Sunday, March 30, 2008

Louis Butler -- Forget the loopholes, let's talk about candor

This week's state supreme court battle between incumbent Louis Butler and Burnett County Judge Michael Gableman is perhaps the ugliest and costliest campaign for that office. It's enough to make anyone who loves the law sick.

Instead of mano-o-mano, special interest groups have placed mudslinging ads all over the state. Butler's friends claim Gableman is a political hack who isn't as tough on crime as he claims. The challenger's people say Butler -- nicknamed "loophole Louie" -- is too liberal and sides too often with criminals over crime victims.

For their part, the two candidates seem to be trying to outgun each other on the issue of who's tougher on crime which is utterly ridiculous.

Being a supreme court justice isn't like a trial judge who gets to make evidentiary calls during a trial and in sentencing can choose incarceration, probation or a fine. True, a left sided track record and roots in the public defender network offer Gableman a fair shot at Butler who, in turn, questioned some of Gableman's calls as a north woods prosecutor.

Instead of focusing relevant issues of law and judicial philosophy, this sniping by the candidates and surrogates serves nobody. For my part I wish I could vote "none of the above."

But there is one dispositive factor which will cause me to vote for Gableman. It's a Butler ad in which the incumbent claims he's supported by 18,000 law enforcement professions.

The truth -- which is conceded in another Butler ad -- is that Butler is supported by organizations which represent 18,000 law enforcement professionals despite Gableman's support from most of the state's district attorneys and sheriffs.

That Butler would get such support isn't surprising. He tends to be a "pro labor" voice. But there's a larger issue.

Lawyers have an ethical obligation to exercise candor toward the tribunal. In plain English, it means to tell the truth. Not all 18,000 folks who belong to those groups backing Butler do so as individuals and Butler's campaign continues to run a misleading ad that implies that they do.

Yes, I know Gableman is a lawyer and a judge and has accuracy gaps of his own, but Butler is already a state supreme court justice. They're the folks who ultimately pass judgment on lawyer discipline. If anyone should be as clean as a hound's tooth, it should be Louis Butler.

Truth be told, I think Butler's a good and decent guy. But he isn't setting the right example and that alone is enough to cost him my vote.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Greetings from Hocking Hills, Ohio

Ash Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Time to go out on a limb

The Kenosha News sure went out on a limb when it endorsed Carl Bryan, an 18-year-old high school student, over retired teacher JoAnne Taube, for one of two Kenosha Unified School Board sets up for election.

In a refreshing bit of candor, the newspaper concedes there's growing frustration over how the district is being run and perhaps it's time for a new face:

Taube, 65, taught elementary music at schools all over the district for 40
years. She has been active in the Kenosha Education Association and served three
years as president. She has also served on numerous committees, including
some of the difficult ones, such the boundary committee that is charged with
recommending new borders for school attendance areas. Taube has paid her dues,
and she is probably at least as familiar with issues in the district as most of
the current members of the School Board.

Yet we find the need to send a message to the School Board that the
voters want something different. The election of Carl Bryan, a candidate who is
still in school, is the best way to send that message.

Residents of the district are frustrated by the lack of progress on so
many fronts that it's hard to keep count. The graduation rate is disappointing,
the test scores are disappointing, attendance isn't good, the performance gap
between racial groups is frustrating and improvements, where there has been
improvements, have been small.

Bryan admits he was taken by surprise by some of the questions at forums in
the beginning of the campaign, but he has been learning as he goes along. He
said the board needs a fresh perspective that he can provide, and he said he is
eager to demonstrate that his education in this school district has prepared him
for this challenge. We think that demonstration, if successful, would be
reassuring to district residents.

I'm not sure I share all of the newspaper's enthusiasm -- Bryan's mother is a teacher and he could come on the board with his own set of biases -- but there is some merit in putting an "end-user" on the board. It's been a long-time since Mark Hunter, now a police lieutenant in Pleasant Prairie, fulfilled that role. Maybe it's time to give Bryan the same shot.

Congratulations to Chief Ed Flynn and the "good citizens of Milwaukee"

It's about time Milwaukee had a police chief serious about fighting crime while holding his own officers accountable.

In his short tenure Ed Flynn has done a lot of good things. He's empowered subordinates to come up with and implement crime-fighting strategies -- and allows them to take the credit. He quickly and unequivocally defended an officer from an unjustified allegation. And he topped it off by sending the right message to the community: "We will own up when we mess up, and if we mess up, we will be accountable," Flynn said. "But I won't be a punching bag for a group of people looking to develop a constituency at the cost of a police officer, especially when the life of an officer is at risk."

That's the type of leadership the Milwaukee Police Department has needed for a long time. And it's exactly what a real chief should be saying.

And while Flynn deserves a salute, so do two "good citizens of Milwaukee" who did what should have been done in coming to the aid of the officer and the community. Their taking the time to get involved -- to report an impaired motorist and come to the aid of an officer under attack -- deserves the utmost recognition. (You can listen to the 911 calls here.)

A community's safety isn't just the business of the police department. It's a partnership. Nobody -- and I mean nobody -- should forget that.

Campaign tactics question Moran's fitness to be mayor

To understand what's to follow, let me illustrate something that could happen to any of us in everyday life.

Suppose the brakes on your car failed and your car sailed through a stop sign and collided with another car, injuring the driver.

As a responsible driver, you have insurance and you notified your insurance company about the accident.

That leads to a common legal struggle to determine whose fault is the accident and how to apportion liability for the other motorist's injuries.

The other motorist says you were responsible because you were driving your car and, regardless of the bad brakes, you ran the stop sign.

You say, "Wait a minute. I wasn't driving recklessly. I just got that car a few months ago and those brakes are fairly new. They should have worked. I think the manufacturer is responsible because the brakes were supposed to work."

The automaker says, "It looks like the master cylinder failed. We bought that from another company. They should be responsible."

And so goes a typical legal battle over who is responsible for what seems to be a fairly straightforward accident case.

Fast forward to the Kenosha mayoral election where Pat Moran placed ads blasting his challenger, Keith Bosman, over an alleged "lawsuit" over water damage to a neighbor's condominium.

The ads, which appear in the Kenosha News and on WLIP, convey the impression that Bosman is some dirtbag because a water leak from his condo damaged one owned by an elderly neighbor who had to move out while repairs were made. The ads claim that Bosman is being sued because of this.

Let's sort this out.

First, there's no lawsuit. A lien was filed. At some point there could be a lawsuit but a lien isn't a lawsuit. A lawsuit is commenced when a complaint is filed. So far, none has been, thus the claim Bosman is being sued is false. A lien is filed to protect someone's potential interest.

Second, the fact a suit is filed doesn't mean a person is guilty of the alleged wrongdoing. There could be, as in the case of the defective brakes mentioned above, a search for who is at fault and, if more than one source is, then the fault under Wisconsin's landmark comparative negligence law has to be appropriately apportioned. This doesn't happen overnight.

Third, to convey the impression that Bosman is a scumbag who dumps on an elderly neighbor is flat out sleazy. It may also be a crime. According to Wis. Stat. s. 12.05: "No person may knowingly make or publish, or cause to be made or published, a false representation pertaining to a candidate or referendum which is intended or tends to affect voting at an election."

The case law interpreting this section pretty much allows election puffery such as name calling or distorting voting records. The current mud bath going on between the two state supreme court candidates is a good example of this. As distasteful as it is, it's not against the law.

But the line gets drawn when the allegations tend to impugn the other candidate's personal character and reputation, i.e., Candidate A saying Candidate B is a deadbeat who doesn't pay his child support.

It's one thing for Moran to blow smoke and call for an ill-defined "new direction" but it's another when he tries to denigrate Bosman's character with a false accusation.

While Keith Bosman isn't Mr. Excitement and certainly not without flaws, he hasn't resorted to the sleaze Moran has in this campaign. Bosman could have touted how Moran was chastised over showing a gun he kept in his office to a group of visiting students when Moran was mayor. Bosman could have lawfully placed ads calling into question Moran's financial qualifications because Moran's business went bankrupt. To his credit, he didn't. (And, to be fair, when third-party rumors about the bankruptcy began circulating, I rose to Moran's defense.)

I used to like and have a lot of respect for Pat Moran. The way he has conducted his campaign clearly indicates that something's wrong with this man that he has to stoop to such sleaze is order to build his candidacy. He is simply not qualified for any elected office.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A dirtbag's faux pas

As I was shopping last night I was accosted by one of our citizens who apparently is bent on serving a life sentence on the installment plan.

"I did my 69 days in jail standing on my head," said the man, whom I didn't recognize.

"69 days?," I said.

"That's an odd number. How'd you wind up doing that?"

"The judge sentenced me to 90 days," the creature replied.

"Oh, that's very interesting." I said.

"I'm glad you did them standing on your head because somebody goofed," I added.

"With your 25% good time credit, you were only supposed to serve 68 days, so you got screwed out of a day."

There are many weary days when I go home exhausted but retain comfort in the thought that I'm going home and they're wearing orange.

Kudos (so far) to Scott Walker and Lena Taylor

This spring election is enough to make anyone sick.

I'd like to vote none of the above in the State Supreme Court race. The egregious mudslinging is reminiscent of two prostitutes arguing over which is the bigger whore. Both Louis Butler and Michael Gableman have distorted issues and their records. Still, Butler is too far left for my liking although I would prefer a more centrist alternative. The special interests trying to buy the election have ulterior motives beyond which candidate is tougher on crime and we should all be alert about that.

On the flip side, there's the county executive race in Milwaukee.

I'm no Scott Walker fan. No secret there. I think he's not done enough to reverse the mammoth degeneration of Milwaukee County's infrastructure. "No tax increase" is a great slogan but so is "Do you want a $50 filling now or a $500 crown later?" There are too many crowns needed now and no money to pay for them because of this neglect.

Nonetheless, Lena Taylor, a state legislator, hasn't shown enough to convince me that she's the better candidate but she's right to raise questions about the county's declining infrastructure.

The good news, so far, is that both Walker and Taylor have campaigned respectfully -- and even with a little bit of humor. It's easy to curse the darkness over the sick advertising many candidates are resorting to these days but Walker and Taylor both deserve praise for keeping it above the belt.

The tax man cometh

This is the "somewhat" part of "somewhat daily."

It's tax time and my energies and spare time have been expended doing the annual experience that rates up there with a colonoscopy in terms of pleasure.

Sorry for being on the side but it's also given me a chance to reflect a bit on the current events.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Breaking news: Fire at Civil War Museum

The Kenosha Fire Department responded to a fire call this morning at the new Civil War Museum which is scheduled to open later this month. No other details are available.

Martin Luther King, jr and Barack Obama

One of the highest privileges in my life was the opportunity to meet and speak briefly with the late Dr. Martin Luther King, jr.

As one who pushed the battle for civil rights since grade school, I was particularly interested in what Dr. King thought would be the impact and legacy of landmark civil rights legislation, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Dr. King's response indicated that when people start living and working next to each others, barriers that separate them should, over time, naturally begin to fall -- essentially that the laws would hopefully position people into situations where they can be called upon to do the right thing.

Of course, Dr. King had a lot more to say, but it was interesting how he interfaced law and society. And, although we still have a ways to go in eradicating discrimination, the fact is that in the four decades since that conversation we are seeing people judging each other by the content of character or at least making an attempt to do so. We are seeing, particularly among young people, a nation less hung up about race. Maybe Dr. King was right after all.

And then there's Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

Obama, who, having a white mother and black father should really be characterized as mixed race, grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia (hardly white enclaves), was educated at Columbia University and Harvard Law School and had a meteoric rise in politics to where with only three years in the United States Senate he's a serious contender for the Democratic party's presidential nomination.

If there is ever a poster child for a beneficiary of the blood, sweat and tears of Dr. King and the legions of others who struggled and sacrificed for civil rights, Barack Obama is it.

Obama showed that America is capable of putting race behind it and moving forward in a very dramatic way. The only monkey wrenches are the ones he put in the mix himself.

First, Obama for years has belonged to a church whose pastor has uttered well-documented bursts of bigotry and intolerance with nary a peep in response from Obama until they became more widely known.

And then, when pushed on the subject, Obama delivers a confusing diatribe on race, simultaneously blasting and praising the deranged minister and lecturing us on race. It was lame and insulting and raised more questions than it answered.

Obama's attacks would hold more water had they been made years ago when he wasn't a candidate. Further, as one of the most privileged persons of color in American history, his condescending lecture was unnecessary and plain insulting.

Barack Obama's double-edged sword is that America is fully capable of judging a person by the content of his or her character. His problem now is that when that evaluation uncovers flaws in his own character, Obama wants to deflect attention elsewhere.

There's a saying from the 1960's: "You're either part of the solution or part of the problem." Barack Obama is clearly the latter.


Regardless of how anyone feels about our military presence and mission in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the men and women who carry it out -- and all others who wear or who have worn the uniform of this country -- deserve the very best whether its training and supplies, support in the field and at home and, yes, medical care.

But the past three decades have shown a decline in such care and commitment, often to pathetic and dangerous levels, and of the compassion that should be associated with it. This is something that reflects the character of the nation.

The Washington Post has been documenting some of the most egregious examples in its expose of conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, once a crown jewel of military medical care facilities. The newspaper's stories give us all reason for angst. This is a national shame that should never have happened and should never happen again.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Class vs. crass

Christopher P. Connell is a Milwaukee County Deputy Sheriff with 12-years on the force. Jason Fields is a second-term state representative from Milwaukee. One thing they shared in common this week is that both were arrested for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant.

Connell -- who took an oath to uphold the law -- registered .22 (nearly three times the "legal limit") on a breath test after he was arrested by a Hales Corners Police Officer whom he berated for busting him.

You know how many cops I have stopped and let go? Hundreds," Connell said. "If I saw a car smashed up against the wall and it was a cop, I would let it go, man. You did not have to do this to me."

What a piece of work Connell is to berate another law enforcement officer who was just doing his job. As Sheriff David Clarke put it, “It’s embarrassing when the kind of behavior we implore the public not to engage in, is exhibited by one of our own law enforcement officers.”

By contrast, Representative Fields, who "blew a .13" in his breath test, was fully cooperative when he was arrested by one of Connell's coworkers. Fields promptly came forward, apologized for his actions, acknowledged that he was wrong, intended to immediately plead guilty, praised the arresting officer and, in particular, made a special apology to children for failing to set a proper example. When questioned by reporters Fields did not duck, dodge or otherwise evade any question and made it clear that he was accepting his punishment as he should.

Sheriff Clarke is right on target. The public's confidence in law enforcement is rightly shaken when the people who are supposed to uphold the law instead break it. Representative Field was truly a class act for whom forgiveness is entirely possible. Connell, however. deserves to be fired.

Obama's race talk: too little, too late

It's said that there are those who walk the walk and those who talk the talk with the latter being a pejorative description.

Barack Obama is one of the few people who went from walking the walk to merely talking the talk and his lame speech this week on race relations is living proof.

Before his oratory debacle Obama really did walk the walk. Americans by and large judged him not as a black (well, actually mixed race) man but rather on the content of his character. He even won the Mississippi Democratic primary.

When I visited a Des Moines area nursing home just before the Iowa caucuses I heard a lot of excitement about Obama and not one word mentioned that he is the "black" or "colored" candidate. That played out time and time again as Americans proved the capability to judge a man on the content of his character. That, however, is a two-way street.

Now that Americans are moving past the color barrier, they are beginning to judge Obama on the content of his character and with growing frequency not liking what they see.

For starters, Obama is a third-year senator with little experience beyond being a "made for TV" candidate who rolls off sound bytes like a juke box but stumbles and deflects when asked something off his script.

His legislative accomplishments are virtually nil.

And yet a good thing is that Americans are putting aside their taboos to begin questioning Obama's qualifications without worrying about being called racists if they dare suggest that he's not up to the task.

When the poop hit the oscillating device after it was discovered that Obama's pastor is some crazed bigot, Obama miraculously decided it was about time he talk to Americans about race, something he hasn't had to do -- thankfully -- up to this point.

He condemned the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's views in strong language -- yet embraced Wright as a wayward member of the family. The condemnation was too little and came way too late. Where was Obama all these years when Wright was spewing forth his misguided hate?

The problem with Obama's argument is that Wright is not a symbol of the strengths and weaknesses of African Americans. He is a political extremist, holding views that are shocking to many Americans who wonder how any presidential candidate could be so closely associated with an adviser who refers to the "U.S. of KKK-A" and urges God to "damn" our country.

Obama did little to address his strange tolerance for the anti-Americanism of his spiritual mentor. For example, he didn't take on Wright's 2003 sermon in which Wright claimed, "The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color."
This accusation does not make Wright, as Obama would have it, an "occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy." It makes Wright a dangerous man.

Wright's accusation is batty, reflecting a sputtering, incoherent hatred for America. And his pastoral teaching may put lives at risk because the virus that causes AIDS spreads more readily in an atmosphere of denial, quack science and conspiracy theories.

But what America especially didn't need is a self-serving lecture on race from one of our most privileged black citizens. The viability of his candidacy shows that Americans are capable of setting race aside in a very dramatic way.

The problem with Barack Obama is that when you do judge him on the content of his character, particularly his belated condemnation of Wright's crazed bigotry, he comes up as being morally and mentally unfit to be commander-in-chief.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Journal-Sentinel misleads readers

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel once again misleads readers with an inaccurate story about the arrest of a Milwaukee County deputy sheriff for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant.

The newspaper reported (as it did last month with respect to the arrest of another officer) that the deputy was arrested "on suspicion" of what the newspaper called "drunken driving."

The first problem is that nobody is ever arrested legally in Wisconsin "on suspicion." An officer can't lawfully stop a person temporarily based on mere suspicion.

An officer may temporarily detain a person -- emphasis on the word "temporarily" -- to investigate his or her "reasonable suspicion" that the person is committing, has committed or is about to commit an offense. Almost all traffic stops are based on this higher standard of "reasonable suspicion."

An arrest can only be based on yet another higher standard -- "probable cause" -- and even then there's no such offense as "drunken driving."

The offense is operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant, controlled substance, etc. The law does not require someone to be drunk in order to be unlawfully impaired in the operation of a vehicle.

Of course most of us use the phrase "drunk driving" loosely but in a legal sense it has no meaning. The greater error, however, is to say that someone was arrested "on suspicion" as such arrests -- and even temporary detentions -- are clearly illegal.

As for the deputy's conduct, what a piece of work he is.

First, officers are supposed to uphold the law, not break it. Then this moron berates the arresting officer: "You know how many cops I have stopped and let go? Hundreds," he said. "If I saw a car smashed up against the wall and it was a cop, I would let it go, man. You did not have to do this to me."

Yes, he did. It was his duty to do so, period.

Interim county executive appointment hits snag

Kenosha County Board Chairman Terry W. Rose's plan to nominate fellow supervisor Mark Wisnefski as interim county executive has hit a snag.

First, there are those on the board and in the community questioning Rose's plans to can indicted executive Allan Kehl's right-hand-man, Kenn Yance and reassigned Carrie Kalberg, Kehl's daughter-in-law and staff assistant.

Then questions have been raised about Rose's intentions of replacing Yance with County Public Works Director Fred Patrie in the wake of news about previously undisclosed defecits in the county's golf course operations.

And then there are some very legitimate questions about whether Wisnfeski is the right person to fill in while county executive wannabes vie for votes in an upcoming special election.

My take is that this plan needs some work.

Yance is an "at will" employee and it should come as no surprise that when Kehl is out the door (which will happen with Kehl's resignation takes effect at the end of the month), Yance will follow.

And Kalberg, according to Rose, won't lose any pay or benefits when she's transferred.

In one sense, Rose is correct when he says those moves will give the executive's office a "fresh start" but a closer look suggests that Rose, a Democrat, is kicking out two people with Republican credentials, thus paving the way for Assembly Minority Leader Jim Kreuser, a Kenosha Democrat, to run for the job once held by Kreuser's old boss, John Collins. One might argue that it's merely replacing the stench of one political skunk with another.

As for Patrie, he's a long-standing county department head but it seems like his department, which apparently has some issues these days, demands his full attention. There are other competent county managers who could step in -- finance guru David Geertsen comes to mind -- for the time being.

And then there's Wisnefski.

Does serving on the county board make a person qualified to be county executive? That's a good question and while Wisnefski is a veteran county board member, there has been virtually no discussion about whether he has what it takes to do the job, especially since the outgoing executive's staff has been removed. In this sense perhaps someone like Geertsen might be a better choice to serve as interim executive.

Another name mentioned as an interim executive is outgoing Kenosha mayor John Antaramian who clearly has the credentials to do the job pending the election of a new executive. And it should be up to the new executive to choose his or her staff.

All of this scandal, of course, suggests that maybe the executive's job should be abolished and a professional county administrator appointed. That's an idea well worth considering.

Monday, March 17, 2008

It's time for this community to recognize an unsung hero

Last May thousands of people turned out to honor slain Deputy Sheriff Frank Fabiano, jr. Hundreds of police officers from throughout the Midwest packed the Carthage College chapel and the seemingly endless procession of squad cars to the cemetery was witnessed by young and old alike. A visiting officer, Madison’s Brian Austin, wrote that his colleagues were humbled by the outpouring of respect the Kenosha community paid to Deputy Fabiano and his family.

Now that Ezequiel Lopez Quintero has been convicted of killing Deputy Fabiano, it’s time for this community to appropriately recognize another hero on that fatal May 16, University of Wisconsin-Parkside Police Officer Jimmie Spino.

It was Officer Spino who, while on patrol, observed that Deputy Fabiano was having trouble getting a van to stop. Officer Spino pulled his patrol car behind Deputy Fabiano’s to offer backup, if needed. It was.

As Deputy Fabiano commanded the van’s driver to get out of the vehicle, Officer Spino heard gunfire and saw “flashes” of light. He saw Deputy Fabiano fall to the ground. Officer Spino returned fire as he positioned himself to aid the fallen deputy. The gunman ran off.

This community, which rightfully honored the sacrifice of Deputy Fabiano, shouldn’t overlook the heroism and service of Officer Spino who put himself in danger to help the wounded deputy and attempt to capture the assailant. It was Officer Spino who chose to pull in behind Deputy Fabiano -- something police officers routinely do -- but the rest was anything but routine. It was Officer Spino who witnessed the gunfire that struck down Deputy Fabiano. It was Officer Spino who tried in vain to assist the fallen deputy and who would later testify in court as the only eyewitness to this tragedy. It is Officer Spino who must live with the aftermath of these events in a way that no other person in this community can or will do.

Officer Spino has not sought any recognition but he was honored by the university at a ceremony keynoted by Chancellor Jack Keating, himself the son of a Seattle policeman. (It was Jack Keating who was shocked upon his arrival at Parkside to find that Chancellor Alan Guskin disarmed the police force in the 1970’s. He quickly and wisely reversed that ridiculousness and, hindsight being 20-20, think of what the consequences might have been had he not.)

Now that a Racine County jury has convicted Deputy Fabiano’s killer, it’s time that this community show its appreciation to Officer Spino who, like the slain officer, is a hero. We owe him no less.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Attack on Moran a cheap shot

Five weeks later an anonymous poster commented on my assessment of whether Pat Moran, the former Kenosha mayor who wants his old job back, is truly an effective and honest advocate for public safety.

The poster raises several questions about Moran, the most disturbing one about the failure of Moran's business. It's probably a good idea to clear the air.

After he left office in 1992 Moran opened up Little Professor Book Center (later known as Southport Book Center) near the Target store in the Southport Plaza Shopping Center.

Moran's store gave Kenosha its first full-service bookstore in decades. Unfortunately, as an independent bookstore, Moran couldn't compete when Barnes and Noble opened up in Racine. It was not for lack of trying. At one point Moran even opened up a cafe in th rear of his store but like so many independent booksellers the competition from the major national chains was too strong.

That's not to say that Moran shouldn't be scruitinized for his past record as mayor and his curiously vague promotion of "A New Direction" as his campaign mantra or for any special interests who may be supporting him. Have at it and he sure deserves it but to kick the guy when he tried to do something good is a bum rap.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spitzer's hypocrisy exposes ours

Elliot Spitzer's penchant for exorbitantly priced call-girls contrasted with his previous hard-nose crusade against prostitution brought down the New York governor who resigned yesterday.

More than a few people were beating their chests and banging the drums over Spitzer's hypocrisy and most didn't cry many tears at his departure.

But is Spitzer the only hypocrite in the crowd?

The news media salivated over the story which got its start as an IRS suspicious money transfer investigation. They hunted down the details and uncovered the young woman who was on the other end of the deal. She was working for an elite escort agency.

The titillation didn't just extend to the media. "Pretty Woman" was a pretty popular movie. So have other films and books dealing with "The World's Oldest Profession."

If you think about it, "The World's Oldest Profession" got to be so old because society has a duplicid attitude much like the police commander in "Casablanca" who was "shocked" to discover gambling at Rick's while simultaneously he was collecting his own chips.

This is not an endorsement of prostitution but simply a reminder that hypocrisy extends well beyond the governor's office in Albany.

Perhaps our neighbors north of the 49th parallel have a more realistic and honest approach.

In Canada, private acts between consenting adults are not considered the government's business. There are three operative concepts here: (1) adults, (2) consent and (3) private. So, in Canada, while prostitution isn't illegal, solicitation is. So is pimping, sexual exploitation of minors and human trafficking. In other words, those crimes that truly do shock the public's morals and endanger the community are pursued. You can't hustle on the street, have sex with a minor, enslave for sexual purposes or be a pimp.

Perhaps Canada struck an appropriate balance of conscience, morals and the wise use of law enforcement resources. More important, the Canadians aren't as hypocritical.

You have NOT reached...

Like most of us, I suspect that I've now become so accustomed to leaving voice mail messages that I sometimes forget momentarily what to say when I reach a real, live human being.

But today's gripe is about stupid outgoing messages we hear when you get someone's voice mail.

For example, "You've reached the desk of Attorney___________________." Geez, I'd look real silly talking to a desk.

And then there's, "You've reached _____________________." Really, if I've reached you, then why am I talking to your stupid voice mail?


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Constitution wasn't made for comfort

The Kenosha News Wednesday seemed to almost gloat over the resignation of Kenosha County Executive Allan K. Kehl, saying that he should have done so immediately instead of effective on March 31.

In so doing the newspaper not only paid lip service to the constitutional presumption of innocence but actually insulted it by repeated references to the presumption only to be followed with another reason why the indicted county executive should hang it up.

The newspaper's logic is that while Kehl, accused of unlawful campaign finance activity, has the constitutional presumption innocence his "political authority" has diminished to the point where he may not effectively govern.

Maybe so, but whose fault is that?

Suppose Kehl is innocent -- does that mean simply because he's accused he should walk away from the office he campaigned for, spent time and money to achieve and is his right to occupy until either his term expires or he's no longer legally qualified to serve (such as if he's convicted).

Yes, I am mindful that an indicted person in Kehl's position is like the elephant in the room and certainly being around him at these times has to be difficult for all concerned.

But our forefathers never promised us a rose garden, only a Constitution and ours wasn't made just to keep people comfortable.

I agree with the newspaper that state law has a huge void in that it won't allow Kehl to take or be placed on a paid leave of absence until the charges are resolved, but that's the way it is. The price of the presumption of innocence may be a lack of comfort but spitting on our constitutional principles in the name of convenience is even more distressing.

Kehl may be guilty and at some point he may be compelled to leave office. But it shouldn't be before he's convicted just because it makes us more comfy. A constitutional society occasionally has to place principle above convenience but doing so gives life to our Constitution.

Comments problem (hopefully) fixed.

You should be able to submit comments again. Not quite sure why things shut down but was able to fix.

Smoking restrictions may be snuffed out

The Wisconsin Legislature will likely adjourn for the year today with no action taken on proposed legislation to restrict smoking in public places, including taverns.

Governor James E. Doyle, jr., said that without the law Wisconsin would become "the ashtray of the midwest" because of stricter laws in our neighboring states.

The big hangup is when to ban smoking in bars with the powerful Tavern League lobby opposing immediate implementation.

I'm one of the world's staunchest smoking opponents but, geez, why hold this very valuable law hostage over this one point?

If Doyle really wants the law passed, he'll reach a compromise with the Tavern League interests and phase in the restrictions.

New York Governor Quits

Embattled Elliot Spitzer resigned as New York's governor effective next Monday.

Spitzer apologized for his liaisons with high-priced call girls with one media report saying he may have spent as much as $80,000 on his recreational pursuit.

Hopefully he did a better job with the state's finances.

Bowling, airfares and lax antitrust enforcement

It’s not just the loss of 230 jobs but also a part of Milwaukee’s culture.

That’s how you can characterize the decision yesterday to move the United States Bowling Congress to a Dallas suburb.

Bowling? Texas? You’ve got to be kidding? Holy Fonz!

The USBC wants to be close to the Bowling Proprietors Association of America which has its headquarters in the Dallas area. While that may be plausible, it leaves another cultural void in Milwaukee.

Nothing we can say will change the decision. Milwaukee politicians made an 11th hour plea that fell flat.

But one thing that was said as part of the rationale for moving the USBC bears attention: Milwaukee’s airfares are way too high.

Despite County Executive Scott Walker’s reliance on some old numbers to dispute that, the criticism is apt. Those of us frequent flyers have noted skyrocketing fares in and out of Mitchell Field, especially since the sale of Midwest Airlines and merger talks between Delta and Northwest.

Northwest now owns 47% of Midwest and together they corner three-fourths of the Milwaukee market.

Holy antitrust! Doesn’t anyone care about that stuff?

Good question but an old one that’s lingered from the days when Chrysler was allowed to assume and then dismantle American Motors.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What do you do when both sides are "right?"

A curious conflict arose at Monday night's Pleasant Prairie Plan Commission meeting.

The village planning department proposed rezoning the property off Green Bay Road where the Holy Family Catholic Bookstore is located.

Under the proposal, which was endorsed by the commission on a 5-2 vote, the property would be rezoned from business to institutional with the explanation that a religious bookstore would be included in the "institutional" classification. In other words, it should be business as usual for Holy Family Catholic Bookstore.

But the owner, Wes Ricchio, makes a good point when he says that the "institutional" classification could make it harder for him to sell the property because permitted uses are heavily restricted.

On the other hand, Jean Werbie, the village planner, is also compelling when she points out that a general "business" classification could lead to undesirable businesses, such as an "adult" bookstore, at that location.

Yet Ricchio correctly points out that the land is now classified for "business" purposes and on that basis he spent $200,000 on improvements.

The conflict ignited a spirited debate by the commission which felt torn by Ricchio's legitimate concerns and Werbie's equally plausible warning that the village needs to be consistent with zoning.

Sometimes in life both sides are "right" and this may be one of those times. At the end of the day the village board will have to choose one of the sides. Perhaps down the road if Ricchio needs a variance to move his property, I'd hope that the commission and the board would not equate "consistency" with "rigidity."

County Executive Kehl resigns

Kenosha County Executive Allan K. Kehl, indicted by a federal grand jury last month, is resigning effective at the end of this month.

Kehl faces arraignment in federal court Friday on charges relating to alleged illegal campaign contributions.

Kehl's resignation will mean that the county board chairman, currently Terry W. Rose, will serve as acting county executive until the board approves a temporary successor, appointed by Rose, to serve until a special election.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Should Governor Spitzer resign?

New York Governor Elliot Spitzer is in a pickle now that he's been outed as a client of a very pricey call girl operation. His self-admitted lack of judgment and discretion seems to be an understatement as Steve points out.

All of the juicy details make for interesting press fodder but the question popped up whether he should resign.

It's a good question but one which I'm reluctant to jump on with an enthusiastic "yes."

The difficult part of the analysis is to look at how Bill Clinton skated through his various liaisons, including his famous encounter with intern Monica Lewinsky, and his lack of candor with a federal grand jury. It's difficult to get fired up over Spitzer when his conduct so far seems to be less compelling -- a private tryst not on government property and not with a subordinate. And, unlike Clinton, Spitzer's comments were more forthcoming.

It may well be that Spitzer should resign but the double standard when compared to Clinton is so dramatic that I'm not quite ready to demand it. I am, concerned, just as I was with Clinton, about the possibility of exposing himself to blackmail.

This is not to say that Spitzer deserves a medal and a slap on the back. Given the nod and wink that Dennis Troha got in federal court last week, it's hard to get worked up over the New York scandal. At the end of the day you'd hope most folks would worry more about politicians screwing the public than a lady of negotiable affection.

Momentum building for McCain-Palin ticket

The blog world appears to be going nuts over the possibility of a John McCain-Sarah Palin ticket this fall. Check out this...and this...and now there are even buttons and bumper stickers.

Besides proving balance and excitement to the ticket in the fall, McCain's reaching out to Palin now would trump the publicity generated from the still unresolved Clinton-Obama tussle for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Ultimately, Palin said, she understands that while flattering, the buzz is less about her than it is about what she represents to the Republican Party.

"I recognize that any of the buzz surrounds the fact that I happen to fit a demographic that is appealing to the ticket right now," Palin said. "That's the reality. Again, I happen to fit a demographic at a time that the Republican Party needs to get with it and change and progress and allow others to be a part of public service. It's gender, it's age, it's kind of the maverick being from the outside. It's a combination of things."

A lot of people like Palin's story. They like that she took on established political figures and won, said Kellyanne Conway, a Republican pollster based in Washington, D.C. When people think of Alaska now, Conway said, it's not "bridges-to-nowhere or whether or not to drill for oil." It's Palin.

"Enter the governor, and she is literally a breath of fresh air, but she's somebody who seems to be serving because she's committed to all of this," Conway said.

As for the recent news that she is pregnant with her fifth child (due in May), Palin said it never played a part in any thoughts she has entertained about a hypothetical vice presidential bid.

"I'm very confident that a pregnant woman should not and doesn't have to be prohibited from doing anything, including running for vice president," Palin said.

Numb nuts Kentucky solon wants to end anonymous blogging

Kentuckians couldn't post anonymous comments to Web sites under a bill proposed by State Rep. Tim Couch, a Republican.

Couch's bill would require anyone who contributes to a Web site to register their real name, address and e-mail address with that Web site. Their full name then would be used whenever they posted a comment.

Web site operators who violated the disclosure law would be fined $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.

Couch acknowledged that his bill raises First Amendment issues regarding free speech, so he won't be pushing it. But he wanted to call attention to the phenomenon of unkind and often untrue comments about people being posted online by Kentuckians hiding behind the cloak of anonymity.

"When you're anonymous, you can say anything you want to about someone and nobody knows who you are," he said.

True, but this sack of poop forgets that anonymous political communication was the backbone of the American Revolution, a point noted by the United States Supreme Court in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334 (1995) in striking down as unconstitutional an Ohio law requiring source disclaimers on political advertising.

Couch needs to bone up on his history and the values of the Republican party, especially the part about less government.

Could Lincoln have the answer to the Iraq war?

Recently a letter was discovered which suggests that Abraham Lincoln toyed with the idea that it might be cheaper just to buy freedom for slaves than to prosecute the Civil War.

Could that logic be applied to the Iraq war?

It was reported on CBS News this morning that the war is costing our government $3 billion each week. So, let's do the math.

Let's say the government ordered that the 147 million automobiles in the United States be retrofitted to burn flex fuels and paid $2,000 per vehicle to do so. The cost would be paid off in 98 weeks of Iraq war spending.

At some point this country must get serious about ending its dependence on foreign oil.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Roundy's: Misplaced apology

Tonight I saw a sign at a Pick-N-Save store apologizing for "raising the price" of cigarettes because of an increase in the state cigarette tax.

Say what? Let's look at this more closely.

The price of the cigarettes is set by Roundy's, owner of Pick-N-Save. The tax is set by the legislature. Of course, if the legislature ups the tax, the cost of cigarettes will go up but the base "price" didn't actually go up unless Roundy's decided to increase it as well.

It may be a question of semantics, but it sure seems wimpy of Roundy's to "apologize" for something beyond its control. And, if the increased tax keeps more cigarettes out of the hands of minors, as most research says, why apologize?

Six months probation? That's not even a slap on the wrist!

Southeastern Wisconsin residents have to be spinning with disbelief of the six months probation and not even a fine for Kenosha trucking magnate and casino project honcho Dennis Troha, who was convicted of making illegal campaign contributions.

U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic defended the incredibly lenient sentencing, arguing that Troha is cooperating with federal investigations of others and judge-for-life Joseph P. Stadtmueller bought it -- hook, line and sinker.

Stadtmueller bemoaned the state of America's "hurly-burly" political system greased by money from people such as Troha, and said Troha's actions had a "very corrosive effect on our way of life in the U.S."

But the judge said he didn't see the sentence having any impact on that system. He didn't fine Troha, the judge said, because he thinks the Bush administration and Congress spend wastefully on programs such as the fence along the Mexican border. He suggested instead that Troha contribute to a charity, which Troha's attorney said would happen soon.

"There is no reason to provide funds to the government, and I respectfully decline to do so," Stadtmueller said.

Yes, that's what a sitting federal judge said -- incredible.

Real prosecutors and real judges -- those who work in state courts -- would tell you that a person who gets drunk and disorderly in a bar can get more of a sentence than Troha. A speeder will get socked in the wallet more than Troha.

And just what did Troha deliver? Two of his business associates -- John Erickson and Achille Infusino -- whose offenses don't seem as serious as Troha's.

And then there's Allan Kehl, the recently indicted Kenosha County Executive. While Kehl shouldn't have done what he did -- assuming he's guilty of the allegations -- it seems the Biskupic's probe is going down the food chain instead of up. If that's so, Troha got an incredibly sweet deal.

It's time for Biskupic to poop or get off the potty. With the deal Troha got, he should be delivering something on the order of a congressman or a governor.

By the way,Troha, by pleading out to the reduced charges, faced a maximum of two years in prison and a $100,000 fine for his crimes. Federal sentencing guidelines called for 10 to 16 months behind bars.

Pleasant Prairie wisely defers action on televising meetings

The Pleasant Prairie village board last Monday wisely deferred taking any action on whether to telecast its meetings.

Despite a push from former trustee Alex Tiahybok and local gadly Bob Babcock, sr., the board, while not opposing televising meetings, received and filed a report from Village Administrator Michael Pollocoff describing the $26,000+ cost to acquire the basic hardware.

Frankly, as someone who became a broadcast engineer at the ripe old age of 13 (and that's a long time ago), Pollocoff's estimate is probably too conservative.

I've long supported broadcasting meetings but only if there are sufficient funds to do so. As Trustees Clyde Allen and Michael Serpe pointed out, requests for several items critical to public safety, such as squad car video cameras and recorders, were not included in the final budget. It makes no sense to authorize this expenditure outside of the budget cycle when public safety needs remain unfilled.

There are, of course, options that would cost less.

The village already puts audio files of board meetings up on its web side and Tiahnybok posts low quality video clips on You Tube. A live audio webcast could be done at minimal cost and should be considered.

A live broadcast serves several functions. First, as one California resident put it when discussing a similar issue before his city council, "If something interesting comes up, I might want to put on my shoes and come down here." Further, people will be able to hear the proceedings as breaking news instead of historical events. Finally, the news media could choose to more aggressively follow board proceedings and report on them.

While telecasting may have some appeal, it's more costly than an audio webcast. I agree with trustees who say that if it's going to be done, it was to be done right. A home video camera does not produce broadcast quality resolution plus unless the existing lighting and color casts are fixed, they'd wreak havoc on a telecast.

While I congratulate freshman trustee Monica Yuhas for requesting the study, I'm very disappointed that the board hasn't seen fit to do the next best thing and stream the audio live on the village web site. The cost to do is is minimal and it should be done.

McCain's VP choice could be easy -- and dynamic

Now that Arizona Senator John McCain has sewn up the Republican presidential nomination, the buzz gears up for who will be the crusty 71-year-old's running mate.

Mike Huckabee has been not-so-subtly lobbying for the job but he may be too far to the right for mainstream America. Even though Huck may seem like a Main Street guy, folks who aren't Christians may find some of his comments a bit too imbued with a comingling of church and state.

Mitt Romney would add a businessman's perspective to the ticket but he banged up on McCain so much in the primary fight that it would seem too much like an odd couple. Plus, at the end of the day, it would still be two white men. And then there's Sarah Palin.
Sarah Palin is the 44-year-old governor of Alaska who is a pro-life feminist, snowmobiler, hunter and NRA member, mother of four (with a fifth on the way in a couple of months), married to an oil field worker and fisherman, former journalist, former mayor and former state oil and gas commissioner.

Her ethics history makes McCain look like a newcomer on those issues. As oil and gas commissioner, she exposed massive corruption in the state's Republican political machine going all the way up to the office of then-governor Frank Murkowski whose re-election was torpedoed when Palin challenged him in the Republican primary in which the incumbent finished third (with only 19% of the vote).

While corrupt politicians despise Palin, Alaskans love her with an approval rating around 90%. She's equally at home running a marathon, meeting with foreign officials. staring down big oil companies and winning demands that they pay their fair share in taxes, visiting troops in Kuwait, serving hot dogs at a picnic, walking her children to school, visting grade schools and kicking serious butt on ethics along the way.
Barack Obama's "excitement" in large measure stems from him being a "made for TV candidate" with little substance. Sarah Palin, on the other hand, is the real deal.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Cop killer Lopez-Quintero found guilty - thank you, citizens of Racine County

Ezequiel Lopez-Quintero was convicted this afternoon of first degree intentional homicide woth a dangerous weapon in the shooting death last year of Kenosha County Deputy Sheriff Frank Fabiano, jr.

The jury took a little under three-and-one-half-hours to reach its verdict in the week-long trial which was moved to Racine due to pretrial publicity.

Jurors also found Lopez-Quintero, an illegal immigrant, guilty of carrying a concealed weapon.

Amy Fabiano, the slain deputy's widow, wept loudly when the verdict was read by Circuit Judge Wilbur W. Warren III. Mrs. Fabiano was consoled by Probation Agent Jennifer Merlin whose husband, Ray, is a deputy sheriff.

The jurors didn't buy Lopez-Quintero's defense that he was "too damn drunk" to have formed sufficient intent to commit what used to be called first degree murder. The defense argued for a lesser crime of first degree reckless homicide.

Sentencing will be at a later date.

Congratulations are due to Kenosha County District Attorney Robert D. Zapf and University of Wisconsin-Parkside Police Officer Jimmie Spino who backed up Fabiano and exchanged gunfire with Lopez-Quintero.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

At least Biskupic is trying to do something

The campaign finance scandal indictments of Kenosha casino backer Dennis Troha, business pals John Erickson and Achille Infusino, and now county executive Allan Kehl have left Kenoshans in a spin cycle of wondering when and where will the next shoe drop -- if ever.

The painfully slow federal investigation has largely been a yawner as speculation has begun to wane over whether United States Attorney Steven Biskupic will be able to fry bigger fish. The fact that federal agents recently questioned Sheriff David Beth plausibly suggest that Biskupic's inquiry is moving down the food chain, not up as originally thought.

While it's easy to get frustrated at the snail's pace of the federal probe and its lack of stellar results, you should bear in mind that at least Biskupic is doing something.

That's a lot more than can be said for one of his predecessors, John Fryatt, who pooh-poohed calls for a federal investigation of alleged irregularies in licensing Dairyland Greyhound Park. Donald Hanaway, the state Attorney General at the time, was similarly disinterested and only assigned one state justice agent to investigate at what were then five dog tracks. The old State Racing Board did its best to squash any probe as it might expose its own shenanigans.

Biskupic's journey may be slow and bumpy but it's a heck of a lot more than was done in the past and for that he deserves credit. That said, it's getting long-in-the-tooth and it's about time for him to either start frying the big fish or call it a day.

A novel idea: Spend taxpayer money as if it was your own

The Kenosha News coughs up another biased report favoring the proposed Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee rail line but with an appropriate twist.

This time there's been some discussion about linking existing local transit systems which actually does make some sense.

But then the newspaper once again drivels into its one-sided love affair with the costly KRM rail boondoggle.

I've harped about this many times but suffice to say that the KRM plan is to upgrade the old North Western tracks from Kenosha to Milwaukee (which were once double-tracked before Amtrak was created in 1971) and run Metra passenger trains north of Kenosha to provide a painfully slow ride from Milwaukee to Chicago.

The newspaper reports that lame duck Mayor John Antaramian and indicted County Executive Allan Kehl back sales tax increases to fund KRM. As comedian Chris Rock would say, "That's just plain ignorant."

Wisconsin and Illinois already pay for a half-dozen daily high speed Amtrak runs each way between Chicago and Milwaukee. New Amtrak stations are up in Sturtevant and at Mitchell Field plus the once dingy downtown Milwaukee terminal is now a glistening intermodal transportation model.

Instead of squandering taxpayer money, all that's needed is a Kenosha Amtrak station -- something that Dairyland Greyhound Park promised to build. The city never held Dairyland to that promise but regardless of who pays for it, building a Kenosha Amtrak station is an appropriate, cost-effective alternative.

Putting it another way, it's what an elected official could and should do if he was spending taxpayers' money as it is was his own.

Hillary whoops butt

Hillary Rodham Clinton's primary victories in Ohio and Texas were indeed necessary, not just for the Democratic party, but the nation.

Opponent Barack Obama's eleven wins in a row seemed to gain a momentum that overshadowed his lack of experience, empty track record and hollow speeches that promise vague "change" but are devoid of substance.

Thankfully, Mrs. Clinton and Ohio and Texas voters at least put a temporary pause in the psychotic mob fever that seemed Hell-bent on elevating the made-for-TV airhead on the fast track for an office for which he is utterly unqualified.

While I am far from a Hillary supporter, she did the country a favor by calling this arrogant southbound end of a northbound horse out over his lack of experience and groundless promises. At least for a moment the nation has a moment to stop before drinking from the well of Obama's grape Kool-Aid.

I always considered Mrs. Clinton to be the smarter of the "royal couple." It's unfortunate that she got stuck with Bill. And perhaps just as much so that she is a polarizing force --most people either like her or instantly dismiss her.

Yet those who work on Capitol Hill know that Mrs. Clinton, unlike Obama, really tries to be a hard-working and contributing member of Congress. Conversely, a walk through the ocean of pretty-boy Barack's soul would barely get a toe wet.

If you want a reality check, think of it this way: Would any school board promote a third-year teacher as the next school superintendent?

On top of that is Obama's incredible arrogance and lack of class demonstrated by his failure to acknowledge Mrs. Clinton's stunning victories earlier this week. His utter lack of class and humility is another reason why he's unqualified to be commander-in-chief.

If anything, Obama, should be become the Democrats' great hope, owes Hillary some thanks because while she rightly questioned his qualifications, her zingers will seem like love taps compared to what the Republicans will throw at him.

I truly don't want Hillary Rodham Clinton as commander-in-chief but Obama is so unqualified that the thought of him in that position is scary -- as well it should be.

If you need any more convincing, I suggest this. Listen to a few Obama speeches (the cookie cutter ones that sound alike and, when you get past the inspiration part, have no real substance) and then listen to Brett Favre's retirement news conference. Listen to Favre's sincerity as he spoke from the heart and compare what he said and how he said it with Obama's drivel. Seriously, Brett Favre is more qualified to be president.

But there are the blind followers who will drink this stuff up and provide great testament to the dumbing down of America. How any rational person could vote for Obama is utterly incredible.

Brett Favre: My apologies

Earlier this week upon hearing the sudden news of Brett Favre's retirement from pro football I suggested that he "wimped out" but listening to his news conference today certainly convinced me that he has been and is continuing to weigh this seriously and with a lot of class.

I don't apologize for suggesting that he could have made the call earlier so that the Packers would have a better edge in the free agent market and I'm a bit disappointed that he appears to be scaling back his charitable work (after all, a retired guy who isn't even 40 should have plenty of time for that). Apart from that, I believe Favre truly struggled with his decision and that he is, as my generation would say, "burned out."

If you listened to Favre's news conference -- the entire broadcast -- you were privy to a special occasion in which Favre spoke eloquently, from the heart and with a great deal of humility and deliberation. Excerpts on news broadcasts throughout the day really couldn't adequately capture the depth of the event or the character of Brett Favre.

Yes, he said all of the right things -- thanking the Packers, his teammates, his wife and family, the fans -- but there was more. For example, when speaking of heir apparent Aaron Rodgers, Favre not only praised him but cautioned Rogers not to try to fill Favre's shoes but his own -- to do things his way. That said, I cannot recreate the sincerity in which those words were actually spoken.

I was also moved when Favre spoke about his experiences with children and challenged persons, such as with the Make-A-Wish, and more specifically about how he received much more from them than he ever gave.

Favre made perfect sense when he explained that while he could have played another season, he just wasn't up to it. Any of us who seriously grapple (or have grappled with) the issue of retirement can identify with that sifting and winnowing process. He correctly said that he's accomplished more than he ever dreamed possible in his professional life. It was clear that for him moving on was the right call.

That said, there was one thing I believe Favre was wrong about. Dead wrong.

When he said that he didn't have anything more to give, that was more an expression or burnout than reality. Now that there are no more awards to win or Super Bowl rings to earn, Favre is free to examine the rest of his still young life to determine where he can make a difference. Maybe there's a high school program in need of guidance. Or a community service organization that needs leadership. Or young athletes who need advice on navigating the potentially troubled waters of a professional career.

There are many professional athletes whose lives take a decisive downward turn when they hang it up. I have a feeling Favre won't be one of them. If, however, there is one suggestion I would make to Favre it would be that he spend the next year in which he plans to contemplate his future soliciting the advice of those who have successfully been-there-and-done-that, such as Bart Starr and John Elway.

My sense is that publicity shy Favre won't likely be as high profile as Elway but Elway has keen business sense and Starr, in addition to his philanthropic works, is a positive example of, "Once a Packer, always a Packer." While Favre will undoubledly chart his own course, there are some examples of how it can be done and Starr and Elway are two of the best.

Finally, all of this leaves the Packers and fans throughout the nation in a difficult predicament. If he who fails to heed the lessons of history is condemned to repeat them, the post-Lombardi era should be a warning for the Packers and the team's fans.

When the legendary Lombardi left the Packers, thoughts shifted to "Who will be the next Lombardi?"

The Packers went through a succession of coaches -- Phil Bengtson, Dan Devine, Bart Starr, Forest Gregg -- and when the team and the fans finally gave up the futile search for the next Lombardi -- which placed an incredible and unreaslistic burden on those coaches -- they got Mike Holmgren and, shortly thereafter, Brett Favre.

Happy trails, citizen Favre.

Taking a leak in the morning Urinal-Sentinel

The hot news flash is that the City of Milwaukee will have to dig $4 million deep to pay for winter storm cleanup.

In a way, that's hardly news. This is one of the worst winters in recorded history. It's obviously going to cost more.

What inquiring urinalists should be asking is what happened to all the money that was saved in the many years we had record mild winters? Where did that money go?

Of course, to find out the answer to that question, they'd have to do some work.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

McCain clinches nomination; Huckabee goes out with class

The Republicans don't have to struggle with who will be their nominee for president -- John McCain essentially locked it up tonight with primary wins in Ohio, Texas, Vermont and Rhode Island.

The scene stealer, however, was Mike Huckabee, who gave a marvelous concession -- perhaps more like a conciliation -- speech. Very classy and for that the Huck deserves a hug.

Favre wimps out

For one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the National Football League, Brett Favre's decision to retire has "wimp" written all over it.

Of course, notwithstanding any contract obligations, the decision is Favre's to make. The news, however, stunned Favre's teammates and Packer fans everywhere.

"I know I can still play, but it's like I told my wife, I'm just tired mentally. I'm just tired," Favre told ESPN's Chris Mortensen in a voice mail message.

Tuesday's surprise move comes after the 38-year-old three-time MVP set several league records, including most career touchdown passes, in one of his most successful seasons.

Favre's agent, Bus Cook, said the quarterback told him of his decision Monday night.

"Nobody pushed Brett Favre out the door, but then nobody encouraged him not to go out that door, either," Cook said.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson thanked Favre for 16 years of wonderful memories with the team.

"He has had one of the greatest careers in the history of the National Football League, and he is able to walk away from the game on his own terms - not many players are able to do that," Thompson said in a statement.

Favre's departure comes after rumors that he wanted the Packers to acquire Randy Moss for him to stay with the team but Moss yesterday signed a new deal with the New England Patriots.

Before the Packers' Jan. 12 divisional playoff game against Seattle, Favre told his hometown newspaper that he wasn't approaching the game as if it would be his last and was more optimistic than in years past about returning.

"For the first time in three years, I haven't thought this could be my last game," Favre told the Biloxi (Miss.) Sun Herald. "I would like to continue longer."

But Favre finished the season on a sour note, struggling in subzero temperatures in a 23-20 overtime loss to the New York Giants in the NFC championship game.

"The Packers owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude," Thompson said. "The uniqueness of Brett Favre his personality, charisma and love of the game - undoubtedly will leave him as one of the enduring figures in NFL history."

Thompson is correct and the Packers have handled Favre's childish indecision with an enormous amount of class.

For a player whose on-the-field performance was the epitome of class, Favre's retirement announcement is borderline crass.

I don't buy Favre's bit about being "tired" because he still has a lot to give. For example, Favre could have come back and split the quarterback duties with backup Aaron Rodgers, giving "A-Rod" the benefit of his mentoring. For someone who has expressed an interest in coaching, this would have been a perfect opportunity for him.

Yes, Favre is one of the greatest. Yes, if he feels he can't continue to do the job he ought to retire. But you don't just spend 16 seasons with the Packers and walk away on the basis of a couple of telephone messages. He owed the team -- which, in the case of the Packers, includes the fans -- more class. Plus his timing makes it more difficult for the Packers to shop the free agent market, assuming that Rodgers will get the starting role.

One of the greatest players in the history of professional football should have gone out with class, not as a wimp.

Again, my angst in no way, shape or form should take away from Favre's career and personal accomplishments. But he should have taken the time to say good-bye.

Careful with those gift cards

I was in the grocery store this weekend and saw a rack of gift cards for sale -- some for The Sharper Image.

But wait! Buying them isn't so sharp.

That's because The Sharper Image filed for bankruptcy and their gift cards are technically worthless, considered as unsecured debt which is way down the pecking order as far as bankruptcy courts are concerned. With the prospect bankruptcy looming over many retailers, this is a major worry.

And then there's the problem of gift cards having expiration dates, often one year from the date of sale (which the recipient rarely knows).

California nailed that door shut by forbidding expiration dates -- something the inept-and/or-corrupt Wisconsin legislature hasn't done.

No matter how you slice it or dice it, it's stealing when companies aren't compelled to honor the gift cards. The laws need changing to require gift card funds to be segregated into a trust fund so that they money can't be used by a retailer until the gift cards are used and, like the currency they represent, they should be nonexpiring.

But don't look for that to happen because, as we know, lawmakers respond to those who grease their skids and that means consumers are on the outside looking in.

Monday, March 3, 2008

15,000+ hits -- Thanks!

Your support is encouraging.

Did the city council see the light or feel the heat?

Kenosha's city council tabled a sex offender residency ordinance, looking toward a possible county ordinance to save it from its folly.

Mind you that no sane person wants a sex offender living next to them -- but at the same time the city went full speed ahead in blessing the construction of a new elementary school across from a minimum security (no fences) state prison.

Maybe now the city will have time to think about the things cities are supposed to do, like plow the snow, salt the icy streets and fix the potholes.

As for sex offender residency ordinances, wouldn't it make sense for there to be a statewide model that can be given a constitutional test? If it passes muster, then you won't have costly endless litigation. But that would require common sense -- and if common sense was common, you could buy it at Wal-Mart.

Chicago: The nation's top sales tax Hell

If you need a reason other than the perennial Illinois All-Toll-And-No-Way to avoid Chicago, here's the best: the nation's highest sales tax.

With a huge hike in the county's share approved by the Cook County Board at the behest of Chairman Todd Stroger, Chicago's sales tax will climb to 10.25 per cent.

That beats Memphis' 9.25 per cent -- but, unlike Illinois, Tennessee doesn't have a state income tax.

As far as I'm concerned, Chicago can take that tax and shove it.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Looks like Chief Flynn's honeymoon is short-lived

Ed Flynn, Milwaukee's new police chief, had been doing lots of things the "right way" but has now stumbled into a "no win" situation which promises to end his brief honeymoon with the press and public.

According to Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist Dan Bice, the new chief's undies got into a bundle because he didn't see a 67-page report on voting irregularities in 2004 -- long before Flynn ever set foot inside the Milwaukee Police Department -- until a few hours before it was disseminated.

Mayor Tom Barrett is probably even more peeved because he didn't get a "heads up" at all.

Flynn's angst is understandable. A controversial report left the building without his involvement. Perhaps it was intentional as some might fear that it would be silenced or adulterated if politicians got to play with it first.

So Flynn is now cooking up a witch hunt within the police department to find out who's responsible. That's also understandable.

But at the end of the day the people who pay the taxes that enable the city treasurer to sign Flynn's check probably would prefer that he spend his time and the department's manpower fighting crime in the city which, after all, is the precise reason he was hired.

Reality vs. hope

Make no mistake, Barack Obama is an engaging candidate, successfully pandering "hope" to a nation of people weary of war, high gasoline prices and the way things are.

Those of us who are old enough to remember John Fitzgerald Kennedy's 1960 campaign saw the youthful Kennedy upset the more experienced Nixon. Or the 1964 race where Lyndon Johnson's "great society" trounced Barry Goldwater's conservative agenda (which, by today's standards, is almost liberal at times).

I'm weary of being fat. It's my life story. And if someone offered me "hope" in the form of a magic elixir that would make me svelte, I just might jump for it even though the reality is that it may not work.

And the Obama campaign is just about that -- selling the magic "hope" pill vs. harsh reality. The contrast surfaced during the Democratic presidential debate Tuesday.

Obama, who pledged to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq, was asked if he reserved the right to go back into Iraq. He responded that "if al-Qaida is forming a base in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way that secures the American homeland and our interests abroad."

The next day McCain mocked Obama, ''I have some news. Al-Qaida is in Iraq."

Obama fired back, ''I do know that al-Qaida is in Iraq and that's why I have said we should continue to strike al-Qaida targets. But I have some news for John McCain. There was no such thing as al-Qaida in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq."

So what, pray tell, is Obama's Iraq strategy?

It seems to be that he knows al-Qaida is in Iraq but he's going to pull out anyway. But if al-Qaida establishes a base in Iraq, he'd go back in. Does that sound confusing? His policy seems to pull our troops out of Iraq and hope for the best. And, for him, the "real" issue is what cowboy Bush and McCain did five years ago.

Given the nation's weariness with the war, that message has proved to be appealing to Democratic primary voters. They want no part of the grim realism of McCain's position that Iraq is part of the wider struggle against Islamist jihadism athat will require a long-term U.S. commitment. Arguing over what happened in 2003 is a way to avoid facing today's realities, McCain reasonably argues.

Hope also figures in Obama's willingness, as president, to meet, without preconditions, America's adversaries like Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently said he wouldn't "shake hands with people who refuse to recognize Israel." He didn't mention names but he meant the Iranian president.

Obama's blind followers see his we-can-talk diplomacy as a refreshing. Hillary Clinton is the surprising voice of realism here but her efforts to paint Obama's position as naive apparently aren't swaying many Democrats. (And heaven forbid that her position coincides with Bush saying meeting with a tyrant like Ahmadinejad only buttresses an oppressive government, confuses our allies and demoralizes Iranian reformers.)

Given the complexities of the world, a president occasionally does have to meet with unsavory characters in pursuing vital foreign policy initiatives. Bill Clinton tried coax Yasser Arafat to negotiate an end of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict only to see his work and peace hopes vaporized by Arafat's allegiance to terrorism.

A President Obama would be taking a big gamble meeting with a rogue like Ahmadinejad without preconditions. Iran wants nuclear weapons, is a sponsor of terror responsible for mass murder as far away as Argentina, and has been at the heart of Islamist-inspired turmoil for nearly three decades. It stones women to death for adultery. It executes more children than any country in the world. Tehran lashes gays and kills them by public hanging. It jails, tortures and executes political dissidents.

At Columbia University last year Ahmadinejad advocated an end to Israel, denied the Holocaust and even claim no homosexuals live in Iran. More recently he proclaimed Iran has two missions. complete the Islamic revolution in Iran and then go about "introducing the Islamic revolution to the entire mankind."

Hope may make for a good American political campaign, but it's not the basis for foreign policy. And in less troubled times it may be a comfortable elixir.

But in a diseased world, removing the cancer is the best prelude to hope.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Cross-Dresser or Barack Hussein Obama? You decide.

McCain trivia

As Prince Harry is back on British soil after news leaks prompted his evacuation from the front the British military's front lines in Afghanistan, it should be noted that John McCain's youngest son just returned from combat deployment with the U.S. Marines in Iraq.

The last presidential candidate to have a son in combat was FDR.