Saturday, February 27, 2016

Electoral College could Trump disaster

The election of Donald Trump as President of the United States may not be the worst disaster to befall the U.S. of A. – we survived two world wars, the Civil War and the Cola Wars – but Lord, it can’t be a good idea.
I, for one, have the fear that we will end up with Trump the way the USFL did – bankrupt but winning a $3 court judgment.
And, for whatever reason, the Republican Party – more and more run by groups that haven’t
quite accepted the end of Prohibition, the militia part of the Second Amendment and the no law establishing a religion of the First Amendment – has become too weak to throw out what should be a mere thorn in its elephantine hide.
(We’re going to leave the Democrats out of this for now; they’ve got their own problems, but neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders is that far removed from the governmental mainstream; they’ve both held national office, for example.)
Instead, the GOP is going to nominate the richest multi-bankrupt person ever, a man whose political beliefs are in many cases in direct obstruction to the Constitution, and a man who has contributed not one idea to the political debate until now (if you ignore his belief that President Obama is a secret Kenyan Muslim with a fake birth certificate).
But I rise, not to warn of Trump, but to find a way to stop him. The Republicans seem unwilling to do the deed.
But there is a way, and to the joy of conservatives everywhere, it is 110 percent Constitutional.
Fellow frustrated voters, I give you The Electoral College.
Yes, that ancient body, that vestigial tail of American politics, that relic of the Founding Fathers’ belief that the mass of voters really couldn’t be trusted. (Boy, do they look prescient now!)
In short, it’s time for a college protest of the electoral kind.
What many people do not realize is that the Electoral College still does exist as real people. Granted, their role has been traditionally ceremonial, confirming the vote of each state and signing off on that state’s votes in a nice note to the Congress.
But there are real people who cast those electoral votes. Once in a while, someone goes off the tracks and withholds a vote or votes for somebody else, and is doing so in a mostly legal manner.
(I say mostly legal, as 25 states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring electors to vote for the state winner. There are still 24 that do not have such a law, and Virginia’s is seen by the National Archives and Records Administration as “Virginia statute may be advisory – ‘Shall be expected’ to vote for nominees.)
Those 24 states are Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.
Combine those 24 plus one, and you have 269 electoral votes – one short of a majority. Even if not all of them participate, it could easily be enough to deny Trump the election.
Of course, that would throw the whole thing into the House of Representatives, with each state having one vote in that body. But you have to figure there are enough people in there who realize what a danger a Trumpresidency would be to happy overthrow the whole thing.
Yes, it would be a dangerous move, one that would bring anger across the country. Then again, so did Bush v. Gore in 2000, and probably, so did Hayes v. Tilden in 1876. And we survived.
I believe that with the realization of the sensible majority, it can be realized that the danger from this move would be far, far less than the danger of the Call of the Last Trump-et.
The Electoral College may not be in the AP Top 25, but It could post a big victory for us all if it would exercise its potential and keep America from an incompetent, dangerous president.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


The gestures are well-meaning. Lighting up buildings. Putting bleu, blanc et rouge stripes on your facebook photos. Waving French flags.

It is all as meaningless as Friday night's attacks.  So much is being said. So little can be done. At least, so little that can make a difference.

What they want ... is and never will be available, and they will never stop fighting for it.

What we want ... tolerance of coexistence, a realization that this is the only world we have and every last person is an individual with individual belief and never will be available, and we will never stop fighting for it.

In either case, the only way that will be with not only attacks, but all-out war that will leave millions on both sides dead. We will never be willing to do that. They will be.

We see this on a small scale in our own politics - the parties are being taken over bu those who insist on ideological purity over working together to get things done that will help us all.

And there is a word to describe this.

In French, it is compromis.In Arabic, it is hall wasat.

T.S. Eliot once said the world would end "not with a bang, but with a whimper." Between the terrorists and the ideologues who want their own way, we will have both, and much too soon for any of us.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Not so much a team, more a way of life

So, the team from Titletown now owns the title to the Titletown District. And we're finding out what they're going to do with it.
It pretty much follows what we've been hearing over the years, commercial development. The only surprise to me was the townhouses, which are supposed to provide a buffer between the commercial area and the housing already there. Whether those are year-round dwellings or just game-day party houses remains to be seen.
The idea, according to those who spoke at today's event, is to bring in yuppie types and reverse a "brain drain" that is apparently happening here. Not sure how more retail and medical jobs are going to do that, but it's a lure.
And it will be good for a little extra tourism. I remember an article several years ago in which someone was shocked that there was a Kmart next door to Lambeau Field. (This brought the response - "whaddya expect, a Hall of Famer on every corner?")
Well, with the monuments up and down Lombardi Avenue, that's getting to be the case. One thing, if this is going to be a tourist stop, is to put up indicators and information about not only those, but the Packers Heritage Trail downtown for people who can't get enough green and gold.
One question was answered today - that hotel is NOT going to be reserved for the visiting teams when they come to Green Bay. Mark Murphy, president of the Packers, said coaches usually don't like to stay that close to the stadium.
And it was noted that Hinterland's new facility is a wash in a way - the Broadway area loses a stalwart to Ashwaubenon. Granted, there had to be some beer involved; it's a shame there couldn't be a bratwurst factory or cheesemaker in there to complete the Balanced Wisconsin Diet.
I also wonder if there will be more youth-oriented restaurants; brewpubs are nice, but what about the fast food crowd?
The plaza/skating rink that is supposed to be the centerpiece might be nice; may it be used for more than impromptu football games. And we now will have a large Super Bowl ring (Bart Starr model, Super Bowl I) to match the large Lombardi Trophy at Lambeau. Maybe it's compensation for being the NFL's smallest city.
Of course, there could be some other attractions. I list a few suggestions, not all serious:
--The Bellin Head Trauma center. Could get a lot of business, so it should be convenient to the stadium.
--The old state historic marker that used to stand at the entrance to the Packer Hall of Fame when it was behind the arena. Where HAS that gone?
--A box where you can sit in 13-below temperatures with lots of fans to bring up the wind chill. Get the REAL Green Bay experience.
--And with everything cleared out, at least one place, a bit elevated, where you can get a nice picture of Lambeau Field.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

As a victim, knowing victims, I agree

A most excellent piece today from CBS's Bob Schieffer on the death of local news reporting, especially of the print variety.

Obviously, as a former news editor, city hall reporter, etc., I agree with him. But I also agree with what he has to say about the effects. Schieffer may be a network legend but he knows his stuff from his days in newspapers and local TV in the DFW area.

Let's be honest - newspapers can make money if well-run but they are a labor-intensive business that cannot only focus on the bottom line. And broadcast news does not have the personnel, time or attention span to do the investigative work that stories like the ones Bob mentions require.

Today is Bob's last day hosting "Face the Nation." It's a much bigger loss than that goofy looking guy in the late-night spot.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Annnnnnd ... I'm back

It seems like all I can do before I go to sleep is think of the past.
I need to get to sleep - some weeks, I do have to be up at 6 a.m. - and I think of ... well, the past 58 years. I try to think about something more contemporary, and darned if it doesn't drive me back there again.
By now, I am starting to fear I will end up like the guy in the Twilight Zone episode who, on his nightly commute home, always sees the stop at Willoughby, a town he had once lived in, and eventually gets off the train there ... but I shan't spoil that one.
Don't worry - Steph and I are still quite infatuated with each other, the cats are a constant amusement ... but I no longer have the best profession in the world to work in, and I can't help but remember when I did.
So maybe I will use this space and tell some of those stories. Talk about some of the people I've met, the incidents that happened, the funny stories and the places I have been. If you're interested, let me know.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Today’s political hatred, seen through an old book

Here's a column that I wrote back in 2003, the 40th anniversary of the JFK assassination.

I’ve been told that a person should read a book three times: once when young, once when middle-aged and once when old — and if you do, you’ll read three different books.
The idea, of course, is that we look at the book through different eyes, from the unknowing youth to the old person, filtering the book’s message through one’s own life.
I’ve been doing a bit of that recently, after hitting both the University Women’s used book sale and the Brown County Library’s used book sale.
Some of what I picked up was, well, unusual. I found a paperback, “Baseball Stars of 1963,” that might just fetch something on eBay if I ever get around to it.
And somebody was selling an encyclopedia year book from 1961, covering the year 1960. More than you ever needed to know about that wonderful year. Did you know motels are becoming more and more popular?
And then there’s the unusually timely, something you don’t expect to find on a used book table. It was a copy of William Manchester’s “The Death of a President,” the story of the weekend 40 years ago when John F. Kennedy was killed.
I’m a bit surprised it hasn’t been reissued to cash in on the 40-year anniversary. We humans do that; we like numbers that end in zero to remember things. Goodness knows, you found everything you’d ever wanted to know about JFK and his death on TV this week, from sober analysis to lurid autopsy photos to draw the “CSI” crowd.
But it was interesting to reread the book. The first time I read it, I read it as someone who was interested, wanting to learn about this piece of history.
Now, I look at it through other eyes, ones that have had to look at the modern political system.
The extreme right wing in Dallas in the early 1960s was every bit as virulent as it is today, if not more so. It’s doubtful today you’d have seen, say Madeline Albright getting hit on the head by a picket sign, as Adlai Stevenson was in 1963.
And while Ann Coulter — the conservatives’ pin-up girl — writes books about liberals committing “Treason,” a poster in Dallas the day before the assassination showed Kennedy, mug-shot style, with the line “Wanted for Treason.”
There were political dirty tricks then as well. Gov. John Connally, who later bolted the Democrats for Richard Nixon, got back at liberal Sen. Ralph Yarborough by keeping him in the background at key events. (It was splits like this in the Texas Democratic Party that brought Kennedy to Dallas in the first place).
But overwhelming in the period was hatred. Kennedy was vilified by the right wing not only his politics, but his personality, his religion, his family. The publisher of the Dallas Morning News accused him of “riding Caroline’s pony” rather than serving as a leader — to Kennedy’s face. Even after his death, people cheered the attacker.
And, sadly, that hasn’t changed. It faded for a bit, in the horrors of the assassinations, of Vietnam, of Watergate. But then it came back, matched spit for spit by Democrats angry over the success of Ronald Reagan.
And that’s where we are today.
So things haven’t changed; that hatred has always been there, and I was reminded of that while reading the book.
Of course, the generally accepted view of the killing — Lee Harvey Oswald, the Book Depository, the whole bit — was light-years away from that hatred. But in a way, that hatred might have fed on it. Oswald was not sharp. He wanted to lash out, Manchester says, to prove himself after a lifetime of failures. Kennedy was the popular political target — why not make him a real one?
And the targets continue today. I just hope we can calm down the national discourse to save ourselves from another weekend like that one 40 years ago.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

And the choice is...

Since I started voting for presidents in 1976, there has been at least one good reason for me to vote for somebody.

Not this year. I want a do-over in the worst way.

We have two candidates who have as much business running for President as Honey Boo Boo. And they're almost as qualified. (Remember, Honey Boo Boo's only disqualification is that she is not yet 35 years old.)

Barack Obama is something of a fluke in high office, a one-term senator who caught a tailwind after a great speech back in 2004, then went through a weak field in 2008 because of his speaking skills, his novelty and the fact that most Americans wanted another Clinton in the White House about as much as they wanted another Bush. Still, his victory was not assured until John McCain bowed to the nutjobs who have taken over the Republican Party and picked their pinup girl, Sarah Palin.

Obama has proven to be ineffectual. He can point to two achievements - Osama bin Laden was killed on his watch, and he got a health care bill through. Both are mixed blessings. It would have been better to capture OBL and put him in a Nuremburg/Eichmann style trial, showing his evil to the world.

As for health care, the bill doesn't do what most Americans want - provide a safety net for those unable to afford or get insurance, and simplify everything surrounding it so that people can get the treatment they need. Instead of attacking those problems, the bill is a list of what one group of people wanted to see. It had good intentions but doesn't do the job.

Presidents don't fix the economy single-handed - not even FDR - and Obama has at least tried things. The last time we had a depression, Herbert Hoover just waited for things to right themselves, and they never did.

The true problem is that the economy today benefits only a small part of the populace - those who have advanced through office politics to run their organizations. Those who actually do the work - the employees - are considered to be liabilities rather than assets.

Which brings us to Mitt Romney.

His supporters call him a successful businessman; he isn't. He's a politician. His main business expertise was taking over failing businesses, wringing the remaining money off of them, and then killing them.  Yes, he ran the Salt Lake Olympics, but except for sprucing up the ski hills and building a couple of facilities, most of what was needed - arenas, a big stadium for the ceremonies and so on - were in place. Facilities have been the problem with most Olympic budgets; get those out of the way, and you can make money.

As a politician, he has shown no basic beliefs. He is a Clinton in Republican clothing, twisting with the wind. He has joined the right wing because they run the railroad he has to ride on to become president; had the right-wing suddenly decided to make gay marriage and abortion legal, he would have gone out and married Paul Ryan just to make them happy. He is a man without a compass trying to go in a winning direction.

So we have Mr. Ineffectual vs. Mr. Inconsistent. Add to that their VP nominuees - loopy Joe Biden vs. True Believer Paul Ryan - and you have four people who shouldn't be left near a lawn mower, much less The Button.

It is so easy to just want to crawl into bed and ignore the whole thing. But I care enough about living here in America that I cannot.

What bothers me is the hatred. Both sides do nothing but attack the other. This is an old complaint, as old as the Republic, but it seems to have reached new peaks. Many of the lawn signs I have seen don't mention the candidate the lawn's owner is supporting; they just say things like "DEFEAT OBAMA." Haven't seen any in the other direction, but I see enough in the posts on Twitter and Facebook to see it is the same over there.

A pox on both your houses (and their lawn signs).

All I can do is vote for the one who scares me the least. And Romney scares me the most, because of his lack of a basic belief. This is the same person who put a health care system in Massachusetts but is fighting against it to please his party sponsors. His ignorance of other countries is scary. In short, he believes in a ruling class - white, above-average wealth, businessmen (emphasis on men) only.

Obama, at least, seems to realize that the vast majority of Americans don't fall into any of those categories. We are struggling to make ends meet, working in jobs that are available rather than what we can do best, in part because the businesses who support Romney would rather make more profits by sending those jobs to China.

I don't know how sincere he is, but Obama at least makes a show of listening to those who can't do something for him other than vote. Romney doesn't.

And on that small ledge, I cast my vote for Obama on Tuesday.