wisconsin senator

Burgess vs. Joe McCarthy: The Entire Story

This has been requested a few times since starting this blog, and now thanks to @namesisfortombstones​ the requests are really coming in. I could give you a short, impersonal answer that you can easily find on Google. But I want you guys to understand how big of a deal this was, and because I want to share how Burgess felt I’m going to make this as insightful as possible. I know it looks long and daunting, but please take time to read it - I promise you won’t be disappointed.

 First of all, let’s start with who Joe McCarthy was - for those who may not know. So during the late 1940s and early 1950s, the prospect of communist subversion at home and abroad seemed frighteningly real to many people in the United States. These fears came to define–and, in some cases, corrode–the era’s political culture. For many Americans, the most enduring symbol of this “Red Scare” was Republican Senator Joseph P. McCarthy of Wisconsin. Senator McCarthy spent almost five years trying in vain to expose communists and other left-wing “loyalty risks” in the U.S. government. In the hyper-suspicious atmosphere of the Cold War, insinuations of disloyalty were enough to convince many Americans that their government was packed with traitors and spies. McCarthy’s accusations were so intimidating that few people dared to speak out against him. It was not until he attacked the Army in 1954 that his actions earned him the censure of the U.S. Senate - but we’ll get to that later. 


 On June 22, 1950, the right-wing publication Counterattack printed a pamphlet that would change the entertainment industry, if not American society itself. Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television listed 151 professionals in the entertainment industry, branding them Communists. Because of his liberal views, Burgess was one of the 151 names listed - and being called a communist frightened him to death. The result of being blacklisted was devastating to him and his career. He lost a sizable amount of film work - just take a look at the huge gap in his filmography in the 1950s. The accusations split Hollywood, leading studios to blacklist supposedly leftist actors and creators, while others, like Barbara Stanwyck, would join pro-blacklist groups such as the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. 


 In the spring of 1954, McCarthy picked a fight with the U.S. Army, charging lax security at a top-secret army facility. The army responded that the senator had used improper influence and sought preferential treatment for a recently drafted former staff member. Amidst this controversy, McCarthy temporarily stepped down as chairman for the duration of the three-month nationally televised spectacle known to history as the Army-McCarthy hearings. The army hired Boston lawyer Joseph Welch to make its case. At a session on June 9, 1954, McCarthy charged that one of Welch’s attorneys had ties to a Communist organization. As an amazed television audience looked on, Welch responded with the immortal lines that ultimately ended McCarthy’s career: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” When McCarthy tried to continue his attack, Welch angrily interrupted, “Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?” Overnight, McCarthy’s immense national popularity evaporated. Censured by his Senate colleagues, ostracized by his party, and ignored by the press, McCarthy died three years later, 48 years old and a broken man. In the end, not a single spy or communist was revealed - yet the aftermath was devastating with many innocent people’s lives destroyed. 


Tail Gunner Joe (1977) was a three hour NBC televised movie that dramatized the life of McCarthy. The title of the film is actually a snide term for the Senator that originated from his false claim to have been a tail gunner on American bombers during WWII. The film covered his beginnings in Wisconsin to his demise shortly after the Army-McCarthy hearings. And guess who was chosen to portray Joseph Welch, the lawyer who essentially ended McCarthy’s career with nothing but a few short sentences? That’s right, Burgess. Burgess absolutely reveled in the opportunity to play this character, and always said he could not remember a happier time in his entire acting career. He regarded this role as the best he ever had in television - and boy, did it pay off! It earned him his first and only Emmy award. For the American public, Burgess winning the Emmy was HUGE. It represented a sort of win over right-wing extremism and paranoia that needlessly destroyed the lives of many innocent Americans. All in all, Burgess was pleased that the film “went well” and simply called it “splendid revenge”. Burgess was the most self-effacing person and loathed the idea of praising oneself…but I think deep down, he was pretty proud of himself!;) 

Below is the iconic scene from TAIL GUNNER JOE that portrays the very moment in the courtroom in which the career of Joe McCarthy (played by Peter Boyle) was destroyed by lawyer Joseph Welch (Burgess). It was also this exact scene that earned Burgess his long over-due Emmy. 


 To end this very long post, I will leave you with the last bit of dialogue in this film:

“’McCarthy’ - actually a redefinition of the word ‘mediocre’ because he was, finally, a man with no goals, no guilt, no shame and no achievement. Most of the media and most of the public just stood around and watched. He more or less created a national climate of fear but he himself caught no communists, found no traitors, uncovered no subversives. NOT. ONE. He wasn’t Hitler, he wasn’t Napoleon but fortunately people like that aren’t born everyday. But people like McCarthy are born every 30 seconds….and that is the horror.”

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.

This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities… We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it — and rather successfully. Cassius was right. ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.’

Good night, and good luck.


Edward R. Murrow, March 9, 1954

Again, we’re governed by the echoes of Joe McCarthy. Having learned nothing from history, we continue to repeat it. And they have much more power than before.

What we have left is resistance.

In a thousand different ways— a lot of it has to do with media— we are taught to think small. We are taught not to believe that we can change the status quo. We are taught to believe that what exists today has to exist tomorrow and 10 years from now.

But that does not have to be. If we have learned any lesson from history, that lesson is that real change never comes from the top on down— it comes from the bottom on up.

—  Bernie Sanders
Green Bay, WI rally 4/4/16
Earth Day 2015

Earth Day 2015

By Philip Ross

April 22 is Earth Day, the annual event meant to raise awareness about Mother Nature’s health and the efforts being made to protect it. Environmental groups in countries all over the world are gearing up to take their message of good stewardship to millions of people. Below are 23 quotes and sayings to share on Earth Day 2015 to help spread the word. Some are inspiring, others are just for laughs and some come from a place of wisdom.

Earth Day events commemorate what is considered the birth of the modern environmental movement. The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970 on college campuses across the U.S. and was the invention of Gaylord Nelson, a former Democratic U.S. senator from Wisconsin whose idea for Earth Day was born out of watching the momentum of the student-led anti-war protests of the 1960s and his frustration with D.C. gridlock over enacting environmental protections. “It was a gamble,” Nelson said of the movement. “But it worked.“

It was Earth Day that largely led to the U.S. passing legislation such as the Clean Water Acts and to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Here are 23 sayings that pay homage to Mother Nature:

1. “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein
2. “Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them.” – Bill Vaughan
3. “As crude a weapon as the cave man’s club, the chemical barrage has been hurled against the fabric of life.” – Rachel Carson
4. “We have met the enemy and he is us.” – Walt Kelly
5. “Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.” – Cree Indian proverb
6. “Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” — Theodore Roosevelt
7. “I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.” – Frank Lloyd Wright
8. “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
9. “Environmentalists have long been fond of saying that the sun is the only safe nuclear reactor, situated, as it is some ninety-three million miles away.” – Stephanie Mills
10. “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir
11. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtfully committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
12. “The earth is what we all have in common.” – Wendell Berry
13. “Keep close to Nature’s heart … and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” – John Muir
14. "That’s the thing about Mother Nature, she really doesn’t care what economic bracket you’re in.” – Whoopi Goldberg
15. “For 200 years we’ve been conquering nature. Now we’re beating it to death.” – Tom McMillan
16. “Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees.” – Karle Wilson Baker
17. “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.” – Mahatma Gandhi
18. “A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.” – John James Audubon
19. “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu
20. "An understanding of the natural world and what’s in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfillment.” – David Attenborough
21. “Sooner or later, we will have to recognize that the Earth has rights, too, to live without pollution. What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans.” – Evo Morales
22. “I believe alien life is quite common in the universe, although intelligent life is less so. Some say it has yet to appear on planet Earth.” – Stephen Hawking
23. “Why should I care about future generations? What have they ever done for me?” – Groucho Marx

How Many Medical Experts Does It Take to Write a 20-Week Abortion Ban Bill in Wisconsin? Apparently None.

Earlier this month, Wisconsin State Senator Mary Lazich debated a 20-week abortion ban with lawmakers on the state Joint Health Committee. Governor Scott Walker is now set to sign the dangerous ban — which does not have exceptions for rape or incest — into law. You won’t believe the debate that went into passing this extreme abortion ban.

During the hearing on June 2, state Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa asked Sen. Lazich some reasonable questions about the bill. Sen. Lazich’s responses were, at best, condescending and inaccurate.

That’s Rep. Zamarripa asking whether the authors of the bill had any medical training, since the bill is directly related to women’s health and would interfere in women’s medical decisions. Makes sense, right? Not to Sen. Lazich…

Sen. Lazich snapped back at Rep. Zamarripa, clearly not understanding that interfering in women’s and families’  medical decisions should require a little consultation from medical professionals.

Rep. Zamarripa rephrases the question to make sure that someone involved in writing this bill had some kind of medical training, since that might be important in medical decision-making.

Sen. Lazich is obviously confused by this concept. As a professional #gynotician, she apparently doesn’t need any medical training or advice when drafting a bill that, as Rep. Zamarripa points out to her, could harm the lives of many women. Judging by the audience’s reaction (“gasp!”), we’d say very few people agreed with her.

Let’s get one thing straight: Abortions at 20 weeks are exceedingly rare. In fact, nearly 99 percent of abortions occur before 21 weeks. When they are needed later in pregnancy, it’s often in very complex circumstances, including severe fetal anomalies.

Bottom line: A 20-week abortion ban would have a direct impact on the exact kind of situations where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available. That’s what makes Sen. Lazich’s comments so infuriating.

Check out the exchange here. (h/t Raw Story)