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What About Those Polls?

September 26, 2016

David Plouffe talked to Greg Sargent about the tightening polls and the response needs to be stressed.

Some polls closely capture where the race stands. But they’re very incomplete. The Clinton campaign is doing large samples for modeling surveys of everybody on the voter file. So you have a very good understanding of how you believe 100 percent of the electorate will be allocated on election day.

When you look at how 100 percent of the vote is likely to be allocated in Florida, I get very optimistic… I can get Donald Trump to within two or three in Pennsylvania, but I can’t get him to a win number. The same is true in Virginia and Colorado. I know everybody goes crazy about the latest Cheetos poll, but I feel very confident about both New Hampshire and Florida. So that puts her over 300 [in the electoral college]. Trump has to pull off a miracle in the electoral college.

America Is Ready For First Presidential Debate Of Fall Campaign

September 26, 2016

I think there is no doubt that today is the most important in this entire presidential campaign.  Tonight Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will take the stage at Hofstra University for the first presidential debate.  And America is ready!

With national and swing state polls showing a tightening race—though larger than normal shares of voters claim to be undecided (which I actually doubt) or considering third-party candidates (which I do believe until we get to the 11th hour and people get serious)—the debate will offer each candidate the opportunity to reintroduce themselves to voters.

There is no way to overstate how crucial this evening is to all concerned.  Between the public’s impressions of what is said, or the tone struck, or the body language used tonight and then how the press will report and analyze that in the days ahead makes this the largest tightrope walk in American politics.

And it is in the first half-hour (remember we are still dealing with a voting public who has a limit to what it can watch and retain) which will move the dial one way or another.  History shows that to be true as Politico reminded us this morning.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will debate for 90 minutes on Monday. But the winner likely will be determined in the first half-hour. That’s when Al Gore first sighed, Mitt Romney knocked President Obama on his heels, and Marco Rubio, earlier this year, glitched in repeating the same talking point – over and over and over. It’s when Gore tried, unsuccessfully, to invade George W. Bush’s space, Richard Nixon was first caught wiping away sweat with a handkerchief (during the moderators’ introductions!) and Gerald Ford in 1976 made the ill-advised declaration that, ‘There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.'”

Pregnant, Broke, And Homeless In Madison

September 25, 2016

The Wisconsin State Journal has been doing some remarkable and insightful reporting this year on the homeless situation in Madison.   There is no way the accounts from those featured in the paper does not touch the heart, or anger the political nature within to prod for changes.  But there is also anther reaction that has to be honestly discussed, too.

At what point do some of the homeless need to address self responsibility?

Today on the front page of the WSJ there are two photos accompanying a story about the challenges this city faces regarding homelessness.  Above the fold is a young looking woman on State Street that seeks money from passersby.  The sign she holds reads in part “Pregnant and Broke’.

On the bottom half of the paper the second photo is placed showing a young looking grandmother, a five month old grandson, and the child’s mother.  The family has been homeless for about five years.

One can ask many questions such as where are the fathers in these stories?  How did either of these women contemplate pregnancy when not financially able to raise a child, or even have a living arrangement?  Sex is lots of fun but there also comes the need for responsibility so to make sure one does not get pregnant when one is not able to take care of the child.

No other part of the reports from the newspaper has made me more sad than reading of the children who are homeless and the struggles they go through from schooling to daily living.  Some of the stories breaks the heart.  So to then read that supposed adults who are now homeless do not make sure they do not add to the problem is simply galling.

There are many among the citizenry of Madison who care and are willing to help in one form or another–from paying taxes to volunteering–in an effort to aid the homeless.  But there must be a good faith effort on the part of others–such as those featured on the front page of today’s paper–to act in a responsible fashion.

Many never state these reactions out loud in Madison as the level of liberal guilt that erupts from others can be akin to a gale.  But as a liberal I also feel compelled to be honest.  There is just something very wrong when we fail to ask of those who need help that they not make matters worse for themselves. 

Trailblazer And Grand Ole Opry Star Jean Shepard Dead At Age 82

September 25, 2016

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May 6, 1996 McFarland, Wisconsin

A long rich and storied chapter of the Grand Ole Opry comes to a close with the death of Jean Shepard.  The 82 year-old spitfire had been a member of the longest running radio show family for 60 years.

This morning the singer went home.

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Jean Shepard and Gregory Humphrey (Your blogger a.k.a. DekeRivers)

Shepard was more than a singer. She was very much a trailblazer.  Lets not forget at the time when Shepard started her career record labels didn’t see much viability or sales potential in women who weren’t part of an act.

Her 1956 LP, “Songs of a Love Affair,” featuring songs about a marriage broken up by adultery, was one of the genre’s first concept albums, and other gutsy, forthright recordings such as “Act Like a Married Man” helped to pave the way for artists like Loretta Lynn.

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Ollie Imogene Shepard was born November 21, 1933 in Pauls Valley, Okla. The daughter of sharecroppers, Shepard — and her nine siblings — grew up singing in the church, and was drawn to the music of Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. She grew up in a home without electricity or running water. And every year, her parents saved their pennies to afford a new battery for their AM radio. Shortly before her eleventh birthday, the Shepard family moved to Visalia, California, about 100 miles north of Bakersfield.

In 1952, country star Hank Thompson and His Brazos Valley Boys played a concert near Shepard’s town. She got up onstage to sing a song with them and impressed Thompson.  (Both Thompson and Shepard have signed my guitar.)  Below is Shepard’s signature.

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In November of 1955, Shepard got the best birthday present a young country singer could ask for when, at 22, she was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry. She was one of three women who were Opry members at that time: the other two were Kitty Wells and Minnie Pearl.

During the 1950s, she also became a cast member of the program “Ozark Jubilee,” where she met Hawkshaw Hawkins, the man who would become her husband. The two singers toured together and, in November 1960, they married on the stage of a Wichita, Kansas auditorium. In 1961, Shepard gave birth to son Don Robin.

Hawkins died in the March 5, 1963 plane crash that also claimed the lives of Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas.

I have long adored this woman and her style.  She called them as she saw them, and when it came to how country music has changed I was with her every inch of the way.  Throughout her career, Shepard was an outspoken opponent of pop-country music. “Today’s country is not country, and I’m very adamant about that,” she told The Tennessean in 2015. “I’ll tell anybody who’ll listen, and some of those who don’t want to listen, I’ll tell them anyway. … Country music today isn’t genuine.”

Shepard was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2011 and on Nov. 21, 2015, the Grand Ole Opry celebrated Shepard’s 60th anniversary as a member; she was the only female member to have reached the six-decade mark. At the time of her death, Shepard was the longest-running member of the Opry, and had appeared on the show into her 80s.

There is an absence on the Opry stage with the legends now passed away.  We can only imagine the music they are making now on the biggest stage ever seen.

Why I Should Not Second Guess A Composer

September 25, 2016

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This weekend it all began anew with the opening of the season for the Madison Symphony Orchestra.  The main draw was Gustav Holst’s The Planets.  To say it was spectacular would be appropriate if the word was then underlined ten times in bright red ink.  A massive orchestra with chairs placed tightly to allow for a powerful performance–even the tall pipes required a stepladder to play.  With just small LED lights on the stands so the music sheets could be seen the main stage lights went off for a 50 minute film using images from various sources including the Hubble which was projected on a huge screen which was hung over the pipes for the organ—which was also played.

As I watched this all play out a most unusual and secondary show took place.  James and I always sit on the second mezzanine balcony so from there the images from the conductor was most artistic.  With all the lights out and only a very dimmed floodlight on the conductor from above and off to his left it then created his shadow on the stage floor of his arms moving along with his back and forth movements.  It was akin to how Alfred Hitchcock used shadows in his films—it was simply art all by itself apart from what I was hearing.

At the ending of The Planets I thought—(I am always choreographing things in my head) the chorus should have small lights that resembled stars and walked out from various points among the audience.  Instead they were off stage with only a sliding type door opened to allow for their voices to be added to the show.  I really thought the way they performed was really lacking volume and presentation.  But then I got home and as usual James and I started talking about the performance and he located online the following which blew my idea apart.

“Neptune” was one of the first pieces of orchestral music to have a fade-out ending, although several composers (including Joseph Haydn in the finale of his Farewell Symphony) had achieved a similar effect by different means. Holst stipulates that the women’s choruses are “to be placed in an adjoining room, the door of which is to be left open until the last bar of the piece, when it is to be slowly and silently closed”, and that the final bar (scored for choruses alone) is “to be repeated until the sound is lost in the distance”. Although commonplace today, the effect bewitched audiences in the era before widespread recorded sound—after the initial 1918 run-through, Holst’s daughter Imogen (in addition to watching the charwomen dancing in the aisles during “Jupiter”) remarked that the ending was “unforgettable, with its hidden chorus of women’s voices growing fainter and fainter… until the imagination knew no difference between sound and silence”.

The less I know means the more I need to learn.  And so it goes.

It was reported that all three performances were sold out this weekend.  Overture Hall has over 2,200 seats.    Madison can be proud for having such a place where wonderful music and memories are created.

Grand Ole Opry Star Jean Shepard Entered Hospice

September 24, 2016

UPDATE–Jean Shepard died Sunday September 25.  (Click link for story)

Country music legend Jean Shepard, 82, who can be truly called a female trailblazer, and is the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry, has entered hospice care after being admitted to the ICU earlier this week.   Just last weekend when I was at a country music show in Coloma with relatives on my Mom’s side we talked about Shepard and wondered how she was doing.  The news is not good.

Her son Hawkshaw Hawkins Jr. made the news known about the downturn to her fans.

“Thank you everyone for your love and support during this tough time,” says Hawkins Jr. “Sadly, mom has went into the care of Hospice and is resting comfortably. Thank you to all of her fans who love her and are praying for our family. We love you.”

This Grand Lady has been an Opry member for now over six decades, and celebrated her 60th Anniversary on the stage show November 21st, 2015. Previously one of the institutions most active members, her performance schedule had significantly slowed down recently due to health issues.

Jean Shepard signed to Capitol Records in 1952. Her first hit was the duet “A Dear John Letter” with Ferlin Husky. Later she had hits of her own with “A Satisfied Mind,” “Take Possession,” and “Beautiful Lies.” Not just a trailblazer for women in country music, she also had to fight the uphill battle as a honky tonk singer during the genteel  era of country music.  Later she became a mainstay of the Grand Ole Opry and married fellow Opry performer Hawkshaw Hawkins who died in the same plane crash as Patsy Cline in 1963.

Below is a photo following a show this amazing woman performed in McFarland in the late 1990’s with one of her biggest fans….that would be me.  She also signed my guitar.

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We Need To Get Tougher On The Carmine Ciarletta’s Of Wisconsin

September 24, 2016

Too often drinking is considered a ‘past time’ in the same way that others might go to a movie or take a long walk.  Everywhere we turn in our society there are ads for beer or other intoxicants, and there is hardly a gathering where an alcoholic beverage is not offered.   It is not uncommon to hear of people saying they have a hangover several times a week.    How can that in any be healthy?

The facts present themselves everyday as to why we need a mature and reasoned discussion about alcohol and the impact it has on society.  There can only be so many front-page new stories.  The conversations need to continue around dinner tables, community forums, and political debates.

And when it comes to Wisconsin we need to get tough on first time drunk drivers. Over and over it has been reported not only in this state, but also in tones of disbelief around the nation that Wisconsin slaps only a citation on the first act of getting caught while operating a vehicle while drunk. One does not need to have a degree from a fancy college, or be immersed in data and statistics to know full well that leniency when it comes to drunk driving is simply a recipe for disaster.

Take the 3rd drinking while driving from Carmine Ciarletta which made the news today.

Ciarletta was charged with Operating While Intoxicated after he led Dane County Sheriff’s Deputies on a 4.1 mile chase.  Are we not all glad to not have been on that stretch of road at that time.

Ciarletta, 48, was pulled over for a traffic stop on White Crossing Road in the town of Springdale near Highway PD around 9:45 P.M. following another driver called police after seeing Ciarletta’s car “all over the road and varying speeds.”

When stopped Ciarletta appeared to be drinking and had an open bottle of wine in his car.  Then things got even more dangerous.

Shortly after the start of the traffic stop Ciarletta put the car in gear, turned around and drove onto Highway PD toward Highway 151.  That was simply outrageous.  Where in hell did he think he was going to flee to that would not bring the full force of the law down upon him?

Deputies pursued the vehicle for 4.1 miles with a top speed of 62 mph before deputies stopped the vehicle by boxing it in with a low-speed maneuver.

There are stories of this kind daily in the news and frankly as a resident of this state I am tired of it.  I want some serious remedies applied this reckless behavior.  And the place to start is to make sure that the first time a person is caught drinking and driving a penalty is applied that makes it sting hard enough to not want it to happen again.

Clearly that did not happen to Carmine Ciarletta.

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