Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Going Down the Drain

Whether you care to acknowledge it or not, the three men pictured above are losers, each in their own way; collectively, they are the beginning of the end of the Republican Party.

Ronald Reagan – former union head – would not recognize them as Republicans.  The Tommy Thompson we knew as Governor of Wisconsin has nothing in common ideologically with these three, yet he now panders to the tea people and tries his best to distance the “new Tommy” from the record of the man who was the most popular governor in state history.

Mitt just can’t close the deal, because he can’t relate to regular folks.  Reagan could and did.  Carter couldn’t.  Clinton could do it in spades.  George Bush (dubya) was often described as a guy you’d like to sit down and have a beer with. His dad – not so much.  Obama is….well, I’m not sure.  But Mitt keeps putting his foot in his mouth talking about the “right height” of trees in Michigan, and how his wife drives a couple Caddies.

Newt is – I don’t know.  Not a factor right now.  He’s damn smart; thinks well on his feet and knows how to play to an audience, but – he’s just not “it”.  He can be and say very nasty things, and people just don’t like that.

The trio above represent an epic fail on the part of the Republican Party, akin to the sort of fail the Wisconsin Democrats have going for them in the inevitable Walker recall election.

And Santorini – well, he’s just plain bat-shit crazy, living in a 12th-Century world of hatred, fear, ignorance, and superstition.  Says Obama is a snob for wanting every kid to have a chance to go to college, a place Santorini calls –and this is a direct quote – “indoctrination mills” that “harm” the country.  He and that Nass asswipe from Whitewater ought to get along really well.  Yet all seven, or eight, or however many kids Santorini has, have gone or will go to college.

Santorini said John Kennedy’s 1960 speech about separation of church and state made him want to puke.  That’s the thing with a lot of these tea people: they only like the parts of the Constitution and Bill of Rights they agree with.  Sorta like the 60’s candidate for Dane County DA, Eddie Ben Elsen, who ran on a platform which said we should “obey only the good laws”.

Santorini’s “position” on women and gays is straight out of the small-town south of the 1930’s.  That crack his patron made about women in his day using an aspirin for birth control (holding it between their knees) was clearly indicative of the mindset of someone who has no understanding of the world we live in.  Alan Simpson calls Santorini “rigid and homophobic”; Arlen Specter says “it is not realistic for Rick Santorum to represent America”.

Santorini’s understanding of Roman Catholic doctrine and dogma is a world removed from the small Catholic Church I knew as a young man growing up in Hortonville; it was during the era of Vatican II and it was a tough time for the Polish Pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Rev. Leo Przybylski, who replaced the Hungarian pastor of my earliest years, Fr. Jaraslov Pulc.  Both men were more comfortable in their native tongue than English; refugees of the big war, I’m guessing; and Rev. Przybylski (pronounced “sha-BIL-skee”) struggled to adapt to the myriad changes brought about by his leader in Rome, but firmly believed that the church had to change with and adapt to the times to be relevant.  That’s something (change) Santorini is definitely not comfortable with, which to me makes his theology irrelevant – which is as it should be for a candidate for President, but since Santorini insists that religion is government, is more than a bit troubling.

But Santorini’s wife suggests her husband’s success is “God’s will”, and if so, we’d best set our clocks back about a thousand years.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Headed to Five Bucks a Gallon?

Increasing prices at the pump seem to be more of a self-fulfilling prophecy than a reflection of the marketplace.  When the media start doing stories saying there are predictions that gas will hit four bucks a gallon by Easter, and five bucks a gallon by this summer, voila!  It happens.

I’m convinced the free market has little, if anything, to do with this.

The “free market”, by the way, is a world market.  The U-S can do almost nothing to control the price of a barrel of oil; that’s done by the countries that produce the oil, a list on which the U-S is way down toward the bottom.  But anyone who’s observed the market can quickly point to many examples of domestic gas prices increasing while crude oil prices are decreasing.

Last week, when the price of gas rocketed up in Madison (and nowhere else in Wisconsin) the usual sources talked some ridiculous crap about a problem with a refinery in Washington state and Iran rattling sabers about the Strait of Hormuz.

I have nothing but a firm conviction to support my belief that oil companies jack up prices simply because they can; and they do it at a whim.

I had a relative (who passed away many years ago) who had more than a nodding acquaintance with the pricing strategies of major domestic breweries – back when big breweries like Anhueser-Busch were actually American companies – and he said back then one of the reasons it was so hard for local breweries to get a toe-hold was that if a local brewery started making a dent in sales of one of the major national brands, that brand would simply drop the case-price and up the advertising in that market, until their market share was recovered. 

This didn’t even nick the big brewery’s bottom line, because it would simply raise the case-price and drop the advertising budget in markets where there wasn’t a challenge.

I think this is what is operating, on a global level, with the oil companies.  Of course, where you buy your gas has more to do with where you are at the time you need it, than any sort of “brand loyalty” that may have existed in the past. 

The five largest private oil companies in the world – BP, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, Exxon-Mobil, and Shell – are phenomenally profitable entities.  Over the past decade they have booked nearly a trillion dollars in profits.  Yet, here in the US, since the oil companies walk both sides of the street by giving huge donations to the campaign coffers of both political parties, they’re on track to get 46 billion dollars in federal subsidies in the next decade.  Disconnect?  You bet.

So stand by to pay a lot more for a gallon of gas in the next few months.  The gas companies will be hiking prices mainly because they can, and will pocket more windfall profits.

The solution isn’t more drilling and domestic exploration.  The solution is to develop transportation technologies that break the stranglehold the oil companies have.

Don’t hold your breath.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ryan Braun: We'll Never Know

Nothing is secret any more.  People who are supposed to keep their mouth shut don’t.  Confidential, even secret stuff, is leaked all the time now.

ESPN did what it does: report sports news.

Associated Press (which holds the copyright to the photo above) did what all too many once-trusted news organizations are doing today: made a horrid mistake in first reporting Braun was suspended, and then blaming their mistake on a “typo”.

Braun did what all ballplayers who test positive do:  deny, deny, deny.

And while the word “herpes” is not to be found in any FACTUAL reporting of the Braun story, a lot of people think some medication Braun was taking for herpes is what caused the unusual spike in his PED test.

Far too many of my acquaintances used the word “innocent” in Tweeting or Status Updating about the Braun story yesterday, and too many of those acquaintances should know damn well that “not guilty” does NOT mean “innocent”.

Braun got off on a technicality, and that happens.  It happens in courts of law, it happens in life.

We’ll never know.

That said, Go Brewers.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Disappointed, but not Surprised

Russ Feingold.  Now a big-shot with the Obama reelection campaign.  Super-PAC money galore.  Of course, when it’s YOUR Super-PAC, it’s good; when it’s the other candidate’s Super-PAC it’s “anonymous special-interest money”.  Dammit, Russ – run for Governor.  You and Tommy would make for the most interesting election in state history, and to be honest, no matter which of you two is elected, the people of the state win.

Pat Richter.  Didn’t do what he said he was going to do, and put a note of reprimand into John Chadima’s file back in the late 90’s when a drunken Chadima asked a star UW football player to drive him home, and the kid got picked up for DUI.  The slime that keeps oozing from the Chadima saga is enough to make you puke.  Man, that jock club over there at the big college on the lake is one closed society.  Everybody’s got everybody else’s back.  Unless it’s a little guy.

The UW School for Workers.  They caved to pressure from that pissant Steve Nass and his blowhard mouthpiece Mike Mikalsen, and cancelled an art show scheduled next month which would have featured the art and creativity of the poster-makers, singers, songwriters, videographers and others who used their talents at the Capital uprising last year.  Never mind that a lot of this stuff was used recently in an exhibition put on by the Smithsonian; pecker-head Nass doesn’t like it and threatened the school’s funding if they went ahead with the show.

Rick Santorini.  Yah, I know that’s not his name, but that’s what I call him, because that’s what Tony Soprano called him.  You want to make the election about evil, birth control, abortion, and religion?  Really?  Really?  That’s what you got – Obama is a muslim and birth control is evil?  Nice platform, loser.

Winter.  This is it?  This is what you got?  Not a single snowfall of six inches or more this “winter”? Last December I dropped eleven-hundred bucks to buy a snorting beast of a snowthrower, which was used twice last year and not once so far this winter.  I’ve only used my little two-cycle one-stage snowthrower a couple times this year.  The minute I wrote the check for that snorting beast, winter packed up and left town. 

By the way, the photo of the cat, above, is one of the many intriguing images you get when you Google-image "disappointed".  I just thought it was cool.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Trifecta!

This morning, one of the local TV’s (I don’t want to say which one, but the channel number is somewhere between 26 and 28) made my trifecta of media lunacy.  First, in a post two below this one, I talk about the “reporter” for Politico who thought the state flag of Wisconsin was a union banner; second, in the post directly below, I talk about ESPN using the word “chink” in a story about NBA phenom Jeremy Lin; and today – well, as my wife said, if the news director of this local station was watching the morning show and saw this story, his breakfast probably started coming back up.

First, a bit of background.  (If you know Teagan Marti's story, you can skip the next four paragraphs.)

If you’ve been around Madison for a couple years, you know the story of Teagan Marti, the teen girl from Florida who came to the Dells a year and a half ago to experience a thrill-ride she’d seen on TV.  When she got on the ride, things went horribly wrong, and Teagan ended up free-falling a hundred-plus feet to the concrete below because the net which was supposed to catch her was not in place when the operator dropped Teagan.

She was taken by Med-Flight to Madison, where the miracle workers at UW Hospital and American Family Children’s Hospital worked diligently to save her life and give her the best chance to recover as much as possible from the horrible accident.  We saw the story unfold through local media reports for several months, and, as Meagan’s mom told the crowd Saturday night at Monona Terrace for the American Family Children’s Hospital gala, the family felt that “Madison had adopted them”, with the outpouring of love, care, support, and well-wishes the community showered on Meagan and her family while she underwent surgery after surgery and countless hours of therapy.

For those of you who don’t know, in the interest of disclosure, my wife is a Senior Public Affairs official with UW-Health, and she got to know the Marti family pretty well during the months they spent at Teagan’s side in Madison, before she was able to return to Florida to continue her re-hab.  At every milestone along the way, local media did an excellent job of covering the story, following both the story about Teagan’s uphill battle to recover as much as possible from the horrible injuries to her young body, and the story about the thrill-ride operator and why such a horrible thing happened.

As a highlight of this past Saturday-night's gala, the crowd of over a thousand donors and supporters of the Children’s Hospital at the gala were amazed when Teagan and her mom took to the stage to thank the people of Madison for their love and support.  Teagan stunned the crowd by walking, by herself, with the help of a walker, across the stage to the lectern.  And this morning, Teagan and her mom are holding a news conference with the UW-Health people to announce plans for expansion to the Children’s Hospital.

So, now, finally, to the punch-line of the trifecta.  On their Sunday newscasts, all the local TV news stations ran stories about how Teagan had overcome huge odds and is now able to walk, and all showed video of the capper to Saturday night’s gala, with Teagan walking across the stage.  This morning, a reporter for the TV station referenced above, a reporter who’s been in Madison – oh, a couple months or so – gave a live “news” report about the horrible accident at the Dells a year and a half ago, and – irony of ironies- as video of Teagan walking across the stage Saturday night is on the screen – this reporterette said “Teagan, who breathes through a tube and is able to communicate by blinking her eyes…”

Oops.   Copied one sentence too many from a report the station did a year and a half ago.

The point I’ve tried to make in the two prior posts, and am trying to make again in this one, is that incredibly stupid mistakes like this are happening far too often in national and local media.  There’s far too little supervision of the content that makes it on the air or on the internet.  Young reporters make mistakes, and that’s why they have to be supervised.

What it means is that the quality of what’s being billed as news is in decline for lack of supervision and training.  Nobody was really hurt by the stupid mistake this young reporter made this morning, except perhaps Teagan and her mom, if they were watching; and, the credibility of the TV station takes a small hit.

I've said many times radio is dying the death of a thousand cuts; and news in general seems to be headed in the same direction.  And we, the audience, are the losers.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

No Filter

ESPN has fired the drooling moron who wrote the phrase “Chink in the armor” (see above) to describe a poor performance by NBA sensation Jeremy Lin, has suspended for a month the anchor who read the words on the air, and has apologized to Lin and Asian-Americans in general for using the term “Chink” when talking about a person of Asian origin.

Far as I’m concerned, they should have canned the anchor’s ass, too.

Some people just have no filter between their brain and their mouth, and those people should not have a job in the media.  I have worked with radio and TV anchors who blithely read scripts on-air, with seemingly no connection between their mind and the crap they’re reading.  Years ago, when I was making money coaching radio and TV anchors, I would preach the gospel of proofreading EVERY script and “owning” every word you utter.

In my prior rant (below), about the clueless dweeb who thought the Wisconsin state flag was some sort of union banner, I decried the lack of any semblance of “editing” in the instant-news, gotta-get-it-on-the-net-or-on-the-air-NOW world of today’s 24-hour news cycle.

If the writer of the script is so clueless as to be oblivious that using “Chink” when writing about a person of Asian origin is likely to be offensive, there used to be at least ONE level of oversight, particularly at the level of “national” media, that would catch the reference and re-write the item.  Not any more.

Admittedly, it’s sometimes hard for the older generation – or, to be honest, at age 62, MY generation – to understand that many of the things we said and terms we used as children are now considered offensive and racist.  Case in point: a few months ago a county supervisor (no, not Dane County, but nearby) talked about “Jewing down” one of the vendors the county was dealing with, and then when called on his slur, this dimbulb asserted that “to Jew down” is a common “business” term that has nothing to do with religion.  (Proving again, as if more proof were needed, that denial is one of the most powerful forces.)

And we don’t need to cite Reggie White’s notorious speech to the state Assembly in March of ’98, when the Minister of Defense used just about every racial stereotype imaginable.

When I was growing up in the early 50’s in a small Wisconsin village, I didn’t even know what a “mick” was the first time somebody called me one; you regularly heard “kraut”, “jerry”, “frog”, “guido”, “Jap”, “Chink”, and a variety of other similar ethnic slurs.  We did know, even back then, that the n-word was not acceptable when speaking of negroes, which was the then-correct term for black folks, like our childhood heroes who played for the Packers or Braves.

Sometimes – when you see stuff like this ESPN gaffe – you wonder how far we’ve really come.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Politico Gaffe: It Really Happened

Probably millions of people have seen the image and story above, which appeared – briefly – on the politico.com site yesterday.  Politico pulled the story almost instantly, but in the internet age, nothing really disappears.

A lot of people thought this was a fake.  No reporter for a national organization that covers politics – particularly the organization’s White House reporter – would mistake the state flag of Wisconsin for a union banner.   Certainly some editor would have caught this incredibly stupid gaffe and spiked the story, right?


Donovan Slack – and by the way, she’s a “she”, not a “he”, as a lot of people have mistakenly referred to her – worked for the Boston Globe for 8 years before taking the job with politico.  When politico was inundated with derisive communications about the stupid mistake, it quickly pulled the story, and later made what serves as a retraction and apology in this day and age.

How can someone who’s had a decade of experience as a “reporter” write a sentence like the lead you see above: “It’s very clear what side President Obama is on here in Wisconsin”.  If you don’t know what’s wrong with that sentence, you’ve never had an editor correct your mistakes.  And how about “…two flags:  an American one, as usual…..”  What kind of semi-literate person would write that?  It looks more like the work of a blogger who’s never had any formal training in writing English.

My point is there’s an abundance of really sloppy stuff that passes for “journalism” these days, which was the theme of my Facebook post on this topic, a post that generated similar responses from a lot of former broadcast news people with whom I remain acquainted.

A couple examples from last night’s local TV fare: one station’s anchor did ten-second inserts promoting the station’s 10 o’clock news which teased “a horrible incident of alleged child abuse”.  ALLEGED child abuse?  You think the young girl in the story did this to herself?  Her parents may be alleged child abusers, but what we’ve got here is certainly not an incident of “alleged child abuse”.   And on an earlier newscast, one of the anchors referred repeatedly to “the one-year anniversary” of the protests in Madison.  (In English, it’s “first anniversary”, if you didn’t know; but news professionals SHOULD know.)

I guess what really bugs me, and apparently a lot of my friends who used to do news for a living, is that way too much stuff like this (“alleged child abuse”, “one-year anniversary”, the lunacy of the politico gaffe) is presented to the public – stuff that not that many years ago would have been caught in edit or review before it ever hit the airwaves or the internet.  The people who do the job today are all too often ill-prepared for the profession; no one mentors them, coaches them, or really supervises their work-product; and newsroom leaders who once would have caught this stuff are either gone, have taken a different job, or are just plain tired of the responsibilities of leadership.

I know I’m painting with a broad brush, because there are still plenty of people in the nooz biz that can write a snappy sentence in clear English with good grammar, who really care about being accurate, who are conscientious and thorough in their approach, and – unfortunately – who are pulled in many directions by the demands of a job which has changed dramatically over the past few years, with deadlines and demands on many platforms instead of one.

But stuff like the politico thing?  Absolutely inexcusable.  They should be ashamed, but I know they’re not.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Coming Shout-Radio Showdown

At the very pinnacle of shout radio, there’s a huge battle shaping up – one you may not be aware of if you don’t follow broadcasting news.

Mike Huckabee is going to go head-to-head with Rush Limbaugh.

Some background for those who don’t follow closely: Limbaugh’s show is the top-rated radio show in the nation.  It’s carried largely by hundreds of local clusters of radio stations owned by the largest radio group owner on the planet, Clear Channel.  Not all stations that carry Rush are owned by Clear Channel. WIBA-AM in Madison, the local Rush station, is owned by Clear Channel.  Rush is carried by other group-owned or locally-owned radio stations in markets where Clear Channel does not have a presence.

The second-largest radio group owner on the planet is Cumulus.  In the conservative Fox Valley, Rush is carried on WOSH-AM, which is owned by Cumulus.  Rush is also carried on WTAQ-AM/FM in Green Bay, which is owned by Midwest Communications.  Clear Channel does not own stations in the Fox Valley.  In Milwaukee, Rush is carried on WISN-AM, a Clear Channel station.  Perhaps now you understand why Vicki McKenna’s show is aired in Milwaukee and Madison.  It’s all Clear Channel.

In April, Cumulus is going to begin airing a three-hour national broadcast of Mike Huckabee, which will go head-to-head with Rush in the three-hour time period of 12N-3PM Eastern time.

Limbaugh says he runs a conservative radio talk show.  Huckabee says he will be a conservative doing a talk-show.  Perhaps a subtle difference, but – Huckabee has been known to do celebrity interviews (something Limbaugh never does) and take on topics far outside the realm of politics.

As if the head-to-head aspect isn’t intriguing enough, get this: in markets where Cumulus is presently running the Rush Limbaugh show, when Huckabee’s show starts the first week of April, Cumulus will kick Rush to the curb and put Huckabee on instead.  Regardless of how good Rush’s ratings are in that market, regardless of how much money the local station makes off ads sold in the Rush Limbaugh show.

As broadcasting insiders know, Rush will still be on a lot of really top-rated stations (like WIBA-AM in Madison), and Huckabee may well end up on second- or third-tier local AM stations.  Since there’s not a Cumulus-owned AM station in Madison, it’s conceivable that Huckabee could be picked up by a station like WTDY-AM, which originally carried Rush in the Madison market.  WIBA-AM ratings are top-tier; WTDY-AM barely makes a blip on the radar.

But what a lot of folks may not realize is that by Cumulus stations pulling off Limbaugh and putting on Huckabee, it’s more than just a programming change.  It will affect Rush’s revenue – how much money Clear Channel can rake in.  Rush is expensive:  50 million bucks a year.  He has 8 years remaining on his contract.  Huckabee works a lot cheaper – a reasonable guess would be in the 4-million-a-year range for his new radio show.

There’s a huge amount of “strategery” going on here.  As a friend of mine who’s a top national radio consultant says: “In a head-to-head battle, there are two rules: bring a big checkbook, and prepare to lose”. 

It’s gonna get real interesting in April.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Grammys Telecast

Since Television’s default position is “EXCESS”, the annual Grammy Awards telecast offers an unparalleled opportunity to display some of the best, and some of the worst, that the music world has to offer.

The show opened with Bruce Springsteen, and I’m sorry – I never “got” Bruce, and don’t own a single recording of his.  I love seeing Stevie VanZandt bounce around on the stage in his do-rag, but his whole music thing was spoiled for me by The Sopranos.  He’s Silvio Dante to me now.  And talk about awkward – Bruce’s “are you alive, America?” at the end of his song, on a night when obviously much of the focus would be on the death of Whitney Houston.

I was aware of who Bruno Mars is, but had no idea the kid could rock it as hard and as good as he did when he and his band performed “Runaway” about 15 minutes into the show.  I’ll be downloading a bunch of his stuff.

I had no idea LL Cool J could be so suave and polished as an emcee – I’ve seen him act, and he’s quite good; I’ve heard his songs, and some of them are quite good; but I had no clue he could so seamlessly hold a show together.  Major props to Cool James.

Butch Vig made a cameo; anybody from Madison should recognize him.  And there was the puzzling young man from Eau Claire, Justin Vernon, who named his band “Bon Iver” and beat some tough competition for best new group – and who obviously holds the Grammys in low esteem.

It’s a difficult task to decide who is, and who is not, featured on the Grammys telecast.  On the one hand, you have established mega-stars like Tony Bennett and Glen Campbell and the Beach Boys; and on the other, you’ll have artists whose names and songs will soon be forgotten.  Finding the right mix isn’t easy.

While nowhere near as outrageous as the MTV Awards show, the clothing many of the younger artists choose to wear is…..well, puzzling to an old fart like me.  What’s with the majorette baton that Lady Gaga dragged along with her?  And the lady with the unusual nun-like outfit, in fire-engine-red, accompanied by a man dressed as the pope?  And Katy Perry’s blue hair?  Or, for that matter, the tattered sport jacket and tired tie that Justin Vernon wore.

While many Grammys are passed out each year, only a handful are highlighted in the annual telecast.  There’s not a word (or song) about Jazz, Classical, or even (hey, this is Wisconsin) polka music – all of them categories that represent huge amounts of money spent by music lovers, and all of them categories which are recognized and awarded each year by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (the president of which gives a speech on the telecast every year about stealing music).

There was plenty of tribute to Whitney Houston, tastefully done, realistically prominent.  If only she could be allowed to rest in peace, while billions of people are able to continue to enjoy the stunning body of work that is her legacy.

But, since television’s default position is excess…..expect weeks of breathless reports about the latest bit of private minutia unearthed about her death by a relentless corps of “journalists”.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What Clint Said at Half-Time

So many of my friends have commented on social media about what Clint said in the two-minute Chrysler ad that ran during the Super Bowl.  Every talking head in the shout-radio and hate-TV realm took the bait and whined about it, from Karl Rove (you knew he’d hate it) to Charlie Sykes.

Like many of my friends, after the ad ran, my wife and I looked at each other and said, nearly simultaneously, “back it up and let’s watch it again”.  So we put the DVR in reverse and paid close attention to the replay.  We saw the footage of the demonstrations in Madison a year ago, footage which was properly licensed and sanitized by Chrysler to remove the Madison Teachers Inc. logos.   Footage which prompted a lot of people to incorrectly Tweet that it wasn’t the real thing.  We listened to what Clint said.

We didn’t see it at all as an ad for President Obama.  But it was easy to figure that blowhards like Rush and Rove would.  We saw it as a message that said great things can happen when we work together, and it’s time for us to stop being a nation divided and come together to solve our problems, not the least of which is to put people back to work.

The spouse of one of my friends saw the ad the same way, and later made some interesting comments on his wife’s blog.  He wrote “ I refuse to be defined by radio and tv political talking heads, and it’s time for all of us to ignore them. I am not at war with the teachers of my children, my state’s Governor, unions, General Motors, big banks, Planned Parenthood, Komen for the Cure, conservatives, liberals, recallers, tea partiers, or frankly anyone with whom I might disagree on some political issue of the day. I am on the same team as Clint, Barack, Scott, Herb, Nancy, Mitt, and even Tommy. We are Americans, and it is time to lick our wounds, perhaps revise our strategy a little, and come out for the second half determined to give it our all as one team. We can still win this one.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself, Pete.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The MMSD Achievement Gap: A 105-million-dollar "Solution"?

The Superintendent of Madison public schools proposes to spend 105.6 million dollars over the next five years to close the so-called achievement gap between black and white students in the Madison Metro School District.

How Madison of him!

Behavioral support staff; parent liasons; zero-hour (early morning) classes for the laggards; tiered system of staff diversity training; summer learning program; integrating cultural relevance into the staff development program; and on and on with the jargon, in Superintendent Nerad’s proposal.

We haven’t seen education jargon thrown around like this since the “Success For All!!!” days of the Cheryl Wilhoyte administration of the early ‘90’s.

It’s easy for fat old curmudgeons like me to throw stones from the sidelines.  But the response to the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy from Nerad was so predictable.  Throw a huge amount of money at the problem (with no attendant accountability mechanism for the administrators) and institute hackneyed “educational” solutions.  No mention of attempting to adapt best-practices from other communities who’ve tackled this problem; no real innovation.  No mention of what engineers like to call “root cause analysis” of the problem.

Let’s just look at the staggering sum of money involved - $105.6 million over five years, with “only” $12.4 million in the first year.  Wouldn’t you think the greatest expenditure for a massive “change” program like this would come in the first year?  But, this is the new political paradigm: announce a bold program – either to cut or increase spending, makes no difference – and load all the real cost or saving into the back end of the program.

Ever since my years as a snarky broadcast commentator, I’ve decried the fact that of the 100 or so employees of MMSD whose annual salaries are in the six-figure range, NONE are teachers; ALL are administrators.

Kaleem Caire’s vision of the Madison Preparatory Academy as a first step toward closing the achievement gap really rocked the world of the local education establishment with it’s out-of-the-box thinking and fresh new approaches.  The powers-that-be pushed back hard, and THIS is what they’ve come up with?

I wonder what Caire could do with a hundred and five million bucks.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Oh Puh-Leez!!!

So this (photo above) is the take-away from the Super Bowl half-time show?  This is what’s being discussed by all the talking heads this morning?


I was watching it on a 66-inch HiDef screen and didn’t even notice it.  So, this young rapper who calls herself “MIA” gave the finger, and so many people are “offended” by it that NBC issued an APOLOGY?

I’ve never understood why so many people get so wound up about this gesture.  It’s vulgar, but is it obscene?  Apparently the NBC censors think so; apparently a lot of censors think the same way.  Even the cable channels blur out this image, like A&E does on reruns of The Sopranos.

Ever since the Justin Timberlake-Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction, the NFL has been spooked about what it puts on at halftime of the Super Bowl.  We’re 8 years past that, and now this young Sri Lankan entertainer has set us back another 8 years.

Many news websites this morning are talking about the finger, giving it prominence over what was, I thought, a really good 15-minute presentation from a 53-year-old woman and a coterie of younger performers like Cee Lo.  Madonna obviously worked her butt off to master all the complicated dancing moves that are part of such a presentation today and gave what I thought was a memorable performance.

So some young rapper gave the finger during the performance.  So what?  Who are these people who are so offended by this?

The real obscenity of the Super Bowl this year is that the Packers weren’t playing.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Komen for the Cure: BAD Decision

Pictured above (Copyright The Christian Science Monitor) is arch-conservative Republican Karen Handel, failed candidate for Governor of Georgia, with her chief political crony, Sarah Palin.  The voters dumped Handel in the primary in 2010, and a few months later she landed a job as senior vice president of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the largest breast cancer charity on earth.

Handel’s ultra-conservative pal, Florida Republican Congressman Cliff Stearns, has launched a congressional investigation into Planned Parenthood, seeking to determine if public money was improperly spent on abortions.

In Handel’s new role with Komen, she managed to get a new rule passed saying Komen would not contribute to organizations which are under investigation by state, local, or federal authorities.  And yesterday, it was made public (by the Associated Press) that Handel had succeeded with her new rule in immediately cutting Komen funds to Planned Parenthood.

The total money involved is in the hundreds of thousands over the past five years, and that money has provided nearly 170 thousand clinical breast exams to low-income and uninsured women.

But because Handel and Stearns and their ilk have made it their mission in life to end Roe v. Wade, the clinical breast exams will no longer be funded by Komen.

Like me, you probably thought Komen was in the business of helping eradicate breast cancer, but now we find out Komen is in the business of foisting its narrow agenda on the public.

A suggestion, if I may: please stop giving any support, publicity, or money to the Komen people.  Instead, find a LOCAL breast cancer charity, and give them your money and your support.  There are many in Wisconsin; here in Madison I’d suggest you donate to the UW Carbone Cancer Center, which not only treats women with the dread disease, but through the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research may actually find a cure for the disease.

No pink ribbons, no political agenda.  Cancer doesn’t care about your politics.  Please give generously, but not to Komen.