Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year!

Here’s wishing you and yours a fine and happy New Year. No year-end best of/worst of; no admonishments to the politicians; no predictions for 2011; just a wish for a happy, healthy, and prosperous year ahead. I’ll be back Monday.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It Will Never Snow Again

The photo above is submitted in evidence to support the assertion of the title of this post. You think the forecast for rain and 40’s the next couple days is a fluke? Hell, no. It became reality the moment the man from the hardware store dropped off this snorting beast, this Toro 38614 Power-Max 726 OE snowthrower.

The Power-Max is because of the huge American-made Briggs and Stratton engine that powers it; the 7 is the series number; the 26 is for the 26-inch clearing width; the “O” stands for overhead valves in the engine; and the “E” is for electric start. Full assembled and delivered price a dollar short of a grand.

And it all means it’s never going to snow anywhere near my suburban enclave again, ever.

For the uninitiated, there are laws about these things. Washing your car in the summer brings rain, or at least a flock of well-fed birds overhead; raking your leaves in the fall before they’ve all fallen brings on a freshening wind; putting some object in a good hiding place means you’ll never see it again; and so on.

So when the rain comes tomorrow, it will eventually wash away all the snow within a four-mile radius of my home, and the presence of the snorting beast in my garage assures that no snow will fall to replace it.

This is an immutable law of nature, and it doesn’t mean Al Gore was right. It’s just the way things work.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Why We're Doomed

We are doomed because myths persist, and the critical thinking skills necessary to see through myths are becoming more and more rare. Some myths – in fact, many of them, are harmless. Some can change your life; some can cause you great harm; some can kill you.

Myths about human reproduction are rampant, despite decades of assiduous effort to educate young people, both at home and in school.

When I was a boy, there was a prevalent myth that you couldn’t get a girl pregnant if you had sex standing up. The “logic” behind the myth (and there’s often some twisted “logic” behind myths) was that the magical fluid couldn’t get “up far enough” to impregnate the girl.

And it was widely believed that you could get venereal disease by using public toilets.

When my daughter was growing up in the early 90’s, there was a myth that sleeping with a bra on would give you breast cancer. I’m not sure what, if any, flawed logic was behind that one.

Yesterday, I read results of a survey of a thousand young people (aged 12-19) from across the nation, done by an outfit called “With One Voice 2010”, which I believe is part of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

Although 78% of the teens surveyed say they have all the info they need to avoid an unplanned pregnancy, a third of them (34%) believe that “it doesn’t matter whether you use birth control or not, when it is your time to get pregnant, it will happen.” And half (49%) admit they know little or nothing about condoms and how to use them.

We are doomed.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Monday Media Rant: Say WHAT?

An historic. What? Who taught you that? Unless you speak a certain British accent where you don’t pronounce the “h” in historic, “an historic” is wrong, for the same reason we don’t say an hysterectomy, an home run, an hero, an hitch, and so on. We say “an hour” because we don’t pronounce the “h” in hour. That’s right. Take it up with the Brits.

I had a chance to…. Well, did you, or didn’t you? How many times have you heard a broadcaster say “I had a chance to interview (name)….”. I had a chance to major in Chemistry, but I didn’t. Why not just say “I interviewed (name) and he/she said….”.

School closings. How do they square that with “road closures”, since they decided to change it from “road closings” last year? For the sake of consistency (and idiocy), why not “school closures?” I howled with laughter one morning last week when I heard a local yokel say “school closings and road closures.”

Play-action pass. Don’t you mean “run-action pass?” Every time the center snaps the ball, it’s a play. The key element is the run action, which mis-directs the defense while the quarterback executes a pass, not a running play.

Offsides. How many sides are there? Two. How many can you be on at any one moment in time? One. Offside.

Former Cy Young winner. Did they take the Cy Young award away from him? Every sportswriter and announcer in the world uses this idiotic form. Same thing with “former Heismann Trophy winner”, although there are actually a few of them! Reggie Bush is a former Heisman Trophy winner, because he had to give it back. All the others are simply “Heisman Trophy Winners”, like Ron Dayne.

Welcome Inside Sports Center. Really? Welcome INSIDE? Who talks like that? The same kind of idiots who say things like “The incident remains under investigation.”

I’ve got a million of ‘em. Ask my wife.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

Hope y’all have a very Merry Christmas. I’ll be back with a media rant on Monday the 27th. Our purebred Collies (and protectors) Shadow and Sunny (above) are looking for Santa.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Too Often, Our "Heroes" Aren't Heroes

Mike Jones is a man to be admired and praised. He did his job very well and with the highest professional standards. But Mike Jones is not a hero.

Mike Jones is the security chief for the Bay District School System in Panama City, Florida, and last week he carried out his assigned duties by responding quickly to an emergency and putting himself in harm’s way. In other words, Mike did what he was trained, hired, and paid to do.

I am not diminishing his actions one bit. I want Mike Jones on my side in an emergency, just like I want Captain Sully Sullenberger at the controls of any airliner I’m aboard. Because I know Sully, like Mike Jones, will handle an emergency the way he is trained, hired, and paid to do.

Neither Mike Jones nor Captain Sullenberger will acknowledge that they’re heroes. Because, dammit, they’re not. Our media has so destroyed the meaning of the word that at least three national news networks, a few months ago, called the passengers stranded on a disabled cruise ship for a few days “heroes.”

Heroes aren’t that easy to come by. And, probably it’s because it’s just the way they’re put together, when ordinary folks do extraordinary things and put themselves at great risk to help someone else, they almost always say they’re not a hero, and are doing what anybody else would do in the situation. Most of them are quite modest.

Who was the “hero” in the Panama City school board shooting? School Board member Ginger Littleton.

After the gunman let her and the other women on the board leave, she could have done nothing but thank her lucky stars and prayed that Mike Jones got there in time to save some lives. But she did what she was NOT trained, hired, nor paid to do. She put her own life in mortal risk by sneaking up behind the gunman and trying to disarm him by slamming her purse against his gun-holding hand.

As usual, the media got it wrong. She’s the real hero here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

You Win, Scooter.

If you can hang on for eight years, and have the resources to hire a VERY expensive legal team, you can thumb your nose at your detractors and move on with your life. Scooter Jensen, you win.

To make a long story short, Jensen was charged with felony corruption in October of 2002 in the so-called “caucus scandal”. He was the only one of the accused felons caught up in the scandal to actually go to trial. The others….Chvala, Burke, Foti, and Ladwig, all did plea deals.

Now, Scooter has joined them. His plea deal, arrived at yesterday with Waukesha County D-A Brad Schimel, lets Scooter off the hook for five grand plus court costs ($89) and gives him two months to re-pay a tad over 67 grand in legal fees he owes to the taxpayers. As the litigators say in court, “my client will make the payment.”

The Jensen case wound its way through the courts for nearly a decade, with conviction, appeal after appeal (even using a law passed by the legislature years after Scooter was first charged), and now has ended in this specious plea deal.

The deal means Scooter can’t seek office, because it means he admits he has violated the public’s trust. But make no mistake: Scooter is, was, and for the foreseeable future will be a “player” on the state’s political scene. Who needs to be a legislator when you can rent them at such reasonable rates?

You win, Scooter, demonstrating again that those who have the gold make the rules.

For those of you who regularly visit this spot on the internet, I don’t need to tell you who the losers are.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday Media Rant: More Firings Ahead for Radio

It doesn’t take a genius to know that there’s going to be another massive round of “layoffs” (firings) in the year ahead. Clear Channel, the largest radio group in the known universe, is not going to be able to pay off the 19 billion dollars it owes lenders. Little things like paying off senior debt don’t worry the vulture capitalists that run radio now; you just turn the screws on the top layer of management and force them to re-finance the deal, insuring another round of exorbitant fees. Everybody’s happy.

Except the hundreds, perhaps thousands more radio folks who are going to get pink-slipped in the coming year by Clear Channel, Cumulus, and Citadel.

Cumulus, which is a huge group owner but not as big as Clear Channel, has spent the last year firing anybody who makes a decent wage and replacing the veterans (or not) with low-paid-still-wet-behind-the-ears “talent.” The bankers who run corporate radio today can’t tell the difference between quality on-air presentation and schlock, and the mid-level managers (those few who’ve made it through the last two years of purges) have no choice but to cut expenses.

Prediction: both Clear Channel and Cumulus will be significantly smaller organizations a year from today, but I won’t venture a guess as to what’s going to happen with Citadel. Cumulus has already tried (and failed) to take over Citadel. The “big three” will just keep re-financing debt they can’t possibly pay, enticing the bankers with more personnel cuts to “make the model cash-flow”.

Who’s the real loser here? Well, the experienced radio folks who will join the ranks of the many like them who’ve already lost their jobs; and, the consumer. The listener. Fewer “live” radio shows; fewer (if any) local news reports; more station clusters being run by one person during nights and weekends; and fewer real reasons to listen.

More music? Please. The mp3 player has taken over that function. More commercials? Sure, if there’s anybody left to sell and produce them. More live, local personalities serving up your daily dish of news and entertainment? Sorry. Not gonna happen.

I think it’s another grim year ahead for radio.

Friday, December 17, 2010

I'm Gonna Miss The Snarler

Marlin Schneider has represented the Wisconsin Rapids area in the state legislature since Jesus was in short pants, but the voters of that area saw fit to throw him out in the mid-term elections. He’s been known to the media (at least, to those of us who’ve been around more than a few minutes) as “Snarlin’ Marlin” for good reason. Once in a while he gets his dander up and unleashes a tirade. He’s done it on the Assembly floor and a good many times to reporters who ask stupid questions.

He’s one of those colorful characters who used to frequent the halls of state government in greater numbers, long before it got taken over by the lobbyists and special interests. Marlin was often the king of per diems, charging the taxpayers 14 or 15 grand a year simply to show up at work. He’d usually rank in the top ten for amount of per diem charged to the generous people of Wisconsin, but nobody doubted that Marlin was really in town and working. Nothing at all unlawful about what he did. He just hung out in Madison a lot.

What got me thinking about this is a snippet I heard on the radio yesterday early afternoon, after dropping my bride off at work following a lunch with her at Granite City near the big western mall. After dropping her off at her office on Science Drive, I headed off to run a few errands while I was out and about, and was half daydreaming on Odana Road when I heard a familiar voice burst into my consciousness.

John C. Smith was giving the news on WIBA-AM (he’s a news guy at the Clear Channel Radio cluster in Ann Arbor, MI, and why he does the 1 PM news on a Madison station is too long a story to get into here) and all of a sudden my ears perked up when I heard the Snarler’s familiar voice yelling “You wanna know why we don’t have a high speed train in Wisconsin? It’s because Vicki McKenna and those two birdbrains in Milwaukee don’t like it!!!”

I missed the rest of the quote because I was laughing out loud. Vicki McKenna is the afternoon talk show host on WIBA-AM, a well-known train hater; and the two Milwaukee birdbrains the Snarler was referring to have to be Mark Belling of WISN-AM (a friend and colleague of long acquaintance) and Charlie Sykes of WTMJ-AM, both card-carrying members of the train-haters club.

The Snarler has become a lame duck, but he’s certainly not becoming a shrinking violet. I’m going to miss those great sound bites.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Congressman-Elect: Obey Only The "Good" Constitutional Amendments

Allen West, the Republican congressman-elect from Florida, had himself a good military career going before somebody ratted him out in Iraq back in ’03. The young Army Lieutenant Colonel was interrogating a civilian Iraqi cop suspected of having knowledge about impending attacks on American soldiers in the area. West admits he held a gun to the cop’s head and then fired a round past his head. The cop talked.

It turned out they didn’t get any useful information from the cop, and when word of the “unusual” interrogation technique got to the wrong (right?) quarters, LTC West found himself in an Article 32 hearing for violating a couple sections of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and, long story short, was allowed to retire with full bennies. This guy was being groomed for one of the top spots in the Army, having seen combat in three theatres of operation and being a grad of the Army Command and General Staff College. But, his military career ended in a court-martial.

West was elected by the people of Florida (who are not, to say the least, given to electing a lot of black people to national office) in the mid-term earthquake. Last week, the Congressman-to-be put his foot square into his mouth on a conservative internet talk-radio program by saying that American news outlets that ran the WikiLeaks diplomatic cable-leak story should be censored. Not “investigated”, as Joe Lieberman suggested, but CENSORED.

Damn, if those Tea Party folks hear about this, young Mr. West is gonna have some ‘splainin to do, for trampling on the Tea Partiers favorite document.

Unless, of course, Mr. West is of the same opinion that some of the Tea Partiers hold, that the Amendments (like the First Amendment, with that damnable guarantee of free speech and free press) aren’t really a part of the constitution.

Or, like my often-referred-to icon from Madison of the late 60’s, Eddie Ben Elson, who announced his candidacy for Dane County DA in the nude from the stage of the Dangle Lounge (an erstwhile strip joint) with a platform that said we should “only obey the good laws.”

Damn that pesky Constitution and all those damned amendments!!!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Brett Favre: told ya so.....

I spent (wasted) about an hour yesterday trying to find a link to a piece I’d written for one of the online publications I work for. It was a piece about how I thought Brett Favre’s career would end. I wrote it a couple years ago, and I wish I could find the link, but I can’t, so you’ll just have to take my word.

I predicted that Favre’s career would end in a late-regular-season game because of an injury resulting from a violent hit. And I predicted that it would happen this season….the 2010 season….and opined that Favre will have played one season too many, like so many other great and talented athletes.

I’m not sure if his career is over; he’ll likely get that “itch” again this spring, regardless of what he says at the end of this season; but signs seem to say he’s toast.

Favre said the injury that ended his consecutive-game streak started during the Redskins game, a week before that Patriots’ Myron Pryor laid him out and knocked him out of the game. Favre didn’t say which particular hit in the Redskins game did it, but a lot of the sports scribes are now speculating that it was a hard hit from Albert Haynesworth that started the downhill spiral that Pryor finished.

But this morning, there's talk (from the Vikings camp) that Favre is "healing fast" and may play in Sunday's critical game against the Bears - a game moved to the new U of M Stadium.

I’ll also repeat – for the record – another prediction I made in that article I wrote two years ago, when Favre left the Jets and donned the hated purple and gold uniform of the Vikes. One day, and that day may be several years away, but it WILL come, Favre will again stand on the hallowed tundra of Lambeau Field, and he will once again be given a thunderous ovation from the Packers fans as his green and gold jersey #4 is retired and his name is inscribed on the ring of honor at pro football’s shrine in Green Bay.

All will not be forgotten, but all will be forgiven.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Winter Rules Are In Effect

After driving through a raging snowstorm in the Fox Valley last week Thursday and seeing the antics of Madison drivers this weekend, I have decided (in the spirit of Bill Maher) to declare a NEW RULE: only fully winter-qualified drivers will be allowed on Wisconsin roads from November 1st through March 31st.

The fully winter-qualified drivers would have to pass a winter driving test, to be developed by a panel of experts from the Wisconsin State Patrol and the Wisconsin Transportation Department. To be fully winter-qualified, any driver who wishes to operate a motor vehicle on Wisconsin roads in winter will have to pass a behind-the-wheel test, also to be administered by the state Transportation Department, just like you have to pass a test to get a motorcycle operator license – thereby creating many, many more government jobs.

Fully-qualified winter drivers would be issued a distinctive Wisconsin Drivers License, and would be issued special license plates with a large “W” as the last character of the plate. (i.e. my wife, who would pass any such test, would get plates “805-FGK-W” on her Hemi-equipped racing vehicle). Drivers and vehicles would have to qualify. In other words, if I passed this test in my giant gas-sucking all-wheel-drive foreign-made SUV, I’d get the “W” on my plates and would be issued the fully-winter-qualified drivers license specific to vehicle type.

Similar to aviation, the fully-qualified-winter drivers license would state clearly the vehicle or vehicles you were qualified to operate during winter. If I wanted to drive my wife’s Dodge Magnum Hemi, I’d have to qualify in that vehicle. Otherwise, I’d only be qualified to drive my giant SUV. Just as pilot’s licenses work, a pilot qualified on a Cessna 182 can’t fly a Boeing 747 – unless said pilot qualifies for a 747 with the appropriate license type (rating), training, and a check-flight.

This would prevent wanna-be cowboys who own (and qualify in) a Toyota Camry from jumping into an all-wheel-drive Ford F-150 (or Jeep Grand Cherokee or any other AWD vehicle) and thinking they’re invincible on snow and ice, and thereby endangering the rest of the motoring public.

I like my idea. It creates a whole bunch of middle-class-supporting government jobs (sorry, Scott Walker); it makes good winter drivers confident that they won’t get run off the road by some rank unqualified amateur; and, with appropriately stiff penalties for failure to qualify, it would be a huge deterrent to the aforementioned amateurs, who have no business on snowy or icy roads.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday Media Rant: What Did They Expect?

The Badger Herald, a somewhat-right-leaning campus publication, decided last week to “out” UW students who bought Rose Bowl tickets and then immediately put them up for resale at a higher price. In an editorial, the paper printed the names of about three dozen students and called them “the worst people on campus” and further opined that there was a “special place in hell” reserved for those students who attempted to profit from online resale (Craigslist, of the tickets.

The local media quickly picked up the story, and it was fodder for the talk radio hosts for a few days. Then, the Badger Herald’s young “journalists” learned a few things about how people operate. By mid-week, the paper had removed the names of the students from its website, and closed down the “comment” section of the story after threats were made. They said they knew there were hundreds more students involved than just the few dozen names they published, but didn’t have the staff to check out all the allegations. They also threw the Editor-in-Chief under the bus, saying Wednesday that the list was his idea, and not the joint idea of the editorial board.

Welcome to the real world, students.

There’s plenty of precedent for this “worst person” concept. MSNBC blabber Keith Olbermann has his “worst person in the world” segment every night. Dick Nixon had his “White House Enemies” list. One Madison lefty who hosts a local cable TV music show frequently names an “asshat of the day” on his Facebook page. Rush Limbaugh does the same thing by name-calling: “Barack The Magic Negro” and “Janet Incompetano” just to name a couple examples.

The young Badger Herald “journalists” seemed somewhat surprised at how mean and nasty – and threatening – the comments were, prompting them to shut down the comment section. This is a HUGE issue in the news biz today, from the very top and most-respected bastions of journalism right down to the local blogger who has a following of only a few people. Anonymous commenters can be real…well, asshats.

A few months ago, a horrible tragedy befell one of our neighbors. One of the local TV stations ran the story on its website, and allowed unmoderated comments. Such disgusting, untrue, and anonymous filth was posted there that my wife and I both personally implored station management to shut down the hateful and hurtful comments. They didn’t.

But other media outlets have taken a much more robust stance on allowing comments or forcing registration with a verifiable name and e-mail address, and the whole thing is a very hot potato right now, with lots of journalism eggheads weighing in on the issue. Some say removing comments and moderating responses is a form of censorship to be avoided at all costs; some say it’s the responsibility of the news outlet to monitor the content and enforce community standards of good taste.

To the young folks at the Badger Herald, I’ll simply proffer an old cliché as advice: if you can’t stand the heat…..

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Going Off The Air For A Few Days

I've got some personal and business travelling to do and a number of things to attend to, so I'm outta here for a few days. If I don't resurface with a media rant on Monday December 13th, contact the TSA. Or the CIA. Or the AARP.

Four More Years

Even though he claims he doesn’t like his dog (an adorable sable Shetland Sheep Dog named Calvin) and the President of the United States has failed to be able to pronounce his name the three times he’s been in Madison, I think Dave Cieslewicz should be re-elected. I certainly don’t see eye-to-eye with him on a lot of things, but I think he’s doing a good job.

Mind you, I don’t even live in Madison, so technically I don’t have a horse in this race, but what Madison does affects the entire metro area. He’s come a long way from the “Progressive Dane” days (whatever happened to the PD’ers? We don’t hear much about them lately…) and has moved center-left, enough toward center for my tastes.

I don’t think much of his failed “mandatory inclusionary zoning” (affordable housing) ideas; I certainly disagree with his “new urbanism” approach to everything; he has these wacky ideas to make Madison a bicycle paradise (at the expense of the motor vehicle); I don’t like his ideas to “save” the Great People’s Palace of the Arts (the Overture Center); I’m not a fan at all of the choo-choos that he loves; but he keeps the city running and doesn’t tax its residents to death.

He’s a strong enough leader to admit his mistakes, like the one a year ago today when the streets turned into rutted ice tank-traps after the big snowstorm, because of decisions he made regarding when to plow and salt. It takes a big man to face the angry public after the mess and say “I made a mistake.” He could have thrown Streets Supt. Al Schumacher under the bus following that debacle, but he didn’t. He stood in front of the TV cameras and radio microphones and apologized. That takes some cojones.

We differ fundamentally on transit. When I see the westbound beltline still clogged up at 8:45 AM, like I did yesterday on the way to the health club, I think “we ought to add another lane to this thing.” Mayor Dave thinks “we’ve got to get more cars off this highway.”

But, with very rare exception, the streets get plowed and the trash gets picked up and the cops are professional and polite and the firefighers are top-notch and city hall doesn’t take bribes and magazines of all sorts still say Madison is a great place to live. And Dave Cieslewicz is one HELL of a good writer with a very well-developed sense of humor. He’s competent and he’s likable. Four more years? Hell yes.

And by the way, Mr. President, it’s pronounced “chess-LEV-itch.”

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Jinxing Things

I have an old, reliable, two-cycle-engine, single-stage snowthrower that doesn’t owe me a dime. It’s hopelessly inadequate for the jobs I ask it to do, but it has never failed me, and I’ve never spent a cent on maintenance. Every winter I test-fire it when the first snow is forecast; every year it fires right up and runs like a charm, and this year is lucky 13.

Last year, when we had that huge storm December 8th and 9th, my little single-stage 21-inch-swath snowthrower chugged through two-foot drifts like a champion. I’d run it into the drift, let it take a bite of the snow and toss it aside, and run it into the drift again, until I’d beaten a path through it. 18 inches of snow fell during that storm last year, and my little champion, which was designed for about a 4-inch snowfall, handled it with aplomb, asking only for another tankful of gas half-way through the long job.

I don’t even know what company sold this machine. Along about the 8th or 9th winter it dealt with, the stick-on decals fell off. The plaque riveted to the body of the thing says it was manufactured by some outfit called “Murray” in Jackson, TN, and the engine is a Tecumseh. I know that we bought it at Menards the first winter we lived in this house, 1998, and that we paid $300 bucks (give or take) for it, opting (wisely, as it turned out) for the fancy electric start feature. I did a quick check and similar models now go for well over twice that price.

Plug it in, prime it with a few pushes on the big rubber thingy, set the choke to “FULL”, turn the key to the ON position, press the “START” button, and it roars to life. Disconnect the power cord and fiddle with the choke a bit after it’s been running about 30 seconds, and you’re off and running. I haven’t even changed the spark plug. The thing just keeps running. I’ve even stopped measuring how much two-cycle oil I add to the gas. When the gallon can that holds the two-cycle mix is empty, I just fill it up with gas and pour in a healthy dollop of two-cycle oil. The machine never complains.

I know, of course, that I have now completely jinxed things, and that the very next time it’s called into service it will puke up a rod or something similarly heinous and die right there on the spot. I’ll transfer a thousand bucks into the checking account and go shopping, right after old reliable has been given a decent memorial service.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday Media Rant: El Rushbo – Deus ex machina

Every year in his December newsletter, my friend Holland Cooke makes his predictions for the coming year. Cooke is at the very top echelon of radio consultants, and when it comes to consulting News/Talk radio stations, nobody is better. Cooke consults stations which DO carry the Rush Limbaugh Program, and stations which don’t. As he says, at “work”, he’s an agnostic: if a client station carries Rush, he’s the biggest star on radio. If a client station competes with Rush, he’s the biggest buffoon on radio.

But Cooke says business is business, but conscience is personal. He says the 2010 Radio Embarrassment of the Year is Rush Limbaugh. “Beyond the potty-mouth problem, there’s the relentlessness of the angry, often offensive narrative the Rush Limbaugh Show has degenerated to, to attract attention”. Cooke goes on to say “talk radio is becoming a punch-line and we (broadcasters) are letting it happen, by condoning the kind of crap Rush puts on the air.”

Pretty strong words about the most-listened-to program on radio.

Cooke’s first 2011 prediction is “Rush, Interrupted.” Cooke re-states that his professional position with a Rush-affiliated client station is to help them capitalize on the success of the program, and then says “But I’ve got an uncomfortable feeling about where Limbaugh’s consequence-free existence is heading. Because many affiliates can no longer afford to produce local programming, Rush is – as big corporations were called during late-Bush-era bailouts – ‘too big to fail’. And I fear he may”.

Cooke’s next 2011 prediction is that Glenn Boeck will fade. No scoop there. His teary-eyed schtick is wearing pretty thin, and his bogus history lessons are becoming more absurd. Everything and everybody is under attack, right Glenn?

Rush has had a national talk show since 1988. He’s reinvented himself several times. He is, at heart, an entertainer, which gives him a real edge over the “deadly serious” talk hosts who think politics is religion. I’m not sure how much longer Rush can sustain his act. Maybe my friend Holland is right, and 2011 will be the year he starts to crumble.

Friday, December 3, 2010

We Vote With Our Heart, Not Our Head

Several centuries ago at some sales training seminar that I attended, sales and marketing guru Chuck Mefford (now CEO of Lighthouse Communications) said “buying decisions are made emotionally and defended logically.” Of course, Chuck was trying to teach us how to sell radio ads (or, in my case, manage the people who did the actual selling), but the statement has always stuck with me.

For many people, the decision to do things….whether it’s something big like buying a car or house, or something small like taking a vacation or which restaurant to dine at…is made with the heart, and defended with the head. It’s more likely that you drive a Ford or Chevy because your dad drove a Ford or Chevy than that your decision was made based on research.

So when I read my friend Dave Zweifel’s rant in the Cap Times Wednesday, it brought a smile to my face. Dave is annoyed that so many people voted “against their best interests” in November – citing the majority of senior citizens who voted for Republicans, even though it’s the party with the plan to privatize Social Security and make huge changes to Medicare. And Dave notes – as I have confirmed MANY times over in conversations with friends and acquaintances – that two-thirds of voters incorrectly believe their taxes have gone up under President Obama, and that the number of illegal immigrants is not climbing, but in fact is about a million fewer this year than in prior years.

Dave points out that the TV advertising by the Republicans worked. He says they convinced people that down was up and up was down. And, acknowledges that the Democrats did a miserable job of telling their side of the story. Most of us know by now that there’s so much “negative” political advertising for one simple reason: it works. Voters are sheep. They’ll believe anything.

I think what happened in November was, a lot of us were tired of the same-old-same-old from our politicians, so we simply voted against them. This, I believe, is one of those situations that Chuck Mefford would say was made emotionally, and is being defended logically. It’s obvious the Washington crowd didn’t get the message, so it’s going to happen again in a couple years.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Health Insurance Reform? We Don't Need No Steenkin' Health Insurance Reform!

While leaving a Dave Matthews Band concert at Wrigley Field the evening of September 17th, navigating the steep concrete steps in the nosebleed section of that ancient firetrap, my wife stumbled and pitched forward into an iron-pipe railing. She was with her brother and sister, a nurse, who rendered immediate care. Three days later, my wife woke me at 3 AM unable to take a deep breath and in great pain. We made a trip to the UW-Hospital Emergency Department, where she was diagnosed with a cracked rib and torn ligaments. She got some really good drugs, some good advice, and we went home.

Three days later, she could barely move and wasn’t getting enough air to keep a mouse alive. We headed back to the ER, and after shooting her full of more really good drugs to manage the pain, they kept her under observation to see if her breathing would improve. During the observation stage, a woman who said she was from our insurance company came into the ER and said we had a $60 co-pay for ER visits. I handed her three $20 bills and asked her why they hadn’t collected the $60when we were here a few days ago. She didn’t know.

After four tortuous hours, the ER doc who was treating her said “looks like you’re not getting any better – we better book you a room upstairs”….and they wheeled her bed from the ER to a room in the UW Hospital. (A distance which seemed to be several miles, if you’re not familiar with that huge place.) Shortly after she was settled in her new digs, the very same insurance lady came into the room, and handed me back the same three $20 bills I’d given her several hours ago. She said “your policy says if an ER visit results in an admission to the hospital, you don’t have to make the co-pay.” My wife stayed overnight, with contant monitoring, frequent meds and tests, and the usual amount of poking and prodding. We finally got outta there early the next afternoon.

This past Monday, two bills in two separate envelopes arrived from UW-Hospital, each for $60, the co-pay for my wife’s two ER visits. I called the number provided, explained, and was told that this was an issue for me to discuss with my insurance company. I agreed to pay the $60 for the first visit and called the insurance company.

Phone conversation: Why did their lady collect the $60 and then give it back? (Don’t know.) Can you point me to the page or paragraph or chapter of my insurance contract that says I have a $60 co-pay for ER visits? (I just did that to tweak the lady, and of course she couldn’t answer.) I repeated the line about ER visits that result in admissions and after a lot of stammering, she said “claims would get back to me on that.”

Several hours later “claims” got back, and said the reason they weren’t picking up the $60 was because my wife was not ADMITTED to the hospital; she was merely taken to a different room for “observation.” That's one hell of a lot of "observation" - 7 hours in the ER and 22 hours in a hospital room.

I have no doubt that this "admission-observation" thing is complete insurance malarkey.

Since the insurance company, like me, operates on “regular business hours”, I will not spend the time necessary to argue them into the ground on this one. I can make a hell of a lot more than $60 in the time it would take to deal with the insurance clowns and their layers of bureaucracy.

You win, you bastards.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

'tis The Season...

It was the unlikeliest of combinations – a young black man and an old white man, brought together by circumstances, at one of the busiest intersections in Madison: Park Street and the Beltline. I had the dogs loaded into my gas-sucking foreign-made SUV yesterday afternoon and was headed to the South Side Branch of the Post Office when the situation unfolded.

As we pulled off the westbound Beltline on the newly-reconfigured northbound Park Street exit ramp, at the bottom of the small hill was a huge GMC Acadia, doing about one mile an hour, and right behind it – in front of me – was a newer Chevy Monte Carlo. The driver’s side door of the Acadia opened, and a white-haired elderly gentleman popped his head out, bent down from the driver’s seat, and looked under the big SUV – while it was still headed toward the traffic signal about 20 feet ahead.

This looked like trouble.

The SUV came to a dead stop, and the elderly gentleman got out of it, looking confused. The young man in the Monte Carlo ahead of me swung to the left, stopped behind the SUV, put on his 4-way flashers and got out of his car and approached the elderly man. A short conversation took place. I pulled up behind the two vehicles and ran my window down.

The young man made eye contact with me – as traffic at one of the city’s busiest and most dangerous intersections began to back up – and I said “everything OK there?” He came up to my SUV and said “yah, the guy’s kinda confused. I think he’s out of gas.” I said “I’m not in a hurry – you want me to deal with this?” The young man said “no, I got this – I just got laid off and I’m not going anywhere in particular. I’ll call him a tow truck” and pulled out his cell phone.

I said “mighty neighborly of you” and he let out a small laugh. He said “let me get traffic for you and you can pull around me and be on your way. By the way, nice dogs.” I said “thanks….good luck on the job thing.”

This young man should be working for somebody in a position of responsibility. He seems a pretty sharp and smart young fellow, and I hope somebody gives him a chance. He knows how to assess and take charge of a situation. It’s hard to find folks like that. It’s brutal out there, but I hope he lands another job soon. Merry Christmas, stranger.