Friday, January 29, 2021

Lincoln, seeing what we are today

 Abraham Lincoln, at age 28, quoted by Ken Burns on CNN the other night, and sounding as if it had been written today, about current American affairs:

"Whence shall we xpect the approach of danger? Shall some trans-Atlantic giant step the Earth and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa could not, by force, take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track in the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men, we will live through all time, or die by suicide."

Speech to the Young Men's Lyceum in Springfield

Friday, August 18, 2017

Statues, statesmen, soldiers and society

I was born the year Joe McCarthy died - yes, the namesake of "McCarthyism," of wild, not necessarily true attacks against those who, as much as anything, try to approach our fears rationally.

Two years after his death, a bust of McCarthy was unveiled in the Outagamie County Courthouse in
Appleton, with the inscription on the pedestal saying JOSEPH R McCARTHY/UNITED STATES SENATOR and the years of his birth and death. It stood in the lobby next to the staircase leading to the second floor.

I saw it several times, thinking nothing of it, when I was young; my mother worked for a lawyer in Appleton and occasionally had to drop off things at the courthouse, and sometimes I would be along with her. Other than the inscription ... and the feeling that some people had bad things to say about him ... I just went on my way. As I grew, read and learned more, I understood the feelings on both sides.

According to an article in the Appleton Post-Crescent by Madeline Behr,

County officials discussed in the 1980s whether to remove the bust, but those efforts stalled. It wasn't until 2001 that the McCarthy bust would finally be moved out of the courthouse and donated to the History Museum at the Castle for use in a McCarthy exhibit.
Plenty of assumptions were made about how the exhibit would frame McCarthy before it was complete, (museum director Matt) Carpenter said. Those within the Fox Cities thought the museum would paint McCarthy in a bad light, while those outside the Fox Cities assumed it would attempt to rehabilitate the image of a hometown boy.
"Our position wasn't either of those," Carpenter said. "We just said, 'Let's talk about what's important, what we can learn from this, and open up the conversation.'"
After the exhibit opened, the reaction was largely positive, both from family and friends of McCarthy and detractors of McCarthy.
The bust is now the most asked about item at the museum, Carpenter added, whether it is on display or not.
 It wasn't a perfect solution, but it worked. The controversial bust isn't where it was controversial any more; it was in a place devoted to studying the past and, among other things, McCarthy's role in it.

McCarthy was popular in his home state, Carpenter said, not for his politics but his personality.

Jerald Podair, a history professor at Lawrence University, told Behr that most folks just considered him "a hometown boy made good.
"Even though people understand him nationally as an embarrassment, he still is the local boy," Podair said. "If you knew him, you actually like him personally because he was perfect for this area — no pretense, no airs, no arrogance, friendly to everybody. But he also was a vicious political insider when it came to politics. But people here separate the personal from the political."
 So it can be done, and everyone can see what they want to see. And, yes, you know where this writing is going.

The incident in Charlottesville recently was over the removal of a statue of a person whose cause was deemed wrong by history. No, history is not being rewritten; it rewrites itself. Eventually, with time, perspective and exposure to what change has wrought, views change.

What happened to the bust of McCarthy is a good object lesson, and inevitably, a good model to follow. Don't tear down the statues, explain them in the context of what we know now. Note when the statues were put up, the conditions of race in those locations at the time, and how things changed.

Those white supremacists who protested the removal - and the Nazi sympathizers who followed in their wake like so much sludge - are wrong. Their cause was wrong.

But they are also part of our history, and pointing this out, with education and explanation, may be better than a teardown.

It's much better than tearing apart the country again.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Nose clips for sale

It's over Tuesday. Yes, the election campaign that has given freedom, democracy and goverment service a bad name will finally, finally end, and we must go vote.

Except for the voting. And if the top cliche of the campaign is true, one could become, well, comfortably well off by buying a bunch of nose clips someplace and selling them at the polling place door. (Is interfering with a voter's ability to breathe rigging an election?)

With all due respect to third-, fourth- and 17th-party candidates, would-be substitutes, and the Sweet

Meteor o'Death, we've only got two choices, and I'm here to endorse Rock over Hard Place.

Those two are represented , of course, by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In a campaign world where negative advertising is king, these two have slung enough - and some of it true - to make, well, a new Sweet Meteor o'Death.

Much has been said about the fact that these two candidates have higher negatives than any other previous candidates, quite a feat when you consider such past contenders as George Wallace, Strom Thurmond, Richard Nixon and Mr. Warmth, Calvin Coolidge.

Trump, of course, started his campaign by going after Mexicans, then Muslims, and by this point, 
T-shirt by @jephjacques
wants to build a wall around Megyn Kelly. He believes Vladimir Putin is a good guy, the pope needs to wake up and smell the coffee, and that the only attacking army that ever got war right was the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. He treats women as objects, minorities as useless, elections as rigged and people who want to know how he got so rich after declaring a handful of bankruptcies as a nuisance.

Clinton, meanwhile, carries the weight of being Vince Foster's killer, a secret crony of Wall Street, a money-grubber with ties to American enemies and somebody with no stamina. She also has been the No. 2 target of conservatives since her husband, the No. 1 target, took office. And with Democrats having been president for four of the last six terms, she bears the marks of all of their policies, some of which haven't worked out.

Of course, I could get a good phone book (remember those, old-timers?) and blindly pick somebody who could, with proper advertising, a good speechwriter and a controllable temper, probably do just as well. (In fact, if I had to pick any candidate to write in, I'd write in William Weld, the Libertarian VP candidate, whom I do not always agree with but who has shown sanity and intelligence in his few interviews.)

But we're stuck with The Hair and the Pantsuit. Write-ins won't work. Third parties won't work. It will be one or the other (unless the meteor arrives before Jan. 20)

So it will have to be Hillary Clinton. She has made mistakes, and I believe she showed contempt for the voters with her private e-mail server. She was a public official at the time, and needed to follow the rules about accessiblity of her official writings.

That said, she has also worked as a senator and Secretary of State. She knows what is required as part of the government, and she is as familiar with the workings of the White House as any non-incumbent has ever been.

As for Trump, he can build buildings and golf courses. Those are not small accomplishments, and if it weren't for his history of stiffing contractors and others (including his pollster this fall), would say much in his favor.

But he has never had to work with anything in government other than permit offices and the DMV. He has not had to handle the fates of the world. And his sheltered life makes him ill-equipped to understand the problems in the country he wants to run. He does not see individuals as people, he sees them as inferiors, minorities who really have no business being here.

And if he denies that, let him look at many of his supporters. He has become a focus for white nationalists and others who believed that the U.S. was better when women and minorities were kept away from any connection to power.

Ah, women. I'm going to leave anything prior to Trump's campaign out of this; still, such expressions as his snide remarks against Clinton and Kelly, among others; his attacks on the family of a Muslim soldier who gave his life for his country, against former POW John McCain, and others show he knows not when to shut up.

He has shown the maturity of a spoiled toddler, one who says anybody who disagrees with him hates him. It has reached the point that in this final weekend, his staff finally got him (at least at this writing) to stop his 3 a.m. tweeting of insults to his enemies, usually at the talk-show level of calling a newspaper "The New York Slimes."

Hunter S. Thompson noted that George McGovern, who had been called by many "the most decent man in the Senate," which was not quite the same thing as being the best candidate for President of the United States. "For that," he wrote, "McGovern would need at least one dark kinky streak of Mick Jagger in his soul."

That's about all Trump has. Whether you agree with Clinton or not, she has tried to do something to help people.

And that's how I will vote.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

You KNOW Trump's gonna use this speech before it's over

We have already gone past the Mariana Trench of this campaign, and are rapidly reaching Challenger Deep.  (That's 1,034 m (36,201 feet) below sea level.)  And we continue to go downhill. However, I am confident that I will know when Donald Trump gives this speech. He's come close many times before.

The speech may be familiar; it was, supposedly given by right-wing Democrat George Smathers against centrist Democrat Claude Pepper in the 1950 Florida Senate Primary. Smathers always denied it and even offered to pay anyone who could prove he gave the speech.

But even if it's apocryphal ... has that ever stopped The Donald?

This version is a revised and expanded version that appeared in Mad Magazine in 1970. But the basic idea of the original is there.  Blogger Rick Sincere explained it back in 2007:

Had Smathers actually given this speech, he would have been practicing a form of the literary technique known as paranomasia, defined as

a play on words or ideas. This term is from the Greek and is a combination of a preposition and a noun, the former primarily meaning beside; the latter indicating to name or to give a name to. Laying aside the rigidity of the etymology of the term, we would say that paronomasia consists of our laying down beside one word or idea that has been used-- a similar one with a little variation or change. The point or force of the word or idea thus employed is contingent upon our understanding of the word or idea upon which it is a pun.
In this case, of course, the point is contingent on the audience's misunderstanding of "the word or idea upon which it is a pun."

But even if it's apocryphal ... has that ever stopped The Donald? If he hauls this out during the debates, don't say I didn't warn you.


Guaranteed Effective All-Occasion Non-Slanderous Political Smear Speech

My fellow citizens, it is an honor and a pleasure to be here today. My opponent has openly admitted he feels an affinity toward your city, but I happen to like this area. It might be a salubrious place to him, but to me it is one of the nation's most delightful garden spots.

When I embarked upon this political campaign, I hoped that it could be conducted on a high level and that my opponent would be willing to stick to the issues. Unfortunately, he has decided to be tractable instead—to indulge in unequivocal language, to eschew the use of outright lies in his speeches, and even to make repeated veracious statements about me.

At first I tried to ignore these scrupulous, unvarnished fidelities. Now I will do so no longer. If my opponent wants a fight, he's going to get one!

It might be instructive to start with his background. My friends, have you ever accidentally dislodged a rock on the ground and seen what was underneath? Well, exploring my opponent's background is dissimilar. All the slime and filth and corruption you can possibly imagine, even in your wildest dreams, are glaringly nonexistent in this man's life. And even in his childhood!

Let us take a very quick look at that childhood: It is a known fact that, on a number of occasions, he emulated older boys at a certain playground. It is also known that his parents not only permitted him to masticate in their presence, but even urged him to do so. Most explicable of all, this man who poses as a paragon of virtue exacerbated his own sister when they were both teenagers!

I ask you, my fellow Americans: is this the kind of person we want in public office to set an example for our youth?

Of course, it's not surprising that he should have such a typically pristine background—no, not when you consider the other members of his family:

His female relatives put on a constant pose of purity and innocence, and claim they are inscrutable, yet every one of them has taken part in hortatory activities.

The men in the family are likewise completely amenable to moral suasion.

My opponent's uncle was a flagrant heterosexual.

His sister, who has always been obsessed by sects, once worked as a proselyte outside a church.

His father was secretly chagrined at least a dozen times by matters of a pecuniary nature.

His youngest brother wrote an essay extolling the virtues of being a homo sapien.

His great-aunt expired from a degenerative disease.

His nephew subscribes to a phonographic magazine.

His wife was a thespian before their marriage and even performed the act in front of paying customers.

And his own mother had to resign from a women's organization in her later years because she was an admitted sexagenarian.

Now what shall we say about the man himself?

I can tell you in solemn truth that he is the very antithesis of political radicalism, economic irresponsibility and personal depravity. His own record proves that he has frequently discountenanced treasonable, un-American philosophies and has perpetrated many overt acts as well.

He perambulated his infant on the street.

He practiced nepotism with his uncle and first cousin.

He attempted to interest a 13-year-old girl in philately.

He participated in a seance at a private residence where, among other odd goings-on, there was incense.

He has declared himself in favor of more homogeneity on college campuses.

He has advocated social intercourse in mixed company - and has taken part in such gatherings himself.

He has been deliberately averse to crime in our city streets.

He has urged our Protestant and Jewish citizens to develop more catholic tastes.

Last summer he committed a piscatorial act on a boat that was flying the U.S. flag.

Finally, at a time when we must be on our guard against all foreign isms, he has cooly announced his belief in altruism - and his fervent hope that some day this entire nation will be altruistic!

I beg you, my friends, to oppose this man whose life and work and ideas are so openly and avowedly compatible with our American way of life. A vote for him would be a vote for the perpetuation of everything we hold dear.

The facts are clear; the record speaks for itself. Do your duty. 



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.