Following Xenophobic State Of Union Address…….

….James and I will start to binge watch this evening what many saw years ago.

After the most troubling SOTU speech ever can Season One of House Of Cards not be something lighter?  So if you drive by our home and see the lights glowing at 1 AM do not think we are up and sick with the flu.  We have been removing ourselves from all sorts of situations where that might be the outcome.  No, rather the lights being on means watching Frank Underwood required a sandwich and more chocolate milk.


Why Monona Grove School District Should Not Ban “To Kill A Mockingbird”

Censoring books is never a good idea.

The Monona Grove School District is looking into whether it should continue teaching To Kill a Mockingbird after a parent complained that the racially charged language in the novel is inappropriate.   At present the book is on the school’s required reading list.  A five-person committee is working to determine if the book should stay in the classroom. The final decision will be made in two weeks.

Why this embarrasses many in our area is that it appears we have no more ability to digest and discuss thought-provoking books than people in Mississippi.  To Kill a Mockingbird was removed last fall from a junior-high reading list in a Mississippi school district.  According to the Biloxi Sun Herald, school administrators pulled the classic novel from their 8th-grade curriculum because of complaints that some of the book’s language “makes people uncomfortable.”

Well hold on Nelly!  Lets think about the matter of words used in the book and place them into a larger conversation.

I deplore the word ‘nigger’.  I do not want that word used in common every-day conversation, and can say I have no friends that do use such language.

But there comes a time when the word ‘nigger’ in books conveys the tone and message required, such as in Huckleberry Finn that many of us read as youngsters in conjunction with Tom Sawyer.  At least I did.  In fact, Huckleberry Finn was a classroom text for me and my school peers.

I mention Huckleberry Finn that was penned in 1884 because it is now being published in some editions without the word ‘nigger’.  In its place is the more sterile word ‘slave’.  I find this censorship highly troubling.  To add salt to this wound is also the removal of the word “injun”.  Again, not  a word we want used today, but one that puts the reader into the times of which the author has constructed his book.

I think it asinine to touch the words penned by Mark Twain.  I have enough problems when some in Hollywood condone colorizing old films.  But when someone remakes the words of a classic read I really do cringe.

Racism was, and remains a real and troubling part of our society.  To attempt to whitewash it from a text–or remove the book from a reading list–takes away the one thing that we need more than anything else.  That being a protracted and highly engaged conversation about racism.  Alan Gribben is a professor of English at Auburn University at Montgomery in Alabama and a Mark Twain scholar, and is responsible for the censoring of Huckleberry Finn in what he describes as an attempt to get the book back in the hands of high school literature courses.

While I heartily applaud the desire to have youth read Huckleberry Finn, I reject the idea of Gribben’s means to achieve it.  To not address racism in the manner it was presented in the book by Twain removes a great teaching moment for the folks who will read it.

Even after the many decades of work and public policy aimed to construct our society to be more equal we are still limited from a real dialogue on racism.  If we can not get over the mere usage of the word ‘nigger’ in a text as highly praised as in Too Kill A Mockingbird  or in Huckleberry Finn how can we move to a higher  level of awareness in our communities or legislatures when confronting racism?

I would suggest that instead of schools banning books they should work to include as many  banned ones as possible into the curriculum so to foster ideas, debate, and awareness.  The confrontation with reality, and the pricklier topics that through exploration opens our horizons for a stronger and healthier society, should start in a classroom.

And so it goes.

Amelia Royko Maurer Vs. The Truth

Here at Caffeinated Politics facts matter and truth reigns.  Basic 101 from working as a broadcaster and then in the statehouse.   So when there is a wide gap between the facts and what one wishes to spin—well –expect to be called out on the carpet.

That is precisely what blogger David Blaska has done regarding the artful storytelling of Amelia Royko Maurer at a recent Madison City Council meeting.  I take the liberty of using a portion of that blog to make a point which much demands to be known.

At its January 16 meeting, Ms. Royko-Maurer told the Madison Common Council that police refused to respond to her call for help because of her anti-cop activism.

This week, MPD Captain Jason Freedman responded:

During her public comment at the January 16 Common Council meeting, Ms. Amelia Royko-Maurer referenced an incident involving a family member and made several statements suggesting that she did not receive a response or adequate service from the Central Police District.  Those comments did not accurately reflect the level of service provided by MPD, and I feel compelled to provide some additional information regarding the incident and our response.

  • Ms. Royko-Maurer called dispatch reference the incident and indicated that she preferred to receive a phone call from the officer.
  • An officer did return her phone call shortly after being dispatched.
  • The officer checked the area for the subjects and collected video of potential involved parties; weeks later that same officer attempted to track down individuals who may have been involved (without success).
  • At Ms. Royko-Maurer’s request, a female officer interviewed her daughter; the interview took place at Ms. Royko-Maurer’s residence and in the presence of Ms. Royko-Maurer.
  • The daughter told the officer the subjects never made any threatening or solicitous remarks or statements to her.
  • The daughter told the officer that her 9-year-old friend who was with her did not appear to be disturbed by the incident.
  • Five reports were generated by two officers; the MPD case is #2017-342775.

I spoke at length with Ms. Royko-Maurer during the investigation and again at the conclusion of the investigation.  I listened to her concerns and explained the process and the outcome.

Based on the investigation, I did not find probable cause that a crime was committed, nor were any subjects positively identified.  Lacking both of these elements, an individual cannot be arrested or cited for an offense.  Separately, I consulted with two lieutenants and asked for their review of this case; both advised that they did not find probable cause that a crime was committed; nor was a subject positively identified.

Following my last phone call with Ms. Royko-Maurer, another lieutenant contacted me about the case.  I provided that lieutenant with the case details and steps already taken and he concurred that there was no basis for further action or investigation.



Will Governing Get Even Harder After Mid-Term Elections?

Every week there seems to be another member of congress retiring.  As of this posting we are moving toward the 3 dozen mark.  Given the national angst, political rancor, and deeply disturbing actions of President Trump there is much reason to suggest Democrats will do very well at the mid-terms.  But as I ponder the full pie of possibilities there seems reason to suggest that even in a good case scenario at the ballot box–as the best case scenario is more a script for a movie than a possibility in November–there will be plenty of dysfunctionalism remaining to bedevil those who wish to make government operate.

There is no doubt at all given the retirements and nature of the districts where open seats exist that severe thinning out of Republican in blue states will take place.  While that means the Democrats gain in overall numbers in the House it also means that those Republicans from safe seats—notably the hard-right members of the Freedom Caucus—will have more power in their caucus.  As long-time readers to CP know the best route to effective governing takes place when a two-party system can compromise on the issues of the day.  If there is a hard-right House caucus to contend with then the art of compromise is nearly dead.  Remove the most effective moderate Republicans from blue states and the tone of the House changes.

The other matter that I simply have a hard time finding an answer to is how does Paul Ryan come out as a winner on Election Night?  Even if Democrats fall just short of a majority that means the three-thumbers are going to push for his removal.  They will demand a more hard-right Speaker.   Ryan is gone no matter what but how he stages his exit is the key to his future.

Historical Censorship In China Is Tool Of CCP

The continuing governmental practice of not allowing China’a past to be understood and factored into the present makes for a good read in Foreign Affairs.  (One free read per month.) 

Tiffert spells out what it means when Chinese historians run afoul of party censors. They confront, he writes, “a sliding scale of penalties, including harassment by the authorities, closure of publications and online accounts, humiliating investigations into personal affairs, business activities and tax status, and ultimately unemployment, eviction, and criminal prosecution.” Last year, Chinese civil law was even amended to punish “those who infringe upon the name, likeness, reputation, or honor of a hero, martyr, and so forth, harming the societal public interest,” writes Tiffert, which explains why “previously outspoken intellectuals and activists are going silent.” 

Tiffert also reports that “the Chinese government is leveraging technology to quietly export its domestic censorship regime abroad . . . , by manipulating how observers everywhere comprehend its past, present, and future.” Indeed, last summer, Beijing hectored Cambridge University Press into sanitizing the digital archive of The China Quarterly, an important English-language academic journal, by removing over 300 articles the CCP found objectionable from its Chinese search function. (The publisher reversed its decision days after a number of news outlets reported on its initial capitulation.) Then, last November, Springer Nature, the publisher of such titles as Nature and Scientific American, eliminated from its Chinese websites a large number of articles that included politically sensitive references—more than 1,000 articles in all, according to the Financial Times.

Paul Ryan’s House Takes Russian Government’s Side Over The FBI Of The United States

It can be no more plain than the headline to this post.

Every time one thinks the partisan nature of Washington can not get more vile, or the erosion of norms or the undermining of our national institutions could not get more dire we are dealt yet another blow.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee disregarded Justice Department warnings that their actions would be “extraordinarily reckless,” and voted late today to release a contentious secret memorandum said to accuse the department and the F.B.I. of misusing their authority to obtain a secret surveillance order on a former Trump campaign associate.

The vote threw fuel on an already fiery partisan conflict over the investigations into Russia’s brazen meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Republicans invoked a power never before used by the secretive committee to effectively declassify the memo that they had compiled. Democrats called the three-and-a half-page document a dangerous effort to build a narrative to undercut the department’s ongoing Russia investigation, using cherry-picked facts assembled with little or no context.

What comes next is less clear. Under the obscure House rule invoked by the committee, President Trump now has five days to review the document and decide whether to try to block it from going public. The White House has repeatedly indicated that it wants the memo out, but Mr. Trump’s Justice Department had been working to slow or block its release.

Lets cut this matter to the core.

This only proves that Congressman Nunes has something to hide. He was part of Trump’s transition team and there is no reason not to think he had some dealings with the Russians himself. If not, why go through all this trouble to do something so outrageous? So dangerous to the nation?  Shame on the other Republicans for going along with him.

That shame goes all the way up the pile to the rotting mess that now enters Speaker Paul Ryan’s office. Since Ryan seems not able to lead his caucus or steer it away from shameful and unpatriotic actions one has to ask what is becoming of our nation?

The foundations of our republican government are cracking in front of our eyes.

I Said Blue Moon Is A-Comin’ In Lunar Eclipse Real Soon—Comin’ Your Way Jan. 31,–Don’t Swoon, Just Croon At That Grand Ole Moon

This is going to be terrific.  Hat Tip to Solly for reminding me of this event.

On Wednesday, Jan. 31st, the second full Moon of January will pass through Earth’s shadow, producing a rare “Blue Moon Lunar Eclipse.” The Moon won’t look blue, however. Researchers are predicting a bright orange eclipse–a forecast based on studies of recent volcanic activity. Volcanoes, climate change, and lunar eclipses are linked in ways that might surprise you.  But that is for another science post down the road.

The eclipse will be visible from Asia, Australia, and western parts of North America. In the USA, the best time to look is during the hours before sunrise. The Moon makes first contact with the core of Earth’s shadow at 3:48 am Pacific Time, kicking off the partial eclipse. Totality begins at 4:52 am PST as Earth’s shadow engulfs the lunar disk for more than an hour. “Maximum orange” is expected around 5:30 am PST.

Should This Chicago Woman Make Us Question Airline Safety?

WGN radio has talked about this story often and it does raise the question of airline safety procedures.

This is not the first time Hartman has tried to fly without a ticket. She was caught trying to sneak onto flights at least ten times in 2014 and 2015, eventually spending a year in jail, the New York Post reports, and said she “may have” boarded a plane without buying a ticket eight times during an interview with NBC Channel 5 in December 2015. Prosecutors in Cook County, Illinois, called Hartman a “serial stowaway” in a 2015 court filing.

This time, she used a number of tricks to avoid detection. She allegedly began by hiding her face with her hair to sneak past two TSA agents who were monitoring a security line at O’Hare International Airport. Once she got past security, Hartman attempted to board a plane to Connecticut, but she was told to sit down after trying to move around another passenger waiting in line, the Tribune reports.