With fondness and laughter Bruce Miller, George Manesis, and Gregory Humphrey trek back 41 years to reminisce about the Wausau, Wisconsin broadcasting school. From how these young men saw themselves at the time, to how radio impacts their lives today, this podcast episode surely mirrors the hundreds of graduates over the years. From the school owner, Ray Szmanda, to the iconic Scott Street Pub these three guys regale memories that will transport all those who once harbored ‘radio fever’ to a place of youthful nostalgia. An episode that has a professional touch, a human connection. Darius Rucker, The Knack, and Connie Smith add the melody.
The dangerous push for illiberal democracy with its continuing threats upon the most effective path following WWII to create vibrant economies and form relationships to foster international understanding gets much attention on this little slice of the internet highway. I have penned my utter disdain for Marie La Pen in France and complete contempt for Donald Trump in America. I have thumped my fist against Russian aggression and Hungary’s oppression. The slippery downhill slide to autocratic goals via menacing political maneuvers from governments worldwide is a concern that more people simply must take stock of and push back against.
The latest such dreadful headline followed the election results from balloting in Italy. A far right-wing coalition won a convincing majority with the ultra-conservative Brothers of Italy Party prevailing which means their leader, Giorgia Meloni, will become the new prime minister. Those who know their history realize the enormity of the election headline, it means Meloni will be that nation’s first far-right prime minister since Benito Mussolini. She pays lip service to not being associated with fascism, BUT OH PLEASE, her party is ripe with the trappings, symbols, and values of that wretched period that much of the world wishes to never see again. It is because some in the world do read history that so much uproar resulted from her victory.
What we are witnessing, again, is the idea advanced through the party rhetoric that politics can take precedence over the law. It is not a new concept, obviously, for the far-right fascist elements. But what happened in Italy underscores the growing threats elsewhere if such behavior is not checked and choked. Cultural nationalism has been the root cause of so much misery throughout the pages of history and the Brothers of Italy Party has stoked that fire both overtly and covertly. Airbrushing history, which they love to do, along with what must be admitted was an effective political campaign strategy of uniting Italian protest votes resulted in a body slam to the high ideals the world embraced—and Italy mostly understood–following the last world war.
Transforming a democracy, even one as chaotic politically as Italy has clearly demonstrated for decades, is not something we can simply dismiss or view as happening ‘over there’. We must ponder why such moves are taking place in Europe, South America, and even in the United States. There has been a most disturbing trend among the conservative Republican base to saddle up to misinformation and wrap their arms around conspiracy theories that are linked to those pushing illiberal democracy. For a functioning democracy to thrive there must be a fact-based citizenry. We have all watched the absurd, baseless, and groundless election chaos and followed the reasons many offer for why passions have been unleashed in the way they have over the past months.
There are over 240 extreme conservatives running as Republican nominees in the mid-terms who rejected the outcome of the 2020 presidential elections. Think about that for a moment. We know from studies and polling that the link from such preposterousness stems back to some in the nation feeling their religion is under attack, (it is not) or that laws and social adjustments are occurring for a wider segment of the populace who are not white, and that the ‘browning; of the nation is happening ‘too soon’. None of that should be the cause to throw rational thinking aside for fascist whims. But that anger in our nation over social advances for historically marginalized groups, or at times economic transitions not easily understood, is used by some politicians to foster partisan turmoil. Even advance autocratic and illiberal outcomes.
I will leave this column about Italy and fascism with a quote from a most famous American. As the story goes Franklin was walking out of Independence Hall after the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when someone shouted out, “What have we got? A republic or a monarchy?”
To which Franklin supposedly responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
With illiberal democracy knocking, and in places winning at the polls, we need to very much heed what Ben said centuries ago.
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos was most willing to appropriate more than a million dollars to a former Supreme Court justice so to ferret out alleged nefarious and illegal voting behavior following the defeat of Donald Trump in the state’s 2020 presidential election. Rather than admitting the Republican Party had a seriously flawed candidate, Vos stood by as Michael Gableman threatened to jail the mayors of major Wisconsin cities such as Madison, Green Bay, and Racine if they didn’t comply with subpoenas to sit for private interviews as part of the investigation. Following the August endorsement of Vos’s primary opponent by Gableman, the Speaker terminated the contract to further spend taxpayer’s dollars on an investigation that had no serious purpose.
What was widely reported in the state, and in national political columns was that this summer while the investigation was underway Vos stated he had taken a phone call from Donald Trump, who told the Speaker of his desire to see the results of the 2020 balloting overturned. It comes as no surprise that the January 6th committee follows such developments as that phone conversation, and is attuned to the developments which are aimed at undermining our democratic institutions and eroding the faith of the citizenry in our electoral process. Therefore, the committee is, of course, mighty interested in Vos’ testimony and information he can add to the larger understanding of a seditious conspiracy plotted by Donald Trump, and aided by a number of close aids and confidants.
After the anticipated legal protection that Vos grabbed for after the panel handed him a subpoena, the panel canceled Monday’s deposition deadline, but noted their desire to have his compliance and know the matter is pending upon the ruling from a judge. This reluctance from Vos, however, to honestly testifying is troubling for two reasons.
First, the desire of the Committee is straightforward. They simply requested in their subpoena for Vos to give a deposition about his call with Trump and the surrounding circumstances. The fact is our democracy came under violent attack on Jan. 6th. Many attempts at undoing the election outcome, though impossible to achieve, have been made in the months following as Trump furthers an absurd theory in several states. Wisconsin was one of those playgrounds which have used tax dollars, and as such, there is a need to know what pressures were placed on the Speaker by Trump to thwart the will of the voters.
Secondly, if Vos is true to his words and intentions then he would very much desire a full accounting of what occurred with the Trump phone call. During the period following the 2020 election, he stated Wisconsin needs to “look forward” to guarantee public faith in elections. He said he believes “half of the state or more,” thinks there were “serious problems with the way the election was conducted”. I can state that equal numbers of our fellow Wisconsinites are much concerned about the shape of our democracy and worry about the fate of our political and electoral processes.
As such, Vos would well serve our state by being forthcoming to the Jan. 6th Committee about his stated desire of securing the public faith in our elections….while at the same time giving a boost to our overall democracy. It could be a win-win.
There are certainly many people in life who we cross paths with that make a strong impression and perhaps lasting memories. We might think of those encounters and even tell family or close friends of a rewarding and fleeting experience. But because in most cases we are not even aware of the name of the one who lifted the mood or brought a laugh we never get to say thanks. It might also be the case that the person who impacted our life was not close enough to offer a verbal thanks. In my case, however, thanks to this blog space, I can offer my words about someone who simply brightened my life for several hours Sunday night.
James and I had tickets to see Sense and Sensibility at American Players Theatre in Spring Green. After a day that started cloudy and gray, sunshine and only a few puffy clouds ushered in showtime. The book by Jane Austen came to life with fast-moving scenes enabled by seamless set changes conducted by what was assumed to be the household staff. There has never been a performance from over the decades at APT that was not delightful.
But this year, for me, it was far more impactful. It was the first large public event we have attended since 2019, before the COVID pandemic. It was the performance from Sarah Day, with her sprightly and finely tuned delivery of lines in the role of the lovable Mrs. Jennings, (pictured in orange/rust-colored attire below) that made me aware, again, of why theater matters.
During the pandemic, this home struck close to CDC guidelines, and because James works with an aging population suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia in his guardianship business, and since we had no interest in becoming infected with potentially long-term consequences, we steered away from large gatherings. But with an outdoor setting that APT has so well created over many years, and with our expectations that later in the season a larger percentage of people would be vaccinated, we opted to attend a performance.
So, it may not be hard to understand why I was misty-eyed when Day first jauntily walked onto the stage and started her matchmaking of the unwed Dashwood daughters. I had so missed this type of entertainment, this sense of community from both those performing on a stage and the people who watch and participate in the moods of the actors and actresses. If theater allows us to know what it means to be human, and reflect a mirror on ourselves, then the absence of that in our lives certainly leaves an empty space. For the past few years, that part of me was inactive, but with Day’s wit and energy on stage over the course of the play, I was rejuvenated. The whole ensemble which was most splendid was clearly part of the tonic this soul needed.
During one conversation between two daughters center stage, Day comes to the aisle where I was seated and stayed in character as she looks downwards, into the audience. She sipped a glass of refreshment served in the play, mouthed words as if in conversation with another actor nearby her, and winces and uses her facial expressions to align with the dialogue of the women. Not for a moment was she not in character and that just completes the professionalism and thoroughness that allows the theatre to be such a rich experience for me.
Could I be in such a great mood this Monday morning had I attended any other theatre production Sunday night? I am sure I would be after the drought due to the pandemic and my love of theater. But the fact is it was APT and Sarah Day who were the lifters of the sails that make me write this post today. I simply need to say thanks.
We know what plays to approval on Fox News in the evening hours when profoundly ridiculous notions and racist attitudes are presented. We also know those same views will meet strong disagreement and rejection from large swaths of the nation that is not wedded to the absurd network. What makes the FOX crowds giddy does not translate well to the nation as a whole. A case in point would be the plain mean-spirited abuse of migrants at the hands of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
This was underscored when a new poll from Reuters-Ipsos was published Friday which showed that only a third of Americans think it’s appropriate for Republican governors to fly or bus migrants to other states. Half of the Republicans polled and only 1 in 6 Democrats said it was something in which they could agree. Twenty-nine percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Democrats say they opposed the practice. Forty-five percent–including 63 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of Republicans–said state leaders transporting migrants were committing illegal migrant trafficking.
The poll is reflective of the mood in the nation following the awful news of flying migrants thousands of miles across the country to Martha’s Vineyard. The island off Massachusetts only has 17,000 year-round residents, and as we know from news reports this spring has housing problems for their workers who arrive during the warm months as tourists roam about. Making a purely partisan point with the lives of migrants was unseeingly, and immoral.
It is truly troubling that some Republican pols are comfortable with the use and manipulation of people–vulnerable migrants—for the single purpose of scoring points with white voters who willingly watch FOX News. That network does not present migrants as human beings fleeing dreadful conditions in their homelands or that they seek to work hard or will find many businesses in every sector in each state wishing to hire them. (Jobs, it needs noting, those same white FOX News viewers will not fill.)
I noted on my Twitter feed a slice from history that made a strong point about this situation. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library posted a tweet comparing the DeSantis racism with the “reverse Freedom Rides” that occurred in the 1960s in our nation.
“To embarrass Northern liberals and humiliate Black people, southern White Citizens Councils started their so-called ‘Reverse Freedom Rides,’ giving Black people one-way tickets to northern cities with false promises of jobs, housing, and better lives”.
Americans know racism when they see it, and the strong rebuke of DeSantis that was registered across the nation has made one point most clear. Stop using migrants as political pawns.
Herschel Walker, the Republican candidate for Senate in Georgia, is at it again with his inability to be forthright. Let me put that another. He simply seems unable to be truthful. Well, let me phrase that even more directly. He lies.
The latest collision with the truth by one of the four most absurd and horrible senate candidates the Republican Party has put forth for the 2022 mid-term elections concerns money that was supposedly donated to charities. (The other three states with dreadful GOP senate nominees are in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.)
Walker, a former football star, pledged that 15 percent of profits would go to charities, a promise the company said was “part of its corporate charter.” For years, Mr. Walker’s company named four specific charities as beneficiaries of those donations, including the Boy Scouts of America and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.But there is scant evidence that Mr. Walker’s giving matched those promises. When The New York Times contacted those four charities, one declined to comment and the other three said they had no record or recollection of any gifts from the company in the last decade.
While human nature at times allows for fabrications and embellishments, and on a campaign trail when talking is a non-stop task, it is not hard to fathom how stretching of the truth might occur. ‘I was an early supporter of that legislation or ‘You will always find me riding in a car made in America’. But when it comes to Walker he seems to fail at telling the truth at every turn about the big events in his life when talking.
Walker, who is facing Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, in his first bid for public office, has been dogged by repeated instances in which he was found to have given misleading or outright false details about his life story. He falsely claimed to have graduated “in the top 1 percent” of his class at the University of Georgia, when in fact he had not graduated at all: He left the university after his junior year to play professional football. He also said he had “worked in law enforcement” when he had not.
His candidacy was never taken seriously by any politico, as there is no intellectual substance to Walker. Zero. Zilch. None. It was almost as if the GOP needed a court jester and Walker was more than happy to play the role of national dupe. Trump was won over because Walker said something nice about him and the followers of the cult leader said, ‘Well, sure, let’s make him a nominee for the senate!’ The bar is so very low for much of the modern Republican Party. Walker is proof of that fact.
I strongly suspect most Georgians want a credible and honest senator who has not had their brain punched about on a football field for many a year. I just know voters believe that a candidate should be able to honestly recall if he graduated from college. Or how many illegitimate children call him ‘the one who sends the checks’.
Late Wednesday evening we witnessed another sign that our nation’s checks and balances continue to work. I take note of such events as they are lifting moments in our troubling times when we witness fascism rising while an autocrat makes threats about violence being unleashed in the nation if he is brought to justice.
Throughout the day we saw the efforts of law and order rise up and make a clarion statement that this nation does not kneel to such blackmail. New York Attorney General Letitia James took action to bar Donald Trump and his children from ever again running a business in New York State. She filed a lawsuit that claims the Trump family and their business overvalued assets by billions of dollars and with the proof of Trump’s annual financial statements showcased at least a decade of absurd myth-making while defrauding banks and insurance companies.
Late in the evening, a federal appeals court handed down a blistering ruling that unleashed the Justice Department so to rightly resume using documents marked as classified that were seized from Donald Trump in the FBI search. In so doing, the ruling undoes a lower court’s order that had strictly limited the investigation into Trump’s handling of highly classified government materials. The 11th Circuit set aside key parts of an earlier order by a Florida federal judge that had kept the department from using about 100 files that Trump illegally retained.
The three-judge panel wrote in their opinion, “For our part, we cannot discern why Plaintiff would have an individual interest in or need for any of the one-hundred documents with classification markings.”
What strikes me of great interest is that the panel in this ruling found particularly unpersuasive the repeated suggestions by Trump’s legal team that he may have declassified the documents. But note that when earlier pressed by the special master, Raymond Dearie, those lawyers would not say very much in court if Trump had acted to declassify the materials in question. They know better than to lie during a court proceeding.
So tonight, the federal court lowered the boom on Trump. “Plaintiff suggests that he may have declassified these documents when he was President. But the record contains no evidence that any of these records were declassified. And before the special master, Plaintiff resisted providing any evidence that he had declassified any of these documents,” the panel wrote. “In any event, at least for these purposes, the declassification argument is a red herring because declassifying an official document would not change its content or render it personal.”
We have come to a point in our nation where the legal process and the application of the rule of law will be required to be used energetically to ensure the nation remains a democracy. This blog has often opined on the drift away from our nation’s ideals and the Framers’ construct during the Trump term—our nation’s most embarrassing fiasco since the days of Richard Nixon. (And let us be frank and term Dick a piker in comparison.) Today, however, was a fine example of what the law can and will do to right the ship that has drifted and tilted dangerously. In so doing, it allows us a strong ray of hope about the future of this country.
I was very much opposed to Madison Alderperson Juliana Bennett’s proposal to enact a ban on the Madison Police Department along with mutual aid agencies from using tear gas, mace, all chemical irritants, and impact projectiles for use in crowd/riot control within the city. It was a reckless and short-sighted proposal that was constructed with the aim to make for a progressive signature for an alder rather than concern about the greater needs of the city and the residents who reside here.
By the time of the city council meeting Tuesday night, a concerted effort was made to bridge a compromise so that law enforcement can still use those measures should they be required but mandates the city’s yet-to-be-hired first independent police monitor to do an after-action review of any use of tear gas. Police Chief Shon Barnes accepted the compromise and the matter passed the council 14-4.
Since I find the independent police monitor to be as needed as a third nipple I much agreed with the rationale of those who voted no on the after-action review. The Wisconsin State Journal reported “Alds. Barbara Harrington-McKinney, Charles Myadze, Sheri Carter and Tag Evers voted no. Those opposed said the police have been responsible in investigating tear gas use and that the reporting requirement was micromanaging or redundant because the independent monitor already has the capacity to do investigations.”
While police work to make sure protesters are safe when pressing their message, we should also want and expect law enforcement to be most determined to quell and stop the smashing of windows, the tearing down of statuary at the statehouse (!) and to stem the undermining of basic law and order. As such, I fully support the police using tactics that will meet the mission as needed. I wrote with much hope on August 28th on this blog that citizens should reach out and contact alders to demand a vote against the Bennett proposal. I know many people across this city did that very thing.
I am glad that pragmatism (for the most part) was the path chosen by the council on this matter. After all, the vast majority of those paying the taxes in our city have faith in the ones wearing blue and hired to do their professional jobs to keep us all safe.