Paul Heenan And Our Drinking Culture


There is no way to dodge a most real, and troubling part of a story that unfolded in the Madison neighborhood where I live.

In November a Madison police officer shot Paul Heenan three times, killing the young man.  The officer, Stephen Heimsness, arrived on the scene for what was first thought to be a burglary.  When the full story was told Heenan mistakenly entered a wrong home, struggled with a homeowner, and then was shot on the front lawn by the police.

I can in no way justify the three shots which were fired, or the lack of finding some other avenue by Heimsness to calm the situation.  This is a tragedy of major proportions, and all the more harsh given where it occurred.

This morning the newspaper reported that Heenan had a blood-alcohol level of 0.208 perecnt, which is more than twice the state’s legal limit for drivers.  Even though Heenan was walking and not driving, it still makes for a very intoxicated situation, one that severely impaired his judgement.

Cleary that was the case when Heenan, who was new to the neighborhood, mistakenly entered someone elses home.  He found his life coming to an end on November 9th at 2:50 A.M. when he was shot multiple times in the upper torso by a policeman.

While the Dane County District Attorney said no charges will be filed against the officer I suggest we all might want to ponder a charge against society that creates, nurtures, and condones a drinking culture that produces a great deal of sadness.

Shortly after the shooting a group from this neighborhood gathered for reflection concerning the event.  I was not there, so can not comment on the topics discussed but I would bet there was not a lot of dialogue about one of the reasons that this whole sad story started.

There are at least two dozen drinking establishments with an alcohol license in this neighborhood.  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.

I have no idea why Heenan was drinking to the point he was twice the legal limit.  But the sad fact is alcohol played a major role in his death.  By all accounts he was a bright, creative man with a great deal of potential.  The night we was killed alcohol severely impaired his judgment.

No one can miss the senseless nature of what led up to the horrible ending.   While the police pulled the trigger, someone poured more drinks than Heenan should have consumed.

Make no mistake, he made choices the night he died.

But now I would ask that we make the choice in his memory, and for countless others who get caught up in a story of this type, to ponder the role alcohol plays in our lives and our society.

I in no way am advocating for prohibition.

I am, however, suggesting we start to have common-sense conversations about the amount of alcohol that is consumed, and the impact it has on our country.   I can assure my readers who do not live here that the loss of this young man has jarred the community.  But will it jar us to the point where we ask deeper and more meaningful questions?  Can the tragedy of Paul Heenan be a vehicle by which we can look at how alcohol too often plays a needlessly harmful role in our society?

The cost of pretending there is no problem seems too high a price to pay.

Political Trivia: Congressional Votes And The Holidays

This answers the question that was tossed around our home yesterday.

The House and Senate have held numerous pro forma sessions during the week between Christmas and New Year over the years, and in 1995 during a major budget battle. But the last time they held roll call votes that week, before Thursday, was during the second session of the 91st Congress, in 1970, amid a large spending fight and a filibuster over financing for a supersonic transport plane.

The Power Of The Israeli Lobby

United States allows tail to wag dog…again.

From the moment Hagel’s name was leaked as a possible nominee for Secretary of  Defense—in what was, apparently, a trial balloon floated by the Obama  Administration—Hagel’s most vocal critics have been members of what can be  called the Israel lobby. Their enmity for Hagel goes back to his two terms in  the Senate. A committed supporter of Israel and, also, of a two-state solution  between Israel and Palestine, Hagel did not make the obeisance to the lobby that  the overwhelming majority of his Congressional colleagues do. And he further  violated a taboo by talking about the lobby, and its power. In his 2008 book, “The Much Too Promised Land,” Aaron Miller interviewed Hagel, whom he described  as “a strong supporter of Israel and a believer in shared values.” Miller also  wrote, “Of all my conversations, the one with Hagel stands apart for its honesty  and clarity.” He quoted Hagel saying that Congress “is an institution that does  not inherently bring out a great deal of courage.” The American Israel Public  Affairs Committee comes knocking with a pro-Israel letter, Hagel continued, and “then you’ll get eighty or ninety senators on it. I don’t think I’ve ever signed  one of the letters”—because, he added, they were “stupid.” Hagel also said, “The  Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here,” but “I’m a United States  senator. I’m not an Israeli senator.”


A Must Read: John Dean On Filibuster Reform

There are so many issues percolating in Washington that it almost makes one’s head spin.  There is no way to be bored with all that is taking place, but there arises the question at what cost do we pay as a nation for all this ‘entertainment’?

One thing is very clear after weeks of the ‘fiscal cliff’, and watching Speaker Boehner trying to navigate the tricky waters crowded with teabaggers .

The government is not functioning in the fashion it should.  The lessons from our days in civics class seem so long ago, and we must ask ourselves how we get back to the land of sanity.

With that as my background I highly recomment a concise read from John Dean.  A small portion is posted below.

In my fifty-some years of observing Capitol Hill (having once worked there), I have never seen anything quite like it.  The dysfunction of Capitol Hill is no longer a joke; rather, it’s a serious problem, and a threat to the nation’s well-being. It is utterly mystifying to me why voters tolerate it, and why the journalistic guardians of our freedom mostly ignore this vital story. This story should be a daily headline, and if editors cannot figure out who is to blame, they should get into another line of work.

When attending Georgetown Law School, I made a point of travelling to Capitol Hill in 1964 to witness several days of the Southern conservative senators at work filibustering the historic Civil Rights legislation that was then making it way through Congress. A handful of bigots, who operated as a tag-team, kept their filibuster going for 75 days before pro-Civil Rights supporters could gather the necessary 67 votes to end the endless debate by invoking cloture. What happen was that eventually national news coverage began focusing on this filibuster, and American outrage forced its end.

I first heard talk of changing Rule XXII, which required 67 votes to invoke cloture to end a filibuster, to require only 60 votes instead, while I was working at the Nixon White House, but this rule change was not finally accomplished until 1975 after Nixon had departed.  A few years later, the filibuster rule was further changed so that it was not necessary to hold the Senate Floor with endless speeches to accomplish a filibuster; rather, merely announcing an intention to filibuster was considered sufficient, so the business of the Senate could go on.

These new rules worked pretty well for a while, but during the Clinton Presidency Republicans began abusing them, and then during the Obama Presidency, the GOP made abuse of the rules into standard procedure.  Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid reports that he has been confronted with some 386 GOP-lead filibusters in the past six years. Clearly, this is blatant obstructionism and it makes a mockery of our democracy, where majority rule is suppose to control.

Another Sign Americans Need To Get (And Use) A Library Card

This morning my Quartz round-up had this…….

A petition calling for the US government to build a giant, moon-like war machine like that featured in the film franchise “Star Wars” garnered 25,000 votes. In theory this means the administration is obliged to study the issue and provide a formal response. It could just point to a calculation showing that the steel alone would cost 13,000 times the world’s annual GDP.  (Meanwhile, the petition to have British CNN anchor Piers Morgan deported for his anti-gun views is approaching 85,000 signatures.)

Myanmar To Get Private Daily Newspapers

Freedom for newspapers to report on government, and the life of a nation is most vital for a democracy.

Needless to say I am very pleased with the following.

Myanmar said Friday it will allow private daily newspapers starting in April for the first time since 1964, in the latest step toward allowing freedom of expression in the long-repressed nation.

The Information Ministry announced on its website that any Myanmar national wishing to publish a daily newspaper will be able to submit an application in February. New papers will be allowed to begin printing April 1 in any language.

The move was an expected part of new press freedoms President Thein Sein has introduced as part of wider democratic reforms since taking office last year, after a half-century of military rule.

Video Of (Formerly) WGN’s John Williams (Now On WCCO): Why AM Radio Is Important

WGN should never have allowed John Williams to leave his spot behind the microphone.  WGN is no longer the bright spot on the dial it once was, and that saddens me.   But AM radio still matters, and Williams spells out the reason that is true in this video.

There is no way not to notice that Williams is a most gracious man and that is one reason I am a huge fan of his, and with that I again say WGN made a huge mistake.



Margaret Thatcher Caught By Surprise Over Falklands Invasion

So much for the understanding of potential threats.

The 1982 invasion of the Falkland Islands by Argentina caught Margaret Thatcher by surprise, newly released government papers have shown.

The then-prime minister only saw it was likely after getting “raw intelligence” two days before the Argentines landed.

Papers released under the 30-year rule show Mrs Thatcher was acutely worried about retaking the islands.

One historian said the documents were among the “most powerful material” declassified in the last three decades.

In October 1982, a few months after the war ended, Mrs Thatcher gave evidence behind closed doors to the Falkland Islands Review Committee, chaired by Lord Franks.

The transcript of that dramatic testimony has now been published for the first time.

“I never, never expected the Argentines to invade the Falklands head-on. It was such a stupid thing to do, as events happened, such a stupid thing even to contemplate doing”, Mrs Thatcher told the Franks Committee.