Monday, February 28, 2011


By the time you read this, the situation may have changed – again. But I think we’re at “endgame” here with the demonstrators in Madison, the 14 absent Democrat senators, and Governor Walker.

I don’t see any moves left for the 14 senate Democrats who decamped to Illinois to forestall a vote on the Budget Repair Bill. Despite the constant presence of protesters at the Capitol, the guv has made it quite clear that he’s not willing to talk, not willing to negotiate.

The simple fact is, he has the votes; and eventually, if not already, he’ll get his way.

And then the lawsuits will begin. There’ll be lawsuits about the vote in the Assembly to pass the Budget Repair Bill; there’ll be lawsuits about keeping people out of the Capitol; there’ll be lawsuits about busting the public employee unions. Lawsuits enough to provide plenty of billable hours for plenty of lawyers on both sides, even with pro-bono contributions by the legal eagles on both sides.

I think my friend Bill Lueders’ brilliant analysis in last Thursday’s “Isthmus” is dead-bang on: there is a lot of harm being done here, and it may be irreparable harm. On both sides. There are very strong feelings on both sides of this union-busting issue, and nobody is changing anybody’s mind. Both sides have been digging in deeper for the past two weeks.

Regardless of where you fall on the issues, our state politicians have been kicking the budget problem down the road for far too many years, and now it truly is coming home to haunt us. This is not a time for one-time-only quick fixes. Too many of those slick tricks have gotten us where we are now – broke, with bills coming due.

And the City of Madison called into question its willingness to “give a little” when last week the City Council, in special session, approved extensions of the contracts with several of the public employee unions to avoid, temporarily, the increases in contributions toward health insurance and retirement that are sure to come. Like it or not, that sort of thing does not sit well with the “other side.”

Last week I was energized; this week, I’m saddened.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Biddy Needs a Wartime Consigliore

Biddy Martin, Chancellor of the great economic engine that drives this city and this state, needs a wartime consigliore. A counselor with vision, backbone, courage, and above all, to remind the Chancellor that she has one hell of a strong hand to play in the political games going on now.

Biddy is about to cut ties with the other UW System schools to leave them twisting in the wind; to undo four decades of progress with Madison as the crown jewel in a stunning array of pearls of great price.

Excuse me for not seeing her plan to cut Madison loose from the other schools as a good thing. I’ve seen how the UW System has flourished since the “merger” back in the 70’s. I have friends whose kids started their higher education at schools like UW-Whitewater and UW-Eau Claire, and then have seamlessly transitioned to UW-Madison after a year or two. I don’t want that to change back to the bad old days.

This May, I’ll be proud to say both my kids are graduates of the University of Wisconsin, but I would be just as proud if they were graduates of UW-Oshkosh, where their old man learned his profession and made lifelong friends.

I don’t want my kids or anyone else’s to have to go through what I did, years ago, sitting in the office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at what was then called Wisconsin State University – Oshkosh, as I sought an appointment to the adjunct faculty (to teach a course in Broadcast Law), and having that bloated bureaucrat tell me he couldn’t “vouch for the quality or content of my course work” at the University of Wisconsin (which is now called UW-Madison). I pointed out that his PhD was granted by the University of Wisconsin, and since he was calling the UW’s credentials into question, that I would henceforth refer to him as “Mister” rather than “Doctor.” (I made the point, and got the appointment.)

All that crap is years gone by, but just as there are a hard core of old Marquette alums who will always call that University’s sports teams “Warriors”, there is a hard core of old-timers who are of the mindset that there’s Madison, and then a bunch of other pissant schools scattered around the state. They felt it somehow cheapened the UW to have it “on the same level” as LaCrosse and River Falls and Milwaukee.

I think Biddy’s wartime consigliore should advise her to stand up straight, fold her arms, and tell the losers in the state legislature like Steve Nass to take a flying leap. I think much of what she’s trying to do now is because of the constant sniping and crap she has to take from Nass and his ilk. I think Biddy’s wartime consigliore should remind her why the merger happened back in the 70’s; the reasoning behind it; the obvious success of the merger; and that if she has trouble with her own Regents or the dweebs in the legislature, and wants to do things a bit differently than they’d like, JUST DO IT.

It’s the Wisconsin way. When we see a way to make things better and more efficient, like we did with our system of higher education back in the 70’s, we do it. When some politician threatens something many of us consider a core Wisconsin value, we push back, and we push back hard. There’s a lot of that going on right now.

Some of my best days were as a student in the University of Wisconsin system, and as an adjunct faculty member. There’s a lot of folks like me out there, Biddy, who’ve benefitted from both the “state” schools and the “mother ship” here in Madison. I am a Lifetime Member of the Wisconsin Union, the Wisconsin Alumni Association, and I would have a wartime consigliore tell you to stand up to those pricks like Nass rather than kowtow to them.

We’ve got your back, Biddy. Our state motto is “Forward”, not backward.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ginning up Fear...FEAR!!!!

You’d think there was a summer thundershower coming, the way they were ginning up fear on WIBA-AM Wednesday afternoon. (That’s a poke at the local weather mavens, who act like Chicken Little every time the sky clouds up around here.)

I had to take a break from my “day job” as a producer for Public News Service to run a quick errand. I’d just finished writing a story about how, buried in the excesses of the Budget Repair Bill, is an item that would impact the way Medicaid is run here in Cheesetopia (as my friend Tom Teuber calls it). It’s another Walker power-grab. He wants all the programs under the Medicaid umbrella in Wisconsin to be run by a political appointee (and guess who’d do the appointing) instead of by elected representatives.

These programs impact 1.2 million cheeseheads….that’s one in every five of us. And it’s being lost in the noise appropriately being made about the stripping of collective bargaining rights.

I digress.

I jumped into my huge, foreign-made gas-guzzling SUV and headed down the driveway, then up the hill toward civilization. On the radio, Miss Vicky was braying about the horrible people and leeches soiling “the people’s house”, which she said smelled of pee and patchouli. Then she brought on her guest, that horrible Tea Party woman Leah Vukmir, who used to have Scott Walker’s seat in the Assembly before the dazed and confused people in that Milwaukee neighborhood electified Scotty to be County Exec and electified her to the state Senate.

Before she got into the politics of fear and division, Ms. Vukmir was a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, a far higher calling than the low life of politics. Senator Vukmir opined that the scene at the Capitol was “bordering on dangerous”, but admitted that so far it had been peaceful. (Implication: at any moment, things could go sideways, and dozens of union thugs would start busting heads.)

She and Miss Vicky went on about how the people up there have put our fair Capitol under siege (Vicky’s characterization) and they’ve milked us dry and it’s about time we put an end to that, by gum. Miss Vicky wanted to know why we couldn’t kick those folks out of the Capitol at 6 PM, and Senator Vukmir offered that if she was in charge, that’s exactly what would happen.

At this point, I arrived at my destination….the grocery store….and went in and committed commerce. When I came out, they were still selling fear and driving wedges, so I pushed the button on my THOUSAND-WATT aftermarket sound system and switched over to a CD of a Toto concert in Paris from 1990.

Selling fear and driving wedges. That’s pretty much all those folks have got these days.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Why the Tea Party Should Be Nervous

The Tea Party should take a closer look at what’s been happening in Madison. Unless you’ve been watching Faux News, and seeing only close-ups of the idiotic Hitler and Mussolini signs being toted by a handful of angry and misguided people, you’re seeing a lot of teachers, firefighters, cops, nurses, plow drivers, sanitation workers, EMT’s, and other “regular folks” demonstrating against the Walker power-grab.

The Tea Party, as I understand it, proclaims itself (among other things) to be the new patriot movement, the defender of all that’s good and decent in America. The Tea Party was able to muster a few thousand followers for a brief rally Saturday, to listen to such luminaries as Joe the “Plumber”, whose 15 minutes of fame expired a couple years ago, and Miss Vicky, one of the barking gasbags of shout radio in Madison and Milwaukee.

If I were a Tea Partier, I’d take a long look at the hours and hours of footage available at the click of a mouse. Those are some pretty “regular” folks up there, carrying signs and marching. Just as “regular” as the Tea Partiers claim to be. (OK, the folks up on the square now seem to have far fewer spelling and grammar errors in their signs and placards, a la “Keep Goverment (sic) Hands Off My Medicare”.)

I assume that one of the things that’s off-putting to the Tea Partiers is that a lot of representatives of the sources of Democratic political power are up there carrying signs and marching. Of the top ten organizations that contribute to political campaigns, three are heavily Democratic contributors (SEIU, AFSCME, and NEA) and a lot of the folks demonstrating are affiliated with these organizations.

Regardless, these “union folks” who teach our kids, plow the roads, patrol our streets, treat us when we’re ill, and haul off our garbage represent a very authentic face of America, one every bit as authentic as the Tea Party claims to be.

And every one of them performs a service so vital to our society, so fundamentally necessary that their job is part of our GOVERNMENT. Yes, the cop that walks the neighborhood beat, the sanitation worker who picks up your garbage, the teacher who teaches our kids, are all part of the GOVERNMENT.

That must really piss off the Tea Partiers.

(Image at the top stolen from Isthmus Daily Page.)

The "Riot" in Madison

Last Thursday morning on MSNBC’s morning show, U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan of Janesville used the word “riot” to describe what was going on in Madison.


The picture above, expropriated from the UW archives, was taken before all hell broke loose in Madison in October of 1967. What happened was a riot. Cracked heads; mass arrests; broken windows; tear gas; fistfights; fear. There was a lot of rioting in this nation back then. Cities burned; people died.

When questioned about his use of the word by media organizations like the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Ryan later admitted his use of the word “riot” to describe the goings-on at the Capitol was an inaccurate comparison. Ya think?

Ryan’s use of the word “riot” is as wrong as those who made signs comparing Governor Walker to Hitler or Mussolini.

There’s a lot of untruth being told and repeated by both sides regarding the Budget Repair Bill. There’s always been wide latitude associated with impassioned political speech. A talk show hostess brayed to the Tea Party crowd Saturday that the protesters were “trashing the people’s house”. Not so, literally, of course, but certainly acceptable political rhetoric, because “trashing” means one thing to you, and another to me, and it didn’t incite anyone to violence.

But “riot” doesn’t mean people carrying signs, pounding drums, marching around the state-house, occupying the Capitol Rotunda, holding impassioned discussions, and raising their voices.

As the Windbag In Chief (Rush) himself has said many times, “words mean things.” What’s going on in Madison now is not a riot, and to use that word to describe it is a big bowl of wrong.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday Media Rant: Kudos!

As history continues to unfold in our city, our local media are doing a knockout job of covering the story, working long hours, trying to balance the coverage (and NOT in the Fox “Fair and Balanced” sense), and delivering their stories on multiple platforms.

With a story that moves as fast as this one, those of us who are eager to follow it can’t just rely on the TV newscasts at 4,5,6,9,or 10 PM, nor can we get a true sense of how the story is developing by tuning in radio news on the hour or half-hour. You’ve got to be plugged in to the internet and social media, and local coverage there was nothing short of phenomenal.

Instead of being my usual curmudgeonly self and picking nits (some of that, later) I’d like to tip my hat to the local media corps for doing a really good job of covering this historic event. All of the local TV news outlets were more than equal to the task, even though their newsrooms have been hugely downsized in the past couple years. In addition to doing live reports during their traditional evening newscasts, many of the TV folks unleashed a torrent of quick updates via Twitter, and did quick video hits to update their stations’ websites.

Whoever is running the Twitter feed for WEAC deserves singular acknowledgement. WEAC’s Twitter feed was like a play-by-play of the events on the square, rich with links, well-written, and giving those of us in Madison a sense of immediacy about how the story was developing in Milwaukee, the Fox Valley, and all around the state. The re-tweets they selected added depth and “color” to the developing story. It’s where I first found out about all the out-of-state (and, if it’s to be believed, even out-of-nation) people calling Ian’s Pizza with their credit card in hand, saying “just deliver the pies to folks up at the Capitol.”

State Journal reporters George Hesselberg and Pat Simms (and others) provided excellent content on their company’s internet platform, and both of them regularly sent out Tweets with new information. The Isthmus Daily Page was lively with updated information, too.

Paul Soglin, who has been essentially living up at the Capitol, even opened a Twitter account Saturday afternoon! (It’s @paulsoglin if you’d like to follow.) As one of my other friends opined after re-tweeting my tweet about Soglin’s new Twitter feed, “Here’s the revolution!”

Local radio and TV reporters worked under tough conditions and delivered solid reports, day after day, and their anchors, back in the studio, did a commendable job of weaving it all together. My wife, who knows a thing or three about TV reporting, and I would watch one local newscast “live” while DVR’ing the others, so we got a full blast of the local coverage. I got a huge kick out of one of the live reports this weekend when the reporter (Zac Schultz) was in the middle of a crowd, and a young man stepped right behind him during the “live shot” with a big sign that said “Fox News will lie about this!”

Extra credit, too, to a couple of other friends, Jessica Arp of News 3, for her constant updates and photos on Twitter, and to her colleague David Douglas, for being the first reporter (along with another friend, photojournalist Brian Messmer) to track down Senator John Erpenbach in a Chicago hotel late Thursday night, driving back, and working all night to put together the compelling interview.

WIBA-AM did a great job of constantly updating their website and Facebook page with the latest information (hat tip to Chandra Lynn) and Dusty Weis did yeoman’s service as a one-man-band for WTDY-AM. I wish I could put a mention here to every one of my many friends in the local media who are putting in long days and nights and covering this story so well.

A few klinkers…(wouldn’t be me if I didn’t take a few potshots)….electronic news media now seem to just automatically write the word “exclusive” into their promo copy. No, you’re not “the only station that asks the hard questions” and the word “exclusive” means NOBODY else has it. With huge local stories like this, more people tune in, and when you make a dumb mistake it goes to your credibility….like the local TV anchor who kept calling Bahrain “bay-RON” (the same person referred to the legislature’s “Sergeant of Arms”), and the local TV reporter who continually mispronounced Jon Erpenbach’s name. That’s an “h” on the end, not a “k”. And the radio guy who kept saying “hose-NY” Mubarak.

This story is far from over, and to those of you reading this rant who aren’t connected to the media, consider yourselves lucky to be so well-served by our local news professionals. They’re doing an exemplary job of covering this story.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Tradition of Activism

There are, to me, so many parallels with our city’s history, regarding the protests now against Emperor Walker’s Budget Repair Bill. There are so many images (like the ones above, expropriated from the UW Archives and the State Historical Society) which evoke memories of the days of the 60’s and early 70’s.

Damn, I can almost smell the teargas wafting over campus near the Humanities Building, carried on the breeze down Observatory Drive all the way to Carson Gulley Commons from the Dow Chemical protests in the fall of ’67.

I feel energized and invigorated! I’m too old and fat to trek up to the state house and give Walker’s minions a piece of my mind (not that much is left of it), but to me, it’s déjà vu all over again. The people are pissed and they’re mobilized.

The thought of Daddy Fitzgerald ordering his Troopers to track down those renegade politicians brings a smile to my face. (ring ring Hello? Daddy, this is Scott….there’s a call of the house out, so Jeff and I want you to go round up those damn dimmicrats, and whatever fool ‘publicans went on the lam with them…..OK, thanks, Daddy!!!)

And look who’s runnin’ for mayor…again!

These protests are bigger than anything I can recall from the 60’s or early 70’s. Back then, among other things, we were pissed because our government was lying to us about that damn Southeast Asian war. Now, we’re pissed because the government is lying to us about what’s really behind this assault on collective bargaining. This move has less to do with repairing the budget than Rush Limbaugh has to do with humility.

This is America. We make our own laws here. They’re not handed down to us by some religious prophet; neither are they the fiat of a crowned head nor the whim of a dictator. When we don’t like our laws, we break them. If enough people break them, we usually change them. It’s messy. It can get heated. Our founding document as a nation says we can tell the government exactly what we think about it, so long as violence is not involved, like what’s going on in my city once more.

I feel young again.

Reading the Political Tea Leaves

While other local bloggers far more politically savvy than I are busy pointing out how good their primary election predictions were, I’d rather look ahead than back. There’s really only one race, now. The others were decided Tuesday.

The only real race is Paul Soglin v. Dave Cieslewicz. Hizzonner did amazingly well in areas of the city where he didn’t do so well last time around. Both of these guys are highly intelligent, highly motivated, and it’s going to be one wild, bumpy race for the next couple months. It’s NOT “old v. young”, as I see it, and both candidates have impeccable progressive credentials. But Paul has a demonstrated ability to GET THINGS DONE in Madison, knows how to deal with labor issues, and is, I think, better-equipped to deal with the challenges the city faces under the Walker administration.

County Exec? That race is over. It’s Joe Parisi. Eileen Bruskewitz’s own statements about how she feels about what Scott Walker is doing will be her doom in the general election. Her stance on the Regional Transit Authority will capture some votes for her, but when Parisi talks about what’s going to happen in Dane County under the Walker administration, she’s toast. All his campaign has to do is find a picture of her with Scott Walker and put it on TV.

But the nastiest race will be between incumbent Supreme Court Justice Dave Prosser and JoAnne Kloppenburg. Ya think that campaign might be a bit “negative”? Since it’s a statewide race, this will be another bonanza for the broadcasters. Let the TV ads begin!

Prosser, by the way, didn’t run any TV ads in the four-way primary. The right-wingers at the Wisconsin Club for Growth took care of that for him, spending north of 300 grand to connect their man with law and order. If you listened to the ad carefully, it didn’t ask you to vote for him. It just positioned him with law enforcement and sang his praises as a fair and honest judge. That subtlety – not asking for a vote – was calculated to avoid triggering any “rescue funds” for the three other candidates, in terms of public financing rules, ironically called the “Impartial Justice” law.

I’m convinced the folks on East Wash (Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce), who sat out the Abrahamson – Koschnick race two years ago, will be back in it this time to protect their investment in Madame GutCheck (Justice Ziegler) and Herr Goebellman (Justice Gableman). Let the ads begin.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pitiful. Just Pitiful.

Ten percent. That’s what was predicted for turnout at yesterday’s primary election, and that’s about what it was. 13% as of 8 this morning. When I voted at about 10:45 AM Tuesday, I was the 72nd voter in a township that has 3,900 registered voters.

What percentage of Egyptian voters do you think will turn out, when that country has its next election? Unfair comparison? I think not. Just food for thought.

Governor Walker was elected by a slim margin, 52% to 46% for Tom Barrett. Around two-thirds of the registered voters in Wisconsin turned out for the election. Walker most certainly does NOT have the huge mandate he talks about. But you know the story very well. People will call a talk show to complain about something, but won’t bother to vote.

Is Walker ramming the Budget Repair Bill through the legislature? Sure. Five decades of public policy, which originated right here in Wisconsin and spread to the rest of the nation, are about to be changed with very little – VERY little – public discussion or debate. But then again, he’s “ramming it through” the same way the Democrats in the U.S. Congress “rammed through” the health insurance changes. They had the votes to do it, and they did it. Just like Walker apparently will. And it’s not like he made it a secret about what he planned to do regarding collective bargaining, during the campaign.

I can’t imagine the remorse so many state workers must have now, if they didn’t bother to vote in the November election. Full disclosure: my wife, as a UW-Health employee, is a state employee, although she’s not a union member. It looks like she’ll take a pretty big hit in her take-home pay if Walker’s Budget Repair Bill passes as it stands now. UW-Health is a crazy-quilt combination of public and private elements, and it’s hard to know how the Budget Repair Bill will actually affect it.

Former U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill coined the phrase “all politics is local”, and the way the Budget Repair Bill is playing out, it will affect every city, county, and municipality in the state, at an intensely local level. People who really understand politics will tell you that all the negative advertising that goes on during campaigns is designed to suppress the vote.

Moral of the story: there are no “unimportant” elections. Remember that in April.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Vote Early; Vote Often

Some say it was none other than The Boss, Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley (seen above in full battle regalia) who coined the “vote early and often” phrase. Others think it was another notorious Chicagoan, Al Capone, who came up with the slogan. Another Chicago mayor, William Hale Thompson, who held the office a couple decades before Daley the First, is also on the short list of people suspected of originating the phrase.

It probably goes back a lot farther than any of the above-named Chicagoans, who may not have originated the phrase, but certainly lived its principle. Consensus of the historians seems to be that President Martin Van Buren’s son John actually coined the phrase, which puts its origin long before the Roaring Twenties and gangster heyday in the Windy City. But the connection of the phrase to Chicago politics is natural and strong.

Later today, I’ll head to my polling place, the town hall, and vote against a bunch of people. And once again, in this primary election, I have a strong hunch my wife and I won’t be cancelling out each other’s vote. Since I don’t live in the city itself, I can’t vote for Paul Soglin for mayor, though if I could, I would.

A while back I blogged that Mayor Cieslewicz seemed to be a nice enough fellow and probably deserved another term, but that was before Hizzoner entered the fray. Given the challenges that now lay ahead for the city and county under the Walker administration, I think Paul is the better man for the job. I don’t really have a horse in this race right now, but in a few short years, the portion of the Town of Madison I live in is going to be annexed by the City of Madison. So I’m hoping Paul can work his magic one more time.

As for the County Exec’s race, I’ll be doing some voting AGAINST. I’m hoping several of the half-dozen who want the job will not just lose today, but lose BIG. I’m not naming names. There are also a couple of Supreme Court candidates I’ll need to vote against today. The highest court has become a three-ring circus of corruption, petty public sniping, and big-money influence. It’s well past time for some changes there.

Don’t be too busy protesting at the Capital today to take time to vote. In fact, why note vote on the way to the protest…and again on the way home?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Family Values

I don’t even remember where I heard it, but it was on the radio a few weeks ago, and I’m still thinking about it. Running errands on the west side, I was punching around the radio dial, and stopped when I heard a young man talking about “family values”. I picked up that he was a student at the University of Iowa, and that his parents…a lesbian couple…had raised him to be an honest and hard-working young man. He mentioned that he’s on the Dean’s list.

He said the topic of gay marriage comes up frequently in one of his sociology classes, because there’s so much gay-hating going on in Iowa right now. Iowa Republican Senator Dwayne Alons is co-sponsoring an anti-gay-marriage bill, and he calls gays a public health risk. There’s another bill to deny services to gay couples in Iowa. Much of this hate is spawned by the conservative group called “The Family Leader”, run by a failed politician.

And there’s our own Lieutenant Governor, the clay fish, whose feelings about gays were summed up on the campaign trail when she opined that if we allow gay marriage, next thing you know we’ll allow people to marry furniture and clocks and dogs and such.

Sort of like when the vote was extended to women by the 19th Amendment in 1920. I’m sure there were those who felt that if we allowed women to vote, the next thing you know there’d be movements to extend the vote to gerbils and mules and such.

The young Iowan said his family values don’t come from a sheet of paper signed by some church or municipal official; his family values don’t come by fiat of the state legislature; and they don’t include hate or prejudice against an entire class of people because of their sexual orientation. They come from the two loving women who raised him.

Every time that self-appointed morality watchdog Julaine Appling bends the ear of some talk show host or politician about “family values”, I get nauseous. Call me a Madison lefty, but I don’t think Ms. Appling and her posse know much about family values. They pretend to know a lot about morality, but to me, their version of morality is pretty judgmental.

In my family,our values don’t spring from the marriage contract my wife and I entered into nearly 14 years ago, in front of Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. The love and support we demonstrate for each other as a family has nothing to do with biology; I didn’t father those two beautiful children I helped raise, but I’m sure as hell their dad. I promised my wife’s late father, an old-school Italian, that I’d care for those kids just as if they were my own; but I arrived at that value long before he and I sat down when I asked for permission to marry his daughter in 1996.

A wise man, Stanwood Cobb, once said character is our destiny. Our deeds flow from our character, and our deeds determine our destiny. Don’t preach to me about family values. Talk to me about your character.

Friday, February 11, 2011

You Love Boobies? I Give A Crap About Colorectal Cancer!

There apparently are no limits to how low some shysters will go to make a buck off somebody else’s misery. That’s the only thing I can think of that explains the trivialization of breast cancer by the “Keep a Breast” foundation, which claims to be selling the “I Love Boobies” bracelet to “increase awareness of breast cancer prevention among young people.”

The bracelet is at the center of a controversy at Sauk Prairie Middle School, where some high school girl has contacted the ACLU about the middle school principal’s decision to ban the “boobies” bracelet her younger sister wore to middle school. The young lady’s mother was on one of the local TV stations Wednesday evening (after all, it isn’t news in Madison until it’s in the State Journal) whining about her daughter’s right to express herself and help raise awareness of breast cancer. Another local TV station finally covered the story last night, and fell for a teen girl's assertion that it was a "free speech" issue.

I’ve ranted many times in the past about this bullshit about “raising awareness” of breast cancer. Breast cancer needs a cure, not more awareness. In my “day job”, I just finished writing a story about the recent decline in cancer rates and mortality in Wisconsin, and I interviewed a representative of the American Cancer Society in Wisconsin who confirmed that breast cancer is still the most frequently diagnosed cancer in Wisconsin women.

If you’re not aware of breast cancer, you have a mental disease or defect. It’s touched essentially every family in the nation. So this crap about “raising awareness” is best left for diseases like Duchenne, the devastating muscle disease that hits children. Packers linebacker Clay Matthews has done commercials to help make people aware of this essentially unheard-of, but devastating disease.

Hooray to the Sauk Prairie Middle School principal who banned this tasteless and disgustingly juvenile “boobies” bracelet. But - to the child’s mother, who confirmed to the TV station that her family has been touched by breast cancer: have a nice big bowl of STFU and give a few more bucks to research that will help END breast cancer.

Oh yes, and the title of this post? If it’s OK to trivialize breast cancer, why not colorectal cancer? How about “bust your balls for testicular cancer” or “show your tits for lung cancer” or “up your ass for prostate cancer” or “spread your legs for cervical cancer?” After all, it’s just to help "raise awareness."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Utterly Predictable

Nobody really wanted to help Ted Williams, the “man with the golden voice.” They wanted to exploit his fame, as demonstrated by the sudden disappearance of all those nice, fat job offers he got during his 15 minutes of fame several weeks ago.

That slimy “Doctor” Phil was one of the biggest exploiters, along with NBC (miffed when Ted did interviews with other networks) and the rest of the media that cashed in on Ted’s sudden YouTube fame.

It didn’t take a genius, or somebody with a sociology degree, to know that Ted would relapse under the weight of his sudden fame.

Ted was on the CBS morning show yesterday, having left the Texas rehab center that “Doctor” Phil sent him off to, and is now living in what he calls a “clean-living sober house” in California. The big, juicy job offers that came to Ted during his initial 15 minutes of fame are long gone, disappearing as soon as news of Ted’s personal troubles and family squabbles broke, but he says he’s now actively looking for voice-over work.

Ted said the initial blast of offers from radio stations, an NBA team, and other high-profile outfits was too much, too fast for him to handle. Ya think?

This guy was “living” in a makeshift hut that was crappy by third-world standards when that Ohio newspaper reporter did the story that went viral on the internet, whisked suddenly into a world of limousines, five-star hotels, and the fawning attention of network TV producers.

Ted has the voice and the training to be among the top voice-over folks in the industry. What he needs more than a fancy job right now is help getting his life back together, help to stay sober, help to deal with his family issues, and help getting a union card and access to a studio so he can compete for voice-over jobs.

In other words, what Ted needs is NOT what the media have to offer.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Calling All Fitzgeralds.....

If your name is Fitzgerald and you need a cushy, high-paying state job, just call Governor Walker’s office at 608-266-1212 and tell Scotty which job you’d like.

Never mind if you’re not blood kin to Jeff or Scott Fitzgerald, whose daddy (pictured above) was just named head of the Wisconsin State Patrol. Wisconsin is open for patronage and nepotism…….er, business!

Seems old daddy Fitzgerald is pushin’ 70 now (he’s 68) and apparently hasn’t set enough money aside from his many law enforcement jobs to be able to retire, so he axed his boys real nice if they could make him the head of the State Patrol….and sure ‘nuf, them boys done did it!

They prolly just strolled over to the east wing and got Scotty to play ball with them, so’s daddy could wear a badge again! Pesky voters wouldn’t let daddy be Sheriff of Dodge County no more, and it just ain’t right that daddy don’t have no job.

I didn’t look too hard for a bio on Stephen Fitzgerald, so I’ll assume he has at least a high school education, but apparently not the common good sense not to ask his boys, one of whom runs the state assembly and the other who runs the state senate, if he could be head of the State Patrol and be in charge of 638 state employees, 474 of whom are sworn law officers.

Nothin’ unlawful about putting daddy into that job; it’s a political patronage job, and most of the other fellows (and the gal) who wanted the job were likely put there by that dimmicrat Jimmy O’Doyle, so Lord knows them folks would only have enforced the democrat laws if they’d been put in the job.

Not that it means anything, but when I wrote this, over half (52%) of the people responding to a Journal-Sentinel online poll were saying daddy wouldn’t have got the job if his boyz hadn’t smoothed things over with the guv. Prolly just jealous! 29% felt daddy’s qualified for the job, what with all his experience in law enforcement, but that it’s just wrong that his boyz pulled the strings to get him into it.

Come to think of it, my granddaddy James was one of the very first State Patrol officers in Wisconsin. I’m gonna call Daddy Fitzgerald and ask him to give a fellow mick a hand!!!! I’m thinkin’ about 50 grand a year as a “consultant” to the Patrol would be nice!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

It Can't Be......16 Years....

Above is a photo of me and my dad, circa 1950. On this day in 1995, my brothers, sisters, and I were gathered in a hospital in Appleton, as my dad fought his last battle with Parkinson’s disease. We knew he’d lost the battle, and that it was just a matter of time.

Just before lunch time, my brother Pat got a call from his wife, who was also in a hospital, in Columbus, Ohio. Surprise! She’d just given birth to their third child, Breanna Rose. And a few hours after our new niece entered the world, my dad left. We were at his side when he gave one last, deep breath and surrendered.

The best and most predominant memories of my dad are not of his last few hours in a hospital, but as a strong, patient father who taught me so much. One of my best memories is the year I was a sophomore at Hortonville High, and it was the annual early spring walleye run on the Wolf River. Dad and some of his buddies had an elaborate “fishing shack” – a four-bunk-bed structure they built themselves, complete with full kitchen and detached outhouse – on land they’d leased along the river. During “the run”, we pretty much lived there for a month.

To get to the shack, you drove a few miles north (on “Interstate M”, as we called Outagamie County Trunk HiWay M), parked, and then had to walk in about 300 yards through waist-deep water along the riverbank. I didn’t have “hip boots”, so my method of getting there was a bit unorthodox. My dad would hoist me up onto his shoulders and carry me in. I was 6’2” and 235 pounds. My dad was the same height and 15 pounds lighter. No problem for him. After he and General Patton won the big war, he was a boxer in college, and he stayed in shape.

Back in the 60’s, the spring walleye run on the Wolf River started when the ice went out of the river, usually mid-to-late-March, and lasted three or four weeks. Somewhere in the middle of that stretch of time five decades ago, my dad hoisted me up onto his shoulders and we began the trek. When we were almost at our destination, dad missed a step. The current, which was strong in spring, regularly re-shaped the banks of the Wolf, and we both went into the icy cold water. We slogged the rest of the way to the shack, lit the stove, dried off, and caught a mess of walleye.

The next spring, I had my own hip boots. But it wasn’t because my dad couldn’t carry me on his shoulders any more.

Far as I’m concerned, he’s carried me on his shoulders every day since I was born in May of 1949. Rest in peace, dad.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Not-so-Super Moments (But Way To Go, Pack!!!)

Now that the Lombardi Trophy is back where it belongs, and the fellow pictured above has been named Super Bowl MVP, I have a few bones to pick with….well, I’m not sure who to pick them with, but they are bones which need picking.

Could we work a deal where Fox does NOT do the Super Bowl? Even though that horrible Joe Buck seemed to realize it was best to shut up and let the video speak for itself, there are plenty of other reasons for the League to put Fox on double-secret probation for a couple years. The NFL and other similar jock organizations are prone to wrap themselves in the flag on every possible occasion, but this was a bit much.

We don’t need to hear the Declaration of Independence read during the pre-game show. And the President of the United States should just say “good luck to both teams; looking forward to a great game” and not debate that Irish Ass as part of the pre-game.

North Texas needs to provide better weather.

The League, The Cowboys, The “Stadium Authority”, or whoever, needs to figure out the seating chart BEFORE game-day. A buddy and I drove from Minneapolis to New Orleans for Super Bowl 9 (1975, Vikes vs. Steelers) which was supposed to be played in the all-new Super Dome. The Dome wasn’t finished, so the game wound up being played at Tulane Stadium. Our seats were crappy, it was cold, and I’ve held a grudge against the League ever since. (I know, misplaced rage. I should be mad at the contactor(s) hired to build the Super Dome. Ten years later, when I was living in New Orleans, I understood their concept of time is not the same as in the rest of the nation.)

Perhaps we should find a singer for the National Anthem who: 1.) knows the words 2.) doesn’t think it’s all about her and 3.) sings the melody line without attempting to embellish every syllable and note. While we’re at it, we also need better audio techs for the half-time show. Somebody should have noticed that Fergie’s mike wasn’t on, in the first few seconds of the first song.

Oh, and by the way, congratulations to the Packers. I wrote them off after the Detroit game, and am still amazed at how they closed out their season – true champions!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday Media Rant: Nannyism

When did it become the role of a news anchor (or reporter) to tell people how to behave? That memo must have come out after I left the news anchoring business a couple years ago.

Did you notice the number of radio and TV news folks who preached to us during the height of the blizzard this past Tuesday night and Wednesday morning to “stay home, stay off the roads?” It used to be the role of the news person to report such warnings, if they were issued by duly appointed public safety officials or the National Weather Service, but now it seems these personal urgings from the news folks supersede official pronouncements.

Or is it just that way in Madison, a/k/a Nannytown USA?

My friend JB, a writer/editor/part-time radio guy, blogged “Snow snow snow oh my god snow everybody go out buy food stay home it’s the end snowstorm blizzard frozen death snow aggggggggh.” As he pointed out, it used to be that news folks reported what was going on, but left the actual decisions up to the audience.

Maybe it’s just because I’m overly aware of the way English is used by broadcasters, but to me, there’s a world of difference between “The State Patrol is not recommending travel anywhere in the southern half of Wisconsin tonight” and “if you don’t have to travel tonight, please stay home, stay off the roads.”

About the snarkiest I’d ever get during my on-air days was to say something like “The Dane County Sheriff’s Department is advising against travelling on the roads today, because most are still ice-or-snow-covered and slippery; just remember, you pay the first 500 dollars, or whatever your car insurance deductible is.”

I’d rather be snarked at, than nannied to.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

THIS is What We Need....

It's the Oshkosh Truck H-Series snow-thrower. This is a shot of one at the Oshkosh airport, a few thousand feet from where the behemoths are made. It can travel at speeds up to 35 miles an hour while throwing snow (more than a ton a second) 200 feet.

Leave to the 'sconnies to make something like this.

(Hat tip to Dad29 for the story idea.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Aftermath

Somewhere, under all that snow, is my driveway. It was a lazy morning; I think only one person in our small neighborhood of 8 homes went to work this morning. Gradually, the neighbors trekked out one-by-one into the snow, starting to clear their driveways. We don't have sidewalks in our huge cul-de-sac, which was created by a speculative builder about 15 years ago. We're fairly isolated.

By the time I got my snowthrowing gear on and began preparations to put the new, snorting beast (snowthrower) to work, my good neighbor Sam had already cleared his driveway and had made several passes up and down mine. Sam took care of our snowthrowing when my wife and I were on our Caribbean vacation, and I told him this morning I'd drop off a case of beer at his house - and, good neighbor that he is, he said he wouldn't turn it down.

I put finishing touches on the job with the new machine, which cut right through the huge drifts as I widened out the driveway passage. My wife dug out the passageway from the driveway to the house, after she'd done the good neighbor thing and dug out the fire hydrant that serves our little enclave. Then we let the dogs out to run and enjoy the winter wonderland.'s back to work. No "snow day" for the self-employed.