Carly Fiorina #2 in polls behind Donald Trump, which according to her command of the facts means that she is now the President.


Silly Neo-Lib, Fighting Bob Fest is for Progressives

Fighting Bob Fest, 2015 - Pictorial Report

Great crowd. Wisconsin progressives love getting together at Fighting Bob Fest. This years event was held at Breese Stevens Field in Madison under bright, sunny skies.

John Fugelsang had the crowd in stitches.

The Kissers!

Jim Hightower

John Nichols

Ed Schultz

See bfealk's post for video of Ed's on-fire speech! Ed called Dick Cheney a son-of-a-bitch. "I can do that now."

The booths and tables saw lots of interest, mostly ...

Social Justice in the OECD - How do the member states compare?

OMG! Bernie wants us to be more socialististic, like Scandanavia! The horror, the horror!

The hidden education tradeoff: tax cuts now or real economic growth in the future


Parents in Milwaukee—as across the nation—know that their children’s futures depend on the quality of public education, and many of them are deeply upset about continuing cuts to public education funding. Parents, teachers, and students in the Milwaukee Public School District are holding “walk-ins” at over 100 schools on Friday, Sept. 18 to “celebrate and protect public education.” These events are a challenge to the plans of Gov. Scott Walker to privatize Milwaukee Public Schools and starve them of funding.

Some 41% of Milwaukee students attend largely unaccountable private voucher and charter schools, many of which have draining away resources needed by the public-schools systems to provide a quality education for all. The public system is thus nearing insolvency.

In Chicago, the school system is being decimated by top-down cuts and school shutdowns that have parents, students, and teachers up in arms over their lack of voice in the school system’s future. At Dyett High School in Chicago, school supporters have staged a dramatic hunger strike, currently over 31 days long, to stop its closing and implement community plans for reinventing the school. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel seems bent on promoting privatized voucher schools at the expense of the public system he is dismantling.

Along with the drive for privatization, embraced by both right-wingers and neo-liberals, schools across the nation have been victimized by budgetary chainsaws. In the name of cutting taxes, states are sacrificing their public school systems. No less than 47 states are now spending less than they did in 2007. “Savings have gone to finance tax cuts,” observes financial journalist Tom Saler. A distressing NY Times series by Louise Story details how local governments have handed out over $80 billion a year in corporate tax cuts, plus a wide menu of subsidies. This money is mostly going to the largest corporations and without demanding accountability on actual job creation and wage levels.

Get Ready for Fighting Bob Fest 2015!


Join us in Madison this Saturday, September 19 for the 14th annual Fighting Bob Fest. This year's theme: “Back by Populist Demand!”

Speakers include Russ Feingold, John Nichols, and Ed Schultz. As always there will be a raucous kick-off Friday night at The Barrymore Theatre featuring progressive comedy by John Fugelsang, Lizz Winstead, and Jim Hightower.

The festivities on Saturday get rolling at 9:30 a.m. accompanied by outstanding local food, beer by Great Dane Brewing, and more than 60 progressive organizations and vendor tables throughout the day. Join us for break-out sessions on the environment, public schools, race, women’s health, and progressive messaging. The sessions will be lead by experts in these areas and will give you a chance to get directly involved in brainstorming and strategy.

Here are the details and check out the website too!

FIGHTING BOB FEST Schedule (Subject to change)

9am – gates open – Solidarity Singers

9:30am – Welcome session featuring Ruth Conniff, Dave Zwiefel, Secretary of State Doug La Follette, Mayor Paul Soglin, County Executive Joe Parisi, Joel Rogers, Mike McCabe, Scot Ross, Russ Feingold, and the Raging Grannies

11:15am – 12:15pm BREAKOUTS SESSIONS!

Citizen Action & Local Control to Save our Natural Resources- Main Stage

Fighting Colonialism in Black America – Tent 1

Taking Politics Out of Women’s Health – Tent 2

The Unexpected Belle La Follette – Room 3

12:15 – 12:45pm Lunch

Music! The Kissers

12:45 – Afternoon progream featuring John Fugelsang, Chris Taylor, Jesse Hagopian,


Mark Pocan, Mark Dimondstein, Christine Neumann-Ortiz,

Music! Mad City Jug Band,

YGB/ Kevin Alexander Gray, Jim Hightower, Lizz Winstead


John Nichols, Ed Schultz

Closing Remarks Ruth Conniff

Music! Sean Michael Dargan


Imagining a New Political Language, Implementing a New Political Reality – Tent 1

Saving our Public Schools – Tent 2

I can't make the Friday night kickoff as I have tickets to see Keb Mo at the Grand in Wausau. Woo Hoo! See ya on Saturday. Be there or be square!

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