In Memory Of Jerry Carlton Of Hancock, Wisconsin

I was saddened to learn today of the passing of Jerry Carlton from Hancock, Wisconsin, the place where I was born and raised.  I think a few words are in order as a way to honor the life he lived, and the impact he made on others around him, even if he may not have always been aware of the extent his positive role played in the community.

Growing up in that small town, in a time when I was coming in to my own in the late 1970s, it was a huge relief to have someone in the community who, whether he was aware of it or not, served as a real role model.  I so desperately needed that.  Jerry helped me to understand that being gay was nothing strange or unusual, nor was it a reason to keep me from achieving my goals in life.  I valued very much knowing that, despite the harsh stereotypes that I had to battle in high school, there was so much more to life.  Sadly “Soap” had the only television character on TV who was gay at that time.  The secrecy and mystery surrounding life as a gay man, especially in small towns, was so prevalent, that it seemed like leading a life filled with happiness and fellowship with a loved one of my own may have only been possible as a fantasy.

Luckily, I found someone special thirteen years ago.  We live together here on the isthmus of Madison.  We walk the neighborhood hand in hand and hope that we are “educating” others as to what being gay really means.  That is to say, we hope that the young people who see us realize that our sexuality is by far the least interesting thing about us, and that we love in the same way that all of the other couples in the neighborhood do.

In some way I hope we are the Jerry Carlton’s of the modern era, and in that way serve to move society forward.

Hancock is a better place because Jerry Carlton lived life authentically with his companion, Michael, for 48 years.   That lesson is something which will live on in others for years to come.

Rest in peace, Jerry.

Remembering Mom On Her Birthday

As I write this post on the Madison isthmus a pot of bean soup with ham is slow-boiling on the stove.  Many a cold winter day such a pot was putting fragrant scents into the home I grew up in, and around January 1st it seemed a tradition to have such a hot treat poured into a bowl .

There is nothing different to the recipe that was made here from that which would have happened had this pot been boiling back in Hancock when I was a kid.  It is not a fancy soup, but is really quite delicious.

James had ideas about adding this or that ingredient but I told him the only thing he could do, if he wanted, was stir the pot with a wooden spoon.  There are of course lots of things the soup could be spiced with, or other items cut and diced and then added, but that is not how this soup is made at this time of year.

The windows in our kitchen are steaming up a bit, as they always did back home after a long simmering of the pot from Mom’s (Geneva Schwarz Humphrey) kitchen.  I always enjoyed how the steam would actually frost the lower parts of the panes in my bedroom, and make for a real seasonal feel.  I really was on the cold end of the house, but it was the largest bedroom for the kids, and I loved it.  It truly was even better when I was the only kid left at home.

After stepping outside for a moment this afternoon, and then coming back into our home allowed for the warmth of the kitchen along the memory of other such pots of soup to envelop me.  As we age and grow farther from the past it is often the smells and tastes which can instantly transport us to a time that seemed so simple.

The calendar is about to change and new memories are going to be created in 2013.  But is it not just as important to always carry the old memories close, and use them as a compass as we move forward?

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Wisconsin Needs More Tax Revenue

This weekend has been most illuminating for those who wish to understand where the problems rest when it comes to making for a functioning government.  The dysfunctional atmosphere in Washington shows what gridlock will produce for a nation. We can all agree it is not a pretty sight.

While world markets will respond to the chaos what might Wisconsin citizens learn from the flawed notion that taxes are always supposed to go down, but never up.

There is real controversy brewing about the need to raise revenue for Wisconsin’s transportation needs.  If the ideological wing of the Republican Party prevails, and no new means of increasing needed funds are made into law, then the state’s infrastructure will falter, and our economy will be placed in a further long-term pinch.

The Transportation Finance and Policy Commission released a report that shows where the tire meets the road in Wisconsin.  Before I go further it should be noted that this commission is no liberal, big-government group of latte-drinking socialists.  No, the commission has eight of the ten voting members appointed by Republicans, including six named by Governor Walker.

They recommended some serious medicine for the state, namely tax and fee increases.  The reason something big has to be done is the report finds that over the next 10 years, there’s anywhere between a $2 billion and $17.1 billion funding gap for transportation infrastructure in this state.  The gap in numbers is due to how forthright we are in addressing the needs.

With guts and forethought this group urged an increase in the state motor fuel tax by 5 cents per gallon, voted for an adoption of a new “mileage-based registration fee”, supported increased fees for registration and driver’s licenses, while removing a sales tax exemption for trade-in vehicles.  To the delight of folks such as myself they even allowed for the creation of regional transportation authorities with the power to collect sales taxes.

This is the type of real policy thinking that needs to come from Republican circles.  The idea that there is never to be any new tax hikes or ways to reap revenue is a most absurd and untenable position from which to govern.  For far too long there has been a line of rhetoric that cutting government is the only way to move a state (or a nation) forward.  We have seen the limits, and pure folly of such a political argument both in Washington, and in Madison.

I applaud the honest work of this commission, even though I strongly think rail traffic is still one of the more prudent moves this state could undertake.  But if that is not the direction we are headed, then we need to at least meet the needs that are presented to us.

Now it will be up to the Republicans to either meet the transportation needs honestly or pass the buck, duck, dodge, and weave.

I hope some mature members of the Republican legislature come forward and address the need for more revenue from Wisconsin citizens.

For Republicans Who Fear Tax Increases…

…perhaps some history will help.

I kid of course, as too many teabagger conservatives care not one bit about history.

April 8, 1789–three weeks before George Washington will be sworn into office for the first time–James Madison stood up in the House of Representatives and introduced a tax bill. It was the first bill ever introduced under the new form of government outlined in the U.S. Constitution. The very first order of business in the very first session of Congress was a bill to make sure that the economy was placed in a more sure-footed path, and that manufacturing would be promoted. The means to do that was duties, and tariffs on a whole range of products from rum, beer, molasses, sugar cocoa, and coffee. There was a clear sense of the need for revenue, and while there was a lively debate about the taxes, the bill passed.There is today in Washington far too few with the foresight of Madison, or the others who like him forged a new nation. For all those Tea Party types who carry a copy of the Constitution while spouting about the Founding Fathers there remains a vast disconnect between real leadership, and the shallow end of the political divide.

Best Line From President Obama On “Meet The Press” Deals With Cuts To Government Programs

Over the years the absurd notion advocated by conservatives that all our fiscal ship of state required was more cuts to domestic spending has proved to pure bunk.   Somehow conservatives think we could cut our way to brighter days.

Economist after economist has offered their views as to why this idea is pure rubbish, and dangerous for an economy that is trying to again assert itself.

This morning on Meet The Press one of the best lines from the interview with President Obama dealt with this issue.

“David, I want to be very clear. You are not only going to cut your way to prosperity. One of the fallacies I think that has been promoted is this notion that deficit reduction is only a matter of cutting programs that are really important to seniors, students and so forth. That has to be part of the mix, but what I ran on and what the American people elected me to do was to put forward a balanced approach. To make sure that there’s shared sacrifice. … And it is very difficult for me to say to a senior citizen or a student or a mom with a disabled kid, ‘You are going to have to do with less but we’re not going to ask millionaires and billionaires to do more.'” …

There is no way our nation, the global leader, can pretend that tax rates should only always go down.  There is a need for higher taxes and more revenue to meet the needs and expectations of the citizenry, and also to create the foundation for the higher growth that comes with better schools, more skilled workers, sustainable energy….which then all will lead to still more revenue.

That is the path forward for this nation, and President Obama understands that fact.

President Obama Urging Gay Marriage In Illinois

As it should be.

President Barack Obama is urging the Illinois General Assembly to legalize gay marriage in his home state as lawmakers are poised to take up the measure as early as this week in Springfield.

“While the president does not weigh in on every measure being considered by state legislatures, he believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect,” White House spokesman Shin Inouye told the Chicago Sun-Times on Saturday.

“As he has said, his personal view is that it’s wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships, and want to marry, from doing so. Were the President still in the Illinois State Legislature, he would support this measure that would treat all Illinois couples equally,” Inouye said.

The toughest challenge for gay marriage backers will be winning passage in the Illinois House. Prospects for approval in the Illinois Senate–where Obama once served–are brighter.

The practical impact of Obama urging his home state to legalize gay marriage is to prod–and give political cover to–reluctant Democrats from conservative suburban and Downstate districts.

Both chambers in Springfield are controlled by Democrats. Republicans cannot be depended on for widespread gay marriage support. Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief Dave McKinney has reported that Steans and Harris predicted there would be some Republican backing.

Red Feathers Makes For Great Constrast On Winter White

I am not sure how the messages are transmitted but within minutes of the arrival of new seed the bird world comes alive at the feeders.  Today my favorite couple were back.  This is better than cable television.

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In this shot the male perched on a limb with the female in flight.

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Saturday Song: Minnie Pearl (With Grandpa Jones)

For the final weekend of 2012 I wanted to add something special to the Saturday Song feature.  This part of blogging always makes me smile, and from time to time actually produces some numbers here on the blog.  Mostly I go for the smiles as the only reason something lands on CP, as is the case today.

The stage of the Grand Ole Opry has been graced by many special people, but perhaps no other woman was as loved and admired over the decades as Minnie Pearl.  As I think about it perhaps only Mother Maybelle Carter could rival Pearl for the top honor.

Today some of the humor, and yes even a song from the woman from Grinder’s Switch is featured so sit back and enjoy a slice of Americana.

Since this is a weekly song feature I start out with one of the rare finds with Grandpa Jones and Minnie Pearl, which then is followed by some classic comedy from the stage of the Opry.  It should be noted that the second video comes from the opening night of the new Opry House when President Nixon made an appearance, played the piano, and had Roy Acuff teach him how to use a yo-yo.