Author Bemoans “Worship of Ignorance” and Urges New Vitality in US Civic Life

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Tom Nichols thinks we’re in a pretty big mess in America. We’re narcissistic in a big way, we are ”obsessed with worship of ignorance,” we’re thin-skinned, we’re unwilling to have serious conversations on serious issues, we wear the fact that we don’t know much as a badge of honor, and we’re deeply divided.

His deep concerns didn’t arise from the 2016 political tumult and the rise of Donald Trump to the presidency. Nichols has been studying and writing about his concerns for several years.

The result is his new book, The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters. And the book led to an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program Tuesday at Marquette Law School. Read more »

Kleefisch and Nygren Describe “An American Epidemic” in Law School Program

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Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch asked the audience in Eckstein Hall’s Appellate Courtroom a question: How many of you have been given a prescription for opioid pain medication in the last several years?

A large number of hands – perhaps a majority – went up.

Among these people, the drugs had been provided legally. But the large response illustrated one of Kleefisch’s main points at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program on Thursday:

Powerful drugs are all over our communities. And, in a shocking number of cases, they are ending up being used for illegal purposes, they are triggering or feeding dangerous addictions, and they are leading the way for people to become involved in illegal drugs such as heroin.

Kleefisch and State Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) are co-chairs of Gov. Scott Walker’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse, created last fall. Nygren is co-chair of the legislature’s powerful Joint Committee on Finance, but also has a daughter who has struggled with heroin addiction. Read more »

Abele Offers Big Ideas in Law School Session — Like Making Milwaukee the State Capital

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Category: Milwaukee, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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Chris Abele likes to think big. How big? Try this on:

“Move the capital.”

What? Move the state capital from Madison to Milwaukee? The idea was greeted with laughter when Abele, the Milwaukee County executive, floated it during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School on Wednesday.

It’s hard to picture the odds of that coming to pass as anything other than flat zero. But Abele was serious – sort of. He knew it was not going to happen, but, he said, “you can’t talk me out of thinking about it.” There is “plenty of research” that shows the advantages in terms of economic impact and government efficiency of the state capital and the state’s largest population center being the same. Think of Boston, Denver, and Minnesota’s Twin Cities.  Read more »

On the Issues: “Politically Homeless” Activist Calls for Change in the System

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Katherine Gehl says, “I like to say I’m politically homeless.” It was clear at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School on Wednesday that she does not use that label because she is not involved. In fact, the opposite is true: She is deeply involved.

Her sense of “homelessness” comes from her frustration with what she calls “the political-industry complex.” The two major parties, Congress, the executive branch, Washington lobbyists, and the national media are all thriving, but they are not producing solutions to the nation’s problems, Gehl said. And while Washington thrives, problems go unsolved and people grow increasingly dissatisfied. She said the system and particularly the two major political parties do not have the incentives businesses have to respond constructively to competition. “Two parties equals zero results,” she said.

Gehl (pronounced Gayle) is a former Democrat who describes herself now as “a proud independent, a centrist, a pro-problem-solving, non-ideological citizen who wants to see government deliver on its promise to the citizens.” She adds, “That is not an ideology that fits with either of the parties.” Read more »

Mission Week Speakers Urge More Knowledge and Action on Racial Inequality

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It’s time for new talk – and a new commitment to change – about race in America. It’s time for a new version of The Talk in America.

Those were key themes during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School on Tuesday that was part of Marquette University’s Mission Week for this school year. A capacity audience in the Appellate Courtroom heard thoughts from three nationally known figures in social and racial justice causes during the program, which was titled “Racial Justice: Black, White, and the Call of the Church.”

The Talk? That’s the term used often for the conversation many African American parents have with their children about how to behave out in the community so that they don’t get in trouble – or worse – with police officers. Read more »

Dick Enberg Offers Insights into the Incredible Al McGuire

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Here’s a detail about Al McGuire you likely don’t know: Among his many habits, he liked to lie on the floor. Often, when he was in a hotel room, he would sleep through the night on the hard tile floor of a bathroom.

Here’s another one that carries more weight in showing what made McGuire such an amazing person: When he would drive from his home in Brookfield to Marquette University, there was a place where the route called for him to turn left and head for downtown. Once a month or so, he would turn right instead, with no destination in mind, determined to spend a hunk of time wherever he ended up, just exploring and immersing himself in real life.

That latter habit gave rise to one of the things McGuire would say to people: Take that right hand turn sometimes. Do things differently sometimes. Do the unexpected.  Experience life to the fullest.

These were among anecdotes and insights into the legendary Marquette basketball coach offered Tuesday by one of the nation’s best known sports broadcasters, Dick Enberg, during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School.

McGuire coached the Marquette team from 1964 to 1977, ending his career with Marquette winning the NCAA championship. For almost 20 years after that, he was an analyst on national telecasts of basketball games, paired with Enberg as the play by play announcer. The two became close friends.

After McGuire’s death in 2001, Enberg wrote a one-man play about McGuire. It is returning to the stage in Milwaukee, with a run at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Stackner Cabaret from Jan. 20 to March 19. The revival of the play brought Enberg, who recently retired after a six-decade career that included broadcasting just about every major sports event, to Milwaukee and to Marquette, which he called “my adopted university.”

Enberg said McGuire was “the most incredible character in my 60 years (as a broadcaster) that I’ve ever met.” He added, “There’s no one in second place. He was by far.”

McGuire, Enberg said, was incredibly complex. “He didn’t mind being controversial,” Enberg said. “He was distrustful, paranoid even sometimes . . . . He didn’t want too many people to get in his electrical field.” It took a while, but McGuire let Enberg inside his life.

McGuire was “a street genius that saw life so differently than all the rest of us,” Enberg said. He said that McGuire would see things happening on the street and offer deeply insightful explanations of what was going on that Enberg had missed.

Enberg said no one could coach a basketball game better than McGuire. He could work the players, the referees, and the crowd like no one else.

“I really do think about him every day,” Enberg said.

In the course of the hour-long program, Enberg also offered observations about his own career. Among them:

Baseball is the best game for an announcer. Enberg, who was the long-time voice of the San Diego Padres, said that if you can announce baseball well, you can announce anything.

The Wimbledon tennis tournament was his favorite sports event overall – and he saw just about every major event there was. He said he fell in love with Wimbledon, from the grass courts to having the best men and women tennis players in the world competing for two weeks to the drama of center court.

His favorite sports figure? There are so many good answers, Enberg said. He said John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach at UCLA, was “the greatest man I ever met,” except for Enberg’s own father. Baseball great Ted Williams was a huge childhood hero for Enberg and he got to know Williams in later years. A chance to have breakfast with Williams and chat casually, “how good is that?” Enberg asked. And golfer Arnold Palmer, “you felt you were in with royalty every time you were around him.”

As for one of his broadcast trademarks – the use of the phrase, “Oh, my” – Enberg gave examples of how many different ways it can be used, including at moments that are thrilling, dismaying, surprising, and tense. He said he used the phrase because it fit so many situations and because “the holies” (as in holy cow, holy Toledo, and holy mackerel) were already taken by other announcers.

Video of the program may be watched by clicking here.



Two Views, One Conversation: Light Shed on School Vouchers at Law School Program

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Category: Education & Law, Milwaukee Public Schools, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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Even in a social media world, I’m still a big backer of the notion that serious, informative, in-person dialogue about major public issues is a good thing. The more contentious and important the subject and the more level-headed the discussion, the better. When it comes to contentiousness and importance, almost nothing in the realm of education policy rivals the subject of private school vouchers for kindergartner through twelfth grade students. Milwaukee was the place where vouchers for low-income, urban students were launched in1990. And, with the election of Donald Trump as president and Trump’s selection of voucher-advocate Betsy DeVos to be secretary of education, vouchers are a hot subject.

All of this is to say that I thought the hour-long session at Marquette Law School on Wednesday was worth listening to, and the opportunity to do that remains, as you can find at the end of this blog item. In a program titled Lessons from a Quarter Century of School Vouchers: One Conversation, Two Points of View, we brought together Scott Jensen, a key figure in the voucher movement in Wisconsin and now an adviser to the American Federation for Children, a school-choice advocacy group headed by DeVos, and Julie Underwood, a professor in the education and law schools at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a long-time advocate for public schools. Read more »

Microsoft President Calls for Protecting Privacy as the Cloud Reshapes Lives

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Category: Computer Law, Intellectual Property Law, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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You only needed to read the title of the 2016 Nies Lecture in Intellectual Property presented Tuesday at Marquette Law School to know that Brad Smith was offering a generally positive view of the future of technological innovation. “A Cloud for Global Good: The Future of Technology—Issues for Wisconsin and the World” was the title.

Indeed, Smith spoke to the potential for what he called the fourth industrial revolution to improve lives across the world. But he also voiced concerns about the future of privacy and security for personal information in a rapidly changing world, and he called for updating of both American laws and international agreements related to technology to respond to the big changes.

All of this came from a standpoint of unquestionable knowledge of the subject matter. Smith is the president and chief legal officer of Microsoft. The Appleton native has been with the company since 1993 and his duties include overseeing corporate, external, and legal affairs for the global technology giant. Read more »

Elections, the Holocaust, and the Senate Debate: Glimpses of Three Law School Events

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Category: Election Law, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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Glimpses of three important events in recent days at Marquette Law School:

The Wisconsin Elections Commission is less than four months old and so far it has made only two major decisions, each supported by all six members. Will the new body, created to take over the election oversight role previously played by the state’s Government Accountability Board, be a steady and responsible force for conducting elections well and avoid partisan divisions?

During  an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program Wednesday (Oct. 26, 2016), two of the leaders of the commission conveyed a message of professionalism and commitment to doing the jobs well . They also expressed general confidence in the quality of election practices in Wisconsin.

But Mark Thomsen, chairman of the commission and a Milwaukee lawyers, and Don Millis, a commissioner who is a lawyer from the Madison area, outlined some of the difficult and controversial issues that they face this fall and beyond, such as handling of voter identification requirements  and early voting, and showed some differences between them that reflect their own partisanship. Read more »

ACS Panel Explains Voting Rights Litigation in Wisconsin

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Category: Civil Rights, Constitutional Interpretation, Constitutional Law, Election Law, Judges & Judicial Process, Marquette Law School, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at Marquette, Wisconsin Law & Legal System
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img_5794-meOn October 20, I had the honor of moderating a panel discussion at the Law School devoted to Voting Rights Litigation in Wisconsin.  The event was co-sponsored by the Marquette University Law School Student Chapter of the American Constitution Society and the Milwaukee Chapter of the American Constitution Society (ACS). A crowd of approximately 60 persons witnessed a lively presentation on the right to vote under the U.S. Constitution, recent legislation in Wisconsin that places burdens on the ability of some people to vote in our State, and the status of litigation in the federal courts challenging these state laws.

The event began with a welcome from the Chair of the Milwaukee Chapter of the ACS, Attorney Craig Mastantuono.  Attorney Mastantuono began with a description of the mission of the American Constitution Society and the benefits of membership.  He also noted the excellent timing of the day’s event, given the attention currently being given to the integrity of the American voting system.  Then Attorney Mastantuono introduced the Mayor of Milwaukee, the Honorable Tom Barrett.

Mayor Barrett began his remarks by providing the Marquette University law students in attendance with a bit of career advice: namely, the importance of being nice to your colleagues in the workplace.  Turning to topic of the federal judiciary, Mayor Barrett criticized lawmakers who impose litmus tests on judicial appointees, in a misguided attempt to ensure that there is “only one type of thinking in our court system.”  Mayor Barrett also expressed his disappointment in the fact that Wisconsin is no longer a national leader in ensuring access to the ballot, and criticized recent state laws that have made it more difficult to vote in the City of Milwaukee.  Finally, while he touted the benefits of early voting as a means of improving ballot access, the Mayor explained that there are limits to the City’s ability to expand the early voting process due to the City’s interest in maintaining a well-administered voting process. Read more »

Ribble Eager to Discuss Issues, Not Presidential Race at Law School Program

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It was more than a half hour into an hour-long conversation with Rep. Reid Ribble, a Republican who represents much of northeastern Wisconsin in the US House of Representatives, when Mike Gousha, the host, said he wanted to talk about the presidential election.

“Do we have to?” Ribble replied.

Well, yes. You can’t exactly ignore it these days. But Ribble made it clear that he would much rather talk about issues that are central to the nation’s future, and he would much rather if everybody else did, too.

That’s why the first 25 minutes or so of the “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School on Tuesday focused on Ribble’s proposals for altering Social Security to assure the system functions well for many decades to come. Read more »

Kimberley Motley: Pursuing “Justness” in Afghanistan and Across the Globe

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Category: International Law & Diplomacy, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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Kimberley Motley says she considers herself to be “a global investor in human rights.” Her “investment” is a legal practice that has brought her involvement since 2008 in cases on every continent except Antarctica, including some of international importance. She’s gained enough prominence to have a movie made about her work in Afghanistan, as well as profile pieces done about her in several major news media venues.

It’s been a momentous ride for the 2003 graduate of Marquette Law School, and Motley said during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program Thursday at Eckstein Hall that she wants that ride to grow and produce increasing impact.

Motley, a Milwaukee native, spent five years working in the public defender’s office in Milwaukee after law school. Then, in 2008, she signed up for a US State Department program to go to Afghanistan to work on training lawyers. She told Gousha and the audience in the Appellate Courtroom that she did it for the money, but it soon became “something else.” By 2009, she had started her own legal practice. She was and is the only non-Afghan lawyer in the country.

She has been involved in cases that have improved the situations of people such as young girls who had been sold to marry older men, while establishing broader awareness that, under Afghan law, people are entitled to strong and independent legal representation. She said about 70 percent of her work in Afghanistan involves clients such as embassies of France, Great Britain and Germany or several major news organizations, and 30% is pro bono work.

Motley said she considers herself more an advocate for “justness” than for justice. She said justice is a broader concept – she called it the poetry of legal work. She said she is interested in the prose, which is using laws for their intended purpose to protect people. She said Afghanistan has good laws when it comes to matters such as the right to a lawyer but that they had been almost totally ignored.

Motley lives in North Carolina with her husband and three children, but spends large portions of her time in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world. She is involved currently in defending a major opposition political leader in Malaysia who has been accused of sex crimes. She considers the charges false and a tactic to keep the politician from power.

Motley said that what started as a law practice has become a movement she calls “Motley’s law.” That’s also the name of the movie that was made about her. It has had limited circulation in the United States so far, but was shown at the Milwaukee Film Festival this week.

Her goal, she said, is to be a “powerhouse litigator internationally,” involved in “interesting places and interesting cases.“

“When I went to college, I wanted to be a DJ, to be honest,” she told Gousha. In some ways, she feels like she’s still pursuing that impulse by working as a lawyer who wants to give people ”something to dance to.”

Video of the one-hour program may be viewed by clicking here.