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Diversity In Rural Wisconsin Should Be A Good Thing

June 13, 2021

I recall in many of my school years a fellow student named Adrian would often be in classes. His parents were migrant workers who traveled seasonally and worked when crops demanded their labor. As such he was in school for periods of time and then gone again.

The most poignant memory I have of him came after a series of taunts and ridicule from other students, language and insults they had no doubt heard in their homes, about the ‘big car’ his family owned.  I recall that in a flat conversational tone he simply said that the car was not only for travel but also “that is where we live when working.”

I will never forget that conversation and the weight it had, especially for me as the decades have rolled along.  Living in Waushara County meant that we often rubbed shoulders with Hispanics and as such, it would seem that more sensitivity to their lives might have resulted.  But it never developed in that county to the degree that humanity would hope.

We had a few children on our school bus route who lived in small cabin-like dwellings not so far from where I lived, that were used by migrant families. Some would snicker that a scent of their morning breakfast would trail along when the kids ran to their seats to sit down.  

One of those boys was always friendly and I once asked what breakfast was like in his home. He told me usually had fried bread on the stove with meat.  I recall being told his mom made it herself with flour and it rose overnight for the morning meal.  Decades later I was reminded of that bread when in Arizona a Native American vendor was making fresh flatbread on a low stone fireplace near a road.  It was greasy to the touch when eating, but powerfully good. I imagined that was perhaps akin to what that boy had for breakfast many years prior.

Getting to know people has always been something I have embraced.  Without really knowing it was happening or even why I am designed this way has allowed for good friendships to form, and a better sense of the world around me. 

We all have assumptions about people, be it why some spend their money on a larger car, or the scent that comes from the coat near to the kitchen table so to wear when the bus approaches.

I just know that Adrian felt apart and different and some of his classmates made that divide deeper and more troubling. His parents were hard-working and obviously determined to have their child in school.  So the snide remarks and bigotry from some of the homes that found their way to the school grounds was something no kid should have to encounter.

This is why I will always recall his flat and conversational tone about explaining his family car. No kid should need to confront such situations which resulted from bigotry, but that he handled it in such a calm manner is what strikes me these nearly 50 years later.

And so it goes.

Mrs. Ron Johnson’s Main Embarrassment Is Her Clown Of A Husband

June 11, 2021

It takes a special kind of stupid to get kicked off YouTube for a week. But conservative wingnut Ron Johnson achieved that notoriety today.

YouTube suspended the most embarrassing politician from Wisconsin, since Joe McCarthy, from posting videos on the platform for one week over his remarks touting unproven treatments for COVID-19. That he is severely stupid is not a revelation, but placing the health and well-being of people in danger due to that stupidity must be stopped.

The reason for the smackdown was that Johnson did not even come close to abiding with policies not to promote misinformation about COVID-19. What Mrs. Ron Johnson’s main embarrassment did was promote experimental treatments for COVID-19 like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin. To be clear, such ‘treatments’ are a joke, and worse yet, dangerous.

The Johnson video that was taken down showed the uneducated rube launching into the Biden administration over its response to the pandemic and then touting the two unproven, and potentially dangerous drugs.

Cutting to the core on this matter is if the American voters won’t deal with the corrupt and willfully misleading politicians like Johnson, then social media platforms have to do it. This is a most classic example. Protecting the health of the citizenry from the Trump cult, which Johnson proves to be a leading sycophant within, requires much stronger actions by the likes of YouTube.

I applaud the decision.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Ron Johnson is needing to hide her shame in public, once again, due to her idiot clown of a husband. One does have to wonder and ask if her parents warned, prior to the wedding day, about what she was doing?

Sunrise In America With Solar Eclipse

June 10, 2021

Sunrise has never been so beautiful–or weird. Today dawn broke over the northeastern USA and Canada with a solar eclipse in progress. Here is what it looked like from Long Beach, New Jersey. And New York City.

Bipartisanship In Wisconsin!

June 10, 2021

There is truly an uplifting news story to comment on and something each citizen can smile about. It could even auger well for the future of our state.

Former Wisconsin governors Jim Doyle, a Democrat, and Scott Walker, a Republican have come together for the better health of our state. They have joined efforts to enlist their fellow citizens to get vaccinated so to stem the spread of COVID. Their commitment to having the state residents get vaccinated should be applauded.  

In the statewide public service announcement for UW Health System Walker suggests to Doyle that the two of them surprise the state by doing what Democrats and Republicans rarely do in Wisconsin, Agree on something!

“Let’s do a commercial together — reminding people in Wisconsin how important it is to be vaccinated,” Walker says to Doyle.

“That may be the best idea you’ve ever had,” Doyle responds.

While combatting the pandemic is mighty important, and it is most appropriate that these two men unite in this fashion, would it not be nice if we now took other steps to form more bipartisanship in the Badger State?

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 center for state politics. Having a ‘vital center’ was once the backbone of governing and allowed for the state to advance.

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 as to then enlist the voters of the state to step up and also demand changes.

Our history shows what can happen when partisans place the common good ahead of everything else.  When Europe was starving after WWII it was Democratic President Harry Truman who turned to former Republican President Herbert Hoover to enlist his aid in formulating a plan to combat the human devastation in large parts of the world.  History shows us the rest of that success story.

The needs we have in Wisconsin are far less dire than those faced by Truman but the larger lesson should not be missed.  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.

Now if that does not make for a genuine smile of hope I am not sure what will.

Strong Female Congresswoman Challenged For Being Honest, Anti-Muslim Bias in Democratic Party

June 10, 2021

Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar made public a concern this week during a congressional hearing that has caused an uproar within the Democratic caucus. The incident underscores the bias within the elected class in Washington towards views that need to be heard but too often are marginalized.

It was during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Monday, when Omar, a Muslim woman elected from Minnesota, asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken about an International Criminal Court probe of allegations against both the Taliban and the U.S. in Afghanistan and by Hamas and Israel in the most recent Middle East conflict.

Omar later shared the exchange in a tweet that read: “We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity. We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.”

Late last night a dozen of her caucus colleagues put out a late-night statement criticizing her for comparing war crimes in the fashion she did. In response, Omar called her fellow House Democrats’ reaction ‘shameful’,

She is correct.

I find it lamentable that one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress needs to feel that her views and perspectives on issues which she has every right to speak out about, are to be curtailed and shaped so as to mollify the larger group. She has every right to express facts, lodge questions, foster dialogue, and seek analysis over war crimes as much as the Baptists and Catholics from all points of this nation do.

Calling out the abuses and addressing the headlines from the Middle East–whether they always make this nation’s front pages of newspapers or not–is essential. Omar is doing her work with diligence when making the comparisons and asking the questions.

My Open Letter To WI Rep. Shae Sortwell Comparing Masks To Nazis

June 8, 2021

A Wisconsin state lawmaker compared a nonprofit children’s museum’s mask policy to the Nazi Party in a social media post that is generating outrage and calls for an apology.

Republican Assemblyman Shae Sortwell shared a Facebook post on Friday by the Central Wisconsin Children’s Museum in Stevens Point detailing its mask policy. The museum said masks would be optional for those who show their vaccination cards and masks would be mandatory for everyone else over age 5.

Sortwell posted on Facebook that “The Gestapo wants to see your papers, please,” a reference to the feared secret police of Nazi Germany. The story was first reported Tuesday by Wisconsin Public Radio.

This absurdity required me to write a fast note to the assemblyman.

Representative Shae Sortwell,

What a dreadful education you received, as your recent actions prove your inability to cite history in proper usage. There is no factual or moral comparison between mask-wearing so to limit a pandemic and the slaughter and violence from the Nazi regime. Clearly, you did not have a close family member who served in that war who then was able to talk about the horrors of Hitler and his party.

As one with four decades of studying and researching history I find my feelings about your comment are filled more with embarrassment for you than anything else. You have failed your parents and grandparents who would have known and appreciated the grave consequences of the Nazis. You have sought to distort history for partisan (whatever), and in so doing allowed us to see the lack of character within the modern Republican Party.

I ask that you seek some education concerning matters that you clearly know nothing.

Sincerely,

Gregory Humphrey

Caffeinated Politics.

President Biden To Again Assert American Leadership On World Stage

June 8, 2021

There are few presidents in our history with the resume of international experience that President Biden can rely on when conducting international affairs. That places him in good stead as he starts his first world travel with diplomatic meetings with dozens of world leaders.

While most of the encounters will be with friendly nations, the weighty nature of world problems means the meetings are of consequence. Overlaying all the specific issues is the need to separate the past four years under a deranged American leader, with what must be the mature and proper role of the United States on the world stage. The Group of Seven democracies, the European Union, and our NATO alliance all will be closely watching for not only words but also body language for signals and confirmation that normalcy can again be brought to international affairs.

The headline maker on this trip will be, of course, the June 16th summit with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. That is where the tire will meet the road, where Biden’s decades of cumulated experience from being a senator and vice-president will allow for a gritty understanding that the United States now has a leader at the helm.

While the G7 leaders will obviously be concerned about COVID and the availability of the needed vaccines they will be needing assurances that they will not be left abandoned in the large causes and efforts which otherwise unite the organization. Memories of Donald Trump who pulled Washington out of several multilateral institutions and threatened to quit NATO have left nations wondering if they need to seek new ways of advancing their concerns, perhaps by asserting their own national efforts. France has been taking note of the lack of needed leadership, as an example.

I strongly suspect that Biden, who has actual working relationships with many leaders and nations, will showcase why the world’s democracies are not to fear being minimized by China or Russia. He will assert the role the US is to play on the world stage and most likely will place something on the table to demonstrate that resolve to a world that is waiting.

Talking face-to-face with Putin is the best way to underscore that there can be areas of agreement should the Russian leader seek to engage the US in that fashion. Climate change can be a topic where cooperation could prove meaningful. But the ransomware attacks, the attempts to undermine our democratic institutions along with our elections will be met with steely deterrence.

Putin will get his time on the world stage with the leader of the free world. That image of an American president has been dimmed due to Trump, but the light is being hoisted up again, and with it comes the awareness to the Russian leader. Biden is a man who knows himself and his values. He is not needing to find his way about the world, and as such, there is a high degree of predictability about the toughness that will result should Russia not abide with international norms.

We know that elections have consequences. The world has seen the absolute truism of that fact and is now ready to embrace reasoning and logic, after having experienced the exact opposite for years. The welcoming to the stage of President Biden is needed for them and us.

And so it goes.

Why I Detest Hedge Funds, Chicago Tribune Showcases Reasons

June 7, 2021

If you ever wondered what the call letters for WGN (radio or TV) stand for now might be the time to find out. Because the root of the meaning is slowing dying.

Col. Robert McCormick was a legendary businessman and mover and shaper of Chicago. He is best known as the owner and publisher of the famed Chicago Tribune. He rightly had proclaimed that newspaper as the “World’s Greatest Newspaper” as it was a long-time preeminent source of news for the region. When the company bought a radio station and television station the idea for the call letters fell into place.

WGN.

Now the newspaper has fallen into the grubby and destructive hands of a hedge fund known for destroying local journalism.

When it comes to hedge funds it comes as no surprise I rank them alongside those who sold cure-all elixirs door-to-door at one time in our nation. They are best termed as “vulture capitalists”. Soulless, too.

Now comes news that the newspaper will likely be saying goodbye, by the end of next week, to some of its best-known names who, with their bylines, have allowed readers to know a credible reporter was writing the story. The reason for this madness is the newspaper is fully under the control of a hedge fund known for severe cost-cutting. No regard for talent and experience, or the needs of the citizenry to have a newspaper designed to impart information to all the neighborhoods and communities that rely on the Tribune.

Instead, there is now a voluntary buyout underway as Alden Global Capital sinks their teeth into the meat and bone of a newspaper that has been a regional necessity for readers. If the new owners accept the reporter’s buyout they will be gone by Friday, June 18th.

I have no problem with money being made by a business, but I do have deep concerns when the goal is money over ‘anything else’. In this case, ‘anything else’ is the local news that will be short-changed from being reported. I do not wish to be viewed as having only sentimental or nostalgic “back in the day” perspectives that are brought to this issue. While I was raised with a daily newspaper in our Hancock home, and have subscribed to at least one daily paper during all my adult years my purpose of writing this post is due to a long-lasting truism.

Journalists do work continuously to get the facts sorted, copy written, and edits made under deadlines and tremendous pressures so that we can learn the news we need to know as citizens.

Short-term profits for hedge funds at the expense of iconic news operations or the needs of news consumers are appalling. We need regulations to stop and undo the consolidation of our news, (be it radio, newspapers, or broadcast television), into the hands of fewer and fewer people.

And so it goes.

Problem Finding A Kayak Or Paddleboard? Blame COVID

June 7, 2021

This type of story intrigues me as to how the pandemic plays havoc with areas of society and business that no one could have predicted. There have been scores of these tangential stories that demonstrate the impact of a deadly virus.

Recommended pandemic safety protocols have encouraged many to get outside, meaning there’s been no damming the flow of adventurers trying to get on the water. But a supply shortage has crunched the pipeline of retail and wholesale paddlesports goods, including paddles and personal floatation devices, that has limited the nationwide availability of desirable paddlesports gear.

It’s a problem “extremely evident” to anyone looking to buy such goods, from individual recreators to paddlesports instructional schools to large retailers, according to Spencer Cooke, a North Carolina-based sales representative for multiple national paddlesports-related manufacturers.

Manufacturers are only now catching up with demand after facing local pandemic-related shutdown orders or shuffling their production lines to create medical equipment like PPE, Cooke explains. That has increased manufacturing lead times by months.

Cooke says that for more than a year, some paddlesports manufacturers have been sold out until spring 2022.

“If [a company buying paddlesports gear] is just now getting into it, and they didn’t buy it months ago, the likelihood is they’re probably not going to have it in the next four to six months,” Cooke explained.

Former Madison Mayor Proves Merit Of Infrastructure Funding

June 6, 2021

Other than the issue of election reform, the most pressing national problem is the need to address roads, ports, bridges, electrical grids, airports, tunnels, subways, and other parts of our infrastructure that is falling apart in front of our eyes. Over the past months, we have read countless news stories about all the reasons legislation about passing infrastructure is hard and seemingly impossible to fund.

But against that template of too many reports out of Washington comes the actual work done by a city mayor to make sure infrastructure was not neglected.

That success story took place in Madison, Wisconsin.

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Report Card for America’s Infrastructure assigns a letter grade based on the physical condition and needed investments for infrastructure improvements. For 2021 they have rated the problem a C-.

Their data shows there is a water main break every two minutes with an estimated 6 billion gallons of treated water lost each day in our nation. I need not alert readers to the condition of our roadways, so it will come as no surprise they report that 43% of our streets and byways are in poor or mediocre condition, a number that has remained stagnant over the past years.

This year a most dogged pursuit of a wide-encompassing infrastructure plan is being waged by President Joe Biden. There are many groups talking with each other in DC with the aim to fashion some type of bipartisan compromise, both in terms of projects to be undertaken and the means to fund them.

When I was a younger man the politics of such matters would have already resulted in a bill passing Congress. After all, when there are projects to upgrade an airport in Oregon, refurbish train rails in Mississippi, and enhance Milwaukee’s expressway it is easy to see how the nation wins. It also shows how each political party scores a victory, too. Now, however, partisan gridlock is the force that dominates and prevents the infrastructure needs of the nation from being resolved.

This weekend I was searching for news stories about upgrading infrastructure when I came across one from the place I live. This can-do story from May 2016 in the Washington Post underscores what leadership and gritty determination can do when infrastructure needs must be handled. Madison’s lead water pipes were creating health concerns and needed to be replaced.

The photo below really made an impact, as it demonstrated the degree of the problem in our city. Consider how many other places coast to coast have similar problems. The article noted at the time an estimated 6 million or more lead pipes that remain in use nationwide — by more than 11,000 community water systems that serve as many as 22 million Americans. (This is why we fight for a massive infrastructure bill.)

The leadership required to make the costly upgrades came from former Mayor Sue Bauman. She used her political skills and continued insistence that the pipes had to be replaced. I was proud of that resolve as it played out, and know it is a perfect reminder as to what can do achieved when there is a will to make things happen.

Madison’s solution was to go for broke. The Madison Water Utility dismissed the easy fix recommended by the EPA regulations, which entailed treating pipes with phosphates to lower corrosion that releases trace metals. The company instead ripped out every lead line it owned. Then it made some 5,500 of its customers do the same.

Dozens of streets were torn up for a decade of digging and copper-pipe replacement at a cost of nearly $20 million. It was noisy, messy and disruptive, but successful.

So how, then, can this type of success be transferred to other places in our country? What will it take to show the nation that paying for infrastructure upgrades is of prime importance?

“A relatively high willingness to pay for quality drinking water” among Madison residents made the lead-removal project easier for officials to sell, said Greg Harrington, a University of Wisconsin engineering professor who served on the Madison water utility’s board during the project.

The answer lies in members of Congress stepping back from the partisan divide, the tribal rhetoric, and instead think solely of the average constituent family back in their state or district. Congress needs to speak with resolve and understanding about the rebuilding that is required. They need to become educators about the ways to improve bridges, drinking water, and ports.

The powerful hand of government along with the means to tax and fund such projects is what is required so to impact a host of needs people are facing. The average person is not able to effect such change.

A Madison mayor well understood that fact.

Now, Congress must act in like fashion.

Iran Making For An International Incident

June 4, 2021

A nation does not need to be a great one, to be a global one. That is a lesson playing out again this weekend.

New reports today that two Iranian Navy ships have rounded the Cape of Good Hope for the first time and are set to head off into the wild blue yonder of the Atlantic Ocean. An Iranian frigate and the Makran, a former oil tanker that was converted to a floating forward staging base are the ones being monitored hour-by-hour. The concern, is of course, that the sea voyage is to end in Venezuela.

The mission underway is perhaps the culmination of threats made by Iran for years that they would send warships to the West. The threats were always just bluster. While there is a chance the ships will disengage and return from whence they came there is also a strong possibility that an international incident is playing out.

At the center of the concern on this side of the globe is that Venezuela has expressed a desire to acquire ballistic missile technology from Iran.

It needs to be noted that it is unclear whether additional military hardware is onboard or what the final destination happens to be. But make no mistake about it, a successful crossing would be a significant demonstration of Iran’s naval capability, and would showcase their ability to have a foothold in this hemisphere.

That is why the words from the Biden administration need to be understood. They have issued a precise and stern warning to Tehran.

“The delivery of such weapons would be a provocative act and a threat to our partners in this hemisphere,” read a statement issued by the Pentagon. As such, we would reserve the right to take appropriate measures — in concert with our partners — to deter the delivery or transit of such weapons.”

The moves by Iran have consequences in Europe too. Any shipment of Iranian military hardware to Venezuela risks throwing the table upside down with the nuclear negotiations in Vienna. A move, this blogger need not remind readers, being necessary due to the dangerous and uneducated moves by Donald Trump in his single term in the Oval Office.

The next week will be telling about intentions, bluster, threats, and international policy.

And so it goes.

Homeowners With Unlocked Guns Need To Be Held Accountable

June 3, 2021

Once again the careless and reckless nature of gun owners is making headlines.

Two children in Florida ran away from a group home, broke into a house that the owner was not in at the time, and stole a gun and ammunition. The homeowner said the home was stocked with an AK-47, a handgun, a shotgun, and a large amount of ammunition.

And, of course, it was all easily available to anyone who wanted to steal it.

The 12-year-old boy told investigators he grabbed the AK-47 and two loaded magazines for the AK-47 from a case in the bedroom. The boy said he fired multiple rounds at police officers from the AK-47 and had to reload the second magazine, according to the charging affidavit.

Once again I need to stress the obvious. This blog has repeatedly stated that those who have weapons that are not stored correctly so to prevent their theft need to held legally accountable for the use of those weapons in the wrong hands. We know the owner of the guns, and we also know the lack of responsibility in not safeguarding them. There is no way that any sane person can say such gun owners should not face a full-frontal assault from the law for their dreadful behavior.

This gun owner in Florida is quite likely not a grounded individual, and for certainty showed a high degree of negligence. With this lack of regard for gun safety, he aided in contributing to a child’s delinquency. This homeowner should spend time in jail and be forced to pay a series of hefty fines.

And so it goes.

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