Blogging Resumes January 1, 2022!

Bob Dole Recalled At Wisconsin State Capitol, Former Senator Dies At 98

Bob Dole, who overcame severe World War II wounds to lead the Senate GOP and became a party nominee for president died on Sunday at the age of 98.

(AP Photo/ Beth A. Keiser)

Dole was a consummate politician and can be correctly termed a workhorse for the GOP in the decades when politicians also knew governing, itself, must be their first calling. He could be cranky and dutiful all in the same breath.

Dole’s peak as a party elder came in 1996 when he finally achieved his goal to be party nominee, and challenged incumbent Bill Clinton for the presidency. That grand chapter on the national stage, though not victorious, was an honorable one. In politics, that last point matters.

Dole and a wide swath of elected officials came to power after WWII with a grasp of how fragile not only life can be, but also democracy. They often had strong differences about the shaping of policy and the direction of the issues that made for headlines, but they seemed most surefooted about the reason the government must work for the greater good. It is impossible to see Majority Leader Dole stride down the Senate aisle and countenance the behavior and breakdown for respect and reason that has consumed today’s Republican Party.

I was able to witness the body language of Senator Bob Dole in 1988 as he made a stop at the Wisconsin State Capitol. I noted that event in my book Walking Up The Ramp.

The other Republican who I met when he came to Madison, a city that is not fertile ground for conservatives, was Senator Bob Dole. He visited the Capitol on behalf of the state party.

I was working in the office, and a buddy on the other side of the aisle knew when the Senator’s SUV was going to wind its way up one of the circled drives of the Capitol, and drop him off. I made my way to the designated area, and stood outside with a mere handful of people as two vehicles came up the drive. With a dark suit and a rather serious exterior he exited his vehicle and with his left hand, met those who wished to say hello.

As always the pen he held in his crippled hand was meant to deflect the fact that he was an injured veteran. Dole seemed thinner in real life, but there was firmness to his footsteps and sureness to the gait of his walk as he entered the building that conveyed to me there was no doubt he was a political leader. He projected the aura of someone who needed to be reckoned with, and that is a most important first impression any politician wants to impart.

I suspect there are many in the country today who are wistful for the tone and times when Dole was using his power in Washington. They were not times free of passion over the path forward in the nation, but I do not recall ever wondering if the adults were in charge. Dole just knew his first job was to make sure the trains ran on time, and if that helped his political mission, great. But governing meant something to Dole, that reached above mere politics.

Bob Dole appeared on David Letterman’s show three days after losing in 1996 and was most gracious in defeat. If one moment shines, in retrospect, it is the four minutes below.

The following account says it all for this post.

“One of the stories Bob Dole likes to tell in speeches and interviews had to do with the events in the first two weeks of 1983 when, quite literally, the Social Security system was saved. The only part of the tale he leaves out is his own role. It could not have happened without him. To the contrary, he made it happen. I was there. I so attest.”…….Sen. Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) in a farewell tribute to Dole on June 11, 1996; Bob Dole: A Pictorial Biography of a Kansan, p. 102.

We can learn a lot about public service and even modesty if we follow the decades that Bob Dole was a fixture in American politics. His kind, sadly, seems fewer in number today.

And so it goes.

Shooter’s Parents Must Be Legally Accountable For Deadliest School Shooting This Year

Once again the deadly results of guns in our society make for terrible headlines. Once again the refrain from rational adults is a call to common sense and the development of gun control measures that will start to trim back the shootings. At the same time, conservatives chant their trite platitude, ‘thoughts and prayers’.

The layers of possible responses to the carnage left by Ethan Crumbley and the 9-millimeter Sig Sauer handgun used in the shooting are many. From working on issues in school concerning being bullied to the drowning of the nation in too many guns available for purchase, and the ease that children can get their hands on a deadly weapon. There is no single avenue to address the gravity of the situation.

But when it comes to guns in homes this blog has been consistent and adamant that parents must be held legally responsible when their weapons are not stored and safeguarded correctly. When they are accessible to underage people, and crimes take place with the weapons, then the law must follow the parents right to the jailhouse door and usher them inside.

On Wednesday we learned that the high school sophomore accused of killing four classmates and injuring others will be charged as an adult with a host of felonies, including terrorism and four counts of first-degree murder. The weight of the words from Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said it all.

Evidence shows the shooting was “absolutely premeditated.”

But equally important today was the news that prosecutors are also considering charges against the suspect’s parents. The New York Times reported that when the boy’s parents went to a sheriff’s substation after the shooting, they declined to let investigators question their child. The sheriff told reporters that a 9-millimeter Sig Sauer handgun used in the shooting had been bought four days earlier by the suspect’s father. “He is not talking and neither are the parents,” the sheriff said.

There is appropriate outrage across the nation today as we learn more evidence to show why parents, once again, must be held accountable for actions that their child took, due to a deadly gun made accessible in their home.

This blog has repeatedly stated parents of young people who use guns to shoot, kill, and create violence also need to be held accountable. Some adult was responsible for the fact the shooter was able to place his hands on this weapon. There is no way that any sane person can say parental/adult actions, such as with this shooting, should not be addressed by the law that makes sure there is a responsibility shared by those who help to foster the violent outcomes.

The NRA has plenty of responsibility for the number of guns in our society and the ease with which anyone can get a deadly weapon. But when it comes to children with guns there also has to be a question asked–where the heck was the parent? It might also be a good time to ask if parents are not able to control their offspring then perhaps they should forfeit their children’s tax credits. The rest of society should not have to continually pay the price for bad parenting.

And so it goes.

Diocese of Madison At Odds With Facts About COVID, Bishop Donald Hying Needs To Anchor With Science

When it comes to battling COVID we all need to be on the same page. We all need to respect science, medical professionalism, and the growing piles of data on the best ways to stem the progress of the deadly virus. But when we are alerted to those in our county who wish to steer a separate course that runs counter to our health needs, then we need to speak out.

One does not need to be a Catholic, or even religious to pay heed to what is happening at St. Maria Goretti school in Madison. Channel 3 offered a long and detailed story to viewers Monday evening that, in part, raises concerns about the lack of regard for safety standards at the school for children and staff concerning COVID. The story is also rooted in the concerns of parents and staff over the school’s working conditions, the hiring process for the principal, and the community’s perspective of the new direction of the St. Maria Goretti parish and school.

While those latter topics are challenging for the ones personally involved, it is the cavalier attitude of some in the local leadership of the Catholic Church regarding COVID that registers on this blog, a place continuously pushing for science and data to drive our behavior during the pandemic.

According to the letter, the investigation request comes after the entire kitchen staff and a long-time administrative assistant left the school in the past week, with staff saying they felt unable to report toxic working conditions to the principal. Since the letter, organizers say two more teachers have put in their resignation notices. In total, letter organizers and current parents said Monday that 40%, or 12 out of 29 teachers and administrative and food staff, had quit this year–most of them in the last two months.

By the end of August, the Wisconsin State Journal reported that enrollment at the parish school had dropped by about 75 students (out of a high of more than 400) amid rising concerns over the new principal’s connections to Father Richard Heilman, a Cross Plains priest who has spread misinformation about the pandemic and the January 6 insurrection. Since 2017, the St. Maria Goretti parish membership had declined by more than 200 people, the WSJ reported.

Early on in the school year, petition organizers say Mr. Schell disbanded COVID safety protocols that the school had put in place for the last school year, and the school made headlines in the WSJ for at first making masks optional.

“The principal came in and tore up our protocol and threw it away, and said everyone should just come in with no masks, or parents choose what they want to do,” Conlon said. The majority of parents who work in health care and had students in the school have signed the petition and withdrawn their children, petition organizers said.

Mr. Schell served as church pastoral council for a time at St. Mary of Pine Bluff Catholic Church with Father Heilman, a connection that concerned some school families and parishioners when Schell was hired at the school earlier in 2021. Heilman has made frequent appearances on a right wing talk show that has promoted misinformation about the pandemic, according to reporting from the Wisconsin Examiner.

It is still hoped, that the (recently) installed Bishop Donald Hying will be a stark departure from the ruinous relationship former Bishop Marlino had with many Catholics and the larger community. I come from the foundation where leaders of faith can play constructive and vital roles in the larger goals we all share for the betterment of society.

The entire region of the state would be well served if Hying were to give full-throated support for the use of CDC guidelines for students and staff at private schools, and when churchgoers attend Sunday services. It was noted in the WISC news story that Hying had words of reproach toward some families about attending mass, but I did not read a stiff rebuke towards Heilman for spreading lies about the virus that caused the pandemic.

My Bible speaks in the ninth commandment not to lie.

Attending mass is not mentioned.

And so it goes.

Let us see how Rome operates during the pandemic.

Why Most Americans Did Not Know Of Problems In Afghanistan

The assessment of what happened in Afghanistan over the past year, and how that translates into the chaos at the Kabul airport or the headlines being reported hourly is most worthy of our attention. There is no way to watch the bedlam and misery being unleashed following the Taliban takeover and not wonder what was missed leading up to the past weeks? Americans are asking how could the White House and Defense Department not have responded ‘more appropriately’?

The images from Afghanistan are gripping, the many questions have merit, and they absolutely require detailed responses. Some of those issues will start to be examined with Capitol Hill committee hearings this coming week.

But it also must be asked of the American public, “Where were you during the past 15 months when this removal process was being crafted by the Donald Trump Administration?” That is not a partisan jab, but rather a pointed reminder that the role of a citizen of this nation must include staying current with the affairs of the country.

While I understand the nation grew, rightly so, weary of a two-decade-long war it also needs stating the end of the American footprint in that war should have elicited more than a passing glance at how its conclusion was going to proceed.

The brunt of my question does not land solely on the average American sitting on their sofa, but in equal measure to the main television networks which did a most miserable job of reporting what the Trump White House was proposing for the military withdrawal. Additionally, the public needed to have been aware of the snail pacing of the application process so as to move certain Afghan citizens (and their families) out of that nation for their safety.

International publications such as The Economist were constant and probing with their reporting on Afghanistan, the BBC without doubt ‘on top’ of each development, and monthly offerings such as Foreign Policy examining in-depth the options and policy proposals in that nation. BUT the majority of the nation receives their news from network evening broadcasts.

The networks, however, proved to be simply embarrassing with their coverage of this international story.

Out of a combined 14,000-plus minutes of the national evening news broadcast on CBS, ABC, and NBC last year, a grand total of five minutes were devoted to Afghanistan, according to Andrew Tyndall, editor of the authoritative Tyndall Report, which has monitored and coded the networks’ nightly news each weekday since 1988. 

Those five minutes, which covered the February 2020 Doha agreement between the United States and the Taliban, marked a 19-year low for Afghanistan coverage on the three networks’ newscasts. They compared to a high of 940 minutes the networks devoted to Afghanistan in 2001, all of it following 9/11 and the subsequent U.S. intervention, as shown below.

While the pathetic amount of coverage of the conflict last year can be partially explained by the virtually total dominance of the news agenda by the COVID-19 pandemic, the three networks devoted a total of only 362 minutes to Afghanistan in the preceding five years, or just two hours of coverage per network, or an average of only 24 minutes per network per year.

My pointing out this lapse in reporting from the networks does not absolve the responsibility of a citizen to stay informed. PBS News Hour is a weeknight offering and is thoroughly substantive concerning events of the day. Not seeking such news reporting can only be placed upon the individual.

Many Americans now weighing into the ‘whys’ and ‘what-ifs’ regarding events in Afghanistan are doing so mostly blind. That will result in stilted hearings, with certain politicians playing to the under-informed base. That is not the way to make for a true and complete analysis of the events leading up to the headlines of the recent past.

This is just one more example as to why an informed citizenry is a must for a working, competent republic.

And so it goes.

D.C. Police Officer Correctly Exonerated For Stopping Ashli Babbitt Rampage

Some good news to pass along on this lazy Saturday. August weekends with humidity demand news that we can agree with.

The Capitol Police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt outside a door of the U.S. Capitol has been formally exonerated after an internal investigation. We should all be able to take comfort in this outcome.

As a supporter of police and law enforcement, I grieved for the officer who had to take the ultimate action required to safeguard the place where members of Congress were hiding.

Babbitt was in front of a crowd of seditious rioters on January 6th, trying to get through a door leading to where members of Congress were being evacuated on the House side of the building. She should not have been trying to break down doors, bust glass, or undermine democracy.

Over many years, with numerous messages on social media, she placed herself squarely as an ardent supporter of Donald Trump and a follower and promoter of many well-known radical conservative activists as well as leaders of the QAnon conspiracy theory movement.

The violence of the rioters, which she promoted was, in the end, what took her life. I know I am supposed to feel empathy for her, but I can not. Given the gravity of her actions against the nation, our political institutions, and the conclusion of our process of free and fair elections, there is nothing one can feel but relief the insurrectionists failed in their efforts to damage our republic.

The Justice Department had announced in April that no charges were being brought against the officer. The exoneration by the Capitol Police wraps up the last remaining investigation into the incident.

As it should be.

Action Alert: Moral Imperative To Help Afghans Who Helped U.S. Military

I implore my readers to call your member of Congress to help expedite visas for those who aided us in the Afghan war before they or their families are murdered by the Taliban. We must keep our word. (202) 224-3121 is the Capitol switchboard, an operator will connect you to your representative’s offices.

There is no wiggle room on this issue. No two ways to look at the matter. Rather, there is the right way, the moral path, the only one our nation can undertake. And we must take that path. Now.

As the Taliban take their final military steps to control the whole of Afghanistan there are now thousands of people, who were mighty helpful to the American efforts, who now face certain death. The retribution from the Taliban is not a question of if, but only when.

That is why the House, in late June, voted overwhelmingly (366 to 46) to speed up the process that would allow these brave people to immigrate to the United States. There are over 18,000 Afghans who worked for the United States as interpreters, drivers, engineers, security guards, and embassy clerks.

Over the past months as we faced a pandemic we have heard of essential workers in this nation. Well, my readers, these men and women in Afghanistan were ALSO essential workers.

But they are now stuck in a bureaucratic mess that should not be allowed to continue. They did the proper paperwork and applied for the Special Immigrant Visas. Such visas are for people who face threats because of work they have completed for our government.

With each day that passes without a resolution of this matter, the lives of these people become more dire. So to put it into more stark, but accurate terms, every minute counts. And you can help make for a positive outcome.

While I am very aware that we can recount the ways and means of how American foreign policy over the decades has betrayed those who have supported this nation, this is not the time for such academic posturing. The barn is on fire, and the need to extinguish the flames is paramount. The back-biting and sniping can wait until the smoke at least clears.

Therefore, I implore my readers to call your member of Congress to help expedite visas for those who aided us in the Afghan war before they or their families are murdered by the Taliban. We must keep our word. 202) 224-3121 is the Capitol switchboard, an operator will connect you to your representative’s offices.

Madison Needs To Reclaim Reindahl Park

When it comes to governing there needs to be a balance between the heart and the mind. While it is essential that there be a strong commitment to decency and compassion in public policy it must not come at the total expense of common sense. Yet, as of late, the City of Madison has erred to the point of absurdity when dealing with the homeless campers at Reindahl Park on the far Eastside.

If one has not driven by and considered the issues first hand, I would encourage my readers to do so. The 91-acre park, at 1818 Portage Road has become the site of an out-of-control situation. The clutter is astonishing. The drug activity is reported to be high in the park. The safety factor for locals who might want to use the park–as a park–speaks for itself.

It has been most disconcerting over the weeks to watch this behavior play out as the campers have expanded in numbers and their area of ‘homesteading’ within the park. The number of homeless campers at Reindahl has grown to more than 40 people, including several essentially living out of their vehicles. But equally unsettling is the lack of ability from our city officials and staff to adhere to the existing laws and procedures for the safety and maintenance of our city parks.

While I understand that during the 2020 pandemic year there were issues that played out and parks, at times, were used in a fashion not aligned with the norm. But no one can point to the same issues now allowing for the misuse of Reindahl Park.

We should all be concerned with homelessness, and the core reasons for many of them to be caught up in a distressing economic situation. Drug and alcohol abuse, along with mental health issues are serious matters that require both a public policy solution, but also a willingness and desire on the part of the homeless person to find a resolution.

But having said that does not then allow for anyone who is homeless to take over a city park. The consequences are not what the residents who live in the area should have to encounter. Madison Alderperson Gary Halverson, 17th District, who represents the site made that most clear.

“Parents will not allow their children to go to the park as it is not a safe and welcoming place,” he said. “I have many reports of harassment and erratic behavior directed toward women and families trying to use the park. The Reindahl Community Garden is the second largest in the city and is heavily used by economically challenged families who supplement their food needs with their garden plots. The gardeners have experienced intimidation as well as inappropriate behavior.”

No one is being harsh or out-of-bounds by asking that the city simply follow existing laws and keep the parks aligned with the needs of the ones who pay the taxes. The same folks are also willing to pay the taxes to make for shelters and programming to assist those who are homeless.

And so it goes.