Merry Christmas From Caffeinated Politics…Blogger Returns Jan. 1st

It is that point of the year when this blogger turns from the keyboard to the cupboard as making cookies–and sampling them, of course, takes center stage. For the next couple of weeks it is all about the Holiday Season that unfolds with simplicity–if we just embrace it.

The angst that some continually bring to this time each year has always been lost on me. Embrace winter, make that seasonal beverage when the cold bites, and snap a photo of the snow scene from the perspective a 7-year-old might view it. With this most unique of years being a factor over the Holidays just make the needed adjustments, knowing that next year at this time things will be remarkably improved. But having said that we should not lose sight of enjoying this one. The reason for the season remains ever-true!

Find the things which make you smile, both currently and from memories……and get on with your Christmas and Holiday Season!

From the memory file, my mom’s favorite song at Christmas was “Silver Bells”.  She too knew the joy of the snow on the trees all over the countryside, but loved the sights of the city in December. Same holds true for me….especially the city lights.

James and I have a 20-year tradition together of making Christmas come alive with decorations and lights. This year with all three floors of our Victorian home to use we think the results about equal the number of trees at the Governor’s Mansion. If not, well, we certainly did try!

Each year we have a memory tree with those special objects, be they 60-year-old measuring spoons, or a small coin purse from a relative long gone, or gift tags now laminated, and of course each year, my nephew Trevor Dean’s Sunday School Christmas star decoration.

And then these are the other trees up this year at our home.

Organic Vegetables By Mail Perfect In Pandemic…Give Yourself A Box Of Smiles

Since April James and I have been ordering groceries online and having them placed in the trunk of our car. While I very much appreciate the folks at the store–and let them know each trip–it is not always a perfect experience when it comes to fresh produce. Some younger people are not as aware of vegetables and how to select them for sale. As such, we have been seeking out an alternate way to get fresh vegetables.

And doing so with safety during this pandemic.

James became aware of Misfits Market where they sell organic veggies! Misfits Market is a produce based box subscription, where food deemed too imperfect to sell is instead packaged up and mailed at a fraction of the cost one would pay at the grocery store! And let’s be honest, who wants to be in any store at the present time? But look at the photos below and tell me the food is imperfect!

Today we received our first insulated box. We ordered the large one for $30.00 (Madness Box), but a smaller one can be ordered, too. They allow you to choose the products desired–in other words, one does not get a bale of kale! The orders come every two weeks or once a week per your preference.  

We received today….Zucchini Yellow Summer Squash Medium Yellow Onions Yellow Potatoes Savoy Cabbage Green Leaf Lettuce Napa Cabbage Romaine Lettuce Red Radishes, Bunched Red Beets Fuji Apples Lemons Grapefruit Eggplant

While we have ordered portions of animals for the freezers during this pandemic it has been much harder to come by fresh veggies. The arrival of these items on a cloudy gray December day and the way they were packaged is most appreciated.

Making our way through this time requires thinking outside the box…..which leads us to a box!

Merit Selection For Supreme Court Gets Editorial Backing

I was most pleased to see merit selection for the justices on the state supreme court received solid support in an important newspaper in our state. This is a foundation topic at Caffeinated Politics, as it would greatly aid in the strengthening of our democracy.

The Beloit Daily News wrote an editorial regarding Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Brian Hagedorn who was the sole conservative on the bench to demonstrate fealty to our Constitution and election process following the November balloting. As such he is receiving much news coverage for his strongly held views.

What stands out so wonderfully from the editorial, apart from the accurate summation of how Hagedorn has upheld the law, is the newspaper’s clear writing about the need for merit selection.

We have been among those disillusioned by the outright politicization of the state Supreme Court over the last several election cycles. Despite the theoretical nonpartisan nature of judicial elections, anyone paying attention easily can determine which candidate represents the Democrat side and which the Republican side. Big dollars flow, with the purpose of trying to elect a reliable left- or right-wing court. By all appearances, the strategy has been working.

But when high stakes partisan cases arrive at the court, the split has been evident. Expectations have been evident, too, with harsh reactions from the right when Hagedorn dared to break ranks and follow what he believes the law requires.

Justice Hagedorn deserves praise, not condemnation, for demonstrating that rarest of qualities in this hyper-partisan era—judicial independence. He’s still a conservative jurist, and we’re OK with that. What he’s proving, though, is that he’s not necessarily a partisan jurist, and all of Wisconsin should be pleased with that.

Unfortunately, Justice Hagedorn also is an aberration as a swing vote. He is flanked on the left and right by three reliable partisans when a case involves political matters.

The court is still broken.

In the past, we have advocated for abandoning elections in favor of a merit appointment system to fill vacancies on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Such a system would not remove governors and legislators from the process. Rather, it would add a layer with the sole intent of finding candidates for appointment who are loyal to the law, not a political movement or party. Nearly half the states use some form of merit commission for nominations, not only for Supreme Court positions but often for appellate and trial courts. Commissions are charged with creating a list of potential nominees, considered solely on their merits and independence, then submitting the list to the governor for nomination, and the legislature for confirmation.

This topic is one of the issues where my thinking has evolved to the largest degree over time. Thirty years ago I was a strong supporter of the election process which allowed state citizens a direct voice in electing judges.  I admit there seems something very ‘American’ about the process.  I know there is still a very strong public desire for such elections, as people think that this balloting allows them to make for a better court system. 

But what is happening to the role of justice in Wisconsin with the blending of very costly campaigns that blur into political races should concern all of us.  The end result is not a better court system, but instead a fractured and deteriorated one. 

As such I sincerely say thanks for the Beloit Daily News editorial about this needed change.

John Nygren Deceived Voters, Takes Lobbying Job After Winning Election

When it comes to shameless acts it would be rather difficult to one-up former State Representative John Nygren. The incumbent resigned his elected office after having won it on November 3rd so to become a lobbyist for the Wisconsin Association of Health Plans. In so doing he underscores why Republican campaigns about fiscal austerity and personal accountability are as solid as Donald Trump giving lessons on marriage fidelity.

One might assume the maneuvering to secure this new job took place before the election, meaning that Nygren deceived the voters about his intentions in running and serving once elected. If he did not seek the job prior to the voting then he has a character flaw that would allow him, once elected, to spurn those who had just cast a ballot for him.

Winning an election, then resigning the following month, only to take a job to exert pressure on former colleagues is something that most candidates, in good conscience, could not do. Most candidates have more respect for not only themselves but also for the voters they recently asked for support. Disdaining the election process and the voters are unseemly.

Nygren is like the person who accepted a dinner invitation but at the last moment discovered a better offer. That is just not a good color on anyone.

Frustration With U.S. Senate Makes For Grand Ole Opry Reference

If you follow the actions of the United State Senate…or should I say antics…you will note that not much of substance has been achieved over the past many months.

One of the great desires that this blogger has pushed over the years is an infrastructure package. I had hoped that the Trump Administration would have led with that pressing need in January 2017. Needless to say there is no such legislation awaiting a presidential signature as 2020 comes to a close.

After the transformative changes our nation is processing relating to social justice and racial equality the Senate is found wanting as bills for police policy is right under that of infrastructure. We know the pandemic stimulus package that was needed back in September still has not found a time to get a vote on the floor. The political gamesmanship has created more than a serious logjam over legislation, it has put millions of our fellow citizens into great fiscal uncertainty. Even more of them the day after Christmas!

We all witness congressional dysfunction in our morning newspaper and the evening news. But it was stated most perfectly last week when retiring Republican Senator Lamar Alexander from Tennessee stated the Senate is “like joining the Grand Ole Opry and not being able to sing.”

That sums up the last year in the Senate perfectly. And sadly.

Vicki McKenna And The ‘F’ Word

I stumbled onto conservative radio host Vicki McKenna’s Twitter account after someone retweeted her undemocratic views regarding our supreme court and the recent election. I have not thought about her for years, but what I soon discovered is that she likes to toss around the ‘F’ bomb. In fact, she lobbed it again today.

But at least today she used it only once as opposed to December 10th where in the allocated space of 280 characters she got it in print twice. We all have a skill, I guess.

I call this out not as one who wishes to censor language. But I do feel it is a duty of ‘the rank and file’ to call out activity that undermines our society. She has a professional job as a radio show host and with that comes a responsibility to behave as others are always paying attention. Because of that, I left the following comments for her.

We can disagree on the topic at hand, but your word usage is one we all can agree not to be professional. If wrong when used by a segment of the UW-Madison student section during Saturday football games in past, then wrong here, too.

No doubt level of vulgar speech and ease which it is dispensed has increased over decades. No one can lay claim to living in perfect times where cursing was never heard, but no one can honestly state that our discourse has not become harsher, more profane.

I grew up watching each Sunday afternoon Firing Line with William F. Buckley Jr.; without doubt one of the nation’s most erudite conservative political writers and thinkers of the 20th century. I recall being in awe that someone could have such a rich and diverse vocabulary.  He was unlike anyone else on television. With the way he used his words an ordinary sentence was almost poetry.  While listening to his program I would try to learn new words for my own usage.  Never once did I hear him curse or use profanities. But then he was not an insecure person.  

What I found very concerning about the word choice of McKenna is that conservatives often, and correctly, call out the coarsening of our society. Part of that comes with the nasty tweets, the bluster, and bombast that so many of them claim not to be in line with their values. And yet…….

Just two months ago I read a book by Simon Winchester about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. As of November 2005, it contained approximately 301,100 main entries. In other words, there are scores of ways to convey our sentiments about every topic we encounter. We can choose to show self-respect, or we can take the opposite path.

For the record, this blog has called out John “Sly” Sylvestor, Congressman Mark Pocan, and others for cursing in ‘the public square’. I just firmly believe that the grain of good taste and decency needs to be planted by those who have chosen careers that place them as public people.

And so it goes.

I Live With A “Dr.”, Wall Street Journal Column Demeaning

This year a shockingly low subscription price was offered to me for The Wall Street Journal. Considering it was an election year, and we were staying at home to ward off COVID meant I jumped at the deal. This past week a shockingly lowbrow column was published about higher education and the honorifics that come with time, money, and brain power spent on attaining a Ph. D. A DML, in the case of my better half.

Joseph Epstein wrote a demeaning, misogyny-laden, and truly dismissive column about soon-to-be First Lady Jill Biden. What ignites passions and national outrage, including those same sentiments in this home, stem from how sneering he was when speaking of Biden, who in her 50s, acquired an EdD from the University of Delaware. That is wonderful as a story, all in itself. She has used that education in her job as a community college professor and plans to continue this meaningful work through her husband’s presidential term. And she has every right to be called a Doctor.

So it rankles deeply when Epstein labeled Biden using the title of “Dr.” as “highfalutin and misleading”. He then even writes of Biden that “no one should call himself Dr. unless he has delivered a child.”

On the one hand, I am not shocked that expertise and higher education has once again faced the belittled and scornful treatment from a conservative. Anyone with a resume or credentials is labeled as an elitist, as that makes it easier for white males holding onto their resentments to get up in the morning. No one should be shocked that Epstein would have such views as he even used the N-word in a homophobic rant. So we need to place the treatment of Biden in the context of who penned it.

“There is much my four sons can do in their lives that might cause me anguish, that might outrage me, that might make me ashamed of them and of myself as their father. But nothing they could ever do would make me sadder than if any of them were to become homosexual,” Epstein wrote in the essay’s concluding paragraph.

But the lack of regard for the University conferring an EdD on Biden is stunning to see in print. I find it a sad commentary about our society–and that is what Epstein showcases–when Biden’s education is considered superfluous. While not everyone will attend college or some form of higher education it is vitally important that we not in any way disparage those who have the skills to do so. Higher education, of the type Biden attained, is at its very root a means to specialize in new ideas, loftier thoughts, and discover new ways to think, ponder, and analyze.  To then attempt to squander those efforts with the dribble from Epstein is simply unconscionable.

“Madame First Lady — Mrs. Biden — Jill — kiddo: a bit of advice on what might seem like a small but I think is not an unimportant matter,” writer Joseph Epstein began. “Any chance you might drop the ‘Dr.’ before your name? ‘Dr. Jill Biden’ sounds and feels a touch fraudulent, not to mention comical.”

For the record, the title of Biden’s dissertation, “Student Retention at the Community College Level” is not as Epstein writes, “unpromising.” Rather my husband, who was a college professor, continually confronted the college to work at retaining students. We know what a degree means. And we know what happens when higher education is treated shabbily, as too many conservatives are wont to do. Most often women have the most issues to confront in continuing their education. The earning potential for staying enrolled is obvious, as is the loss of a lifetime of earnings by not. Biden’s work in this area is extremely important.

I was most disappointed that the newspaper allowed for such a now-discredited column that was sexist and utterly contemptuous of education to be published.

Martha Raddatz On-Air Flub Provides Valuable Lesson To Nation

This morning ABC host Martha Raddatz of This Week made a verbal tongue-twist on air when doing a lead-in to a segment. She gives a raspberry and speaks to her camera person about a do-over. There is a cutaway from the desk, but soon the reporter is back with the rest of the program.

It would appear that the lead-in was a snippet to be used between commercials as a way to keep viewers alerted as to what was to follow on the program. Somehow that flub was sent down the line to the stations for airing.

The reason I mention this has nothing to do with Raddatz as a broadcaster. It is hard to perform without errors behind a microphone. Rather this post is about too many in this nation who as-of-late never seem to acknowledge the blunders made, along with the need to make them right.

We did not just happen to land at 300,000 dead people in this nation from COVID by a wrong move from one person, but rather by a series of collective errors, and worse even at times willful ones. It is too late for the ones now buried but for the rest of this nation, it is time to buckle down and admit science and medical professionals know best on how to proceed with fighting this virus.

Our country is at a most dire time with caseloads and hospitalizations so it is absolutely imperative that we undertake a collective do-over in stopping the spread of this virus. Bending the curve from where we now find ourselves will be extraordinarily hard. But we have no other choice.

Raddatz knew when to just stop talking and concede the line being delivered was going nowhere. Our nation needs to admit the carefree and lackadaisical manner that has placed our nation in this public health crisis must be curtailed.

Our nation needs a massive do-over.