‘Letter From Home’ 6/23/09

This is the first of what will be a periodic column on this blog concerning my thoughts while out on my stoop, and front lawn in Madison.

It has always been said that the weekend of Madison’s much loved “Art On The Square” in the middle of July was when we could expect the hottest and most uncomfortable temperatures and humidity of the summer.  Those ‘predictions’ of sticky weather, when tens of thousands converge around the Statehouse each summer, turn out to be about as correct as the weather from the Old Farmers Almanac, which means more often than we care to think about given how the predictions for both are made.  After the scorcher today however, it seems doubtful that July’s annual art show can top this.

A new friend from Letona, Arkansas (near Searcy) wrote today in response to an email I had sent over the weekend.  I had sent a ‘Happy First Day of Summer’ note, along with some pictures.  I noted at that time of the writing that it was warm, but not hot in Madison.  She responded in a good natured way that some “friends in cool climates can’t help bragging a little.”  I wrote back today that it was 96 degrees outside.  She let me know I was not alone.  “I feel a bit better since you are only 15 degrees cooler than us.  (Arkansas had heat indexes in the 110’s) I opened the door for the dogs, they refused to go out and I thought I would blister before I could get the door closed. IT IS HOT.”

As I write at 11:00 P.M. it is 80 degrees in Madison, and the dew point is 70 degrees.  This weather more typical of August seems so out of place after a long cool and wet spring.  While the plants are loving it, (the sunflowers have grown over four inches since Friday) the other things outdoors are less pleased it seems. 

This afternoon I noticed both robins and starlings on the lawn with their beaks open as if to breathe easier as the air was so oppressive and thick.  Bunnies that normally skipped and frolicked were lethargic and dull-acting as they tried  to find a safe shaded places to rest.  Even the human animals that put on fancy running attire, and work on their cardiovascular systems were less numerous today.  There was no sense in even trying to put on the brave front and run today when all one would have done was go a short distance before needing to turn around.  No one wants the neighbors to see that!  Better to just sit in the shade and admit it is too darn hot to even try.

This evening while sitting outside I was thinking about the death of Ed McMahon.  Back when Johnny Carson made the  Tonight Show special, and the weather was out of the norm, Carson might remark in his monologue, ‘man, it was hot today’, and Ed in his droll way would reply with audience participation, “how hot was it?”  Then Carson would rebound with a witty line that seemed completely off the top of his head, accented with one of his classic hand gestures.  “It was so hot today I saw a robin build it’s nest using ice cubes”.  At which point Ed would laugh and snicker as if he had not seen that line coming.  The robin was often used for weather jokes, as in the winter when it was so cold “I saw a robin put a worm in a crock pot.”

With the death of Ed McMahon another face of the pop culture that had always been a part of our life is gone.  Somehow that makes me feel a bit older tonight.  I resonate more with the older faces and characters on TV than the new ones that seem so one-dimensional. 

As I sat outside this evening pondering the day, I was most grateful there was no reason to be active.  Concerts on the Square start on Wednesday, but is walking to the square, and sitting and sweating with tens of thousands in the heat worth it?  I have never missed opening night of the concerts for many years.  Is it the heat, or am I getting older?

The hum of our central air might be the perfect backdrop to a CD of classical music on the stereo tomorrow night.

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford Found

UPDATE….He Was Found Here!

This is one of the more bizarre political stories that has come over the wires in months. 

Prediction from CaffeinatedPolitics…..Mark Sanford’s White House dreams are over.  This is not normal behavior for a public official with real responsibilities.  Nor has this been the first time for such activity by this strange man.

When Governor Mark Sanford walks out of the woods tomorrow, he’s sure for a big surprise.

The governor of South Carolina went hiking on the Appalachian Trail last Thursday to clear his head after a tough legislative session, according to his aides. Nothing odd in that – politicians need time off as much as anyone. Trouble is, when Sanford left he didn’t tell his aides where he was going. He didn’t tell the state’s lieutenant governor either. Or his wife.

His disappearance sparked speculation about his whereabouts, although Fox News reported he did call to check in two days into the trip. Tomorrow he is due to emerge from the trail and return to work and he will doubtless face many questions. For a possible presidential candidate in 2012, the distraction could prove awkward.

And it won’t help that the father of four sons was away from home on Father’s Day.

Andy Rooney Update On Walter Cronkite’s Health

I will try and keep my readers updated on one of the favorites here at Caffeinated Politics, Walter Cronkite, as word continues to spread about his health.  It goes without saying that we all wish the very best for Walter.

Ailing legendary newsman Walter Cronkite“is not in good shape,” says CBS’s Andy Rooney, who visited his longtime friend at home yesterday.

“60 Minutes” commentator Rooney, 90, and Cronkite, 92, “CBS Evening News” anchor from 1962 to 1981, were fellow World War II correspondents. They see each other often, Rooney says.

“Walter’s going to live,” says Rooney, quickly adding: “for a while. He’s dressed. He looks good. He’s thinking pretty well. I know he’s not active. He can’t get around much. He’s old, for goodness sake.

“He’s gone downhill, but not in the last few days… I don’t know whether he’s going to die tomorrow, or not. I’m not a doctor.”

Cronkite’s chief of staff Marlene Adler, who did not return calls yesterday, says her boss is “suffering from the challenges of age. He’s ill, but the angel of death is not standing over his bed.”

Adler won’t disclose any details of Cronkite’s illness. “The family has asked that we keep everything private,” she says. “I’m not going to go into his medical condition.”

Cronkite goes out three or four times a week, always in a wheelchair, according to a close family friend. His memory is failing and his systems are slowly shutting down, but death is not imminent, the friend adds.

CBS’s Mike Wallace, 91, says he hasn’t seen Cronkite recently, “but I know he’s had a tough time because of age. From this old man about another old man, I think that’s what it amounts to. I love the man.”

The fact that CBS updated Cronkite’s obituary more than a week ago doesn’t mean anything, Adler adds.

“It’s normal at CBS to prepare things in advance.” From time to time, Cronkite has given CBS updated information, “just to get prepared for the ultimate,” Adler says.

Still, producers at CBS News weekend shows were advised today to be prepared for a possible Cronkite obituary at the last minute, says a network insider.

Wisconsin State Budget Must Include Driver Certificates For Undocumented Immigrants

The emotions of this matter need to be set aside so the facts and rationale can be placed front and center.  Yesterday in the Wisconsin Statehouse a rally was held to underscore the need for driver certificates to be issued for undocumented workers.    There was a wide swath of Wisconsin represented at the rally as law enforcement, the dairy industry, labor groups, and religious organizations all made their voice clear.  This  is a matter that deserves attention this week in the budget process.

While it has been noted that some, such as State Senator Tim Carpenter, staunchly oppose this matter being in the state budget, it is not clear if his opposition is based on his own beliefs, or if he wishes to only represent the desires of his district.  I think if  Carpenter were allowed to vote his convictions he would allow these driver certificates to be in the budget.  The pressure from constituents, it needs to be noted in many cases, comes with a far too ample supply of bigotry that gets thrown into the mix, and detracts from the issue at hand.

The reason we are even talking about driver certificates for undocumented immigrants is that Congress passed a law in 2005 which allows drivers licenses only for those who are citizens, or have legal status.  But that criteria does not include all those who actually use the roads.   The federal law also allows states to issue driver certificates to those who do not have a social security number.  However, in 2006 the Wisconsin State Legislature passed a law that added social security as a requirement for obtaining a drivers license.   Sadly, the legislature had no interest in allowing for driver certificates.

Therefore there needs to be a change in Wisconsin law to provide for driver certificates for undocumented immigrants, as the federal law currently allows.  The reason that this change should be made is quite obvious.  Safer roads will result from better drivers who are licensed in some manner, and who are also insured.  The last part will save us all money.

There is no doubt among all the interested parties to this issue that the drivers who are either licensed, or have the driver certificates, are safer on the road, have fewer accidents, and have a higher rate of being insured.  In areas where cars are a needed form of transportation there is no sane argument for using ones immigration status as a reason to deny a drivers license, or driver certificate.

Fairness and safety should trump the other more base reasons, thus assuring that this matter gets placed in the state budget.  And it needs to be done this week.

Come on Senator Carpenter, I know you can do the right thing for the State of Wisconsin.