Gregory Humphrey History Minute: One Inkwell

I love history, and always wanted to teach a high school class. As such, here is one story that many do not know, but how grand it is to learn. From Dred Scott to Justice John Marshall Harlan’s famed dissent on behalf of the rights of Black Americans comes the story of an inkwell and the power of hope and inspiration. (That is my mom in the pictures on the wall.)

Steep Price Must Be Paid For Gun Violence, $144 Million Settlement What America Needs To Face

I was pleased to learn from a radio newscast that the Department of Justice reached a tentative $144.5 million settlement agreement with the victims of the 2017 shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.  With the continuing list of mass shootings making headlines weekly, you can be forgiven for not recalling which mass shooting that happened to be.  So let me add here for the benefit of my readers it was the deadliest mass shooting in Texas. Well, as of this posting.

Former Air Force member Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire in November 2017, during a worship service which quickly resulted in twenty-six people being slaughtered while 22 others were injured. The $144 million settlement would resolve the federal government’s drawn-out legal battle with the families of the victims and survivors of the mass shooting after a federal judge found the government largely responsible for the attack.

The lawsuit has been interesting to follow for two reasonsFirst, gun violence must carry a huge price tag so to demonstrate to the public what is at stake when constructive efforts are not undertaken to control the ‘old wild west’ mentality across the nation. If the dead bodies of school children will not move a nation to act, then perhaps the financial factor is what will resonate within people where morals once existed. Secondly, this case showcases the lack of accountability by those who knew or should have known the mass shooter’s previous domestic assault conviction. 

Kelly had attacked his former wife and baby stepson, and that alone showed what a weak man he was.  That information should have been planted in our national database, and if it had been so inputted there is a strong probability that the mass shooting may not have occurred.  An intervention might have prevented him from buying deadly guns from licensed dealers.  I had been heartened in this slow-moving legal case when a federal judge ruled that the Air Force was 60% liable for the mass shooting because they were negligent in placing data into the national system.  Adding to the justified anger the victim’s families can feel is the fact the Defense Department, when conducting an investigation into the case, discovered that the Air Force failed six times to follow reporting procedures during the shooter’s five-year service. 

I have stated umpteen times that given almost 400 million guns are loose in the nation, there will need to be laws and processes undertaken to stem the unacceptable level of gun violence.  But to learn such a blatant lapse in sound judgment and prudence from the Air Force regarding a clearly angry male, and knowing no steps were taken given the law already on the books(!) so to lessen his chances of committing further danger to others requires that a massive financial settlement now occurs.

Gun violence must result in a steep price to be paid.  If knowing children need to be scraped off school classroom floors after bullets from assault-style weapons (which were meant for war) obliterate their small bodies does not move the conscience of the nation, then we need to find what will move Americans. Since greed and selfishness, sadly, are factors that move a fair amount of them, I strongly concur with the large DOJ settlement and urge more such legal constructions in cases around the nation.

After all, a Steep Price Must Be Paid For Gun Violence

Donald Trump Arrest Makes Historic Front Pages Of Newspapers

Once again, this blog places the front pages of newspapers in a post to showcase a major historic moment. Notice two of the selections use banner space to report the news.

Indicted! (Some Thoughts)

On Thursday evening, after news of the charges against Donald Trump had been widely reported on all the news networks and across social media, the New York district attorney’s office confirmed that an indictment had been handed down. How to have the unprecedented surrender of a former president take place is being worked out. I note that there has never been a reason for such a playbook as no other ex-president, not even Richard Nixon, necessitated such planning as none needed to be indicted.

What we do know is that Trump will be forced to surrender. He will be fingerprinted, a mug shot taken, and he will be given a number like other criminals when arrested. For all his bombast and ginned-up rhetoric this is the last thing Trump wanted to happen to him. There is no upside, no honor to be gained, no wonderful memory to be passed down to the grandkids. Just solid proof of what I have said since the summer of 2015. Donald Trump is nothing more than white trash.

He slept with a porn actress, which is, I guess, gentler than calling Stormy Daniels a ‘lady-of-the-night’ as they termed it back in my youth.  Trump’s third wife surely considers the legal smackdown today concerning the $130,000 pay-off far preferable to her contracting a potential plethora of sexually transmitted diseases that could have followed the tryst.

The outlandish rhetoric from over-heated conservatives this evening is underscoring a growing concern. They may talk loudly but we know what is playing out underscores what they are saddling themselves with for 2024. Trump has led the Republican Party to defeats in 2018, 2020, and 2022. Here they go again! Meanwhile, the rest of us are mindful many of these same conservatives were lecturing us in 2020 about why the nation needed to be respectful of law and order. Well, that was not a lesson that took root within the GOP.

As a history buff, I was certainly stunned to see Trump impeached twice during his single term in office, and shaken to my core as was most of this nation when he cradled and fostered the mob to harm the actions of Congress when counting the Electoral College votes.  Now Trump makes history again as the first ex-president to be indicted by a grand jury.  Three more indictments are to come.  And they will follow in the weeks and months ahead.  I remind readers of the ponderous and methodical timetable regarding the investigation that we know as Watergate. That too, took years.

I care not at all what Trump’s base thinks, as they are the same demographic now as a year ago.  They get older but unlike wine, not better.  Certainly not smarter.  They deserve to see the power and necessity of the law land upon Trump.  The base needs to be reminded of what a functioning democracy does to those who break the law. 

As I go to posting time on CP I can only hope the late-night comics had not taped their shows before the indictment news was reported!

Dan Kelly Would Be Harmful To Democracy, Must Not Be Elected To Court, Imposter Electoral College Ballots Our Proof

Entrance to the Supreme Court of the state of Wisconsin.

In my life, one event far more than any other, was shockingly bizarre, utterly shameful, and absolutely repugnant on a level never before witnessed. It cut not only a deep wound into those who read and study our history and believe in our nation’s ideals but also slashed at the national fabric that holds a democracy together through fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power between presidential administrations.  The seditious insurrection at our nation’s Capital on January 6, 2021, will go down as a horrific attempt to steal an American election.

While Donald Trump provoked and cradled the violence, there were many across the land who aided and abetted his autocratic desires. One of those who lent a hand in undermining the 2020 election process, and pushed back on the lessons we learned in our civics classes, was Dan Kelly. He is now a candidate for the Wisconsin Supreme Court on April 4th.  Following the needless bombast and purposely created chaos by Trump and his White House after the 2020 balloting we needed to have stable, reasoned, and civic-minded people stand up for the sake of the nation. Dan Kelly took a different route.  

Following Kelly’s defeat by Wisconsin voters for a court seat in 2020 he took a job with the Wisconsin Republican Party and the Republican National Committee to work on election issues, where he was paid roughly $120,000.  For a jurist who told voters that objectivity was his desire just months prior when seeking their support, he quickly found his partisan niche when voted off the bench. It was because of that work former GOP Chairman Andrew Hitt was able to inform the January 6th investigating committee that Kelly was working as a “special counsel” and had “pretty extensive conversations” about the fake Republican electors. Hitt testified that he brought in Kelly to “kind of advise on election law matters.”

We know that the Republican fake electors met in the Wisconsin Capitol on the same day that Democrats cast the state’s 10 electoral votes for Biden.  Those electoral votes could be rightfully cast since Biden won the state by nearly 21,000 votes.  The actions by Republicans with a bogus and dangerous imposter list of electors created pure partisan chicanery. strongly aided by Kelly to purposely pollute our electoral college process.  As such, Kelly cannot claim to be a citizen in good standing with the principles of our nation as laid out by the Founding Fathers.  With such a lax foundation he is not the quality of person needed to be a court justice.

According to the Wisconsin Code of Judicial Conduct, Kelly walked away from the groundwork of how a would-be jurist should act in regard to partisan behavior. The code bars candidates from belonging to a political party, participating “in the affairs, caucuses, promotions, platforms, endorsements, conventions, or activities of a political party or of a candidate for partisan office”. Such brakes on political actions are more common than we might consider. My brother-in-law could not place a political lawn sign on his property because he was a mere postmaster. Surely then, we must hold supreme court candidates to a higher set of guidelines and standards when we learn of one aiding in the undermining of a presidential election.

Kelly proved his desire to be a politico when he took a job with the Republican Party and dress in partisan red. That was his right since he needed a job.  But then he traded in his values and core beliefs to aid the autocratic desire of Trump over and above the election outcomes of the American people. That created a clear danger to our nation. To our democracy. Such a person can not sit on the Supreme Court.

I recall that Elizabeth Taylor could not wear white on her 8th marriage, and in that same light, there is no way that Dan Kelly can again wear a black robe. There are bridges, once crossed, where a return trip is no longer an option.  I do not mean to end this post in a light-hearted mirthful manner as there is no equivocation about where we all need to stand as citizens.  Any effort to overturn Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential election results is disqualifying for elected office of any kind.

Kewaunee County Has Right To Be Angry Over Paltry DOJ Settlement Of Corporate Farm Improperly Spreading Manure

Jars of water from Kewaunee County home tap where researchers tied manure from nearby farm fields to the polluted water. Courtesy of Kewaunee County Land and Water Conservation Department

The news on the surface seems to suggest the State of Wisconsin prevailed with justice by taking a firm stand on behalf of the residents who were negatively impacted in Kewaunee County, where cattle outnumber people nearly 5 to 1. In 2017 up to 60 percent of sampled wells in a Kewaunee County study contained fecal microbes, many of which are capable of making people and calves sick. So it might seem needless to say for those who have endured polluted and colored drinking water for many years, the meager $215,000 settlement of ‘pollution allegations’ by Kinnard Farms rings harsh and hollow. While one can rightly approve of the determination shown by the Department of Justice to challenge the wrongdoing of this corporate farm the final financial outcome is a sad joke.

The Legislature’s finance committee is scheduled to approve the deal this week, and the press is reporting this small fine will settle allegations that Kinnard Farms improperly spread manure in Kewaunee and Door counties between 2018 and 2022.  The settlement also calls for Kinnard Farms to upgrade two waste storage facilities and a feed storage area.

If you have not heard of Kinnard Farms it is not due to their name being absent on the lips of Kewaunee residents. For years one of Wisconsin’s largest dairy operations in the northeastern region of the state, with 16 industrial farms, has created agricultural pollution where testing has proven outrageous levels of contaminants in residents’ private drinking water wells. Contaminants that match fecal matter in farm fields with tap water pollution. How many ways can one say yuck?

In 2021, the state allowed a permit to Kinnard Farms that required the business to monitor at least two sites where it applies manure to the land as fertilizer, with at least three wells per site. The sites selected must have a shallow depth to the bedrock, where the groundwater resides. The business, of course, and as one might imagine contends the testing regime is too expensive.  As such, they are suing the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. There is enough money to hire a law firm in Madison but not enough to test and keep local residents safe from contaminants in the drinking water.

We all take for granted the clarity of our tap water and the safety of drinking it, brushing our teeth, and using it for cooking and showering.  But our fellow citizens in Kewaunee County when turning on the tap are aware that pollution issues are front and center due to manure having been applied during spring, summer, and fall on area land.  As their local students are taught in science classes, their topsoil is a relatively short distance from the groundwater in the area, due to its unique hydrogeology. This is the basic understanding as to why many taxpayers can show bottles of dirty water taken from the kitchen tap.  Who can blame that county for raising holy heck about what has been done all in the name of a corporate farm making huge sums of money?

I noted a WPR news story during the Covid pandemic when most people were taking steps to stay clear of the virus, where it was reported hundreds of people in Kewaunee County were falling ill at home just from their drinking water.

The study predicts cow manure causes 230 cases of acute gastrointestinal illnesses in the county per year, out of 301 total cases of sickness — with an additional 12 cases caused by human waste from septic systems. The contaminant is unknown for the other instances, the authors wrote.

The reason I am animated over this issue is that research is showing that even what was considered a solution to the harm done by Kinnard Farms may not be enough for the safety needs of the citizenry.

Private homeowners in that situation may be eligible for a well compensation program that provides money for filling and sealing old wells, drilling and constructing a new well or installing a treatment system. If they have E. coli in their well, Peninsula Pride Farms Water Well program also offers help.

But Borchardt’s research shows a new or deeper well does not necessarily provide protection.

Tenacity and resolve are traits from the Justice Department that I always find welcoming, but there is no glee to be found with this weak and anemic $215,000 settlement for a corporate farm that has done so much environmental harm. No real justice can be summed up with a $215,000 settlement. Severe lax state regulations regarding agricultural practices allowed people to bring dirty bottled water to the statehouse and place it on my desk and ask for a resolution in the 1990s. They had a right to be angry then. They have even more reason for anger now.

Crumbley Parents Face Prosection Due To Son’s Shooting Spree, Nation Has Right To Expect Parental Responsibility

Gun control advocates continually press for reasoned and logical laws and consequences so as to better stem the rampant gun violence that impacts far too many communities and families. Today, one of those themes pushed on this blog came to fruition in a Michigan court case. James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of a teenager who killed four students and injured seven at a Michigan high school, will face trial for involuntary manslaughter. The ruling came from a state appeals court in what we need to recognize as a profoundly important and correct decision.  This is a groundbreaking case of criminal responsibility for the acts of a gun-toting child.

In December 2021, I posted the following.

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.

Let me be clear and place the weight upon the parents as these murders would not have happened if the parents hadn’t purchased a gun for Ethan Crumbley or if they had taken him home from Oxford High School on the day of the shooting.  That is not just my summation, but how the appeal court viewed the distressing matter of God-awful parenting.  The court held firm to the obvious necessity that the parents should have taken their unhinged child out of the classroom after school staff became aware of and rightly alarmed over his extreme drawings.

I have stressed bad parenting must be addressed in relation to guns repeatedly on Caffeinated Politics.  After reading the words of Lorrie Wagner about her son, Jakob, the Antigo prom school shooter, I called attention to her decision to allow a clearly troubled child to obtain a semi-automatic weapon. I stated it was an example that underscores why there needs to be some legal remedy for such absurdity. We came to know about her son’s childhood struggle with mental illness and diagnosis of depression his emotional breakup with a girlfriend a month before prom, combined with his mother’s decision two weeks before the dance to allow him to buy a semi-automatic assault-style rifle at a gun show. 

In 2009, the Waushara County Sheriff’s Department received a 911 call alerting them someone had been shot dead in Redgranite.  The initial investigation showed several young people between the ages of 5 and 17 were at the residence and the victim had received a gunshot wound to the upper torso.  A long-barrel rifle used in the shooting was recovered from the scene. At the time I asked where were the parents?  Why was a rifle unlocked with ammunition in the home?  There are many questions to be answered, and as painful as it might be, the parents need to be held responsible for the weapons that they had. 

We know that in 2006 in Sauk County a 15-year-old boy brought a rifle and handgun to school and shot a principal three times, killing him.  I wrote at the time “How guns are so carelessly left around in the homes of Americans is a mystery to me.  How a child walks out of the house on the way to school with a loaded shotgun and a loaded handgun baffles me.  How parents are so tone deaf to the problems that their child is having BEFORE a violent act of this kind, confuses me.”

This blog has repeatedly stated parents of young people who use guns to shoot, kill, and create violence also need to be held accountable.  Many times, an adult was responsible for the fact the shooter was able to place his hands on a weapon. There is no way that any sane person can say parental/adult actions, such as with this shooting in Michigan which led off this post, 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 must 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.

I applaud the court process playing out in Michigan. James and Jennifer Crumbley deserve to be wards of the state.

Inciting Protest Over Arrest, Donald Trump Again Seeks To Undermine Rule of Law

Once again, and disturbingly so, we must use the word unprecedented when speaking about Donald Trump.  It is reported that on Tuesday the former president will be arrested for his hush money payments in relation to a sexual affair with Stormy Daniels, a porn star, which he carried on while married to his third wife. Upon learning the legal proceedings are bearing down upon him, Trump made a public statement that there should be protests to counter his arrest. 

If this were a third-rate country it would be on par that such bombast and recklessness would be coming from an autocratic personality.  But coming from a former president of the United States, and one who incited a seditious insurrection at our nation’s Capital only a couple years ago means the audacity of his words is chilling.  Trying to galvanize revolt through such language is simply abhorrent. 

Old-fashioned though I am, and admittedly so, I hold to the notion that reverence for laws matters, and that the process of law and order has meaning.  I hold to the concept that reason and justice matter.  I am appalled at the anger and the all-consuming array of resentments from a segment of the electorate who are never destined to be more than tools for Trump. That he only uses his troubled base for his own self-promotion and self-aggrandizement, and never for national good is proof for the rest of the nation as to what is at play.

Civics in my classrooms informed me, and given my interests perhaps I just paid more attention, but lawless passions are to be disdained and not nurtured or in any way furthered as they run counter to laws and reason. Civil law is the very antidote to the crazed passion and reckless desire of Trump. Mob action has deadly consequences, as seen on January 6th, 2021, and severely threatens our democratic ideals.

We know from history what happens when people fall to the whims of Caesar or Napoleon and cozy up to the rabble-rousers and dangers of freedom.  Trump is no better than those who earn historical scorn by their attempts to thwart justice and he has proven a willingness to destroy the very fabric of the nation itself to avoid the code of law. Mass violence is what we too often read about in nations not yet matured and able to arrange their political systems to address competing interests.  But in our nation of laws and a well-established system of justice, there is only one way to deal with Trump.

Donald Trump must feel the full weight of justice upon him.