Thursday, March 31, 2011

Save a Tree? No, Save a Landfill.

Being a good, born-and-raised ‘sconnie, I am more than passingly familiar with “Trees for Tomorrow”, an independent educational facility in Eagle River, which teaches how trees are grown and managed as a crop in Cheesetopia.

This is apparently secret information.

Again this morning I encountered one of those “save a tree; don’t print unless you have to” warnings. Since I have this secret information about Trees for Tomorrow, garnered from Mr. John Amburgy, my biology teacher at Hortonville High, I don’t worry about the trees used to make paper. Or the ones some of us saw down and put in our homes in December. Not any more than I worry about the corn stalk that yielded the vegetable I ate with my chicken breast last night.

Trees, like corn, peas, soybeans, and a bazillion other things, are carefully managed as a cash crop. As trees are sawn (note to the picky: sawn is the past participle of saw; and that weapon so often written about is a sawn-off shotgun, not a sawed-off shotgun), new trees are planted to replace them in an endless cycle. Anybody who’s ever taken the time to learn about how our state’s farmers use corn has learned a great lesson in advanced recycling.

I know, it’s more emotionally appealing to say “Save a tree!!” than to say “Save a landfill!!”

Now that I live in Dane County, and go to all those foie gras soirees thrown constantly by the lefties, where only organic food (there’s another kind?) and cage-free chicken and pesticide-free veggies are served, I know it’s impolitic to bring up this point about trees being a crop. Cutting down trees is bad, and they don’t want to hear my crypto-conservative rant about trees being a managed crop.

And now that Governor I’mInCharge is on the scene, and recycling funds will soon be a thing of the past, allowing private business to completely take over the landfill industry in Wisconsin, I guess I really don’t have to worry about adding unnecessary content to landfills. By wasting paper I’ll be helping to create jobs.

It’s all good. Print away.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Politics = FAIL

All you need to do is read the last two paragraphs of the news release (from the Republican Party of Dane County) to know why politics hasn't worked for the past decade or so. You won't hear about or read the news release below on any news media. (Remember, Miss Vicky's radio show and Blaska's Blog are NOT "news media.")

Republicans, Democrats, and independents of every stripe...Tea Partiers and all...should reject the kind of class-division hatred the diatribe below represents.

For Immediate Release: Contact: Blake Gober-

March 30, 2011 Jeff Waksman-

Republican Party of Dane County Apologizes To Judge Sumi

The Republican Party of Dane County sent out a press release on March 29th criticizing Judge Maryann Sumi for holding up the publication of Governor Scott Walker’s collective bargaining reform bill. Upon further reflection we’d like to apologize for not understanding her point of view.

Sure, Governor Walker’s bill is unquestionably constitutional, increases worker’s rights and helps local government balance budgets without having to fire public workers. The Wisconsin state legislature consulted with their non-partisan parliamentarian to make sure that the passage of the bill followed the rules of the Senate and Assembly. But this isn’t about the law, is it?

The Republican Party of Dane County recognizes that Judge Sumi is a leftist living in Dane County. Her friends are leftists living in Dane County. Her son is a left wing activist in Dane County. She goes to cocktail parties held by leftists in Dane County. She shops at organic gourmet food shops run by leftists living in Dane County. If she were to enforce the law of Wisconsin and do what was in the best interest of the people of Wisconsin, she’d be exiled from her lifestyle. She’d lose her friends!

The leadership of the Republican Party of Dane County have all made the choice to stand against the Dane County elite. We accept that Left feels righteous vandalizing our homes and keying our cars. It's only fair. We disagree based upon logic and principle. That is intolerable! We prioritize the Constitution and the well being of the people of Wisconsin over foie gras at cocktail parties. That’s the choice we made. We respect Judge Sumi’s decision to live her life with the rich diversity that liberals cherish.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Media Rant: Who Are You?

Countless times in my decades as a news anchor, friends have said to me in social situations, when the conversation gets intense, “am I talking to you, or to the media here?” The question never bothered me. I’ve come to know a lot of people who live in the public eye, who have learned, often through very painful experiences, to be careful what they’re saying, particularly to a member of the media, even though the conversation is taking place in a social setting.

Most good reporters have figured out you can learn a lot more by listening than talking, and they’ve also learned when, as a responsibility of their profession, they have to say to someone – even in a social setting – something along the lines of “I’m actually working on a story about this right now…can I use what you’re saying?” Trained, professional reporters understand many of the subtleties about a person’s right to privacy, even a person very much in the public eye.

Most good reporters also know a hell of a lot of things they can’t use in putting together stories, either because they don’t have permission to use the information, or can’t attribute it, because the information was either given to them on background or not for attribution. Good news sources know what this is all about. And professional reporters understand the rules of the game. And that’s how even the most aggressive reporter can get along with the most high-placed “sources” in social situations.

There’s a lot of confusion today about what “media” means, and who is and who isn’t a “reporter.” The lines have been blurred. Anybody can buy a videocam and walk around interviewing people, but if they don’t know the rules about how and where they can used that video, then they’re either an amateur or the potential target of a lawsuit. And everybody has a right to say to somebody who’s got a camera or microphone pointed at their face “shut that thing off, you don’t have my permission to record me.”

That’s exactly what happened in this little video, that’s getting a lot of play on social media around Madison. A public official, Brett Hulsey, told “New Media Meade” he wasn’t going to talk to him on camera. Meade is the partner (in every sense of the word) of UW Law Professor Ann Althouse, who blogs here.

Apparently Mr. Hulsey is concerned about how his words and images will be used by Meade, so he’s exercising his right to say “no.” Watching the little video clip reveals a great deal about why Mr. Hulsey feels that way. It’s a brave, new media world out there, and often I feel like a stranger in a strange land.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Of course, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is decidedly not “government.” How could anyone think that the highest court would be part of “government?” I mean, their pay comes from the private sector, right? The justices aren’t really “government employees”, are they?

Apparently, the idiots and slimers who put together the latest anti-Kloppenburg radio ad think calling someone a “GOVERNMENT LAWYER” is just about the filthiest insult you can say on the radio and still get away with it.

Before the anti-Kloppenburg ad suggests that we reject her because she’s a GOVERNMENT LAWYER, it points out that she has NEVER HAD EXPERIENCE AS A JUDGE; NOT ONE DAY. And, her opponent, Justice Prosser, was appointed to the State Supreme Court with HOW much experience as a judge?

Yup. Not one day.

The ad goes on to tell us how this low-life GOVERNMENT LAWYER (an Assistant Attorney General) spent her days in court suing farmers and small business people, exactly the kind of people we need to CREATE JOBS in Cheesetopia.

Yes, the ad-creators (and sponsors) want us to think that this slimy GOVERNMENT LAWYER spent her days targeting farmers and small businesses, and suing them of her own accord.

Ads like these, as I’ve said so many times, are designed to suppress the vote. And they work. Usually.

It just could be that this time, Joanne Kloppenburg and the voters of Wisconsin might have a surprise up their sleeve.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Best Policy

In matters of more than trivial import, honesty is the best policy. We all learn the lesson as children, but then we seem to allow the lines to blur as we grow up. This post will be about two liars, Bruce Pearl and Jim Tressel, but their stories universally illustrate the point.

There’s the four-way test of Rotary, which says in essence truth (honesty) must be fair and beneficial, and help to build relationships. Sometimes the truth is very, very ugly, destroys relationships, and is not “fair” by any definition. Perhaps that’s why Rotary never appealed to me.

There’s the famous Jack Nicholson line from “A Few Good Men”, repeated so many times now that it’s nearly iconic: “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth.”

At some point in our maturation process, we begin to learn why the oath we take before testifying in court is to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Half-truths or partial truths are the stock-in-trade of outfits like Fox News. They can really bend a story.

Bruce Pearl is the former men’s basketball coach at Tennessee. He was fired this week for lying. He held a backyard cook-out some months ago and invited some high school athletes; this is a recruiting violation; he lied about it; he got fired. Had he admitted doing it, said he was sorry and would never do it again, he’d still be at Tennessee. But he’ll coach Division One hoops again, soon. He won, and he filled the seats in the auditorium, and that’s what it’s about – not honesty.

Jim Tressel is the disgraced Ohio State football coach who lied and said he didn’t know anything about his players selling their memorabilia and pocketing the money. It’s one of those “if he didn’t know, he should have” things, according to some. Long story short, I don’t think he told the whole truth, so he got punished.

All of us, I think, tell the un-truth, or at least not the whole truth, more often than we like to admit. And most of us seem to learn under what circumstances it’s important to be completely honest and tell the whole truth.

Some of us never learn.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Inviting Coworkers

That two-word sentence fragment above – the title of this post – is the first tweet ever tweeted on Twitter, by its founder Jack Dorsey, five years ago today. Jack was inviting his coworkers to use their smart phones to join him in his new short-message service.

Not exactly “Watson, come here, I want you”….or “that’s one small step”…..but, history-making nonetheless. From that first tweet grew a business so big it’s worth, some say, upwards of 8 billion dollars. Not a bad 5-year growth. There are approximately 140 million tweets a day. Easy to remember, since if you are a twitterer, you know the message is limited to 140 characters.

There are neuroscience researchers, notably Mark Underwood, who say Twitter is making us dumber. Any simpleton can tweet; some tweets are amazingly clever and enlightening; some are simply dull and boring, like mine. Underwood and many of his colleagues say most people think it’s important to multi-task, but they say the “multi” part of the tasking is way too shallow. Writing a tweet at work while having your Facebook account up, talking to a co-worker, and scanning e-mails is indeed multi-tasking, but the tasks are all shallow endeavors. Underwood says the cognitive load placed on our brains from trying to deal with a number of shallow tasks prevents meaningful stuff from being filed in our long-term memory.

Hence, Twitter is making us stoopid.

Researchers like Underwood say the constant shallow mindwork re-wires the brain and limits its ability to process more complex information. We don’t have to memorize anything any more. With GPS, smart phones, google, mapquest, and so on, we don’t exercise our ability to memorize things. You can look up most anything in a fraction of a second. So we don’t concentrate.


Shallow thinkers like Sarah Palin can hide behind Twitter. Have you noticed how often the MSM (that’s “mainstream media”) actually use Palin’s tweets as news content? Pretty damn easy to spout off about anything in a 140-character message, which is not subject to follow-up questions from a reporter, as during a real honest-to-journalism interview. But we all know Sarah’s history with those pesky reporters.

Do I tweet? Yes. But my stuff is shallower than Palin’s. My most recent tweet was about my wife walking the dogs this morning. (You can follow me @MadiMan.)

And this post exceeded the Twitter limit by 2,319 characters.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Media Rant: More Nook-you-ler Fear

The constant drumbeat of network and cable news, ginning up fear about death from nuclear radiation in Japan, is becoming quite tiresome.

This morning, a CNN anchorette actually cited burgeoning sales of iodine pills in California as “evidence” that the government of Japan is not telling the truth about their nuke problems. The tortured illogic of that assertion is stunning, and would be funny if it wasn’t so profoundly stoopid.

Last night on the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams devoted the first half of his broadcast to live reports from Japan, including a piece from Ann Curry strongly implying that the Japanese government was not only lying about the severity of the problems at the troubled nuke plant, but was deliberately lying to cover up the scary truth.

Buried about 20 minutes into the half-hour broadcast, Brian interviewed NBC’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, who said there is NO reason to panic; that people should NOT buy, much less consume iodine pills; and that perhaps we all ought to take a deep breath and calm down.

It appears the Japanese have more than they can handle in trying to put the genie back in the bottle, and have wisely asked for help. I am not minimizing the gravity of the situation. But most people know almost nothing about nuclear power and even less about radiation, and the news folks almost never put things into perspective for the average viewer or listener. If they knew how much radiation they were ingesting simply by eating a banana, they’d swear them off forever.

Part of it is the fault of education. I will never forget, no matter how badly I’m stricken by dementia in my later years, the assignment my daughter was given in a high school science class: “Make a collage about your feelings about nuclear energy.” Suffice it to say I had words with the teacher. This is the sort of stuff that passes for general science education these days, and why it’s so easy for the media to scare the hell out of so many people on topics involving nuclear energy.

Since Ms. Curry offered not one whit of support for her assertion about the Japanese government lying – citing no expert, no research, no hard facts, no science, no documentation of any sort – and did not label her assertion as her opinion – one is left to conclude that she’s not in the news business, but in the business of ginning up fear.

This crisis in Japan may well be the worst nuclear disaster of the 21st century, but the media are doing us no favors by whipping up baseless fears and acting like bloggers, rather than journalists.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why Apple Dominates the Universe

The short answer is because they invent creative, useful products, and they excel at customer service. Let me tell you why my wife is now an Apple girl for life, after a horrid accident with her iPad yesterday.

She bought her first Apple product a few years ago…a small iPod Shuffle…and liked it so much she added an iPod Touch to her arsenal a few months later. Just under a year ago, the very first day the iPad came out, she went to the Apple Store at West Towne Mall, plunked down her six hundred bucks, and has been attached to it, almost literally, since that day. I liked her iPad so much that I plunked down another six hundred bucks and got my own. With some help (well, a lot of help) from my friend Steve, hooking the iPad up with Google MailFetch, the iPad has become an indispensable business tool for me. Now, my office can be anywhere there’s wi-fi.

Yesterday, my wife dropped her iPad. Dinged it up pretty good; bent the case near the off-on switch. It worked OK last night, but this morning she called from work, distressed. Her beloved iPad had lost its mind and was doing crazy things. She called and took the first available appointment at the Apple Genius Bar (great name!) at the Apple Store.

There, the bad news was dispensed, with appropriate hushed tones. Her machine was damaged beyond the ability of the geniuses in Madison to repair. There was some talk of “non-Apple businesses” which might help, but my wife was not interested. She wanted to deal only with Apple people, and wanted to know what the genius would do if it were his iPad. He said “I’d replace it; and we can do that for you, at the now-discounted price of $299 for your version of the iPad.” My forlorn spouse gave a large sigh, and dejectedly told the genius that she’d need to check in with central (me) before spending three hundred bucks. I’m sure she looked horribly sad to the young genius.

My wife and I have a long-standing agreement that when either of us is about to pull the trigger on anything costing more than a hundred bucks, we notify each other. It has almost everything to do with courtesy and very little to do with money, but that’s our deal. She called me, and thank God, I was in the shower and didn’t answer the phone. She left me a message with the bad news, and then went to tell the young genius that she wanted to think about it for a while.

He said “while you were talking with your husband, I shared your problem with some other folks here, and I have an alternate suggestion.” He said while the warranty (1 year, which expires in 16 days) does not cover problems caused when a customer drops the iPad, (technically, it’s abuse) they’d like to simply replace her iPad…with an identical model…at no charge, under a special program that Apple sometimes uses. She delightedly agreed and thanked the young genius…and all the other geniuses…profusely, and then called me (I was out of the shower and dressed by then, ready for a dentist appointment) with the good news.

She’ll bring her new iPad home with her tonight, and “synch” it with her desktop computer while we watch the Badgers go one-and-done, so it will have all her iTunes music, photos, programs, and all the “apps” she’s purchased through the Apple store.

The name of the special program under which Apple replaced her iPad at no charge is “Surprise and Delight.” It’s printed on her no-charge invoice.

Surprise and delight. And that’s one of the many reasons my wife will be an Apple girl forever.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

With Liberty and Hypocrisy For All

With all the outside agitators causing the riots downtown every weekend, it’s hard to concentrate on anything. There’s so much noise from the constant gunfire on the Capitol Square I can hardly think straight. Either that, or it’s all the nook-you-ler radiation coming over here from Japan.

I mean, it’s one thing for our good native ‘sconnies to exercise their rights, but it’s the outside agitators who spoil it for everybody. Like those brothers from Kansas who’ve got their fingers in so many political pies it’s hard to keep track of where all their donations are going. Who cares? And that damn Joe the “Plumber” – wish he’d spend more time in Ohio.

And that big-shot Washington insider that Senator Hopper hired to get him ready for the recall? So what. I wish the media would stop snooping around Randy. So he’s shacked up with one of his employees….so what? Her house is in his district. Apartment, house….call it a domicile and be done with it. And don’t tell me that and Blue States Media are local organizations.

Hopper has just as much right as Mr. Newt to spend his time with whom he pleases. Two consenting adults can do whatever they want, as long as they’re straight people of course. So he got a little from his intern or whatever she was….after all, there’s no controlling legal authority here. Gotta keep marriage safe for the working straight families of Wisconsin.

And while I’m on the topic, all those recall elections they’re talking about….that’s a bunch of crap. Who came up with the idea of a recall anyway? Once the voters have spoken, that’s it, because dammit, elections have consequences. And just never you mind about how Scott Walker became Milwaukee County Executive. That was a long time ago and it was just a youthful indiscretion by the desperado.

All this thinking and writing, with the windows open and sixty degrees and fresh air pouring in, makes me hungry. I gotta get over to Bavarian Sausage and pick up some brats to put on the grill this weekend. Those damn right-wingers over at Johnsonville can bite my butt.

Jeez, speaking of brats, I just can’t wait for BratFest! Couple a months and it’ll be here! Oh, wait….I guess I gotta think about that…..

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

TV Shows Featuring Fat People

What’s the fascination? I’ve never understood. More and more TV and cable channels seem to be adding shows about fat people. Apparently there’s some new comedy on CBS about an obese police officer and his hefty girlfriend or wife. I see the promotional announcements for it when I’m watching that network. NBC has that show about extremely obese people who are yelled at by a trim woman – “The Biggest Loser”, which I’m given to understand is one of the most popular shows on TV.

Cable outlets have long had such shows, with A&E and Discovery leading the pack with a parade of shows about people who are obese or have some other affliction like hoarding or some strange compulsion like eating only French fries.

Having fought the “battle of the bulge” nearly all my adult life, I’m not sure why other people are so fascinated by watching fat people struggle with the challenges of daily living, or enjoy seeing them hounded by slim and fit “trainers” exhorting them to lose weight.

My baser self says these shows are popular because some people who are not obese feel morally superior to people who are, and they watch these shows about fat people to laugh derisively at them. There are still plenty of people who believe obesity is related only to will-power, and is an effect of being lazy. Fat-hatred is the only remaining form of discrimination which is not taboo. Fat jokes are OK, particularly when made by fat people. Sort of like a certain word that starts with “n”.

For example, it’s not at all uncommon on social media, if someone announces a vacation or some sort of air travel, for someone else to post “hope you don’t have to sit next to a fat person!” Substitute the word “black” or “retarded” or “old” and you’ll get big-time pushback. But it’s OK to make fat jokes.

This sort of stuff doesn’t bother me very much; I learned a long time ago there are a lot of really stupid people in the world, who can only feel superior by making someone else out to be inferior. But my disgust-meter pegged into the red zone yesterday when I saw a promo for a new show about fat MIDGETS on one of the cable channels I was watching. Fat midgets.

Now that IS going too far.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Nook-You-Ler Disaster Looms!

I’m sorry, I just had to laugh – sarcastically - several times over the weekend watching the media coverage of the horrible disaster in Japan. No laughter about the earthquake and ensuing tsunami and abundant human misery, but derisive laughter at the media “coverage” of the problems with the nuclear reactors. They were bound and determined to scare us to death, rather than report the news.

The first thing that becomes apparent, whether you’re watching CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox or CNN is that the anchors and reporters know virtually nothing about nuclear power – how it’s generated, how a reactor works, the basics of reactor design, or anything related to the technology of generating nuclear power.

But they sure do know “Chernobyl” and “Three Mile Island.”

I almost fell out of my chair Saturday morning when one of the networks…I lost track which one, because I was switching around so much….put on Bill Nye, “The Science Guy.” By all means, let’s get a TV personality (who does hold a degree in Mechanical Engineering) to comment on the unfolding disaster. The years have not been kind to Bill, and Hi-Def TV does him and his thickly pancaked makeup no favors. He tried valiantly to answer the anchor’s questions, but the anchor, of course, kept steering him to the worst possible scenario. “Yes, Bill, but what if there’s another earthquake? Won’t that spew the radioactivity directly into the atmosphere, killing millions instantaneously?”

Later in the day, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer had the Japanese Ambassador to the US on live, and asked him the same question about five times….something along the order of “isn’t it true that the reactor has already melted down and millions of people are in grave danger?” Then it was “how recent is your information?” which elicited “about one minute before we went on the air I was briefed by my government in Tokyo”, followed by something along the lines of “yah, but isn’t it possibly true that the reactor has already melted down and you may just not be aware of it.” You get the idea.

The next morning, one of the anchorettes “learned” (the TV folks love that word) about some magical pill (an iodine pill) that was being given to people possibly exposed to radiation, which would “ward off cancer.” (Dammit! We can’t those of us in the US have this magic pill that wards off cancer??)

I’ve said many times that television’s default position is “excess.” Every news person on every channel I watched did everything they could to gin up fear and unease, rather than to ask questions which would elicit information and help explain the situation. If a “guest expert” would dare to suggest that perhaps we really don’t have enough information right now to really know what’s going on, the interview would be quickly terminated, and the ginning up of fear would continue.

I don’t expect news folks to be experts of any stripe on something as complex as nuclear energy. But I do expect them to show some restraint in advancing their agenda, the central credo of which is something like “nukes are bad, and this proves it”.

Friday, March 11, 2011

"This Will Not Stand"....or, will it?

I am so totally and thoroughly disgusted with the two-party system, from top to bottom, that I’m at the point where, channeling (here it comes) William F. Buckley, I’d rather be governed by the first 132 names in the UW Faculty directory than the 132 dweebs in the state legislature.

Well, I’d better modify that number to around 120. There are about a dozen members of the legislature I truly respect, and consider to be true servants of the people.

Having been a faculty adjunct at several universities and an administrator at a large private university, I understand how politically-charged academia is. But as political as academia can be, in every place I’ve worked they seemed to have the best interests of students…and the institution…at heart.

I’m not quite yet convinced that’s true of Biddy, though. And I’m not at all sure what Ann Althouse’s true agenda is….since she’d likely be among the first 120 names listed in the UW faculty directory. She and that “Meade” character she consorts with are quite the pair, bending things to the right constantly.

The problem is, for the past couple decades there seems to be no consensus on ANYTHING. For Christ’s sake, there are still elected Republicans who espouse a belief that our President was born and raised in Africa. And there are elected Democrats who are some of the biggest crooks ever to hold office. Facts are no longer facts; they’re assertions to be disproved or denied by the “other side”, no matter which side. And nobody, particularly in the Wisconsin legislature, seems to be actually willing to discuss or debate the issues, despite the constant posturing by both sides that they’re willing to do so.

Murder threats? Bomb threats? The anger is almost palpable, and I’m not just talking about the loonies who actually make death threats. Those people need to be locked up for the safety of all of us. Friends of mine in the media get hate e-mail for even INTERVIEWING someone on “the other side”. God forbid there’d be two sides to any issue, and God forbid the local media should attempt to be “fair and balanced” in reporting this story.

Despite the recalls being organized and the lawsuits being filed, Governor Walker’s new regime with its new laws may “stand.” But I think it’s going to get one hell of a lot hotter around here before we know what stands and what doesn’t.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wisconsin: Not Open For Business

Who’d want to open a business in a state where the politics are so dysfunctional that for more than three weeks protesters by the thousands have come to the Capitol carrying signs and carrying on?

Who’d want to open a business – or expand a business – in a state where the political scene is so volatile that it’s generated the largest number of recalls (real and threatened) in history?

Who’d want to open a business in a state that’s on the national news every night…and not in a favorable light? (Note: Being on Comedy Central every night is NOT a good thing.)

Who’d want to open a business in a state where the head of the party in power (Mark Jefferson) sends out a fundraising letter begging funds to fight back against the “unruly mobs” that have “taken over” the Capitol and where legislators “must have a police escort to move around?”

Who’d want to open a business in a state where the minority party senators decamp to a bordering state…and stay there for weeks?

The state is in disarray, there’s plenty of stoopid to go around on both political sides, and Wisconsin is definitely NOT “Open For Business.”

And that “open for business” slogan was the mantra that got Scott Walker elected.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Let's Talk About Something Else... Baseball! As we sit here in south central Wisconsin cursing the weather gods who dumped four or five inches of the heaviest, wettest snow imaginable on us Wednesday, what they used to call "heart attack snow", the boys of summer are in Arizona and Florida playing the game that’s still called America’s pass-time.

Baseball! Play Ball! Yer OUT!! Steeee-rike!!!! He’s SAFE He’s SAFE He’s SAFE!!!!!! (crack!) “Here’s a long fly ball to left field…..get up…get up…..get outta here…..GONE!

One of my Facebook pals and former colleagues, Rick Schuh, newsman extraordinaire at Appleton’s WHBY Radio, posted something on his page suggesting that the Brewers let new ace pitcher and Cy Young winner (that’s “Former” Cy Young winner for those of you who speak sportstalk) do his rehabbing in the friendly confines of Fox Cities Stadium…..conveniently located just a few miles from Rick’s radio studio….as a member of the Timber Rattlers.

I like it.

For those who don’t follow the sport closely, the Brewers did a mega-deal a few months ago bringing this young fireballing ace pitcher, Zack Greinke, into the fold. It immediately changed the complexion of the National League Central Division. Damn, the Brewers now have a PITCHING ROTATION!!!!

Then, a few days ago in a pickup basketball game, young Greinke dove for a rebound and wound up flat on his side – one rib busted, one rib bruised. (Ask my wife about how painful a broken rib is the next time you see her.) Greinke will be laid up at least a month, if not more. He was supposed to pitch the Brewers season opener in Cincinnati, on Thursday March 31st, but now….not so much.

Greinke admitted he was warned about playing these pickup hoops games, and sheepishly admitted that such activities have now come to an end, once and for all, broken rib notwithstanding.

I think it would be a GREAT thing to have him re-hab with the Timber Rattlers! I doubt that it will happen, but hey, I’m a Hortonville boy…I’m always up for a road-trip to Appleton!!!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I Had No Idea....(R.I.P. Robert E. Schultz)

My late father talked very little about his experiences in two theatres of combat during World War Two; that’s typical of a lot of the combat vets from what Tom Brokaw dubbed “The Greatest Generation.” I know dad saw a lot of really intense action, but he never talked about the medals he was awarded. When I’d ask him about such things, he’d just say “a lot of guys were doing the same things I was, and most of them didn’t make it home.”

I found out over the weekend that an old acquaintance, Bob Schultz, had passed away at age 87 in Oshkosh. Bob was somehow connected to the radio station I worked at; I was never sure how, because he didn’t actually work there, but I believe he was an investor. It was a long time ago – 35 years or so - and my memory is not clear regarding the particulars, but I sure remember Bob.

He was a friendly guy. Every time he was in the building, he’d stop by my office and chat. He had a great sense of humor and loved to tell stories. In the ten years or so that I knew Bob, and of all the stories he told, he never mentioned anything about his service to our nation. I found out in his obituary that Bob saw some of the bloodiest action during the Big War, and prior to shipping out to the Northern Solomons in the South Pacific, at one of the darkest parts of the war, Bob had a very high-profile assignment.

After his basic training, Bob quickly advanced in the Army and attained his third stripe (Sergeant) when he was only 18. His assignment was as head of security for the scientists secretly working on the A-bomb at Los Alamos, New Mexico. He was the personal escort for Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist known as the “father of the atomic bomb.” In my mind’s eye, I can imagine Bob when he was about 20 years old, acting as personal guard to one of the most famous scientists in history. I’ll bet Bob was an imposing physical presence….a big fellow, quick with a smile, but the kind of guy you would never “mess around with.” The kind of guy you could trust with your life.

The picture at the top of this post was taken in January of 1944 at the foot of Hill 260 on the island of Bougainville. The Army’s Americal Division (132nd Infantry Brigade), Bob’s combat outfit, had just relieved the Marine Amphibious Corps, and they got themselves into some of the bloodiest fighting in all the Pacific Theatre, defeating the Japanese forces that held the island. Bob’s outfit was in combat every day on Bougainville from early January until April 18th, 1944, when the last of the Japanese defenders were killed or driven off the island. If you saw any of the episodes of HBO’s series “The Pacific”, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg’s excellent portrayal of the war in the Pacific, you have an idea of how intense the combat was on Bougainville.

It amazes me that so many of these men who went to war in the 40’s and put their life on the line so many times, under such horrible conditions, came back and said so little about it. Men like Bob, whose service to our nation was nothing less than heroic.

Robert Edward Schultz of Oshkosh…friend…veteran….recipient of the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart…rest in peace. You will not be forgotten, nor will your service to our nation.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Saving Face (In the Budget Battle)

A week ago I posted a rant, titled “Stalemate”, about how I thought the 14 Democrat senators had essentially painted themselves into a corner by decamping to the Land of Lincoln. OK with you if I change my mind a bit on that one?

Most of the recent polls, including those done by right-leaning organizations, show that gradually more and more Cheeseheads are unhappy with Governor Walker’s intransigence and his insistence on dismantling public employee unions. Walker’s numbers are down, and are continuing to fall as more people outside Madison become aware of what’s really going on here.

Outside agitators (no, not Joe the “plumber”) like Michael Moore say the fight to maintain collective bargaining rights for public employee unions is being won, because other Republican governors are now backing away from similar plans to bust the public employee unions. Channeling Charlie Sheen, Jesse Jackson says the Democrat senators are “winning.”

I’m a born-and-raised Wisconsinite, and have lived much of my adult life here. I’ve lived in small, medium, and large communities in this state, and even though it may belie the Germanic steadfastness (read: stubbornness) that permeates much of our common ‘sconnie culture, we don’t like bullheads. And the lefties are apparently succeeding in painting Scott Walker as a bullhead, who refuses to compromise.

Anyone who’s ever been in a successful relationship with another human being has learned that in most conflicts, discussion leads to compromise, which leads to happiness. The protesters are succeeding in painting Governor Walker as a person who will not discuss or compromise.

Here’s the thing, though. If the 14 Democrats (and their supporters) want to “win” this conflict, they have to figure out a way to do it so Scott Walker doesn’t lose too much face. If he thinks he’ll be seen as “caving in”, he won’t budge, because it would further damage, if not destroy whatever’s left of his ability to “lead” the state.

And that’s something politicians have not been very good at for the past couple decades. They’d actually have to work together toward a common goal to end this stalemate, something none of them have demonstrated much ability to do.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Problem Nobody's Talking About

Health care cost. With all the wrangling about Emperor Walker’s budget, all the disagreement about collective bargaining “rights”, and all the yammering about public employee contributions to their health insurance plans, I believe the focus has been lost. The simple fact, to me, is that while we have some of the best and most advanced health care available on the planet, it costs too damn much.

And the explosively escalating cost of health care is a gigantic drag on our economy, both as a state and as a nation. Medicaid funding in Wisconsin is a huge powder keg: 1.25 million Wisconsinites get some sort of benefit from Medicaid. The funding is simply not sustainable. Costs have soared out of the realm of reality.

Back in the old days, so long ago that only people as old as I am can remember, our basic health coverage…and I’m not talking what they used to call “major medical”, like if you got drunk and fell down three flights of stairs and were in the hospital for a week….was run quite differently. If the doc wrote a prescription for you, you went to the drug store, paid for it, and then submitted the bill to your insurance carrier for reimbursement. You had a real and tangible sense for how much a little orange tube of 30 antibiotic pills cost. You paid for it, and then got reimbursed.

Now, you give the druggist your “insurance information”, and depending on your deal, you have some sort of co-pay. Simple course of antibiotics: five or ten dollar co-pay. Spend a day in the hospital: hundred-dollar co-pay, perhaps even a three-figure “deductible” cost to you. You have no idea what the actual cost is, unless you get a statement from your insurance carrier. All you know is your co-pay and your deductible.

When Emperor Walker gets his way with Medicaid in Wisconsin, thousands of people will be uninsured and will go to the Emergency Room as their “primary care physician”….and who do you think will end up paying for THAT?

Case in point, regarding medical costs. My 84-year-old mother inherited her ancestors’ trait of having toenails somewhere on the hardness scale between granite and chrome-vanadium steel. Every three months, she has to have her nails “debrided” at the doctor’s office. She told me the last time she went, she made her 30-dollar co-pay, and her new insurance carrier (Network) paid another 45 dollars – the agreed-upon rate for Network clients. Then, a few days later, she got a bill from the doctor’s office for $87.

This is the unethical crap that they do….the docs try to collect the difference between what they get from you and from your insurance company, and their “established rate”. Mom’s insurance carrier informed her she didn’t have to pay the bill, and thank heaven, she didn’t. But a lot of our senior citizens simply pay every bill they get, as a matter of course. It’s dishonest as hell, but health care providers do it all the time.

The debriding process takes approximately ten minutes. So, at $162 per patient, doing six an hour is just shy of a grand. Not bad for an hour’s work. Of course, from patients who understand the system, they “only” get $75…$45 from the insurance carrier and $30 from the patient. Still a pretty good chuck of change for ten minutes’ work.

From the smallest, least complicated procedure, to the most complex high-tech surgeries, medical costs have gone through the roof. Our health insurance system is a non-sustainable model and nobody seems to have the will to address this ruinous economic issue.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Persistent Myths About Events in Madison

I spent the better part of a day in the Fox Valley this week, and being a former news anchor, I’m constantly scanning news online from newspaper and TV websites, blogs, and social media from around the state. A few things seem to be popping up a lot.

First, what’s been going on in Madison the past few weeks is not a “riot”, although it’s being characterized that way by many media outlets. There’s the now-notorious Bill O’Reilly Show clip from Fox that shows a lot of short-sleeved people pushing and shoving, with palm trees in the background, as O’Reilly grills Fox’s “reporter on the scene” in the state Capitol. Oops.

One of the anchors on the local Fox TV outlet (Fox 47, which is owned by a company called Sinclair Broadcasting, and has NOTHING to do with Fox News, but rather is an affiliate carrying Fox programs) has had plenty of hate e-mail from people who think the TV station on the west side is somehow the same thing as “Fox News”. She’s been pointing out via social media that the news she reads on Fox 47 is locally-generated (by the news department at WKOW-TV, Channel 27 in Madison).

And there’s the persistent myth, particularly in the Milwaukee and Green Bay TV markets, that State Senator Glenn Grothman was in grave danger a few nights ago when he was “confronted and accosted” by demonstrators as he tried to get into the Capitol. (Because there’s no communication and much confusion about the ever-shifting rules about who can and can’t get into the Capitol, there are now at least two documented instances of Legislators being told by cops they can’t go inside the building. One was tackled by the cops last night, as he tried to get in to his office in the Capitol.) Grothman has been on several talk shows since the incident, which he laughs about, and confirms that at no time did he feel he was in danger. He confessed to having been a liberal in his formative years, and that he likes to “mix it up” – good-naturedly – with the protesters. But the myth about his being in grave danger persists.

Then there’s the belief, by many, that the core of the problem is the lavish “Teachers Union Pension.” My sister is a teacher in the Oshkosh school district, and I’m sure she has some great stories to tell. Apparently there’s widespread misunderstanding about what the State Retirement System is, who’s covered by it, and where its money comes from. There is, of course, no “Teachers Union Pension”, but I’ve talked to at least six people in the past week who believe there is. (Sorta like the birthers….our President is a Muslim who was born and raised in Kenya.)

I had a brief conversation with a man at a gas station in Rosendale Tuesday afternoon. He saw the Zimbrick license plate frame on my giant gas-sucking foreign-made SUV, and correctly assumed that I was from Madison. He wanted to know if I had been “down to the Capitol to see the teachers rioting”. He informed me that he and his hard-working pals were getting pretty fed-up with paying for the teachers’ retirement, and those bastards only work 9 months a year, and on and on. Then the conversation switched to how much it cost to “fill that beauty up” ($61 and change) and he jokingly asked if everybody in Madison was rich. As I continued my journey back to Madison, I thought how ironic it would be if the fellow I’d been talking with was a plow driver for Fond du Lac County, and that he, too, was covered by the “Teachers Union Pension”.

One other item: is anybody going to challenge the assertion that it’s going to cost 7.5 million dollars to “clean up and repair the Capitol”? Puh-leeze. The only way it could cost more than a few thousand bucks is if the DOA let a no-bid contract to Koch Cleaning.

Hey- I think I’ve just started another myth!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Shout Radio and the Budget Battle in Madison

If you think there’s little civility in the Capitol, tune in a Madison or Milwaukee shout (talk) radio station for a few minutes. It’s getting downright nasty.

This morning, WTDY’s Sly read aloud from the CCAP website, informing his listeners that Miss Vicki (shout-show host on WIBA in Madison and WISN in Milwaukee) has had dealings with a local utility company regarding non-payment of a bill. Sly was mad that on her Milwaukee talk show yesterday, she said exiled Senator Jon Erpenbach was living paycheck-to-paycheck and this his parents were helping support him.

Such is the grist of shout radio these days.

These two particular shout-show hosts do more yelling than all the other shout-show hosts in Madison and Milwaukee combined. Sly’s vocal outbursts are legendary, and often get him in a lot of trouble, when he devolves to name-calling. He frequently plays the sound effect of a cuckoo clock when he disagrees with a caller. (That’s pretty mild compared to the stuff he’s said about women like Robbie Webber, Condoleezza Rice, and Rebecca Kleefisch. )

Miss Vicki’s shout quotient has gone up considerably in the past couple weeks, particularly on her Madison afternoon shout-show. Odds are good that if you tune in at any given time, within a few minutes you’ll hear her shout down some caller who dares to disagree with her point of view. She’s far less tolerant than Sly of callers who don’t bark the party line.

Another delicious bit of broadcast irony: some of the biggest names in shout radio railing against the unions lately are union members themselves. Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glenn Boeck, and their ilk are ALL members of AFTRA, the American Federation of Radio and TV Artists. (Locals like Miss Vicki and Sly are not…..God forbid anyone at Clear Channel or MidWest Family should belong to a UNION.) El Rushbo and the others don’t mention that, nor do they seem to acknowledge that their ultimate hero (Ronaldus Maximus, as Rush calls Ronald Reagan) was president of the Screen Actors Guild.

Unlike my fellow Irishmen O’Reilly and Hannity, I’ve always put stock in the Celtic saying that he who raises his voice first in an argument has lost.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mahoney Misfires

I like Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney. I think he’s an excellent cop and an honest man, and I think he really does want to protect, serve, and do all those things we expect of a public servant who wears a badge and has sworn an oath to protect us. I’ve interviewed him countless times for news stories and have found him to be refreshingly honest and forthcoming. I’ve been with him many times in social situations.

But I think Sheriff Mahoney went a bit too far earlier this week when he said he would not ask the Deputies of the Dane County Sheriff’s Department to serve as “palace guards” in an effort to limit access to the Capitol building.

I think the Sheriff’s background as a union man – and his personal politics -came out a bit too much when he made the “palace guard” remark. It’s a complicated dance law enforcement authorities have to do, when it comes to pulling duty at the Capitol with the massive demonstrations of recent days. The Capitol Police are in charge. But under the same sort of deal that every rural and urban fire department and law enforcement agency in the area has, they frequently call on each other for help.

They call these deals “mutual assistance” agreements. As a resident of the Town of Madison, I know that if something big comes up, something too big for my township’s police or fire department to handle, that they’ll get immediate and unquestioning assistance from neighboring communities like Madison, Fitchburg, Monona, Verona, or wherever. It’s a good deal for everybody. Fires get put out more quickly, more lives are saved, and more criminals are caught. If some drunk is weaving down the Beltline at 2 AM, I know that every cop in the area…city, township, Sheriff’s deputy or State Trooper….will get involved.

And so it is, and it should be, whether there are 75 or 75 thousand demonstrators at the Capitol. Every law enforcement agency helps; and, no surprise, taxpayers all over the state wind up with the bill for the overtime hours run up by the cops.

It’s no secret that Dave Mahoney’s personal politics are quite different than Scott Walker’s. But cops aren’t Democrats or Republicans. They’re sworn officers. They took an oath to protect both Glenn Grothman and Brett Hulsey – no matter their own personal politics, left or right. (The scene of Hulsey assisting Grothman to get through the crowd and back into the Capitol yesterday was so surreal!)

So, the next time Sheriff Mahoney is questioned by the media about why his deputies are up there at the Capitol, it might be best just to say “like every other law enforcement agency in the state, we operate under mutual assistance agreements, and we’ve been asked to help out”…..and just leave it at that.