Walter Cronkite As Radio Show Actor In WWII, Reporter Showing Journalism’s Push For Democracy

One of the joys of this blog is to divert off the front-page headlines of the morning newspaper into a topic that warms my heart.

From Chapter Seven of Cronkite, Douglas Brinkley’s perfectly-toned biography about ‘Uncle’ Walter comes this nugget.

Cronkite and legendary Edward Murrow remain heroes to me. The nostalgic history of radio and the role it made for itself with news reporting from Europe during World War II is among the best pages to be studied from the late 1930s and into the 1940s.

The role of radio broadcasters in the war zones was as much about giving the American public the facts of the military campaign, but also to bouy the mood of the public. Driving home the need to understand reporters were helping uphold democracy was also stressed.

That was the role Cronkite added when he played a part in the radio series Soldiers of the Press.

Here then is Program #27: United Press syndication, World lateral transcription. “Dry Martini”. U.P. correspondent Walter Cronkite’s story from a U.S. bomber base in England.

Coloma, Wisconsin Man Indicted On Gun Conversion Equipment Distribution

Guns, guns, and more guns. Nothing good comes with a gun.

Prosecutors who last year charged a Clay County man with selling illegal machine-gun conversion devices are now also going to court against a Wisconsin gun dealer who raised money for his defense.

A new federal indictment accuses Kristopher “Justin” Ervin of Orange Park and Matthew R. Hoover of Coloma, Wisconsin, of conspiring to illegally distribute unregistered conversion equipment, which the indictment equates with distributing machine guns.

The list of charges from a federal grand jury in Jacksonville replaces one filed last spring against Ervin alone, detailing new claims from investigators’ probe of his online sale of credit card-sized metal strips under the product name Auto Key Card.

The 17-count indictment says Ervin’s sales took off because of publicity he received from Hoover, 38, who regularly posts videos on a YouTube channel about guns and shooting that this month counted 134,000 subscribers.

The indictment lists 10 dates between November 2020 and February 2021 when, it says, Hoover promoted Ervin’s product in videos and referred to as the videos’ sponsor.

“Mr. Ervin was paying Mr. Hoover for the advertisements,” Jacksonville-based Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Cofer Taylor told a judge in Milwaukee Friday. The indictment identifies Hoover as operating Coloma Resale, a store which is a federally licensed firearms dealer, but in court attorneys said much of Hoover’s income comes from his YouTube postings. 

And so it goes.

Death Penalty Winding Down

Last week with the news that Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer was stepping down from the bench I made note of on issue history will long record about the man.

His continuing criticism of the death penalty in the nation places him in that ethical crowd who may not prevail in full at the time they serve, but make huge contributions to the causes they fight for. I believe Breyer will be in the same fine historical company as Congressman John Quincy Adams, who after being president, sat in Congress and continually hammered away at slavery.

Another step is now being taken in California to stop the barbaric practice of the death penalty.

Governor Gavin Newsom had already placed a moratorium on executions, but now is taking great strides to dismantle what had been–most regrettably–the largest death row in the nation. The governor has ordered that all condemned inmates on death row be moved to other prisons within two years.

With a concept modeled alongside the desire to turn a weapon into a plow comes the California move to convert the death row–after those inmates are moved–into rehabilitation units, That is a solid victory for the many who advocate for an end to the death penalty.

California last carried out an execution in 2006. I trust that was the last one. Period.

I do understand, and desire justice be brought for those who commit crimes, but I fail to understand how a government that forbids killing among its citizens should then be in the business of killing on the taxpayer’s dime.  There is just no logic to the thirst for such vengeance.

Placing someone in prison for life is the only reasonable way to proceed for those who commit the ultimate crime in our society.  Then allow for God to be the final judge on the matter.  The government should not be in the business of taking a life.

The news today from California is proof that a continuing drumbeat of advocacy about a matter that cuts to the core of who we are as a nation can produce positive results. California will be merging its condemned inmates into the general prison population with no expectation of execution.

And so it goes.

Haneen Zreika, Muslim Soccer Player, Failed Modernity Test

It is not difficult to be critical of those who break barriers, due to being aided by the larger society, to only then turn around and deny rights and justice to another group.

For instance, I have taken to task some Black and Latino churches in our nation who have not embraced the gay civil rights measures that we either enacted or others yet needed to be attained. After having received support over the decades from diverse multitudes for civil rights it would only make sense that those who knew discrimination would fight for those facing it. The lack of full-throated support for gay marriage from these churches when every voice counted still rankles at this blogger’s desk.

Now consider the current news story concerning Haneen Zreika. While listening to the BBC this sports story caught my attention.

She is the first Muslim to play in the Australian Football League Women’s Competition. It is to be applauded and she deserves credit for following a dream and using her skills for a team effort. There was strong support and encouragement for her to take the field and be proud of her accomplishment.

But when it came to playing a Gay Pride match and wearing a rainbow-themed jumper she took a path that does not place her in a good light. Because she claimed the wearing of the jumper did not align with her religious beliefs, Zreika chose to sit out of the game.

This is the first year that her team had a specially designed jumper for the Pride game which supports inclusion and diversity in sports–which is still regrettably–a persisting problem. While Zreika played in the Pride game last year she refused to wear the jumper this week.

Some may see all this as small potatoes–as it might have been termed back home as a child. Some will argue that true diversity exists when even stances, such as that taken by Zreika, are accepted. I do not align with such views. Making accommodations for only a certain level of bigotry is not progress or something we can find agreeable.

This story also relates to a larger theme made on this blog when it comes to the Muslim faith. There is a tremendous need for modernity by its followers, and until it is allowed oxygen current stress points remain. A tortured education system that spawns new converts to the harshest interpretation of the Koran, religious views that stunt and deprive upward mobility, and a culture that is male-dominated all require talented voices to make a difference.

Haneen Zreika could have been such a voice. One step at a time is not a trite phrase. History continually demonstrates the power of one voice added to another and then another…

Therefore, it was not a pretty picture to see Zreika sitting on the sidelines for the Pride match. It was hurtful to some of her teammates and coaching staff, and instead of serving as a role model to her larger community, it underscored what is so lacking in the Muslim world.

And so it goes.

Conservatives Censoring “Maus”, Stokes White Grievance, Anti-Semitic Sentiment

Just when you thought it safe to remove your flak jacket after the controversies created by conservatives over Mr. Potato Head and the rancor over whether M&M candies should wear a dress or not comes their latest outrage.

Their latest screech is ironic since it deals with something we normally do not associate with right-wingers knowing much about. Until they wish to destroy them.


All of a sudden a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the experiences of Holocaust survivors has made the Homer Simpson crowd all quite certain the book needs to be pulled from shelves and censored. The outrage started when a Tennessee school board removed from an eighth-grade English language arts curriculum Maus due to “rough, objectionable language” and a drawing of a nude mouse.

Yes, please clean up the description of the slaughter of 6 million Jews! Is the school board even listening to itself? And the use of a nude drawing is nothing compared to the actual news photographs of the depravity Germans used against humanity as the piles of bodies confirm.

The two-volume comic biography chronicles Art Spiegelman’s family’s Holocaust history through a frame-tale of ‘70s conversations between the author and his estranged father. The Jewish characters are rendered as mice, for instance, and the Nazis are cats.

This weekend the nation spoke in the way it often does at moments like this, with their money. And in so doing, made this book appear on Amazon’s best-seller list. As of Friday night, a hardcopy version of the serialized work by Art Spiegelman was listed as the online retailer’s #9 top seller.

So what drives these spasms of outrage from conservatives? Is the mission to really ban a book, or in some weird way work to increase book sales? Well, certainly, never the latter. Or is this all a contrived way to stoke white grievance and add a little anti-Semitic sentiment to their base at the same time?

These absurd controversies about the way a piece of candy is ‘dressed’ or this book being banned gins up a certain type of right-wing voter and give them more reason to feel aggrieved and out of step with their nation. Something else to be scared about and uncertain over while at the same time deflecting from needing to pay attention to ongoing attacks on the foundations of our democracy.

Who cares about voting rights?! Little Johnny is going to see a naked drawing in a library book! Lord, how do they teach about Michelangelo’s statue, David, in that backward Tennessee school?

I am firmly convinced that most boys who are reading Maus have saved their favorite nude pics from the internet in a special file on their computers. The outrage over the nude drawing in this book is simply a cover for the anti-semitism that runs deep within the right-wing.

The school board in Tennesse–and conservatives all lathered over this topic across the nation–need to focus on historical facts. Jews were forced to strip naked in front of everyone to get what we have come to loath as “their showers”. The putrid names Jews were called and had printed about them in no way could rise to the level of language used in the Maus text.

That is what must never be forgotten and what the book in its own way portrays.

This blog has stood alongside books that some progressives have tried to trample on, like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. Censorship or in any way limiting or marginalizing quality literature and meaningful resources for students must be rejected. Whether from the misguided left or right.

History is filled with truly tragic and even ghastly events. The Holocaust is such a horror. But we do not turn our heads from the past, but instead should strive wide-eyed to know it and understand it. In so doing we should aim not to repeat it.

If we read history and understand it we then appreciate the fact that the right-wing in this nation do not wish young people to be able to make the strong comparison between what spawned Nazi Germany and the rightward slide to fascism within today’s Republican Party.

At the heart of this matter is the right-wing needing these cultural fights to remove attention from the larger dangers they themselves pose to the nation, and the requirement to keep their white base simmering over matters they know so little about.

And so it goes.

Kevin Nicholson Enters Wisconsin Governor’s Race, With Touch Of Bi-Partisanship

Last week this liberal blogger who lives on the Madison isthmus urged very conservative Kevin Nicholson to splash into the Republican race for governor. I did so after a top state Republican told the business owner to ‘stay in his lane’ and forgo entering the campaign.

The words made publically by Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos were not the most well-crafted by one who aims to show his skills in the political arena.

“If Kevin Nicholson is listening — you need to not run for governor,” Vos said during an interview at a Wednesday event hosted by in downtown Madison. 

I found those words so demeaning towards Nicholson that I had actual empathy for a politician that I could never vote for or support in any meaningful way other than urging him to run.

I suspect everyone clearly understands how it would feel to be told by another person within your profession or industry to just stay low and do not get any big ideas. Stay at the kid’s table and just be content with where you are now.

Regardless of which political party one calls home, there was a degree of understanding across Wisconsin about how Nicholson felt being instructed by the Speaker to stem any notion of seeking the Republican nomination for governor this August.

Nicholson has created a conservative set of beliefs for his political appeal and proved in his bid for the Senate nomination not to shy away from being an aggressive contender. Though he did not prevail there was no doubt he knows how to force issues and swing political rhetoric. His punches over the years at political insiders and leaders have landed on receptive ears within the Republican Party. These days that accepting audience is larger than ever.

On Thursday, Nicholson threw his hat into the ring as a “conservative outsider,” and will use it as a line of attack on his opponents who wished to restrain his voice in the campaign and limit the choices on the ballot for voters come August. Without a doubt, this campaign will create not only an expensive contest worthy of headlines but also a real race for the heart and soul of Wisconsin Republicans.

There is no way to discern if Vos honestly believes that former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch is the best candidate for the November election or would prove to be an effective governor if elected. It seems more probable that conversations within the power circles over the recent months centered on how not to fracture the base and unwind the spool of thread they consider all that is required to defeat Tony Evers this fall.

But Nicholson felt that conversation about policy and the election ran far short of what is needed to win and govern. And he is rightly smarting over the words and tone from Vos.

While we all can differ about politics I suspect across the state today there is a ‘good for you’ feeling among residents about Nicholson entering the race.

Is this what bipartisanship feels like?

And so it goes.

Biden’s Supreme Court Nominee Will Not Be Mired To Textualism, Will Understand Privacy

And just like that, a new page was turned in Washington. The national narrative took on a new angle.

The news this morning was surprising only that it did not wait to be released at the end of June. The end of this term of the Supreme Court.

Justice Stephen Breyer will retire and in so doing President Joe Biden will have his first opportunity to place a justice on the Court. The ideological balance will not change with this selection, but the placement of a justice who understands the foundation of how the law should be viewed in the larger context is simply vital.

It is strongly assumed that Biden will follow through on his campaign promise to place the first Black woman on the Court. That would be historic, and politically sound. But the larger victory to the nation is the fact that any nominee from the Biden White House will not be a follower of the sterile notion of ‘original intent” or its cousin in intellectual laziness ‘strict constructionist’ thinking.

When we placed a ballot in our hands in the fall of 2020 and cast a vote for president many likely did so with the character of Donald Trump top most in their thoughts. While that was clearly on my mind too, my overriding decision, however, was based on the need for solid fact-based and serious jurists for the federal courts and the Supreme Court. That consideration, along with international affairs drives my voting as it has since my first vote in 1980.

Many in the nation cringe, and correctly so when thinking about ‘original intent” or ‘strict constructionist’ thinking.  The main reason to dismiss this way to view the Constitution is that such concepts are nothing less than a slap to the Framers of that document. There is nothing to suggest they wanted to be the final arbiter on an evolving nation. The second reason to find much dismay with constructionism is the way it undermines the moral authority of the courts.

Republicans and right-wing conservatives talk often about reigning in the courts from ‘liberalism’ and in so doing think that then gives them license to enact harsh rulings about the progress of society regarding a whole raft of issues. Using ‘original intent’ as a partisan weapon places a wedge issue into the judiciary and in so doing undermines one of our republic’s major institutions.

To state, as the ‘originalists’ do, that the words of the Constitution do not evolve with time is a seriously flawed idea.  To pretend that the living America of ideas and events does not necessitate a Constitution that bends and adapts within the framework of guiding principles is one of the most bizarre and dangerous concepts that has ever been suggested.  Those who promote such ideas are the American equivalent of the Taliban, who use the Koran in highly misguided ways.  Pragmatic and logical voters understand past decisions made by the court, along with public needs, and expectations, along with the larger values that were implied in the Constitution, are needed to be used by judges when making rulings.

Trying to do a mind-meld with the Framers about software privacy or looking for guidance in their written texts about transgender rights is simply absurd.

History can be a guide as to the dangers of ‘strict constructionist’ thinking. It can also be a guide as to the wisdom of using guiding principles of the Constitution to expand rights and increase the American Dream. The horrendous Dred Scott decision can be viewed as the work of the former, but most of us better recognize the wisdom of the latter as Chief Justice Earl Warren’s tenure outlawed segregation in public schools.

That is why I firmly believe that when it comes to presidential elections we must always be aware of the need for a working modern judiciary.

One of the central issues in the nation is the right of women to have control over their bodies when it comes to abortion. One of the foundations in the 1973 landmark case Roe v. Wade, is the core constitutional principle of privacy. Conservatives rail against the idea that ‘privacy’ is even protected in the Constitution. 

Now, while it is true that the Constitution does not mention the right of privacy, over time there has been recognition that privacy is an unenumerated right.  The Griswold Case is one that every high school kid learns about; as it was the first time that the Constitution protects that vital right to privacy.  In that case, it was about the right to contraceptives.  In 1973, the issue of privacy was a central argument and focus, as it was in the famed Lawrence v. Texas, where privacy was used to strike down a law against gay sex.

The nation’s attention is now to focus on one way we judge the legacy of a president. The selection of a justice for the Court. We can be most confident that with President Biden the eventual nominee will have a firm understanding that the Constitution is a living document.

That is after all, why we vote for a Democrat to sit in the Oval Office.

And so it goes.

Standing With Ukraine On Madison Isthmus

Like millions around the world, I am distressed and utterly dismayed at the looming threat to Ukraine due to the military massing to crush the burgeoning republic. The diplomatic moves are to be applauded, but the results are not yet in evidence as the international news reports continue to prove Russian President Putin is not backing down.

Today in a symbolic act of outrage about the idea of Putin, in any way, thinking it rational to refashion a part of the failed Soviet Union, and threatening the viability of another’s boundary, came my feeble attempt to send a message.

From the Madison isthmus to the folks in Ukraine who surely have a level of stress that we can only begin to imagine comes this video from our home. And just a touch of humor, as Lord knows the world needs it now.

I tested out the firing capabilities of my water gun in preparation for a Russian invasion as the fridged cold takes hold. Russians fight in the cold weather with ease, and as such we are going to be prepared for their onslaught. More hot water, James, I can see their vodka bottles from here!

I am not trying to be light with the issue at hand. So let me be clear as to where I stand.

President Putin has designs on reviving a chapter of history that can not be remade. The old Soviet Union and the forced subjugation of peoples and cultures that had no reason, other than brute force, to be joined together must not be allowed again by the international community.

And so it goes.