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Madison Mayor Soglin Correct Over Confederate Monuments: Constitutional History Says So

August 22, 2017

Amidst all the hyperbole coming from a small segment of Madison over Confederate monuments it needs to be noted that Mayor Paul Soglin stands on a bedrock of rationality when he speaks about the Daughters of the Confederacy.  When speaking this week about the fate of a memorial now in place at Forest Hill Cemetery Soglin noted the Daughters of the Confederacy who installed it around 1931 spread lies about slavery and the Civil War.

Mayor Soglin is correct in his assessment as the website for this organization speaks of wanting to preserve the material necessary for the truthful history of the War Between the States.  As a decades long history buff those words, and that spin on past events, never fails to get my reaction.  While I understand the following may seem to be getting into the weeds I also hold it is important to grasp what caused the Civil War. Once that is understood it can be easier to gauge what should be done with Confederate statues some claim as patriotic.

The idea that the war was ‘between the states’ as the Confederate side wishes to term it, and can be ticked off as a sectional fight over slavery or trade or a host of other matters, undercuts a fundamental fact.  Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote roughly 30 years prior to the Fort Sumter episode that the absolute sovereignty of the nation was contained in the people of the Union.  That is a powerful concept and one which needs to be understood in its entirety.  He argued that even as far back as the Declaration of Independence the document underscored “implicitly the act of the whole people of the united colonies.”

In other words this nation was always a nation-state and never just a contractual agreement between an alliance of sovereign states–or even colonies.  It is important to understand that sovereignty lies in the nation rather than the individual states.    That is why it can be easily argued the people as a whole had the right to secede from Britain and also had the right–and I think duty–to cripple and destroy the attempt by Southerners who wished to secede.  The fact that the Daughters of the Confederacy would try to spin away a constitutional foundation by questioning which majority had the right to authorize secession–a majority in each state or a national majority–cuts to the core of what their real mission is.

In his first inaugural President Lincoln himself argued this point and took his listeners–and the rest of us over time–back to the solid claim that the Union is and always will be perpetual.  I will let Lincoln’s words carry the argument.

“Again, if the United States be not a government proper, but an association of states in the nature of contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peacefully unmade, by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate it–break it, so so speak; but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?”

What the Confederacy attempted with succession was unconstitutional and some have argued treasonous to the United States.  There are moral, and without doubt, constitutional reasons as to why slavery needed to be fought and eradicated with the war.  While it is true the South fought to retain and even expand slavery and statues to the Confederate leaders underscore that motive, I think a more fundamental argument can be made for removing these monuments.  That is because succession runs counter to how a republic should respond to severe differences among factions. What the South was advocating was not so much a process to alleviate grievances but instead to foment a revolution.

That does not then rise to the level of expecting future generations to, in some way, honor or revere those who worked to undermine the Union.   While our revolution against the Brits allowed for republican ideals to take hold there is nothing noble or inspiring about Confederates who wished to increase their hold on fellow human beings.

Mayor Soglin is correct in his stern and strong posture when it comes to the monuments at Forest Hill.  He is not only grounded with a moral footing, but also rooted in constitutional history, too.

Conservatives Need To Just Admit Debt Ceiling Must Be Passed

August 22, 2017

There is one thing that no one can honestly dismiss.  The nations’s borrowing limit needs to be lifted in the next month or two.  But what should concern all is that House and Senate Republicans along with the Trump administration have no plan or strategy in mind on how to accomplish this matter.  That news came out this week and makes anyone who follows markets queasy.

The reason is that all are skittish about how the most conservative base in the House will act.  They want some policy concessions as a deal for their vote.  That is unacceptable.  Even this White House is urging a clean bill.  And so it should be.  Must be.

Rumors afloat have a plan where the Senate will pass a clean debt ceiling increase and jam the House with it.  That is one way and should be a workable one if members in the House were truly interested in governing.  Since the most conservative has continually demonstrated they are more interested in partisanship than sound management means  the idea mentioned could be seen as too risky.

But all should take note of what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.  “There is zero chance — no chance — we will not raise the debt ceiling.”

The only question is how unseemly the GOP conservatives will make the process become before the matter is resolved.

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.

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