Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Plenty of Hate to Go Around

There’s very little civility left in politics in Wisconsin, and we’re likely to see more strife and heated disagreement in the future, and very little common courtesy.

Why?  Start with the image at the top of this post – the clenched fist.  The labor version, seen here, has been copied and modified many times by various Democratic Party organizations.  There’s the version that has the number “14” superimposed on the fist, over the star, representing the 14 Democratic state senators who decamped to Illinois this winter.  The latest version has “16” replacing the 14, to indicate the two seats the Democrats picked up in the summer recall elections.

Clenched fist.  Sends a pretty clear message, doesn’t it? 

What I’m saying is it might be wise for the Democrats to tone things down a bit, and used something other than a clenched fist as their symbol.

There’s the relatively recent factor of hate-talk shout radio, exemplified in Madison by Vicki McKenna on the right (her show is also aired in Milwaukee), who yesterday told her listeners that Barack Obama hates Americans (really, Vicki?  The President HATES Americans?); and there’s Sly on the left, the veteran rabble-rouser who never met a labor organization leader or member  he didn’t like, and who delights in encouraging the “Walker-Stalkers” to go to every public appearance the governor makes, with the expressed purpose of heckling and disrupting.

There was the recent incident at Messmer Prep School in Milwaukee where somebody….and you have to presume it’s someone sympathetic with the left….super-glued shut the doors of the school so Governor Walker would have to use a different entrance to get into the school to give a speech.

And now we have the labor folks in Wausau telling the Republican elected officials from the area that they’re not welcome to march in the Labor Day Parade, saying it’s hypocritical for them to support labor one day a year and spend every other day doing things to the detriment of organized labor.  This is very much a “developing story” right now, and the mayor of Wausau may have something to say about who can and cannot use city streets, city police and fire protection, and municipal employees at a public event, and who can and cannot be excluded from same.

We have politicians on the right calling the demonstrators in Madison “union thugs” and defying court orders about keeping the State Capital open and making public remarks denigrating the personal hygiene of the demonstrators.

And both sides seem intent on shouting down anyone from the other side who speaks at a rally or makes a public appearance, such as the demonstrators who tried to shout down Sarah Palin when the Tea Party brought her here a few months ago.  (And then complained that “the right can afford better sound systems than we can”.)

We are a state divided, and both sides seem to be doing what they can to make the division deeper and wider.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Lord God Shall Smite Us All

Although she keeps trying to distance herself from her recorded and well-documented comments, Michelle Bachmann  is eventually going to have to own this stuff, in some forum where she won’t be allowed to attempt to spin her way out of it.

She told Floridians Sunday that Hurricane Irene and last week’s earthquake were messages from God to politicians, to warn them to start heeding His Word (which, of course, by implication, is available through Bachmann).

After the St. Petersburg Times carried a report on Bachmann’s Tea Party rally there, and the story was then picked up by the Huffington Post, a Bachmann flack said the comments were made in jest.


This woman is as bat-shit crazy as Glenn Boeck, who said Hurricane Irene was a blessing from God, reminding us we’re not in control.

I’ve done way too much reading about Bachmann, on the chance that someone like her, whose views and beliefs are so far out of the American mainstream, could actually become President.  The more I read about Rick Perry, who has many views paralleling Bachmann’s, the more amazed I become.

These are the folks who believe evolution is a theory and that the earth is only a few thousand years old. In other words, when science and their religious beliefs conflict, the Bible is the arbiter.  These are the candidates who appeal to those folks who cling to their guns and Bibles in tough times, to paraphrase someone else.

We’re in deep do-do.

(Photo above Copyright CBS News.)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Unbridled Fear and Wretched Excess

The media are doing what they do best; whipping up a great deal of fear and uncertainty about Hurricane Irene and where it may go and what it may do.

I am watching with more than passing interest, hundreds of miles from the path of any hurricane, as our daughter now lives in Yonkers, New York (NYC metro) and one of my closest, lifelong friends and his family live on Staten Island.

I had the mandatory parental chat with our daughter this morning (electronically, as did her mother last night – nobody really talks to anybody that much any more) and dispensed the usual parental advice, which boils down to what Mayor Bloomberg said: prepare for the worst and hope for the best.  She’s a smart young woman and she’ll do what’s appropriate; and, as the daughter of parents who’ve worked in media all their lives, she understands that the media’s default position is “excess”.

I’ll be interested to see if she actually calls us Sunday night or Monday (and whether or not she’ll be able to).  She did call after the earthquake earlier this week.  She works on the 8th floor of a building in White Plains, and when stuff started rockin’, she and everybody else evacuated the building.  Knowing I’d been through three earthquakes in my southern California years, she wanted to compare notes.

In our chat this morning, I mentioned that I’d been through a hurricane (New Orleans, 1987), and when we were told to evacuate, we did…went up to Baton Rouge for a few days and came home to broken widows, water in the house, a tree leaning against our rear balcony and one that smashed our outbuilding, and a ‘frig full of food that had to be tossed, because the power was out for a couple days.  I asked her to imagine what it would be like to have no power for a couple or three days, no way to charge her cell phone, etc. and to plan appropriately.

It was just a year ago today at 5 AM that she (and her BFF Breanna, who rode along to keep her company and then flew back to Madison) pulled up stakes and headed off to grad school in New Rochelle.  And a few days after she arrived and unpacked, Hurricane Earl grazed Long Island Sound and dumped a lot of rain on New York.

We concluded our chat with the hope that on Monday we’d be laughing about it, and how the media would be screaming “New York City Dodged A Bullet!!!” and talking about what MIGHT have happened.

I hope so.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

9-11 Memorial FAIL

Ten years later….all there is, is a hole in the ground, with a collection of construction workers and a handful of pieces of heavy equipment.

We’re just a few weeks shy of the tenth anniversary (or, as too many in the media will say, “ten-year anniversary”) of the 9-11 attacks. 

Many of those media folks, particularly the ones who sit in for El Rushbo while the blowhard is vacationing with fabulous people at some exotic resort smoking expensive cigars and drinking pricey Scots Whisky, are pointing to this shameful hole in the ground in lower Manhattan as evidence of the current mediocrity of the American spirit.  (Though this assertion, which originated, I believe, with Mark Steyn, flies in the face of the “American Exceptionalism” which is a keystone of the Limbaugh doctrine.)

Thing is, these hard right-wingers have a point here.

I think it is shameful and disgusting that in a decade, we have nothing but a hole in the ground to show for our pledge to “never forget”.  For heaven’s sake, John Kennedy got us to the moon in a decade!  (Albeit with a lot of help from Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and NASA.)

Nothing but petty arguments have surrounded this whole “9-11 Memorial” thing.  Every sub-set of the people directly and indirectly impacted by the events of that horrible day have wrangled, bickered, whined, and belly-ached about every aspect of the “plan”.  Every mewling had to be placated.  Everyone’s ego had to be massaged.

And what you see above is what we have to show for it.

This is a disgusting failure of leadership on many levels.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Curse of S.I.

Let’s see if I have this right: you DO want your picture on the cover of Rolling Stone, but you do NOT want your picture on the cover of Sports Illustrated, because of the “Curse of S.I.”, which is, if your picture is on the cover of S.I. some bad thing will happen to you.

This old curse was talked about a great deal more a couple decades ago than now.  But there’s a resurgence of discussion about it, because the Brewers have been red-hot, and there this undercurrent of fear that having the pictures of three Brewers stars on the cover of S.I. will cause the team to go on a losing streak or that some injury will befall one of the three.

There was the case of Braves (back when the Braves played in Milwaukee) star third baseman Eddie Mathews , who was the first person to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated back in August of 1954. The Braves snapped a nine-game winning streak, and a broken hand later caused Mathews to miss seven games.  That’s when the curse started…with the very first issue of S.I.

In August of ’78, Pete Rose was on the cover of S.I., and his 44-game hitting streak ended that week. In January 2010, Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was on the cover with the headline "Favre on Fire" before the NFC Championship Game and lost, so I guess the curse can be good for Packers fans.  On January 19, 2011, Jay Cutler appeared on the cover, and then injured his knee as the Bears lost to the Packers in the NFC championship game.

There are scores of places on the internets where you can look up the list of athletes who have supposedly suffered from the Curse of S.I.

As I write this, on Wednesday morning, the Brewers are the hottest team in baseball, with a franchise-record 10-game lead on the Cardinals in the National League Central Division.

Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sad, On So Many Levels

The picture above, copyright CBS News, was taken at the memorial service for one of the Navy SEALs killed in the shoot-down of a helicopter in Afghanistan several days ago.  The dog in the picture was partnered with that SEAL, and he still has his “jump gear” on – the harness and ring that attach the dog to his SEAL master when they deploy from an aircraft. 

Partners forever.

The photo is indescribably sad on so many levels.  The death of one our nation’s highly-trained fighting men; the bond that forms between a dog and his master; and on and on.  Just sad.

When I first saw the photo, my first reaction was sadness – knowing, as a dog owner, how tight that bond between human and canine can be; knowing that the dog senses that his master, his partner, is no longer with us; sad that the young man in the coffin paid the ultimate price for his service to our nation.

Then, I felt some anger.  Anger that our troops are being misused in these horrible wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, asked to be policemen, social workers, traffic cops, farm workers, teachers, construction workers, and all manner of things for which they were not really trained.  Particularly in the case of the Navy SEAL, who undergoes years of the most grueling physical and mental training you can imagine.

I see the role of the SEAL as exactly the kind of mission which ended in the killing of Usama bin Laden: a risky mission where lots of things can change quickly or go wrong or contrary to plan, demanding an almost superhuman physical effort and the ability to recognize threats instantly and react to them, where years of training pay off in the desired outcome.

I see the role of our armed forces as vastly different than the roles they’re being asked to play.  They’re not cops, they’re soldiers.  My vision has them being experts in wrecking stuff, blowing stuff up, in long-range and close-order combat, in assaulting a position, taking it and holding it, operating like finely-tuned parts of a huge and powerful machine.

I see them as a force to be feared and reckoned with, a force that when deployed, sends a message to evil-doers that justice is about to be served.

I do not see our armed forces as international police officers, social workers, construction workers, or anything other than as the finest fighting force on the planet.

I want the death of the SEAL in the photo above to have “counted”….to have meant something…and I pray that it did.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday Media Rant: "Efforting" A Recall

The phrase "Efforting A Recall" is the first thing that greeted my eyes this morning when I popped the TV on to catch the latest local news.  My favorite morning anchorman, that distinguished-looking tall fellow with a name that makes you think his family made a fortune in coffee, was talking about the odds that there actually will be an effort to recall Governor Scott Walker.

The picture over his right shoulder (screen left) had the words above (“Efforting A Recall”), with a Wisconsin flag and perhaps some other visual doo-dads.  I believe in TV they call these things “graphics” – or, at least they did centuries ago, when I worked in TV.

Don’t bother looking in the dictionary for the word “efforting”; you won’t find it.  Every time I type the word into Microsoft Word, where I write the original version of these rants, the auto-correct underlines the word in red and suggests that instead I use the word “affording” or “effecting” – both of which are real words.

“Efforting” is not a real word.  The Urban Dictionary probably says it best:
A made up word used only by newscasters to show off that they're doing the job they're paid to do. A poor attempt to make the word ‘effort’ into a verb. To make it sound like something simple is tough to do, so they’re making extra effort. Often used as a stall when a report isn’t ready.

I’m sure my tall friend had nothing to do with the “graphic” shown over his shoulder while he was reading the story.  And he would never actually say such a word on TV.  But it’s very 21st century for folks in the electronic news biz to use non-words such as “efforting”, “Med-Flighted” (another attempt to turn a noun into a verb), “tased” (don’t tase me, Bro!!!!!), because it shows they know the inside jargon of the biz.

Sort of like the anchors and reporters who now say ‘talk about you team’s chances of making the playoffs’ instead of asking a question during an interview.  I guess they figure giving a command to the interviewee will have more force than asking a question.

Or the sports folks who say “welcome in to the program/broadcast”.  Welcome IN.  Nobody actually talks like that.  Can you imagine anyone who grew up speaking English saying “welcome in to my house” or “welcome in to my world”?

I’m efforting restraint in not tasing all these jargon-mongers, so they don't have to be Med-Flighted to a local hospital.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Rusty's Out; Tommy's....In?

So, Tommy Thompson (D…ah, I mean R, Elroy) has rounded up the usual suspect (Jim Klauser) and is making serious noises about running for US Senate.  Gee, what a shock.  Tommy, talking about running for something.  And Russ Feingold says he’ll run for NOTHING in 2012.

The blogosphere is taking Tommy’s threat seriously, swearing that he really means it this time and will officially announce just after Labor Day.

Problem is….which party will have him?  Tommy is a political dinosaur now, still thinking he’s a Republican.  If ever there were a RINO (Republican In Name Only), it’s Tommy T.

Full disclosure: I like Tommy.  He was kind enough several times while Governor to be “guest editor” on the old “Madison’s Morning News” radio program my wife and I hosted during the Thompson years.  He’d sit with us the full three hours of the show, and tell stories and take phone calls (even from lots of those "Dane County Liberals"!) and generally have a good time.

Tommy represents to me – and maybe this is just my age – the “real” Wisconsin spirit.  Work together to find solutions to problems.  Argue your point vigorously; take a vote; and whether you won or lost, have a brew or two at the Avenue Bar with the pols who voted with you and those who voted against you.

Welfare’s a problem?  Don’t throw it out; don’t blame the poor; fix it.  Same with health care: expand the program, don’t cut it to death.  Brewers need a new stadium?  Tax those bastards in Milwaukee..”what a better way to do it…stick it to ‘em!!!”…and gitt’r done.  Amtrack?  Hell yes.  Put me on the board.  Love my Harley, but love my mass transit, too.   Stem cells?  Hell yes, let’s see if we can’t get a bunch more money from Warshington to throw at the UW.   And, while you’re in office, why not essentially double the size of government in Wisconsin.

See what I’m getting at?  Tommy’s actions make him, by any definition, a Democrat: raise taxes, expand welfare and health care, support and expand stem cell research, increase the size of government.

Nobody seems sure how to deal with this.  Miss Vicki yesterday afternoon referred to Tommy as an “old guard Republican”.  Didn’t call him a RINO, because we’re in uncharted waters here.  We’ve got a guy who was the most popular governor in decades, who essentially had the job for life, whose name recognition is gold from Hilbert to Howard to Hayward to Hales Corners, who finds himself a member of a party that now stands directly opposed to everything Tommy did while in office.

This oughtta be REAL interesting……

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dealing With DishNet

It began last Friday night when I was playing back some alien/horror/space/gory death movie that I’d recorded off one of the 75 or 80 movie channels we get.  Toni had gone off to Gotham to spend the weekend visiting our daughter and enhancing the Manhattan economy, and the dogs and I had the house to ourselves, free to watch crappy movies and lounge around the media room all day and night.  About a half-hour into the movie, the picture froze, then the screen went black, and the DishNet receiver crashed. 

It recycled itself and came back up on a TV station.  I selected the DVR, and told it to resume the movie.  Crash.  Instantly.  Cycled again.  Waited.  Pulled up a different horrible space aliens/face-eating movie I’d recorded.  Got a half-hour in: crash.  My keen powers of deduction suggested there was something wrong with the DVR.  Annoying, but not the end of the world.  I have scores of DVD movies, so I spent the weekend watching some of my favorite DVD movies.

Knowing (or, at least assuming) that a weekend call to the DishNet tech folks would be routed to Bangladesh or Mogadishu, on Monday, I fired up a chat with the DishNet tech folks.  For those who have not had the pleasure, for the first 15 minutes they ask you such inane things as “has a tree recently been uprooted by a storm and fallen on the satellite receiver on your roof?” and “has it snowed within a thousand miles of your current location within the last four months”; then they proceed to the “please unplug your receiver for one minute and then plug it in again and see if that fixes it” stage.

I chatted through all of this until the poor soul on the other end of the chat had exhausted his or her checklist, and I was “handed off” to a tech specialist, who, to his or her credit, believed me when I told him or her that I believed the hard drive had been corrupted, so I was told that a new receiver, same model, would be shipped to me FedEx, and I would have to install it.  Would they send a tech over to my house to do it?  No.  It’s “simple”.

Wednesday afternoon the new receiver arrived; I swapped it for the corrupted one, hooked up the five necessary wires (three from the satellite dish on my roof, the HDMI cord that hooks the receiver to the TV, and the a/c power cord) and proceeded to the next step, which was to power up the unit.

Suffice it to say what happened next was NOT what the DishNet folks had painstakingly laid out in the instruction sheet that accompanied the new receiver.  (What a surprise!)  I called the number listed on the sheet for tech help, got connected immediately, and the young man (who told me he was in Colorado) tried his best to walk me through the “check switch/satellite alignment” screen, but he just couldn’t do it.  After about 10 minutes, he transferred me to the “advanced technical unit” and a very pleasant young lady (who told me she was in Virginia) diagnosed the problem in about one minute.  The guy I’d been talking to before must have been operating with an outdated manual…he kept trying to get the system to look at four satellites, when I only need to look at three.  “It happens”, she said, philosophically.

After the young woman in Virginia got me to where I needed to be in the set-up process, she told me there’d be about a half-hour of downloads, so my new receiver could suck in all the data it needed, and she said “if you’d like, I can stay with you on the phone and we can chat while this is going on, or, if it’s OK with you, I’d like to take a few more calls and help some other folks while your data is downloading, and I promise I’ll call you back in half an hour and we’ll see if you’re good to go”.

This young woman is not only very smart, but very well-trained and very customer-friendly.  I hope they’re paying her about 50 bucks an hour.

As promised, she called me back 30 minutes later, made me check to see that all my favorite channels were actually coming in, and then – talk about a person who does her homework – she said “I see you have another DishNet system and receiver in another part of your house (we do, in the master bedroom suite) – 999 times out of a thousand there’s no problem, but would you mind going to check and see if that system is still working the way you want – I’ll stay with you while you check.”  Everything was fine, so I thanked her and ended the conversation.

If anyone from the DishNet Board of Directors ever reads this, I think you should seriously consider making this young woman in Virginia – she told me her name was Wendy – the new CEO of DishNet.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Public Art or Public Disgrace?

I am an art dummy, one of those uncultured dweebs who can say only “I know what I like, and I don’t like that.”  I can look at the art created by our daughter, which adorns the walls of our home, and say with satisfaction that I like it and enjoy it, but I cannot tell you why.

Such is the way it is with the object pictured above, a phallus thrusting into the sky near Camp Randall Stadium, an abomination called “Nail’s Tales”, a monstrosity created by UW art grad Donald Lipski for two hundred grand and installed in 2005.  Lipski said it was a tribute to his UW roommate, who was on the Badgers football squad.  I can’t tell you why I don’t like it, outside of the obvious; I just know that I don’t like it in front of Camp Randall Stadium and wouldn’t like it in any other locale.

This Lipski guy is fairly well-known; he has pieces adorning public spaces in New York City, including Grand Central Terminal and Central Park; it’s difficult to find an honest-to-goodness review of his work that actually criticizes the phallic obelisk he foisted on Madison; but it’s clear that the thing is nearly universally disliked in Madison.

My friend Doug Moe has written several columns over the years denigrating the statue, and this morning his column in the State Journal says it’s time to get rid of the damned thing.  “It’s the time when an individual or groups has to seize the momentum, dig in, work hard and make history happen”, Doug writes.

Doug writes that he had a conversation with Al Fish, the UW bureaucrat who’s apparently the point man on things of this sort, and the Fish made it clear that he would not be amused at any attempt by Doug to put together an official group and start making some real noise about getting the damned thing removed.  Fish admitted he has never had a conversation with Lipski about moving it.  Some codicil of the agreement regarding the sculpture says it can’t be moved without Lipski’s permission, so I’d suggest to my friend Doug that he is well-acquainted with many of our city’s finest litigators, and one way to tackle the challenge as part of a full frontal assault on the UW and Fish to get it moved would be to have this part of the contract struck down.  I’m pretty sure most of the high-profile legal eagles Doug knows would do it pro bono.

It’s well past time for that abomination that disgraces our football palace to be torn down, just like the statue of Saddam that was torn down in the early days of the Iraq war.

Let me know what I can do to help, Doug.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I've Had It Up To Here

The Dow is up; the Dow is down.  Standard and Poor’s says we’re no longer a triple-A risk; the President says we are and always will be a triple-A country.  Oil prices are down; gas prices stay up.  The Fed says this; the Treasury says that.

This is what happens when we have a President who constantly chooses compromise over leadership.

Long before Standard and Poor’s downgraded the United States as a credit risk, Barack Obama should have put that company – and Moody’s – right out of business.   What he should have done when took office was to explain to the American people how the greedy bastards on Wall Street (and the dweebs at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) ran our economy right into the ground and damn near off a mountainside. He should have explained how S&P and Moody’s were complicit with the Wall Street barons, just as the now-defunct Arthur Andersen accounting firm was complicit in the Enron scandal a decade ago.  (For those who don’t follow closely, Arthur Andersen was run right out of business in the U-S for all the crap it pulled leading to the Enron implosion.)

Instead of allowing the Wall Street crowd and Toxic Timmy Geithner and Ben the crank Bernanke and their sycophants to continue to “run” the economy, President Obama should have tossed the lot of them out on their ear, told the American people that it was the dismantling of banking regulations put in place a generation ago to protect us from exactly what happened when the economy tanked and 8 million Americans lost their jobs, and that by God he was going to put those regulations back into effect and make damn sure the people who enforce them don’t follow the pattern of the last decade, where one day you’re working for Goldman Sachs, and the next day you’re a “federal regulator”.

President Obama has allowed the “other side” to dictate the terms of every “negotiation” because all his life he’s been an appeaser, a conciliator, a go-along-to-get-along kind of guy, when what this nation needed more than anything else was a leader with vision and courage.  He allows the Republicans to refer to Social Security as an “entitlement program”….as if me and millions like me didn’t pay into it for 40 years and we’re somehow now “sucking off the government teat” when we EXPECT what is due us for our years of investment.  He’s allowed that little snot-nosed  Paul Ryan to lie his ass off about what he wants to do with Medicare (another “entitlement program”???) without clearly articulating an opposing position, and attacking with all the vigor of his administration the REAL cause of the problem, which is the health care industry itself.

One-term president. 

My hope now…and believe me, faith has been downgraded to hope….is that the Democrats will come up with someone with the balls to run a campaign that clearly and powerfully shows the American people that Obama was wrong….and so are the Republicans.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The General Speaks

A few days ago, a friend sent me a link to an op/ed piece done for CNN by retired General Russel Honore, the man who came into New Orleans several days after Katrina hit, organized the chaos, and is largely responsible for saving countless lives and actually getting something done to alleviate the misery.

I will never forget the TV footage of Gen. Honore when he first arrived in New Orleans, striding around lower Canal Street, chomping on a cigar, giving orders, organizing activities, and then when he spotted a transport vehicle carrying Louisiana National Guard troops with their weapons to their shoulders, storming over to the vehicle and yelling “put those weapons down, God damn it, this is America!”

This was clearly a man who could take charge of any situation, a man not to be trifled with.  A leader.

General Honore retired in 2008 and is now an adjunct faculty member at Emory University and Vanderbilt University.

His op-ed piece for CNN was about the damage done to our nation in the debt ceiling fiasco by the President and “our elected leadership’s amateur-hour, worthless grandstanding.”  The General says the core of the problem is that they don’t share a common purpose, and instead “strike partisan poses they hope will be remembered during their next campaigns.”

Honore says this isn’t leadership, it’s playacting, and we should all be disgusted by it.

Perhaps his most trenchant paragraph is “It’s time to get draconian. But not with the helpless elderly who need their Social Security payments, not with the powerless Army private supporting a family.  I mean it’s time to load our elected officials on troop planes and send them to Camp Shelby, Mississippi.  Put them in tents with no air conditioning, have Army drill sergeants teach them teamwork and physical sacrifice.  When they recognize their responsibility to the people of America, they can return to D.C., their upscale restaurants, and military plane trips, as though they were royalty.”
We need more leaders like General Honore to step forward and speak clearly about the lack of leadership and absence of common purpose that plagues our national government.

(Photo above copyright Associated Press/Getty Images)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The "Well-spoken" Black Man

No, not Barack Obama.  The young man pictured above is Russell Wilson, who has been touted as the best thing to happen to Wisconsin football since Donna Shalala hired Pat Richter, who then hired Barry Alvarez.  But, of course, “officially”, he’ll have to “compete” for the quarterback job this fall.

Apparently, Wilson “sounds white”, if you’ll temporarily excuse my racist reference, which I’ll explain in a moment, because this past Sunday evening on one of the local TV channels some dweeb referred to Wilson as a “well-spoken” athlete.  I’ve never heard Wilson speak, so I’ll have to take the local TV dweeb’s word for it.  And, in case you didn’t know it, “well-spoken” is code for “sounds white.”

A few minutes after the local TV dweeb made the stupid and racist comment, my Facebook and Twitter accounts went into high gear with comments from my black friends about this stupid and racist reference to Wilson.  One pointed out that Wilson is about to become the first black starting quarterback in UW history, and he didn’t recall the local TV dweebs referring to any of the other (white) quarterbacks as “well-spoken”.

Many of the social media comments decried the mindset of a white person who says a black person is “well-spoken”.   Sort of like “gee, how unusual… Wilson talks like a white guy.”

So let’s get down and dirty.  Does Lester Holt of NBC News sound like a white guy?  Does Reverend Martin Luther King sound like a black guy?  Does actor Denzel Washington sound like a white guy or a black guy?  Does Juan Williams, late of NPR and now of Fox News, sound like a white guy or a black guy? Does General Colin Powell sound black or white?   How about Jesse Jackson, Clarence Thompson, or Marc Morial….black or white?

See how stupid this is?  Every one of the men mentioned in the paragraph above is a highly competent professional, each of whom have distinguished themselves in their chosen profession.

How about Barbara Young, Paula Giddings, Bev Smith, or Mary Wilson?  Do they sound like black women or white women? Do Maya Angelou’s stories and poems sound black or white?  Do Marilyn McCoo and Mary Wilson sound alike when they sing?  Does Ella Fitzgerald sound black?  Or Billie Holiday? Or Lena Horne?

How sad it is that here in the eleventh year of the 21st century, a TV dweeb finds it necessary to say something about it when a black person speaks with coherent grammar and syntax.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fathers And Sons

The young people pictured above, our son Dru and his fiancĂ©e Ashly, are captured in an image – a moment frozen in time – as they are about to embark on the next chapter of their lives.  A few hours after this photo was taken, the truck was loaded, Ashly and my wife were putting final cleaning touches on the place the two young people had called home for the past couple years, and Dru was sitting for the fourth and final element of his CPA exam.

A few hours after that, the U-Haul truck and most of their worldly possessions – save for the ones consigned to us for “storage” – were headed east on I-94 to their new home, in a beautiful new apartment in a completely refurbished former landmark hotel in downtown Milwaukee.  And in a few weeks, Dru will begin his professional career with one of the nation’s largest accounting and consulting companies – the job he’s wanted for the past three years while he completed his studies at the UW Business School.  It was his dream job, and he landed it – all on his own.

It seems just a few days before the photo was taken, Dru was sitting next to me at baseball games, hockey games, football games, watching sports on TV with me, slogging his way through middle school and spending his spare time on ice skates or roller blades, playing hockey with his friends.

A few days after that, he was navigating his way through high school, barely breaking a sweat to generate straight-A report cards and praise from his teachers.  He got his first paying job – working at the Marcus Theatre at a local mall – then traded that job up for a series of better-paying part-time jobs, all on his own.

A few days later, he lost his bearings at the big college (UW-Madison College of Engineering) and came home to tell me he was disillusioned and had to “take a break.”  A few days after that, he was back in school, taking courses, working part-time jobs, and then being accepted into the UW Business School, where he made the Dean’s List every semester and graduated with honors.  We saw a lot of movies together on Friday afternoons, went to a few Brewers games together, and then he put a diamond ring on Ashly’s hand – all on his own.

It seems it’s just a few days since he was a precocious pre-teen, spending hours in front of the mirror getting his hair “just right”; arguing with his mom about taking out the garbage; going with me to get his allergy shots; and now, he’s a fully grown man, educated, independent, with a clear vision of his future.  His mother and I know he will be wildly successful in life.

The moral of this story: these moments, all of them, are fleeting.  Embrace them.  Your children will be adults before you know it.  And don’t be surprised if you look at your adult son, with the whole world ahead of him, packed and ready to jump into it, and see a child.  Ever it shall be.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Minus 513

That’s how far the Dow fell yesterday.  Worst drop since 2008.  So, that “debt deal” – the one that was supposed to re-instill confidence that America’s financial house is in order, cause the markets to take off again, open the hiring floodgates again, choirs of angels to sing......

Or maybe the 11th hour “debt deal” wasn’t really supposed to do any of that stuff.

I won’t pretend to understand market dynamics and predict where the market is going from this point, but I’m going to do a little Friday-morning quarterbacking.  And I see a lot of dark clouds.

The Dow is in the dumper because consumer spending, which is about three-quarters of the U.S. economy, dropped last month for the first time in a couple years.  Business people are sitting on piles of cash, enjoying bolstered earnings (due in large part to far smaller payrolls), “uncertain of the future” (who is?), and they are NOT hiring.

That debt deal stinks to high heaven.  It stunk on ice when they were wrangling about it last week, and it stinks like a load of dead fish now.  It’s disappointing on so many levels.

First, it’s disappointing to me because President Obama caved again to the Republicans and Tea Partiers who held steadfast against ANY tax increases to ANYONE or ANYTHING.  (Excuse me, but my patience has expired with President Obama.)

Second, it’s disappointing because of the obsession so many politicians claim to have with “cutting spending” while they allow two or three useless, aimless foreign wars to continue sucking the life out of this country while flushing billions after billions down the drain.

Third, it’s disappointing to me because it seems to be exactly the wrong prescription for the time.  Pardon me, but I still believe that what we need MORE targeted government SPENDING, like the program Rush and his followers call “the failed stimulus”.  Yes, priming the pump.   Again.

Makes me want to call it “the job-killing and double-dip recession inducing debt deal”.  But please, don’t single out Barack Obama for the blame.  The blame belongs squarely on the shoulders of EVERY member of Congress.  They just don’t get it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Impending Death of Radio

In the nation’s top media markets, the online “radio station” Pandora is now the most-listened-to service, beating on-air radio in key demographics in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco. As of July, Pandora was number one in the number of persons 18-34 years old listening in those four cities, and Pandora was number two or tied for second in the nation’s other ten largest markets, except Boston, where Pandora is number 3.

And, according to my friend, top-flight radio consultant Holland Cooke, the erosion of radio ratings to internet services is not just about Pandora; the internet’s top 20 audio-casters are up 27% in the past year.

I’m pretty sure neither of my kids (ages 26 and 28) listens to radio.  I think radio’s goose is pretty much cooked, and that it will largely disappear within my lifetime.  And I’m 62.

Any radio station that plays music of any sort as its stock-in-trade was doomed a long time ago, when the mp3 player became popular.  Smart radio group operators have already realized that news/talk/sports (called “spoken word” formats in the industry) is about the only remaining viable role for radio, and in the biggest markets, station owners are dumping the music format on their FM stations and simulcasting their news/talk format on their FM’s.  In Chicago, CBS radio has just dumped the music format on its FM station (which used to be “Fresh 105.9”) and is now simulcasting news/talk WBBM-AM on the frequency.  This sort of thing is going on all over the nation.

Nearly every car sold today has a sound-system (we used to call it “radio”) input for your mp3 player; Ford has pioneered in-car internet connection; and it won’t be long until every new car sold will come equipped to get the internet.

By and large, broadcasters have no concept of how to deal with these massive changes, and continue to pare the payroll of the best and most experienced on-air talent (read: most expensive), replacing veterans who have long-standing connections with the community – attributes which are most likely to slow the constant erosion of listeners – with lower-priced, less-experienced personnel.  Most radio stations regard their website as a glossy brochure for their on-air product, offering almost no value to people who stumble across their website.  They’re riding the horse backward.

Radio’s days are numbered, and it seems most station owners are doing what they can to hasten its death.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Silver-Haired Stranger

Faithful readers know how I've railed for years against news writing that simply lifts verbiage from police reports.  Here's the original Madison Police Department Incident Report on the story of the man and his horses downtown:

Officers were dispatched to a citizen complaint of three horses in front of 7 W Main not looking well. Upon arrival officers found that the three horses appeared dehydrated, and underweight. They also appeared to have many sores from the sadles and on their legs that were open sores. The horses seemed to be suffering in the heat as well. Mr. Mischler claims to have riden the horses from Florida to Madison to raise awareness for hunger. The horses were confiscated at the time by Animal Control Officers for further investigation.

And here's how it looks after former WISC-TV3 reporter Joel DeSpain, now a spokesman for the Madison PD, re-wrote it:

The silver haired stranger had pulled up a chair outside of a downtown saloon. He was enjoying a drink, looking across to the Capital, having tied up Chief Spirit, Justice, and Charity. A small crowd gathered, some bringing forth buckets of water for his horses, as they appeared hot and tired. Two were laden with large saddle bags or packs. Upon closer examination, some citizens became concerned about how thin the animals appeared. One was panting. Its’ ribs were showing, and a downtown worker said, “It looked as if the horse was about to pass out.” Police were dispatched to possible animal neglect. Now at the MPD, officers are known to have come to the job from very diverse backgrounds. So, perhaps, it should not come as a complete surprise that one responding to the scene has a BS Degree in Animal Science-Equine from UW-River Falls, and formerly worked as a professional in the horse industry. The officer is trained in using the Henneke method of Body Condition Scoring: a 1 to 10 scale used to determine the body fat on a horse. A score of 5 is considered healthy, 1 extremely emaciated and 10 excessively fat. The officer scored the horses: 2.5, 3.5, and the best ranked a 4. The officer found sores, signs of dehydration, and hooves that were in poor condition. The officer sent another to the local drug store to obtain a thermometer. She lifted the tails, made the insertions, and gathered the readings.

Meanwhile, the silver haired stranger talked of being on a mission from God of sorts, having ridden – he claims – from Daytona Beach to Madison since March. Said his destination, this go round, is Winnipeg, and that the saddle has pretty much been his home since 2002 when he rode out of Montana on one horse. Since then he says he’s been hoofing it from coast to coast, having increased his equine team to 3. He told officers he has no means to give his horses food or water, but said, “God would provide.” Along the trail, or highways, he says people help him out, and that the horses occasionally are stabled. Such was not the case Sunday night. He says that night he had them tied up outside of a Madison area motel. They faired better last night, having gotten a lift in the Madison Police Department’s horse trailer to Sun Prairie where the Humane Society arranged for proper stabling. As for their owner, he ended having to put his drink down and got a trip to the local jail. He was arrested for animal neglect, although he maintains the team is in great shape, as they are “all muscle and bone.”

The officer had also checked to see if he had proper paperwork for his horses, namely a Coggins certificate and Health Papers. The former horse professional, now wearing the badge, knows the documents need to be current in order to take horses across state lines. The horseman had a Coggins certificate for one horse, but none of the other necessary documents. However, he did hand the officer his “Letter of Commitment to Jesus” which he thought was important for her to see.

DeSpain was one of the best story-tellers ever to grace the Madison TV airwaves.  It's nice to know he's still "got it".

(The photo of Joel DeSpain at the top of this post was stolen from the Madison Police Department website.)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Our Little Olympic Athlete

There are times I wish I had a radar gun to see just how fast our little girl, Sunny (AKC KaZes Rivendell’s Uptown Girl) can run.  The credible literature on the subject says a Collie tops out at around 37 miles an hour.  By way of comparison, a Greyhound can hit 45 miles an hour, and do it in three strides.  So, while the Collie can’t catch a Greyhound, it will win a long race, because while Greyhounds are superior sprinters, Collies were bred to run all day in the hills of northern Scotland herding sheep.

I wish I’d had the radar gun on her yesterday afternoon around 4 o’clock, when I let Sunny and her older “sister” Shadow (AKC KaZes Shadow Tangled Up Heart) out for a late-afternoon break.  When we opened the door to go out on the deck, Sunny spotted a rabbit in the back yard about 20 yards away and took off like a shot.  The rabbit had heard the door open so it was already running when Sunny saw her.  It was no contest.  The rabbit was at top speed, performing elusive maneuvers to try and outsmart Sunny, who matched the rabbit’s every zig and zag at full speed, and about 45 yards out, a few yards shy of the western fenceline on our property, Sunny came right up on the rabbit’s “six” (directly behind it; the “six o’clock” position, as fighter pilots say) and scooped her up in her jaws.

Shadow was about ten yards behind Sunny, and I was about 25 yards behind Shadow when Sunny caught the rabbit.  I feared the worst for the rabbit, but even after the thrill of the chase, Sunny immediately obeyed my shouted command “DROP”!  The rabbit, no doubt stunned by the capture, lay breathing heavily in the grass.  I praised Sunny for her feat, and the two Collies went into flanking formation on either side of the frightened rabbit.  Satisfied that the dogs weren’t going to hurt the scared rabbit, I went off to get a flat-blade snow shovel from the shed, and lifted the rabbit over the fence.   I expected it to run off, but it stood motionless next to the fence.

While I was attending to the chore of scooping the rabbit to safety, the dogs had found a baby rabbit near the original start of the chase.  The dogs were merely curious, because the little thing – it was about four inches long – was terrified and hyperventilating.  I scooped up the tiny rabbit and took it to the fenceline and deposited it next to the (mother or father?) rabbit, and the two made their way off toward my neighbor Anthony’s property,

A quick search led me to information that the fastest kind of rabbit, the jackrabbit, can hit 45 miles an hour, but the typical backyard rabbit probably maxes out at 27 mph.  I don’t know how fast the rabbit Sunny caught was running, but it was no match.  The only dog I’ve ever seen outrun Sunny was a Greyhound, at a visit to Badger Prairie Dog Park in Verona in May.  It’s quite a sight to see a Greyhound in full stride, all legs and lean body; but to me, watching my Collies run, seemingly defying the laws of physics by changing direction effortlessly at full speed with their luxurious coats flowing in the wind, is a sight of transcendent majesty.

Sunny was bred to be a show dog, and she spent some time collecting awards on the AKC and CCA (Collie Club of America) circuit when she was a very young lady, but the economic downturn meant her breeders (KaZes Collies in Franklin, WI) were going to fewer shows, and when my wife decided it was time to find a companion for Shadow, we’re so glad Sunny was available.  Our veterinarian, Dr. John Gustafson, marvels at Sunny’s perfect form and musculature, and calls her “a little Olympic athlete”.

Our little show girl is indeed quite the athlete, and my wife and I couldn’t be happier to have two such wonderful , loyal, loving animals sharing our home and protecting us and our property.  Here are "the girls"(below)- Shadow, Toni, and Sunny, on the porch where the chase started yesterday.l