Thursday, July 4, 2013

Free Speech

There is no celebration in my heart this Independence Day.

I am both depressingly sad (for my Country) and extremely torqued (at our leaders - Executive and Legislative branches) over the so-called IRS Scandal. 

Simply put the Government of the United States has targeted people and by extension groups they organized because of their opinions. That this has happened is not questioned nor in doubt.

I can’t think of anything more Un-American. All Americans hold opinions and the spectrum is extremely diverse, in itself a cause for some tolerance. Most elected officials and many active in politics are motivated in large part because strong opinions have motivated them. Most opinion makers, commentators, and even bloggers are motivated by their opinions.

After the managed “pre report” leaked disclosure, the IRS Inspector General report acknowledged that groups were targeted for special treatment by the Internal Revenue Service because of the cast and special nature of their opinions.

As with everything else that happens in politics today this “scandal” was treated as an uber political matter. Both parties immediately drew the partisan R & D lines seeking to use the issue to electorally damage the other party. Political advantage seems strangely more important than accountability and justice.

The President quickly tried to dis associate himself from any responsibility of this happening on his watch and dismissed the acting IRS Director with little explanation. The President also condemned the activity but has subsequently done almost nothing to identify those responsible. The Republicans in the U. S. House have been pushing for investigation while the Democrats have said they are outraged but believe the matter should just be put behind us. While I understand the Democrats don’t want to talk about perceived political bad news, I am not all that happy with the Republicans either. They continue to let this matter slide away.

Free Speech and the Right to Petition Government for a Redress of Grievances is at the heart of our Country and what makes America different from other nations.

Yes, there are so many significant issues on the public policy plate many that will not be dealt with. (the National Security Agency spying on many Americans, wiretapping of the Press, immigration reform, national energy policy, the ongoing saga of the implementation of Obamacare to name a few.)  Despite this the Government targeting those with certain opinions over rides all others! The Right of Americans to express their opinions is the basis of political debate.

Where is the OUTRAGE? Where are the Liberals?, the Libertarians?, the Press? Not a day should be going by that the President, The Secretary of the Treasury, The Attorney General, The IRS Commissioner and Every Member of Congress should answer what has been done to find and bring those responsible to Justice. Assure the American People that this has stopped.

Is the politics more important than finding out where our Government got off track and who is responsible? As a result of the bombing at the Boston Marathon our government moved heaven and earth in three days to bring the terrorists to the bar of justice. Some reports suggest there were 3000 federal agents involved in addition to local and Massachusetts State Police. Can’t they do the same within an agency of the government?

Doesn’t the targeting of Americans for their beliefs rank at least equal attention?

Happy Independence Day

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Seuss Falls

The WP scores another BIG Hit with their current exhibit: Seuss Falls: Discovering the Arts andScience of Dr. Seuss.

The Washington Pavilion has brought another Do Not Miss exhibit to Sioux Falls. I love books. Cultural and social history is far more than a passing interest to me. The Seuss exhibit is well done; for history it is a solid A and the art, which is quite familiar, yet still interesting gets a B (not spectacular.)

Theodor Seuss Geisel was inventive, innovative, and imaginative. His career, as his art went through very diverse stages. Primarily Geisel was an illustrator. His illustrations take on a very artistic touch. Though artistic his drawings are welcoming as shown later in his creatures that have a certain warm cuteness. In addition to his drawing talent Geisel was poetic. He was fascinated by sounds and hypnotic rhyme; He possessed a strong social conscience.

During his lifetime Geisel’s privately created serious artworks that are an interesting segment of the exhibit dubbed his “Secret Art.”  The piece of his more serious Secret Art that I liked was done in 1932 titled, “Incidental Music For a New Year’s Eve Party. One of his cartoons that touched me took on a political tone. It was a 1940 work called “The Knotty Problem of Capital Hill” …further described as: “Finding a way to raise taxes without losing a single vote.”

Geisel began his career as a Cartoonist, working primarily for magazines, creating cartoons, illustrations, advertising and covers.

From magazines he segued into the Advertising creating “Ad Art.” He worked for some of the Big Boys including Standard Oil of New Jersey and Ford Motor Company. For Standard Oil of NJ (Humble Oil and Refining Company we called it in Texas) he worked on a bug spray named “Flit.” Apparently Flit contained DDT or some type of human toxin for which Geisel later felt some embarrassment by association. Years later he penned  “The Lorax” that extolled the virtues of environmentalism.

Geisel worked in the Advertising field for fifteen years, though interrupted by his service during World War II. In the Army he worked for the U S Military Office of Information and Education creating posters and other advertising matter. In 1943 he authored movie scripts for a military unit headed by Frank Capra, the renowned director doing war documentaries. Geisel won two Academy Awards  (Documentary Feature and Animated Short Film) for his work in the Army and was awarded the Legion of Merit.

Geisel’s next career field was as a writer and illustrator of children’s books. Dr. Seuss (Geisel’s pen name taken from his middle name) is probably the most well-known and popular Children’s authors of all time. He sold over 600,000,000 (that’s 600 MILLION!) books.

Among his most popular books are: “The Cat In the Hat”, “Green Eggs and Ham”, “How the Grinch that Stole Christmas”, and “Horton Hears a Who.”

The good Doctor’s social conscience besides, “The Lorax” and environmentalism, extended to “Sneetches”  - tolerance and racial prejudice and “Yertle the Turtle” dictatorship and expansionism.

Factoids of fancy for me – “The Cat in the Hat” was written as a reading primer and contained 225 new reader vocabulary words. “Green Eggs and Ham” was written as the result of a $50 bet between Geisel and his publisher at Random House, Bennett Cerf; that Geisel could not write a book using only 50 words. Dr. Seuss won. The resultant 62-page book used only 50 words, 49 of them were one syllable and the 50th word was “anywhere.”

Geisel believed, “no matter the media, every piece of paper was a canvas.”

This exhibit was a solid effort by the WP. The cost is a little spendy, $18 adult admission. Despite the higher cost, I hope the Pavilion programmers keeping bringing on these art exhibitions.

Cultural Notes – Endbar

In conjunction with the Seuss Falls exhibit there was (they took it away before my second visit) a display case in the entryway outside the entrance to the exhibit that contained four or so whimsical music instruments (perhaps Geisel inspired) loaned from the American Music Museum on the University of South Dakota campus in Vermillion. As many of the exhibits at the Vermillion museum, they are unique.

The American Music Museum (formerly Shrine to Music Museum) needs to get “Out There” – it’s a TREASURE and nobody has ever heard of it much less seen it.

Unfortunately music lovers just are not traveling to Vermillion. The museum’s collection is World Class, nothing else even close in North America and maybe (I understand) one of the three best on the Planet Earth. I understand a new building is planned and a new marketing is being studied. If you haven’t seen the American Music Museum it’s less than an hour’s drive. You will not regret the trip. They have a world class website – check it out.

More music but closer to home is the America’s Music series that is ongoing at Siouxland Libraries.

A film, lecture, and performance series has been first rate. It continues through the end of June. On successive Sunday’s Augustana College Music Department Chairman, Scott Johnson has lectured, led discussion, and shown films on the history of Rock and Roll, Broadway, and Jazz. There was an outstanding presentation on guitar craftsmanship, last month by a local guitar maker (luthier), Josh Rieck, and I am looking forward to SDSU music faculty Anthony Lis who will talk again about Blue Yodels, Prairie Radio, and Arizona Swing: The Country Music Life of Billy Burkes.

Culture is alive in South Dakota.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Get Real

Random thoughts on some of the extraneous nonsense going on in the South Dakota Legislature –

Disclaimers – I am a Partisan and I seek partisan advantage when I deem it appropriate, however partisanship has its place. I believe in the value of conferences and have attended many over the years (and some were political junkets including several resorts and the Republic of China.) The value of conferences I learned over the years, whether political, professional, or volunteer were almost never the subject matter of the meeting but what I learned from my interaction with colleagues and peers. Sharing common experiences with others who had similar duties and challenges was always more beneficial than the conference subject matter.

In the past several months there has been considerable noise about creation of partisan staffs in the Legislature and having the State pay for memberships in non-government Legislative Associations, specifically American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) a Conservative group.

I like conservative groups and think they can impact the process. I just don’t think it is very conservative that the government augments their efforts with public money.

I favor the conservative group Freedom Works that provides public policy solutions to elected officials. For the record - Conservatives Jack Kemp and Bill Bennett organized Freedom Works with strong support from David Koch. I also favor the private work of the American Conservative Union that was founded by William F Buckley, and is currently chaired by a friend and former colleague, Al Cardenas. While I like these groups, they are not deserving of public support.

Paying for partisan legislative staff is a horrible idea. The purpose of the Parties in the Legislature (because we have a two party system) is to organize the government; elect Officers, organize Committees and appoint Committee Chairmanships – that’s it. Since the best I can determine it was a Republican idea to create the partisan staffs, why would the far stronger South Dakota GOP want to extend an organizational benefit to the weaker Democrats by offering them paid staff? If it is a good idea then the stronger and better financed GOP should hire staff from Party funds not Government funds. No reason to help the opposition.

The only contrary yet positive idea heard in this debate was from Rep. Rev. Steve Hickey. Representative Hickey opined there is a need for more legal help from the Legislative Research Council to help Legislators in drafting legislation. Certainly if the need exists it could be provided by additional non-partisan LRC staff like is currently provided.

Concerning Legislative Travel and non governmental memberships –

In the recent past, all out of State legislative travel was furloughed because of shortfalls in State revenues. Obviously the Republic didn’t fall, thus questioning the necessity of such non-essential travel. Senator Shantel Krebs I understand proposed renewing the ban on travel and was defeated by a wide margin.

Now the GOP majority has extended travel and paying memberships to Legislative Associations. In the case of ALEC, they may have handed the Democrats a political issue. More importantly while they find they may have pulled a fast one on the South Dakota taxpayer (over a $50 annual membership) I question why would those that believe and espouse smaller government want to have the State pay for their non government partisan activity?

ALEC may provide important conservative ideas, some of which I support but the State of South Dakota should not pay.

The State Legislature also participates in the National Conference of State Legislatures. While the NCSL is billed as non-partisan, de facto that is not the case. NCSL studies issues and in most cases proposes government-based solutions. Consequently many Conservatives feel that ALEC that looks more toward non-governmental solutions provides a balance.

Thus it seems reasonable to me, if Legislators are going to participate and if the State is going to pay that each Legislator be given a small allowance (maybe $500 or $750) annually and be allowed to use it to attend whichever conferences they choose. The balance of the cost could be borne from their personal funds or their campaign accounts (that in detail provide the source of the income and expense detail.) As always such an idea provides the proverbial slippery slope – that today's $500 annual allowance is next year’s $2500 one.

As noted collaboration can be a good idea but why not let the non- government funded parties pay?  Can’t more technology be employed – Webinars, websites, facetime and the like. Private enterprise accomplishes quite a bit these days without travel. With a little creativity and sticking to our conservative free enterprise principles our Legislature might do the same. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hometown Heroes

Golf today is the connection between my Fort Worth hometown pride and my adopted home of almost 40 years, South Dakota.

Argus Leader sportswriter, Mick Garry pens a very nice feature story in the Sunday Leader about hometown Girl made good, LPGA star and Sioux Falls native Kris Tschetter. The story ran in conjunction of Tschetter being inducted into the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame.

Fort Worth and Sioux Falls have much in common. Both are Cowtowns, have a meandering river thru town, and have abundant beautiful parks. Garry although only describing Tschetter, catches the character traits the citizens of Fort Worth and Sioux Falls most have in common: “hard work, resiliency, friendliness.”

Kris Tschetter is a (TCU) Horned Frog. She attended Texas Christian University to play golf. She later went on to her distinguished LPGA career. For a time she too was a resident of Fort Worth. While in college she established a relationship with golfing great and legend Ben Hogan. 

She wrote a wonderful book about her relationship with as she refers to him “Mr. Hogan.” Tschetter’s book, “Mr. Hogan, The Man I Knew” is worth the read. I thoroughly enjoyed it. So much in fact after reading today’s Argus may give it a second read.

My brush with fame – I too spent time with Hogan, only was far too young to appreciate his greatness or even his close proximity. Clearly because of golf, Mr. Hogan related to Miss Tschetter. Not so much with a five year old. In 1949 Hogan was the victim of a horrific automobile accident with a Greyhound Bus. He double fractured his pelvis and broke his collarbone. For a time it was doubted that he would walk much less play golf again. In 1950 he won the U S Open.

In 1950 I was diagnosed with paralytic polio, fortunately a mild case. The U S Open winner and I shared an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Louis Levy, of the Fort Worth Bone and Joint clinic. On several occasion throughout those years “Mr. Hogan” and I took physical therapy at the same time at the clinic. Though too young to appreciate it, the golfing legend was in the next cow tank over, getting a warm whirlpool before being stretched out and put through our rehab by the therapist.

Endbar – Hogan who lived in Dublin, Texas until age 9 when he moved to Fort Worth. Local trivia says Hogan was the second most famous person from Dublin; the first being Dr. Pepper, that was invented and first bottled in Dublin. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Texan Who Conquered Russia

Van Cliburn, a Long Tall Texan, left us this week.

I was full of Texas pride as I reflected and read about Fort Worth's most famous citizen since Ben Hogan.

Foreign Policy is occasionally affected thru cultural exchanges. Oftentimes it is felt that understanding another nation’s culture helps to improve relations. Senator George McGovern sent the South Dakota State Basketball team to Cuba, President Nixon sent the U S Ping Pong champions to Red China, and Dennis Rodman was in North Korea basketballing with Baby Kim this week.

Sidebar - Speaking of This Week, Rodman was on the Sunday ABC news show with George Stephanopoulos (whom I respect). George asked a few probing if not tough questions to which Dennis made a fool of himself. It must have been a slow news week to give Dennis 8 minutes. I suppose Bob Woodward and Sequestration weren’t worthy of more time. And of course elevating experts like Rodman.  Rodman and Kim are a joke. Is Dennis Rodman the image of America we want to project?

Van Cliburn in contrast was a Cold Warrior that won the Russian people’s affection thru his talent and warm-hearted spirit. Time Magazine called Cliburn the Texan who conquered Russia.

Watch the video below of Cliburn and Gorbachav at the Reagan White House to understand the depths of  Cliburn's talent musically and diplomatically.

Van Cliburn rest in peace.

End bar – Cliburn’s association with another Long Tall Texan