The Latest Issue Over The Word ‘Scrotum’

A friend and his wife who were our neighbors in Madison moved to Europe recently to work, and to experience a different cultural outlook.  His wife grew up in Slovakia and that is where he now teaches political science.  He is now blogging with a European perspective and tackles the latest ‘issue’ over the word “scrotum” and as such deserves a read.

Does This U.S. Marine Deserve ‘Special Rights’?

President Bush visited the wounded United States Marine in Washington.  Laura was at his side.  There they saw the ravages of war as this soldier had lost a leg. In time Defense Secretary Rumsfeld would travel to Bethesda Naval Hospital to honor this man, the first U.S. Marine to be wounded in the Iraq War.  The man was Staff Sgt. Eric Alva.

ABC News told his story.  “He was a decorated staff sergeant who had served in Somalia and Japan. As troops began to push into Iraq, on March 21, 2003, Alva was leading 11 Marines among 75 or so sailors and Marines in a 50- to 55-vehicle convoy on its way from the desert in Kuwait to Basra, Iraq. It was a logistical convoy moving through the desert at night, lights out, night-vision goggles on. The sand was so kicked up it was nearly impossible for Alva to even keep track of the vehicle in front of him. At one of three stops along the way, Alva, who hadn’t eaten for a full day, was heating up an MRE when he went to get something out of his Humvee. ‘I took maybe a step or two,’ Alva said, ‘and that is when the explosion went off.’ It was a land mine.”

One of my readers commented recently that gay rights are ‘special rights’, and since Alva is a gay member of the United States military I am wondering if my reader feels that this patriotic American has any reason to want justice.  Alva is bravely fighting to end the bigoted notion of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ that has cost the U.S. taxpayers millions of dollars, and ended the military careers of many citizens.  While Alva was ready to give his life for his country my reader sits in America kissing the homophobic Pope’s ass..err, ring… and hoping to deny ‘special rights’ to patriotic citizens.  One really has to wonder what goes on in the heads of bigoted conservatives.

The fact that my bigoted reader even has a place called America to call home is in large part the result of a gay man in the military!  General Washington owed, as do we, much to the efforts and know-how that General von Steuben brought to the Revolutionary fight.  Yup, General Steuben was family! 

Perhaps conservatives like my reader just love to waste taxpayer’s money.  Let us look at the training that the government gave to the following Americans only to dismiss them for being gay. 

In FY (Fiscal Year) 2005, the military dismissed 49 medical personnel, 40 law enforcement officers and 14 intelligence officers. The Army dismissed 35 infantrymen in 2005, as well as seven nuclear, biological and chemical warfare specialists. The Navy discharged 17 air crewmen. A total of 742 service members were dismissed in 2005; the total since the law’s implementation in 1993 is more than 11,000. On average, the armed forces fire 2 -3 service members under the law each day.

There is ample evidence to show that the military takes longer to release a gay doctor than a gay infantryman.  So it is obvious that the military twits are less concerned with having no homosexuals in the service than with having people think there are no homosexuals in the military.

Today Congressman Marty Meehan, chair of the House Armed Services Sub-Committee on Oversight and Investigations, re-introduced legislation to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on lesbian, gay, and bisexual military personnel.  Openly gay Madison Democratic Congresswoman Baldwin was one of the many co-sponsors.

It is clear that leadership is needed on this issue much akin to what President Truman provided when allowing blacks to serve in the military.  ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’  is something for the ash bin of history.

Presidential candidate John Edwards understands. “It is long past time to end the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy and to allow openly gay men and women to serve in the military. It is critical to our national security that we have the best people in our military. Gay men and women have continually served our country with honor and bravery, and we should honor their commitment and never turn away anyone who is willing to serve their country because of their sexual orientation. This is an issue of fundamental fairness – and our military ought to treat everyone fairly. I applaud Congressman Meehan on his important legislation.”

354 Days, And Scott Jensen Is Still Free

Former Republican Speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly Scott Jensen was found guilty of three felonies and one misdemeanor on March 11, 2006 for directing legislative staffers to campaign on state time.   But today Jensen is still a free man since a Dane County Judge allowed the felon to remain out of prison pending his appeal.  Many a criminal in Wisconsin would love the same treatment Jensen is receiving.

I have been hard edged with both Democrats and Republicans who misused their position and power (and taxpayer’s monies) for both illegal and unethical campaign activities in the Wisconsin Statehouse.  I have argued that the responsibility voters entrust to a candidate at the time of election is a treasured bond that requires elected officials to act with honor while in office.  When that trust is broken, as with Jensen, not only is the law violated, but the trust of the voter is shattered.  When that faith from the voters is replaced with doubt and cynicism our political institutions suffers.

The undermining of our political institutions is the legacy of Scott Jensen.  It is for that reason that I find his latest legal maneuvering pure rubbish.  Asking the appellate court for a new trial because the one in front of Dane County Circuit Court Judge Ebert produced a guilty verdict is a sham.  Jensen is able to make these baseless pleadings as he has unlimited funds to pay for his lawyers and their filings. 

Starting today there will be a listing at the top of my blog of the days since a jury of his peers found Scott Jensen guilty.  I truly think our judicial system should work far better than what this case has demonstrated.

Wisconsin Tavern League Wants A Bill Now!

The Tavern League of Wisconsin walked the corridors of power in the Statehouse today.  They were on a mission.  By the way they talked and presented themselves one might think the very foundation of democracy was at stake if their arguments were not heeded.  There is a huge problem that needs legislative correction they stressed, and it needs to be handled now.  Not merely this session, but right now. 

It might surprise my readers to know that the dire situation the overly powerful Tavern League wants our elected officials to think is real has to do with a one night closing time for taverns when day light savings time takes effect.  Yes, you read that sentence correctly.  The State Statutes read that taverns must close at 2:30 A.M. on Sundays, except the first Sunday in April, which had been the start of day light savings time.  Since day light savings time starts on March 11th this year the panic ridden Tavern League saw the possibility of some members not selling enough intoxicating beverages, and demanded that the State Legislature fix the problem.  They argue that the additional hour of sales if vital!  Every other Wisconsin business with a clock can handle the change, but I am to believe that bar owners who feel they never make enough cash require an extra hour to be open for this one night.   In fact State Senator Roger Breske said that the bill would help a few “small businesses.”

Acting as if there was absolutely no other issue that could possibly be as important as the whims of this heavy-handed lobbying operation, Wisconsin Legislators from both sides of the aisle fell to their knees anxious to be compliant with this statewide association that helped many to become elected last fall.  To pretend that this fast action does not have anything to do with the amount of cash that the Tavern League spreads to legislative candidates is pure rot.   The Democracy Campaign has calculated that nearly $94,ooo was given by the Tavern League’s two-campaign arms in 2004.

The speed with which this bill hit the Senate floor, (one big strike against the Democratic leadership for buckling) and is moving in the State Assembly shows two things.  One is that the Legislature can move quickly when there is a desire to see action take place.  The second thing is it appears that money again plays a most unsettling role in how legislation takes shape in the Statehouse.

Wouldn’t it be nice if those under the dome would move so quickly for health care issues or civil rights?

Grover Norquist Can Be Bought With A Song And Dance

Religious conservatives are seeking a candidate they can support for the White House in 2008.  The problem for them is that all the leading GOP candidates have flaws such as not wanting to stone gay Americans, end abortion, or slam the door on our immigrant friends.  As a result, the power players on the right are frothing with a desire to find a perfect candidate. They need to find a real knuckle-dragger.

And if they can’t find the perfect zealot, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, a truly laughable organization,  has an answer.  From the Sunday edition of the NYT.

“Mr. Norquist said he remained open to any of the three candidates who spoke to the council (Brownback, Huckabee, Hunter) or to Mr. Romney. He argued that with the right promises, any of the four could redeem themselves in the eyes of the conservative movement despite their past records, just as some high school students take abstinence pledges even after having had sex.

“It’s called secondary virginity,” Mr. Norquist said. “It is a big movement in high school and also available for politicians.”

In other words just say anything.  The right-wing conservatives are so hungry for a candidate that they can be bought with a song and a dance.

The Calming Of A Winter Storm

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I think Mother Nature was trying to tell us something last night.  Were you listening? 

I always consider the quietest and most serene night of the year to be Christmas Eve.  Family and friends are usually at the place where the Holiday is to be celebrated, and the roads and streets are therefore mostly empty.  Churches get filled but other places are closed and dark.  There is always something so soft and right about that yearly event.

The blizzard that marched through Madison and larger sections of Wisconsin and the Midwest last night allowed many of us to experience another time this year of calm and undisturbed beauty.  For many of us, from the moment we get up in the morning to the time we close our eyes at the end of the day, is one long attempt to marshal how things are to play out in our lives.  We pretend that somehow we are in control of everything.  So it was interesting to see the street in front of our home on the west side of Madison last night grow very quiet.  With powerful majesty Mother Nature blew the snow in all directions leaving roads best left unchallenged. 

At 9:00 P.M.  we bundled up on a 30-minute walk in our neighborhood to feel the power of the blizzard.  Several times the wind gusts were snappy enough to take my breath away.  The snowflakes felt more like small ice crystals that stung the face in rapid-fire succession.  As we walked it was interesting to see so many lights on at various condos and apartments on a Saturday night that otherwise would be dark.  I was hoping that perhaps the forced cancellation of so many events, and the need to stay put, had reconnected some to the unlimited ways to be entertained at home.  After all the bluster and angst that fills so many lives on a daily basis it was wonderful to think that Mother Nature could take charge and order how things were going to proceed for an evening.   She was going to make a quiet snowfall the focal point for everyone.   For those that took the time to marvel at the storm she added colorful lighting flashes that radiated off the white and made a most remarkable light show.

I know that some folks got tense and anxious because they could not go and do what they had planned, and therefore were in a bad mood.  Mother Nature was trying to tell us all to slow down a bit, sit back, take a deep breath, and look around long enough to see the beauty that is close at hand.  Look at the softness of the flakes as they float to the ground.  Look at the pile of magazines that have accumulated in the living room instead of needing to go driving on bad roads just to shop at the mall.  Grab the SCRABBLE game at home instead of grabbing a beer at the bars. 

I think Mother Nature was trying to tell us something.  Were you listening?

Soup For A Wisconsin Blizzard

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The forecasters are talking about a word that seldom gets used in Wisconsin.  BLIZZARD conditions are possible this weekend, and I am truly excited.  Already about four inches of snow has fallen in the first round, and the major portion of the storm is not set to start until late Saturday.  Yesterday James went to the grocery store and bought items for the weekend, including the soup recipe we made tonight. (picture above)  Since blizzards are not common, and I think lots of folks are kinda happy to hear we are going to get socked with snow, James will post his soup recipe here for you to enjoy this weekend.  It really is an amazing soup and not hard to make.  We used the last pumpkin from the garage but please note that you can substitute squash for the pumpkin. 

Savory Pumpkin Soup
From the Kitchen of James

I visited Naples, Italy in 1996 and came home ready to recreate several of the dishes that I had tasted there.  This is a hearty Italian soup that is great for any time of year.  It is full of vitamins and minerals, great for building healthy hearts and bones-pumpkin is low calorie, excellent source of beta-carotene and zinc for a healthy immune system and youthful glow.  It only takes about an hour (maybe ninety minutes) to make, roughly 30 minutes on each of two days.  This soup is well-worth the effort!

Going Shopping:

*2 pounds Mild Italian Sausage meat:  (You can buy it in the casing as links or without the casing these days.  Often, the meat in casings is ground more finely and tends to be more tender in the soup, but you do have to cut the casing and remove the meat first, adding an extra step.  To be honest, I generally avoid the step and buy the meat without the casing-just let it gently simmer instead of boiling and it will be just fine!)

*3 large Apples:  Select a nice apple that holds its texture after cooking.  I like a nice Granny Smith apple, but a Gala, Braeburn, or Cortland would also be nice.  A Macintosh will fall apart and is not the most flavorful.

*2 quarts Soup Stock:  You can buy in cans now a vegetable stock or chicken stock which are very good.  Some versions are even low sodium (good for the heart healthy).  Or, you can cheat and use a couple of bouillon cubes of your choice.

Preparation Day One:
Soup Base Ingredients:
2 pounds Mild Italian Sausage Meat
2 Quarts soup stock

*Warm the 2 quarts of soup stock over medium high heat.
*Add to the stock as it heats, the mild Italian sausage meat bit by bit (taking the raw meat, chunk it up in little bite sized pieces by hand, dropping the pieces in the water as you go; this will prevent it from sticking together and making a patty at the bottom).
*Stir occasionally; simmer gently and avoid a rolling boil, which will just make the meat tough, for about 15 minutes (start timing after the last chunk of meat is in the water) or until the meat is cooked thoroughly.
*Let cool in the refrigerator over night.  

Preparation Day Two:
Remaining Ingredients:
2 large or 3 medium Apples, peeled, cored, chopped
3 large Carrots, chopped
2 stalks Celery, chopped finely (even better with some celery leaves)
1 pie-sized Pumpkin
Chopped fresh flat leaf parsley or cilantro, to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

*Begin by removing the meat and soup stock combination from the refrigerator.  With a spoon, scoop out the layer of rendered pork fat that has congealed on the top.  You will be left with the start to a great soup and there will be very little saturated fat in it.
*Reheat in stock pot over medium high heat this soup base.
*Peel, core and chop the apples; peel carrots and chop; wash and chop celery stalks.  Add to soup base.
*Cut open pumpkin; remove seeds (can be toasted in oven by themselves for yummy snack); peel pumpkin and cut into small bite-sized bits.  Add to soup base.
*Add water if necessary-soup should be liquid, and not so thick as a stew.
*Simmer for about 15 minutes or until carrots and pumpkin pieces are no longer hard-the pumpkin will fall apart a bit when pricked with a fork, while the carrots will remain more consistent.
*Add salt and pepper to taste; garnish with some freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro.
*Serve piping hot and enjoy!

Vilsack Stops. When Does Tommy End?

UPDATED

It is a daunting challenge to raise the $20 million dollars that most experts say is required to compete just in the early primaries and caucuses for the presidential nomination.  It is also a lousy way for the worlds leading democracy to select a leader.  Former Democratic Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack entered the Democratic race for President with hope, and left it today as a realist.  He had only raised $1 million in the first part of this year and saw no prospect for gaining traction against the big names with far more ability both on the political stage, and with fundraising.

“The reality, however, is that this process has become to a great extent about money, a lot of money,” he said. “And it is clear to me that we would not be able to continue to raise money in the amounts necessary to sustain, not just a campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire, but a campaign across this country.

“It is money — and only money — the reason we are leaving today.”

With that in mind I read with amusement the news that former Republican Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson would not accept the vice-presidency.  He is either going to be the big cheese, or he is not interested.  While he has formed an exploratory committee he has yet to announce for the White House in an official way.  If he is serious about raising money he needs to show he is serious about running, and a notice of real intent needs to be given.  Lets face it, that is never going to happen.  Instead we see the former Wisconsin Governor roaming around Iowa talking to college kids since he cannot fathom the idea of leaving the political stage once and for all.  That is rather sad.   Thompson has no lift in his sails for this race and should face reality as Vilsak has done.