Friday, February 1, 2019

We Have To Do Better Than This

The guy on the left is Robin Vos, the Republican leader of the state assembly. On the right is Scott Fitzgerald, the Republican leader of the state senate. When Scott Walker was governor, the trio ran the state just like Tony Soprano and his crew ran north Jersey. They made the rules, they drew the maps, they ruled the roost.

Unlike the Soprano crime family, Vos and Fitzgerald were duly elected by the voters. And I think it’s high time the voters in their districts un-elected them.

Not too long ago, a UW Professor, Kathy Cramer, researched and wrote a book about the huge political division in Wisconsin. She called the book The Politics of Resentment. It’s full of actual interviews with Wisconsin voters, and the opinions and comments of rural ‘sconnies reveal their resentment of people who live in Madison and Milwaukee. Government bureaucrats or librul college profs, all of them, or so the falsehood goes
Cramer’s research revealed that rural Wisconsinites by and large believe a broad and false narrative that government workers are incompetent, lazy, and undeserving of their paychecks. Scott Walker seized that falsehood, amplified it, weaponized it, and won three statewide elections – two for Governor, one beating a recall.

After the last election, when ‘sconnies voted for a change of leadership, Vos and Fitzgerald immediately played that old resentment/division song again the next morning, whining that if it wasn’t for Madison and Milwaukee, their man Walker would have won.

If it wasn’t for Madison and Milwaukee, there wouldn’t BE a Wisconsin, boys.

So Vos and Fitz cooked up a special session to try and take away as much power as possible from the office of Governor of Wisconsin, and to try once again – and fail once again – to disenfranchise as many ‘sconnie voters as they could.

Now comes news that the Foxconn people are backing even farther away from the promises they made about what they’re going to do for Wisconsin. They haven’t come close to hitting their job creation promises and have announced fundamental changes to their plans for the state. Respected financial journals are now universally casting a gimlet eye on the Foxconn deal.

A few days ago, news broke that Foxconn isn’t going to build hi-tech flat screen devices in Wisconsin, and instead of a manufacturing facility, they’re thinking about a “technology hub” or some sort of think-tank campus-like development.

Gee, technology is a rapidly changing business? Who knew?

Hours after the grim announcement from Foxconn’s Taiwan headquarters, Vos and Fitz were out with a statement saying the reason for this retrenchment is the election of our new governor. Tony Evers’ election has brought economic uncertainty to the state, say Vos and Fitz, and that’s their reason why the Foxconn deal is on the verge of becoming the biggest taxpayer swindle in American history.

Moments after Vos and Fitz released their statement blaming Tony Evers, the politics of division/resentment kicked in, and Walker loyalists were Tweeting and re-Tweeting the blame on Evers, and posting snarky stuff on Facebook.

Sooner or later – and I hope it’s sooner – the voters who elect Vos and Fitz are going to tire of the constant resentment and division preached by Vos, Fitz, and their ilk. They’ll look for and support a different kind of politician, one whose stock-in-trade is not fear, hatred, and division.

We have to do better. We deserve better.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A Modest Proposal (Which Would Probably Never Work)

With all the technology that exists today, there must be some way to provide TV viewers who don’t care to sit through marathon local TV coverage of severe weather and would rather see the program being pre-empted by the live storm coverage.

Many of the local TV stations that provide live severe weather coverage have at their disposal auxiliary channels – which usually have far lower viewership than their main channel – to which the interrupted programming could be switched. Viewers could be told, either by a “crawl” on the bottom of the screen or by mentions during the severe weather coverage by the meteorologists and news people who are providing the live coverage, that the interrupted programming could be seen on their alternate channel.

Case on point: yesterday afternoon’s bout of severe storms which hit north and west of Madison. The local live coverage pre-empted the popular game show “Jeopardy” on WMTV-15 in Madison, and the folks at Channel 15 got an earful of complaints from callers and on the station’s social media platforms.

Listen, friends: as a retired broadcaster, I can tell you that you’re not going to change the minds of the news managers and meteorologists at these stations. They’re going to interrupt programming to do live severe weather coverage, period, end of sentence. They see it as a critical mission to keep their viewers informed when there’s dangerous weather around, and they’re not going to be dissuaded.

I just wish that for those of us who don’t care to sit through the extended weather coverage, there would be a method whereby we could continue watching Jeopardy. Or whichever show is being interrupted.

But, I suspect my proposal is fraught with all sorts of legal issues. In the specific case of yesterday afternoon, I’m guessing that Channel 15 couldn’t just switch Jeopardy over to CW, another local channel owned by the same company that owns Channel 15. And I suppose the lawyers would holler if NBC-15 would say “during this live severe weather coverage, Jeopardy is being streamed live on our website, NBC15-dot-com.”

We’re fortunate in Madison to have a great collection of seasoned professional meteorologists providing excellent, knowledgeable, authoritative severe weather coverage. I’m honored to say that some of these folks – like Gary Cannalte at Channel 3 – have been personal friends for decades. They're very, very good at what they do.

But when the severe weather is 50 miles away and not headed toward me, I selfishly wish that there was a way I could see the program being interrupted, instead of the radar-indicated tornadoes.

I’ll take “Alternative TV Coverage” for 400 dollars, Alex…….

Monday, July 2, 2018

Sunny's Week Of Hell

Sunny, seen above with our granddaughter in a 2016 photo, is the sweetest and gentlest dog you’ll ever meet. She’s a show-winning purebred Blue Merle Collie who we rescued from the show circuit in 2010. She can be a fierce protector of our yard, keeping the squirrels and chipmunks and turkeys and various other wildlife at bay, barking at them and chasing them. But with humans, Sunny is the kindest dog around.

This week, the week of our Independence Day celebration, is Sunny’s week in hell.

Sunny is scared to death of fireworks. She hides, scratches the floor or carpet with her right front paw, hyperventilates, and paces. Her older sister (actually, half-sister) Shadow, our other Collie, isn’t bothered by the unpredictable loud booms. But the noise really gets to Sunny.

I understand some people want to indulge their propensity to make loud and unpleasant noises on the 4th of July, but for the past several years, some of our exurban neighbors have taken it to the extreme. They buy professional-grade fireworks like aerial bombs and cherry bomb mortars and set them off all night.

Not just on Independence Day, but, since it falls on a Wednesday this year, they’ve assaulted us with their explosive devices starting the weekend before and will continue every night through the weekend after the 4th.

Our township has noise ordinances and rules about fireworks that go into the air, but the cops won’t enforce the laws. I understand lax enforcement on the 4th, but – 10 nights of aerial bombardment from 9 PM to 1 or 2 AM? Please. I’ve called the cops and given them the exact addresses of the three “launching pads” within a few blocks of our home, but – no joy.

Last year our veterinarian gave us some “doggie Prozac” to use in calming her down, but the stuff, even at the lowest dose, knocked her for a loop. One dose made her sleep so soundly I worried about her respiration and made her loopy the entire next day. She could barely stand 16 hours after the dose was administered.

We haven’t tried the thundershirt, because reviews from actual users on Collie discussion boards are split 50-50. Half swear by them, half say the expensive garment did no good. Maybe buying one and trying it is our next step.

Channel 15 in Madison did a great TV story with a war veteran who suffers from PTSD, and how the fireworks affect people like him. I can’t find it on their website or I’d give you a link.

If you’re one of those people who loves to blow things up and make loud noises, just please be aware that all of us do not share your joy in these things.

Thursday, April 26, 2018


Years ago, before the period of media newsroom devouring, my friend George Hesselberg would occasionally devote his column in the Wisconsin State Journal to a HDDTTWA topic.

The letters stand for “How Dumb Do They Think We Are?” and, in his inimitable style, George would relate an example of a person or company or institution that was trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

I recently jettisoned one of my two day-jobs, a job which required me to use a land-line to get higher quality audio recordings (news interviews) than you typically get with a cell phone. When I made the call to the company (initials AT&T) to cancel my land-line, I came prepared for the same kind of HDDTTWA runaround I got from them about 15 years ago, when everyone in our house had a cell phone so there was no need of a land-line.

I called to cancel the landline. They told me it would be cancelled the next day and that I’d get a “final” bill. Of course, it didn’t happen. A month later, after I’d paid the “final” bill, I got another bill, and discovered the land-line was still active.

When I called them to say WTF, the lady exclaimed “oh – your cancellation didn’t go through!” I told her that if it “failed to go through” this time, I’d refer the matter to the fraud division of the state consumer protection department – knowing full well that companies as large as the one in question have no fear whatsoever of such agencies.

Fast-forward to March of 2018. This time, when I called to cancel the land-line, I recorded the conversation. I even warned the nice young lady that I was recording the call. She assured me the land-line would be cancelled immediately, that it would be disconnected within 24 hours, and even asked me what kind of message I wanted people who called it to hear.

A few days ago, when the land-line was still connected, and another monthly bill arrived, I called the company again. This time the guy on the line assured me that they had no record of any call cancelling the service, and that every time someone from the company discussed anything with me about my service, a “digital fingerprint” would be on my file, and there was no such fingerprint.

I asked him if he wanted to hear my conversation with his colleague a month ago, when I was assured the line was cancelled.

Long pause.

I said “perhaps you should connect me with someone in a management or supervisory capacity”.  Suffice to say that about 20 seconds after I began playing the recorded conversation to him, he caved. Said the matter would be taken care of immediately, gave me a “cancellation confirmation number”, and, long story short, it’s disconnected and I’ve paid the “final, final” bill.

They think we’re pretty dumb.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

There’s Retired, And Then There’s RETIRED

Paul Ryan isn’t retiring. He’s not running for re-election. Big difference. My guess is he’s not even retiring from politics. I’ll bet he will soon become another highly-overpaid lobbyist. And maybe he’ll accept an invitation to a corporate board or two, to add a few million dollars to his annual earnings.

I’m retired. Not capital-R retired, but I’m down to one personal services contract that keeps me off the streets and keeps my mind active. I’m going to be 69 in a few weeks, and I’m counting the days until my child-bride retires. Capital-R retires.

At age 48, Paul Ryan probably could actually capital-R retire, but I don’t think that’s likely.

For my friends from out of state who follow politics, you may or may not be aware that it’s quite likely that Ryan would not be re-elected in Wisconsin’s First Congressional District. For one thing, Ryan has served well the interests of the Koch Brothers in Washington, but as for the folks in Janesville and the eastern part of the 1st WI District – not so much. That fellow with the hard hat and prominent moustache is looking more and more likely to win that election, no matter who he faces.

I’m not a historian and I don’t know how the historians will write Paul Ryan’s chapter. I’ll remember Ryan as a failed candidate for Vice President, and a failed Ayn Rand acolyte who leaves office with a trillion-dollar nation debt as his heritage. How ironic, for someone who billed himself as a policy-wonk fiscal conservative.
I will say this: Ryan is gettin’ our while the gettin’ is still sorta good.

There’s a storm a’comin’.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Radioactive News

I spent a bit of time this morning watching MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, and  Fox News. I had a minor surgical operation on my foot a few days ago and the doc said I should take a break from work every couple hours and elevate my foot.

So, during my foot-elevation time around 9:30, I scanned the TV band. I watched a bit of CNN, a bit of MSNBC, a dab of CNBC, and then landed on Fox News Channel. They were talking about how dangerous train travel has become. Three train wrecks in the past few days.

I try to achieve some balance in what I watch. MSNBC constantly bashes Trump. CNN does, too. So I throw in a little Fox News Channel to at least get a sense of what a third of America believes is happening.

After the trains are scary story, the Fox News Babe (I'm sorry - I shouldn't objectify people) explained how the stock market was just fine, that this is a correction, that the ups and downs this morning show how the market is just seeking a new level. Hmmm. She sounded pretty intelligent and composed. I thought Fox would paint a gloom and doom scenario, but - they surprised me.

Then, they swung into a story I hadn't seen or heard anywhere else this morning. Some Homeland Security dude said the terrorists "crown jewel" is to blow up another airplane, that airplane travel is extremely dangerous. After his spiel, the FNC anchors nodded approvingly, and repeated the line about how blowing up an airplane is considered the crown jewel of terrorist achievement.

Very scary. Airplane travel. Scary. Bombs. Terrorists.

Then it was time for a commercial.

The commercial was an enticement for me to buy silver. I was told that banks and other money houses are hoarding silver. Silver is my safe haven against global market turmoil. Smart people are buying silver, because they want to be safe from the global market turmoil.

It was then that it struck me: watching Fox News is sort of like exposing yourself to radioactivity. The body can take small doses from time to time, but constant exposure is toxic.

And to make sure that everyone hates me, I think it's fair to say that the same can be said of MSNBC. Joe and Mika ridicule the President every morning. The nighttime MSNBC hosts bash Trump constantly.

Overexposure to either extreme is toxic. Somebody oughtta invent a cable TV news dosimeter, which would beep and boop loudly to warn you that you're approaching a toxic dose of cable TV news.

I think you'd reach your daily limit of exposure in a much shorter time watching Fox News, where the world is a very scary place, and there are so many things you need to be afraid of and hate.

It may take a bit longer, but I think this dosimeter would also go off to warn you of a possible toxic overdose from MSNBC and CNN.

Perhaps an advanced version of the dosimeter would automatically switch your TV to the Game Show Network or The Hallmark Channel when you're in danger of a cable news overdose.

It's a way you'd be assured of fairness and balance.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Adventures In Antihistamine-Land

I strolled into a pharmacy on the west side of Madison yesterday afternoon to buy some allergy pills. Claritin D, to be specific. This was a small shop in a strip mall, and I’d never been there before. But I know from years of experience that to purchase Claritin-D, you’ve got to show your driver’s license, sign a bunch of forms and waivers, and the pharmacist has to do the same.

The feds and their failed war on drugs.

I was the only person in the store and the pharmacist was busy filling a prescription when he looked up and said “can I help you?” “Claritin-D, 24-hour, 30-count box, please” I said. He said “not sure if I’ve got the brand name, but I know I have a generic that’ll work.” As he rummaged through his stock of allergy meds, I removed my driver’s license from my wallet and set it on the counter along with my debit card.

After a moment of examining his stock, he said “I’ve got something that’ll work, but each box is only 12 pills.” “I’ll take two, then”, I said. He glanced down at my driver’s license and debit card and said “you’ve been through the routine before, I take it.” “Yup. I know the drill”, I said.

He consulted some table and said “I can only sell you one box today – two would put you over the daily limit.” I shook my head. “Can’t have you stocking up for your meth lab”, he said, with a smile. I said “oh, no, I do a P-2-P cook.” “Large scale manufacture, huh?” the pharmacist said. I said “the name on my driver’s license is fake; you can call me Heisenberg.”

The pharmacist laughed out loud and said “I loved that show”. The show, of course, is Breaking Bad, and the picture at the top of this post, for those who didn’t follow the show through its five tumultuous seasons, is the rolling meth lab where Walter White and Jesse Pinkman began their career as meth cooks.

As he tried to find the right combination of allergy pills that would hold me for a couple weeks, and that the feds would let me walk out of the store with, the pharmacist began a diatribe about the feds and their complex and absolutely inflexible rules about how much allergy medicine you can buy at one time.

“There’s an opioid crisis in America”, he said as we both filled out all the paperwork that goes with the transaction, “and it’s because the feds made meth so expensive on the street that junkies turned to heroin – not that the feds would ever admit it”. “Amen, brother”, I said.

“And now Sessions wants to lock up even more people for smoking a joint”, he continued. We talked about the futility of the war on drugs and the misguided thinking that’s behind it, from people like Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions and his ilk. And we talked about the for-profit prison industry, which is another huge factor in the war on drugs.

At long last, the paperwork was completed, and I slid my debit card through the sensor. “All this rigmarole for a transaction that you might make- what, a buck – on?”, I said. “Get rich or die tryin’”, the pharmacist said, with a wry smile. I thanked him and left the store, taking my generic contraband with me.

The irony of this whole thing is that my allergies are wicked from April to October, and my primary care doc has written a prescription for me, for Claritin-D. I get it at Walgreens, with all the rest of the meds that keep me alive. But yesterday, when I went to take a Claritin-D pill in the morning, I discovered that I had stupidly let my supply run out. And my eyes were killin’ me. And my nose was flowing like Niagara Falls.

And when I called Walgreens to get my prescription refilled, the nice lady told me that my prescription had expired, and that they’d have to call my doc to get a renewal before they could refill it. Usually that takes a total of three or four days, and I needed relief NOW. Which is how I wound up in the west side strip mall pharmacy yesterday.

Oh, and by the way – when I stop in at Walgreens later this week to pick up my Claritin-D 24-hour prescription, I’ll get a 90-day supply. I’ll drive off with enough pseudoephedrine for Walt and Jesse to cook up a nice big batch of meth. No signature, no driver's license, no federal paperwork. Just the co-pay and I'm on my way. Ridiculous.