Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Knee Pain for Me is No Joke

Yesterday, I told a candidate that when I have been effective for a full day of campaigning, I gradually work up to it. This is for parades, too. At first it is four hours, then six hours. Gradually, I work up to 8 hours, then 10 hours.

Usually by an Election Day, I can start before the sun comes up and go about 18 hours. I can sleep Wednesday. I realize I am not as young as I was in 1990, but I was in Saginaw for a State Senate candidate before the sun rose and left after dark, then stayed at the improbable John Engler Victory Party until early Wednesday.

Why I gradually work up to a full day of campaigning is that my right knee has been repaired by surgery. It usually does not give me trouble when I gradually work it out. Sometimes I strengthen it through sports, but I often push off with my left foot.

Yesterday was 10 hours. There was nothing gradual about it and there was a lot of walking. Today, it is painful but fortunately my knee is not swollen as it has been in the past. This is why I no longer play contact sports or run on uneven ground.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

More on Wisconsin Driving

Early on Father’s Day morning, I drove to Marshfield. There was hardly any traffic on what is now called I-39. To me, it will always be 51. If the Wisconsin Highway Department was serious about a Highway 10 bypass, no one would have to slow to a crawl through Junction City, Milladore and Auburndale. It is still faster to take 10than the old route on back roads from Mauston.

I drove past 2104 S. Palmetto Avenue, 1101 W. 8th Street, where Connors live on 5th Street, other houses where friends had lived, what had been my Junior High School and Jesus on the Ball. I saw Mr. Berry, who was my teacher for Shakespeare as a high school senior when my attitude was terrible. I had lunch at Chip’s, which is now on South Central Avenue. There are other stores at their former location at Upham Street and North Central Avenue. I got gas at a family location on South Central Avenue. I was flooded with memories all the places I went. Some were good and involve friends. A few were terrible.

I was overcome by sleepiness during the trip back. For an hour, I slept and used the facilities at the rest area near Westfield. When I got on the road again, it was about 1 p.m.

Everything about traffic had changed; the road was now crowded. People who had been up north for the long weekend were driving home. The speed limit on I-39 and I-94 is 65 mph. I was driving 71 mph. People with Milwaukee dealership stickers on their autos or Illinois plates sailed past me. On I-94, State Police had pulled over several speeders. I said out loud, “It serves them right.”

Flash forward to Monday. I can feel my blood pressure rising because I am driving in Madison again. It is not yielding to pedestrians and bicycles; one simply accepts this as part of driving in Madison. No, it is other drivers. Some older drivers can barely see over their steering wheels, drive 15 mph below the posted speed limit and never use turn signals. In other places, Toyota with Stock Car decals are the danger car to watch; here it is the Subaru Forester with liberal decals. It does not matter how far I park from the front door of the place I am going. As I am exiting the car, someone is trying to park next to me. Invariably, it is an older driver.

My second wife joked that I drove like an old man because I drove defensively, looked far ahead to anticipate trouble and only drove seven mph above posted speeds. I still do that. The difference in Madison is that there are too many cars on roads that are too small to accommodate them. It is really hard to be defensive when other drivers are so offensive.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Prince of a Guy

Joran van der Sloot, 22, erred when he allegedly broke the neck and robbed Stephany Flores, 21, in a hotel room Lima, Peru, and then fleeing to Chile in May. Hotel security cameras show them entering together than van der Sloot leaving alone four hours later. Ricardo Flores is a Peruvian celebrity because he parlayed fame as a former race car driver into entrepreneurial success and political activism. Van der Sloot was extradited back to Peru, where he is still being held and questioned.

Van der Sloot was infamous as the key suspect in the 2005 Aruba disappearance of Mountain Brook high school senior Natalee Holloway, 18. Only Brookies, with their sense of privilege and wealth, would take their senior trip to Aruba. Van der Sloot denied being complicit in Holloway’s disappearance, but tried to extort $250,000 from the Holloway parents to tell them how she died and location of her body. The father of van der Sloot, an Aruba politician and attorney, can not shield him now, having died in February.

In 2008, Dutch television crime reporter Peter de Vries captured hidden-camera footage of van der Sloot saying that after Holloway collapsed on the beach he asked a friend to dump her body in the sea.

Peruvian police found him in possession of a laptop computer and bills in 15 foreign currencies, including Bolivian, Cambodian and Thai. Also in 2008, de Vries reported that van der Sloot was recruiting women in Bangkok for sex work in the Netherlands.

If van der Sloot killed Asian girls and disposed of their bodies, they would not be missed or mourned. If van der Sloot is found guilty in the death of Flores, he faces 35 years in prison in Peru. He will have company, 117 Dutch criminals already serving time in Peruvian jails.

He might as well trade admission of guilt in Holloway for time in prison in Aruba.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wisconsin State Treasurer: Forward, Not Backward

Many Wisconsin voters do not care about electing a State Treasurer. This is why we should care.

It is not yet too late to stop making the Wisconsin State Treasurer the shrinking office that it has become. We elected our first State Treasurer in 1848. Some were clinkers; some were gems.

Scandal-plagued Democrat State Treasurer Dawn Marie Sass has drawn a 2010 Primary challenge in her own political party. On the Republican side, Scott Feldt, aide to former State Treasurer Jack Voight, faces restaurant manager Kurt Schuller, who pledges to abolish the office. Delegates to the Republican State Convention in Milwaukee endorsed Feldt. Some think Schuller should belong to a third party because he is not a member of any county Republican party.

In other states, the State Treasurer audits the books of state government. If Wisconsin adopted this standard, the Governor would not borrow from one fund to cover a deficit in another fund without the State Treasurer knowing about it. This is true whether the Wisconsin Governor and State Treasurer are from the same or different political parties. The State Treasurer was Treasurer of the Wisconsin Investment Board, which is now dominated by people the Governor appoints.

There was a time when the Wisconsin State Treasurer was the only official chosen by voters to wear the green eye-shade. We think of financial derivatives as bringing down banks too big to fail, but the largest Wisconsin banks failed in 1901 and took the uninsured deposits of small savers with them. The Wisconsin State Treasurer made them post a bond as a condition of depositing state cash in them.

No state disbursements were made without the control of the Wisconsin State Treasurer to insure that the state lived within its means. It was the State Treasurer who collected what were new taxes on motor fuel and tobacco. After the repeal of Prohibition, the State Treasurer also collected tax on liquor and beer sold or brewed in Wisconsin. Wisconsin’s State Treasurer regulated all these activities, too. The State Treasurer was custodian of money paid to the University of Wisconsin, state school aid, the state highway fund, the general fund and state worker pensions.

Most of these functions were gradually turned over to other state departments in the late 1950s. All checks issued by the State of Wisconsin still carry the laser-printed facsimile signature of the State Treasurer, including income tax refunds.

It is not as if the Wisconsin State Treasurer does not have current functions that touch the lives of people. The State Treasurer invests extra cash from participating local governments through the Local Government Investment Pool, has custody and records for unclaimed property act and general escheat laws, runs Wisconsin college savings plans and sits on a few state boards related to the financial health of state and local governments.

However, policy for the Local Government Investment Pool and college savings plans are set by the Wisconsin Investment Board. It also runs our medical malpractice fund, which Governor Jim Doyle grabbed to paper over a deficit. He was sued by people who pay higher medical malpractice premiums as a result. If an independent State Treasurer were still on the Wisconsin Investment Board, political appointees would not have dared to grab those funds and attorneys would not be enriching themselves by arguing for each side.

It was all so wasteful and unnecessary. Abolishing the office might strike a chord with angry voters. However, the cure for the failure of Democracy is more Democracy, not less.