Tuesday, January 31, 2012

There's A Lot of Ignorance Out There

Fearless Leader had no idea there was a completely separate and clandestine e-mail system for secret use by staffers campaigning on the public’s dime.

Kelly Rindfleisch learned NOTHING from the caucus scandal a decade ago, and thinks she’s smarter than the FBI.

Barry Alvarez was aware that at certain unspecified times in the past, there may have been some parties connected to Rose Bowl activities held by high-ranking lieutenants where booze was served to underage drinkers, but knew nothing of Chadima’s party.

Glen Grothman and his ilk have no idea that every study done in the past four decades shows clearly that teaching abstinence doesn’t work.

El Rushbo thinks Newt Gindritch is an exemplary man for informing his wife that he wanted an open marriage, rather than just sneaking behind her back and carrying on.

I guess these examples fall into two general categories: plausible deniability and hubris.

On our next edition, we’ll examine historical evidence of ignorance, including the idea that Iraq had WMD’s and yellow-cake uranium.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

One Big Question about the Chadima Report

As one of my friends said on a social media site this morning, “Worst time ever for a crotch-grab”.  With the news about Penn State being blared on all media 24/7, John Chadima apparently got drunk and fondled the genitals of a student-employee of the UW Athletic Department.

My question, after having read every word (save for the redacted names) of the report, is not for Chadima, or Barry, or the 4-member panel that undertook the official investigation.   I’m not sure at whom my question is aimed, but it involves UW Police Lieutenant Jason Whitney.

My question is: since it was widely reported by a number of credible local news media that no police agency was involved in the Chadima debacle, why does the report clearly indicate Lt. Whitney was informed of the sexual assault, and where is the official police report?

My question is out of ignorance.  Is it not necessary to file a report when a sworn officer is told of an (at that point, one assumes) “alleged” sexual assault?  When the UW Police Lieutenant was informed of the incident, did he interview either the complainant or the alleged perpetrator, and if so, is there some sort of report on it?

The only reason I ask is not to throw mud at Lt. Whitney or call into question the actions taken by the UW in officially dealing with this incident.  As an old-fart former news anchor, I wonder why, when the local media asked if there was ANY police agency involved in the Chadima thing (the questions were posed when we had no idea what Chadima’s resignation was about), the UW said NO police agency was involved.

My question begs another question: will sexual assault charges ever be filed against Chadima?  Is it not a sexual assault if the victim decides not to “press charges”?  I’m really exposing my ignorance here.

Years ago, I went through some media training offered by the Madison Police and a local law firm regarding what constitutes sexual assault, what constitutes the various degrees of sexual assault; and, I’ve had no small amount of “management training” on the topic of sexual assault and what constitutes a hostile workplace.  I also know, as do most adults who’ve worked with others, that there’s a hell of a lot of sexual assault that never gets reported.

The way I understand it, if actual unwanted touching of genitals is involved, it’s second-degree – not fourth degree, as many of the media are reporting it today.  I’m not sure where the media got their information on this, and perhaps the laws, rules, and interpretations have changed, but when I went through the training, saying something boorish like “nice ass!!!” was fourth-degree; but if there was actual unwanted touching of genitals….not groping through clothes….it was at least second degree.

I guess that’s why I’ve enjoyed reporting, writing, and delivering news for the past four decades: I’m curious about this stuff, skeptical of authority and officialdom, and always full of questions.  If I were actually working this story, I’d ask the questions I pose here to a competent authority on the issue.

I understand that big-time collegiate athletics is very much a tight-knit and closed society; I’m not surprised in any way that the victim of Chadima’s advances was so clearly concerned that his report of the assault not upset the team, which was preparing for the Rose Bowl; nor am I surprised that the UW kept a lid on this thing until the independent investigation was released.

I am surprised at Chadima’s disgusting and completely inappropriate use of power and force, threatening to fire student-employees who didn’t do what he asked them to do.  I am shocked at his incredible lack of judgment in getting involved in a type of incident so similar to what happened at Penn State, while that story was still very much in the news.

And I hope somebody who knows more about this than I do will be able to answer my question.

And to Channel 27’s Tony Galli: you scooped everybody.  Congratulations.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Why He Won't Recuse Himself

The short answer is, because to do so would be an acknowledgement that he did something wrong.

I refer, of course, to Herr Goebblemann (Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman), the most recent ethically-challenged Justice to be elected to the highest court.  He accepted two years’ worth of high-priced legal counsel from the Milwaukee law firm Michael, Best & Friedrich.  Those lawyers really ought to use the Oxford comma in their business name instead of the ampersand, if you ask me….and nobody did – i.e., Michael, Best, and Friedrich.

The deal was, in essence, we’ll give you all the counsel you need on the ethics charges, and if at the end we can’t stick the taxpayers with the bill, we won’t bill you.  This is called “contingency billing” and lawyers do it all the time.  It’s the same concept as “no fee if we don’t win”.

A lot of folks like me think it’s wrong to offer a contingency arrangement for defending a sitting justice on ethics charges.  Ordinary folks like you and me would never be able to get such a deal.  If we got the can tied to our butt by the boss after being caught doing something which violates the “moral turpitude” clause (if there is one) of our employment contract, you can bet there’s not a lawyer in the state who’d take such a case on a contingency basis.

Be that as it may, lawyers are also very familiar with the concept “admission against interest”.  An example might be, if the cop pulls you over for speeding, and you say “I didn’t realize the speed limit here was 35” – you’ve sort of admitted that you were going more than 35 mph, and the cop might want to write you a ticket for inattentive driving, as well.  That’s why the best counsel when you’re pulled over for ANYTHING is to answer directly only the questions the cop asks, and not volunteer ANY other information.

For Herr Goebblemann to recuse himself from cases where Michael, Best & Friedrich are involved as counsel to the party or parties involved would be to sort of admit that taking all that free legal advice from MB+F was wrong.  Now, us ordinary non-lawyer folks know it was wrong for him to get all that free legal service, but for him to acknowledge that there even might be a QUESTION that he can’t be impartial about it would be…….yup, a sort of admission against interest.

I’m sure that some bar-admitted lawyer reading this rant could point out flaws in my logic and/or analogies.  So be it.  This is something Herr Goebblemann’s colleague, the Gut-Check Judge (Justice Annette Ziegler), knows a thing or two about.  She sat in judgment on cases involving her sugar-daddy hubby’s bank in West Bend, and said she did a “gut-check” before taking the case to see if she thought she might not be able to be impartial when dealing with a case involving hubby’s bank, and sure enough, those gut-checks never prevented her from judging a case!!!!

But you see, that’s the thing.  These folks NEVER seem to be able to determine what’s a conflict of interest, and what isn’t.

We need to help them see more clearly when they’re up for re-election.  (Which in Justice Ziegler’s case is 2017, and in Justice Gableman’s case, 2018.)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Radio Is Dead

I have a friend who spent years as a radio broadcaster, who when asked recently to speak to a group of broadcasting students at a state university said “radio is not a sustainable career”.


The business of radio broadcasting was destroyed by federal deregulation.  Like a cancer that doesn’t kill you overnight, but gradually saps the life from you, deregulation was the first step down the road to mass consolidation (a handful of companies like Clear Channel and Cumulus own thousands of radio stations), which led to unsustainable debt financing, which led to mass layoffs of the very essence of local radio – the on-air personalities and news professionals, and when the economy went sour a few years ago, it sealed radio’s doom.

This past weekend, a sad case on point surfaced: the owner of KXLI-FM, once a powerhouse hundred-thousand-watt station serving Las Vegas, was put up for sale on eBay.

That’s right, eBay.  Talk about irony: new media consuming old media.

The owner of KXLI-FM, Scott Mahalick, paid 22 million dollars for the station five years ago.  As of this morning, the highest bid for the station on eBay was under a hundred thousand dollars.  The site offers a “buy-it-now” price of 8.9 million dollars.

A couple more facts in evidence:  Bain Capital, the Mitt Romney company, had a HUGE role in the Clear Channel financing scheme, and those of us in the biz are well aware of the thousands of Clear Channel radio employees who have been laid off (fired) in the past couple years.  This has nothing to do with Mitt’s politics or my politics; it’s simply a fact: venture capitalists have played a huge role in killing local radio.

What’s happened to “local” programming under mass consolidators like Clear Channel and Cumulus?  Since they have so few remaining on-air employees, yesterday afternoon’s NFL playoff game between the 49’ers and Giants was carried live on all seven of the Cumulus-owned stations in San Francisco.  It’s simply cheaper to carry the same programming on seven stations, which is absurd from an audience-generating standpoint, than to have to create individual programming for all seven.  Economies of scale run amok.

I would say “Mommas, don’t let your babies grow up to be radio broadcasters” – but I think by the time a child born in the past five years reaches age 18, there will be no more local radio.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Somebody Wake Up Barry

When they told Barry the city of Madison stood to lose about 12 million bucks if the WIAA basketball tournaments moved to Green Bay, his response was….and I quote…..”ZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzz”.

So let’s just let Barry sleep a while longer.

For those not following the game, the WIAA is considering moving the boys and girls state basketball tournaments out of Madison because there’s a conflict in scheduling March Madness.  Come next year, the Badgers Hockey team will be competing in the newly-formed Big Ten Conference, and there’s a chance….a chance….that the Big Ten Hockey Conference will want to play its championship games at the Kohl Center.

For the moment, let’s set aside the idea that playing the Big Ten Hockey Conference’s championship games at the home rink of a member institution is a flawed idea, and that there are plenty of other neutral-ice venues which are capable of hosting such an event.

Let’s instead talk first about the emotional aspect of the WIAA state basketball tournaments.  If you’ve ever been a student or parent at a school that qualified for the state tourney, you know what a thrill it is to go to Madison for this colorful annual event.  All the best teams are there; you get to wander down that crazy State Street where you become part of the melting pot of politics and academia.  Whether or not you realize it, your mind gets a sense of “The Wisconsin Idea”, connecting the great university on one end of the street with the imposing capitol building on the other end. You look up and see that gorgeous building – the people’s house, YOUR state capitol – and you watch (or play) in an arena you’ve seen so often on TV, the arena where the athletes of YOUR state university play.  It’s a symphony for the senses.

Now let’s talk about some of the even more intangible aspects of the WIAA state basketball tournaments.  As our former mayor - the one with the difficult-to-spell-and-pronounce Polish name – has recently pointed out in his excellent screed on the topic, Madison needs every opportunity to connect itself viscerally with the people of the state who don’t live here.  Madison is a pejorative for “collection of crazy politicians and students and professors”; Madison is known as the place where all those lefty progressives live, march, and protest; Madison is tied eternally to its history of activism.  When you come from wherever….Boscobel, Neenah, Rice Lake, Monroe, Eau Claire, Tomahawk, Wauwatosa, Wautoma, Wyocena, you-name-it….and drink in the reality of your state capital…it helps create a bond between you and your capital city, and the huge university you support with your taxes.  It’s a GOOD thing.

Let’s talk about the hard, tangible aspect of the WIAA state basketball tournaments: by most reliable accounts, the tournaments bring in about 12 million dollars in hard cash to Madison.  Hotels, restaurants, gas stations, gift shops, bars, liquor stores, convenience stores, and dozens of other enterprises large and small benefit from the influx of ‘sconnies from the boonies.  And they’re the best kind of dollars you can get: the ones that come from outside your community.

Decision time on moving the WIAA state basketball tournaments is approaching.  Milwaukee can’t do it; their arenas are booked.  Green Bay can do it, and a lot of folks are talking about moving the tournaments to the Resch Center there. 

So let’s let Barry nap a bit longer – say, another week or so.  And then, let’s get his ass out of bed with a bucket of cold water just as big as the one in the picture at the top of this rant.  And let’s remind him that it’s time for him to say “thank you” in a very tangible way to the community and the state which have enriched him, by using his influence to tell the Big Ten Commissioner “sorry, the Kohl Center is in use by the people of our state during Big Ten Hockey Tournament time; you’ll have to look elsewhere”.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Am I Now Too Old For Morning TV News Shows?

My bride tells me part of my problem is that I just don’t like change.  We discussed that point a bit, and I tried to put a finer point on it by saying I don’t like NEEDLESS change.  I’ll admit my Windows 7 runs a lot quicker and slicker than Windows 98, and while I may grouse a bit about such changes, they seem to make things better.  Needless change, to me, is illustrated nicely by the changes CNN has made to its early morning news program.

As I groused about it to my bride again this morning, she pointed out that now both of us are outside the ironclad 25-54 age demographic, so what we think doesn’t even matter to network TV programmers.  She also pointed out that neither of us is really a “broadcaster” any more (even though my day-job reporting is heard on radio stations around the state and Midwest), so we don’t even know what “THE CONSULTANTS” are thinking these days.

My morning routine involves letting the dogs out, herding them back in, getting a cup of coffee, and planting my butt in front of the TV to find out what heinous things have happened overnight.  For the past three years, I’ve watched CNN from 6 to 6:30 to get a fix on what’s going on.  But a few weeks ago, they took what (to me) was a perfectly good morning national news show and wrecked it.

They brought in the children.

Instead of having adults like Carol Costello, Christine Romans, and Ali Velshi give an excellent summary of the news, now, they have Soledad O’Brein sitting around a table with a number of other children and they “talk about the news” rather than report it.  They start with what they consider the “lead” story (spelled “lede” in the print news biz, I’m told) and just sit around and talk about it.  This morning it was the mostly-sunken cruise ship.  Some boy who couldn’t have been more than 25 years old was trying to make a fine point about maritime law.  A cynical 62-year-old bastard like me would rather hear about maritime law from some grizzled old sea salt who at least looked like he might have set foot on a ship or two.

This new young group of CNN morning newsies sat around and talked about this ONE story from 6 AM until 6:15 AM, when, in frustration, I changed the channel.  In 15 minutes, these children talked about ONE story.

Years ago, when I was consulting radio news operations across the fruited plain, my mantra was “story count equals credibility”.  In other words, years and years of duplicated research showed that people perceived the station that ran the MOST news stories in any given unit of time (5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes – which in broadcast parlance is referred to as a “quarter-hour”) was perceived as being the most credible news organization.  It was OK to go in depth on a story, but only AFTER you’d given the listener/viewer a big blast of assorted other news items.

Granted, radio and television are far different critters, particularly in the morning, where radio listening is done half at home and half in the car on the way to work.  TV is still essentially a 100% “in-home” critter in the morning.  I have a good friend who is considered the top news/talk radio consultant in the nation, and he still tells me that one of the biggest challenges is helping the on-air talent to understand clearly the implications of the fact that the average listener is only there for about 18 minutes in the morning.  They’re busy, they’re in and out, and they want a concise summary of news and weather frequently.

Maybe it’s the old radio news programming consultant part of me that makes this change in CNN’s morning programming so distasteful to me.  I expect to be told about at least a dozen stories if I dedicate 15 minutes to watching.  There’s a hell of a lot more going on in the world on any given day, like today, than a boat wreck that happened days ago.  And while I confess complete ignorance about what TV News consultants are thinking about, saying, and preaching these days, I do NOT want to see a bunch of kids talking about the same story for 15 minutes.  If I want to hear a 15-minute rant about a single topic, there are plenty of other TV (and, God knows, radio) stations which can provide that.

Maybe I am just too old, my opinion doesn’t count, and the advertising department doesn’t want to sell ads about products I might find useful.  And, this morning, I was secretly hoping that maybe CNN might make mention of the MILLION signatures on the Walker recall petition in Wisconsin.

But, to the news children who run things today, 15 minutes of kids sitting around talking about a boat that half-sank several days ago is apparently more important than giving viewers a representative sample of current events from around the nation and the world.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Things That Do NOT Surprise Me

One MILLION signatures on the Walker recall petition; 850K+ on the Clay Fish petition.

Paula Deen has Type-2 Diabetes.
Paula Deen says this diagnosis will not affect the way she cooks.

Newt and the rest of the gang are attacking Mitt in a Republican feeding frenzy.

A local weather-woman this morning said we’d get two to three inches of “snowfall”.  As opposed to….snowrise?  At least she didn’t say “the white stuff”.

The public prints are saying the next phase of the Walker recall is likely to be more difficult than the gathering of signatures.  Ya think????

The state Taxpayers Alliance says the well-off will do better than the poor under the changes to the 2011 state income tax rules.

Things That DO Surprise Me

The Captain of the Costa Concordia apparently fled the ship while it was sinking off the coast of Italy.  Whatever happened to “going down with the ship”….or, at least waiting until the passengers are all off the sinking ship?  This would seem to be the oldest law of the sea.  They oughtta hang this guy.

How poorly the Packers played Sunday.  I’m still annoyed.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Out Amongst the Dweebs and Dolts

I know, I know.  75% of sconnies have to re-learn their winter driving skills every year.  This first “snow event” (as the weather folks call them) of the year has brought out all the idiots.  In the course of a half-hour of running errands, I saw three cars in the ditch, witnessed two fender-benders, and endured the idiocy of far too many people exhibiting ZERO winter driving skill.

I take winter driving seriously; my giant, gas-sucking, all-wheel-drive, foreign-made SUV is equipped with four Dunlop GrandTrek Ice and Snow tires (tip: every bit as good as, and less expensive than the Bridgestone Blizzak, which is supposedly the gold standard) and I consider myself a safe and accomplished winter driver.

Half of the battle, perhaps more, is staying out of the way of the dweebs and dolts who can’t drive on snow.

There are the ones who think the condition of the road surface has no effect on their vehicle, and they drive as though it was sunny and warm and the laws of physics have been suspended.  There are the ones (I’ve noticed a lot of them own Jeep Grand Cherokees) who think their four-wheel or all-wheel drive will allow them to traverse slippery roads with impunity.  These are the ones who pass you going way too fast, and a few moments later you see them in the ditch.  And there are the ones who drive incredibly slow, hunched over the wheel, fearing for their life and limb, unknowingly causing just as many wrecks as the dweebs who drive too fast.

Entirely too many people were driving in the snow with their headlights off.  They’ve never heard about the aviation and navigation concept of “see and be seen”.  One of the unlighted vehicles I encountered was a model similar to mine, so I know the operator had either deliberately shut off the headlights, or is completely unfamiliar with the “automatic” feature on the headlight switch, which is essentially a “set it and forget it” position which keeps the headlights on any time you’re driving, and shuts them off after a short delay when you put the transmission in “Park” and turn off the engine.

I have high expectations of winter drivers in Wisconsin, and every year my expectations are lowered another notch.  My daughter, who now navigates the thoroughfares of the NYC metro five days a week, talks about how crappy New York drivers are in snow, and her venerable Buick sedan has already been rear-ended in the snow once this winter by an east-coaster following her way too closely.

Come to think of it, and after my experiences today, I’m going to revise my estimate and say three-quarters of the battle is staying out of the way of the dweebs and dolts who have no business driving on snow.

Be careful out there.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

We Don't Know What It Costs

A blogpost from a friend up in the Fox Valley got me thinking about how Big Pharma and Big Medicine and Big Insurance took over our health care system without firing a shot.  Of course, it took the rental of several hundred politicians at no small expense, but it began, I believe, when we stopped actually paying for things involving our health care.

Centuries ago, when I was a young man in my twenties, I had something almost none of my other friends had: health insurance.  Blue Cross/Blue Shield, which I’ll call BC/BS for the balance of this rant. I had it because my father was a prudent man and insisted that I have it.  I don’t recall how much it cost.

This was in a time (the roaring 70’s) when outfits like radio broadcasting companies didn’t offer health insurance as a “fringe benefit” (that’s what such things used to be called).  Nor did most companies.  If you wanted health insurance, you purchased it.  It had nothing to do with your job,  just like car insurance.  You just bought it.  Or you didn’t.

One night, playing softball with the radio station’s team (I was a hard-hitting first baseman, sports fans) I fell on my arm.  Pretty hard fall, and it came in a loss to the County Sheriff’s Department’s softball team. After a couple beers following the game, the arm still hurt like the dickens.  One of the deputies said “you oughtta have that looked at”, so I did.

In those days, there were no “urgent care centers”.  If you hurt yourself after regular business hours, you went to the hospital, which I did.  Before I could cross the threshold into the emergency treatment area to be dealt with, I had to either produce proof of insurance or sign a bunch of papers saying I understood I was responsible for ALL costs incurred in treating me.  So I produced the little paper card with the BC/BS logo on it, and was ushered into a large treatment area.

Since my little BC/BS card said “X-Ray and Diagnostic Tests” on it, there was no question about getting the arm X-rayed, and a short while later the ER doc said “your regular doctor happens to be here in the hospital making rounds of his patients; I’ve mentioned you’re here and he’ll be coming to take a look at you shortly”.  I said “but doc, is my arm broken?” He said “no, it’s not.  Your doctor will be here shortly.”

Had I known what was going on, I would have said “you tell old Doc FeelGood that I don’t want or need to see him – you’re my doc right now, and if my arm’s not broken, I’m outta here; if it is, I want you to treat me”.  But I didn’t understand the system, until several weeks later, when BC/BS sent me a statement indicating that both the ER doc and my regular guy, Dr. FeelGood, had submitted an invoice for (I believe it was $150 apiece) “examination and treatment”.  My treatment, by the way, was a quick hello from Dr. FeelGood, who confirmed that my arm was not broken and would probably be sore for a few days, and I should take a couple aspirin to dull the pain.  (This was long before the NSAIDs like Ibuprofen were available to regular folks over the counter.)  Total time of his “examination and treatment” was approximately 60 seconds; total time of my contact with the ER doc was probably about the same.  Not a bad racket; these boys bill out at a cool nine thousand bucks an hour (150 bucks a minute).

So, BC/BS, which was even back then in the roaring 70’s in bed with the doctors and drug companies, coughed up the exorbitant payment to BOTH docs.

Also, as a young man I was prone to sinus infections, and Dr. FeelGood would from time to time prescribe antibiotics for me.  Each course of antibiotics cost about $28.  I know that, because way back in those days, whether you had insurance covering medications or not, you paid the pharmacist when he or she dispensed the medication.  If you had insurance, AFTER you paid the pharmacist, you mailed the paid receipt to your insurance company, and they reimbursed you for the cost (up to the limits of your policy).  There was no “co-pay”; you just paid it. 

The point of this needlessly long exposition is that back before Big Pharma and Big Medicine and Big Insurance took over everything related to our health care, we were connected in the sense that we knew what things cost.  We knew how much the doc charged for an office visit, because we paid it, right then and there, to the receptionist, before we got to see the doc.  We knew how much antibiotics cost because we paid for them, out of our own pocket, before we could walk out of the pharmacy with the medication.  Health insurance had nothing to do with your employment (unless you worked for a huge union operation, like Ford Motors or General Electric).

The cost of hospitalization back then?  I really don’t know.  That was covered by the part of BC/BS they used to call “Major Medical”, and thank heaven I never needed that part of the coverage back then.

When you have a direct connection to how much things cost, you have a far better sense of control. That’s the way free market capitalism is supposed to work, I think.   If the guy with the plow on the front of his pickup truck says he wants an additional ten bucks a time more this year than last year to plow your road when it snows, you have the option of simply paying him more, bargaining for a better deal, hiring someone else, or buying your own plowing rig.  Your decision.  You know what it costs.   When you go to the store to do your grocery shopping, you know what things cost before you toss them into the cart.

The beginning of the end of our control over health care was when we stopped knowing how much things cost.   Now, we don’t care what it costs, as long as our insurance covers it.  And that, to me, is the biggest part of the problem.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Putting Things in (Forced) Perspective

Joe and Diane Philbin are in a living hell right now.  Their second-oldest child (they have six), Michael, somehow wound up in the Fox River a few blocks from the UW-Oshkosh campus Sunday night, and drowned.  Mike was only 21 and a Dean’s List student in his Junior year at Ripon College.  I can’t imagine anything more tragic for a parent than the untimely death of a child.  We will be conspicuously reminded of this tragedy this coming Sunday afternoon, when the Packers take to the frozen tundra in their first playoff game of the season.

Mike’s dad, Joe, is the Offensive Coordinator of the Packers, and whether or not he’s actually at the game Sunday, the Fox Sports folks will milk every possible drop of drama out of this tragic situation.

Because, as I’ve said so many times, television’s default position is excess.

No doubt, someone – Mike McCarthy; that horrible Joe I-have-this-job-only-because-my-dad-was-an-icon Buck; Troy Aikman; Terry Bradshaw;  Curt Menefee; Howie Long; Jimmy Johnson; any one of a host of others – will make the sage observation that the death of a child “really puts things in perspective”.

Gosh, you mean the tragedy of a child’s death should weigh greater in our spectrum of emotions than who wins a football game?

No doubt, they’ll drag out file footage of Brett Favre playing that December 2003 Monday Night Football game in Oakland, just after his dad had passed away, complete with clips of the teary-eyed quarterback talking about how his daddy would have wanted him to play that game (which the Packers won, 41-7, featuring a near-perfect performance from Favre).

Yes, to help us understand how this puts things into perspective, we’ll be reminded that the tragic death of his son will weigh more heavily on Joe Philbin’s mind than whether the Packers beat the Giants and whether or not Joe gets that Miami head coaching job he’s been interviewed for. 

It’s also a good bet that the TV will remind us that the Philbin family….and, in fact, the entire Packers’ family…is still trying to make sense of this tragic event.

And, should the Pack beat the Giants, it’s safe to assume that young Michael was looking down from heaven, where he’d asked Jesus as a special favor if daddy’s team could win one for him.

That would really put things in perspective.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Big Mystery

Whatever it is, it’s major.  But we don’t know what it is, so we naturally speculate on what may be behind the resignation of one of Barry Alvarez’s top lieutenants, Senior Associate Athletic Director John Chadima, who’s been one of Barry’s right-hand men for the past couple decades.

Sometime during the day Friday, Chadima was apparently suspended from his job; a few hours later, he resigned.  His UW-owned cell-phone was immediately disconnected (standard procedure, one imagines) and several local media pointed out Chadima’s half-million-dollar condo/home on Lake Mendota in the Town of Westport is for sale – implying that this is a recent development, although it appears to my brief search that it’s been listed for some time.

Relentless prying by the local media has generated little, if any, new information about what’s going on, except that Madison and L-A area police say they’ve had no contact with Chadima; the rumors that it was an incident somehow connected with the Badgers’ recent Rose Bowl trip have not been confirmed or denied; and all the UW is officially saying right now is that there is an investigation of some sort into whatever led to the suspension/resignation. 

Another of Barry’s right-hand men, Vince Sweeny, says only that Chadima’s resignation did not shut down the investigation and that until they have all their ducks in a row, the UW is not going to make further public comment about the situation.  Several media have reported that The Man himself, Barry Alvarez, is headed back to Madison from his other home in Naples, Florida.

I know nothing more than what I see on TV and read in the paper, and I have no “inside sources” who might shed more light on whatever it is that’s going on.

But, whatever it is, it’s big.  Stay tuned.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Still Another Media Rant

Back in the 60’s, my Grandma Morrissey (born 1899) was, unlike most women of her generation, a night-owl.  Raised on a family farm, Grandma went to the State Normal School in Oshkosh and got a teaching degree, and for years she taught elementary school before meeting Grandpa and starting a family.  She was amazingly “with it” in her later years; knew all about the arguments for and against that Indo-Chinese war; thought the shootings at Kent State were a national tragedy; and Grandma could discuss current events with the best of them.

As a night-owl, Grandma loved to watch The Tonight Show, and she was a huge fan of Johnny Carson.  After Grandpa passed away in ’68, I made it a point to spend some time with Grandma every week. One time, while watching The Tonight Show with her (back in those days, it was Johnny with Ed McMahon and trumpeter Doc Severinson and the “NBC Orchestra”), Grandma asked me if I would take her on a ride to see where Johnny did his show.  I learned at that time that Grandma believed ALL television originated from the white cinder-block building under the big tower at the edge of town: WOSH-TV, Channel 41.  I gently reminded her what Ed McMahon said at the beginning of each show: “From New York (that’s where the show originated back then), it’s the Tonight Show, starring Johnny Carson….”.

Grandma, who literally grew up in the horse-and-buggy days, as hip as she was, just couldn’t wrap her head around the concept of network television.  To her, all TV came from that tower on the north edge of Oshkosh, and the long-since-defunct WOSH-TV Channel 41.  Never mind that every half-hour they reminded her that she was actually watching The Tonight Show on WFRV-TV, Channel 5, Green Bay. 

What prompted this rant, and the extended introduction featuring my late Grandma, is the recent change in one of the local TV news operations.  Fox 47 in Madison for years carried a newscast at 9PM produced by the news staff at Channel 27 in Madison.  A few days ago, Fox 47 made a different deal, and now their 9 PM news is produced by the news staff of Channel 3 in Madison.  Most folks with any media savvy understand this arrangement.  Fox 47 gets a “news” image by simply hiring someone else to do it.  But apparently, here in the 12th year of the 21st Century, there are a LOT of people who simply cannot understand this.

When Channel3000 (the internet arm of Channel 3 in Madison) posted a story about how the folks at Channel 3 were now doing the news at 9 PM for Fox 47, the stupid, hateful comments popped up online immediately.  Channel 3 was in bed with Fox News????  How COULD you??  Why do you HATE AMERICA now???  So, what’s Bill O’Reilly really like?  This is the sort of comments that were posted.

Those of us who’ve worked a lifetime in “media” find this both amusing and puzzling, that people seem to have so little understanding of these things.  A few years ago, I tried to explain to a friend who’s a fairly high-profile person in the lefty community of Madison that Fox 47 was owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, NOT Fox News.  His eyes glazed over after about 20 seconds, and I knew he wasn’t following.  I didn’t even get into the part about how Fox News is different from the Fox TV Network, knowing that there was no chance I could explain how networks operate through a series of local affiliates.

Perhaps Grandma’s theory - that all television programming comes from a small cinder-block building on the north edge of Oshkosh – is still alive and well in 2012, with small variations and plenty of apparent adherents.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

First Media Rant of the New Year

I arose this morning to be (mis)informed by the nooz that “Iowans are waking up this morning and heading to the polls for the Iowa Caucuses”. 

Different year; same nooz dweebs.

I expect my nooz writers, even if they don’t live in Iowa, to understand at least a little bit about the uniqueness of the Iowa Caucuses.  There are two principal and critical things wrong with that nooz sentence above – first, the implication that some sort of caucusing activity will take place this morning.  Nope.  Not ‘till tonight.  Second, the assertion that these strange Iwegians “head to the polls” to do this caucusing that they do.  Nope.  Most of the gatherings are in people’s homes.  They sit around, drink coffee and such, and discuss the candidates.  They caucus.  And then they separate into groups supporting their particular candidate.  This is caucusing.  It is not a “primary”.  It is not an “election”.  It does not happen “at the polls”.

This, by the way, from a local TV station which sent its political reporter to Des Moines to do live reports from Iowa regarding the caucuses.  Had she heard that nooz sentence above, she would have immediately grabbed her cell phone and called command central at the TV station to set them straight about “waking up and going to the polls”.

An hour or so later, while sipping coffee and digesting the reports of the Rose Bowl embarrassment in the State Journal, I heard a different noozette tell me about the sad and violent event at “Mount Rainer National Park”.  And she pronounced it “RAIN-er”.  I suppose I can forgive a young nooz writer for misspelling Rainier; dropping the first “i” in the word and spelling it “Ranier” or some such; but for an actual on-air newsette to get so far in the biz as to actually be sitting in front of a camera reading the nooz every morning, I’d expect enough worldliness to know that it’s pronounced “ra-NEER”, not “RAIN-er”.

Don Henley was right about the bubble-headed bleached-blonde in his great tune “Dirty Laundry”.

While I’m at it, it came to my attention Sunday morning that on some New Year’s Eve broadcast from Times Square, Justin Bieber attempted to warble the great Paul McCartney/Beatles song “Let It Be”, with accompaniment from Carlos Santana.  This is wrong on so many levels that I’m not sure where to begin.  First, there should be some sort of rule, since apparently there’s no accounting whatsoever for musical taste, that forbids insects like Justin Bieber from attempting to sing ANY classic rock song.  And for God’s sake – will someone please tell Carlos Santana that no matter HOW much money they offer him, he should not be so desperate as to take the same stage with anyone of Bieber’s ilk.

What’s next: Bieber doing the lead vocal to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, with James Hetfield remaining vocally tacit while strumming along on his Gibson Explorer guitar (or, the axe he first wielded, that Japanese copy of the Flying V)?

Off to never-never land; a New Year has dawned, and everything is the same.