My Letter In Support Of Simpson Street Newspaper Published In State Paper

I very much support the efforts of the Simpson Street newspaper.  I was pleased my views were published in a recent edition of the Wisconsin State Journal.

Creating an interest in writing, gaining editing skills, understanding fact-based writing, along with the thrill of publication can not be underestimated for those young people.

Death-Throes For JC Penny

I write this post with deep regret.

JC Penny is where middle-America has shopped for decades. I grew up with this store.  My mom bought me the suit in this store for my first day at Wisconsin statehouse.

The struggling retailer had an April 15 due date to make a $12 million interest payment. J.C. Penney said it would allow the due date to pass, noting that it has a “30-day grace period” for repayment before defaulting on the loans.

Despite the many challenges that have plagued the once-proud department store giant, J.C. Penney is still an American icon. Understandably, I want to be careful in how I address this sensitive topic. But no matter how I look at it, at now-less-than 25 cents, JCP stock screams trouble. Ultimately, I believe most people would prefer the honest truth rather than disingenuous fluff.

Frankly, J.C. Penney was as at great risk for collapse before the novel coronavirus struck the U.S. According to CNBC, 2019 was a record year for store closures. From what we’re seeing already, this year could trump those figures, no pun intended.

Recalling Richard Nixon On Anniversary Of His Funeral

Longtime readers are well aware of my deep interest in the life and times of Richard Nixon.

President Nixon’s state funeral was held on this day in 1994 at the Nixon Library.   The photo below shows the enormity of the event. 

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The funeral was attended by 4,000 individuals, including all five living U.S. Presidents and their First Ladies, a congressional delegation of over 100 members, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and foreign diplomatic corps of over 200.

President Nixon was eulogized by President Bill Clinton, Governor Pete Wilson, Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. 

The funeral was officiated by the Reverend Dr. Billy Graham, a longtime friend of the Nixon family.

Not Willing To Die Of Stupid!

Hitting the nail on the head!!

Leonard Pitts Jr. has written the best column that I have read during the last week.  Perfectly stated.

Someday, I’m going to die.

This, I grudgingly accept. I have no idea how it’s going to happen. Maybe I will die of having a tree fall on me, of eating tainted shellfish, or of being struck by lightning. But this much I guarantee. I will not die of having wagered my life that TV carnival barkers, political halfwits and MAGA-hat-wearing geniuses know more than experts with R.N.s, M.D.s, and Ph.D.s after their names.

In other words, I will not die of stupid.

Donald Trump And Lack Of Unity In Pandemic America

Our pandemic crisis is unique for the current generations.  We have not lived through something like this before.  It feels so different from the other horrors such as 9/11, or for those older, World War II.  But what seems so at odds with other crises, such as the Oklahoma bombing or the Challenger explosion, is the lack of empathy from a president.  In addition, is the partisan divide that has resulted in a lack of unity in a nation that has nearly 60,000 dead citizens.  And that number is growing.

We have always had a president in our nation who was able to show empathy and use the office and words to bring a nation together during times of crisis.  That quality of a president has never, perhaps, been understood more clearly than now when we view its glaring absence.

I was on-air at WDOR the night President Reagan spoke to the nation following the horrific explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger. In my lifetime there is perhaps no other speech that so clearly demonstrated the role of a president at times of national crisis, or the heights of rhetorical balm that can come with the office.  I sat in the broadcast studio and was moved to tears.  Contrast national moments such as that one to the current occupant in the White House who continually stokes the anger and resentment of people for partisan advantage.

Trump is not able to either resist being mean or fails to grasp the need and the ability of his office to lift others up when they need the nation’s support.  For instance, I can not get out of my mind how Trump refused to keep the White House flag at half-mast to honor the late Senator John McCain.  It was only belatedly that he allowed his staff to put out a mildly laudatory statement in his name and allow the flag to be lowered.

Character matters.  We say those words often but also take the concept for granted.  When the lack of character is so obvious and smacks at us daily, it becomes a reminder of how much this nation lost when Trump secured the votes of the Electoral College.

As The New York Times pointed out today much of the reason for such a fractured and dismaying national moment is due to the actions and words of Donald Trump.

One of the recurring features of the Trump years has been the president’s knack for detonating so many of our powerful shared experiences into us-versus-them grenades. Whether it’s the anniversary of a national catastrophe like the Oklahoma City bombing, the death of a widely admired statesman (Senator John McCain) or a lethal pathogen, Mr. Trump has exhibited minimal interest in the tradition of national strife placing a pause upon the usual smallness of politics.

Mr. Clinton, historians said, always appreciated the power of big, bipartisan gestures, even when they involved incendiary rivals. “He understood the healing powers of the presidency,” said Ted Widmer, a presidential historian at City University of New York, and a former adviser to Mr. Clinton who assisted him in writing his memoirs. He mentioned a generous eulogy that Mr. Clinton delivered for disgraced former President Richard Nixon, after he died in 1994. “There is a basic impulse a president can have for when the country wants their leader to rise above politics and mudslinging,” Mr. Widmer said.

In that regard, Mr. Trump’s performance during this pandemic has been a missed opportunity. “The coronavirus could have been Donald Trump’s finest hour,” Mr. Widmer said. “You really sensed that Americans wanted to be brought together. But now that appears unattainable.”

For whatever reason, Mr. Trump seems uninterested in setting aside personal resentment, even when some small gestures — a photo op or a joint statement with Democratic leaders in Congress; a bipartisan pandemic commission chaired by former presidents — could score him easy statesmanship points.

Stalin’s Mass Grave Makes For Current Legal Case

This was one of the interesting news stories today that was not about the pandemic. Truly a great read.  In part, it read…..

The day began, like many others in her childhood years, with hours of tramping through an insect-infested forest with the family dog while her eccentric father, Yuri Dmitriev, wandered off to hunt in vain for corpses buried among the trees.

On that day more than 20 years ago, however, Mr. Dmitriev, an amateur but very determined historian, finally found the gruesome prize he had long been searching for — burial mounds containing the remains of political prisoners executed by Stalin’s secret police.

“Everything started here,” said Mr. Dmitriev’s 35-year-old daughter, Katerina Klodt, during a recent visit to the forest at Sandarmokh in Karelia, a peninsula in northern Russia. “My dad’s work has clearly made some people very uncomfortable.”

Mr. Dmitriev is now in jail, awaiting trial on what his family, friends and supporters dismiss as blatantly fabricated charges of pedophilia, an accusation that has frequently been used to discredit and silence voices the Russian authorities do not like.

An official in Karelia, Mr. Dmitriev’s home region next to Finland, complained last year that the jailed historian’s life work — the commemoration of Stalin’s victims at Sandarmokh forest — had created an “unfounded sense of guilt” and been used by “foreign powers for propaganda against Russia.”

In pursuit of a guilt-free version of Russia’s past, men in camouflage uniforms visited the same forest last summer to do their own digging, uncovering the remains of 16 corpses that they hope will prove that the killing at Sandarmokh was, at least in part, the work of foreigners, not just the Soviet secret police.

Sponsored by the Military Historical Society, a state-funded organization notorious for its nationalist take on Russian history, the diggers were looking for evidence to support a highly contested theory put forward by two Karelia historians. They argue that the thousands of people buried at Sandarmokh are not all Stalin’s victims but also include Soviet soldiers executed by the Finnish Army during World War II.

Humphrey’s History Video: Sam Rayburn

During Wisconsin’s Stay At Home order so to combat COVID-19 I am doing a series of 60-second grand stories from history.  Today I tell a story of Sam Rayburn which will bring a smile.