Words Matter

Several days ago I posted about a UW professor who stated the Affordable Care bill was “slammed through” congress.   I pointed out that was not in any way a correct assessment of the facts concerning how the bill moved through the legislative process.  One might be for the bill, or opposed to the bill, but there is no way to not recognize how the process actually played out.

As someone who has worked in broadcasting and reported a fair share of news stories, handled press relations in a legislator’s office which included writing at least one press release each week I know one thing for certain. Words matter.

Tonight while reading a book about the 1800 election, A Magnificent Catastrophe, by Edward Larson a perfect example from the pages of history jump out to make yet another point about why this is true.

John Fries was a Revolutionary War officer who in 1799 organized and led about 400 farmers to protest the paying of federal taxes. He and many others were arrested. President Adams asked his cabinet members for their ideas about how to proceed with several key members of the group, including Fries. Every member stated that he should hang for his offenses.

But after some thinking for reasons that ranged far and wide as the 1800 election neared Adams decided the activity that Fries was engaged in was a “riot” and not an “insurrection”.  Fries’ life was spared with a presidential pardon.

Words matter.

My father came from a generation where a handshake and “your word” were as solid as a legal document. I felt the sting of words slurred at me in my growing up years in school. And I have felt the power of “I love you” as an adult.

Over the years I have rejected calling everyone a hero for showing up on time for a job and then falling victim to terrorism. I am not one who calls everyone a superstar for having a high-priced promoter and a single song in the top ten.   To be the best, a classic, The King, one-of-a-kind and any other such label is just another way to underscore that words matter in all parts of our life. Too often words are taken lightly, misused, and over time then ring hollow.

But for me it is most troubling when words are used to misrepresent facts that need to be understood by our nation when it comes to policy. With enough effort partisan spin can be placed on just about everything. The damage this causes our nation when words are used to erase facts, or to create a new version of events far removed from what actually occurred must never be allowed to stand.   The misuse of words needs to be called out.

Bigoted Donald Trump Perfect Problem For Republican Party

Anyone who watched only the snippets of Donald Trump’s announcement that he is now a presidential candidate for the Republican nomination knew he was aiming more for personal ego- stroking than anything serious politically. The guy is a nut.

But even nuts can cause damage. In this case, Trump damaged his party and himself.

With language that no one with any serious notion of being a candidate would ever make he went out of his way to insult Hispanics and Latinos. He disparaged people crossing the border as “bringing drugs… bringing crime… rapists,” to our nation. It was simply appalling.

In one harsh brush stroke Trump as a Republican candidate smeared 54 million people.   The GOP which has been trying to find a solution to the national electoral problem they have with these voters started to sweat. And rightly so.

Meanwhile the rest of us–which included huge swaths of the nation who are not Hispanic–sought a remedy.

Today we found it.

NBCUniversal cut all ties to the bigot with the God-awful hair. In case you want to know how he combs that mess check it out here.

The Miss USA pageant, scheduled for July 12, will no longer air on the network. Nor will the Miss Universe pageant, scheduled for next January. Both pageants were, until now, jointly owned by NBC and Trump.

Lets be honest about these shows. They have no where to go as no broadcast operation is willing to throw a lifeline to a bigot because there will be a severe backlash. (One can also make a clear line of reasoning why pageants are outdated and ridiculous.)  In others words the only person who thinks a piece of crap can be picked up from the clean end seems to be Trump, and it now seems like he is holding a bag of pure poo that no one wants.

The GOP deserves to have the problems that comes with Trump.  Too many of them have not divorced themselves from the anti-immigrant rants from the far-right crowd of angry white men.  They fail to understand how they are only assets to Democrats in national races.

Trump is an idiot and while the majority of the country understands that there will be just enough Republicans who keep his numbers afloat to make him a thorn for the GOP—a thorn that will not be forgotten in the general election.

Democrats could not have engineered a better mess for the Republican Party if they had tried.

Fourth Of July Flags–Part Four

There was no breeze to speak of during the day we had the Betsy Ross flag up–so the picture is not very impressive.  In fact, I waited all day for the flag to unfurl in the wind and finally just took a photo at night prior to taking it down.

The Betsy Ross flag is an early design of the flag of the United States, popularly — but very likely incorrectly — attributed to Betsy Ross, using the common motifs of alternating red-and-white striped field with five-pointed stars in a blue canton. The flag was designed during the American Revolution and features 13 stars to represent the original 13 colonies. The distinctive feature of the Ross flag is the arrangement of the stars in a circle.

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Cutting To The Core Of Confederate Flag Issue

One of the ways I look at the controversy surround the Confederate flag is akin to how I try to be a good neighbor. I do not mow the grass at 8 A.M. or have lights on my home—even though I live on a corner– that shines into the windows of others.   If we know something is genuinely troubling and hurtful for others than why continue to do it?  It is rather a simple way to live and also a proper way to reflect on matters such as the flag.

There are many people who feel intimidated and fearful of what the Confederate flag represents. We also know the flag became a governmental symbol in the early 1960’s as the civil rights era was gaining momentum. So we need to ask what matters more—knowing there are people who are impacted by the flag in negative ways or some ‘right’ that did not exhibit itself on buildings until nearly 100 years after the Civil war ended?   I opt for caring about people who are pained by symbol of hate.

The leaders from both parties who have come out for the removal of the flag this past week are correct, and in short order this hateful image will be a sight for historical exhibits.  Being a good neighbor is also a good way to view the role of a being a thoughtful politician.

12-Year-Old George Winslow Gives Honest Answer, Ends Career

Once again it is an obituary that brought a smile.

George Winslow, a child actor with a deep, raspy voice and deadpan delivery who made a big move on Marilyn Monroe in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” died on June 14 at his home in Camp Meeker, Calif. He was 69.

It was not his death, of course, that brought about my reaction, but instead the following.

George Winslow retired from show business in 1958, at the age of 12, and no wonder. When his film contract with 20th Century Fox was being approved in 1953, the presiding judge asked him if he liked to act. He answered, “Nope — not a bit.”

It Is The Small Things That Matter

Saturday we had three married couples and some kids to our home for a cookout prior to the fireworks show on Lake Monona. One of the children, a four-year-old girl, is at our home at least once a day as she lives close by. She asked if there was room at the picnic table next to me and squeezed in. I asked if she would like milk for dinner, and then went inside to pour her a cup.

Once seated again at the table she leaned into my ear and whispered, “Can I tell you something?”

I said, “Sure.”

She leans in close again and whispers, “I love you.”   I smile and ask why.

She responds, “Because you brought me chocolate milk.”

At the very heart of it life is wonderful and so simple.

Setting The Critics Straight Over Same-Sex Marriage Court Ruling

Editorial pages around the nation have some remarkable writing this morning about the Supreme Court ruling that underscored the constitutional right for same-sex marriages.  One of the best was printed in The New York Times.

The humane grandeur of the majority’s opinion stands out all the more starkly in contrast to the bitter, mocking small-mindedness of the dissents, one each by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito Jr. and Antonin Scalia.

Faced with a simple statement of human equality, the dissenters groped and scratched for a way to reject it.

The chief justice compared the ruling to some of the most notorious decisions in the court’s history, including Dred Scott v. Sandford, the 1857 ruling holding that black people could not be American citizens and that Congress could not outlaw slavery in the territories; and Lochner v. New York, a 1905 case that is widely rejected today as an example of justices imposing their own preferences in place of the law.

He invoked the traditional understanding of marriage, which he ascribed to, among others, Kalahari bushmen, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs. But Justice Kennedy had a ready reply: “The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest.”

Justice Scalia mocked the ruling as a “judicial Putsch” and a threat to American democracy. “This is a naked judicial claim to legislative — indeed, super-legislative — power,” he wrote. “A system of government that makes the people subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.”

But that rant is wholly wrong. In American democracy, the judicial branch is the great bulwark against a majority’s refusal to recognize a minority’s fundamental constitutional rights. As Justice Kennedy wrote, “An individual can invoke a right to constitutional protection when he or she is harmed, even if the broader public disagrees and even if the legislature refuses to act.”

Ten Days In June

Yesterday I posted about the amazing week we just lived through–a history making week.

Today, The New Yorker,  one of the best magazines in the nation, weighs in with a powerful read about Ten Days In June.

“I have strengths and I have weaknesses, like every President, like every person,” Obama told me. “I do think one of my strengths is temperament. I am comfortable with complexity, and I think I’m pretty good at keeping my moral compass while recognizing that I am a product of original sin. And every morning and every night I’m taking measure of my actions against the options and possibilities available to me, understanding that there are going to be mistakes that I make and my team makes and that America makes; understanding that there are going to be limits to the good we can do and the bad that we can prevent, and that there’s going to be tragedy out there and, by occupying this office, I am part of that tragedy occasionally, but that, if I am doing my very best and basing my decisions on the core values and ideals that I was brought up with and that I think are pretty consistent with those of most Americans, that, at the end of the day, things will be better rather than worse.”