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Nation In A Most Troubling Place

January 13, 2017

I could give only the quick version and report America is in a very awful mess that threatens our national foundations.  I could end this post with that one line. While that would be accurate it would not allow the reasons I feel this way.  What we have witnessed this week should deeply concern all of my readers.

A sizable segment of my fellow Americans believe Donald Trump is compromised by the Russian government.  There is a genuine feeling that Russian influence has not only impacted the election but also has in some ways a controlling interest in Trump.  Trump only adds to this anxiety in the country with his relentless attacks and criticisms of the U.S. intelligence community who alerted the nation of the findings of foreign attempts to interfere with our election.

As the events show–and as more evidence is reported daily–we have every reason to be disturbed.  Trump’s incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn reportedly phoned Russia’s ambassador multiple times after the Obama administration announced its sanctions on Russia.  Politics use to stop at the waters edge in this land and serious questions must be asked–and answers obtained–as to what is happening with Trump and Russian President Putin.  While I understand that Trump supporters probably have not heard of the Logan Act the serious minded who care about this nation have, and need to be vigilant.

The public is not lined up behind the next person to sit in the Oval Office.  The Washington Post is reporting that only 44% of Americans approve of Trump’s performance so far according to Gallup.  Be mindful this is severely below where most president-elects are in polling at this time as they are about to take the oath of office.  The same polling operation showed Obama stood at 83% at this same time eight years ago.

As I noted this morning I am very much in favor of the inspector general reviewing FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email story.  What is troubling however is the continuous petulant manner in whuch Trump deals with matters such as this one.  Trump tweeted this morning that Clinton was “guilty as hell” and by doing so undermines his role, the use of power, and good taste.

This nation is in a very sorry place and while I would like to say things will get better facts do not allow me to make such a statement.  What we are all watching and reading is a person who was allowed to rise to power and in no way cares about the real foundational structures of the nation.  Because there is a lack of concern, regard, or even knowledge from Trump about these matters it can only be concluded that the political, social, economic, and cultural aspect to our nation is set up for a tremendous and dangerous shock.

James Comey Review Totally Warranted

January 13, 2017

I find it most appropriate that the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General will launch a review of the actions taken by the FBI and DOJ ahead of November’s election in connection to the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

It was simply stunning in the manner which played out prior to the election with FBI Director James Comey’s press conference and notifications to Congress on matters that clearly were not required or needed to be spoken about publically.  The inappropriate nature of what transpired requires a complete review.

Specifically, the watchdog will look into allegations that DOJ or FBI “policies or procedures were not followed” in connection with Comey’s public announcement on July 5, 2016, and his letters to Congress on Oct. 28 and Nov. 6, 2016. The review will also look at whether certain underlying investigative decisions “were based on improper considerations.”

I understand that Comey thinks of himself as a stand-up guy and might have actually felt the actions he took were the best for the agency and himself.   But the facts of what were allowed under the guidelines will possibly show that his actions were not at all in accordance with proper procedures.    To make sure nothing of this type happens in the future a full review is warranted.

McDonalds Near Vatican To Feed Homeless Each Day

January 13, 2017

Corporate responsibility can happen!

Less than a month after upsetting cardinals and cultural heritage guardians by opening a fast food outlet near St Peter’s Square, McDonald’s is to hand out thousands of burgers to homeless people who live around the Vatican.

The charitable act was seen in Rome as a way to win back public opinion and atone for the resentment caused by the unveiling of the McDonald’s in a street just a stone’s throw from the gates of the Vatican.

Starting next week, McDonald’s will dole out double cheeseburgers, apples and bottles of water to the many people who live rough in and around St Peter’s.

Every Monday lunchtime, more than 1,000 meals will be given free to the homeless by volunteers from a charitable organization called Medicina Solidale.

Joe Biden Receives Presidential Medal of Freedom – With DISTINCTION

January 12, 2017

There is not a dry eye in the nation tonight–and for all the right reasons.

In the summer of 2008 I wrote the following in the high hope that Senator Joe Biden would be named the vice-presidential running mate to Barrack Obama.

I have long thought Senator Joe Biden to be a smart and capable man.   In 1987 I supported him financially when he sought the Democratic Party nomination for the White House.  One can never forget his earnestness in fighting the atrocities that were taking place in the Balkans, or his great work on the Judiciary Committee in stopping Robert Bork from getting to the Supreme Court.  His background and breadth of knowledge on international issues makes him a seasoned and remarkable public servant. 

He has most faithfully served this nation and is revered by his fellow citizens.  What happened this afternoon to honor him is simply the best news of the day. 

President Obama surprised Vice President Joe Biden with the nation’s highest civilian honor – the Presidential Medal of Freedom – with DISTINCTION–at a tribute event at the White House this afternoon.  The event and the award were kept secret from the vice president until he walked into the State Dining Room and found an audience filled with his family, the president’s family, and colleagues from throughout his career.

The vice president was very emotional throughout the event, wiping away tears as soon as the president began telling those in attendance that Biden is “the finest vice president” in U.S. history.

Wisconsin Vs. Common Sense

January 12, 2017

While reading the Wisconsin State Journal on Thursday I again thought about where we are as a state.  I know every generation comes to a point where they look backwards and wonder what happened to the ‘way things once were’.   While I am very proud of our social progress, and leaps forward due to science and technology I am also profoundly aware that some fundamental values in Wisconsin seems to have changed.

I recall being told over and over as a boy by teachers that this state was special.  We had a clean government, took pride in our environment, had remarkable state parks to explore, and had a Midwestern perspective that valued hard work and also helping those in need.   I do not think that pride in our state was over-blown or less than an apt description of a snapshot of our past.

But between those memories from childhood to the news articles in the paper today something clearly has happened that can not be applauded.

Our judicial system seems to now require a petition from 54 former judges to implore our State Supreme Court to adopt rules requiring justices to recuse themselves from cases involving campaign donors.   It would seem that just based on principle and fairness such procedures would already be in place to prevent justice from being called into question for favoritism.

The deep abiding love that this state has demonstrated for the great outdoors is a real legacy we can be proud of.  So it comes as a real head-shaker when listening to the partisan voices in the state legislature who wish to split up the Department of Natural Resources so to mute enforcement and research concerning our environment.  The 300-member Wisconsin Association of Retired Conservationists along with five former DNR secretaries have all registered deep misgivings about the proposed split.

The UW-System of Wisconsin has proven countless times to be a mighty engine of research and economic development.  There is nothing but profound pride we should have for our campuses and a most justified feeling knowing the flagship campus has an enviable reputation.   Therefore the continuous baffling question is why the need for some in the statehouse to almost go out of their way to undermine the UW?  Tinkering with tuition and trying to craft ways for certain political messages to be conveyed seems to be taking the foundation of what a place of higher learning should be and tipping it upside down.

Those stories came from just one edition of the paper.  Think about the number of similar articles that readers ponder in a week or month and it is clear why many are wondering what happened to the state we once knew.  How is it that common sense has come to be replaced by the most outlandish policy ideas and politicians who seem downright gleeful to charge forward in promoting them?

The reasons are many as to why we are now in this sorry state of affairs.  From downplaying the need to instruct young minds with civics, allowing political boundaries to be drawn by the most partisan means possible,  failing to contain the amount of money spent in campaigns, having the most extreme partisans from both sides holding too much sway in the process, and having social media downsize the way we get information places us here in the middle of a mess.

When I was a boy growing up in Hancock, about 30 miles south of Stevens Point, teachers gave lessons in why pride in the state was easily justified.  While I still deeply love my state it is clear that the foundations which existed decades ago are giving way to a most base form of politics which are very troubling and sad.  If more of my fellow citizens do not take a determined attitude about the policies at play in this state then we are bound to wind up where the barber pole from the Main Street of my hometown landed.

This Prompts A Woody Allen Question

January 11, 2017

So I am reading and stumble across this written by Woody Allen in The New York Times Book Review.

Life is so unfair. I tore up the old linoleum in a grungy apartment I rented years ago and found under it only schmutz, hardened chewing gum and a torn ticket stub to “Moose Murders.” Ed Sorel tears up the old linoleum in his apartment and finds yellowing newspapers with headlines screaming about a scandal that gave him material for a terrific book.

How is it that Woody Allen years ago lived in a grungy apartment?  Most of my life Allen has been a noted writer, actor, and neurotic though it may be, personality.  Unless by ‘years ago’ he referred to his college days or early start I find it hard to see Allen in grunge.   I would have altered the phrase.

On a related note this week James and I watched the Allen directed film Interiors.  There is so much beige in the film that when a woman with a vivacious personality enters wearing a red dress one almost wants to stand and cheer.  Wishing to live a life of one’s own is never easy in this film.

My Relative, Chelsea Manning, May Receive Commutation From President Obama

January 11, 2017

Chelsea Manning is my second cousin.  Today a Justice Department source reports a decision on commutation could come as soon as Wednesday for Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst sentenced to 35 years in prison for swiping 700,000 military files and diplomatic cables and giving them to WikiLeaks.  Manning, a transgender woman formerly known as Bradley, delivered an apology to the nation before she was sentenced.

I have never been a huge fan of Manning’s father, Brain, and feel that better parenting in so many ways would have allowed this entire episode to have never occurred had better avenues been presented in lieu of joining the military.  How could any parent not counsel strongly that a military path was not best suited to a small framed guy like Bradley, who also had other issues that were being confronted.

I am very  heartened by this news and trust that Obama will act as is now being reported.

Previously I have made it clear that action was required on behalf of Manning.

The conditions that Manning so long had to endure was nothing short of shocking.  The isolation and quirky, even outlandish regimen that includes being held for 23 hours daily in solitary confinement and being stripped naked every night for a search was degrading and unnecessary.  Whatever mental state Manning went into confinement with can not have been enhanced with the unwarranted actions that have taken place.  This was mental torture.

Let this horrid story end with compassion.

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