Monday, December 15, 2008

Falk’s 911 Albatross

On the last day of her life, University of Wisconsin senior Brittany Zimmerman, 21, called 911 from her cell phone about noon on April 2, 2008. She was knifed to death in her apartment near campus a short time later.

Police arrived nearly an hour later when her fiancĂ©e found her lifeless, bloody body. Zimmerman’s death and the failure of the 911 system to dispatch officers sooner shocked both Madison and her hometown of Marshfield, Wisconsin.

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk repeatedly denied that there are any problems at the 911 center and said Zimmerman hung up on 911 operators. Falk defended 911 Director Joe Norwick until Falk announced she will seek another four-year term in 2009, when she suddenly announced Norwick’s “retirement.”

Even now Falk says a nationwide search for a 911 director resulted in Norwick being selected. This is hard to believe because Norwick was the chief Dane County Deputy to former Dane County Sheriff Gary Hamblin. It is more likely that Hamblin could arrest someone in Falk’s family and the price was continued employment for Norwick. Norwick was unable to tell the Dane County Board how many calls the 911 center received per month after Zimmerman’s death.

Falk’s version of events and repeated denial that the 911 system erred in handling the Zimmerman call appear to be lies. Local reporters have heard the tape of Zimmerman’s call when the warrants in her case became unsealed in error. A struggle and her screams are plain in her call.

The Zimmerman call was cited as the public blackest eye and Falk the leading public enemy in an Isthmus reader poll but the 911 center has mishandled more calls. Two escalating noise complaints came from neighbors of Lake Edge Park between 9 and 10 p.m. on November 11 with no officers sent. A call came about 11 p.m. that there was an unconscious man in the park. There had been a fight and one of the combatants was dead.

Although Falk is wearing the 911 albatross around her neck, her announcement to seek another term in the April 2009 election scared off other Democrats. Mismanagement of public safety and the 911 system are key issues in the campaign of Nancy Mistele against Falk.

Falk’s response to Mistele, a former Dane County school board member, was to say that Mistele lost twice and is an extremist. Most know Mistele lost twice trying to topple Democrat State Senator Jon Erpenbach, is in the private sector and is a moderate Republican. Other candidates are possible.

Apparently Falk forgot that she also lost twice. While serving as Dane County Executive, she lost for Wisconsin Governor in 2002. In 2006, Falk beat the incumbent Attorney General in the Democratic primary before losing to Republican JB Van Hollen, angering some liberals. It does not seem like Falk really wants to be Dane County Executive. Some consider her to be an extremist on environmental and social issues.

Neighborhoods in Madison that considered themselves safe are increasingly plagued by burglary and violence. Falk is only one more bungled 911 call from what many consider a politically fatal third strike.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Raising Taxes a Resort Wisconsin Democrats Will Visit

Wisconsin’s estimated current $5 billion deficit defies quick fixes. It did not happen overnight. However, a report from the union-dominated Institute for Wisconsin’s Future and the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families says it can be fixed in one year by delaying some tax cuts, raising others and taxing things that are not taxed now.

The report calls it “tax reform,” but it is really a menu of tax hikes. Other states facing such large deficits might ask state employees to work one free day per week, offer early retirement or extend a fiscal year to another quarter to improve revenue. Wisconsin, the report says, is not trying to raise enough revenue so we should pay higher taxes.

Democrats, who now have a majority in the Wisconsin House and Senate thanks to union money and volunteers, say that raising taxes that you and I pay should be a last resort. That is a Wisconsin resort which Democrats will visit.

How did we get here? When Jim Doyle was elected Wisconsin Governor in 2002, Wisconsin faced a $3.2 billion shortfall. Doyle blamed it on former Governors Tommy Thompson and Scott McCallum. Low-hanging spending fruit was picked. Gradually, the Doyle Administration “borrowed” from other funds to paper over subsequent operating deficits. Last year, the Governor and legislature raised fees $763 million on registering cars, getting vital records, dry-cleaning clothes and applying to public universities.

The big ticket tax hikes put forth in the report are raising the state sales tax to six percent ($850 million), extend the sales tax to business and professional services ($468 million), bring back the sales tax on motor fuel ($403 million), eliminate state income tax refundable credits ($321 million), eliminate the marriage credit ($275 million), increase the top rate of the state income tax from 6.75 percent to 7.75 percent ($180 million) and reinstate Wisconsin’s inheritance tax ($120 million).

In my case, whatever I save from lowering the state income tax in my bracket could be more than offset by higher sales taxes. A Princeton University study says Wisconsin citizens with higher incomes than mine vote with their feet to leave the state to be replaced by citizens with lower incomes. That means that tax increases will never yield as much as promised.

Families struggling to pay bills, buy food and put gas in the car, cut back where they can. Increasing their taxes penalizes them and increasing taxes on their employers might cause more workers to lose their jobs, too. Republicans will find new backbone in the minority to stand with families. Raising taxes is a sure way for Assembly and Senate Democrats to become the minority again in 2010.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

UW Football: Ending with a Whimper

The turning point of this University of Wisconsin football season was the second half of the game at Michigan. The Badgers squandered a 19 point halftime lead only to lose that game.

Wisconsin’s Homecoming victory 27-17 over Illinois and 35-32 over Minnesota were reminders of how the Badgers have so dashed expectations in the 2008 season. So this team is bowl-eligible at 6-5. Big deal. Four wins were against non-conference patsies and a blow-out of hapless Indiana.

The Badger offense can not sustain time-consuming drives to wear down superior Big 10 defenses and scored mostly on field goals by Philip Welch. This means that the defense is on the field too much. Although the Badger defense is good, they have a tendency to give up the big play, especially against the spread offenses which now dominate the conference.

Previous Badger football teams found new ways to win close games. This team finds new ways to lose. Home field advantage meant little this season. True, the Badgers kept it fairly close to Ohio State before losing badly to Penn State. The drama of the Badger Band this year mirrored the drama on the field. Jump Around, indeed.

I am old enough to remember when the Badgers coached by John Jardine were bad enough to open the seasons of college football powerhouses. The home game scores were so one-sided that everyone came to see the band and stayed for the Fifth Quarter even if the buzz had worn off.

As I said, I’m looking forward to the end of the football season so we can again focus on men’s and women’s hockey. Basketball is here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Say Nothing against Obama

Most people have now seen the rants by angry voters at a John McCain town hall meeting in Waukesha on Thursday, October 10, urging McCain to be tougher against Barack Obama and his associates at the third and final Presidential debate. Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, other Obama surrogates and the mainstream media have described the anger and fear of the election of Barack Obama as racist at best and threatening at worst.

Many liberals blame conservative talk radio hosts for whipping up this anger. There are some who believe everything that entertainers say about Obama and Joe Biden on the radio, just as many liberals believe everything that is posted against McCain and Sarah Palin on the Internet.

Because I live and work in a non-partisan Madison establishment, I am surprised when people without prompting express to me their hatred for McCain and Palin. They have even turned down change involving Alaskan quarters, which are the newest state quarters issued. There is no value in arguing or letting these people know that I am a Republican. Only other Republicans and a few colleagues know that I have attended the last three Wisconsin Republican conventions and that I have a McCain sticker on my car.

It is true that the electoral map seems to be trending for Obama. If Obama wins the Presidency, there would be no shortage of mischief Congressional Democrats could wreak upon job providers and our economy. If this results in my paying less in taxes while others I love pay more, then it is typical Democratic class warfare.

In general, though, I am not afraid of a President and Congress controlled by leftist Democrats. Nothing galvanizes us in the opposition like being shut out of power. When Jimmy Carter was elected President in 1976, the House and Senate were controlled by Democrats. This led to the election of President Ronald Reagan and a Republican Senate Majority in 1980. When President Bill Clinton was elected President in 1992, the House and Senate were controlled by Democrats. It led to the Republican takeover of the House and Senate in 1994.

A couple of weeks ago, I drove northwest of Medford for a family gathering. Starting about in Waupaca along Interstate 39, I never again saw a single Democratic sign. If Obama wins Wisconsin, it will because their campaign turns out more votes in population centers than McCain does in the suburbs and the small towns.

Democratic voters tend to be fair weather voters and a smaller voter turnout tends to favor Republicans. I still hope for blowing and drifting snow on Election Day in Wisconsin.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Have Democrats Learned Nothing?

Choosing Delaware Senator Joe Biden to be the Vice Presidential candidate by Illinois Senator and Presidential candidate Barack Obama was an electoral mistake for several reasons. The last two unsuccessful national Democratic tickets were two Senators, even though one was already a sitting Vice President. Obama could have chosen a Governor or someone else with management experience.

Although Democrats believe that the ticket of Vice President Al Gore and Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman should have won in 2000 had the Republicans not “stolen” Florida, Gore-Lieberman ultimately lost to a Republican ticket which featured Governor George W. Bush of Texas and Wyoming Congressman Dick Cheney. In 2004, Democrats nominated two more U.S. Senators, Kerry-Edwards against Bush-Cheney.

Why do Democrats keep nominating U.S. Senators even though they do not win? Democrats keep trying to recreate the coalition that was successful in 1960, when Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy chose Texas Senator Lyndon Johnson as his running mate. Winning Texas was more crucial to making Kennedy President than Kennedy’s celebrated victory over Republican nominee Richard Nixon in the televised debate.

When Democrats won the White House in 1992, they broke out of the habit of nominating two U.S. Senators. They chose Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton and Tennessee Senator Al Gore.

Choosing someone like Biden, who has served in the U.S. Senate since 1973, undermines the Obama message that Washington is broken and change is about the future. It is also hard to imagine a Vice Presidential candidate who makes Barack Obama look younger and inexperienced, being old enough to be Obama’s father. Joe Biden has a long record of public service, speaks in public better than Obama, made disparaging statements about Obama when Biden was a Presidential candidate and is a gold mine for opposition researchers.

Republican nominee and Arizona Senator John McCain will nominate a running mate last. It is unlikely that McCain will choose a running mate who does not have executive experience.

By choosing Joe Biden, Barack Obama might have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Journalists for Obama

Writing in the July 14 National Review, Weekly Standard contributing editor Noemie Emery compares how symbiotic the relationship was between Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy and the press and that now the press has become the cheering section for Barack Obama. Emery’s article can be found at

Roosevelt and Kennedy cultivated relationships with journalists of their day and became President at 42 and 43, respectively. Both had aggressive personalities, came from successful business families and had a history of military service. Roosevelt had San Juan Hill; Kennedy had PT 109.

Now many journalists have become so effete and self-important, they are ceaseless in their indictments of the evil Republicans and the values of Americans in flyover country. Many journalists came from humble origins to rise through education and experience to their positions.

When they look in the mirror, they see Obama as a reflection of themselves. No experience in the military or business, they believe that Americans cling to guns and religion out of bitterness. A rise from humble origins through education at Ivy League Schools, Obama is just like them – cool, distant and a critic of the status quo.

Roosevelt and Kennedy were never depicted as the second coming of the Messiah with a halo over their heads. It is journalist cheering of everything Obama does and says that makes it seem as if he is divine.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Madison’s Traffic Problems

Madison has some unusual traffic problems even in summer with most of the University of Wisconsin students away for the summer. It will be worse when the college kids return.

I have lived all across the country, including in cities that dwarf Madison. I also have driven on several college campuses. Madison’s traffic problems were especially noticeable when I drove to central Wisconsin and back, arriving in Madison near bar time on Saturday. Clusters of pedestrians were jay-walking at random.

When the college students return, they pose unusual traffic hazards. Jay-walking students now have their eyes and ears glued to cellular phones instead of watching out for cars. A number of foreign students appear to have obtained their driver licenses by correspondence courses because they seem not to know how big their cars are to drive or park.

Although operating autos safely on the Beltline is an area of emphasis in public service announcements, speed and using turn signals is still random. The speed limit on most of the Beltline is 55 mph. I usually drive 60 mph and am often passed on both the right and left by people driving at least 70 mph.

I work on Mineral Point Road near the Beltline. I currently take the Beltline to work to avoid the construction backup at Mineral Point and Gammon. When there is no road construction, I can get to work in 10 minutes by taking Mineral Point Road. The posted speed limit on Mineral Point is 40 mph. Some drive 50 mph but some drive 30 mph. This is also true of University Avenue between Whitney Way and near campus.

What especially galls me when I am walking is the sheer number of those riding bicycles on the sidewalk. I am not heartless; I am fine with parents and little kids riding on the sidewalk. When I was a student, a lucky few were bicycle enforcement officers, empowered to write tickets for riding on the sidewalk, blowing through red lights and riding in an unsafe manner. Bicyclists operated safely to avoid tickets.

Tickets seem in short supply in Madison for autos and bicycles operated unsafely, however. Police in Madison seem to have their hands too full to respond to anything but accidents instead of preventing them.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Missing Some Things about the South

I lived in the Deep South for four years. There are some things I miss, but others not so much, in Wisconsin-speak.

Chiefly, I miss the food and drink. Even the best barbecue in Madison is not nearly as good as third-tier barbecue in the South. I miss Community Coffee with chicory. (Yes, I could buy it online.) I miss going to the grocery store, using a buggy instead of a cart, and choosing among two or more brands of sweet tea. I miss the guitreau at Mike Anderson’s with an appetizer of gator bits. I miss fresh hush puppies. I miss Milo’s and real Popeye’s chicken with fresh red beans and rice as a side.

I miss “y’all” instead of “you guys.” Collective is “all y’all.” I miss Baptist pastors who make invitations. I have yet to see an “altar call” in the North. I miss being called “Tiger” because I am wearing purple and gold in Louisiana. I miss Tiger Stadium, which is easily three times louder than Camp Randall.

There are a few things I do not miss. When I first moved to the South, I thought “Sir/Madam” was a sign of respect. Now I know it is rote superficial politeness. In the North, it is replaced by real politeness that seems rude by Southerners. I do not miss how far right Republicans were in the South, where symbolic religious issues often take the place of solving real problems. I was considered a liberal because I was insufficiently extreme. I do not miss voting on long tables with no privacy.

I do not miss people who tailgate at 90 mph on the interstate, then dart suddenly right and down an exit. I do not miss cars and people festooned with Alabama, Auburn, NASCAR Numbers and Christian Fish.

More than anything, I do not miss the weather in the South. It was usually too hot for my Northern blood. In the South, a hot day might be 100 and children and the elderly are warned not to go outside because the air quality is poor. In the North, a hot day might be in the high 80s but a cold day might be -40. I prefer four seasons to the green and brown seasons.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

“Over the land of the free and the home of the brave”

July 4 for many Americans is a beery day of sports, food, boating and fireworks. Historically, of course, July 4, 1776, is the date we declared our independence from Great Britain when this was a risky proposition.

It is such an American holiday. Because it falls on a day off, I will get holiday pay even though I am not working. On the last Independence Day, my younger boy, Eric, was out of the country.

This July 4 has special significance for me because Jens Michaelsen is at sea, not at home on Oahu. Actually, he will be under the Pacific Ocean for several months with more than 100 of his closest friends. While his service is safer than those who serve on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is not without risk. He is serving on a boat that was launched and decorated for service during the Cold War before he was even born.

We all weep for the family and friends of those who become casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those of us who are parents never want to bury our children. Some who serve in the Middle Eastern have marked several Independence Days there. However, they are all volunteers.

Jens is a volunteer, too. He enlisted shortly before he was 18 and turned 23, also at sea. Here is a recent picture of him with his girlfriend.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Arrest in One of Three Big Unsolved Madison Murders

Madison police chief Noble Wray announced Friday that Madison police have arrested a suspect in the murder of hospital equipment salesman Joel Marino. Adam Peterson, 20, was arrested in the metro Twin Cities area. His father told the media that Peterson attended the University of Wisconsin briefly.

Marino was stabbed January 27, 2008, in a quiet working-class lakeside neighborhood. He bled to death en route to a nearby hospital emergency room. The killer left behind a backpack, a hat and a knife in a rush to escape. DNA evidence from the objects matched Peterson.

Meanwhile, Kevin and Jean Zimmerman are suing Dane County and a 911 dispatcher for dropping their daughter Brittany’s cell phone call shortly before she was murdered. Wray said there is not current DNA evidence tying Peterson to Zimmerman’s murder.

Marshfield native and University of Wisconsin molecular biology and immunology student Brittany Zimmerman, 21, was murdered before noon on April 2 2008, in her West Doty Street apartment. It is known that she called 911 just before she died. Zimmerman then either hung up or operators hung up on her; this may never be known. Operators at the 911 system neither called her back nor sent police officers to the Global Positioning System location which all cellular phones now provide. The dispatcher in question was transferred to a county child support agency and might have government immunity for work in the 911 center.

It is likely that a homeless man broke into Zimmerman’s apartment to steal and that she surprised him, leading to her being stabbed. The wrongful death suit by her parents says Madison did not curb homeless people in Zimmerman’s campus neighborhood, Dane County knew it did not have enough dispatchers and they were not trained well. Isthmus reported months ago that dissatisfaction and employee turnover at the 911 center were both rampant. Poor training was cited by many who left.

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk has been dogged by contradictory comments about the Zimmerman call and the 911 system. So has Joe Norwick, director of the Dane County 911 system. At a County Commission meeting after the Zimmerman death, Norwick did not to know how many calls were made to the center monthly and how many are from cell telephones or landlines. Wray, irate about the 911 center not dispatching police to the Zimmerman scene, has pointedly asked how many calls for help in Madison did not result in police being notified. Falk has expressed confidence in Norwick, a former deputy sheriff.

It is possible that Falk and Norwick will receive subpoenas to testify in a Zimmerman trial. That would be embarrassing to both and it would not be surprising if each turns on the other to assess blame.

We are also coming up on the one-year anniversary of the murder of Kelly Nolan, 22. UW-Whitewater student Nolan disappeared from State Street near bar time on June 23, 2007, triggering a national man-hunt similar to that for Natalee Holloway, when she disappeared in Aruba. Nolan’s decomposing body was found in the woods near Oregon, Wisconsin, about a week later. It is not known if there was DNA evidence.

There are other unsolved murders in Madison but murders on campus or downtown explode the myth that Madison is somehow immune from this violence. It is comforting to those of us who are harsh critics of Madison liberals that an arrest was made in the Marino case. Now the Nolan and Zimmerman cases demand attention.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Remembrance of George Carlin

News that George Carlin has passed away moves me to remembrance. He was more than a comedian to me, although I found him funny. When I was about 11, I bought “Class Clown.”

As an actor, he was also important in the lives of my children. When Jens and Eric were little, they watched “Shining Time Station,” the PBS show which included the animated Thomas the Tank Engine stories. It featured a mother and her children living at a train station run by a character called Mr. Conductor. For several years, Mr. Conductor was Ringo Starr. For a couple of seasons, Mr. Conductor was George Carlin.

When Jens and Eric were a little older, we watched the two Bill and Ted movies. In “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, George Carlin plays Rufus, sent from the future to keep Wyld Stallions together.

Among the bits of “Class Clown,” were the seven words you can not say on television. That would be fuck, shit, piss, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits. It was in Milwaukee that Carlin was arrested for using them in public. When I hurt myself or when I discovered that my kids had thrown away the operating system on my Macintosh, I would explode in the seven words out loud or abbreviate it just to fuck, shit, piss. My kids heard this so often, they started to abbreviate it FSP. When I was in public, I would think it without saying it out loud.

Although George Carlin has passed away, he lives on in me and in the lives of my children.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Happy Birthday, Petty Officer Michaelsen

My older son, Jens, is 23 today.

People who know ask if I have sent him a card and present or called him. Jens has asked his grandparents and me to resist sending him a card or presents until he is back on shore in early July. I have bought a card and picked out presents.

I have not called him. Although he has great cellular phone coverage, the signal does not carry to underwater in the Pacific Ocean. If you are so inclined, you can send birthday greetings to Jens at

Friday, June 20, 2008

Was Tamara Greene Killed by Kwame Kilpatrick?

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was in his first term and Tamara Greene, a stripper known professionally as Strawberry, allegedly performed for a party at the Mayor’s mansion in September 2002. Supposedly, Mrs. Kilpatrick had been out of town and came home unexpectedly and confronted Greene. In this theory, Greene was executed because she knew too much about sex, politics and power in Michigan’s largest city.

What is undisputable is that Greene died in a hail of drive-by gunfire about 3:40 in the morning on April 30, 2003. In the driver seat, she was shot 18 times; three shots were fatal. Her boyfriend, Eric “Big E” Mitchell was hit by five bullets but he survived. The bullets were .40 calibers, fueling many to believe that the killer was a Detroit police officer. Detroit police are armed with a .40 caliber Glock.

There are problems with this conspiracy theory, however. There is no evidence that Greene ever performed at the mansion or that Mrs. Kilpatrick walked in on the party. A number of weapons fire .40 caliber bullets but Glocks are common on the mean streets of Detroit. Nevertheless, the conspiracy theory survives because of Kilpatrick’s legal problems, which is recounted better at Some believe that Kilpatrick fired Deputy Police Chief Gary Brown because he headed an investigation of the mansion party and Greene’s death.

This is news again because a judge in the suit brought by Greene’s relatives against the city for failing to book her killer asked for homicide files and text messages related to her death. Detroit says the pagers used in 2003 were discontinued in 2004 and there are no longer any records of text messages. Detroit also fought turning over the files, saying police have new leads.

Detroit police say they have new leads, five years after the crime? In 2003, Detroit was in the grip of a murderous rampage which periodically plagues big American cities. Greene was Detroit’s homicide number 113 of 366 in 2003. About half were never solved, including hers.

This is what we know from corroborated testimony by Mitchell and another stripper who was present at a party in Southfield, a suburb just across Eight Mile Road from Detroit. Greene danced for drug dealers, thugs and well-known street toughs in early April 2003. A short man with a light complexion and a record for selling cocaine wanted to have sex with Greene. When she refused, he blackened both her eyes. A giant of a man, Mitchell fought with the smaller man and prevailed.

Greene’s leased BMW was shot-up about a week after the party. Her replacement Buick was idling in gear in front of Mitchell’s home in Detroit when she died so it meandered down the street. Mitchell said he saw an arm with a light complexion holding a pistol out the window of a passing sport utility vehicle and dove for cover in the foot well.

A professional hit would not have left Mitchell alive as a potential witness if Greene was the intended target. Whoever fired the shots sped off instead making sure Greene and Mitchell were both dead, which is why the killing looks more like retribution for the Southfield party and less like a professional job by Detroit police.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Don’t They Get It?

An item in the Local section of the Wisconsin State Journal said a Madison driver was arrested for operating under the influence (OWI) and operating a motor vehicle without a license. He has been convicted four times for driving under the influence. With last Saturday’s stop, he has a total of three OWI charges pending.

He has seven OWI charges? That means he has driven drunk more times but he was only caught seven times. Each of these times, he was supposed to have an alcohol usage assessment. Current state law should send you to prison after the fifth conviction, sooner if you cause injury or death to someone else.

There are other drivers who have multiple OWI charges. According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, there are about 23,000 drivers with three or more convictions. They also say that the median Blood Alcohol Content level of those convicted of OWI is .017, more than twice the legal limit. Wisconsin Mothers Against Drunk Driving says that 50 percent of all Wisconsin traffic deaths are alcohol-related.

Most of us who live in Wisconsin have driven to or from a place when we should not. Most of us have driven at a time when few cars are on the road and so far or fast so that we have never had an accident. It is not a driving problem, however; it is a drinking problem.

Unfortunately, it is something I know about. I was a binge drinker in college in Madison but I did not have a car in college. I was 22 and working in Minnesota when I was picked up for DWI for the first time in 1980. Driving school reduced the charge. I had a DWI in Virginia about a year later, which was knocked down by my attorney to reckless driving when I went to driving school and AA for six weeks. I became much more responsible.

After my divorce, I gradually lost control of my drinking. My final DWI came in Michigan in 1997, when I received my best and most honest alcohol assessment and was “sentenced” to AA for one year. I have been continuously sober since Jan. 18, 1998. If I never have my first drink, I will never have 20. I do not mind being around people who are drinking, which in Madison is just about everyone.

I had three charges of driving drunk before I became sober. How do people have many OWI convictions and are not able to realize that their problem is alcohol, not driving?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sex, Lies and Evidence

Just when one thought nobody could be as foolish as former New York Governor Eliott Spitzer, two sex scandals in Michigan have Democrats there reeling. I lived in Lansing for 15 years and I have never seen anything like it.

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick had an affair with his chief of staff, Christine Beatty. Usually, what consenting adults do behind closed doors would not matter so much except Kilpatrick is guarded by 50 Detroit police officers. Among big city mayors, such a large security detail is unusual.

This affair came to light in a police investigation of the security detail and irregularities in the Mayor’s Office. Deputy Police Chief Gary Brown was fired. In a deposition related to Brown’s firing, both Kilpatrick and Beatty said under oath they were not romantically involved. Inconvenient evidence included more than 1,000 amorous text messages between Kilpatrick and Beatty on Detroit equipment. In public, Kilpatrick said Brown was fired for cause. Other text messages from Kilpatrick asked his staff to retroactively come up with reasons for Brown’s ouster.

Brown and another fired officer were awarded $8.4 million. Outside counsel at the trial cost Detroit taxpayers another $845,000. Kilpatrick and Beatty have been indicted on charges of conspiracy, perjury and obstruction of justice. Kilpatrick has been seen with his wife. Beatty is no longer his chief of staff and is looking for work.

Kilpatrick is the son of U.S. Representative Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, a Detroit Democrat. Kwame Kilpatrick’s rise has been meteoric, becoming Detroit Mayor at only 31. Now public sector union leaders have called on him to resign and a recall petition has been filed. Brown is mulling a race for Congress against Kilpatrick.

Michigan Democrats were reeling from the charges against Kilpatrick when another sex scandal unfolded. Tom Athans, husband of U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), was questioned by police in Troy, a Detroit suburb, after leaving a motel where he gave $150 to a prostitute for a sex act. Troy police were trying to break up a prostitution ring and do not prosecute customers who cooperate, as Athans did when police stopped his Cadillac Sedan Deville. In the motel room, police found sex toys, condoms, a laptop and $431 in cash.

If Athans were only the husband of a U.S Senator, it would be embarrassing to the couple. However, Athans is also a key figure in liberal talk radio. He was formerly vice president of pre-bankruptcy Air America and CEO of Democracy Radio. He now heads Talk USA Radio, based in Washington.

If this happened to a Republican or a figure in conservative talk radio, it would dominate the news. There would be calls for resignations and Congressional hearings.

Athans said he found the prostitute on Craig’s List. It is not certain which is more embarrassing to Athans: falling into a Troy police sex sting or paying only $150 for a prostitute. At least Spitzer spent more than Athans. It seems like the City of Detroit, however, has spent so much thus far that Spitzer’s amount looks paltry.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

“Damned Dirty Apes”

News that Charlton Heston has passed away moves me to reflection. He was an actor who played historic figures such as Moses, El Cid, Jonah Ben Hur, Cardinal Richelieu, John the Baptist, “Chinese” Gordon, Michelangelo, Marc Antony and Henry VIII. He won the Oscar as Best Actor in 1959 for “Ben Hur.”

I have not seem all of Heston’s films. I have seen many several times, including seeing “Ten Commandments,” “Three Musketeers,” and “Planet of the Apes” in movie theatres.

Madison liberals tend to remember him as a conservative and President of the National Rifle Association. They tend to forget that he was President of the Screen Actors Guild and a civil rights activist before many of them were born.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

John McCain: Back from the Grave

Nothing has surprised me more than the rebound of John McCain’s campaign from near bankruptcy last fall to front-runner status after wins in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and several states on Super Tuesday.

I have been a McCain supporter since he did some campaign events for Joe Schwarz for Congress in Michigan in 2004, Schwarz having been the chair of McCain’s upset of George Bush in 2000 and also my friend since 1986. Schwarz, McCain and my older son also have the US Navy in common.

The McCain campaign never responded to my snail mail offering to volunteer as needed. Things looked so bleak and under-funded at Team McCain last fall that I scraped the McCain sticker from my car. I was prepared for someone else to win the Republican nomination for President, such as Fred Thompson, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani.

It annoys me that conservative pundits talk about McCain as if he is not a conservative Republican, with a lifetime rating of 82.3 from the American Conservative Union and a recent rating of 88 percent from the National Taxpayers Union. They tend to focus on the 10 percent of items with which they disagree with him instead of the 90 percent where they do agree. They talk about him wanting to close Camp Gitmo or end waterboarding as if he had never been a prisoner of war and never undergone torture.

Despite endorsements by major political figures and newspapers, I think it is not true that McCain is the choice of liberals, party insiders or big government conservatives. He is still refreshingly insurgent and able to reach across the aisle to work with the other party, unlike the current President or the two surviving Democratic candidates for President.

Mike Huckabee’s contribution to this race is both the quip that he wants to be the guy with whom you work, not the guy that laid you off, and siphoning off enough value voter support that Romney might have otherwise won.

It would not surprise me if Mike Huckabee becomes the Vice Presidential nominee. He is not a political hitman in the style of Dick Cheney and his value to the ticket would be to attract value voters who felt taken for granted by Bush/Cheney.

Can John McCain raise enough to be competitive with the Democratic nominee? He probably can.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Wisconsin Voters Deserve an Earlier Presidential Primary

Wisconsin’s presidential primary was early on the calendar and crucial for candidates running for President for more than 100 years. Wisconsin often was the history-making difference between winning a party nomination for President and losing it. However, so many states have moved their primaries ahead of Wisconsin on the 2008 calendar that Wisconsin’s primary has faded to nearly irrelevant in picking the next President. Wisconsin should move up its date calendar to be more important in 2012.

Wisconsin voters deserve it. The Wisconsin primary was created in 1903 while Fighting Bob LaFollette was Wisconsin Governor, the nation’s second. The Wisconsin primary was famously the end of the road for presidential candidate Wendell Willkie in 1944. John Kennedy beat Hubert Humphrey in the landmark 1960 primary. Morris Udall narrowly lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Wisconsin’s presidential primary did not move from its current date of the third Tuesday in February, yet many presidential candidates skip Wisconsin now except to raise money and identify volunteers until the general election. Charles Franklin, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, says Wisconsin’s primary may not matter to picking party nominees for President in 2008. How did this happen?

Presidential primaries and caucuses in 28 states in addition have now jumped ahead of Wisconsin on the 2008 calendar. Twenty-three of them will have primaries and caucuses on Super Tuesday, including states with really large numbers of convention delegates like Illinois, California and New York. This year the date of Super Tuesday is February 5, 2008. Wisconsin’s primary is February 19, 2008.

The 19 states which moved ahead of Wisconsin after 2004 said that their early position would make them more important and that their heavier minority populations make them a better indication of presidential viability than smaller states with small populations of minorities such as Iowa, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. Eighteen of the states which jumped ahead of Wisconsin originally had their presidential primaries so late, they had ironically become unimportant in picking a nominee for President.

Leaders in the states of Florida, Michigan, Nevada and South Carolina moved their primaries and caucuses to January. This resulted in Iowa and New Hampshire vaulting to early January to remain first in the nation. The result is that enough party delegates are up for grabs that now presidential candidates can build insurmountable leads to become party nominees even before Wisconsin votes.

It is possible that with so many candidates for President from both major parties in the race, no clear front-runner might emerge on Super Tuesday, which would make Wisconsin’s primary pivotal again. Franklin says it is unlikely but it is possible that two candidates in each party might still be in the race by Wisconsin.

If Wisconsin moved its primary date ahead of Super Tuesday, major party rules would work against Wisconsin. Democratic Party rules say that the presidential primaries in Florida and Michigan, held before Super Tuesday, will not count for picking any convention delegates. Republican Party rules say that they can pick only half their convention delegates at their early primaries. The winners of Florida and Michigan could end up losers in closed deliberations by party insiders.

Special party rules are in effect for Nevada and South Carolina in January to provide regional and ethic balance, however. Wisconsin could join with one of those states to restore the historic importance of the Wisconsin primary. No such special approval would be needed to move the Wisconsin primary to Super Tuesday.

If the past is any guide to the future, more states will move to Super Tuesday before the 2012 election for President. If Wisconsin’s primary does not move forward on the calendar, Wisconsin’s primary will matter less with every future election for President.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Eight Resolutions for 2008

Many make resolutions on January 1 because of the convenience of setting goals for the ensuing year. For most of my life, I have avoided making New Year Resolutions.

Why I am making resolutions this year is because I am unhappy with my life, unlike in the past. I will also turn 50 during the first week of January 2008. There is not a better time to make resolutions or to make better behaviors new habits. I am making eight resolutions for 2008. It would not be the end of the world if I fall short of my goals.

Some set unreasonable and contradictory goals for which they are sure to fall short. Quitting smoking and losing weight are common. Resolving to drink less while roaring drunk is typically a strategy for failure. Knowing this while making resolutions, I will try to avoid setting up goals that are self-contradictory.

1. Get and open snail mail every day. I have a tendency to only open my mail box when it is convenient for me to do so. There is so much junk mail that it piles up rapidly and my little apartment mail box becomes too full to open, which is a hardship on USPS personnel.

2. Contact my parents and children by email, telephone and letter when I am thinking about them, which is often. I will not contact them only when it is convenient for me, which is rare.

3. Look for my next job two hours every day. There is nothing about my life which would not be improved by better hours, more professional challenge, more money, opportunity for travel and a newer, better automobile.

4. Exercise for 30 minutes every day to improve my flexibility, endurance and appetite. When the weather improves, this could be an hour every second day because I prefer to play sports outside.

5. Play sax for an hour on the days when I do not work. This would be good for my wind and dexterity. If I become good again, returning to playing in public would be satisfying. Get new reeds and a book of jazz standards.

6. Clean my apartment for an hour every day that I do not work. I do not need to live in clutter and squalor.

7. Eat better. Eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer fatty foods. Drink more milk. This goes with Resolution numbers four and five.

8. Make more friends. Be the kind of friend who is known as reliable, kind and thoughtful, not just when I need a favor. Let them know I think about them.