A New Year’s Wish For My Readers

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As the hours tick away and we prepare to leave 2008 behind, I thought of a paragraph from our Christmas letter this year.  I hope and trust that each of you has a blessed, and peaceful 2009.  May the message in this paragraph be your guide at some point along the way.

Perhaps none other than the quiet act of getting a child to giggle and smile comes to mind as a way to close out the memory book for the year.  A small girl named Marie lives on our block and walks with her parents past our place every day.  Her parents are here from France for a UW-Madison project, and as such, the little girl only speaks French.  While James speaks and teaches the French language, and so connected easily with the girl, my English language sounded like gibberish to her, and since she did not have many other such speakers around her on a daily basis, it made her unsure and timid when I was around.  But being just a big kid, I knew there had to be a way to break through, and get her to smile.  So after weeks of meeting a stony-faced child I saw my opening one spring day.  I picked up a dandelion that had sprouted on the lawn and developed to the point that it was white with feathery seeds.  I brought it to her, and just about the time, she reached for it blew the many white seeds to the wind.  She looked…..stared….and then broke into a major grin.   So off I went to get another one…….  There is a lesson in there about living life and finding new ways to see the world and be content with life.

I hope that as you journey into 2009 it is a peaceful one with good cheer, and hope for brighter days.  And when you meet a challenge know the answer may be nothing more than a dandelion that has lost its color but still has a purpose.

New Jib Jab Video: 2008 In Review

Delivering Donated Toys To Madison Children’s Hospital

If you want to read an uplifting post as we close out the year give me a minute of your time.  I hope you will agree that this was worth it.

Yesterday James and I made a stop at the UW Children’s Hospital in Madison.  It was there in the lobby area that I saw something that made my heart fill up with emotion.

A family from Chilton had brought down a moving van of toys for the children.  That was not a typo.  A moving van of toys.  I ventured over and struck up a conversation with one of the family members to learn that several years ago a 3-year-old girl in their family had died at the hospital.  The parents of the child said that something good had to come out of the tragedy, and so the large extended family or aunts, uncles, and cousins worked all year long to gather toys and items for need at the hospital.  They gathered so much they had to bring it all in a moving van.  And they do this every year.

There were large piles of everything imaginable, and it all was being loaded into cute little wagons that some of that family then took to be distributed to kids, with lots of it to be placed in areas where kids yet to come and stay in 2009 will find it.  I swear that no one standing in that lobby seeing this take place, and hearing this story, could not help but have a lump in their throat.  One could feel the love.  It was more than an emotion.  It was a tangible thing.

James and I just happened to be at the hospital as we had worked with Culvers in Middleton to have toys donated, and were bringing in the bags of items that were collected at the restaurant.  Christmas took on an even more meaningful tone as we did more than just contribute toys as we had in previous years, but got more involved.   When the wonderful folks at Culvers in Middleton needed help with promotion of the event, along with a driver to load the toys up and deliver them to the hospital, I said anyway I could help all they needed to do was ask.  Culvers took me up on the offer, and it was one of the most perfect things we did for others this holiday.     There was a tremendous turnout of wonderful toys of all kinds donated for the kids.  

I would like to say thanks to each person who donated an item.  The heartfelt expression for these kids is a most remarkable statement about the true character of Dane County.  In addition, I want to say how kind and outgoing the owners and all the employees of Culvers in Middleton proved to be again this holiday season.  With each toy donated they gave a scoop of their famed custard, and also worked to promote the project, and provided large boxes to place the toys, along with storage space.  When there is a team of people who care as much as they do only good can result.

But all this does not stop here.

I plan to connect with a reader of this blog who works at the hospital, and who offered me a tour.  I know the work they do is impressive, and needless to say the kids are mighty special.  I plan to be even more involved with this effort next year. 

In the very small way we were able to play a part this Christmas season made the ‘reason for the season’ all the more real.

Below is a picture of James, and some of the many items donated by the folks of Dane County.

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Congressman Rush Unleashes Race Into Blagojevich Senate Seat Selection

The absurd just became bizarre.

As if there was not enough chaos and demented action taking place by the recently arrested Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich announcing the appointment of Roland Burris to the U.S. Senate, we now have a Congressman hoping to stir up the racial angle of the whole matter.

Congressman Bobby Rush may be unknown to lots of readers around the nation, but as one who has followed Chicago politics, let me assure you that he can be rational.  Today however, was not one of those moments.  Rush should be ashamed of his words and his actions. 

To assume that there is a racial angle to this affair is perhaps the craziest thing yet to surface in the political drama.  And that is saying a lot.

I will let this tell the story.

The Blagojevich-Burris press conference was just a typical circus for a little while. Blago was his defiant self, sticking it to everybody and loving it. Roland Burris, looking as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, played it cool and straight, ducking the questions about Harry Reid refusing to seat him or the Illinois secretary of state’s announcement about not certifying him as the senator.

It was crazy, but normal-crazy. Then Bobby Rush showed up. The south side congressman — the only man ever to defeat Barack Obama in an election — introduced the racial angle and dramatically raised the stakes.

It must be said that Rush made an entirely fair point. In 2004, when they elected Obama, the voters of Illinois chose an African American senator. And so, in determining who should fill out his term, it’s reasonable that race count as a factor. He pointed to Illinois’ recent history as the only state that’s elected two black senators (Obama and Carol Moseley Braun), arguing that the state has a history on this score that’s unique. That’s all fair.

But Rush wasn’t pleading. He was warning. He was daring Reid and the other senators to deny this black man the seat. I couldn’t quite believe my ears when he used the word “lynch,” but sure enough he did: he urged the members of the media “not to hang or lynch the appointee as you castigate the appointor.” He went on to say that he and his congressional allies would push Reid to reverse his position and said of the prospect of a bunch of white senators denying Burris the seat: “I don’t think they wanna go on record doing that.”

I covered lots of racial-politics conflagrations in New York in the very racially heated 1980s and 1990s, and I’ve heard rhetoric like Rush’s before, and I’ve seen its effects. When a black figure issues a public challenge like this, including one of the most heavily freighted dog-whistle words in American political history, to a white politician, sides start to line up. Tempers start to inflame. Whether the white pol stands firm or assents, somebody is going to be really, really unhappy.

Reid is in a spot. There’s a chance that is is going to be on black radio all over the country tomorrow morning, and if it is, it’s going to have nothing to do with Blago on those stations. It’ll have to do with whether the white Democratic leaders of the Senate, “who take our vote for granted in November,” etc., will spurn this obviously qualified black man.

And by the way, what does Obama do? Well, he stays a million miles away from it if he can. But what if he can’t? What if this now mushrooms into a fight so big that only he can settle it? I would imagine he’d rule with Reid; he certainly won’t want to be seen as kowtowing to racial demands before he even takes office. This is set up to be his gays-in-the-military, if he gets involved and mishandles it. I think the risk of that is prety slim, but it does exist, depending on how big a controversy this becomes.

It’ll be fascinating to see the polls on this over the next couple of days, particularly the views of black Illiniosans. If they don’t buy Rush’s argument, the story goes away. But if the racial temperature goes up, then this could turn into a big Democratic mess.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich To Name Roland Burris To U.S Senate

Unbelievable.   More on this story later today.  (Who said politics is boring?)

Gov. Rod Blagojevich is expected today to name former Illinois Atty. Gen. Roland Burris to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate.

The action comes despite warnings by Democratic Senate leaders that they would not seat anyone appointed by the disgraced governor who faces criminal charges of trying to sell the post, sources familiar with the decision said.

Shortly after Obama’s Nov. 4 victory, Burris made known his interest in an appointment to the Senate but was never seriously considered, according to Blagojevich insiders. But in the days following Blagojevich’s arrest, and despite questions over the taint of a Senate appointment, Burris stepped up his efforts to win the governor’s support.

Though he is 71, Burris has said that Obama’s replacement should be able to win re-election and he has noted that despite a string of primary losses in races ranging from Chicago mayor to governor and U.S. senator, he’s never lost to a Republican.

Blagojevich, who has sole authority to name a replacement senator, scheduled a 2 p.m. news conference at his downtown Chicago office.

Blagojevich’s criminal defense attorney Ed Genson had said Blagojevich would not name a Senate successor to Obama. The governor had indicated he agreed with other Illinois politicians that the best option might be a special election to fill Obama’s seat. But state lawmakers have not taken up the necessary legislation.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada previously warned Blagojevich, following the governor’s Dec. 9 arrest, that Senate Democrats would not seat any appointment the two-term Democratic governor made. Reid’s warning was contained in a letter signed by all 50 sitting Democratic senators, including the No. 2 Democrat in Senate leadership, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois.

Federal authorities, citing secret wiretap recordings, allege Blagojevich sought a Cabinet position, an ambassadorship or a high-paying job from the incoming Obama administration in exchange for naming a candidate favored by the president-elect to the vacancy. An internal report by the Obama transition team found no offers of any quid pro quo in conversations held by incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and Blagojevich and the governor’s staff regarding the seat.

Burris became the first African-American to win statewide office in 1978, when he won the first of his three terms as comptroller. But Burris repeatedly stalled in his quest for bigger political office. He failed in three consecutive runs for governor–1994, 1998 and 2002, when he ran against Blagojevich–in the Democratic primaries.

Burris, an attorney in private practice, could not be reached for comment at his home today

Pictures: Gaza Pain Seen In Palestinian Faces

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Israel has promised the world that 2009 will open with weeks of bloodshed in Gaza.  Israel has elections that need lots of political posturing, and what better way to do that than kill Palestinians?

The last picture here is one that stands out for me from this collection.  It shows the eyes of the future based on the hell they see today.  These young boys will not recall serene childhoods.  They will not be the moderate voices of the future.  And why should they be?

Gaza is a place that only gets attention now due to the excessive and outlandish military madness that Israel is creating.  The plight of those in Gaza are not front page news unless they are being killed.  That is a horrible truth that the world needs to deal with as the New Year starts, but the old ways of dealing with the poor and outcast continues.

The world needs to condemn Israel for this atrocity, and all those who support the bloodshed.

Sarah Palin Is A Grandmother, Bristol Palin Gives Birth

I thought I would just report the news tonight and leave the comments and thoughts for later.  After all the baby can’t help being born into the Palin family.   But after having read the comments from the Governor’s office in Alaska there is no way that I can not comment.

I take great exception to Sarah Palin saying that this matter is a private family affair.  After the way that woman used her whole family in her quest for a national office she should not even breathe anything about this being a private matter. Palin made her family part of the national conversation.   When Sarah Palin made her family mere pawns for her unbridled zeal for higher office, her desire for privacy came to an end.

Sarah Palin would deny proper sex education in our public schools, or the distribution of condoms to prevent pregnancy and thereby make it harder to prevent unwanted pregnancies for families around the nation.  Yet she thinks that the irony of her own great parenting skills and conservative views should not be given full exposure when Bristol Palin gives birth as an unwed teenage mother.  

 No.

There may be many conservatives who think that teenagers having kids is truly the perfection of family values.  I do not.  I think it shows a family that was out of touch with what their kid was doing.  I think it shows that education was lacking about not only sex education in the Palin household, but also shows a lack of concern about where Bristol wanted her life to go after high school and college.   Teenagers with dreams about life beyond high school do not have babies.   Being a high school drop out due to a pregnancy is not a career starter.  The lack of vision by Sarah Palin for her children’s future is breathtaking.  Image the vision that Sarah Palin has for America!

The root of all these problems come down to a failure of parenting skills, and  the lack of sound education.  Sadly, all of which the Palin home has plenty of.

So while I feel sorry for the baby who has a teenage mother, I also feel sorry tonight for Bristol having a mother called Sarah Palin.

The 18-year-old daughter of former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has given birth in Alaska to a son.

People magazine reports that Bristol Palin gave birth to Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston on Sunday. He weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces.

Relative Colleen Jones tells the magazine the baby is fine and Bristol is “doing well.” Jones is the sister of Bristol’s grandmother.

The father is Levi Johnston, a former hockey player at Alaska’s Wasilla High School. He has said he and Bristol plan to marry.

Palin created a stir in September by announcing the pregnancy as she prepared to accept her nomination at the Republican National Convention.

The governor’s office called the birth a private family matter.

(Ahhh..no!)

Can A President Take A Pardon Back?

This is one those times when the label ‘geek’ might be rightfully stitched on my sweatshirt.  The news during the holiday period that President Bush granted a pardon to Isaac Toussie only to rescind it a short time later left me wondering.  Uhh? 

Since I had never heard of such a thing happening before I wondered what law allowed for this action to be taken.  I had always understood that once the party to be pardoned was made known of the official action of the President, that the deed was done.  The pardon existed.  So how could Bush undo a pardon, that in this case Toussie would have known about, given the instant modes of communication and how information is passed along to all?

 With the holiday lag time here I had a few minutes to undertake a search for an answer on the internet.   So here is what the Wall Street Journal site has to say about this matter.  I might add that on the WSJ site there are some good comments about this matter too.

President Bush giveth, and then he taketh away. And now the question is: Can Isaac Toussie get it back?

The answer: At the very least, Toussie, the Brooklyn real estate developer whose pardon was revoked on Wednesday, just 24 hours after Bush issued it, has a good case.

“There are two types of pardons — conditional and unconditional,” Harold J. Krent, a Con law prof and the dean of Kent College of Law, told the Law Blog today. “Conditional pardons depend on the beneficiary doing certain things, such as leaving the country or the Communist party, or not consorting with undesirables. There, presidents have the right to determine unilaterally whether someone has failed the condition. But, in Toussie’s case, it was an unconditional pardon. So, in my mind, when the pardon vests or becomes final then it’s a legal act that can’t be revoked. That’s going to be a detail question. Did Bush announce the pardon? Was it delivered?”

So what happened in Toussie’s situation? For starters, the pardon was announced in thisDOJ press release, put out Tuesday. We’re not sure whether, or how, Toussie received notification. However, in thisMcClatchy story about Eduviges Duvi Gonzalez-Matsumura, whose name was on the same pardon list with Toussie’s, Gonzalez-Matsumura said that a DOJ official called her on Tuesday with the news of her pardon.

Where is this delivery requirement found? In an 1869 case in the Southern District of New York, called In re De Puy. In his holding, U.S. District Judge Blatchford implied that a pardon became valid upon delivery to the prison warden in charge of the beneficiary.

“I think it could be challenged,” Dan Kobil, a prof at Capital U. Law School, told the LB. “It should be possible for Toussie’s attorneys to go to court for a declaration that the pardon became effective when the warrant was signed and, depending on the facts, when it became communicated to him or when he read it.”

Kobil cited an old Texas case in which he says the governor tried to similarly take back a pardon and the court of appeals ruled that he could not. There, said Kobil, the court reasoned that the governor is given the power to pardon, but not to revoke pardons. “A similar argument could be made here. Once Bush has done it, it’s not as though he’s a king who can turn around and say, ‘You’re a felon again by way of the scepter.’”