Thank God For Painters’ Tape

This blogger is going to stay away from the computer until July 5th.  I am in the midst of lots of house improvement work and find the paint fumes do not mesh with clear thinking for blogging.  Then there is that lack of time element that also comes into play.   The painting results are looking fantastic, as is the staining of our deck.  But today we conceded that we must hire a guy to paint the ceilings.  Some things even painters’ tape will not allow for……since the ceilings are 9-10 feet high.

State Republicans So VERY Wrong On Domestic Partner Benefits

Domestic partner benefits are a no-brainer for those of us who live in the real world.  Most of us have openly gay friends, family members, and co-workers.  We live in diverse communities and know the richness that comes from being fair and honest with our fellow citizens.  We understand that inequality and unfairness is not the way our society should operate.  So I am utterly perplexed over what should be a truly non-issue about the University of Wisconsin having domestic partner benefits for their employees.  It has been debated far too long!  We are the only Big Ten School that does not offer such rights, and it is nauseating.  To be even more honest it is just plain embarrassing.  It is also counter productive for the long term-goals of securing the best minds and talents for our amazing college system.  Why would anyone want to deny the rights of gay and lesbian families to have the same benefit package as heterosexual employees and their families? 

The Wisconsin State Senate, with the majority Democrats leading the way, passed their version of the state budget on Tuesday.  It should come as no surprise that not one single Republican could see any reason to vote for the package that contained a much needed health plan for state residents.  Also included in the Democratic budget was the domestic benefit package for the UW system.  To say I am proud that the issue was included would not be totally correct.  Of course it should be included!  But the fact is we should not even need to debate IF gay employees and their families should receive the same treatment as other state employees at the UW.  THIS IS 2008!!! 

I am so tired of Republicans in the State Legislature using gay UW employees and their families as wedge issues for the basest political purposes.  What the GOP did with gay rights in 2006 in our state was despicable and shameful.  The lack of fairness that State Republicans exhibit now over the issue of domestic benefits is mind-boggling for those of us who live in the real world.  The backward and sexually frustrated world of the GOP is a mystery to me. They should not be setting policy that undermines our desire for fairness and equality in our college system. 

The GOP always get excited about the idea of letting the private sector set the rules so to better create jobs and grow the economy.  If that logic is true then one must ask what is wrong with over half of the Fortune 500 companies allowing for domestic partner benefits?  Any large company that wants to be competitive and exist in the real world understands the diversity of the workforce.  The rules for seeking the best at the UW should be no different.  And the Republicans should understand that fact.

Whatever crazed puritanical notion state Republicans hope to preserve by gay bashing over domestic benefits is absurd, and a waste of taxpayer money.  And I strongly suspect that their gay sons and lesbian daughters agree with me.

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Shocked, Saddened, Sickened

As James and I were driving the past few days we heard on the radio that there is a term for the syndrome of men who kill their families.  I was shocked to hear it.  I did not expect to ever even know there were so many of these killings that a term would be created to identify it.  I pride myself on knowing strange tidbits of trivia, but my mind blocked this one from being retained.  I am OK with that. 

The news over the past few days has made me truly concerned that a link in our humanity is breaking. 

From the Chicago Tribune.

Christopher Vaughn—the Oswego man charged with the fatal roadside shootings of his wife and three children in rural Will County—prepared Monday to battle his forced return from Missouri to face trial in Illinois. Meanwhile, officials in both states took extraordinary steps to quicken what is usually a routine but time-consuming process.

From the Washington Post

A former classmate of a man suspected of murdering a pregnant woman was arrested Sunday on a related obstruction of justice charge, the FBI said.

Myisha Ferrell was arrested one day after the body of 26-year-old Jessie Davis was found in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, still carrying her dead, nearly full-term fetus. The Summit County medical examiner on Sunday confirmed the body was Davis’.

And then tonight the shocking news of a major pro-wrestler killing his family, as reported by

Pro wrestler Chris Benoit, his wife and 7-year-old son were found slain Monday at their Fayetteville home, authorities said.

Detective Bo Turner told television station WAGA that the case was being investigated as a murder-suicide, but said that could not be confirmed until the evidence was examined by a crime lab.

WAGA reported that investigators believe Benoit killed his wife and son over the weekend, and then himself sometime Monday.

What is happening to our culture?  I know that we hear more of every type of event around the nation due to better news sources and the internet.  And yet I think there is far more at play here than better reporting.  Instead I think a  real sad turn in how we treat one another is taking place all over the country.  I think there is a callousness and coldness that is transforming too many in our nation into the darkest side of man. 

The signs are everywhere of what is happening.  The rage and anger that I see every day from drivers.  The over reaction of parents who yell loudly and profanely at their kids at the mall.  The riot that took place after Juneteenth in Milwaukee.  This is not a society that anyone can be proud of.  How we arrived at this point in time can be debated.  The sad fact is that we are here now, and dreadful things are happening.

Our nation needs a dialogue on many issues, but the one that should concern us all is the growing internal anger that far too many of our fellow citizens harbor.  Left unchecked it boils over and becomes a tragedy.  We need to begin talking honestly about the rage that lurks in many citizens, and find ways to get these people the help and therapy required to prevent the type of headlines that have been made over the past few days.

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In Days It Will Be Chest High



The pace of gardening is in full swing and the plants are showing their happiness with the rains and the warm weather.  The humid days along with the warm nights has allowed the corn to grow continuously.  The only things taller in our garden than the corn are the sunflowers.  The corn is now almost chest high.  Last year the corn never got very tall before deciding to tassel and therefore produced nothing.  This season the warm temperatures have made the corn a conversation piece in the gardens.  I am the only one growing it this year, and it looks great! 

A couple years ago I grew the tallest sunflower and am striving to do the same again this season.  Meanwhile the tomatoes are really filling out.  The summer squash blooms have blossomed, as have the other squash plants. The swiss chard is producing, and the second season of radishes is about to be planted.

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What To Do When Elvis Presley Gives An Order?

As reported in this morning’s newspaper, The Capital Times,  Sunday June 24th, 2007 will be the 30th anniversary of Elvis Presley flying into Madison, Wisconsin for the last time.  As Doug Moe writes the concert was not the only event that the famed entertainer was involved with.    For my Elvis readers around the country I print the complete story below.


Ex-limo driver finally tells all, 30 years later


SUNDAY MARKS 30 years to the day since Elvis Presley flew into Madison for the last time, a visit that was less remarkable for the concert he gave at the Dane County Coliseum than for what happened when Elvis was en route to his hotel from the airport.

Much has been written about Presley’s last Madison stop — he died just two months later — but in the three decades since, one close witness has not gone on the record, until now.

Eric Schumacher, 52, today works at the Pyle Center for University of Wisconsin-Extension. Thirty years ago, Schumacher drove the limousine that carried Presley from the Four Lakes Aviation terminal to the Sheraton Hotel near the Coliseum. He also picked up Presley at the Coliseum after the show.

Schumacher is a Madison native and a 1972 graduate of Madison Memorial High School. In June 1977 he was working for Checker Cab, which owned one limousine.

“It was a 1964 Cadillac,” Schumacher was recalling this week.

Checker Cab was in a sense a forerunner of today’s Union Cab. In 1978, many Checker drivers walked off the job in a dispute with management. Checker shut down in January 1979, and a short time later the former drivers formed Union Cab.

Schumacher was 22 and a night dispatcher for Checker when he learned the company had been contacted to transport Presley, who would be coming to Madison after a June 23 concert in Des Moines, Iowa.

Originally, Schumacher says, the Checker manager assigned himself to drive Presley from the airport and to and from his performance. As it turned out, the manager could handle only one of those duties — he drove the singer from the Sheraton to the Coliseum.

A couple of days before Presley’s visit, the manager told Schumacher that he — Schumacher — would be picking up Elvis at the airport and also after the concert.

Schumacher was excited on receiving the news: “I thought it was really cool.”

On the night he was to pick up Presley, Schumacher brought along and put under the seat several Presley singles in hopes the “King” might sign the picture sleeves.

With Schumacher in the limousine was Madison police detective Thomas J. McCarthy, who was off duty but had been hired by Madison promoter Herb Frank to provide security for Presley.

Schumacher recalls the plane being late. “I had the limo right out on the tarmac,” he said. A large crowd of Elvis fans had gathered behind a fence next to the runway.

The plane landed around midnight. Schumacher said he stayed in the limo and watched as several people got out of the plane. Then there was a shriek from the crowd as Presley appeared.

“He was carrying a tumbler and appeared a bit unsteady,” Schumacher said.

Schumacher recalled Elvis and several other people getting into the back of the limo. McCarthy sat up front. Schumacher said one of the others in the back of the limo was Elvis’ father, Vernon Presley. (In an interview a few years ago, McCarthy told me the same, adding that Elvis’ girlfriend, Elvis’ father’s girlfriend and another security guard also were in the car.)

“Nobody was talking much,” Schumacher said. “I was driving along Highway 51, and several cars followed us from the airport. They were trying to get a look inside the limo, which you can’t do.”

Schumacher stopped for a red light where Highway 51 — Stoughton Road — intersects East Washington Avenue. It would become a famous stop, because while people can’t see in a limo, the passengers can see out, and Elvis had spotted what he thought was an altercation at the Skylane Standard Station at 1506 N. Stoughton Road.

“It looked like the attendant was trying to get a reading on the meter to close the station,” Schumacher said. “Another guy, who I think wanted to buy gas, was arguing with him.” (The attendant was La Follette High School junior Keith Lowry, whose father owned the station.)

McCarthy recalled that there were two men arguing with the attendant. “They started shoving,” Schumacher said.

Suddenly Elvis declared: “I can’t let that happen.”

“You’re not getting out of the car,” McCarthy told Elvis.

“That isn’t right,” Elvis replied.

The stoplight turned green, and McCarthy turned to Schumacher and ordered, “Drive!”

Schumacher started off, but he recalls Presley saying, “Hold up there, boy!”

What do you do when the King of Rock and Roll gives you an order?

Schumacher stopped the limo.

Presley hopped out, with his security in pursuit.

Schumacher stayed in the car, and recalls the scene as a bit surreal. “I remember wondering why he was getting involved.”

As one might guess, Presley’s appearance broke up the altercation. The gas station episode passed into legend when a young State Journal reporter named Tom Still got tipped and reported it on the front page.

Back in the limousine, Elvis laughed and said, “Did you see the looks on their faces?”

Schumacher dropped off the singer and his entourage at a side entrance to the Sheraton. He never did get his record sleeves signed.

Less than 24 hours later, Schumacher and his Checker limo were waiting at the Coliseum when Presley’s concert ended. It was a quick ride to the Sheraton.

“He was wiping his face with a white hand towel that he left on the seat,” Schumacher said. “I kept it for a few years, but I don’t know what happened to it.”

Thirty years later, does the driver remember anything else about his brush with a legend?

“He didn’t tip.”

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Scott Jensen: Day 469 And Still Counting

I know that former Wisconsin State Representative Scott Jensen is not on the radar anymore for most people in the state.  I am sure that is fine with him, along with a group of elected officials and political staff.  But I think Scott Jensen should be in the news as his story speaks volumes about justice in Wisconsin.  Or should I say the lack of justice in Wisconsin?

As of Friday June 22, 2007 it will be 469 days since a jury of his peers convicted Jensen on three felony charges, and one misdemeanor charge.  The former Republican Speaker of the Assembly was found guilty of using taxpayer paid staff to do political work on state time.  He still will not concede the fact that this activity is/was both illegal and unethical.  His role in the statehouse scandal not only effected those under the dome, but even more importantly also tarnished our political institutions. Jenson was not alone in abusing his responsibility that voters entrusted to him while serving under the dome.   But Jensen is the one that seems to delight in not knowing when to admit his wrongs and make a confession of guilt.  He acts as if the jury verdict was an error by those men and women who sat for weeks hearing the testimony, instead of an honest assessment of his actions while in the State Assembly.  Jensen acts as if he is truly above it all, and need not concern himself with the finding of guilt.

For those not keeping track of the news you might be surprised to know that Scott Jensen has yet to serve one day in prison, or to feel any negative consequence for his illegal actions.  Jensen was ordered to spend 15 months in jail after Judge Ebert said that the actions of the former lawmaker were “common thievery elevated to a higher plane”.  But Jensen is free today, and conducting his life as any other person might do without a guilty verdict from a jury.  I am most certain that if any member of his jury were to find themselves in the same legal bind that Jensen faces they would already be behind bars. 

Jensen was found guilty in March 2006.  In June 2006 Judge Ebert allowed the former legislator to stay out of jail pending an appeal.  It was not until September 2006 that lawyers for Jensen were able to file the papers for the appeal.  I strongly suggest that if Scott Jensen had been ordered to go to jail that appeal process would have started much sooner.  A night or two with Bubba as a cellmate can help make those types of legal decisions more quickly!  But why hurry the process when Jensen has ample funds to pay lawyers?  Why not play the legal system the same way he played the political one while in the statehouse?

My readers might imagine themselves having been convicted of three felonies and a misdemeanor.  Can any one of my readers truly think that they would be free to walk the streets as Scott Jensen now does?  We all know the answer.  There are two systems of justice.  One for the powerful and well connected with money to pay the lawyers.  The other system, for those of us who pay the taxes and play by the rules, is for the rest of us.  Let us be clear about one thing.  Justice delayed is justice denied. 

Finally I reject any notion that my daily tally at the top of my blog, where I list the number of days since Jensen was convicted, is placed there for political purposes.  If the tables where turned and former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala were in the same situation I would have his name up there too.  In the first place the process of governing should be one we can be proud of, not one that leads to the type of scandal that both Jensen and Chvala were involved in.  Second, I speak for many of my fellow citizens who are tired of the manipulation and mockery of the justice system that has taken place over the past 469 days.  And still counting…….

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One Happy Field Mouse

Beware.  There is a lesson in this post.

Today we had far too many items on the agenda for the time that we had available to us prior to a late afternoon meeting.  Our first stop on the west side of Madison was to pick up a project that was completed at a store in a strip mall.  While in the store the lady that is always friendly and filled with interesting conversation remarked that she was trying to remove a small and cute field mouse that had set up home in her store.  As we talked, the small thing scampered across the carpeted floor.  We told her we would help to usher it out the door. 

The poor thing was so frightened that all it wanted to do was just hide.  As I held the door open James and the lady tried to direct the mouse in my direction.  But as I looked around outside I wondered where the mouse was to go once free of the office.  It was a large concrete parking lot with major streets and wild traffic on both sides.  James recommended getting it to run into a box in an effort to capture it.  Once that was done I told the lady to hand me the box. 

Far off across the parking lot, and Old Sauk Road, there is a huge forested area that is part of the city’s watershed area.  With box in hand off I went to find the mouse a new home.   And might I say inside the box was the cutest and smallest little mouse…so scared it was trembling…..that I think I have ever seen.  Crossing Old Sauk was the challenge as most drivers were traveling far too fast while on their cell phones making deals on Wall Street. 

Finally in the wooded area on the other side of Old Sauk I lowered the box and freed the mouse who seemed a bit dazed.  I waited a few seconds and it started to scurry around.   Then it was my turn to get the box returned and on my way for the rest of our afternoon stops.

In the end all the tasks of the afternoon were handled and we entered the parking lot one minute before the meeting was to start at 4:00 P.M.

The lesson in all this is that there are so many tasks that we ‘must’ do everyday that we are often not seeing the little things that we could do that can make a big difference in the world around us.  It may only be a small field mouse today.  What impact can we have on the world tomorrow?

How about you?

My Mom, ‘Omar The Terrorist’?

This is yet another piece of evidence that the ‘war on terror’ is a national joke and waste of our money. 

My mom did grow up in the Ozarks until her teen years, and has lived in rural Wisconsin for the past 60 years.  The only weapon she wields is a wooden spoon, and she has not done that since I broke the last one she used on me decades ago.  She has gray hair and a gentle smile.  I think I can say she has harbored no plans to take over the government of the United States.

But then she tried to come back into the country yesterday at the Canadian border. 

My mom is one of those older women of a certain generation that does not have a driver’s license.  She has no picture ID.  Can you image the grilling she got at the border by the authorities?  Can you image the time it took to settle the matter?  Can you image my dad’s reaction?   He finds more colorful language to describe the Bush Administration on a good day than I ever use on this family friendly site.  I can’t wait to hear his version of events.

When traveling my parents always call to check in so we know they made it to their destination.  They are from the WWII generation and still travel and see the sites.  But we like to make sure they are safe.  So when it was after ten at night and we had not heard from them we were getting concerned as they were in the Eastern Time zone.  Finally my mom called and told the news.

“Your dad said just be glad we are not at Guantanamo!”

Yeah I am so glad the authorities almost nabbed the only terrorist in the nation with a rose garden and great grandchildren.   Now could we marshal our tax dollars to a more worthwhile use like….I don’t know…….pick any of a hundred uses!

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