Pragmatism In Short Supply As Congressional Democrats Bicker

No one is going to care in November 2022 about the minutia of parliamentary procedure and the various ways power politics played out in the last week of September 2021. No one is going to care if progressive House lawmakers had to vote to pass the infrastructure bill before voting on the reconciliation plan.

What voters, however, will care about is if the popular infrastructure bill was passed and the promised upgrades to roads and bridges will impact their lives. And they will care about how exorbitant costs of infant care will be paid for.

But it also needs to be noted that not so long ago those same voters would consider even a trillion dollars in programming for a variety of national needs, which could be included in a separate and large reconciliation bill, would be a huge amount of federal monies that would be most beneficial for their communities.

But to get from the congressional bickering and narrow-eyed views of some Democratic members today and arrive at the point the party needs to be in for the mid-terms will require something that seems in desperate shortage.

Pragmatism.

Over the past week, I have wished for President Biden to be more forthright in a public way as to what he can accept, and equally what he is not able to allow when it comes to the large domestic spending bill. The moderates who want to play such a pivotal role in Democratic politics need to be equally forthcoming about how low they wish to drive the dollars for the bill. And last, but not least, progressives have to measure what they wish to achieve against perhaps in their zeal winding up losing the majority in the House.

Crafting legislation is never a smooth journey or one that is easy to watch. When it comes to massive spending measures or ones that will define a president it can be simply overwhelming. For citizens who tune in to watch such processes only occasionally, it must seem chaotic and totally baffling.

But come the mid-terms those same voters will be asking what resulted from the Democratic control of Washington? Elected Democrats need to have not only an answer, they need to have proven results.

It comes as no shock that I am not politically aligned with the likes of Senator Joe Manchin who prattles on about not wanting “to change our whole society to an entitlement mentality.” But I am also not aligned completely with some on the far left who seem unable to control expanding requests for a list of items, though I personally support, knowing some to be far ahead of the country’s appetite for such sweeping reforms.

I have never been one to say the public is overly well-informed, so to have Congress get too far ahead of where the nation is on climate control programs (though they are needed) is one area where restraint is needed. Solar tariffs are one area where the public is lagging behind with information, and the wrong turn by Congress could greatly harm the industry stateside. These are the types of issues that if not handled adroitly now will have consequences come the mid-terms.

It is great to dream bold, and I often have said on this blog we need to do more of that very thing when it comes to national policy. With such policy moves, however, comes the dose of reality. Any President of the United States, or Speaker of the House, or Senate Majority Leader must understand from the start the best way to succeed is knowing pragmatism and compromise must be constantly used in governing.  All parts of the process are now needing to comes to terms with that fact.

I have faith that at the end of this process in Washington there will be an infrastructure bill, reconciliation bill, and, of course, a debt ceiling increase. How the large domestic measure looks, and what amount of funding is included will be up to the compromising needs of creating legislation with the needed votes for passage.

And so it goes.

Debt Ceiling Reaching 11th Hour: GOP Most To Blame, Data Shows, For National Debt

Here we go, again.

Needlessly.

The debt limit caps the total amount of allowable outstanding U.S. federal debt. For people reading along that took place back on August 1st. Since that time the Treasury Department has been taking as the newspapers remind us “extraordinary measures”. But that can only last so long.

As Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen reminded Congress today that if the debt ceiling is breached, “it is uncertain whether we could continue to meet all the nation’s commitments” after October 18th. In other words Congress and that also mean Republicans, need to be adults and either raise or suspend the debt limit or the Federal government will lack the cash to pay all its obligations.

That has never happened before.

What are front and center is the Republican desire to get something for their vote. Instead of just doing their job, the conservatives want to be bought off for their votes. As noted on this blog last week the Republicans mimic Ferengis on Star Trek.

Why we have every reason to be cranked with conservative Republicans is that raising the debt limit has no direct impact on the size of the national debt. It has no impact either for more spending or freezing or restricting spending. The only thing that increasing the debt limit does is pay expenses previously authorized by presidents and Congress.

But the Ferengis in Congress will fight and pontificate and try to force their way to get something before they will do what is simply the only logical action to take.

This week Steve Rattner, who loves to use charts to drive home the points the nation needs to know, made a perfect point at the time Senate Republicans are making markets jittery.

Republicans like to blame Democrats for all this borrowing. But the facts show otherwise. Five of the six presidents who incurred the most debt relative to the size of the economy in the past 60 years were Republicans. While Donald Trump faced the need to counteract Covid effects, his tax cuts and spending increases also played a major part. And Barack Obama had to deal with the financial crisis. But the fact remains that of the 57 percentage point increase in the debt to GDP ratio since 1960, 52 percentage points – all but five percentage points – were incurred with a Republican in the White House. (Note that Republicans and Democrats held the White House for roughly equivalent periods over these decades.)

What this blogger simply can not condone is the attitude expressed by Republicans that this issue is one to be played for partisan advantage. NO ONE would win if the nation defaulted on the debt. Look at how the markets have reacted to the high-wire act by conservatives.

As we know Republicans had a huge hand in amassing this debt. They must simply put the need of the nation before their playground antics.

And so it goes.

Madison’s WMTV Responds To Racist Chief Wahoo Mascot Airing Twice On Sports Report

Over the past week, I have posted twice about Madison’s WMTV sports report where an anchor was standing in front of a screen with the Brewers spelled out but with the racist Chief Wahoo mascot used to represent the Cleveland Indians. The team itself retired this graphic years ago because of its stereotypical and minstrel show-like features.

A reader had complained to the station, did not get a reply, and then contacted the FCC. Throughout the process, he contacted me and hoped this little place on the internet might highlight the issue. Having my mom’s family tree extending back to Cherokee Chief John Ross and the Trail of Tears meant the request was met with absolute acceptance.

This week WMTV did respond to the Madison viewer.

Good evening, Rick. I apologize that we did not acknowledge that you reached out to us earlier this month. I should’ve done so as the newsroom manager.

Our weekend on-call news manager for Sept. 11-12th alerted the newsroom (and sports team) to the error; and I followed up with our team when I was back in the office that Monday (I had been traveling over the weekend). In my follow-up, I learned this error of showing the old logo was isolated to the 9 and 10 p.m. sportscasts on the 11th. During that series of play between the two teams, the correct logo aired on Friday and also Sunday.

The person who made the mistake regrets doing so and understands the impact. So do I. I expect better. We understand that the images we use are as meaningful and important as the words we choose in our storytelling. We want to get it right and strive to do so.

We’ve taken steps to purge this particular graphic from our system, so it isn’t used again. We’ve also used this time to double check other team logos—and I can confirm we did not have the old Braves, Redskins or Illini logos in our system.

I appreciate your viewership and that you took the time to write us. I apologize again for not getting back to you… and I apologize also that the old logo was used.

Jessica Laszewski

News Director

NBC15 WMTV

Banned Book Week: All Need To Speak Out Against Censorship

In the 21st century, it is truly sad that in the United States we still need to have an annual event to highlight the pernicious effect of banning books. Now through October 2nd authors, librarians, and readers will join efforts to point out which books are currently being banned and give voice to why censorship is an awful idea.

The Taliban recently marched their way to power in Afghanistan and the world awaits the restraints they will place on the populace. Including the books that people can read.

Abdul is part of a book club that allows people to swap titles with each other: Kandahar has no libraries. Self-help books, many of them by foreign authors, have helped him manage his anxiety. He also reads essays on politics and terrorism.

But even such simple pleasures are now under threat. The author of one of his books about fundamentalism was assassinated in Kabul a few weeks ago. Abdul owns a collection by Kandahar’s most famous poet, Abdul Bari Jahani, who now lives in America. Last time the Taliban were in charge they banned his books.

Abdul decided that hiding his library was the safest option. “I don’t want to take any chances if the Taliban take over Kandahar and search my house,” he says. Whatever the group’s official policy on owning such titles, Abdul fears that his fate will depend on the whims of whoever may raid his home. “If they do not like my books or what I have been keeping in my house, they could take my life in a moment.”

Taliban behavior is appropriate to mention in the context of Banned Book Week because no matter where the removal or restriction of books occurs, or who is responsible, it is wrong. Be it in Kandahar or Wausau, the Taliban or angry objections from a person in Milwaukee, there should be one universal feeling of revulsion when a book is attempted to be censored.

But living in a pluralistic and enlightened society means our level of dismay and vocal outrage over banned books should be deeper and louder. It is simply galling that last year To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck were among the 10 most challenged books in our nation.

I have never felt so wise that I would consider telling someone else not to read a particular book because I felt the content was not suitable.  Conversely, I have never met anyone so learned that they could tell me what I should not read.  Yet every day there are struggles around the nation to suppress books that people should be able to freely read.  I find this unconscionable.

I grew up loving to read and still consider books to be ‘friends’ and so have a very difficult notion with censoring books.  I loved my little hometown library, where as a kid starting in fifth grade, I would go every Friday night after dinner to get a new book.  The neighborly lady who sat in that tiny one-room building soon understood that Ian Fleming was more to my liking than the Hardy Boys.  I recall she tried to steer me to the younger section but when James Bond calls, you must respond.  In short order, she and I were friends, and it was understood I had reading interests that were unique to my age.   She never told me I could not read any book I wanted to check out.

Those who wish to ban books are nervous and afraid of the unknown.  The world is moving too fast for them and so lashing out by restrictions and censoring seems to them a smart thing to do.  For the rest of us, the vast majority, we enjoy the confrontation with reality and the pricklier topics that through exploration opens our horizons for a stronger and healthier society.

Be it for politics, sex, religion, or for some other ‘socially offensive’ reason I am opposed to the attempt to curtail what books other folks read.

And so it goes.

Newspaper Headlines Might Need A Comma

I have read newspapers since my boyhood days in Hancock, Wisconsin where the first treasure to be found each day was the comic strip Buz Sawyer.

Over the years, I have noted the changes to papers regarding the size, font, and even the placement of color photos on the front page. Newspaper readers, I have found, take their papers seriously and comment on various aspects of the published pages.

As with, in my estimation, the need for commas in some headlines.

The headline above, from the September 26, 2021 edition of The Wisconsin State Journal, screams out for the use of commas.

While commas are not often used in newspaper headlines, they do at times appear. But then when they really do need to be placed in the headline, but are omitted, it makes for an awkward outcome. How much better the following headline looks, and reads with commas.

4th voter, out of 3 million, charged with fraud

I like newspapers that run a tighter editing shop than how the State Journal has, more recently, allowed for stories to be written or as in this case, headlines to be constructed. Economic downturns in the profession have hit everywhere, and so I am mindful of why staff reductions are reflected on the pages.

I also very much grasp the fact that almost no one cares anymore about such fussiness but such things do matter. Newspapers still should set a standard of grammar and punctuation that is instructive to the rest of us.

I would trust that idea never becomes ‘old-fashioned’.

And so it goes.

1940’s Music Makes Impact, Dan Thomson Pens Perfectly-Toned Letter

Among the letters to the editors in the Sunday newspapers, the following one hit a note on the Madison isthmus. It allowed for a nice memory to be recalled.

Dan Thomson wrote a letter to the Wisconsin State Journal about how the SiriusXM 40’s station has produced a calm reassurance for the world in which we live.

James and I often listen to 40s Junction in our car as we tool about the city. We have a convertible and so at times, we get a look from a fellow driver who might smile and lift fingers for a snapping action as In The Mood or Pennsylvania 6-5000 fills the air.

I do think Thomson hit the mark when writing of that era “So when they played music, it was to celebrate.”

At night, when in my radio broadcasting days, I aired the Big Band Show on WDOR which featured the likes of Eddie Condon, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, and Cliff Edwards.  The music was spiced and filled with the verve that demands never be stopped from playing out over the airwaves.  I was delighted, therefore, when first encountering SiriusXM about 12 years ago.

I can assure my readers the studio speakers at the radio station were ramped up and the ‘local neighborhood disc jockey’ was bopping about the station as the Dorsey Brothers were spinning on the turntable.  By that time of night, I was working the station solo, and so the music went louder in proportion to the fewer people in the building. A special friend might come to the station about that time and wait until ‘the broadcast day’ was over with the playing of the National Anthem, and we would head out for breakfast at a local diner.  Good memories.

So with that intro…here are the thoughts of Madison’s Dan Thomson.

I got tired of news and contemporary music on the car radio, so on a whim I changed channels to music from the 1940s. It worked for me. That swing beat and those horns make me feel good.

People from the ’40s were super-positive. I caught this in a three-piece sequence the other day. First was, “My Melancholy Baby” — a total misnomer and not melancholy. Second was, “Zippity-do-da, Zippity-day.” The last was “Route 66.” 

But those folks in the 1940s ignored some other social issues. The playlist includes Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole along with Count Basie and Duke Ellington. But you would likely search in vain for Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” about lynchings in the South. 

After surviving the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, and coming together to fight and win World War II, Americans had the “We’re all in this together” attitude. So when they played music, it was to celebrate. We don’t feel anything to celebrate now because we clearly are not in this together.

From COVID to wildfires, to stomping out a return to poverty, we are not all in this together. That’s why I listen to music which is 70 to 80 years old.

Dan Thomson, Madison

Thanks, Dan!

Wisconsin Guns, Chicago Crimes

Gun violence in Chicago is often the topic of headlines around the nation. Too often Monday morning newscasts will report on the number of shootings and homicides from the weekend. Even more tragic to learn are the reports which deal with children in the city who are struck by bullets and killed. We do not know the kids personally, but such news rips at us deeply.

Chicago, often based on such news, gets a negative backhand from many who hear of the gun violence tallies. But the Windy City is, of course, not alone in dealing with the gun culture that has totally gotten out of hand. In Philadelphia, as an example, officials are fearing this could be the deadliest year in the city’s history.

But while learning of what is happening in Chicago neighborhoods there must also be an awareness of how Wisconsin plays a role in that gun violence. Recently data was examined which connects the dots of a Glock stolen from a smashed glass case in Superior, Wisconsin, to its recovery during a street stop in Chicago. 

The movement of guns from Wisconsin to Chicago, and the tragic outcomes caused by such weapons, has triggered a likely journalism prize-worthy series in the Chicago Tribune. It truly deserves attention from Wisconsin residents as we are clearly part of the problem.

It was a few hours past midnight on New Year’s Day 2016, a time when the working-class northern Wisconsin town of Superior keeps the bars open especially late.

Police were tied up with two bar fights, one of them a 30-person brawl at a local saloon called the Ugly Stick.

With no cops in sight, the burglar was ready to make his move on Superior Shooters Supply, a gun shop frequented by hunters and hobbyists.

It was just 12 days later, authorities believewhen one of those (stolen) pistols was fired from a car in the southbound lanes of the Chicago Skyway around 97th Street, killing a 25-year-old road manager for a rap group who was driving his new BMW coupe.

The ease with which anyone with a disturbed mind or cruel intentions can make entrance to gun stores and steal deadly armaments is very concerning. In the above robbery, the store owner in Superior noted that the handguns were “stolen from one of her glass display cases”.

The consequences of such brazen thefts are noted in the data.

Guns that end up on Chicago’s streets often come from Indiana and Wisconsin. In 2019, of more than 11,000 guns confiscated by Illinois authorities, 460 were traced back to Wisconsin, which ranked third for states with the most gun traces outside of Illinois, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

We need to re-examine the issues at play that allow for hundreds of guns to leave our state and cause injury and death. Wisconsin needs to implement stricter standards for gun dealers. The reason why is most obvious. 

At the present time, ATF does recommend that all commercial dealers install an alarm system, high-definition security cameras with audio, place bars on all windows, plus sturdy doors with multiple locks at each entrance.

But that is not enough.  Advising such common-sense recommendations is far different from demanding under law the stores act responsibly.  So let us be clear as to what Wisconsin should require.

Simply put, all gun stores need to place all firearms in a safe or vault after business hours to prevent theft.  I also have long felt that these stores would be best served with burglar alarms connected directly to the local police department. These ideas would in no way impede on those who seek to buy and own guns but would make those who sell weapons more responsible members of society.  If stores do not abide we then need to hold gun store owners accountable for shoddy security practices.

Chicago records show that aside from the above Glock linked to 27 shootings in Chicago, the three other guns from that one burglary were tied to more shootings in the city, striking at least 10 people and killing one of them.

In one case a 9 mm Glock 26 was confiscated by Chicago police from a teenager six months after the break-in, and in another, a 9 mm Glock was linked to the shootings of at least eight people including the slaying of Elliott Brown and wounding of his girlfriend.

The burglary at the Wisconsin shop was another episode in what police said is an established connection between Chicago and towns along the western tip of Lake Superior. Drugs often move north from Chicago, officials said, and sometimes firearms head south.

The reasons for the epidemic of gun crimes have long been studied. At this time in the nation, there is a soaring number of gun sales, the ever-more harsh political rhetoric against gun-control measures, and a deep distrust among some towards law enforcement. The list of contributing factors also includes economic forces which ramped up during the COVID crisis, and the long-running federal drug policy which desperately calls for reform.

Stealing deadly weapons from a gun store is also a proven problem which demands a public policy solution.

And so it goes.

FCC Contacted For Native American Racism On Madison’s WMTV

A complaint to a local television station has escalated into contact with the FCC concerning the airing of the caricature of Chief Wahoo representing a Cleveland baseball team.

Readers to this blog might recall that on August 12th I posted a comment about WMTV’s sports report where racist images were aired, twice in one day.

I am outraged!  I watched the CW news at 9 and couldn’t believe when the sports anchor reported the Brewers’ score and there was the caricature of Chief Wahoo representing Cleveland on the screen!  So I watched at 10 and the same damn thing!  The team retired this graphic as the racist, demeaning symbol it is years ago.  And yet WMTV uses it twice!  

Since the viewer did not receive the courtesy of a response from WMTV about what was aired the complaint was sent to Washington.

I was watching the 9 p.m. newscast on WMTV2. On the sports report, the anchor was standing in front of a screen with Brewers spelled out and the racist Chief Wahoo mascot to represent the Cleveland Indians. The team itself retired this graphic years ago because of it’s sterotypical and minstrel show like features. I thought, “this must be a mistake, or an inexperienced intern added the wrong graphic” But on the 10 p.m. newscast, the same thing. This racist graphic should have been retired from the graphics library long ago. I filled out their comment form, called the sports department and left a voicemail demanding an apology on their next evening’s newscast. I also emailed the news and programming departs. Never heard anything back. Apparently they think they can get away with using racist representations on the public airwaves and don’t have to answer the public.

From the perspective of this blogger’s desk, it would seem the most appropriate response should have been forthcoming from WMTV. It is troubling that no feedback was given to a legitimate concern about racism against Native Americans–coming from the most liberal city in the state. If we can not do what is right here what should be expected above Highway 29?

Having worked in radio, and often commenting on the use of the public airwaves on Caffeinated Politics, I firmly hold to the accountability that license holders have to the public with these types of issues. We know that mistakes happen on the air, but when they do it is essential that an honest statement be made, and an earnest effort made to not make them again.

Pretending that the images never aired, nor offering an apology is not in alignment with the higher standards that the public has every right to expect from one granted a television license.

And so it goes.