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Saving Foreign Aid In The Budget

August 20, 2019

As an internationalist and continued advocate for foreign aid in our national budget, there is good news to report from this desk.  I often think my blog has more need to post items in opposition to something in the news than to be in favor of an item in the headlines.  Today, however, I am pleased to strongly support a stand taken by two top members of the Donald Trump administration.

As readers know Trump is not understanding the role foreign aid has to play with almost every aspect of international relations.   So I was most pleased to learn that Trump is now considering abandoning a large portion of the billions of dollars in foreign aid cuts some of his less than prudent budget analysts were pushing.    The news today is that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have made a strong pitch to Trump for the need to scale back the plan to freeze more than $4 billion for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development in the current fiscal year. Much of the cut would hit the United Nations.

This is no small victory for proponents of foreign aid.   This is quite remarkable if it can come to fruition.

In times of peace, and in times of conflict foreign aid dollars are used for a variety of ideas and causes that solidifies America’s position in the world while assisting those around the globe who need support and guidance.

From assistance to our allies which helps to maintain a world in which we are more secure, to aid in the development of more markets overseas, and creating friendships in the court of world opinion all lead any rational person to understand why foreign aid matters.

Given the relatively small foreign aid budget — it accounts for 1 percent of federal spending overall — the effect of the cuts could be disproportional when considering the whole budget.

It would be nice if more hopeful posts of this kind could be written on this blog.  But first, of course, I need to have a basis for writing them.  Over the past 2 and a half years that task has been most difficult.

Why We All Need To Thank California!

August 20, 2019

Rolling back climate changing policies is one of the most damaging long-term impacts that history will record of the term Donald Trump was in the Oval Office.   To deny not only what scientists worldwide have documented and proven to be happening to our planet, but also to pretend one’s eyes are lying on a daily basis is just absurd.  Yet that is what this White House is doing. Thankfully, not everyone is singing from the same hymnal when it comes to auto emissions.

At the heart of this fight is a most sensible pollution standard, put in place during President Obama’s administration, (and the last time this blogger was able to place the word president before the officeholder) which requires automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, cutting carbon dioxide pollution by about six billion tons over the lifetime of all the cars affected by the regulations, about the same amount the United States produces in a year.

Trump, of course, wants to roll back and significantly weaken this requirement.  Some of his ‘reasoning’ is due to business costs to car-makers.  There is also the fact Trump has a deep disdain for the first African-American president, and wishes to undermine all of Obama’s accomplishments.  Recall that this auto requirement remains the single largest policy enacted by the United States to reduce planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps the sun’s heat and is a major contributor to climate change.  That is a scientific fact.

Now to the politics of this fight as four of the world’s largest automakers have struck a deal with California to reduce automobile emissions, siding with the state in its fight with Trump.  Honda, Ford, Volkswagen and BMW (as a Mini convertible driver I was most pleased to see BMW’s name) have joined arms on this matter, and this morning I heard it reported Mercedes-Benz will do the same.  With such efforts by car-makers there will be no way for Trump to impose a lack of science and logic into a regulation.  When market share is looked at regarding those who will not relent on fuel emission standards it means 40% of all cars sold in the United States.  The law of economics wins.

We all need to say thanks to California.  First, and foremost, that state’s political leadership took the needs of the planet into consideration.  They placed science and the consumers up ahead of politics and a narcissistic person sitting in the White House.

And then to add frosting to the cake they showed Donald Trump, on a signature issue of his administration, to be impotent.

And so it goes.

More Cursing From Elected Officials Than Ever Before

August 18, 2019

When it comes to  cursing in the public square I come from a very different point of view from many who now toss about any word that comes to mind.  Granted, I was growing up 50 years ago when social norms were different.  Radio did not have crude shock jocks, cable television was not yet an infant, and there were still some rules of the road for what passed as public communication.

I can recall mom hearing an elected official use either the word “damn’ or “hell” and commenting that it was not appropriate, as those placed into office should have a higher sense of self-respect.  I also recall telling her that it was not a big deal.

Given the latest news regarding this topic as reported in The Hill mom might remind me that once a rock starts rolling downhill it gains speed.

Profanity — once considered a major no-no among those seeking public office — is no longer an earth-shattering political snafu. And according to new research, this year could be on track to see members of Congress swearing up a storm more than ever before.

In analysis conducted exclusively for ITK, GovPredict, a government relations software company, found that the frequency of lawmakers using words that might make one’s grandmother blush has increased steadily since 2014.

I have commented before on the use of cursing in our culture, and have always reached back to years of childhood when radio was a constant source of news and entertainment in our home.  The respect announcers showed for their audiences has never left me.  That decorum, that professional touch, that mature quality is not only how I presented myself in work environments, but also in my personal life.

Coming from a broadcasting background where words matter, and working in a legislator’s office where conduct was always viewed or heard by someone, means perhaps I see this issue as more prescribed than others in society.  But it really should not be so.  We all should care about the use of language by elected officials.

I contend it should not be hard to conduct ourselves in society with word choices given the entire dictionary one might use to make a point.   Everyday people use words wisely, and so I have to laugh when I sometimes hear that someone is ‘unable to speak freely’ as there are too many rules about needing to use politically-correct speech.  That is just a cop-out for acting with civility in modern-day society.

Words have weight, and if we are to live in a society where the hope of coming together is to exist at all, we need to be aware of the impact of the words we use.  I use to speak before groups of constituents when working in the state assembly and was always aware of the audience I was in front of to push the right message by using the right words.  I used words hours at a time when working in radio and never felt the need to resort to ones that were laced with vulgarity.

The use of words is key to everything we do.  Being an adult is knowing how to employ the best use of words.  It also means understanding the power our words carry for both good and bad.

I very much question those who wish to have a leadership role in the nation when their word choice includes trash talk, cursing, and vulgarities.  It shows a lack of respect for an audience, and a country they wish to influence.

Give me Paul Harvey from the radio world, who would wear a shirt and tie for a broadcast, as it was a sign of respect for the audience he wanted to spend some time with over the airwaves.  That is the world I grew up in, and strive to maintain in the small ways I can.

And so it goes.

UW-Madison, Quintez Cephus, And Matter Of Character

August 18, 2019

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Nearly everyone has weighed into the controversy regarding the future of  Quintez Cephus.  Or more to the point what the decision UW-Madison should make concerning the matter of readmitting the former football player to the campus.   I heard three separate conversations on this matter as James and I ambled about the Dane County Farmers’ Market Saturday morning.  No consensus could be gleaned from those passing viewpoints, but make no mistake about it.  People have this story on their radar.

For those not aware of the story–and I dare say those remain near the single digits–the former Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver was expelled from the university last semester after being accused by two women of sexual assault but was acquitted of those charges by a Dane County jury.  He had been charged with second and third degree sexual assault. Cephus now wishes to rejoin the academic world.

The forces are arrayed on each side of the divide concerning this issue.  Women, and advocates who fight sexual crimes, view the decision by UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank as one about safety and making sure the Me Too movement is not silenced.  At the same time the desire to foster better relations with the African-American community on campus, and perhaps head off a legal fight, wish for the football player to be welcomed back into the fold.

I certainly am not a lawyer.  But along with everyone else, I am watching with interest how the university and the lawyers involved make their moves on a very public chess board.  I believe that one additional issue should be considered, even if it does not fit into any legal strategy.  After the lawyers offer the pros and cons of whether this young man should again be a part of this well-respected research university it might be worthy to consider another criteria.

It deals with character. There is no way to temper this point or blunt it when putting it into consideration.

Did Cephus honor the sports program, or the school which he was a student, when he went to a bedroom with two women, asked another man to join the trio, and where a photo was taken and then deleted from a phone?  Do these actions from a football player, and UW-student, rise to the level of accepted behavior when needing to be played out publicly in court proceedings?

We all recall the tight restrictions and demands a high school coach would place on players in how they were to handle themselves when off the field.  It mattered in small towns and communities when a player, who made the local paper for a play in a Friday night game, was able to walk with dignity and self-respect down Main Street Wednesday evening.  Values mattered.  And they still must.

Let us pretend that all other aspects in the Cephus controversy were equal.  If that only then left character as the determining factor any common-sense outcome to the question of his being readmitted to the university would need to come back as negative.

I do not wish to be harsh to anyone wishing to gain higher education.  But there must be standards of behavior employed when one takes on the name of being a UW-Student.  Even more so when wearing a red jersey for the Badger Football team.  Given the out-sized role college football has in our culture the very least we should expect is for the players to exhibit a level of deportment that can be known about in the light of day.

That did not happen with Quintez Cephus.

Character matters.

Trump Aiming For Madison’s Willy Street Vote?

August 17, 2019

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Smart politicos know everything they do should always be about addition.  Growing your level of support is the key.  That has hardly been a factor, however, in the Donald Trump White House where hugging the white male base and stroking it continuously, to the exclusion of all else, has been the only consideration.

But might that be changing?  Given recent polling, along with economic woes on the horizon, might Trump’s team now see a need to reach out to voters?  Even ones who live in the very progressive zip codes in Madison?

I had to smirk when it was reported the Trump administration is coming to the defense of Led Zeppelin.  It all comes down to a copyright dispute over the opening passage from one of rock’s best-known anthems, “Stairway to Heaven”.  It is perhaps the best known notes of any song for the past couple generations of Americans.

So now the Justice Department has filed a friend of court brief supporting Led Zeppelin against a claim that it stole the musical passage from an earlier recording, “Taurus” by Spirit.  The lawsuits have been under way for years between the bands, and more legal wrangling is in the works for the courts in September.   Who knows how it all will end?

But Trump is surely hoping to look hip and ‘with it’ when supporting one of the rock worlds best-known songs and bands.  It might even work.  After all, Trump already has the colored hair and skin. Might he show up one night at a rally with a guitar and mock sing? It would surely be more entertaining than listening to his ‘old hits’ about crowd size and emails.

And so it goes.

Money Can Sure Aid Those In Jail

August 17, 2019

The last weeks of Jeffrey Epstein’s life were up-side down to be sure.  But not as chaotic as they would have been had he not been rich.  The story today in The New York Times is an eye-opening account of that happens when one of rich and brought to justice.

Jeffrey Epstein, inmate 76318-054, hated his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. It was cramped, dank and infested with vermin, so Mr. Epstein, long accustomed to using his wealth to play by his own rules, devised a way out.

He paid numerous lawyers to visit the jail for as many as 12 hours a day, giving him the right to see them in a private meeting room. Mr. Epstein was there for so long that he often appeared bored, sitting in silence with his lawyers, according to people who saw the meetings. While they were there, he and his entourage regularly emptied the two vending machines of drinks and snacks.

It was shift work, all designed by someone who had infinite resources to try and get as much comfort as possible,’ said a lawyer who was often in the jail visiting clients.

Outside the meeting room, Mr. Epstein mounted a strategy to avoid being preyed upon by other inmates: He deposited money in their commissary accounts, according to a consultant who is often in the jail and speaks regularly with inmates there. 

Editorial Cartoonists Said It All About Guns This Week

August 17, 2019

What more can be said?

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