Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Recall Drive Starts Tuesday


Posted on 13th November 2011 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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So far two Wisconsin state senators have been recalled. The question now is whether Republican Gov. Scott Walker will get his walking papers, so to speak.

On Tuesday the drive to have Walker recalled will begin, payback for his support of successful legislation that essentially put an end to collective bargaining for most public workers, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. That controversial law filled the state Capitol in Madison with protesters.   


They threatened to recall legislators who supported the anti-union law, and so far have succeeded in the recall of the two senators. But seven other legislators remain in officer after recall efforts against them failed.

Wisconsin Democrats have teamed up with union members to spearhead the petition drive to recall Walker, a drive that starts Tuesday. They had to wait until the governor was in office for a year before the recall effort could kick off.

The recall organizers will have to collect more than 540,000 signatures by Jan. 17 in order for there to be a recall election.

Good luck, folks.

AAA Lauds Wisconsin For Being 25th State To Pass Driver Texting Ban


Posted on 26th May 2010 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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AAA has commended Wisconsin for being the 25th state to outlaw text messaging by all drivers, as the organization’s effort to pass bans in all 50 states has reached its halfway point.

Gov. Jim Doyle signed the bill into law earlier this month, making Wisconsin the sixth state this year to ban text messaging while driving.  AAA expects several more states to enact similar legislation this year.

“Wisconsin gets us halfway to AAA’s campaign goal of passing text messaging bans for all drivers in all 50 states,” AAA president and CEO Robert Darbelnet said in a prepared statement. “Last year, 12 states enacted text messaging bans for all drivers and we anticipate that several more states will act against this dangerous source of driver distraction this year.”

Darbelnet continued, “Texting while driving is associated with significant physical and cognitive distractions and the proliferation of the practice is endangering all users of our nation’s roadways. Surveys show the overwhelming majority of Americans agree that this behavior is dangerous and they support text messaging bans. AAA urges legislators in states without texting bans to pass laws this year.”

The AAA has plenty of research to back up its concerns about the dangers of texting and driving. Research conducted over the last two years by the Auto Club of Southern California speaks to the benefit of California’s texting-while- driving ban.

 Observations in Orange County in July last year showed that texting had dropped about 70 percent, to 0.4 percent of all drivers, in the first six months of California’s ban.

Observations conducted in late March and early April this year showed that texting had increased to 1.1 percent, but remained below the 1.4 percent usage rate observed prior to the law taking effect.

The Southern California research offers evidence that legislation outlawing text messaging by all drivers can have a positive effect on driver behavior, but the upturn in texting rates shown in the latest research illustrates the need for visible enforcement, significant penalties and continued public education.

Legislation to establish or  improve an existing ban on text messaging while driving is currently being considered in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Vermont.

The states that now prohibit text messaging by all drivers: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

The District of Columbia also has a texting ban.

 “AAA Wisconsin applauds the Wisconsin State Legislature and Governor Doyle for passing thisnew law that will significantly enhance driving safety across our state,” AAA Wisconsin regional president Tom Frymark said in his prepared statement. “We’ll continue to make drivers aware of the dangers of texting while driving and of the importance of obeying this new law.”

Wisconsin’s law will become effective Nov. 1, as the Badger State joins Michigan, Kentucky, Nebraska, Iowa and Wyoming in enacting text messaging bans for all drivers this year.

 The dates when those respective laws take effect are:

  • Michigan – July 1, 2010
  • Kentucky – Effective immediately when signed on April 15, penalties effective Jan. 1, 2011
  • Nebraska – July 15, 2010
  • Iowa – July 1, 2010, penalties effective July 1, 2011
  • Wyoming – July 1, 2010


Judge In Wisconsin Pedophile Priest Case Denies He Was Ordered to Drop Case


Posted on 6th April 2010 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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The cleric who was the judge in a Catholic Church trial of a Wisconsin priest accused of molesting 200 deaf boys on Thursday denied that he was ordered to drop the proceeding, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. http://www.jsonline.com/features/religion/89747067.html

The judge, the Rev. Thomas Brundage, is a canon lawyer who was told by then-Archbishop Rembert Weakland to handle the trial of the Rev. Lawrence Murphy in 1996. Father Brundage is now in the Diocese of Anchorage.

In an interview with the Journal Sentinel, Father Brundage disputed some of the reporting and interpretation of documents uncovered by The New York Times in a story about why Father Murphy was never defrocked.

Father Brundage denied that the Vatican office led by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, blocked the trial of Father Murphy. Father Brundage also insisted that Weakland never told him to abandon the trial, and maintained that the tribunal was proceeding Father Murphy died in 1998.

“I would have directly appealed the case to the Supreme Court of the church,” Father Brundage told the Journal Sentinal. “I would have tried to get it to Pope John Paul II.”

Pedophile Priest Used Boulder Junction Cottage As Lair To Abuse Boys


Posted on 5th April 2010 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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A Roman Catholic priest who admitted to molesting more than 200 deaf boys at a school near Milwaukee continued to sexually abuse youths when he was transferred to far northern Wisconsin, according to a story in The New York Times Saturday. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/03/us/03wisconsin.html?hp

In the latest chapter in the outrageous case of the Rev. Lawrence Murphy, The Times wrote that the pedophile priest used his family’s cottage in Boulder Junction, on Trout Lake in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, as the setting to lure and abuse youths.

The tragedy, and shame, is that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee had sent Father Murphy to northern Wisconsin after learning that he was abusing boys at St. John’s School for the Deaf in St. Francis, outside Milwaukee. The priest was transferred in 1974 to the Diocese of Superior, when he was 48, supposedly to retire.

But based on documents cited by The Times, Father Murphy didn’t retire from being a pedophile. He used his family’s quaint rural lakefront home as the bait to attract boys, where he could then be with them alone and make his sexual advances.

The story quotes Donald Marshall, who said he was in his early teens when he met Father Murphy in the late 1970s. Marshall was in a juvenile detention center, the Lincoln Hills School for Boys, where Father Murphy sometimes acted as a chaplain.

Marshall alleges that the priest molested him, and the now 45-year-old West Allis, Wis., resident has filed suit against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Marshall has served an eight-year term in prison for drunken driving, and has a history of problems with anger and alcohol.

Other men who alleged they were molested by Father Murphy in northern Wisconsin are also quoted in The Times’ piece.

The Times caused a stir last week when it first wrote about Father Murphy’s case. It reported that the bishops in Milwaukee and Superior had tried to get the priest defrocked, but that there efforts were derailed after the Vatican got a letter from Father Murphy seeking leniency.

The Church wasn’t the only one to fail Father Murphy’s victims. Police in Milwaukee were brought allegations about the priest. In Sunday’s story, then-District Attorney E. Michael McCann said that the charges were beyond the Wisconsin’s statute of limitations.

Wisconsin Archbishop Stands Up for Pope, And Reaches Out To Sex Abuse Victims


Posted on 1st April 2010 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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It’s Lent, the time for the forgiveness of sins. And Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Lisecki this week defended, and absolved Pope Benedict XVI, of any blame regarding the handling of pedophile priest Lawrence Murphy. http://www.jsonline.com/features/religion/89519542.html

During a Holy Week service, the Chrism Mass, the archbishop referred to the press coverage over the Vatican’s halting of a church trial of the Rev. Lawrence Murphy, who allegedly admitted sexually assaulting 200 boys at St. John’s School for the Deaf beginning in the 1950s.

“The Holy Father has been firm in his commitment to combat clergy sexual abuse, root it out of the church, reach out to those who have been harmed and hold perpetrators accountable,” Lisecki told parishioners.

The New York Times broke a story that said that a top Vatican office, led by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now the pope, had opted not to defrock Father Murphy.

Lisecki reached out to sex abuse victims in Wisconsin, and said that a number of parties were responsible for the way the Father Murphy cases was botched.

Politics, not Lawsuits, Tap Out Wisconsin Medical Malpractice Fund


Posted on 31st March 2010 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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In a classic example of how the news media gets played on tort reform is the story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about how Wisconsin’s medical malpractice fund had negative assets for the past two fiscal years. The culprit wasn’t big jury verdicts or trial lawyers. The problem happened because of the exact opposite. The fund had paid out so much less than it had charged doctors and hospitals in premiums, that it was an easy target for funds when the Wisconsin state government was nearly broke a year ago. The governor and lawmakers tapped into it for $200 million to help balance the state budget, an audit has found. http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/89515217.html

The dismal economy (not large malpractice claims against the fund) have also helped to deplete it, according to a story Tuesday on the new audit by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. To blame this shortfall on big claims is absurd. The reason the fund is there is because there could be people with very serious injuries caused by doctor’s neglect who need to be compensated. If those claims had been so “huge” then how did the fund get a $200 million surplus?

The Legislative Bureau Audit said that Gov. Jim Doyle and the Legislature took $200 million from the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund in 2007 to help balance the state budget. At the time, the justification was that the fund had a surplus and could afford the withdrawal, but the fund hasn’t performed well since then.

The fund had a net balance of minus-$109 million as of June last year, because reimbursements to injured patients were greater than cash in the fund, according to the audit. In the prior year, the fund’s balance was minus-$61.5 million. Insurers, which this fund is, must keep substantial reserves, just like a gambling house, because you are going to have bad days, day years.

Frankly, the story is nothing but tempest in a teapot. The Wisconsin government is short of cash because the real estate market and economy crashed. Foreclosures mean people don’t pay their property taxes. Unemployment means people don’t pay state income taxes. That the Wisconsin government found a source for funds when it needed it most, doesn’t threaten the practice of medicine in Wisconsin. It certainly is no grounds to fundamentally change how victims of doctors mistakes and wrongdoing are compensated.

Victims’ Group Criticizes Rome For Handling of Wisconsin Abuse Scandal


Posted on 30th March 2010 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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The group in Milwaukee called the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, SNAP, has blasted the Vatican for accusing the press of conducting a witch hunt against Pope Benedict XVI. http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/article/20100329/GPG0101/100329082/1978 In a press release, SNAP charged that Vatican officials in Rome during the past few days had publicly insulted victims who had been sexually molested by pedophile priests. There has been a flurry of new stories about the Vatican’s hiding, and alleged cover-up, of a case involving the Rev. Lawrence Murphy, who supposedly admitted to sexually assaulting 200 boys at a school for the deaf in St. Francis, Wis. SNAP was apparently appalled by a story in a Vatican newspaper that said there was a “clear and despicable intention to” to attack the pope “at any cost.” A Vatican office, lead by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinge, now the pope, stopped a church trial of Father Murphy, who was then transferred to a diocese in northern Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Reacts To Times Story on Milwaukee’s Pedophile Priest


Posted on 26th March 2010 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Victims and victims’ rights groups for those abused by priests Thursday basically said “I told you so” as the chilling story of how a Milwaukee priest molested deaf boys for decades emerged.

Details revealing why the Rev. Lawrence Murphy priest was never defrocked, or prosecuted, for molesting 200 boys in a deaf school sparked an angry reaction in Wisconsin.

On Thursday the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests held a press conference about Father Murphy right outside the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s headquarters. http://www.jsonline.com/features/religion/89121802.html

“We are finally able to get this where we believe it belongs, and that’s at the Vatican’s doorstep,” Mark Salmon, part of the survivor’s group, said.

On Thursday The New York Times, using formerly secret church documents, published a lengthy story about how Father Murphy, a teacher at St. John’s School for the Deaf in St. Francis, sexually abused an estimated 200 boys during his 25-year tenure at the school.

The story said that then Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland wrote then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI, about disciplining Father Murphy in 1996.

Secret church proceedings were initiated against Father Murphy in Milwaukee, but the Vatican called them after the pedophile priest wrote Ratzinger, pleading that he was sick, old and just wanted to live out the rest of his life in peace.

Murphy, who died in 1998, not only was never disciplined, he was transferred to work at the Superior Diocese in northern Wisconsin.

Vatican officials Thursday defended their decision not to defrock Murphy.

Some of Father Murphy’s alleged victims have filed civil suits against the Milwaukee Diocese, which Thursday issued an apology for the priest’s actions.

“Murphy’s actions were criminal and we sincerely apologize to those who have been harmed,” the statement said.

In total, there are 11 civil fraud cases involving 17 victims, including at least one involving Murphy, pending against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, according to the Milwaukee Jounral Sentinel.

The Milwaukee Archdiocese as of last year had shelled out $28 million to settle cases involving sexual abuse by priests.


On Thursday one of the victims who settled his suit for $80,000, told a horrific story to the Associated Press about how he had been molested by Father Murphy when he was 12. That victim, 61-year-old Arthur Budinski, was first assaulted when he asked the pedophile priest to hear his confession. Instead, Father Murphy took him into a closet and molested him.

Pedophile Priest Scandal Reaches From Milwaukee to the Vatican


Posted on 25th March 2010 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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The disgraceful saga of Roman Catholic priests molesting boys never seems to end, with the latest chapter coming out of Milwaukee – and involving Pope Benedict XVI.

The New York Times has a front page story Thursday, headlined “Vatican Declined to Defrock U.S. Priest Who Abused Deaf Boys,” which is about the Wisconsin case of the Rev. Lawrence Murphy. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/25/world/europe/25vatican.html?hp

Father Murphy worked at St. John’s School for the Deaf in St. Francis, a well-respected school for the deaf, from 1950 to 1974. During that period, he molested as many as 200 boys.

Bishops from the United States, including Wisconsin, had sent Vatican officials, including the future pope and then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, had asked Rome to take action on Father Murphy, according to church documents that surfaced as part of a lawsuit.

But it appears that avoiding a public scandal, not defrocking a pedophile priest, was the Vatican’s priority.

In 1996 Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland wrote Cardinal Ratzinger two letters about Father Murphy, but never got a response from him. Eventually, the Vatican did tell the Wisconsin bishops to initiate secret internal proceedings against the priest.

But those were suspended after Father Murphy wrote Cardinal Ratzinger, pleading that he had repented, was sick and that his case was outside of the Church’s statute of limitations, The Times reported. Father Murphy, still a priest, died in 1998.

The newspaper got access to the Church documents from lawyers Jeff Anderson and Mike Finnegan, who represent five men who have filed four suits against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Not only was Father Murphy spared a punishment by the Church, but according to documents police and prosecutors never acted on allegations brought by his victims.

Father Murphy was sent to Diocese of Superior in northern Wisconsin, moved by Archbishop William Cousins of Milwaukee. He spent 24 years in upper Wisconsin, working with children during that span.

There had been many complaints about Father Murphy in Milwaukee, so much so that Archbishop Weakland in 1993 had him evaluated by a specialist in sexual offenders. That social worker reported that the priest had admitted sexually abusing about 200 boys, and that he was remorseless.

Still, Archbishop didn’t move to have Father Murphy defrocked until 1996, and failed.

Beach Jogger With iPod Hit and Killed By Plane


Posted on 19th March 2010 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Over the years we’ve heard of several accidents where a jogger listening to a Walkman has been struck and killed by a train. But Monday there was a new, and tragic, twist on that scenario.

In a freak accident, Robert Jones of Woodstock, Ga., was jogging on the beach in Hilton Head Island, S.C. – and listening to an iPod – when he was struck from behind and killed by a plane making an emergency landing. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iirpHqO8nA4ZBeupaFWr_K6H7PmgD9EFTIL02

Because of the iPod, Jones didn’t hear the plane approaching the beach to land. Jones was killed instantly. Jones was a 38-year-old father of two who was on a business trip to Hilton Head.

The plane, an Experimental Lancair IV-P, had begun to leak oil and was trying to make it to Hilton Head Airport. But the oil on the plane’s windshield blocked the sight of pilot Edward Smith of Chesapeake, Va. The plane had also lost a propeller on take off from Orlando, Fla.

Smith then tried to land on the beach near the Hilton Head Marriott Resort, and struck Jones.

Jones was a salesman for GlaxoSmithKline. He was set to return to his home and family in Florida Wednesday, with plans to celebrate his daughter’s third birthday.

The aircraft had been headed to Virginia.