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Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

The music of Christmas: David Seville

The music of Christmas

Before Christmas TV gave us Rudolph, Charlie Brown, Frosty, and the Grinch, there were Alvin, Theodore and Simon, led by David Seville.

Alvin and the Chipmunks have been part of American pop culture for almost 50 years.

Their body of work includes a beloved Christmas classic.

Their origin is a fascinating story of ingenuity and entrepreneurship.

Radio and TV reporter/anchor and blogger Michael Manning has the inside scoop on Alvin and the Chipmunks and their contribution to Christmas music history:

In 1958, the real live voice of "Dave Seville" (Ross Bagdasarian) was the father of 3 children; he was up to his ears in debt and down to his last $200. So he spent $190 to buy a tape recorder and experimented with children's songs and piano tracks slowed to half speed.

Recording label Liberty Records was on the brink of bankruptcy and refused his idea of a funny Alvin and the Chipmunks jingle. They relented when he told the executives: basically (I'm paraphrasing) 'Look, what do you have to lose? If you're going down the drain anyway you will go down with my song.' They agreed and the song, "The Witch Doctor" lit up switchboards at radio stations all over the country.

The names he created came from the top brass at Liberty. Al Bennet ("Alvin"), Si Waronker ("Simon") and Ted Keep ("Theodore"). Personality-wise Alvin was the spunky guy and the shortest. He had a tendency to "Jump before you think!". "Simon" (my favorite as a kid) wore eyeglasses like Buddy Holly and had an IQ "just north of Einstein" (I remember him playing an upright bass and that he tapped his foot--that made him "cool" in my eyes as a 5 year old cartoon fan). I'm told that privately, he worried that he came from the same gene pool as Alvin. Ha! "Theodore" was the simple brother of the three who often giggled, was sensitive, shy and an easy target for Alvin's schemes. "Dave Seville" (the last name came from Spain where creator Ross was stationed during World War II) played the single father who had to reign in the three with his screaming
Truth be told, his son Ross Junior, says that his father couldn't see his long last name fitting on a 45 r.p.m. record label--so he chose "Dave Seville". Let's cut to the chase.

On November 7th 1958 the group's "Christmas Song" was released. Liberty was about to go under again even after the success of "The Witch Doctor" and no one wanted to play "The Christmas Song" so early in the season.

So, Ross ingeniously managed to get a small AM radio station in Minneapolis to try it. The result was unreal. Liberty soon had orders for 550,000 45 r.p.m. records! They printed the record labels in Green but ran out of that color. So, they switched to Blue until they ran out of that color. Then Black labels. Then White labels. Lingerie and flower shops sold the 45's like hotcakes. Liberty Records ran out of trucks and switched to vans, ran out of vans and used station wagons and resorted to everything except using Cub Scouts pulling Little Red Wagons!

Ross died suddenly in 1972 but his son, Ross Junior continues to run the Chipmunk empire--a cottage industry which included at one time or another: Chipmunk harmonicas (I love it!), lunchboxes, movies, cigarette lighters, a game board, singing greeting cards, charm links, bracelets, cuff links, comic books, a TV show, you name it! Now the lyrics--all parts were sung by Ross Sr. and the song included part-banter part-singing with the Chipmunks talking back to poor "Dave Seville".

So, gather all the kids around the computer for an animated Christmas treasure: Alvin and the Chipmunks from their TV series and the Chipmunk song:

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Marquette no longer afraid of UWM

My alma mater really took it on the chin last night in college hoops at the Bradley Center.

MU       100
UWM     65


Maybe because of all the hype about Thursday's Packer game the MU-UWM clash took place with little fanfare, despite this being the first meeting of the two teams in almost a decade.

For years, the entire community was clamoring for a MU-UWM matchup. Marquette would have nothing to do with it.

Gee, could it be because in those years UWM was as good as, if not better than Marquette?

UWM was in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 one of the years when Marquette was saying "No thanks" to a possible cross-town match-up.

Suddenly, MU had a change of heart. It's pretty clear why.

Now Tom Crean and the MU Athletic Department are more than happy to play UWM, now that UWM is a program working to get back to the high level it enjoyed in the past.

Now Marquette isn't afraid to play UWM.

Not when you know it's an easy "W".

More evidence that anonymous bloggers can be dangerous....

And stupid.

Because they can and will be caught and identified.

From the WX department: Deja vu

WTMJ's John Malan writes in his weather column today:

"If Dec. 1 makes you think snowstorm for some reason, it could be based on your recollection of last year's blizzard in southeast Wisconsin. The snowstorm started around 3 a.m., and the worst snow fell before 3 p.m. Blizzard conditions occurred between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. in Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties., with northerly winds of 35-40 mph and visibilities reduced from zero to one-quarter of a mile.

Kenosha picked up 17 inches of new snow, Milwaukee had 10 inches, Waukesha received 12 inches and West Bend a little less, with 8 inches of drifting snow."

To be honest, I really don't remember any of what John Malan is writing about. I was in Florida that day.



A look back at the people and events that made news the past week.
Week-ends is a regular weekly feature of This Just In...


My friend and colleague, state Representative Mark Gundrum (R-New Berlin)

State Representative Marlin Schneider (D-Wisconsin Rapids)



Mother and stepfather of Riley Ann Sawyers

Manishkumar Patel 

Suspects in slaying of Sean Taylor 

Leeland Eisenberg


"These defendants ripped apart this community with their action and were deserving of long prison sentences."
U.S. Attorney Stephen Biskupic following the sentencing of former Milwaukee police officers found guilty in the beating of Frank Jude. The officers received sentences ranging from 15-17 years.

"The community wants Andy Spengler to pay for all the sins of the Milwaukee Police Department."
Brian Kinstler, attorney for one of the former police officers sentenced this week in the Frank Jude beating trial.

"I am here today to voice the ire and frustration of the majority of people of the state of Wisconsin who want their Christmas tree back in the state Capitol, not a politically correct holiday tree. If it looks like a Christmas tree, and it smells like a Christmas tree and it's decorated like a Christmas tree and it has presents under it like a Christmas tree, it's a Christmas tree!"
State Representative Marlin Schneider (D-Wisconsin Rapids) arguing at a hearing that the “Holiday” tree in the rotunda of the state Capitol should be re-named the “Wisconsin State Christmas Tree.

“The state of Wisconsin cannot have a Christmas anything."
Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom from Religion Foundation whose Madison-based group represents atheists and agnostics.

 "You will not be happy until we have a godless world. You ask for an unreasonable degree of political correctness."
State Representative Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) firing back at Gaylor.

“The people of Wisconsin had a choice - and they had almost three years to listen to both sides. On Nov. 7, 2006, we the people voted and said we did not want a judge to define marriage for us and we didn't want marriage reconfigured.”
Julaine K. Appling, CEO of Wisconsin Family Council Inc., reacting to a lawsuit filed against Wisconsin’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Taxing smokers $376 million is grossly unfair. Going after people who are addicted to cigarettes may appear to be politically easy because we all know smoking is bad for you. But I think it's a politically gutless move, not unlike sitting in a deer stand with a pail of garbage at the foot of the tree, waiting for the hungry deer who will inevitably come along to take the bait. Even worse, it's fiscally irresponsible. One of the major goals of its advocates is to reduce smoking and therefore ultimately reduce revenues, but those revenues are being used to pay for health care, some of the fastest-growing programs in state government. The budget increases fees on motorists by $274 million at the same time it contains a provision that allows the governor to steal as much as $200 million from the transportation fund. The budget is balanced with a $200 million raid on the Patient Compensation Fund that's being challenged in court. It's also balanced with $72 million in disputed payments from tribal gambling. If we lose either or both of those lawsuits, we're immediately in the red. In the first year, the budget uses an accounting gimmick to offset $80 million in school aid payments into the second year as a property tax credit. In the second year, another $150 million is offloaded into the next budget. Frankly, we don't have enough time and you don't have enough ink to list all the weaknesses and flaws in this budget.”
State Senator Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) on the weaknesses in the state budget.

The Elections Board and, after it is replaced, the Government Accountability Board request that municipal clerks obtain birth dates from voters during future elections and consider ways to more easily facilitate the collection of this information.”
One of the key recommendations in an audit by the Legislative Audit Bureau on compliance with election laws.

“What better way to obtain the birth dates of all voters than from a driver’s license or state-issued photo ID?”
State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), reacting to the above mentioned audit recommendation.

I remember getting a letter from a guy sitting in prison who had been sentenced to having sex with a nine-year old girl. In the letter, he tried to convince us that sexual assault of a minor shouldn't be a felony, because it was consensual. He said that with television and the internet these days, nine year old girls are more mature - that nine today is like eighteen a few years ago. I dropped the letter out of my hands and onto the floor, it was so repulsive.”
Former state legislative aide Christian Schneider, blogging about some of the weird constituent mail received at the state Capitol.

“Let's not be naïve, the Cowboys were supposed to beat Green Bay on Thursday night. Once the Packers placed defensive stars Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Charles Woodson on the inactive list before the game, and Brett Favre missed the last 2½ quarters with elbow and shoulder injuries, there really was no legitimate reason why the Cowboys shouldn't have left Texas Stadium as the NFC's top dog.”
Dallas Morning News sports columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor.

We knew we wanted Wisconsin badly. We love that team. That's the kind of team you want. The football team is really good and tough and hard-nosed. They're 9-3, highly ranked in the BCS, beat Michigan. They have everything you want in a New Year's Day college football bowl team - the fans, the cheerleaders, the band, the atmosphere. Everything. The Badgers just have it all when it comes to being a great bowl team."
Jim McVay, the President and CEO of the Outback Bowl, after the Badgers accepted an invitation to the Outback.

"Milwaukee is barely surviving and if the leadership of this city think Fonzie will save us, they need to be replaced. This is an us versus them situation (those with common sense and taste versus the douche bags)
  • the Blue Shirt was killed making us an international joke
  • the Bamboo Park was replaced with a parking lot for a seafood restaurant
  • Now the plan is to put a giant statue of Fonzie on the busiest corner in the entire City of Milwaukee?
You are all insane!"
Arrogant artsy-fartsy elitist snob Michael Brenner, threatening to board up his local art gallery and leave town if Milwaukee puts up a bronze statue of the Fonz.


Mother gets (only) seven years for infant’s death.
Note how tough the judge talks BEFORE giving his light sentence.

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Alvin hits the big screen

When I blogged about Alvin and the Chipmunks earlier today, I had no idea about this.

Might be cute for the kids, but why do I fear a classic is about to be ruined…

Now that's the Christmas spirit!

Elderly woman loses cash, and lots of it.

It happens in a freak accident.

Complete strangers hear about her bad luck.

Yes, there is a happy ending, two of them to be exact.

Nice story.

Letters...........we get letters

In my Week-ends blog earlier today, I quoted my friend Christian Schneider.

He used to work in the Capitol and now works for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. Christian is also a very clever blogger.

He wrote two great blogs this week about the crazy letters from constituents he saw when he worked as a legislative aide.

These blogs are in the "must-read" category. As Christian points out, remember, these people are asking for help that requires your tax dollars.

Great work, Christian!

Incredible, touching video

On this cold, snowy day in Wisconsin, this will warm your heart.

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My tax dollar at work

Well, it's 10:45 p.m. The snow started falling at about 11:30 this morning.

Eleven hours and a plow has yet to go down my street.

I sure am glad to see the big, huge Franklin tax increases working for my benefit.

Of course, the city tax levy went up 5.7% so I'll be getting snow removal and plowing service that's 5.7% better than last year.

That's a bigger snow job than the one Mother Nature dumped on us today.

The music of Christmas: Mary's Boy Child

The music of Christmas

Harry Belafonte first recorded “Mary’s Boy Child” in 1956.

Belafonte’s version featured a soft, slow, melodic tone.

Every Christmas season, radio stations are flooded with requests, not for Belafonte’s recording, but for the 1978 cover by the Euro-disco group Boney M.

German producer Frank Farian had a successful single in 1975 but decided he wanted some attractive singers and dancers to present on stage and in concert. Farian was watching an Australian detective series. The main character was called Boney Maroney, and that’s how he came up with the name for the group.

From the unofficial Boney M website:

Boney M. was a studio-group and all vocals on the records were done by Marcia Barrett, Liz Mitchell and Boney M.'s producer and mastermind Frank Farian. When Reggie Tsiboe replaced Bobby Farrell he would also be a part of the recording-team. From around 1980 session singers would also be used for backing vocals. However it should be mentioned that no matter what is said or written then the members of Boney M. did sing live on stage at live concerts. Farian wasn’t a part of that act.

(In 1978) Boney M. broke record sales in most countries. It wasn't just another hit - it was THE Christmas record of the year.

"Mary's Boy Child - Oh My Lord" was released in Germany on 27th November and an instant hit. However the strange thing was that in Germany the single first went to no. 1 in early January 1979 when the Christmas period was over.

In England the single was no. 1 for four weeks and in Denmark "Mary's Boy Child - Oh My Lord" was the first single ever to be achieving platinum status.

Today, radio stations in Milwaukee get tons of calls asking for the name of the group that does that, “Oh my Lord,” song.

It’s Boney M.

Here they are in all their late 1970’s cheesy disco-ness. (Just look at those clothes and hair styles).

I dare you to watch the entire video and not be humming or singing the tune for hours after.

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OT in the NFL

Everyone remembers Green Bay’s victory over the Broncos in Denver earlier this season.

Who could forget it?

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A sign of the times

From today's Chicago Tribune:

"Creche thefts have become an annual ritual this time of year: The Baby Jesus in the Nativity scene in downtown Chicago's Daley Plaza, stolen in 1999 and 2004, now has a cable wrapped around its waist, and the cable is bolted to the manger floor."

College football nightmare

College football needs a playoff system. Division I football is the only sport in college athletics that doesn't hold some sort of tournament or playoff to determine its champion,

Yesterday, the top two rated teams got beat, throwing the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) into chaos.

Here's my vote for Hawaii.

At 12-0, they are the only undefeated team left  in the country. They have a legitimate Heisman Trophy Award candidate.

Hawaii deserves a shot at the the championship.

But because college football is so messed up, they won't get it.

The BCS is a major joke, and for the next month, there will be a chorus of whining and grumbling about this ineffective system, and rightfully so.

My most popular blogs

Most popular

As I post every Sunday, here are the top five most popular of my blog entries from the previous week:

1) Anonymous bloggers can be dangerous

2) 1 hour and 20 minutes

3) Franklin, the next time you see an Alderman or school board member...

4) Week-ends (November 24)

5) "The man is dying"

Thank you, Sendik's!

This should have been said a long time ago.

I really appreciate that I don't have to pull out my driver's license every time I purchase alcohol at Sendik's.

A Hispanic woman makes my day

Another Sunday morning, another Sunday ushering at St. Anthony’s Church.

The Christmas calendars were out in the vestibule for churchgoers to take home.
 On one table were the calendars in English. Another table had calendars in Spanish.

I just shook my head.

Near the end of Mass, I opened one of the front doors so people could exit easily. A car pulled up and a Hispanic woman got out with the car running.

She saw me and quickly yelled out, asking about the Mass.

“Which Mass is this, English or Spanish?”

“English. The Spanish Mass is at noon.”

“What time did this Mass start?”


She seemed happy to hear that.

“But it’s ending in just a few minutes.”

She didn’t like that news.

“When is the next Mass?”

“At noon”

“But is that in English?”

“No,” I informed her. “It’s in Spanish.”

She shook her head in complete disinterest, even more so when I told her there was no other Mass in English today.

The Hispanic woman, unable to find her Mass in English, shrugged her shoulders and left.

Good for her, I thought, and smiled.

Culinary no-no #30

Culinary no-no's

How not to throw a holiday party.

In the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, there apparently was a cottage industry of resource guides on gracious living, usually written by Hollywood stars or those who viewed themselves as lifestyle experts.

Over the years, New York Times writer Jancee Dunn has collected these books and still uses them….not for handy-dandy advice, but for comic material to read at get-together’s she hosts. Her recent article inspired this culinary no-no.

The counsel given in these books is pretty laughable by today’s standards and would no doubt have your party guests wondering if you’re in desperate need of psychiatric intervention.

Consider “My Way of Life,” written in 1971 by everyone’s favorite mom, Joan Crawford.

Pre-party jitters? Nonsense, Darling!

Crawford advised that to get over your nerves the night before your big soiree, you must treat the party as if it were opening night on Broadway: rehearse.

In Crawford’s view, a “superb hostess” is one who, “a hundred times practiced walking around her living room chatting with imaginary guests. Introducing strangers with just the right phrase to interest them in one another. She practiced moving gracefully, going to the door, offering canapés.”

Most folks call them, “crackers.”

Once the party starts, Crawford suggested the hostess wear   lovely gown. Crawford, herself, would do so in a dress with matching turban (turban??!!) and shoes.

Make sure guests have hard chairs to sit in.

“Soft ones spread the hips.”

Never serve a red vegetable next to a yellow vegetable.

“Looks unappetizing,” Crawford wrote.

I think it would depend on the dip.

Crawford’s book included a recipe for meatloaf that had four hidden hard-boiled eggs.

Would that be a “meatloaf surprise?”

Crawford would prepare dishes like the meatloaf, pot roast, beef bourguignon, lobster Newburg, and creamed chicken all ahead of time and then freeze them in case of emergencies.

Eating unfrozen creamed chicken would be an emergency in my book.

Helen Gurley Brown is remembered for her 1962 guide, “Sex and the Single Girl.”

Having guests over?

Gurley Brown recommended Romanian Gypsy music, “chloroform cocktails” (boil six cups of coffee down to one, add a fifth of gin and a quart of vanilla ice cream) and a racy party game in which players guess the various garments a guest is wearing.

Gurley Brown’s rule: “No feeling or pinching allowed.”

In 1965, Luella Cuming wrote “The Luella Cuming Studio Course in Social Awareness, Poise and Gracious Living.”

Cuming told readers they should fill their homes with exotic conversation pieces. She gave an account of a reporter friend who “has a pet duck who often sports fascinating jackets and hats and struts around his master’s domain chattering madly.”

Yeh, I could see that generating some conversation.

The authors of these books all possessed a common belief: you should attempt to live an upper crust life all the time.

Cuming wrote that, “Those who live graciously only when there is an audience present are phonies. One charming woman I know who lives alone wears her most beautiful chemises with high-heeled satin mules when she is alone. Sometimes she adds a pearl necklace or a zany cocktail hat.”

Imagine the look on the UPS guy when she answers the door.

Helen Gurley Brown is remembered for her 1962 guide, “Sex and the Single Girl.”

Gurley Brown told her readers that if they wanted  a sexy apartment, they should put out, “an enormous brandy snifter filled with dozens of loose cigarettes, opened whole packages of many brands and ‘name’ book matches from good restaurants.”

Alexandra Stoddard in her 1988 book, “Living a Beautiful Life,”  wrote that, “Surprise pleasures delight the most.”

So she’d place flowers inside her refrigerator. When she sat down to write out her bills, she’d dress in a fresh blouse and skirt, putting Brahms on the stereo and flowers on her desk. All in the quest to make life more…..what’s that word again…..oh, yes, gracious.

Joan Crawford said if your “fella” wants caviar, don’t immediately concede that you’re not Joan Crawford and can’t afford it.

Sacrifice a little!

In Crawford’s opinion, that meant fewer trips to the hairdresser and foregoing the purchase of a hat or two you don’t need.

My wife’s “fella” would be happy with beef jerky.

More Crawford advice to live graciously: Make sure your jacket is lined in the same fabric as your blouse, and never buy a dress unless you can afford all of the appropriate accessories. (Somehow, I seem to think that tidbit has endured long past Mommy Dearest).

These are the old ways. Live graciously. (If my wife pulls any of this junk, I know she’s been in the holiday punch).

Today we live in a Martha Stewart-Rachael Ray world where you make the most of what you have by being yourself. (Is that why Martha never shampoos her hair before a TV taping?)

Compare what you’ve just read to a contemporary how-to list on throwing a great holiday party. Joan Crawford would not be pleased.


1) Ketchup on a brat
2) Green peppers on pizza
3) The dirty martini
4) Fruity brats
5) A Bloody Mary after dinner
6) Women “manning” the grill
7) Eating pizza at Festa Italiana, brats at German Fest, or tacos at Fiesta Mexicana. (Be adventurous. You can have those items anytime).
8) Eating a cream puff as though it was a hamburger.
9) Taking your own bottle of sauce when invited to a barbecue.
10) Touching the grill if you’re a guest at an outdoor barbecue.
11) Coaching the host on how to grill.
12) Some regional flavored ice cream… black licorice.
13) Taking the husks off before you grill corn on the cob
14) Being afraid to chill red wine
15) Pizza on the grill
16) When serving exotic or strange dishes to guests, do not tell them exactly what it is. Instead, use a more inviting term (caviar) rather than being blunt (fish eggs).
17) In late summer and early fall, this time of year, don’t buy zucchini. Somehow, someway, you will find zucchini or zucchini will find you.
18) Showing disrespect to your restaurant server.
19) Eating out on a Monday night.
20) Pumpkin beer.
21) Mail-order turkey.
22) Grilled cheese is just for kids.
23) Dining in the dark.
24) Ketchup on spaghetti
25) Sneaking healthy foods into treats to get your kids to eat it.
26) Do not throw away culinary gifts received in the mail because you don’t like them.
27) Do not feel guilty about eating Oreos. (Oreos are not to blame for out of control obesity).
28) Doing something so totally ridiculous that you are desperately forced to call the Butterball Turkey Hot-Line for assistance.
29) Don’t forget the sweet potato January-October.

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Reminder: I'm on WISN

I'll be filling in for Jay Weber on Newstalk 1130 WISN all this week, Monday-Friday, from 8-10 a.m.

The music of Christmas-Elvis style

ELVIS, The music of Christmas

Thirty-nine years ago today, Elvis Presley made TV history. On December 3, 1968, NBC-TV aired a one-hour special simply entitled, “ELVIS.”

Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker envisioned the project in the vein of traditional Christmas specials done by the likes of Perry Como. Elvis would perform some safe, warm Christmas carols on some holiday-themed sets.

Thank goodness the people involved in the special’s production didn’t let the Colonel have his way.

The producers plotted a special that would let Elvis be Elvis, and break out of the Hollywood B-movie mold he had become trapped in the entire decade of the 60’s.

Elvis performed elaborately staged production numbers. He sang in the round with his old band mates.  Elvis was in the round. Elvis was the first entertainer to go unplugged.

Remember, this was 40 years ago.

The special was the highest rated show of that television season and is now referred to as the Comeback Special.

Elvis did his top material, but he also sang some Christmas songs.

One of them, of course, was “Blue Christmas.” 

Originally a country song recorded by Ernest Tubb in 1948, Elvis iput his rock and roll style on the song in 1957, and it became a classic.

He also sang the bluesy, “Santa Claus is Back in Town,” during filimg of the TV special, but it didn’t make the final cut.

Both songs were from his mega-selling 1957 Christmas album.

Author Peter Guralnick who has written extensively about Elvis, contributed to the liner notes of one of Elvis’ box collections about “Santa Claus is Back in Town.”

Guralnick wrote that E
lvis had asked songwriting duo Mike Leiber and Jerry Stoller, who wrote many hits for Elvis including, Jailhouse Rock,” to come up with a Christmas song during sessions for the 1957 Christmas album; within a few minutes, they had the song written and ready for recording. It was originally titled "Christmas Blues", and features a slightly risqué treatment and lyrics.

Elvis’ backup singers, the Jordanaires were interviewed a few years after Elvis’ death and said they warned Elvis he couldn’t do Christmas songs this way and would face heavy criticism. Elvis politely told the Jordanaires to let him worry about that.

Here’s Elvis, resplendent in famous leather outfit, from the ’68 special doing a bit of, “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again,” followed by "Blue Christmas."

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Kids need to be spanked

Topics talked about on WISN

A really dopey proposal has been offered in the Massachusetts Legislature that I blogged about recently that would ban corporal punishment.

No parent could ever again spank his or her child in his or her own home, or anywhere.

Author/talk show host Doug Giles has just written a humorous column on his pro-spanking stance. I read portions of it on the air today on WISN.

As promised, here’s the entire piece:

In Praise of Spanking
By Doug Giles
Saturday, December 1, 2007

This week in the uber-liberal state of Massachusetts (y’know . . . the one Romney used to govern) another dense liberal has come up with one more dumb idea to potentially add to their states’ stack of stupidity.

The brain fart the libs pulled out of their booty this time was the proposal to make it illegal for parents to spank their unruly kids’ backsides. The culprit: Democratic Representative Jay Kaufman. The proposal: House Bill 3922 which would make it unlawful for parents to use corporal discipline on their children within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

It would also create a presumption that any spanking is child abuse and neglect. And this Kaufman critter is pro-abortion. Let’s see, according to Jay, it’s wrong to spank an eight year old who drowns puppies in the toilet, but it’s okay to crush the skull of a pesky unborn child. Okay, Jay.

Now, for the record, I am against child abuse and neglect (duh) and feel sorry for kids who have been the recipient of Mommie Dearest’s coat hanger. That said, I have no problemo with cool and modulated tough-loving parents wearing their kid’s butt out, if necessary, for bad behavior. To me and my admittedly warped worldview it’s child neglect and abuse for the parent not to apply the paddle when the little punk—I’m sorry, precious darling—needs it.

Question: How many of you have had the displeasure of being exposed to the kids whose parents didn’t spank them? If you haven’t seen one of these little hellions or you’re unsure if you have, just go to church, the mall, or Barnes and Noble and simply stop, look and listen for a moment. The kid who’s wailing like a siren or stamping his feet and holding his breath with his arms crossed, telling his grandmother to F--- off because she won’t buy him a seven pound chocolate chip cookie, a bucket of coke, a $900 cell phone and the new Wii . . . FYI . . . that’s the kid who has not been spanked.

Kids who do not get spanked when they need it turn out to be nightmares on Elm Street, and we all know it. That’s why the Massachusetts moron and his house bill (and all others like it) should be shouted down and booed and hissed by the good parents of the USA like Donald Trump would be if he stumbled into a plus sized lesbian Tupperware soirée hosted by Rosie O’Donnell.

Generally speaking, undisciplined (read unspanked) kids ruin every atmosphere they enter. Whether it’s in school, or a family reunion, or at the pool, or during church, or just a quiet evening of simply trying to suck down some spaghetti at Macaroni Grill, the kid who hasn’t had his clock regularly cleaned by mom and dad, when needed, is a disaster we can count on to regularly pee on the public’s peace. Speaking of restaurants, why can’t we have a “Non-Screaming Kid” section? These little fiends and their coddling parents bug me way more than a thick cloud of second hand smoke ever could.

Now, not only should we have a Non-Screaming Kid section in restaurants, but we should also make it illegal for parents to refrain from smacking their children when they behave badly. I’m a thinkin’ that most of the crap the Left comes up with is bass akwards in regard to common sense and traditional values anyway so . . . ipso facto . . . we should, as good conservatives, volley into the legislative court the proposal that if your kid acts up in public and you don’t spank them then we fine or imprison you. We could call it House Bill 666: The Anti-Little-Damien-Act.

If after this law goes into place and some parents are a wee bit squeamish to spank their children or have been cowed into obedience to their toddler, the private sector could provide spanking stations throughout the city by every Starbucks, shopping mall, Toys R Us, Blockbuster and McDonald’s, where with parents’ permission, their Johnny could be yanked into line.

Inside the spanking station we’d employ only big black mamas who have no problem whatsoever beating the white, black, yellow or brown off the backsides of rebel children. The parents would bring their child to the station, tell big mama what the kid did, and big mama would spank the child with the weapon of the parents’ choosing for, say, three minutes for fifty bucks. What do you think?

Hey Kaufman, kids today are out of control. They cuss, spit, hit, scream, brandish weapons and throw fits, and parents don’t do squat. Consequently, we have a generation of entitled 13-year-old miscreants who have no problem killing their parents in their sleep for not letting them get their genitals pierced or their face tattooed with a Maori warrior tribal sign.

Look folks, nothing works like a loving rap on the butt of a stubborn kid. Time outs don’t work. You might think they do, but we all know while the little angel is in the corner for thirty minutes with the TV off he’s not thinking about what he did wrong but rather how he can get a lawyer to sue you or which set of drapes he’s going to light on fire when you go out for your afternoon jog.

In addition, reasoning with a kid doesn’t work either. Attempting to convince a four-year-old who eats his boogers that he really shouldn’t pull his 14-month-old sister’s eyelashes out is an exercise in futility.

Also, bribing your sweetie with gifts gets both old and expensive and yields no fruit except an obese, gadget glutted, entitled 12 year old who has a BMW he’s too young to drive.

Parent . . . just spank ‘em. They won’t die. They’ll get the message and respect you for it in the long run. Or if you don’t want to spank your kid, you can get a leash and walk them around like a dog—and if it gets really bad you can put them on drugs.

Doug Giles’ new book “A Time to Clash: Papers from a Provocative Pastor” is now available. Ann Coulter says "Doug Giles’ A Time to Clash is a substantive and funny tour de force for traditional values.” Doug’s award winning talk show and video blog can be seen and heard at


Daddy, I promise to be pure

Topics talked about on WISN

It is not your typical father-daughter dance.

Fathers pledge their integrity to their daughters. The young girls pledge that they'll be pure and abstinent until they marry.

They're called purity balls, the latest effort to prevent teen girls from having sex. It's a trend that is sweeping the nation.

I think it's marvelous.

Face it. In schools all across America, where condoms are considered to be miracle drugs and dispersed like candy, today's teens are bombarded with the message that because they're going to have sex anyway, they should practice safe sex. I submit there is no such thing.

Today's teens need to hear the alternative, that it's not weird to want to be abstinent, and that many other young people feel the same way.

Here's the Chicago Tribune article on purity balls I talked about on WISN today.

The music of Christmas: Rudolph

The music of Christmas

The Christmas of 1938 was shaping up to be the worst holiday ever for Bob May, an advertising copywriter for Montgomery Wards in Chicago.

May’s income was paltry.  Exhaustion was settling in. So was the Depression. And his wife, Evelyn was fighting an uphill battle against cancer for two years.

One night in December, after visiting her emaciated, bed-ridden mother, four-year old Barbara May jumped up into her father’s lap and sadly asked him, “Why isn’t my mommy like everybody else’s mommy?”

Put squarely on the spot, May struggled for an answer.

Inspiration for his response came from his recollection as a frail child. So thin was May that other kids made fun of him, calling him, “sissy,” and other names.

Despite being forced by the Depression to work at a job far below his skill level, and despite living in a two-room slum-like apartment, and despite his beloved wife having life-threatening cancer, May wanted to give his daughter an answer filled with hope.

There in that tiny apartment, with his inquisitive daughter in his lap, May made up the story of a reindeer with a large, bright red nose.

Barbara enjoyed her father’s story so much that she asked him to tell it every night. And so May did, each night adding more details.

Unable to afford a Christmas present for Barbara that year, May utilized his skill as an artist and made a book with drawings about his story about the reindeer he called Rudolph. He’d work on it at night, when his sickly wife and daughter were asleep.

Before Christmas arrived, Evelyn succumbed to cancer. His heart filled with grief, May somehow finished the Rudolph book before Christmas. Barbara found it on Christmas morning.

A few days later, May was expected at the company Christmas party. Called upon to read his book in front of his fellow workers, May’s book was a hit, and every employee wanted a copy.

Realizing May was in need of funds, the chairman of Montgomery Wards, Stewell Avery bought all the rights to the Rudolph book from May. Avery then had thousands of copies printed and sent to Wards stores in time for Christmas 1939. For the next six years, any child visiting Santa at a Wards store was presented a Rudolph book.

It is now 1946 and over six million of the books have been given away.

As Avery was inundated by requests to publish a new version of the book, Avery exhibited the utmost in holiday spirit.

In a phenomenal gesture, Avery gave, he didn’t sell, he GAVE all rights to Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer back to May.

One year later, May was officially a wealthy man.

Re-married and very happy, May allowed his brother-in-law, Johnny Marks to adapt the story into a song.

Marks wanted Bing Crosby to sing Rudolph.

Crosby said no.

The next choice was Dinah Shore.

She balked.

In fact, nobody wanted their voice associated with the song.

Then, Gene Autry was contacted.

The thought was Autry, who liked to sing kids’ songs, would do it, especially since he had recorded, “Here Comes Santa Claus.”

Autry didn’t like the song.

Marks didn’t give up and begged Autry to reconsider.

Autry took the song home for his wife to hear (Remember, Walt Disney’s wife told him to change Mortimer’s name to Mickey).

Touched by the lyrics, Ina Autry insisted Gene record the song.

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer is the second-largest selling Christmas song of all-time. Burl Ives immortalized Rudolph in an incredibly popular animated special that debuted in 1964.


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Coming to This Just In...

On December 22nd:

How Franklin made news in 2007.

Stay tuned for more details.

Viva Scott Beason

Beason is a state senator in Alabama where driver license tests are done in 12 languages.

Beason wants the tests to be written in English only.

Senator says test only in English

Legislator hopes to curb immigrants' driving licenses
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Times Staff Writer

MONTGOMERY - A state senator who has been a leader in illegal immigration reform said Monday he is planning to file legislation that would restrict Alabama's driver's license tests to English only.

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He's in prison for life for letting a friend use his car

When he was 20, Ryan Holle, at the end of a long, drunken party, let a friend use his car. The friend and others drove in the car to burglarize a home. During the burglary, one of the men killed an 18-year old woman in the house by bashing in her skull.

Read why Ryan Holle was charged with and found guilty of first degree murder, and see if you agree.

It's an intriguing case I talked about on WISN today.


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The music of Christmas: The Fat Man is watching

The music of Christmas


The following is from the Kiwanis International website:

Claus alert!

In 1934, J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie began warning children to be on their best behavior, lest their names be written on Santa Claus’ “naughty” list. Fred—the composer—wrote the music for more than 700 songs, including Precious Little Thing Called Love, Love Letters in the Sand, and the holiday classic Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. But he also was a New York City Kiwanian. His story, including memories of his fateful encounter with lyricist Gillespie, appeared in the December 1956 issue of The Kiwanis Magazine.

Following is an outtake of the article, relating Fred’s fateful encounter with lyricist Gillespie.

“One morning in June (1934), Coots was on the subway to Brooklyn when he saw a vaguely familiar face. ‘It was Lady Luck, but I didn’t know it then,’ he says. The man looked at Fred expectantly, then sauntered over and stuck out his hand.

“‘You’re Fred Coots, aren’t you?’

“‘Yeah, and you’re…’ Coots still couldn’t recall his name.

“‘Gillespie. Haven Gillespie. Lyric writer. From Covington, Kentucky.’

“‘That’s right,’ said Coots. He remembered that Gillespie had written the lyrics for several very popular songs. ‘What are you doing up here?’

“He was going over to Brooklyn to see an old friend, a composer who might be able to set some of his lyrics to music, explained Gillespie. He’d felt the pinch of the Depression and was in his old business, running a Linotype, to carry himself over. He tapped his pocket. ‘I’ve got an idea here for a Christmas song that might go over,’ he said.

“Like most song writers, Fred Coots thrives on the ideas and suggestions of lyric writers. He tingled with expectation at the thought of Gillespie’s lyrics, but he knew that the ethics of the trade demanded that he ignore them as long as they were committed to some other composer. ‘But I’m at the Albee in Brooklyn, Have,’ he said, ‘and if there’s anything I can do, just drop in and see me.’
“When he finished the matinee that afternoon, Coots found Gillespie waiting in the dressing room. ‘My friend’s gone to California,’ said Gillespie ruefully, ‘and it looks like I might be stuck with these lyrics.’ He handed them to Fred…

“‘Uh-hug,’ said Fred without enthusiasm. ‘You got a love song? A ballad?’

“Gillespie shook his head. All he really had was this little ditty—‘a kid song,’ says Coots. Fred sat down and pecked away speculatively at a piano backstage. In about 10 minutes, he had the skeleton of the tune knocked out. ‘I figured that I’d humor the guy,’ he says. ‘If I tried to do something with this kid song maybe he’d bring me his next ballad.’

“When he brought the song around to his publisher, Leo Feist Inc., Coots aroused no enthusiasm. ‘Nice tune, Fred,’ they said, ‘but it’s a kid song. Can’t really expect too much from it.’ They talked and haggled and finally the publisher agreed to put it out, with some doubts and reservations.

“Later that same summer, Coots offered the tune to Eddie Cantor, who decided to use it on his radio show in November. Suddenly the song shot from nowhere into the hearts and minds of an America that needed a lilt and a lift. ‘The morning after Eddie sang it on the radio, we had orders for 100,000 copies of sheet music,’ says Fred. By Christmas, sales had passed 400,000. ‘It picked Tin Pan Alley right off the floor and really gave it a merry Christmas,’ says Coots. Since then, the song has become one of the best-sellers in American music history. It’s sold millions of records and copies of sheet music—most of them in December. ‘You can see why I have a special affection for Christmas,’ says Fred.”

If I had to choose just one, my favorite Christmas album, it would most likely be,  “ A Christmas Portrait,” by the Carpenters.

Richard Carpenter’s lush, old-fashioned arrangements backing the angelic voice of his sister, Karen, are a perfect Christmas combination. Karen did “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” like no one else.

From the Carpenters' web site:

In November 1974, Karen and Richard released a shimmering ballad version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” a holiday staple since 1934. Richard’s torchy arrangement was as unexpected as his 1969 ballad interpretation of the Beatles’ “Ticket To Ride.” Karen and Richard recorded the basic track and the lead vocal in 1972, and added brass, strings, the sax solo and background vocals two years later. They sang the song on a Perry Como Christmas special aired on Dec. 18, 1974.

Here is that performance from the Perry Como special, featuring a jazzy, sultry vocal by Karen and a great sax solo.

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Thank you Greendale and Greenfield....

For making my drive to WISN from Franklin this morning a lot easier than I thought it would be.

Your snow removal team did a very good job and I appreciate it.

Enviros out of control

Topics talked about on WISN

Environmentalists are not special people.

They like clean air. I like clean air.

They like clean water.  I like clean water.

We all care about the environment, so they're not special.

They are weird... and loony....and crazy....and elitist snobs.

Check out this latest example of lunacy from the enviro left that I talked about this morning on WISN.

OK, so there's lead in toys


Here's an about Joey or Susie gets some books for Christmas!

Can't go wrong with some CD's or videos.

This is not the end of the world.

Can you imagine if one of these turned up in Franklin?

I’m talking about a digital billboard.

Oh, the carnage!

The calls to 9-1-1!

The wailing and gnashing of teeth!

Women and children, running out into the middle of the street, screaming and crying!

Digital billboards, it turns out, do not cause major distractions and are not considered hazardous.

They do allow those evil companies that create jobs to exercise freedom of speech and advertise.

But we couldn’t have that in Franklin.

My goodness, what would that do to our rural 1940’s flavor?

Franklin is in the midst of trying to figure out just what to do about billboards in general. My guess is they will be viewed to be as horrible as global warming.

Note to anonymous posters... my blog, or anybody else's:

I'll devote a segment of my program on Newstalk 1130 WISN to you, tomorrow (Thursday) morning.

I hope you'll tune in from 8-10 a.m.

The music of Christmas: "Haul out the holly...."

The music of Christmas


The mid-60’s gave us the popular Broadway musical, “Mame.”

From the website, “The Guide to Musical Theatre”:


Who is Mame? There's surely one in every community, often there's one in every family. Some of the wild, exploratory spirit of Mame bubbles in each and every human being who believes that "life is a banquet!"

Mame is Eve, St. Joan, Lady Godiva, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Bow and Florence Nightingale, all rolled into one. She epitomises optimism, the power of positive -thought and sheer joie-de-vivre, and projects them to everyone that meets her, influencing and improving the lives of them all. She is ageless, timeless, graceful, beautiful, kind and elegant. She dances, too, and cuts across all barriers, whether of age, colour; creed or gender. We have all seen hundreds of Auntie Mames and in each and every one, there seemed to be a flash of something a bit different, a new discovery in the way that this particular remarkable lady thinks, feels and moves.

Musically the show is packed with Jerry Herman songs that are in perfect accord with the whole positive attitude of the story, and includes what is probably the most memorable title song ever written.


Agnes Gooch brings young Patrick Dennis from a farm in Des Moines to his only living relative, Mame Dennis. This notorious Auntie Mame is a swinger; a vogue-following, high-living friend to everyone. Knowledge, love, and the stock market are her dearest possessions.

She is overjoyed with Patrick. Unfortunately her authority over him is shared with Dwight Babcock, a trustee for the Knickerbocker Bank. They clash on schooling, but Patrick's father's will spells out a conservative education. Babcock wins, but Mame is busy opening exciting windows for Patrick behind Babcock's back. Babcock catches Patrick enrolled in Ralph Devine's Laboratory of Life - a foreward thinking establishment. This is hardly a conservative education as stipulated in the will and so he packs Patrick away to boarding school.

To add to her problems, the stock market has crashed and Mame must attempt the only thing in the world for which she is unsuited - work. She gets a job in the theatre in the show that her friend is starring in. However, she upstages her actress-friend, Vera Charles, and is fired.

It’s that this point in the story that Auntie Mame decides that she "needs a little Christmas" early. She exhorts her nephew Patrick to "put up the tree before my spirits fall again", even when he reminds her that it's still a whole week before Thanksgiving.

(Mame circa 2007 would have the same scene taking place around the 4th of July).

Angela (“Murder, She Wrote’') Lansbury was Mame in the original musical. Here she is singing that holiday song song from Mame, along with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:

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Anonymity kills

Topics talked about on WISN

Here is the column on anonymous Internet posters I read on the air this morning on Newstalk 1130 WISN: Anonymity Kills by Ben Shapiro.

Franklin School Board an embarassment

Janet Evans' latest blog should be a wake-up call to all Franklin taxpayers: The Franklin School Board can't be trusted and its members need to be ousted.

I have long written about how the Franklin School Board lacks integrity and has failed to earn the trust of the taxpayers they are supposed to work for, but turn a deaf ear to in total defiance.

It is unconscionable, and also sly and deceitful that a member who was one of the most vocal cheerleaders for the $78-million referendum would secretly be hoping its faiulure would result in the placement of trailers at some schools so that he could play the, "I told you so," game.

This is the kind of representation the education system in Franklin is providing taxpayers?

The fact that Jim Ward has support on the Board for his shameful tactics is not surprising. Most members are walking-talking rubber stamps for continued mediocrity at a cost that gouges the people who pay the bills.

Revelations made by Janet Evans throw a black cloud over the entire Board. It can no longer be effective because as a whole, it can't be trusted. Instead of being motivated to produce the best school system possible, selfish members act with short-sightedness. They have no interest in doing what's best for the district. Their misison is to forward their own agenda, refusing to listen to the loud cries of taxpayers who sent a strong message in April that their referendum was amazingly poor public policy.

The blogs have exposed the School Board members who will never be able to recover the faith and public trust they have squandered.

I do not envy Board President Dave Szychlinski who somehow must try to lead this sorry bunch.

Taxpayers of Franklin, this is your wake-up call. We would all be best served to weed these people out, one by one, and replace them with honest citizens who believe in the attainable goal of providing quality education that won't bankrupt the taxpayers.

After reading the latest devleopments in Janet Evans' blog, School Board members ought to be ashamed of themselves. 

If they won't step down, then they need to be thrown out. The sooner, the better.

The music of Christmas: Judy Garland

The music of Christmas


After starring in, “The Wizard of OZ,” young Judy Garland needed a more “mature” role. It came five years later in “Meet Me in St. Louis.”

In one of the key scenes, Garland was to sing a song to her sad little sister. The younger girl was worried that when the family moved to New York from Missouri, Santa would be unable to find her. Garland’s character was also sad because she had just fallen in love, and thought the move would end her wonderful relationship.

Songwriters Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane wrote what would become a classic for that scene, but at first, Garland didn’t care for the song. 

The first words originally were, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your last; next year we will be living in the past.”

Realizing World War II had millions of soldiers homesick for the holidays, Garland wanted a more uplifting song filled with hope that would remind people of, “Over the Rainbow.”

Martin and Blane changed the words, and a timeless masterpiece was born:

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Tonight on Channel 10's InterCHANGE

 Here are the topics we discuss tonight on InterCHANGE at 6:30 on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10 (Repeat on Sunday morning at 11:00).


Because of a record number of foreclosures on housing loans, many feel the country is in the first stages of a housing crisis. If left unchecked it could lead to a myriad of other economic problems.  The president has announced a deal where many of the mortgage companies will freeze mortgage rates at their present levels, for millions of folks who took on these subprime adjustable rate mortgages. That means, for the next five years, their interest rates and mortgage payments will remain where they are now. He says it is not a government bailout, because no government money is involved.  Should the government even be involved in tampering with the free market system?  If people bought homes with adjustable rate mortgages they couldn’t afford, isn’t that their own problem?  Is it right for the government to step in and give assistance to homeowners, mortgage companies, and real estate companies?  Is this simply the market correcting itself?  Do we have this unreal expectation that home values should always rise a few percent each year?  Is the problem that we extend such easy credit to people who shouldn’t be given any credit?  Do people have the right to own a home?


The first primary contests are just a few weeks away.  Just this past summer most were predicting it was shaping up to be a Hillary Clinton against Rudy Giuliani race.  Now, most folks aren’t too sure about that.  Romney is pretty popular, but will his religion help him, or hurt him?  Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, is climbing the charts?  Is Hillary losing ground? Is Obama turning into an also-ran? 


The UW System announced this week that college enrollment in the system is now at an all-time high.  Is that a good thing?  Doesn’t the system complain every year that it doesn’t have enough money to operate a viable university system? Should we be increasing enrollment, or decreasing it?  Is it a good thing to have as many of our young people as possible enrolled in college?  Will more folks in college mean an outcry for even more financial aid for the ones who can’t afford tuition.  Also, is the proposal by UW-La Crosse to raise tuition on that campus by $1000 over the next two years make any sense?  Administrators say it will allow them to add dozens of teachers and additional staff members.  Is it really just a substitute plan for the attempt last year to raise tuition so the money could be used to attract more minority students?


What is really going on with former Channel 4 anchorman Mike Gousha.  He left WTMJ last year, clearly unhappy with the direction of TV news.  Was he unhappy with TV news, or was he unhappy with WTMJ?  Now, he’s going to do a Sunday morning show for WISN Channel 12.  Is that a slap in the face to the folks at WTMJ?  Is he testing the water there for a return to the anchorman role?  Is WISN news really any different than the news at any other station?

The sacred relics of Pearl Harbor

Topics talked about on WISN

Visitors to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii may believe the hallowed gravesite underwater amounts to the total wreckage from 66 years ago.

Not so.

Today on Newstalk 1130 WISN, I devoted a segment to a Wall Street Journal article about other pieces of the Arizona that are now kept and preserved in Hawaii and other states.

It's an interesting read on this anniversary.

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*BREAKING NEWS* - The shocking, true school tax increase in Franklin

Franklin budgets

When the Franklin School Board approved a huge increase in the school tax levy, we were informed the increase was 5.9%.

Today, the non-partisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance released a report showing the tax levies and the change in the tax levies from the previous year for all school districts in Wisconsin.

(The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, founded in 1932, is the state’s oldest and most respected private government-research organization. Through its research, publications, civic lectures, and school talks, WISTAX aims to improve Wisconsin government through citizen education. Nonprofit, nonpartisan, and independently funded, WISTAX is not affiliated with any group—national, state, or local—and receives no government support.)

The Alliance reports the tax levy for Franklin in 2006-07 was $25, 574, 810. 

The tax levy for 2007-08 is $28, 554, 442. 

If the Alliance’s numbers are correct, and I have every reason to believe they are, then the Alliance is correct when it reports that the increase in Franklin’s school tax levy for next year is not 5.9%. 

Franklin’s school tax levy increase is 11.7% 

Franklin taxpayers, you’ve been duped again by this Board.

First the Board told us for weeks the levy increase would be 5.6%.

Then on the night the budget was approved, we were told the increase was 5.9%.

Now the very reputable WTA reports, with figures in hand, the increase is 11.7%

How is a double digit school tax levy increase justifiable?

The real tax levy increase is DOUBLE what the School Board told us it was.

This is yet another clear example of just how irresponsible the current Board is.

I will be asking School Board President Dave Szychlinski for the school district’s explanation.

Update 12/08/07:  Dave is going to discuss with the school district’s business manager and report back to me. As soon as I get the information, I will update all of you.

Here are the Wisconsin Taxpayer Alliance #'s.

Franklin's school tax levy increase worse than:




New Berlin






The music of Christmas- A partridge in a pear tree

The music of Christmas


It is an urban legend that, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” was created as a coded reference to important articles of the Christian faith. That’s according to the urban legend de-bunker, says, “The twelve days of Christmas in the song are the twelve days between the birth of Christ (Dec. 25) and the coming of the magi (Epiphany, January 6). Although the specific origins of the song are not known, it possibly began as a “Twelfth Night “memory-and-forfeits” game in which the leader recited a verse, each of the players repeated the verse, the leader added another verse, and so on until one of the players made a mistake, with the player who erred having to pay a penalty, such as offering up a kiss or a sweet. This is how the song was presented in its earliest known printed version, in the 1780 children’s book Mirth without Mischief.

Textual evidence indicates that the song was not English in origin, but French. Three French versions of the song are known and items mentioned in the song itself (the partridge, for example, which was not introduced to England from France until the late 1770’s) are indicative of a French origin.

The “Twelve Days of Christmas” is what most people take it to be: a secular song that celebrates the Christmas season with imagery of gifts and dancing and music."

I’m not a big fan of this Christmas song. Sounds like one big skip in the record, the same old annoying refrain over and over and over again. 

That’s why I do enjoy versions that are a bit different.

Like this one.

It’s Saturday so gather the kids around the computer for The Muppets and singer-songwriter John Denver performing "The Twelve Days of Christmas" together on the 1979 television special John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together.

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How women are suckering men into buying the gifts they want

Topics talked about on WISN

You won't believe the latest tactic the fairer sex is resorting to in order to get their husbands and boyfriends to buy them exactly what they want for Christmas.

Guys, you should be annoyed by what's happening.

Instead, you're caving in like a bunch of wusses.

I talked about this yesterday on WISN. Make sure you watch the video, too.



A look back at the people and events that made news the past week.
Week-ends is a regular weekly feature of This Just In...


Sylvester Ranninger

Alabama state Senator Scott Beason 


Robert Hawkins

James Buss

The Franklin School Board

Exhibit A

Exhibit B


“You know what they think of us in Milwaukee - Madison is populated with tree hugging, tofu snorting, sandal wearing (winter too), calcified hippies who do not know the 60's are over. I defend our city, mightily. Until this week.Readers of Waxing America know I pedal with the best of them and am the first to protect the interests of bicyclists against aggressive drivers, errant dogs, and dangerous street litter and potholes.The bicyclists who braved the week's second storm should be taken out and shot. Spare them and the poor driver, when they skid on treacherous streets and slide under the wheels of a truck delivering fresh vegetables.”
Former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin on his blog.

"This was without a doubt the worst performance I've ever seen by (the  city of Milwaukee’s Public Works Department) in regard to a snowstorm" in the past 25 years.
Milwaukee Alderman Joe Dudzik, a former public works employee.

"There may have been an error in some judgment. We don't have a crystal ball."
City of Milwaukee Public Works Commissioner Jeff Mantes, to aldermen who criticized the city’s snow plowing.

"What weather change? Everybody knew it was going to freeze. It didn't catch anybody by surprise except maybe you, Jeff."
Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan, responding to Jeff Mantes.

"I find the content of the blog offensive and disgusting.But to find the content illegal, it must have been directed to inciting imminent lawless action and have been likely to do so. I cannot so find."
Washington County District Attorney Todd Martens, who decided not to charge Oak Creek High School teacher James Buss for the online comment that the 1999 Columbine High School killers "knew how to deal with overpaid teacher union thugs. One shot at a time!"

"The idea of destroying Israel never left our minds. We didn't have any of the critical thinking you enjoy here in the West. . . . We had the idea that Israel must be wiped out, and we must establish a state."
Former terrorist Walid Shoebat speaking to a crowd of about 750 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He told the audience that Muslims in the Middle East are raised to believe in the destruction of Israel.

"Even if you call it a holiday tree, what holiday does it celebrate? It celebrates Christmas, so call it what it is."
State Representative Marlin Schneider (D-Wisconsin Rapids), sponsor of a resolution renaming the “Holiday” tree in the state Capitol a Christmas tree. It  passed an Assembly committee 8-1 on Tuesday.


The city of Milwaukee’s snow plowing effort.

It was horrible.

Taxpayers don’t ask for much and they don’t get much.

They do expect the very first snowfall of the season that was accurately predicted and well-publicized to be handled properly. It wasn’t.

Some parts of Franklin also could have received better attention.


While the war in Iraq continues to be considered the most important issue to most Americans, it’s not as important as it once was, which is a blow to Democrat campaigns.


Lead in toys.

No, it’s not the end of the world.


Louisiana couple made people believe they could diagnose their medical problems via satellite

Salvation Army bell ringer in Indiana arrested

REMEMBER: Your suggestions/nominations for any of these categories every week are welcome, especially for HEROES OF THE WEEK. If you know of anyone in the community deserving of recognition, please e-mail me.



On December 22nd:

How Franklin made news in 2007.

Stay tuned for more details.

The music of Christmas-Disney style

The music of Christmas

It is one of the most moving spectacles I’ve ever seen, so moving that grown men weep openly.

The Candlelight Processional at Epcot in Walt Disney World takes place three times every evening, this year from November 23-December 30.


A Disney tradition now in its 37th year (2007), the Candlelight Processional is a moving presentation of the Christmas story in readings by a celebrity narrator and music by a Mass choir and 50-piece orchestra.

And from

This beautiful Christmas program began in 1958 at Disneyland in California. Walt Disney World held it's first Processional in the Magic Kingdom in 1971. Since 1994 is has been in EPCOT.

This is a show that should be on everyone's Christmas agenda. It is a retelling of the Christmas story narrated by a different guest celebrity every few days till the end of the program. This is all accompanied by the Disney orchestra and over 400 singers in the chorus. The singers are anchored by the "Voices of Liberty", the famed a cappella group that performs in the American Adventure rotunda. For anyone who has heard this group, they have the most amazing voices and range of any singers I had the pleasure to listen to. The other vocalists are from participating guest choirs from over 15 states and are dressed in gold. The choir members in green are Disney Cast Members who volunteer to be a part of this wonderful show.

The cast members in green are arranged on the stage in the shape of a Christmas tree and the Voices of Liberty singers are at the base of the tree. All other choir members flank the tree; this with the lighting and decorations make is visually stunning and gives that "Feeling of Christmas". But the centerpiece of the show is the narration of the Christmas story; and after a passage is read, the choir and the orchestra showcase stirring Christmas songs relating to the passage read. And this will continue to the end of the show. And before the narration begins, the choir and orchestra will play Carols and songs that have to be heard to appreciate!

Homemade videos don’t do the Candlelight Processional justice. Trust me, the performance is phenomenal.

Here’s celebrity narrator Neil Patrick Harris:

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The worst Christmas song?

The New York Times has the answer:

‘Jingle Bells’ in Dog Barks? No, Thanks


America’s least-loved Christmas song is a Danish recording of “Jingle Bells,” performed in dog barks. The song — which enjoyed brief success in the United States in 1955 and 1970 — took last place in a test of 579 Christmas recordings, performed by Edison Media Research. Edison played the songs for a national sample of 200 women aged 30 to 49, recruited via e-mail, who said that they either liked or loved Christmas music.

All five of the best-loved Christmas songs are more than four decades old. The newest recording among the top 10 is John Lennon’s 1971 song “Happy Christmas (War Is Over).”

“It is certainly a place where the rules about who’s relevant are suspended for a month,” said Sean Ross, a radio analyst with Edison. “Even the Christmas songs that we think of as contemporary, things like Wham’s ‘Last Christmas,’ are 20 years old at this point.

Elmo & Patsy’s 1984 novelty track, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” was hated by 17 percent and loved by 47 percent. 

Oh, c’mon. That dog song isn’t that bad.

In my view, and I know a lot of people love this one and break down when they hear it, the worst Christmas song is “The Christmas Shoes,” by Newsong.

It tells the story of a little boy who so desperately wants to buy his dying mother her last Christmas gift. He doesn't have enough money for the shoes and turns to the man behind him begging for his help.

Joy to the World it ain’t.

Sad doesn’t even begin to describe the song. It’s morbid.

There is no theme or melody.

On my radio, it gets the instant hook.

That and anything by Barbara Streisand, especially her awful rendition of “Jingle Bells” where she sings like she’s on speed. 

The Harry Simeon Chorale’s version of, “The Little Drummer Boy” is so bland it nearly puts me to sleep. 

Also on my worst list, The Pretenders doing, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” The lead vocal is horrendous.

Give me those barking dogs over this junk anytime.


My most popular blogs

Most popular

As I post every Sunday, here are the top five most popular of my blog entries from the previous week: 

1)       Daddy, I promise to be pure

2)      Thank you, Sendik’s

3)      Culinary no-no #30

4)      A Hispanic woman makes my day

5)      Kids need to be spanked


Of course it's a "CHRISTMAS" tree

Great letter to the editor in today’s Journal/Sentinel:

Call Christmas symbol what it really is

As a Jew and a Democrat, I am writing to encourage the Assembly to change the name of the big evergreen in the Capitol to what it really is: a Christmas tree ("Capitol tree could get a new name," Dec. 5). I would also like to encourage legislators who are worried about offending people who practice religions other than Christianity to take some time to find out what "those people" really think.

I find "holiday tree" offensive. It implies that other holidays that happen to fall in December are a subset of Christmas. I can't speak for other non-Christian holidays, but Hanukkah celebrations don't involve a tree. Having a public holiday tree is like having a public holiday menorah - it's ridiculous. Everybody knows what holiday is being referred to. Either it's OK to have religious symbols in public space or it's not. Making up a bogus name doesn't make it more ecumenical.

Dena Abramowitz

Christmas commercials

Kevin's favorites

Nice column in the Journal/Sentinel today about Christmas memories by TV/Radio columnist Tim Cuprisin:

TV commercials are sometimes more memorable than the shows that are programmed around them.

And, for me and my mother, one of them symbolized the very beginning of the Christmas season.

It was usually early in December, back when Christmas didn't really start on television until early December, that one of us would catch sight of a stop-action animated Santa Claus taking his first holiday ride over the snowy hills of Norelco's annual commercial. With the company's name transmogrified into "Noelco" at the end of the spot, the announcer would intone " . . . even our name says Merry Christmas."

There are other Christmas classics that still catch my eye, from the usual suspects - "A Charlie Brown Christmas," "It's a Wonderful Life" and "A Christmas Story - to smaller, lesser-known gems like "The Homecoming," the pilot for what would become "The Waltons."

But it's the Norelco Santa that stirs the memories from those long-gone Christmases of my childhood.

From black-and-white days and on into the color TV era, as I grew up and my mother grew older, we'd always be sure to tell each other the first time we saw the Norelco Santa floating across the countryside on those rotary heads.

I remember being away at college one year in the late 1970s and catching the Norelco spot. The first thing I did was call home to let my mom know that the season had officially begun.

The spot had been born back in 1961, just before my TV memories begin. It lasted until the mid-1980s, when the company retired it. In the early '90s, a higher-tech version was brought back. But the Norelco Santa just isn't the holiday standby it once was.

My mother has been gone for 20 years now, and I don't recall the last time the Norelco Santa has magically popped up on the screen while I was watching television. If it's still in the rotation, I'm likely to fast-forward over it, thanks to my DVR, which overcomes all sales pitches.

But thanks to the magic of YouTube, I can click my mouse on the screens. And, for a few seconds, I remember.



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Culinary no-no update: conning kids to eat right

On November 4, 2007, I devoted my “Culinary no-no” to Jessica Seinfeld’s book, “Deceptively Delicious.”

Jerry Seinfeld’s wife uses deception to get her kids to eat healthy vegetables.

I, personally, don’t think jamming broccoli into cupcakes is a good idea.

This past week, the concept of conning kids into eating healthy was tackled by ABC News and U.S. New and World Report.

Culinary no-no #31

Culinary no-no's

Did you eat cranberries on Thanksgiving this year?

Odds are you did.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports, “88 percent of Americans include cranberries in their Thanksgiving celebrations every year.”

ut will you eat cranberries again in 2007? Will you wait until next November to eat cranberries?

You really shouldn’t. More on that in just a bit.

Cranberry juice is the most common form purchased at the grocery store (61 percent of cranberry product purchases). Cranberry juice drinkers are also the most frequent cranberry consumers overall. Most do not mix the juice with other beverage products, preferring to drink the juice by itself.

Turning to other cranberry products such as sweetened dried cranberries, cranberry sauce and fresh or frozen whole cranberries, consumers report a variety of recipe-oriented uses.

In order, here are the ways consumers use the cranberries they purchase:

Eat by themselves as a snack

Turn into relish/spread

Add to breads or muffins

Add to salads

Add to drinks

Add to cereal

Add to pies or tarts

Add to granola or other mixes

Consumers who eat cranberries throughout the year are doing themselves a huge favor.

Cranberries are considered to be the very best of the super-foods with numerous health benefits.

So, don’t wait another year to eat cranberries. That would be a culinary no-no.

(P.S. Wisconsin is the #1 producer of cranberries. Massachusetts is a distant second).


1) Ketchup on a brat
2) Green peppers on pizza
3) The dirty martini
4) Fruity brats
5) A Bloody Mary after dinner
6) Women “manning” the grill
7) Eating pizza at Festa Italiana, brats at German Fest, or tacos at Fiesta Mexicana. (Be adventurous. You can have those items anytime).
8) Eating a cream puff as though it was a hamburger.
9) Taking your own bottle of sauce when invited to a barbecue.
10) Touching the grill if you’re a guest at an outdoor barbecue.
11) Coaching the host on how to grill.
12) Some regional flavored ice cream… black licorice.
13) Taking the husks off before you grill corn on the cob
14) Being afraid to chill red wine
15) Pizza on the grill
16) When serving exotic or strange dishes to guests, do not tell them exactly what it is. Instead, use a more inviting term (caviar) rather than being blunt (fish eggs).
17) In late summer and early fall, this time of year, don’t buy zucchini. Somehow, someway, you will find zucchini or zucchini will find you.
18) Showing disrespect to your restaurant server.
19) Eating out on a Monday night.
20) Pumpkin beer.
21) Mail-order turkey.
22) Grilled cheese is just for kids.
23) Dining in the dark.
24) Ketchup on spaghetti
25) Sneaking healthy foods into treats to get your kids to eat it.
26) Do not throw away culinary gifts received in the mail because you don’t like them.
27) Do not feel guilty about eating Oreos. (Oreos are not to blame for out of control obesity).
28) Doing something so totally ridiculous that you are desperately forced to call the Butterball Turkey Hot-Line for assistance.
29) Don’t forget the sweet potato January-October.
30) Using resource guides from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s on gracious living to plan holiday parties

Listen to WISN

I finish my 7-day stint filling in for Jay Weber Monday morning from 8-10 on Newstalk 1130 WISN.

Mark Daniels and I wil discuss the Packers during the Green Bay Grapevine at 8:45.

FranklinNOW blogs this week are must-read material

Janet Evans will be updating her blogs on Jim Ward and other School Board members. Bryan Maersch and I will offer our perspective.

The Franklin School Board says it raised the school tax levy by 5.9%. The highly reputable Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance says the levy went up 11.7%. What gives? I'll have an update.

Also in the next few days, I'll follow up on another Franklin School district controversy.

The Legislature is in session, so watch for an update from Senator Lazich.

And I'm gearing up for a special series on Franklin beginning December 22nd.

As we say in the radio biz, stay tuned.


The music of Christmas- A classic turns 50

The music of Christmas


One of the classic Christmas songs is 50 years old this holiday season.

From in Martinsville, Indiana, December 17, 2006:

When Bobby Helms first read the sheet music for “Jingle Bell Rock,” he didn’t like what he saw.

Work was needed on the song. Session guitarist Hank “Sugar Foot” Garland and Helms decided to make a few changes in the song written by Joe Beal and Jim Boothe.

After those changes were incorporated, Helms’ 1957 recording of “Jingle Bell Rock” went on to become what is still, 49 years later, a part of many family holiday celebrations along with eggnog, mistletoe, stockings and glowing Christmas trees. And that’s in addition to it becoming a nearly instant hit.

Martinsville residents Rob Helms and Angel McCartney, two of the singers’ children, say the song has sold more than 100 million copies since it was released.

On the walls of the Martinsville room where Rob Helms and the rest of the band Bigg Country rehearse are gold records symbolizing the success of that song. A picture of Bobby Helms taken during one of his appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show” is part of the memorabilia in the room that bears homage to Helms’ career.

Helms lived in Bloomington when he recorded the song, but moved to Martinsville in the late 1950s. He lived most of his adult life in Martinsville until his death from emphysema in 1997, his children said.

Helms isn’t in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame nor the Country Music Hall of Fame, but his children say a good case can be made for his election to one of the halls. Helms is in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and a Web page at its site features him.

“Anyone who sold 100 million records of one song deserves to be in the country or rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame,” Rob Helms said.

An article by John Bush at the Web site states, “Though his name is unfamiliar to most, Bobby Helms rules the airwaves every year around December 25th.”

After “Jingle Bell Rock” became a hit in 1957, it reappeared on the charts four of the following five years. Bush writes that the song is “an all-time Christmas classic.”

In addition to the “Ed Sullivan” appearances, Bobby Helms appeared on “American Bandstand” about a dozen times, his children said. During his career, he performed at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn., and in other venues ranging from Market Square Arena in Indianapolis to halls in Germany. His break came after country legend Ernest Tubb saw him on “Hayloft Frolic,” a program on Bloomington’s Channel 4.

“Jingle Bell Rock” makes the record sales charts nearly every year, but 1957 was the biggest year for the singer, his children said. The holiday song was one of three hits for Helms in 1957. “Fraulein” and “My Special Angel” soared on the country and popular music charts that year.

“Fraulein” was his debut single in 1957. The song didn’t sell well at first, but in April soared to Number One on the country charts.

In October 1957, Helms’ “My Special Angel” was released. It was Number One on the country charts for four weeks.

Helms also found success on the pop music charts with “Fraulein” breaking into the Top 40 and “My Special Angel” reaching Number Seven.

In an edition of Billboard’s Hottest 100 Hits, “My Special Angel” was in the top 500 of a listing of the 3,000 biggest singles in the rock era from 1955 through the early 1990s.

“Jingle Bell Rock” was released only two days before Christmas 1957, but it reached Number Six on the pop chart.

At first, however, Helms hated the song and didn’t want to record it, Rob Helms said. Garland, a top Nashville, Tenn., session guitarist, worked on the bridge with Helms, creating a perky guitar twang that meshed with Helms’ voice and the background chorus.

After the success of the record, Helms grew to love the song and sometimes honored requests to play it several times a night during live shows.

After 1957, Helms followed his producer when he left Decca Records. Although several other songs reached the charts from 1959 to 1962, he never matched the success he had in 1957.
Helms was being pulled between country, rockabilly and pop music, Rob Helms said.

“He couldn’t get the right direction,” Rob Helms said. “On his albums, there were songs with strings and then there was hard core country. It did not work.”

Rob Helms, 41, and Angel McCartney, 38, children of his second marriage, were born after the glory years. Bobby Helms suspended touring at times during the 1970s to help care for their mother, who was hospitalized while battling mental illness, they said.

At one point, the Helms family was forced to move out of its house and into an apartment, the children said.

“When dad’s career was going good, there were briefcases full of money,” Robby Helms said. “Other times, the church had to bring us food. But he never quit.”

Helms died in 1997 in a Martinsville house on Morgan Street.
Former Mayor Phil Deckard gave Bobby Helms a key to the city while he was still alive, but Rob Helms and McCartney would like to see the city make note of his contributions both to the community and to music. Helms performed in Martinsville including the Christmas tree lighting at Martinsville’s Jimmy Nash Park. Visitors have come from as far away as Australia to see where Helms is buried.

“There’s no sign up anywhere saying this was the home of Bobby Helms and there is no street named after him,” McCartney said. “A lot don’t think about it, until this time of year.”

Like most Christmas songs, many versions by different artists have now been recorded.

Getting lots of radio air play, in addition to Helms’ original recording, is the Hall and Oates cover.

The video is a bit strange, but it’s a good toe-tapper.

Take a look:

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I thought Blue Nun was a wine...

No. Turns out a blue nun is actually a blue nun.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Nun fights cussing with cussing

Parents shocked, others applaud principal firing off list of banned words in church

December 9, 2007



Middle school
kids like to experiment, and occasionally they try out new words. Those words, the ones you can't put in a newspaper, that sometimes crop up on playgrounds.

Which is what happened at St. Clare of Montefalco Catholic School in Grosse Pointe Park. When the school's new principal Sister Kathy Avery heard that there was some swearing on the playground, she decided to draw from her experience elsewhere to take a direct approach to stopping it.

After mass late last month, she had the fifth- through eighth-graders stay in church a little longer. Then she informed them she had a zero-tolerance policy for swearing.

And to make sure the kids knew exactly what she was talking about, Avery read a list of words and phrases that she was banning, including a few that would make many grown-ups blush.

"It got a little quiet in church," Avery said.

"Sometimes I think children don't know what words to use, they use them because they've heard them from other people," Avery said. "I think they knew that I drew the line."

The students told their parents about the lecture. And in the St. Clare community, known for being a bit conservative, some parents were shocked, but others applauded.

"In a way you would think a nun would shy away from something like that, but she's very open with the children, very clear in her messages," said Margaret Roache, chairperson of the school commission, whose sixth-grade son was there when Avery read the list of banned words.

"When I asked him to give me a sample of it, he said, 'Oh, no, I can't say it!' " Roache said. "I thought it was great."

Avery isn't surprised that the students listened. She'd done the same thing in two previous schools, in Sioux City, Iowa, and Pikesville, Ky.

"I'm not saying that it's an easy thing to do, it's just something that I thought was absolutely necessary," said Avery, who also has banned the words stupid and boring. "I'm not saying we had a terrible language problem. It's just that you start hearing words -- and they're offensive."

at 586-469-4681 or

The cost of crime

Topics talked about on WISN

America has gone soft on crime. Instead of looking for ways to lock up more criminals, we seek ways to let more out onto our streets to re-offend.

And make no mistake, that is exactly what they’ll do.

Here are two prime examples of this dangerous trend:

U.S. News & World Report says communities are preparing for the largest exodus of prisoners in American history:

“Getting cons to stay ex-cons has long been one of the most vexing challenges of the criminal justice system. One out of every 31 American adults is in jail, on parole, or on probation, and the central reality is this: Nearly everyone who enters the prison system eventually gets out. The problem is, most of those ex-offenders quickly find themselves back inside. Today, ending the cycle of recidivism has become an increasingly urgent problem as communities nationwide are forced to absorb record numbers of prisoners who also often struggle with addiction and other illness.

There are more than 1.5 million people in state or federal prison for serious offenses and 750,000 others in jail for more minor crimes. Prison populations have swelled since the early 1970s, and now offenders are returning to their neighborhoods at a rate of more than 1,400 per day. In 1994, nearly 457,000 prisoners were released from state and federal custody, and in 2005, almost 699,000 prisoners were released. That is the largest single exodus of ex-convicts in American history.

Revolving door. But it's hardly the end of the story. According to the most recent nationwide study on recidivism, in 1994, more than two thirds of prisoners—68 percent—ended up back behind bars within three years of release. It is that figure, little changed for decades, that has community leaders and criminal justice experts focusing on a fresh approach.

The process of coordinated prisoner reintegration is now known as "re-entry," rather than rehabilitation or release. Whereas rehabilitation assumed that individuals could change on their own, re-entry focuses on educating employers and communities about how they can help the offender on the outside. It aims to break though the red tape that has historically delayed social services for felons and to prevent the snags—like drug treatment programs that reject offenders who have been clean only a short time—that keep them from making a healthy return to society.

In practice, that means synchronizing many different social and correctional services while offenders are still inmates and continuing that assistance after their release. Re-entry programs don't necessarily require more funding, just better coordination of existing resources like job training and stable housing. "Rehab is focused on the individual offender; re-entry is about communities, families, children, coworkers, and neighbors," says Amy Solomon, a criminal justice researcher at the Urban Institute.

Providing free services to murderers and thieves might seem like coddling, but statistics show it's the cheapest and most effective way to keep the public safe. If they can keep just one of the prisoners enrolled in the aircraft sheet metal class out of prison for six months, Wichita officials say, they will save the state money.”

Providing free services to murderers and thieves might IS coddling.

And when we release these prisoners and attempt to use some psychological mumbo-jumbo  treatment or service to help achieve “re-entry,” what happens?

Probe Ministries International has done a study on the cost of crime:

In America, the crime clock continues to click: one murder every 22 minutes, one rape every 5 minutes, one robbery every 49 seconds, and one burglary every 10 seconds. And the cost of crime continues to mount: $78 billion for the criminal justice system, $64 billion for private protection, $202 billion in loss of life and work, $120 billion in crimes against business, $60 billion in stolen goods and fraud, $40 billion from drug abuse, and $110 billion from drunk driving. When you add up all the costs, crime costs Americans a stunning $675 billion each year.

We can’t afford to NOT lock up criminals.

Example #2:

Mac Johnson of writes about the book, The Deporter, written by former deportation officer Ames Holbrook.

“What if you had to choose whether to release a child molester into your neighborhood, or else release a murderer. Which would you choose to unleash on your neighbors? What if the choice were a kidnapper versus a rapist? One of them must be given permission to live among the innocents in your town, and you‘re the one who must choose which it will be.

What if you had to make impossible choices such as these every day? That’s the situation faced by deportation officers (DOs) in their jobs, as described in The Deporter, written by former deportation officer Ames Holbrook. Deportation officers are responsible for finding and removing the worst elements among America’s foreign population -- both legal aliens gone bad and illegal aliens who never bothered to start on good terms and then went downhill from there.

Deportation officers are set up to fail from the beginning. As a result, they have to choose everyday who they will deport and who, under court order, they will release into America’s streets, Scot free (though one suspects the Scots are not the bulk of the problem here).

The ways that deportation officers are sabotaged are legion, as described by Holbrook’s first-person account of his four years as a DO. To start with, there are only 600 DOs for the whole country -- responsible for deporting the worst among millions of legal aliens and millions more illegal aliens. A ratio that’s this hopeless means that every day thugs and criminals are set free for lack of resources to deport them -- free to rape, to kidnap, to extort, to burglarize, to con, to kill.”

Here’s the entire piece by Mac Johnson.

America has a serious violent crime problem. America bears a great deal of the blame.

Do Not Resuscitate

Topics talked about on WISN

Below is the Chicago Tribune article I talked about on the air this morning on Newstalk 1130 WISN.

It involves school districts around d the country grappling with how to address Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) directives from parents regarding their children.

The discussion today initially began with my stance that I, personally, could never sign such a directive and that I would want anyone to do everything that is humanly possible to save my child. (I empathize with parents who made a difficult DNR decision. I just don’t agree with it).

I also support school districts, like MPS, that have chosen to ignore the DNR orders.

After some nurses and EMT’s called in to take issue with my position, I said that their approach and mentality to withhold treatment or service to a dying child is “reprehensible.” I specifically told the first nurse that called in that I was not making a personal attack against her, and I also mentioned I have obvious respect for the medical profession. But I do not agree with a medical professional who has taken an oath to preserve, protect and save lives to stand by and watch an innocent child die.

The debate got heated and nurses who seem to care more about their profession being criticized called in to tell me how stupid I was.

Their arguments:

How could I possibly know what I was talking about unless I’ve had a terminally ill child.

How could I possibly know what I was talking about unless I, too, was in the medical field.

The quality of life of these children is such that they have no future and shouldn’t have to suffer.

I view that last argument as Jack Kevorkian-like, a devaluation of and disregard for the life of a child in a wheelchair who can’t walk, talk, or feed himself/herself.

A few warm, compassionate members of the medical profession have let me know in no uncertain terms what they think of me.

That’s fine.

I can live with myself and my view that human life, even the life of a young child in a wheelchair in precious and every effort should be utilized to save that life.  (And yes, I understand the legal ramifications. But where does the oath the medicos take stop?).

Schools ponder role as child nears death

Kids' Do Not Resuscitate orders prompt debate

By Jeff LongTribune staff reporterDecember 9, 2007As the school bus rolled to a stop outside her Lake County home, Beth Jones adjusted the bright yellow document protruding from the pouch of her daughter's wheelchair, making sure it was clearly visible.

In bold letters it warned, "Do Not Resuscitate."

The DNR order goes everywhere with Katie, including her 2nd-grade classroom at Laremont School in Gages Lake. The school is part of the Special Education District of Lake County, where an emotional two-year discussion ended this summer when officials agreed to honor such directives.

Now, district officials find themselves in the unusual position of having planned the steps its staff will, or won't, take to permit a child to die on school grounds. Although DNR orders are common in hospitals and nursing homes, such life-and-death drama rarely plays out in schools, where officials realize how sensitive and traumatic the situation could be for nurses, teachers and students.

Katie's brain was deprived of oxygen before birth. She can't walk, talk or do anything for herself. She is fed through a tube in her stomach and has an increased susceptibility to infection. Violent choking and coughing spasms have signaled a turn for the worse in her condition.

A Do Not Resuscitate order is a doctor's directive, issued with the consent of the family, that cardiopulmonary resuscitation will not be used if the patient suffers from heart or breathing problems. It can also prohibit using such devices as a defibrillator or an intubation tube.

The new DNR policy puts Katie's school district at the forefront of a growing national debate about severely disabled and chronically ill children whose lives have been extended by medical advances -- and whose parents must face heart-wrenching decisions about the future. Two other pupils in the district have similar DNR orders.

Katie's order was put to the test last month, when she stopped breathing during class. Her lips turned blue and her skin took on a gray pallor. A teacher picked her up, as allowed by the DNR, and Katie soon started breathing on her own.

School officials called her mother, who arrived within 10 minutes. She brought Katie home, where a nurse from the family's hospice program met them.

"It was a little unnerving," Jones said. "It kind of put it all in perspective -- this is real."

The scare strengthened Beth and Dave Jones' resolve to face the death of their daughter on their own terms.

Although some school districts follow parents' wishes about DNRs, many others have not yet focused on how they will handle the issue. It's a topic school officials across the country are beginning to wrestle with, experts say.

In recent months, school boards in Hillsborough, N.J., and Visalia, Calif., have debated DNR orders. Milwaukee Public Schools updated its policy two years ago so that officials at least talk to parents about what's best for the child, even if the rule-of-thumb is not to obey a DNR.

Barring a court order, the policy in Chicago Public Schools is to ignore such orders and do everything possible to save a child's life, officials said.

The school debate underscores the struggle of parents as they try to imagine the unimaginable: How will their child die? Will it be on a gurney tethered to a cluster of machines that sometimes only postpones the inevitable or will it happen in their arms? A DNR order can help ease such worries, some medical authorities say.

"They have some control over this whole uncontrollable disease that their child has lived through," said Dr. Kimberly Battle-Miller, associate medical director of Hope's Friends, a hospice that has helped Katie and her family since April.

The Barrington-based hospice allows the child to remain at home rather than make frequent visits to a hospital, easing the emotional burdens on those closest to her.

On a recent morning, Beth Jones could readily see how keenly her daughter enjoyed her trips to school. The little girl was beaming up at her from her wheelchair as they waited for the bus.

"You're in a really good mood, aren't you?" Beth Jones asked her.

Two winters ago, Katie's parents felt far less in control of their daughter's fate. The child was near death every night for nearly three weeks. Katie's increasingly severe attacks were a sign that her condition had worsened.

"The light went on in my head," Dave Jones recalled. "This can't go on forever."

A friend -- a paramedic and the leader of Dave Jones' Bible study group -- mentioned that parents can face legal consequences if a child dies at home. If they dialed 911, the paramedics would swing into frenzied action with a swirl of invasive medical equipment and powerful drugs.

"The end result could still be the same, and you had the last few minutes with her as mad chaos, and her being whisked away in an ambulance," Beth Jones said. "We don't want that."

So in April, the couple met with Battle-Miller, who signed Katie's DNR order. They also discussed Katie's illness with the local fire chief to be sure paramedics understood their wishes. Then they met with school officials to plan what will happen if their daughter is stricken at Laremont.

Beth Jones will be called first, then paramedics, who will be on standby at the school in case Katie's mother decides that she wants them to intervene. Meanwhile, Katie will be moved to a nurse's office, shielding her from other students.

School nurses will be allowed to use suction to ease Katie's breathing and give her oxygen with a mask. The child can be positioned in a way that makes it easier to breathe.

But they will not perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation or use a defibrillator. Nor will they intubate her, a procedure that puts a flexible plastic tube down the patient's throat to provide ventilation.

"We're not just standing by doing nothing," said Susan Hodgkinson, nursing coordinator for the Special Education District of Lake County. "We're providing supportive measures. But most importantly, we are there loving her."

Some educators are concerned about lawsuits by parents who might later decide that something should have been done to save their child. They also "may be worried that a DNR order could be misinterpreted by medically untrained staff ... or they may worry that personnel would feel bound not to respond to an easily reversible condition," according to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Battle-Miller, who began as a pediatric critical-care doctor more than 10 years ago, has been baptized in the kind of emotionally charged emergencies that only the doctor, nurse or parent of a terminally ill child can ever really know.

Doctors, she said, are sometimes focused on one thing -- saving lives. They lose sight of the toll such action can take on patients and their families.

Taking a break from her shift on the pediatric critical-care unit at Central DuPage Hospital, Battle-Miller recalled children who were brought in for their end of life care. The doctors and staff, she said, didn't always know what to do.

She paused, thinking back on those early days of her career. "They had very unpleasant deaths," Battle-Miller said. "We were intubating a lot of these kids, preventing them from dying naturally. Some of them would die on the machine. Some would survive the episode but have to keep re-living it."

Beth Jones says she has prepared herself for her daughter's death. For now, though, she enjoys sitting with her two daughters on early mornings when Katie is well enough for school and younger sister Allie, 4, is awake enough to join them.

"I think of it as snuggle time," their mother said, enveloping both girls in an embrace.

Before the bus arrived, Beth Jones weaved a French braid into the school girl's long brown hair, while Allie held up a feeding tube. A machine could do the job, but that makes group hugs difficult.

Besides, anything that beeps isn't allowed in the Jones house.

"When we took her home from the hospital, where there were so many machines, we made the no beeping rule," Beth Jones said.

----------- Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune



Franklin budgets

The school tax levy increase approved by the Franklin School Board is 11.7% and NOT 5.9% as citizens were told the night in October the Board adopted the 2007-08 school district budget. 

The 11.7% school tax levy increase is based on a follow-up I did with the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WTA) that, as I blogged last week, issued a report outlining the school tax levy increases for every school district in the state. Franklin’s was listed as 11.7%.

The WTA gets its figures from the state Department of Public Instruction (DPI). The DPI gets its numbers from the Franklin School District.

In a discussion I had with WTA Research Director Dale Knapp, he informed me that he double-checked the numbers with the DPI and the 11.7% figure is correct.

Knapp told me that analyzing the expenditure figures for Franklin, there is now way the tax levy increase could work out to 5.9%. Knapp told me the correct figure could only be somewhere between 11 and 13 %.

In a memo dated November 29, 2007 to the Franklin Mayor and Aldermen, Franklin Director of Finance and Treasurer Calvin Patterson writes, in part:

“All taxing jurisdictions have provided the required information to calculate the combined tax rates for the year 2007 tax bills.

The Oak Creek-Franklin school district has the largest percentage tax levy increase of 13.2% and as a result has the largest tax rate increase of 12.9%. The Franklin school district had the next largest percentage tax levy increase of 11.7% and as a result had the next largest tax rate increase of 9.2%.”

Over the weekend, I asked Franklin School Board President Dave Szychlinski to investigate the discrepancy in the numbers. He said he would get back to me and I trust he will, but hasn’t as of 5:00 this afternoon. Here is part of his e-mail to me:

I just saw your posting about the Taxpayers Alliance Report.  Very curious.  At the October Board meeting, we approved a total equalizedtax levy rate increase of 5.9%.   I can assure you that I will ask JimMilzer and the business office to clarify for me on Monday.   I'm notsure who is counting what..or if it's apples to apples...and while I don't have my budget documents here....I do remember that the budget document we received indicated +5.9% 


This issue raises some very serious questions:

1) How did Franklin school district business manager Jim Milzer arrive at the 5.9% figure?

2) Were the Franklin School Board members advised they were voting on a 5.9% school tax levy increase, and if so, why?

3) Didn’t the Franklin School Board members know what they were voting for?

4) Can the Franklin School Board go back and correct this error?

This is extremely serious.

It reminds me of the Milwaukee County Board approving outrageous pensions, only to plead ignorance later, claiming they had no idea what they were voting for.

The WTA stands by their numbers. The city of Franklin has issued a memo quoting the 11.7% figure.

The 11.7% figure is DOUBLE the increase that the Franklin citizenry, and quite possibly, the Franklin School Board, was told the levy increase was going to be.

It is plausible that the Board, and subsequently, the taxpaying public were issued FALSE information.

In that case, there needs to be accountability. If Jim Milzer gave false information to voting members of the Board, he should resign or be terminated.

An increase of 5.9% was inexcusable. An actual increase of 11.7% when the public was promised for several weeks that the increase would be 5.6% is misconduct in office.

I anxiously await Dave Szychlinkski’s findings.

The music of Christmas: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The music of Christmas

When I was a mere child, there were certain annual TV Christmas specials you didn’t miss.

In the Fischer household, one of them was the Andy Williams Christmas show.

Williams taught America that it was cool to wear V-neck or turtleneck sweaters.

That was over 40 years ago, but the name Andy Williams is still synonymous with Christmas.
 When he appeared at the Riverside Theater in December of 2000, Dave Tianen of the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel wrote this in his review:

If Bing Crosby defined the sound of Christmas in the '40s and '50s, it was Andy Williams and his long-running series of holiday TV specials that gave voice to Christmas in the '60s.

Today, Williams is 73, and it takes the magnetism of Christmas to lure him from his home in Branson, Mo. It was his annual Christmas tour that brought Williams back to the Riverside.

Probably not even Williams would argue that it's a contemporary show. Doubtless, the older audience that nearly sold out the Riverside wasn't interested in a contemporary show. They wanted to bask in the warm glow of Christmases past, and Williams obliged them. Williams opened with his own holiday hit from 1963, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year."

Williams set the agenda when he told the crowd he wanted to sing some old chestnuts.

"Chestnuts are old songs that just get better and better with age," he said. "Just like me."

Amazingly, no one covered Williams’ big hit from 1963 for decades. A few newer versions have popped up in recent years, including one by my friend, Amy Grant.

In 1997, the Oklahoma City Philharmonic was selected to perform with Kathie Lee Gifford in her Christmas Special Just in Time for Christmas. The show was taped at the Civic Center Music hall and featured performances with the orchestra by Grant.

Read more

Birth$ to teen$ on the ri$e

After falling steadily for more than a decade, the birth rate for American teenagers jumped last year, federal health officials reported, a sharp reversal in what has been one of the nation's most celebrated social and public health successes. The birth rate rose by 3 percent between 2005 and 2006 among 15-to-19-year-old girls, after plummeting 34 percent between 1991 and 2005, the National Center for Health Statistics reported.

I wonder how many of these teens really thought about what they were getting into the way Washington Post writer Michael Rosenwald did?

Expecting The Expenses
$25 Diapers, $12,000 for Day Care, And What to Do About College?
By Michael S. Rosenwald
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 9, 2007; F01

Like most new parents, my wife and I didn't need much time to become acquainted with hindsight. We should have slept more before Sam was born. We should have fed him before taking him to the grocery store. We should have kept that burp cloth on a few minutes longer.

Also, we should have saved a lot more money. Kids are not cheap to maintain. This became perceptible a couple of months ago, the first time we dropped $25 on a package of Pampers. "Maybe we should go to
Costco," my wife said.

Financing a baby is typically the last topic on the minds of new parents. Hours and hours go by discussing less pressing matters: Do you think the neighbor's daughter is old enough to babysit? What about a theme for the nursery? Sports, animals or clouds? Where should we register? Which stroller? Should we take one last vacation -- a babymoon? Where should we go? How should we prepare the dog for his new sibling?

"Most people don't plan their own spending on their own wants and needs," said
Barry Glassman, a financial planner with Cassaday and Co. in McLean. "With kids, it's even a step further in the wrong direction. It's so easy to get caught up in spending in a variety of ways, and there's no planning or accounting for how the dollars will add up."

Oh, how the dollars will add up. We didn't realize just how correct Glassman was until I played around with a "Cost of Raising Your Child" calculator on, which charts spending estimates using federal statistics on family expenditures for children. I entered the region where we live. I entered our income. I said we would send Sam to a state college. (He has not yet expressed an interest in an out-of-state school.) Then I pointed my mouse to the "calculate" link, clicked, and prayed.

My computer told me this: "Here's what you're likely to spend to raise a child: $340,552." (Note to self: Praying does not in any way lower the cost of children.) I told my wife the figure. She said, with a chuckle, "I sure hope he's worth it." I told Glassman. He said, with a serious tone, "It will probably be more." I briefly contemplated a garage sale.

Then I set out to do what we should have done nine months ago (or longer): talk to some financial planners. I hammered away with questions to Glassman, himself an experienced parent, and to Clare Stenstrom, a financial planner in
New York who describes herself as a "professional aunt" to six nieces and nephews. To make myself feel better, I asked other new parents around the office to describe the financial planning they had done. To my delight, when I asked a new mom whether she had a will -- this was Stenstrom's first question to me -- she said no. We are not alone.

According to Stenstrom and Glassman, here's what we did correctly. For starters, we took advantage of a short-term-disability policy from Aflac, a secondary insurance provider, to help cover my wife's unpaid leave after Sam arrived. This was an important step because my wife is taking three months off to care for him. We paid $100 a month for 10 months before the birth -- the minimum period we needed to be enrolled to receive benefits -- and after my wife had Sam, we were able to recoup about a month's worth of her salary. Note to potential parents: Check to see if your company offers Aflac; my wife's employer does.

A few months before Sam was born, we also increased the number of withholding exemptions for our paychecks. Although this means we will get less back in our tax return, changing our withholdings let us put aside a little extra cash to help defray the loss of my wife's salary for three months. Why wait for the extra money when we could have it now?

The problem is that Aflac and the withholdings strategy are the only financial planning steps we have taken. We did not, as Stenstrom and Glassman suggested, come up with any kind of budget in the year before Sam was born that would allow us to save more money for clothes, diapers, furniture and accessories. We did not, as the financial planners suggested, use a program like
Quicken or Microsoft Money to closely track our expenses to analyze where we could cut back to save even more money.

"A young couple should plan for expenses for children much like an engagement ring or their first home," Glassman said. "A couple cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that child expenses are coming. It's easy to look the other way, especially because it's such a fun time in a couple's life."

There is so much more to do.
First and foremost, we need a will, Stenstrom said. It needs to clearly state who will get custody of Sam if his mom and dad die. "Both parents dying at the same time happens rarely," Stenstrom said, "but it happens." When she said this, I felt much of my body go limp. But even though the subject is hard to stomach, we must.

And we must also set up a trust that clearly states that we are leaving Sam all of our financial holdings, including my baseball cards. Children typically inherit their parents' money and property in many states, but the advisers suggest drawing up a trust anyway because laws change. Stenstrom suggests naming one of the parents a trustee and someone who understands finances the other trustee. Getting a lawyer to draw up these documents can set us back as much as $3,500.

We also need to enroll with either of our employers in a dependent-care savings account. Like a health-savings account, a dependent-care account allows us to set aside up to $5,000 of our earnings annually, tax-free, for day care. Our day-care bill will be about $12,000 a year, so having almost half of that set aside tax-free is a big help.

And then there is the largest expense of them all: college. Where to begin?
T. Rowe Price has a useful -- and frightening -- calculator on its Web site that allows you to figure out how much a college education will cost for any school in the country. If we send Sam to the University of Maryland, his mom's alma mater, by 2025 it will cost $248,798. If we send Sam to my alma mater -- Southern Illinois University -- it will be more expensive, at $313,806. If we send him to Princeton University: $624,771. I read those numbers to my wife and she said, "I hope we are making more money by then."

One savings strategy is a so-called 529 plan available through the state of
Maryland, where we live. A 529 college-savings plan is tax-free as long as the money is used for higher-education expenses. Money deposited into the account can be invested in mutual funds and other investment vehicles that are managed, in Maryland, by T. Rowe Price. (The District's 529 plan is managed by the Calvert Group, a Bethesda firm. Virginia's is managed by American Funds, a subsidiary of Capital Group Cos.)

We have opened a standard savings account in Sam's name at
Bank of America for all the checks, cash and bonds he has received from family and friends. The advisers say we should quickly move those funds into a 529 plan, along with any other money he gets in the near future as gifts.

The bigger question is: Do we put aside our own money in a 529 plan? An even more difficult question: Do we put aside any money for his college education at all? As the old saying goes, "You can get a loan for a college. You can't get a loan for retirement."

My wife and I, like many other young couples in this very expensive region, are over-mortgaged. We have an interest-only loan on our house. We have yet to put a significant amount of money in our 401(k) plans. The more money we put aside for his college education, the less money we will have when we are too old to work.

That seems like a harsh way of looking at it, and my wife has told me as much. Her family paid for her college education; mine could not.

I took out loans and am still paying back about $200 a month. Looking back on the arrangement, I think I'm better off having done it that way. I was a crummy student in high school. Most of my memories from those days involve cutting class and hanging out at home while my parents worked. (When my mom would occasionally find me in the living room at noon, I'd say, "Bomb scare." It is amazing how many times that worked.)

But when I got to college and knew that I would eventually foot the bill, I blossomed into a great student. As they say in the business world, I had some skin in the game. I earned better grades my freshman year than any of my friends who had actually sat through high school all day. I was a consumer, and I was going to get my money's worth.

Glassman and Stenstrom both advised me not to put aside money for education at the expense of our retirement savings. Stenstrom said, "When the child graduates, you can always help them pay down their loans." Glassman's suggestion: If we are able to put aside money for both purposes, a tax-efficient portfolio might be a better way to go because we could use the money for ourselves or for Sam's education. Our hands would be tied with a 529 plan. It has to be used for education; otherwise, there are penalties.

The good part about everything that we have to do is that it is all relatively easy to set up. The hard part will be the financial implications on our daily lives. We won't have the kind of money we did as a young couple in love -- the trendy restaurants, the weekend jaunts to
Cape Cod, the frivolous purchases at Nordstrom. Some of that will go away, and the rest will need to be moderated.

The best part of all of this: Sam's smile is a wonderful return on our investment.

DNR-Disrespectful Nurses Respond

Since I discussed my position on the controversial Do Not Resuscitate directive on WISN yesterday, angry nurses have engaged in a “tar and feather” smear campaign, not on my stance on DNR, but because I dared to disagree with health care professionals.

Last time I checked, this is America, and maybe, just maybe, there will be an occasion where a nurse and I won’t agree, maybe more than once.

I do know this. If I’m on the radio, and someone shouts at me, I’m going to shout back, whether it’s an almighty nurse, a doctor, or the Pope.

This isn’t public radio where the handcuffed host sits and listens to a 5-minute monologue before he timidly says, “Thank you for your call.”

Apparently, I had the audacity to disagree with a militant nurse, Inga from Sussex. Because I wouldn’t let her shout me down, Inga huffed and puffed and swore she’d get even.

(For the record, some nurses who called the show to disagree were very respectful and were allowed to tell their story without yelling and screaming. The confrontational Inga was not one of them).

Inga held her breath, stomped her feet, and threatened to go to………OH MY GOD!!!....the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel!!!!!

I’m scared now!

Please, Inga. Make my day. Complain to the liberal paper in town that I’ve been ripping ever since I was able to get behind a microphone. 

And what do you expect them to do, Inga? Write that big, bad Kevin Fischer was so out of line, why, YOU KNOW WHAT THAT SCOUNDREL DID? HE GAVE HIS OPINION…..ON A TALK SHOW!!!!!!


I want the Journal/Sentinel to criticize me! That’s a badge of honor as far as I’m concerned.

Inga complained to WISN. Gee, that’s a first. WISN never gets complaints about any of their hosts.

I must admit I am a little disappointed Inga didn’t threaten to write her Congressman.

Rather than use her spare time to say, ohhhhh, I don’t know………..volunteer to help the elderly in nursing homes, Inga sat at her computer.

“I’ll show him,” she muttered as she pounded the keys, sending off a memo to the posse at a national nurses’ website.

Inga thought she’d mention one or two things I said on the air. Never mind they were taken totally out of context.  She won’t mention that I said several times I respect the medical profession, but I simply disagree on this topic.

 Inga was so mad ….. I think she said she was BURNING MAD…..that she just wanted to rile up anyone wearing white sneakers. Of course, nurses being the caring bunch they are, when they heard about the evil Kevin Fischer….BOOM! Over three dozen responses of name-calling, insults, and unprofessional attacks. (By the way, you nurses really need to use spell-check).

It’s hard for me, their target, to listen or take them seriously when their entire message is, “You’re a moron.” “I hope karma bites you in the ass.”

That is why I was extremely gratified to receive e-mails today from radio listeners  who were thoughtful and respectful. They exhibited class that Inga and her lynch mob could learn from. I’d like to share those e-mails with you:

Hi Kevin, I just wanted to put my two cents in after hearing your discussion yesterday on WISN concerning end-of-life issues, particularly with children.  I, personally, could never withhold C.P.R. from any living being, but can certainly understand circumstances when parents may opt for that exact thing.

I wonder if you have a realistic picture, Kevin, of the type of youngsters who are routinely brought to our public schools, regardless of their physical or mental condition?  Even here in West Bend, I have dealt with a few children in the schools who are in obvious physical discomfort or outright pain, due to their advanced level of deterioration.  The inability to breathe, sit, move, much less interact with their surroundings in any way is a daily reality to these unfortunate youngsters.  Some have such thin skin, that they often bleed on all parts of their bodies as they are in such uncomfortable positions for long portions of the day while in school.  They are brought to school, in my opinion, because school provides a necessary respite for the children's parents, who are almost always experiencing the most extreme exhaustion you can possibly imagine. 

In only one case that I can remember, did the family of the handicapped child remain intact.  In so many of these instances, either the mother or the father bow out of the situation after a short time.  Oftentimes, it is a grandparent who becomes an integral member of the "care team" for the child.  The caregivers are on 24-hour call, every single day.  If such parents eventually give the school personnel the order to allow the child to quietly pass away without taking extraordinary means should an emergency situation arise, I think the school should honor the request.  If that same child faced that same emergency at their home, the parent(s) would undoubtedly move heaven and earth to allow the child to SURVIVE, because they couldn't bear to have their little one die while in their care.

What to do?  We should not make judgments about others without having a very clear idea what their lives involve.  You mentioned so often yesterday that just because a child is in a wheelchair or can't speak or can't eat on his or her own, their parents want to allow them to die.  That is SO untrue!  The children who I have described above have problems so far beyond the wheelchair, speech, or nourishment issues.

A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to care for my father-in-law, who was dying of cancer - a very slow death.  My family cared lovingly for him in our home for five months, as he was paralyzed and totally bedridden.  In the last weeks of his life, I continued to force thin cooked cereal down his throat, just so that he would have some nourishment.  I often saw his head shake "No" just slightly as I continued to will him to live.  When he could manage it, he tried to hold his mouth closed, and begged me- with his eyes - to allow him to die.  When I asked our doctor what else we could do for Dad, the doctor said, "Oh, there are plenty of things we COULD do, but we need to think about what we SHOULD do."  "In this case," he said, "that is - nothing more."

Many of the profoundly handicapped children in our schools cannot give that slight shake of the head, cannot close their mouth or otherwise refuse nourishment, but if they could, perhaps they, too, would say, "Please, nothing more!."

Thanks  for allowing me to vent, Kevin.

Joyce Dommisse
West Bend, WI

Hi Kevin,

I heard some of your program yesterday about the DNR order from some parents regarding their handicapped children, and I heard the nurses' comments.

I tried to call in, but the line was busy. I am also a nurse. I am an LPN and work at an assisted living home near West Bend.
I completely agree with your views.......

Unfortunately, I am not at all surprised by the comments of the medical workers who called in. You see, a nurse or EMT, etc. will do what is the medically accepted protocol. Did you hear the "righteous indignation" in their voices? They are parroting what they have been told and learned in their schools. They have no foundation other than that.

I was SO sad to hear the comment of the mother of an adult handicapped child who aspirated and died. Natural death is one thing (and I do believe in letting nature take its course-as in stopping chemo with a cancer patient who is dying), but when someone is not able to breathe, and no one will help them, that is terrible.

Where I work, we have some DNR residents. However, if one of them were choking in our dining room, ALL of the staff would help them clear their airway to the best of their ability.

The whole issue of a DNR going to school is ridiculous. 2 simple points: School workers may not know exactly what that means and may disregard a child when they just need some simple help, i.e. with a choking situation.

And if a child is that close to natural death, why are they at school?

It seems this whole issue is about saving those we want to save and letting others die if we don't want to see them live any longer. Would we save a heart surgeon if he aspirated? Where do we draw the line, and who makes those decisions?

As our society gets further and further away from Biblical truth, these issues will become more and more dangerous. The foundation of truth/right and wrong/ is being destroyed and therefore the culture is doing what is "right in their own eyes".
I see that happening in Madison now too. I have been very concerned about SB129. How can the state mandate that a hospital, doctor or nurse give a medication against their conscience?

What is happening here reminds me somewhat of what happened in Germany under Hitler. Those who followed his orders thought they were doing right. Amazing thought as we look back on that.

How will people someday look back on us?

Thank you for your strong convictions yesterday.

Name withheld by request


Franklin budgets

Today (12/11/07) I received a response from Franklin School Board President Dave Szychlinski to my question about the discrepancy in the school tax levy increase numbers approved by the School Board and actual numbers reported by the city of Franklin and the non-partisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

I intend to seek an opinion from the Franklin City Attorney to determine if the taxpayers have any recourse for the manner in which the Franklin School District Business Manager and the Franklin School Board completely bungled the school tax levy increase for next year.

Here is the response I asked for from Dave Szychlinski two days ago that I greatly appreciate. Please read it very carefully and then my response:


Thanks for your patience. Before responding to your earlier email, I wanted to collect as much information as I could about the WI Taxpayers Alliance report and the confusion over the numbers which you reported in your blog.

As it turns out, Business Manager Jim Milzer received updated amounts from the state and communicated that to the Board this afternoon.  I'm attaching a copy (below) for your information.

Based upon those new figures, the tax rate for operating the schools will go up 4.2% from last year.  You will recall that at the annual meeting, Mr. Milzer estimated a 5.6% increase.  If a person's home has an assessed value of $100,000, that portion of their tax bill will go up $43.

The 11.7% figure in the Taxpayer Alliance report includes the cost of operating the Community and Recreation Department and the debt service which the District is paying for previous projects. Those are separate funds which are all approved at the annual meeting.  When Mr. Milzer and Sue Huhn presented the budget at the annual meeting, the combined figure included an increase of 9.9%.  When the State shifted some of the money it would have given the District into a School Tax Credit fund (which taxpayers will see as a separate credit line on their tax bill) , that bumped the figure upwards.  Also included in that adjustment is consideration of the community's "wealth" as Mr. Milzer's memo outlines. When our numbers are reported to the State, the District must include debt service, recreation and operations in its figures.

I've already suggested to Mr. Milzer, and a few of my Board colleagues, that we need to change the way we prepare our budget so that there is more input from the community early in the process....not in mid-December.  There are many mandates which the District must pay for.  It would be interesting to have a discussion with the community about what it is willing to pay for beyond those mandates.

Thanks for your interest.


Email from Jim Milzer to Franklin BOE:

The District has received an update regarding the assessed valuation information from the City of Franklin.  This is the last piece of information that we need to calculate the tax rate.  The assessed value of the portion of Franklin that lies within the District increased by more than 7%, which was higher than we anticipated.  Based on this new growth in the tax base, we have estimated that the tax rate for 2007 should be 4.2% higher than 2006.  This would equate to a property tax increase of about $43 for every $100,000 of assessed value.  This is less than we projected at the annual meeting.  As you may recall, at that time we were projecting a 5.6% increase, or about $56 per $100,000 of assessed value.

As always, it is important to note that we estimate the increase in the tax rate so that we can let the community know the estimated increase in the property tax bills.  As we discussed during the budget deliberations, there are two major reasons for the increase in the amount of revenue from property taxes this year.  As we know, local tax revenue and revenue from the State make up almost all of the revenue that the District receives.  For 2007-08, the percentage of revenue from the State decreased by 4%, or about $1.75 million.  Essentially, the State is shifting $1.75 million of the cost of education to the community because they believe that the community can afford it better than other communities in the state.  If the State had maintained its level of support, the tax rate would have decreased.  Because of the funding mechanism set up by the State, as Franklin grows compared to other communities in the State, we will continue to receive less revenue from the State.  The other major factor is that the state did not complete it’s budget on time and although funding was provided for K-12 education, the state put the additional educational funding into the school tax levy credit rather than giving it directly to the school he effect of making the District’s tax levy look almost $500,000 larger than it will be after the City adjusts the amount with the tax levy credit.  Both of these factors;  the state taking funding away, and the state putting funding into the tax levy credit, have resulted in an increase in the total tax levy from operations, debt service, and recreation of 11.7% overall.  This is greater than the 9.9% increase projected in draft #1 of the budget due to the State moving our funding to the tax levy credit.  Again, individual property tax bills will be much less than we originally anticipated.

David E. Szychlinski
Franklin School Board

With all due respect to my friend, Dave Szychlinski, this doesn’t cut it.

1) Dave writes: “As it turns out, Business Manager Jim Milzer received updated amounts from the state and communicated that to the Board this afternoon.”

How convenient!

Milzer first gave the Board new figures this afternoon??? The city was aware of the accurate numbers and reported them in a memo on November 29, 2007. The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance knew about the numbers and reported them last Friday when I found out about them.

When did Milzer learn of the numbers and why was he first informing the Board of them this afternoon? Could it be because of stories on the blogs?

2) Dave writes: “The 11.7% figure in the Taxpayer Alliance report includes the cost of operating the Community and Recreation Department and the debt service which the District is paying for previous projects. Those are separate funds which are all approved at the annual meeting.”

That’s true, so why didn’t Milzer make the Board and the public aware of that information at the annual meeting months ago?

Dave Szychlinski told me the Board was told they were voting on a 5.9% increase.

Just what amount of increase did the Board approve? If it was 5.9%, why didn’t Milzer make the Board aware of the separate funds that raised the increase to 11.7%?

3) What is the actual increase that was approved and legally appropriate? The announced 5.9% or 11.7%? If it’s 11.7% and that appears to be the case, why was 5.9% announced to the Board and the public?

4) When did Milzer learn that the increase was 11.7%?

5) Without pressure from my blog, when was Milzer going to inform the Board and /or the public of the increase in the levy?

6) Why wasn’t the public informed?

7) Why didn’t the Board call and announce to the taxpaying public a special emergency meeting to discuss the updated amounts and hold a public hearing(s) on what to do about this development?

8) What other problems are being swept under the rug by this district and School Board?

9) Where is the outrage from School Board members who were not given all the updated or correct information before they made their most important vote of the year?

10) Jim Milzer is either inept, incompetent, or a scam artist. His late explanation is laughable, filled with the usual excuses of trying to pass the buck to the state. He needs to be held accountable and either asked to resign or fired. How can a local blogger, the city, and the Wisconsin taxpayers Alliance come up with correct budget figures before he does?

The response I received today was not satisfactory and I will be asking the City Attorney to look into the matter.

The School Board President told me in an e-mail the Board was told (by Milzer, I presume) that they were approving a 5.9% increase. The taxpayers are now on the hook for an 11.7% increase that the Franklin School Board never approved and never informed the public about.

This is scandalous.


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The music of Christmas: Santa Baby

The music of Christmas

The naughty but nice Christmas song.

In 1953 Eartha Kitt recorded, “Santa Baby.”

From Kitt’s official website:

Eartha Mae Kitt was ostracized at an early age because of her mixed-race heritage.  At eight years old, she was given away by her mother and sent from the South Carolina cotton fields to live with an aunt in Harlem.  In New York her distinct individuality and flair for show business manifested itself, and on a friend’s dare, the shy teen auditioned for the famed KATHERINE DUNHAM DANCE TROUPEShe won a spot as a featured dancer and vocalist and before the age of twenty, toured worldwide with the company.  During a performance in Paris, Miss Kitt was spotted by a nightclub owner and booked as a featured singer at his club.  Her unique persona earned her fans and fame quickly, including Orson Welles, who called her “the most exciting woman in the world”Welles was so taken with her talent that he cast her as Helen of Troy in his fabled production of DR. FAUST


Eartha Kitt possesses one of the most seductive and feline voices ever known. She is the textbook diva — a woman who acts with divine providence as high as her cheekbones. She has danced for the Katherine Dunham dance troupe, acted on Broadway with Orson Welles and on film with Sidney Poitier, recorded pop hits and taken a place in the kitsch history books for her portrayal of Catwoman on the Batman TV series. Her American career came to a halt in January '68 when she made an anti-Vietnam remark at a White House luncheon hosted by Lady Bird Johnson. Kitt soon found herself blacklisted from performance venues and recording.

Following Kitt’s huge hit with “Santa Baby,” she recorded a follow-up in 1954 called, "This Year's Santa Baby." It bombed. That’s why you never heard of it!

In 1987, Madonna did a cover for the 1987 charity album A Very Special Christmas.

I guess you either love this “baby” or you don’t. One Internet reviewer wrote:

Madonna had been around the block far too many times to get away with playing the infuriating Betty Boop-ish ingenue. When Eartha Kitt made a case for being a good, deserving girl -- "think of all the fellas that I haven't kissed" -- it was mildly amusing. When Madonna trotted out the line, it was just another reason for Sean Penn to start throwing ornaments.

Start throwing your tomatoes. I not only like the song, I prefer Madonna’s uptempo version to Kitt’s more laid back original.


Here we go.
 C’mon, Santa.

Slip that sable under the tree.

Been an awful good girl...

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They put up a Nativity scene....where?????


Should there be a Nativity scene at Franklin City Hall?

I say .......


It’s too late for this year, but I would wholeheartedly support setting up a Nativity scene inside or outside Franklin City Hall next year.

Numerous city halls around the country have Nativity displays, with Green Bay being the latest to put up the Christmas figures.

By the way…..if you were even slightly upset or a bit uneasy when you saw the title of this blog, then you just don’t get it and never will.


About that tree in the middle of the state Capitol....

The state Assembly Tuesday voted 84-12 in support of a resolution proposed by state Representative Marlin Schneider (D-Wisconsin Rapids) to rename the 45-foot balsam fir in the state Capitol rotunda the state's Christmas tree, rather than "holiday tree" as it has been called since 1985.

However, the state Senate doesn’t meet again until January 15, 2008.

Could the Democrat-controlled state Senate bring the bill up a vote in the New Year? Sure. But probably not.

But for the rest of this season, the tree will be called a “Holiday” tree even though everybody in the world knows what it is.

It would have been interesting to watch Governor Doyle wrap himself into knots if the resolution would have ever gotten to his desk.

Look at this one paragraph in a recent Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel article where Doyle is all over the map:

A press release issued by Doyle's office about the tree-lighting ceremony called the balsam a holiday tree, but Doyle said his family calls it a Christmas tree. Asked what the state should call it, he said, "I couldn't care less."

Gee, Gov, this isn’t rocket science. Coming up with a firm stance shouldn’t be all that difficult.

Democrats vote against Christmas

Here’s your Democrat party, showing their true colors.

Amanda Carpenter writes about how the same House Democrats who voted against Christmas voted in favor of Ramadan.

Here’s her column.


The music of Christmas: The best ever?

The music of Christmas


Ask anyone their favorite Christmas song, and they’ll probably mention a dusty oldie recorded decades ago.

Is there a modern Christmas classic?


How about, “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” by Mariah Carey.

Certainly you’ve heard of her.

Sasha Frere-Jones wrote this in the New Yorker on
April 3, 2006:

he (Carey) co-wrote one of the few worthy modern additions to the holiday canon, the charming “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (from “Merry Christmas,” of 1994, which also happens to be the best-selling Christmas album of all time).”

Roch Parisien of the All Music Guide wrote,Mariah Carey's co-penned "All I Want for Christmas Is You" is a well-crafted Phil Spector tribute, with Beach Boys-style harmonies, jangling bells, and sleigh-ride pace…”

But just a week ago, Rachel Beckman of the Washington Post wrote that Carey’s colossal Christmas tune is the “best ever.”

It's a holiday tune full of pure joy
It hasn't been around as long as, say, 'Joy to the World,' but Mariah Carey's 'All I Want' strikes an ecumenical chord even today.
By Rachel Beckman
Washington Post
December 4, 2007

It isn't December until Mariah Carey puts on her bright-red knit hat, zips up her white boots and kicks around in the fakest-looking snow ever with Santa Claus.

Is the scene familiar? It's from Mariah's music video for her 1994 holiday hit, "All I Want for Christmas Is You," the best Christmas song ever. Lots of people apparently share my love of this song: It was the 21st most-downloaded song on iTunes last weekend. Pretty impressive for a 13-year-old pop tune.

I first heard it while sitting in the basement of my Portland, Ore., home, watching MTV with my younger sister Heather. I was 12.

It starts with dramatic piano music, tinged with the sound of festive bells. Mariah drags out each syllable for maximum theatrics: "I don't want a lot for Christmas / There is just one thing I need."

About 50 seconds in, the chorus peps up, the piano goes nuts, a gospel choir claps and harmonizes with Mariah. My little *** heart couldn't soak in all the joy emanating from the television screen, so Heather and I danced.

We jumped around the basement, twisting our hips and squealing with delight. We tried and failed to hit Mariah's glass-shattering last note. "All I want for Christmas is YOU!"

But that's not what happened the very first time I heard the song.

I didn't like it. Rather, I didn't let myself like it. I'm a Jewish girl, and Jewish girls aren't supposed to listen to or enjoy Christmas music. I probably even changed the channel.

There aren't a whole lot of Jews in Portland. Enough so that I didn't feel like a total freak, but not enough so that kids wouldn't come up to me on the playground and ask why my people killed Jesus. I don't know what I resented more: being forced to sing Christmas carols for the school choir or singing the token Hanukkah songs. Even in elementary school, I could tell they were just putting those in the recital to be politically correct.

During the winter of '94, I was even more protective -- defensive, really -- of my faith. I was clocking serious hours at the synagogue in preparation for my bat mitzvah. Learning to read Hebrew and chant my Torah portion intensified my commitment to Judaism.

That same year, my mom suggested we put a string of blue and white lights on the roof. I threw a fit, saying we were not Christian and shouldn't do that. Nobody else in my family thought it was a big deal. We compromised and strung up white lights (I guess having colored bulbs upset me, among other things).

Even though I originally turned off the forbidden Mariah Carey song, it was winter break and Heather and I were spending an extraordinary amount of time in front of MTV. We wound up watching the video for "All I Want for Christmas Is You" at least twice a day. Yes, Virginia, MTV used to play music videos.

Heather, then 10, didn't share my religious zealotry. She did, however, think it unspeakably nerdy to be a Mariah Carey fan (she and her friends called her "Mariah Scary"), so "All I Want for Christmas Is You" was taboo for her too.

Still, after a few days of Mariah immersion, the song sucked us into its irresistible fairy-tale world, where love trumps material possessions. A place where we plead, "Santa won't you bring me the one I really need? / Won't you please bring my baby to me?"

We started getting excited to hear those slow, opening bars of piano and Mariah's elastic vocals, humming and tapping our hands on our laps with the beat. (The dancing started shortly thereafter.)

In the video, Mariah goes sledding, flirts with Santa and plays with a puppy under a Christmas tree in front of a roaring fire. "All I Want for Christmas Is You" is pure, distilled holiday music joy, like a shot of eggnog sipped under the mistletoe (or what I imagined that it was like -- I'd never tasted the stuff).

Without knowing it, Ms. Scary had struck a blow for ecumenical harmony, helped heal a milleniums-old rift in Judeo-Christian history. They should have blasted the song over the loudspeakers at the Middle East peace conference in Annapolis.

It is also one of the only new, original holiday songs to become a perennial hit (though in the Christmas music catalog, 13 years is nothing: "Jingle Bells" was written in the 1850s). Most everything else is either an old song or a remake of one.

"All I Want for Christmas" holds up all year. I'll listen to it in March or August or whenever I need a little mood boost. Next May, I plan to play it at my wedding reception.

Today, Heather and I live 3,000 miles apart, but we exchange ecstatic text messages: "OMG, M.C. all i want 4 xmas is on!"

Then I proceed to dance around my apartment, twist my hips and squeal with delight. Happy Hanukkah.

Here’s the yummy Mariah Carey in an outfit that could melt an iceberg, singing this contemporary Christmas classic to open a recent Christmas Day parade ABC-TV special from Walt Disney World.

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Drugs in baseball: Selig, players' union to blame

The man MLB Commissioner Bud Selig hired to investigate drugs in baseball will place a lot of the blame with Selig in a report being released today.

The New York Times has a preview:

Baseball Braces for Harsh Report From Mitchell

George J. Mitchell’s report on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, to be unveiled Thursday afternoon, will be highly critical of the commissioner’s office and the players’ union for tolerating the presence of drugs throughout years of abuse, a person who has read the closely guarded report said Wednesday.

Mitchell has been battling the union during his 20-month investigation, but sharp criticism of Commissioner Bud Selig, who hired Mitchell and is paying for his investigation, would be more unexpected and would seemingly prove Mitchell’s claim of independence in this endeavor.

Selig, the commissioner since 1992, and Donald Fehr, executive director of the players’ association since 1986, have scheduled separate news conferences after Mitchell holds his own briefing. The three sessions will take place within blocks of one another in Midtown Manhattan.

Mitchell’s report will total roughly 300 pages, plus substantial attachments, according to the person who read it. It will pull player names from three main sources: Kirk Radomski, a former Mets clubhouse attendant who pleaded guilty to steroid offenses in April and says he supplied players with performance-enhancing drugs from 1995 to 2005; the Signature Pharmacy investigation led by the Albany County district attorney; and one other source that the person did not make clear. The bulk of the names are believed to be from Radomski.

The person who read the report also said that information from Brian McNamee, a former Yankees strength coach who has worked as a personal trainer for Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, had been provided to Mitchell’s investigators. It was not clear if McNamee spoke directly to the investigators, or if information he provided is in the report.

In a conference call Wednesday to discuss his 2008 contract with the Yankees, Pettitte said that he is not working out with McNamee and did not know if McNamee had spoken to Mitchell’s investigators. A baseball executive said Wednesday that when he was questioned by the investigators he was asked about Radomski and McNamee.

Over all, Mitchell has interviewed scores of former players and club executives. But the report will state that there is a lot of information the investigation did not uncover, the person said, making it unlikely that baseball’s steroids issue will be put to rest.

That person and one other person familiar with Mitchell’s findings said the report would name more than 50 active and former major league players who are linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. The person who read the report said among those named would be the winners of Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards.

The report is also expected to call for beefed-up testing, but apparently does not address the use of amphetamines.

Baseball officials felt the report was harsh when they read it this week, the second person said. The sources were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the report.

The players’ association is expecting to be attacked for doing what it says was nothing more than what it was supposed to do: advising players of the harm that could come from talking to Mitchell. Partly as a result of that advice, only one current major league player, Jason Giambi, is known to have cooperated with the investigation, and then only after Selig threatened to suspend him for tacitly admitting steroid use.

A former prosecutor and United States senator, Mitchell was appointed by Selig to conduct the investigation in March 2006.

Informed Wednesday that the Mitchell report would pointedly criticize the commissioner’s office, Fay Vincent, Selig’s predecessor, said, “Very interesting.” In a telephone interview from Florida, Vincent declined further comment until he read the report. “I do have expectations, but I’m almost certain to be proven wrong,” he said.

Vincent had tried to crack down on steroids in his last year as commissioner. In June 1991, he sent every major league club a memo saying all illegal drug use was “strictly prohibited” by law, “cannot be condoned or tolerated” and could result in discipline or expulsion. Vincent specifically highlighted steroids in the memo.

The next year, Selig became commissioner. Through the 1990s, even as newspapers reported that as many as one in five baseball players used steroids, Selig and the union played down the issue. “If baseball has a problem, I must say candidly that we were not aware of it,” Selig said in 1995.

In 2000, The New York Times reported steroids were rampant in baseball, but a baseball spokesman said they “have never been much of an issue.” In 2002, after a Sports Illustrated cover story said baseball “had become a pharmacological trade show,” the commissioner and the union finally agreed on a testing policy.

Random tests would be done in 2003 without penalties. If more than 5 percent of players failed the tests, penalties would be imposed starting in 2004, which is what happened. The penalty for a first offense was treatment, and for five violations, a one-year suspension.

In 2005, as a congressional hearing was approaching, Selig and the union reopened the collective bargaining agreement to toughen the penalties to start at a 10-day suspension and public identification of a first offender.

At the time, Selig touted a survey showing steroid use in baseball had fallen to 1 to 2 percent in 2003, compared with 5 to 7 percent in 2004.

“I have an enormous responsibility as the commissioner to clean this thing up,” Selig said then. “The fact is, we had a problem. The fact is, we’ve done something about it. We have done now as much as we can do.”

But when a House committee subpoenaed the actual policy documents, it found they were more lax than had been claimed. The penalty for a first offense was actually a 10-day suspension or a fine, and if a player was only fined, he would not be identified.

Outraged members of Congress blasted Selig and Fehr. Senator John McCain wrote, “I can reach no conclusion but that the league and the players’ union have misrepresented to me and to the American public the substance of M.L.B.’s new steroid policy.”

The next month, after the televised hearing, at which Sammy Sosa denied use and Mark McGwire declined to answer questions, Selig wrote the union to ask for a new steroids policy, “three strikes and you’re out.” It would apply a 50-game suspension for a first offense, 100 games for a second offense and a lifetime ban for a third offense.

Fehr and the players’ association approved the three-strikes policy in December 2005.

Three months later, Selig appointed Mitchell to conduct his investigation.

UPDATE: 12/13/07 11:00 A.M.

First name to surface in report:
Roger Clemens

UPDATE: 12/13/07  2:30 P.M.

List out, including Eric Gagne, recently signed by the Brewers.

Why voters killed the referenda

John Neville’s article on this website (that has a great quote from Fred Keller) on reasons last April’s referenda failed neglects to mention the primary reason both questions went down in flames:

The price tag!

InterCHANGE on Channel 10 Friday night

Here are the the topics we'll discuss at 6:30 Friday night (repeate Sunday morning at 11:00):

1 – Baseball Steroids.

Baseball gets ready to release the report on the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs by players.  We’re being told to expect dozens of names of athletes who used these drugs.  Will there be any surprises?  Is this a big “Who cares?”  This report by former Sen. George Mitchell has been nearly two years in the making.  Will this simply allow Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to claim to have taken necessary steps to clean up the sport?  Will it be fair to ruin the reputations of the athletes who were using these drugs, before they were even banned by baseball?  Will it be fair to ruin the reputations of the athletes if their use of these drugs was encouraged by management who “looked the other way” while the stadiums were filling up with fans whop wanted to watch the likes of chemically enhances McGuire and Sosa?

2– Emergency Contraception.  

State lawmakers are discussing whether emergency room doctors should be required by law to offer rape victims the morning after pill to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.  Should doctors who might find this offensive and immoral be required to do this?  Should hospitals affiliated with certain religious beliefs be required to offer this? Is this ending a pregnancy, or preventing a pregnancy?  Is this emergency contraception, or abortion?

3 -- Middle School Sex-Ed.  

The Elmbrook school board is trying to decide if any middle school students should be taught about the dangers of oral sex during school sex-ed classes.  Is 6th grade too early to be teaching kids anything about oral sex?  Or, should that job be left to parents no matter what the age of the children?

4 -- Illegal Immigrants. 

A new statewide poll shows that quite a few residents, often a very sizable majority, are opposed to giving illegal immigrants the same public benefits offered to legal residents of Wisconsin, including drivers licenses, in-state college tuition, a public elementary and secondary education, etc.  Is public opinion being ignored by the main stream media?  Is public opinion being ignore by elected representatives?

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The music of Christmas....that has nothing to do with Christmas

The music of Christmas

Ever notice how so many “Christmas” songs have absolutely nothing to do with the holiday?

Let’s look at some examples, shall we?

There’s the 1937 song, “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” sung here by the man who’s re-invented himself by  performing tunes older than he is….Rod Stewart.

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Nice twist to tonight's Franklin girl's basketball game

From the Journal/Sentinel:

More than a game: The Kenosha Tremper at Franklin girls basketball game Friday is Breast Cancer Awareness Night. Both teams will wear pink T-shirts during warm-ups and T-shirts also will be on sale. All proceeds will go to the Breast Cancer Awareness Fund.

And, from the Franklin High School website:

National Breast Cancer Foundation Awareness Night
December 14, 2007 - 7:30pm
On Friday, December 14, 2007 the Varsity Girls Basketball team at Franklin High School will be hosting a National Breast Cancer Foundation awareness night in conjunction with their game against Southeast Conference rival Kenosha Tremper.  Prior to the game the girls from both FHS and Tremper will enter the gymnasium wearing pink cancer awareness t-shirts.  Each FHS player's mother will also be wearing a shirt.  Donations to the National Breast Cancer Foundation will be solicited and collected throughout the evening.  Come out and support a worthy cause while enjoying an evening of excellent basketball.  Game time is 7:30pm. 

Compare Franklin's whopping school tax increase to your neighbor's

All the community NOW sites now have an interactive database that shows school tax levies for all 50 districts in the four-county metro area.

What this shows you -- among other things -- is that Franklin's levy increase is 9th highest among 50 districts in the metro area.

This also shows the percentage increase over the last 5 years and 10 years.

In the last five years, the district's levy has increased by 37% -- that's more than double the rate of inflation during that period.

It’s worth a look.

And don’t forget….

Damn roundabouts!

I hate those things.

Beginning December 22 on This Just In...

Franklin's TOP TEN for 2007.

Stay tuned.

Barbara Walters is an idiot


Because she was stunned, stunned to receive a religious Christmas card from the White House.

Who'd have thunk it?


The birth of Christ.

A religious holiday.

These bimbos need to keep their vulgar anti-Christian views to themselves.

The music of Christmas: You're a mean one

The music of Christmas


It wouldn’t be Christmas without him.

From the National Public Radio website:

Dec. 23, 2002 -- To most folks, he's the scheming, green sourpuss who hated Christmas so much he tried to make it vanish completely. But the Grinch inspired a little more sympathy in his creator. To Dr. Seuss, he wasn't a villain -- just a guy whose heart, "two sizes too small," needed a dose of the true spirit of the holiday. In fact, Seuss himself said that he identified with the fuzzy anti-hero.

Just like the Grinch, Theodor Geisel, who wrote and illustrated dozens of books under the pseudonym Dr. Seuss, didn't go in for the fancy celebrations surrounding the holiday. According to his niece Peggy Owens, he wasn't "into the sentimentality" of the season. Still, he spent every Christmas at home with his family in Springfield, Massachusetts.

For Morning Edition, NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports on the origins of one of the most famous -- and beloved -- modern Christmas stories, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. As part of the ongoing series Present at the Creation, Blair traces the evolution of the Grinch, from the sketch on the wall of Seuss' studio to the icon who steals down from Mt. Crumpit every year to steal Christmas from the Whos.

Theodor Geisel was a private man, but those who knew him said he was a meticulous worker. He created his thought-provoking comic masterpieces in a house on Mt. Soledad, overlooking La Jolla, Calif., and the Pacific Ocean. Ted Owens, who is Geisel's great nephew, remembers the studio where the unmatched Seuss imagination was set free.

"All the walls would just be plastered with rough tissue sketchings," Owens says. "Sketches of what the story would be, what the layout would be, with the ideas for texts (and) crossed-out words as he refined over and over again, finding the right cadence and words to use in these stories."

In 1957, at the age of 53, Seuss published The Grinch, and thousands of children first discovered the story of the Whos -- an endlessly cheerful bunch bursting with holiday spirit -- and the outsider so sickened by their joy in the season that he decides to hijack the holiday. The Grinch proves a natural at thieving, even lying to little Cindy Loo Who about his intentions as he stuffs the family tree up the chimney. Yet his efforts to ruin Christmas fail in the end.

Nine years after the publication of the book, television came calling. For help in translating his character to the screen, Seuss turned to Chuck Jones, the animator behind Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote, the Roadrunner and many others. The two artists first met while collaborating -- imagine this -- on a series of military training films during World War II.

Jones' oddball, sardonic sensibility meshed perfectly with Seuss' nasty-but-nutty creation. Jones respected the source material, but trusted his own artistic instincts. In a 1996 interview with NPR's Bob Edwards, Jones revealed that it was his idea to make the Grinch, drawn in black and white in the book, into a green meany. Still, the cartoon reflected more than just Jones' style.

"He said that the Grinch (in the television cartoon) looked... more like me than it did like his Grinch," Jones remembered. "And I'm afraid that it did. I tend to sneak my face in without knowing it, into things that I draw, because sometimes I'll glance in the mirror to get a certain expression I want."

Television critic Leonard Maltin believes inserting Jones into the Seuss formula was a stroke of genius. "(Jones) had a subtlety, and a grace, and a fondness for verbal wit that matched his facility for verbal humor, even slapstick," Maltin says.

The other pieces of the puzzle fit neatly, too. As the voice of the Grinch and the story's narrator, Boris Karloff, an actor known for his roles as movie monsters, nailed the story's simultaneously lighthearted and ominous tone. Albert Hague's songs helped lift the cartoon to classic status -- especially "You're a Mean One, Mister Grinch." The rich baritone on that tune is provided by Thurl Ravenscroft, the "grrrrreat" voice of Frosted Flakes' Tony the Tiger. How the Grinch Stole Christmas played on CBS every Christmas for 22 years.

Despite the widespread appeal of the story, not everyone was pleased. Geisel once received a letter from brothers David and Bob Grinch of Ridgefield, N.J., asking if he would change the Grinch's name. Friends were teasing them. Seuss responded, "I disagree with your friends who 'harass' you. Can't they understand that the Grinch in my story is the Hero of Christmas? Sure... he starts out as a villain, but it's not how you start out that counts. It's what you are at the finish."

Listen to a report on the Grinch by NPR’s Elizabeth Blair.

Here’s “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” from the original animated feature and from the movie featuring Jim Carey.

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How I miss that old-fashioned Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas albums (now CD’s) is by the Carpenters. One of the songs Karen sings is, “An old-fashioned Christmas.”

How I miss that old fashioned Christmas!
Carols being sung by the tree,
Window's candlelight shining bright for the whole world to see
Children's eyes of sweet expectations
Wondering what each present will hold
Lying in their beds and impatient
On long Christmas eves of old

It used to be that all the family would gather for this one night
It used to be that special feeling shared together knowing Christmas was here one night a year

How I miss that old fashioned Christmas!
Memories that last through the years
Call me sentimental; don't mind if you do
I wish an old fashioned Christmas to you!

I thought of that song when I read this nice column recently in the Monroe Times.

Do you remember Dave Clark?


One of my favorite groups in the 60’s was the Dave Clark Five, who, for a brief time, rivaled the popularity of the Beatles.

I recall going over to my Uncle Claude and Aunt Rose’s house with my parents on Sunday evenings. There would be my cousins, Claire and Claudia, fighting over the mirror in the bathroom as they ratted their hair so it could touch the ceiling.

Then in the living room, the TV would come on…..Ed Sullivan, of course. Ed would introduce the Dave Clark Five and Claire and Claudia would scream at the television. Grampa Fischer would roll his eyes.

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A look back at the people and events that made news the past week.
Week-ends is a regular weekly feature of This Just In...


Jeanne Assam

Former NFL kicker Norm Johnson

Beth Robbins 


Barry Walters

Louis Lowell McGuinn 



"I think it's best that all of us not jump to any conclusions on individual players named. My hope is that this report is part of putting the steroid era of baseball behind us. When they violate their bodies, they are sending a terrible signal to our nation's youth."President Bush following the release of George Mitchell’s report on steroid use in baseball.  Bush at one time owned the Texas Rangers. 

"If there are problems, I wanted them revealed. His report is a call to action, and I will act."
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig

“When you’re elected president, what if like the illegal immigrants start to take action and start bombing and stuff?”
Fifth grader Beau Bowman in Iowa asking Barack Obama a question.

Wow. Immigrants are coming into the country and not blowing things up. They are usually working in meat packing plants, or working in restaurants or working in agriculture, picking vegetables...Yeah, they are mowing Mitt Romney’s yard. I forgot about ol' Mitt, who’s got the gall to running all these ads about illegal immigrants.”
Obama’s answer to young Bowman.

"We are in store for a period of very weak if not recessionary growth and uncomfortably high inflation. People are going to get hit with both a weaker job market and having to pay more to fill their gas tanks and buy groceries.
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's

"So now the Freedom From Religion Foundation can pick on somebody a little larger than Peshtigo.I'm trying to take this fight to the people who need to be fought. I'll keep going on this until this group imposing Madison values crawls back into its hole and never crawls out."  Green Bay City Council President Chad Fradette after putting up a Nativity display at Green Bay City Hall. Fradette said he got the idea after seeing news reports that the foundation is considering suing the city of Peshtigo over a nativity scene in a city park.

“Displaying a crèche on the city hall building conveys the message that the City Council endorses Christianity, in violation of the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.”

Annie Laurie Gaylor, the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s co-president.

"While I support the use of the partial veto to keep a check on runaway government spending and regulation, I am wholeheartedly opposed to the ways it has been abused, most recently to raise taxes on the people of Wisconsin without the increases ever being voted on by the Legislature.”
Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) after the state Senate voted 33-0 in favor of a constitutional amendment to do away with the Frankenstein veto power of Wisconsin governors. Voters will decide the issue in a statewide referendum next April.

"People pay a user fee in good faith, with the belief that the money will be used to pay for a specific program or service. “The use of that money by the legislature or governor to pay for anything else unrelated is a violation of that trust and is simply wrong."State Representative “Doc” Hines (R-Oxford), author of a constitutional amendment to prohibit the raiding of state funds to be used outside their original intent. It passed the state Assembly this week, 91-6.

“Why do we care so much? Because what Elvis Presley did for early rock 'n' roll, Spears has done for new-school, video-driven Web sites: provided an endless series of "hits" that has made possible the success of a whole new medium. And like a greatest-hits CD, everyone has his or her favorite Britney-in-public video moment: shaving the hair off her head … getting out of a car with Paris Hilton but without undergarments … running over a paparazzo's foot … dancing in a leopard-print bikini … running into the ocean without a bathing suit … appearing to leave her two kids in the car with her court-ordered parenting coach as she entered a store to shop for chandeliers … or this week, appearing to take a lighter from a store and forgetting to pay.”
Chris Connelly of, on Britney Spears


A new poll out this week by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute shows that Wisconsin residents overwhelmingly oppose allowing illegal immigrants to apply for Wisconsin driver’s licenses by a margin of 76% to 19%. On the question of allowing illegal immigrants to receive discounted tuition at the University of Wisconsin, 86% oppose the idea while only 10% support it.

That’s not an outrage.

Congress has been unable to come to a consensus on immigration reform. With Washington D.C. in gridlock, state governments have taken it upon themselves to initiate and approve immigration reform. An exception is Wisconsin. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) reports, “As of November 16, 2007, roughly 1562 pieces of legislation related to immigrants and immigration had been introduced among the 50 state legislatures. Of these bills, 244 became law in 46 states. 11 bills have been vetoed by governors. Two measures are still pending governors’ review. State legislators have introduced roughly two and a half times more bills in 2007 than in 2006.  The number of enactments from 2006 (84) has more than tripled to 246 in 2007.  Several states are still in session so there could be additional legislation related to immigrants as the year draws to a close."

The topics of immigration reform measures that seen the most bills introduced in statehouses across the country are about ID and driver’s licenses, employment, public benefits, and education.

That’s not an outrage.

This is.

While most states are passing a flurry of immigration reform legislation, Wisconsin has been a complete no-show. The NCSL overview of immigration legislation enacted in 2007 shows Wisconsin has yet to pass any bills of this nature, despite the high level of interest in this topic by the general public.


The American Legislative Exchange Council has just released a study that presents a 2007 Economic Competitiveness Rating of the 50 states. Wisconsin ranks #30.  The report says, “Five of the states near the bottom of our competitiveness ratings -- Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey and Wisconsin -- have enacted major tax increases in the last two years. Maryland and Michigan just raised business and income taxes on upper-income earners, while arguing that raising the cost of doing business will attract more businesses. More likely it will induce companies to stay away, and people to move out.”

The report’s authors looked at what states are gaining from the large number of people moving from state to state. It found that, “The winners in this contest for the most valuable resource on the globe -- human capital -- are generally the states with the lowest tax, spending and regulatory burdens.”

No wonder Wisconsin ranks near the bottom.

Here’s a commentary on this issue from the Wall Street Journal.


Global warming this, global warming that…


Potty-mouth case dismissed

Porn star auctions her implants 

The nanny-state’s next victim: thick slices of bread 

REMEMBER: Your suggestions/nominations for any of these categories every week are welcome, especially for HEROES OF THE WEEK. If you know of anyone in the community deserving of recognition, please e-mail me.



On December 22nd:

How Franklin made news in 2007.

Stay tuned for more details.


Brett, Deanna Favre credit Catholic faith

I had not seen this story and want to pass it along on this Sunday.


Green Bay Packers Brett Favre and Wife Deanna Credit Catholic Faith

By Sam Lucero

Catholic News Service

With the strength that comes from prayer, Green Bay Packer Brett Favre and his wife Deanna credit their Catholic faith with helping them face life's struggles. Among them, Deanna's breast cancer, which has been overcome.

GREEN BAY, Wis. (CNS)- Most wins by a starting quarterback. Most consecutive games played by a quarterback. Most touchdown passes thrown.Fans of Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre relish counting the number of NFL records their hero owns. But Favre's wife Deanna, a breast cancer survivor, finds comfort in counting her blessings.

The football star's wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. She spent four months undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment. The following year, after her last radiation treatment, Deanna was declared cancer-free. She says the life-changing experience brought her closer to her husband and her Catholic faith.

"I just feel like, with faith, it helps me see the good in everything," Deanna said in a telephone interview with The Compass, diocesan newspaper of Green Bay.The Favres are members of St. Agnes Parish in Green Bay during football season and St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Hattiesburg, Miss., during the off-season. Brett and Deanna both grew up in Kiln, Miss.

Since overcoming breast cancer, Deanna has become a spokeswoman for breast cancer prevention. She founded the Deanna Favre HOPE Foundation in 2005, which provides grants for uninsured and underinsured women battling breast cancer.

Deanna's latest fundraising effort is the Oct. 1 release of an autobiographical book, "Don't Bet Against Me: Beating the Odds Against Breast Cancer and in Life," which she wrote with Angela Hunt.According to Deanna, stepping into the media spotlight wasn't something she wanted to do but she believes it was part of God's plan.

At the time she was diagnosed, she and Brett were dealing with several family tragedies, including the death of her younger brother and Brett's father.Deanna also quickly learned that dealing quietly with her personal struggles wouldn't be possible. She resented the fact that her diagnosis made front-page headlines but she also came to understand that good could come from the publicity.

She began receiving letters of encouragement from women around the country. She also received letters from women saying they were motivated to get breast examinations after hearing about her.She said for that reason alone she thinks her story was meant to be public.

Today, Deanna said her views on life have changed. She no longer takes life or relationships for granted, and she cherishes every day with Brett and daughters Brittany, a college freshman, and 8-year-old Breleigh.

To date, her foundation has raised about $500,000. Part of the book's proceeds will go to the foundation. The book, "Don't Bet Against Me," released during breast-cancer-awareness month, not only details her battle with cancer but tells how she coped with other life challenges, including a pregnancy at age 19, single motherhood and a rocky relationship with Brett because of his addiction to prescription painkillers.

Their Catholic faith was a key factor in Brett and Deanna's decision not to have an abortion when she became pregnant out of wedlock following her second year of college."We were always totally against (abortion)," she said, adding that putting their baby up for adoption was also not a consideration.

Deanna said she "knew premarital sex was wrong, but for whatever reason" did it anyway. "I knew I would keep the baby," she said. Having Brittany meant that Deanna had to put her career goals on hold, but she said she was determined to do whatever she could to bring her up.

During Deanna and Brett's on-again, off-again relationship during college and his early NFL career, Deanna said she often turned to prayer. The couple married in July 1996.

Today, Deanna describes her relationship with Brett as stronger than ever."All the stuff we've been through over the years has molded us into two different people. It's awesome to think where we started and where we are now," she said. "Our relationship has gotten to a much stronger point, a deeper love; we have so much respect and love for each other."

"Brett is a completely different person and I can see the power of prayer in just that. It's changed our lives, our family."

Deanna said she still prays for her husband for a lot of different reasons and in particular she prays for his protection on the football field each week. 

Contributing to this story was Maryangela Layman Roman in Milwaukee.

Favre is like wine

"He doesn't change much. He's the best competitor I've ever seen. He's got the strongest arm. The guy still doesn't get sacked. He's got escapability. He makes unbelievable throws. I admire the guy just watching on film. The guy is to me the best that ever played. I love the guy." That’s what St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is saying about Brett Favre.

The Packers face the Rams today, and St. Louis has great respect for #4.


The music of Christmas: Southern gospel's contribution

The music of Christmas

You may not know who Mark Lowry is, but you probably know the most famous song he ever wrote.

Ace Collins writes about Lowry in his book, “Stories Behind the Best-loved Songs of Christmas.”

Mark Lowry started singing almost before he could talk. As a pre-schooler he was already belting out solos in the grade school choir.

Mark stood out in teachers’ eyes for more than his singing. During his first years of elementary school, Lowry was diagnosed as hyperactive and place don medication. At about that same time it became apparent that the boy had absolutely no athletic ability. To many adults and kids, mark appeared to be little more than an energetic klutz- an out of control mini-tornado. Rather than allow their son to be sidetracked and dismissed as a hopeless cause, Mark’s parents made sure that this “curse” was looked at as a blessing. They emphasized the positive.

The Lowry’s assured Mark that God had a plan for his life and that his uniqueness was a part of it. Instead of trying to make him act just like all the other kids, The Lowry’s allowed Mark to exploit his curiosity and his energy. He loved performing, so they put him on every stage that would take him- everything from church programs to community musicals.

As a teen, he was discovered, and recorded inspirational albums with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Collins continues:

In 1984, when he was living in Houston, his pastor asked Mark to write the program for the living Christmas tree choir presentation. The group traditionally sang familiar holiday carols, so Lowry’s job was to write the bridges that connected one song to another. It was while he was working on the project that Mark considered what it would have been like to be Jesus’ mother.

“When I wrote this thing about Mary,” Mark explained, “I began by thinking I was interviewing her on her thoughts of being a mother to Jesus. A couple of the lines I wrote really stood out, like ‘when you kiss your little baby, you’ve kissed the face of God.’ I just thought this needed to be a song.”

Keeping the perspective of a reporter doing a story on Jesus from Mary’s viewpoint, Mark penned a poem that sent chills up his spine. Still, taking those powerful lyrics and turning them into a full-blown song was a bigger challenge than even he could have expected. Although he gave the words to a solid music writer, he wasn’t happy with the results; the melody didn’t have the right feel. Filing “Mary Did You Know?” away, Mark decided to wait on the Lord’s timing rather than put his lyrics to music that failed to move him.

In 1988, after Gary McSpadden left the Gaither Vocal Band, Bill Gaither was looking for a replacement to fill the void in his quartet. After watching a video of Mark Lowry onstage, not only was Gaither impressed with Mark’s singing, , he thought the young man could bring a great deal of Christian humor to the group’s performances. When Bill called, Mark packed his bags.

Mark had been with the band for two years when Buddy Green joined them. A talented musician, Buddy was also a songwriter who was beginning to hit stride and produce some very strong work. Mark decided to share, “Mary Did You Know?” with Buddy.

Rather than pull Green to one side and share the story behind the song, Mark wrote a short note over the top of the lyrics:  Buddy, here are some God-inspired words. Please add some beautiful music and make it a profitable hit. The memo was meant as a joke, but Green took both the note and his job seriously. He set the lyrics aside for a couple of weeks, then went to work. When he finished, he called Mark on the phone and sang the song to him. Lowry loved it and within a week they had put together a “jam box” demo to give to one of their favorite artists.

Their pick for the song was impressed as well. When “Mary Did you Know?” was originally cut by Christian sensation Michael English, the writing duo felt blessed, but they really didn’t expect anyone else to jump on the bandwagon. Then country singer Kathy Mattea heard the Lowry-Green number and recorded it next. Scores of other acts quickly took the song into the studio.”
For the first time ever, southern gospel music had given the world a Christmas carol.

Collins then credits Mark’s parents for viewing their son’s problems as gifts.

Looking at the world through his unique, God-given perspective led him to think of one of the world’s most familiar stories in a new light. “Mary Did You Know?” a song like no other Christmas carol ever penned, written about a mother like no other, came from the hand of man like no other.

Lowry can now be seen on Bill Gaither’s gospel programs on public television. Here’s Lowry singing his own Christmas carol.


Read more

My most popular blogs

Most popular

As I post every Sunday, here are the top five most popular of my blog entries from the previous week: 

1) Do not resuscitate

2) Franklin's actual school tax levy increase not what the public was told

3) I will ask the City Attorney to review School Board's handling of budget

4) They put up a Nativity scene....where?

5) FranklinNOW blogs this week are must-read material

Whitewater wins....the right way

UW-Whitewater won the NCAA Division III national football championship Saturday, beating Mount Union 31-21.

That made a lot of people happy, including Tricia Sieg.

Tricia is the person with the sweet voice at the end of the line when you telephone state Senator Mary Lazich’s office. Tricia is also a UW-W graduate who still lends a helping hand to the school's Sports Information Department.

Kari Fischer is also quite happy this morning. Kari is my niece. Like Tricia, she’s a UW-W grad. And she also happens to be dating Whitewater’s punter.

And I’m happy to see Whitewater win because the Warhawks accomplished their goal the right way. They battled through each round of an elimination process in order to claim the championship.

Division I college football should do the same. There needs to be a playoff system to determine college football’s national champions.


I'm on WISN

I fill in for Jay Weber, 8-10 a.m. tomorrow (Monday) morning on Newstalk 1130 WISN.

I talk Packer football with Mark Daniels on the Green Bay Grapevine at 8:45.

Culinary no-no #32

Culinary no-no's

Egg nog that isn't spiked.


1) Ketchup on a brat
2) Green peppers on pizza
3) The dirty martini
4) Fruity brats
5) A Bloody Mary after dinner
6) Women “manning” the grill
7) Eating pizza at Festa Italiana, brats at German Fest, or tacos at Fiesta Mexicana. (Be adventurous. You can have those items anytime).
8) Eating a cream puff as though it was a hamburger.
9) Taking your own bottle of sauce when invited to a barbecue.
10) Touching the grill if you’re a guest at an outdoor barbecue.
11) Coaching the host on how to grill.
12) Some regional flavored ice cream… black licorice.
13) Taking the husks off before you grill corn on the cob
14) Being afraid to chill red wine
15) Pizza on the grill
16) When serving exotic or strange dishes to guests, do not tell them exactly what it is. Instead, use a more inviting term (caviar) rather than being blunt (fish eggs).
17) In late summer and early fall, this time of year, don’t buy zucchini. Somehow, someway, you will find zucchini or zucchini will find you.
18) Showing disrespect to your restaurant server.
19) Eating out on a Monday night.
20) Pumpkin beer.
21) Mail-order turkey.
22) Grilled cheese is just for kids.
23) Dining in the dark.
24) Ketchup on spaghetti
25) Sneaking healthy foods into treats to get your kids to eat it.
26) Do not throw away culinary gifts received in the mail because you don’t like them.
27) Do not feel guilty about eating Oreos. (Oreos are not to blame for out of control obesity).
28) Doing something so totally ridiculous that you are desperately forced to call the Butterball Turkey Hot-Line for assistance.
29) Don’t forget the sweet potato January-October.
30) Using resource guides from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s on gracious living to plan holiday parties
31) Eating cranberries, the best of the super-foods, only during the holidays.

Culinary no-no #33

Culinary no-no's

Just the mere mention of the word “chocolate” causes many to drool, become orgasmic.

Sarah Leech-Black, a contributor to The Christian Science Monitor opened a recent column this way:

A steaming mug of hot cocoa topped with a billow of whipped cream and stirred with a stick of peppermint has long been a holiday favorite.”

Then in her very next sentence, she had to go and ruin it.

Leech-Black unabashedly writes,
“But the next time you come indoors to escape winter's frosty air, how about a zing of chili pepper in that mug?”

Say what?

“Savory surprises are turning up in everything from chocolate bars to chocolate truffles. Deep milk chocolate meets curry powder and coconut flakes. Venezuelan white chocolate mingles with kalamata olives. Dark chocolate joins ginger, wasabi, and black sesame seeds. These chocolate matchups are no strangers to Vosges Haut-Chocolat's line of exotic candy bars. "Mo's Bacon Bar," introduced this fall, blends milk chocolate, Applewood smoked bacon, and Alder salt.”

Apparently dumping ingredients that would set your eyebrows on fire into chocolate has become the newest, hippest trend in chocolate-making with consumers shelling out top dollar for these new “luxury” chocolates with sales past $2 billion a year.

Brendan Gannon, owner of La Tene Chocolate in Boston hand crafts her candies, including one called, "Dazu,” It’s a truffle with lemon zest and Sichuan peppercorns topped with candied ginger. He also makes what he calls the "World's Best Peanut Butter Cup," a large candy cup of dark chocolate filled with crunchy, roasted peanut butter and sea salt.

Here’s what I find interesting and revealing.

In his book, "Making Artisan Chocolates," author Andrew Garrison Shotts, owner of Garrison Confections in Providence, Rhode Island admits that even he, a professional chocolatier, must use trial and error in order to discover the right combination and proportions of chocolate and spices.

So, my question is, how many guinea pigs and Alka-Seltzer’s do these confectionery Frankenstein’s go through before they strike that perfect balance of cocoa and Tabasco?

Leech-Black of the Christian Science Monitor says that on a chilly autumn evening, she experimented with hot chocolate, tossing in dried cumin and grated orange.

Not bad, she thought.

“Satisfied with my first attempt, my eyes drift back to the pantry,” said Leech-Black. “Curry, coriander, chipotle, tarragon, even garlic. Garlic? Maybe. Then, I remember the bacon in my refrigerator. Why not?”


No thanks.


1) Ketchup on a brat
2) Green peppers on pizza
3) The dirty martini
4) Fruity brats
5) A Bloody Mary after dinner
6) Women “manning” the grill
7) Eating pizza at Festa Italiana, brats at German Fest, or tacos at Fiesta Mexicana. (Be adventurous. You can have those items anytime).
8) Eating a cream puff as though it was a hamburger.
9) Taking your own bottle of sauce when invited to a barbecue.
10) Touching the grill if you’re a guest at an outdoor barbecue.
11) Coaching the host on how to grill.
12) Some regional flavored ice cream… black licorice.
13) Taking the husks off before you grill corn on the cob
14) Being afraid to chill red wine
15) Pizza on the grill
16) When serving exotic or strange dishes to guests, do not tell them exactly what it is. Instead, use a more inviting term (caviar) rather than being blunt (fish eggs).
17) In late summer and early fall, this time of year, don’t buy zucchini. Somehow, someway, you will find zucchini or zucchini will find you.
18) Showing disrespect to your restaurant server.
19) Eating out on a Monday night.
20) Pumpkin beer.
21) Mail-order turkey.
22) Grilled cheese is just for kids.
23) Dining in the dark.
24) Ketchup on spaghetti
25) Sneaking healthy foods into treats to get your kids to eat it.
26) Do not throw away culinary gifts received in the mail because you don’t like them.
27) Do not feel guilty about eating Oreos. (Oreos are not to blame for out of control obesity).
28) Doing something so totally ridiculous that you are desperately forced to call the Butterball Turkey Hot-Line for assistance.
29) Don’t forget the sweet potato January-October.
30) Using resource guides from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s on gracious living to plan holiday parties
31) Eating cranberries, the best of the super-foods, only during the holidays.
32) Egg nog that isn’t spiked

Who's afraid of Christmas? Try PBS

Last week, I blogged about House Democrats voting against Christmas.

Brent Bozell, the
Founder and President of the Media Research Center, the largest media watchdog organization in America, found that strange.

After all, the House this year passed resolutions honoring minority religions. A resolution noting the Muslim holiday of Ramadan passed 376 to 0, and the resolution for the Hindi holiday of Diwali passed 358 to 0.

In a column entitled, “Who’s scared of Christmas?” Bozell writes:

“I thought of this odd situation when presented with a beautiful holiday gift: a DVD of 'The Birth of Christ,' a contemporary Christmas cantata composed by the Seattle-area composer Andrew T. Miller. For his musical retelling of the Gospel of Luke's Nativity story, he had an idea: He wanted Protestant choirs in Dublin, Ireland, to sing his piece from the same churches that Georg Friedrich Handel used to unveil his "Messiah" in 1742. He added a Catholic choir to symbolize a unity between Irish Catholics and Protestants, still a difficult proposition in that country. Miller said, 'I was determined to premiere this work abroad to underscore the universality of the Christmas story, and the power of music to overcome strife and conflict.'

It premiered on the Seattle PBS station KBTC and quickly raised thousands of pledge dollars and hundreds of new station members. Comments were overwhelmingly positive. Station executives recommended to other PBS stations that it 'would make a wonderful last minute addition to a Member's Choice Night or best-of line up.'

But guess what? Most major PBS stations ….have been wary to put on a show titled ; 'The Birth of Christ.' Now, these same PBS stations aren't scared to run 'Frontline' documentaries spreading the Gospel-shredding theories of agnostic academics like John Dominic Crossan and Elaine Pagels who question the divinity of Jesus, but they're wary of appearing to give aid and comfort to a simple concert that might present a warm glow toward Christianity."

I checked the entire December programming schedule for Milwaukee Public Television and found that Channels 10 and 36 are not airing, “The Birth of Christ.”  I asked the General Manager of Milwaukee Public Television Ellis Bromberg why?

Bromberg, who is a very good guy, responded with a quick e-mail:

Hi Kevin-

Happy holidays.  I just talked to our programming folks, Tom Dvorak and Kat Worzalla, about this program.  They were only moderately familiar with it.

It is not, per se, a PBS program; it was produced by WLIW/Long Island and offered to any stations who wanted it for their December pledge drives, or later in December.  It appears to be, primarily, a musical program of Christmas choral music recorded in Ireland.  We elected not to use it for pledge, and have so many other programs of Christmas choral music from PBS and other sources that we, frankly, didn't need the program.

If WLIW offers it again, we will take a closer look at it, and maybe use it next year.  I hope that answers your question.

Where did you find out about it?


Now, I do believe Ellis Bromberg’s explanation. But I also believe they could have squeezed “The Birth of Christ” into their programming schedule, especially when they repeat so many of their holiday offerings.

By the way, Wisconsin Public Television based in Madison also is not carrying this program.

The music of Christmas: "Soon it will be Christmas Day"

The music of Christmas


Ray Evans and Jay Livingston were talented songwriters. They wrote “Mona Lisa” for Nat King Cole. Also on their songwriting resumes: the themes to “Bonanza” and “Mr. Ed.” But their best and most popular composition is a Christmas standard.

Christopher Reed wrote for Guardian Unlimited that the two were commissioned to write a Christmas song for a movie:

“In 1951, under their contract for Paramount, they were assigned a Bob Hope movie from a Damon Runyon story called The Lemon Drop Kid, which needed a song. But Evans and Livingston wanted an Oscar hit. Their first had been in 1948 for Buttons and Bows, the novelty song Bob Hope sang to Jane Russell in the comedy western, The Paleface. They won another for Mona Lisa in the 1950 film Captain Carey, USA, but the haunting song had yet to become the international standard sung by Nat King Cole, who only released it months after the film's premiere, and then as a B-side to a now forgotten song.

What Evans and Livingston believed was that a Christmas song was not big-hit material. They grumbled, but in vain. The studio bosses insisted and the pair went back to their office. Then, inspired by a little bell on their desk, they cranked out the song in two days, with Livingston providing the melody, Evans the words.”

Ace Collins, author of, “The Stories Behind the Best-Loved Christmas Songs,” wrote that before Evans and Livingston shared their new Christmas song with Bob Hope, “they decided to sing it to Ray’s wife. The men were chagrined and confused when the woman giggled as they sang. As she doubled over in laughter, the team wondered what had gone wrong.

When Mrs. Evans composed herself, she informed the duo that the chorus was all wrong. It wouldn’t work, she assured them. She pointed out that when others heard it, they would laugh as hard as she had.

The song’s problem could be traced to the small bell that served as its inspiration. Livingston and Evans had named their song after that tiny instrument….”

As Christopher Reed pointed out in his Guardian Unlimited article:

They called it Tinkle Bell, but Livingston's wife reminded him that "tinkle" had another association. "It was something you did in the bathroom," Evans recalled years later, "but that's a woman's word and I'd never thought of it. But I was very unhappy again because I hate to rewrite." What he did was to change the first word to "silver", but still the song had problems.

The film's original director disliked it and had singers perform it so boringly that the writers thought it would be cut, but the producer loved the song and brought in another director, Sidney Lanfield. He filmed Hope and co-star Marilyn Maxwell singing it together as they pranced through New York. It made the film but not the Oscars. But before its release, Bing Crosby came by the songwriters' Paramount lunch table and asked if they had any songs for him. "He loved it and recorded it and that made it a definitive Christmas song," Evans recalled. It became one of the most popular, and in his later years, Evans calculated, it still brought him about $600,000 annually in royalties. He appreciated the irony that as a Jew and a non-believer he had never liked Christmas carols.

Ray Evans died in February of this year. He was 92. His partner, Jay Livingston died in October of 2001.

Here are Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell in 1951's, "The Lemon Drop Kid."


Read more

The PC Nativity scene


Remember the "Assembly" Franklin High held just before the referenda?

On April 2, 2007, one day before the April 3 referenda in Franklin, I blogged about, “the Franklin School District’s sleazy attempt to get young students to vote in favor of (the) referenda.”

The Friday before the election, “during school time, hundreds of Franklin High School seniors of voting age were taken to an Assembly and then drilled by school personnel about why they should vote for the referenda.

Doors to the Assembly reportedly were locked so no one could leave and no one could enter to see and hear what was going on.

The impropriety of this action by Franklin school officials is clear. The surprise Assembly on the Friday before the election should never have taken place. I’m not sure if the Assembly was illegal, but it certainly was extremely unethical.”

Former Franklin School Board President Scott Bauer writes about the "Assembly" in a long piece he did on Janet Evans' blog today. Bauer writes:

"Before the day of the vote, some issues came up regarding a high school presentation. My two middle-school aged children were also forced to bring home “Vote Yes” literature – a direct violation of district policy. The community was in an uproar. Our district was being slammed in the press and on the radio. People were furious that the district had stooped so low as to use our children as pawns for this referendum. Now, I’m not saying that this was the district’s intention. I was told that these events were the result of miscommunication, and I guess it’s likely that could be the case. However, whether or not you intentionally harm or offend those you are expected to represent, I always feel an apology is in order. I suggested that we apologize. In return, I was told that I was betraying people. I was called all kinds of names. I was once again being accused of being divisive, uncooperative, and disrespectful. I was admonished and scorned. In the end, even though district policy was violated (as far as I’m concerned), I was told we did nothing wrong, had no reason to apologize, and, therefore, would not apologize. In my opinion, we just drove the wedge a little deeper between the board and the community."

The “assembly” was reviewed by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office. The investigation included a questionnaire filled out by former Franklin superintendent William Szakacs. I have obtained a copy of his answers to the questions about the “assembly,” and will release them soon.

Assistant Milwaukee County District Attorney Bruce Landgraf, who conducted the investigation of the Franklin assembly, has informed me of the following in an e-mail:

Thanks for your interest.

No "charges" were issued.  I use the term "charges" in quotes because the matter is probably at most a civil forfeiture action.  This has the same punitive impact as a municipal ticket for things like speeding or a parking violation.

That no charges were issued does not mean that the matter is dead.  The problem with this entire area of the law is that - well - there is no law.

That is, there is no clear Wisconsin case law on what a public entity like the School District can and cannot do with public funds to "educate" their constituents on matters like school finance referenda.

As a lawyer, like you might well imagine, it is a bit less than ideal to file a case and not really know what the law is.

I am also mindful that the superintendent has now left the District and this too has been a factor leading to the manner in which I have elected to handle this matter.

Short of going to court to "make law," there is a procedure available to District Attorneys (and I mean by this the elected DA, not me) whereby the prosecutor can submit a fact scenario to the Attorney General for an opinion on the law.  Once issue, that opinion has value as "precedent."

I am seeking approval to take that route.  Admittedly, in a perfect world without an active caseload, I would have completed this by now.  I regret the delay and I assure you that your inquiry will inspire me to move this along with all available dispatch.


Bruce Landgraf

Bruce J. Landgraf
Assistant District Attorney

While state law is unclear on this issue, it appears that Franklin violated their own district policy by trying to indoctrinate and influence Franklin students on how to vote on the referenda.

This is yet another example of how this school district’s administration can’t be trusted.

I am glad the DA’s office is continuing to pursue this matter and will keep you informed of their progress.


Santa is a bad role model for the obese

Topics talked about on WISN

It has come to this.

Santa is a bad role model........because America has too many fat kids.

From our own U.S. Surgeon General:

The U.S. surgeon general, Rear Adm. Steven K. Galson, was accused of calling out Santa for being a poor fitness role model.

"It is really important that the people who kids look up to as role models are in good shape, eating well and getting exercise," the Boston Herald quoted him as saying. "It is absolutely critical ... Santa is no different."

I'm sorry.

A skinny Santa is unimaginable.

We need to stop this talk of Santa going on a diet.

The music of Christmas: And heaven and nature sing

The music of Christmas

One of the most beloved Christmas carols was written by two men who never met each other. 

Lindsey Terry writes in Today’s Christian:

One of our most popular Christmas carols is the result of the efforts of Isaac Watts and Lowell Mason—and, some believe, George Frederick Handel. Watts was a frail, quiet man only five feet tall. Mason was an energetic publisher, choir director, and composer. Handel was a large, robust musical genius. Handel and Watts were contemporaries in London and one imagines they must have appreciated each other's talents. Mason lived 100 years later in Boston.

In 1719 Isaac Watts, already a notable scholar and author, sat down under a tree at the Abney Estate near London and began to compose poetry based on Psalm 98. Watts had begun writing verses as a small child. In his teen years he complained that the songs in church were hard to sing. His father said, "Well, you write some that are better." And so he did. For the next two years, young Isaac wrote a new hymn each week. (He would eventually write more than 600 of them, all based on Scripture.) Today, hymns like "Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed" and "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" are hallmarks of the Christian church, and Watts is regarded as "the Father of English Hymnody."

In 1741 George Frederick Handel, who was already famous as the composer of several operas and oratorios, decided that he wanted to do a truly great work. After spending time in prayer, he arose from his knees and for 23 days labored almost continuously day and night. The immortal Messiah, now a Christmas tradition, was the fruit of that incessant struggle.

A nobleman once praised Handel for the "entertainment" he had furnished in one of his compositions. In no uncertain terms Handel let the nobleman know that his music was composed to make men better, not to entertain them.

Almost a century later, Lowell Mason set Watts's poem of "joy" to music. For years it was assumed that Mason used tunes from Handel's Messiah for portions of the arrangement, but the veracity of that claim is now debated among scholars. Listeners can judge for themselves. But this we know: It was Mason who ultimately brought the pieces together to give us "Joy to the World."

Here’s Mannheim Steamroller performing in the historic Orpheum Theatre in their home town of Omaha, Nebraska.

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Hey, I know that gal in USA TODAY!

Amber Hodgson is a sweet young woman who works at the state Capitol in Madison.

She started as an intern in the office of state Senator Alan Lasee and now works for state Senator Jeff Plale. Amber was interviewed by USA Today about her experience with a puppy mill.

Newsweek also just did a feature article on puppy mills.

Franklin made news in 2007

What were the top news stories in Franklin the past year?

I will count down what I believe were the top ten Franklin news stories in 2007 beginning this Saturday.

I'll post a story each day right through to the end of the year.

I don't even know what the top ten are at this point because the way things are going, a lot could still happen in the next few days.

Get ready for FRANKLIN'S TOP TEN NEWS STORIES OF 2007, starting Saturday.

The music of Christmas: "Come, they told me..."

The music of Christmas


The Little Drummer Boy was originally a Czech song called, “The Carol of the Drum.” Katherine Davis translated it into English in 1941.

Henry Onorati did some arranging on this song for Jack Halloran in 1957. The Jack Halloran Singers recorded the song, but when Halloran’s record company refused to release it as a single, Onorati gave the song to Harry Simeone. Simeone hired the Jack Halloran Singers to record the now-famous version of this song.

The original version, quite honestly, never did anything for me. Though an obviously wonderful story, the song is bland.

Not so dull was the idea to pair a famous crooner with a rocker in 1977 to sing Drummer Boy and Peace on Earth.

Last December 20, Paul Farhi wrote an article in the Washington Post entitled, “Bing and Bowie: An Odd Story of Holiday Harmony.”

One of the most successful duets in Christmas music history -- and surely the weirdest -- might never have happened if it weren't for some last-minute musical surgery. David Bowie thought "The Little Drummer Boy" was all wrong for him. So when the producers of Bing Crosby's Christmas TV special asked Bowie to sing it in 1977, he refused.

Just hours before he was supposed to go before the cameras, though, a team of composers and writers frantically retooled the song. They added another melody and new lyrics as a counterpoint to all those pah-rumpa-pum-pums and called it "Peace on Earth." Bowie liked it. More important, Bowie sang it.

The result was an epic, and epically bizarre, recording in which David Bowie, the androgynous Ziggy Stardust, joined in song with none other than Mr. "White Christmas" himself, Bing Crosby.

In the intervening years, the Bowie-Crosby, "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy," has been transformed from an oddity into a holiday chestnut. You can hear it in heavy rotation on Christmas-music radio stations or see the performance on Internet video sites. First released as a single in 1982, it still sells today -- to add to its quirky afterlife, it's part of an album that's ranked as high as No. 3 on the Canadian charts this month. How did this almost surreal mash-up of the mainstream and the avant-garde, of cardigan-clad '40s-era crooner and glam rocker, happen?
It almost didn't. Bowie, who was 30 at the time, and Crosby, then 73, recorded the duet Sept. 11, 1977, for Crosby's "Merrie Olde Christmas" TV special. A month later, Crosby was dead of a heart attack. The special was broadcast on CBS about a month after his death.

The notion of pairing the resolutely white-bread Crosby with the exquisitely offbeat Bowie apparently was the brainchild of the TV special's producers, Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion, according to Ian Fraser, who co-wrote (with Larry Grossman) the song's music and arranged it.

Crosby was in Great Britain on a concert tour, and the theme of the TV special was Christmas in England. Bowie was one of several British guest stars (the model Twiggy and "Oliver!" star Ron Moody also appeared). Booking Bowie made logistical sense, since the special was taped near his home in London, at the Elstree Studios. As perhaps an added inducement, the producers agreed to air the arty video of Bowie's then-current single, "Heroes" (Crosby introduced it).

It's unclear, however, whether Crosby had any idea who Bowie was. Buz Kohan, who wrote the special and worked with Fraser and Grossman on the music, says he was never sure Crosby knew anything about Bowie's work. Fraser has a slightly different memory: "I'm pretty sure he did [know]. Bing was no idiot. If he didn't, his kids sure did."

Kohan worked some of the intergenerational awkwardness into his script. In a little skit that precedes the singing, Crosby greets Bowie at the door of what looks like Dracula's castle (actually, it's a set that's supposed to be Crosby's rented London home). The conceit is that Bowie is dropping by a friend's house and finds Crosby at home one snowy afternoon.

They banter for a bit and then get around to a piano. Bowie casually picks out a piece of sheet music of "The Little Drummer Boy" and declares, "This is my son's favorite."

The original plan had been for Bowie and Crosby to sing just "Little Drummer Boy." But "David came in and said: 'I hate this song. Is there something else I could sing?' " Fraser said. "We didn't know quite what to do."

Fraser, Kohan and Grossman left the set and found a piano in the studios' basement. In about 75 minutes, they wrote "Peace on Earth," an original tune, and worked out an arrangement that weaved together the two songs. Bowie and Crosby nailed the performance with less than an hour of rehearsal.

And that was almost that. "We never expected to hear about it again," Kohan said.

But after the recording circulated as a bootleg for several years, RCA decided to issue it as a single in 1982. It has since been packaged and repackaged in Christmas compilation albums and released as a DVD.

It's still the most played Christmas duet on WASH-FM (97.1), airing once or twice a day when the station plays nothing but holiday music, said Bill Hess, WASH's program director. Hess likes how the two men blend their voices. The real clincher, he says, is Crosby, who has been associated with holiday music for generations. " 'White Christmas' really helps sell it," he says.

Also among the song's fans is Roger D. Launius, who remembers watching the original Crosby TV special while he was a graduate student and the parent of two children, ages 1 and 3.

"It was a very hectic time in my life, and the song was very peaceful and beautiful," says Launius, chairman of the space history division at the National Air and Space Museum. "I don't remember anything else about the special, but I remembered that song."

Launius hadn't given it too much thought until about seven years ago, when his now-adult daughter sent him a Christmas CD. Among the selections was the Bowie-Crosby duet.

The other day at his office, Launius checked the hard drive on his computer. Yep, there it was. With a couple of clicks, Launius let the warm harmony, and the memories, come flooding back.

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If a public health emergency breaks out, Wisconsin the wrong place to be

Wisconsin is one of the worst states in the country in its preparedness for public health emergencies. 

That’s according to a new report from the Trust for America's Health, a research group.

Here are details on how Wisconsin scored, and more in a story from ABC News.



Wacky enviros at it again

Take a look at what they're upset about now.

Bipartisan Christmas e-mail

You may have seen this mass e-mail that’s going around this time of year. It’s a good one.

Subject: Greetings

To All My Democrat Friends:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2008, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

To My Republican Friends:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

School officials overstepping their bounds

As I’ve reported, the District Attorney’s office, though refusing to issue charges against the Franklin School District for its “assembly” to tell students about voting “yes” on the April referenda, is still reviewing other options.

Meanwhile, I want to offer some legal perspective on the larger issue of direct school involvement in political issues, like referenda.

Here are excerpts from an article entitled, “Use of Public Funds for Political Purposes,” by Michael Julka and Joanne Harmon Curry of Lathrop and Clark LLP, legal counsel for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards that appeared in the August 2003 issue of Wisconsin School News:

“Wisconsin courts have not ruled on the on the issue of whether a school board may appropriate school district funds and use district resources to support or oppose local or statewide referenda or candidate elections to office.

Generally, it is permissible to use public funds for informational activities when certain conditions are met, whereas it is impermissible to use public funds for promotional purposes during election campaigns. To determine whether a governmental unit has impermissibly expended public funds to promote referenda campaigns, courts have looked to state laws to determine whether such expenditures are explicitly or implicitly permitted.

Although several states provide either explicit constitutional or statutory provisions prohibiting or permitting the expenditure of public funds for the advocacy of favored positions, no such specific authority exists in Wisconsin allowing school boards to expend public funds in promotional efforts for the passage of referenda. At least two courts from other states (California and Oregon) have ruled on the issue of public funds to promote a particular position in an election campaign and determined that such use of public funds is prohibited unless there is clear and explicit legislative authorization.

It is permissible for school boards and school board members, as well as other public employees, to use public funds and resources to defeat citizen initiatives or support candidates in election campaigns, including recall elections. However, school boards are uniquely situated to provide voters with full disclosure of all the facts related to the board initiatives they propose, such as bond referenda. This may be done without permissibly violating the laws governing the use of public funds.

Public funds expended in connection with board initiatives however, are best used to inform, not persuade, the citizenry and to explain the initiative in an unbiased, balanced and nonpartisan manner. The reasonable expense for such activities may take a variety of forms, including providing information through documentaries and booklets; discussions at board meetings; public forums or upon individual request; and school newsletters, radio broadcasts and newspaper advertising. Public funds to purchase such items as bumper stickers, posters and other overzealous get-out-the “yes vote” activities are likely to be identified as improper promotional activities

Also, here is the Franklin Public Schools policy on distribution of materials to students. Note “C’ under the section of materials that are prohibited:

Franklin Public Schools -  Administrative Rule – 1360               
Guidelines Regarding the Distribution of Printed Materials to Pupils

The distribution or posting of materials on school property is solely determined by the District Administrator and/or the building principals.

The following illustrates those documents which may be disseminated by distribution to the student body with the review and approval of the principals:

A. School newspaper and/or newsletters
B. School event notices and/or calendars
C. School program information bulletins
D. Parent-Teacher organization meeting notices
E. Principals' letter to parents
F. Pupil co-curricular organization notices
G. Notices from the Franklin Recreation Department
H. Notices and Information from the Franklin Public Library, Health Department and Historical Society

The following illustrates these documents that may be disseminated by distribution to the student body with the review and approval of the District Administrator or designee;

A. Notices of programs or activities sponsored by local civic organizations.
B. Local boy and girl scouting and 4-H activities
C. Notices of civic events and programs concerning the heath and welfare of Franklin residents.
D. Notice of nondenominational religious activities and programs covered under Wisconsin Statutes.

The following illustrates those items whose dissemination through the student body is prohibited:

A. For profit advertising except those sponsored by the parent organizations as fundraising. These
exceptions are subject to the restrictions in the fund-raining policy.
B. Notices and/or publications relating to school board and/or other election candidates.
C. Political or politically related notices or publications.
D.  Materials that in any way advocate the compromise or overthrow of the government of the United
States or any of its various political components.
E.  Materials that in any way violate the policies of this school board or discrimination on the basis of
race, creed, sex, age, handicap, religion or ethnic origin.

Items, notices or not specifically covered by any of the designations above shall be evaluated by the District Administrator or designee. The District Administrator's decision shall be final.  Posters may be displayed in the buildings with the approval of the building principal. Such posters shall be directly
related to activities, events and/or information that relate to the general cultural, educational and/or physical welfare of the pupils and their parents. Posters displayed shall in no way violate the policies of the Franklin Public School District.

Adopted:   April 23, 1986
Reviewed: August 1991
Revised:    February 15, 1995

It is clear to me that Franklin school officials used deceit and acted improperly and unethically in the use of the “assembly” just days before the April election.

Franklin, bend over and take it again

Just wanted to make sure you saw John Neville's brief on this website:

Family sewer rate to increase

By a 5-to-1 vote Tuesday night, the Franklin Common Council OK'd a 60 percent increase in the annual sewer rate for single-family residents.

The rate hike is needed to cover a recent substantial Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District charge increase, plus local costs and sewer rehabilitation efforts in Franklin.

City Finance Officer/Treasurer Calvin Patterson told council members the rate per quarter will be $10.48. That translates to an annual charge of $41.92 for a single-family residence.

We are not a tax hell.

We are not a tax hell.

We are not a tax hell.

We are not a tax hell.

The music of Christmas: "If only in my dreams"

The music of Christmas


“Bob Hope's unwavering commitment to the morale of America's servicemen and women is entertainment history, indeed, world history. Many say 'legend.'

For nearly six decades, be the country at war or at peace, Bob, with a band of Hollywood gypsies, traveled the globe to entertain our service men and women.

The media dubbed him "America's No. 1 Soldier in Greasepaint." To the GIs, he was "G.I. Bob" and their clown hero.”

Here’s a short clip from one of Bob Hope’s Christmas shows overseas.  On December 22 1968, Bob's "Operation Holly" performed at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. This video records that event. The original film was silent, so the audio from his performance at Long Binh Army Depot that same Christmas is dubbed onto the video.

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We haven’t heard much from Mr. Irrelevant, FranklinNOW blogger Greg Kowalski.

That’s because he is, in effect, irrelevant.

While the other FranklinNOW bloggers are breaking important stories left and right, especially during what is usually a slow news month, Greg Kowalski writes about “TODAY’S CONCERNS”:

1) Green buildings in Milwaukee

2) Burger Kings that don’t sell Whoppers

3) Sendik’s has a Holiday Fair

My personal favorite:

4) Why don’t we pick on the Asian illegal immigrants like we do the Mexicans?

It must be very difficult and frustrating in Kowalskiville to have to sit back and eat everybody else’s dust and realize, “Oh my goodness. I’m fresh out of ideas. I don’t even know what to start a petition about!”

So to try to rejuvenate his irrelevant blog, he did what he always does: start to stir up commotion by going after me.

Even though he knows he can’t leave comments on my blog (and the reasons are well-documented) rules mean nothing to him.

So until I lift my ban (and I may never) he’s not allowed here, period. He can comment all he wants about Greasy the Clown serving free coffee with WMYX at Andy’s on his own blog.

Thank you, Alderman Olson

Alderman Steve Olson was the only Franklin Common Council member to vote against a 60% increase in the sewer tax rate.

My question is, how high would the increase have had to grow to before the other Aldermen would have voted NO?

When you don't have to identify yourself, it's easy to be stupid

The Appleton-Post Crescent editorial today criticizes the city leaders in Green Bay for putting up a Nativity scene at Green Bay City Hall.

A line in the editorial reads:

There's no reason to have a nativity scene at any city, village or town hall.

The main reason editorial writers for newspapers can get away with making idiotic statements (and they often do) is because they can hide behind the nameless, faceless façade of the term, “editorial.”

On this blog, you know who I am. You know what my positions are.

The same holds true when I’m on a TV or radio talk show.

I’ve often felt that if some anonymous editorial writer on his/her high horse in some ivory tower is going to take some outlandish, out of touch stance that he/she/they should identify themselves. If he/she/they feel so strongly about their position, what’s the problem?

No reason to have a Nativity scene at a city, village, or town hall? A Nativity scene is the ONLY display that should be set up at a city, town, or village hall.

The Nativity, the birth of Christ is the REASON for the SEASON, the REASON all this hectic activity is taking place.

If this moronic editorial writer disagrees and doesn’t think the birth of Christ is the REASON for the holiday, then I suggest he/she/they show up for an 8-hour day of work on December 25th.

Oooops is running a correction in John Neville's story on the sewer tax tax rate.

Here's the original story, posted yesterday by Neville:

Family sewer rate to increase

By a 5-to-1 vote Tuesday night, the Franklin Common Council OK'd a 60 percent increase in the annual sewer rate for single-family residents.

The rate hike is needed to cover a recent substantial Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District charge increase, plus local costs and sewer rehabilitation efforts in Franklin.

City Finance Officer/Treasurer Calvin Patterson told council members the rate per quarter will be $10.48. That translates to an annual charge of $41.92 for a single-family residence.

And here’s today’s corrected version: 

Correction: Sewer rate to increase

By a 5-to-1 vote Tuesday night, the Franklin Common Council OK'd an increase in the annual sewer rate for single-family residents.

The rate hike is needed to cover a recent substantial Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District charge increase, plus local costs and sewer rehabilitation efforts in Franklin.

City Finance Officer/Treasurer Calvin Patterson told council members the rate per quarter will be $46.42. That translates to an annual charge of $185.68 for a single-family residence.

That’s quite a reporting error.

It’s worse than we thought.

The annual charge is actually $143.76 more than what was reported by Neville yesterday.

So an even BIGGER THANK YOU goes out to Alderman Steve Olson for voting against the increase.

Your front page was missing a big one today

Take a look at page one of your Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel today.

There are stories on:

  • The alternative minimum tax
  • Beefing up investigations of non-fatal shootings in Milwaukee
  • Suburban kids bringing gifts to inner-city students
  • The standard summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States

You have to open to page 4 before you get to, what I believe, is the real biggie.

Violence in Iraq is down 50%.

That’s right.

There is major progress in the war effort that liberals like to call a quagmire and compare to Vietnam.

Seems to me that violence down by 50% in Iraq is page 1 news.

Or maybe certain editors just don’t want to admit it or would hope you don’t see it to read.

Here’s the story.

The music of Christmas: "It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth"

The music of Christmas

 One review of this carol said it, “lacks of good musical taste, and has a total absence of the spirit of religion." 

I’ll bet that reviewer of over 100 years ago didn’t keep his job very long.

From Ace Collins’ book, “"Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas":

The strange and fascinating story of "O Holy Night" began in France, yet eventually made its way around the world. This seemingly simple song, inspired by a request from a clergyman, would not only become one of the most beloved anthems of all time, it would mark a technological revolution that would forever change the way people were introduced to music.

In 1847, Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure was the commissionaire of wines in a small French town. Known more for his poetry than his church attendance, it probably shocked Placide when his parish priest asked the commissionaire to pen a poem for Christmas mass. Nevertheless, the poet was honored to share his talents with the church.

In a dusty coach traveling down a bumpy road to France's capital city, Placide Cappeau considered the priest's request. Using the gospel of Luke as his guide, Cappeau imagined witnessing the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Thoughts of being present on the blessed night inspired him. By the time he arrived in Paris, "Cantique de Noel" had been completed.

Moved by his own work, Cappeau decided that his "Cantique de Noel" was not just a poem, but a song in need of a master musician's hand. Not musically inclined himself, the poet turned to one of his friends, Adolphe Charles Adams, for help.

The son of a well-known classical musician, Adolphe had studied in the Paris conservatoire. His talent and fame brought requests to write works for orchestras and ballets all over the world. Yet the lyrics that his friend Cappeau gave him must have challenged the composer in a fashion unlike anything he received from London, Berlin, or St. Petersburg.

As a man of Jewish ancestry, for Adolphe the words of "Cantique de Noel" represented a day he didn't celebrate and a man he did not view as the son of God. Nevertheless, Adams quickly went to work, attempting to marry an original score to Cappeau's beautiful words. Adams' finished work pleased both poet and priest. The song was performed just three weeks later at a Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve

Initially, "Cantique de Noel" was wholeheartedly accepted by the church in France and the song quickly found its way into various Catholic Christmas services. But when Placide Cappeau walked away from the church and became a part of the socialist movement, and church leaders discovered that Adolphe Adams was a Jew, the song--which had quickly grown to be one of the most beloved Christmas songs in France--was suddenly and uniformly denounced by the church. The heads of the French Catholic church of the time deemed "Cantique de Noel" as unfit for church services because of its lack of musical taste and "total absence of the spirit of religion." Yet even as the church tried to bury the Christmas song, the French people continued to sing it, and a decade later a reclusive American writer brought it to a whole new audience halfway around the world.

Not only did this American writer--John Sullivan Dwight--feel that this wonderful Christmas song needed to be introduced to America, he saw something else in the song that moved him beyond the story of the birth of Christ. An ardent abolitionist, Dwight strongly identified with the lines of the third verse: "Truly he taught us to love one another; his law is love and his gospel is peace. Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother; and in his name all oppression shall cease." The text supported Dwight's own view of slavery in the South. Published in his magazine, Dwight's English translation of "O Holy Night" quickly found favor in America, especially in the North during the Civil War.

Back in France, even though the song had been banned from the church for almost two decades, many commoners still sang "Cantique de Noel" at home. Legend has it that on Christmas Eve 1871, in the midst of fierce fighting between the armies of Germany and France, during the Franco-Prussian War, a French soldier suddenly jumped out of his muddy trench. Both sides stared at the seemingly crazed man. Boldly standing with no weapon in his hand or at his side, he lifted his eyes to the heavens and sang, "Minuit, Chretiens, c'est l'heure solennelle ou L'Homme Dieu descendit jusqu'a nous," the beginning of "Cantique de Noel."

After completing all three verses, a German infantryman climbed out his hiding place and answered with, "Vom Himmel noch, da komm' ich her. Ich bring' euch gute neue Mar, Der guten Mar bring' ich so viel, Davon ich sing'n und sagen will," the beginning of Martin Luther's robust "From Heaven Above to Earth I Come."

The story goes that the fighting stopped for the next twenty-four hours while the men on both sides observed a temporary peace in honor of Christmas day. Perhaps this story had a part in the French church once again embracing "Cantique de Noel" in holiday services.

Adams had been dead for many years and Cappeau and Dwight were old men when on Christmas Eve 1906, Reginald Fessenden--a 33-year-old university professor and former chief chemist for Thomas Edison--did something long thought impossible. Using a new type of generator, Fessenden spoke into a microphone and, for the first time in history, a man's voice was broadcast over the airwaves: "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed," he began in a clear, strong voice, hoping he was reaching across the distances he supposed he would.

Shocked radio operators on ships and astonished wireless owners at newspapers sat slack-jawed as their normal, coded impulses, heard over tiny speakers, were interrupted by a professor reading from the gospel of Luke. To the few who caught this broadcast, it must have seemed like a miracle--hearing a voice somehow transmitted to those far away. Some might have believed they were hearing the voice of an angel.

Fessenden was probably unaware of the sensation he was causing on ships and in offices; he couldn't have known that men and women were rushing to their wireless units to catch this Christmas Eve miracle. After finishing his recitation of the birth of Christ, Fessenden picked up his violin and played "O Holy Night," the first song ever sent through the air via radio waves. When the carol ended, so did the broadcast--but not before music had found a new medium that would take it around the world.

Since that first rendition at a small Christmas mass in 1847, "O Holy Night" has been sung millions of times in churches in every corner of the world. And since the moment a handful of people first heard it played over the radio, the carol has gone on to become one of the entertainment industry's most recorded and played spiritual songs. This incredible work--requested by a forgotten parish priest, written by a poet who would later split from the church, given soaring music by a Jewish composer, and brought to Americans to serve as much as a tool to spotlight the sinful nature of slavery as tell the story of the birth of a Savior--has become one of the most beautiful, inspired pieces of music ever created.

Andy Williams closed his Branson Christmas shows with a very touching rendition of  “O Holy Night” that involves the audience in a special way.

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The President and the King


“Mr. Schilling, this is Egil Krogh of the White House staff. The President has read Mr. Presley’s letter and would like to meet with him in thirty minutes.”

It’s a day in American history still talked about, 37 years later.

Elvis, without an invitation, got into the White House on December 21, 1970 and met with President Nixon.

The fact that he pulled it off is one thing. He had Nixon scrambling around, fumbling through an Oval Office desk trying to find mementoes for his entourage. When the President did, Elvis looked at Nixon and said, “You know, sir, these men have wives.” The President responded, “Of course, let’s see what we can find for the ladies.” Here’s what is really strange about this often-told story. As famous as that encounter was, Jerry Schilling, who was also at that meeting, writes in his book, “Me and a Guy Named Elvis”:

”I found it a little curious that our recent trip to the White House hand managed to stay secret. …...The biggest summit meeting between the worlds of politics and rock and roll wouldn’t be reported on at all until it turned up in a Washington Post column almost a full year after it happened.”

Watch this video produced by Seth Swirsky who used the 26 photographs taken that morning by White House photographer, Oliver Atkins. The film also features a rare interview with Jerry Schilling, one of the main men in Elvis Presley's 'Memphis Mafia', who was in the Oval Office that day.

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What's on InterCHANGE tonight?

Here are the topics for InterCHANGE tonight at 6:30 on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10 (repeat Sunday morning at 11:00):

1 – New Orleans Housing.

New Orleans continues to demonstrate how dysfunctional a city in the process of recovery can be.  The federal government wants to demolish thousands of substandard public housing units for the low income, and build more integrated types of housing. Some people say this is adding insult to injury for the very people the housing is intended to help.  Is the federal government doing all it can to help the people of New Orleans, or are the people of New Orleans (including the public officials) standing in the way?  

2 – Milwaukee Aldermen.  

Milwaukee City Hall will look a little different next year.  Alderman Michael McGee is running, but he’s in jail and might not be able to take office if he’s convicted.  Alderman Michael D’Amato is no longer going to be representing the eastside.  It looks like former police union chief Brad DeBraska may run against Terry Witkowski over on the southside.  What are the big challenges that will face City Hall in the coming year, as folks there continue to deal with the issues of high crime, high property taxes, and a continued explosion in development downtown and in neighboring areas.  Do we want a former police union chief attempting to direct a new police chief?  It’s also possible that Pedro Colon could beat Grant Langley for the job of City Attorney.  

3 – Milwaukee Bucks.  

The Milwaukee Bucks lose again and fall to 10-15.  Is this the team it should be?  Was Krystkowiak the right guy for the job?  Should it take 25 games before you juggle your starting lineup?  Should Yi be starting?

The Franklin countdown begins tomorrow

Beginning tomorrow, I count down the top ten Franklin news stories of 2007.

Every day, check in for a news item that made my list, right up until the #1 story is unveiled on December 31st.

Some people don't like Brett Favre?

Are you kidding me?

And we're not talking Bear fans here.

Wisconsin State Journal sports columnist Andy Baggot argues that there are those, for several reasons, that simply can't stand Brett Favre.

Blasphemy, you say.

Read on.

The music of Christmas: "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire"

The music of Christmas


Just how amazing is Mel Torme’s contribution to Christmas?

Gary North writes on

One of the most popular of all Christmas songs was written by one of America’s great pop singers, Mel Tormé. It begins, "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. . . ." It’s called "The Christmas Song." It was written in 1945 and was turned into a seasonal classic in 1946 by Nat "King" Cole – in my book, the greatest of America’s pop singers.

That song illustrates entrepreneurship: the ability to forecast the future of supply and demand, and then buy low now and sell high later. You spot the opportunity when your competitors don’t. You can therefore buy low. You sell into rising demand at the peak of the market. I can think of no song that better illustrates the art of entrepreneurship. Here is the story of that song, as written by Tormé. It began with a trip to the home of his song-writing partner, Bob Wells.

One excessively hot afternoon, I drove out to Bob’s house in Toluca Lake for a work session. The San Fernando Valley, always at least ten degrees warmer than the rest of the town, blistered in the July sun.... I opened the front door and walked in.... I called for Bob. No answer. I walked over to the piano. A writing pad rested on the music board. Written in pencil on the open page were four lines of verse:

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos.

When Bob finally appeared, I asked him about the little poem. He was dressed sensibly in tennis shorts and a white T-shirt, but he still looked uncomfortably warm.

"It was so hot today," he said, "I thought I’d write something to cool myself off. All I could think of was Christmas and cold weather."

I took another look at his handiwork. "You know," I said, "this just might make a song."

We sat down together at the piano, and, improbable though it may sound, "The Christmas Song" was completed about forty-five minutes later. Excitedly, we called Carlos Gastel, sped into Hollywood, played it for him, then for Johnny Burke, and then for Nat Cole, who fell in love with the tune. It took a full year for Nat to get into a studio to record it, but his record finally came out in the last fall of 1946; and the rest could be called our financial pleasure.

If you are a writer of pop songs, and you want a large, thrift-free annuity, you eventually think about writing a Christmas song. That’s what Hugh Grant’s father had done in About a Boy, and Grant had never worked a day in his life as a result. He hated the song, but he loved the royalties.

In 1945, the operational model was already there: Irving Berlin’s "White Christmas," which was written in 1940 and became an instant classic when Bing Crosby recorded it in 1942. All over the world, 1942–44, American troops listened to that song every Christmas. It reminded them of home – though not my father. He had grown up in southern California. Stationed for three years in Cairo, he hated that song. He would turn off the radio whenever he heard it after the war. For all I know, he still does.

Crosby’s version has sold over 30 million copies. Estimated total sales: 125 million copies – the biggest-selling song of all time. Not bad for a Jewish songwriter. There is nothing like the free market to encourage ecumenical celebration.


July is not the time of the year when most song writers would have sat down to write "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire." But Wells was motivated by the heat of the San Fernando Valley in an era before home air conditioning was common to write a few lines about winter’s most famous holiday season. Tormé read it, spotted the opportunity, and together they spent the most profitable 45 minutes in song-writing history.

"White Christmas" remained the most popular Christmas song for six decades. Then it faltered.

According to a 1998 press release from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), "White Christmas" remains the number one performed Christmas carol, and is the most recorded Christmas carol (over 500 versions in "scores of languages"). The other top five are "Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town," Mel Tormé’s "The Christmas Song," "Winter Wonderland," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and Leroy Anderson’s "Sleigh Ride."

[Note: Calling these songs Christmas carols reveals a decided lack of cultural awareness.]

By 2003, however, "White Christmas" had slipped to the number-two position on their list of Christmas songs. The number one song was "The Christmas Song" (Mel Tormé and Robert Wells).

Think about the chain of events. Tormé walked in the door, presumably after knocking. His friend was missing. He called out his name. No answer. He wandered over to the piano. There was a writing pad with what looked like a poem written in pencil.

Wham! Why not a Christmas song? Why not, indeed?

Forty-five minutes later, stage one of their joint lifetime annuity was finished.

It is also worth considering that the title, "The Christmas Song," was still available.

They got on the phone to call around to promote it.

They called Nat Cole.

At this point, luck was fading in causational significance; personal contacts were growing. Yet even here, it was not a slam dunk. In 1945, Nat Cole was a singer and pianist with his own jazz trio. He had been recording for almost a decade. His one hit, "Straighten Up and Fly Right" (1943), was no ballad. In 1945, there was no black ballad singer singing love songs on the radio to entertain white women. It was with "The Christmas Song" that Cole made the transition to balladeer in the mind of the public. What better way to make the transition out of jazz than a Christmas song? But nobody could have guessed this in 1945. Cole recorded it in 1946.

Was this a fluke? Surely not a Jed Clampett "struck oil in mah own back yard" kind of fluke. Tormé had written his first published song in 1940. Big band leader Harry James recorded it. It made the hit parade. He was 15 at the time. By then, he had been a singer on-stage for eleven years. (You read it right.) He had been a child radio actor for seven years. He had taken up song writing at age 14.

When he wrote "The Christmas Song," he was 19. He turned 20 in September.

Just for the record, Tormé and Wells [Levinson] were Jewish. Think about that for a minute. A couple of Jewish kids sat down in July to write a Christmas song, which was recorded by a black jazz singer the next year. As a result, they all got rich.

Only in America.

Tormé never again came close to a home run. He worked as a singer, mostly of ballads, which he didn’t like. His voice was so lush that he was called "the velvet fog," which he hated, or called "the velvet frog" by his critics, which also didn’t please him. He wrote 300 songs, none of which came close to the popularity of "The Christmas Song." But, Christmas after Christmas, the royalty money rolled in. This must have consoled him. He died in 1999. The money is still rolling in, more than ever. This consoles his heirs.
Although it’s been said many times, many ways:Merry Christmas to us.Was he lucky? To the extent that an enormous talent stumbles across an unpredictable opportunity and takes it, yes. To the extent that it takes enormous talent to spot the opportunity and take advantage of it, luck has nothing to do with it.I don’t believe in luck. I bundle luck together with fate and roast them both alongside those chestnuts. I do believe in opportunities that self-disciplined people stumble across as they pursue their occupations (for money) or their callings (for significance).Usually, this doesn’t happen when you’re 19. 

Now fast forward to a much older Mel Torme.

From Mark Evanier at (Point of view online) who wrote the following in July of 1999:

I want to tell you a story...

The scene is Farmer's Market — the famed tourist mecca of Los Angeles.  It's located but yards from the facility they call, "CBS Television City in Hollywood"...which, of course, is not in Hollywood but at least is very close.

Farmer's Market is a quaint collection of bungalow stores, produce stalls and little stands where one can buy darn near anything edible one wishes to devour.  You buy your pizza slice or sandwich or Chinese food or whatever at one of umpteen counters, then carry it on a tray to an open-air table for consumption.

During the Summer or on weekends, the place is full of families and tourists and Japanese tour groups.  But this was a winter weekday, not long before Christmas, and the crowd was mostly older folks, dawdling over coffee and danish.  For most of them, it's a good place to get a donut or a taco, to sit and read the paper.

For me, it's a good place to get out of the house and grab something to eat.  I arrived, headed for my favorite barbecue stand and, en route, noticed that Mel Tormé was seated at one of the tables.

Mel Tormé.  My favorite singer.  Just sitting there, sipping a cup of coffee, munching on an English Muffin, reading The New York Times.  Mel Tormé.

I had never met Mel Tormé.  Alas, I still haven't and now I never will.  He looked like he was engrossed in the paper that day so I didn't stop and say, "Excuse me, I just wanted to tell you how much I've enjoyed all your records."  I wish I had.

Instead, I continued over to the BBQ place, got myself a chicken sandwich and settled down at a table to consume it.  I was about halfway through when four Christmas carolers strolled by, singing "Let It Snow,"
a cappella.

They were young adults with strong, fine voices and they were all clad in splendid Victorian garb.  The Market had hired them (I assume) to stroll about and sing for the diners — a little touch of the holidays.

"Let It Snow" concluded not far from me to polite applause from all within earshot.  I waved the leader of the chorale over and directed his attention to Mr. Tormé, seated about twenty yards from me.

"That's Mel Tormé down there.  Do you know who he is?"

The singer was about 25 so it didn't horrify me that he said, "No."

I asked, "Do you know 'The Christmas Song?'"

Again, a "No."

I said, "That's the one that starts, 'Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...'"

"Oh, yes," the caroler chirped.  "Is that what it's called?  'The Christmas Song?'"

"That's the name," I explained.  "And that man wrote it."  The singer thanked me, returned to his group for a brief huddle...and then they strolled down towards Mel Tormé.  I ditched the rest of my sandwich and followed, a few steps behind.  As they reached their quarry, they began singing, "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..." directly to him.

A big smile formed on Mel Tormé's face — and it wasn't the only one around.  Most of those sitting at nearby tables knew who he was and many seemed aware of the significance of singing that song to him.  For those who didn't, there was a sudden flurry of whispers: "That's Mel Tormé...he wrote that..."

As the choir reached the last chorus or two of the song, Mel got to his feet and made a little gesture that meant, "Let me sing one chorus solo."  The carolers — all still apparently unaware they were in the presence of one of the world's great singers — looked a bit uncomfortable.  I'd bet at least a couple were thinking, "Oh, no...the little fat guy wants to sing."

But they stopped and the little fat guy started to sing...and, of course, out came this beautiful, melodic, perfectly-on-pitch voice.  The look on the face of the singer I'd briefed was amazed at first...then properly impressed.

On Mr. Tormé's signal, they all joined in on the final lines: "Although it's been said, many times, many ways...Merry Christmas to you..."  Big smiles all around.

And not just from them.  I looked and at all the tables surrounding the impromptu performance, I saw huge grins of delight...which segued, as the song ended, into a huge burst of applause.  The whole tune only lasted about two minutes but I doubt anyone who was there will ever forget it.

I have witnessed a number of thrilling "show business" moments — those incidents, far and few between, where all the little hairs on your epidermis snap to attention and tingle with joy.  Usually, these occur on a screen or stage.  I hadn't expected to experience one next to a falafel stand — but I did.

Tormé thanked the harmonizers for the serenade and one of the women said, "You really wrote that?"

He nodded.  "A wonderful songwriter named Bob Wells and I wrote that...and, get this — we did it on the hottest day of the year in July.  It was a way to cool down."

Then the gent I'd briefed said, "You know, you're not a bad singer."  He actually said that to Mel Tormé.

Mel chuckled.  He realized that these four young folks hadn't the velvet-foggiest notion who he was, above and beyond the fact that he'd worked on that classic carol.  "Well," he said.  "I've actually made a few records in my day..."

"Really?" the other man asked.  "How many?"

Tormé smiled and said, "Ninety."

I probably own about half of them on vinyl and/or CD.  For some reason, they sound better on vinyl.  (My favorite was the album he made with Buddy Rich.  Go ahead.  Find me a better parlay of singer and drummer.  I'll wait.)

Today, as I'm reading obits, I'm reminded of that moment.  And I'm impressed to remember that Mel Tormé was also an accomplished author and actor.  Mostly though, I'm recalling that pre-Christmas afternoon.

I love people who do something so well that you can't conceive of it being done better.  Doesn't even have to be something important: Singing, dancing, plate-spinning, mooning your neighbor's cat, whatever.  There is a certain beauty to doing almost anything to perfection.

No recording exists of that chorus that Mel Tormé sang for the other diners at Farmer's Market but if you never believe another word I write, trust me on this.  It was perfect.  Absolutely perfect.


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The nanny state...

It never ends.

Wanna bet some legislator will propsoe a bill?



A look back at the people and events that made news the past week.
Week-ends is a regular weekly feature of This Just In...


Colleen Torres

Michael Hahn and Steve Hanson

Green Bay
’s mayor and aldermen who voted in favor of a Nativity scene at Green Bay’s City Hall   

The legend of Larry Stewart

Frederick Dominguez and his family

UW-Whitewater football team

Anthony Witrado of Journal Sports, for pointing out some of the problems at high school basketball games.



Michael Devlin

Three charged in assault of UNC football players

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom 

Flip-flopping Green Bay Common
Council Vice President Chris Wery. Wery helped put up the Nativity crèche at Green Bay City Hall. Then he changed his mind on the issue, largely in part because of the bad feelings that erupted over it. "I'm going to vote to take it down," he said.   

Franklin Public School administration and Franklin School Board. They have lost all respect and credibility.  

The city of St. Francis   



"This is crazy. It's Christmas. I'm sad in my heart. There is only one God, and you've got to keep him up. The only way to get to God is through Jesus. It's the true religion. You have to do it."
Tim Entringer of Green Bay, speaking at a Green Bay Common Coucnil meeting where it was decided to keep a Nativity display up at City Hall.

"If I were a Hindu — and I'm not — and I had to pay my water bill and walk under that overhang, I'd be terribly insulted. ... I'd say, 'Did I make a mistake in coming here? Does this country still respect the sanctity of the constitution?'"
Mike Layden of Green Bay, speaking at the Green Bay Common Council meeting on the Nativity controversy."

I think it's illegal. It's in your face. It doesn't belong, and it's disturbing to the religious minorities."

Rich Bouril, who filed a complaint about a crèche on the lawn of the Manitowoc County Courthouse. Bouril called the crèche the "ugliest nativity scene in the world. It hasn't been upgraded or artistically displayed. It's just not right the way it's been presented."

"It's unfortunate that just a few people can choose to be offended out of the blue and disrupt and insult the good people in our community who care very much about the holiday and the meaning for the holiday. These issues are not small issues. They are important issues. These are things that mean something to hard-working people in our community. That's why we're not taking it down."
Manitowoc County Executive Bob Ziegelbauer, on the Manitowoc County Courthouse Nativity display.

"While the Department of Commerce is working to lure businesses to Wisconsin, Hansen and Democrats in the Legislature are essentially telling businesses to stay away. As a result, Wisconsin residents will pay the price as higher-paying jobs are created elsewhere."
State Representative Robin Vos (R-Racine) reacting to a proposal by state Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) that would make publicly traded companies disclose what they paid in Wisconsin taxes; what tax breaks, credits or exemptions they had that affected their tax liability; and the taxable income of all subsidiaries. Companies doing business in the state and not filing a return also would have to send the Department of Revenue an explanation of why.

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The Top Ten Franklin Stories of 2007: #10



Call it, “The Fountains of Failure.”

Sound disappointing?

It should, because the almost-total lack of progress at the promising Fountains of Franklin (FOF) is just that.

Throughout 2007, I’ve written several tongue –in-cheek blogs poking fun at the veritable ghost town at 56th and Rawson. When discussing FOF, many like to brag about Sendik’s and Andy’s down the street at 51st. Without those developments, FOF would be a complete disaster. For the purposes of today’s blog, I am referring to the site behind the FOF office building up the street from Sendik’s.

I am now less optimistic than I was 12 months ago and wonder if the community is being sold a bill of goods.

In late January, in one of my very first blogs, I wrote:

I had the opportunity to meet David Hintzman, President of Equitable Development LLC, one of the developers of the Fountains of Franklin. He impresses me as being fully dedicated to making the project work, complete with much sought after amenities and attractive architecture and landscaping. My advice to Hintzman: crank up the public relations/marketing campaign. I would venture to guess a great deal of Franklin has no idea how ambitious or enticing the Fountains of Franklin is. Heck, I bet a lot of people have never heard about it, period. Get the word out, pitch your project, and make people aware of what you’re planning in your office where I see the lights on late quite frequently. Get the media to do stories, and update your web site ASAP.

There were few, if any stories. Public relations campaign? What campaign? The FOF website, when it was up and running, remained virtually unchanged for long periods of time. Of course, how can you update when nothing is happening?

While I was taking jabs at FOF, Hintzman was showing FranklinNOW blogger Greg Kowalski around the site in late-June. Hintzman may have thought he’d get a more receptive attitude from Kowalski….and he did.

Kowalski wrote in June:

The developer, Dave Hintzman, told me plenty of things that this development is doing. The great landscaping, the great designs of the stores and offices, and of course - the spots where the fountains will reign supreme.

Not able to be seen from Rawson, The Fountains has foundations, sewer, electric, and fire hydrants already complete. One of the ponds behind the professional office building is complete. Today, I saw firsthand at least 6 dump trucks pull in, full of dirt ready to use for grading and smoothing of future parking lots....which at least one parking area is complete.

The word I got was the corner retail to the left of the FOF sign will be completed this year. The professional office building just needs a contract signing and that should begin getting underway.

Ever since having the wool pulled over his eyes, Kowalski has failed to write a negative word about FOF. I prefer to remain skeptical. Especially when the first “restaurant” (and only one so far) announced for FOF is a Dairy Queen.

When I hear “Dairy Queen” that doesn’t exactly scream “upscale.”

At the VIP party the night before the grand opening of Sendik’s I ran into Hintzman. The goal was to use the opening of Sendik’s to make some major announcement about new tenants.

Nada. Zilch. Same old same old.

Much of what we discussed was off the record and not for publication.

Generally speaking, I can tell you that Hintzman offered an explanation, if you will, of why things are taking so long to happen at FOF, a subject I’ve teased FOF about for many months.

Hintzman, in a nutshell, told me that it’s better to wait in order to get something worthwhile. But how long do we have to wait?

Without breaking a confidence, Hintzman is quite confident of two high-quality businesses coming into FOF that I can’t specify any further. I will believe it when I see it.

Where Hintzman lost me a bit is on the “good things come to those who wait” approach, especially when he told me it would result in garnering tenants that, “nobody else has.”

I guess that explains that new Dairy Queen.

I like Hintzman and want him to succeed. But the longer this goes on without major progress, the more I think the land at 56th and Rawson will remain dormant and we’ll never see what the FOF website now promises:

The Fountains of Franklin retail Lifestyle Center, located on the south side of Milwaukee County has now expanded to a 60 acre Downtown Plan. This new Downtown Area will be anchored by the number one specialty grocer Sendik’s Food Market, a Modern Performing Arts Center, a Medical/Professional Office Building and Gas Station/Car Wash. The variety and size of these anchors provide the necessary draw to assist in the success of their co-tenants. The Fountains of Franklin will also be home to tenants such as a full service salon /spa, bank, fashion stores, restaurants, and a café. This plan has been designed for significant pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

Pie in the sky?


1) ?
2) ?
3) ?
4) ?
5) ?
6) ?
7) ?
8) ?
9) ?

The music of Christmas: The number one

The music of Christmas


It’s the biggest and the best.

Doug Gamble, a former writer for Bob Hope, as well as for former presidents Reagan and Bush 41 wrote this for National Review Online on December 22, 2005:

Despite its fifth-place standing on ASCAP's list of most-performed seasonal songs over the last five years, "White Christmas" is the chairman of the board of Christmas songs. It is the most-recorded song in history, with Crosby's version alone selling 31 million copies. It has been recorded by everyone from Frank Sinatra and Doris Day to Elvis Presley and Kiss.

"White Christmas" held the record as the top-selling song of all time from its release in 1942 until it was eclipsed by Elton John's horrid song about Princess Diana following her 1997 death, "Candle in the Wind." Not even original, the song was a derivative of one he had written about Marilyn Monroe.

Five years after "White Christmas" was first recorded, Crosby went back in the studio to do it again, because the master version was worn out after millions of reproductions. It is the 1947 version we are mostly familiar with, with Crosby's voice sounding slightly deeper than when he first recorded it.

While some uncertainty surrounds the origins of "White Christmas," many music historians believe Irving Berlin wrote it during the 1937 Christmas period when staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel. He was making a movie at the time, and was homesick for his family, New York, and its seasonal snow. After it was written, the song sat in a drawer for five years.

But if "White Christmas" has done much to fuel the enjoyment of Christmas celebrants around the world, what it did for our troops overseas during World War II is inestimable. Brought to troops in the form of 78-r.p.m. records contained in "recreation kits" supplied by the military, heard on Armed Forces Radio and played on jukeboxes at PX stores and USO halls, it served as a powerful reminder of why they were fighting.

The Buffalo Courier-Express editorialized, "When Irving Berlin set people dreaming of a White Christmas he provided a forcible reminder that we are fighting for the right to dream and memories to dream about."

As expressed by author Jody Rosen in his book, White Christmas, the Story of an American song, "'White Christmas' never mentioned the war, yet it was a potent wartime anthem, inciting patriotism in its most primal form: homesickness." He adds, "With its mystical vision of the home to which they longed to return, 'White Christmas' was, for many American soldiers, a 'why we fight' anthem that was true to life." It was more popular with troops than, "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition," and other fighting songs.

Little known is the fact it was actually the unprecedented demand for "White Christmas" by overseas troops in 1942 that started the song on its journey to the pinnacle of the music charts here at home. On November 21, it began an unprecedented ten-week reign atop the Hit Parade.

On overseas trips to perform at USO shows, Crosby was always asked to do his signature song, no matter the season. Rosen tells of a Crosby appearance before a paratroop unit in France where a gruff, square-jawed sergeant approached him before the show and asked if he was going to sing "White Christmas." When Crosby assured him he would, the sergeant said he would have to duck out. "I'll listen from behind the portable kitchen," he said. "It's no good for the men's morale to see their sergeant crying."

This Christmas season again sees Americans fighting overseas. I haven't come across any polls on the subject, but I have to believe that "White Christmas" and other seasonal songs mean as much to our troops now as they did to their counterparts on earlier battlefields.

The themes and words of many Christmas songs beautifully express the way of life we hold dear. Our country is blessed to have men and women who have always been willing to sacrifice to preserve it, including the sacrifice of being far away from home and hearth during what Andy Williams famously calls "The most wonderful time of the year."

In wondrous Christmas splendor, here are Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen.

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My most popular blogs

Most popular

As I post every Sunday, here are the top five most popular of my blog entries from the previous week: 

1) Today's concerns=ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

2) Remember the "Assembly" Franklin High held just before the referenda?

3) Wacky enviros at it again

4) Scott Walker-Lena Taylor poll a joke

5) The PC Nativity scene

Culinary no-no #34

Culinary no-no's

“Sun-ripened California raisins, delicious pineapple, crunchy Georgia pecans, plump juicy cherries, freshly shelled walnuts and almonds, tangy lemon and orange peel....blended into a rich pound-cake batter.....baked to a golden brown.”

Now to me, that sounds pretty good. It’s from the website of the famous Claxton Bakery in Georgia, known for its fruitcake.

Of course, the fruitcake has become the Rodney Dangerfield of Christmas treats.

'Fruitcakes make good door stops.'

'Fruitcakes make good weights on a grandfather clock.'

'Fruitcakes make good Christmas wreaths.'

'Fruitcakes make good Curling stones.'

'There is really only one fruitcake; it's just been passed around for hundreds of years' (a line attributed to Johnny Carson that supposedly started the attack on fruitcake).

Then there is this:

Some Great Things About Fruitcake
Patrick G Horneker
October 15, 2005

How many of you really enjoy eating fruitcake? Not many? I didn'tthink so. Fruitcake is one of the most versatile foods anyone can (orshould I say cannot) consume...and here are some really great things aboutfruitcake that you may or may not ever have heard about.

 _ Fruitcake can withstand hurricanes, avalanches, blizzards, desert heat andother natural weather phenomenom.

_ You really need tools to cut and serve fruitcake, for instance, a jackhammer,
a ginsu knife or a mallet and chisel.

_ Whose recipe for fruitcake is better Betty Crocker's or Bob Vila's?

_ One day it is sitting on a plate ready to serve, the next day, it is part of
the foundation for a new building.

_ Fruitcake is made with a recipe that was handed down for generations...and
looks like it, too.

_ Fruitcake is made with candied fruit, walnuts, our, sugar, and rum. You
can, of course, substitute cement mix for our and Chicago River waterfor rum, and the fruitcake would still taste the same.

_ Most cakes are served with ice cream or whipped topping. Fruitcake is
best served with antacids and bicarbonate of soda.

_ Fruitcake will one day be an exhibit at the Field Museum.

_ You can learn natural history from a fruitcake.

_ Fruitcake is guaranteed to last through the next millennium.

_ You can pound nails into cement with a fruitcake.

_ You can  fix a street or a parking lot by pouring fruitcake batter into the
potholes after the spring thaw.

_ Fruitcakes make very inexpensive paperweights, when compared to old
486 systems.

_ The only way to make a fruitcake better is to paint a masterpiece on it.

According to a Reuters story last month, nearly half of U.S. adults questioned in an online survey said they regift (or resell) holiday presents. Food and drink leads the list at 35 percent, and fruitcakes account for 15 percent of those items.

Why the fruitcake gets little respect is beyond me. Any food that has such great ingredients as sugar, fruit, sugar, nuts, sugar, raisins and sugar can’t be that bad.

I happen to be pro-fruitcake.

There are two kinds of this baked good: dark and light.

Dark fruitcakes are generally made with darker ingredients, such as molasses, brown sugar, prunes, dates, raisins and walnuts. They also may include a wine or a brown liquor such as bourbon or brandy.

Light fruitcakes are made with granulated sugar or corn syrup and contain lighter-colored ingredients such as almonds and golden raisins. provides this history:

As it turns out, fruitcakes have a rather-er, rich history, the earliest ones dating back to Roman times, when a dense mixture of nuts, barley mash and various preserved fruits served as long-term sustenance that did not spoil quickly--perfect for crusaders and hunters out on long voyages. When the dried fruits of the Mediterranean traveled to other parts of Europe, the cake evolved into a tradition during nut harvests: each year, a fruitcake would be made with the nuts of the harvest, which would be then saved and eaten the following year, to kick of the next harvest.

Unfortunately the popularity dwindled a bit when fruitcakes were deemed "sinfully rich" by the government in the early 18th century in Europe, and they were relegated to a special-occasion only cake (this is how it became associated with holidays); luckily, these laws became a little more lax later on in the century, and it became a staple of high tea in England.

While it's pretty clear that the fruitcake is rich in tradition, we did not fail to notice that there weren't many stories of it being beloved for its actual taste. In fact there is even evidence to the contrary: Queen Victoria is said to have waited a year to eat a fruitcake she received for her birthday because she felt it showed restraint, moderation and good taste. (Source: What's Cooking America). Hmm, or perhaps it just wasn't yummy? contends the fruitcake is the ideal type of cake to send by mail:

1) It keeps well

2) It is impervious to most jostling

3) It stays fresh

It’s quite possible that with so many other goodies in the house like candy, cookies, gingerbread men and the like, the fruitcake gets overlooked.

That’s a shame because I find fruitcakes and stollens to be quite tasty, smeared with butter with a hot cup of tea.

So, if you get a fruitcake as a gift this year, don’t give it away.

And don't be afraid.

Dig in!


1) Ketchup on a brat
2) Green peppers on pizza
3) The dirty martini
4) Fruity brats
5) A Bloody Mary after dinner
6) Women “manning” the grill
7) Eating pizza at Festa Italiana, brats at German Fest, or tacos at Fiesta Mexicana. (Be adventurous. You can have those items anytime).
8) Eating a cream puff as though it was a hamburger.
9) Taking your own bottle of sauce when invited to a barbecue.
10) Touching the grill if you’re a guest at an outdoor barbecue.
11) Coaching the host on how to grill.
12) Some regional flavored ice cream… black licorice.
13) Taking the husks off before you grill corn on the cob
14) Being afraid to chill red wine
15) Pizza on the grill
16) When serving exotic or strange dishes to guests, do not tell them exactly what it is. Instead, use a more inviting term (caviar) rather than being blunt (fish eggs).
17) In late summer and early fall, this time of year, don’t buy zucchini. Somehow, someway, you will find zucchini or zucchini will find you.
18) Showing disrespect to your restaurant server.
19) Eating out on a Monday night.
20) Pumpkin beer.
21) Mail-order turkey.
22) Grilled cheese is just for kids.
23) Dining in the dark.
24) Ketchup on spaghetti
25) Sneaking healthy foods into treats to get your kids to eat it.
26) Do not throw away culinary gifts received in the mail because you don’t like them.
27) Do not feel guilty about eating Oreos. (Oreos are not to blame for out of control obesity).
28) Doing something so totally ridiculous that you are desperately forced to call the Butterball Turkey Hot-Line for assistance.
29) Don’t forget the sweet potato January-October.
30) Using resource guides from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s on gracious living to plan holiday parties
31) Eating cranberries, the best of the super-foods, only during the holidays.
32) Egg nog that isn’t spiked
33) Putting hot spices and other weird stuff in chocolate bars and hot cocoa

The Top Ten Franklin Stories of 2007: #9


The Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel, February 22, 2007:

“(Franklin)Schools Superintendent Bill Szakacs will resign from his position at the end of the school year and will receive an undisclosed settlement, the Franklin School District confirmed Thursday. There were few clues to the reasons for Szakacs' departure.”

Right in the middle of the debate over Franklin’s $78-million referenda, the proposal’s #1 cheerleader, the caretaker of the school district for three years was leaving.

Actually, Szakacs was asked to leave, forced out.

It took an open records request filed by the community newspaper to compel the Franklin School District to give a meager response that Szakacs, who earned an annual salary of $120,000  had reached a settlement providing  a payment of $20,000 plus an additional four months of family health insurance coverage. The added coverage runs from September through December of this year. His resignation took effect on July 1.

The reason for the resignation was not disclosed in correspondence provided by the school district in response to an open records request by Oak Creek-Franklin-Greendale-Hales Corners Now.

Taxpayers deserved a full explanation on the Szakacs resignation. They never got one.

After the ballyhooed referenda failed by a large margin, the search began for a new superintendent. On May 10, the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel reported:

“The Franklin School Board is spending twice as much as it did three years ago for a private search firm to find a new superintendent, even though a growing number of Wisconsin school districts have used a less expensive method with good results. Franklin School Board members approved $22,800 earlier this year to pay School Exec Connect, an Illinois-based search firm, to find a replacement for outgoing Superintendent Bill Szakacs. That's more than twice as much as the $11,000 the School Board approved in 2004 to hire a different Illinois-based search firm, The Bickert Group, to find Szakacs, who announced his resignation in February, several months shy of the end of his extended contract.

Using a private search firm is no guarantee that a new hire will work out. But what irks some taxpayers here is that the School Board could have used the search services of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, which typically charges $3,000 to $6,000 to find a superintendent.

Kevin Fischer, a critic of the Franklin School Board, said the board's decision to use a private search firm instead of a less expensive way shows the board is "playing fast and loose with the taxpayers' money.”

The Franklin School Board chose a new leader for the school system at a time when the public was the least interested, enthused, or engaged about the entire process. For most Franklin residents, the mental heavy lifting ended April 4. at the time of the search, I urged Franklin residents to stay informed, to follow and examine what’s happening very closely.

On June 4, the School Board announced that Dr. Steve Patz was the new superintendent beginning with the 2007-2008 school year. For the past eight years Patz served as Superintendent for Chilton Public Schools.

It left me wondering:

Was the new superintendent hired because he can improve student performance and achievement at Franklin?

Or was he hired because he has a successful track record of building new facilities and could possibly engineer a new referendum past the public?

FranklinNOW reporter John Neville wrote the following in a subsequent story:

FPS spokeswoman Jennifer Klug said [new Superintendent Dr. Steven] Patz's annual salary and some other details of his contract have not yet been determined.”

That caused then-FranklinNOW blogger Fred Keller’s jaw to drop:

I’m no Human Resources expert, nor do I negotiate employment contracts for a living, but how in the heck can the Franklin School Board hire a Superintendent and not nail down the guy’s annual salary?

Neville notes in his article that former Superintendent Dr. Bill Szakacs' annual salary was $120,000. So what’s the mystery; is Patz’ salary the same, more, or less than Szakacs’?

Call me old fashioned, but I have always known what my annual salary was BEFORE I accepted a new job.”

It was later divulged that Patz’s salary was $150,000 a big jump from Szakacs’.

But the Board and the District was very reluctant to release any information about anything associated with Szakacs’ forced resignation and the search for his replacement, even though their employers, the taxpayers, deserved to know.

The District Attorney’s office sent Szakacs a lengthy letter, demanding answers about a complaint that school district used resources to influence a YES vote on the referenda, including holding a controversial “Assembly” for Franklin High school seniors the Friday before the election.

No charges were filed, but the DA’s office is still reviewing the case.

Szakacs landed a job in Iowa.

The jury is out on Patz. It’s too early to tell how he’ll pan out. But he was selected by and works for a school board that has lost a great deal of respect and credibility in 2007.


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Mocking abstinence

The number of teen births is up for the first time in many years.

Of course, the so-called “health experts” wouldn’t even think of blaming promiscuous teens, their parents, or school sex-ed programs.

The reason for this jump in kids having babies?

It’s those classes that tell kids NOT to have sex, and the kids who listen and DON’T have sex.

If you’re a curious teenager with raging hormones, remaining abstinent makes you an uneducated, weird, un-cool, stupid nerd.

Columnist Mary Grabar writes about a let-it-all-hang out message being delivered in a series of videos for teens promoted through a teen pregnancy prevention program, G-CAPP (Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention).

One of the videos produced by the Midwest Teen Sex Show discusses abstinence.

Grabar writes:

The segment on “Abstinence” shows an actress playing the part of a girl beaten to the point of brain damage and slurring, “But I respect my body.”

These podcasts are introduced with a sign held by a gyrating, scantily clad nubile teenager in a farm field.  The porno-inspired intro ends with her on all fours with the sign in her mouth.

Such an intro gives a pretty good idea of the producers’ attitudes on “Abstinence.”  The reasons given for abstinence are: no sexually transmitted diseases, being more sexually desirable (which is presumed to be the sine qua non of teens’ existence), and no children. “You don’t have to sit through boring Cub Scout meetings,” says the cool young female host before the very un-cool Cub Scout comes on.

The “cons,” however, far outweigh the “pros.”

First “con” is that abstinence is “really bo-ring!”  “Like all the cool kids are having sex and they’re gonna’ laugh at you if you’re not.”  This is when the beat-up brain-damaged girl comes on to illustrate the point.

To the reason, “I’m saving myself for marriage,” the host comes back with, “It’s highly unrealistic you’ll be able to save yourself for marriage. . . . If you succeed, I feel bad for your spouse.  Sex takes practice.  You can’t just read a book to learn how to do it.”  

See the video here.

Grabar concludes her column with this:

In language and imagery that alternates between baby talk and pornography, girls are told that being beat up for being a virgin is something to be laughed at, that motherhood is filled with horrible Cub Scout meetings, and that parents are useless idiots (unless they hand out condoms). 

You can see Grabar’s entire column here.

We know kids are hearing about sex in school. If they’re going to be instructed about birth control and told where to get condoms (if not handed to them directly), then it makes sense that should also hear a message that abstinence is the healthiest and the best option to avoid becoming pregnant.

I'm on WISN

I fill in for Mark Belling on NEWSTALK 1130 WISN this Wednesday from 3-6 p.m.

I fill in for Jay Weber this Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m.-10 a.m.

Remember this Christmas: You matter to our troops

This is an incredible piece.

If you didn't see it in today's paper or if you don't get the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel, this is a must-read.

USA WEEKEND asked writers from three of the country's top newspapers to take a fresh look, telling us why "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" matters today. Here's one of them.

Dennis McCarthy
Los Angeles Daily News
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

I know because an Army sergeant in Iraq told me that she -- yes, she, Virginia -- delivered a special gift from the North Pole to Baghdad last Christmas Eve. It was the gift of life, Virginia, one that saved a soldier. I'll let this sergeant tell you the story, Virginia, because she wants you and every child in the world to know that the spirit of Santa is alive and well.

"Some soldiers don't like to talk about family, and this was the case with this young soldier," the sergeant wrote to me from Iraq. "His performance was going down, and his attitude became more and more withdrawn. I began going over the mail list and noticed that in two months he got only one letter." This sergeant learned that the soldier had joined the Army hoping to find a new family in the service, because the one he had at home wasn't working. They were not close, and he felt like an outcast, Virginia. Unfortunately, some families are like that.

"Seeing everybody in his unit get mail from loved ones while he got nothing day after day only made things worse," the sergeant wrote to me. "I passed along a few of the 'any service member' letters that people back home randomly send, but it didn't help. He said it was like getting 'occupant' mail."

That's when this sergeant wrote to Carolyn Blashek in Encino, Calif., for help. Blashek started a non-profit organization called Operation Gratitude. In the last four years, she and her volunteer elves have sent more than 300,000 care packages to troops who don't get much mail from home. She learns their names, Virginia, from company commanders and first sergeants. Each and every holiday package she and her elves send has the service member's name on it, plus a couple of letters inside from kids like you, Virginia. They tell the troops that they're thinking about them every day and that they care about them.

"It was a few days after Christmas when I began to see the change," the sergeant wrote to me. "Something had happened. He was eating with the other men instead of taking his food and eating alone. His whole attitude and work improved. He finally opened up and told a stress counselor that he had planned to take his life on Christmas Day so someone would remember him."

But something wonderful had happened on Christmas Eve, Virginia. When the sad young soldier went back to his bunk that night, he found a package that wasn't addressed to "any service member." It was addressed to him. He ripped it open and found presents for him inside and three letters written for him, all of them thanking him personally for his service and wishing him a safe return home. That wonderful package saved this young man's life.

No Santa Claus, Virginia? Santa "exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist" -- and as long as there are Santas here on Earth -- in people like Blashek, who never even meets those whose lives she touches forever.

The music of Christmas: "All is calm, all is bright"

The music of Christmas


It is the greatest Christmas carol of them all.

Christmas historian Bill Egan, a retired Navy photojournalist and resident of Flagler Beach, Florida, is a staff writer for Year 'Round Christmas Magazine and provides Christmas research for Charles Osgood of "The Osgood File" on the CBS Radio Network. Gabriele Wolf of ANTO Media Relations says that Bill Egan is the foremost "Silent Night" scholar in the U.S. and the Daytona Beach News-Journal says that he is one of the world's leading experts on the origins of this carol.

Egan wrote this piece, “The Song Heard ‘Round the World.”

(189) years ago the carol "Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht" was heard for the first time in a village church in Oberndorf, Austria. The congregation at that Midnight Mass in St. Nicholas Church listened as the voices of the assistant pastor, Fr. Joseph Mohr, and the choir director, Franz Xaver Gruber, rang through the church to the accompaniment of Fr. Mohr's guitar. On each of the six verses, the choir repeated the last two lines in four-part harmony.

On that Christmas Eve, a song was born that would wing its way into the hearts of people throughout the world. Now translated into hundreds of languages, it is sung by untold millions every December from small chapels in the Andes to great cathedrals in Antwerp and Rome.

Today books, films and Internet sites are filled with fanciful tales purporting to tell the history of "Silent Night." Some tell of mice eating the bellows of the organ creating the necessity for a hymn to be accompanied by a guitar. Others claim that Joseph Mohr was forced to write the words to a new carol in haste since the organ would not play. A recent film, created for Austrian television places Oberndorf in the Alps and includes evil railroad barons and a double-dealing priest, while a recent book by a German author places a zither in the hands of Franz Gruber and connects Joseph Mohr with a tragic fire engulfing the city of Salzburg. You can read claims that "Silent Night" was sung on Christmas Eve in 1818 and then forgotten by its creators. Of course, the latter are easily discounted by manuscript arrangements of the carol by both Mohr and Gruber which were produced at various times between 1820 and 1855.

In this age of tabloid journalism, it's not surprising that some feel it necessary to invent frivolous anecdotes and create fables for a story that is quite beautiful in its simplicity.

The German words for the original six stanzas of the carol we know as "Silent Night" were written by Joseph Mohr in 1816, when he was a young priest assigned to a pilgrimage church in Mariapfarr, Austria. His grandfather lived nearby, and it is easy to imagine that he could have come up with the words while walking thorough the countryside on a visit to his elderly relative. The fact is, we have no idea if any particular event inspired Joseph Mohr to pen his poetic version of the birth of the Christchild. The world is fortunate, however, that he didn't leave it behind when he was transferred to Oberndorf the following year (1817).

On December 24, 1818 Joseph Mohr journeyed to the home of musician-schoolteacher Franz Gruber who lived in an apartment over the schoolhouse in nearby Arnsdorf. He showed his friend the poem and asked him to add a melody and guitar accompaniment so that it could be sung at Midnight Mass. His reason for wanting the new carol is unknown. Some speculate that the organ would not work; others feel that the assistant pastor, who dearly loved guitar music, merely wanted a new carol for Christmas.

Later that evening, as the two men, backed by the choir, stood in front of the main altar in St. Nicholas Church and sang "Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!" for the first time, they could hardly imagine the impact their composition would have on the world.

Karl Mauracher, a master organ builder and repairman from the Ziller Valley, traveled to Oberndorf to work on the organ, several times in subsequent years. While doing his work in St. Nicholas, he obtained a copy of the composition and took it home with him. Thus, the simple carol, began its journey around the world as a "Tyrolean Folk Song."

Two traveling families of folk singers from the Ziller Valley, similar to the Trapp Family Singers of "The Sound of Music" fame, incorporated the song into their repertoire. According to the Leipziger Tageblatt, the Strassers sang the song in a concert in Leipzig in December 1832. It was during this period, several musical notes were changed, and the carol evolved into the melody we know today. On another occasion, according to an historical plaque, the Rainer Family sang the Christmas carol before an audience which included Emperor Franz I and Tsar Alexander I. In the year 1839, the Rainers performed "Stille Nacht" for the first time in America, at the Alexander Hamilton Monument outside Trinity Church in New York City.

Joseph Bletzacher, the Court Opera singer from Hannover, reported that by the 1840s, the carol was already well known in Lower Saxony. "In Berlin," he says, "the Royal Cathedral Choir popularized it especially. It became in fact the favorite Christmas carol of the artistically appreciative King Frederick William IV of Prussia, who used to have the Cathedral Choir sing it for him during the Christmas season each year."

By the time the song had become famous throughout Europe, the Joseph Mohr had died and the composer was unknown. Although Franz Gruber wrote to music authorities in Berlin stating that he was the composer, the melody had been assumed to be the work of Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven at various times and these thoughts persisted even into the twentieth century. The controversy was put to rest four years ago when a long-lost arrangement of "Stille Nacht" in the hand of Joseph Mohr was authenticated. In the upper right hand corner of the arrangement, Mohr wrote, "Melodie von Fr. Xav. Gruber."

During his lifetime, Franz Xaver Gruber produced a number of orchestral arrangements of his composition. The original guitar arrangement is missing, but five other Gruber manuscripts of the carol exist. The manuscript by Joseph Mohr (ca. 1820) is for guitar accompaniment and is probably the closest to the arrangement and melody sung at Midnight Mass in 1818.

Later in his life, the Gruber family moved to Hallein, now the site of the Franz Xaver Gruber Museum. It contains several furnished rooms in his former home along with outstanding exhibits dealing with the history of "Silent Night," including Joseph Mohr's guitar. Gruber's grave is outside the home and is decorated with a Christmas tree in December.

Fr. Joseph Mohr's final resting place is a tiny Alpine ski resort, Wagrain. He was born into poverty in Salzburg in 1792 and died penniless in Wagrain in 1848, where he had been assigned as pastor of the church. He had donated all his earnings to be used for eldercare and the education of the children in the area. His memorial from the townspeople is the Joseph Mohr School located a dozen yards from his grave. The overseer of St. Johann's, in a report to the bishop, described Mohr as "a reliable friend of mankind, toward the poor, a gentle, helping father."

In 1998 it was discovered that Joseph Mohr was not born in the building once thought to be his birthplace at 9 Steingasse in Salzburg. Research into the census records indicates that Mohr and his mother resided at 31 Steingasse. At the same time the Governor of Salzburg, Franz Schausberger, announced a new initiative to promote the cultural sites related to the carol and its composers. It seems that Austria has finally realized that their national treasure has a very special significance outside its birth nation and has become "The Song Heard 'Round The World."

Perhaps this is part of the miracle of "Silent Night." The words flowed from the imagination of a modest curate. The music was composed by a musician who was not known outside his village. There was no celebrity to sing at its world premiere. Yet its powerful message of heavenly peace has crossed all borders and language barriers, conquering the hearts of people everywhere.

Here’s Perry Como and the conclusion of his 1976 Christmas Show in Austria.

Read more

Wisconsin soldier finds a lifetime of joy in Iraq

CNN dubbed him a “hero.”

Now, in time for Christmas, the Associated Press updates the heartwarming story of Wisconsin’s Scott Southworth.

Property owners nationwide fight back against the taxman

This is one way to get around huge tax increases, like the gigantic hikes we’re experiencing in Franklin:

Get your property reassessed.

It’s a trend happening all across the country.

The New York Times has the story:

Taxes Are Reassessed in Housing Slump

LOS ANGELES — Home owners across the nation are looking to county governments to reassess the values of their homes in the face of flattening and falling prices that have befallen scores of markets. Downward assessments, done at the request of homeowners or pre-emptively by government, appear to be most pronounced in areas where the housing market was exploding just a few years ago, or where economic conditions are poorest.

In Maricopa County, the largest in Arizona, a “large percentage” of the one million single-family home owners will see their houses reassessed at lower rates in February, said Keith Russell, the county assessor. In Phoenix, the largest city in the county, housing prices fell 8.8 percent over the last year, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index, which monitors the residential housing market.

Among the roughly 200,000 parcels in Lucas County, Ohio, 7,083 owners requested reassessments in 2007, about 10 times the yearly average, said Anita Lopez, the assessor, who ran for office on a campaign to adjust assessments.

“Citizens know the market is slow if not declining,” Ms. Lopez said, “and they are informed and feel comfortable in challenging their county values. People here can’t sell their homes, they have less money, and they don’t understand why the government is asking for more money in a declining housing market.”

Local governments, which rely heavily on property taxes, will have to find ways to replace lost revenue or face having to cut services, lay off staff members or delay projects. The possibility of those losses has alarmed officials in areas already facing large numbers of foreclosures and slumping sales, products, in part, of the mortgage credit crisis that has rippled through the country. [Sunday Business.]

“Government has been the beneficiary of increasing home prices,” said Relmond Van Daniker, the executive director of the Association of Government Accountants. “And now they are on the other side of that, and they will have to reduce expenses.”

While every state and local government has its own methods for assessing home values for tax purposes — some do it annually, some every five years, and everything in between — many counties are hearing from residents that they would like their homes reassessed, or have taken steps to bring the taxes down of their own volition.

While in some areas, a county or city is required to make whole any loss in revenues to schools, public education is a frequent beneficiary of property tax revenues. “They are obviously concerned,” Ms. Lopez said about her county’s school systems.

No one has aggregated the total number of counties reassessing home values, and many counties take at least a year to catch up to the marketplace. In some places where reassessments are rising, the numbers have yet to approach historical heights.

For example, in 2007 roughly 1,800 homeowners asked for reassessments in Los Angeles County, far above the average of about 500, yet far below the tens of thousands of homeowners in Los Angeles who looked for tax adjustments during some years of the downturn in the 1990s. But elected officials and property tax experts said that the numbers were notable and that they expected them to grow in 2008.

In San Bernardino County near Los Angeles, tens of thousands of owners of the 860,000 homes will have their assessments lowered in the coming year, said Bill Postmus, the assessor, rivaling the numbers during the California real estate crash of the 1990s.

“You should see more of this activity,” said Chris Hoene, director of policy and research at the National League of Cities. “It is mostly in areas most likely to be seeing some decline, like Southern California, Florida, and big cities in the Midwest,” rapid growth areas that are now seeing the other side of the curve.

The United States Conference of Mayors recently released a report showing that the value of taxable residential land had declined by $2.9 billion in California from 2005 to 2008 based on current tax rates, and by hundreds of millions of dollars in other major cities. “We are hearing a lot about this housing market change and its effect on city revenues every day,” Mr. Hoene said.

Cities where home values have fallen the most are the obvious first place to look for residents clamoring for reassessments, but that is not always the case. Some states, like California, Michigan and Nevada, have statutory caps in property tax increases, which mean the market value of single family homes almost always exceeds the assessed tax values, except in a major downturn.

However, even in California, if a home buyer made his purchase during a market top in the last several years, he might be in the position of qualifying for lower assessed values. For instance, in Santa Clara County, where pricey Palo Alto and San Jose are located, 17,758 properties were reassessed downward for the 2007-2008 tax period, compared with the same period from 2000 to 2001, when the number was closer to 300.

“Obviously 2001 was the dot-com boom,” said Larry Stone, the Santa Clara assessor. “And the whole assessment role in my county was carried by a very hot residential market,” which has substantially cooled.

In his area, prices, and therefore values, remain strong in high end residential areas with great schools, Mr. Stone said. The coming reassessments are driven in large part in the lower and middle markets, especially the condo market, where the greatest part of the subprime lending problems have occurred.

Indeed, areas with high levels of foreclosures, vacant housing and a reduction in prices expect to see adjustments to the property taxes continue, which is bad news for local governments.

“Rising tax values are not usually a popular thing,” Mr. Hoene said , but homeowners tend to accept it, even begrudgingly, when they know the market value of their home is on the rise. “But the minute you think that your local government assessment practices are out of whack with what is happening in the market,” he said, “you will not accept it.”

I remember Bobby Helms

One of my segments of “The Music of Christmas” brought back memories for this Florida man, who sent me the following e-mail this month:

Mr. Fischer 

Your article about Bobby Helms jarred my memory. As a teenager growing up in Martinsville, Indiana in the early 70s, I met Bobby Helms on a couple of occasions while he was living in an apartment owned by the father of a close school friend. One summer day my friend's father noticed his son and I bored, with nothing to do, so he offered us a chance to earn some spending money by painting the bedroom of the apartment that Helm's was living in. I have never forgotten it because Helms wanted the ceiling painted coal black - to match the the color of the walls, carpet and curtains!  Apparently, he had trouble sleeping and needed absolute darkness. I remember Helms talking to us while we painted and brought us a glass of ice tea. I also recall my friend telling me that Helms had come to his father for a handout (free rent) as he was down an out at the time. This would have been very early 1970s. 

C. Johnson
St. Petersburg, Florida

Christmas parodies

My 25-day long series, “The music of Christmas,” naturally had to leave out some Christmas songs.

The songs on this website of Christmas parodies didn’t make it.

But several are worth a listen.

Again, these are parodies, so some have questionable content and language. Some are not PC. But I think they’re hilarious.

I recommend the following songs:

Im Getting Nuttin for Christmas

I want a boob job for Christmas

OJ Simpson Christmas

Police Stop my car

Run Run Rudolph

The Hat I got for Christmas is too Big

Walking Round in Womens Underwear

Why Santa should consider moving

Santa, leave the North Pole?

He should give it some serious thought.

Here's why.

The Top Ten Franklin Stories of 2007: #8



First, my disclaimer.

I know Mayor Tom Taylor. I know the Franklin aldermen.

I like them all. I respect them all.

End of disclaimer.

They let taxpayers down in 2007.

For most of the year, I harped about the Franklin School Board, the Franklin school district, and Franklin school taxes.

However, I strive to be consistent and fair. The same scrutiny I placed on the Franklin Public Schools needed to be focused on Franklin City Hall.

Our taxes are very high. As I wrote during my series on the top Franklin issues in August:

“A few months ago, a successful Greenfield businessman I know (who resides in New Berlin), unaware of my home community, asked me where I live.

When I told him, his immediate reaction, without hesitation, was laughter.

“Oh my goodness,” my friend said. “How do you put up with those high taxes?”

It’s a common reaction outside the 53132 zip code.

“Franklin’s nice, but those taxes are really high.”

“Aren’t your taxes outrageous?”

“How can you afford to live there?”

When Mayor Taylor submitted his budget proposal to the Franklin Common Council, it called for a 5.7% increase in the city tax levy.

Mayor Taylor is my friend. I consider him to be a good, decent, honorable man. However, an increase of 5.7% in the city tax levy is unacceptable.

It was now up to the Franklin aldermen to make some serious and difficult decisions on behalf of the beleaguered taxpayers they represent.

Didn’t happen.

Did the Franklin Common Council consider any cuts in the Mayor’s proposed budget? Any?

The Common Council essentially rubber-stamped the Mayor’s budget and the city tax levy is going up 5.7% next year.

Remember, in November of 2006, city of Franklin officials were far from fiscally responsible when they approved a budget with a 5.3% increase in the tax levy and a 9% increase in spending. The argument was that it could have been a lot worse.

As I wrote in one of my first blogs in late January:

“The citizens of Franklin are blessed to have devoted representatives working on their behalf. Mayor Tom Taylor and the entire Common Council are to be commended for their efforts. More municipalities in the tax hell we call Wisconsin should follow the lead of Franklin in exercising fiscal responsibility.

However, we can do even better. A spending increase next year of 9% with a tax levy increase of over 5%, I feel, is a bit unfortunate. The counter argument of, “Franklin: Our tax increase could have been higher,” just wouldn’t look good on a bumper sticker or a Chamber of Commerce ad. I challenge my friends at City Hall to use their talents to tighten the reins even further. Doing so will help retain and recruit more jobs, and prevent more gifted taxpayers from putting up the For Sale signs. I would issue the same challenge to members of the Franklin School Board. Wisconsin has the highest property taxes in the nation. The people who pay the bills deserve a break.”

Maybe they missed the news that Franklin is, indeed, a tax hell.

The Franklin Mayor and the Common Council failed to protect taxpayers, and on this particular issue deserve as much criticism as the Franklin School Board.


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Track Santa all day

Watch for updates at this site all day to see where Santa is on his travels all around the world.

Santa is conservative

Bobby Vinton once sang that, “Santa must be Polish.”

He forgot to mention that the jolly old fat man is also a conservative.

From columnist John Andrews:

The worst Christmas song I've heard this year has to be Bruce Springsteen's tuneless rendition of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." Yet by forcing me to think about the lyrics, the Boss delivered a flash of insight: conservatives do the jolly old elf a grave wrong in calling him the patron saint of something-for-nothing Democrats. We should claim Santa as our own.

Listing who's been bad and good, naughty and nice? Warning us not to cry (play the victim) or pout (cast blame and act entitled)? There's little difference, when you think about it, between St. Nick and St. Newt. George Will himself could hardly be more stern and judgmental. Santa Claus rightly understood is a far cry from the socialist redistribution of John Edwards or the syrupy hope of Obama.

Even if recast from the unnerving red-clad (red, Republican, get it?) bearded geezer of yore to the more kid-friendly persona of Mr. Rogers, as David Grimes recommended in Sunday's Denver Post, Father Christmas remains a no-nonsense apostle of good conduct, rigorous standards, and time-honored traditions. The "Santa's Coming" song, even when butchered by Springsteen, is just the opposite of that favorite left-liberal anthem, "Anything Goes."

Jeffrey Bell, writing in the Weekly Standard, offers a great Christmas gift for all of us on the right with this masterful summary of what the left really wants -- a total repudiation of St. Nicolas and his strictness, a hot revolution that would melt the North Pole faster than you can say Al Gore:

"The goal of the left is the liberation of mankind from traditional institutions and codes of behavior, especially moral codes. It seeks a restoration (or achievement) of a state of nature, one of absolute individual liberty--universal happiness without the need for laws. The proposed political way stations chosen by the left in its drive toward this vision have [included]: abolition of private property (socialism); prohibition of Christianity and/or propagation by the political elite of a new civil religion to replace it; confiscatory taxation, especially at death; regulation of political speech to limit the ability of certain individuals or classes to affect politics; the takeover of education to instill new values and moral habits in the population; confiscation of privately held firearms; gradual phasing out of the nation-state; displacement of the traditional family in favor of child-rearing by an enlightened governmental elite; and the inversion of sexual morality to elevate recreational sex and reduce the prestige of procreative sex."

Some list, huh? It adds up to the exact opposite of "be good for goodness' sake." And notice, by the way, that this injunction from Santa Claus, courtesy of songwriter Haven Gillespie, doesn't merely appeal to utilitarian self-interest. Rather it invokes a moral absolute which, when obeyed, is its own reward. A pitch-perfect echo of Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations" and "Theory of Moral Sentiments," in what you thought was just an empty Yuletide ditty. Mirabile dictu!

Lest we forget, however, the true reason for this season is neither St. Nick on the right nor Holiday Hillary on the left, but the baby born in Bethlehem. The Prince of Peace transcends liberal and conservative. He is a miracle even more mysterious than a large man ascending a small chimney. None of us is good enough to deserve His unspeakable gift, salvation and life eternal, yet none of us is so bad as to be disqualified from it. There indeed is a present worth unwrapping. A merry and, yes, a holy Christmas to all.

John Andrews is a Claremont Institute fellow and former President of the Colorado Senate



January 8, 2007.

State Senator Mary Lazich appears on with this opening paragraph:

Welcome to Conservatively Speaking, my new blog in the “Community Voices” section of this website. I am very excited about sharing news and insights about your state government, and I thank Community Newspapers and NOW Online Editor Mark Maley for this wonderful opportunity.”

And with that, blogs on were born.

Yours truly soon followed as did others, and their blogs helped make one of the most popular of the MyCommunityNOW sites.

The variety of topics covered is impressive.

Senator Lazich covers state government and other public service issues, and an occasional piece on motorcycles.

Bryan Maersch and Janet Evans keep a watchful eye on local politics.

Greg Kowalski writes about development and the environment.

Marjorie Pagel has a keen interest in local history.

Former blogger Fred Keller had a passion in his writing for the military, and also refused to accept the status quo of local politics. I hope he returns to the blogosphere soon.

The Franklin bloggers work very hard. They read. They research. They attend meetings. They question those in authority. They file open records requests. They seek out answers to questions that need to be asked.
 These volunteers share powerful information that brings residents closer to their community. That’s why I was stunned to read recently that a School Board member doesn’t read the blogs. I would think a locally elected official would want to use the blogs as a means of staying in touch with the community she represents. Ignoring the blogs, I feel, is a major mistake for any local pol.

Have the blogs made an impact?

You bet, in a way that wouldn’t be possible with the small reporting staff at each community paper.
 Just think about the substance the bloggers have provided all year long.

I’m proud that my blog was the only source to offer a perspective on why a NO vote was necessary on the April 3 referenda. Voters rejected both ballot questions by big margins.

There was more in 2007, a lot more.

The laser was focused on a troubled school system.  Bloggers pointed out the unethical, if not illegal “Assembly” Franklin High School staged just before the referenda. There was a great attention paid to the ouster of a superintendent, a new School Board president, a highly controversial school budget process, and a former School Board President’s insider account of how some School Board members behaved and what they said that was very revealing.

City politics were not ignored. Officials at City Hall took some heat over another bloated budget.

Development projects were subjects of blogs from different perspectives. Blogger Greg Kowalski was critical of architecture at the proposed Target and circulated a petition for change. Others, like me, questioned Franklin’s process of approving projects. The blogs helped give exciting news about the grand opening of Sendik’s. And even though was little to write about anything going on at the main Fountains of Franklin site at 56th and Rawson, I wrote about it anyway, with my disappointment the focus.

The community came together when bloggers informed them of sex offender Steve Hanke’s refusal to obey a Franklin ordinance by staying in his Franklin home near a school. Readers were kept aware of all the latest developments in the case that has gone to the court system. I talked about it on WISN.

There is one incident that stands out in my memory of the past year that clearly demonstrates how influential the blogs can be.

Shortly after Mayor Taylor proposed in his city budget the elimination of the un-elected Environmental Commission and Economic Development, I wrote what I imagined would be a rather innocent account of my chance meeting at a restaurant with EC Commissioner Kristin Wilhelm.

She told the EC “doesn’t do anything” when I simply asked how things were with the Commission.

That one little blog touched off a firestorm in the community. Two commissions that few people were aware of suddenly got a couple weeks of attention and exposure (You’re welcome, guys).

I’m not sure, but that might have led Mayor Taylor to flip-flop and keep the commissions in the city budget after all.
 That blog came at about the time FranklinNOW started allowing readers to write their own responses to our blogs. An anonymous writer called me a “liar” on two occasions on Greg Kowalski’s blog. The same writer also had some vicious comments elsewhere that needed to be removed. When Greg Kowalski refused for many weeks to remove the offensive comments that were also proven to be untrue, I banned him from my blog.

The comments section has become, as I’ve pointed out, a separate blog. Readers check in to see what topics we’re writing about, and then return to see the verbal slugfest /soap opera that occasionally ensues.

It is my contention that anonymous bloggers and contributors, not all, can damage the Internet. Ideally, I wish all people who write in would give their real names and not some phony made up nickname. It’s not as easy to be offensive when you can’t hide behind an alias.

I know and have met all the bloggers. They’re good people who care deeply about what they write about.

Do we always agree?

No we don’t.

Does the discussion get heated at times?

Yes it does.

But that’s ok.

This isn’t Wisconsin Public Radio.

Passion, emotion, and yes, controversy should be embraced on the blogs. Writers shouldn’t shy away from issues because they fear they may step on some toes.

Thank you for checking in the past year. I know I have readers from all parts of the country.

For the life of me, I’ll never understand why you like some of the blogs that you do.

But I’m grateful.


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It's Christmas night

Darkness has now fallen, and Christmas night is here.

Stores are closed, the streets are quiet, and though a few hours are left, the Christmas rush has come and gone for another season.

We say it every year because it’s true.

There is a mad scramble that goes on for weeks to desperately find the perfect gifts, the right cards, the ideal parking spot, and enough time to do…………everything.

And then, in what seems to be an instant, it’s over.

Tonight, inside homes in Franklin and everywhere, as the craziness of a contemporary Christmas now slowly fades away, there is opportunity to pause and reflect about the joys of yet another holiday, the love of family and friends, the true meaning of why we come together to celebrate.

I sincerely hope this holiday is one of your best and brightest.

“For you know the Lord’s been good to you, on a snowy Christmas night.”

Read more

Still to come this week on This Just In...

Every day from now through December 31st, my Top Ten Franklin Stories of 2007

Saturday, December 29: Week-ends

Sunday, December 30: A special year end edition of Week-ends

Sunday, December 30: A year end edition of Culinary no-no’s

Monday, December 31: All day blogging of my New Year’s wishes for specially selected individuals.

And don’t forget, I’m on WISN Wednesday for Mark Belling from 3-6 p.m., and for Jay Weber Thursday and Friday from 8-10 a.m.

Does this Democrat get it?

This Congressional Democrat, a critic of the war in Iraq, admits the surge is working.



In the game of economic development, Franklin finally hit a home run in 2007.

The grand opening of Sendik’s Food Market at 51st and Rawson on October 31st provided a much-needed boost to the Franklin economy and a shot in the arm to a city whose residents crave some, hell, ANY high quality shopping options.

I wrote in one of my first blogs earlier this year:

The citizenry of Franklin, one that is growing by leaps and bounds, is crying out for high-quality destination places to dine and shop. I’m not talking Applebee’s and Family Dollar. I’m talking the kinds of places that have people excited about getting in their cars and driving to Mayfair or the new Bayshore Town Center. The point is, wouldn’t it be nice to have those opportunities here so a trip to Brookfield or Wauwatosa wouldn’t be necessary?

Sendik’s opened to great fanfare, with anxious shoppers ready to ignore the customary opening speeches and ribbon-cutting and break down the doors.

The reviews were very positive and it appears the arrival of Sendik’s won’t close or hurt nearby Pick ‘n Save and Sentry, but will make them better. (A reliable source tells me Franklin’s Pick ‘n Save did over a million dollars’ worth of business Christmas Eve Day).

Franklin is blessed to be the only community to be the future home of not one but two of these quality stores.

Earlier this year, I posed the question whether this city of roughly 35,000 can sustain them? The more I pondered the question, the sillier it seemed. As I blogged not too long ago:

It’s like asking if Franklin can support two gas stations, two McDonald’s, two Pick ‘n Save’s, two pizza parlors, two ice cream joints, two sub shops.

Each Sendik’s is spaced far enough apart that both, I am confident, will do well. Sendik’s is so top-shelf that each of the stores will draw from their respective parts of town. My guess is the folks at business-savvy Sendik’s would never have entertained  the prospect of opening two markets within miles of each other if they didn’t have the greatest of assurances they would succeed.

Franklin, shed your doubts. For years, the city has cried out for high-quality shopping venues. Sendik’s historically never even dreamed of crossing Wisconsin Avenue to the south. When they did, they chose Franklin, twice.

I truly believe Franklin and surrounding areas will welcome Sendik’s with open arms. No need for the inferiority complex here. Opening day at Sendik’s will be a celebration times two. 

Doubting Thomas’ need to put their skepticism on hold. The beauty of two Sendik’s Food Markets competing and succeeding is that other potential developers who definitely are keeping track will take notice. If Sendik’s succeeds, Franklin succeeds. It’s like a domino effect. Others will see, others will take notice, others will want to set up shop, even if it means a dozen or so appearances before the Planning Commission to kiss the members’ rings.

I have no apprehensions whatsoever that each of the Sendik’s Food Markets will do exceptionally well. Hello!!!!……..they’re too good to fail.

The customer –service is top-rate. So are the quality and the variety of the food.

Sendik’s was, by far, the most exciting, positive Franklin news story of 2007.

I repeat what I wrote to close one of my earlier blogs:

This is what Franklin wants. It doesn't want a Dairy Queen. I hope the people in power who were at the ribbon cutting get it.


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Longtime atheist converts

He is distinguished octogenarian British philosopher Anthony Flew.

Flew was an atheist.

No more.

Flew says he has examined science and he’s convinced he was wrong.

He writes about it in his new book, appropriately entitled, “There is a God.”

Here are more details.

About the Packers' #2 seed....

Filling in on WISN today for Mark Belling, I  ended the program with a quick question for the audience:

The Green Bay Packers are the #2 seed in the NFC playoffs. Is that a good or a bad thing?

The response from Packer fans wearing rose-colored glasses was predictable.




ow could it possibly be bad?

Well, it means the trip to the Super Bowl might have to go through Dallas.

No problem, said my callers.

The way the Packers played in the cold and wind in Chicago, maybe it’s better to play in Dallas for the NFC title.


Brettt Favre wants to get that monkey, the 0-9 record at Dallas, off his back.

Well, if you’re the Miami Dolphins or Chicago Bears, being a #2 seed would be tremendous.

Reality, folks.

1) Dating to the playoffs following the 1997 regular season, the No. 2 seed in the NFC went 6-4 in the divisional playoff game as the home team that had a first-round bye.

2) In the AFC, the No. 2 seed went 7-3 in the divisional round.

3) No. 1 seeds went 16-4 in the divisional round, including a perfect 10-0 mark by the top-seeded teams in the NFC.

4) The last No. 2 seed to win the Super Bowl was the 2004 New England Patriots.

Being the #2 seed is great.

Being the #1 seed would have been a lot better.

College sporting venues ripe for terrorist attacks

Topics talked about on WISN

One expert thinks so, and makes a compelling case.

Anyone who thinks Big Ten football is top shelf....

........didn't see tonight's Motor City Bowl.

Purdue was outplayed, and should have lost to, of all people, the mighty powerhouse, Central Michigan.

Purdue had to win on a last second field goal, 51-48.

I think the Big Ten has been overrated for decades.

Upcoming bowl games:

Ohio State won't have a clue against LSU.

Florida will have its way against Michigan.

USC vs. Illinois? Are you kidding me?

And Wisconsin could easily fall to Tennessee.

The Big Ten is no match for other conferences.

You think your Christmas stunk?




You can’t play follow the leader when you are the leader.

Dozens of communities in Wisconsin sought information from the city of Franklin about its milestone ordinance approved late in 2006 and amended in early 2007 that restricts where sex offenders can live. Other municipalities either considered or approved Franklin-like ordinances of their own in an effort to fight back against sex predators.

Franklin’s ordinance states that no sexually violent person on supervised release may live within two thousand feet of any of the following:

a. Any facility for children which means a public or private school, a group home, a residential care center for children and youth, a shelter care facility, a foster home, a treatment foster home, a day care center licensed under, a day care program, a day care provider, or a youth center.

b. Any facility used for:
1. a public park, parkway, parkland, park facility;
2. a public swimming pool;
3. a public library;
4. a recreational trail;
5. a public playground;
6. a school for children;
7. athletic fields used by children;
8. a movie theatre;
9. a daycare center;
10. the Milwaukee County Sports Complex and grounds;
11. a ski hill open to the public;
12. any specialized school for children, including, but not
limited to a gymnastics academy, dance academy or
music school;
13. a public or private golf course or range; and
14. aquatic facilities open to the public.

No person who has been convicted of a sexually violent offense and/or a crime against children, shall be permitted to reside in the City of Franklin unless the person lived in the City of Franklin at the time of the offense resulting in the person’s most recent conviction for committing the sexually violent offense and/or crime against children.

No person who has been convicted of or has been found delinquent of or has been found not guilty by reason of disease or mental defect of a sexually violent offense and/or a crime against children shall enter or be present upon any real property upon which there exists the above mentioned areas such as schools, day care centers, etc. Exceptions are when the properties are churches, synagogues or other houses of worship, polling places, and elementary and secondary schools the offenders are reasonably required to attend for educational purposes.

Franklin alderman Steve Olson, the architect of the ordinance, spoke with me on WISN early in 2007, telling me that he and his colleagues on the Common Council consulted extensively with Franklin’s legal team. Five public hearings were conducted. In other words, the ordinance got thorough scrutiny before being approved and Olson believes it would pass constitutional muster.

What inspired the Franklin ordinance?

A few years ago, busloads of Franklin residents stormed a public hearing at State Fair Park to protest a special state committee’s thought of building a facility in Franklin to house numerous sexually violent persons. Franklin was considered an ideal location, having the most open space in Milwaukee County.

The loud and strong stand by Franklin residents couldn’t be ignored. The special panel wrapped up its business without recommending any site in Milwaukee County for a sex predator house.

A flurry of activity ensued at the state Capitol. A key piece of legislation was approved and signed into law that killed funding for the facility for sexually violent persons and also disbanded the special committee assigned to find a location for the facility. Another bill signed into law makes first degree sexual assault of a child punishable by life in prison. Both bills were authored by state Senator Mary Lazich.

After sailing through the state Senate, a bill requiring that the worst sex offenders in the state be monitored by Global Positioning System or GPS was finally approved after much wrangling in the Assembly and signed into law.

Still, city of Franklin officials worried that released sex offenders would be dumped in Franklin. Sparking that fear was the state allowing notorious offender Billy Lee Morford to travel back and forth between his northwest side Milwaukee home and Franklin for 18 months without properly notifying Franklin.

After several public hearings and a thorough legal review, the Franklin Common Council approved the current ordinance.

There are critics.

Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Mel Flanagan was a member of a special Legislative Council Study Committee that worked on the placement of sex offenders. She told the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel, “If everyone in Milwaukee County adopted these ordinances, the only place that would be left for them to live would be River Hills. I don't think many can afford that."

Flanagan said every state in the country is dealing with the pressure for residency requirements. "In one community in Arizona, they set up a trailer at the end of an airport runway because that was the only spot available," Flanagan said.

Sorry, your honor. I am not sympathetic.

I prefer the sentiments of South Milwaukee Alderman Richard Radunez who worked on a similar ordinance in his community.

"My constituents are saying that it's about time,” Radunez said. “They're sick of the state putting these offenders in our city without us even knowing about it. I've heard people say, 'Put them all on an island out in the middle of the lake.' "

The Franklin Police Department used the city ordinance in 2007 to force offenders out of areas they’re not welcome.

The ordinance is now the subject of a court case. Convicted sex offender Steve Hanke purchased a home in Franklin several months after it went into effect. He refuses to move out of Franklin while he questions its constitutionality.

Jim McCarthy, a member of the City Council in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania wrote the following in a letter to the editor in the American City and County Magazine last summer. McCarthy was responding to an article that predator protection laws around the country are coming under fire. McCarthy writes:

“As one who has been trying for eight months to pass a law restricting where convicted sexual predators may reside or work in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., my research shows the majority of such laws have already passed court muster. Currently, 30 plus states, and hundreds of local communities, have passed such laws, most of them based on the “original” proposal passed by Iowa, which was upheld by the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court (see Doe vs. Miller), and Ohio's “Distance Marker” legislation, which was similarly upheld as constitutional by federal courts.

In challenges to the Iowa and Ohio laws, the courts have ruled that these laws do not infringe upon a person's rights in that they are a form of civil regulation and not a form of punishment, they are intended to protect children and are rationally related to that end, and they represent a rational argument that prohibiting sex offenders from places children congregate will advance a community's interest in protecting children. Two federal courts have upheld city actions to ban individual sex offenders from parks and recreation areas where children congregate.

There have been some isolated cases where a poorly written law was struck down by courts, but that was because the authors failed to do the research required to make their law iron-clad. It is up to us, the legislators, to make sure “they” do not have access to our little children, whose rights far outweigh the rights of someone who preys on the weakest of our society.”

Then last month, the Georgia Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a provision of a 2006 state law that prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of day care centers, schools, churches and other places where children congregate

Meanwhile, a bill is circulating in the Wisconsin Legislature to do away with local ordinances like Franklin’s. So far, the bill appears to have little traction. Staunch, anti-predator legislators chair the committees in the state Assembly that would be assigned this legislation. It’s highly unlikely they would allow such a bill to see the light of day.

Franklin has taken the extraordinary step to protect its families and children and assist other communities that wish to implement the same measures. The city is to be commended for its outstanding public service.


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Progress against illegal immigration?

Topics talked about on WISN

I'm still skeptical, but the LA Times makes the case that the United States is stepping up its efforts to clamp down on illegal immigration.

As a result, we're making strides, to the point where illegals already here are telling others to stay away.

Rating the President's 2007

Conservative callers to my program today on WISN were dissatisfied with President Bush’s performance this year.

Asked to grade the President, his supporters couldn’t rate him higher than a “C.”


The President just topped the “Most Admired” poll.

And one columnist says the President had a very good 2007.

How the feds spend your money

Topics talked about on WISN

Where does most of the money go that the federal government spends?


The war in Iraq?

Not even close.

It goes to people who think they have it coming to them.

Jacob Sullum of Reason Magazine sums it up nicely.


I will announce a major Franklin news development tomorrow (Friday) on my blog.

Watch for this breaking Franklin news story at NOON Friday, right here.

This sounds like a great law to me

New Jersey becomes the 3rd state to enact a law prohibiting sex offenders who used a computer to commit a sex crime from using the Internet.

Iowa doesn't have a DEMOCRAT DO-NOT-CALL list

My friend at rightfromtheright says Democrats think nothing of becoming annoying telemarketers.

Yeh, this will make the voters happy.

Texas owes Franklin an explanation

What the hell kind of "supervision" was this yahoo under?


Franklin hit-run case goes to prosecutor

An officer and a detective from the Franklin Police Department were meeting with a Milwaukee County prosecutor this afternoon to review potential charges against a 49-year-old man who allegedly fled after striking and killing a West Allis couple with his van on Christmas night, a police official said.

Franklin Police Capt. Clark Groen said potential charges included homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle, hit-and-run causing death and failure to report an accident.

A decision on charges was expected later today or Friday morning.

Gary Kitchen, 53, and his wife, Barbara, 52, died on their way to a family Christmas gathering on S. 35th St., about 6 p.m. Tuesday.

According to police, the Kitchens were hit by a northbound car as they stood on the west side of the street, with Christmas gifts they were taking to family members gathered in the home of Gary Kitchen's father. They had parked their pickup truck on the roadway, which does not have sidewalks or a marked parking lane.

Groen said the suspect was being held in the county jail pending charges in the Kitchens' death and a potential parole violation.

The suspect was under court supervision in Texas for a previous offense, he said.

Franklin school issues on WISN

I may discuss Franklin school controversies tomorrow when I fill in on WISN from 8-10 a.m. depending on what else is happening.

If I talk about this subject. I'll focus on why you should care, even if you don't livve in Tax Hell.....I mean, Franklin.

Hillary's gifts

Spoken like a true leftie.

President Hillary would give America all kinds of goodies, not tell you how she's going to pay for all of them, and still cut taxes!!!

Read more




On April 2, 2007, the day before Franklin voters went to the polls to decide on two school referenda totaling $78-million, my blog had the following headline:

Franklin school officials sink to sleazy new low to get votes

The Friday before Election Day, during school time, hundreds of Franklin High School seniors of voting age were taken to an Assembly and then drilled by school personnel about why they should vote for the referenda.

Doors to the Assembly reportedly were locked so no one could leave and no one could enter to see and hear what was going on.

I wrote the following:

The impropriety of this action by Franklin school officials is clear. The surprise Assembly on the Friday before the election should never have taken place. I’m not sure if the Assembly was illegal, but it certainly was extremely unethical.

It smacks of a desperate, underhanded, sleazy maneuver by folks who must be very worried about the outcome of the election. On principle alone, these referenda need to be resoundingly rejected.

Shame on the Franklin School District for this disgusting and despicable tactic!

Later on April 2, I blogged an e-mail I received from a Franklin parent:

Now that the school district has given the senior class a civics lesson and is encouraging them to exercise their right and privilege to vote(many for the first time):

1. Will they be excused from school to vote?
2. Will the students get a lesson in how to register to vote; how to determine what district they live in; and where their polling place is located?
3. Will they provide transportation to the polls?
4. Will they earn a grade for voting---how are the students going to be assessed following this civics lesson? Will they have to wear the I Voted sticker as proof of voting?
5. Will they tack on an additional 2 hours to the make up school days since the students missed first/second hour to attend this civic lesson?

I have more questions to add but the most important one is:

When will the investigation into the legality of this action begin? Who will be held accountable?

The referenda failed miserably.

Recently, we have learned from blogger Janet Evans’ open records requests that in the days following the election, e-mails went back and forth between school officials about the “Assembly.”

Not long after the election, the District Attorney’s office began to investigate and wanted answers from outgoing Superintendent Bill Szakacs.

No charges were filed, but the DA’s office is still reviewing other options.

Again, the “Assembly” was extremely unethical. Supposedly learned officials should have known better. They thought they could get away with it, and that’s why they did it.

School officials who objected at the time weren’t loud, persistent, aggressive, or effective enough.

The Franklin school district is the victim of inept management.

Students, their parents, and taxpayers deserve much better.



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I have received the following from Franklin resident and former FranklinNOW blogger Fred Keller:

After reading the emails (posted on Janet Evans’ blog) between Franklin School Board members pertaining to the April 2007 school referendum, I am absolutely convinced that those board members who either participated in the closed-door assembly at the high school; or were involved in the creation and editing of the “VOTE YES” flyers and its subsequent distribution through our schools by the exploitation of our children, can no longer be entrusted to act in the best interests of the Franklin Public Schools and more importantly, our school-age children, and the citizens and taxpayers of Franklin.  

I am specifically referring to former School Board President and current Vice President, Jim Ward, and Board member Mary Karolewicz. 

I have obtained the appropriate State legal forms and have decided to file RECALL PETITIONS against Franklin School Board members Mary Karolewicz (Term expires April 2009) and School Board Vice President Jim Ward (Term expires April 2009). 

Following the April 2008 election (when she becomes eligible for recall), I will also file a RECALL PETITION against Board Clerk Debbie Larson (Term expires April 2010).   

Based foremost on their performance during the next School Referendum Campaign, and their disregard for fiscal responsibility, including their ineptitude in approving the 2007-08 FPS Budget, I will consider launching Recall Petitions against Board President Dave Szychlinski (Term expires April 2010) and Board Member Jeff Traylor (Term expires April 2010). 

Although I have never coordinated a Recall Petition, I’m not so dumb as to believe I can succeed in removing these corrupt, underachieving board members from office without the help of truly concerned Franklin citizens like you.  Therefore, I am asking for your help and support in this Recall effort. 

In order to help you to make an informed decision whether to join this effort, follows are some quick notes regarding such a RECALL PETITION: 


Registration Requirements 

  • Before a recall petition may be circulated, the individual or committee seeking the recall of an elected official must file a Campaign Registration Statement (EB-1) with the filing officer.
  • The Campaign Registration Statement must clearly indicate that the committee is registering as a recall committee and identify the officeholder it seeks to recall.
 I will take responsibility for completing and filing all necessary forms. 

Number of Signatures Required 

  • The filing officer with whom recall petitions are filed is required to determine the appropriate number of signatures and certify that amount to any interested person upon request.
  • Recall petitions must contain signatures of qualified electors equal to at least 25% of the vote cast for the office of governor at the last election in the same district or territory as that of the officeholder being recalled.
Franklin School Board Clerk Debbie Larson is the “filing officer,” and I have sent her an email asking her to verify this, and requested she determine the appropriate number of signatures and certify the number. For comparison, I also made a similar request of Franklin City Clerk Sandy Wesolowski. 

Circulation Time Period 

A recall petition may be circulated after filing the Campaign Registration Statement. 

  • The petition to recall any officeholder must be filed no later than 5:00 p.m. on the 60th day after registration.
  • Only signatures dated within the 60-day circulation period may be counted.
All recall petitions for local elected officials must contain a statement of reasons for which the recall is sought.  The reasons for the recall must be related to the officeholder’s official duties. 

Following are my recall statements for Ward and Karolewicz: 


Throughout the 2007 School Referendum Information Campaign, and the weeks leading up to the April 3, 2007 election, Franklin School Board member Jim Ward participated in the development of communication pieces and the decision–making process to distribute pro-referendum (“VOTE YES”) flyers to Franklin Public School District pupils through school personnel and administrators. 

Jim Ward’s actions were in direct violation of Franklin School Board Policy 1340; more specifically: "Pupils and personnel will be protected from any possible exploitation in promoting the interest of any non-school agency or organization," namely, “Franklin Citizens for Better Schools.”  


On March 30, 2007, just days prior to the April 3, 2007, election and Franklin School Referenda vote, Franklin School Board member Mary Karolewicz attended a closed-door student assembly at Franklin High School where approximately 340 high school seniors – of which approximately 200 were of voting age – were subjected to viewing a one-sided video presentation which Mary Karolewicz knew, through first-hand knowledge, falsely represented the views of the Franklin community at-large, and the best interests of the Franklin Public School District pupils. 

Mary Karolewicz’ actions clearly contradicted and were in direct violation of Franklin School Board Operations official responsibilities; more specifically: “Expressing and representing the views of the community in matters affecting education.” 

I am very interesting in hearing each of your thoughts or comments on this important matter. 

Enough is enough!  Let’s take back the school board and make it Franklin’s School Board, not a school board controlled by a few ineffective, self-serving elitists. 

Thanks for your time. 


Fred Keller 




After the August 27th Franklin School Board meeting, I was convinced Franklin taxpayers were going to get hit with a huge school tax levy increase.

The problem was that I and everybody else thought the increase was going to be 5.6%.

Following the meeting that night, I blogged:

There was no talk or consideration or even thought of making cuts to avoid a whopping 5.6% school tax levy increase.

From the outset it was clear the intent was to label the state as the villain. School Board member Sue (God I wish I could triple your taxes right this second) Huhn started the state-bashing by saying the state “doesn’t always give money when we need it.”

Huhn also offered an ominous note, referring to the “need to revisit how to address that situation,” meaning the capacity of the school buildings. Translation: here comes another referendum.

Then Franklin School District Business Manager Jim Milzer was sent in to spearhead what could only be described as “OPERATION GLAZE THEIR EYES OVER,” giving a loooooooonnnnng numbers-heavy, yawner of a presentation on every single line of Franklin expenditures.

Milzer could have saved a lot of time and energy had he just got up and said, “TAX INCREASES……GOOD! STATE OF WISCONSIN………BAD!"

The Board gave temporary approval to a 5.6% school tax levy increase in August.

Then appropriately, on Halloween night, FranklinNOW blogger Bryan Maersch wrote the following:

About 6:30 tonight did you hear a big sucking sound coming from Franklin.

That was the sound of your Franklin School Board voting a 5.9% increase in your school taxes. No that is not a typo, I said 5.9% not the 5.6% that was projected at the Meeting of the Electorate back in August.

In what seemed to be a perfectly choreographed question and answers session between School Board members and Franklin School District Business Manager Jim Milzer the question was asked, "Is a 5.9% increase our fate for the future?" Jim answered that it would be for the next 15 to 20 years.

The choreography continued with Board President Dave Szychlinski stating that residents would not support those continuous increases and community input would be needed to see what the community would support for cuts in future years.

Just a few weeks ago, I uncovered that the school tax levy increase wasn’t really 5.6% or 5.9% but, unbeknownst to the public, an incredible 11.7%. I was the first to announce this. There was no public accounting or acknowledgment from Franklin officials until I blogged about it. I am in the process of investigating what, if anything can be done about this situation.

School Board President Dave Szychlinski assured me he thought the Board was approving a 5.9% increase.

Here are all the details.

Stay tuned.


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2) ?

Is a bar at fault for the Franklin hit and run on Christmas?

The Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel is reporting:

A Franklin man charged Friday in the hit-and-run deaths of a West Allis couple on Christmas Day was so drunk that he could barely walk when he left a nearby bar before the accident, according to a criminal complaint.Eddie Lynn Keck, 49, was charged with two counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and two counts of hit-and-run causing death in the incident that killed Gary Kitchen, 53, and his wife, Barbara, 52. If convicted, Keck would face a maximum penalty of 130 years in prison.Keck has at least three previous convictions for operating while intoxicated, according to court records. When he was arrested the day after the accident, he told police he thought he hit a mailbox, the complaint says. The Kitchens were fatally injured about 6 p.m. Tuesday on their way to a family gathering on S. 35th St. Both died of blunt force trauma, according to the complaint and the medical examiner's office.”

Keck was so drunk, he could barely walk or talk when he left the Buckhorn Tavern Christmas.

Isn’t the tavern culpable for continuing to serve Keck when he was obviously impaired? One of the bartenders even admitted Keck was drunk. And you keep feeding him drinks?

Here’s the criminal complaint in the case.

Go to pages 8 and 9 and read the account of what happened in the Buckhorn Tavern and ask yourself if they’re partially to blame…

During this time of year, be glad you don't live in Madison

The state capital of Wisconsin…where enviro-loonies reign and common sense is a rarity.

Check out this logic for not using salt on roads during winter storms.

I guess Madison would rather have fender-benders and people in accidents and ditches.

It’s insane.

It's unheard of, and it's coming to FranklinNOW

Tomorrow, Sunday morning, something you never thought you'd see on the FranklinNOW blogs...

Jaws will drop.

Readers will be stunned.

You won't believe your eyes.

Sunday morning.



A look back at the people and events that made news the past week.
Week-ends is a regular weekly feature of This Just In...


Scott Southworth

The state of New Jersey

Democratic Congresswoman Shelley Berkley of Las Vegas


The assassin(s) of Benazir Bhutto

Eddie Lynn Keck

Oscar Ayala-Cornejo

Priscilla Ceballos and her 6-year old daughter

Whoever is responsible for this Green Bay Police policy


“I am absolutely convinced that those board members who either participated in the closed-door assembly at the high school; or were involved in the creation and editing of the “VOTE YES” flyers and its subsequent distribution through our schools by the exploitation of our children, can no longer be entrusted to act in the best interests of the Franklin Public Schools and more importantly, our school-age children, and the citizens and taxpayers of Franklin.
Franklin resident Fred Keller, announcing on my blog that he is launching recalls against former School Board President and current Vice President, Jim Ward, and Board member Mary Karolewicz, and considering others.

And since we can't build, then I do think trailers are an option.  People may say that it would never happen but they would be kidding themselves if they didn't think it would have to be considered.”
Former Franklin School Board President Jim Ward, in an e-mail to a Franklin resident the night of April 3, 2007, the day the Franklin referenda were soundly rejected by voters. Ward says trailers are an option for Franklin students. The e-mail was obtained by FranklinNOW blogger Janet Evans after she made an open records request.

Is this what it has come to?  Is it necessary for the public to do an Open Records Request for the entire year, after each month, in order to keep tabs on what our Board is doing?  Is this the only way we can find out the truth in the bowels of our district?”
FranklinNOW blogger Janet Evans.

“Any company that hires an illegal worker will be subject to a fine of $5,000 for each illegal alien employed. People in this country illegally should not get hired.”
State Representative Frank Lasee (R-Green Bay), announcing his proposed bill to crack down on employers who hire illegals.

 "I just think it's important that if there ever is a disaster similar to Katrina, that citizens are able to defend themselves, their families and their property and not be worried about government coming and confiscating their firearms."
State Representative Scott Gunderson (R-Waterford), sponsor of a bill that would prohibit the governor and other officials from using their emergency powers to "restrict the lawful possession, transfer, sale, transport, storage, display or use of firearms or ammunition" during emergencies. The bill passed in the Assembly 84-13, and the Senate Majority Leader wants the Senate to take up the bill soon.

“Doyle proposed tax increases on everything from hospital bills to gas to cigarettes. In the end, Republicans were successful in killing off almost all of the increases except the cigarette tax (which was a whopper) but Doyle used his "Frankenstein" veto power to enable large increases in local property taxes. With his immense veto power (now finally under assault with a possible change in the state constitution) and having Democrats control one house of the Legislature, Doyle simply had more governing authority than the Republicans. That he used it to raise taxes is telling. It was after the 2006 election that Doyle did what he, and every other Wisconsin Democrat, most loves to do. He raised taxes.”
WISN talk show host Mark Belling, in his weekly column.

“Is there anything the Safety *** won’t try to wrap protective bubble-wrap around? First, they turn kids riding bicycles into pansies with helmets and knee pads and elbow pads. Then, they take away the monkey bars and swing sets and jungle gyms we played on while growing up or turn them into antiseptic, sissified areas where kids face no risk whatsoever of even getting an owie. Now it’s sledding, where the Safety *** are calling for the use of helmets.”
Texas Hold ‘em Blogger.


The Nativity scene at Green Bay’s City Hall has come down. Even so, the atheist loving Freedom From Religion Foundation is threatening a lawsuit.

That’s despite the fact that their garbage continues to be on display inside the state Capitol rotunda in Madison.

Their sign of hatred and bigotry reads:

“At this season of the Winter Solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”


As we get set to close out 2007, the economy, under President Bush, is outperforming all expectations.


The 8 inches of snow we were supposed to get.

It led to yet another run on grocery stores. 

Wisconsinites in winter…..wusses. 


A stinker of a Christmas

REMEMBER: Your suggestions/nominations for any of these categories every week are welcome, especially for HEROES OF THE WEEK. If you know of anyone in the community deserving of recognition, please e-mail me.


The "Mother of the Year" Award goes to...

In today’s Week-ends, one of my villains of the week is Priscilla Ceballos and her 6-year old daughter who wrote and submitted a fake essay in a contest to win Hannah Montana tickets.

The essay said the girl’s father died in Iraq, a lie.

Listen to this despicable woman’s incredible explanation of what she and her daughter did.

Is Milwaukee's new police chief paying attention?

Large cities see decrease in murder rates.


Kristin need me!

My my my!

Isn’t this an interesting development!

Rumor has it that the head of Franklin’s impotent Environmental Commission, Kristin Wilhelm is going to run for the Common Council next April.

Get this.. 

She’s going to run against MY Alderman.

Now I have nothing against smiley face.

However, the fact is, nobody knew who she was or had any idea there was her useless commission until I blogged about her, a blog that generated quite the response.

So, I inadvertently raised her name recognition from zero to….whatever.

Now, Kristin needs my vote.

And if she should win (now I’m smiling…actually, laughing) , then technically, she’d be working for me.

Well, Kristin, you need me and my vote.
 This oughta be good….



Supporters had an organized group working on their behalf.

The Franklin School District discussed it at numerous meetings open to the public.

A special video was produced by the school district.

Teachers talked about it openly in classrooms during school time.

Pamphlets were handed to students to take home to parents.

In a last ditch desperate move, an "Assembly" was held the Friday before Election Day where Franklin High School students were brought together behind closed doors and drilled.

They even threatened that ghetto-like trailers would have to be set up at some schools.

Opponents had.......well........only me writing on my blogs.

And yet, April's $78-million referenda were resoundingly defeated by voters.

A higher voter turnout for an April election in an odd -year added to an incredibly expensive price tag shot the two questions down in flames by a 60-40 margin.

On the night of April 3rd, I blogged:

Congratulations, Franklin voters!

Today, you sent a strong and powerful message to the taxing authorities that while you support quality education, you also favor the return of fiscal sanity to your community.

It is extremely encouraging that the Franklin community today stood tall and strong, declaring in a loud and clear voice that you will not tolerate exorbitant taxes and spending.

Thank you, Franklin voters for standing up and proclaiming that you refuse to increase your already excessive tax burden.

Days after the stinging defeat, I continued to get e-mails on the issue. One writer commented on remarks made by School Board member Sue Huhn on this web site and in the Community Newspaper in an article written by John Neville:

Huhn predicted the next school district referendum will not feature a new high school. She said it's more likely the next will propose a second middle school with extensive revamping of the high school. The latter, she said, will include some expansion - a new gym and auditorium with more fine arts department space.

An e-mailer wrote:

Tone deaf? “We don’t want to pay for an auditorium or a new gym when our kids kant spel!”

Where’s the improvement in the EDUCATIONAL facilities? They shouldn’t be in athletics if they can’t make change at McDonalds or write a coherent paragraph!

Still another e-mailer tied in the failed referenda to criticisms being made by, what the e-mailer called “eco-bloggers,” about one of the major development projects in Franklin.

That e-mailer wrote:

Some of the eco-bloggers here in town are all in a tizzy about the “sea of asphalt” on preliminary plans for the Shops at Wyndham Ridge… I’ve heard that the proposal will be for something like 900(parking) spots in the entire development…. Where was the eco-outrage at the 1000 spots for STUDENTS? I’m certain that the school district would not have added a good deal of eco-amenities such as covered walkways, extra wide grassy areas and salt resistant landscaping to their sea of asphalt… Fair is fair and being consistent is important.

So what happened? Why did the referenda fail so miserably? There were many factors that contributed to the referenda defeat I wrote about shortly after Election Day:

1) Sticker shock. The $78-million price tag was simply too high.

2) No guarantees. The school district could not convince voters that spending $78-million would automatically result in dramatic improvement in student achievement.

3) Empty promises. At their own informational meetings, school officials admitted that even if the referenda were approved, class sizes might not get smaller.

4) Blank check. The school district had no plans, no drawings of what the new high school would look like, and no site for the new school.

5) Timing. Property owners just paid their bills a few months ago. Wisconsin taxes are among the highest in the nation. This was not the time to ask for a massive property tax increase.

6) Needs vs. wants. The school district needed a Buick, but asked for a Rolls Royce.

7) Attitude. It’s never good to insult the voters. They saw right through the arrogant, “But you just don’t understand, let me try to explain it to you” approach.

8) Bad omen I. Two School Board members chose not to seek re-election.

9) Bad omen II. The main cheerleader for the referenda, the school superintendent, comes out of a closed door meeting wit the School Board and says he’s resigning.

10) The public trust. Add #’s 8 and 9, and your credibility with the public is eroding.

11) Bad PR. Someone puts fliers promoting the referenda in City Hall. It came to our attention, the fliers were removed immediately for obvious reasons.

12) More bad PR. The Friday before the election, Franklin High School seniors of voting age are sent to an Assembly on school time, and are drilled about the importance of voting, “yes.” WTMJ-AM reported it, and just days before the election, supporters look disorganized and desperate.

13) Major miscalculation. Supporters thought they could go to the voters, play the guilt card, proclaim “it’s for the children,” and ask for the moon. Thinking the tax revolt was dead, they underestimated the anger of the taxpayers, who sent a loud and clear message at the polls.

There were many reasons to vote NO, but I’ll bet most of the NO voters never got beyond reason #1….the sticker shock.

The obvious question now is, what happens next? If I were on the Franklin School Board or the new superintendent, whoever he or she is, I’d display tremendous respect for the voters and exhibit a lot of restraint. You came, you asked, you were dumped. It would behoove the powers that be to put their hat away for awhile before they go back to the voters to pass it around again.

In an issue of Wisconsin School News put out by the Wisconsin Association of School Boards around the time of the election, Tom Joynt of the Administrative Leadership Department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee wrote about successful referendum strategies. The basis of his article is a 20-question survey that was mailed to the superintendents in all 70 school districts that had a successful referendum in 2005 or 2006. Forty-four completed surveys were returned, a response rate of 63 percent.

The survey was split into two sections: “Deciding to Hold a Referendum,” and “Strategies Used after a Decision Was Made to Hold a Referendum.”

In the “Deciding” section, the lowest-rated item was asking for student input on needs that were finally included in the final referendum. More weight was given to community input and opinions from staff.

After the decision was made to hold a referendum, there was a strong consensus to provide special information to parents and the media. I’m sure the Franklin School District got the word out to parents, but I can’t speak about their efforts to feed the news media. While the referenda garnered the obvious attention on this web site and in the community newspaper, it barely got a whimper in the Journal/Sentinel. To be fair, the Elmbrook referenda may have overshadowed our slightly smaller ballot questions. But it appears the school district needs to make major improvements in the media relations department.

The Wisconsin School News survey also generated strong support for providing district residents with estimates of the tax impact of a referendum. Here, I believe the Franklin School District dropped the ball. It chose to concentrate on the owner of a $250-thousand home. The less expensive homeowner, according to supporters would only pay what they considered a small tax increase. In embracing that approach, the supporters never told the whole story that included Wisconsin’s outrageous tax climate. The argument that if you had a three-car garage and a huge front lawn that you surely could plunk down even more in taxes didn’t draw guilt………it made voters upset.

Another survey idea that received a high endorsement if you wanted to have a successful referendum was to send a brochure to all community residents explaining all accurate details. Maybe Franklin officials thought they could save money by holding meetings, producing a video, and using the Internet. I never received one piece of propaganda. Many people I spoke with also got nothing in their mailbox. Again, a possible strategy that never made it into the Franklin playbook, and we all know what happened.

The survey respondents also highly recommended holding public forums. Now this, the school district did dozens of times. I can only surmise that whatever message that was disseminated at these public forums failed to resonate with those in attendance.

The personal comments on the survey are very, very interesting.

The superintendent in Oakfield, Joe Heinzelman warned, “Make sure you follow through on what you say will happen if a referendum fails.” The author of the article Tom Joynt writes, “Empty hyperbole and overstated claims before a referendum will haunt public officials for many years.” In Racine not too long ago, it was the threat of eliminating all high school athletics. (It never happened). In Franklin, the threat was that trailers would have to be installed. Did they mean it?

According to Joynt’s article, Sue Alexander, superintendent of Markesan “felt unity of the school board in supporting a referendum is significant.” Interesting. In Franklin, right before the election campaign, two incumbent school board members chose not to run. Three school board seats were filled on April 3 with all three candidates running unopposed, two of them opposed to the referenda.

Jamie Benson, superintendent in River Valley said the community-driven “yes” group was the “number one key to passing.” The NO vote had absolutely no organization. The YES vote did have an organized group, albeit it got in the game late and its effectiveness is highly questionable. Why wasn’t there a stronger organized COMMUNITY voice? That’s clear. The community never got behind this effort.

Superintendent David Wessel of Spencer offered this advice: “make sure you ask for enough,” but he also added, “don’t go overboard.”

And finally, Joynt writes, and this is where Franklin school officials need to listen up, that there were “cautions to school leaders not to take the outcome of a referendum personally, but to view the results as the voice of the people participating in democracy. One respondent observed, “It is really the responsibility of the community to decide what type of schools they want in their community.”

Franklin, you were not alone in your sentiment on referenda.

From the Green Bay Press Gazette:

All told this spring, voters around the state approved an estimated $239 million in new school district spending but rejected about $425 million.

Historically, when handed a defeat, referenda supporters always come back, again and again, and again, and again, and again, until they get what they want.

But with the prospect of recall elections being waged against some of their members, you don’t think the Franklin School Board would be foolish enough to propose another huge tax increase, do you?


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The Cheesecake Factory says it plans to open 12 or 13 new locations in 2008 across the U.S. Franklin should be one of those future locations.

The booming and bursting city of Franklin continues to lack the proper quantity of quality shopping and dining destinations. The popular upscale, casual dining offered by Cheesecake Factory would be a perfect fit for Franklin.

Like Sendik’s, a Cheesecake Factory in Franklin would be its first location in southern Milwaukee County, bringing additional consumers, revenue and jobs to our city, not to mention the huge buzz it would generate.

The last Cheesecake Factory to open in Wisconsin was in Glendale, at the Bayshore Town Center. Plans for the restaurant were presented to the
Glendale Community Development Authority in April 2006. The restaurant opened on November 2, 2006. It is plausible that a Cheesecake Factory could go through a similar timetable in Franklin.

For many reasons, Franklin could and should recruit a Cheesecake Factory.

The argument that a Cheesecake Factory wouldn’t be unique because the Milwaukee-area already has two spots is moot: There were Sendik’s Food Markets long before Franklin, weren’t there?

Where to put it?

We see only four possible locations for a Cheesecake Factory in Franklin or the surrounding area.

1.       Fountains of Franklin: This is the #1 desired location. While Fountains of Franklin seems to be stuck on Neutral when it comes to getting letters of intent from retailers (otherwise we’d be seeing buildings by now), this site would be the prime location for a Cheesecake Factory. In speaking with the developer, he claims that he only wants high end retailers to locate on his site. Given this, a CF would work out well – people are already at the shopping center for high end purchases, they’d be more than happy to dine at a nice restaurant. Also a plus for FOF is the fact that CF does locate some of their restaurants in quaint developments that are the same size if not smaller than FOF (their new Lincolnshire, IL location is an example of this)

2.       27th Street Urban Village – Oak Creek: This has been a rumored “Bayshore Town Center” shopping center across from Northwestern Mutual Life’s campus on 27th Street. Naturally, a CF could easily locate here, and I could probably say that with ease. Why?
a.       I-94 is 10 blocks away from 27th Street 
b.      NML Campus – upwards of 10,000 employees…well paid employees…that could be looking for a lunch or dinner with fellow workers 
c.       Centralized location: It’s smack dab in the middle of the Franklin/Oak Creek populations. 27th Street forms a good corridor (and borders) for the communities – and is probably the “middle line” for southern Milwaukee County.
d.      Transportation: If transit opportunities begin to be popular again, 27th Street will be one of the first corridors for a new transit link. Scott Walker already named NML’s Campus in Franklin as a final stop for his SMART proposal. 

3.       Southridge Mall – Greendale: This is probably the last place we’d like to see a CF. However; it would make sense, given all the retail and other dining opportunities in the immediate vicinity. Southridge is currently the “Headquarters” for southern Milwaukee County shopping – there are no other malls for people to go to that are nearby. The problem with Southridge is the relatively large amount of mid-range to reasonable stores in the mall (Old Navy, Kohl’s, Sears, etc). When people go to Southridge, they don’t expect high end shopping anymore. So, a CF at Southridge probably wouldn’t work at this time – unless Simon Properties decided to completely redo the mall and add a number of high end retailers. (Greendale wants Southridge to become more like a Bayshore Town Center).

4.   Franklin Civic Center District: This would be the only other place we could see at this time holding a CF. Unfortunately, that’s becoming highly unlikely due to the surrounding stores and the shopping experience. This certainly would become a long shot, but it’s still very possible. 

A Cheesecake Factory is doable in Franklin. It would be popular and succeed.

There is a larger issue at play here. The two of us chose Cheesecake Factory to jointly write about because it is a restaurant we both patronize and enjoy. If not Cheesecake Factory, then some other quality dining destinations need to open in Franklin. Arguably, the city only has one or two that come even close to being classified as multi-star establishments. To reach the very best, one has to drive out of the 53132 zip code.

Cheesecake Factory is always looking to expand and wants to open numerous restaurants in 2008. Let’s put Franklin, Wisconsin on their radar screen.

My most popular blogs

Most popular

As I post every Sunday, here are the top five most popular of my blog entries from the previous week: 



3) Track Santa all day 


5) Does this Democrat get it?

And just missing the top 5:


Culinary no-no #35

Culinary no-no's

Planning on quietly celebrating New Year’s Eve at home with a Champagne toast or two (or more)?

Remember, it may look and fizz and smell and taste like Champagne, but sparking wine isn’t the real thing.

Only s
parkling wines grown and produced in the region of Champagne in France can truly be called “champagne.”

According to

Never duplicated, unless you can move the entire region -- rocks, stocks and barrels -- to another country. Because make no mistake about it: it's the growing conditions in Champagne which makes Champagne the best sparkling wines in the world. The proof? How about the fact that a number of the best Champagne houses - like Moet & Chandon, Roederer, Mumm, and Taittinger - have all established vineyards and sparkling wine facilities in the beautiful state of California, bringing their best people to apply all the skill and experience they have to make the closest thing to Champagne possible. The result? Strikingly Champagne-like wines - fresh, light, yeasty, and zesty. But ultimately, not nearly as deep and flavorful, not nearly as fine and delicate, and not nearly as pure and penetrating as the original stuff. Why? Because it's grapes that make wine, and the grapes grown in California for sparklers will never be as fine as the grapes grown in Champagne. So in spite of the fact that even the lowest priced Champagne retails for $30 to $40 -- the price range reached by only the finest California sparkling wines --it's real Champagne that outsells the California copies by over 10 to 1. Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby.”

This is not to say you shouldn’t pop open an Asti Spumante New Year’s Eve. Hell, you drink what you like. Just don’t call it Champagne because it’s not.

In my opinion, it’s New Year’s Eve. Go for it. If it has to be a sparkling wine, don’t even think of Cook’s or Andre or Cold Duck. That’s like comparing a Coke to Fanta or Diet Rite. That junk is only good to drink after you just came in hot and sweaty from cutting the lawn.

Here’s the lowdown on Champagne from, again, Randal Caparoso at This article is a few years old, so the 2007 price ranges might be a little higher:

“When it comes to Champagne, there really are no "best" bottlings. There are, however, some fairly cut-and-dried styles of Champagnes followed by each major brand. So that's the way to shop: by the style of Champagne that you prefer, or which at least sound the best to you. Since there really are many wonderful Champagnes to choose from, I'm going to offer you a quick review of just some of the major brands that you are most likely to see, defined by their respective styles which I'm going to divide into three basic categories - Light and Lovely, Richly Medium, and Bodaciously Full. Prices will vary widely during the holidays since individual stores always run their own featured specials. Here we go:

Light and Lovely Champagnes

The light, lovely Champagnes are definitely the easiest to drink; marked by silky smooth textures and fragrances that suggest sweetness, and flavors that are often perceptively, but oh-so-delicately, sweet. For me, the classic example is the Moet & Chandon Brut "Imperial" ($34-$44), which is always frothy and fresh; its edge of sweetness contributing to its gentle yet vibrant, lingering flavor. The ultimate example is Moet & Chandon's famous "Cuvee Dom Perignon" ($85-$125); which, although significantly drier than the Brut "Imperial," practically defines Champenoise delicacy and finesse - luxuriously rich qualities of yeastiness (like freshly rising bread), minerals, vanilla, and floral fruit, all packaged in seamlessly smooth, lively, lingering sensations on the palate.

In my book, the second most perfect example of the light, lovely style come out of the beautifully hand etched bottles of Perrier-Jouet's "Fleur de Champagne" ($90-$115), with its airy light, creamy textured length, almost startling in its sensuousness. You drink it, and you say, "Oh, goodness." Then once enthralled by its wispy, yeasty fragrances, you think, "Goodness has nothing to do with how I'm feeling now!" For just a slightly abbreviated experience of this phenomenon, there is also a Perrier-Jouet "Grand" Brut ($35-$45).

Failing that - since wines like the Fleur de Champagne and Dom Perignon will not exactly be the easiest to find at this time - you should definitely turn to the Taittinger "Comtes de Champagne" Brut Blanc de Blancs "Millesime" ($75-$99); a wine that packs a stunning intensity of creamy, smoky, lemony richness into a perfectly proportioned, waif-like body. A "supermodel" of the light style? "Runway" favorite? Don't get me started!

Richly Medium Champagnes

Many of the top quality Champagne houses - such as G.H. Mumm, Pol Roger, Charles Heidsieck, and J. Lassalle - make wines that achieve richness with elegance. But according to the cognoscenti, the most perfect Champagne of all is probably the Krug Brut "Grande Cuvee" ($145-$165); which is neither light nor heavy, delicate nor thick, brutal nor subtle -- but in fact, all of the above! How owner Remi Krug and chef de cave ("master blender") do this is anyone's guess. Perhaps they sleep peacefully, their Audi A8s locked safely in the garage, while elves merrily manufacture bubbles, bead by bead, with magic tweezers. But every bottle of Krug Champagne is most certainly a miracle of power and finesse!

But Krug, alas, does not make low priced Champagne. However, Veuve Clicquot does (relatively speaking). I have always thought that the nonvintaged Veuve Clicquot ("Yellow Label") Brut ($35-$50) is a near-perfect example of dry, Medium-full Champagne - its yeastiness subtle and toasty (wood char mixed with roasting nuts), and the flavors lemony crisp, winey, almost meaty textured. One step up is the Veuve Clicquot "Vintage Reserve" ("Gold Label") Brut ($55-$75); which is deeper and dryer in the feel, with a greater concentration of smoky yeastiness. Thirdly, there is a top-of-the-line - the Veuve Clicquot "La Grande Dame" ($135-$155) - which pushes the envelope towards a strong, almost austere dryness, its vividly defined medium body saturated with concentrated fruit and almost tobacco-like smokiness. What a way to go!

Bodaciously Full Champagnes

This style of Champagne pretty much puts sheer strength above delicacy; although the best examples are not exactly without refinements. The legendary Louis Roederer "Cristal" ($135-$185), for instance, has pinpoint balance -- beneath a roaringly rich , broad, fleshy feel, and deep, vibrant notes suggesting roasting, honeyed nuts and whole rows of baking breads. Full, viscous, yeast indundated qualities are typical of all the cuvees from this house; including the zesty, yet cushiony rounded Louis Roederer Brut "Premier" ($35-$55), and the nostril tingling vintaged Louis Roederer Brut ($55-$65).

With the house of Bollinger, on the other hand, it's almost pure, unadulterated aggression, plain and simple; beginning with the thick yet lushly fruited Bollinger "Special Cuvee" ($40-$60), which is layered with spicy, creamy/vanillin, toasty oak flavors, and an unsubtle yeastiness. The vintaged Bollinger "R.D." ($125-$145) is even more deeply honeyed, yeastier, and smokier in flavor; big, broad, and brazenly buxom on the palate. Like all the great, and imitable, Champagnes, an "all or nothing at all" proposition!”

Whatever your toast du jour is New Year’s Eve, here’s looking up your address!

(By the way, Champagne is in the news today, with a potential explosion coming of Champagne vineyards).


1) Ketchup on a brat
2) Green peppers on pizza
3) The dirty martini
4) Fruity brats
5) A Bloody Mary after dinner
6) Women “manning” the grill
7) Eating pizza at Festa Italiana, brats at German Fest, or tacos at Fiesta Mexicana. (Be adventurous. You can have those items anytime).
8) Eating a cream puff as though it was a hamburger.
9) Taking your own bottle of sauce when invited to a barbecue.
10) Touching the grill if you’re a guest at an outdoor barbecue.
11) Coaching the host on how to grill.
12) Some regional flavored ice cream… black licorice.
13) Taking the husks off before you grill corn on the cob
14) Being afraid to chill red wine
15) Pizza on the grill
16) When serving exotic or strange dishes to guests, do not tell them exactly what it is. Instead, use a more inviting term (caviar) rather than being blunt (fish eggs).
17) In late summer and early fall, this time of year, don’t buy zucchini. Somehow, someway, you will find zucchini or zucchini will find you.
18) Showing disrespect to your restaurant server.
19) Eating out on a Monday night.
20) Pumpkin beer.
21) Mail-order turkey.
22) Grilled cheese is just for kids.
23) Dining in the dark.
24) Ketchup on spaghetti
25) Sneaking healthy foods into treats to get your kids to eat it.
26) Do not throw away culinary gifts received in the mail because you don’t like them.
27) Do not feel guilty about eating Oreos. (Oreos are not to blame for out of control obesity).
28) Doing something so totally ridiculous that you are desperately forced to call the Butterball Turkey Hot-Line for assistance.
29) Don’t forget the sweet potato January-October.
30) Using resource guides from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s on gracious living to plan holiday parties
31) Eating cranberries, the best of the super-foods, only during the holidays.
32) Egg nog that isn’t spiked
33) Putting hot spices and other weird stuff in chocolate bars and hot cocoa
34) Don’t disregard fruitcake

Blogger rips clergy and the MSM on rape victims bill

On WISN this past Friday, I went after Catholic churches that are now accepting online contributions. 

Worse than that are churches that have decided to turn their sacred structures into banks by placing ATM machines inside.

Blogger Dad29 is also taking some shots.

Like me, Dad29 is opposed to the “Compassionate care for rape victims” bill. Strategically named so that no reasonable person dare say anything negative about it, the legislation forces some medical officials to violate their own conscience and beliefs.

Many bishops, including Milwaukee’s Timothy Dolan have been silent on the matter.

That’s a news story.

Other bishops have not been so silent and have come out roaring in their criticism.

That’s a news story.

But there’s been no story in the mainstream media.

Dad29 does a nice job of taking on both the bishops and the MSM.

2007 Year-end edition of Week-ends


Every Saturday, I present Week-ends, a look back at the people and events that made news the past week.

With 2007 coming to a close, this is a special Year-end edition of Week-ends.


The brave men and women in uniform defending our great country all around the world.

Oliver North puts it well in a recent column:

North calls them, “Men and women who voluntarily took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies. Though fewer than 3 percent of their countrymen know a single one of their names, they continue to make extraordinary sacrifices while wittingly and willingly going into harm's way on our behalf. They are, on average, just 20 years old, yet they are brighter and better educated than their peers in the same age bracket. All of them have been entrusted with the awesome responsibility for the lives and safety of others, and all of them are held accountable for what they do or fail to do in carrying out that responsibility. During the past six years, (they) have spent an average of 31 months far from friends and family and the comforts of home. Tens of thousands of them have been wounded, and more than 4,000 have been killed defending our nation from radical Islamic terror. Many celebrated Christmas this year on lonely patrol bases where even the most basic amenities -- showers, sanitation facilities, drinkable water and hot food -- are considered luxuries. (They) ride around in armored caravans because evildoers want to kill them (and) wear heavy protective vests and helmets and frequently have to use the weapons they carry. During 2007, (they) built more than 575 schools in two countries, opened nearly 500 public health clinics and hospitals, provided clean drinkable water for more than 6 million people and electricity to about the same number. While most Americans prepared for Christmas by hunting for gifts imported from China, (they) were hunting for deadly improvised explosive devices imported from Iran. (They) are the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen and Marines serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of the so-called mainstream media has a long history of ignoring the good being done by young Americans in uniform.”

If I had to single out one individual for the hero of the year, it would be Liviu Librescu.

From the Bible: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.


Cho Seung-Hui 


Miss South Carolina Teen USA, Lauren Caitlin Upton

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Heroes of 2007: Tom Green


Too young and too talented.

Heroes of 2007: Emily Lineberger


She's only 11 years old.

Heroes of 2007: The Tauers


The Tauers are from Hurley, Wisconsin.

Heroes of 2007: Kelvin Jefferson


"I did what was expected."

Heroes of 2007: Venus Ramey


She first made news back in 1944, and again back in April.



For the past 10 days, I have highlighted what I believe were the top Franklin news stories of the past year.

Today, I unveil what I believe was the #1 story in our city in 2007 because it affected our most prized commodity: our children. In fact, this story has an impact for every child in the state of Wisconsin. Yes, it’s that important.

The story: Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge John Franke ruled against the city of Franklin's lawsuit against sex offender Steve Hanke who, for now, will be allowed to live in his Franklin home 600 feet from a middle school. Franke ruled against current law, innocent families and children, and sided with a convicted sex offender.

Here’s the background.
 Hanke, now 54 years old, bought a Franklin home in the 8200 block of S. 77th Street five months after Franklin adopted a milestone ordinance restricting certain sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools, day-care centers and other places where children might congregate. Hanke bought a residence in June in the 8200 block of South 77th Street that is just a few hundred feet from Forest Park Middle School, a clear violation of Franklin’s ordinance. Hanke refused to leave and Franklin took the necessary legal action to force him out. The city of Franklin filed a lawsuit to evict Hanke, a registered sex offender. Hanke was sentenced to nine years in prison in 1996 for second-degree sexual assault.

Hanke's attorney, Andrew Arena, made the incredibly insulting comment that Franklin residents were overreacting. "The sky is falling in Franklin," he said. "It's just ridiculous."

At an informational meeting, concerned residents were told that if the city lost its lawsuit against Hanke, that would practically nullify the city’s tough restrictive ordinance that communities all across the state are using as a model to pass their own similar laws. Should Franklin lose this lawsuit, the teeth would be taken right out of its ordinance and the fear that a facility to house numerous sexually violent persons could be built in Franklin would start all over again. 
  The city of Franklin is to be credited with aggressively going after Steven Hanke in court. Last fall, a court hearing on the matter was held before Judge Franke. Franke is a very liberal judge with a history.

In June of 2003, Franke released one of Wisconsin’s most notorious predators, four-time-convicted child molester Billy Lee Morford, to a home reportedly less than a mile from two schools and a park. Morford was the first sexual predator given supervised release in the city of Milwaukee.

In 1997, Franke granted predator Shawn Schulpius supervised release, contingent on the creation of a plan for housing and monitoring him in Milwaukee. But for more than two years, officials could not find supervised housing for Schulpius in the city. In 2000, Franke reversed himself, saying Schulpius didn't deserve release after all.

As I mentioned on WISN filling in for Mark Belling, according to an article in the Green Bay Press Gazette, “At least 11 Wisconsin municipalities have passed some restrictions on sex offenders, whether residency limitations or restrictive zones where certain types of offenders are not allowed. Twenty-five more are considering similar restrictions, said Tom Smith, a registration specialist with the Department of Corrections.”

A caller to my show on WISN said the decision could always be reversed on appeal. Appeals take time, are not guaranteed, and in the meantime, sex offenders could ignore ordinances and move into areas around schools, day care centers, etc.

Despite a strong showing of support by Franklin residents at the hearing, Judge Franke ruled in favor of Hanke.

My analysis:


     1)  Clearly Franke could have and should have ruled in favor of Franklin. I submit that no appeal would have overturned his ruling. Hanke is in clear violation of a constitutional ordinance.

2) Once again, the rights of a convicted criminal are paramount to those of law-abiding citizens.

3) Hanke ignored the mountain of evidence and studies that show offenders like Hanke are likely to re-offend.  One of my sources at the Courthouse wrote me the following, summing up what Franke said in court on this part of the ruling:

The judge spoke at length on the issue of assessing risk – what is the risk of injury if the injunction is not granted? While there is a “chance” of child assault, it is too difficult to apply recidivism statistics to one individual without expert witness. The risk over a short period of time is very small. Hanke committed his crime against someone with whom he had a very long-term and close relationship, thus lowering the chances that he would assault a child at random.

That is an absolutely outrageous assertion for this judge to make, essentially minimizing and trivializing the potential danger that is real.

4) Franklin lost in a big way. As this case drags on, and it will for some time, possibly until August of next year, it allows Hanke to remain in his Franklin home, 600 feet away from a Franklin middle school.

5) Franke sent a loud message to other sex offenders that it’s ok to challenge and defy laws established to restrict where these perverts live.

6) This is another example of why people lose faith and trust in their government and legal system.

7) Franke has now in three major cases involving dangerous sex offenders. Every time he has ruled in favor of the criminal.

God for
bid that Hanke assault another child, but if he does, it's on Judge Franke's hands.



Heroes of 2007: Nola Ochs


Atta, girl!

Don't forget...

We end the year on a positive note.

All day long, I'm posting stories of some of the heroes of 2007.

This morning, I also begin all-day blogging of my New Year wishes for selected individuals.

And I have already posted my #1 FRANKLIN NEWS STORY for 2007, and my special Year-end edition of Week-ends.

Please check them out.

Heroes of 2007: Lauren Nelson


Her impressive resume now includes "crimefighter."


I have some special wishes for the New Year for selected individuals that I'll be dishing out all day today.

We begin with hizzoner, the Mayor of our great city, Tom Taylor.

For 2008, I wish the mayor a singing engagement at Ka's Martini Lounge on Rawson Avenue.

Heroes of 2007: Some special Franklin students


These kids did a wonderful thing.


For the convicted sex offender who has gone to court to try to live in Franklin 600 feet away froma  middle school in defiance of a Franklin ordinance, I wish the following in 2008:

An appearance before a court or judge that has some common sense, the one way ticket out of Franklin you deserve.

And may you never, ever harm another innocent child because if you do, I fear you'll slip through the cracks again because of an all-too liberal judicial system.

NEW YEAR WISHES: State Senator Mary Lazich

My 2008 wish for my boss, fellow blogger, and good friend:

May Wisconsin finally drop out of the top ten highest taxed states in the nation.

Thanks, but no thanks Greg Kowalski

In his blog this morning, Greg Kowalski promises the following:

"I plan on covering these topics in 2008:

  • 2008 Franklin School Board election
  • 2008 Recalls in Franklin"

Oh, really?

Isn't it amazing.

During the past few weeks when there has been a flurry of activity on the Franklin blogs about the huge mess in our school system, we didn't hear a word from Greg "Nobody cares more about Franklin than I do" Kowalski.

Now that yours truly, Janet Evans, Bryan Maersch and Fred Keller have done all the heavy lifting while Greg has been off baking cookies, Greg decides he's going to make some announcement today making it look like he's CITIZEN OF THE YEAR because he's now going to cover the Franklin school issues.

Looks like 2008 will be just like 2007 on Greg's irrelevant blog......sit back on the sidelines to see what the analytical thinkers on the blog are doing, then react to their work.

Guess what, Greg?

We don't need your help.

We're doing just fine exposing the local school system for the sham it is without you.

Unless you plan to carry water for them, like you did during the referenda...

So, thanks, but no thanks.

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Heroes of 2007: Jeff Ruby


owns a restaurant in Louisville.

NEW YEAR WISHES: The Green Bay Packers

Videos of the 1966 NFL Championship Game played in Dallas.

Final Score:



Yes, you can beat Dallas, in Dallas, in a big game.

Heroes of 2007: Bruce Ferraro

One tough old guy

NEW YEAR WISHES: FranklinNOW blogger Greg Kowalski

His very first property tax bill.

This sudden jolt of reality may finally instill some real honest to goodness common sense.

Heroes of 2007: Jim Broussard

Broussard is a great American!

Heroes of 2007: John Roark

John is a Boy Scout from Franklin.

NEW YEAR WISHES: FranklinNOW blogger Janet Evans

A case of Elmer's, and even more drive and perseverance.

Heroes of 2007: Deanna Favre

Like her husband, an inspiration.

Heroes of 2007: Dalton Carriker


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NEW YEAR WISHES: Anonymous bloggers

The courage to shed your aliases and stand up for and defend your positions.

Heroes of 2007: Michael Murphy

A true warrior.

Heroes of 2007: Derek Fisher

Formerly with the Utah Jazz, Fisher now plays for the Los Angeles Lakers.

In an age where very few professional athletes are heroes, Fisher stands out.

UPDATE: After returning to Salt lake City to face the Jazz for the first time since leaving, Fisher was booed by Jazz fans every time he touched the ball.

During an interview later, he was asked how his daughter is doing:

Smiling for the only time during a 10-minute interview with the media, he said, "She's doing wonderful [and] I'm just thankful. When I think back to where we were when we first got the diagnosis and what we were faced with 17 months ago and where we are now ...
"[She is] just truly a bundle of joy that brings a smile to my face. And that's what life is about, you know? We get caught up in other things more than we should at times, when all that really matters at the end of the day is your family and your loved ones. She's just doing great."

NEW YEAR WISHES: Hillary Clinton

The Democratic nomination for President in 2008.

Even Democrats can't stand her.

I relish a chance for the Republican nominee to face off against her.

Heroes of 2007: Lydia Cacho

Journalism at its very best.

Heroes of 2007: Mike Flynt

Atta, boy!

NEW YEAR WISHES: FranklinNOW blogger Bryan Maersch

More smokefree restaurants and bars to patronize, BUT only because those establishments made the business decision to go smokefree and not because of a government mandate.

Oh, and Rehorst, Rehorst, and more Rehorst!

Heroes of 2007: Sylvester Ranninger

Wounded vet cares for others.

Heroes of 2007: Ivory Spann

She may have taught her daughter, and others, a valuable lesson.

NEW YEAR WISHES: Wisconsin Governor Doyle

1) The return of your memory.....remember, "We cannot, I will not raise your taxes..."

2) Invisible ink in your veto pen.

Heroes of 2007: Paulette Spears' 11-year old son

He called 9-1-1.

Heroes of 2007: The Hubbard family

Facing devastating tragedies...

NEW YEAR WISHES: Franklin School Board and FPS Business manager Jim Milzer


Heroes of 2007: Scott Beason


Heroes of 2007: Frank Fabiano

Fallen Kenosha County Sheriff's deputy.

Click on video

NEW YEAR WISHES: Franklin's Fred Keller

A boatload of volunteers to help you attain successful recalls of inept Franklin School Board members.

Heroes of 2007: Jeanne Assam


Heroes of 2007: Lonestar

Very, very nice touch at the Wisconsin State Fair.


My address.

Heroes of 2007: Beth Robbins

Teen ships music to soldiers overseas
A Hudson teen has stepped up the pace at which she ships hundreds of country music CDs to soldiers overseas, according to the Hudson Star Observer.

Beth Robbins, 19, has been mailing the CDs, T-shirts, beverage can covers and autographed posters, as well as snacks and playing cards to soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Japan.

Musicians, some quite prominent, have sent her 1,300 CDs alone, some of which still are setting in trunks around the house waiting for Robbins, a college student living at home, to pack and send them on their way. She said that she will keep up the pipeline of donations, likely until the troops come home.

Robbins said she has several units that have “adopted” her. She shares letters with one unit of 10 soldiers, and they take those on missions so they have something from home to share. One unit has recently made a request for her to send cake mix, because they are going to have a bake sale to raise money for the Iraqi kids. One of the overseas soldiers with whom Robbins corresponds is Tom O’Brien, who is from the Ellsworth and River Falls area.

Donating to the project are national recording artists such as Neal McCoy, Ray Scott, Blue County, Rockie Lynne and Charlie Daniels. 

Heroes of 2007: Bert Brady


An amazing story.

An amazing man.

NEW YEAR WISHES: Jennifer Fischer

Patience, dear. Patience.

And since I really can't stop her........Bargains, bargains, bargains.

Heroes of 2007: Michael Hahn and Steve Hanson

Carnegie heroes.

Heroes of 2007: The Manning family

From Spooner, Wisconsin...

Basil Ryan for Mayor of Franklin? What a joke!

Rumors are circulating that former Franklin Alderman Basil Ryan is circulating nomination papers to run for Mayor of Franklin.

Before anyone signs his nomination papers, remember:

1) The Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel reports Ryan was “sued by the City of Milwaukee for back taxes.”

2) The newspaper also reports, “A onetime tow truck operator and self-described political underdog, Ryan is no stranger to conflict in his business and political dealings. A look through Milwaukee County Circuit Court records shows that he has sued or been sued dozens of times in disputes with numerous parties over everything from harassment to failure to pay bills.”

3) The last time we heard from Basil Ryan, he was exiting Franklin politics in shame and disgrace, having been successfully recalled. He lost to current Franklin Alderman Pete Kosovich.

Do we really want to return to scandalous times?

Keep Basil Ryan where he belongs…..out of office.

NEW YEAR WISHES: Britney Spears


Lots of it.

Heroes of 2007: Colleen Torres

Franklin's own.

Heroes of 2007: Isabel Jacobson


I-S-A-B-E-L  J-A-C-O-B-S-O-N

NEW YEAR WISHES: Joel McNally and Kathleen Dunn

To my ultra-lefty colleagues on InterCHANGE on MIlwaukee Public Television:

New 2008 calendars to replace the ones in your homes that say 1967.

Heroes of 2007: Unidentified Colorado woman

Very clever.

NEW YEAR WISHES: New Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn

A killer instinct to aggressively go after violent criminals.

If Mayor Barrett tries to offer advice on how to fight crime, do not, repeat, do not listen.

Heroes of 2007: Frederick Dominguez..

And...his family.

Heroes of 2007: Cole Bodwin

Cool, calm, and 10-years old.

NEW YEAR WISHES: Liberal talk show hosts and bloggers

An original and/or interesting idea.

Heroes of 2007: The New Berlin School Board

Unlike Franklin's School Board, the one in New Berlin is fiscally responsible.

NEW YEAR WISHES: The Milwaukee Bucks

Oh, let's see.

A few more decent players.

A new coach.

A new General Manager.

A new owner.....

Heroes of 2007: Yvette Workman

How many mothers would do what Workman did?

NEW YEAR WISHES: FranklinNOW blogger Marjorie Pagel

A dust rag, to clean off those files so you can write more wonderful historic blogs in 2008.

Heroes of 2007: Jerry Mehalopoulous

Gotta love this Sheboygan senior citizen.

NEW YEAR WISHES: Fountains of Failure (Franklin)



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Heroes of 2007: Al Hill

This took a great deal of courage.

NEW YEAR WISHES: Franklin Alderman Steve Olson

1) Continued good luck on your diet, although I'm not convinced all that prime rib is helpful.

2) A case of Heinz and Usinger's. The good alderman just informed me that he's always had a problem with my very first culinary no-no. Figures. He probably puts ketchup on his steak.

3) Better success in 2008 at shedding your shyness.

Heroes of 2007: The Philadelphia Phillies

On a rainy night in Colorado, the Phillies came to the rescue.


It's been waiting for a long, long, time O.J.

A nice jail cell.

New Year's Eve then and now


I’m realizing that New Year’s Eve today is much like it was for me when I was growing up.

As a youngster, even in my teens, no car and no date meant staying at home.

Dad would ask mom when the pickled herring was coming out. Any raw beef ?

And we’d wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.


You guessed it.

Live from high atop New York……

In a ballroom inside the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel….

Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians.

Certain memories stand out because they’re so…..



When you’re just a kid who’s into Elvis and the Beatles, you know how un-cool it is to see this, and then listen to your parents singing along to the television in harmony......

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Heroes of 2007: Chris Cook

Retired soldier

NEW YEAR WISHES: Citizens for a Safe Wisconsin

A huge turnout and open wallets at the group's February 29th fundraiser and silent auction. The Boogie Men are scheduled to appear. And I'm hearing they may have secured a fascinating Master of Ceremonies.

Heroes of 2007: Diavonnie Lofton

She didn't carck under pressure.

NEW YEAR WISHES: President Bush

Go out with a bang, "W!"

Make strong stands for  fighting terrorism, tax cuts, reduced spending, and clamping down on illegal immigration.

Pave the way for the GOP to keep control of the White House.

The alternative is much too scary.

Heroes of 2007: Amy Gray

Brookfield grad found man being mauled by grizzly
Waukesha Freeman Staff

BROOKFIELD – Armed with a stuffed grizzly bear in one hand and a package of Teddy Grahams cookies in another, 19-year-old Amy Gray made her way to St. Johns’s Medical Center in Jackson, Wyo., Thursday to visit the man she helped save after he was mauled by a grizzly bear.

“He was really in good spirits and the happiest bear attack victim I’ve ever met,” Gray said during a telephone interview Thursday.

Gray, a 2006 Brookfield Central High School graduate, encountered a mother grizzly bear and three of her nearly adult young while driving a chuck wagon with a fellow coworker Wednesday morning at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

“I noticed the bears all standing on their hind legs so I slammed on my brakes which scared them away and I tried to grab my camera,” she said. “At first I thought I was lucky to see them so close until I saw a man running down a cliff.”

That man, who saw the victim being attacked, helped Gray and her co-worker get him into the truck and drive back for help.

“He was bleeding pretty bad and had chunks of flesh missing from his behind and thigh and his back was chewed up,” she said. “He is lucky to be alive. I was told one of the bites was an inch from puncturing his lungs but his injuries were all external.”

Steven Gray talked to his daughter after the attack Wednesday morning and was stunned by the event his daughter unfolded to him over the phone.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I was scared for her, but at the same time happy about what she had the guts to do.”

Grand Teton National Park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said the victim of the bear attack, 54-year old Dennis Van-Denbos of Wyoming, was on his way back from a hike when he noticed an elk in distress.

“As he got closer he noticed the bear and her cubs feeding on the carcass,” she said. “That is when she responded in a defensive matter.”

Skaggs said elk are seen regularly throughout the park, especially this time of year when they birth their calves.

“The mother bear can become defensive if she feels threatened or is surprised,” she said. “We do know of this particular bear, and she has never caused problems in the past. (VanDenbos) just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The area of the attack as well as the service trail will be closed until further notice, Skaggs said.

Amy Gray, who will be a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point studying to be a dietitian, said she will never forget what happened during her 2007 summer job.

“I was just running on adrenaline,” she said. “It was the scariest moment in my life.”
Steven Gray said his daughter demonstrates the type of qualities that would propel her in the direction of her most recent deed and said it is no surprise.

“For her senior trip while all her classmates decided to go to Florida, Amy asked my wife (Caron) and I if she could go to Tanzania to help orphans whose parents have died from AIDS,” he said. “That’s just the type of person she has always been.”

Caron Gray who said her daughter has a passion for the outdoors said she and her husband will think twice when they take a highly anticipated bear tour to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park to visit Amy in August.

“The funny thing is, she was nervous about bears before she took this job and I told her it was nothing to worry about,” she said. “Of course when she called to tell us what had happened I felt awful. I felt like I was setting her up to be bait. You never think something like this will happen. I’m so proud of her.”

Amy Gray said the memory alone is not enough for her.

“It’s my first summer away from home and this happened,” she said. “I think I’m going to get a grizzly bear tattoo to remember it by.”


Another no-tax increase Milwaukee County budget proposal, and after April, a better batch of  County Supervisors to work with.

Heroes of 2007: Dennis Walters

Inspirational golfer


More and more visitors, especially younger patrons.

Let's keep the spirit and the memories of the King alive.

Heroes of 2007: Marty Rukavina

Tess Corners firefighters have special bond.

NEW YEAR WISHES: Fast food joints

A wish that you do what you do best: produce greasy, fattening, quick food.

It is not your fault America is too fat.

It is the fault of fat people that they are fat.

Jennifer, we can't be out of Champagne....

It's not even 10:00!!!

Heroes of 2007: Miss Utah

But not just any Miss Utah.

NEW YEAR WISHES: Democrat Presidential candidates

A set of boxing gloves for each one of them.

Just keep punching and beating each other up.

We'll remember how phony and  foolish you look when you're all hugging each other at the Convention in August.

Heroes of 2007: Davit Mursalyan

Another brave young boy...



In just a few minutes, it's Happy New Year in America

 Andre Rieu 

Read more

Heroes of 2007: John Smeaton

He packs a mean punch.

NEW YEAR WISHES: Our soliders in Iraq

The respect and admiration from all Americans they truly deserve.

Heroes of 2007: Juma Gul

One of our youngest heroes of the year.

NEW YEAR WISHES: The state of Wisconsin

Lower taxes.

Shutting off the spending spigot.

Ditto for the brain drain.

A less Gestapo-like DNR.

A much improved business climate.

More jobs.

Less violent crime.

Rejection of government health care.

Goodbye to the "Frankenstein" veto.

Hello to photo ID.

A shorter winter.

An earlier spring.

A longer summer

A winter that actually begins in winter.

NEW YEAR WISHES: MF blogger Karen Taubenheim

A beauthiful, healthy, bouncing "project" in 2008.

Auld lang syne

Happy New Year!

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