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This Brought A Big Smile Today

August 21, 2017

Have no idea what this fishing lure looking caterpillar will turn into but it made for a smile as I watched it roaming about today.  It is simply a joy to look at.

List Of Those Who Have Rebuked President Trump

August 21, 2017
So far, President Trump’s repeated declarations of idiocy have won him rebukes by a continuing list of people.  Jusita has the totals, thus far.
And this list, as you probably noticed, includes only those who, by position or ideology, might have been expected at least to withhold criticism.

State Capitol Reunion: “It Is So Much Different Now”

August 20, 2017

To celebrate the 100th year of the Wisconsin State Capitol a reunion of past legislators and staff who worked in the building was held last Friday.  The Senate Sergeants Office orchestrated the affair and did a remarkable job.  To again connect with some memories from the past made for a genuinely nice afternoon.  Before I venture further with this post a Thank You needs to be extended to all those who worked to make it a success.  It was a job well done.

At times a real sense of nostalgia seemed to cross the faces of those who joined again to talk and reminisce.  A couple of the staffers, such as Jan Grunewald, had worked not only for many years in the building but also for numerous representatives.  She said, “I worked for four legislators and they are all dead.”  One could tell she wished they would again be back for an afternoon of recalling the old days.

I was struck over and over how conversations tilted back not only to recall a funny story or the memory of all-night sessions in order to pass a budget, but also included thoughts about how the rancor, rhetoric, and extreme partisanship has grown at the expense of governing.  Perhaps it was best stated by former Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala as he extended a hand to another former legislator and said “it is so much different now.”

And it is different.

In thinking about the way attitudes and actions over the past decades have changed at the statehouse I have wondered if perhaps I am not becoming like my dad who always seemed to recall the past being somehow ‘better’.  But as I talked with others Friday I sensed an acknowledgement that the process of law-making is now edgier.

When asked why that is the case a former aide to State Representative Dick Shoemaker said it all starts with how leadership acts and the tone they set.  She recalled the collegiality that Minority Leader Tommy Thompson had with some Democrats over late night card games following frothy debates about legislation during the day.  It was that understanding that even if one disagrees on policy does not mean opposing sides are therefore enemies.

A few months after Governor Thompson took his oath in 1987 he happened to swing by the office of State Representative Lary Swoboda.  Geneva Rode and Ruth Schohl who had worked for decades in the Capitol were splitting a full-time position in the office of the assemblyman from the First District and Thompson knew each of them. (I must add it was their institutional memory and delightful stories that made my first session especially interesting.  Ruth, for instance delighted in telling about the time she met Hubert Humphrey in the statehouse.  She gave me a small stick pin of HHH from those days that is part of my political collection.)

I had started working in Swoboda’s office the same day Thompson took his oath and found it remarkable to then see the Governor come to our office just to trade a few pleasantries and shake hands.  It was that sense of all working in the building for the folks of the state that still makes his visit most memorable to me these many years later.   It really does, as the former staffer commented last Friday, start with the leadership in the capitol.

Former State Representative Randy Radtke recollected how Green Bay Assemblyman Cletus Vanderperren, who was affectionately known in the statehouse as ‘Concrete Clete’ due to his drive to see highways and roads built and repaired, always made it known in conversations that Highway 29 was in dire need of state and federal aid.  My favorite memory of Cletus takes place during an all-night budget session as the large windows in the assembly parlor were opened for fresh breezes for the then un-airconditioned  chamber.  The representative sat in a chair near a window with assembly pages gathered around and talked of his past races and why he still worked to make sure his constituents had a voice when transportation decisions were made.

Vanderperren, and many like him, ran for office with the purpose of using the power of government to positively impact the voters back home.  It seems to me too many now with resentments and a disgust with government seek office for motives that are far different from the ones which drove ‘Concrete Clete’.

So how does our state governing process become less bitter and more conducive to dealing with the issues that face the citizenry?

Perhaps it is time to turn to the former leaders of this state–in a bi-partisan fashion–and have them brainstorm about what might be done to again fashion a working coalition for state politics. The goal of having the common good once again be central to policy making should not just be a throw away line.  It should be what we strive for in Madison.  Bring former Assembly Speakers Tom Loftus and John Gard, former governors Tommy Thompson and Tony Earl, and former state senators Dale Schultz and Tim Cullen along with others together to put forth a blueprint on how collegiality can again lead us in our politics.  Get the editors of our state papers engaged in writing articles and OP-ED pieces so to then enlist the voters of the state to step up and also demand changes.

I truly feel blessed to have been a part of the process that played out in the state assembly.  I am a better person for having learned much from those whom I was able to interact with over those years.  I still have faith in our governing institutions.  But I know we must do better at tamping down what divides us when it comes to governing and seek ways to compromise from all sides.

Working as colleagues in a fair and open-oriented process of governing will produce good policy, renew the electorate’s faith in government along with those elected to serve, and shine a light on Wisconsin as an example of how the values and ideals we share are still alive.

If we try we can do it.

Jerry Lewis, King Of Timeless Comedy, Dies At 91

August 20, 2017

Like most Americans the memories of Jerry Lewis runs through my mind today.  From the old movies that I from time to time saw on my grandparents television when I was boy, the caring humanitarian that made Labor Days more than just a time to picnic with the family, to his wildly hilarious live show I attended at the Madison Civic Center the memories are crisp and meaningful. I truly had tears in my eyes from laughing when Lewis took the stage in the 1990’s and count that night as one where I saw living legend.

Today the man who gave the gift of humor to folks worldwide died at the age of 91.

Over the recent years I have noted, each Labor Day how I missed Lewis on his telethon where he had given his heart and soul to each year.  Last year I penned the following.

If you are like me than perhaps you too opened up the Sunday newspaper and noticed the Parade section did not have the face of a sweet child on its cover.  For so many years of my life the poster child for the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon was front and center as a way to call attention to the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s annual telethon to raise money and awareness of the disease.  Watching the telethon was always a part of the Labor Day weekend as much as picnics and frolicking in the sunshine.

My deep respect for Jerry Lewis as a humanitarian is as strong now as ever.  His compassion and strong sense of making sure the world can be a better place tomorrow by the actions we take today remains his legacy.

That is how I wish to sum up the life of this man who will forever remain a part of our smiles.  The very ones he has created.

Godspeed, Jerry.  We love you.

Kennedy Center Honors Impacted By President Trump’s Overt Racism

August 19, 2017

The growing backlash against President Trump and his views about Nazis and white nationalists grows.  And has an impact!

President Trump has elected not to attend the annual Kennedy Center Honors in December due to the political backlash from the nation.  Among those who created the stir are some of those slated to be feted at the glamorous event.

The announcement comes as three of the five honorees — television producer Norman Lear, singer Lionel Richie and dancer Carmen de Lavallade — said they would boycott the traditional White House reception related to the celebration. As for the other two, rapper LL Cool J has not said whether he would attend, and Cuban American singer Gloria Estefan said she would go to try to influence the president on immigration issues.

Presidents and first ladies traditionally attend the Kennedy Center program each year. But the backlash against Trump was prompted by his handling of the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville last weekend, which ended in the death of a counter-protester.

Then And Now

August 18, 2017

In 1984 I was in shorts on a trip in Madison and a buddy, George Manesis, took the first pic below at the State Capitol.  A couple years later, in 1987, I started working at the statehouse, and today 30 years later a reunion was held there to honor past employees for the building’s 100th Birthday year.

I posed near the same location from that one decades before.  I still have that genuine appreciation for the role of government that takes place here.  In the face of everything still hopeful for our state and nation going forward.

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Angry White Male, Steve Bannon, Fired from White House

August 18, 2017

There has never been one hour that Steve Bannon was in the White House over the past seven months that I did not fear his xenophobic and bigoted views, which he grounded in white nationalism, would not in some way harm the nation.   In fact, over and over from the way the Holocaust was handled in the White House when it came to recalling its historical significance, or the outrage from treating Nazis as just misunderstood nationalists has allowed all to see that Bannon was dangerous.

He should have never been allowed to ever serve in any White House.  My concern about Bannon’s place in this administration goes back to January.

Now this shameful chapter of this miserable White House is over as Steve Bannon was fired today.  Some are going to quibble over the wording but no one leaves the White House under the fire and darkness that has surrounded Bannon without a fight.  He fought his battles, lost, and was booted out.  There is no doubt White House Chief-Of-Staff John Kelly fired him.  After this toxic last week from President Trump Kelly clearly laid down the law.   As far as he can swing his sway in this dysfunctional Trump administration.

Bannon came into the White House with a dirty pair of hands as he was the former head of Breitbart News which stressed divisive white angry nationalist themes.  He leaves the people’s house with an even more smeared and shameful reputation.  His future can be made with more bile and vinegar but at least it will not be on the taxpayer’s dime.

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