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Madison Alder Marsha Rummel Excels At Incompetency

February 9, 2016

Proposing and passing a resolution in an elected governmental body is the equilvent of the rest of us going into the kitchen and scrambling eggs.    It is just very difficult to mess up the process.  Difficult that is unless you are Madison’s Alderwoman Marsha Rummel.

What has been made known today to the citizens of this city, and more importantly to the voters of the 6th aldermanic district, is how one council member’s desire to play to a narrow faction is more important to her than making sure the broader interests are met.  In so doing Rummel has proven again to be the most incompetent member of the council.

This weekend Rummel alerted her council colleagues that she had authored a resolution wishing to make March 6th “Tony Terrell Robinson Day”.  She requested their support.

The long sad story of what happened to this 19-year-old need not be repeated again.  The seemingly last part to this story, as everyone is well aware, is how the Robinson family has now taken a very serious legal maneuver against the city.

Rummel’s measure did not receive the type of fanfare she hoped for. In fact, there was serious blowback.  Some of it came from the council itself.

Ald. Barbara McKinney, a newly elected African-American noted in her response to Rummel that. “I fear that this action by the Council may have an adverse impact that further divides our city. I fully support initiatives that continue to engage us and challenge us as we wrestle with racial disparities and injustices throughout Madison but I don’t think this resolution is the right course of action.   “

McKinney also noted, There was also another  young man killed in the same neighborhood by police?

It was most plain by that pointed reminder how Rummel is now playing to a Progressive Dane faction that seems more intent on symbols rather than the hard work of addressing concerns that we face in our city.

There was also the honest language from David Ehrens who put it in plain English so Rummel could understand.   “I will  not support this resolution.  We establish commemorative holidays after people that are extraordinary or heroic. The death of Robinson was tragic but that does not make it heroic or exemplary”.

But it was the next part of his response that connects the entire city to the fact Rummel is not serving anyone with serious mindedness.

“This resolution could also have an adverse effect on the city’s position in the family’s lawsuit. Although the resolution does not admit municipal culpability it conspicuously omits mention of Officer Kenny and the fact that city and state investigators absolved him of wrong-doing”.

City Attorney Mike May weighed into this super-sized self-created mess by Rummel and made it even more clear as to why this resolution–though not specifically stated–is a very bad idea.

“We consistently advise city officials and employees not to comment on any matter involving pending litigation where the city is a party,” May writes. “Our office should be consulted on all inquiries. This applies to both employees and elected officials. Statements made publicly may be used against the city in litigation, and may negatively affect the city’s ability to protect its rights.”

The larger problem overall concerning Rummel remains her incompetence as an alder.  I know she seeks mileage over this matter and political cover from the Progressive Dane types.  But that element is not the majority–far from it when it comes to the rank-and-file in this city.

The fact Marsha could not muster this resolution through the council gives me a stronger sense of the wisdom that is contained among the members.  She clearly has no sense of her responsibility to the larger good of the city—but her colleagues understood their role.

Rummel proved no sense at being able to ‘read’ her colleagues prior to sending them the proposed resolution.  But her council colleagues were able to spell out concisely why they had no desire to support such a resolution.

These rebukes are, of course, not the first time Rummel has been told no by the council.  There is a reason she has tried and always failed at leadership in that body. The ones who know her best are the most wary of her.

There was talk late last fall of some level-headed voters in this aldermanic district setting down with Rummel–in a friendly coffee drinking type of way– and alerting to her to the fact she is over her head and not serving the needs of the district.   In other words, please do not run again.

Now this district has not only once again been ill-served but also publically embarrassed by sheer incompetence from our alder.   I think the time for a meeting has passed.  The time is nigh for the candidate who will run next spring to introduce themselves to a voter base much in need of, and highly desirous for, an effective and mature voice serving this district.

Donald Trump’s Use Of Profane Language At Rally

February 9, 2016

The last party I attended was on New Year’s Eve where a wide variety of people from varying backgrounds milled about and talked about a range of issues.  Not once did I hear anyone curse over the course of the evening.   Chock it up to manners and education.

Now speed up to the present and look at what we have to hear.

Late last night as I was turning off my computer one of the last news items that came into my email box was how Donald Trump had allowed for a most vulgar term to be uttered and laughed about on stage during his last campaign rally in New Hampshire.  I was certainly not shocked that that this ill-mannered and troubled man would allow and encourage such a thing to happen.  But it once again let me know that there is a stain being rubbed every deeper into our body politic from Trump and his any-thing goes nature of how he lives.

This morning my larger concerns about where we are in America was placed into the words of a powerful column by David Brooks. He used the past years of the Obama Presidency to make his case.  Here is a portion of that what Brooks wrote.  I am always heartened when I know there are others who also see the path we are on and know we are losing more than we gain when applause is given to the cretins in our society.

But over the course of this campaign it feels as if there’s been a decline in behavioral standards across the board. Many of the traits of character and leadership that Obama possesses, and that maybe we have taken too much for granted, have suddenly gone missing or are in short supply.

The first and most important of these is basic integrity. The Obama administration has been remarkably scandal-free. Think of the way Iran-contra or the Lewinsky scandals swallowed years from Reagan and Clinton.

Second, a sense of basic humanity. Donald Trump has spent much of this campaign vowing to block Muslim immigration. You can only say that if you treat Muslim Americans as an abstraction. President Obama, meanwhile, went to a mosque, looked into people’s eyes and gave a wonderful speech reasserting their place as Americans.

He’s exuded this basic care and respect for the dignity of others time and time again. Let’s put it this way: Imagine if Barack and Michelle Obama joined the board of a charity you’re involved in. You’d be happy to have such people in your community. Could you say that comfortably about Ted Cruz? The quality of a president’s humanity flows out in the unexpected but important moments.

Third, a soundness in his decision-making process. Over the years I have spoken to many members of this administration who were disappointed that the president didn’t take their advice. But those disappointed staffers almost always felt that their views had been considered in depth.

Obama’s basic approach is to promote his values as much as he can within the limits of the situation. Bernie Sanders, by contrast, has been so blinded by his values that the reality of the situation does not seem to penetrate his mind.

Fourth, grace under pressure. I happen to find it charming that Marco Rubio gets nervous on the big occasions — that he grabs for the bottle of water, breaks out in a sweat and went robotic in the last debate. It shows Rubio is a normal person. And I happen to think overconfidence is one of Obama’s great flaws. But a president has to maintain equipoise under enormous pressure. Obama has done that, especially amid the financial crisis. After Saturday night, this is now an open question about Rubio. 

Fifth, a resilient sense of optimism. To hear Sanders or Trump, Cruz and Ben Carson campaign is to wallow in the pornography of pessimism, to conclude that this country is on the verge of complete collapse. That’s simply not true. We have problems, but they are less serious than those faced by just about any other nation on earth.

How Valuable Is Your Primary Vote?

February 9, 2016

This is fast and fun to know.

It’s a quadrennial complaint across 48 states: Why do Iowa and New Hampshire seem to play such an oversized role in picking the next president? The process for selecting presidential nominees is not remotely democratic. First, not everyone votes at once, making earlier votes more consequential in narrowing the field. Second, while some states invite tens of thousands of people to weigh in on the allegiance of a few delegates, others hold Byzantine caucuses in which a few thousand people determine a swath of representatives to the convention.

Dixville Notch Carries On Grand Voting Tradition At Midnight

February 8, 2016

There is something so American, and so politically nostalgic about the votes that were cast at midnight in the snowy town of Dixville Notch.  Every four years I await the results as the voting day starts.  I relish in this tradition.

The very first paragraph of Theodore White’s Making Of The President 1960 mentions this act.    They had begun to vote in the villages of New Hampshire at midnight. 

Tonight the voters of this small town with their nine citizens made the following statement.

Residents picked Bernie Sanders as the winner on the Democratic side, while John Kasich was the pick on the Republican side.  Sanders had 4 votes, while Hillary Clinton got none.

Kasich received 3 votes, while Donald Trump got 2. None of the other candidates earned any votes.


President Calvin Coolidge’s Off-Putting Style With The Press

February 8, 2016

Not the way I would want a current president to deal with the press—but this account from the days of Calvin Coolidge makes for an interesting read.

There are a bunch of very weird anecdotes about Coolidge calling advisors into the Oval Office and then just…staring at them, silently. In an interview with advisor Bernard Baruch, he said his technique for dealing with visitors who wanted something was to simply let them talk themselves out. “Well, Baruch,” he said, “many times I say only ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to people. Even that is too much. It winds them up for twenty minutes more.” Famously, when he died, Dorothy Parker said, “How can they tell?”

He deflected questions mercilessly and, in seeming total contrast to politicians of today, showed absolutely no interest in earning the affection of his audiences. Here is a typical exchange, from Vermont History:

During the 1924 presidential campaign a newsman sought Coolidge out. “Mr. President,” he asked, “what do you think of Prohibition?” “No comment,” replied Coolidge. “Will you say something about unemployment?” “No,” said Coolidge. “Will you tell us your views about the world situation?” persisted the reporter. “No.” “About your message to Congress?” “No.” The disappointed reporter started to leave, but as he reached the door Coolidge said, “Wait.” Hopefully, the man turned around and Coolidge cautioned: “Now remember—don’t quote me.”

Yet this was actually a bizarre and extremely effective strategy. Coolidge’s relationship with reporters, far from being as antagonistic as that anecdote makes it seem, was warm and friendly. He gave more press conferences than any other president, but on his terms: questions would be submitted via slips of paper before the conference, and Coolidge would look through those and pick out which ones he felt like answering. (If there were no questions he felt like answering, he’d say so and just leave.) His answers were not for attribution, meaning they could never be used in an article, which gave Coolidge the ability to cultivate a relationship with the press corps without much risk of gaffes.

The Story Of Congressional Clocks

February 8, 2016

Without doubt this is the most interesting story of the day.

Look along the top of a Congressional wall clock, and you’ll see seven small light bulbs. Even the fancier clocks in members’ offices have them. From time to time, these will light up in particular sequences, accompanied by loud, long buzzes or series of shorter buzzes. These patterns all have meanings: they’re meant to communicate to people working on the Hill when electronic votes are called, when one chamber or the other is adjourned or in recess, and when members need to think about actually being in the Senate or House chamber.

The actual clock code is a little more complicated than your average end-of-class-or-day system of rings. Some of the signals are simple: on the House side, five bells means a five-minute electronically recorded vote. On the Senate side, one long bell means the Senate is convening.

But the code can get much more complicated, with two bells followed by two lights and then two more bells (a fifteen-minute vote by roll call) and three bells, pause, then five short bells (a 15-minute, in-person quorum call, possibly followed by a vote).

And your average bell systems don’t include a special code for a civil defense warning. That one’s pretty simple actually: 12 bells, plus six lights. That code doesn’t even need much interpretation: with all the noise and flashing lights, something bad is clearly going on.

Ted Cruz Doubles Down On Sneaky

February 8, 2016

Tin-ear politics 101.

Republican presidential candidate  Ted Cruz is out with a deceptive new mailer that masquerades as official government business and promises people there’s a “check enclosed” when it’s actually asking for money instead. How does his campaign think this will set with voters in middle-America New Hampshire?

The greasy haired looking cousin to Joe McCarthy might think twice about why he is so disliked and then reverse course regarding these types of campaign tactics.   Lets be honest.  Cruz is not known for his ethics.  (His father falls into that camp, too.)

Cruz should call it quits and slime back to Texas.  He is all oiled for the ride.


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