Skip to content

Another Mass Shooting In America

December 10, 2019

Just another Tuesday in America.

While the gun deaths were taking place I wonder which NRA lobbyist was passing money to a Republican member of congress?  Let us be serious….members.

The shooting began outside of a cemetery in Jersey City, N.J., on Tuesday when a 40-year-old detective tried to intercept two people who were suspects in a homicide. They opened fire and fled, speeding off in a rented truck that had been reported stolen and leaving the detective dead on the ground.

They drove about a mile, stopping in a Hasidic neighborhood where dozens of young ultra-Orthodox families have relocated to in recent years. With traffic at a standstill as the police rushed to answer 911 calls about the shooting at the cemetery, the pair invaded a kosher market.

What followed was an all-out gun battle as police officers swarmed the area and helicopters circled overhead. About a dozen schools went on lock down for hours, trapping thousands of students in classrooms long after the school day usually ends. New Jersey Transit suspended bus service and a light rail line that runs through Jersey City for a time. A nearby exit off the New Jersey Turnpike was closed for hours.

When the street was quiet again, five people in the market were dead — three people who were either customers or workers, as well as the two suspects, who have not been identified.

Why Unnamed Sources Matter To Reporters And Citizens Alike

December 10, 2019

Nothing seems to lather up the Fox News demographic quite as easily as when unnamed sources are used by reporters and news operations.  The use of such sources, so to allow citizens access to information about their government, seems not to be understood by a sizable segment of the nation.

With that in mind, while reading Churchill by Andrew Roberts, I came across one of those shining–or should I say glaring–examples as to why unnamed sources matter.  To bore the point deeper the example comes from The New York Times.

Readers of history know the fallout resulting from the Dardanelles campaign during World War I.  What many may not have known is what was quoted by an unnamed source leading up to what became a military debacle.

Churchill had a report leading up to the military actions in the Dardanelles which quoted an unnamed naval officer in the appendix who argued that time and “the policy of watchful waiting” were on the Allies’ side and “those amateur strategists who demand that the British Fleet should charge madly over minefields to get to the Germans simply ask England to commit suicide”.  Churchill did not circulate the report with the unnamed source to the War Council.

There are absolutely credible reasons why unnamed sources speak to reporters, and why reporters write their stories and inform the people.  Reporters have a duty to protect the identity of their sources.  That should be obvious.  The reasons include the fact whistleblowers can lose their jobs if their identity were made known, and sources in dangerous areas could face death.

Unnamed sources elicit more information for the citizen via conversations with reporters.  Such sources are a most vital link in the work journalists do, providing a powerful ingredient so citizens know what the government is doing in their name.

Democrats Not Gloating, Serious Nature About Impeachment Dominates

December 10, 2019

For all of the real anger about a whole host of issues which Donald Trump has fomented during his years in the White House, from immoral policies at the southern border, feverishly working to undermine the Affordable Care Act, ripping at international alliances, or waging a trade war there is no glee to be found among serious-minded Democrats when it comes to the impeachment process.

Millions in the nation demanded that Democrats proceed down the constitutional path of impeachment, following the facts showing a president used the office to try to personally benefit in a partisan way by the use of a foreign power and then worked to obstruct the facts from Congress.  Americans knew there was only one way that our nation could travel.  History demands that brakes are applied and checks and balances used when those in power abuse the trust that has been placed upon their shoulders.  To have looked away, or taken an easier path, would not have been the honorable or ethical path that a sound republic could ever reckon.

Democrats are doing the nation’s business with impeachment.  The matter is not taken lightly.  Doing the right thing for the nation means that there will be those from the other side who will complain and work to make sure that the removal of Trump by the Senate never occurs.  The likelihood of his removal from office is akin to roses blooming in my yard come January.   (But my rhododendron did bloom out in late October….)  While Republicans brag openly about subverting the norms and ideals in this land and mock the institutions designed to correct abuses of power the nation looks on and wonders what has happened to the party that once promoted law and order.

The articles of impeachment drafted against Trump makes no one smile.  No one wants their president to have lowered himself, through his behavior, to the point that the House Judiciary Committee will need to cast votes for articles of impeachment.  But when such abuse of power takes place there must be accountability.   While Republicans attempt to deflect and deny what Trump did, history will write that Democrats did the work that our Founders knew we could handle if only we stepped up to act.

We can not know the future, or how the coming years will unfold.  But I am most confident that when history is written about what unfolded today it will be noted at length there was integrity in the hands of the majority party in the House as they fulfilled their obligations to the nation.

Democrats are not gloating.  We know how serious constitutional process is, and what happens when it is not followed.

And so it goes.

Christmas Tradition Continues On Madison Isthmus

December 9, 2019

This afternoon we continued a holiday tradition that goes back to 2005 when James’ parents visited our home on the West side of Madison.   People are asked to come to our home where a large box is opened which contains solid colored ordinary Christmas ornaments that can be bought at any store, 30 small pots of acrylic paints, and some newspapers to stop a mess in its tracks.  The folks are asked to participate in helping make a few plain Christmas bulbs into something seasonal.   Using acrylic paint the object is to make the ornament unique.

With my lack of artistic skills ‘unique’ is the kindest one can say about the result.  But as most of our friends have proven, and as James does each year, there is a lot of talent when there is patience with a small paintbrush.    When the painting and laughing were done, and the ornaments dried with the hair blower, they are placed on the tree.  Or people can take them home to hang on their boughs.

Every year when decorating the tree James and I remark on this or that ornament, who made it and recall the memories along the way.  Out of the over 500 ornaments on the tree, this year about 50 are made with the love and smiles of friends.

Today that yearly Christmas tradition continued with homemade pumpkin muffins and tea with Henry and his mom, Sarah.  They provided laughter and merriment to the season.  Henry tells stories in paragraphs and creates with bright colors and a few songs thrown into the mix, too!

Fantastic day!




Will Trump Admit He Created A Conspiracy Theory? Now That It Was Debunked

December 9, 2019

The news today was not unexpected.  Yet, it felt refreshing to read.  At the same time, it is troubling.

The FBI mishandled parts of its application to monitoring a Donald Trump campaign aide as it was probing possible Russian interference in the 2016 election, but the overall investigation was justified.  That is according to a long-awaited report now released by the Department of Justice Inspector General.

For too long there has been an attempt by Trump, and some of his more absurd followers, to claim that the investigation of his campaign was nothing more than a politically biased plot against him.   That can no longer be said as facts prove otherwise.  The report, now in the hands of the public, concludes that the FBI and DOJ were justified in launching their probe because of evidence the Russian government was trying to infiltrate the Trump campaign as part of its efforts to influence the election.

I know that the emotionally troubled Trump has a hard time accepting the fact he lost the 2016 popular vote by 3 million votes and 17 intel agencies in our nation have findings to show that Russia worked feverishly to undermine the election and elect Trump.  The best way for Trump not to feel bad about the election would be for him to stop being a stooge for Russian President Putin.

The headline of this post is in jest, of course.  Trump could no more admit being wrong than his supporters could when assessing their decision in the last presidential election.  What we can count on is the odd narrative that Trump will start to spin in response to the IG report and the embarrassing statements surely to come from Attorney General Barr’s office.  The Trump base will never read any of the report, follow blindly the words of Trump, and denounce all who offer facts to demonstrate why the report is valid.

For too long confusion and paranoia have been the foundations of the Republican Party.  With Trump using the tactics that any old lie is worth repeating, especially with a political base not educated or concerned enough to know better, means the nation is again suffering as a result.  When an IG report can be tarred and tossed by the top elected official of the land it sends another signal that the institutional norms of the land are being ripped apart and dismantled in front of our eyes.

Truth has been printed in the IG report.  But if those in a position of power use lies and cheap partisan confusion to undermine truth what does that mean for the republic?  It is a question that we are living and historians will provide an answer to in years to come.  For now, we can say with certainty it is unsettling.

Let’s Hear It For Yellow!

December 9, 2019

I read the most interesting column this morning while drinking coffee looking out on a gray, cloudy, chilly Madison.  Perhaps the lack of sunshine is the reason this column resonated or perhaps due to the fact yellow is my favorite color.  This winter I can be spotted in a yellow coat, yellow ski hat, and yellow sneakers.  One can say many things about me but being color-phobic would not be one of them.

So it was interesting to read the color yellow has had such a hard time in modern times.  I can not think of a more joyous color!  Jeff Jacoby writes in The Boston Globe the following.

Of all the primary colors, yellow is the least popular. When respondents are asked by pollsters to name their favorite color, blue always comes in first by a wide margin and yellow always comes last. Such surveys have been conducted since at least the late 19th century, Pastoureau notes, and nothing seems to alter the results — neither geography, nor history, nor culture, nor sex.

That wouldn’t always have been the case. Yellow was much admired in ancient Egypt, where it was linked to Ra, the sun god, and it evoked similar positive meanings in pagan Greece, where deities were often depicted with golden-yellow hair, chariots, and dress. Yellow enjoyed a vogue among upper-class Florentine women in the early 14th century, and it was particularly favored by King Henry VIII of England. In fact, writes Pastoureau, Henry liked yellow so much that he wore outfits prominently featuring that shade each time he remarried “and demanded that the new queen and all the court wear it as well.”

But for most of the past millennium, yellow has been a disfavored color, for reasons bodily, religious, and political.

To medieval physicians, it was significant that yellow was the color of urine and bile. Whereas red and green indicated good health and youthful vigor, Pastoureau explains, yellow was connected with “decline, desiccation, aging.” It was “a barren, dull, withered, and more or less faded color,” and its symbolism became increasingly negative.

By the late Middle Ages, Christian art routinely depicted Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, wearing a yellow robe. Images celebrating the triumph of the Church frequently used yellow to portray Jews and the synagogue. In 1269, King Louis IX of France — later canonized as Saint Louis — issued an edict ordering all Jews in his realm to wear a yellow badge in order that they “be recognized and distinguished from Christians.” At various times, other outcast groups — lepers, prostitutes, and thieves, among others — were also required to wear such humiliating insignia. Centuries later, of course, Nazi Germany would impose the yellow star on European Jews as a prelude to extermination.

In the modern era, yellow retains its negative aura. “A man would never wear yellow unless he wanted to draw attention to himself or deliberately transgress social codes,” writes Patourneau. In theater posters and political cartoons, artists “made yellow the color of both the deceivers and the deceived.” It was also the color of sadness and abandonment: In Edward Hopper’s 1927 famous painting The Automat , a woman sits in a lonely cafeteria, dejectedly drinking a cup of coffee. She wears a stylish yellow hat, but far from dispelling the scene’s melancholy mood, it only intensifies it.

Yellow: The History of a Color is the fifth such volume that Pastoureau has produced. Like its predecessors, which recount the visual and cultural histories of blue (2001), black (2009), green (2013), and red (2017), this one is elegant and engaging — as alluring to gaze at as it is compelling to read. Yellow may be an unsettling color, but this is a lovely and striking book.

Wisdom And Maturity Looks Good In An Obituary

December 9, 2019

One of those towering names from the past came back in our thoughts today with news reports about the death of Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve.  He died at the age of 92.

I have not thought about Volcker in a long time, other than encountering his name in history books or a random column in a newspaper about economics.  When I was in high school he served as Fed Chair, and it was his deep voice and less than perfectly-knotted ties and his mussed look that caught my attention.  But he was far more than that, of course.  He was very intelligent and credited in large part to curbing inflation that had undermined our national economy.

What struck me today about Volcker’s death was the placement of his story in the same block of news which reported Texas Senator Ted Cruz, in an interview this weekend, thinks Ukraine was responsible for the interference in the 2016 presidential election.  That 17 U.S. intel agencies have findings which confirm it was Russia who was meddling did not matter to Cruz.  The erudite Volcker and the absurd Cruz are the bookends of what we have come to experience in our nation when it comes to those working for the public.

I know it often looks like the leaders of the past were somehow more shiny, capable, and educated than what we are at times forced to have as public servants today.   Perhaps the timing of the Cruz story alongside the reporting about Volcker was just plain bad-timing.  Or perhaps it is more telling than we wish to acknowledge.

Volcker was a professional and did his job without political considerations.  President Carter knew that to be a fact. Oh, boy, did he know that!  Today it seems politics is the only thing that drives too many of our public servants, as evidenced by the lack of ability for Republicans to press back on the bizarre behavior from the Trump White House.  Sadly, there seem to be more Volcker types in our rear-view mirror than in front of us.

%d bloggers like this: