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Character Above All

December 9, 2017

Two decades ago I bought a book that resonated at the time and over the years has registered again and again.  Character Above All, which was edited by Robert Wilson, Is a collection of essays in which noted historians and journalists explore the relationship between character and presidential leadership.

Now, more than ever, the book again calls out to the nation to be read and heeded.

The book also had a series of tapes, which were sold separately, where the historians presented hour long lectures on the president they had researched.  I first listened to those tapes as I traveled on weekends to visit my folks.

It is so stunning to me that I grew up in the era of Gerald Ford–who was sworn into office when I was still in grade school–to the time when a low-educated and buffoonish personality now sits in the White House.

Ford is recalled for standing up to his lout of a father and turning away money for the honor of taking his step-dad’s name.

Meanwhile Trump mocked a disabled reporter and admits to sexual predatory ways.

The nation no longer has civics taught as it should be, nor history thematically presented so that it can be allowed to show its relevance for the lives of today’s citizens.   There are too many cretins in our society and therefore it is incumbent on the rest of us to be ever-more determined to right this tilting ship of a nation.

One of the starting points is to be firmly planted on the proven foundations of the past.  This book is a starting point.  Fast read, well researched, nicely written.

We can get over this most disquieting time that any of us have ever experienced in our lifetimes.  But it will require an educated and determined citizenry.

GOP Congressman Trent Frank’s Case, Did Indeed, Get Creepier

December 8, 2017

I wrote what I thought might be the scenario for how the topic of surrogate parenting could arise in a congressman’s office.  There is no good way, it should be noted, outside of a policy framework.

As I ended my post I was sure that story could not get more creepy.  But, alas, I was wrong.

It did!

We now learn that Republican Congressman Trent Franks  allegedly made unwanted advances toward female staffers in his office and retaliated against one who rebuffed him, according to House GOP sources with knowledge of a complaint against him.

The sources said Franks approached two female aides about acting as a potential surrogate for him and his wife, who has struggled with fertility issues for years. But the aides were concerned that Franks was asking to have sexual relations with them. It was not clear to the women whether he was asking about impregnating the women through sexual intercourse or in vitro fertilization. Franks opposes abortion rights as well as procedures that discard embryos.

With the news that is now released Franks has decided to leave his job at once, as opposed to January 2018.  I hope there are plans to power wash his old office down and clean the creepy away!

Mika Brzezinski Correctly Questions If ‘All Women Need To Be Believed?’

December 8, 2017

This morning’s Morning Joe was time well spent.  And spot on.  From a woman.  From a liberal Democrat.  Thank you, Mika.

Bob Queen Gets Madison’s MNA Board Talking About Transparency!

December 8, 2017

The controversy which started this past summer and simmered in the local flow of conversations has now been showcased in a city-wide story in The Capital Times.  In a nutshell Bob Queen, a local festival organizer with deep interest in musical acts, has proposed a new festival to be held in June in the Marquette Neighborhood.  The timing of the two-day festival, and where it is slated to be held, all are making for a nasty little dust-up.

There are various ways to view the ins-and-and-outs of closing down a busy street and adding yet more entertainment to a mixed-use neighborhood.  But that is not the reason I weigh into this matter.  Instead, I post the following based on one sentence to the reporter from Lynn Lee, the president of the Marquette Neighborhood Association.

“It’s an MNA event and the truth was we had to make it more transparent and more accountable to the neighborhood,” Lee said.

I have lived in this neighborhood for 10 years.  Over the past few years I have raised, on a continuous basis, the lack of an open process in how the MNA Board does their work.  The issue of transparency in how the board operates is troubling.

The issues that need to be resolved include the lack of making minutes available for their board meetings.  For much of 2017 this had been a problem.

There is not a record made of the aye and nay votes cast by board members on the matters which appear on the agenda at meetings.  How does anyone, as an example, come to a reasonable conclusion who merits another term on the board if the votes cast on a liquor license or development project are not made public?  Yet that is how the MNA Board acts.

When it comes to the annual meetings for election of board members there is no public tally of how many votes each person received.

And to make matters worse when the listserv is notified that the above lapses of the board are needing attention either the excuses pour forth or smug arrogance takes over.  When it is pointed out that there is no governing board which does not disclose vote tallies about agenda items to its members Lee responded that one needs to “show up for the meetings”.

There is also the over-used line the board members are all volunteers and the implication that somehow negates their responsibilities since they have families, etc.  I know the line my mom would use as a rejoinder about completing what you signed up to do!

Often I have noted the discussion over process is not sexy.  Many simply do not care.  But a sound process is vital to any governing body.

Over the years I have had my differences at times with Queen on local festival matters.  But I also have praised him, and perhaps no more enthusiastically than following the Traveling McCourys who simply wowed the largest crowd I have seen at Central Park this summer.  That show was made possible due to Queen.

So perhaps Queen has now served another purpose by starting a desire for real transparency on the MNA Board.  May it be fruitful and multiply as that would be in the best interest of the entire neighborhood.

So thanks, Bob!

How To Arrange a Surrogate Birth In A Congressional Office

December 8, 2017

I swear to God I wake up each morning, given how strange and odd the nation is right now, and wonder what in the world will leave me shaking my head before I go to sleep that night.  But I also swear to God never did it come to my mind that planting a seed in a congressional staffer so to produce a baby would be one of those headlines.

So when the news started dripping out on Thursday that Arizona Congressional Republican Trent Frank was set to resign everyone wondered how awful could it be.  We just never knew it would be this creepy!

“I have recently learned that the Ethics Committee is reviewing an inquiry regarding my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable. I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress.”

So how does something like this play out in a congressional office?  I have, after all, worked in a legislative office, so I know the lay of the land.  But given the headlines tonight I can only wing it.  After all, Lary Swoboda could not even say he needed to use the restroom without blushing.

So one can imagine Frank with his team in the inner office as the day is about to unfold……..

“Today I have that hearing on the vet’s program for our local office and need the latest cost estimates to get the ideas off the ground.  Could one of you make sure that the bus of constituents visiting is seated for my remarks to them no later than 3 PM as I need to attend a briefing shortly after that for budget matters.  And by the way I need to plant my demon seed as my family wants another kid–Karen..Sue….you doing anything for the next nine months?”

How does surrogacy ever come up for discussion by a congressman that makes it so lewd and unforgiving that it requires his abrupt resignation?  The fact it did means this story had to be so over the top and creepy that no one could defend it.

I will get up in the morning and again wonder what can top the news of the day before.

Odds are something will, but I strongly suspect it can not get any more creepy!

Tough News For President Trump As Fewer People Than Ever Like Him

December 8, 2017


This news of slippage in every demographic when plotted on a graph has no up side for the Trump Presidency.  Bring on the mid-terms!

Key Findings:

  • Trump’s approval rating has fallen from 78% to 61% with white evangelical Protestants, a key constituency of his base.
  • Now, only 41% of white voters approve of his performance, a 7% decline since February.
  • His support among blacks dropped to just 7%, while his support was unchanged among Hispanics, at 17%.

His approval continues to be divided by gender and education….

  • 40% of men approve, while just 25% of women do.
  • His support among white college graduates dropped by 5 % to 31%, while white voters without college degrees dipped by 10% to 46%.
  • He remains popular among people who identify as conservative. 76% of Republicans and leaners approved his job performance, comparing to 84% 11 months ago.

Science And Education Are Bad!

December 7, 2017

I have contended that Donald Trump has allowed a segment of the nation who are under-educated to think they are just as reasoned and informed as everyone else.  He has fostered the notion that these rubes are, indeed, even smarter than the ones who really have the certificates of schooling.

So it should come as no surprise this White House is dumbing-down to meet the base of support that placed Trump in the Oval Office.

“Of 43 Trump administration nominees in science-related positions — including two for Health and Human Services secretary — almost 60 percent did not have a master’s degree or a doctorate in a science or health field, according to an Associated Press analysis. For their immediate predecessors in the Obama administration, it was almost the opposite: more than 60 percent had advanced science degrees.”

In addition, Trump has left 23 Senate-confirmable positions — 35% of all science-related positions — vacant, including the post for the White House’s top science advisor.

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