My First Blog “Reflective Musings” And Former State Senator Mike Ellis

On October 21, 2004 my first blog, Reflective Musings, was born on the West Side of Madison. A reminder this week on my calendar alerted me to the anniversary, and also to the fact I have been blogging for 16 years. I was penning my thoughts many years prior to Musings, but decided to enter the 21st century and place my views online. It has been a fantastic journey!

I was looking at some of my writings from my Musings phase and came across this post from January 2006 which strikes a chord as it connects with a point I feel strongly about. Our politics and governing should be about big issues and also about finding ways for Democrats and Republicans to come together. As a liberal I felt strongly about campaign finance reform and understood the issue to be a root cause of dysfunction in our electoral system, which then creates havoc in our legislative process. I was sincere in my desire to see then-State Senator Mike Ellis, a conservative Republican, champion the issue. Reading the post again underscores the fact there is no one in the current Republican Party under the statehouse dome who deserves the same sentients. That is truly sad.

The number one issue facing the State of Wisconsin is not property taxes, crime, better jobs, education, or gay marriage. The number one issue is not sexy, nor does it rank among the top issues voters talk about when listing their concerns about the future course of the state. Yet this issue affects every other issue, and by not correctly addressing it everything else suffers. The issue is, of course, campaign finance reform.

Republican State Senator Mike Ellis understands the problem, and has been adamant about the need to address it, and fix it. It is time for those who care about the process to take a stand. Today I encourage Ellis to seek the office of Governor in Wisconsin.

Our state once boasted about our clean government, but over the past several years we have had to hang our collectives heads in shame as leaders from both parties, and in both legislative houses, have faced criminal charges for undermining the oaths they took to serve the public. Each indictment was grounded in the over-reaching and never-ending search for campaign dollars, and the unethical and illegal use of state employees conducting political work on state time. Every piece of legislation is tainted and tarnished with lobbyist’s dollars and deal-making which ill-serves the public. From bills dealing with transportation, gaming compacts, abortion, guns, and health care the underlying chase for dollars and campaign contributions has made policy captive to the special interests. This is absolutely no way to conduct the people’s business.

Every elected official is driven by the needs of ever-increasing costs of campaigns and the relentless search for dollars to fund them. When JCRAR (Joint Committee For Review Of Administrative Rules) conducted some hearings on plastic pipes in home construction I served as the Committee Clerk. The committee has great power and has the option to review rules for everything found in State Statutes. When the Chairman of the Committee asked me to call a lobbyist and request a check to be made out to his campaign, before a hearing that would decide the issue, I was at first embarrassed and then I found myself literally speechless. (Not a common reaction for me) The lobbyist was the principal player for one side of the debate. I let the order slide and did nothing. Soon the Chairman had moved onto other things and forgot about the check, or perhaps found some other avenue to extract the money. Either way, I did not forget that incident, or others that I witnessed firsthand, and know it paints the picture of reality under the Statehouse dome more often than not.This practice infects and poisons the deliberative process that should be at the core of creating legislation.

Mike Ellis can be cranky and difficult. He has a bad hairpiece and is mostly not on the correct side of social policy. I know all that. I accept all that. But the supreme issue of campaign finance reform now confronts the foundations of state government and needs to be solved.

While some from both parties pretend the 800-pound gorilla of campaign corruption is not in the Statehouse, there are those that have actually become best friends with the beast. When caught they make feeble and embarrassing pleas as to their innocence and spew ‘rationale’ as to why they had to act in the fashion they did. Only when confronted with jail time and fines do they find the words to finally convey their sorrow at undermining the political process.

While Mike Ellis has not made the decision yet to run for Governor (and may not run) I at least wanted to be on record as a real Democrat who embraces reform. My party has not been pro-active in Wisconsin and Governor Jim Doyle has shown no leadership ability on this matter. The issue is far too important to pretend that it doesn’t exist, or that the “other party” is more to blame for the problem. Enough already.

One man has stood up and led on the issue. He deserves a chance to solve the problem once and for all. He will have statewide support from newspaper editorial boards and independents who seem to care more about this issue than partisans.

I hope Mike Ellis runs for governor in 2006.

James Wilson Writes…”Reframing: Where Are You From?”

My better half spent a chunk of Saturday writing a piece for his blog Chickadee Ear Muffs. Last evening he posted it and I am pleased to link and share two paragraphs here.  The entire read is most worthy of your time.

I was terribly bullied as a child.  I was different.  The schools recognized it and called me ‘gifted and talented’ at one point.  My parents were told that this might account for my inability to fit in, and also my strong-willed desire not to do things just because everyone else was doing them.  I had absolutely no athletic skill whatsoever, so why would I try out for the local baseball team with the other boys?  I wouldn’t look good in a cap turned backward on my head, nor would I ever get off the bench and actually play in the sporting event.  Why waste my time?  I didn’t like the idea of getting dirty and having greasy stuff on my hands (I still don’t), so why would I give a crap about what sort of engine was under the hood of the car that I didn’t want to drive in the first place.  (I still have never owned my own vehicle, and I am now pushing fifty).  I also didn’t fully understand at the time why I didn’t find it easy to form relationships with my peers.  As it turns out, I am a gay man, but then, I tried hard to pretend to like the particularly perky breasts of one of the girls in my class—I even wrote about them in my diary at the time, in case anyone ever read along and though differently of me.  I listened to family and friends alike decry the ‘homos and lizzies’ who were actively infiltrating our schools and indoctrinating us—though in reality, actually having a gay role model growing up would have been so beneficial!  I heard about the ‘faggots’ and how they deserved to be thrown over a bridge to their death (“Gentle Charlie” met his untimely death in Bangor this way, just as I was hitting puberty—the thought of which was terrifying to me since I knew something was different about me even then) because they didn’t lust after women like the other boys did.  I was hopeless in not understanding that a little conformity on my behalf might have made my life easier.  Except of course that that conformity would have come at a cost.  That cost, me, would have been too great.  I could have easily lost myself in others’ conceptions of who I should have been, but I would have been miserable.

            Instead, I became very good at ‘nesting’, building my ‘home’ around me and surrounding myself with those things and ideas which made me feel safe and valued.  I still do this, which is why Wisconsin feels safe but not like ‘home’.  Of course, that ability to shut off the outside and retreat to my interior space also came at a cost.  I have often said that the bullies didn’t only steal those school years from me, but also the years after I finally was able to break free.  I didn’t know any better how to form relationships with others when I got to college than I did in high school.  The difference was that I was free to restart and shape those boundaries on my own terms at that point.  Liberty.  I realized over time that my etiological story, my beginning, was really limited to that area around my childhood home and the places I could get to on my bicycle, those roads which lead to where my Mother grew up, the cemeteries where ‘our people’ were, and the stream where we could go to cool off in summer.  Mom and her friends who grew up only a couple of miles away from where I did referred to the area as the “East Ridge”, which references the horseback left behind in the last ice age, which was excellent farm land where our grandparents had settled and raised our families.  When I was a child, the Jehovah’s witnesses used to come to the little valley where our home sat.  Mom would talk to them at the door, but motion for me to go in and call Grammy, who lived a bit further up the Hudson Road from us.  Grammy would call in turn to her neighbor Chris and let her know, and so on.  One day, I answered the door to one of them on Mom’s behalf, she undoubtedly busy in the kitchen with her fall canning chores.  “You know it is strange,” this faithful follower said to me.  “It is strange how you are always the only ones home in this valley!”  If only she knew what our local phone tree looked like.  No way anyone else on the Hudson Road, Wright’s Hill or otherwise wanted to engage for an hour with these outsiders.  We already had the Methodist Church for that!

Why I Blog Involves Comments Worth Reading (Gospel Music And Elvis)

Social media has so many ways to convey thoughts and elicit responses.  I was reminded of that again as the Facebook version of this blog posted about the Elvis Presley show aired on NBC Sunday night.   I promoted the show and in return got some impressive comments.

From Virginia.

I want to tell you about something that happened early in my life and very early in Elvis’ career. My little sister and I went to a nearby drug store and have hit dogs at their lunch bar. Mom gave us the money and off we went. While eating this gorgeous young man came in and sat at an adjoining table near us. He had hair that was combed differently and was longer than the other guys wore, in fact, he was different but better. After a few minutes my sister bit into her hot dog and got bun because the hot dog shot out the end of the bun. We giggled but Elvis’ voice boomed out in a great laugh. We didn’t know who this man was to be but we learned he was on the also performing list at the City Center in Norfolk that week. I went to see him in concert when he was touring near the end of his life. Good show.

Then there was this comment from Grayson, Georgia.

When growing up one of my family’s friends was Big Chief Weatherington of The Statesmen Quartet (he knew Elvis from the gospel start) So I got to attend a concert with them as Elvis’ guests. Amazing memory. Mrs. W was still living last I heard, she would be around 100 now. Their daughter actually has one of the real ELVIS diamond necklaces which she was always afraid to show. I wanted a handkerchief but we were in vip seats… you know you’re young when vip seats were a bummer! Still crazy to think of the whole thing. Hard to say how much Elvis vinyl I’ve got…a lot

The last comment struck several notes for me as quartet music is often being played in our Madison home.  My Grandma picked cotton in Texas while many of her children grew up in Ozone, Arkansas.  Gospel music seemed to have migrated with the family when they came to Wisconsin in the 1940’s.  From my earliest years I recall southern gospel songs being a fixture for my mom.  Overt the past decades The Gaither Homecoming Friends videos have paid homage, at times, to the sound of the ‘Chief’.  Those videos and CD’s are played with regularity here on the isthmus.

I am always amazed at the reach of this blog and the folks who connect with it.   And then comment.  Thanks!

Comments Section Removed From Caffeinated Politics

Monday, January 14, 2019 there were over 1,900 hits on my blog with the average person staying on this site for 2:13 seconds. (Not bad for a kid from Hancock.)  Three people commented.  In the fractured world of social media commenting on blogs has been replaced with Twitter and Instagram.    In addition, the niceties of comment sections at social media sites have deteriorated.

As long time readers are aware, I was going to end blogging following the election in 2016.  But with the victory of Donald Trump I knew it was my duty to stay put and speak out against the xenophobia, racism, along with the complete breakdown of common sense in the White House and this administration.  This blog is now in its 12th year, and while I feel a need to remain until Trump is removed from office, does not mean the comment section must remain.

I truly appreciated Mark Phillips (even though we seldom agreed), smiled with Peter F, was always kept honest through the comments of Solly, and found the morning words from Mark B. welcoming.    But those folks were only part of the mix, as one can imagine with comments.

I will not be the first to end commenting on a social media site–nor the last.  But we all end them for the same reason.

In the past I have had announcers from WSM radio, the daughter of Porter Wagoner, and some other warm-hearted folks with famous names leave their words on this blog.  But a decade has changed not only the person sitting in the Oval Office, but also the values and decency of society.  I no longer care to read, or need to deal with, that which in no other instance I would be required to interact.

Blogging continues.  The issues remain.  But the comments section is now closed on this site.  Trolls need to find a new home.

Caffeinated Politics Celebrates 12th Birthday!

As Caffeinated Politics turns 12 years old I re-post the second article which appeared on this site.  From July 2006 comes a memory or two about an old Scholastic Magazine.   Though the pen I mention in the post is no longer pictured, the words still resonate.


I was reminded over the past few weeks that I have always had an opinion about many topics and also have had a long time fixation about writing down my thoughts.  Stored in the upper closet of my childhood bedroom were boxes of journals and writings that I finally moved to my home. I have been reading some of them  and find  I have always been relentless about  topics I cared about.

Having had nephews and nieces in my family I had a few salted comments for those who used cloth diapers that leaked, though I did comment on the economic benefit of the cloth items.  My damp legs as an uncle were great fodder for the pen and page as was the fact that Lucille Ball smoked.  I adored her comedy but it seems there was a period of time I was quite dismayed to find she used cigarettes.  It was the closet I ever was to becoming a Puritan. 

As I read those old pieces which covered a wide variety of topics I have reflected on how many more news and information resources I have today to utilize in my quest to be knowledgeable about the world. While I was more informed as a child about history and current events than my peers, in retrospect I knew little as compared with kids who grow up now with cable TV and the internet.

In one of the boxes was a favorite magazine of mine while I was in grade school.  An older sibling had given me a copy of Scholastic Magazines’ U.S. and World Affairs Annual from 1966, which I treasured, though by the time I had it in the mid-70’s the world was changing.  It contained a small atlas, information on every nation such as capitals and languages spoken and was kept in my folder with a writing pad.  I would use it to locate countries I would hear about on the radio or read about in our daily newspaper.

That magazine from 1966 was on my desk this week as I was searching Google Earth for the locations of the events unfolding in the Middle East.  The same interests in locating exact places on the map and gaining a better understanding of the world still resides within me but the means that are now at my disposal to gain information are enormous.  My bookshelves bulge with historical atlases, geographical dictionaries, and reference books of all types, including even the encyclopedia of espionage.

So much has changed from the time when radio and the daily newspapers were the ways we got our news back home and as a kid I would take a pen and pad and write about things I thought about or was concerned over.  Today I write with a computer and when I need to get the exact quote or the precise fact on a particular item I jump on the internet and have the information in seconds.

And yet as I looked at that old magazine this week I was reminded of warm and fuzzy thoughts of childhood.  So as I put my blog site together this week I added the pen at the top of the banner to remind myself of how far I have come in the information age, and yet how many of my interests are still the same as when I was a kid. 

William Lee Golden of The Oakridge Boys And Linda Owen Likes Caffeinated Politics Link

The Caffeinated Politics Facebook page posting of six former First Ladies went viral this week.  As of now this posting reached 24,715,887 people and have engaged 3,062,997 people.  I was notified today that William Lee Golden of The Oakridge Boys was one of those people.  I am truly stunned.


Wife Of Little Jimmy Dickens Shares My Facebook Link

Thanks to my friend Terry Tyson for alerting me late tonight that the wife of famed Grand Ole Opry Star Little Jimmy Dickens shared my link about the First Ladies on her Facebook page.  The post which I placed on the Caffeinated Politics FB page Sunday has gone viral.  At this posting there have been 15,229,351 views.

Dickens signed my guitar and remains a legend for all time.  Needless to say this really moves me.


Blog Banner Update

After some work, and editing of my personal photos there now is a rotating mix of pictures that will appear on my blog banner.

The only drawback to this random selection appearing for each page is the color for the blog title.  It will remain the same.  I made the color choice for the title, but often not the color choice I think best suited for each image.

Come winter a selection of snow and ice scenes will be included with the mix.

I hope my readers enjoy this improvement to my blog.