‘All In The Family’ Christmas Letter From Jennifer and James and Ethan Crumbley

Wonder what news the Crumbley family will have to write in their holiday letter this year.

‘The summer was dryer than normal, and that ole tree out back sure looks the worse for wear now that it lost another climb. Oh, yeah, our son killed four people after we bought a gun for him as an early holiday present. We decided that holing up in a warehouse was cheaper than a trip to Yellowstone and that sure made us popular coast-to-coast.

Hope all is good with you, and if you find any quarters in your couch please mail for our family defense fund. It will be a whopper next year! Do you think we all will look odd wearing orange for next year’s letter?

Pathetically yours,

The New Wards of the State

Michigan Parents Charged In Their Son’s Mass School Shooting

The time for sound legal reasoning, so to stem the tide of school shootings, has arrived.

The parents of Ethan Crumbley, the Michigan teenager accused of killing four students at a local high school, were charged with involuntary manslaughter for allegedly giving him the gun he used to carry out the shooting spree. I urged this week for such charges to be brought.

Under Michigan law, an involuntary manslaughter charge can be pursued if prosecutors believe someone contributed to a situation where harm or death was high. If convicted, they could face up to 15 years in prison. As I wrote this week”… the law must follow the parents right to the jailhouse door and usher them inside.”

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said that a teacher had observed Ethan Crumbley searching ammunition on his cellphone and alerted school officials. The school tried to contact his mother but could not reach her.

McDonald told reporters that Jennifer Crumbley did not contact the school but instead texted her son: “Lol. I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”

There is no disputing the evidence about the role of parents and other adults in school shootings. Not only relating to the tragic aspects of this week’s slaughter but also in cases around the nation for far too long.

Charging parents of juvenile shooters is uncommon, with just four reported instances in which the adult owners of the weapons were criminally punished because they failed to lock firearms fired by a child, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. That’s despite the fact that if children as young as 6 did not have access to guns, well more than half of the country’s school shootings since 1999 would never have happened, The Post found.

“If you look at school shootings, the overwhelming majority are committed by students, and the overwhelming majority of those students have guns that they brought from their homes or a relative’s home,” said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy.

The four known prosecutions of parents did not stem from charges related to negligent-storage laws. The harshest penalty among those cases was a sentence of more than two years in prison for a man charged with involuntary manslaughter after a 6-year-old boy found his gun in a shoebox and killed a classmate.

While I am not a lawyer–though I read John Grisham–it would seem other adults are also absolutely negligent in the handling of this matter. When the obvious hints were discovered as to the violent mind of the 14-year-old law enforcement should have been notified. No waiting for some kinder way to broach the 800-pound problem in the school. The soft-handed attempts to deal with ticking time bombs are ludicrous.

“The morning of the shooting, Ethan Crumbley’s teacher came upon a note on Ethan’s desk, which alarmed her to the point that she took a picture of it on her phone,” Willis said. “The note contained the following: a drawing of a semi-automatic handgun pointed at the words, ‘The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.’ In another section of the note was a drawing of a bullet with the following words above that bullet: ‘Blood everywhere.’ Between the drawing of the gun and the bullet is the drawing of a person who appears to have been shot twice and bleeding. Below that figure is the drawing of a laughing emoji. Further down the drawing are the words, ‘My life is useless,’ and to the right of those words are, ‘The world is dead.’”

The student’s locker should have been busted open and properly searched. The classroom drawing of violence was not a hint–it was a billboard message!

School administrators failed this child, but not as much as his parents.

And so it goes.

Wonder Bar In Madison Saved, But At What Cost?

It is always amusing what issue can energize enough people to take action so as to impact the larger issue at hand. This year in Madison the ‘necessity’ of securing the Wonder Bar from demolition caught my attention.

An 18-story development project aimed at housing and commercial interests had been proposed for the site where the Wonder Bar and another drinking establishment in close proximity now exist. The proposal was a smart idea for a city that does like to talk often about the need for more housing, and knowing the added tax base is always required for the needs of our communities.

But then it seemed a number of locals found themselves to be history buffs and demanded that the 1930s Prohibition Roadhouse built by rivals of Al Capone be saved. After a number of meetings and letters to the editor of the local paper, it was decided that the Wonder Bar would be physically moved so to save it.

The cost of such a move would seemingly require a lot of cookie sales from the proponents of saving it. Or should we just expect the developer to bite that cost, too?

Over the 30 years of living in Madison, I have found myself on both sides of development projects. How it impacts those who live near such a proposal and the economic benefit to the city are two of my major concerns. When the Wonder Bar is the central issue, however, the end result is not difficult to discern.

There should have been strong and unbending support for the development proposed by McGrath Property Group. Tepid support does not cut it in this time of economic dips and uncertainty.

So the news this week about the down-sized plans for the project is not in any way surprising.

“The decision was made due to the continuing unprecedented increases in construction costs which was exacerbated by the high costs of relocating the Wonder Bar on site,” McGrath told the State Journal Tuesday evening. “We get routine feedback from our general contractor on pricing as the design evolves. In this case, costs kept trending in the wrong direction.”

The total cost to move the Wonder Bar was over $1 million and added three months to the construction schedule, he said.

“We are still planning to go forward with a project but it will be a lower scale project, likely four-to- five stories of wood frame over two levels of parking, and the Wonder Bar will remain in its current location,” he wrote to city staff.

There are times when developers have put forth in this city ideas that were truly in need of a total transformation. Then there are those projects where the need exists and the economic uptick for Madison can be clearly demonstrated with density development. It is that last point that sums up what could have occurred–and should have been realized on Olin Avenue.

The Wonder Bar should now sharply increase the costs of their drinks so to help with revenue to the city and to make up for what we are losing from a much-limited development project.

And so it goes.

Shooter’s Parents Must Be Legally Accountable For Deadliest School Shooting This Year

Once again the deadly results of guns in our society make for terrible headlines. Once again the refrain from rational adults is a call to common sense and the development of gun control measures that will start to trim back the shootings. At the same time, conservatives chant their trite platitude, ‘thoughts and prayers’.

The layers of possible responses to the carnage left by Ethan Crumbley and the 9-millimeter Sig Sauer handgun used in the shooting are many. From working on issues in school concerning being bullied to the drowning of the nation in too many guns available for purchase, and the ease that children can get their hands on a deadly weapon. There is no single avenue to address the gravity of the situation.

But when it comes to guns in homes this blog has been consistent and adamant that parents must be held legally responsible when their weapons are not stored and safeguarded correctly. When they are accessible to underage people, and crimes take place with the weapons, then the law must follow the parents right to the jailhouse door and usher them inside.

On Wednesday we learned that the high school sophomore accused of killing four classmates and injuring others will be charged as an adult with a host of felonies, including terrorism and four counts of first-degree murder. The weight of the words from Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said it all.

Evidence shows the shooting was “absolutely premeditated.”

But equally important today was the news that prosecutors are also considering charges against the suspect’s parents. The New York Times reported that when the boy’s parents went to a sheriff’s substation after the shooting, they declined to let investigators question their child. The sheriff told reporters that a 9-millimeter Sig Sauer handgun used in the shooting had been bought four days earlier by the suspect’s father. “He is not talking and neither are the parents,” the sheriff said.

There is appropriate outrage across the nation today as we learn more evidence to show why parents, once again, must be held accountable for actions that their child took, due to a deadly gun made accessible in their home.

This blog has repeatedly stated parents of young people who use guns to shoot, kill, and create violence also need to be held accountable. Some adult was responsible for the fact the shooter was able to place his hands on this weapon. There is no way that any sane person can say parental/adult actions, such as with this shooting, should not be addressed by the law that makes sure there is a responsibility shared by those who help to foster the violent outcomes.

The NRA has plenty of responsibility for the number of guns in our society and the ease with which anyone can get a deadly weapon. But when it comes to children with guns there also has to be a question asked–where the heck was the parent? It might also be a good time to ask if parents are not able to control their offspring then perhaps they should forfeit their children’s tax credits. The rest of society should not have to continually pay the price for bad parenting.

And so it goes.

Wisconsinites Defining Themselves

Over the past two years, I have become better acquainted with segments of Wisconsin. Having lived here since my birth in Wild Rose, I have watched and read over the decades the comings and goings of those who lived near me and ones in the farther reaches of the state.

At times, I have been moved by the emotional resolve of a community pulling together, such as after the horrific Barneveld tornado. Recently we saw the better angels of our state move into action to help families impacted by the horror that ripped Waukesha after a man drove into a Christmas parade.

Since early 2020 we have watched as nurses and doctors have spent every day confronting not only a virus that has filled hospitals to capacity but also stressed medical professionals to a point they have never reached before in their careers. We have learned of teachers who crossed technical hurdles so to ensure students could continue their education, even if not sitting in the school classroom.

That is the part of Wisconsin that makes me proud to live here, knowing our lives are enriched with caring and thoughtful people doing tough work under the most trying of circumstances. The best of Midwestern values shines with these people.

But there is another segment of the state who also defined themselves over the past two years.

Perhaps I deluded myself for many years about the true character of some of my fellow citizens in the state. After all, I worked in local politics in Door County and then for a decade with a state legislator and appreciated the wide array of ideas and opinions. I fully grasped policy differences were as natural as the sun rising and setting. Partisan differences were not, for me, the mark of character.

But in 2006, as I drove through my hometown area and saw the number of yard signs in favor of an anti-gay marriage amendment slated for a statewide ballot, I was forced to realize a divide that I had not seen, or perhaps not wished to see all those previous years. This issue was not about increased taxes, or how to pay for road maintenance, or any such sundry list of concerns. This was not the typical issue of the day, but a blunt tool designed to foment bigotry and hate. It pained me to see signs on the lawns of people I personally knew promoting its passage.

This year as our state, like the nation and the world, fought back on a virus that has killed too many and undermined economies I have watched as some rebel against logical ways of living and acting so as to stem COVID’s spread. The utter rejection of wearing a mask so to protect their own families and the communities in which they live, or taking a vaccine that has proven efficacy so to allow for herd immunity, is more than shocking.

For so long I had a real faith in the rest of my fellow citizens, and that makes this year utterly dismaying to watch play out in relation to our basic human interactions with one another. My mom used to say that you never know how ugly families can be until there is a will to probate. She would be aghast to have watched how selfish and outrageous people turned out to be in a pandemic.

People refuse to be vaccinated and in so doing have split families apart. After all, those who follow science and reasoning do not wish to put their lives in peril by being in close proximity to those who reject common sense. Some fight against mandates, even for health workers or emergency workers who arrive at homes in trucks with flashing lights.

I have watched a segment of this state, a segment that is larger than what I would have ever imagined, lean into their tribalism, and in so doing, forsake the greater good. To me, that has been harder to accept than any presidential election night loss. That is because I know in four years there is a good chance at righting the ship of state.

What we have lost as Wisconsinites, as demonstrated by a segment of our populace with the rejection of science, facts, data, and following the advice of medical professionals is not something we can just glue back together again. The loss of our commitment to being good to each other, in the most trying of times, has defined who we are.

It is truly sad.

And so it goes.

Red U.S. Counties, Like Africa, Simply Must Get Vaccinated

The world community is acting with resolve to the news—not totally unexpected given the large swaths of the world not yet vaccinated to COVID–that the omicron variant is likely to be the next major wave of the pandemic. It was only a matter of time before a mutated version of beta, and Delta, would emerge given the low vaccination rates in certain parts of the world.

There was no missing messaging from Isreal about their attitude towards this new variant.

Israel will forbid the entry of noncitizens for two weeks, starting at midnight Sunday night, in an attempt to stem the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant in Israel and to allow experts time to assess its level of transmissibility and resistance against existing vaccines.”

The United States, like a long list of other countries, restricted travel for non-U.S. citizens from South Africa and seven other countries. But the fact is the world community is simply reacting to events.

Dutch health officials said on Sunday that they had found at least 13 cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant among 61 infected passengers who had arrived in the Netherlands from South Africa on Friday.

The time for proactive measures were the months the world community had to vaccinate the masses.

This all follows the World Health Organization assigning the newly identified variant the Greek letter omicron and formally recognizing the strain, previously referred to as lineage B.1.1.529, as a “variant of concern.”

The New York Times reported how the new variant was named.

“When it came time to name the potentially dangerous new variant that has emerged in southern Africa, the next letter in alphabetical order was Nu, which officials thought would be too easily confused with ‘new.’”“The letter after that was even more complicated: Xi, a name that in its transliteration, though not its pronunciation, happens to belong to the leader of China, Xi Jinping. So they skipped both and named the new variant Omicron.””

While the quick actions from around the world will be part of a needed plan of action in an attempt to stem the further spread, it is only through the use of vaccines that the world population is protected, and from that outcome, fewer hosts to the virus will then limit future mutations.

The problem is, however, that coronavirus infections are increasing from France to Fort Atkinson while vaccination rates are lukewarm, and there is simply an underwhelming administration of boosters. (Your blogger and his husband have booster shot appointments in just a few days. I strongly encourage my reasoned readers to follow suit.)

In the United States, there is much evidence to prove that where Donald Trump won by a larger margin in 2020 are the counties in which vaccination rates tend to be lower. As an example in Waushara County, Wisconsin where I was born and moved away from at age 20, only 41% of the populace has been fully vaccinated.

The county is heavily Republican and easily led astray from facts. In the 2020 presidential election, they voted 66% for Donald Trump. Now by almost the same percentage, the county refuses to be vaccinated. Trump refused to recognize the severity of the virus and undermined efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus such as encouraging the use of masks. His followers would prefer to be sick, infect others than admit science and medical professionals know more than their political icon.

Kaiser Family Foundation released on Sept. 28 data to show that gaps in vaccination rates across racial and ethnic groups have virtually disappeared–but gaps reflecting political affiliation have widened substantially.

Of Americans surveyed from Sept. 13-22, 72% of adults 18 and older had been vaccinated, including 71% of white Americans, 70% of Black Americans, and 73% of Hispanics. Contrast these converging figures with disparities based on politics: 90% of Democrats had been vaccinated, compared with 68% of Independents and just 58% of Republicans.

The fact is that every red county in this nation has readily available access to vaccines. There is not one logistical reason not to be vaccinated. A bone-headed decision to place partisanship above science is just further proof of what we already know about this demographic in the nation. Sad and pathetic are just the most obvious terms to use in their depiction.

Meanwhile, in Africa, the overall figure for those fully vaccinated is currently at about 6%. In many cases that is due to nations being low-income countries, and struggling with vaccine supply and health infrastructure issues. Not for the first time does this blog remind the world community of its responsibility to the less economically-able nations, and the requirement of mass vaccinations if the world economy is to truly rebound.

Red counties in the United States need to know they are connected to the pandemic solution as much as nations in Africa. The only way out of this pandemic is by being committed as a world community to fighting it. The US economy will not rebound completely until there is a true measure of resolve from all sections of the nation to make it happen.

Red counites like to talk about patriotism as they fly the flag. But when it comes to putting actions to their words Trump Republicans demonstrate their hero-worship means more than combatting the virus, restoring the economy, and securing the health of their communities.

And so it goes.

When A President Walks About (Like You And Me) While Continuing A Holiday Tradition

Something played out on Friday that made for a bit of national news, but which I found to be utterly fascinating. Even uplifting. President Biden took to foot on the streets of Nantucket. It is not often we see the leader of the nation just being himself.

On a day when many people across the country went shopping as the stores attempted to lure them in with sales, Biden was casually strolling the cobblestone streets of the small town. Along the way surprising small business owners by darting into a shop to say hello and making a purchase or two.

This was not some staged photo opportunity, but rather a holiday tradition for the Biden family. For the past 40 years, the Thanksgiving weekend has been spent on the island.

It was raining off and on as he strolled about, carrying his own umbrella as he looked into windows and talked with random folks on the street.

The optics are gold, I readily admit that. There is certainly a political plus to the images and video of someone who we have known for a long time as Joe, being the same person now even though he has the title of President. The point is that the day was not a political spin effort, but rather the President doing that same thing he and his family have done for decades on this holiday weekend.

To me, that is most refreshing.

When Saturday started to wind down with shopping the Biden family did what they have always done on the day after Thanksgiving. They all attending Nantucket’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

Modern presidents are often cocooned and shut off from such experiences. So to see Biden stroll about the streets that he and his family have long known, and participate in the weekend like millions of his fellow citizens were doing, was restorative to a nation that has felt the harshness of a pandemic. And too much raw politics.

We all have those mental images of what constitutes normalcy and stability when it comes to national leadership. We all have those flashbacks to President Ford making breakfast or the Carter family attending church. Such moments caught in time are important as we know our democracy is made up ‘of the people’.

Over the past presidency, we lost that touchstone to real America. So it does matter now that the average person can identify with the one who sits in the Oval Office. A man who can even carry his own umbrella.

And so it goes.

Happy Thanksgiving!