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Local Mortuary Should Cover Cost For Anisa Scott’s Funeral

August 14, 2020

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There was yet another reason to get more than misty-eyed when it was announced today that CEO of Concero Amy Arenz has donated $10,000 to cover the funeral expenses for Anisa Scott.  The Boys and Girls Club of Dane County announced on its Facebook page that the donation was made “so Anisa will have the home going celebration she deserves.”

What a wonderfully humane and touching act of generosity from Arenz. God bless her. There are good people in the world and we need to be reminded of that, especially in these trying times.

What Madison, Sun Prairie, and Dane County have experienced with the shooting and killing of an 11-year-old has made for lots of emotion and questioning about how to stop such violence.  This death has left families shaken and communities in pain.  What happened is profoundly sad–well beyound what we usually read and hear about–and as such, it would be most appropriate for the mortuary in charge of arrangements for this child to forgo the costs. That is just what a decent business does.

I do not throw out the idea of offering free services or products on a whim.  I can speak from both sides of kindness in this regard.

My lawyer, during the time of settling my father’s estate, never gave me a bill.  An executor was forced to be removed and the whole court case was handed off to another county, and still, my lawyer did the work pro bono.  I understand that in certain professions pro bono work is part of the way they operate.  Still, I can state clearly that it was much appreciated in my case.

When such kindness is given it becomes incumbent that we, as receivers, pay it forward.  That is how James and I conduct our lives.  As such my husband has provided thousands of dollars of pro bono service to others from his business as a guardian.  He also takes some cases from the county at a reduced rate from his usual fee.

I am not asking any mortuary to not make money or have a profitable year.  I am simply requesting that given the gravity of the situation with a child being killed, and a larger community really hurting, that a mortuary step up and do the right thing.

That right thing will give them more positive news than anything else they do all year.

And so it goes.

Advice With An Ozone, Arkansas Perspective

August 13, 2020

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There is a small town in the northwestern portion of Arkansas called Ozone.  Most people have never heard of this place, but it is where my mom was born.  I’ve been thinking about that small town this week and recalling what mom would often comment about when recounting her youth.

I think it was in the 1990s when young people wished to purchase blue jeans that were weathered, stressed, and even ripped.  My mother could never quite understand what the attraction was to pay money for clothes she remembers many needing to wear during the hard years when growing up.  She knew how it felt to wear an article of clothing with a rip, and also how in later years it felt when the opportunity presented itself to have clothes that were fresh and new off of the store shelves.

I also recall a lesson she imparted to her children that today seems no longer to be in vogue.  Simply put, when one does not know what they are talking about they should just stay silent.  Listen to others when not aware of an issue and in so doing not alert others to your deficit of knowledge about the topic at hand.  A person can later learn about the matter and if the topic comes up again be ready to talk.

In today’s climate, we see ample evidence that people will just start to talk and babble about so much they have not a clue about.  Be it on talk radio or through comments on social media. There seems to be no chagrin about being woefully uninformed these days. Rather, among a certain demographic, there seems to be an emboldened sense of letting others know one has a mouth to use and a hand that can text but also making it abundantly clear there is nothing worthwhile to communicate.

As of late, I am most dismayed by the level of dialogue from some concerning wearing a mask so to fight the pandemic.  I have heard the most insane comments ranging from ‘masks cause sickness’ to conspiracy theories about why masks are being pressed into usage by the government.  Many are demanding “FREE-DUMB”.  Facts and medical knowledge can not dislodge their ignorance or temper their tongues.

I am confident that mom would advise those people it’s best just to stay quiet.  They are are just embarrassing themselves.

Today we are slipping down a most horrible hill of ignorance and willful nonsense as lies are spread against the need to wear masks so to stem the spread of COVID-19.  Mom grew up when many of the medical breakthroughs we now take for granted were not yet discovered.  She would add that too many people just have no idea what she experienced growing up in her day.  At the rate we are moving they just might.

Not a bad slice of advice to come from one who grew up in Ozone, a place most people have never heard of.

And so it goes.

Mail-In Voting Is What Voters Desire And Need

August 13, 2020

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This August, as Wisconsin conducted primary elections for the fall balloting, many voters did the same as this blogger and household.   We requested an absentee ballot and cast our vote via the mail.  I know many have already requested through their local clerk a presidential ballot, too, once they are available.

I looked at the latest Pew Research Survey released today which shows that 49% of voters think it will be difficult to vote this fall given the pandemic.

Voters who support Donald Trump are far more likely than those who support Joe Biden to say it will be easy to vote this year. However, the shares of both Trump and Biden supporters who expect it will be easy to vote are much lower than the shares of voters who said this in 2018 – regardless of which party’s candidate they supported.

There also are stark differences between Trump and Biden supporters about how they prefer to vote. Most registered voters who support Trump or lean toward supporting him would rather vote in person in the presidential election (80%), either on Election Day (60%) or earlier (20%); only 17% prefer to vote by mail. By contrast, a majority of voters who support or lean toward supporting Biden say their preference is to vote by mail in the presidential election (58%).

I can plainly state my regret over losing the decades-long tradition of going to the polls and casting my vote in-person.  There is a nostalgic Americanism that comes with that ritual.  But there is also data, facts, and medical reasoning why such actions can not be done safely now as COVID-19 marches about, and so mail voting is the most effective and practical way to fulfill our responsibilities as citizens.

The men and women who do work the polls on Election Day would surely like to have voters do their duty,  but in ways to make their lives safer, too.  Therefore the way for voters to act is to look up your local election rules, request an absentee ballot by mail as soon as possible, and then send it back as soon as possible.

The rush factor is due to Donald Trump and his Republican allies who will do whatever it takes to mess with the election and steal it if possible.  We know the backstory to this current undermining of our republic all too well.

First, we have the Postal Service making it known they need more resources so to ensure that ballots are mailed to voters and then sent to the local election officials in a timely fashion.  That legitimate issue is one that we can deal with.  Right?

Well, not so fast, dear readers.

Secondly, we now have a staunch Trump supporter who has taken over the reins at the Postal Service and is doing everything possible to undermine an efficient process for the election.  He has undertaken cost-cutting measures now, at the most ridiculous of times.  Not only with an election approaching but also during a pandemic when it is vital that meds are able to be delivered.  Add in the up-side-down timing of the cuts when online shopping creates some economic bounce that must not be impeded.

It is clear what is afoot.

The partisan stench can be detected nationwide.  To add the icing to this GOP created mess Trump is making it clear he will block any funds Congress wants to give the Postal Service to help it manage the election.  Even though his own treasury secretary and White House chief Of staff were negotiating with congress for those very same funds!

Trump has lied and maligned voting by mail for months and continuously attempts to discredit a method of voting that has not created corrupted outcomes.  If Trump actually wanted to fix a system that he thinks is broken–though the facts do not support his words–would it not then follow he should work to provide the funds through the congressional process?

The reason Trump is creating lies and working to undermine the faith of the citizenry about our institutions is that he knows the words from Alexander Hamilton are very accurate.

“This process of election affords a moral certainty that the office of President will seldom fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

This nation fell once to Trump, and it will not happen a second time if we do our civic duty.  And that is why Trump is outraged over voting by mail.

Anisa Scott To Be Removed From Life Support: More Than A Family Should Need To Face

August 12, 2020

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There could not have been a dry eye anywhere in Madison during the late-night news Wednesday.  I have watched many a tragic story unfold over the airwaves in my lifetime, but learning that 11-year-old Anisa Scott will be taken off life support following a driveby shooting just rips my heart.  The anguish and heartache the family shared tonight with an entire city have brought us all together.   But now what happens from our shared experience of grief over a glaring example of having too many guns on our streets?

The shooting of Anisa happened in the area of East Washington and Lexington Avenues at around 11:45 A.M. Tuesday.  Police said shots were fired from one vehicle to another, and believe the girl was riding in the car of the intended target.

What happened with the shooting itself is despicable enough, and the hell the family needed to go through to even learn of such a tragedy is one thing.  To then need to make the decision of removing life support from a child is something that I can not even begin to fathom how anyone processes.  The absolute hell that these loved ones are going through along with their strength to speak to us in front of Children’s Hosptial has moved a city to tears.

But we also must be moved to action.

What this family is going through should make us mad as hell about what is happening on our streets—and now to a bright smiling young girl.  There is a killer somewhere loose on the streets tonight who thought it was within his right to aim a deadly weapon at a driver of another car and pull the trigger.  How anyone becomes so removed from morals and any sense of even the most basic connections of humanity is more than I can ponder.  How others can not report the killer to the police is unconscionable.

This sweet kid will be removed from life support at 11:11 A.M. Thursday because she was shot on the 11th, and is 11 years old, her grandmother told reporters.  I know most of us watching the news wanted to somehow reach into our television screen and hug her and somehow make it all not true.

But gun violence is deadly and all too real.  It does not happen ‘over there’ or ‘to other people’.  It happens all the time and all too close to our communities.   We must get serious about it, or there will be more grandmothers who will need to share with us what hell feels like.

To the loved ones of Anisa there are no words of comfort.  And thoughts and prayers are a piss-poor response.  If we really care for this family we will demand in voices loud enough so no can miss hearing them that we MUST have gun control measures enacted so bright smiling kids are not killed.  Some angry old man ranting about his interpretation of the Second Amendment IS NOT more important than the hope that was extinguished when Anisa was shot in the head from a gun.   

Enough is simply enough.  

V.P. Choice Kamala Harris Makes Frontpages Nationwide

August 12, 2020

History was made Tuesday and will be made again on Election Day this fall, and yet again, in January on Inauguration Day.  Joe Biden selected Kamala Harris as his vice-presidential running mate.  I applaud the move, and today want to do what is often the case on this blog the day after news of this type is made—-by offering my readers a sampling of the front pages from newspapers across the nation.

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Photos: Dane County Airport Improvements From The Air

August 12, 2020

James passed along this news today and I simply love the view from above so to be able to see taxiways M and J at the Dane County Regional Airport.  Photos allow for zooming in detail!

The completion of their three-year-long taxiway construction project is worthy of a look. This project began in 2017 and consisted of adding Taxiway M, a parallel taxiway along the northeast side of Runway 14-32. This project is to help reduce runway crossing and taxiing operations, which results in safer airfield operations.

Up, up, and away!

Jay, Maine: What About Their Future?

August 12, 2020

My better-half comes from Maine and so stories like this one grabs for our attention.

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Smoke rises from an explosion at the Androscoggin Mill in Jay on April 15.REBECCA BURHOE

Jay, Maine an hour north of Portland, has a Dollar Tree, a Hannaford, a half-dozen churches, a gun shop, and a convenience store, Franchetti’s Home Town Variety, reputed to have the best pizza on the planet.

With a population of just under 5,000, the town sits at the heart of the nation’s most forested state. Since the late 19th century, it has focused its economic energies on making logs into paper. In the early 1960s, Jay loomed so large in the industry that the International Paper Co. chose it to build what was then the world’s most sophisticated mill for wood pulp, there on the banks of the Androscoggin River. “It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen,” remembers Dennis Couture, who, at age 6, went to the grand opening holding hands with his mother (his father was a millworker). “And soon the mill was making the paper for those 1,200-page Sears, Roebuck catalogs. I thought, They’re making enough paper to feed the world.”

Many of Jay’s residents, predominantly French-Canadian Catholics, were already working at International Paper’s Otis Mill, which had been operating downtown for decades. Now workers began pouring into the new Androscoggin Mill, to feed the pulp digester at its center and shape the output into paper. Maine loggers from up to 300 miles to the north descended upon the mill with truckloads of pulpwood — the gnarled, skinny tips of trees, the twisting branches that could not be hewn into lumber — and drove away richer. And woodlot owners managed their lands with the confidence that they could turn their runt trees into Jay pulp, thereby giving their straighter, thicker trees sufficient space and sunlight to grow into lucrative lumber.

There are eight paper mills in Maine, and right up until this spring, the one in Jay, built more than a half-century ago for about $54 million, processed more low-grade wood — pine, hemlock, spruce, fir, tamarack — than any other. Then on April 15, just after noon, the digester exploded, bursting like a volcano and sending a brown geyser of wood chips several hundred feet into the air. A second, newer digester was bent and ruined by the fall of the first one. A widely-circulated video captured the logging trucks halted nearby as their windshields got pelted with dark slurry.

In Jay, those explosions spell money. In 2009, the mill accounted for 70 percent of Jay’s tax revenue. Last year it covered 46 percent. And now there’s a fear that the number may soon plummet to zero. Pixelle has made no promises that it will spend hundreds of millions to buy a new digester for the Androscoggin Mill. It’s kept its mill in Jay open, but it has also laid off 59 of the plant’s 500 employees and telegraphed that more job cuts may come. To feed the two working paper machines at the Jay mill, it’s buying pulp from another nearby mill — an expensive and likely unsustainable scheme. Maine’s paper and wood industry, which accounts for 15 percent of the state’s economy, is now up against the ropes, after many years of being repeatedly punched. And in town, the question on everyone’s mind is: How will Jay survive this?

Kamala Harris Mirrors America, Election 2020 Will Make For Social Progress

August 11, 2020

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We knew this day would come.  The announcement of the Democratic Party running mate to Joe Biden.  And when it arrived it sent a bolt of electrical energy around the nation.  Senator Kamala Harris is about to make history, and her powerful narrative is exactly what the Democratic Party has long been known for as it pushes social change.

Harris will be the first Black woman and the first person of Indian descent to be nominated for national office by a major party.  As the past months have clearly demonstrated there is a deep desire to push past the old ways of doing things, and confront what needs to change in the nation.  Rather than just talk about it, Biden has started to act.

I had hoped Susan Rice would be the nominee as her deep experience with international relations gravitated with me.  Alliances and arrangements with our global partners are not sexy topics to be sure, but they are vital ones.  However, I can see Rice as Secretary of State and that would also confirm the commitment Biden has about rebuilding from the damaging last four years.

I am pleased with the selection of Harris as it is smart politics. A Biden-Harris ticket gives the Democratic Party leverage with more moderate voters.  This nation yearns for normalcy, reasoned, and logical leadership.  When they see Harris they will grasp the credible qualities she brings her with, and at the same time see the change and bending of the curve this nation has long been working toward.

Competence and pragmatism are what the Biden-Harris ticket will provide for the nation.  And Republicans should not kid themselves into thinking that moderate and concerned members of their party were not waiting for yet another reason to vote against Trump.  Centrist Harris will be enticing them at every turn.

Democrats have long provided the vehicle for tolerance and acceptance with the pushing of the envelope so that our national leadership mirrors the way our citizenry looks at banks, malls, soccer leagues, and churches.  Just this past week I was looking at some books from when I was starting to learn to read.  The school books of Jane and Dick and Sally are all caucasian kids. Not a child of color was to be seen.  And we know that type of thinking and absurdity needs to end.

We need to see the full array of our nation reflected on every front page of our newspapers and on our nightly news.  Our top elected leaders should embrace the future and look like the nation they wish to lead.

Today Joe Biden took his first major step with the elevation of Kamala Harris as the vice-presidential nominee. In January she will make another record-setting moment when sworn into office.

This is how change comes about.  I am very pleased to be an American tonight.  I have not had this feeling for a very long time.

And so it goes.

Remembering Mom And Dad At Hancock Cemetery–Royce And Geneva Humphrey

August 11, 2020

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James and I decided to head northwards today, on the 13th anniversary of the death of my mom.  We had not ventured up to Hancock earlier this year given the pandemic and not wishing to interact with anyone.  So we set out on what was a cloudless day, perfect summer temperatures, and very low humidity and did not run into one other person the entire day.

When we arrived at the cemetery James took from a packed arrangement of items some freshly homemade brownies.  Doing so he spoke of how my dad always thought it wise to be the first taste-tester of any baked good mom pulled from the oven. “You would not want to serve it to others if it was no good” was the running line for decades back home.  And there always seemed to be irrefutable logic to dad’s words.

So with that James said we were going to have some brownies with the folks.  Yes, it was that type of day.  James remains ever-thoughtful and that is why he is a wonderful part of my family.  My folks loved him.

I placed some flowers for mom at the headstone and we added a brownie, too, on the stone in fond memories.  I know this would have made for smiles.  And with dad’s fondness for small animals and making sure they were fed in the wild I know some little creature tonight will find the morsel.

And so it goes.

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Madison Needs Tougher Parents So To Deal With Gun-Toting Kids And Related Issues

August 11, 2020

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This past week I read a letter to the editor of the Cap Times which I very much agree with.  Being a long-time anti-gun advocate the letter from Stephen Lee absolutely resonated.

Dear Editor: Instead of defunding the police, how about the City of Madison start de-arming the youth of Madison?

The number of car to car shootings in Madison and surrounding areas is out of hand.

If the parents of these kids would start parenting and put a stop to this, Madison would be much safer.

There has got to be a way for community leaders, police and civic groups to confront this plague of lawlessness in Madison.

The message to these rogue youth has got to be embedded into their senseless minds that they are endangering themselves when they are shooting at another vehicle that is also shooting back at them — that they may end up being the person who gets killed. These shootings also endanger innocent bystanders.

These shootings have got to stop. Now!

Madison used to be a safe city and everyone needs to work on getting it back to being safe for everyone.

Leaders need to lead, parents need to parent and the police need to police.

Stephen Lee, Madison

I have been taken aback, like so many others, to read the newspapers and discover that more shootings have taken place in our city.  Those articles on top of other local news are most disconcerting to all.  We must–simply have to–find some solutions.

I am always interested in the backstory to events that I read so to better understand how a person gets to the point where they make headlines in the newspaper.  I cheer for the national spelling champs and love to read how they prepare for the challenge of spelling words that befuddle even the best of us adults.   I applaud the person who makes news for finishing college and getting a degree while overcoming health issues.

But I also pay attention when people make awful headlines and are then found to have dropped out of high school in their sophomore year.   Or how a gun was used in a crime by a teenager who housed the weapon in their parent’s home.

Granted I was born in 1962 in a rural county in Wisconsin.   Many can say ‘things were much different’ then, and they would be accurate.  But only up to a point.  There is no reason the same common-sense rules of the road for parenting that my mom and dad employed should not apply today.

I offer a few ideas that either was in place when I was a kid or clearly had no need to ever be addressed because we had a solid family foundation.  We simply must have parents who will take their responsibilities seriously.

So here are a few rules of the road that I knew as a child, and parents should practice in their homes today.

  1. Kids need to be read to from day one.  Books need to be in a home and used as an everyday item same as a plate or spoon.
  2. There is no excuse to miss school except for sickness.
  3. Schoolwork is front and center in the evening.
  4. One may not have lots of money but there can still be an investment made in education.  Attending parent/teacher meetings or volunteering at the local school are but two ways to impact a child’s education.
  5. From the start know who your kids interact with and the quality of people they spend time with when the parent is not around.  Alerting them from the start about the quality of friends can be most important.
  6. Every day there is a time when all in the family meet for dinner (supper) and no electronic gadgets are allowed at the table.  Talk centers on whatever took place in the lives gathered.  Fostering good communication skills for the whole family is the most undervalued asset in times of turmoil.
  7. Kids do not smoke in the house.
  8. No drugs are allowed in the house.
  9. No guns or other weapons are allowed in the house.
  10. There is an expectation from Day One that learning is important and respect for oneself and others is never to falter.
  11. No one even hints at dropping out of high school.

Times change but common-sense does not.  Young people who make awful choices need to take their share of responsibility for what happens.  But parents need to step up their game and help society create the next generation of adults we would want as our neighbors.

Madison can do better with parenting.  We simply must do better.

Wisconsin Farm Woes Due To Donald Trump, Suffering Farmers Waiting For Chance At Ballot Box

August 10, 2020

The New Yorker has a must-read for Wisconsinites interested in understanding parts of the state they may not live in, or politicos who desire a better understanding of the electorate as we ahead to Election Day.  Since the article is quite remarkable for writing and information, and since I suspect a paywall might limit readers, I post portions of the longer read.

In 2016, after voting for Barack Obama twice, (Jerry) Volenec voted for Trump. Volenec had grown disenchanted with Obama after his Administration banned whole milk from schools and did little to slow the loss of family farms. “I wasn’t following politics closely,” he said. “I never listened to Trump give a speech, just commentary over the radio. I had the general impression that what’s wrong with the agricultural economy was that too many politicians were involved, and that having a businessman in the White House would benefit me.”

As rural Wisconsin’s fortunes have declined, its political importance has grown. Trump won the state by less than twenty-three thousand votes. If the 2020 election is close, Trump could lose Michigan and Pennsylvania—the other Rust Belt states he flipped in 2016—and still win a second term by holding Wisconsin. Trump underperformed in the suburban counties of Milwaukee, the Republican Party’s stronghold, while overperforming in the state’s rural areas, where he won nearly two-thirds of the vote. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that the largest shift in voting between Obama’s seven-point victory in Wisconsin, in 2012, and Trump’s one-point win came in communities that cast fewer than a thousand votes. (Nationally, Trump won sixty-two per cent of the rural vote.)

Four years ago, Trump promised to reverse the economic decline of family farmers. “Hillary Clinton wants to shut down family farms just like she wants to shut down the mines and the steelworkers,” he said, during a campaign stop at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. “We are going to end this war on the American farmer.” In early 2018, he launched a series of trade wars, which provoked China, Mexico, Canada, and the European Union into imposing penalties on American dairy products. Mexico, the largest importer of Wisconsin cheese, levied a twenty-five-per-cent tariff on American cheeses. Last summer, Trump allotted fifteen billion dollars in compensation to farmers, but the vast majority of it has gone to the largest farms. In a tweet, he called farmers “great patriots” and promised that they would eventually be better off.

In June, as Trump’s poll numbers dropped nationwide, the Washington Post reported that his campaign advisers were losing hope for Michigan and Pennsylvania, and would focus on holding Wisconsin. “It’s baked into the cake that Trump will lose the state’s large metro areas in a landslide, while the suburbs have been fleeing him,” Ben Wikler, the head of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, told me. “Trump can’t win a second term unless he racks up enormous margins in rural Wisconsin.”

For Volenec, Trump’s appeal vanished almost immediately. “If I had known the things I know about him now, I wouldn’t have voted for him,” he said, when I visited him at his farm in February. As Trump’s trade wars escalated, Volenec’s problems worsened. In March, 2018, Canada effectively cut off all dairy imports from the United States, and milk from Michigan that had previously been exported began flooding into Wisconsin’s processing plants. The co-op where Volenec sent his milk for processing was now competing with cheap out-of-state milk, and put a cap on the amount that it would take from him. That week, Volenec heard about a meeting of the Wisconsin Farmers Union, a family-farm advocacy group, in nearby Dodgeville, to promote a version of supply management, a system used in Canada that sets a quota on the production of dairy, eggs, and poultry. Designed, like the New Deal policies, to prevent overproduction and to guarantee farmers a stable income, the system relies on higher prices for Canadian consumers. Trump’s trade war with Canada is aimed at dismantling supply management, which has long been deplored by Republican politicians. John Boehner, the former Speaker of the House, called it “Soviet-style” agriculture. For Volenec, it was a revelation. “This was my first glimpse into a world where the dairy farmer is not subservient to The Market,” he wrote in an essay called “Groomed for Apocalypse.”

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Dairy farmers have felt the effects of the coronavirus pandemic acutely. As schools and restaurants closed, they abruptly cancelled their contracts with milk bottlers and cheese factories. The price of milk dropped by more than thirty per cent, and some processors began asking their farmers to dump milk. By late April, as hungry people lined up at food banks, one farm had already dumped more than five million pounds of milk, according to “The Mid-West Farm Report.” Mitch Breunig, a dairy farmer in Sauk City, had to dump all of his morning milking for ten days. “We took a hundred-and-fifty-foot hose and ran it from the milking parlor right into the manure-storage unit in the barn,” he told me. Breunig wound up dumping eighty thousand pounds of milk, for which he received no money. “I would just look at it and think, Wow, everything we did was for nothing.”

State agencies issued protocols for dumping milk, which can pollute groundwater and decimate fish populations. Though Volenec has not had to dump any of his milk, he’s been worrying about the environmental costs of large-scale dairy farming, from water contamination to climate change. Manure runoff from industrial dairy farming has contributed to a dramatic increase in bacteria and nitrates in the state’s groundwater, according to a study funded in part by Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources. (A farm with twenty-five hundred cows produces as much waste as a city of four hundred thousand people.) The E.P.A. recently sampled the groundwater in a thirty-mile area of Juneau County that’s dense with dairy cows and found that sixty-five per cent of the sites had elevated levels of nitrates, which have been linked to birth defects, colon cancer, and “blue-baby syndrome,” a condition that reduces oxygen in an infant’s blood and can be fatal.

“You’re now looking at three or four generations of depletion,” Curt Meine, an environmental historian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told me. “Depletion of rural communities, rural landscapes, rural soils and water, depletion of the land and local economies. And you have the brain drain that followed it. This is why we have this deep urban-rural divide. We have concentrated and exported the wealth. Everyone sees it, but neither party has wrestled with it. One party exploited it, the other party has ignored it.”

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On my way to pay a final visit to Jerry Volenec’s farm, I drove through the Driftless Area. The prairie grasses jutting through the snow, the little country churches, and the birch trees dotting the hillsides all quietly dazzled. I passed through Viroqua, near the headquarters of the Organic Valley dairy coöperative, one of the few economic bright spots in rural Wisconsin. A few miles outside of town, I saw a factory farm with several thousand cows crammed into enormous confinement barns. The stench was overwhelming.

I turned onto Volenec’s road, passing St. John Nepomuc, the Catholic church that the Volenec family has been attending for three generations. Charles Volenec, Jerry’s father, had told me that the congregation was dwindling and that his grandson, who graduated from high school this year, was the church’s only altar boy. The road was lined with cornfields.

In his office, Jerry told me he had written a poem after Sonny Perdue’s talk in Madison. He called it a commentary on “Get big or get out”:

I was told to buy a shovel
So I bought a shovel
I was told to dig
So I dug
What is the hole for I asked
For your neighbor, he has passed
I was told to keep digging
So I put my shovel to the task
A hole for each neighbor
Until I was the last
Keep digging I was told
I looked around and asked
Who for?
For yourself I was told
You are needed no more.

Volenec told me that he’s grateful to Trump for his political awakening. “I may as well have been asleep before 2016,” he said. “Without Trump’s arrogance, the way he behaves, I probably wouldn’t be paying attention. Provided that he doesn’t drive this country into the ground before he’s replaced, I think he’s woken up a lot of people.”

Volenec has recently found a renewed determination to help save family farms. He has become more active with his co-op and with the Wisconsin Farmers Union. And he has begun connecting with like-minded farmers across the country. “I started out fighting for my own well-being, my own survival,” he said. “It’s evolving for me. I want to be on the right side of what’s coming next.”

His current mood reminded him of an unruly cow that once wandered off his farm. “I was on a four-wheeler and was trying to round her up,” he said. “I chased her round and round. Then she got tired of me chasing her and she stopped, turned, and she was going to fight. She was too tired to run, but she was going to use what she had left. She was challenging me—she was going to fight. I guess that’s where I’m at. I’m running my ass off, I’m tired, and I don’t have the energy to run anymore. But, by God, I’ve got enough in me to stand here and fight.”

Chicago’s Magnificent Mile Ripped Up By Rioters

August 10, 2020

Very late last night (or early this morning depending how you define time) I was listening to the radio reports of total goonish behavior underway as rioters rampaged in the heart of Chicago.  Hundreds of people swept through the Magnificent Mile and other parts of downtown Chicago smashing windows, looting stores, and confronting police.

This area of the city is one that has long drawn my attention and love. James and I often would take the bus to Ohio Street and its Best Western where we would spend a weekend doing nothing more than walking the entire area and eating.  From what was then Tribune Tower on to Navy Pier and way off to LaSalle Street we would walk and thoroughly enjoy one of this nation’s grand cities.

Having been a listener to Chicago radio since an early teenager has created deep regard for the city.  Being a history buff I have loved to find out more of the famed city.  I am sure not a single one of the rioters last night was aware that 101 years ago the nation’s first aviation disaster–a blimp that catches fire, buckles and crashes into a bank located next to the Board of Trade Building near La Salle Street—had occurred. That was not so far from where the current madness was underway.

I am most certain that the rioters were not privy to the colorful tales of then-Mayor ‘Big’ Bill Thompson, the stunning elections, racial tensions, bombings, union strife, and so much more that took place in the Windy City that July.  What lessons were gained from that time is of no concern to the ones loading up cars with stolen merchandise.

So the news today from the ‘Mag Mile’ is just awful to hear—-and then later when I saw the results of the depraved activity–it just makes me most angry.  And what started the insanity was the inability for some to grasp the actual facts about an earlier shooting.

Sunday afternoon in the Englewood neighborhood there was a 20-year-old man who shot at police while they were pursuing him.   The criminal was taken to the hospital and is expected to survive.  No word on why he thought he should be shooting at the police.  But some on social media purported the shooter was a young teenager.  Social media did not explain how a teenager shooting at police made the situation more swallowable.

What resulted in the rioting is simply maddening. The looting and vandalism are caught on a bevy of cameras showing people streaming in and out of high-end stores, and throwing merchandise into rental trucks and other large vehicles before driving away.  Yes, this is all about social justice!

Reports mounted as the hours continued with people seen breaking large business windows and darting through broken store windows and doors along Michigan Avenue carrying shopping bags full of merchandise. Cars dropped off more people, the videos show, as the crowd grew.

I would be calling out the Illinois National Guard today with orders to stop the chaos.  This must not be allowed to start again tonight in Chicago.

Here is Walgreens on the iconic street.

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And Marcus.

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And Lamborghini store.

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And Telsa.

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And on and on.

Jessie Jackson is correct to blast those who took the criminal actions last night in Chicago.  “This act of pillaging, robbing & looting in Chicago was humiliating, embarrassing &morally wrong. It must not be associated with our quest for social justice and equality.”

There is a difference between those who truly seek remedies through the political process, and that can and does include peaceful marches, from those who trash businesses that make profits and generate tax dollars so to help fund government programs.  Therefore, it is incumbent upon respectable folks who desire to see justice to now call out the ones who created the shameful spectacle on the Magnificent Mile.

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