Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

The handsome young man on the left is my dad, Bill Morrissey; the handsome young man on the right is Toni's dad, Mario Zarantonello. They both served in the big war. Dad served in Europe and in the Army of Occupation in Japan; Mario served in the Pacific. Dad was Army combat infantry, and Mario crewed on a B-29 in the Army Air Force. Both made it back home alive to start their own businesses and be successful family men.

In November, on Veteran's Day, I'm going to write a long post about their service.

But today is dedicated to the memory of the many men and women my dad and Mario served with who didn't make it back alive; and the many other soldiers, sailors, and marines who paid the ultimate price.

It seems a lot of people these days think Memorial Day and Veteran's Day are interchangeable or are the same thing. The distinction between the two holidays has been blurred by, among other things, a generation of broadcasters who don't know the difference and haven't been corrected.

They think today is a day set aside to honor all men and women in uniform, and not to specifically honor those who were killed in battle.

That's OK, I guess. I have no problem with anyone who takes time to honor those who serve their nation in the military for any reason.

Folks my age...and I turn 62 tomorrow....remember the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day because when we were kids, Memorial Day was called "Decoration Day", and it meant going to the cemetery to decorate the graves of soldiers who'd given their lives for their nation.

We knew the difference between a parade and a procession, another distinction which has been sort of lost in the shuffle.

You'll seldom hear folks my age say "Happy Memorial Day" because there's not much that's happy about observing the death of so many people - and, let's face it, mainly young people - who lost their lives in the line of duty.

Ours is the only house in our neighborhood that has the flag flying on this beautiful day. Not too many years ago, there would have been a lot more flags flying.

To those who gave their lives in the line of duty, thank you; rest in peace.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Not A Sufferer Of Fools

The picture above, which is copyright Television Wisconsin Inc., shows Hizzoner being sworn in – again – as Mayor of the city he loves. Of all the pictures I could have selected of my long-time friend, I chose this one, because it reminds me that Paul Soglin has strong opinions and does not suffer fools gladly. Many of you will recall that as the young lady was swearing in Paul at a meeting of the City Council, she flubbed one of the lines – and Paul corrected her, after making one of his trademark faces when she blew it.

Now, Council members and the public prints seem shocked that Soglin has spoken so bluntly about the fate of the Overture Center, and there’s plenty of fake outrage going around about it. Soglin told the Capital Times he expected the Overture Center’s latest bailout plan to “crash and burn”, and that he’d be left to pick up the pieces; then the State Journal editorialized that hizzoner was being too blunt and too negative.

And you expected…..?

Speaking his mind is one thing Paul has never had a problem with, and I know from having interviewed him on-the-air scores of times that if you ask a question Paul thinks is stoopid, he’ll let you know about it right away. 20-some years ago, when my wife (before she was my wife) and I were doing “Madison’s Morning News”, we had Soglin on the show to discuss some hot topic, and Toni asked him a question he didn’t like. (Let the record show that she threw the hardballs on that show – bless her Journalistic heart – while my contributions were usually along the lines of failed or veiled humor.) Soglin sputtered and snorted and said “that question does not advance the debate on this issue one iota”, or words to that effect.

Paul doesn’t pull his punches.

So when his predecessor appointed Paul to a commission to study the continually faltering finances of the Overture Center, Paul did it like he does everything: all in, or not at all. He made a detailed study and enunciated publicly the problems nobody wanted to talk about, and uncovered other critical bits of information that nobody had thought to look for. The sort of stuff that makes the arts mavens and politicians very nervous. Plain talk.

So, if Paul says the Overture Center’s latest bailout plan is going to crash and burn, and he hopes it doesn’t take the whole city financial structure down, and that he’ll be left to pick up the pieces, he’s not hyperbolizing. He’s telling it like he sees it. Yes, it’s blunt. Yes, it’s hard to take. There’s no sugar coating.

But I’d expect no less from Paul. And we’re owed no less, particularly when it comes to the Overture Center’s future.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Social Engineering?

That’s something the Democrats do all the time, right? From the very top, President Obama, trying to force European-style Socialism onto us, to the lowest ward-heeler in Madison, trying to drum up support for still another lefty candidate for some office or another to foist their liberal agenda on us.

The folks on the other side of the aisle, well, they’re too busy trying to balance the budget and create more jobs to have time to do any social engineering.

Except for school vouchers, so well-to-do folks get a little help in sending their kid to a private school.

And passing that Voter ID bill, which has nothing to do with social engineering and has everything to do about….well, I’m not sure what the voter ID law is designed to do.

Making sure that open-pit mine up north in the trout streams gets fast-tracked, to create all those jobs – that’s not social engineering. That’s jobs, baby: j-o-b-s.

Oh yes, and passing that law that will force Wisconsin cops to hold anybody who can’t prove they’re an American citizen or here in the U.S. lawfully….that’s not social engineering.

Privatizing huge swaths of government? Commerce? DNR? No social engineering there. Privatizing BadgerCare? Trying to dump SeniorCare? What’s social about that stuff? Damn, that Tommy Thompson was a socialist governor.

Locking down the Capitol building? Has everything to do with security and nothing to do with social engineering. And it keeps those smelly hippies outta the people’s haus.

And for God’s sake, can’t we once and for all make abortion a crime in this state? After all the work that nice Julaine Appling and that nice lady she shares a house with have tried to do to keep marriage safe for straight folks like Randy Hopper, can’t we at minimum go back to the days when it used to be difficult to get an abortion in Wisconsin?

Guns. Lots of guns. Guns for everyone. Guns everywhere. This has nothing to do with social engineering and everything to do with honoring the intent of our founding fathers and the framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Some of those amendments are really good!

Politics is just like herding sheep. You have to guide people to help them feel the right way about things.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

RoJo Speaks!

Our other U.S. Senator has been heard from! Ron Johnson appeared this morning on the Faux News Channel, to inform the anchors and anchorette that he’s been observing Washington D.C. from the inside for nearly five months now, and has concluded that “Washington is broken.”

Kudos to the Freshman Senator for using the appropriate “broken”, and not “broke.”

I don’t consume a great deal of political news, and I don’t spend a lot of time watching the Faux folks, but they’re in my regular morning scan of channels, and RoJo happened to be on when I stopped at DishNet channel 205. I didn’t stay around long enough to find out what the President has done in the past 24 hours that’s bad…something you can rely on Faux to provide every day….but I’ve got a nickel that says they ridiculed him for drinking Guinness in Ireland while Joplin was picking up the pieces.

While I’m scanning the TV band and slurping coffee, my wife is reading the morning paper, and most of the time when she hears the Faux people, she sighs audibly from behind the paper. She is a journalist to the core, and still can’t understand why I would spend any time watching Faux News. I’ve told her that I’d rather watch Gretchen Carlson bash the President – or do any other story – than to hear Ali Veshi prattle on, on CNN.

But I digress.

RoJo fielded softball question after softball question from Steve Doocy (who some months ago called CNN the “Communist News Network”) and then Steve hit RoJo up with a hard slider – if Paul Ryan’s proposed budget were to make it to the Senate as-is, would he vote for it? This is the kind of yes/no question most politicians are adept at dodging. But RoJo didn’t miss a beat and answered in the affirmative.

It’s the first time I’ve seen RoJo on TV since he was elected.

It was enough to hold me for another six months.

Friday, May 20, 2011

77 Square Miles....

I got an e-mail from a friend in the Fox Valley with a link to a story in the Wisconsin State Journal about Madison School Board member Ed Hughes’ harebrained idea to spend ONE MILLION taxpayer dollars to “bonus” the teachers, as a way to show appreciation for their work. Hughes abandoned the idea late yesterday, but the stench lingers.

The subject line of the e-mail said “Is This For Real?”

Back in February, 17 hundred of the district’s four thousand Madison teachers shut down the district for four days to protest at the Capitol. They got their pay docked to the tune of a million bucks. Hughes wants to spend the “savings” to give each of the four thousand teachers a $200 Buy Dane gift card and $60 to cover the taxes on the gift.

Never mind that the school board is going to have to increase property taxes AGAIN.

Never mind that the school board is constantly telling us it’s harder every year to deliver quality education because of fiscal restraints.

Never mind that the four thousand teachers were essentially given amnesty for their unlawful job action in February. The only consequence was their loss of pay for the four days.

Never mind the massive inconvenience their activity, justified or not, caused the owners of the school district. (That’s right, the OWNERS, not the “customers”, as one former Madison school superintendent with a heavy Arkansas accent used to call us.)

Whether you believe the teachers’ activism was justified or not, can you see how the rest of Wisconsin views the sort of foolishness that Hughes is suggesting? How it adds more grist to the mill for the Madison-bashers who use “Madison” as a synonym for anything wacky?

This kind of rogue grandstanding taints the efforts and reputations of other school board members, who are grounded in reality and are hard-working public servants fighting a constant battle for money and resources. (Board Member Lucy Mathiak called Hughes’ scheme “goofy”.)

And you wonder why they say Madison is 77 square miles, surrounded by reality.

(The image at the top of this post is copyright Madison Newspapers Inc.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Gettin' Old

I don’t know very much at all about Lady Gaga, except, of course, that she’s famous for being famous. My wife said “I wouldn’t know her if I walked by her on the street.” Forbes Magazine, famous for making lists of things, says Gaga is the most powerful celebrity on the planet.


Oprah could buy and sell Lady Gaga a hundred times over, but apparently Gaga has more Facebook fans and Twitter followers, which makes her more “powerful” under the Forbes metric. Oprah, by the way, was supplanted at the top of the list by Gaga, and Oprah is now #2.

That Bieber boy is #3, and if you haven’t seen him in the past year, welcome back from your extended imprisonment in some Arab nation. The rockers U-2 are #4 and Sir Reginald Dwight, a/k/a and d/b/a Elton John, is #5.

There are few people of any substance whatsoever, save for Oprah, on the list. The names are those of the court-jesters, jocks, and singers so many people go gaga over. Tiger Woods is #6 and LeBron James is #10, representing two of the most shallow and self-absorbed personalities you could encounter. A couple good movie-makers (James Cameron and Jerry Bruckheimer) are below the middle of the pack, and author Steven King is #79.

Of the whole mess of them, Steven King is probably the only one I’d enjoy meeting, and he’s the only author on the list. Johnny Depp would be fun, I’m sure, at a cocktail party. Blowhards Limbaugh and Boeck are on the list, of course, but no other left- or right-wing shouters.

Reese Witherspoon, a Stanford dropout, is probably as smart as anybody on the list, and I think she’d light up a cocktail party, too. Mark Wahlberg is on the list, and I’m sure my wife would LOVE to have a drink or two with him.

But this Gaga girl is the most powerful? Lord, I’m getting old.

At least the Kardashian girls didn’t make it. And Britney Spears didn't, either.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Rush to Dump Right-Wing Radio Shouters

Within the past few weeks, Glenn Boeck has lost his home in several of the nation’s largest radio markets, including New York City. He was pulled from a Madison station a couple months ago, but the reason was different. More on that, later.

As any broadcaster will tell you, shows like Boeck’s live and die on ratings, and Boeck is dying. His tiresome schtick no longer amuses the masses. The other headline in this story is the waning audience for Rush Limbaugh, which has been the top-rated radio national radio program since 1991, but that’s changing.


A new way of measuring audience, called the portable people meter (PPM). It’s from Arbitron, the broadcast ratings company. The way radio (and TV) audiences were measured for decades was by people keeping “diaries” of their viewing or listening habits. So, it was really a memory test, and a popularity test. It’s why radio stations say their call letters about 15 times every hour. You need to remember what you’re listening to, to write it down. But around the turn of the century, a far more reliable way of measuring radio listening was devised, and it is in some ways similar to the way TV viewing is now measured: using a device attached to your TV that records which station you’re actually watching.

The PPM is a device about the size of a pager, and it “hears” which radio station you’re listening to and records the information. Not every radio market is measured that way – yet – but slowly Arbitron is putting portable people meters in every radio market. Madison will be a PPM market soon. The bigger the market, the sooner the PPM arrives. And what the PPM is telling radio stations and advertisers is that Boeck is failing badly. And Rush is nowhere near as popular as had been thought.

It’s heinously easy to “game” the system of dairy-keeping; people tend to write down stations and programs they don’t actually listen to. But the PPM can’t be gamed like that. It simply keeps track of the radio station you’re actually listening to, wherever you are.

Boeck has lost his gig in some really big radio markets in the past few weeks, because PPM data shows people simply aren’t tuning him in, and, in the radio biz, that means you’re gone. Stations that carry Rush Limbaugh are having their eyes opened in the PPM markets, discovering there’s a huge difference between “diary” reports and PPM data. Dairy-keepers apparently were reporting listening to Rush when they actually weren’t. Practically, what this means for radio stations that carry Rush in PPM markets, is that they can’t charge as much for ads in Rush’s show, because they’re delivering a smaller audience.

It’s not the “death of right-wing radio”, as some are saying. But as the PPM moves into more and more radio markets, we’re discovering that Rush doesn’t have nearly as big an audience as was once thought. Boeck’s antics that drew so many advertising boycotts were one thing when he had strong ratings, but now that his ratings have eroded, he’s going….going….gone in market after market.

As to Boeck’s demise in Madison….I don’t think it had anything to do with ratings. Boeck was on a station that for years has been at the bottom of the ratings in Madison, and Boeck’s show was dumped at the height of the capital protests against the Walker administration. Boeck’s show never fit with the lefty programming of the station, and it was probably a convenient time to show him the door.

Sean Hannity must be very nervous.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Big Fun for Tommy!

Tommy Thompson is “thinking seriously” about running for Herb Kohl’s soon-to-be-vacated seat in the United States Senate!


Where have we heard this before? Oh, in…1999, 2005, 2007, 2010…..Tommy’s always thinking about running for something, and he apparently loves the attention.

The last time he got half-way serious was his half-assed run for President. It was a little more than four years ago (May 4, 2007) in a Republican Presidential “debate” in California that Tommy made the famous gaffe saying private businesses should have the right to discriminate against gay people. The next morning, as scores of Wisconsin news anchors (like me) ran the story in the A-block (the first four or five most important stories of the day), Tommy’s folks arranged a call to CNN so he could “clarify” his response.

Said he didn’t hear the question correctly, which seems a plausible answer. No candidate would be dumb enough to give such a response in a national “debate” – with the possible exception of that Alaska woman. Tommy told CNN he championed gay rights in Wisconsin 25 years ago.

Except that was a lie.

In 1982, State Representative Tommy Thompson (R-Elroy) voted AGAINST the gay rights bill, which passed the Assembly and was signed into law by Governor Lee Dreyfus. John Roberts, the CNN anchor conducting the interview, wasn’t sharp enough to catch the lie, and obviously his staff didn’t do its homework before the interview.

I suppose it would be piling on for me to mention a few of Tommy’s many other gaffes, like his drunken welcome home performance at Lambeau Field after the Pack won the Super Bowl in 1996, and his 1995 “stick it to ‘em!” speech to a crowd in northern Wisconsin, proposing the tax district in the Milwaukee metro area that would fund the construction of Miller Park. Even back then, in the infancy of file-sharing, news audio clips got all around the state in one big hurry, using phone lines (before the internet came along). Tommy apparently thought word of his speech would never get back to Milwaukee.

So Tommy is up to his old tricks, threatening to run for some high office. Who knows – he may even be serious. I hope he does run. I can’t wait for the myriad new YouTube moments he’ll create.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Ya Done Good, Young Man!

This shot was taken a few years back, when our son Dru embarked on his journey through higher education. He was accepted directly into the UW College of Engineering, because there was no math problem his teachers at Madison LaFollette High could throw at him that he couldn’t solve.

Funny thing is, he never mentioned anything to us about wanting to be an engineer.

So, he did a couple years in Engineering College, and then decided it wasn’t for him. It came as no surprise. Like many bright people his age….18….he didn’t really know what he wanted to be when he grew up, and when his teachers and counselors pushed him into Engineering, he went along with it for a couple years, but hated it and withdrew from the UW.

He went to work for a few months, and then jumped back into higher education. He took a few business courses at MATC, and caught fire. Found out he could read a spreadsheet like a champ and do debits and credits in his sleep. He fought his way back into the UW, which admitted him to the School of Business “on probation”, and he promptly wound up on the Dean’s List every semester from that point on.

A couple months ago, at an interview session set up by the UW Business School, he landed his dream job with Deloitte, one of the biggest accounting firms on the planet. This summer he’ll start work in their Milwaukee office – but he’ll probably do a lot of his living on airplanes and in hotels the first few years.

Saturday afternoon, he’ll walk across the stage at the Kohl Center and they’ll hand him the sheepskin; a few days after that, he takes the second part of the multi-part CPA exam, and a few weeks after that, he’ll have that hurdle behind him, and it’s on to his professional career.

He did it all on his own. His mother and I couldn’t be prouder of this bright young man.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rejoicing In Death

Yes, I was happy that bin Laden was killed. I’d fallen asleep before the networks broke in a week ago Sunday night, and woke up Monday morning May 2nd to read a headline crawl on Channel 3 that said bin Laden had died. A few seconds later, my wife popped her head out of the door to the bathroom in our master suite, and said “did you hear that bin Laden is dead?” I said I’d just read the headline, and assumed the bad kidney got him. A moment later, just after 5:30 AM, my friend Rob Starbuck delivered the stunning news. I got out of bed and told my wife about the SEAL team, just before she jumped into the shower, and she did a quick fist-pump.

Had I been writing headlines for radio or TV that morning, I would have said it the way the State Journal did that morning: bin Laden KILLED. I believe it is safe to assume that there was never a plan to capture him. No possible good and a great deal of bad would have come from his capture. I’ll go to my grave believing the SEAL team shot the sonofabitch in cold blood the minute they entered his bedroom. But, there’ll always be cover stories that will obscure the truth, which we’ll likely never know.

Then there were the predictably stoopid comments about how bin Laden was unarmed at the time; and the massive hand-wringing on social media about whether or not it’s OK to rejoice in someone else’s death, and the flurry of false quotations (the fake Martin Luther King quote about not rejoicing in someone else’s death is just one of the many that circulated), and the spate of fake photos that surfaced purporting to show the dead terrorist’s mangled face.

He’s gone and good riddance. I have no compunctions whatsoever about taking pleasure from the result of the meticulous planning and incredibly courageous action of our intelligence operatives and Special Forces. Job well done.

I do take issue with the scores of louts who made the most noise, pounding their chests, chanting “USA, USA, USA” as though we’d won a World Cup Match and acting like they had some connection to it. As Bill Maher said, these are the people who were in their underwear, drinking beer and eating Cheetos, watching Celebrity Apprentice when the news broke, and act like they had some personal connection to the mission.

I’m old enough to clearly remember what happened after Jimmy Carter’s failed mission to rescue the Iranian hostages. There was plenty of courage demonstrated by a lot of people back in 1980 during Operation Eagle Claw. It was the failure of that mission which gave birth to the Special Operations Command that made the mission to kill bin Laden a success.

And I am unabashedly happy they succeeded.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Best. Mom. Ever.

The photo above was taken a year ago in April. Mom and her three sons. That’s me, standing behind mom, with my younger brothers flanking her: Patrick to the left of the photo, Michael to the right. Good Irish names: Timothy, Patrick, and Michael. We have three sisters, Lynn, Mary, and Erin. That’s right, mom (and dad, God rest his soul) raised six kids.

Mom was born Pauline Mary Samer in Oshkosh in 1927, so she’ll be 84 in December. She met my dad, William James Morrissey, in 1947, shortly after dad and General Patton had just won the big war. It was at a dance at a pavilion in Oshkosh that doesn’t exist any more. When they started to talk seriously about marriage, mom took dad home to meet her mother. Grandpa Samer had already passed on, and that’s a long story for another time. Mom’s older sister, my late Aunt Virginia, had set the table with the Samer’s finest plates and cutlery in anticipation of dinner to meet Pauline’s beau.

At that introductory dinner, dad was paraded into the dining room to see the gorgeous table-setting, and then Aunt Virginia said to grandma “there- he’s seen it; he knows we’ve got fine china and good silverware; now I’m going to put it away and set our regular dishes because I’ll be damned if I’ll wash all this stuff.” Mom was, of course, mortified, but Aunt Virginia’s straightforwardness charmed him, and dad loved to tell the story.

Mom and dad got married on dad’s 24th birthday, June 5th of 1948, and I was born a year later, May 31st of 1949. Mom’s physician, Dr. Wagner, had told her she’d never have children. I was the first of six.

Mom was 21 when I was born, and was constantly scared she’d “do the wrong things” with me. She had all the Dr. Spock baby books you could buy, and constantly sought advice from her mother and my dad’s mother. She needn’t have worried. She was the best mom a kid could ever have.

I’ve thanked her countless times for constantly reading to me when I was a child, giving me a lifelong love for words and writing and reading. She gave me love, guidance, discipline, patience, support, and continues to this day to be a loving and concerned parent and grandparent. I hope some day my kids will say the same about me, because whatever I learned in that department I learned from mom.

Pauline Mary Helen Samer Morrissey. Best. Mom. Ever. Happy Mother’s Day.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Why I Hate Paul Ryan's Scheme

I am unalterably opposed to any “reform” that gives more power or money to “the private sector” when it comes to health care; and that means health insurance companies and the business organizations doctors have formed, with professional sounding names like “Pediatric Associates” and “City Oncology Associates” and such.

Yes, I want the government to be in charge of health care; I want a single-payer system; and I’m not worried one bit about government bureaucracy bungling things or death panels or anything else Sarah Palin and her ilk can come up with, on a par with the now-ubiquitous pejorative “Obamacare.”

There is a rich history of rants against our present system of paying for health care here on this blog site. Every couple months, something happens that reminds me why I have no faith in health insurance companies or large organizations that employ health care professionals. Add this rant to the long list.

A month or so ago my dentist told me I had to have tooth #20 extracted. It had a three-way root canal some years ago, but was rotting out from the bottom up. No more putting it off. The geometry of my teeth was altered by a car wreck 46 years ago, and tooth #21 is damn near sideways in my mouth. So pulling out the one next to it…#20….was, my dentist figured, a job for an expert, and he referred me to a huge local outfit with multiple locations, with one of those fancy-schmancy names like “Inside Your Mouth and Around Your Face Surgical Associates.”

The day of this “oral surgery” I was tasked to fill out page after page of information about my health, my meds, my mouth, and my insurance. When I got to the insurance page, I said to the lady “I do not intend to make a claim for this extraction; I know they won’t pay for it. I’ll be paying for it myself and don’t want to fill out all this insurance stuff.” After a long “discussion”, I agreed only to tell her that my carrier was Unity. Apparently this was in case everything went wrong in the extraction and they had to haul me off to a real hospital.

After the extraction, I paid for the service before I left the building. It was around 300 bucks.

Yesterday, the government came into our secluded cul-de-sac and delivered a piece of mail from my insurance carrier, with an “explanation of benefits” – or, more correctly in this case, explanation of no benefits – telling me why they weren’t going to pay for my extraction.

That’s right: the “inside your mouth and around your face surgical associates” , even though I had paid the bill in full immediately following the rendering of their services, went to the trouble to correlate my name with the insurance carrier’s database (or whatever) and went right ahead and tried to collect TWICE for the extraction.

I’m sure of two things: one, that this dental surgery group deliberately tried to scam the insurance company….what the hell, worst that can happen is they’ll hear a “no”….and two, I’d rather deal with government bungling than outright fraud. And that’s why young Mr. Ryan, who is one of those “career politicians” so reviled by the right in the past election, can take his charts and graphs and PowerPoint presentations and stick ‘em right up there where the proctologists roam.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What Have We Done To Cause This?

Every so often, the “global warming Johnnies”, as my friend Steve likes to call them, pop up and smack you in the face. That’s what happened to me late last week, as I gazed upon the NBC Nightly Nooz with Brian Williams.

The weather authorities had warned us on Wednesday that the next few days would likely bring conditions right for tornados (or, if you’re a weathercaster, “tornadic activitiy”, or, if you’re Bob Lindmeier, “turnadoes” – just givin’ ya the biz, Bob). The Weather Channel actually did a “breaking news” segment to announce that for the first time in history (which, in this case, consisted of about two weeks) Dr. Greg Forbes (resident bad weather expert) had issued a TOR-CON TEN alert for parts of the south.

For the uninitiated, “Tor-Con” stands for Tornado Condition, with an eleven-step scale from zero to ten, a new marketing creation of the Weather Channel. Dr. Forbes was saying, in effect, that the certainty of tornadic activity in parts of the deep south was 100%. This is news of such magnitude that the Weather Channel folks had to do a special report simply about the TOR-CON TEN prediction.

Meanwhile, all the big news networks had mortgaged themselves to the hilt to send every possible operative over to London-town, to cover the big wedding. It soon became apparent that they were going to get caught with their knickers down, weather-wise. Dr. Forbes was right; all hell broke loose and a lot of people lost their lives and a lot of property got destroyed.

My wife and I watched the play-by-play of the tornadic activity on the Weather Channel that night. All the other usual cable news outlets -CNN, MSNBC, Fox, were gaily broadcasting sneak-peeks of the Royal Wedding to come. They had a massive investment in that wedding and by God they were going to run that programming.

The next night on NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams, summoned back from London to the colonies by some senior GE exec, was turned out in jeans and a chambray shirt, standing in front of a pile of rubble in Tuscaloosa, with the aforementioned Dr. Forbes. (For those who don’t keep score, GE owns both NBC and the Weather Channel, and often the two “combine forces.”)

Williams put his foot up onto the remnants of someone’s home, stared earnestly at Dr. Forbes, who had just given a summary of the devastation, and said “What have we done to cause this?”, allowing the good doctor to launch into a spiel about global warming.

Just as Al Gore pretended his PowerPoint presentation (“An Inconvenient Truth”) was science, Brian Williams pretended that his question to Dr. Forbes was news.

(The image at the top of this post is copyrighted by

Monday, May 2, 2011

It's Time To End the Mifflin Beer Blast

There will be howls and protestations from the younger set, but it’s time to put this disgusting display of drunken excess to bed. Two stabbings – one college kid stabbed in the butt, so drunk he didn’t even know it – and three cops hurt; a sea of urine and vomit; and the only reason for the annual party is that, well, that it’s an annual party.

This year’s over-the-top iteration had one of the original 1969 Mifflin Street Block Party attendees…no, not me, but the one who happens to be Mayor again….telling the media at the event he was praying for rain to wash out the party, and telling the public prints Monday morning that it’s time to put it to bed.


The photo above was taken at the Mifflin Beer Blast in 2005. Far left is Madison Police Officer Lund; my son, Dru, is next to him, swilling a cup of some no-doubt evil brew; Dru’s best friend Chaise is kneeling in the foreground of the photo; next is Madison Police Officer Scheller, standing next to Officer Scheller is my daughter Mallory and next to her, at the right of the photo, is her BFF Brianna. I have no idea how the cops summon the patience to put up with what has become an early-party ritual of having their photos taken with the revelers.

In my on-air days, I referred to the event as the “Mifflin Street Beer Bash”, which drew chuckles from the alder representing the district, Mike Verveer, but I read in the State Journal this morning that even Verveer, longtime vocal support of the blast, has said it’s time to put it to bed.

The Beer Blast has had its ups and downs in recent years, but the gendarmerie says this year’s was the drunkest ever, and I have no reason to doubt them. A few years back some UW football player beat the crap out of somebody; the year the photo above was taken, 2005, was a fairly calm year. In 1996, it was cold; the drunks started fires in the street to stay warm; it turned into a riot (and yes, it was a riot) when firefighters came to put out the fires. The next year was tame, because strict controls were established, controls which were gradually relaxed.

There’s always been a troubled relationship between alcohol and the UW. Badger football game-day has always meant drunken revelry; the Halloween beer blast on State Street at least was centered on an “event”…Halloween…but it got so rowdy then-Mayor Cieslewicz said “shut it down” about five years ago, and then agreed to turn it into a gated and controlled event called “FreakFest”, which tamed things down considerably.

There will be angry rants in the coming days from the younger set about “the fun police” shutting down “their celebration”, as Mayor Soglin makes moves to either control the beer blast or shut it down, but the anger of the young will fall on deaf ears at City Hall. It’s an event that’s morphed into an ugly beast again, which the UW Student Association has repeatedly refused to take responsibility for or control of, and it’s time for this dinosaur to lurch into the grave or be put into captivity for its own good.