Category Archives: Rotary Club of Madison

Wisconsin in World War I

–submitted by Moses Altsech; photo by Dennis Cooley

Richard Pifer 11 8 17When the US entered World War 1 in 1917, the war came to dominate the daily life of citizens in Wisconsin. There were initially concerns about our state since 38% of the population had been born in Germany or had a parent born in Germany. Riots were expected on the first day of the draft, yet they did not materialize. Instead 218,000 people (106% of the estimated eligible number) registered, and 5% of the state’s population served in the military. Families were urged to conserve food, grow a garden and avoid eating wheat, sugar, meat, and fat, all of which were critical to the war effort. There was not just social pressure, but aggressive action to ensure that people bought war bonds, and volunteers told those who bought fewer than their means allowed that they would be reported to the County Council on Defense. Dozens were indicted under the Espionage Act for criticizing the war, insulting the flag, opposing war bonds, and other “unpatriotic” remarks. Vigilante groups like the Knights of Liberty took the law into their own hands against “disloyal” citizens, and German language school books were burned.

As Governor Emmanuel Philipp pointed out, however, “self-asserted patriots” were the real threat. We can relate a lot of what our speaker, Richard Pifer, author of “The Great War Comes to Wisconsin,” said, to the challenges we face today: Patriotism can be noble or it can be a tool to marginalize, demonize, and even persecute those we disagree with by questioning their loyalty and forcing them to live in fear. Hopefully 100 years later we can learn from the lessons of the past.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

The Impossible Presidency

–submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by Dennis Cooley

Suri Jeremi 11 1 2017

Rotarian Janet Piraino with Guest Speaker Jeremi Suri

Jeremi Suri, professor of history at the University of Texas-Austin, and formerly (lamentably) at the UW-Madison, gave a boffo performance today as our speaker. He used history to demonstrate that the modern presidency has gotten too complicated for any person to do the job effectively.

There have been several “models” of the presidency. George Washington created the office: he conceived of his job as uniting the people into one nation, not as policy-making or leading a political party.

Lincoln changed the office, believing his chief purpose was to develop the country economically, to use the office to push economic development through the Homestead Act, the Morrill Land Grant Act, which created the land-grant universities in the Midwest, including the UW, to educate farmers and to promote the liberal arts (yes!), and by providing federal subsidies to the railroads, which led to the phenomenal growth of the American economy in the last third of the 19th century.

A third model was created by FDR. He was born to wealth, but he developed polio, which gave him an empathy with those who suffer. He viewed the president as a healer, someone to help those who did not thrive in the capitalist system, which inevitably has winners and losers. The president, FDR believed, had to make these people feel connected, to bring people together to find solutions to problems. FDR has been imitated and viewed as a model by modern leaders, especially by every American president since.

But since the Second World War, the expectations of the people and the responsibilities of the office have grown too large for anyone. So the office has become ill-suited to the world today.

Professor Suri’s solutions: (1) Our method of choosing leaders is defective; young people are not encouraged to get into the arena or even to vote, and the money in politics is overwhelming. (2) The electorate is not well informed; there are facts that people should know, but education has been under-funded. (3) There needs to be a conversation about the values of the nation, and these values have to inform our political life and our leaders. Our best people are not in politics or in leadership positions.

Professor Suri’s talk was very well received. President Donna commented that it was the best talk she has heard since she has been in Rotary. (If you missed the talk, check out the video.) Which raises a nice question: Why is Professor Suri, a man of ideas and a great speaker, not in the arena? Or is he more valuable as a public intellectual?

Wine Fellowship Event October 24

–submitted by Mike Wilson

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Our club’s Wine Fellowship met at Mike and Patty Wilson’s on Tuesday the 24th October – Polio Plus Day for Rotary International.  This was a “BYO bottle and snack to share” event with a charitable donation of $50 per person to go to Polio Plus.  A total of $1000 was raised with the entrance fees and a separate donation. Our club has a strong history of donating to Polio Plus with two major fundraisers in 1987 and 15 years later in 2002, raising a total of ~$280,000.  This Polio Plus Day in 2017 is 15 and 30 years after the original Polio Plus Day Campaign mentioned.  Now Rotary International and the Gates Foundation, with many other donor groups, believe they are finally approaching the time of eradication of Polio from the earth.  I remember as a kid having to stay on the porch at home and not leave the property or play with others – such was the curse of poliomyelitis.

We tried 7 wines and 3 “Ports”.  All the wines were excellent and the accompanying snacks too. We had two whites. a Riesling and a Condrieu (Viognier).  Next we tried a Meiomi Pinot Noir, a Vin Nobile di Montepulciano (recently carried back from Italy by Ellie and Paul Schatz), and  an Opolo Forte Zinfandel and all were excellent.  We then tried a Very Dry Red (labeled VDR) Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah blend and a Walla Walla Winery Cabernet Franc, again excellent drinking.  Most of these wines sold in the 20-35 dollar price range, and added ideas for our own collections. The snacks were as impressive as the wines.

Photo 1: Paul & Ellie Schatz; Photo 2: Becky Steinhoff & Steve Steinhoff; Photo 3: Juli & Keith Baumgartner

We finished with three “ports” and W & J Smith 20 year Tawny, a CharDotto Cabernet Franc version with Dell Dotto providing the red wine and Chateau Charbay (Napa) the brandy, and a Glunz version of Tawny Port. Ports have a higher alcohol content than red wines (~20%) which is added to the wine once it reaches the desired sweetness, and this stops the fermentation process and ups the alcohol content as about 30% of Port is brandy (usually purchased from South Africa in Port from Portugal). With this we had blue cheeses and chocolate coated strawberries – chocolate and blue cheese being excellent accompaniments of Port.

A good time was had by all, and Polio Plus benefitted on Polio Plus Day.

“It’s Game Over”

–submitted by Larry Larrabee; photo by Mike Engelberger

Robert Stauss 10 25 17Our October 25, 2017, program presenter was Robert Stauss, one of the world’s leading experts on technical social engineering.  He has written and lectured on the practice and the mitigation of social engineering-based cyber attacks.  Mr. Stauss is the principal of Burtelson Security Labs, a company that tests private and corporate security measures as well as advising on how to correct the deficiencies he finds.

The presentation began with Mr. Stauss demonstrating the ease with which he could gain entry codes for buildings and offices from entry cards and ID badges that carry entry information using a $400 device disguised in a computer case and standing within inches of an employee.  Once gaining access to an office, it is relatively easy to unlock computers and steal the information including user names and passcodes.

To show how easily information can be found on the web, he used a volunteer from the membership and was able to determine the Rotarian’s date of birth and Social Security number in 12 seconds by simply entering the name of the Rotarian in his laptop.

Mr. Stauss also explained how easily laptop cameras and microphones can be hijacked and used as listening and recording devices for the purposes of spying on unsuspecting users.

The presentation concluded with an invitation for questions, most of which related to how individuals and organizations could protect themselves from the likes of Robert Stauss, a good, white hat, hacker.  In keeping with Halloween next Tuesday, his presentation was really very scary.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

The New South Campus of Madison College

–submitted by Stan Inhorn; photo by Pete Christianson

Jack Daniels 10 4 17

From left: Lucia Nunez, Club President Donna Hurd and Jack Daniels

With great enthusiasm, Jack Daniels, President, described the new Madison College’s South Campus Initiative. Starting in 2013, the college has been working to develop a full-service campus. By partnering with 11 community organizations and agencies, the Initiative has made great strides in the creation of a center for life-long learning for an under-served population.   The foundation of the campus follows the Rotary Four-Way Test.

  1. Is it the Truth? While Madison is considered to have one of the most educated populations in the country, 57.8% of south-side residents have no post-high school education. It is an area of poverty and social isolation.
  2. Is it fair to all concerned? Most residents have barriers to education, including low wages, need for affordable child-care, extreme poverty.
  3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? The campus will provide social vitality along with partners such as the Madison Metropolitan School District. A pilot program will allow junior and senior high-school students to earn up to 48 college-transferable credits.
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned? The Goodman Foundation has pledged $10 million and American Family Insurance has pledged $1.3 million for the first phase in building the campus. Once completed, people in the area will gain the opportunity to pursue jobs that pay a living wage.

Phase 1 contemplates a 38,000-square foot center that will provide learning spaces, support services, STEM-related activities. With additional funding, the campus could expand to 45,000 square feet.

Phase 2 would enlarge the campus to a 75,000 sq. ft. wrap-around, 7-day-a-week full-service academic center. Health professions, IT, business, language, technical trades would be included. Graduates would help meet the present worker shortages in these fields. The building would include 4 science labs, 3 IT labs, with transportation to the Truax campus for certain training. To allow students to pursue their education, financial aid scholarships will be available as will internships.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Wisconsin’s Economic Outlook

–submitted by Bill Haight; photo by Jeff Burkhart

Tom Still 9 20 2017

Tom Still pictured here with Club President Donna Hurd

This week’s speaker was Tom Still, President of the Wisconsin Technology Council, a non-partisan advisory group to the governor and legislature. In addition to policy development, the council’s activities include facilitating collaboration between companies and investors.

In promoting Wisconsin as a place to invest and locate business, Still cited the state’s many advantages such as affordable housing and water in strong supply, both of which can be big drawbacks in other states. He also pointed out that despite a perception of being a “high tax” state, Wisconsin’s taxes are steadily decreasing. Also, Wisconsin is finally getting on the national investment community’s radar, with numerous startup hubs, particularly in smaller cities like Eau Claire and La Crosse.

Wisconsin’s high quality of education is another plus. And in recent years the UW System has become more nimble to react to the type of graduate needed in the new economy. “The Ivory Tower is giving way to a more inclusive approach toward business,” he said.

On the state’s possible incentive for Foxconn, Still said: “I think it’s well worth pursuing.” We should ask “How much would you pay to essentially rebrand the state AND create jobs that support families while attracting young workers and offering underemployed workers a chance to retrain?” The Foxconn investment is less than one percent of the state GDP for one year – but spread over 15 years, he noted.

Possibly more important than the 13,000 promised Foxconn jobs are the indirect effects on the supply chain. “For example, a new glass factory or other manufacturer might spring from Foxconn’s material needs,” said Still.

In closing, Still invited the audience to check out 45 new companies presenting to investors at the November Early Stage Symposium (www.wisearlystage.com).

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.  

 

LHS Celebrates 10th Anniversary

–submitted by Founder Moses Altsech; photos by Brian Basken

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Pictured above from left: Phyllis Lovrien, Jed Engeler, Annette Hellmer, Haley Saalsaa, Beth Prochaska & Lew Harned

The Lew Harned Society marked its 10th anniversary on September 18 with a special event hosted by Founder and Dear Leader Moses Altsech.  Founded in 2007, the Scotch Whisky Fellowship was renamed in 2009 in honor of our great friend General Lew Harned, who has been there from the very first meeting.  We enjoyed great homemade food (presumably prepared at the caterer’s home), and music by a barbershop quarter courtesy of Ken Yuska–which coincidentally included someone who had served with Lew in Operation Desert Storm.

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All guests received a gift box of Quintessential single malt Scotch-filled chocolates.  The selection of eight rare single malts included the Mackinlay, a Scotch salvaged from Sir Ernest Shackleton after the wreck of the Endurance, rediscovered in 2007, and faithfully recreated.

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But as much as we like Scotch whisky, the Lew Harned Society is about much more than that.  It’s about Lew: How great a guy do you have to be for your friends to name a group after you?  It’s about friends: Our long-time regulars who are a standard staple, without whom we couldn’t imagine our gatherings, and new friends who want to join a group that’s fun and welcoming to all.  At Rotary we often talk about member engagement–and this is what member engagement is made of.  Goodwill, better friendships and Scotch.  Our group has the best-looking Rotarians, its very own General who’s always in a festive mood, and enough Scotch to keep us alive two weeks past the end of Western civilization.

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If you want to join our second decade, contact the Rotary office at once: Space is probably not limited, but why risk it?