Business To Fight Anti-Gay Law In Indiana

Former State Representative Lary Swoboda came to mind this past week concerning Indiana Governor Mike Pence signing a bill into law that will  allow companies to turn away gay and lesbian customers on the grounds of religious freedom.

Swoboda, who I worked with for a decade in the Wisconsin State Assembly, often told the story of his classroom the afternoon President Kennedy was shot and killed in Texas.   As the children all prepared to depart early from school due to the national crisis a girl walked up and asked “Why do people hate?”

The was the question then, and it remains the question now.

I recall Swoboda tried to answer that child by saying that hate is something hard to fight, but we always must try to do that when we can.

Which is exactly what we must do as Americans when it comes to this anti-gay law.  There will be all sorts of legal tactics taken and plenty of reason to fight for the removal of this law in one way or another.    There will be court challenges, to be sure.  There are also political calls made for action.

But if look like the best way to hamstring this bigoted law is to use the economic juice of the state as our tool, as least for the beginning of this fight.  Taking a look at the landscape of miffed and angry business leaders must make for queasy feelings in Pence’s office.

Mark Benioff, CEO of cloud computing company Salesforce is upset.  Max Levchin, CEO of HVF (Hard Valuable Fun) and PayPal founder is not pleased.  The National Collegiate Athletic Association, a non-profit organization that’s scheduled to host the Men’s Final Four basketball championship in Indiana later this month, also expressed concerns.  The National Football League could threaten to move the annual NFL Draft Combine from Indianapolis or not award future Super Bowls to the city over the legislation.  George Takei wrote on Facebook there could be a boycott of Indianapolis’ annual gaming convention, GenCon, over the law.

Pence knew this law was so awful and indefensible that he had to sign it in a private ceremony with no media coverage.  That is certainly a sign that the measure should have just been flushed.  Pence of course is a conservative tool and has not enough mental ability to recognize that fact.

The Indiana law is a quintessential example of reactionary policy in that is a reaction to the increasing recognition coast-to-coast that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people deserve equal protection under the law. The trend encompasses the expanding legalization of same-sex marriage, and in fact just last week  the Senate approved a measure that would extend to same-sex couples the right to spousal Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits no matter what state they live in. The 57-43 vote was bipartisan, with 11 Republican senators joining Democrats in the majority.

Some parts of the country are moving ahead. Indiana and Pence are going in the opposite direction.

Lets unite and fight this battle.  We have fought and won larger ones.

Will Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Take The Stand?

One of the legal questions I have pondered during long showers is whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev takes the witness stand in the Boston bombing trial.  I find myself thinking about legal maneuvers more often over the years concerning the cases that make the news and seem to take more of my attention.   How the Supreme Court functions and rules has long been a source of great interest, but now those types of personal inquiries are spreading to other areas of the law. As I get older law becomes more of an enticing topic.    There are so many areas where my curiosity takes me–perhaps I need to concentrate on ways to prolong life to fit all my passion into a lifetime.

Meanwhile there is the question of whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev  takes the stand in his trail for the Boston marathon bombing.

The trial is barreling toward that moment of decision. While it is rare for defendants in criminal trials to take the stand, except when arguing that they acted in self-defense, his lawyers could decide that they have nothing to lose. Technically, they could call him to the stand any time after the prosecution rests, which was expected to occur Monday. And if he is called, Mr. Tsarnaev’s testimony, along with his attitude and body language, could play a major role in determining whether he spends the rest of his life in prison or is condemned to death, if he is convicted.

“They’ve probably rehearsed a cross with him to see how it would go,” said Michael Cassidy, a former state prosecutor and now a professor of law at Boston College.

“They might not have called it a rehearsal, or told him about it, but that’s what they’re doing,” he said. “In the back of their minds, they are constantly asking themselves: How will he be perceived if he takes the stand? How does he react when he’s asked a question, when he’s challenged by authority, when an inconsistency is brought to his attention?”

Whether to put a defendant on the stand can be one of the most perilous decisions for the defense, especially in a capital case. Either choice carries risks. A defendant can just be a bad witness, especially under cross-examination, but even one who is prepared and articulate can rub the jury the wrong way. But if a defendant does not testify, jurors can become suspicious. Also, they like to see remorse, lawyers say, and almost no one can express it better than the accused.

Recalling The Effective Leadership Of Senate Giant Ted Kennedy

Bob Schieffer, CBS News’ Face The Nation host conducted one of the most interesting segments yesterday regarding former Senator Ted Kennedy.   Many dignitaries are in Boston today for the opening of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, which includes, among other things, a life-size recreation of the U.S. Senate chamber where the late senator served for 47 years.  It will be a most impressive sight as everything will be able to be viewed from the senators’ desk to the visitors’ gallery.    Some of Kennedy’s former senate colleagues spoke with Schieffer about the role the Massachusetts politician played in our national life, and the way politics should be handled.

MCCAIN: Oh, we had some of the great bouts, and yet I remember one time we had a huge fight that two freshmen had begun and we drove them from the floor and afterwards we were walking off the floor and he put his arm around me.

And he said, “We really did a good one that time, didn’t we, John?”

He enjoyed the combat but he didn’t personalize the combat. And that is really one of the reasons why I think so many, on both sides of the aisle, had not just respect but after a while, affection.

OLYMPIA SNOWE, FORMER REPUBLICAN SENATOR: He was a legislator’s legislator. And he used his consummate skills as a negotiator. He appreciated the norms and traditions of the Senate and also got to know his colleagues, their preferences and their dislikes and understood that your adversary today would be your ally tomorrow.

Senate changes a person, that it has ability of making a person a heightened sense of responsibility. That is something a lot of people don’t understand. This is the most unique institution in public life in many ways because of the rules of the place.

Mandates that you actually work with each other. In fact, the minority is given a status here unlike any other place in the country. And Teddy, the effect of the Senate really had an effect on him. In this very room, where we’re gathered here today, I watched him day in and day out make it possible for people he disagreed with to have victories.

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MD.: I think the boundless energy, the fact that he was more than willing to let other people take the credit, even though he was the big guy in the room. A very savvy and strategic legislator. And he also made things fun. He made you feel welcome. He made you feel like you mattered and you counted. I was with him when he met world leaders in these beautiful committee rooms, I was with him at the North End in Boston, walking the streets of their little getaway, where he made the waiters and the kitchen staff and the people making the meatballs as important as the people making policy.

Madison Needs Task Force On Personal Responsibility

The Saturday morning edition of the Wisconsin State Journal reported above the fold that Madison city leaders are gathering behind the idea of a task force to examine police practices and training, especially the use of force.    We all recognize that the shooting on Williamson street of a black, unarmed teen was tragic.  No one lacks the compassion to the see the sadness over the death of a young man just as his adult life was starting.  For me it seemed even more harsh as the promise of spring starts to show in our city.  The death was horrible.

But I think there is more to consider about these type of events than just the final dramatic moments of a person’s life that then make for headlines in the press.    Over the weeks we all have heard strident voices in our city talking about police practices, incarceration rates,  graduation rates and other related items.    All those topics are mighty important and there is no doubt that if more attention were paid to them and addressed our entire city would benefit.    After all, who can argue that a diploma and a job are not two important foundations for young people starting their lives.

But as I have listened to the bluster and chants and disruptions and even a veiled threat from a public speaker to the Madison City Council I have been very aware of something that is lacking in the discourse.  There has been a lack of speaking to the role that personal responsibility plays not only in the lives of individuals but how that then impacts the city as a whole.  That responsibility is just not for the youth of this city, but also for the adults.

I understand what I am about to say will be tuned out by some and rejected by others.  Some will say I am just too removed from today’s youth and their concerns ‘to understand’.    To all that I say the foundations for family and personal responsibilities do not change though the decades do.

Solid parenting–the teamwork of two adults–every step along the way is vital.  That might mean not starting a family until economic circumstances allow for it.  Once a child is brought into a family there is nothing more important than making sure education is front and center.  Reading to the child and making sure books abound at home and the distractions of television and social media are turned off for homework is a must.

Parents need to instill values to kids about how respecting oneself and others is the only way to make it through life successfully.   Teachers are required the same level of respect as parents.    And like it or not at the time when a police officer gives an order it has to be followed.  That is part of the law and order process that makes society function.  Not everything in life will go smoothly, but when things get bumpy we do not lash out, but instead stay calm and work through it.

I could go on but I suspect my readers can sense the old-fashioned values of which I speak and know to be still the ones that should govern our lives.

This city is heading towards now needing to use tax dollars to fund a new task force on police practices.  Perhaps there is room for improvement, but I sense there is more a desire to show the city has heard the loudest voices and wish to look pro-active in time for the decision that the district attorney will make regarding the shooting.    Perhaps that move can stem any outbursts that might not be as tame as the marches we have so far witnessed.

I truly think most will agree with me that what we really need is to implement the guidelines of personal responsibility that our grandparents employed.  It worked for our parents, and I bet for those reading this blog.

But that seems not to be politically correct to say in Madison these days.

Chicago Can Not Afford To Let Rahm Emanuel Lose Mayoral Election

Almost every radio broadcast I hear from Chicago about the mayoral election comes down to the point that challenger Jesús (Chuy) Garcia has horrible math skills when it comes to the city budget, or is living in fantasy land.

Rahm Emanuel may drive some parts of the Democratic Party crazy but at least there is economic sense to his policy moves. It takes a pragmatic hand to rule a city.  The Economist seems to agree.  I have said for weeks this race was one to watch, but at the end of the day it would be a victory for the incumbent, and I still strongly hold to that view.

The trouble with nice Mr García’s pledges is that Chicago is beyond broke. On February 27th Moody’s, a credit-rating agency, downgraded the city’s credit-worthiness to two notches above junk, mostly because Chicago is carrying more than $20 billion in unfunded liabilities for four of its pension funds, and already has a deficit of around $300m in its operating budget. Moreover, a payment of $550m for the police and firemen’s pension fund is due at the end of this year, and the public schools are $1.1 billion in the red.

Mark Kirk, a Republican senator from Illinois, has warned that Chicago could follow Detroit into bankruptcy if Mr García wins. García fans dispute this, pointing out that he was the floor leader for Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County board, who managed to balance the county budget last year for the first time in years. Some on the left accuse Mr Kirk of racism for even suggesting that creditors might not trust Mr García.

Mr García hopes to appeal to Latinos and African-Americans, who are nearly two-thirds of Chicago’s voters. But many blacks think Hispanics and other immigrants are taking their jobs, while many Hispanics hold prejudices about blacks living on welfare. In the first round Mr Emanuel received almost 43% of the vote in wards with a black majority; Mr García got 25%. The latest polls strongly favour Mr Emanuel, but undecided voters could still tip the scales. Whoever wins will swiftly need to placate the bond market.

‘Chicago ‘ Ed Schwartz To Be Honored On WGN Radio Walk Of Fame

I can think of no better way to start this post except with stating the obvious.

It was ‘Chicago ‘ Ed Schwartz who made me aware that a radio announcer could be a friend to those who listened.  Equally important Eddie was wildly successful even though he did not have what might be considered a classic sounding radio voice.  Both of those lessons were ones I took with me to my job at WDOR radio in Sturgeon Bay when I sat in the broadcast booth.

Today it was announced that WGN Radio will include Eddie “Chicago Ed” Schwartz  on its 2015 Walk of Fame class.   Friday, May 29th, ten broadcasting legends will be honored with a ceremony and live broadcast from 1-2pm at the Tribune Tower at 435 N Michigan.  Steve King and Johnnie Putman will also be included in the list of famed broadcasters.

Eddie “Chicago Ed” Schwartz was at the helm of the late-night WGN Radio airwaves from 1982 through 1992 on a show that was all Chicago. Both crusader and advocate, Eddie started the Good Neighbor Food Drive, one of the largest one-day food drives in the country, and fearlessly called politicians in the middle of the night in search of answers to listeners’ problems.

Ed Schwartz’s voice was softer than that of most who find themselves on radio, but his authority and professionalism when behind a microphone was never in doubt.  But the connection he made with his listeners both in Chicago, and as far as the airwaves would allow him to be heard, showcased his civility and big-heart for the causes that he loved.  When he promoted his food drive for hungry folks in Chicago there was no doubt that his concern was deeply ingrained within him.  He wore his heart on his sleeve, and it reverberated inside the radio.


It might seem strange that as a boy in Hancock, Wisconsin I would be tuning into talk radio from Chicago, and bypassing the stations that were closer to me with much stronger signals.  But the world as presented by local stations were too small, and lets face it there is nothing more exciting than Chicago politics.  More importantly over the past years I recognize how lucky I was to have grown up with civil and professional radio broadcasters such as Eddie Schwartz, Steve King, and Clark Weber.  As a teenager I never knew radio to be ill-tempered, lewd, or boorish.

I still recall  an awesome snowstorm that hit Chicago, but one that missed central Wisconsin.  As a boy I wanted the snow in my backyard, but instead turned to Eddie Schwartz  as he broadcast hour after hour about how Chicago was crippled by the snow and wind.  I recall being in my bedroom and feeling like I was there in the midst of a wild storm.  As he talked with snowplow operators, police, and folks trying to get off the expressways I understood the power and intimacy of radio.  I suspect that there are few young people today who can comprehend what I am talking about.

I am so moved by this tremendous honor for one of the nicest men to have ever graced the airwaves.


Steve King And Johnnie Putman Included In WGN Radio Walk Of Fame

I called them essential overnight radio. My partner, James, called them his babysitters.  However they are described one thing remains clear.  Steve and Johnnie at times known as ‘Him and Her’ were simply the best at what they did on WGN radio.

Now Steve King and Johnnie Putman was to be honored in the WGN radio Walk Of Fame.  I am super pleased to hear the news this morning.  With over 6,2oo broadcasts under their belts during almost 26 years Steve and Johnnie deserve the honor. I might note those broadcasts were not only a couple of hours at a time, but instead were longer than 5 hour stretches!

I will never forger the time I was interviewed on their program.

Each Tuesday night they devote a portion of an hour segment of their nearly six-hour talk show to the topic of cars.  As such from time to time they like to talk on-air with car buyers about the pros and cons of their recent purchase.  I bought a new VW Beetle in mid-January and contacted them with the news.  Within hours their producer had called me back saying they would be interested in doing a segment on my car.  

It was a blast, and highly conversational in tone.  For about 20 minutes I gave my views on the latest version of the VW Beetle, including the changes in exterior molding, seat design, engine performance, and over-all appeal.  To be honest for a guy who never knew much about cars in general, I have many thoughts about the actual cars I have bought and owned.  It was also good to discover this morning that I am not alone when I name my cars….but that might be a separate post.  It was a real kick to be on the airwaves again, and this time over WGN Radio!    And Steve and Johnnie made it easy and fun.


Steve King and Johnnie Putman

There is much to be pleased with when it comes to the entire group of broadcasters to be honored Friday, May 29th with a ceremony and live broadcast from 1-2pm at the Tribune Tower at 435 N Michigan.  The full list also includes Steve Bertrand, Lyle Dean, Dave Eanet, Franklyn MacCormack, Lou Manfredini,  Ward Quaal, Ron Santo and Eddie Schwartz.

I will have a separate post about Eddie Schwartz as he is a personal favorite from my teenage years and was talked about in my book Walking Up The Ramp.  All the luminaries will be commemorated in bronze plaques placed outside the Allstate Showcase Studio.

An institution for more than 25 years as Chicago’s #1 overnight radio show, husband and wife Steve King and Johnnie Putman featured everything from the whimsical to the technological to the serious on their five to six-hour broadcasts. Their show was a spotlight for music as well, including record releases, live performances and “A Little More Les” segments, stemming from their conversations with close friend and electric guitar creator Les Paul.

Another Air Crash Mystery–Terrorism Front And Center

Needless to say the plane that crashed into the side of a mountain is making for lots of discussion at our home.  To the point–did a Germanwings pilot deliberately fly his Airbus A320 into the side of a mountain?

BULLETIN – BBC: “The [28-year-old] co-pilot of the Germanwings flight that crashed into the French Alps wanted to ‘destroy the plane’ … French prosecutors, citing information from the cockpit voice recorder said the co-pilot took sole control of plane and intentionally started its descent. The pilot had just left the cockpit and was locked out.”

–AP: “Just before crash, Germanwings passengers could be heard screaming on audio. … Co-pilot, alone at the controls, … was conscious until impact.

CNN is reporting the worst news of all.


The co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525 purposely crashed the plane into the French Alps on Tuesday, killing all 150 people on board, officials said Thursday.

“We at Lufthansa are speechless that this aircraft has been deliberately crashed by the co-pilot,” said Carsten Spohr, CEO of Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings.

Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said the co-pilot, 28-year-old German national Andreas Lubitz, apparently “wanted to destroy the aircraft.”

It’s unknown whether Lubitz planned his actions in advance, Robin said. But he “took advantage” of a moment in which the pilot left the cockpit and “activated the descent,” which can only be done deliberately.