Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Swine Flu: Stand By To Panic

Local businesses are devoting time and effort on plans to deal with widespread absences if the Swine Flu hits hard. Just yesterday we learned the State Department of Public Instruction is asking local school districts to move up their timetable for administering key progress exams, before the Swine Flu hits in full force. And a handful of no-doubt well-intentioned but mislead moms will not let their kids get the Swine Flu shot, fearing the vaccine is linked to a severe nerve disease.

Mother Nature really knows how to throw a party.

A fascinating article in the online edition of In Business magazine has some dandy pointers for Dane County business owners who may face some thorny problems, if the Swine Flu hits their workforce. One expert the magazine talked to, pointed out that while employers have a right to send a sick employee home and request they don’t come back till the sickness passes….it’s quite another thing to deal with all the state’s wage-and-hour rules.

And there’s that wonderful little thing called HIPPA: as the In Business article says, you can’t share an employee’s health information with anyone else. According to the HIPPA rules, you can’t tell anybody that Joe in maintenance is out with the Swine Flu.

Isn’t that special!

Businesses have to take this stuff seriously. Within the last few weeks lawsuits have been filed against cruise line companies by passengers who got sick on their ships. Of course, filing the suit is one thing…proving you got it onboard is another.

Madison schools are taking the DPI’s party line seriously - they’re moving standardized academic tests up several weeks, just in case the Swine Flu starts marching through classrooms. Officially, the tests are supposed to be given starting October 26th, but Madison may start the testing as soon as next week.

Facebook, even here in Madison, has been dotted with posts from moms who now won’t let their kids get the Swine Flu vaccination. This apparently all started with an article in Mothering magazine, citing an item from Dr. Joseph Mercola, who claims secret, unreleased information in Britain shows a connection between Swine Flu Vaccine and Severe Nerve Disease. Dr. Mercola, who never met a vaccine he liked, is outraged that the mainstream media won’t pick up the secret story.

Wonder why. Could it be that the mainstream media is actually showing some restraint here? Usually a story like this would be the lead on network and cable newscasts for at least a day.

Whether or not the Swine Flu hits as hard as some of the public health experts have predicted, the H1N1 virus has already brewed up a witch’s cauldron of controversy and angst.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Scooter Jensen: Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

First of all, Scott Jensen HATES being called Scooter. I’m sure he thinks such an appellation is dismissive of a man who has a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Harvard, who once served as Tommy Thompson’s right-hand man, and who ran the Republican Caucus.

That is, until he got caught being a crook.

Scooter was criminally charged seven years ago, he was convicted on three felony counts and sentenced to 15 months in prison three years ago, and has since spent enough money to bail out a small automotive manufacturer to hire a phalanx of lawyers to delay, delay, delay.

And he has succeeded in staying out of jail.

Late last week the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s Big Money Blog put up a clock showing how many days, hours, minutes, and seconds it’s been since Scooter was criminally charged with Misconduct In Public Office. As of today, Tuesday, the clock is about to tick over to 2,538 days.

Three months ago, I opined it was well past time to put Scooter into the clink. The others charged with him in the caucus corruption scandal - Chuck Chvala, Brian Burke, Steve Foti, and Bonnie Ladwig, have all long since done their deals with the criminal justice system and have paid their debt to society.

If it’s been so long that you don’t remember, Scooter and his pals who ran things up under the big dome got caught using state-paid employees to do their political bidding, thumbing their nose at the law and the taxpayers. Under Scooter’s watch, our state government became one of the most corrupt, pay-to-play operations in the nation.

Their public defense was a disgusting combination of “we didn’t know it was against the law”, “nobody got rich doing it”, and “that’s the way the system has always worked”.

Anybody smart enough to be reading this knows exactly how to game the justice system. All it takes is a lot of money. Just hire enough expensive lawyers and delay, deny, depose, discover, and ultimately defeat the system.

If you’re a big-time politician and not independently wealthy, just use the huge storehouse of campaign cash or contributed money you’ve set aside. No problemo.

In Scooter’s case, he’s been able to string this thing out so long that when and if a conclusion of some sort is ever reached, it will likely result in a drastically reduced penalty. Nobody but a few watchdogs really cares any more.

Seven years after the fact, we’re more concerned about Obama Death Panels and who’ll win this season’s Dancing With The Stars.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Best State Supreme Court Money Can Buy

In my humble but deadly accurate opinion (as my friend Steve would say), big business in Wisconsin has now purchased a couple seats on the State Supreme Court, and the impact is subtly being felt. A recent ruling by the highest court has made it easier for companies to enforce non-compete agreements.

The author of the ruling is the newest member of the court, Justice Gableman, who won his seat with money from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and highly misleading TV ads (which are still the subject of ethics review) referring to his opponent, a sitting Justice, Louis Butler, as “Loophole Louie”.

This recent ruling is a complicated legal decision, but in essence, it changes the landscape for those employees who enter into a covenant not to compete. If you’re not familiar with the concept, let me explain it in radio terms. When I worked for Mid-West Family Broadcast Group here in Madison, I signed a non-compete which said if I quit, I couldn’t go to work on air for any other radio station within sixty miles, for six months. Many professional sales people have similar agreements, so they don’t go to work for a competitor and take their accounts with them.

Non-competes are becoming less and less typical in many industries, because courts have been leery about keeping people from changing jobs or working in their chosen field. In some states, in some professions, companies have stopped forcing their employees to sign them, because the courts won’t enforce them.

It used to be in Wisconsin, if you challenged a non-compete and the court found something wrong or too restrictive about ANY part of the agreement, it could set aside the entire agreement and invalidate it. Now, with Justice Gableman’s piece of handiwork, finding something wrong with one part of a non-compete will NOT invalidate the entire agreement.

This ruling is good news for big business; bad news for employees.

Agreeing with Justice Gableman, of course, was Justice Ziegler - the woman I referred to during my on-air days as “The Gut-Check Judge”. She, too, was elected with money from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, and a tribunal decided she acted unethically in deciding circuit court cases involving her wealthy husband’s bank. She defended her unethical action by saying she did a “gut-check” to see if there was a conflict…but, of course, never found a conflict of interest.

Dissenting on the non-compete ruling were Chief Justice Abrahamson, and Justice Bradley, who concurred in part and dissented in part with the ruling. Full disclosure: I was a financial contributor and volunteer assistant with Chief Justice Abrahamson’s successful re-election campaign earlier this year.

There is an active debate in our state right now about whether Supreme Court Justices should be elected or appointed. That’s a discussion for a different day. What this recent ruling about non-competes says to me, is that big business is reaping the benefits of buying a couple seats on our state’s highest court.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pickoffs 4 (Non-)Profit

Wednesday I made a quick run up to the Fox Valley to have lunch and spend some time with my mom. Having been a broadcaster for much of my professional life, once I get north of Waupun on HiWay 151 I start punching from one radio station to another, to see “what’s going on” up in the Valley.

Years ago I worked in the Valley, as a news stringer for WBAY-TV in Green Bay, augmenting my income while working my way up the food chain in radio. I tend to judge radio stations not by their music, since that franchise was lost to the mp3 player and iPod years ago, but by their local content.

I always have to check 1150 AM, the spot on the dial where WHBY-AM now lives. Growing up in Hortonville, WHBY-Appleton has always been my “home” station. The station has changed hands several times over the last half-century, and is now owned by the Woodward Group of stations headquartered in Iowa.

Back in January when I made a trek up to spend some time with mom, WHBY had a local talk show on, one of those “ask-your-neighbor” sort of shows where folks call in to help other people. The biggest item of discussion that morning was where you could find sidewalk salt. They’d had a big swing in temperatures, and one day’s thaw turned into the next day’s ice rink.

The callers were the real entertainment. They’d say stuff like “I just was over to the hardware store on Cecil Street in Neenah and they’re plumb out”. One guy said “yah, I talked to the fella at the True Value over on Richmond Street and they ain’t got nothin, but he said the store over on South Lawe was gonna get a shipment in today”. One lady wanted to know if table salt would work.

Even though the last thing I cared about was sidewalk salt, I was drawn into the topic by a skillful host and an excellent and entertaining example of the essence of community service. People really DID care about making their sidewalks safe for their friends and neighbors.

They broke for news at the top of the hour, and after a brief national report, the local newscaster gave an excellent five-minute summary of what was going on in and around the Fox Valley. WHBY still has a huge commitment to local news, a very rare thing in these days of the decline of radio. You don’t need me to tell you how much cutting has gone on in most radio, TV, and print newsrooms over the last year. My friend and former colleague Rick Schuh is now one of the stalwarts of WHBY’s excellent news operation.

This trip, though, my “take-away” moment from WHBY was the announcement I heard about their newest contest. Without mentioning his name at all, the ad said every time player number four for the Vikings throws an interception, we’ll kick a hundred bucks into the kitty. If he throws one against the Packers, we’ll double it and kick TWO hundred bucks into the kitty.

They do mention the player’s name on their website, where you have to go, to enter the contest. Whoever is closest in predicting the actual number of interceptions #4 throws in the regular season will split the pot with a charitable organization. Their “Pickoffs 4 Profit” promotion shows how seriously folks in the Valley take their Packers football.

The Packers are the only game in town in the Fox Valley when it comes to football, and WHBY is the only game in town when it comes to local radio news. Hats off to Woodward Communications for bucking the trend, and keeping things “live and local” on WHBY.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Chuck Todd Is An Idiot (2.0)

Back on the 26th of March I wrote a story for YourNews titled “Chuck Todd Is An Idiot”. He asked one of the most stupid questions in American political and journalism history at President Obama’s second news conference.

Todd, who like most network TV news actors is paid an obscene salary, asked the President why he was making the executives of the huge investment houses we’d bailed out sacrifice so much, and when was the President going to ask the American people to sacrifice?

It had apparently escaped Todd’s notice that by mid-March this year, hundreds of thousands of people had lost their jobs, and the retirement plans of the huge majority of the population of this nation went up in smoke with the economic meltdown caused by the greed of the investment houses. Enough sacrifice, Chuck?

A month or so ago Todd was a guest on Bill Maher’s popular political satire show on HBO, “Real Time”. An independent reporter who writes for several new media outlets exposed Todd’s complete lack of depth on the issue of Blackwater’s mercenary assassination squads in Iraq, and the failure of mainstream media to cover it in any way. Todd was really getting angry, and clearly losing the argument. Comedian Jay Leno, who was also on Maher’s panel that night, removed the tension from the moment by cracking a joke.

Todd’s latest gaffe was just a week ago, at a White House news conference about Swine Flu. In the middle of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius’s presentation on government preparedness, Todd let out a lusty sneeze.

Sibelius stopped her talk, and chastised Todd in front of the entire White House press corps, for not covering up his sneeze in any way….just blasting the germs right out there for all the reporters to enjoy. One of the points of the news conference was to try and get the media to help spread the word to schoolchildren about learning to sneeze without spreading germs everywhere.

Tuesday I took my wife’s car to the dealer for an oil change and quick check-up. There were a handful of people in the customer waiting room, including a young mom and her 3 or 4 year old child. Something caused the child to sneeze (she didn’t look sick at all) and she quickly put her face into the crook of her arm and let fly - just the way health officials want you to do it.

I wasn’t a bit surprised that a young child is smarter than Chuck Todd.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

2 Big 2 Fail

Too big to fail.” That’s what we heard from a lot of Wall Street and Washington money-changers when the economy started a precipitous nose-dive last year, and certain failed institutions were bailed out with an IOU from our grandchildren.

A few days ago the President gave Wall Street a modest tongue-lashing about executive pay, bonuses, and excessive risk-taking. He’s hinting that “the fed” - the Federal Reserve - may begin taking a more active role in looking over the bankers’ shoulders.

Heaven forbid the federal money regulators should ever have to actually REGULATE something.

Whether it’s the biggest of the big, in the “too big to fail” category (the farther down the road we get, the more it’s looking to me like we should have let them fail) or the small local bank that “buys” money from us at less than one percent (savings account) and “sells” it to us at six percent (personal loan), there’s plenty to be leery about these days.

The problem of high risk-taking has very little to do with small, local banks. And we don’t have to worry too much about local bankers taking home gazillions of dollars in bonuses. The overwhelming majority of the local banks are vital community elements that loan money to buy cars and build homes and expand businesses.

The fed doesn’t have to stick its nose too far into the business of local banks that still have things like “tellers” and “vaults” and “safe-deposit boxes”. But an Associate Press poll taken just a few days ago says 7 in 10 Americans lack confidence that the federal government has taken safeguards to prevent another financial industry melt-down.

The big outfits - the ones “too big to fail” - are still handing out bonus money hand over fist, and we still don’t have anywhere near a clear picture of exactly what they did with those billions we gave them a few months ago.

One of the main problems now associated with the fed actually starting to regulate something, is the current climate of anti-government noise being made by the tea-baggers and their ilk. Should, God forbid, President Obama suggest that the fed should actually police the pay and bonus policies of these “too big to fail” financial behemoths, the sloganeers will wail about “big government” interfering with private enterprise.

Never mind that while these “too big to fail” outfits are showing strong signs of prosperity again, millions of regular folks are still dealing with extremely high unemployment rates, record numbers of home foreclosures, medical-bill bankruptcy, and retirement portfolios that went down the drain when the financial house of cards collapsed.

It’s been just over a year since the Lehman Brothers financial firm failed, and didn’t get bailed out - the largest bankruptcy in US history. I’m beginning to be convinced we should have let nature take its course with a few other “too big to fail” financial houses.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Drunken Animals (Gophers and Badgers)

Five years ago, after a barrage of complaints about drunken college kids making the game-day experience miserable for other fans, the UW instituted the “Show and Blow” policy. Essentially, it means if you get tossed out of the game for being obnoxiously drunk - and 135 UW students did last year - you have to pass a breathalyzer test before they’ll let you into the stadium for the next game.

Now, with its brand new stadium, the University of Minnesota has taken a page from the UW playbook and has instituted a “Check BAC” program. It’s pretty much the same policy as the UW’s. Get kicked out for drunken rowdiness, and you have to pass a breathalyzer test at the gate before you can come to the next game.

Nobody keeps track officially, but it’s believed the UW and the U of M are the only two schools in the nation with such a policy.

The young revelers aren’t getting blitzed on 7-dollar beers in the stands. Neither school sells alcoholic beverages at its football games, although reliable estimates indicate they could each put another million dollars a year on the bottom line if they did. The college kids get schnockered at house parties or tailgate parties before the game.

The amusing traditions and idiosyncrasies of game-day behavior are a big part of what gives collegiate football its color and appeal. The “jump around” at the end of the third quarter - which has actually only been around since the Purdue game in 1998 - is one of those colorful things. The fifth quarter, which goes back to my college days, started in the late 60’s after the Badgers had lost two dozen games in a row, and they tried to bring some enthusiasm back to Camp Randall Stadium. (It wasn’t officially named “The Fifth Quarter” until 1978, though.)

But at some point in the maturation process, boorishly drunken behavior loses its appeal, particularly when you’re paying what you pay today to go to a Badgers football game. Student tickets are reasonably priced, but if you’re an adult paying the freight for a season ticket package, you’re talking big bucks.

If you’re a season ticket holder, the price printed on your game tickets has little to do with the actual cost. There’s the fee to apply for a seat license, the seat license fee, the fee to apply for season tickets, the season ticket fee, the fee to apply for parking, the parking fee, and then there’s the ticket cost and the parking cost, if you’re lucky enough to get UW parking. Otherwise you pay 20 bucks to somebody in the Regent Neighborhood to park on their lawn.

Add it all up, and it’s an expensive ticket. And those who can afford it don’t see the humor in some drunken college kid giving you a “used beer shower” by puking all over your nifty new red-and-white-gameday-garb. Even the tolerance for the obscene chant in the student sections (eat s***, f*** you) is wearing thinner each year.

Given the cost structure of today’s NCAA Division-One football programs, and the tight economic times, the people in charge of marketing those programs and selling tickets are keenly aware their revenue base is not college students.
They may not be able to change attitudes about drinking by instituting these “Show and Blow” or “Check BAC” programs, but they’re sure taking steps to change behavior.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Scheduled to enter pleas in Dane County court today are Diamond Taylor and Jeremy Glover, the two former UW hoopsters who’ve been charged with burglary and possession of stolen property. Campus cops say the two went through several unlocked dorm rooms and stole cash - around four hundred bucks - and small electronics. They were essentially nabbed red-handed.

They were also charged with underage drinking, but let’s face it: it would have been remarkable if a UW freshman was NOT drinking on Labor Day weekend.

Andy Baggot, a veteran State Journal sports columnist who knows about a zillion times as much about UW sports as I do, opined Friday that the UW Athletic Department essentially threw the two young men under the bus. The brain trust on Monroe Street didn’t send a representative to their first appearance, and kicked them off the hoops team Wednesday, before “the legal system had a chance to play out”, as they say over there in jock-dom.

Baggot says this leads you to believe the UW Athletic Department is convinced the two are guilty of something serious. He expected more from the department, and says the UW should have done a better job of supporting and backing the two young men.

It’s very difficult to publicly defend the behavior of somebody caught stealing cash and iPods and cell phones by systematically going through unlocked dorm rooms. What are you supposed to do, if you’re the coach? Tell them “look, fellows, maybe this sort of thing is OK where you come from, but here at the UW, we don’t look kindly on it”? Of course not. And then, as Baggot points out, there’s that pesky “innocent until proven guilty” concept.

The duo made their first appearance in our county’s justice system accompanied by “regular” lawyers. Competent counsel, I’m sure; but not with the style, panache, and experience of somebody like Charlie Giesen, who has represented more than a few UW jocks who’ve run afoul of the law.

These two young men, who no doubt are very skilled at the game of basketball, have not yet proven they can play competitively at the NCAA-Division-1-Big Ten level. Excuse me for being so cynical, but they have not yet proven themselves to be big-time-lawyer-worthy.

Sort of like being statue-worthy over there in jock land: Barry Alvarez: statue-worthy. Bret Bielema: we’ll see.

Had the charges against Taylor and Glover come a couple years from now, and if either had been averaging 20 points or 15 rebounds a game, I think the UW Athletics Department’s response might be different.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Swine Flu, Politicians, and a Pig in a Poke

The old saw about “buying a pig in a poke” goes back to England in the middle ages, and what it means to most people is that you’ve made a risky purchase without inspecting the merchandise. Swindlers would put a cat in a bag (“poke”) and sell it as a pig - not letting you open the poke (bag) to see what’s actually inside.

And, when you got home and opened the bag, and the frightened cat made its escape, you were said to be “left holding the bag” - and that’s where that saying originated. The Germans say “die Katze im Sack Kaufen”, which means “you bought a cat in a sack”. They don’t even reference the pig you thought you were buying. And, the “pig in a poke” concept crosses almost every culture.

One of our politicians - Phil Garthwaite of Dickeyville, who was a farm broadcaster before he became a politician, cooked up a non-binding resolution which asks all state agencies, the media, and everybody else to stop calling it the Swine Flu. He’s mad because it’s hurt pork sales. It passed the legislature 83-13 yesterday afternoon.

The Swine Flu thing is like the pig in the poke. There’s a pig involved, but it’s not really about the pig. It’s about the gullibility of the person who got conned into buying a cat in a sack.

I hate to break it to you, Phil, but people really are stupid sometimes. It’s a wonder we still eat chicken, with all that talk about Chicken Pox. All the non-binding resolutions, laws, or decrees won’t change basic stupidity. You can legislate morality, and we do it all the time. But legislating against stupidity is - well, stupid.

Phil was on Channel 3 Wednesday evening, talking about how much this Swine Flu thing has hurt the pig farmers in his district. My friends at Channel 3 (except that rebel Marc Lovicott, who has publicly declared his intention to call it Swine Flu regardless) have tried to straddle the fence by adopting a policy of calling it “H1N1, also known as Swine Flu”. I’d make a snarky comment about THAT, but - as the lawyers say, res ipsa loquitor. It speaks for itself.

You can shout from the rooftops until your voice is gone that you can’t get Swine Flu from pork products, but that will be about as productive as trying to teach the proverbial pig to sing. People believe what they want to believe. Try and change a birther’s mind about our President.

Early on in the Swine Flu panic, I stopped for gas at a strip mall not to far from my home. Inside the station was the largest container of hand cleanser I’d ever seen in my life. It had to hold at least two gallons. The lady taking my money for the gas explained the mexican restaurant just a few doors down in the strip mall uses pork, and she and her fellow employees demanded the hand sanitizer dispenser so they didn’t get the Swine Flu from the employees or patrons of the restaurant.

Phil, it’s too late to tell us to call it something else. The cat is out of the bag, so to speak. A hundred years from now they’ll still call it Swine Flu, H1N1 notwithstanding; and kids will still get immunized against Chicken Pox, even though clinicians will still call it varicella.

I’m going to pay less for that rack of pork ribs I’m going to buy at the butcher shop tomorrow, and I know some pig farmer in Phil’s district is probably getting the short of the stick on the deal. But no law, decree, ordinance, or non-binding resolution is going to change that. Perhaps having Mrs. Palin put some lipstick on it will help.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Is A Tweet "Journalism"? (Media and Ethics)

25 years ago, preparing for his weekly Saturday radio address, the sound technicians asked President Ronald Reagan to do a “mike check” to get their sound levels right. The Great Communicator jokingly said “My fellow Americans: I’m pleased to announce that I’ve signed legislation outlawing the Soviet Union. We begin bombing in five minutes”.

By Monday, most Americans knew about Reagan’s joke. The commies didn’t laugh.

A few days ago, President Obama was sitting down to do an interview with CNBC following his address to Wall Street, and as the techs were setting up for the broadcast, somebody in the gaggle of reporters surrounding the set asked him about Kanye West’s latest gaffe in interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at an awards ceremony, and the President said “He’s a jackass”.


Kinda like the time President Bush forgot the mikes were on when he identified a New York Times reporter covering a campaign event in 2000 and pointed him out to his running mate, Dick Cheney, calling the reporter an asshole. Or the time Tommy Thompson was up north, selling his plan to tax the Milwaukee metro area to pay for Miller Park, and he said “stick it to ‘em!”

Except President Obama is media-savvy enough to know that he’d gone too far with his comment, and immediately asked the reporters there to cut him a break and keep it quiet. However, failed ABC News former White House Correspondent Terry Moran, who is 48 years old, immediately put out a tweet with the quote. So did two other ABC employees. (CNBC has made no reference to the incident and has no plans to do so.)

When the boys in the expensive suits in the executive offices at ABC News found out about it (most of them probably had to ask what a tweet is), they had the tweets deleted and apologized to the White House. ABC News officially felt that the “rules” still apply concerning conversations that are overheard and under circumstances like this, where pre-interview chatter is considered “off the record”.

But the folks I call the “pointy heads” of Journalism, at the prestigious Poynter Institute, disagreed. Asked by an AP writer, a journalism ethics expert at Poynter, Kelly McBride, said if you’re sitting there with a microphone on, you don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and if you’re the President, you know that.

I practiced the craft of news reporting for 30 years, and I can’t count the times I’d be speaking with an “official” acquaintance in a social situation and if there was the slightest hint of “shop talk”, I’d be asked “am I talking to a friend, or the media?”. And there were just as many times, if not more, when I’d say “look, I just need to know more about this - is there anything you can tell me, off the record, not for attribution, on background only, that will help me understand this?”

President Reagan said “trust but verify”. Trust is what holds together relationships, contracts, and all sorts of things. I got a lot of information, and stories, from people who trusted that I would keep my word.

I’m not sure how that concept applies in a Twitter world. Pretty soon some lawyer is going to figure out that tweets can be considered “reporters work product”.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kanye West: Fail

Listening to my friend Mitch Henck’s radio show earlier this week, it’s apparent his audience doesn’t really know much about Kanye West, which is not a bit surprising. They were expressing their outrage that he made a fool of himself at the MTV Video Music Awards show Sunday night by interrupting the acceptance speech of a 17-year-old country singer (Taylor Swift).

It was only the latest in a long line of inappropriate, childish displays from West.
Mr. West believed that his friend Beyonce should have won the award for best video, and interrupted Swift’s speech to tell the world about it. Monday night, on the premiere of Jay Leno’s new 9 PM comedy show, West apologized (again) and looked dumbstruck when Leno asked West how his late mother would have reacted to his outburst on the awards show.

Then Ms. Swift appeared on “The View” and the girls had a gab-fest about the incident.

These awards shows are so frequent that it’s hard to tell them apart any more. Apparently today’s young performers are so insecure they must constantly assure themselves that they are award-worthy. And the shows, which have for the past five years provided all sorts of entertainment for the under-30 crowd, have morphed into grotesque displays of boorish behavior.

Just a couple weeks ago at a music awards show in Milwaukee, two people were shot.

Mr. West’s history of infantile behavior goes back to 2004 and something called “The American Music Awards” (see what I mean….there are scores of these shows every year), when he stalked off the stage and out of the event when he didn’t win Best New Artist. (Gretchen Wilson did.)

A few months later, in that nationally-televised-all-the-networks-carried-it-live telethon to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, West informed the nation that George Bush hates black people.

How classy.

The next year at the MTV European Music Awards (I’m not sure if they have an awards show for every geographic region of the world, but I think they do) West stormed the stage when his video did not win, and informed the viewers his video should have won because it cost a million dollars and featured Pamela Anderson.

In 2007 West threw a hissy fit backstage at the MTV Video Music Awards
demanding to perform onstage during the show, but MTV didn’t cave. And last year at the Grammy awards (are you keeping all these awards shows straight?) he won for best rap album, but in his speech he told fellow rapper Common not to release any albums the same year as he did - presumably so West wouldn’t have “competition” for the award.

So this childish display by West Sunday night, when most of us were watching the Packers and Bears, was just another example of how so many young entertainers are not prepared to deal with anything they perceive as “disrespect”.

And, how many entertainers can say the President of the United States referred to them as a jackass?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

John Stanley: R.I.P.

It couldn’t have been easy for one of John Stanley’s staff members to sign his death certificate. Stanley was greatly respected by his fellow professionals in law enforcement, medicine, and in county service. Stanley, who has been Dane County Coroner since 2000, died of an apparent heart attack at his DeForest home Sunday afternoon. John Stanley was only 63.

During my years as a morning news anchor in Madison, I got John out of bed a lot of times, calling at 3 or 4 AM to get the details of a tragic death or to confirm some element of a news story. Any request for information that I made of his office, he either handled himself, or put me in touch with someone who could get me the information I wanted.

In the emotionally-charged days right after the 9-11 attacks, John helped me put the details of the story in perspective, and gave me huge insights into the dreadful process that followed the attack on the World Trade Center. I will never forget our early-morning phone calls in those days, before I wrote the morning news stories. He patiently explained details for me, helped me understand the jargon of medical examiners, and helped me keep a human perspective on the tragedy.

But that was something John Stanley did every day of his professional life, dealing with notification of family members following some tragic car wreck, boating mishap, or industrial accident. He knew how to help people cope with the horrible news he had to give them. He did three tours of duty in Viet Nam and saw plenty of death before he ever stepped into the Coroner’s office here, in 1991.

At that time, Ray Wosepka was Coroner. All of us in the media called Ray “Whitey” because of his full head of brilliant white hair - a big contrast to Stanley’s dark hair. Whitey was appointed Coroner after the tragic incident in the City-County Building in 1988, when his boss, Coroner Bud Chamberlain, was murdered by a crazed man with a sawn-off shotgun.

Whitey decided to retire in 2000 after he was diagnosed with cancer, and John Stanley ran for and was elected to the job. He’d been Whitey’s Chief Deputy Coroner. Stanley ran the Coroner’s office with consummate professionalism and great empathy, and the tributes continue to pour in from his colleagues like the County Exec, District Attorney, police chiefs, and medical professionals.

He’d been looking forward to not running for Coroner in the next election, and stepping down to spend a lot more time with his wife and three adult children. No more calls in the middle of the night after a horrid car wreck; no more being the bearer of sad news to a family; and no more calls from the media at 3 AM.

But I have no doubt that had John been able to achieve that well-earned retirement, he would have continued to share his tremendous expertise and insights with anyone who asked him. He was that kind of guy. John Stanley lived a life of exemplary service to his nation, his county, his colleagues, and his friends.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What A Piece Of Work: Glen Beck

His career in radio started more than 20 years ago when he won a contest to be a DJ for an hour, and he rapidly moved up the broadcasting career ladder. Glen Beck is now host of the 4th-most-popular radio show in the nation (heard locally on WTDY 1670 AM) and it’s estimated he has about six and a half million weekly listeners. El-Rushbo reaches about 13.5 million people a week, and is the most-listened to show in the nation.

Beck’s TV show doesn’t do nearly as well as his radio show (remember when Rush tried to do TV years ago, and how horribly he and the show bombed?) but Beck has now “advanced” to the point that his Fox TV show is the target of a boycott. This is what my friend Doug Moe calls “failing upwardly”.

When Beck called the President a racist on the Fox morning show July 28th, the civil rights group Color Of Change swung into action and began a boycott. Most boycotts fail, and even the best have mixed results, but rather than asking people to stop watching Beck’s show, Color Of Change contacted Beck’s sponsors.
You are probably not aware of the boycott, but more than fifty sponsors have pulled their ads from Beck’s show. Color Of Change has learned the lesson that if you make a big public noise about boycotting viewing or listening to an on-air personality, all it does is drive the ratings up. (Two words: Don Imus.)

The list of companies which have pulled their ads from Beck’s show is a Who’s Who of huge corporations, including the granddaddy of them all, Wal*Mart. Among the others companies which have decided to pull their ads are outfits like Best Buy, Mercedes Benz, Capital One, Progressive Insurance, GEICO, and Travelocity. Each one is a huge enterprise that spends a lot of money advertising.

Amy Goodman, co-host of another extremely popular radio show (Democracy Now!, heard locally on WORT 89.9 FM), says more “mainline” groups like the NAACP are now starting to pay much closer attention to Beck’s racist rants, and she says the advertiser boycott of Beck’s show is not likely to just fade out.
I’m not sure I agree with Amy, having a “few years” of broadcasting experience under my belt. What sells ads initially, for advertisers as large as Wal*Mart, are concepts like “reach and frequency” and “cost per thousand”. You don’t need to know exactly what that jargon means, only that what counts is how many viewers or listeners the show delivers, and how much it costs to reach them.

In most cases, sponsors cancel when pressure is brought to bear; but they’re back on the show in the next fiscal quarter. And new sponsors usually “fill the void” quickly when there’s an opening. So, the “pain” is immediately tangible, but short-lived. Ad sales people are very skilled at “re-selling” boycotters, giving (often false) assurances that “things have changed and your absence really made a statement”.

For the boycott to be even modestly successful, Color Of Change is going to have to keep the pressure on the advertisers who dropped off and deal with the new sponsors that come on. That’s usually too tall an order for most watchdog organizations. They don’t have the resources or manpower.

If advertisers made their buying decisions based on morals, Beck and Limbaugh’s shows would have been gone a long time ago.

Friday, September 11, 2009

8 Years Later: Are We Safer?

We all remember where we were when the airplanes hit the World Trade Center and the other targets 8 years ago this morning. I was on the air with that bad-boy Sly, and his rant about the turmoil at the Dane County Humane Society suddenly became a long, live newscast as we sought to find out who attacked us.

In the past 8 years, we have gone from “a nation of laws, not men” to a nation which largely distrusts its government. Our politics have become so coarse that we now have some goober from South Carolina calling the President a liar as he addresses a joint session of congress. Many of his fellow Republicans laughed, yelled, and held up signs during the address. You’d think it was England - or North Korea.

A despicable act of terror eight years ago brought us closer, perhaps, than ever before; and now, we seem farther apart than ever.

Random searches on the streets of our nation’s cities and in our public gathering places have been declared legal, as though the Fourth Amendment never existed. In the name of the war on terror, we’ve rolled over on personal freedoms once fiercely defended. In place of the Fourth Amendment seems to be an attitude by many people - principal among them zealous law enforcement personnel - that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear from a random search.

TSA has become an acronym symbolizing everything that’s wrong with government. The TSA can inspect all photos on your camera when you go through a checkpoint. If you’re coming back from a romantic vacation with your wife, it can be painfully embarrassing to have a stranger look at your intimate pictures. As Fred Reed says, “whether they’re nude pictures of my wife…or a Thai transvestite…neither is illegal, and neither is the government’s business”.

These are the same folks who confiscate shampoo, toothpaste, and deodorant if it’s not in a small see-through container. They run us through scanners that can see through your clothes. They make us take off our shoes, for heaven’s sake.

My titanium hip sets off the metal detector every time, and every time I board a plane I am compelled to go through the obscene ritual of an “individual personal inspection”, conducted in full view other travelers who gawk at me, knowing full well the odds of a fat gray-haired old man being a “terrorist” are pretty slim. But the TSA is following “procedure”. Arguing is pointless and they don’t even look at the card I have from my orthopedic surgeon saying I have a prosthetic hip.

It’s said there are a million names on the no-fly list, but nobody knows for sure and you can’t find out. The late Senator Ted Kennedy found out his name was on the list when he was detained at airports on the east coast five times in one week in 2004...and it took his staff more than three weeks to get his name off the list.

Defenders of extremes like these say “well, we haven’t been attacked since 9-11”. They’re right, but I don’t think it’s because the TSA makes us take our shoes off and confiscates our shampoo. But I never believed the bull about the “government death panels”, either.

Whether it’s national security or health care reform, 8 years after 9-11 we are a nation deeply divided

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Compromised Care

It is perhaps the most persistent myth of the many myths surrounding the national debate about health care: The United States has the finest health care system in the world.

Not so, and not so just about any way you want to define “finest” or “best”.

We heard a bit more about the President’s plan in his speech to congress last night. And there was the obscene spectacle of some pinhead congressman from South Carolina interrupting the President’s address to call him a liar. The Republicans have no real plan; they’re apparently against anything the Democrats suggest, and are fond of calling any change “socialism”. Never mind that every member of congress enjoys the benefits of “socialized medical care” and none of them seem eager to abandon their privilege.

Our neighbor to the north, Canada, relies on private-sector providers, and the government runs the insurance plan. Japan, Germany, Switzerland, and many other “developed” nations provide universal coverage and use both private-sector providers and insurers. Germans can sign up for their choice of any of more than 200 private health insurance plans.

How many private insurance plans do YOU have to choose from?

If your answer is more than zero, how many of those choices you have will reject you because of a pre-existing condition? How many will put a limit on your benefits? How many of them will have a “rescission department” devoted solely to digging through your lifetime medical records, finding a reason to deny a claim?

Here comes the “socialism” part.

In nearly every other foreign nations (and I can‘t find one where this isn‘t true), health insurance companies must accept every applicant, they can’t cancel as long as you pay your premiums, and are required to pay any claim your doctor, clinic, or hospital submits. Most of them do it in a few days, not several months, as in the U-S. That’s because these “socialist” plans in the rest of the civilized world exist to care for patients and pay their bills, not to make a profit.

The United States is the only developed nation that lets insurance companies profit from their health insurance plans.

And we’re grossly inefficient. Worst in the world. Highest administrative costs of any nation. About 20% of your premium goes to nonmedical costs. Canada: 6%. France: 2%. Every other payment system in the world - every one - is more efficient than ours.

Another persistent myth: cost controls stifle innovation. I have an artificial left hip. The French invented joint replacement. We do our fair share of medical innovation here, to be sure. But the erectile dysfunction drug hawked constantly on TV? A British discovery. The list is long, of innovations and discoveries in countries with “socialized medicine”.

And perhaps the most telling statistic: the number of bankruptcies each year caused by medical bills in the US is 700 thousand. France: zero. Germany: zero. Japan: zero. Britain: zero.

Anyone who thinks the status quo is sustainable in the US health care system must be on socialized medicine.

Like members of congress.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pink Plastic Pushback

To operate successfully in life, you need context and perspective, or you’re operating like a stranger in a strange land.

And Madison can be a pretty strange land.

Last week, in a playful moment, the Madison City Council made the pink plastic flamingo the city’s official bird. Predictably, the story was picked up by the national media, and to be honest, most of them did a pretty good job of providing some context.

My friend Doug Moe, who has chronicled Madison’s foibles in the daily press for years, pushed for the official recognition of the lawn flamingo and his persistence was rewarded. The Los Angeles Times picked up the story and did a great job of explaining it, even bringing up some of Madison’s many connections to Hollywood and La-La-Land.

The Chicago Tribune did a small story about the flamingo, giving it some context by explaining that it was not just the random act of a political body given to debates on international relations and sister cities, but a tongue-in-cheek salute to one of the greatest college pranks of all time.

30 years ago this month, UW-Madison students awoke to find Bascom Hill covered with 1,008 pink plastic flamingos. The photos are legion and iconic. The college kids who did it…the Pail and Shovel Party…are the same folks who, a few months earlier, did the singularly memorable stunt of submerging a replica of the Statue of Liberty in Lake Mendota.

They’d promised that if they were elected to run student government, they’d move Lady Liberty to Lake Monona, and “made good” on the promise.

Fast forward three decades.

Today’s UW students have little, if any, perspective on what life on campus was like 30 years ago. I was stunned at the number of posts on Facebook, from college kids who thought the whole thing was ridiculous and gave their institution and its city another black eye, and fodder for Comedy Central. Obviously, these were knee-jerk reactions without perspective.

At least my son, who’s in his fifth year at the UW Business School, made the wry observation on Facebook that it seemed only natural, since the pink plastic flamingo is easily adapted for functional use as a beer bong. My frame of reference on “bong”, having been a student in the 60’s, is somewhat different.

Alder Thuy Pham-Remmele, whose rant about Madison and bicycles has become a YouTube classic, was predictably unamused by the council’s proceeding on the pink flamingo, and launched into another of her patented rants about wasting time.


There is nothing wrong with the council taking a few moments - and it was only a few moments - to celebrate our singularly unique history as a community. The crop of college kids over there these days could take a lesson or two from us old farts about how to leave a lasting legacy.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cheaters Never Win?

Ask a search engine to find who originated the old saw about winners and cheaters, and the most pungent answer that comes up is “a very naïve person”.


Our parents, teachers, coaches, advisors, and counselors told us since we were children that cheating is not acceptable, and that when you cheat, the person you most hurt is yourself. Apparently, in the world of the college kid today, defining cheating is like defining sex.

It depends on what the meaning of is, is.

Watching CNN’s morning news the other day, I enjoyed a piece one of the reporters did as part of her series on education in America. It was about cheating, and how widespread it’s become. She focused on cheating by buying reports and papers on the internet, rather than doing the work yourself.

She spent eighty bucks…..eighty bucks!!!!….to order a three-page paper on plagiarism in journalism. She had a college prof grade the paper, and it got an “F”. ($80 for an F.) The prof said the paper was poor from the very first sentence to the end, lacked coherence, lacked a theme, and was obviously written by someone who was not a native English speaker.

Turned out the paper the CNN reporter thought she was buying from an online source in the U-S was actually written by somebody in India. How NOT shocking.
Here in Madison, a local TV news “writer” was fired a couple years ago for stealing some news headlines off a competing TV station’s website, and putting them on his station’s website. A straight copy-and-paste job; not even a cursory rewrite. His excuse? He was in a hurry.

The former head of the Journalism Department at UW-Madison told me a few months ago that one of his biggest issues as a classroom teacher was getting his students to understand how wrong it is, on so many levels, to steal other people’s work and pass it off as their own.

In the news biz, when you steal something from somebody else, you “attribute” it. In other words, you acknowledge the work is not yours, and you give credit to the person (or institution) who did the work. When you see a phrase like “the State Journal reports…” or “in an article in the Wisconsin State Journal….” you’re seeing attribution in action, just as I am attributing much of my content here to CNN.

But the real clincher of her report, to me, was her finishing touch. It was a survey that said most college kids today would rather cheat than fail.

Do they know what cheating is? Depends. Kinda like art - I know it when I see it. But when you take someone else’s work and pass it off as your own….that’s cheating, no matter how your mind bends the rules to make it “acceptable”.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Oh, I'm SO Sorry..

Looks like 20-year-old hip-hop star Chris Brown, whose next album will be called “Graffiti”, will be picking up trash and helping remove graffiti in Richmond Virginia. That is, if a Los Angeles judge approves the plan, after she sentenced the young man to five years of probation and six months’ worth of community service.

Brown wants to do the community service near his home town, away from the bright lights and insatiable celebrity media in L-A.

In case you don’t follow cheap, trashy showbiz news, and I usually avoid it, you may not be aware that the young man beat the crap out of his ex-girlfriend, a lady who goes by the name of “Rihanna” (her middle name) who purportedly sings and models. It was all big news when it happened back in February just before the Grammy Awards.

There’s always violence at music awards shows now. Just ask the folks in Milwaukee, who had a shooting at an awards show a few days ago.

True to form, after he clobbered Rihanna senseless, Brown hired Michael Jackson’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, to help him capitalize on his violence and attain more “street cred”, which is critical to success in the circles in which Mr. Brown travels.

The next step, after being convicted, of course, is to either go to rehab or go on a national TV talk show. Or both. Brown was on Larry King’s show the other day, saying he didn’t remember what happened. Then, of course, when the media railed at that, he said he “misspoke” and now, of course, it’s all coming back to him.

Yes, I’m sarcastic.

This sort of thing happens far too often. Some “star” gets out of control and then hires some pricey lawyer or PR-miester to “counsel” them. I still recall a 1997 incident, involving another one of Milwaukee’s notorious sons, basketball player Latrell Sprewell.

He took exception to a suggestion from his Golden State Warriors coach, P J Carlesimo, that he “put a little more mustard“ on his passes. He viciously attacked Carlesimo. Had it not been for other players who intervened to pry Sprewell’s hands from Coach Carlesimo’s throat, Sprewell would have probably choked the coach to death.

A day or so later, one of Sprewell’s sycophants characterized the incident as coach Carlesimo ramming his throat into Sprewell’s hands, with no consideration whatsoever for the hoops star’s well-being.

The team suspended him for ten days, but a few days later, when the incident got more widely publicized (it took a day or so back in the late 90’s), the NBA essentially suspended him for the rest of the season. A few days after the suspension, Sprewell was charged with reckless driving in a car accident that hurt two other people. He was on his best behavior.

In sports, the bad-boys sit out while, and then get hired again, ala Michael Vick. In hip-hop, outrageously unacceptable anti-social behavior is rewarded financially.

Don’t even get me started again on Hannah Montana’s stripper-pole dance at that music awards show a few weeks ago……

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Trouble, Down On The Farm

When I grew up in the 50’s in a small town in the Fox Valley, farmers were “rich”. They had lots of land; the “farm kids” who went to Hortonville High always had nice clothes and the best cars. Those of us who lived in town were vaguely aware of something called “chores”, and didn’t understand at a visceral level how much of a sacrifice the farm parents made to allow their kids to participate in after-school activities like sports.

The school board was dominated by farmers (they owned the land, and paid the big property taxes) and on Friday night on Main Street, as farmers came to town to put their milk checks in the bank, they’d greet each other in front of the bank by jokingly asking “are you puttin’ in, or takin’ out?” And the answer always seemed to be “Puttin’ in”.

Things have changed quite a bit.

In 1950, the state had about a hundred thousand dairy farms. Now, there are about 13 thousand. Many farmers are deep in debt, and they - and their bankers - are pretty nervous about it. When you factor in stuff like inflation, feed costs, equipment costs, and all the other costs connected with farming these days, you can make the argument that they’re getting less for their milk now than any time in the past hundred years.

A few days ago, during my lunch break, shared with my dog and the noon news on Channel 3 - a holdover from the days when every farmer came in from the fields or the barn to get lunch and the ag market news on TV - I saw Pam Jahnke’s ag update. She said it was just about the worst time for dairy farmers ever, and she’s not prone to exaggeration. I worked with her for years, doing news on her early-morning farm show heard on radio stations all over the state.

Like many farmers (Pam grew up on a dairy farm near Oconto Falls) she tends to be very direct in her dealings with people, but she has that indomitable optimism shared by farmers, and usually sees the cup as half full. She’s not an alarmist, and when she says things are bad, they’re probably really horrible.

My brother-in-law owns and runs a dairy operation (Scenic Splendour Farm) in rural Outagamie County, and even though I have 20 years of formal education, I get lost in a hurry when he tries to explain to me how milk prices work. You’ve got the feds involved. The state is involved. So-called experts are involved. You’ve got price supports and foreign markets and cheese markets and powdered milk prices. Commodity traders. Distance from Eau Claire. I can’t keep up.

Here in America’s Dairyland, we at least have a foggy idea of how a gallon of milk starts on the farm and ends up in the store. And I’d like to think that Wisconsinites do give a hoot about making sure the farmer who produced it, gets fair value for the product. But there are a lot of people in this country who have no real clue where there food comes from.

To those who choose not to pay attention to the plight of the farmer, I’ll echo what a wise person once said: unless you have an alternate source of food, you’d better start paying attention to what’s going on down on the farm.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hydration Trumps Sex?

Way back in 1992, John Gray wrote the now-famous book about how men are from Mars, and women are from Venus. More confirmation, as if any were needed, that men and women have vastly different priorities, is provided by a reliable online survey of more than a thousand women, 25 and older, of their opinions on healthy living.

The survey was sponsored by Cooking Light magazine, and for me was a real eye-opener. It was done as scientifically as any online survey can be done, and the results indicate that women think drinking enough water is more important than having enough sex.

Hydration trumps sex?

Not only that, but sex comes in seventh on the list. Most important: getting enough sleep. OK, hard to argue with that. Keeping stress levels low was #2 on their list, followed by finding time to relax, eating healthfully, hydrating, exercising, and then….having enough sex.

I’m pretty sure, without a scientific survey to back me up, that the priorities for men would be different. I’ll hazard a guess that hydration doesn’t even make the list, and that having enough sex is probably close to the top of the list, and that if you asked the typical man if he’d rather have a good night’s sleep or….well, you get the idea.

The revelations don’t start and stop in the bedroom. Women would rather be thought of as healthy than almost anything else. Healthy is more important than wealthy, powerful, beautiful, sexy, or successful. What’s the top item on that list? Being thought of as smart.

I believe, gentlemen, that we can learn a great deal from this study.
One of the other categories of the women’s survey where we can likely find something to agree on, is that the vast majority of women say they look younger and feel younger than their actual age. I’m constantly told that I don’t “look” (or act) like I’m 60. 60 is the new 40. It’s more than a cliché.

And, the majority of women surveyed say their self-confidence is influenced by their appearance and their overall health and wellness. No disagreement on that. Although the bias against overweight women is several orders of magnitude greater than it is for men, every guy I know feels better about himself when he looks good.

Three-quarters of women today pay more attention to their health and wellness than they did only five years ago, and I’d be hard-pressed to find a male acquaintance who doesn’t feel the same way.

My conclusion, after reading the study: men and women are indeed from different planets, but there’s enough similarity to lead me to believe we’re in the same solar system.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Don't Get Slap-Chopped

There is a price to be paid for convenience, as anyone who’s ever bought anything at a “convenience” store can tell you. This whole Slap-Chop odyssey started a few weeks ago in our home, when, lured by the seductive TV commercial, my wife and I decided we could no longer exist without having a small food processor.

We have a top-of-the-line Cuisinart food processor, complete with enough attachments to slice, dice, process, blend, or otherwise deal with just about anything you can cram into it. But it’s a pretty hefty piece of kitchen equipment. When you just want to chop up some onion or tomato to toss onto the salad, it’s like using a sledgehammer to drive a nail to drag out the big unit. Each day that passed convinced us more and more that we needed the Slap-Chop device.

The first mistake we made was to spend twenty bucks at a local store to buy a tiny food processor. Oh, it worked, all right - but when my wife tossed a chunk of onion into it, it pretty much turned it into puree. Should have purchased the Slap-Chop.

Sunday, as we were out and about, delivering a batch of my wife’s home-made Italian meatballs to our son at his off-campus home, we decided to make a swing over to a grocery store where my wife was convinced she’d seen the original Slap-Chop device.

Couldn’t find it.

Later in the day, as I was doodling around on my laptop, I thought I might as well buy the thing online. It was easy to find the official Slap-Chop site on the internet, and I knew it was the spot, because as soon as the site loaded up, that infomercial guy (NOT Billy Mays, but some other guy named Vince) started his spiel about the virtues of the Slap-Chop.

They never let you buy one. You could get two for $19.95, plus $7.95 for shipping and handling, and they’d throw in two “free” cheese graters (a device which, let’s face it, would never make it on its own). Oh well - our daughter has just set up housekeeping at her new apartment in McFarland, so I’ll get two, and we’ll give her one. Not intolerable, for $27.90. But still more than I’d want to pay.

Somehow, in the process of ordering the two-for-one deal, things went horribly wrong. Either I missed the fine print, or inadvertently checked some box, but AFTER I’d entered my shipping address and credit card information, I got the “confirmation” page.

My $27.90 purchase had suddenly become $63.65, and I was also getting some damnable “folding chopping board” I didn’t want. Who needs a chopping board when you have the Slap-Chop? I couldn’t go back. The site wouldn’t let me. The confirmation page listed my purchase of the two-for-one Slap Chop plus two “free” cheese graters plus the “folding chopping board” at $39.95.…with a line-item for shipping and handling at $23.80. TWENTY-THREE EIGHTY for shipping and handling?

How did $27.90 suddenly become $39.95, and who on earth charges 24 bucks to handle and ship a box that can’t be bigger than the average dictionary? And even though they tried their best to sell me on a deal to buy some Sham-Wows, and other stuff that I summarily dismissed and rejected, they got $63.65 out of me when all I really wanted was one Slap-Chop.

There’s one born every minute, I guess. And I hate to admit I’m one of them.