Tag Archives: government

What is on my mind today? Special Prosecutor…..Damn!

 

Election 11I do believe that this whole Russian business does call for a special prosecutor.  It is time to have an adult in the room and the issue settled.  I frankly am sick of hearing about it.

That being said, the gleefulness of the mainstream media and Democrats, as they convict the president almost daily with hearsay, reminds me of a story a veteran once told me, about himself and his best buddy.

These two young men were both stationed in Germany.  They enjoyed going out and having fun.  Heavy beer drinking and obliging women filled many an evening.

As it happened, on one of these occasions, the boys drank a bit more beer than they probably should have.  As they stumbled around dead drunk in the dark, trying to flag down a cab driver, they ran right into a very old, very ugly, very large woman.

The gal, while not having been created easy on the eyes, more than made up for that deficiency by having been blessed with a kind heart and a giving nature. She immediately offered to help the uniformed lads get a ride to her home where they could spend the night.

The boys did not remember another thing from that night.  When they awoke early the next morning they were in bed together with the ugly woman laying naked between them.

As she snored away in peaceful slumber, the soldier’s friend vigorously pointed at him and mockingly mouthed, “You did her, you did her!”

Well, my veteran friend, thought for a second about the situation.  He then decided that the best way to find out the truth was to just pull back the covers and reveal what was underneath. As he lifted up the blanket on his side of the bed, it was discovered that he still had all of his clothes on.

Then, his gleeful friend very slowly peaked under his side of the blanket only to shout, “DAMN!.”

 

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Just Saying: Vice Presidential Politics….

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I  have noticed there has been quite a bit of media attention focused on our presidential candidates as of late.  One more than the other, and I have two observations.

First, I think all voters better make sure they really know the vice presidential candidates, how they would govern, their beliefs and priorities.

Secondly, former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura has missed out on a media moment to declare, “And, you thought I was a crazy choice for president!”

Just saying…..

Physically Weak, Strong in Spirit–Leading With the Pen

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Pat Turgeon speaking during the 150th Civil War Anniversary Commemoration held in the Minnesota State Capitol Rotunda. 

Day before yesterday I received a letter from my government informing me that I am permanently disabled and that my benefit claim no longer needs to be reviewed on an annual basis.  For a woman who cannot bend, walk long distances without a cane and who has a chronic blood cancer the letter not only surprised me, but made me feel really, really disheartened.

I loved to work.  I loved working in politics, for politicians and at our state’s beautiful Capitol building and complex.  It was always my pleasure to help solve issues for residents, businesses and frustrated taxpayers. I did not enjoy some of the language that first met my ears when I picked up my office phone.  However, it was always my goal as a government employee to do all that I could to help resolve the issues of the person on the other end of my line.

My commitment to providing excellent civil service is based on my Christian faith.  I cannot be a follower of Christ only on Sunday mornings, with my friends, family or at home.  To me being a Christian means a 24-hour a day, seven days a week commitment to loving my neighbor as myself and doing onto others as I would like done onto me.  It also means remembering that Christ himself preached that when anyone helps the least of their brethren it was the same as if they were caring for the Lord himself.

Then, too, I was raised on a God-fearing family farm where you were expected to get the job done and get it done right–no corners cut, no excuses allowed.

Many times as a government employee I was the recipient of the verbal wrath of those whose frustration and anger had long since escaped their control. During my over a decade of civil service at the state legislature, state agencies and State Secretary of State’s office I only ever hung up on one person whose lack of language skills got the better of him.

When that person called the “higher ups” about my disconnecting the line I was told the management’s response was “Pat, hung up on you?  What did you do? She never hangs up on anyone.”   I assume that is how the conversation went as the gentleman called me back and apologized for his tone and attitude.  We then got down to work to solve his issue.

Sometimes I could help the person navigate through the many layers of bureaucracy to get the services that they were entitled too.  At other times, I was the definitive voice that had to tell them “no”. That what they were asking was just not possible under current law and program requirements.

There are two particular calls that still haunt me from time to time.  I suppose these stand out in my memory as examples of how uncaring and at times heartless government employees can be to their fellow citizens. Both calls were about veterans.

The first was a young man, a disabled combat veteran, who called crying. He was absolutely devastated by the response he had received from a county staff person when he applied for his well-deserved and earned veteran’s benefits.

The county where he resided was refusing his application, due to a technical issue regarding signatures.  The staff person told him that if he couldn’t sign the form himself with a readable signature, he needed to get his mother to do it for him.  Through his sobs he told me that he just wanted to do this himself, to feel like a man again…then he explained that his writing arm had been blown off by an IED in Iraq.  That situation was resolved very quickly to his satisfaction.

Cutting through the red tape of government bureaucracy was a skill I worked very hard to hone.  My expertise in knowing who to call was put to great use when I received a call from the mother of a Minnesota member of the military service.  She was very distraught and she, too, had been reduced to tears in her seemingly endless attempt to advocate for her sick son.

The mother’s  young service member had just been diagnosed with a very aggressive stage four cancer while stationed across an ocean.  The military  hospital would not release him to be cared for at Mayo Clinic, even when Mayo Clinic felt they had a chance to save his life if they could begin treatment immediately using new cancer therapies . Even though the military had no cancer treatment plan available, the commanding officer explained to this heart-broken mother in no uncertain terms that her sick son was under their jurisdiction and they had decided to refuse his family’s request.  It was her son’s death sentence.

That mother does not know how much God heard her prayers for her son, because the only reason I answered her call that morning was that our receptionist would forward the agency’s calls to me when he was spending his time, while on the state payroll, playing call-in radio games to win prizes.  If I had not been the one to answer her call, I know very well that she would have been told that this was a federal issue and there was nothing the state could do about it. She would then have been hung up on.

During my constituent services work at the legislature, even as a staunch Republican, I had learned that if I needed help for a veteran, and needed it now, the best office to call was that of Senator Amy Klobuchar. Her constituent services staff is excellent and responsive.

Less than a couple of hours after my call to the Senator’s office, her staff called me back. The service member had been released to his parents, was already on a plane heading home and the air ambulance was waiting to take him to Mayo Clinic. Within hours he would be back in his home state, with his mother and family, getting world class cancer care. His mother was in tears again when she called me back later that afternoon to say thank you.

Before my second bout with cancer and becoming permanently disabled from the back fractures caused by Multiple Myeloma, one of my professional goals was to run for elected office and finally have the authority to see that government functions in the people’s best interests not its own.

When I received my disability letter earlier this week, even though it has been obvious to even me for quite some time that I cannot work anymore due to my health issues, a profound sense of sadness enveloped me. Oh, I understand that I have to accept that it is not in God’s plan that I will ever again have the physical stamina to run for an elected political office. So, instead, I have decided that if I cannot participate in person to take care of others or help reform politics and government, I will just have to lead with my pen…just saying.

kate and I recount ballots

Picture from my civil service career. Kate Mohn and myself, with the Secretary of State’s office, walking  the final 3 Rejected Absentee Ballots from the Coleman-Franken recount, that needed to go to the three judge panel, to the secure location.  

A Great Man, Leader and Veteran: Robert E. Hansen

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One of the finest leaders and human beings I have ever known was Robert E. Hansen (Bob). Bob was a World War II veteran who passed away just about a year ago.

Recently, I received a call from his widow Sue asking me to assist her in drafting some appropriate remarks for her to use at next month’s national Veterans of Foreign Wars convention where Bob will be honored. The convention is honoring him for his life-long dedication to serving his country, veterans and the VFW. Throughout the years, Bob held many leadership positions in the VFW organization including serving as VFW National Commander during the Kennedy administration.

Yes, Bob personally knew and worked with President John F. Kennedy–even used to ride alone in the limo with him.  In fact, he once showed me a cassette that contained a personalized message from President Kennedy thanking the VFW for their support and expressing his gratitude to Bob for his counsel and advice. The tape now resides at the Kennedy Presidential Library.

In addition to the historically significant Kennedy tape, there was Bob’s wall. Hung on a wall in his home were signed photographs of every major world leader, president and governor that he had worked with throughout his life. Everyone who was anyone in military or political world history during Bob’s lifetime was on that wall.  It was impressive to say the least!

At that time, I worked for the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State. After seeing Bob’s wall, I returned to work and enthusiastically described the display to Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.  I told him all about the signed pictures of the famous important world and national leaders, both military and civilian, from World War II to the present that were on that wall including Admiral John S. McCain, General Douglas MacArthur, French President Charles de Gaulle and Presidents Harry S. Truman, Dwight D Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy just to name a very few.  It was a big wall!

Secretary Ritchie, who I had introduced to Bob, really wanted to see that wall.  So, I arranged a meeting. About the time the meeting was to take place, Bob and his wife Sue heard a knock at their door. They opened it to find Secretary of State Ritchie standing there with a signed picture of himself.  He then asked, “Can I be on your wall?”   I am pleased to say both Bob and Sue got a real good laugh out of it and the Secretary got to join the famous on Bob’s wall. It is important to note that since his death all of the photographs and artifacts from his “wall room” have be donated to an appropriate historical society.

Bob did not just casually meet these world leaders and get a signed photo.  He considered them friends and corresponded with many of them throughout the years. His stories of the events of his life were always entertaining and often historically significant. Stories such as when he had an audience with French President Charles de Gaulle that included a reception in Bob’s honor at the Palace of Versailles. Then, there was the time he visited and had lunch with President and Madam Chiang Kai-shek in Taipei, Taiwan.

Bob’s long and eventful life was never an easy road.   As a very young boy he and his only brother lost their mother to cancer. This tragedy only served to strengthen the two boys’ bond. Both brothers answered their country’s call and served in the military during World War II.   Bob alone returned home. Harry was killed on the island of Okinawa during the last few weeks of the war. To his dying day Bob grieved for his lost brother.  His local VFW post was renamed to honor his dead brother and is now called the Gallager-Hansen Post.

I think surviving so many devastating personal hardships is what made him into the man I so greatly admired.  Bob was a forceful combination of strong personal ethics, very high intelligence and amazing people skills. He could read people instantly and accurately. This talent, more than any other, is what I believe made him so successful as a public servant.

For all of his success he remained a humble Christian Minnesota lad.  In his dealings with people he would always try to error on the side of kindness and mercy, but he didn’t mince words or avoid making hard decisions when the situation called for it.  I have known many people who thought they were great political strategists, none could compare to Robert E. Hansen.

Bob was walking talking history and his home a museum.  He had kept records of everything and had letters, documents, mementos and pictures from the famous and powerful people that he known.  During one visit I told him that he should really get all of his papers organized so that their history would not be lost. He handed me a big thick file and told me to do it.  So I did.

There was no way to make any organized sense out of the mish-mash of notes and documents in that file. I chose to take a different approach and drafted all of those facts, figures and quotes into a comprehensive biography draft. Once I completed the draft of his military, professional and volunteer careers, his wife Sue added the personal family information. Bob reviewed our transcript many times, to make sure that everything was absolutely accurate.

“More Than I Ever Dreamed” a biography of Robert E. Hansen VFW Past Commander-in-Chief was self-published by the Hansen’s.  It was a small publishing run of several hundred copies and by the time we finished editing the book most of the copies were pre-sold.  It was fun to see the books for sale in places like the Minnesota History Center and Science Museum.  Currently, there are 4 or 5 copies still available on Amazon.com.

Sue and I have received many compliments about our biography of Bob.The greatest compliment I will ever receive was the most recent–from Sue.  On a day when her grief for her lost husband was a bit overshadowing, Sue got out the book and read the whole thing, “It felt like he was sitting there with me, telling me his stories again. It brought me much comfort.”   That alone is worth all of the volunteer hours that I spent working on keeping the stories of Robert E. Hansen alive.

I miss Bob and cannot help but think how different politics would be today if there were more people with the moral strength of character of a Robert E. Hansen.  Candidates who show respect to both adversary and supporter and put country before self …just saying.

 

 

Puppy vs Politician Training

I am thoroughly enjoying having a puppy in my house.  Oliver is a long-haired German Shepherd puppy.  He is super soft and fluffy and looks like a small bear cub.

Oliver at seven weeks1
Oliver at 10 weeks

Oliver weighted 43 pounds at 14 weeks old and his feet are already bigger than those of our nine-year-old white, 110 pound, German Shepherd Truman.

puppy foot14 week puppy foot next to my hand

Oliver loves water, mud and Truman.
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All things considered, this puppy is the best thing that has happened in our home in a very long time.  Our home is filled with constant action and antics. Puppies, like small children, are a lot of work and demand a lot of attention, but their exuberance for life and enjoyment of every new sight, sound and taste is contagious to those of us who long ago became a bit jaded and tired. It fills me with joy to just watch him.  Oliver is a cute little clown.

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Lots of puppy cuteness

See many cute videos of Oliver and Truman on my YouTube channel including this video of him digging in my garden and watching airplanes.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMr8PREto1A 

Oh, there are some challenges to puppy raising.  Especially since I cannot bend or lift over 10 pounds due to my back injuries from my cancer.  Also, I am on blood-thinners as apart of my cancer chemo maintenance program and the puppy nipping phase has left me with enough bruises on my arms and legs to give my oncologist a stroke.

Then, too, I am tired from being awakened with the dawn, literally at 5:30 a.m., by either whining or a sharp bark announcing that my attention is desperately and immediately required. The rest of my day is filled with non-stop action and chaos created by a puppy making bad decisions. Broken only by short periods of time when the puppy needs a nap.

Then, too, I have acquired a few new skills such as disposing of lots of shredded paper and cleaning up puppy poo. Since, I cannot reach the floor, I have mastered using a long handled grabber tool. Also, I have learned how prevent puppy biting and barking by administering a bit of bitter lemon juice onto the offender’s tongue—yes, this really works!   And, I have also perfected cleaning up dirt left by the puppy by using a spray bottle, a large towel and my foot.

There also have been changes to my usually eloquent language usage. For a woman with excellent verbal and written communications skills, who had a very successful career in the field of communications writing press releases, talking points, editorials, columns and constituent responses for many politicians, I now find myself communicating using one- word verbs such as: off, down, sit, stay, come and when nothing else works–“treats”.  In addition to issuing single syllable orders, there are the essential commands of no bite, no bark and play nice!

Now that I think about it there is not much difference between working for politicians and training a puppy….just saying.

 

 

Election 2016: Scaredy Cat Politics

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2013 National Award I received from the National Association Secretaries of State for my voter outreach work as Assistant Communications Director at the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State.

After working at the Minnesota State Capitol for over a decade, for leadership in both the Republican and Democratic parties, my Facebook friends are from all sectors of the political spectrum from hard right to far left.  I have always enjoyed reading their wide variety of political views and concerns.

The chorus of fear for the future expressed on social media about the current candidates for president, whether it be Trump, Clinton or Sanders is alarming. It has become apparent that many people do not like the candidate choices and claim they will be voting for the lesser of two evils or not voting at all.

I would like to address several concerns. Yes, historically, there have been nastier presidential campaigns than this one….Lincoln’s comes to mind. Yes, there have been serial philanders in the White House before…Kennedy, FDR and LBJ would be examples.
Can our country survive with a weak president?  Yes, at the end of World War I  Woodrow Wilson had a debilitating stroke and our nation survived war and all.  No, our civilization is not going to collapse this election cycle…we are more united and stronger than that as a nation.  Will Trump, Clinton or Sanders be able to change our whole way of life single handily?  Nope, our president is an elected official and not a dictator. Congress and the courts have reined in many a power hungry president in the past. The checks and balances in the Constitution actually do work.   Our nation is not that fragile!

However the comments that concerned me the most were by political pundits who are always outspoken about their beliefs while devaluing other people’s opinions.  The real my way or the highway type.  Do not kid yourself their are plenty of these folks in both parties.  The “I didn’t get the candidate of my choice so now I am not voting at all” or “I will write in a cartoon character’s name as my vote”, are not in any way, shape or form doing their civic duty.

I have very strong feelings about people who do not do their civic duty and cast a ballot in a free society. I would like to remind those who choose not to vote of the service and sacrifice of our veterans and civil rights leaders who bought and paid for that right to vote with blood and death. 

Not voting is NEVER all right.

Very few choices in life are easy.  Why should choosing a candidate for the highest office in the land be a simple choice? Or for any elected office for that matter.  It should take some time and effort to learn about the candidates that you want to represent you before casting a vote. Casting a vote is the very minimum of involvement in government that every citizen owes their country.

So, where did Trump and Sanders come from?  Well, they did not come from the stupid, uneducated, drunk or crazy, but from angry voters who have felt unrepresented for far too long. The public wants new faces, leadership and ideas.

Both political parties have become issue paralyzed. Their sole mission is to retain and expand their political power. All other issues pale in comparison. Compromise has become a dirty word and pragmatism has become extinct.  Members of congress spend more time fundraising for reelection than in their districts working for constituents.

Whether it is a social, economic, healthcare, environment or a national security issue the public is sick to death of seeing the same elected officials being interviewed as they parrot tired old overly simplistic talking points over and over again, year after year, election after election. The beating of the political dead horses of old ideas, criticism without solutions, social agenda pushing, staged political theater, childish name calling and less than clever quips is then continued ad nausea m by mass media outlets that have a financial and philosophical stake in the game.

Voters no longer taken in by this foolishness.  Today’s electorate is technologically savvy and use many online resources for information and fact checking. They don’t need “educating” from main stream media and certainly not from elected officials.

Personally, I do not think there is anything to fear from the 2016 presidential election.  It has been an exciting election process so far that has energized millions of disenfranchised first time voters to turnout and attend a caucus or cast a ballot. As long a protests remain peaceful, they are a sign of a very healthy and vigorous democratic process. Historically, our nation has been in much worse straits and our voters have picked the right person to get us through hard and challenging times.  As Lincoln used to say, we must have confidence in the people.

In closing I would like to address the seeming inability to have a polite political discussion in the public square–I blame this on texting. I believe that due to communicating through impersonal technology, we have lost our ability to be conversationalists.  Being able to disagree and remain agreeable is a skill that would go a long way to strengthen personal relationships, increase meaningful dialog and heal our nation.  It is a skill that would be well worth our time to relearn….just saying.

 

Election 2016: A Dog Pack Mentality

13006505_1174319625932830_3417517385550586007_n Oliver and his big feet.

Meet Oliver my ten week old long-haired German Shepherd puppy.  He already weighs 25 pounds, is busy, chews on everything and everyone, is brave, somewhat fearless and really loves to sleep in his water dish.  He has the biggest feet I have ever seen on a puppy at his age.  They are bigger than the palm of my hand.

It is beginning to seem that his personality is a lot like my dog Walter who passed away in December. Walter as many of you know was a heathen…always doing something he should not. I adored my Walter. It was always OK that Walter was a heathen and Truman, our white German Shepherd, was such a calm and good boy. Individual differences is what makes life in this house interesting. (If you would like to know more about Walter, his obituary is on this blog.)

While it is always exciting to get something new–especially a puppy. The is no less love for the old.  Truman our nine-year-old German Shepherd was quite put out when Oliver entered our lives.  At first he would not be on the same floor of the house as the puppy.
would growl each time the puppy got too close to him when they were inside or outside or when Oliver touched a toy that Truman claimed as his own.

After only two weeks of having to “deal” with the puppy, Truman has decided that they will be buddies provided that Oliver understands that in our pack pecking order he is on the bottom. It is really cute to watch the puppy follow Truman around the backyard like a shadow.  If Truman gets too far ahead of Oliver he stops and waits for him to catch up.  Yesterday, Truman actually woke the puppy up from a nap, to go outside to play.  It is nice to have our pack hierarchy amicably worked out.

Now the boy’s relationship is not all sunshine and rainbows.  There are still many times a day that Oliver acts out in a way that Truman feels is not in the best interest of the pack. There is still a growl from the old guy and repentance from the pup.  Oliver’s behavior changes as learns what behaviors are acceptable and which are not…the beginning of wisdom.

Sometimes I think I love dogs more that people.  They are loyal, loving, empathetic and respect the other member’s of the packs boundaries.  Each dog in the pack has its place, and is governed by a strong leader who guards their territory, protects the weaker members of the pack from the abuses of the world and the more dominant members of the pack.

It has occurred to me that throughout history the laws and governments of man were really not much different from those of a dog pack.  The strong ruled the weak to bring stability to human community and interaction. Where people differ from dogs is that the strong then preyed on the weak to consolidate their own power and wealth.

Throughout history whenever the human pack runs amok, people, just like dogs, look for a strong new leader.  Not necessarily a smart or moral leader, but someone who will bring calm to societal chaos real or perceived through whatever means necessary. Some of the world’s worst dictators have risen during just such times of human crisis or opportunity depending on your perspective.

This current election cycle seems like one of those times in history where the candidates are less motivated by commonsense and the common good, than they are by their thirst for power, support for special interests and use of divisive politics.  Nobody it seems is trying to keep the “pack” together and so we are becoming a nation who no longer works together for the common good, but whether politically aligned with the right or left glories in pointing out each and every difference, refusing to even consider the other side’s position on an issue and then ending a discussion before it even begins by calling anyone and everyone who disagrees haters, bigots, and racists.

This policy of shaming and name calling has reached extremes that would have been unimaginable even two years ago.  In a nation that values free speech almost daily there is a story in the media about someone who has lost their job, not for something they did on the job, but for comments they made away from the workplace. Do we really want a nation of speech police? That cannot possibly be constitutional.

Extreme situations such as these are what is going to drive the average person to look for radical leadership.  They are going to look for and vote for a dominant leader to rule, not govern, “the pack.”  Only unlike dogs, dominant human leaders rarely look out for the weaker members of the pack…just saying.

13055668_1174318462599613_2179566140290414069_oTruman the king.