Category Archives: Weekly Rotary Guest Speaker

The U.S. Supreme Court and Its History

Submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by Valerie Johnson

Ryan Owens 4 26 2017Professor Ryan Owens, a member of the UW Department of Political Science and an Affiliate Faculty of the Law School (and who is developing the Tommy Thompson Center on Public Leadership) spoke to the Club about “The Past, Present, and Future of the U.S. Supreme Court.” He began with an interesting “Thought Experiment.” With the addition of Neil Gorsuch to the Court, Justice Anthony Kennedy continues to be the middle or the median justice, often called the swing vote. But what happens if he retires, and if President Trump appoints a solid conservative such as Paul Clement, who is perhaps more conservative than Samuel Alito? In that case, the new median justice becomes Chief Justice John Roberts, who would then become the most powerful [influential?] Chief Justice since John Marshall. [Though he would be a very distant second.] If Ruth Bader Ginsburg were then to retire, Justice Alito would become the median justice. On the other hand, if Hillary Clinton had been elected, Justice Stephen Breyer might be the swing vote, etc. Very easily, a 6-3 conservative court under Trump might have been a 6-3 liberal court under Clinton. The presidential election of 2016 was, then, a very consequential election.

Professor Owens then wondered whether this was not a time for reforms to the Court. Two that he suggested were age limits on the justices, and perhaps requiring them to “ride the circuit,” as was once the case. The U.S. is the only common-law country without some limits on judicial tenure.

An age limit would remove the incentive for judges to retire “strategically,” so as to assure a like-minded jurist were appointed. It would also reduce the likelihood of justices serving while suffering from dementia. Attending circuit courts would let the justices see the consequences of their decisions and let the people see them in action close-up. It might also encourage the justices to retire earlier. [But would it also discourage people from taking an appointment?]

In answer to a question, Professor Owens said that he and a colleague were doing research on the age issue by studying oral arguments over the years to see if there is any evidence of dementia in sitting justices. He also questioned whether the Senate’s refusal to consider Merrick Garland’s nomination would not lead to further retaliation beyond the recent filibuster. He expects the Trinity Lutheran case, probably Justice Gorsuch’s first major opinion, to be an important decision.

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

Animals Need Heroes Too

–submitted by Stan Inhorn

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Dr. Mark Markel, Dean of the UW School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) described the current status of the School, as well as the plans for expansion currently underway. One of the newer veterinary schools in the U.S., the SVM has become one of the premier schools in the country. During the past 10 years, the SVM has been rated in the top five research schools in the country. The SVM is particularly known for its research in infectious diseases – viral, bacterial, and parasitic.

The SVM is also highly rated for its teaching innovations. Each year, the School receives over 1,300 applications and selects 90 bachelor-degree students into the four-year program. It also maintains a large graduate-degree program. Over half the veterinarians in Wisconsin are graduates of the UW School. About 50% of graduates limit their practices to small animals, 25% include large animals, and 25% go into other aspects of practice, including government service, research, and industry. The SVM is an innovator in creating close to 200 teaching modules that permit self-learning, which will be made available to other schools

The SVM operate a large clinical facility, as it sees more than 25,000 patients a year from throughout the Midwest and beyond. With practitioners in more than 20 specialties, an animal with a primary disease may also be seen for other medical conditions at the same hospital visit.

Since clinical space is not adequate, the SVM is planning a $150 million expansion. More space is also needed for research and teaching in order to bring all parts of the School’s mission into one facility and to allow new teaching and research programs to expand. An example of a new service-teaching program is called WisCare, which offers animal care to homeless people. An expanding research program is one that permits the influenza and viral disease experts to study  zika and other emerging viral epidemics.

Did you miss our meeting this week?  CLICK to watch the video.

World Dairy Expo Celebrates 50 Years

–submitted by Ben Hebebrand; photo by Valerie Johnson

Scott BentleyIf you consider Wisconsin’s $44 billion dairy business to be all about big business, you might be surprised to find out that 96 percent of all of Wisconsin’s dairy farms are actually family-owned.

That family touch also is discernible in the World Dairy Expo that this year will celebrate its 50th anniversary when more than 70,000 visitors will attend the exposition October 4 through 8 here in Madison at the Alliant Energy Center campus.

Scott Bentley, general manager of the World Dairy Expo since 2013, told members of the Rotary Club of Madison at its June 1 Club meeting that the exposition represents the 25th largest trade show in the U.S. and generates an economic impact of more than $30 million. But yet the Expo holds on to its humble beginnings by including a commitment to provide educational efforts for the state’s youth and including various competitions. All this is accomplished with a small staff that relies on an army of volunteers, many of whom are affiliated with the Badger Dairy Club of the University of Wisconsin.

“We are the world’s finest dairy trade show,” Bentley said. “The focus is on dairy equipment, products and cattle.” Indeed, 2,500 heads of cattle from 40 different states “attend” as well.

The Expo attracts attendees from 95 different countries, and among the 850 commercial exhibitors, 30 different nations are represented.

Wisconsin, which trails California in actual milk production (but according to Bentley, California’s status is threatened by the potential of future water shortages), is a natural home for the World Expo. In recent years, Wisconsin has dominated the cheese competitions, taking 38 percent of all international cheese competitions.  There are 45,000 dairy farms in Wisconsin.

A trend that is now growing in the U.S. and here in Wisconsin and that has been in the making for decades in Europe is “automated milking,” a process whereby robotic technology in individual milking stalls recognizes the cows by sophisticated technology and accordingly milks the cows. Cows typically produce between 50 and 75 pounds of milk per day twice a day for an annual lactation period of 305 days.

Did you miss our meeting this week?  CLICK to watch the video.

Seventh Generation Land Ethics

–submitted by Stan Inhorn; photo by Karl Wellensiek

Patty Loew

Past President Tim Stadelman and Patty Loew

Patty Loew, an Ojibwe scholar and UW Professor, described insights developed over many years of study of Native practices and beliefs regarding the land on which they live. These insights are common to members from all 12 Wisconsin Native nations. The unifying theme of land stewardship is that there is a spiritual connection with the land, the waters, the animals and the plants. They live close to the land, so they can be the first to recognize changes resulting from human practices and industry.

Christians, Moslems and Jews regard holy places such as churches as sacred, but they also have portable holy items such the Rosary or the Star of David. These followers of the Abrahamic religions have a disconnect in identifying certain bodies of water or wild rice as being sacred. The  entire society of the Ojibwe and Menomonee nations recognize that wild rice lasts forever and is therefore a super food when other sources are not available. In essence, Native peoples pray for sacred spaces that are necessary for assuring the continuation of life on earth.

When Europeans landed in America, it was necessary for treaties to be negotiated in order to preserve the right to hunt and fish. Restricted to Reservations of limited acreage, Natives knew that the Reservation would not sustain the people, so that hunting and fishing outside the boundaries would  be required. In recent years, other more dangerous intrusions have threatened the Natives existence. One example is the proposal for large open-pit taconite mines. The processing of this low-grade iron ore would result in sulfuric acid flowing into wild rice fields and potentially even into Lake Superior. The long-range vision of the Native religion considers how any decision would affect the seventh generation in the future.

The Ho-Chunk Nation in particular is concerned that Frac-Sand Mining is contaminating the air, the land and the water — all of which are considered sacred sites. Lung disease has been attributed to this form of mining. The Red Cliff Ojibwe are concerned that large industrial animal installations possess a real threat of manure contamination of land and streams.  The latest proposed legislation dealing with commercial land development that disturbs the Ho-Chunk nation regards the authority to excavate sacred burial mounds to determine if human skeletons are truly present. Unless one recognizes the religious beliefs and ethics of Native Americans, one cannot appreciate their viewpoint in opposing legislation that affects not only their interests but the welfare of the environment that includes all of us.

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

Which Way WARF?

–submitted by Dave Mollenhoff; photo by Mike Engelberger

Kevin Walters 3The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is a household word to many Madisonians, but few know the story about how a clash of two titanic egos during 1959 and 1960 shaped today’s organization. Kevin Walters, a historian in residence at WARF, unfurled this little-known story in a talk titled “How to Handle Harry Steenbock.”

Created in 1925 as a private non-profit organization, WARF’s mission was to support scientific research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison by securing and commercializing patents from the discoveries of UW researchers and then making their royalty income available for further research—what Walters called a “cycle of innovation.”

But two talented men, Harry Steenbock and Thomas Brittingham, had very different visions on how WARF should evolve.   In 1923, Steenbock, a brilliant biochemist, invented a process to increase the Vitamin D content of food by irradiating it with ultraviolet light; he was confident that this process could eliminate a crippling bone disease called rickets.  Eager to realize this potential, he secured a patent and gave it to WARF.   This was WARF’s first big money-maker.

Thomas Brittingham, a UW-grad and the heir to a lumber fortune, became WARF’s first vice-president, and used his investment talents to multiply WARF’s royalty income and his position to shape policy.

During WARF’s first decades, Steenbock and Brittingham got along, but then Steenbock insisted that WARF’s revenues should be limited to scientific research.  Brittingham thought the organization should support the best interests of the university including the construction of campus buildings.

In 1959 the simmering feud between the two men turned personal and ugly.  Then on April 16, 1960 a massive heart attack felled Brittingham, just 61.  His death softened Steenbock’s ire, but not his fundamental position.

In the wake of this confrontation, UW leaders realized that both concepts were necessary for WARF and the UW-Madison to realize their extraordinary potential.   Today, WARF is nationally esteemed as a highly successful engine of technology transfer and a “margin of excellence” for the UW-Madison.   And, according to Walters, the Steenbock-Brittingham clash 55 years ago deserves some of the credit.

Click HERE to watch the video presentation.

Next in Madison: StartingBlock Madison

–submitted by Larry Larrabee; photography by Loretta Himmelsbach

Austin Reed Wolter

George Austin (center), Madison’s former Planning and Development director and President of AVA Civic Enterprises Inc., provided the introduction about what StartingBlock Madison is planning to do to encourage, develop and grow entrepreneurs by bringing them into an entrepreneur hub that will place them in contact with peers, mentors, investors and consultants.

The building will be located in the 800 block of East Washington Avenue and American Family Insurance is funding the construction of the first 50,000 sq. ft. phase of a 160,000 sq. ft. building.

Founded in 2012, StartingBlock Madison is dedicated to encouraging entrepreneurs, growing Madison’s economy and providing educational opportunities regarding entrepreneurism.  It will be able to do this because of the strong support of MG&E Energy and American Family Insurance.

Dan Reed (left), Managing Director of American Family Ventures, spoke about his company’s investments in new technology companies in areas like automobile safety through their Direct Venture Capital program.  Their support of StartingBlock Madison is an extension of this concept.

Gary Wolter (right), Chairman & CEO of MGE Energy Inc., sees StartingBlock Madison as expanding the Madison entrepreneurship environment and helping to grow the economy.  He explained the stretch goal as “how can I change the world?” and sited those Madison entrepreneurs that have done that such as Jamie Thompson’s Cellular Dynamics, Pleasant Rowland’s American Girl and Judy Faulkner’s Epic.

The positive response to the three presenters and the concept of StartingBlock Madison that represents the combined efforts of corporate, educational, and civic entities including the City of Madison suggests StartingBlock and the entrepreneurs it cultivates are sure to be successful.

We would like to thank Madison City Channel for videotaping our meeting this week.  The program will be rebroadcast on analog basic channel 98, digital channel 994 & AT&T U-verse 99 as follows: Friday, April 17 at 8 PM; Wednesday, April 22 at Noon; Friday April 24 at 5 PM; Sunday, April 26 at 5 PM.  You can also watch this program on the WEB.

Autism Research and Treatment in Wisconsin

–submitted by Carol Toussaint; photo by Loretta Himmelsbach

Graupner Sallows 4 8 2015What is autism and why do we read and hear so much more about it today than even a few years ago?  Drs. Glen Sallows and Tamlynn Graupner addressed that question for the Rotary audience Wednesday, April 8.  They  explained that research such as they are engaged in has added to the understanding of the causes and interventions which means even mild cases are now included in the statistics.

Speaking in tandem, raising questions and responding to the symptoms that trigger parents, teachers and physicians to look for autism (ASD), the speakers noted that “everyone looks for it now” so, of course, it is more  prevalent.  Not that long ago it was thought that between two to five of every 10,000 patients were diagnosed with ASD.  Fewer people were looking for it because no one thought there was a treatment.  Now it is estimated that there are 1 in 108 people in Wisconsin with ASD and reporting is more accurate  because of both research and improved methods of record-keeping.

The news that autism, characterized by symptoms of delayed social language, delayed social interaction and repetitive/unusual interests, can be diagnosed at 12 months or even younger is the key to successful treatment.  That about half of treated children improve to the average range, understanding language, improve on behavior and self care, and most will speak, is positive news.

Dr. Sallows is cofounder and President of the Wisconsin Early Autism Project (WEAP) and has been working in the field of autism for over 25 years.  Dr. Graupner is cofounder  and CEO of WEAP and her research through the UW Waisman Center involves studying the brain bases of the symptoms of autism.  Both are dedicated to continuing to find new ways of addressing autism.  If that results in reporting a higher incidence of ASD, it does not mean an epidemic.  It will mean more attention to and perhaps improved means of intervention at a younger age.