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It Is A Huckleberry Finn Weekend

May 21, 2016

Going back to Mark Twain’s original classic this weekend after starting a book about the famed work of Mark Twain days ago.  (This all is so much more interesting than Donald Trump.)

This week I selected Huck Finn’s America by Andrew Levy from my shelves.  It was published last year and its idea is that contemporary readers have been misunderstanding Huckleberry Finn for decades.  We think of Mark Twain’s grand work as a boyhood adventure book–that is the way I viewed it when first reading it about age twelve in Hancock, Wisconsin.  There were also clearly tough issues about race that made me aware that book was also talking about a very long sad chapter in our national story.    But in his book Levy argues Huck Finn was written at a time when Americans were nervous about youth violence and “uncivilized” bad boys, and a debate was raging about education, popular culture, and responsible parenting — casting Huck’s now-celebrated “freedom” in a very different and very modern light. On issues of race, on the other hand, Twain’s lifelong fascination with minstrel shows and black culture inspired him to write a book not about civil rights, but about race’s role in entertainment and commerce, the same features upon which much of our own modern consumer culture is also grounded. In Levy’s vision, Huck Finn has more to say about contemporary children and race that we have ever imagined—if we are willing to hear it.

So when I got to chapter four of Levy’s truly engaging read I thought perhaps I should also read the classic again by Twain.   James pulled a copy from his collection and now I plan to relax this weekend outside with Huckleberry Finn and a modern way to evaluate him.

Now to make a pot of coffee—will be back to blogging on Monday.



Time Cover: Battle Of The Bathroom

May 20, 2016

This is what the nasty and needless divide created by conservatives has come down to–as shown on the cover of Time.  There is no harm coming from violence in bathrooms any more than there were voting problems at the ballot box.  But conservatives ginned up voter ID and now are ramping up false charges against transgender people.   When a political party can not win with ideas they resort to horse-rot.  Welcome to the Republican Party 2016.


The cover story features the writing of Michael Scherer on “The Battle of the Bathroom”.

In a divided country, the social battle lines have been drawn once again in our most private of public places. State legislatures have been besieged, and school committees have split. Pastors have become politicized in the pulpit, and the gay-rights lobby has abandoned its past hesitancy to embrace the transgender cause. Courtrooms are filling with legal motions that are certain to end up at the Supreme Court. The fight—­political and legal, personal and ­collective—is just getting going….

Like all great political battles, this one is distinguished by the decision on both sides to commit loudly and completely, to elevate the issue and to force it on the American public…. The 2016 battle over bathrooms is, after all, about far more than public ­facilities—it’s about gender roles, social change, federalism, physical danger, political polarization and, most strikingly, a breakdown in the ability of anyone in this country to speak across our divides, or appeal to common humanity.

Donald Trump, Racism Against Immigrants, Ridiculous High Cost For Wall

May 20, 2016

The must read from today’s newspapers.

“I can’t even begin to picture how we would deport 11 million people in a few years where we don’t have a police state, where the police can’t break down your door at will and take you away without a warrant,” said Michael Chertoff, who led a significant increase in immigration enforcement as the secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush.

Finding those immigrants would be difficult, experts said. Police officers across the country would need to ask people for proof of residency or citizenship during traffic stops and street encounters. The Border Patrol would need highway checkpoints across the Southwest and near the Canadian border. To avoid racial profiling, any American could expect to be stopped and asked for papers.

To achieve millions of deportations, the Obama administration’s focus on deporting serious criminals would have to be scrapped, said Julie Myers Wood, a director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE, under Mr. Bush. “You would not care if the person had a criminal record,” she said.

Large-scale raids, rare under Mr. Obama, would resume at farms, factories, restaurants and construction sites, with agents arresting hundreds of workers and poring over company records. And prosecutors would bring criminal charges against employers hiring unauthorized immigrants.


Mr. Sternfeld, who has led major wall projects across the country and approached the Trump family last summer, suggested that Mr. Trump was overly optimistic about the cost and was underestimating the complexity of the undertaking.

Running the numbers, Mr. Sternfeld said a 40-foot-tall concrete wall using a “post and panel” system that went 10 feet below the ground — to minimize tunneling — would cost at least $26 billion. The logistics would be nightmarish, including multiple concrete casting sites and temporary housing for a crew of 1,000 workers if the job were to be completed within Mr. Trump’s first four-year term.

Maintenance would be an additional recurring expense, said Walter W. Boles, an engineering professor at Middle Tennessee State University who specializes in concrete construction. Deep trench work would also be necessary for keeping a wall of that height from toppling, he said, and seismic sensors to detect digging would be wise for preserving its integrity from below.

Setting aside the need for congressional approval and a likely fight with Mexico over financing, many who study borders doubt that a mass of concrete would accomplish its purpose. From the ancient Great Wall of China to Israel’s modern security barrier, walls rarely prove totally impervious to people set on traversing them.

Walls tend to be crude solutions to complex problems and are evidence of geopolitical failure, said Michael Dear, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in the border with Mexico.

“People always find a way to go above or below or through a wall,” said Professor Dear, the author of “Why Walls Won’t Work.” “It’s just political window dressing and rabble-rousing of the worst order.”

Kevin Marvin Anderson, Local Man With WSM Radio, Grand Ole Opry Connection, Dies

May 20, 2016

Hat Tip To Solly.


Kevin Marvin Anderson would have been so wonderful to have talked with over coffee.  From his days traveling with Sonny James, working at famed WSM radio, and standing on the world-famous stage as an announcer for the Grand Ole Opry, the longest running radio show in the nation there would have been no shortage of topics to discuss.   Long-time readers to this blog know why Anderson would be a treasure-trove of stories about Nashville and some of the country music stars he would have come to know over the years.

While there are plenty of words to be found on CP about the ones who stand in the lights of the Opry stage we are all aware that the ones who stand off to the side of the stage and announce the show are very much a part of the event.  To have had that experience  must have been one his shining memories.

My thoughts go out to his family and certainly wide array of friends at this time.    I know there is a sense of deep loss right now.  But without ever meeting Anderson I strongly suspect that he would not want a slow mournful fiddle being played in his memory, but instead want something more sprightly and reflective of the way he loved the music that was so often heard from the Opry stage.

That is, after all, the spirit that resides within a classic country music fan.

Kevin Marvin Anderson, age 56, passed away unexpectedly from cardiac arrest on Monday, May 16, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. He was born in Madison on June 24, 1959, the son of Marvin and Eunice (Bronte) Anderson.

Kevin was a 1977 graduate of Monona Grove High School. His passion for music began in Sunday school at West Koshkonong Lutheran Church in Stoughton, and he was also a member of Don Ring’s Orchestra while in high school. Kevin moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University, but soon left to join country artist Jana Jae’s touring band. A talented musician, Kevin toured the country playing music, first with Jana Jae and then with Sonny James on guitar and backing vocals.

After leaving the road, Kevin returned to Nashville to work at WSM Radio, where he served as a producer for the Bill Cody morning show, then became the WSMFM music director before working as a part-time announcer for the Grand Ole Opry. As a longstanding fixture with WSM, Kevin had the opportunity to meet and befriend many of his country music idols and other entertainers.

Kevin’s love of country music was second only to his love for his family.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 23, 2016, at West Koshkonong Church 1911 Koshkonong Road, Stoughton. Burial will follow in West Koshkonong Cemetery

Morley Safer, Veteran CBS News Correspondent, Dies at 84

May 19, 2016

Are we not fortunate to have such legends in broadcasting and journalism that makes it seem they have always been there, and always will be down the road?

60 MINUTES  63630, fr's 1, 3, 8 (Morley Safer in office, April 21, 1980).   Copyright CBS Broadcasting, Inc., All Rights Reserved, Credit: CBS Photo Archive

Morley Safer in office, April 21, 1980  Credit: CBS Photo Archive

That is the way I think of Morley Safer.  I can not recall a Sunday in my lifetime when Safer was not a part of 60 Minutes.  He may not have had a segment being aired each week but his face and name was always a part of the opening to the famed and much awarded Sunday newsmagazine show.

Today the veteran CBS news correspondent died at the age 84. Safer was the longest-serving correspondent in 60 Minutes history. He joined the CBS program in 1970 and filed his last report in March.

Just this past week Safer had decided to retire and there was a special hour of memories broadcast during last week’s broadcast.  There was no way not to smile while recalling the places that he took us as we sat in our living rooms–places Safer knew he needed to describe with powerful writing even though the camera was capturing so much on film.

It was the fact that he knew how to write a punchy paragraph and operate the fundamentals of being a reporter in a most skilled way that always made him so welcome in our home.  I respected how he marshalled his facts to make a well-rounded and informative story.    He made it look easy—but in fact it was not.  His professionalism was the key to making it seem effortless.

Sunday night will still be a time to tune in a mainstay that now is as much a part of our culture as attending services that morning.  But there will be a missing face and voice that can never be replaced.  But it is also true Morley Safer will never be forgotten.

That is what we do with legends–hold them in memory.

The New Yorker Cover: Donald Trump’s “Grand Illusion”

May 19, 2016

Perfectly depicted.


‘Women On The Bus’

May 19, 2016

Long time readers to this blog know my respect for and interest in the ‘boys on the bus’ who reported the rollicking adventures of past presidential elections.  This election cycle, however, has turned that old saying into something new and timed to the nomination of our first female candidate.   I know one thing for sure—Mary McGrory is smiling.

No one can say for sure how Clinton ended up with a traveling press pool made up almost entirely of women, but it is a remarkable shift in political journalism, where, until very recently, the proportion of women covering presidential races has roughly reflected that of Congress. (About 20 percent, rounded up.) At MSNBC, all of the major candidates are trailed by female journalists—with Kristen Welker reporting on Clinton, Katy Tur on Donald Trump, Kasie Hunt on Bernie Sanders, and Hallie Jackson on Ted Cruz—while at CNN, women represent a little more than half of the election correspondents. Among reporters following other candidates, the gender ratio has been inching toward an even split, with the women of the Trump campaign perhaps capturing the most attention for the arsenal of colorful epithets he has deployed against them. But Clinton’s press corps is still rare enough to qualify as a phenomenon: Of the reporters who dip in and out of the campaign trail, there are 26 women and only three men. “It is definitely different” is how Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s communications director, describes it.


Clinton didn’t have her own press corps until 1999, when she left Washington amid impeachment hearings and softly launched her Senate campaign. “In the [Chuck] Schumer race, it wasn’t unusual for me to be the only woman on the plane,” says Beth Harpaz, who covered the Senate for the AP then. “With Hillary, it was striking how many news organizations assigned women to cover her.” One outlet even sent a features writer instead of their politics reporter. “I can’t be in those editors’ heads, but perhaps they thought it would help with access,” adds Harpaz, who subsequently wrote The Girls in the Van: Covering Hillary, a 2001 book about the experience that has been rereleased this year.

Gwen Ifill, the coanchor of PBS NewsHour, recalls this being the unfortunate standard not just with women but also with African-Americans. Ifill got her start covering Jesse Jackson’s presidential run in 1984, the same year that Geraldine Ferraro ran as the first female vice-presidential nominee. “Something predictable happened, which is that every newspaper found a woman they could send on the road with her,” Ifill says. “It’s a pathetic way of looking at it, but that’s where a lot of them got their start. Suddenly you see people who can perform and do the job. You just had to put women in those roles.”


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