Friday, October 9, 2009

Backhanded compliment

I remember a concert where the Clancy Brothers were greeted with applause until Tommy Makem stepped up to the microphone and said, "Why don't you wait until we do something before you clap?" There is a parallel to the Nobel Peace Prize awarded President Obama, one that should transcend politics.


Much of the response has been predictably political -- Obama fans rejoiced and opponents blasted away -- but for all Americans there is reason to worry.

Don't just take my word for it -- let's look at the New York Times: "Whatever it meant on the world stage, in the United States the award to Mr. Obama was a decidedly mixed blessing. It was a reminder of the gap between the ambitious promise of his words and his accomplishments. It drew attention to the fact that while much of the world was celebrating him as the anti-Bush, he had not broken as fully as he had once implied he would from the previous administration’s national security policies. And it set off another round of mocking criticism from opponents who have chafed at what they see as the charmed and entitled rise of Mr. Obama."

The Times' editorial pointed out the reason for concern: "Certainly, the prize is a (barely) implicit condemnation of Mr. Bush’s presidency. But countering the ill will Mr. Bush created around the world is one of Mr. Obama’s great achievements in less than nine months in office." The editorial writer concedes that Obama has much to do to actually earn the award.

This is true. When Jimmy Carter was recognized it was more than 20 years after leaving office when the efficacy of his mideast initiatives produced tangible results. By prematurely awarding Obama, does it not signal some interference in American foreign policy?

Prematurely awarding the prize to President Obama has all the makings of a backhanded slap, not just toward the previous occupant of the West Wing, but toward its present occupant and all Americans.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Kenosha News no longer published in Kenosha?

Yep. Starting August 26, 2009 the Kenosha News will no longer be published in Kenosha.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel scored a five-year contract to print the Kenosha News which will be giving the boot to 53 employees, 13 of them full-time.

This news is a dark day for the Kenosha News which has been in a steady decline for a few years, shrinking both the size of the paper and the contents of local news stories.

This is a far cry from the days when one could walk down 58th Street in downtown Kenosha and look inside a large window to see the Goss press "that prints your Kenosha Evening News."

That press was decomissioned several years ago with printing and distribution moved to an addition.

The newspaper gave some stock excuse for sticking it to its staff. Regardless of whether the reason is valid, the news is sad and disgusting.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How did Dad29 miss this?

The Vatican Wednesday declared "illegitimate" the ordination of priests planned for later this month by a hardline breakaway movement from the Roman Catholic Church.

"The ordinations are ... still to be considered illegitimate," the Vatican said in a communique, despite its controversial decision to lift the excommunication of four bishops from the Society of St Pius X including Holocaust denier Richard Williamson.

Members of the fraternity "do not exercise legitimate ministries in the (Roman Catholic) Church," the communique said. The Vatican will maintain this position "as long as issues concerning doctrine are not clarified," it said, adding that the Switzerland-based group had "no canonical status in the Church."

The pope's decision in January to lift Williamson's excommunication infuriated the Jewish community and many Catholics.

Benedict's predecessor Pope John Paul II excommunicated Williamson and three other bishops after traditionalist leader Marcel Lefebvre ordained them as bishops of his separatist church in 1988.

Their fraternity rejected reforms passed by Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s, notably including a declaration, Nostra Aetate, which ended a Church doctrine by which the Jews were held responsible for killing Jesus Christ.

Williamson, who claims that no Jews were killed in Nazi gas chambers, has apologised to anyone offended by his remarks but has refused to retract his assertions, saying only that he would reexamine the historical evidence.

The pope said in March that while the bishops had been "invited" back into the fold, they "do not (yet) legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church."

Benedict said that the four must recognise "the authority of the pope and the Second Vatican Council" in order to "complete the last steps necessary to achieve full communion with the Church." Lefebvre ordained the four, in defiance of John Paul II, as bishops to create a heirarchy for the breakway group.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Do you think Doyle and the Democrats are doing a good job of running Wisconsin?

It's a fair question in light of Doyle's predicted $6.2 billion budget shortfall.

Yep, times are tough but catch this little blurb from Oklahoma and then ask yourself the headline question:

OKLAHOMA CITY -– State Treasurer Scott Meacham on Thursday announced a budget shortfall for the current fiscal year.As a result, state agencies will have to cut their budgets by 1.42 percent for June.Meacham said he does not think the public will notice the cutbacks.The last allocation to state agencies is set to go out next week. The amount, $480 million, will be reduced by $6.8 million, Meacham said.The agency cuts amount to a 0.1 percent reduction for all of fiscal year 2009, which ends June 30."Since January, we have been cautioning that this scenario could occur as Oklahoma experiences the effects of the recession," Meacham said. "Unfortunately, a revenue shortfall has now occurred and we are forced to make small, across-the-board cuts."The state's last budget shortfall occurred in fiscal year 2003.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Can you make an undocumented left turn?

Leave it to the Kenosha News to screw things up.

Reporter Terry Flores wrote an interesting article today about how the state budget bill includes a provision that would permit illegal aliens to secure driver cards from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, a practice similar to Utah's which doesn't issue illegal aliens regular driver's licenses.

The story, of course, features a left-wing slant with the telling repetition of "undocumented immigrants" instead of the accurate description of "illegal aliens."

Of course, if Terry Flores or one of her editors made a left turn while driving in violation of an official sign prohibiting such a turn, I guess they'd be making an undocumented turn.

Sheesh.

Too bad Barack never met Ben Lawton

There are people in life you are privilged to have known.

The late Ben Lawton is one of them.

Ben Lawton died in 1987. He was only 64 but had a rich life which included being a cardiac surgeon, president of the Marshfield Clinic and University of Wisconsin regent.

What impressed me the most about Ben Lawton was his ability to speak for the common man.

On the cost of medical education: "If I had to pay what these kids do now, I'd still be driving a beer truck."

On the high cost of medical care: "Do you need $70,000 in tests for a 70 cent answer?"

Ben Lawton was no country quack. He helped bring top quality health care to the rural areas of central Wisconsin -- "gold card" care by urban standards.

And he and his cohorts did it in such a way to avoid duplication of costs and services.

As Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and others look for ways to deal with their health care issue, it's too bad Ben Lawton isn't around to advise them.

One thing I think he'd point out is that you'll never do anything meaningful if you don't control insanely spiraling costs.

Simply stated, the health care industry has run amok and just throwing money at it -- our money -- won't fix it. (Of course, the auto industry "bailout" model should work for them, shouldn't it? Nah.)

Cost containment. Reducing paperwork burdens and duplication of services. Caps on unnecessary spending by health care providers. Ferreting out corruption and kickbacks.

These are just a few ideas to get the ball rolling. It's time that health care provders return to acting like health care professionals instead of car salesmen.

Soglin's Onto Something

After reading his blog I usually think Paul Soglin, Madison's "hippie mayor" who turned out to be one of the chamber of commerce's best friends, is on something. But this time I think Paul really is onto something when he posted about what the UAW did not do to General Motors.

It's a great read:


I was raised on General Motors automobiles. Every car my Dad bought, except for a Dodge Dart he purchased from a relative, was a Chevy. My uncles and aunts bought GM.


I was committed to doing my part and bought American cars. GM cars.


My first new car purchase was a Buick Regal purchased in 1978. I loved that car. We made two trips to Boston, one to Washington D.C., two skiing trips out west to Colorado and Idaho, camping trips in Wisconsin, and countless trips to Chicago for family in all sorts of weather.


In 1982, little holes, pin holes appeared in the roof. I knew that the body problems could be a disaster so I traded it in for a new Buick Regal. The new car was nice but the engine cut out every time I made a right turn up a hill. Go figure.

In the next fifteen years, Sara and I purchased three more GM cars, including one for my mother-in-law, and not including the Buick for the mayor's office.


The last new car was the Chevy Blazer. In 1992 with three kids, three large dogs, and Sara constantly hauling furniture that she was painting, an SUV was a logical choice. The vehicle was a nightmare.


The United Auto Workers (UAW) did not put the holes in the roof of the Regal.

The UAW did not create the design defect that made the second Regal stall on the
right turns.

The UAW did not design the Blazer which Consumer Reports rated as one of the worst SUVs on the road.


The UAW did not make the Japanese design of my Infiniti with 90,000 miles and rides like it was brand new.

The UAW did not make GM build Hummers while Toyota was building the Prius.

The UAW did not order German and Japanese engineers to build smart, zippy, fuel efficient cars for the youth market so they would grow up snickering at U.S. cars.


The UAW did not fog the minds of GM executives so they believed they were on the right track with the Cadillac Escalade.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pork and slime: Another day in Madison

Wisconsin's prince of slime, Jimmy Doyle, woes and moans over a projected $6.6 billion dollar budget defecit.

Jimmy -- heaven forbid that anyone call him James E. Doyle, jr. -- lays on the guilt trip that times are tough. User fees will increase, services will be curtailed and even essential state employees will be furloughed. Cue the drama! Oh, the pain we must all bear!

Now, my late mom would say, "You have to spend money to make money" and I don't object if there's a return on our investment. But don't hand us crap about how bad the state's finances are and then go out on a spending spree.

The Wisconsin State Journal caught Jimmy Boy and his majority pals in Madison with their pants and panties down:


It's hard to take state lawmakers seriously when they talk about how
difficult the state budget is when they're splurging on pet projects. Just look
at the laundry list of earmarks Democrats who control the Legislature's budget
committee slipped into the budget in the middle of the night last week before
quickly advancing the state's two-year spending plan:

• $28 million in state-funded borrowing for a nursing building on the UW-Madison campus -- something the university didn't ask for or prioritize.

• $5 million for the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.

• $500,000 for an opera house in Oshkosh that was already being repaired without help from the state.

• $100,000 to restore a stone barn in Oconto County.

• $50,000 for playground equipment in a Beloit park.

The list goes on and on. And most of the dozens of last-minute earmarks benefit the districts of committee members or the districts of vulnerable incumbents.

Some of these projects may be worthy. But they can hardly be justified as essential in the face of a record state budget shortfall.

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, and Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, tried to defend the excessive earmarks during a meeting with the State Journal editorial board Wednesday. The two men chair the Legislature's budget committee. Pocan said the earmarks attached to the budget last week represent only a tiny fraction of the state's overall spending.

But what Pocan ignores is that these pet projects are hugely symbolic, leading to public distrust and disgust.

Ordinary citizens will ask themselves: Why should I have to sacrifice for the state through service cuts and higher taxes if somebody else is getting $13 million for an armory in Wisconsin Rapids, $500,000 for an environmental center to serve Monona and Madison, $50,000 for a shooting range in Eau Claire County and $46,000 for subsidized recycling bins in Wrightstown.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that 29 earmarks were for more than $100,000:

$44.5 million, mostly in bonds, for a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire education building; represented by Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) and Rep. Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire).

$13 million for the Wisconsin Rapids armory; represented by Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point), who is on the committee, and Rep. Marlin Schneider (D-Wisconsin Rapids).


$28 million in bonds for a School of Nursing facility at the UW-Madison; Sen. Judy Robson (D-Beloit), a nurse who sits on the committee, has long backed her profession in the Legislature.


$6.6 million for a Yahara River project in Dane County; the county is represented mostly by Democrats, including the committee's co-chairmen, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) and Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona).


$5 million for the Bradley Center Sports and Entertainment Corp. in downtown Milwaukee; represented by Sen. Spencer Coggs (D-Milwaukee) and Rep. Leon Young (D-Milwaukee).


$4 million for planning a joint museum for the State Historical Society and Department of Veterans Affairs; an area served by Pocan, Miller and other Dane County legislators would benefit.


Up to $1.25 million for Manitowoc Road in Bellevue; represented by Sen. Alan Lasee (R-De Pere) and Rep. Ted Zigmunt (D-Francis Creek).


$800,000 for the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin; the center has locations throughout the state.


Up to $500,000 for Washington Street in Racine; Democrats Sen. John Lehman, a committee member, and Rep. Robert Turner represent the area.

$500,000 for an environmental center in a park that borders Madison and Monona; the two cities are represented by the committee's co-chairmen.

$500,000 for the Oshkosh Opera House; Republican Sen. Randy Hopper and Rep. Gordon Hintz, a Democrat, represent Oshkosh.

$500,000 for Eco Park in La Crosse; represented by Sen. Dan Kapanke (R-La Crosse) and committee member Rep. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse).

Up to $430,000 for Highway X in Chippewa County; represented by Sen. Pat Kreitlow (D-Chippewa Falls) and Rep. Kristen Dexter (D-Eau Claire).

Up to $400,000 for State St. in Racine; represented by Lehman and Turner.

$300,000 for the AIDS Network in Madison; represented by Pocan and Senate President Fred Risser (D-Madison).

$250,000 for a bridge on S. Reid Road in Rock County; Robson and Rep. Chuck Benedict (D-Beloit).

$250,000 for the Madison Children's Museum; represented by Pocan and Risser.

$125,000 to remodel an Eau Claire library; represented by Kreitlow and Dexter.

$100,000 for Huron Road in Bellevue; represented by Lasee and Zigmunt.

$100,000 for the Stone Barn historic site in Oconto County; represented by Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), who sits on the committee, and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette).

The dark side of our future: abberations in the gene pool

Julius Burton -- who admits he shot two Milwaukee police officers point blank -- has a rather interesting, albeit brief, Facebook page. He's "engaged "to "baby mama" who is a high school junior.

And just like Charles Manson, this useless piece of human excrement has his share of supporters and followers, such as brother Donovan whose intellectual capacity must have been strained to write this token of support: "My mothing fucking brother nigga i love u til neath no matter what."

A wonderful testament to the Milwaukee Public Schools, I'm sure.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Message to everyone: Dreams still can come true

In the midst of the daily barrage of depressing news, occasionally there's a ray of hope and optimism -- something that went down as it should.

Sunday night's Tony awards ceremonies in New York brought home that point when the award for best featured actress in a musical went to Karen Olivo for her role of Anita in the revision of West Side Story that opened earlier this year on Broadway.

My wife and I had the privilege of spending New Year's Eve up close at the preview of the new West Side Story at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C., the very same venue that the original version opened at in 1957.

The revised version -- I am reluctant to say revival because there's been a significant revision -- is a bit more realistic in that a good chunk of the dialogue is in Spanish, i.e., those parts that would have been spoken by the Sharks and their community. Also, both the Jets and Sharks appear a bit less like choir boys although that could have been carried farther.

Nonetheless, what stole the show was the firery performance by Karen Olivo as Anita followed by Josefina Scaglione, a 21 year old actress from Buenos Aires who is the new Maria. (Scaglione was nominated for a Tony award for best actress in a musical but didn't win.)

Olivo's passion, dancing, singing -- you name it -- went beyond flawless. Every review in Washington and later in New York clearly pegged her as the star of the show and the Wall Street Journal went so far as to call Olivo's performance "blowtorch hot."

So, why is this significant?

At the age of six, Karen Olivo became enamored with Anita played by Rita Moreno in the movie version of West Side Story. She got to play the role at her high school in central Florida from which she graduated in 1994.

Olivo made her way to Broadway, starting as an understudy in Rent where she met her husband and then went on to a critically acclaimed performance in In the Heights which she gave up to take a chance on West Side Story.

Sunday night a stunned and often speechless Olivo cried during her acceptance speech -- a note of humility not lost on the masses -- but just as important were the cheers from the Orlando area moms and dads from her high school theater days (the Florida version of the KYPAC moms here in Kenosha) who knew that someday she'd make it.

In that teary acceptance speech Olivo said that dreams can come true and it's obvious that she's living proof.

So the next time you see some talented kid giving it his or her best, there's nothing wrong with encouraging them to move forward. It can happen.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The demise of Chrysler -- and common sense

You have to wonder what kind of parents raise the dim bulbs who have graduate degrees but no common sense.

The folks who are destroying Chrysler and the brainless bankruptcy judge who is enabling them are seriously in need of a reverse lobotomy.

I'm sure we could talk forever about the ills of the auto industry but the example I cited last month holds true today -- the last day that Sun Country in St. George, Utah will be selling Chrysler products.

Auto dealer trade groups point out -- correctly -- that the dealers don't cost the manufacturers money. They buy their inventory at wholesale and pay for their building, employees and parts. They even buy the sign.

When you ask company flacks why they want to reduce the dealer network you get a hodgepodge of nonspecific gobbledygook that sounds like MBA-speak but is about as valuable as an old Yugo.

The brainless bozo of a bankruptcy judge in New York doesn't give a rat's behind about the dealers or Chrysler's customers. Ditto for small town America.

Why should he? (If you have to ask, then you're obviously part of the problem as opposed to part of the solution.)

As previously stated, the dealer network helps Chrysler sell its cars. They also service them and sell parts. Dealers pay their own way.

So, if you're in the booming town of St. George and your local Chrysler dealer is closing, are you likely to buy a car that can't be serviced unless you drive a couple of hours to Las Vegas?

You can't even drive an hour up the road to Cedar City. Nope. Chrysler pulled the plug on its Cedar City dealers, too.

Multiply that by the other dealers Chrysler kicked out and the towns they served and it certainly gives anyone with common sense pause when buying a new car. Simply stated, if you can't buy it or get it serviced locally, why bother with a Chrysler product?

That's basic common sense -- something that the MBA's and bankruptcy court bozos in Manhattan can't connect with in any way, shape or form. Chrysler and its federal enablers are basically telling customers and dealers, "Screw you!"

There's a Toyota dealer in St. George. Ditto for Honda. And Nissan. Why does that matter?

Years ago one of the complaints against imports was that if you travel you can't find service and parts.

Amazing how times have changed -- and how if common sense was truly common, you'd buy it at Wal-Mart.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

RIP: Chrysler

Chrysler Corporation died Thursday following a long period of neglect.

The post-mortem examination established suicide as the cause.

The end came as the company fired one-fourth of its 3200 dealers leaving many areas without a Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep dealer.

18 of those dealerships are in Wisconsin ranging from Dodge City in Milwaukee to Quinn Motors in Ellsworth.

Nearly 40,000 people work at the 789 dealers which as of June 9 will no longer sell Chrysler products. The troubled automaker refused to buy cars, tools and parts back from the terminated dealers.

The loss of so many dealers will mean lost sales, property and income tax dollars in the affected communities as well as a decline in charitable contributions.

As for customers, Chrysler's attempts to mollify them probably won't work.

Here's a good example.

Take St. George, a fast-growing community in southern Utah about two hours north of Las Vegas.

There's one Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep dealer in town Sun Country, established in 1945 and known as southern Utah's number one Dodge dealer. Until now.

Sun Country is closing, leaving Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep owners with nowhere to go -- not even 50 miles up the road to Cedar City which has its Chrysler dealers on the hit list.

With no reasonably accessible product support in your area, why would you want to buy a Chrysler product?

No doubt that question will be on the minds of a lot of prospective Chrysler owners -- and you can't blame them.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In memory of Ralph Fox

The Kenosha News today carries the obituary of Ralph Fox.

If you're under 50, give or take, you won't likely remember Capt. Fox but he was the original "Officer Friendly" of the Kenosha Police Department who visited schools, worked with "patrol boys" and crossing guards, spoke to community groups, etc. He was the guy who told you not to take rides from strangers and how to witness a possible abduction and report it to the police.

Law enforcement has changed in the 34 years since Ralph retired and, in some respects, not for the better.

Ralph was one of the World War II veterans who successfully and honorably transitioned into law enforcement at a time when cops were more peace officers than law enforcement officers. He will be missed but his legacy lives on in much more formal ways.

Gas prices

Today's Kenosha gas price: $2.50 per gallon.

Yesterday in California (which usually has higher prices): $2.38 per gallon.

Grrrrr.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Long overdue...and still long overdue...

After sleeping on the issue for years, a fire was lit in Madison this week and the legislature appears ready to enhance Wisconsin's weak Clean Indoor Air law to match that of most of our surrounding states, ending our dubious title of Ashtray of the Midwest.

The best analysis comes from our old sparring partner, Eugene Kane. It's well-written and comes from Eugene's heart.

Surprisingly, Eugene missed an important point in the struggle and that is the targeting cigarette companies did to trap minority customers. I can tell you that some of the strongest support for smoking restrictions comes from groups such as NAACP and the Urban League -- and for good reason.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

To chase or not to chase...

...that is the question buzzing around Kenosha since a drunken driver decided not to stop for a deputy sheriff and plowed into an innocent man's car on Kenosha's north side.

That innocent family man -- Anibal Tellez -- was just on his way home from work. He lost his life. His family lost a husband and father.

The buzz, of course, is predictable. Some folks are questioning why the deputy had to chase the drunk in the first place. Others say they understand why and feel sorry for the Tellez family. Reaction is emotional and predictable -- it happens like this anywhere in the country.

Having been a police officer and having been in a few chases, let me set the record straight on a few things.

First, if you think cops "get off" on the thrill of a chase, think again.

When we put on the lights and siren and the motorist speeds up instead of pulling over, we don't know why. Is it a frightened kid? An illegal immigrant without a driver's license? A dangerous felon who abducted someone? A drunk and dangerous driver? All of the above?

Truth is, we usually don't know. Also true is that if you've never been behind the wheel of a squad car during a chase, you can't possibly understand the dynamics. If you think it's fun, you're sick.

Every car you see coming up to a stop sign on a side road causes another lump in your throat? Will that car stop? Slow down for that stop sign! Stop! Please stop! Stay stopped! Don't pull out!

Those are some of the things that run through your mind in a chase. The greatest fear is that some innocent person will get in the way and become a victim.

Why not radio ahead? Cops do -- but seldom will there be other squad cars in position to be effective?

Stop strips? Didn't have those in my day -- but they still take time to put down, time that often doesn't exist.

During a chase an officer has to balance many competing exigencies -- protecting his or her safety, accurate radio transmissions on the progress of the chase (in Iowa I once got into a chase on roads without names -- imagine that feeling of helplessness), calculating what to do defensively if some motorist or pedestrian pulls out in front of your squad car and so forth.

Fun? No way. And the sad reality is that no matter what the officer does, the officer will be damned if he or she does and damned if he or she doesn't chase. And regardless of the outcome, there will be Monday morning quarterbacking by well intentioned people with no clue of what it's really like.

I've been there and done that and, no, I didn't always chase.

I once stopped a guy because his license was revoked. When I got up to his car and asked to see his driver's license, I noticed that he reeked of alcohol. "Fuck you, pig. I don't have to show you my goddamn fucking driver's license." He drove off -- fortunately not at a high rate of speed.

Do I chase him? If I did, he might speed up and the risk of carnage increases exponentially. Backup? The nearest officer was 13 miles away -- in the wrong direction.

Do I not chase him? If he gets into a crash and there's a victim injured or killed, that decision will be microscopically reviewed.

In this case, I opted to follow from a distance. Fortunately he made it home safe, slept it off and had a surprise visit at lunch from myself and two state troopers. Less than 24 hours after the incident he was sentenced to 90 days in jail with the admonition, "Next time an officer asks to see your license, you stay there and show it."

The ultimate insult here may well come in the courtroom where many of our judges soft pedal their sentences for knowingly fleeing an officer. Unlike the Iowa judge they, for the most part, fail to send the right message and actually enable more chases in the process. The news media rarely reports on these irresponsible sentences and the judges who handed them out are never held accountable.

I will not trivialize the death of Anibal Tellez by saying something trite like "it's unfortunate." Of course it is. All that and a lot worse.

Don't forget that the person responsible for this death is the drunken moron that wouldn't stop -- not the deputy.

And if you want to play Monday morning quarterback, well, if you haven't been in the officer's shoes, you probably won't know what you're talking about.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Note to Brett Favre: Character STILL matters

Here we go again.

"Broadway Brett" Favre just said he's through with football and has no plans to return to the NFL next season.

Now come word that the just-released Jets quarterback will be talking with the Minnesota Vikings.

You'll recall that in March 2008 Favre gave that teary-eyed emotional farewell to football speech in Green Bay and wished his successor, Aaron Rogers, all the best.

Then Favre did an about face and demanded his old job back.

But when the Packers said Favre could rejoin the tea, but they would honor their contractural and moral commitments to Rogers, Favre threw a hissy fit right at general manager Ted Thompson.

The whiny Favre then finagled his way out of the Packers organization -- which said it would still welcome him after his playing days ended -- and wound up as a New York Jet. (Favre later conceded it was done as a way to spite Thompson.)

I was in New York that August day when the town was abuzz with Favre fever. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in welcoming Favre, told him he could have the key to the city after he brought a championship to New York.

Broadway Brett was the darling of Gotham City until his performance waned and that early enthusiam turned to disappointment and angst.

The injured Favre said this time his retirement announcement was for good and the Jets dutifully released him.

The ink was barely dry on that paperwork when news broke out that Favre will be talking with the Vikings.

Certainly Favre's legendary on-the-gridiron performance is something that can never be taken from him. He earned it.

But also certain is that Favre's lack of good character. He's shown that he's not a man of his word. He also showed us that he's a crass cry baby who thinks of nobody but himself.

We're taught in Luke that the person who exalts himself will be humbled and the one who humbles himself or herself will be exalted. Favre must have skipped out on Sunday school the day that was brought up.

Here's a guy who should have respected the fact that the Packers waited for him to resolve his annual "will I play" soap opera before moving on and offering the starting quarterback job to Rogers. When he changed his mind and demanded his old job back, Favre in essence wanted the Packers to go back on their word to Rogers.

The Packers wouldn't bite -- and rightfully so -- but offered Favre a chance to rejoin the team where he could have mentored and backed up Rogers.

That wasn't good enough for Favre. After his "180" he felt he was entitled to waltz up Lombardi Avenue and tell the Packers how things were going to be done.

Unlike Packer fans, who mostly forgave Favre, Jets fans turned on him in a New York minute when his performance went south. It may well be that the New Yorkers had Favre pegged correctly.

Of course, Favre has the right to do what he wants but will the Vikings want this troublemaker on their roster?

That said, there may be good news if Favre puts on a purple uniform. That may be just what the Packers need to energize them into a powerful football team.

From the "no comment" department: The Barney Frank Tea Party


Thanks to Doug Snow.

Monday, May 4, 2009

GOP: Whining away toward another defeat

The big kick in the Republican party since last November is to bum rap John McCain and publicly disavow any merit to the notion that the party ought to be a "big tent" which can hold a vast range of differing social beliefs.

In other words, these numbskulls blame the Obama victory on McCain not being conservative enough.

Truth be told, many of these people skewered McCain before the convention and then, when he became the nominee, supported him mainly because he wasn't "the other guy."

It's high time these rectal-cranial inverts got a huge reality check enema.

First, the GOP was pretty much doomed in November by the stumbling and bumbling of one our most unpopular presidents who did zip to help Republican chances of keeping the White House.

Second, the Democrats were not only aided by the national spirit of discontent, but they also had an extremely charismatic candidate who appealed to a broad section of Americans with his promise of change. Barack Obama also stood out as a beacon of hope for African-Americans and his support among black voters was to be expected.

Third, John McCain's biggest enemy wasn't ideology: it was John McCain who came off as a progressively stumbling and bumbling candidate. Ronald Reagan -- who originally proferred the "big tent" theory -- wasn't a spring chicken when he ran for president in 1980 but he didn't seem terribly old.

Yes, McCain did Leno and Letterman, but, at a minimum, his speech and demeanor, especially compared to the charismatic Obama, was that of a confused old guy.

McCain, for the most part, did lousy in the debates. I would rather have seen his famous acerbic temper because what we saw didn't exude confidence in his skills.

And then there was McCain's flip-flops. Maybe the 2000 version of John McCain stood a chance of beating Obama but the 2008 incarnation didn't.

There was no Ross Perot spoiler on the ballot in 2008. I highly doubt many Republicans voted for Obama because they couldn't stand McCain or wanted a more conservative candidate. Obama's margin of victory game imprimatur to his approach.

And so we fast forward to those Republicans who now skewer McCain and reject the notion that the GOP ought to have a more moderate and progressive approach. In their myopic view, the fact a call for a bigger tent didn't work in 2008, it won't work down the road.

The reality check is that unless he could essentially out-Obama Obama, McCain didn't stand much of a chance. And it wasn't McCain who adulterated the conservative message -- the prime perpetrator for that was George W. Bush.

Yes, the GOP needed a much more consistent message and still needs it today. John McCain lost that election for many reasons. Being too far to the center wasn't one of them.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Only in San Francisco

Well, actually South San Francisco.

I was at a Target store tonight -- a nice two-story store complete with escalators for shopping carts.

Anyway, I stopped in the men's room, opened the door to the stall and saw on the floor the remnants of a used condom.

Slut a couple of wheezeballs!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Don't bash factory workers

Let’s not bash Kenosha

Even though Bosmo and the 17 rocket scientists are utterly incapable of filling potholes with anything other than bicycles, motorcycles and subcompacts, it’s important to point out that now is not the time to bash Kenosha and, more specifically, Chrysler workers.

I say this because I was particularly disturbed by a comment posted on the Kenosha News website which essentially said good riddance to Chrysler because now Kenosha might be able to shed its factory-town mentality.

How insulting.

No doubt Kenosha was less than progressive in the years following the Great Depression and American Motors, an absentee corporation at that, controlled much of everyday life in this area. We all know that when AMC caught a cold, Kenosha got pneumonia and we rode that roller coaster for decades.

It was also an especially hard hit in 1988 when Chrysler pulled the plug on auto production here because the city had just begun to diversify its economic and social fabric and a more orderly transition would have been more favorable. Nonetheless, eventually Kenosha was dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century.

The posters who bash our factory workers and factories overlooked the benefits these people and institutons bestowed on us.

First, money turned around in the local economy. Kenosha had nice homes, good schools and beautiful parks. These things wouldn’t have occurred without the good paying jobs and benefits that AMC workers enjoyed.

Yes, we did bemoan on more than one occasion how Kenosha may have been backward, but it turns out that our conservatism saved this community.

When financial institutions overextended themselves with risky lending and foolish ventures, Kenosha’s banks and savings and loans would have nothing of it. As a result Kenosha Savings and Loan and First National Bank were among the soundest financial institutions in the nation.

The fact that we didn’t do a lot of goofy things (notable exception: the ill-fated downtown “mall”) turned out to be good because when the time came, we were also to do things right.

Just look at the most recent industrial and commercial development in the greater Kenosha area. This couldn’t have happened in the old days. Waiting turned out to be a plus.

In addition, Kenosha did something quite unusual because the suburban-style expansion was coupled with inner city redevelopment. Kenosha is a national model, folks. Who among us would have thought that 20 or 30 years ago?

Those factory workers were our fathers, uncles and grandfathers who built nice homes, paid high takes and sent a not-so-subtle message to us baby boomers that went something like this: “I lived through the Depression and when World War II came was drafted. When I got out I came home and worked at American Motors. I never got a chance to finish school. But you -- you’re going to go to school and make something of yourself.”

Folks, those factory workers some belittle made a lot of themselves -- and us -- and we owe them our respect and gratitude. These are the folks who made it possible for us to succeed.

When auto production ended in Kenosha, it wasn’t just a plant closing. It was stealing this community’s soul and identity. Even in the worst days of this city you could go almost anywhere in the country and as soon as Kenosha was mentioned you’d hear, “That’s where they make Ramblers.”

For better or worse, we had an identity -- and a not so bad one at that. Now we are a nice bedroom suburb. Nice, but not the same.

Instead of belittling the factory workers who were the bedrock of this community, we ought to be thanking them and remembering in meaningful ways what they gave all of us.

Deja vu all over again

Déjà vu all over again

Yes, folks, when it comes to Chrysler and Kenosha, it’s déjà vu all over again.

Part of me feels that Chrysler’s plan to close the Kenosha engine plant should come as no surprise. We’ve been there before -- more than once.

In case you forgot -- or you were too young to remember -- Chrysler ceased auto production in Kenosha in 1988, just a couple of years after it bought out American Motors.

Before that time there was great optimism that Chrysler and AMC were a great fit. Kenosha’s AMC workers turned out a quality product and it was stunning when Chrysler pulled the plug on making cars here, keeping only a smaller work force at the engine plant.

Chrysler, of course, kept the plum of the AMC takeover: the Jeep line. And, to Chrysler’s credit, the Kenosha engine plant was modernized, well-run and had good labor relations.

Yet we should forgive anyone if they feel that Chrysler may not have been playing with a full deck when it spent the last three years wooing union concessions in order to make Kenosha an attractive place to manufacture its new Phoenix engine line.

And this week -- just one day after Chrysler workers voted to grant the company more concessions -- Chrysler put itself into bankruptcy and in its filing announced eight plants, including Kenosha, are slated for closure.

Skepticism, too, should be forgiven. This bankruptcy filing didn’t just happen overnight. The paperwork had to be in preparation for days and weeks, perhaps months. They didn’t just pull this out of thin air and run it over to the federal courthouse the next morning.

Then there’s the Fiat connection.

Fiat was supposed to be Chrysler’s savior. Uh-huh.

An Italian automaker that turns out flashy but less than reliable products is a good fit for an American automaker that turns out flashy but less than reliable products. Uh-huh.
Wasn’t Daimler supposed to be Mopar’s savior? At least the German automaker has the ability to turn out somewhat decent products. We all know that Daimler bailed.

And did anyone forget how Renault -- a French automaker that turns out less than reliable products -- once owned a significant chunk of AMC but, at the end of the day, also failed to be a knight in shining armor.

The only thing that really seemed to work was when Lee Iacocca was at the helm and Chrysler got loan guarantees -- not a cash bailout -- from Uncle Sam.

Iacocca got Chrysler’s act together, eventually satisfied its creditors and his name became a household word. Who’s the CEO of Chrysler now? Does anyone know? Does anyone care.

I could go on and on about all the incentives the state and union gave Chrysler over the years but you get the picture. Perhaps, just perhaps, this is déjà vu all over again.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Chrysler/Kenosha: More bad news

I had a funny feeling the news of Chrysler's bankruptcy filing wouldn't be good for Kenosha (even after Local 72 members agreed to significant concessions).

The company's bankruptcy filing has the Kenosha engine plant on the chopping block.

Chrysler says Kenosha workers may be offered jobs in other locations.

Outside chance this may be a ploy or a worst case scenario but I'd say plan for the worst and hope for the best -- at best.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Educated isn't always smart

On this Law Day we turn to this edition of "What's wrong with this picture."

Up in Ashland County a young alleged auto thief was on trial. The judge, Robert E. Eaton, refused a defense motion to strike one of the prospective jurors: his mother.

The judge said he could find no legal reason to do so. The Wisconsin Supreme Court, in reversing the conviction on appeal, essentially said: "Duh."

Well, they didn't exactly say "duh" but pretty close: “A presiding judge’s mother sitting as a juror is a special circumstance so fraught with the possibility of bias that we must find objective bias regardless of the particular juror’s assurances of impartiality.”

The problem was so clear that you have to wonder why it took the state's highest court four months to issue its opinion.

The court didn't just slap up the judge but also whacked the district attorney who prosecuted the case for objecting to removing the judge's mom from the jury panel for cause. The court said that the prosecutor in a case like this should have joined in the request in the best interests of justice.

Ya think?

Maybe "duh" isn't erudite enough for some of my readers so I'll expand it to two words: "No brainer."

What would Yogi Berra and Lee Iacocca say?

There used to be a saying here that when the auto industry caught a cold, Kenosha got pneumonia.

It's been a long time since the glory days when cars were actually built in Kenosha. Truth is, though, the days weren't all glorified. Periods of economic uncertainty were not uncommon.

But before we rush to quote Yogi Berra that it's just "deja vu all over again" please consider the one thing American Motors and Chrysler never did: sought bankruptcy protection.

The bankruptcy bombshell is no laughing matter. Lee Iacocca worked hard in his stint as Chrysler's CEO to avoid taking the dip. His government backed loan guarantees were satisfied and Chrysler became profitable.

That was then. This is now.

Yes, I know we're in an economic crisis but it's always easy for the folks running auto companies to blame someone or something else.

Frankly, Chrysler's products aren't much to write home about. I've owned several and have become increasingly displeased with build quality and performance and low resale values. This experience is repeated whenever I rent a Chysler made product.

In short, the designs are great but it's like putting a $400 suit on a terminally ill patient: looks great but that's about it.

This is unfortunate because I truly want to support the home team -- and have done so several times in the past.

My five year old Honda has been in the shop fewer times than my three year old Caravan. Enough said.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Character STILL matters

It's almost a month since the race for judge in Branch 8 of Kenosha County Circuit Court was decided but something came to my attention earlier this week that mandates further scrutiny.

Before continuing I must point out that I have more than 40 years experience with elections and certainly know that the heat of battle reaches a flash point immediately preceding election day and plummets the day after. Campaign rhetoric and posturing are to be expected and, quite frankly, I tend to tune out most campaign stuff a few days before the election because if it was important, it would have been brought to the table with sufficient lead time for a meaningful discussion.

What happened in the most recent contest for Circuit Judge in Kenosha is so severe that it cannot be trivialized into "let sleeping dogs lie." What I am about to write may well subject me to criticism and perhaps even retaliation but it must be said. As Sir Edmund Burke once noted, all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. I cannot sit on the sidelines and do nothing.

It's no secret that I pretty much sat out this election. I was much more concerned with Pleasant Prairie village races and, as I wrote on March 22, I had no strong feelings about either of the two judicial candidates.

In the February primary I voted for David Wilk, an honorable attorney active in the community whose reputation is impeccable. While there were many fine candidates, I had concerns whether Fred Zievers was truly a serious candidate and I wasn't comfortable with Chad Kerkman's wife being a state legislator at the same time he might serve as judge. Greg Guttormsen is a fine man and a friend but he joined the race too late for his candidacy to be fully vetted.

As we all know, Zievers and Kerkman survived the primary. I was truly undecided until I received a Kerkman campaign flyer in the mail which, I felt, went too far. The flyer depicted a surgeon and implied that electing Zievers to preside over a court in which family law cases would be heard would be like having an inexperienced surgeon perform your surgery. I knew this crossed the line as Fred Zievers was handling family law and other types of cases when Chad Kerkman was still in high school. So my vote went to Zievers.

But Chad Kerkman won the election and I immediately congratulated him.

That was then. This is now.

It came to my attention Monday that just before the election a rather glitzy anti-Zievers ad was posted on a popular local blog, Stepping Right Up, hosted by Kenosha alderman and local Republican chair Kathy Carpenter.

The "ad" (which I actually didn't see until today) depicted a black-eyed and puffy faced woman and implied that Zievers had twice threatened his ex-wife. This was certainly news to me as I've known Fred Zievers for nearly 30 years and "wife beater" would never be a description I would use to describe him. I've also known his ex-wife and suffice to say that she has had a number of challenges in her life, some of which may be a matter of record, and but for the attack on Fred it would never be necessary to even think about them.

I also know Fred Zievers to be a devoting and caring father who raised a wonderful daughter. While Fred's views on domestic violence could be more enlightened, I also know that he donated his legal services to assist some domestic violence victims.

To my knowledge Fred Zievers has no criminal record and has never been charged with or convicted of any crime and that includes any acts of domestic violence.

So, while Chad Kerkman may not have posted this misleading 11th hour piece of mudslinging trash, he also did not repudiate it prior to the election. Further, it's a matter of public record that his wife, Samantha Kerkman, a Republican legislator, purportedly made a public records request to get any police reports in which Fred Zievers may be mentioned. How convenient.

And how even more convenient it was that this sniper attack made its appearance on the blog of the county GOP chair!

Of course, there was no direct linkage to Chad Kerkman -- and for good reason.

Wisconsin's Code of Judicial Conduct states: "A candidate for a judicial office shall not knowingly or with reckless disregard for the statement's truth or falsity misrepresent the identity, qualifications, present position, or other fact concerning the candidate or an opponent. A candidate for judicial office should not knowingly make representations that, although true, are misleading, or knowingly make statements that are likely to confuse the public with respect to the proper role of judges and lawyers in the American adversary system."

This code also says: "While holding the office of judge or while a candidate for judicial office or a judge-elect, every judge, candidate for judicial office, or judge-elect should maintain, in campaign conduct, the dignity appropriate to judicial office and the integrity and independence of the judiciary. A judge, candidate for judicial office, or judge-elect should not manifest bias or prejudice inappropriate to the judicial office. Every judge, candidate for judicial office, or judge-elect should always bear in mind the need for scrupulous adherence to the rules of fair play while engaged in a campaign for judicial office."

And further: "A judge shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the judge's activities. A judge shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary."

This may seem like heady stuff, but it's also very important especially as judicial campaigns become slimier with each passing election.

Nearly 20 years ago I was in a six-way judicial primary in which all six candidates conducted their campaigns with honesty, dignity and integrity. We debated qualifications and issues but never even came close to going below the belt. During the course of this campaign and thereafter we all became friends. That's the way nonpartisan judicial campaigns should be conducted.

Honor and respect are attributes that are earned by honesty, fair play, scholarship and integrity. Winning a judicial election -- especially one won at all costs -- does not necessarily make a person honorable.

That said, the blame doesn't stop with the candidate. Cartoonist Walt Kelly, creator of Pogo, once penned the phrase, "We have met the enemy and he is us." Evil in these election campaigns triumphs because good people don't stand up and demand better conduct from candidates. Instead there's often a tendency to reward the despicable. That will continue to be the case as long as we say and do nothing. Judicial campaigns run amok are anything but judicious.

Finally, one would have hoped that Kathy Carpenter would have been more responsible in screening the content of her blog. True, there's a fine line between legitimate expression of diverse opinions but this was well beyond that. She should have known better. (The offending post has since been removed.) And, if indeed this was done without Chad Kerkman's knowledge, then it would have been incumbent upon him to not only demand its removal and apologize but to immediately and publicly repudiate the post. (You'll recall how swiftly and unequivocally last year Barack Obama made it clear that Sarah Palin's family was off limits in the campaign and that any of his staff would be fired if they violated that policy.)

At the end of the day, Lady Justice must have had to remove her blindfold. That's because it was soaked in tears.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Friday is Law Day

One of the interesting annual privileges is when I get to talk to high school kids on Law Day, May 1. I both love and loathe the task.

I love it when I can spend quality time and engage in dialogue with impressionable young minds. I loathe it when I'm expected to lecture young folks because they often wind up with the impression, at least partially correct, that they're being talked down to.

This year I only have about five minutes to work with so what do I tell them about law?

To keep it brief, I came up with an interactive engagement to have them offer up three very basic principles of why we have laws.

To paraphrase Chris Rock, laws are like hints -- you know, "I wouldn't do that ____ if I were you."

We can, however, look at our laws as serving three prime objectives.

Number one: protection. We want the dangerous dirtbags in our society taken out of circulation. That's a no-brainer.

The other two may a bit more difficult for young minds.

For example, ever hear the phrase, "Law and order?" What does that mean?

Another prime reason for laws is to ensure predictability and order in the everyday affairs of life.

This weekend I'm flying to San Francisco. When I get there I want to rest assured that the drinking water in the fountains at the airport is safe to drink. I want the gallon of gas I put into my rental car to be just that -- a full gallon. I want to be sure that approaching traffic will stop for a red light and won't drive the wrong way on a freeway. I want the food in the restaurant to be pure and safe to eat. If I get sick, I want to know that the EMT's on the ambulance crew and the physicians at the hospital meet minimum standards of competence.

In short, laws enable us to ensure that mundane but necessary parts of everyday life remain predictable and safe. That's the "order" in law and order.

Finally, laws allows us to peacefully resolve disputes

In our society government takes up (or at least it's supposed to take up) the cause for the underdog. Our legal system is designed to allow the comman man access to the courts to resolve disputes.

So, if you're ripped off, the law should allow you to seek redress through the courts.

That's also the smart thing to do.

Happy Law Day!

Who's the bigger whore?

You've got to love politics to appreciate the squirt gun standoff between the Republicans and Democrats over the defection of Arlen Specter from the GOP.

The first volley I received was a jubliant E-mail from Senator Bob Menendez coupled with a plea for money to help Senate Democrats in the next election.

Moments later there was one from GOP chair Michael Steele whose double speak suggests that Specter never really was one of us and then, literally, likens him to Benedict Arnold. (If he was never really one of us, then how could be be a traitor?) Oh, by the way, send money so we can stave off the Senate Democrats.

It's as if the sandbox isn't big enough for these nitwits whose arguments seem to boil down to a couple of prostitutes battling over who's the biggest whore. Neither have much credibility.

We're not stupid -- at leasts some of us. Can the canned crap and get down to this nation's real problems.

As for Specter, I agree with Steele that he's turned his back on the Republican party just at a time when the party needs diversity of thought. But Specter's credibility shot down to negative numbers when his professed exit for philosophical reasons was coupled with an uncanny admission that he might not be able to get reelected as a Republican.

Even though Steele's hands are far from clean, he was right to call Specter out on this. You'll probably not hear much of a retort from Specter because, after all, it's his own words that did him in. He really didn't need Steele's gratuitous help.

Arlen's right -- and wrong

Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter shook the Senate up today with his announcement that he's joining the Democrats.

The explanation he gave was plausible enough: the GOP has moved too far to the right. "As the Republican Party has moved farther and farther to the right, I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of the Democratic Party," Specter said.

Fair enough. In this respect, Specter is correct in that there are those who beat their chests and proclaim that the Republican party belongs only to conservatives and in so doing they reject and trivialize the history and honor of the GOP. Shame on them.

Predictably, Republican party big-wigs turned on Specter like rabid pit bulls. National chair Michael Steele said in a written statement:"Let's be honest -- Sen. Specter didn't leave the GOP based on principles of any kind. He left to further his personal political interests because he knew that he was going to lose a Republican primary due to his left-wing voting record."

Steele went on to inappropriately bash Specter as a Republican in name only and the perjorative "left-wing" labeling is sophomoric pandering.

But beyond that Steele's core comment is absolutely on target. Catch this quote: "In the course of the last several months ... I have traveled the state and surveyed the sentiments of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania and public opinion polls, observed other public opinion polls and have found that the prospects for winning a Republican primary are bleak." Michael Steele didn't say that, Arlen Specter did.

So just last month Specter says he's sticking with the GOP because the party needs men and women of diverse beliefs and, when the political waters seem to get bouncy, he jumps ship. Michael Steele is right on that score -- Specter didn't just leave the GOP on principle.

If Arlen Specter wants to reform the GOP, there's a lot of work to be done. The harvest may be great and the laborers few but he'd be a man of greater integrity if he stood up for the principles of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan instead of running from them.

I don't care if Specter is left-wing, right-wing or center-wing. Today he's chicken-wing.

No excuse

Have you driven Kenosha streets lately? Have you seen potholes being repaired?

Try, for example, Pershing Blvd. Or fill in the blank of an important street near your home.

Taxes around here aren't cheap. The very least the city could do is make the streets safe.

A writer to the Voice of the People in the Kenosha News last week lamented about how the streets are unsafe for motorcycles and bicycles. He's right.

Bosmo and the 17 rocket scientists need to be more proactive about this even if it means going to the store, getting some patch and putting it down themselves like one Chicago neighborhood recently did.

Enough is enough.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Oklahoma City: 15 years later

A conference brought me to Oklahoma City this week, just in time for the 15th anniversary of the bombing of the Federal Building on April 19, 1995 in which 168 Americans perished at the hands of domestic terrorism.

Although ill today, I would consider it in appropriate for any able-bodied American in Oklahoma City not to come to the memorial at the site of the bombing to pay respects to these victims, the survivors, the rescuers and their families.

The outdoor memorial at night is impressive. Notwithstanding the commanding architecture one finds stark symbolism in the remainder of the chain link fence that was erected to protect the site after the bombing.

Friends, family and the community put trinkets of appreciation on the original fence and continue to do so with what's left of it today. Most compelling are the laminated biographies and pictures of victims left by their friends and families to tell the stories of real people who were victims and not just statistics. I found myself weeping as I read as many as I could before I was too moved to continue.

The memorial is worth a visit and homage.

Next to it is a museum ($10 admission) and store about which I have a great deal of concern. It seems tacky and unpatriotic to commercialize, in any manner, the suffering of 168 families. Memorabilia available for sale include T-shirts, picture frames, ties, Christmas ornaments and so forth.

Not only doesn't this seem right, it's replusive.

No doubt the folks trying to run the museum and its educational programs have good intentions but it's simply wrong that a nation with the resources to spend countless billions fighting international terrorism can't afford a few million to honor those victims of home-grown terrorism. Shame on us. Shame.

This is beyond tacky. It's disrespectful and downright wrong.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Occupational hazard

A man suspected of robbing a Fox Point bank was shot to death in Glendale on Thursday morning during an exchange of gunfire with police.

I've never been a fan of capital punishment -- there are solid reasons to oppose it -- but this isn't capital punishment. It's an occupational hazard for any scumbag who robs a bank and then shoots a gun. By those acts he earned the opportunity to have his ticket cancelled.

There's something you MUST do

If you haven't seen this you must do so.

If you have, then see it again.

Wow. 17 million people have watched the You Tube video alone -- as of midnight Thursday.

Why is this woman so popular?

Easy.

She's the triumph for any kid who was called "four eyes" in grade school or was the last to be chosen for the baseball team. For most of us, she is the face of victory and ideals that most of us have long forgotten.

Britain's Got Talent judge Amanda Holden paid appropriate homage when she said it was a "privilege" to listen to Susan Boyle. And, as Amanda Holden is one of the UK's best and brightest stars, that's really something.

At a time when so many things are wrong in this world there's finally something that's right. Someone that's right.

God bless you, Susan Boyle. You go girl!

Hypocrisy on Capitol Hill? Stop the presses!!!

Norm Coleman will appeal a three-judge panel's ruling in Minnesota that Al Franken is the winner of the Minnesota election for U.S. Senate.

A lawyer for Republican Coleman announced Tuesday that he would appeal Monday's lower court ruling to the Minnesota Supreme Court within the allotted 10 days.

The panel had ruled that Democrat Franken won a 312-vote victory and rejected Coleman's arguments that errors or irregularities in the vote counting had violated equal protection standards.

Franken urged Coleman "to allow me to get to work for the people of Minnesota as soon as possible" in remarks to reporters on Monday evening.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, though, said that Coleman was entitled to take his case to the Minnesota Supreme Court before the state's Republican governor, Tim Pawlenty, certifies the election.

Harry Reid is right -- the rule of law should prevail. But apparently that message hasn't filtered down to his Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC).

Twice this week I've received "invitations" from the DSCC to sign a petition urging Coleman to give up his challenge. Apparently J.B. Poresch, the DSCC flak, hadn't read what Harry Reid said.

The chances for a Coleman victory admittedly are dim but those who blame him for undertaking a lawful challenge thumb their nose at our very constitutional system and the rule of law.

If there's any blame it should fall squarely on Minnesota election officials and courts that have taken so long to resolve this dispute but no American should ever attack another American for exercising due process of law. If we allow that, the danger is farvgreater than whether Minnesota temporarily has only one vote in the U.S. Senate.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

Feels like the bunny came out, saw his shadow and there will be six MORE weeks of winter!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Babymama? Babydaddy?

I was reading some witness statements yesterday and was shocked by the increasing use of such "words" as "babymama" and "babydaddy."

Perhaps this world would be a better place if there were more fathers and mothers. Perhaps.

Enough said.

Friday, April 10, 2009

"It's waaaay better than fast food, dude. It's good s__t."

From the Portage Daily Register comes this item about another abberation in the gene pool:

A Wendy's employee faces two years in prison after he was arrested Monday night on drug charges during his late-night shift.
Christoper P. Simons, 18, of Montello, remains in the Columbia County Jail on a probation hold. He made an initial appearance Tuesday in Columbia County Circuit Court on a charge of felony possession of narcotic drugs and misdemeanor possession of THC (marijuana).
Simons was reportedly working at the grill at 11:40 p.m. Monday night at the Portage Wendy's Restaurant, 2920 New Pinery Road, when police responded to a report of employees smoking marijuana in the dining room of the restaurant, according to police records.
Police discovered marijuana in a cellophane wrapper and four hydrocodone tablets in Simons' pockets during a search, according to a criminal complaint.
Simons reportedly admitted he did not have a prescription for the hydrocodone, the complaint stated.
The dining room was closed to customers at the time; Wendy's serves customers at the drive-through between 10 p.m. and midnight.
Simons pleaded no contest in March to misdemeanor charges of theft, criminal trespass to dwelling and criminal damage to property following an incident in June. He was sentenced to four months in jail with work release as part of a one-year probation sentence.
Simons is scheduled for a pre-trial conference on the charges May 13.

Dairyland Greyhound Park claims another loss

Cue the crocodile tears as Dairyland Greyhound Park's management whines about how they lost $3.44 million last year.

The news reports don't say whether the management company that actually runs the state's last dog track also lost money and, as I recall, the management company has ties to the track's owners. But I digress.

Roy Berger, the track's manager who's been there since the beginning, is quoted as saying: "There is nothing short of added gaming that would help us get out of our fiscal hole."

That's code-word talk for turning the track into the Indian gaming casino which was deep-sixed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

But we've heard it all before, haven't we?

When Dairyland was bidding for the track's license, they promised the earth, sky, moon and the Garden of Eden and we didn't even get the Amtrak station they also promised.

When revenues started to falter they said it would help to allow "simulcasting" (a form of off-track betting) at the track. But it wasn't enough.

Now the same folks who have failed to keep their promises come up with more fancy stories to bamboozle us.

Who do these people think they are? The Kenosha school board?

With friends like this, who needs enemies?

From the "yeah, right" department comes word that Dr. Steven Armus, a Kenosha dermatologist, says he was transporting nearly one ounce of cocaine to help out some friends.

Now folks, this is a 48-year-old man, not a 16-year-old boy. You might expect a stupid explanation like that from a teenager.

And Armus had more than four grand on him at the time. He said it was for hsi vacation. Has he ever heard of American Express? Or Visa?

Not to mention that Armus first said he doesn't do coke because he's a doctor and then admitted he'd recently used some.

Armus, who is facing a criminal charge of possession of cocaine with intent to deliver, is, of course, presumed innocent under the law but you have to shake your head at his explanations.

The sad reality of this, folks, is that drug abuse isn't just for poor folks in the 'hood. (Since Eugene Kane, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist in charge of victim mentality, missed this one I thought I'd say something he might say and, had Eugene done so, he would have been correct -- for a change.)

Kenosha: Bosmo and the 17 rocket scientists need to be launched

It seemed last month like the city of Kenosha had its pothole repair truck out but now it's conspicuous by its absense.

Perhaps Bosmo the Bosmanian and the 17 rocket scientists think they can just fill these potholes (try driving 60th Street, for example) with bicycles and subcompacts.

For what the city collects from property taxpayers you'd think the streets would be in pristine condition.

Well, maybe not pristine, but at least acceptable.

Hopefully voters will remember at election time these city officials who can't deliver basic services competently.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fire! Check out these Best Buy recalls

Potetially dangerous fire hazards are the reason for two recently announced recalls of Chinese made products sold exclusively at Best Buy:

http://www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PREREL/prhtml09/09183.html

http://www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PREREL/prhtml09/09182.html

Buyer beware!

Minnesota: The rule of law should prevail

For some unknown reason I'm on the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee's mailing list.

As such I got yet another E-mail urging me to contact Senator Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) to encourage him to give up his election recount challenge and let challenger Al Franken (D) be seated as Coleman's successor.

There are several problems with this request but I'll cut to the chase.

First, I know Norm. When he wants or needs my advice, he knows where to find me.

More important, though, is that there is a legal process in Minnesota that may be taking longer than most folks would like but it's Minnesota's legal process.

The Democrats bang up on Norm over his challenge but he is following due process of law. That is takes Minnesota so long to count and recount ballots is the state's problem, not Norm's, and he shouldn't be pilloried for exercising his due process rights. If we take them away from Norm they can be taken away from anyone.

Does Minnesota need to clean up its act and have a more efficient and accurate method of counting ballots? You betcha.

Is Norm Coleman to blame? Nope.

As for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and their cohorts, chill out. There may well be a good shot that Franken is seated as Minnesota's other senator but it should happen, if at all, pursuant to the rule of law, not the whim of any political operation.

Pleasant Prairie: John P. Steinbrink, jr., has a new job

It's Public Works Director. Read more here.

Congrats, John.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Iowa has balls

Last week the Iowa Supreme Court shook the nation when it unanimously declared the ban on gay marriage violated the state constitution and even the state motto of "Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain." (Seriously.)

Now the Des Moines Register reports that the state has yanked the liquor license of a bar that flagrantly violated the Iowa clean indoor air law.

I'd bet you'd see gay marriages in Wisconsin long before anyone would have the balls to take away a liquor license for not being smoke free.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Circuit Court: Welcome Judge-elect Chad Kerkman

In a triumph of youth over experience and western Kenosha County, Chad Kerkman garnered 51.37% of the vote to become the county's newest judge.

Kerkman ran a spirited race against courthouse veteran Fred Zievers. Chad had a commanding lead in the western county vote. The gap narrowed as urban votes came in but it wasn't enough to change the trend.

Congrats, Chad!

Pleasant Prairie: Thanks for keeping Clyde on your side

In the only contested village race:


Pleasant Prairie Trustee
5 Polls Reporting out of 5

Clyde R. Allen -- 1163 (55.73%)
John Roscioli -- 913 (43.75%)
Write-in -- 11 (0.53%)

Congrats to Clyde, Sue. Ray and John and Colleen Braig. Staying on the high road was the right thing.

Clyde's totals beat his first run two years ago against incumbent Jeff Lauer in which Clyde received 53.46% of the vote.

And best wishes also to John Roscioli for his service to the village. There's still work to be done to reform the composition of the Kenosha Unified School District Board and John may well be part of the answer.

It's Election Day

As one of my favorite ties says: "Didn't Vote? Don't bitch!"

Weekend in Ohio




It was good to get away for a weekend at Hocking Hills State Park which is about one hour southeast of Columbus, Ohio.

Hocking Hills has several waterfalls, including the Upper Falls in Old Man's Cave which I shot in black and white for this image.






Saturday, April 4, 2009

The dignity of work

The various economic stimuli proposed by the Obama team needs to look back at another time when this country was reeling to recover from the Great Depression.

Most Americans today are too young to remember the WPA and PWA but the legacy of these initiatives can be seen in the infrastructure improvements that still exist today.

A good portion of this nation's infrastructure is crumbling. If people need work, then priority should be given to those projects through something similar to the WPA and PWA. Let's rebuild America.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Kenosha News endorses Zievers for judge

The Kenosha News endorsement of Fred Zievers for Circuit Court judge sums up the dilemma facing many voters: two fine people but only one can be elected this time around.

I've been reluctant to make any endorsement. I've known Fred and Chad and their families for a very long time. I must say that I haven't been swayed either way by the litany of letters to the newspaper written on behalf of each.

I'm also somewhat amused that two men who have spent most of their careers as criminal defense attorneys seem to have rediscovered their prior service as prosecutors now that they're judicial candidates.

Oh well, we all know nobody gets elected judge by promising to be soft on criminals.

Clyde Allen: Integrity and servant leadership in Pleasant Prairie

A young Iowa police officer was getting flustered over the seemingly trivial and irrelevant questions being hurled his way by a defendant's attorney.

Later, Judge Larry Conmey took the officer aside and explained, "If your case was weak, he'd attack it. But because it's strong the only thing he's left with is to kick your shins."

That lesson imparted on me more than 30 years ago came to mind as I size up the race between incumbent Pleasant Prairie village trustee Clyde Allen and newcomer John Roscioli.

At first Roscioli's campaign seemed confusing. For two months he didn't articulate why he felt he'd do a better job on the village board. Even his more recent campaign mailing -- a very attractive card -- is short on everything except some brief generalities.

Contrast that with Allen who, when he ran for his first term two years ago, announced his candidacy with a pledge to end the bickering that wounded the village board in those days and presented his lengthy budget management experience in both the private and public sectors.

Allen's campaign flyer was a simple sheet, not flashy like his opponent's. On Allen's web site he lists the promises he made when he was the newcomer and assesses how well he's delivered on them. Allen's message has been consistent since day one.

As a village trustee, Allen hasn't been afraid to stand up for what he believes but has been able to disagree without being disagreeable. This carried over to his campaign where he has taken the high road and not attacked Roscioli.

The same level of integrity and character cannot be attributed to Roscioli who in the past several days has used his blog as a weapon to fire pot shots at Allen. The issues he finally discovered (it's still puzzling how they were not put on the table when he became a candidate) range from a false accusation that Allen supports gambling and alcohol at Pleasant Prairie Family Days (Allen never introduced or supported any such legislation) to attacking concerns Allen expressed about the financial impact of special assessments and his questioning whether the interest the village charges on them could be modified (not unreasonable when interest rates have fallen).

Reading Roscioli's newfound issues reminded me of Judge Conmey's lecture. If Allen had fatal flaws, Roscioli would have gone for the jugular long ago and may well have been justified in doing so. Instead he whines on about issues that may be interesting but, on balance, ignore the larger picture.

Beyond that, Roscioli stooped to numerous personal attacks and innuendos. For example, he falsely accused Allen and his supporters of saying that another village trustee was running his campaign when, in fact, that trustee, shortly after Roscioli announced his candidacy, made it a point to approach Allen and say that wasn't so.

Roscioli goes on to attack, without foundation, Allen as egocentric, smug and hypocritical. He also falsely accused Allen of not supporting Village President John P. Steinbrink, sr., in the last election when, in fact, Allen did so and had a Steinbrink sign in his front yard. (More important, who cares who Allen supported for village president? What does it matter?)

Roscioli's penchant for false accusations, innuendos and personal attacks clearly demonstrate that he lacks sufficient integrity and good character to serve in public office. His penchant for these and other trivial pursuits raise the question of, if elected, what kind of trustee he would be. This is important.

The reason this is important is because of the previous board where there were the three so-called "good old boys" verus the two newcomers who came aboard ostensibly with good intentions but they got lost in the "us vs. them" tussles that voters finally got sick of.

The reality is that factionalization of the board didn't serve the public and in saying that I do not assess whether one side or the other was more at fault. It doesn't matter because it's bad whether it's the "good old boys" or the newcomers. The voters saw through that and elected two trustees who demonstrated that they can be independent and yet work together with the rest of the board.

If Roscioli is elected, would he be a "good old boy" or part of another faction? It's an interesting question for which I have no answer. When someone is loose with the truth it's hard to know where they really stand.

Roscioli kicks Allen's shins again by accusing him of taking credit for the successes of village staff and to some extent this is true. It's also normal.

The elected village board provides guidance to the staff and administrator (manager). This is especially true in communities that have a "council-manager" form of government. It is absolutely normal and routine for elected officials to tout the accomplishments of the staff. The flip side of this is that when staff fails to do a good job the elected officials take the heat. You can't have one without the other.

In fairness, Allen praises the accomplishments of the board and staff. Further, his 34 years of day-to-day budget management experience -- most of it in government service -- does exceed that of the rest of the board. Roscioli suggests that Allen's touting his legitimate experience is an offense to fellow board members and village staff and, if true, then it's their problem. The Kenosha News wisely took note of that experience when it endorsed Allen's reelection.

None of this is to say that Allen is a perfect person or immune from any criticism of his village service. But at the end of the day the decision is which candidate to vote for. For me, Allen's pluses overwhelmingly outweigh the minuses and his superior government finance experience is something too valuable to part with at a critical time. He's earned reelection and my support. Further, by staying on the high road he has earned my respect and should get yours, regardless of who you vote for.

As for Roscioli, I am very disappointed in him. Yes, it was not likely that he would earn my vote, but he has lost something more important: my respect.

There's nothing wrong with John Roscioli exercising his right to seek the honor of public office. His interest in public service should not be questioned absent evidence that he is doing so for improper motives.

If Roscioli had beefs with Allen's performance, fine. That's his right. But as a voter I also have the right to question the capability of a candidate who enters a race without defining why he's a better choice and then waits two months to disclose his issues. Beyond capability there's character. Allen's campaign in this race, as it was two years ago, stayed on the high road. Roscioli's did not. If he was the superior candidate, there would be no need for sniping and personal attacks.

It is possible to run an issue-oriented campaign and stay on the high road. I know. In 1990 I was a candidate for circuit judge. There were five other candidates in the primary: Mary K. Wagner, Paul Wokwicz, Bev Jamois, Sally Yule and Robert D. Zapf. All of us stuck to the issues and conducted our campaigns with pride and integrity. It could -- and should -- happen again.

Who's laughing now?

Career government officers can be forgiven for engaging a head spinning these days.

After all, it wasn't all that long ago that we heard manta after mantra about how government is mismanaged and needs to be run more like a business.

Certainly there were instances where this was true -- especially when red tape tied up simple decisions and procurement practices wasted taxpayer dollars.

But the rub is that there seemed to be some perverse thinking that government always got it wrong and big business always got it right.

We now now that wasn't always true. After all, when their party train derailed, where did the mavens of corporate America turn for a bailout?

This is not to suggest that government is beyond criticism and perhaps one of the most compelling attacks has to be on whether it should bail out "free enterprise" (particularly when so many corporate executives have played around with taxpayer bailout dollars). And what happened to postage rates and service when the Post Office Department became the United States Postal Service?

There are, of course, parallels between management in the private and public sectors but there are also necessary differences. Those differences need to be respected, not abused.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

CEO's need to know what a gallon of milk costs

Michael McDonald, Shopko's CEO, is resigning effective April 3 "to pursue another opportunity."

Interesting.

If any of the shareholders want to know what's wrong with Shopko, they need only walk into a Target and a Wal-Mart.

Shopko's prices are typically higher, merchandise selection narrower and merchandise quality often lacking.

Maybe Shopko's next CEO should walk into a Target and a Wal-Mart. Come to think of it, maybe the entire board of directors should do so.

Ed Flynn: Even a smart guy can make a dumb move

By virtually all accounts Ed Flynn had been doing a great job as Milwaukee's police chief: smart, media savvy, good management skills and the first chief in ages that has the support of rank and file cops.

But then he pulls an apparent boner by reassigning all seven district captains, a move that's bound to raise eyebrows.

Let's put this into perspective.

For the average Milwaukee citizen, the district captain is the chief of police of that neighborhood. And, to his credit, Chief Flynn immediately after taking office empowered the distict captains to take ownership of the crime fighting strategies in their respective districts.

It was a bold move and the right one. So that's why eyebrows raise when all seven captains are being replaced. It may well be that some of the moves are needed for good reasons, such as retirements, but the appearance is that there's something wrong with the Milwaukee Police Department.

For a smart, media-savvy guy you'd think Ed Flynn would have figured out that appearance often trumps reality. You'd think.

As an old friend once said, "If common sense truly was common, you'd buy it at Wal-Mart."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Some kind words for "Tony the Taxer"

When my dear friend and mentor, the late Lee Sherman Dreyfus, became governor in 1979 he did so after campaigning that the state budget surplus should be given back to the taxpayers.

Sensing the populist governor's appeal was a hit with voters, Democrats running the show in the legislature complained that Dreyfus wasn't going far enough in his plans to return the surplus. So Lee pulled a one-up on them and said, fine, you guys come up with a plan. They did -- and gave back even more.

The down side was that the state's economic fortunes reversed and the new governor, Tony Earl, wished he had that surplus to cover the rainy day.

So Tony sucked it up and called for a temporary income tax surcharge to cover the defecit. His opponents, including Assemblyman Tommy Thompson from Elroy, called him "Tony the Taxer."

Well, the economy turned around and the surcharge was removed earlier than planned. Tommy became governor and Tony went back to practicing law.

Tony took a political hit for trying to do the right thing and, in the end, his choice turned out to be wise. Maybe we could learn something from that approach. Maybe.

Legislature needs to practice what it preaches

Not all that long ago the Pleasant Prairie village board had two identifiable factions -- Village President John Steinbrink, sr., and fellow incombents Steve Kumorkiewicz and Mike Serpe vs. newcomers Jeff Lauer and Alex Tiahnybok.

Suppose President Steinbrink wanted to discuss some upcoming village business behind closed doors with Serpe and Kumorkiewicz. No doubt their opponents, if they caught wind of this, would beat a path to the District Attorney's office to complain that this secret closed meeting violated the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law.

The very next day State Representative Steinbrink could get behind closed doors in Madison for a secret caucus with his fellow Democrats in the Assembly and, guess what? It's legal.

That's because the legislature exempted itself from the very law that city councils and village, town and school boards throughout the state must obey. In so doing they violated their own expressly stated spirit of the Open Meetings Law found in Wis. Stat. s. 19.81:

19.81 Declaration of policy. (1) In recognition of the fact that a representative government of the American type is dependent upon an informed electorate, it is declared to be the policy of this state that the public is entitled to the fullest and most complete information regarding the affairs of government as is compatible with the conduct of governmental business.

(2) To implement and ensure the public policy herein expressed, all meetings of all state and local governmental bodies shall be publicly held in places reasonably accessible to members of the public and shall be open to all citizens at all times unless otherwise expressly provided by law.

(3) In conformance with article IV, section 10, of the constitution, which states that the doors of each house shall remain open, except when the public welfare requires secrecy, it is declared to be the intent of the legislature to comply to the fullest extent with this subchapter.

(4) This subchapter shall be liberally construed to achieve the purposes set forth in this section, and the rule that penal statutes must be strictly construed shall be limited to the enforcement of forfeitures and shall not otherwise apply to actions brought under this subchapter or to interpretations thereof.

Pretty strong language -- except that buried beneath this lofty language are several exceptions including one that permits legislators to meet in secret partisan caucuses. That means that what Village President Steinbrink couldn't get away with legally in Pleasant Prairie is perfectly legal when he puts on his legislator's hat in Madison.

Bear in mind, folks, that caucuses are power meetings where the parties formulate their policies and attack plans and, in essence, often predetermine how the legislature is going to handle the public's business. Sure, it's mandatory that the public gets to see the dog and pony show on the floor of the Assembly and state Senate but the wheeling and dealing where the public's business is really vetted is done behind closed doors.

The Wisconsin State Journal says it's high time the legislature end this double standard but don't hold your breath. I have a better chance of being the next poster child for Jenny Craig.

Holy Batman!!! Shock of shocks!!!

I actually saw the City of Kenosha's street repair truck out patching potholes today. Really.

Update: Iditarod over


At 7:06 a.m. Kenosha time today Michigan musher Timothy Hunt crossed the finish line in Nome to end this year's Iditarod sled dog race. Hunt was greeted by Nome residents and presented with the Red Lantern award signifying that all mushers are safely off the trail and honoring Hunt's perseverance. Tonight it's Red Lantern banquet time in Nome.

At the right it's Rachael Scdoris at the finish line whom I mentioned yesterday. Scdoris is the legally blind musher from Bend, Oregon who denounces the notion of "disability" as tantamont to "unable" and, as she says and has demonstrated, "I am by no means unable."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Lessons from the Iditarod

There's a saying in Alaska that once you leave The Last Frontier a part of it never leaves you.

It's true.

As anxious as I am to get home I am also anxious to get back and experience what makes Alaska quirky, interesting and fun.

One of the things I long to experience someday is the Iditarod -- the annual 1,150 mile sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome that commemorates a much more serious endeavor in 1925 when relays of mushers and their dogs risked their own safety to bring life saving medicine to quell a diphtheria outbreak among Nome's children.

The Iditarod is many things today: a competitive race, an endurance challenge, a tourism booster and even an educational outlet as the story of the mushers and the tiny natiive villages along the trail is told to the outside world. Even more rewarding is that this story is as modern as it is old, broadcast around the world by high school students in towns where the entire K-12 school population may be 50 students.

It's now old news that Lance Mackey smoked the competition, arriving under the burled arch in Nome at 2:38 p.m. Kenosha time last Monday to score his third consecutive first-place finish, this year more than seven hours ahead of runner-up Sebastian Schnuelle.

The fire siren in Nome blared and villagers and tourists flocked to the finish line to welcome and cheer Mackey. They did the same for Schnuelle seven hours later and for each musher, coming out in the dark at 4:09 a.m. Kenosha time to cheer legally blind musher Rachael Scdoris and Tim Osmar, her fellow musher and visual interpreter who finished, respectively, 45th and 46th. So far 50 mushers have crossed the finish line in Nome, each with a hero's welcome and each being honored at a community banquet.

For a few mushers, such as Mackey, it's the chase for first place but that's not all the Iditarod is about. Ask 13th place finisher DeeDee Jonrowe, a cancer survivor and Alaska favorite. And then there's the memory of legendary musher Susan Butcher whose battle with cancer was not as successful as her Iditarod career. Then there's the inspiration of Rachael Scdoris, the legally blind young musher from Oregon who disabuses the notion that she's disabled: "To me, disabled means unable and I am by no means unable."

So far 50 mushers made it to Nome but 14 scratched, such as veteran Ed Iten who dropped out for the health of his dogs. There's honor in putting their welfare ahead of your own interests.

It's dark in Nome as I write this -- and dark here, too. But in Nome a red lantern burns at the burled arch, a traditional sign that the race isn't over. Two mushers -- Heather Siirtola and rookie Timothy Hunt -- are still on the trail. The fire siren will sound and people will cheer for them, too, and the last place finisher, probably Hunt, will extinguish the red lantern and collect his prize for finishing last.

A prize for finishing last? Yes, the Red Lantern Award is a recognition that's it's also important to stay in the running even when the odds are against you.

Maybe that's one reason why they say that you may leave Alaska but a part of it never leaves you. Hopefully it's the best part.