Donald Trump’s Operation Legend In Chicago Regarding Guns Did Work

I believe one needs to head back to April 2018 on this blog to find the last time I was able to find something in which I could agree with Donald Trump. At that time it was the decision by the United States to send missiles into Syria for that nation’s use of chemical weapons. Though a limited and symbolic rebuke to President Assad’s putrid behavior at breaking international law, it was nonetheless the correct response to the dictator.

Today, with data to back me up, I can agree with another action that was the result of Trump’s four years in office. The Chicago Sun-Times best known as “the hardest-working paper in America,” reported the following about Operation Legend, a short-lived effort looking to make people arrested for crimes involving guns face tougher federal penalties than they might if prosecuted in this case–by Cook County courts.

We all should be able to agree on policies designed to rein in gun violence.

Authorities have said that at least 170 people were arrested in the Chicago area in Operation Legend, including 130 on gun charges and 40 on drug charges.

For context, Chicago recorded more than 770 killings that year and thousands of nonfatal shootings.

The average federal sentence of nearly four years in the cases the Chicago Sun-Times reviewed was far higher than what’s typically seen in the Cook County courts.

To determine that, the Sun-Times examined a decade of Cook County sentences in cases in which the most serious charge was illegal gun possession. The average prison sentence was less than a year — 254 days — in the approximately 4,000 cases filed between 2011 and the end of 2021. About 2,300 other cases resulted in probation, according to a Cook County database.

What one can absolutely disagree with, however, was the political timing of the larger plan by the Trump White House. Using law and order for election purposes Trump trotted out Operation Legend after a year of growing social pressure on police tactics in the nation. But we know the need to curtail guns was raging in places like Chicago in 2017 when Trump was inaugurated. And St. Loius. And Baltimore. And…

What riled so many at the time Trump sent federal agents to cities in July 202o was that it fit into the larger narrative about his autocratic moves. It did provoke deep concern when sending in federal forces to major cities with Democratic mayors—in an election year. And after the attempted insurrection with Trump’s support and backing on January 6th at the nation’s Capitol, the federal move in hindsight by Trump that summer seems even darker.

Now I certainly understand how in many presidential election years the GOP has spasms and urgings to show how tough they are and how patriotic they can be.  George H.W. Bush, who often gets respect for international policy on this blog, was nonetheless going for the gutter when he used the flag for his bid for the Oval Office, just as Richard Nixon is to be harangued for stoking the middle-class angst over cultural discord in the 1968 election.

So, it is clear that Trump was playing to his election base of white male voters in mid-2020 and was not truly interested in curtailing gun violence. The desire to look tough and act autocratically has long been the default for Trump. That he hungered and slavishly sought the favorable nods and ‘love letters’ from dictators worldwide was not lost on a swath of the nation.

But having said all of that there is no way to not recognize the bold type steps–such as Operation Legend–that will be required to stem the gun culture which creates daily death and bloodshed in the nation.

I would have advised the Biden White House to not have ended the program, but rather tweaked the policy so ‘the locals’ did not feel like the ‘the feds’ were running roughshod. There is much, much merit in getting as many guns…and the misfits who carry them–off the streets. Who can deny that fact?

What probably goes without saying is that even at the time Trump was correct he was so inept that he bungled that, too.

I can not fathom a third Trump action or policy that I will be able to agree with. After all, even a broken clock can be right only twice, come morning and night.

And so it goes.

Letter From Home “Guitar Smiles” 4/29/22

It is often said that certain foods can transport a person back to memories of childhood or the first date with the love of a lifetime. Certain scents can bring back memories of mountain flowers, an ocean breeze, or corndogs at the county fair. Music is also perfect at conveying people to a softer place where smiles and laughs replace current woes.

And even the promise of music yet to unfold can bring a smile. Even tears of joy. Such as the case today at our home.

With truly spring-like temperatures finally occurring I put on shorts and started on my list of outdoor projects. First up, mulching a large flower bed. I was well into the effort when my husband, James, came onto the porch and said, “I found a way to get a guitar!”

I tossed off my gloves and walked over to hear what had transpired regarding one of his clients.

James runs his own guardianship business for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia issues. While there are certainly the usual phone contacts with living facilities, calls to doctors, setting up appointments, arranging for court dates, and at times making arrangments with a realtor for the sale of property he also makes sure the personal needs and better yet, wishes of his clients, are met.

One client, an 80-year-old man, was born into a Menominee Indian family in Northern Wisconsin. He, along with his seven siblings was split up as children and sent to live with eight other families in an effort to acclimate them into ‘white culture’. While I have read about this troubling and absurd policy, I have never before known anyone who personally was impacted.

As a boy and teenager, he did not fare well, was not a high school graduate, and soon found himself in the military. After spending much of his life in the South he recently moved back to Wisconsin for the final chapter of his life. The court system asked James if he could help, and the man became a client.

When in his teenage years he started to play and much enjoy a 12-string guitar. With the ups and downs of life that musical joy was not a constant part of his world. About a week ago he mentioned to a person at his facility that it would be nice to again play the guitar and hear the chords from his favorite songs.

James heard of this request and started looking for used guitars in the city, but also took the next step and started to arrange for some local friends who are also musicians to spend time with the man playing and singing.

One of those contacts, a guitar player and performer we have known for years, called back to say a friend had recently offered him a 12-string guitar. He had originally turned it down, but he had checked to see it if was still available. The guitar had belonged to an older woman who had died, and it was agreed the woman would want the chords to again be heard by someone most needing to hear them.

As I heard this news on the back porch tears came to my eyes.

That performer is picking the guitar up this weekend, will spruce it up, put new strings on where needed, and tune it. Then this coming week he will make a surprise visit to a man who likely does not think his desire for musical memories can become reality.

I trust the placement of the fingers and the chords plucked from the strings will transport that man to an inner place of contentment. Knowing the performer, his smile, and his kind personality I am sure there will be several others at the facility who will find themselves being transported back to fond memories through the chords of a guitar.

Maybe it is the headlines of the day that are gut-wrenching from Ukraine juxtaposed with the genuine kindness from a family we have known in the city for many years, who upon being presented with a need, simply said through actions ‘ let’s make this happen’.

Music remains the connector in life and through lives.

And so it goes.

Sean Hannity, Fox News, Tarnishes Actual Reporters And News Operations

I was not surprised by the news that landed this morning concerning Sean Hannity and Fox News, but it was dismaying. While the politics of the story is concerning in relation to the 2020 election, the underlying theme of a major news operation linked at the hip with the Republican Party is most worthy of more public attention.

The central story concerns CNN obtaining 2,319 text messages that Donald Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows sent and received between Election Day 2020 and President Joe Biden’s  January 20, 2021, inauguration. Meadows selectively provided these messages to the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

Among the trove of texts are more than 80 from Fox’s Sean Hannity.

Hannity spews and hates in equal measure in the text messages, which is his true character, as we know from his on-air broadcasts to these now-public texts. He writes that “Biden is a semi conscious corpse”, uses Michael Corleone as a reference point, and clearly demonstrates how he is as much a partisan huckster as a blow-haired bloviator during his evening program.

“Also if this doesn’t end the way we want, you me and Jay are doing 3 things together. 1- Directing legal strategies vs Biden 2- NC Real estate 3- Other business I talked to Rudy.”

The fact that Hannity both blatantly gives advice on White House politics and strategy and asks for direction and guidance so clearly obliterates the lines between Fox News, his show, and the Trump White House that it leaves a citizen almost breathless.

The sole purpose of Fox News is not in doubt. News has always been an alleged function of the network. It is an active echo chamber in the media for all things Republican and conservative. The undermining of facts and any sense of journalistic responsibility for the presentation of actual news and holding to journalism standards is the last concern of Fox News. It is also about their partisan interests.

Which then undermines the rest of the news world which does strive to do the job of journalism.

History-minded readers might recall the name Philip Freneau. When Thomas Jefferson became so piqued with Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists he turned to Freneau to form a newspaper that would publish views of the opposition. The National Gazette was not unlike most of the papers of the time—and there were scores of them–in that the content was abrasive and politically toxic.

So the idea of amassing resources and creating a ‘news source’ has long been a feature of our nation. But over the centuries the standards for journalism have evolved, and we better understand the vital necessity in a democracy created of an informed electorate. Fox News has turned back the calendar to the days of Freneau. And that does not serve the best interests of the nation.

While Hannity is–well, what he is–it does need noting that there must be an ethical aspect to the role he plays at Fox News. While no one would term him a journalist, he still has an ethical obligation to not participate in the issues he rants about. Even Hannity should be able to understand that point.

Admittedly, I come from the ‘old school’ where it was not acceptable or professional for a news organization, or any of their faces or voices as the case may be, to actively engage with the newsmakers and especially with politicos to alter the page of history that is being written. Such behavior would be blatantly unethical. (This very reason is why Chris Cuomo needed to be jettisoned from CNN.)

Such behavior from Hannity and others of his stripe has sadly added to the public mistrust and lack of regard for the actual news reporters and ethically bound journalists who do strive to maintain standards. The latter are the majority among the media, but of course, it is the ones who break the bonds of trust with the public who gets the headlines.

And so it goes.

Madison’s Freedom Inc. Should Not Make Demands Of Judges

Anyone who reads this blog for only a few weeks knows that the proliferation of guns, and the increasing deaths and injuries from these weapons, is a continuing theme. The gun culture has exploded and the price for society is too darn high.

So it comes as no surprise that when a person shoots and kills someone with a gun that was not legal to own I then support the legal process that renders justice. One of the common-sense themes I emphasize is that the laws and statutes that are on the books need to be enforced. That is one way to stem gun crimes.

This brings me to Kenyairra Gadson, a woman who made news earlier this year for the trial regarding her shooting and killing Steven Villegas. She contended in her trial it was a matter of self-defense.

…a jury returned a guilty verdict on January 26, convicting Gadson of first degree reckless homicide and illegal possession of a firearm. Dane County Circuit Court Judge Chris Taylor, a former Democratic state legislator, will determine a sentence on May 6. Gadson faces up to 65 years in prison. 

This story would not make for any more front-page headlines if not for Freedom Inc. and Gadson’s advocates…demanding that Taylor sentence Gadson to the time she has already served over the course of the case.

In other words, allowing for Gadson to be released on May 6th.

I have found it troubling in the past for huge rallies and powerful interest groups to protest at the United States Supreme Court. Putting undue pressure on judges or trying to manipulate the justice system is unseemly and runs counter to the more elevated nature we need and want justice to have in the nation.

And in Dane County.

I still hope for younger generations to take a deep dive into civics and better grasp why certain foundations and fundamentals must exist in our judicial process. Clearly, that is not the case when Freedom Inc demands anything from a judge.

The legal procedures from any arrest to trial have a very precise and process-driven set of steps. I believe those were followed in this case, and the jury verdict following this trial concluded as the evidence demonstrated.

If this jury’s verdict can be so easily dismissed, and a judge flippantly undermines the work of the men and women who took the time to do their jury duties, then what credibility does any jury have in the future? Freedom Inc. and Gadson’s advocates need to understand that the process they scorn now and try to undermine is the same process that will allow them in another case to have their day in court and the protection from the system.

It really is not a difficult argument to comprehend.

As such, there is no rational judge who will toss aside all the evidence and the work of a jury following a trial for the ‘demands’ from the ones who lost in court. No judge will be so disdainful about law and order in society.

Because law and order do matter.

And so it goes.

Canada Goose Lays Eggs In Decorah Eagle Nest, Young Ones Soon To Jump 70 Feet To Ground

UPDATE: Five eggs hatched, and all the little ones, encouraged today by parents honking far below, wandered about on the nest and then jumped over, or slipped as they sought a way down.

Decorah, Iowa eagle watchers had a most eventful and unusual spring season. The long-time eagle couple, which changed last season from using the usual nest of many years to a newly built one where they raised two young ones, did not sit to incubate this year. It left many Decorah watchers perplexed, some even sad.

Another pair of Decorah eagles–the ‘North family’–are super busy with two ever-growing chicks that eat 24/7 and are getting serious feather growth.

But it is the oddity this year of the nest vacated by the long-term couple last year that has everyone talking.

A Canada goose couple landed and stayed for long periods in the nest, and soon speculation abounded about the possibility they were scoping it out for their season’s nest.

The female laid her first egg on March 24, and then five more. Two days ago the yellow-downed chirpers made an appearance. Between those events the female incubated the eggs for about a month, leaving only for very short durations for food. She meticulously covered the eggs on each departure so nothing was visible.

The male is nearby for protection but never sits on the eggs. He gives a bad connotation for males worldwide!

The video below is stunning and remarkable and so worthy of a few minutes of your time. EVERY time the female left her nest this process repeated itself.

The next major event will be (perhaps today) when the goslings will have to jump from the 70-foot high nest, hurling themselves to the ground below. This reads far more dramatically than what happens since they are so very light in weight they will just softly plop on the ground and then follow the parents to the nearby river.

Yes, having a goose in an eagle’s once-used nest is not an every-year occurrence. And to have eagles flying about as the goose laid eggs and incubated does seem dicey. Yet, Mother Nature moved the process along and soon the Decoran fish hatchery area will have some cuties splashing about.

And so it goes.

Madison To Cement Away Median Flowers, Shrubs

If we listen to Madison Mayor Conway-Rhodes there is a continual theme of working on projects which increase tourism, conventions, and special events so to add dollars to the city coffers.  That, in and of itself, is always a thrust of any leader in the city. With such intentions, however, it would then be assumed efforts would be made to continually enhance the aesthetics of the city—not degrade them. 

Right?

Well, actually, wrong.

KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL

It was really troubling to read on the front page of the Wisconsin State Journal today the following news story.

Due to budget constraints, Madison intends to soon convert nearly half of the planting beds with perennials that enliven medians of major streets to turf or colored, stamped concrete.

The city’s operating budget cuts funding for maintenance of 208 planting beds in medians from $165,000 in 2021 to $86,422 this year. To lower costs, the city is moving to take 110 beds out of contracted maintenance and covert 89 of those beds to turf or concrete.

The city intends to convert 62 planting beds to grass, mostly in locations where they’re now surrounded by turf that requires some mowing, such as around Northport Drive and Packers Avenue on the North Side. It will convert 27 beds, mostly in high-traffic areas or narrow medians, like those on East Washington Avenue and John Nolen Drive near the Monona Terrace underpass, to colored, stamped concrete. (‘Look daddy..look..there is colored cement!!’ I assume this is the mayor claiming to be working on equity issues.) Another 21 beds will require new maintenance from the Parks Division and funding in the 2023 operating budget.

Shrubs will be removed but not trees.

Seriously, what is happening to logic in our city government?

Madison is known for its love of trees and flowers, concern about runoff water, and care for the environment. So to have the city government convert medians to drab harsh cement while pretending there are no options in the operating budget that might be adjusted so as not to anger the entire city is rather remarkable.

Yet, here we are.

I suspect many a call and email will land on the desks of city alders as this topic will make for many a disgruntled resident. The mayor, too, must be mindful that her term in office is coming up for renewal.

Or not.

And so it goes.

Freedom Of Speech In The Age Of Elon Musk

Many of my readers come from the age of basic common sense where those unseen guardrails on human interactions with one another are now just second nature. That does mean we are old but just seasoned with layers of respect for how the transactions of society take place. We, in many ways, resemble the charming patina that occurs on copper statues.

The majority of us would not cut in line at the grocery store any more than we would rashly make an unfounded charge, and as my folks might have said, then ‘run it up the flag pole’. Most folks would not distort election returns or argue that space lasers caused forest fires.

As a boy, the party line was (at times) the way local events became known in our rural Wisconsin home. My mom frowned on finding me listening quietly to conversations from others connected, but would then concede to ask what was the news. I never once thought that anything heard in those listening sessions was not true.

Nor do I ever recall a tirade or bombastic blowout.

The means of communication these days is a far cry from placing one hand over the mouthpiece and listening for information on the metal phone hung on the dining room wall. With today’s social media, communication has far less to do with listening, and far more to do with poking and riling others.

The discussions over the past days about Elon Musk, who bought Twitter earlier this week, have created many observers to wonder what that social media landscape will resemble when Musk allows for ‘free speech’ to reign on the platform.

Neil Steinberg a Chicago Sun-Times columnist wrote ” “Free speech” is now the equivalent of being free from the consequences of your malicious, deceptive, and toxic ramblings, the First Amendment a shield to hide behind. It’s like the worst nuisance on the beach buying a private swim club so he can freely kick sand in weaklings’ faces.”

Given what passes for ‘conversations’ in too many cases with social media across the nation it is hard to think Steinberg to be wrong. Reading many of the comments on Twitter about heavy topics of the day makes it painfully clear that not only is the nation needing some lessons on logic, but also about how to navigate in polite society.

I do find it most telling, however, when it comes to those in the nation who talk loudest about ‘free speech’, that what is really desired is the ability to anonymously spread harmful lies, conspiracy theories, and outright bogus slime. Which runs counter to the folks who know this grand freedom of speaking freely comes with the responsibility to speak responsibly.

As they did on the party line of my youth.

And so it goes.

Woman Behind The Song “Still” Dies, Bill Anderson Standard

I ran across an interesting obituary that lands in the Caffeinated Politics Grand Ole Opry file. Best of all it connects with Bill Anderson, a decades-long favorite of your blogger.

Connie Ward Stewart died in Georgia on April 13, 2022.

Stewart was a lifelong educator, journalist, and campaign strategist, known as a trailblazer for women.

Connie worked at WSB-TV, married newscaster Don Stewart, and had one daughter, Sheri Lyn. She taught in Atlanta public schools and was faculty and Dir. of Orientation at UGA where she achieved racial diversity among the student Orientation Leaders. She was even the inspiration for the hit love song Still, as confirmed by country music writer/singer Bill Anderson.