Four Killed In Madison Auto Accident, Does Not Make Front Page Of Wisconsin State Journal

There are so many ways to view the COVID-19 pandemic that has left some states in lockdown, others with strong encouragement to self-distance, and a high level of stress and angst nationwide.  I have been measuring–in no real meaningful way—the manner in which news has been transformed to basically one story, 24-7.  I often find what leads newscasts or makes the front pages of papers most interesting.

The virus has consumed every waking moment of media coverage, and there seems no other event can make it to headline status.   I understand the need for laser-like focus on the pandemic but do question how a major story of the kind which occurred in Madison Friday night–with four deaths in an auto accident–made it only to the Sunday edition of the Wisconsin State Journal buried in Section C, page three, without even a photo of the carnage.

Madison Police and Fire were called to a single-vehicle crash at Northport Drive and Packers Avenue Friday night that killed four. At least some of them had been ejected from the vehicle. Madison Police Lt. Kipp Hartman called the accident scene “very traumatic.” 

I get the fact the accident occurred too late for the Saturday newspaper, and perhaps by Sunday it was considered ‘old news’.  But four local people killed in our city in an accident would seem to warrant coverage on the front page in any circumstances. 

This is not a slam on the newspaper.  Nor on understanding the need to have every inch of the paper in these days of downsizing and revenue losses maximized for its best use to the news consumer.  But the tragic deaths of four people who very well may have been youth, and were surely driving at an extreme rate of speed given the utter destruction of the car, and themselves, calls for local news operations to report in a fashion that allows us to know what happened.  

After all, Madison is not the size of Los Angeles or Chicago, and it is most likely that the ones killed were known by many in this place we call home.  To have low-balled the story so far off the front page that it was possible many never even read it in the paper is sloppy journalism.

An editor in the newsroom should have seen the glaring omission on the front page of a local paper and corrected it.

Edward G. Ryan: Looking At Historical Figures In Their Own Time

In the Sunday Wisconsin State Journal, on the Op-Ed page, there was a column about former Wisconsin Chief Justice Edward G. Ryan.  A Milwaukee lawyer wrote that it was time to remove the bust of Ryan from the notable position that it now holds outside of the court chamber in Madison due to his views of women.

Colleen Ball noted that Ryan had a mix of good and bad qualities, and I would add just like any other person sitting on the high bench.  In Ryan’s case, his positive contributions included the fact he was instrumental in drafting Wisconsin’s first constitution.  And as Colleen added he wrote the famous Potter law opinion which has been called ”arguably the most important decision that Wisconsin Supreme Court ever issued.”

What I found disconcerting in her well-written column was how, once again, we are asked to view historical figures through the lenses of 21st-century society.  With that as our perspective, no one will be able to meet the high standards that we require today of our public servants.  If we are to place such standards on everyone from the past who has served in a public or governmental role there is no way they will end up receiving anything other than contempt or ridicule from one segment of society or another.

President Theodore Roosevelt was a progressive Republican busting up large businesses, thinking ahead for future generations when it came to preserving large tracts of land and marshaling our international prestige. But when it came to his views on how native Americans were pushed aside so that Western Europeans could advance across the American continent we must conclude they were not ones that would align with 21st-century thinking.  In fact, some of his thinking in regards to those with different ethnic backgrounds places him in a less favorable light than his trust-busting adherents might wish to consider.  

Likewise, with President Abraham Lincoln who had an evolving view on blacks in American society. While Lincoln always maintained disapproval of slavery, he had a less robust view on how blacks would fit into American society.  In that respect, he was much in alignment with the majority of the nation, both north and south.  He understood the need to free the slaves, so as to meet the ideals of the words in the Declaration of Independence, but he was not sure how equality could be applied in a day-to-day sense of American life.

Again,  it is imperative that we look at not only the words and deeds of those figures from the past which we now evaluate, but also place them in context, and in the times, in which they lived.  Without such an all-encompassing view we hold such figures as Ryan hostage in a way they can never escape.

Having said that, however, I must make one last point.  There is a distinct difference between Ball calling for the removal of the Ryan bust, and my past calls on this blog for the removal of Civil War statues that were placed so to propel “ Lost Cause” thinking.  There are those characters from history which never fall on the side of acceptability.

Such an example would be General Robert E. Lee who acted in treasonous ways to the United States of America.  Discarding the Union, and seeking a military blow to the federal government can never be countenanced.  We must never rationalize away such actions as he took, and confuse treason with differing views of social norms.

Local Newspaper–Wisconsin State Journal–Has Responsibility For Nation’s Health

When I pulled the Wisconsin State Journal from its blue wrapper on Monday morning my eyes went immediately to the banner, as it always does. There at the top of the page was a photo concerning the Badger basketball team and a notice about school students who were helping to make a mark about the environment.  But it was another item that caught my eye and caused concern.


It was titled Another shot at Schiff and then in smaller print, Trump accuses California congressman of leaking Intel from classified briefing.  It was a concerning moment to me and I suspect many who ponder the condition that our republic now finds itself.  And what must be done to alter that course, for the sake of the nation.

The assault on truth and facts our institutions and republic suffer from is underscored with claims and assertions constructed by Trump that are nothing more than rants and whims.  Facts and documentation never enter into his mind as he bloviates and tweets.  It is bad enough to have such a person sitting in the Oval Office acting in such a fashion.  Worse yet, is to have media operations and news companies continue repeating his misleading statements.  That can only be termed as a great disservice to the nation.

I understand, with my own experience from a radio newsroom atmosphere, why the Wisconsin State Journal can find a rationalization to run the story.  The congressman in question made a response to Trump’s baseless assertion, and a spokesperson for the vice president made a statement about the matter on a Sunday morning news show.  So it falls under the strict definition of news.  On that slippery hill, I guess if Trump claimed the earth was flat and the likes of Carl Sagan refuted it, that too, could be called news.

But does the way the WSJ covered the story Monday meet the larger needs of the moment in which our nations finds itself?  And it is on those terms we need to start a dialogue in the nation about press coverage. 

How should this newspaper have covered the story when it is clear an autocratic figure uses the media to convey false and misleading claims?  What responsibility does the Journal have to every citizen to make sure they are as informed and educated about the actual story, as opposed to the desire of a politician to play the press and the citizenry?

In no way am I tackling the overall professionalism of the Journal.  The newspaper does a most credible job of informing the public on a daily basis.  But at a time when the nation requires of us all, and especially reporters, to conduct ourselves in the highest standards possible one then has to call into question what many people read Monday morning.

Trump’s baseless assertion made the banner of the paper, while the story landed on page twelve.  Many people likely read the banner blurb but never turned to the article.  They very well may think the words were of merit as they made the top of the paper.  That nugget will be stored, consciously or not, in their personal data bank.


But when readers turned to the inside of the paper they would have found a headline that was simply one that can not be defended.  Trump: Schiff leaked Russia intel.  There is simply no fact of any kind to allow for such a claim to be made by Trump, and more damaging for the nation, no verification of any kind which would allow the Fourth Estate to propagate such a claim with such a bold headline.

I know this is one banner from one newspaper about one story.  But the fact is this larger concern about the press can be made almost on a daily basis.  It is imperative that newspapers such as the Wisconsin State Journal and other media organizations continuously call out when Trump misleads the nation and undermines truth and honesty.  The reason to do this is not based on a conservative or liberal, Democratic or Republican rationale.  Instead, this has to do with the long-term needs professional journalism must reckon with for rejuvenating their standing among the public, and for the bedrock values that any republic demands to be sturdy for its long-term survival.

We are at a  time like never before witnessed in our national story and it is essential the press do their best, not only for the daily needs of news consumers, but also for the greater and longer call that comes from the pages of history.  I do not want, in any shape manner or form, a partisan press, but I do want reporters and newspapers to state clearly what is, and what is not, factual.

Anything less plays to autocratic forces that are at work in this land.

(WSJ) Phil Hands And George Washington

Tonight I was reading about one of my favorite periods of American history, and one of the leading characters who framed the nation on strong ideals and foundations.  George Washington.  The book is The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington by Brad Meltzer (who has earned my praise on this blog in earlier posts) and Josh Mensch.

I am always mindful of the desire of our Founding Fathers to have people with virtue to lead the nation in the highest offices of the land.  Washington had a personal driving ambition to be a man of honor.  Not coming from a family of wealth or nobility he knew that character mattered and personal integrity would never let a person down.

When the Second Continental Congress was to make a selection for the commander of the newly formed Continental Army, Washington will slip from the room so as not to look as if he is seeking the position or to gain it due to vanity or arrogance.  Over the decades of reading history, this same series of facts about Washington emerges in books from all manner of historians.

The code of conduct by which Washington lived his life does not mean he did not have dreams or ambitions or felt able to do a job.  But he always placed his calm, reasoned, and measured character in front of him leaving boastful and unbecoming moments to others in a room.

After reading well into the night I came downstairs to shut off the computer.  But before doing so I checked to see what was making news on Twitter.  That is when I saw the latest from Phil Hands. the editorial cartoonist and letters editor for the Wisconsin State Journal.  It was stunning to look at his creation after reading about the exact opposite character of Washington.

A few years ago I traveled to Mount Vernon, and to say I was moved to my central core would not be too strong a summation.  It is a place I long to see again, and sit and stay awhile just thinking as I feel the warm humid air and gaze off over the Potomac.  It was there I learned that in a schoolbook Washington had copied, as a teenager, a list of “101 Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation.”  Many were mundane and trite.  But the first one was not, and it made an impression. Thinking about the tone of our current president, the Hand’s drawing, and the book about Washington the exact words need to be posted here again at this late hour.

“Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.”

Some might view that line as old-fashioned when considering ways to behave.  But given where we are in the nation might it be possible that a line from history can be used as a way for our going forward?





Restaurants In Madison That Make For Long-Lasting Smiles–Including Wong’s Garden

Today in the Wisconsin State Journal readers offered up warm nostalgic memories of restaurants in Madison that have closed but are certainly not forgotten.  It is a joy to read about places that had a real impact on long-time customers.  The glowing recollections about so many establishments, such as Josie’s Spaghetti House, underscore what an impact great food, friendly owners, and continuity of good service mean to so many people.

I offered a favorite place that many times James and I loved to eat at, along with our friend Rolf.


THE HISTORY: Wong’s Garden, 2044 Atwood Ave., closed in January 2014 after 13 years in business.

THE MEMORY: I have yet to find anywhere in Madison more tender beef and pork prepared for Chinese cooking than that offered at Wong’s. I watched many times how someone would come into place an order and Lian offered a cup of tea while they waited for the food. After having come to know the owners, the act of giving a cup of tea was more than just being a good businessperson, it was a genuine act of demonstrating who they were as people. The friendly face of Gha Wong always appeared in a doorway with a wide smile. I often joked that his wife needed a pay raise, and Wong would reach into his pocket and tell me he had no money. Lian would lean on the counter and smile as she had heard this routine many times. Many nice memories at Wong’s.

—Gregory Humphrey, Madison

GOP Has Lost All Credibility

Phil Hands, the editorialist for the Wisconsin State Journal, has nailed the national condition of the Republican Party with his latest drawing.

There is no moral center, no regard for the nation, no higher calling for their party than mere partisanship.  The GOP sold their last shred of decency and self-respect to Donald Trump who has proven he will sink to any level, and commit any action to further his personal enrichment and ego-stroking.

The GOP can no longer prattle on about Ronald Reagan, family values, strong national defense, or tight fiscal strategies.  They can no longer speak from any elevated position about any topic.

They have kneeled and bowed to Donald Trump.   They have chosen their master.   And in so doing they have demonstrated bootlicking is almost an art form.    As Aunt Lindsey proved on Face The Nation this morning.


Suicide Funding In Wisconsin Needs To Be Taken Seriously

This morning my husband James, who runs his own guardianship business, learned a person he was working with had committed suicide.  Later as I pulled the blue wrapper from this morning’s Wisconsin State Journal I read the headline above the fold “Suicide Hotline Funding Stalled”.  The real world had once again collided with the hemming and hawing of a legislative process that seems more designed to cater to partisans than meet the needs of the state.

The money that the state budget authorized for helping fund the Center For Suicide Awareness has not yet been allocated.  How the $220,000 has not found its way through the process is what seems most confounding.   But in the world of committees and power plays there is always ‘an explanation’.  But given the fact that in Wisconsin in 2018, every nine hours a person died by suicide, means there is no explanation that will make sense to those who deal with the problem first-hand.

There were 866 suicides in Wisconsin in 2018 which makes it the 10th leading cause of death.  And the second leading cause of death for those ages 18-34.   Clearly, this is a public health issue.

The suicide numbers are simply tragic.  And I know personally as my best friend committed suicide in 1980 at age 18, three months after high school graduation.  So I have a difficult time having anyone try to rationalize the slowness in getting state budgeted money to the place where it can help people in need.

But the leaders of that committee aren’t doing so yet, arguing they should wait to allow the Assembly’s Suicide Prevention Task Force to recommend the best responsible use of the funds. The task force plans to recommend a bill be passed to release the funds, meaning it may be several months, if ever, until Bigalke’s organization sees the money.

What is so frustrating, for those who have watched possible funding for suicide services in the Wisconsin legislature over the years, was made very clear by reporter Riley Vetterkind.  Since our state’s suicide rate is higher than the national average the past performance of the legislature is hard to grasp.

Legislative efforts to fund the Suicide Awareness HOPELINE have been unsuccessful. In 2018, a bipartisan bill that would have directed about $138,000 to the Center received unanimous support in the Assembly but went nowhere in the state Senate.

The increaes in suicide deaths should not be news for the ones who control the power in the statehouse.  The data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prove a steady increase in the Wisconsin suicide rate over the past 20 years, from 13.1 per 100,000 persons in 1999 to 16.5 per 100,000 persons in 2016 — a jump of more than 25 percent.

There is no rational argument to be made for the slow pace of completing the legislative work required to make these funds available.  The Hopeline, which is an immediate emotional support and resource for people in crisis via text message, is designed to meet the needs of those in the state at their most desperate time of life.  What, pray tell,  could be more important to politicians than making sure each person with suicidal thoughts is connected with resources at a time of intense need?  The games being played over the release of this money is perhaps the most troubling issue I have become aware of in the legislature in many years.  

I am not in any way connecting the news that reached our home this morning with the derelict duties of the current legislature.  What concerns me greatly, however, is the need that exists in our communities regarding suicide has not motivated the leaders of the legislature into action that would prevent the necessity of a headline of the kind printed in the paper this morning.   To know of the inside baseball quibbles from various members of the legislature concerning which agency did or did not express an “extremely urgent” need for funding underscores the reason many people are more than perplexed by this story.   People have every reason to feel disgusted.

When it comes to the safety of our state residents what possibly could be of more importance to legislators who have the power to act now?  And why should citizens not be upset knowing, as it was reported that budget committee leaders said they always intended for the funds to be released.

Whatever political games are now underway it needs to be stated the field they are playing on is made up of real people, some of them in dire need of help.

And so it goes.

Wonder Why Wisconsin Voters Grumble About Government?

Back in January, we were shoveling snow,  looking at seed catalogs in anticipation of spring blooms, and getting our paperwork in order for tax season.  Since then we have watched most of a baseball season pass, while the UW-Badgers kicked off another season.  Labor Day has passed and students are streaming back to classrooms around the state.

And yet what should have been one of the easiest actions of the Wisconsin State Legislature remains undone.

Another likely outcome of the legislative session is Senate confirmation of at least some of the less controversial of Evers’ cabinet secretaries. It’s been more than seven months since Evers took office, but so far none of his cabinet secretaries has received approval from the full chamber, though several have been recommended in committee. 

If voters from Mason to Orfordville need to have just one example of what is wrong with state government they need to look no further than the lack of confirming any of the selections Governor Tony Evers made for his cabinet.  If voters need to better grasp the meaning of the word partisanship, or see an example as to what denying election results are all about, they only need to ponder the last seven months.

There is no need for the partisan heat when it comes to any of the names placed before the state senate.  Minus moral, ethical, or legal reasons a nominee submitted by a governor should not face the dragging of time which has taken place.  The process should not be treated as a political football.   And yet it is.

Barring any legitimate reasons, there is no basis to not confirm.  Having policy views that do not square with the opposition party is not cause to deny placing a secretary in an office.  The election of 2018 was the only hurdle that a gubernatorial candidate needed to cross.  Once elected the executive branch has the right to a cabinet of their choosing.

We all can understand how Republicans feel by not securing the governor’s office.  But as parents would advise youngsters when things do not go the desired way such times call for biting one’s tongue and fighting back the first instincts.  The GOP Senate caucus would look far more professional if they worked at lowering the temperature of polarizing politics that has fastened itself to these nominations.

I often comment on the process of governing.  I know it is not a sexy topic.  But when it goes awry it looks mighty bad.  To have more than half-a-year elapse and not have votes taken so the state government can fully operate is just unacceptable.  Regardless of partisan views, we all must make sure the process of governing is allowed to function.

Should we place bets if this legislative work is done by the time of the World Series?