It Is Good To Have Tony Snow Back!

I truly respect the role of the White House Press Secretary.  Be it a Republican or Democratic administration, the job is a daily tightrope walk that demands skills far and above any that most of us could possibly hope to possess.  Yet it is the job that I have wanted since being a kid.  Well, that and being an astronaut.  To watch the interaction and jousting between any administration press secretary that desires favorable press, and the demands of a public to know and understand the truth, makes that spokesperson an essential part of any White House operation.

I have the highest regard for Tony Snow and the way that he banters with the press, all the while sticking to his talking points.  He is respected among the White House press because at his core he understands the role of the press, and respects the members of the fourth estate.  That is an essential difference that others such as President Nixon’s spokesman Ron Zielger never understood.

So it was a joyous moment not only in the White House pressroom, but across the nation, that a very emotional Tony Snow took the podium today, and was back at the job he clearly loves.  The cancer he fought has returned, but if his demeanor today is any indication of the future, he will win this latest battle as well.  He will receive chemo treatments every other week for four months.

We are all wishing the very best for a quick turn of events with Snow’s health, and many more wonderful days with him behind the famous podium as he tackles the questions thrown his way.

Annette Ziegler And Justice In Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s justice system is experiencing some problems that have created anxiety about fairness and balance in the courts. Plenty of headlines have popped up recently over the Wisconsin State Supreme Court being pulled ever deeper into the past ethical quicksand of Annette Ziegler, the newly elected justice on the Supreme Court.  No citizen can say they were not warned that this would result if she were elected in April.  The voters in large part allowed the power of expensive 30-second TV ads to prevail over the quiet reasoned voices of major newspapers that seriously rejected her practices while she served as a circuit judge.  They argued strongly that the ethical boundaries Ziegler crossed made her a poor choice for the Supreme Court.  In spite of those warnings, and in light of her election, her past actions as a circuit judge must now be addressed in a very public manner.

The fact that Wisconsin is now needing to deal with Ziegler’s ethical lapses will not be pretty to witness, and it will surely be antagonistic, but it is imperative that we as a state get the deliberations about her past conflicts right.  The highest moral obligation we now have with this matter is to preserve, as best we can, the high ideals of what a fair and objective rendering of justice in Wisconsin should include.  The codes of conduct for a judge are clear, and the consequences for abusing them are serious.  They must not be watered down and diluted just because we are dealing with a newly elected member to the Supreme Court.  It would be a most grievous shortcoming if we failed to honestly confront the damage that has come to light over Ziegler’s actions on the lower court. But to get back the faith that was lost as the result of Ziegler’s actions the key individuals must play a constructive role in the weeks to come.

For starters,  Ziegler needs to end her campaign mode of dodging and equivocating over her past mistakes.  Some serious candor from her is essential if we are to get over this issue and rebuild trust in the justice system.  She should reject the idea of fighting with the Ethics Board over their understanding of having grounds to both file a complaint and levy sanctions over her actions.  Her ethical lapses brought her to this point, but a heavy dose of honesty can start the rebuilding process that many citizens need, and expect, to hear.  Ziegler is making the situation more combative by digging deeper trenches, and fighting the Ethics Board issue by asking the Supreme Court to wade into the muck.  Instead of obfuscating, Ziegler needs to ante up by taking responsibility for her past actions.

The next players that need to show Wisconsin real leadership is outgoing Justice Jon Wilcox, and his court colleague, David Prosser.  Both of these men either endorsed or gave money to Ziegler after it became public that she had seriously abused her role as circuit judge.  Given that fact they both now need to make sure that all actions they take are in accordance with the law and the highest calling that voters placed on their shoulders when electing them to the bench.  They should refrain from any partisanship or backslapping when dealing with this matter.  In Prosser’s case, since he gave money to Ziegler there is the question of whether he should even participate in any of these discussions. This is one of those times when the tire has hit the road and the driver needs to show there is some experience behind the wheel.  Wisconsin will be watching.

There is no way that the Supreme Court will not ultimately have to deal with Ziegler, as the Judicial Commission will at some point file a complaint against her.  The number of instances where she failed to administer justice fairly as a circuit judge is a severe matter that will demand a response from the high court.  The Supreme Court is left the task of applying a remedy, and it will be hard for this body due to the nature of its close working relationship with each other.  Yet again, the citizens will demand that the only thing that matters is the serious nature of the ethical lapses, and the understanding that this is unacceptable in our justice system.  It will not be fun to administer, but the burden of creating not only a remedy, but also an action that speaks to the integrity of the judicial system, will rest with the high court.

The parties involved with this matter need to get the correct solution found as quickly as possible.  Given the nature of Ziegler’s ethical lapses, and how it was a large part of the spring election, the public has a right to the details.  More important they have a right to expect not only a response that will demonstrate the gravity of the matter, but also a strong signal that this type of activity is not acceptable in Wisconsin.

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Must Read Paragraphs From Sunday’s Newspaper

Winston Churchill said something to the effect that Russia is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.  That is why reading Russian history can be exciting, and also so very frustrating.  A friend of ours who majored in Russian language and literature speaks often of how hard it is to crack open the mind of the Russian people with their  many layers of complexity.   So it was with those thoughts that the best Sunday newspaper paragraphs today are below not so much for the news they impart, but for the images they convey about that amazing country and their past.  Link.

After hesitating in the hours after his death on Monday, as if unsure how exactly to respond, the Kremlin employed the full power of the state’s servile television networks to transform Mr. Yeltsin’s beleaguered image into the religious, patriotic father of the political system he bequeathed to the current president Putin.

The funeral was the first the Russian Orthodox Church has officiated for a head of state here since the next-to-last czar, Aleksandr III, died in 1894. It took place not in the Column Hall of the House of Trade Unions, where Soviet leaders lie in state, but rather in the Christ the Savior Cathedral, the gold-domed city landmark destroyed on Stalin’s orders and rebuilt on Yeltsin’s.

He was buried not along the Kremlin Wall Necropolis, with Stalin, Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko, but rather in the historic Novodevichy Cemetery, with thousands of actors, artists and writers, cosmonauts, explorers and scientists.

When the white-robed priests completed their incantations, a military band played the old Soviet national anthem, which Mr. Yeltsin abolished but Mr. Putin reinstated, albeit with new lyrics.

The Orthodox Church’s resurrection in Russian society is now firmly established, but the striking tableau of Mr. Yeltsin’s coffin, draped in the Russian tricolor, accompanied by a military honor guard and presided over by bearded priests, embodied symbols of a new Russia — state, military and church — very much like the Russia of old.

Mr. Putin embraced Mr. Yeltsin the way Stalin embraced Lenin, appropriating his legacy by transforming him “into the realm of state propaganda” to be used for other ends.

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Comments Impress This Blogger


Opry Legend Jean Shepard and ‘Dekerivers’

I only write about things here that interest me, but am never sure what will ‘sell’ until my readers react. So when my post this week about ageism on the Grand Ole Opry generated over 400 hits, and many heartfelt comments, I knew I had connected with my readers.  While current events and politics dominate my posts I also add other topics that are the spice of my life.  After a major Nashville blogger recommended my Opry post not only did the readers show up, but many left comments that impressed me.  I offer a sampling.


I have been a drummer for many years. I used to appear on the “Opry”, with many of the people named above. Now, when my name is mentioned, a lot of the current “stars” say….JIM WHO? It’s tough being a “side man”, in the present state of things. Here’s hoping things change for the better soon!


Wonder what Hank and Lefty would have to say about “demographics.” I don’t want to hear songs about love and loss from someone in a Guns’n Roses T-shirt who just lost their pet turtle or skinned their knee falling off their bicycle. Gaylord neither knows nor cares about the legacy of Nashville’s once-great country music community, it’s all about the money and Gaylord’s pimps don’t give a damn how they get it or who gets hurt in the process.


I personally have not yet been to the Grand Ole Opry…It is one of my dreams yet to be fulfilled, but let me tell you, that when I see the show on TV, it just isn’t the same when you see all the new age groups of country singers…Just like the rest of us TRUE “COUNTRY” fans, I most love to see shows with LORETTA LYNN, GEORGE JONES, DOLLY PARTON, and all of the LEGENDS…after all, isn’t that where the Grand Ole Opry began?


As a “Western” music performer, I primarily appear at concerts, dinner shows and Cowboy Poetry/Entertainer Gatherings all around the Northwest. I even do a few bar-gigs once in a while. And, a prevelant opinion from my audience is that shown here…REAL country Music seems to be gone. What is left is music that appeals more to the City ideas of what Country is. Most of what I hear today seems to be along the lines of what we called “soft rock” when I was a kid.


What’s happening to the great stars of the Grand Ole Opry is a travesty. I’m a DJ (in my 60’s) on a classic radio station in Lewiston, Idaho. In the past couple of years I have had the great pleasure to meet some these performers at the Casino in Worley, Idaho. Bill Anderson, Little Jimmy Dickens, Jean Sheppard, Stonewall Jackson, Kitty Wells, Johnny Wright, Bobby Wright, Tommy Cash, Doug Kershaw and Ralph Emery. Let me tell you, these are the friendliest, most talented and down to earth people you would ever want to meet.  These people paved the way for the “so called” country entertainers of today. To be given crumbs by the Opry when they should be in the forefront until those new country entertainers earn their way on that stage is an absolute slap in the face!

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Sun Prairie Finally Will Aid Deaf Child

It was a rather bizarre series of embarrassing bureaucratic actions that finally came to an end on Tuesday night when the city of Sun Prairie finally agreed to place a “Deaf Child” street sign up for a small girl.  The many week adventure was an example in how not to run local government.

Readers know the mere idea of challenging the mother’s request for the sign was unacceptable to many people in this area.  Local Madison radio was involved with raising funds, and even broadcasting from the mother’s home.  WKOW-TV  reported the story from the start and deserves much credit for showcasing how out of touch local government can be at times.  Another local community actually donated a deaf sign but it was rejected by Sun Prairie officials.  (I am not joking!) I blogged about the outlandish actions by city employees and even gave the work phone numbers of the decision makers urging phone calls.  Some told me that was a bit brazen, but I felt it was warranted.  It was the least I could do.

When the Sun Prairie City Council voted on the matter Tuesday night the words of Alder Hariah Huthowski summed up the matter.  “If this is going to save at least one life, prevent one injury, we want to do that, to err on the side of caution.”  In the end the City Council voted for a blanket policy that anytime a parent knows a sign is needed they can request one. 

The question I asked in previous posts on the matter was how could Sun Prairie city officials, who are paid by the citizens, be so tone deaf politically and so caught up in bureaucratic blather that they missed the common sense nature of the mother’s request?  Right up to the end Mayor Chase was defending the indefensible while suggesting that data shows the signs are not slowing down drivers. 

Well then Mr. Mayor you might post a cop in the neighborhood and nab a few speeders.  The child gets the sign, and the city gets more revenue.  But the bad PR from the past few weeks is yours to share with others who made this parent jump through hoops to just protect her child.

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Rap Music Must Evolve

Like many Americans I find the language used in much of rap music to be offensive.  The idea that music should be laced with so much violence and foul language runs counter to my notion of music and civility.  So it was welcomed news to read that the Don Imus affair might have legs, and effect the rap music industry.  And who said firing Imus would not have benefits?

The Washington Post had the following in today’s paper.

On Monday hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, who just two weeks ago was arguing for the rights of rappers to express themselves as artists, did a seeming about-face and called for the voluntary banning of “bitch,” “ho” and the N-word from the lexicon as “extreme curse words.” He called for a coalition of industry executives to “recommend guidelines for lyrical and visual standards.” Then the NAACP yesterday unveiled an initiative to halt racist and sexist imagery in the media, aimed at the record and television industries, recording artists and the African American community. And tomorrow, in a belated benediction, a civil rights group will honor Tucker, the leader of the National Political Congress of Black Women who initiated a national crusade against gangsta rap and took the recording industry to task for putting profits ahead of social responsibility.

I know that there will be cries of censorship but I reject that argument.  There are times when the greater good wins out over the limited benefits of the few.  Banning cigarette sales on TV could be argued as a form of censorship.  The lives it has saved is the stronger more correct point of view.  The same holds true for the rancid nature of far too much of rap music.

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How Does A Republican Legislator Face Their Gay Child?

How does any Republican legislator face their gay child after failing to stand up for social justice in the Statehouse?  Those of us with a moral compass and sense of duty to fairness know the answer.  First we would never shirk our responsibility to our kids as some of us do understand and practice family values, and second we understand the bigger issue of equality in our society.

But the Joint Finance Committee is ready to strip Governor Jim Doyle’s proposal for domestic partner benefits, which also effects children in those homes,  from the budget bill.  The reason they cite is the lack of any member of the Republican side to vote in favor of the issue.  All state employees should be treated with the same respect, rights, and benefits, as it is only logical and the correct course of decency and common sense.  Public policy should not be designed to punish a group for political purposes.  But that is exactly what the GOP is doing by carrying water for the religious right wing.  The Republican Party seems to relish the idea of making gay people second class citizens, and they do it all with a smile and false sense of piety.  How can any Republican legislator face their own gay child after acting in such a loathsome manner?

Today state employees can share health insurance benefits with married spouses.  But since the conservatives worked overtime to insure that our State Constitution would not afford that right to gay couples there is a need to work piecemeal to receive fairness.  If a gay couple of 18 years cannot share health insurance, but a married couple of 18 months can, one does not need to do much soul-searching to know there needs to be a policy correction.  Why should domestic partners be at a disadvantage?  There is no rational explanation except bigotry.  None!

It baffles me why Republican legislators will not stand up for gay state residents.  There are stats that show in 98 of the 99 Assembly Districts employers offer same sex benefits.  Society has moved way beyond the limited reasoning of the Republican members of the Wisconsin Legislature.  Gay themes are found in movies, TV shows, and college kids are far more enlightened and reasonable on the topic according to the surveys.  There is far more tolerance and understanding in society as a whole, than in the GOP caucus under the dome.

When the history books are written on the outlandish bigotry and callous disregard for human rights the actions such as those by Republicans will not go unnoticed.  The problem is of course that all those adversely affected will never have the chance to live their lives over without the GOP group think.

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Eyes Should Be On Nigeria

I have been interested in watching the amount of news coverage that our national press has given to the first round of presidential voting in France.  The story certainly merits a great deal of coverage because a new face in Elysee Palace not only affects Europe, but also Washington.  But I also have noted with interest the absence of real news coverage from much of the same press over the election for president of Nigeria.  Foreign press sources such as BBC, The Economist, along with large serious national papers in the our country have covered the story completely, but cable news, nightly news on the broadcast channels, and local papers have been absent from serious coverage.  Since most people get their news from those latter sources it means the story went mostly unnoticed.

The fact that Nigeria is vital in terms of international oil concerns should have made this election a must cover story.  The amount of oil reserves in Nigeria is the largest in Africa, and the 8th largest in the country.  I always feel a bit guilty when I discuss internal politics about a country with oil supplies, as I do not wish to imply that the only reason to care about their elections is for our own selfish motives.  But since oil is tied so closely to the world’s economic well-being, and also international stability, it is only reasonable to express concern.  Nigeria has also been of assistance to the peacekeeping mission in Darfur, a very heartfelt region of the world for me.  Their continued connection with such efforts is vital to maintain and enlarge.  I strongly suggest that looking at the importance of Nigeria as a nation for larger diplomatic purposes should not have been overlooked by the press.  With three times the number of those who follow Islam in Nigeria, in comparison to Saudi Arabia, at a time when we are seeking to blunt the damage Bush caused our nation over the Iraq War, we can begin to understand the most visible reasons why Nigeria matters.

The fact the election process and outcome was a farce with fraud and political manipulation running rampant does not take the burden off the press who missed covering a vital story.