Back To Blogging After Memorial Day Weekend

Doty Land Podcast: Author Rita Atkinson “Of The Embers”, Historical Mystery Set in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Rita Atkinson, a Tri-County Schools graduate had her first book published by Fulton Books. Of The Embers is a historical mystery. She sat down with me for an episode of my Doty Land podcast to talk about the 1883 blaze at the Newhall House in Milwaukee which killed 100 people. 

The interesting people who had lodged at the hotel the night of the blaze, including Tom Thumb, an actor, politicians along with two chambermaids from central Wisconsin are part of a story about the intersections of life at the time of a tragic fire.  What brought those to the Newhall House that night? What caused the fire? How did those who survived do it, and how were they affected by their experiences that night? The book focuses on a handful of those who were at the Newhall that night through their lives before the fire, their activities the night of the fire, and in the years following the fire.  Host Gregory Humphrey has produced a professional podcast about an amazing book.

A professionally produced podcast with an author many will come to enjoy in the pages of her novel, “Of The Embers”.

Steep Price Must Be Paid For Gun Violence, $144 Million Settlement What America Needs To Face

I was pleased to learn from a radio newscast that the Department of Justice reached a tentative $144.5 million settlement agreement with the victims of the 2017 shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.  With the continuing list of mass shootings making headlines weekly, you can be forgiven for not recalling which mass shooting that happened to be.  So let me add here for the benefit of my readers it was the deadliest mass shooting in Texas. Well, as of this posting.

Former Air Force member Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire in November 2017, during a worship service which quickly resulted in twenty-six people being slaughtered while 22 others were injured. The $144 million settlement would resolve the federal government’s drawn-out legal battle with the families of the victims and survivors of the mass shooting after a federal judge found the government largely responsible for the attack.

The lawsuit has been interesting to follow for two reasonsFirst, gun violence must carry a huge price tag so to demonstrate to the public what is at stake when constructive efforts are not undertaken to control the ‘old wild west’ mentality across the nation. If the dead bodies of school children will not move a nation to act, then perhaps the financial factor is what will resonate within people where morals once existed. Secondly, this case showcases the lack of accountability by those who knew or should have known the mass shooter’s previous domestic assault conviction. 

Kelly had attacked his former wife and baby stepson, and that alone showed what a weak man he was.  That information should have been planted in our national database, and if it had been so inputted there is a strong probability that the mass shooting may not have occurred.  An intervention might have prevented him from buying deadly guns from licensed dealers.  I had been heartened in this slow-moving legal case when a federal judge ruled that the Air Force was 60% liable for the mass shooting because they were negligent in placing data into the national system.  Adding to the justified anger the victim’s families can feel is the fact the Defense Department, when conducting an investigation into the case, discovered that the Air Force failed six times to follow reporting procedures during the shooter’s five-year service. 

I have stated umpteen times that given almost 400 million guns are loose in the nation, there will need to be laws and processes undertaken to stem the unacceptable level of gun violence.  But to learn such a blatant lapse in sound judgment and prudence from the Air Force regarding a clearly angry male, and knowing no steps were taken given the law already on the books(!) so to lessen his chances of committing further danger to others requires that a massive financial settlement now occurs.

Gun violence must result in a steep price to be paid.  If knowing children need to be scraped off school classroom floors after bullets from assault-style weapons (which were meant for war) obliterate their small bodies does not move the conscience of the nation, then we need to find what will move Americans. Since greed and selfishness, sadly, are factors that move a fair amount of them, I strongly concur with the large DOJ settlement and urge more such legal constructions in cases around the nation.

After all, a Steep Price Must Be Paid For Gun Violence

Donald Trump Indictment Makes Historic Front Newspaper Pages For Friday, March 31, 2023

Yesterday, I was writing on Caffeinated Politics about the importance of newspapers in relation to our democracy. As is the custom when major events happen in the nation or world, CP looks at the morning newspapers and makes a selection of how a story was reported and placed above the fold. Today the first record of history was published nationwide about law and order being brought to Donald Trump (the first of four likely indictments) and here is how our country is reading that account. The Dickinson Press in North Dakota, in the heart of Stark County, is my favorite front page for the use of the story in the banner. It would be of interest to know what other weighty stories merited such placement. Yeah, I am nerdy that way. Now let us start our front page journey in Alaska.

Dan Kelly Would Be Harmful To Democracy, Must Not Be Elected To Court, Imposter Electoral College Ballots Our Proof

Entrance to the Supreme Court of the state of Wisconsin.

In my life, one event far more than any other, was shockingly bizarre, utterly shameful, and absolutely repugnant on a level never before witnessed. It cut not only a deep wound into those who read and study our history and believe in our nation’s ideals but also slashed at the national fabric that holds a democracy together through fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power between presidential administrations.  The seditious insurrection at our nation’s Capital on January 6, 2021, will go down as a horrific attempt to steal an American election.

While Donald Trump provoked and cradled the violence, there were many across the land who aided and abetted his autocratic desires. One of those who lent a hand in undermining the 2020 election process, and pushed back on the lessons we learned in our civics classes, was Dan Kelly. He is now a candidate for the Wisconsin Supreme Court on April 4th.  Following the needless bombast and purposely created chaos by Trump and his White House after the 2020 balloting we needed to have stable, reasoned, and civic-minded people stand up for the sake of the nation. Dan Kelly took a different route.  

Following Kelly’s defeat by Wisconsin voters for a court seat in 2020 he took a job with the Wisconsin Republican Party and the Republican National Committee to work on election issues, where he was paid roughly $120,000.  For a jurist who told voters that objectivity was his desire just months prior when seeking their support, he quickly found his partisan niche when voted off the bench. It was because of that work former GOP Chairman Andrew Hitt was able to inform the January 6th investigating committee that Kelly was working as a “special counsel” and had “pretty extensive conversations” about the fake Republican electors. Hitt testified that he brought in Kelly to “kind of advise on election law matters.”

We know that the Republican fake electors met in the Wisconsin Capitol on the same day that Democrats cast the state’s 10 electoral votes for Biden.  Those electoral votes could be rightfully cast since Biden won the state by nearly 21,000 votes.  The actions by Republicans with a bogus and dangerous imposter list of electors created pure partisan chicanery. strongly aided by Kelly to purposely pollute our electoral college process.  As such, Kelly cannot claim to be a citizen in good standing with the principles of our nation as laid out by the Founding Fathers.  With such a lax foundation he is not the quality of person needed to be a court justice.

According to the Wisconsin Code of Judicial Conduct, Kelly walked away from the groundwork of how a would-be jurist should act in regard to partisan behavior. The code bars candidates from belonging to a political party, participating “in the affairs, caucuses, promotions, platforms, endorsements, conventions, or activities of a political party or of a candidate for partisan office”. Such brakes on political actions are more common than we might consider. My brother-in-law could not place a political lawn sign on his property because he was a mere postmaster. Surely then, we must hold supreme court candidates to a higher set of guidelines and standards when we learn of one aiding in the undermining of a presidential election.

Kelly proved his desire to be a politico when he took a job with the Republican Party and dress in partisan red. That was his right since he needed a job.  But then he traded in his values and core beliefs to aid the autocratic desire of Trump over and above the election outcomes of the American people. That created a clear danger to our nation. To our democracy. Such a person can not sit on the Supreme Court.

I recall that Elizabeth Taylor could not wear white on her 8th marriage, and in that same light, there is no way that Dan Kelly can again wear a black robe. There are bridges, once crossed, where a return trip is no longer an option.  I do not mean to end this post in a light-hearted mirthful manner as there is no equivocation about where we all need to stand as citizens.  Any effort to overturn Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential election results is disqualifying for elected office of any kind.

Madison Aldermanic Races Flooded By Realtors Association Money, Neighborhood Elections Should Not Be For Sale

Pressing for a process where elections are issue-oriented has been one of the foundations of this blog over the past 17 years.  Ushering more money into campaigns has not created policy wonks among voters but instead pressured elected officials to be more susceptible to casting an aye or nay that aligns with the monied interests who ‘brought them to the dance’.  As we near the April Spring election heavy monied maneuvers have been employed by the Realtors Association of South Central Wisconsin in a large number of Madison aldermanic races.  It is creating a backlash across the city that I suspect news operations will soon find merits coverage. In the newsroom of the radio station where I worked, we termed a story of this kind as ‘having legs’.

Central to this story is that races for alderperson, one of the most local and personal types of elections we are engaged in as citizens should not be smothered by the monied interests from outside our districts. They do not care about the community spirit we wish to maintain in our neighborhoods but rather about the use of raw political power during election season. 

As noted on the Marquette Neighborhood listserv this weekend, where one of the candidates for an alderperson in the 6th district next month received $20,000 in assistance from the realtors, there is ample reason to understand what is happening.  First, a brief primer about a similar move where Satya Rhodes-Conway, while serving as a city council member, weighed into what then was a political stink bomb lobbed into the Willy Street neighborhood.

“In the 2013 District 6 Alder race, the Building a Stronger Wisconsin PAC sent out a mailer supporting one of the candidates.  It raised quite a stir on this list-serv (and in the neighborhood) not only due to its scurrilous content about the opponent but also because a PAC directly entered into a local race.  As one poster at the time said:  “If a Madison council seat can attract this kind of PAC intrusion, what’s next?  PAC mailers for Co-Op, MNA and Wil-Mar board seats?”  Or, as then-Alder Satya Rhodes-Conway was quoted as saying in another post:  “Shady front groups have no place in Madison Politics.” 

Venture forth to March 2023.

Now, for the District 6 election, we have received a mailer from the RASCW Housing Advocacy Fund.  This Fund is an IRS section 527 political organization, first registered with the IRS on March 6, 2023.  The Fund is affiliated with the Realtors Association of South Central Wisconsin, and the Association’s CEO is the records custodian for the Fund.  The Fund’s IRS registration form states the purpose of the organization is “to influence elections.”  The Fund’s first registration statement was filed with the state on March 10th

WHAT IS ABSOLUTELY APPALLING is that this Fund has spent $ 169,889.02 (estimated costs, not all invoices have been received) on Madison Alder races. The Fund has spent money on candidates for Districts 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, 15, 16, 18, and, 19.  In addition, the Fund spent $17,477 on a Fitchburg mayoral candidate. 

The Fund spent $20,000 in the District 6 race for mailing services, online advertising, and phone/robo calls.  To put this in perspective, in 2021 Brian raised $1,080 and spent less than $400, Alder Abbas spent about $6K, Alder Bennett about $2K, and Alder Carter about $2.5K.”

Why this matters to voters is something I can speak to with first-hand knowledge. In 1988, for the first time, a race for a Wisconsin state assembly seat would top $50,000.  Most rural races were easily waged with $15,000 but the GOP desperately wanted Lary Swoboda’s First Assembly seat (Lary had taken the Door/Kewaunee seat after it had been held by the GOP for almost a century), so they pumped over $50,000 into the opponent’s war chest. I was working with Lary at the Capitol in those years and though we prevailed at the ballot box, due in part to people knowing the high gloss multicolored brochures in the mail were not aligned with the way they had long known races to be conducted, this race changed how our caucus in the assembly viewed future elections. Seeking large amounts of campaign cash and viewing the coming election cycle as a frenzied money-grabbing event greatly altered politics and undermined good governance. The way to remedy a similar cash grab locally from happening is to reject this kind of spending by sending a clear message at the ballot box about what good government means.

Finally, after the 1988 election, our campaign had some political buttons produced.  You read that right, after the election.  That race was so grueling we needed some way to alert others to the insanity we endured. “We Survived The $50,000 Club”. Today people think of $50,000 as start-up money for an assembly race, but in 1988 that was a major war chest to run against. 

Voters have the power to reject this monied interest and reverse the attempt to sway elections followed by their desire to plow through changes in the common council.

Here is the filed report. Type “rascw” into the search box, and the fund name will drop down. 

Federal Government Must Press Car Companies To Keep AM Radio In Dashboards

Recently the National Association of Broadcasters stated that surely “automakers do not want to alienate the nearly 48 million Americans who listen to AM radio each week.”  If you have not been following this topic about car manufacturers and placement of radio sets in car dashboards—and admittingly there is a raft of headlines from the debt ceiling to the military needs for Ukraine that take precedence—it might seem an obscure and off-beat issue to be discussing.  But it is an issue that connects with many across the nation and for very important reasons.

Many may not be aware of the fact that AM radio is very much the backbone of the nation’s Emergency Alert System (EAS), and as such AM radio plays a critical role in informing Americans as well as keeping them safe when, and should, disaster strike.  While images of national calamity come to mind with the mention of EAS, I can attest to the importance of AM radio in the lives of people week in and week out.  A representative example of those 48 million in the nation impacted by AM radio would be ‘the Egg Harbor reporter’ who alerted me each snowstorm of the road conditions concerning a stretch of Northern Door County once the snow and sleet started to fall.

He was an articulate retired man who called the radio station often when I was on the air and since he lived close to a hill that was so troublesome during inclement weather gave me information that I then imparted to the radio listeners.  AM radio is very much a valued and even at times critical lifeline to information during emergencies and natural disasters.  Folks throughout Door and Kewaunee counties needed to know about storm-related information or news of detours around crash sites on highways or alerts about downed power lines in neighborhoods that needed to be avoided when walking or driving. The list goes on and on about today’s needs listeners have and the role AM radio still plays in communities across the nation.

So, it is alarming to learn of the response to a letter written by U.S. Senator Edward Markey to car companies asking them to maintain broadcast AM radio as a feature in electric vehicles and other future vehicles.  Markey wrote in December to all the big automakers: Ford, General Motors, Stellantis, BMW, and Kia among them. He asked for a thorough accounting of where AM radio receivers stand in the view of automakers and to inform him of any plans to discontinue access to AM in new cars.

The auto industry response comes from the Alliance for Automotive Innovation and appears to be a resounding non-endorsement of AM radio. In fact, the letter makes no mention of the industry’s intentions of keeping AM radio intact in the dashboard.  It instead pointed to the many other ways that Americans now can receive emergency alerting information.

The importance of this matter was clearly demonstrated when seven former FEMA officials asked the federal government to help keep AM radios in electric vehicles. In a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the group petitions the government to seek assurances from automakers to maintain AM radios in EVs, arguing that the band is vital to the federal National Public Warning System.

I can speak to this issue as a former broadcaster who understands the tight connections listeners have with a local radio station and the importance they placed on solid reporting and dissemination of alerts and updates concerning a wide array of issues. There is a bond radio announcers have with their communities and one that listeners rely on daily with the one behind the studio microphone. It is a really rather basic concept, something that even car executives should be able to grasp. Reliable communications via AM radio are something a very large segment of the citizenry desire to have access to in an emergency. 

Politically Motivated Shooting Spree: Losing GOP Candidate, Trump Supporter, Election Denier Engages In Multiple Shootings Against Democrats

Solomon Pena, election denier, arrested for being involved in paying suspects to shoot up the homes of four Democratic politicians

It is not possible to write about each multiple shooting or every instance of insanity that plays out with gun owners and their crimes. Given, however, the deeply fractured nature of our politics and the attacks on our democracy that peaked with the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan 6th, the news over the MLK holiday weekend from New Mexico truly startled me. A staunch Donald Trump supporter and losing candidate for state assembly was arrested for being involved in paying suspects to shoot up the homes of four Democratic politicians.

James Patterson could not have plotted a more sinister and dangerous storyline than what Albuquerque Police stated had occurred when Solomon Pena contracted individuals to carry out at least two of the shootings.  Pena, himself, was present and fired a weapon at one of the other shootings.  Those fired upon were the homes of two county commissioners and two state legislators. 

The report from NPR on Monday was, frankly put, frightening in every respect.  In one case bullets ripped into the wall of a child’s bedroom.

The first act of gun violence happened on December 4th when eight shots were sent into the home of County Commissioner Adriann Barboa. That was followed on December 11th when more than a dozen bullets were fired into the home of County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley. Representative Javier Martinez’s home was also involved in a shooting incident in December while this month the home of state representative Linda Lopez was fired upon.  That is where bullets blasted into a 10-year-old’s bedroom while she slept.

While the danger of such actions on a human level is most evident, it is the undermining of our democratic foundations that also must be addressed.  The notion that violence is considered an option when losing a political race is absolutely disgusting and reprehensible.  It strikes against the very ideas of what constitutes free and fair elections in a democracy. We know that Donald Trump has taught a large percentage of his base of supporters to act recklessly and claim election fraud at every turn.  Police stated that Peña alleged his defeat was the result of election fraud.  Gosh, where did that line of horse rot originate? 

It needs to be noted that Peña lost his state assembly challenge to incumbent Democrat Miguel P. Garcia by 5,679 to 2,033, or 74% to 26%.  Or to round out those numbers Peña was defeated by roughly 50%!!   

So, what did the losing candidate do upon having voters utterly reject him?  NBC News reported that two handguns were found by police in a Nissan Maxima owned by Peña during a traffic stop on Jan. 3. One of the guns appeared to have fired shots outside the home of state Sen. Linda Lopez roughly 40 minutes before and 4 miles away, police said in a statement. A shell casing found in the Maxima matched those found at the scene of another shooting, an incident outside the home of new state House Speaker Javier Martinez on Dec. 8th.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller correctly summed up the crimes and placement of them into the larger issue at hand.  

“This was about a right-wing radical, an election denier, who was arrested today; someone who did the worst imaginable thing you can do when you have a political disagreement, which in turn that into violence.  That should never be the case”.

There is another factor needing consideration, and that is the Republican Party in New Mexico.  Voters knew Pena was previously arrested and convicted of stealing goods from multiple big box stores as part of a “smash and grab” scheme.  They knew their candidate served close to seven years in prison.  Peña was also ordered to go through alcohol/substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling, 90 days in Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous, and anger management, court records show.

And yet….and yet.  The New Mexico GOP thought him the perfect name to be on the November ballot. What they offered the voters was a terrorist who was not able to grasp that every election has a winner and a loser. Peña was told over the past two years of bombast and absurdity from Trump and his ilk that election-denying is just another part of the GOP playbook.  A 10-year-old could have been a victim of this lunacy.

How many Republicans will now step up and denounce the fascism that has taken hold of their party?