Thursday, December 29, 2011

...and I have many grievances to air....

…regarding  the denizens of the local airwaves.  My first is a wish that in the New Year, the electronic media folks would learn what their print counterparts learned a long time ago: that it’s drunken driving, not drunk driving.  Another huge pet peeve that’s reared its head for the past couple years is the tendency among both print and electronic media folks to use the incorrect and awkward form “one-year anniversary” or “fifty-year anniversary”; worse yet, “six-month anniversary”, and all the possible variants.  First anniversary.  Fiftieth anniversary.  You can’t have a six-month anniversary, since “anni” means “year”.

Somewhere decades ago, probably beginning as an evil plot by some misguided English teacher, we were told that it’s correct to say “an historic”.  Well, it isn’t.  Not any more than it’s correct to say “an hysterectomy”, “an horrible”, “an hospital”…I could go on.  If you are British and do not pronounce the “h” sound in the previous words, as they do in some dialects of the mother tongue, you can say “an historic”, but you cannot pronounce the “h” in historic, so it really sounds like you’re saying “an istoric”. And even then it sounds stupid in American English.

Here’s another grievance I have with the media, and the last few weeks have about driven me off the edge of sanity.  Please stop showing “soldier homecomings”, particularly when it involves weeping spouses and/or children.  It’s OK once every few months when it’s truly an unusual circumstance, but the contrived crap that’s being foisted on us these days is tiresome.  Yes, dad is home from Iraq (always mispronounced “eye-RACK” by the dweeb reporter) and it’s nice to see him reunited with his family, but enough with the weeping spouses and children.  The voyeurs and emotional misfits who thrive on this sort of cloying emotion have plenty of other places to go to get their fix.

We’ll also soon be in the season of cognitive dissonance for the local news writers.  They decided a couple years back to replace the perfectly good word “closing” with “closure” for reasons which I have yet to fully grasp; but, unless the weather continues as goofy as it has been so far this winter, we will soon have school CLOSING reports.  How this winter phenomenon escaped conversion to “school closures” is one of the great mysteries of newswriting.  I suspect it’s because the graphics packages and software programs associated with it have yet to make the migration from closing to closure.

I’ll be OK if no politician every again talks about giving us “tools” of an sort, whether it’s a “tool” to help balance a municipal budget or a “tool” to help police catch more bad guys.  And, it’s OK to say the word “snow” more than once in any given report.  It’s not necessary to call it “the white stuff” on second reference.  And interviewers can revert to the old form of “tell me more about what this means” instead of the current “talk about…..” whatever.  It sounds rude.  You can drop the word “different” out of most of your stories, too.  It’s not necessary to say “he went through seven different counties on his European tour”; nor is necessary to say “the Local High School Team beat seven different teams en route to the state championship”.  “Different” is almost always needless and annoying. (Thank you, George H.)

If I hear one more nooz functionary tell me “the incident remains under investigation” at the end of a crime or spot-news story, I’ll puke.  OF COURSE the incident remains under investigation.  Unless cops nab the bad guy red-handed, they continue to investigate until they nail the perp.  Stupid, lazy, writing; but you hear it every day, along with the newsspeak phrase “officer-involved shooting”, which has only recently come into the parlance of nooz writers, who cleverly took the phrase directly from the stilted writing of police reports. (Joel DeSpain, this definitely does NOT mean you!!!)

About the same time as “closing” became “closure”, it apparently became unlawful to write or say the words “get” or “got” in writing news or commercial messages.  “Buy one, get one free” is now “buy one, receive one free”, and as stupid as that sounds, you hear it all the time.  Just a few moments ago I heard a commercial saying “buy now and receive zero percent financing for 2 years”.  I don’t know who made this new rule, but I’d like them to receive my size 13 shoe up their butt.

Here are words to live by for a certain class of nooz readers who, for reasons best understood by themselves, refuse to use the words is, are, was, were, has, have, or had in the first sentence of a story, thinking perhaps that it lends some sort of dramatic urgency to their weak writing and delivery, in the same manner as those nooz dweebs who say things like “Five people are killed in a Christmas Eve house fire in Connecticut”, as if forcing the opening line to sound like present tense will make the story more dramatic and exciting. Stoopid.

And you sports folks….I have grievances with you!  First of all, the damnably stupid phrase “welcome IN”, which seemingly precedes every sports broadcast.  No one except Chris Berman says “welcome in”, and if you want to go through your professional career emulating a has-been clown, please don’t do it when I’m watching or listening.  And, something I’ve ranted about for years – could we drop the “former” from “former Cy Young winner” and other similar constructions?  Once you win the Cy Young Award, you’re a Cy Young winner forever.  They don’t take it away from you.  That used to be true of the Heisman Trophy, too….but….along came Reggie Bush, who is the only “former” Heisman winner.

Now that Bret Musburger has achieved the age of 95, he’s learned to say “WISconsin” instead of “WESconin” most of the time, but you sound like an outlander when you say GREEN Bay instead of Green BAY, as so many network sports guys do.  Two other quick sports grievances: supposedly professional announcers who say “offsides” instead of “offside”, and the myriad of football announcers who refer to a run-action pass as a “play-action pass”, a misnomer that’s stuck since the fake handoff into the line was invented.  It’s not a “play fake”, it’s a real, actual play; it’s a RUN fake that freezes the linebackers.  It’s a run-action pass, and the only announcer I’ve ever heard say it properly is Ron Jaworski.  (I could also add my grievance that in baseball it should be called the fair pole and not the foul pole, since if a ball hits it, it’s a fair ball, not a foul ball, but that would be piling on.)

And one last sports grievance to close out the year: In the name of all that’s holy, Bo Ryan, will you PLEASE put the names of the Badger basketball players on their jerseys – not just their number – so I can learn who they are more quickly and be a better fan?

Thank you for listening to my grievances, and have a nice New Year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Most Dangerous Gang In The State


They're devious, divided, disgusting, disorganized, duplicitous, dangerous, and deadly. They've been know to throttle each other by the throat when they disagree. They're unethical, act like they're superior, on the take, and ruthless.

I refer, of course, to our state Supreme Court.

This latest news, about Herr Goebblemann, comes as no shock. The only surprise is that it's taken this long for somebody to break the story, about how he's been on the take from a fat-cat Milwaukee law firm for years, while at the same time sitting in judgment in cases involving that same firm.

Of course, there's his compadre, Madame Gut-Check, d/b/a Justice Ziegler, who finds nothing wrong with sitting in judgment on cases involving her hubby's bank. When questioned about that, she said she did a "gut-check" to see if she could be impartial while sitting in judgment of cases involving sugar-daddy's bank, and sure enough, she saw no problems.

Some wag posted an item the other day suggesting that instead of forcing Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce to buy individual judgeships on the highest court, we should just sell naming rights to the court ("The Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Supreme Court") and let the big business boys over on East Wash just pick the folks they want to serve on the court.

It could also be suggested that the bidding rights be extended to outfits like WEAC, but everybody knows they don't have any money any more, or SEIU, or name-your-lefty outfit.

This thing with Mikey-boy Goebblemann could really be a dog with fleas. How any human being with an IQ above room temperature could think it's OK to accept tens of thousands of dollars worth of legal services from a big-time right-wing bunch of Milwaukee gunslingers with JD's is fine, and then to sit in judgment on cases involving that firm....well, let's just say that it takes a special kind of snake to operate that low on the turf, while holding a position that just a few decades ago was so exalted.

Every so often, like now, I have hope (faith disappeared a long time ago) that an incident like this one with Goebblemann will cause the people of this great state to rear back and clean house on every wing of that big building with the high dome at the head of State Street - that their disgust will be of such magnitude that they'll rise up in disgust and do what's necessary to oust the whole lot of them and start over.

But then, I realize that like the situation in Washington DC, no one has faith in any of our government institutions any longer, and they don't even care that the rats are running the ship.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Disappointed.

When somebody in the media gets canned/fired/downsized/outsourced/pink-slipped/let go/shown the door/choose your euphemism, said media doesn’t generally make note of it.  There are exceptions; when I was stabbed in the back and shown the door by my former radio partners in 2008, the CEO went on the air two days later and libeled me.  A “discoverable public statement”, as my lawyer said.  BIG mistake.  (I still have the tape of the broadcast, although my lawsuit was settled and sealed in 2009.)

But this rant is about Dave Blaska, not me.  I had to find out in Chris Rickert’s column in the State Journal that Blaska , along with fellow Isthmus bloggers  Jack Craver and Emily Mills, were recently shown the door in a cost-cutting move/realignment of goals/reassessment of mission/refocusing on core strengths/choose your euphemism.

I read Blaska’s Blog on the Isthmus Daily Page (which owns the copyright to the composite graphic at the top of this post) faithfully.  He posted three or four columns in a typical week, and they were always well-written and entertaining.  Dave and I agree on very little, and his canonization of Vicki McKenna is annoying, but Dave put out a good, lefty-baiting, thought-provoking, and apparently well-read blog.

The disappointment this rant is about is not so much that Blaska’s Blog has been banished, although I will miss not having it to laugh with or at it; rather, I’m more disappointed that Rickert’s column says Blaska was doing this for the paltry sum of 30 dollars a week.  I’m disappointed that he’d agree to work that cheaply.  He’s FAR better than 30 bucks a week, fifteen hundred bucks a year, ten bucks per column, or however you want to look at the number.

When I was canned and went into the freelance business, I wasn’t sure how to price my work.  The best information I could get back then, based on several reliable sources, was that the going rate for experienced and qualified freelancers was, give or take, 39 bucks an hour plus expenses (travel, lodging, etc.).  In my negotiations with various clients I’ve had in the past three years, I’ve worked for less and I’ve worked for more.  But I’ve never gone below 20 bucks an hour plus expenses, a “rate” I gave a couple not-for-profit agencies.

More disclosure: back in the summer of ’09, Isthmus contacted me about being Blaska’s foil – writing a Daily Page blog from the lefty point of view, to “balance” Dave’s right-wing blog.  Long story short, we never even got to the discussion of money (and I’m sure I was not the only person “in the running” for the job), because many of my concerns about who’s property the proposed posts would be, what kind of backing I might expect from Isthmus if I ruffled the wrong feathers, and similar technical/intellectual property/ownership concerns took me out of the running after a few conversations.

I was thinking that if my concerns could be addressed, and it ever got down to talking about money, I’d say “just pay me what you’re paying Blaska”.  We are similar in age and “journalistic” (please don’t call me a journalist) experience; I’d venture to say my name at that time had at least as much public recognition/recall as Dave’s; I admired his work; I figured I’d work for the same wage.  As it turns out, I’m glad it never got to the money stage.  At that time, I had four other projects going – one big one, and three smaller ones.  I was billing out at 20 bucks an hour plus expenses for one of them; 40 bucks an hour plus expenses for two of the other small projects; and I was doing the big project for 75 bucks an hour plus direct expenses.

Had I known Isthmus was paying Blaska 30 bucks a week….regardless of the number of columns/blogs he posted per week….I would have turned it down, had we ever gotten to the money stage.  I may or may not have an inflated view of my marketability, but I wouldn’t do a column for ten bucks, or seven and a half bucks, or whatever it worked out to at $30/week.

I was doing THIS – blogging here, at that time under the name “The Way Things R” (I changed it to “Rifles at Dawn” a couple years ago) por nada.  Some of the best writing in the blogosphere is done gratis; those of us who do this sort of thing do it because we love it, and because it’s an important outlet for our creativity, and…..because nobody EDITS our work!  We can say whatever we please (within reasonable bounds), however we please, whenever we please.  No editors, no deadlines, no nothin’.

Dave Blaska, I miss your Daily Page blog.  I’m sure you had your reasons, but you worked too damn cheaply.  You’re worth a hell of a lot more than 30 bucks a week.
By the way, this is the 666th post on this site.  Scary.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Energy!

In the course of grocery shopping and running errands yesterday (Saturday) I counted 16 spots where people were gathering signatures for the recall petitions.  They were along the busy portion of Fish Hatchery Road through Fitchburg; set up on corners in the newer, residential sections of Fitchburg; three spots on Park Street between the Beltline and the Capitol Square;  even one set up in – heaven forfend – the McMansion segment of Seminole Highlands.  Or Highlands of Seminole, whichever is correct.

Last week the organizers announced they’d garnered over half a million signatures, of the 540,208 needed to force a recall election.  They announced they hope to have nearly three-quarters of a million signatures by Friday the 13th of next month.

My observations yesterday are certainly not scientific, not a representative sample, but the most clear impression I am left with is that the people out there in the cold holding up signs and trying to flag cars down are full of energy.  A lot of energy.  If I would give a “thumbs-up” sign or toot the horn when I approached their location, they’d jump up and down or wave or return my thumbs-up.  They were all smiles and very animated, at every location I saw.

I’m still not going to predict the outcome of the recall election….which I now believe is going to happen, after all the lawyers for the Republicans do everything they can to delay it….but if the side that wants the recall can hold their energy, it’s going to be a real close election.

Looking a bit farther down the road, one of the many things that troubles me is that regardless of the outcome of the recall election, I believe the partisanship will do nothing but increase.  With dweebs like that Fitzgerald boy wanting to make it a FELONY to sign more than one recall petition, and the fact that the Democrats demonize everything the other party does, regardless of the election’s outcome it will drive the sides even farther apart.

If Walker stays in office, he’ll have carte blanche to continue granting favor after favor, exemption after exemption for the big-business interests that support him financially.  If he’s tossed out, and some Democrat takes over, I believe their agenda will be to try and undo everything Walker has done, from Act 10 to privatizing many of the state’s former cabinet bureaus.

The “us versus them” mentality isn’t going away.  If anything it will be getting stronger.  And that’s a BAD use of energy.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

'Tis the Season...

Here are our two purebred Collies, doing what they’re best at: just being dogs.  They’re my companions, my office staff, my protectors, and my buddies.  Sunny (AKC KaZes Rivendell’s Uptown Girl) is in the foreground of this snapshot.  She’s a Blue Merle Collie, with the distinctive Blue Merle colors and markings.  In the background is her “big sister”, Shadow (AKC KaZes Shadow Tangled Up Heart),  a Sable Collie (like the TV and movie star “Lassie”) two years older than Sunny, scanning the property for deer, squirrels, rabbits, turkeys (we have wild turkeys in our exurban neighborhood), or any other intruder.  They’re not really sisters, but they have the same “dog daddy”, a Collie whose AKC Pedigree starts with the two letters CH – for Champion – from a long line of Champion Collies, so judged by people who eat, sleep, breathe, and dream Collies.

Before Sunny came to live with us in 2010, she was a show girl – winning all sorts of awards on the Collie show circuit.  Shadow has been with us since she was a puppy in 2006.  They are gentle, kind, loyal, loving animals, bred to run the hills and dales of Scotland all day, herding sheep.  To see Shadow or Sunny running across our property at full tilt is to see beauty in high speed, their coats and manes flying in the air, agile enough to turn rapidly at full gallop.  Greyhounds can run faster…about 45 MPH in bursts…but Collies can run at top speed (37 MPH) for long periods.  Rabbits and squirrels are no match for Sunny, who can probably hit 40 miles an hour, and turn on a dime at full speed.  She caught one of each this summer.  Very few rabbits and squirrels will venture across our fenceline, having learned that they’re no match in speed or agility for the Collies.

Both have been exceptionally healthy animals (good breeding), but a few weeks ago Shadow got some sort of rash, and our regular vet, who’s taken excellent care of all our animals for the past 15 years, sent us home with a container of antibiotic pills (Ciprofloxacin) to knock down the bacteria, with instructions to begin administration with the evening feeding.  Not too long after we gave the first pill to Shadow, she had a very big and very bad reaction to it – which our vet had warned us to be alert for – and we took her to Exceptional Care for Animals, the 24-hour emergency veterinary service run by Dr. Mark Koeppl. 

There, Shadow got truly exceptional care from Dr. Koeppl and his staff; they managed her adverse reaction immediately, and sent us home saying they’d call if anything untoward happened during the procedures and treatments they were going to give Shadow.  About four hours later, they called to say she was doing fine, and that we could come and get her if we wanted.  We did.  We were given explicit instructions about how to administer the new medication she’d be on.  She recovered fully and quickly, and is just fine.

Emergency medicine for people is expensive; emergency medicine for animals is expensive.  There are expensive machines and diagnostic tools and laboratory equipment involved in both human and animal emergency care; and the care is administered by highly trained and experienced professionals in both the human ER and the animal ER.  Fortunately, we are able to afford it.  A lot of people can’t.

So now to the point of this post, lest it become nothing but an indulgence on my part about my dogs. ‘Tis the season, and, if you have a few dollars to spare, and love animals, might I suggest a donation to “The Tuffer Fund”.  It’s run by Dr. Koeppl, and is named for a tough little cat Dr. Koeppl and his staff took care of a few years ago.  The fund helps animal owners who otherwise would not be able to afford excellent emergency care.  The Tuffer Fund doesn’t get a lot of publicity; but it helps do a lot of good.

Caring for humans comes first, as it should, for the vast majority of us.  But if you can spare a few bucks (or a lot of bucks!) to help animals, send a check (and put “Tuffer Fund” on it) to the address below.  Thanks in advance for anything you can contribute.  And, so you know, no one asked me to make this solicitation.  It’s just a good thing to do. 

The Tuffer Fund
Exceptional Care for Animals
229 W. Beltline Highway
Madison, WI 53713

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Recall Paranoia

So, it’s OK if someone who claims their name is Mickey Mouse signs a recall petition, as long as they have a valid Wisconsin address.  Or so we’re hearing on the news.  Along with the tidbit that some person claiming to be Adolph Hitler signed one of the senatorial recall petitions this summer, but it was tossed out because Adolph listed an address in Germany, not Wisconsin.

Mix that news in with the recent report on Faux News (from Reince Priebus) that election fraud is “rampant and widespread” in Wisconsin, and it’s enough to push the paranoids off the edge of the cliff.

There have been reports on the local media about people grabbing recall petitions from the hands of the volunteer signature-getters and destroying the petitions; widespread reports of threats to people volunteering to gather signatures; even one local report that some loser doofus freeze-framed a local TV news report, got the name and phone number of one of the signers from the TV image of the petition, and made a harassing phone call to that person.

When I signed the petition, I voluntarily put one of my (valid) e-mail addresses on the petition (in case there’s some question about the validity, is the reason the volunteer told me) instead of my phone number, because I just don’t trust that my phone number wouldn’t somehow end up on a political telemarketer’s call-sheet.  Because no, I don’t want to contribute to Joe (or Jane) Blow’s campaign fund to make sure that (peace/justice/the American way/inflation/election fraud/abortion/radical socialism/left-handedness/whatever, name your issue) doesn’t take root right here in (name of community).

Here’s the thing.

The recall petitions, assuming those who want Walker ousted gather the 540,208 signatures necessary, simply trigger another (expensive) election.  I think a lot of folks don’t understand that.  They apparently think if enough signatures are gathered and verified, Walker is outski-putski.  They apparently don’t understand that if enough valid signatures are gathered, it doesn’t mean Walker is out; it means there’s going to be another election.  I think those pro-Walker/anti-recall ads that run every 10 minutes on TV may be confusing some of the lesser intellectually-endowed among us.

I hope Walker is cast out into the exterior darkness, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth, and I hope that Clay Fish person who consorts with him is shown the door, as well.  She’s REALLY looney.  I’ll go out on a limb here on the 14th day of December and say I think the signature-gatherers will garner far more than the 540-thousand plus they need; but when the election is held – well, that’s another kettle of (clay) fish.

But, as Rick Perry said to Mitt Romney the other night, I’m not in the betting business.   And I really can’t afford to gamble ten thousand dollars.  So we’ll just have to trust that all those new safeguards the Republicans put into place in the past few months to try and end the “rampant and widespread” election fraud in the Badger State will do the trick, so we can be confident in the result, no matter what it is.  (By the way, that last sentence was intended as sarcasm.  I'm told sarcasm doesn't come across well in print.)
The photo at the top of this post is copyright The Christian Science Monitor.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I Don't Do Book Reviews

I’m not objective.  I become a fan of the authors I choose to read, and any semblance of “journalistic ethic” (please don’t call me a journalist) flies out the window.  When Stephen King comes out with a new book, I buy it and read it.  Same with a handful of other authors like David Maraniss, David Baldacci, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (together or separately). A little Michael Connelly.  W.E.B. Griffin.  Some P.D. Cornwell. 

11-22-63, King’s latest, could be called a book about the Kennedy Assassination.  It could be called a book about time travel.  Some might say it’s a glimpse into an alternate future.  At around 850 pages, it can appear (judging a book by its thickness) a daunting read.  To me, the book is at its core a love story.

No spoilers here; I won’t give anything away.  The central event of the book is the murder of John Kennedy in Texas in 1963.  But the central character’s mission is almost derailed by a love story that unfolds about half-way through the novel, and drives it to a very interesting conclusion.

Poignant, some would say.

I whipped through this book in a week, averaging a little over a hundred pages a day.  That’s actually a relatively slow pace for me, because I have to do so much reading for my “day job” with Public News Service.  Often, a Stephen King book involves scores of characters – like The Stand.  Some, like Duma Key, revolve around a handful of characters.  9-11-63 falls into the latter category.  On one hand, I wanted to plow ahead quickly to see what would happen next; on the other, I wanted to read slowly, and savor King’s elaborate plot development. 

It’s not a time-travel book in the Heinlein sense, as in the late sci-fi master’s “A Door Into Summer” or “Time Enough for Love”.  It’s a fresh look at the possibilities and complexities of time travel, but it never gets cluttered with scientific mumbo-jumbo.  And it’s not an attempt to “set the record straight” on what really happened in Dallas on that November day 48 years ago.

If King’s new book is on the Christmas list of someone you know, buy it.  And buy a copy for yourself, if you enjoy reading.  You won’t be disappointed.

Friday, December 9, 2011

He's Got the White Folks All Riled Up

The image above of Kaleem Caire is stolen from the Isthmus Daily Page.  Mr. Caire’s face has been in the papers and on TV a lot lately.  His idea for a charter school for young black men in Madison has sparked heated debate.

On my way home from an errand this morning, Mitch Henck and his Friday Roundtable guests Sunny Schubert and Ed Garvey on WIBA-AM were taking calls on this hot-potato topic.  Pretty sharp crew, but this issue has the three of them – and their callers – disagreeing on many points regarding the proposed school.

Those who keep track of such things say about half of Madison’s young black men will likely spend some time in prison before they’re out of their 20’s.  Far too many not only don’t graduate from high school, they drop out of school long before their senior year.  That this is a problem seems non-debatable, but solving the problem is another matter.

A day or so ago, after the latest school board meeting regarding the proposed school, Caire made what I think is a profound proclamation, namely that for far too many years in Madison, the public schools have put the needs of the adults (teachers, staff, administrators) ahead of the needs of the students.  It’s not hard to see where Caire is coming from on this: making sure the teachers union contract is settled and following its dictates trumps damn near everything else.

Many of the roadblocks Caire has run into involve the teacher’s union: he first proposed hiring non-union teachers (you can imagine how THAT idea went over with the school system); when he compromised, it drove expenses too high to be manageable; the wrangling continues.

There are apparently those who firmly believe young black men will only listen to another person of color, and that putting a blue-eyed teacher of Norwegian extraction in front of them results in no listening, no learning.  Mitch, Sunny, and Ed gave that topic a workout.  If this assertion is fact – and I’m not stipulating that it is – it’s an indication of how deep the problem runs.

Caire’s vision of a “Madison Preparatory Academy” breaks a lot of traditions and calls for a highly non-conventional approach to education, by Madison standards.

I say nothing is lost by giving him a shot at it, while much may be lost if we continue the status quo.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Tale of Tommy and Tammy

One is an unabashed progressive/liberal, openly and proudly gay, a Madison hometown woman who’s been in Washington since 1999 with huge name recognition in……Dane County.  The other is a small-town boy from the tiny hamlet of Elroy, arguably the most popular Governor in the state’s history, a moderate Republican who has a track record of working with people from the other side of the aisle, likes mass transit, is an inveterate cheerleader for Wisconsin, and has huge name recognition in every county, corner, nook and cranny in the state.

Both want Herb Kohl’s seat in the United States Senate.

Even lefty former Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz likes Tommy.  In a recent column/blog for Isthmus, Cieslewicz talked about how he’d reached out to Tommy for help trying to save the federal train money. Dave says Tommy obviously worked hard to try and help, but we all know how that story ended.  And there’s no doubt Dave will cast his ballot for Tammy, not Tommy.

In this day and age, it’s more than surprising that a hard-core lefty like former Mayor Dave would reach out to a Republican politician for help in accomplishing a task; and even more remarkable that a lifelong Republican would even take such a call, say nothing about actually working with a member of the “opposition” for what they both perceived as a project for the common good.

I’ve interviewed Tammy countless times in person and on the phone; while she can come off as somewhat of a Pollyanna, and often avoids hard questions and attempts to redirect the conversation, I have no doubt that Ms. Baldwin is a true, honest, and loyal public servant of her constituency, and that she really does act most often in the best interests of the people she represents.  Tammy often had a staff person with her when she appeared on Sly’s morning radio program, but Tammy took Sly’s (and my) questions and responded without conferring with the staff person; she took live calls from listeners and gave off-the-cuff responses.  She knew her stuff and you would be hard-pressed to stump her.

I’ve interviewed Tommy countless times during his long tenure as Governor.  Here’s an in-studio photo from 1989, from the former (multi-award-winning) radio show (Madison’s Morning News) my wife (who wasn’t yet my wife then) and I did, with Governor Thompson holding forth as “Guest Editor” – a role which allowed him to make unfettered, unfiltered, and uncensored comments on anything Toni or I would say, including the privilege of actually interrupting us during a scheduled newscast to make an observation.  No staff; no handlers; no spin doctors ever accompanied Tommy during his visits to our show.  His driver, a State Patrol officer, would sit in the producer’s booth sipping coffee.  Tommy took plenty of live calls from our listeners, and he answered every question head-on, no dodging.

I’m not going to mention Mark Neumann or the Fitzgerald boy or anybody else who might be interested in Herb Kohl’s seat.  I think it’s going to be Tommy and Tammy.  And if so, Wisconsin has a very interesting choice to make about which one to put in that Senate seat.

But I’ll tell you this: either one, Tammy or Tommy, is a hell of a lot better choice than that fellow from Oshkosh who has our state’s other U.S. Senate seat.

(The side-by-side photo at the top of this post is stolen from Isthmus.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

If You Can’t Dazzle Them With Brilliance, Baffle Them With BS….or, The Rape of The Wallet

My wife and I have long agreed that if there is any choice in the matter, we spend our money with local merchants at locally-owned businesses.  We bank local.  We dine at locally-owned restaurants.  But, there are times it’s not possible or practical to buy local, and this was one of them.

The chain of events which follows started last Tuesday afternoon, when the carpet-cleaning company (locally owned, locally operated) FAILED to keep an appointment, and with a houseful of guests expected for the long Thanksgiving weekend, my wife was mortified about the condition of a rug in our main living area.  Knowing we’d not likely be able to secure carpet-cleaning services the day before a holiday, we opted instead to purchase a new rug.  (The old one is now here, in my spacious and tastelessly-appointed office.)

This decision necessitated a trip to a huge national chain store.  It had been a full day at work for my wife; she faced a full day of cleaning and baking the next day (Wednesday), so she decided to go rug-shopping Tuesday night.  She went to three stores to find the one that was the right size, color, and texture for the room where we and our guests would be spending many hours during the four-day Thanksgiving holiday.

Tired and bedraggled, but successful in her carpet-hunt, she returned home and we retired to the sleeping chamber.

Friday morning, with our guests heedlessly slumbering in the lower living level (no doubt in a semi-coma induced by tryptophan from the turkey, combined with alcohol) my bride was perusing the bargains on her iPad and found something to purchase.  This necessitated getting her wallet to get the debit card, and that’s when we discovered that the wallet was missing.

After an exhaustive search of our home and her car, she placed calls to all three stores she’d visited Tuesday night, inquiring if anyone had turned in a wallet; no ma’am.  I called the bank to cancel and replace the debit card, while she went online with the state DOT to replace her driver’s license.

This Wednesday afternoon (a week since the wallet had gone missing), I got a call from the bank, saying the big-box store had just called THEM, reporting that the wallet had been turned in a week ago and there was no phone number in the wallet or in the phone book for Toni Morrissey, so maybe the bank could find her and tell her they had the wallet, had been keeping it for a week, and, well, were tired of keeping it.

Yesterday morning, I went to the Customer DisService department of the big-box store to retrieve the wallet,  and that’s when the 36-minute battle began.  At the “intake” level, I was denied.  Never mind that I have the same surname and address (and a debit card from the same bank); she would have to come in and pick it up in person.  Never mind that all her ID was in the wallet; she had to do it.

Sensing a challenge, I politely asked to speak with higher authority.  I was routed to an Assistant Manager; then to a shift manager, giving the same story each time, and finally I said I’d like to speak to the highest authority in the building.  I was escorted to the sanctum sanctorum, and listened politely while the STORE MANAGER explained the STORE POLICY to me.  I pleaded my case again; nope.

I said to the STORE MANAGER, as I pulled out my cell phone, that I was going to call the police and report the crime that was taking place.  “Whaddaya mean, CRIME?” whined the STORE MANAGER.  Summoning my Irish talents as a master BS’er, I informed the store manager that because Wisconsin is a marital community property state, the wallet he was holding against my wishes was as much my property as my wife’s, and that knowingly holding said property against my wishes is a form of kidnap called trover (I couldn’t remember the difference between trover and replevin from my law courses over 40 years ago), and in Wisconsin trover is a class-E felony, hence the STORE MANAGER was de facto a material party to a felony, and that the POLICE would come and tell the STORE MANAGER whether Wisconsin law trumps his STORE POLICY and when the police informed him of the answer, I would insist that they take the STORE MANAGER into custody for this crime against me and all the people of the great state of Wisconsin.

As far as I know, my spiel was 100% unadulterated BS.

The color had drained out of the STORE MANAGER’s face; his demeanor was far less assertive and self-assured (some might say smug); so I held my cell phone up, and said “last chance – store policy or Wisconsin law?”

He took my wife’s wallet, which had been handed to him by the shift manager when we entered the STORE MANAGER’s office, and handed it to me.  I thanked him and left the store.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sometimes I Feel Like a Number

In the picture above, taken last night by Associated Press photographer Gerry Broome, you see a North Carolina player (white and blue uniform) shooting over a UW-Madison player (red uniform).  It was a hard-fought battle; the Badgers had a flat first half, and perhaps a half-court shot at the halftime buzzer launched by Ben Brust of the Badgers woke them up; but, the clock ran out on Bo’s boys and they lost by three on the home court of the always-tough Tarheels.

The player in the photo above, putting up the shot, is a fellow named Harrison Barnes.  I know this because after he made the shot, on the live TV broadcast the camera showed him at a different angle, and above his uniform number (40) I saw the name “Barnes”.  The name of the Badgers player in the picture is…..ah….5.

To write this post, I first looked online for some pictures of the game last night, and then I went to the UW Badgers basketball website and downloaded a roster of the current players.  The point of this post is that I want Bo to relent and put the names of the players on the back of their uniforms.

I believe there are certain times (games, tournaments) when coaches are given no choice in the matter: they MUST put the player’s last name above the number on the back of their uniform jersey.  At least, that’s what I gather, from years of observation.  Because most of the time, the Badgers have nothing but a number on their jerseys.

Yes, I understand that many coaches deliberately leave the player's name off the jersey to show that it’s a TEAM effort and that it’s not about individuals.  Well, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a bunch of crap.

I don’t KNOW the names of all the players, but I really WANT to.  Oh, I know that red-haired fellow is Mike Bruesewitz (31), but that’s the only one I know “by heart” right now.  Hopefully, later in the season, I’ll know the names of most of Bo’s players, because I’ll have seen them often enough to associate a name with a uniform number.  But it would be SO much easier if Bo would just put their names on their uniforms.  It would make me a BETTER fan.  It would increase my enjoyment of the game.

So, if you have any influence with Bo, mention that I suggested this.  And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

And, by the way, the follow in the picture above…wearing the red uniform number 5….is Ryan Evans.

I had to look it up.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Confederacy of Dunces

If you haven’t read John K. Toole’s novel, for which this post is named, I herby recommend it.  It’s not about the dweebs who now inhabit our state legislature and cabinet positions; rather, it’s a look at some of the sub-cultures which flourished in New Orleans in the 60’s.  I can see Governor Walker as the title character of the book, Ignatius Jacques Reilly, a man who enjoys modern conveniences, but has a middle-ages outlook on life and blames his troubles on some higher power, and claims the goddess of fortune too often gives him a bad spin on her wheel of luck.

I got to thinking about “A Confederacy of Dunces” because of the name of the political dweeb who has introduced a “personhood” proposal as an amendment to our state’s constitution.  It’s the same thing the voters of Mississippi just rejected; a proposal which claims “personhood” begins with a male erection or some such nonsense.  This dweeb’s name is Andre Jacque, and he represents people who live in a gerrymandered district which runs from far southeast suburban Green Bay to Manitowoc.

Andre Jacque would be the sort of typical Cajun name you’d run across in New Orleans.  For those who haven’t had the benefit of living in the Big Easy for a couple years, as I have, the Cajuns (a corruption of the word “Acadian”) trace their origins to the French exiles of Canada.  I’m not going to get into the vast difference between Cajun and Creole, which a lot of Midwesterners think are interchangeable terms.

When dunces like Representative Jacque introduce such backward proposals, the media pounce on them and trumpet them.  Stories like this are like the ignorant utterances of Sarah Palin or Joe the Plumber – fun, because they’re so stupid and uninformed.  The stories get picked up by national media, and my contention is that stuff like the Jacque proposal makes Wisconsin look like some backwater state populated by fundamentalist dunces, and – long story short – it does more harm than good to Wisconsin’s image.

Sort of like the sex education stuff the legislature has been wrangling about lately.  Apparently we need to turn back the calendar to the Nancy Reagan heyday of “just say no”, which began as a mantra against drugs and morphed into a plea against premarital sex.

The more you ridicule absurdly unnecessary stuff like the proposed Jacque constitutional amendment, the harder and louder the push-back from the dunces who think stuff like this is important.  Sort of like Miss Vicki’s radio show:  the shrillness of her rants against the recall apparently increases as a direct function of the number of signatures gathered.

To circle back to the beginning, the title of Toole’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book is taken from a Jonathon Swift quote: “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him”.  My adaptation of that quote would be something like “when a true dunce appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the idiots and lunatics will raise their voices in agreement with him”.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

For This, We Give Thanks

I believe it is fair and accurate to say that our “kids” have completed the journey through adolescence, and both have become (in my humble, but deadly accurate opinion) interesting and responsible young adults. 

Ample evidence of this was readily available during their extended stay in our home over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

Lights were turned out when they left their temporary living quarters, in the lower level of our multi-level home!  Since they moved out to be on their own years ago, we’ve converted the “spare bedroom” into a craft studio for my wife, another has become “storage” for seasonal clothes, and our lower level consists of a bedroom, full bath, and large “living area”, in which they set up an air-mattress bed.   We used to call the lower level of our home the Free Energy Area, because they’d NEVER turn off the lights when they left.

I suspect the last several years of paying their own electricity and gas bills has taught them the virtue of saving energy.

My wife and I are early-risers, which means we’re early to bed.  For the three nights that our kids (and their significant others) stayed with us, they stayed up late, conversed, played games (like Scattergories – I have no idea what this is), and did their best to exhaust my supply of beer and liquor (with my blessing), all while being quiet enough to never once rouse us.  Not that many years ago, they’d come home from work or whatever and bang doors, stomp around, blast the TV, and in general act like there was nobody else to be concerned about.  Not this time.  I’m sure they had plenty of fun, but were also considerate and quiet.

After the huge Thanksgiving feast, they all pitched in and helped clean up the dining room and kitchen, without being asked!  What excellent guests!

Saturday they went to the Badgers-Penn State game (photo above: our son Dru is far left with his fiancĂ©e Ashly; our daughter Mallory is third from the left, with her beau, John; and their friend Breanna and her friend Adam are on the right).  They all piled into my huge, gas-sucking, foreign-made SUV and I dropped them off at the campus-area home of their friend Luke, for a little pre-game partying.  Unlike the prior generation, these young people will NOT drive after they’ve been drinking.  Their cars stayed in our driveway and they cabbed it home after the game.

They came home from the game and a bit of post-game partying sober (Mallory and John were home about 7:30 PM and Dru and Ashly were here an hour later), mixed themselves some drinks, and entertained themselves into the wee hours, long after my wife and I and the dogs had gone to bed.  Not that long ago, they probably would have been candidates for detox after a Badgers game and some heavy post-game partying.

When they pulled up stakes Sunday late morning, they policed and straightened up the “lower living area”, neatly piled the extra blankets, and Mallory collected their towels and put them into the washing machine and started the laundry cycle.  Not that many years ago, they would have left the lower living level in a shambles, with all the lights on and towels strewn everywhere.  Dru and Ashly headed back to Milwaukee, where they now live, and we took Mal and John to the airport for their 1 PM flight back to New York.

They manage their own lives, their own finances, their careers, and are independent, but respectful and considerate.  They participate actively in conversation, seem enthusiastic about their daily routines, and are a real joy to be around.

They’ve grown up and have become interesting young adults.  For this, we give thanks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What? The Supercommittee FAILED?

I was not exactly stunned and shocked to learn that the so-called “Supercommittee” reported failure to achieve anything, and isn’t even bothering to meet today.  There were probably a handful of people across the nation who thought maybe these 12 folks could come to consensus on some cuts and tax tweaks.  But those who thought the committee might accomplish anything at all are the eternal optimists who see a pile of manure and think “oh boy, there’s a pony around here somewhere!!!”.

There is no such thing as reason in Congress any more.  It’s all political push-pull, driven by seemingly unlimited cash spent to buy influence, and the constant quest for party advantage and re-election.  A corollary to this is the signing of “pledges” by so many of these dweebs: pledges about taxes, abortion, marriage definition, and so on.  Pledges seldom allow for compromise of any sort, regardless if it’s for the greater good.

We need term limits.  Rare are the people like Scot Klug, who kept his word and served as long as he said he would.

We need to stanch the flow of influence-buying cash.  That means we need election contribution reform.

Perhaps as much as anything else, we need an electorate that takes the time to really learn about candidates and issues.  We need fewer Tea Parties and fewer Occupys and fewer one-issue groups and more informed voters.

We may need to fire the lot of them, the Members of Congress, and start over.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Ongoing Destruction of The Weather Channel

This is not the first time I’ve mentioned this topic.  I predicted back when NBC bought the Weather Channel they’d ruin it, and as far as I’m concerned, the corporate suits are doing a pretty good job of it.

Did anybody ask the geeks like me, who spend far too much time on the Weather Channel, if we wanted Al Roker on in the morning, to ass it up and make weather puns?  Far as I know, they didn’t ask.  They just put him on with no adult supervision and let him be a buffoon.

Here’s the thing about niche (and, for all you TV dweebs, that’s pronounced “nitch”, not “neesch”) programming.  By definition, it’s designed to appeal to a particular segment of the mass audience.  In this case, I’m guessing, when they first put The Weather Channel on cable years ago, the idea was to capture all the weather geeks out there in TV-land and give them weather, weather, weather.

I admit to my weather geekiness and I embrace it.  For years, TWC faithfully fed my need to know where low pressure systems, high pressure systems, and fronts of all sorts were, and what they were doing.  I’d get up to go to work at 2:30 AM and flip on TWC, and there was a meteorologist, live, giving me my first fix of weather info for the day.

Now that I don’t get up at half past two to go to work, I’m liable to turn on TWC at the spur of the moment just to see what’s going on.  More often than not these days, when I indulge the whim, I see something like “When Weather Struck Without Warning”, “Storm Stories”, “Peter Lik Photographs Great Clouds”, or “Famous Weather Systems of The Civil War”.  Canned programming, instead of a live meteorologist.

To me, the most annoying part of how NBC is destroying TWC, is in their weekday morning offerings.  Unless I tune in during the first 8 minutes of the hour, and see the lady who thinks she’s some kind of rock star (Stephanie Abrams – the first person TWC put on to be a celebrity, rather than a purveyor of weather information), I’m not going to get much weather.  I’m more likely to see something like “The Business Barometer”, a bunch of useless (to me) information about the stock market and such, aggregated by CNBC.  Or a longish vignette from the National Geographic channel.

The suits at NBC have taken what was an excellent product that perfectly served a niche market, and have tried to make it all things to all people.  News flash to 30 Rock: I want WEATHER from The Weather Channel, not sports, not stock market news, not sewing tips.  And certainly not FAMOUS TELEVISION PERSONALITY AL ROKER assing it up.  WEATHER.  I want WEATHER.

I’m sure the theory behind this “all things to all people” crap is that if they can convince the typical TWC viewer that they don’t need to go anywhere else on the dial to get everything they need in the morning, time-spent-viewing will increase, and drive advertising rates higher.  This is the kind of tortured thinking that passes for programming expertise in broadcasting today.  Instead of finding out what the audience wants and giving it to them in spades, it’s the other way around: give them a whole bunch of stuff and hope they’ll keep watching.

One thing TWC still does better than any other media outlet is cover severe weather live.  They’re GREAT at it; you can tell all those geeks like Jim Cantore and Mike Seidell are really lovin’ what they do; and those in-house experts like Dr. Greg Forbes they call on when things are really flyin’ around add just the right touch of hi-tech weather geekiness to make it all so…..well, so SCIENTIFIC!!!!  Whether it’s a tornado, cyclone, blizzard, windstorm, hail storm, or a huge outbreak of severe weather, TWC is at its best and nobody comes close to being as good as they are at it.

But the rest of the time, TWC is slipping into the mediocrity of most live TV, being pushed slowly into the grave by executives who have no passion for content (weather!) and think only in short-term business considerations.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The University Where Children Are Raped

Getting through the coverage of Saturday’s Penn State – Nebraska game was difficult enough for a cynical old bastard like me, but Sunday morning brought a new wave of nausea.  Some dweeb on TV introduced a story about the game by saying “The healing has begun at Penn State.”

My rear end.  Not by a long shot.  This thing is just getting started.  The surface has barely been scratched.

First, there was the disconnect of ESPN’s “College GameDay” show, which prompted my friend John Roach to describe in a Facebook status update as “tone deaf”.  Not surprisingly, the premiere collegiate football show entirely missed (or deliberately avoided) the essential truth of what apparently happened at the Pennsylvania State University: young boys – God knows how many – were raped, in college athletic facilities, and grown men turned a blind eye and deaf ear.

The man who is accused of doing the raping, Jerry Sandusky, was “one of the boys” in the Penn State Athletic Department, which, along with apparently the highest level of officials at Penn State, conspired for years to cover these crimes.

Then there was the obscene spectacle, captured in the copyright photo above, taken by Gene Puskar of the Associated Press, of the Penn State and Nebraska players gathering and taking a knee at midfield to devoutly pray for the victims.  It was enough to make me puke.  “Everything’s OK now; we prayed to Touchdown Jesus, and everything is forgiven; now, let’s play some ball for Joe Pa!!!”

Then, the trifecta of media excess, the Sunday morning TV news programs, most similar in tone to the ABC report that stated “the healing has begun” at Penn State.

If you don’t believe my assertion that this thing is just getting started, ask the Roman Catholic Church what happens when you look the other way when young boys are sexually assaulted and there’s a conspiracy to cover it up.  The capo and his crew in Rome have spent the last decade selling off hard assets and bankrupting parishes to compensate the victims, and there is still no end in sight to the stream of victims and the flow of cash to compensate them.

This Penn State thing is not even comparable to the crap pulled by Ohio State or Miami.  It’s a completely different and infinitely more disgusting.  But, as in the cases of the Ohio State and Miami, the idiotically blind Penn State partisans are hoping that “football will help the healing process”, when football is the problem itself.

This is “too big to fail”, athletic version, and it’s just getting started.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day Salute: Uncle Jack

I posted the picture above on Facebook today in honor of Veterans Day.  It’s my dad’s brother, Lt. John Thomas Morrissey, and the picture was taken around 1950.  My first memories of Uncle Jack go back to around 1955, when I was six years old, and I remember being given my first VERY fast ride in a car in Uncle Jack’s brand new Buick. It was a black sedan with those “portholes” in the side, a huge swath of chrome along the side, with bright red accent paint alongside the chrome.  Uncle Jack called that car “the red-winged blackbird”.  He told me it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to talk about our high-speed jaunt, and that we should just keep it between us.  I did.  Until now.

It was a “company car” – issued by Liggett and Myers, the tobacco company Uncle Jack worked for when he came home from serving in the Army.  He took a job as a route salesman for L&M Cigarettes.  He never talked about his experiences in the Army.  My dad, who saw plenty of combat in the waning days of the war in Europe in ’44 and ‘45, and then served in the Army of Occupation in Japan, never said much about his experiences, either.  If you asked dad about what Uncle Jack did in the Army, he’d only say “Uncle Jack was a spy”. 

In my grandparents’ bedroom in the huge family homestead in Oshkosh there was a large, framed charcoal drawing of Uncle Jack.  It was top-notch quality, and the specifics I can remember were that the drawing had Jack’s name, the name of the artist who did it, and it said “Fort Holabird, Maryland” with a date.  I wish I knew what happened to that charcoal drawing.  I wish I had it.

When you asked my grandpa about what Uncle Jack did in the Army, all he’d say was “he was with the Counter-Intelligence Corps”.  The CIC is the forerunner to the CIA.  I also know that Uncle Jack could speak and read Japanese, and that in his home were many beautiful pieces of art from Japan.  He said he learned to speak Japanese in the Army, and that yes, he had spent some time in Japan.

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about what Uncle Jack did in the Army, and if your imagination is like mine, I’ll bet you guess he did some pretty interesting things, which he simply could never talk about.

That’s the thing about those guys that served in combat and who did “undercover” work for the military.  They don’t talk much about it, except perhaps when they’re with their peers.

So, here’s a Veterans Day salute to my late Uncle Jack, and to all the other men and women who have served in the armed forces of our nation.  Thank you, all of you.  A lot.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tannenbaum

First of all, the state should not put up a Christmas tree in the center of the Capital Rotunda.  Like it or not, agree or disagree, it is a Christian symbol.  Like it or not, agree or disagree, this is not a Christian nation. 

 A decorated tree does not connote or relate to anything but Christmas.  It’s not a “holiday tree”, as the politically-correct police would have us say.  The decorated tree is not a symbol of Memorial Day, 4th of July, Veterans’ Day, New Year, nor any other holiday.  It is a symbol of Christmas.

It is not a Hanukkah Bush.

Second, could we please not waste any more time debating this?  Could we not have any more segments on TV and talk radio arguing about what to call it?  Could we stop saying that the phrase “holiday tree” is an attack on Christianity?  (I’m not sure…has Fox News dragged out that annual warhorse yet, or is it too soon to talk about the attack on Christianity?)

And, third, would the media be kind enough to stop the knee-jerk reaction to be the first to get Annie Laurie Gaylor (Freedom From Religion Foundation) to comment on the non-existent controversy?

Take a look at the photo above: where do you suppose it was taken – Dallas? Chicago? Montreal?

Tokyo.

Where it is referred to as a Christmas tree.