The Real Wonder Woman

When my wife Shelly recently said ” let’s go see Wonder Woman ” I said, ” sure, why not. ” It was a Friday night, we had no plans, and we stopped at the China Buffet on the way there so I had an incentive to go. I didn’t know anything about the movie other than I don’t like any of either the DC/Marvel Comics films, but Shelly wanted to go so we did.

I was shocked when early in the film it became apparent that Wonder Woman wanted to end World War I. Whaaaaat? I didn’t remember this from the Lynda Carter series! Wonder Woman hated war and wanted to end it? My mind went immediately to the actual, real Wonder Woman who truly wanted to end World war I, in real life, a little over 100 years ago.

Jeannette Rankin was the first woman ever elected to the United States Congress, from Montana, in 1916. Prior to her election she had been instrumental in winning women the right to vote in Montana, in 1914, and she took the momentum of that campaign straight into the halls of Congress. Shortly after Rankin took office, in 1917, she was one of only 56 representatives in all of Congress, senators and congresspersons, to vote against US entry into World War I. Wisconsin’s Robert M La Follette was another.

It was a politically courageous act that cost Rankin her seat after only one term. Nevertheless, she persisted. She ran again in 1940…. and won. This time, in 1941, Rankin WAS THE ONLY MEMBER OF EITHER CHAMBER OF CONGRESS to vote against American entry into World War II. The. Only. One. For her courage she was chased from the floor of the US House of Representatives by reporters and had to hide in a coat room until capitol police could rescue her. People called her foolish, unpatriotic, vile, and yet prominent journalist William Allen White wrote in the Kansas Emporia Gazette:

Probably a hundred men in Congress would have liked to do what she did. Not one of them had the courage to do it. The Gazette entirely disagrees with the wisdom of her position. But Lord, it was a brave thing! And its bravery someway discounted its folly. When, in a hundred years from now, courage, sheer courage based upon moral indignation is celebrated in this country, the name of Jeannette Rankin, who stood firm in folly for her faith, will be written in monumental bronze, not for what she did, but for the way she did it.” She again lost her seat after only one term. Nevertheless, she persisted.

In 1968, at 88 years of age, Rankin led 5,000 participants on a march to the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington DC in protest of the War in Vietnam. Early In 1973, shortly before her death, she briefly considered another run for congress to protest the American War on Vietnam, but poor health prevented any serious consideration of a run. She died on May 18th, 1973, at the age of 92.

And yet last year, during the 100th anniversary of her election to Congress, there was barely a mention of her in the national press. Barely a mention of her within the women’s movement. Barely a mention of her among peace groups. She was without a doubt one of the most remarkable women of the 20th century, now almost forgotten in a culture grown so used to war and savagery that we hardly notice it anymore.

I didn’t much care for the movie” Wonder Woman “. I thought it was silly, and formulaic, and, well….. silly. But if Hollywood ever decides to makes a film about Jeannette Rankin, I’ll drop whatever I’m doing and go. We can even skip the China Buffet.

Mythbusters: Vinehout Edition

Well before State Senator Kathleen Vinehout announced the formation of an exploratory committee to consider running for governor of Wisconsin, her most ardent fans, (Dane County liberals in particular, it seems), have been seen commenting frequently on social media that Vinehout is the perfect candidate to take on Scott Walker. Why? Two reasons are commonly cited. 1. Because she’s from outside of the Madison/Milwaukee blue bubble. 2. Because she knows how to win in rural, republican leaning Wisconsin. The first reason is obviously true, but there’s no evidence to support the second.

Vinehout’s Senate district, the 31st, has been held by a democrat for 38 of the last 42 years. If the 31st senate district is “republican leaning” then both the GOP as well as district voters seem unaware of it.

Democrat Thomas Harnisch represented the 31st from 1975-1983. Harnisch was one of the people who helped establish the Robert M La Follette School of Public Affairs at UW Madison.

Democrat Rod Moen held the seat from 1983 until 2002 when he was narrowly defeated, ( roughly 550 votes ), by Eau Claire firefighter Ron Brown, who successfully tied Moen to the caucus scandal and former Democratic Senate Majority leader Chuck Chvala.

Vinehout won the seat back in 2006, the first of two major consecutive Democratic Party wave elections, and has held it since. Without a doubt Vinehout’s most notable electoral accomplishment is having held onto her seat during the 2010 Tea Party shellacking that took down so many other democrats statewide, but the victory comes with a caveat. Her opponent, Ed Thompson, younger brother of former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, announced two months before the 2010 election that he had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and had only six months to live. Vinehout went on to defeat Thompson by 440 votes.

Is Vinehout a great policy wonk? Without a doubt. She has a PhD and taught Health Services Administration and Women’s Studies for a decade at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Does she live outside of the Madison/Milwaukee blue bubble? You bet. She lives on a farm in western Wisconsin. Does she know how to win in rural, red, republican leaning Wisconsin? We don’t know. Her supporters claim she does, and Vinehout seems content to let that myth flourish, but there’s no evidence to support it.

Did A Lethal Pseudoscience Kill Sylville Smith?

In the wake of both the acquittal of former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown in the killing of Sylville Smith, and the release of the body cam footage showing Smith’s final moments, the now terribly familiar questions arise yet again: why did Heaggan-Brown fire a second shot when the video seems to show Smith already down and unarmed following the first shot? As Smith’s father Patrick asked after the verdict, ” Why are they trained to kill when they’re supposed to protect and serve us?” Here’s one reason why.

Meet Psychologist William J.Lewinsky. A New York Times article from August 2015 featured Lewinsky and his work which, apparently, consists almost entirely of training police officers and providing expert testimony in officer involved shootings. Lewinsky is the founder of the Force Science Institute, has trained tens of thousands of police officers, frequently on the response times of both officers and suspects in armed encounters, and claims it’s all ” Science “. But not everyone agrees.

In 2012 the US Department of Justice hired an editor from the American Journal of Psychology, Washington State University Professor Lisa Fournier, to review a number of Lewinsky’s self designed research studies ( it’s worth noting that Lewinsky also designed his own PhD program at what used to be The Union of Experimenting Colleges and Universities)

Fournier found that Lewinsky’s studies not only lacked the basic elements of sound scientific research, she went so far as to say that in her opinion Lewinsky lacked the ability to even apply relevant and reliable data to support an argument. In layperson terms that means ” he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. ” If Fournier is correct then Lewinsky’s work is based on pseudoscience, not science. Yet he’s training cops all over the country about how much time they have to react to save their lives and the lives of their partners. And he has fans in Wisconsin.

When you peruse the website of the Force Science Institute you’ll see a link to ” Testimonials ” from law enforcement officers. There are only four testimonials listed, two of them from officers in Wisconsin.

Force Science puts science behind what trainers and field officers have speculated for years. My agency has used your information in training and in court. It saves officer and citizen lives.”

Sgt. James MacGillis
Rangemaster, Milwaukee (WI) PD

“A BIG thank you for all the hard work all of you do – it’s a great help to the thousands of instructors who use your material!”

Lt. Patrick Martin
Greenfield (WI) PD

So it’s entirely possible that police departments in Milwaukee and the surrounding area are embracing the work of a man, William J. Lewinsky, who may well be peddling pseudo-scientific snakeoil as legitimate scientific research. Only this stuff isn’t a relatively harmless mix of mineral oil, red pepper and camphor. This stuff can kill you.

A Second Opinion

This TYT interview with Stephen Cohen, NYU Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies, is probably the most cleared eyed and sanest 55 minutes I’ve either watched or read regarding the ” Russia stole our election! ” madness. It’s worth watching in its entirety, though I will warn you that you’ll have to endure TYT interviewer Michael Tracey’s attempts to editorialize when he should have just asked questions and let Cohen talk. At roughly the 2:40 mark Cohen says, essentially, that the current Russophobia is more dangerous than anything he saw during the Cold War. We ignore people like Cohen at our peril.

Thursday Music: Paul McCartney- Back in the USSR

This seems particularly fitting, given how the current ” Resistance ” led Russophobia meets or exceeds the fever of even the peak Cold War years. I can kill this one at karaoke night, BTW. Love singing it to rednecks. From Sir Paul McCartney’s concerts in Moscow and St. Petersburg, some ten years ago. Enjoy!