Tag Archives: Madison WI

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.

Rotary Hikers Doing Some Bird Watching in the Arboretum

Submitted by Bobbie Sladky; Photo by Andrea Kaminski

20170424_191133A group of nine Rotarians and guests met at the UW Arboretum Visitor Center for a hike on April 24 for an evening bird sighting. The goal was to observe the courting behavior of the male woodcock. Guide Levi Wood provided information about the rich conservation history of the UW Arboretum and a tour of the Longenecker Gardens which showcases a collection of trees and shrubs. The Magnolia collection was in full bloom and the early lilacs were opening.

20170424_190510We were pleased to see the Oak planted by Paul Harris and saw turkeys and a red-tail hawk nearby. The hike included a walk through Gallistel and a brief stop at Teal Pond. Curtis Prairie provided the zen-like experience of hearing the courting sounds of the male woodcock who becomes active at dusk. Although the bird was never seen, its presence was clear by the loud, nasal peent calls made on the ground, the twittering sounds made by the wings as the woodcock rises up 100’ or more in an aerial display, the call made at the ‘top’ of the flight, and steep dive back down to the prairie. The Audubon website refers to this behavior as a ‘sky dance’. Female woodcocks are attracted by the ‘lek’ of males performing their rituals and have an opportunity to select the fittest mate.

 

Transformation of Policing

–submitted by Jocelyn Riley; photo by Valerie Johnson

Noble Wray 4 12 2017

From Left: Susan Schmitz and Doug Poland with Noble Wray

Former Rotarian Noble Wray spoke at the April 12 Downtown Rotary meeting at the Park Hotel on the topic “From Leading the Madison Police Department to Leading the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s Policing Practices and Accountability Initiative: What I have Learned about Community Policing.”  Wray served as the Madison Police Department’s Chief of Police from 2004 to 2013.  After his retirement, Wray was asked by the Obama administration to lead a national U.S. Department of Justice taskforce on policing practices.

Wray began his remarks by asking for a moment of silence in memory of the Wisconsin State Trooper who died on the job this week.  Then he asked “How do you change an institution?”  He cited previous commissions that attempted to “reform” police work.  But we are still faced with the age-old, intractable problems of poverty, limited access to housing, and discrimination.  Wray urged that changes in policing be driven by transformation rather than reform.  “Reform comes from the outside,” he said, “as a result of something that went wrong.”  He said that transformation, on the other hand, comes from inside.  “We have to be constantly improving,” he said.

Wray said that in order to transform police work, “courageous police leadership” is needed, as well as “rank-and-file support.”  Wray also said that the road to improving policing always involves community-oriented policing and that it can’t come in a top-down approach from the federal government.  “Washington should be the catalyst to make sure that change happens at the local level.”

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

Pevehouse: International Order is Costly But Necessary

–submitted by Valerie Johnson

Jon Pevehouse 4 5 17Jon Pevehouse, UW Political Science Professor, asked and answered the question, “How should the Trump administration balance power with constraint to maximize our legitimacy and prosperity?” at the April 5 Rotary meeting.

With graduate student Ryan Powers and Carnegie Foundation grant-funded opinion polls, Pevehouse has a wealth of information on what Americans want in international trade policy:

  • The last 5-6 years have found more people interested in trade barriers
  • Older, non-college educated people are more interested in trade barriers (these tend to be Trump supporters)
  • People want to keep jobs in the US, a platform Bernie Sanders also ran on as evidenced by the many “NO TPP” signs seen at the Democratic convention
  • Most American still want free trade (12% margin) even with job losses
  • Both political parties are pro-free trade; Hillary Clinton ran on this and Bill Clinton began NAFTA
  • Interest in trade barriers follows the economy; people like trade better than trade agreements.

Trump has indicated an interest in re-negotiating NAFTA.  Wisconsin has a positive balance of trade with Mexico, even though US does not.  The rules of origin Trump complains about were already re-negotiated by Obama as part of the TPP, but Trump threw that out; it would increase the percent of product manufactured/labeled required to be created in Mexico (for example) from 65% to perhaps 85%, decreasing what can come from China.

The concern is the Trump administration likes the power of the US economy, but not the traditional constraints we have used with other countries, such as the foreign ad Bush quietly used or the traditional tools such as the World Bank, WTO, etc.

“But without constraint,” Pevehouse said, “the fear is our power endangers our foreign policy.  International order is costly, but gives us legitimacy, as we have had with the last 60 years of prosperity.

Professor Pevehouse’s research in the areas of international relations, international political economy, American foreign policy, international organizations, and political methodology. Topics on which he has recently published include regional trade agreements, human rights institutions, exchange rate politics, and international organizations. He is the author, with Joshua Goldstein, of International Relations, the leading textbook on international politics. He is currently the editor of International Organization, the leading journal in the field of international relations.

Pevehouse has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Ohio State University and a B.A. in Political Science from University of Kansas.

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

Superintendents Candidates Forum

–submitted by Stan Inhorn; photos by Pete Christianson

A week before the election, Rotarians were privileged to hear the two candidates for the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction describe their qualifications and goals for improving educational achievement in Wisconsin.

Holtz Mtg 3 29 2017

Amanda Brink, Dawn Crim & Lowell Holtz

In his opening statement, challenger Lowell Holtz noted the failure of many schools in minority districts in Wisconsin to achieve reasonable graduation rates. These failures are occurring not only in large urban districts but in rural areas as well.

Evers Mtg 3 29 2017

From left: Oscar Mireles, Tony Evers & Roberta Gassman

Incumbent superintendent Tony Evers has headed the Department of Public Instruction for 8 years. He noted that scores on standardized testing have increased through the years and are near the top in several categories. He believes that some of the problem is due to inadequate state funding that has led to citizens voting for local tax referenda.

Five questions were presented to the candidates. In answer to the question – “Why do we need a state department of public education,” Evers noted that federal money for professional development and afterschool programs has been sharply reduced in the proposed federal education budget. Holtz responded by indicating that the federal budget included a significant amount for students with disabilities and for teacher training. In response to a question about innovation, Holtz described a Tennessee innovation zone program that allowed parents and teachers to design a system that improved the climate and culture within the classroom. Evers noted that Pewaukee had integrated special education students into the regular classrooms with extraordinary success.

Regarding transfer of public money to private schools, Evers indicated that funding of public schools is inadequate, so dividing it into 2 to 4 systems will only make public education worse. Holtz pointed to the successes that have occurred in districts where voucher schools are present.

The issue of improving the environment for teachers, including salaries, classroom respect, Act 10 in Wisconsin, is important. Holtz suggested that principals must help create a nurturing environment. Evers recommended that students should also be involved in planning activities that include projects that could evolve into actual jobs. In his summary statement, Holtz indicated that bureaucratic tasks are taking too much classroom teaching time away from teachers. Evers again stated that the state is not doing its fair share in providing funding for public education in Wisconsin.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here.  Our thanks to WisconsinEye for videotaping our meeting.

Nowruz – A Celebration of the Iranian New Year

–submitted by Joyce Bromley; photos by Ted & Joan Ballweg

Iranian New Year Celebration 016Who could not use some Nowruz (celebration of spring and annual renewal)?  Majid Sarmadi brought the rich Iranian new year celebration to the Cultural Awareness Fellowship Group and their guests in this year of 2595.  This 3000 year Persian tradition is a celebration of renewal and hope with prepared foods that represent the seven angelic heralds.  Hyacinth (one of the first flowers of spring) brings beauty and its fragrance permeated the room.  The eloquently set table was a sight to behold.  Garlic bulbs decorated with a string of tiny pearls bring good health; vinegar takes a long time to make and requires patience; a beautiful tureen of sprouts (lentils) prosperity—good harvest and a year without hunger; elaborately decorated eggs promise fertility–rebirth; goldfish swimming in a bowl, a symbol of life; the illumination of candle-light brings happiness—good over evil; fresh fruit and sweets bring joy; and we ended with a taste of ground sweet sumac.  A book of poetry lay open reminding us of the eloquent Persian language.  This was the experience of haft sin and only the beginning of the evening.

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After an enthralling slide show of Iran–the culture, the geography, and its people—we traveled the gastronomic route.  Appetizers of eggplant paté, and hummus; a table display of basmati rice with saffron, casserole of assorted beans, braised eggplant with filet mignon; saffron chicken; and basmati rice with lima beans and dill—all of which were as sumptuous as they were beautiful.  All of these delicacies were entirely prepared by Majid.  Oh yes, the desserts!  Cream puffs (made earlier in the day), fresh fruit, rice-flour cookies, cardamom muffins, sohan (almond toffee), were enjoyed with a cup of tea.  At the end of the evening Majid gave us a gift to extend the evening.  We each received a freshly pressed one-dollar bill for good luck.

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We became Majid’s extended family and together we celebrated the joy of friendship in the Persian tradition and are richer for the experience.

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Holistic Support for Returning Veterans and Their Families

–submitted by Donna Hurd; photo by Pete Christianson

Will Beiersdorf 3 22 2017

From left: Club President Michelle McGrath, Will Beiersdorf, Nasra Wehelie and Susan Schmitz

After recognizing and showing appreciation for all Rotarians and guests who have provided military service to our country, fellow Rotarian Will Beiersdorf provided a brief but comprehensive overview of an organization that provides holistic support and care for those service men and women who have returned home with physical and often, severe invisible wounds of war.

With first-hand knowledge of the stress of deployment, Will was called into active duty after the events of September 11, 2001, leaving his wife and three young children behind.  Since that time, 800,000 service men and women have been deployed multiple times. This was almost unheard of prior to that date.  The toll of numerous deployments affects not only the servicemen and women but also their families.  The services available for many who have served are often inadequate and in all cases, only treat the wounded, leaving their families to seek help from other providers or caregivers.  Two million children and parents sought mental and behavioral healthcare since 2001.  One-third of the men and women returning from war suffer some type of trauma.  Approximately 400,000 have suffered a traumatic brain injury.  Besides the wounds suffered, approximately 22 veterans end their life every day, leaving family members to carry on.

In March 2013, Will was invited to assist with the formation of the Road Home Center for Veterans and their families.  Since that time, the organization has seen 400 – 500 veterans and their families each year.  They remove all barriers to receiving the needed services.  The organization’s mission is, “Help heal the invisible Wounds of War.”  They accomplish this by going beyond the level of care expected and needed.  The continuum of care provided by the Road Home Program incorporates clinical care, counseling, outreach services, and education.  The program employs Outreach Managers who have experienced the trauma of war, either directly or indirectly and can tell the story of why their services and this program are so needed.

Service Above Self, not only exemplifies Rotarians but also the brave men and women who choose to serve to protect the freedoms we all enjoy.  The bottom line of this program’s existence is, “We owe it to them to give back and help.”