Letter From Home 5/13/11

Sometimes it is very important to just turn the page.

Starting before Christmas when awaking in the middle of the night I would walk out to the living room and look at the answering machine to see if it was blinking.  If  blinking I knew there was something wrong up home with my Dad.   I have hated to hear phone rings since my years at the statehouse where every line seemed to be lit all the time.  So when I left that job I swore no phone would ever ring in my home again.  There had to be a better way to get a call.  James agrees with my no-ring philosophy, and so we check the messages with some regularity.

Since there was no way that I could affect change from Madison for an emergency with Dad in the first place I found the messages to work for me.

But it was those middle of the night moments when I dreaded walking to the phone that became a routine.    I found that even after my dad died that I was still doing the late-night walk.

This week it ended.  It was time to turn the page.

After several months of dealing with sadness and death both in the immediate and extended family there comes a time when a change needs to take place.  A page turned.  In large part, many might argue, it is only a mental ‘gimmick’ in order to adjust and cope for all that has occurred.  That is true, and yet most useful for moving forward and healing.

At times ‘turning the page’ is nothing more than just returning to old routines, and other times it requires that we step out and start new ways of doing what might otherwise be ordinary daily events.  In either case the hurt, and loss remains and is never far away, but it is not the only thing to view.  The loss is part of a new construct. 

While Wisconsin weather had prevented early tomato planting this year, the fact is I just did not feel like dealing with the matter.  It was hard to focus at times, and tomatoes seemed the last thing to worry about.  But this past week James and I decided we needed to restart spring, and so headed to a local store and picked up eleven plants of all different varieties.   The sun had eluded the month of April, along with warm temperatures.  This past week, however, warm weather allowed for the desire to start a hopefully bumper-sized crop of tomatoes.

Until this past week I have always eaten breakfast inside the house each morning.  While always thinking that it would be nice to start the day outside I found myself just pulling out a chair at the kitchen table with the newspaper.  What was I waiting for?  So the past mornings have found me with an early shave and shower and then breakfast outside with the birds and rabbits.  Extra Vitamin D is never bad, and there is a solace from Mother Nature for the soul that is as real, as it is hard to explain.

I find there is no way not to be jolted by the bitter-sweetness of life.  In addition, there is no way I would not want to feel those moments when they hit.

All my childhood there was a routine back home in Hancock when the grass was needing to be cut.  While my dad mowed, my mom would trim and move this flower to that space, prune that shrub, and spruce up that flower bed.  Like a page from the past it all came back as James and I worked to complete our Madison lawn before sundown Thursday night.  It struck me again how much life is a cycle.  I was mowing, James was transplanting volunteer lilies, and raking some grass.    I could see my dad in his ever-present hat that he wore, with a perspiration stain around the brim.  And just like my parents had somehow always done decades before, our lawn work was completed as the last rays of  the sun had lowered under the horizon.

We turn the page to move on with life.  We do not do it to forget.  We do it to heal.

Democrats Should Not Over-React To ‘Vulnerability’ With International Relations

With the killing of Osama bin Laden it is argued that Democrats have a chance to again define their leadership with foreign policy.   I am a bit perplexed at the ‘need’ to showcase a muscular stance in an effort to demonstrate a thoughtful way forward with international affairs.  While I understand that there are many voters who view the Clint Eastwood approach as the ‘manly’ way, I have always found the kid on the playground who could talk his way out of a fight with words and a powerful presentation to be much more the hero.  That is the type of person I want leading my nation.

So the past week’s back and forth about the way Democrats need to latch onto the killing of bin Laden to underscore Democrat’s resolve to ensure the nation’s security seems rather lame.  While I am pleased that bin Laden was dealt with in a most dramatic fashion, I am also very content with the step-by-step leveraging that seems to be underway regarding peace efforts in the Middle East.  It is after all that slow and seemingly stodgy way of working through international disputes that we should encourage.

At the end of the day it is the brains, and not the brawn, that will allow our nation and world to work more harmoniously together.  It will be the efforts with our international partners at limiting climate change, or curbing  cyber-terrorism that will require the best minds and the most creative options.  While we will always need the military to step in when all else fails, and the Libya air campaign is one such example as after all we are far from perfection as mere humans, we should always first mightily strive to reach diplomatic accords with those we have issues with.  To do that we need the best and brightest engaged in government, and especially in the diplomatic corps.

I am not sure exactly what those who would have the Democrats present themselves more forcefully on international relations have the party do to look more like leaders.

Lets recall the brawny Republican adventure of invading Iraq squeezed needed resources from the real war on terrorism in Afghanistan.  As a result of the Iraq War instability continued bubbling in Afghanistan, and the Taliban was able to refocus their efforts at controlling regions of that country.

On the flip side of how international affairs can be handled, and even using Republicans to make the case, was the opening to China that President Nixon and his most able Secretary of State Henry Kissinger accomplished in 1972.  If there was ever a time to praise the efforts of dialogue and out-reach that would be such an example.   That would be the model that our government, political party aside, should work to emulate.

The world needs a lot of things right now, but more political/military bombast is not one of them.  To attempt to beat the Democratic chest harder and prove we growl louder than those on the other side of the aisle is short-sighted and not worthy of the voters time.

Time For Russ Feingold To Plan Another Senate Campaign

Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl is leaving the political arena.  Kohl announced that he will not run for another term in the senate.  Meanwhile  liberals need to start the hunt for a state-wide powerhouse of a candidate that can win in 2012, and stop the Republicans in the Badger State.

The search for a most credible candidate is easy, and comes down to one name.

Russ Feingold.

In Wisconsin we have witnessed the corporate-cozy, union-busting, heartless, and mean-spirited Republicans over the past five months, while in Washington the simple-minded Medicare slashing and culture warriors of the  GOP went on a rampage.  Given the political climate that the Republicans have created there is no way that a full-throated campaign from a strong progressive like Feingold could not produce a win for Democrats.  Wisconsin is ready for a Democrat with values that rises above the clatter that passes for thoughtful policy from the other side of the aisle.

There is however one thing we must come to terms with.

Feingold did not run the best campaign last year against Ron Johnson, and needs to fully understand that all hands on deck will be required to win in a presidential election year.  But I strongly think Russ can do it, if he wants to.

I admire and respect Russ and know he has the ability to enter this race and score one for the Democratic Party.  If Congressman Paul Ryan wants to enter the senate race and battle it out over slashing Medicare I suspect Feingold will have some combative words to counter with on the  issue.

For now we just need to wait and let the usual political niceties play out with tepid words.  It will not be long….it can’t be long….before a senate race must start if we are to win in 2012.

“Running for office in 2012 is not something Russ is eager to do or has been planning to do. He is very committed to his current projects — teaching law at Marquette University Law School, Progressives United, and writing a book about American foreign policy. He will come to a decision, in the coming months, after consulting with family and friends and people in Wisconsin.”

Large Porn Stash Found At Osama Bin Laden Compound

What does one do when not planning jihad?

The pornography recovered in bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, consists of modern, electronically recorded video and is fairly extensive, according to the officials, who discussed the discovery with Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The officials said they were not yet sure precisely where in the compound the pornography was discovered or who had been viewing it. Specifically, the officials said they did not know if bin Laden himself had acquired or viewed the materials.

Cutting Down On Smoking In Iraq?

Good for them.

But following the lead of New York, London, Paris and scores of other Western cities, Iraqi lawmakers are now trying to push smoking to the margins of public life here, to the frustration of many of their constituents.

On Sunday, they are set to consider a law that would ban smoking from schools, universities, government offices and a wide range of private businesses, including restaurants and cafes. Billboards advertising cigarettes, which wallpaper commercial districts of Baghdad, would be outlawed. And cigarette companies would be forced to print harsher warning labels.

“This is an important issue,” said Jawad al-Bazouni, a member of Parliament’s Health Committee, which is pushing for the restrictions. “The citizen can complain to the smoker. He will get the law on his side, and it will be reflected in the public health.”

Modern-Day Harold Stassen Announces Run For White House in 2012

This is amusing.

And impossible.

Saying “the time is right” because more people agree with his positions, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas on Friday announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.

The long-time lawmaker, who was first elected to the House of Representatives 35 years ago, says he’s optimistic about his chances and that his “supporters are enthusiastic.”

If 100,000 Citizens Gather At Statehouse In 32 Degree Weather, What Happens With Spring Protest On May 14th With 60 Degrees?

Let the pressure be applied!

Scott Walker and his allies continue to show that they will stop at nothing to strip workers of their voice on the job.

With their first flawed pass at union bashing tied up in the courts, Walker’s cronies now say they will incorporate the bill stripping workers of their rights into the state budget, which is flying through the legislature despite unprecedented protest against its controversial nature.

On Saturday, May 14, join us in Madison for a rally at the State Capitol. We’ll deliver our message louder than ever: Wisconsin will not stand for Scott Walker’s attack on Wisconsin’s working families. Music will begin at 2:30 p.m. with speakers at 3:00 p.m.

Senator John McCain Correct About Torture Being Wrong Policy

The one line from an amazing speech on the Senate floor Thursday from Senator John McCain needs to be known to all.

“In short, it was not torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees that got us the major leads that ultimately enabled our intelligence community to find Osama bin Laden.”

I was very pleased with the words, tone, and message that McCain used.  I wish he could be like this everyday, as the nation needs real leadership from the Republican side of the aisle.

McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, has always opposed the U.S. use of waterboarding and other abusive techniques employed after the 9/11 attacks—banned by President Obama when he took office–to elicit information from detainees.

What McCain was stating is quite simple.  There is no no place for torture in the military arena.  None.

We are better than those in the world who do employ such tactics.  I am still one of those who actually does think my country, even though we have made some grievous errors, is still a truly remarkable place, and a sign of hope to many others around the globe.  To lower our standards and employ the most degrading and dehumanizing methods to illicit information, which very well may be faulty and unusable, is a vile exercise.