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18 posts from March 2017

OLD PHOTO: Play "Where's Waldo" with this picture from Senate Majority Leader Dick Posthumus alumni picnic

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Posthumus and his senior staff were masters at building community.  In this photo, staffers who worked for him through the years gathered for an alumni picnic.  It was almost like a family-gathering.  Can you find me?  I'm standing behind my son Justin.

I learned some basic lessons while working for Dick Posthumus, then the Michigan Senate Majority Leader who was a farmer from near Grand Rapids who got into politics to make the state a better place for his kids to live.

He knew what was needed to govern successfully.  Members of the state legislature needed to know each other, trust each other and appreciate the differences each of them had.  It was all centered on respect.

During this time of division in the U.S. Congress where the President freely calls names, points fingers at everybody that disagrees with him, even in his own party, Posthumus set an example that's worthy of study and emulation.

In fact, the President and his staff would be wise to seek advice from people like Posthumus.  Getting things done--governing--while maintaining partisan differences was his specialty.  Same principles apply in Washington.

 


OLD PHOTOS: Working with three of my journalistic heroes from the 1970s, Bob Berg, Don Hoenshell and Tom Ochiltree

 

A reporters' panel.
During a conference in the early 70s I participate on a panel with Berg (left), Ochiltree (second from the right) and Hoenshell.

 I'm sure that there aren't many who remember Panax Newspapers which was based out of Williamston, Michigan and started by an entrepreneur named John McGoff.  He started with a handful of daily and weekly newspapers in the state and turned it into a media company with a worldwide reach.  

For a few years, I worked in their State Capitol Bureau in Lansing.  Because communications technology in the early 1970s was limited to a telephone back then, our product was mainly columns where the time element had a longer shelf life.

During that time I worked with some incredible reporters at the company.  Bob Berg was the bureau chief.  He was the former bureau chief for United Press International at the Capitol and then went to Panax and from there became press secretary to Detroit Mayor Coleman Young.  He was a great teacher and friend.  

Don Hoenshell was the news director for the company.  He knew journalism and he loved reporting and writing.  He always treated those younger than him with respect.  He freely shared what he knew.

In Washington, D.C. was Tom Ochiltree who was an old school journalist who was there when Russian President Nikita Krushev took off his shoe and pounded the table with it during a meeting with Richard Nixon.  He was filled with stories while having an insatiable curiosity.

 

 

Panax Backgrounder
The four of us promo'd in a company publication.

 

 


OLD PHOTO: Guys in this 1961 picture in the Michigan House really changed the course of my life

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I was 14 years old and was sniffing around the State Capitol when my mom was visiting my aunt who was in Sparrow Hospital.  We had driven earlier in the day from Bay City so we could visit with my aunt who had serious surgery.

I walked down to the Capitol building and watched a session of the Michigan House where I met my State Rep, Les Begick and Ed Good who represented much of the Thumb and grew up across the road from my mom's family outside of Gagetown.  They showed me the rostrum in the chamber and asked if I wanted a picture taken.

They both treated me with great respect and encouraged my interest in politics.  Les Begick became a mentor to me, an older brother and somebody I had a close relationship with until he died.  

This is not a picture I'd put on my study wall, but I've saved it for more than 50 years.  For me, it's an important reminder of two good people.


OLD PHOTO: Michigan House Speaker Bobby Crim encouraged me to run in his Flint race

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While downsizing are household, I ran into hundreds of old pictures from my life and pictures that I inherited from my mom when she died.  I'm picking highlights for my grandkids.

Michigan House Speaker Bobby Crim was my boss at the time when I was going to the Downtown Lansing YMCA everyday to jog.  He was usually there on this little indoor track where you had to run 24 laps for a mile.

He was a runner and he encouraged everybody to join him and to get and stay physically fit.  My athleticism was defined by my reading the sports pages in newspapers and that was pretty much it. But Bobby was a daily encouragement.  

I kept doing it for a couple of years.  And as I continued, I found that I felt better and my fitness improved dramatically.  

The photo above was taken when I ran in one of Crim's early races in Flint, Michigan.  I forget its distance.  I finished and I felt really good about it.  At the finish line I remember downing a big can of Hawaiian Punch.

 


OLD PHOTO: Sitting on my throne with a newspaper on my lap in the old State Capitol Pressroom

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Newspapers were a big part of my life.  I knew full well their importance.  I loved the smell when they just came off the press where the ink still glistened on the newsprint.  

In the above photo, I'm sitting in the old State Capitol Pressroom where reporters would gather for news conferences and for information from news releases and politicians trying to get their attention.

The news business back then depended on newspapers.  They served as tip sheets for other reporters doing stories.

I doubt that my grandkids will be familiar with this important vehicle for delivering the news.  

How will it change the way they understand the world?


Do you pay attention to the side effects of medication that you take?

Side Effects
These are the side effects from one of my eyedrops. I have experienced everyone, but the last one listed

I've been taking prescription eyedrops for glaucoma for well over a decade.  I've never read the carefully folded paper inside the box holding the drops until this past week.

My wife was clearing off our kitchen counter when she came to an empty eyedrop box with the printed notes filled front-to-back with lines and lines of information about the drops.  The print is "small-small" and anybody with normal vision would have trouble reading it.  

She looked at it and noticed the "Side Effects" listed.  They almost matched perfectly what I've been experiencing for awhile.  I've told my eye doctors about these symptoms for the past few years.  They seem to shrug their shoulders indicating that they are stumped.

What about Side Effects of prescription medication.  When they're listed is it just to comply with Food and Drug Administration requirements?  Are they listed to be meaningful to the consumer?

A few years ago, I asked one of my ophthalmologists about side effects of the drops and he seemed to say they are nothing to worry about.

Should I ask again before my next eye surgery on the day after Easter?


OLD PHOTO: The Stanley Cup and me in Sen. Dick Posthumus' office

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I was working in the office of Michigan Senate Majority Leader Dick Posthumus when I heard a lot of commotion.  This was before the time that a lot of loud noise would be a signal to crawl under your desk or out a window.

It was part of the Detroit Red Wings hockey team bringing the Stanley Cup which they had just won into his office.  It was an international symbol of athletic perfection and it was familiar to everybody in Michigan.  

The iconic trophy was in the office just before the team was to be presented in the Senate Chambers during a session.

As a pretend sports fan and as the one who had to write notes for Sen. Posthumus' remarks about the team to the Senate, I had to be a quick study about the team and about the NHL.  My reward was this picture.  It's a neat memory.

 


OLD PHOTO: My Teenage Republican meeting with Michigan's Mr. Republican, Jerry Roe

Jerry Roe.
The then executive director of the Michigan Republican Party, Jerry Roe, was the speaker at the first meeting of the Bay County Teenage Republicans.

It was the early 1960s at a meeting room in a bank in downtown Bay City when I had my first formal involvement with the Republican Party.  My cousin Diane and I got our friends together and formed the Bay County Teenage Republican club.  I was under the impression that it was one of the first in the country.

After a notice of the meeting in the Bay City Times, we had our first meeting with Jerry Roe, then the executive director of the Michigan Republican Party.  I remember his encouragement of our interest and activism.

It was the beginning of my long journey in local and Michigan politics.  From there, we campaigned for Republican candidates at all levels, manned the Republican booth at the Bay County Fair and helped with the local Lincoln Day Dinner.

I was a teenager then and now I'm 70.  Was all that involvement worth it?  Did it accomplish anything?  I'm still trying to answer that in my mind.

 


For better politics in this country, do citizens need to become better at critical thinking?

IMG_0244Voters are telling poll takers that they would trust a drug lord before they would trust a politician or a news reporter.   But could the reality reflect that they are just the opposite.  They trust them and will accept just about anything that agrees with their personal bias.

Think about it.  If you're a Donald Trump supporter are you more apt to believe his screeds about how Americans are getting taken to the cleaners by just about everybody.  And the perpetrators  are everybody from liberals to reporters to jihadists, they believe.  

And when other issues come up and they lack the motivation to think them through, they give him the benefit of the doubt.

Same thing happens with the liberals, progressives and the Democrats.  If Bernie Sanders says it, then it must be right is the mantra with many people.  They believe him and they don't scratch beneath the surface to find out if it's true.  

Anybody agree?  Disagree?

The problem seems to be "critical thinking."  Many voters don't question themselves or the candidates about what they're preaching.  Nobody is asking "show me."  How can you say that without details?  

What's the truth?  Voters decide with or without even minimal knowledge?  And they're paying for it.

Check the above book, How To Think Critically In The Post Truth Era.  I haven't read it yet, but I plan to.


OLD PHOTO: Child protection bill signing with Gov. Jennifer Granholm and State Rep. Lauren Hager

Bill signing picture.
Gov. Granholm holds Rep. Hager's bill with his wife, Carol and me.

I'm downsizing my vast collection of photos and clippings.  My attempt long-term is to create a running story for my grandchildren when they ask "What about gramps?"

My last job working for the Michigan Legislature was with Rep. Lauren Hager of Port Huron who was a member of the first class of term-limited legislators.  The law limited him to three two-year terms.  He was a retired special education teacher who had served as a city council member.

His heart and his life had been serving kids in all sorts of ways.  Going back to his district, I soon discovered the impact he had made on generations of children who grew into all sorts of capacities in the community.

Walking down the streets of Port Huron with him, I quickly saw the respect with which he was held.  He was still "Mr. Hager" to them.

During his first-year as a legislator, a young child--Ariana Swinson--was beaten to death by her parents.  This was the beginning of an intense effort on his part to tighten Michigan child protection laws.  

This picture was taken when Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed one of his bills to tighten the process to protect abused and neglected kids.  


Are baby-boomers the reason for all the problems with American society today?

 

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I don't look at the world through rose-colored glasses.

 My daughter-in-law loves to sit around the dinner table or the living room after her young kids are in bed and pull apart questions and issues.  And I love that about her.  She loves to sort through responses to find truth.  She'd make a good journalist.

Through FaceBook, she presented me with a link about a new book A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America by Bruce Cannon Gibney.  It takes a look at baby-boomers--I'm a member of the first class--and comes up with some pretty unflattering conclusions.  I've been called a few things: obese, narrow-minded, a far right-winger, but never a sociopath.  I had to look it up.

The author cites, according to the Huffington Report,  mental health data showing boomers have significantly higher levels of antisocial traits and behaviors ― including lack of empathy, disregard for others, egotism and impulsivity ― than other generations.

In an interview with the Huffington Report, Gibney says: "They were the first generation in the U.S. to be raised permissively. And the evidence strongly suggests that highly permissive parenting leads to some problems later on in life. These people have higher self-esteem, but they tend to be more rebellious and messy, both in the literal sense and in their approach to their own affairs."

He points to the effect of television watching by baby-boomers when they were kids.  "They were also the first generation to be raised with television, and there really weren’t parental reservations about screen time."  He mentions academic studies showing the negative influence of that.

There seems to be the conclusion that my generation with its sociopathic leanings selfishly used up all the resources and leaving the gen-xers and millennials with mold left-overs.  

My memory shows a lot of the opposite.  Look at the music at the time.  The Beatles.  Were they all about self-absorption?  The Beach Boys through cars into the mix with the major emphasis on girls.  There was Timothy O'Leary, who brought LSD to the mainstream.

But what about the Vietnam War and all the demonstrations and riots.  Those were baby-boomers.  Were they doing that for themselves?  They saw politicians wrongfully conducting a war in Southeast Asia and they became a force for change.  

The author is in venture capital.  Perhaps, he's grieving the downturn in his Apple stock.  It could be the obscenely expensive real estate in San Francisco and he's trying to find a scapegoat.

I wonder how many millennials bought his book.


OLD PHOTO: A picture of me and other Michigan Senate pages and Gov. George Romney taken 54 years ago

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I spent most of my junior year in high school as a page in the Michigan Senate going to school one day a week in my hometown about a hundred miles north of Lansing.  It was the next step in my education about government and politics.

On Mondays after school, I would ride to Lansing with either the state senator or state representative for the area.  Then along with the other pages, we would prepare the Chamber for the Monday night session.  My chair during the session right in front of Sen. William Ford who later served in the U.S. Congress and Sen. William Milliken who later became governor of the state.  

During the day we would do errands for senators all throughout the State Capitol including the office of Gov. George Romney, the father of Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate.  We would take documents and files right into his private office.

One day, the Sergeant-At-Arms of the Senate took all the pages into Romney's office for a group picture with the governor.  That was 54 years ago.


OLD PHOTO: Posing with Gov. Engler at bill signing to raise speed limit to 70 mph

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Raising the speed limit to 70 mph more than two decades ago started as a whim with Sen. Doug Carl who I worked for at the time.  He drove back and forth to his legislative district everyday in Macomb County on the northeast side of Detroit.

During Senate sessions when I sat with him on the floor, he would grumble about the speed limit and how hypocritical it was, especially around Detroit because nobody observed it.  That resulted in him introducing a bill to raise it.

One memory of this time stands out.  His supporters to raise the speed limit organized an event where they would drive the speed limit on one of the Detroit areas busiest expressways.  With a long string of cars observing the letter of the law and with Detroit television crews following traffic on the freeway was slowed to a crawl.  The point was made.  The bill passed and was signed by Gov. Engler.


Old photo: Havana, Cuba is where I started growing my beard

 

At the Museum of Revolution
This is me in front of the Museum of the Revolution in Havanna, Cuba

 

Spending a week in Cuba was all the excuse I needed to let my beard grow.  Razor blades were not an over-the-counter item available there.  So, I let it grow and the above photo shows how the early growth looked.  I came home 39 years ago and never shaved it off.

The beard introduced me to the joy of not shaving and to a look that I never changed.  My wife has seen me without a beard only once and my kids have never seen me beardless.  

Will I ever shave it off?  Probably not.  Am I hiding behind a mask of facial hair?  Not really.  I have an incredibly visual double chin.

I'm continuing to go through my vast collection of random photos and clips.  My grandkids might enjoy seeing these when they get old enough.


In my next life, I'd consider being a lexicographer

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Words have always fascinated me.  I remember paging through the big, old Webster's dictionary in my grade school searching the pages for different words and I'd try to use them when I got home.

This interest in words stayed with me through a career in journalism and then political staff work where I always got involved in writing something.  I even loved watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding where a common focus was how many words started with the Greeks.

Then I read this article in the New York Times about the headquarters for Merriam-Webster's Dictionary and how they have professional lexicographers who do nothing but work with words in all their various aspects.  

Donald Trump thinks he has power.  Go to Merriam-Webster's website and watch the video on "serial commas."  How many arguments have been started about whether you should use it?  

Think of how words and their changing use has affected our culture.  Through the years the meaning of a word can change completely.


I was a junior in high school when I got to know Lt. Gov. T. John Lesinski of Michigan

 

T. John Lesinski
Lt. Gov. T. John Lesinski of Michigan

 

I saw and talked to Michigan's Lt. Gov. T. John Lesinski just about everyday back in 1963 when I was a page in the Michigan Senate.  He was a huge man with a giant-sized presence in his office behind the Senate Chambers and on the Senate floor when he presided during a session.

He always took time to say hello and to talk about what was happening in state government.  I was impressed.  Myself and another page were given the keys to his car so we could take it to a nearby carwash.  I was impressed.

I found this picture while going through stacks of photos as part of a downsizing exercise we are going through.  I think I'm going to save it.

How about you?  When was the last time you went through your old photos?


Baby-boomers: Do your grandkids know how the Vietnam War affected your life?

Classroom debate at Delta College.
This is a picture from 1965-66 of me (right) debating an anti-Vietnam activist.



Every generation seems to have their own war someplace in the world.  My dad and my uncles had World War II.  I had the Vietnam War.  It affected every part of my life even though I was never in the country.

As I dramatically downsize a huge collection of clippings and photographs, I found these two items going back to the days of that war.  My five grandkids are really young, but there may come a day when one of them will ask about what I remember of the Vietnam conflict.  

How did it affect me?  It started in high school when I was ordered to register for the military draft.  I got a draft card which I had to carry with me at all times.

To stay out of the draft, I had to get a deferment which I did by going to college.  The requirements were that I go full-time and that I finish within four years.

While attending my first two years at Delta College, I went through a streak of political activism.  In addition to other causes, I was the head of Students For Victory in Vietnam.  We sponsored student rallies and debates.

During a history class, I debated an anti-war activist.  The local newspaper covered it with a reporter and a photographer.  

 

Vietnam source material.
Remember the Pentagon Papers which tore the lid of the Vietnam War.

My one year-old grandson has my name and my love for ice cream

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I always had a special connection with my Uncle Wes Moll.  By 10 minutes, I was born on his birthday.  Because I was born on 12:10 am a bunch of years ago, I was saved from being named after my Uncle Durward Thorpe.  If that had happened I would have been Durward Dale, leaving me with the initials DDT.

Growing up, I was always known as Wesley and my uncle was Wes.  My uncle had his own gas station where he repaired cars.  My mom would drop me off at his station where I'd put gas in cars and occasionally learn simple car repairs.

Then last March when my youngest grandson was born and when my wife and I went to the hospital to see him, my son-in-law gave me the news about his name.  They gave him my first name for his middle name.

He and I will always have a special connection.  Someday, a girlfriend will ask how he got his middle name and what he had in common with the guy he got it from.

One thing--ice cream.  He loves it and so do I.  His ice cream of choice is soft serve.  So is mine.