Bread and circuses

Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker and his pet Senators in the state legislature just came up with $250 million to keep the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks in the state by building them an arena downtown. The deal will eventually cost taxpayers $400 million including interest.

In theory the team’s owners are on the hook for the balance of the cost of building this thing. Whaddya bet they figure out some way to wiggle out of their obligations?

Meanwhile, he cut the University of Wisconsin’s budget by $250 million (odd similarity in the numbers there, huh?).

Wisconsin can’t see the back of this man too soon, and the rest of us had better ensure he’s not elected President next fall.


Somehow I have gotten into a rhythm with my dentist and my periodontist. I see one or the other every quarter. Tomorrow is the regular dentist’s turn.

It’s a good racket. Each of them gets paid once every three months. The patient benefits, I guess, but it gets tiresome.

Oy, Our Modern Conveniences!

Unlike many people, I don’t use a smartphone (I’ve got a tablet). In fact, it wasn’t until 2006 that I got around to even getting a cellphone. I’ve been using no-contract (Tracfone) flip phones ever since (well, the first one was a Nokia candy bar). I have found it useful to have one, particularly at night, since I can put it on the bedside table and Mom can call me if she needs something.

Last night she tried to call me and the call went straight to voice mail. I’ve never run this phone down to even a low battery, so this struck me as odd. However, I didn’t know what else to do so I plugged it in to charge, and it told me it was doing so. A little while later it told me the battery was full. Yeah, well, then why aren’t you showing me the home screen? And why when I call you does the call go straight to voice mail?

Today I went out looking for a replacement battery. The one the nearest battery place had in stock was $37 for one with a lifetime guarantee. I said, “Nah. Not when I can buy a new flip phone for $15.” So that’s what I did. Unfortunately Tracfone hasn’t yet figured out how to transfer its customers’ phone contact data from an old phone to a new one, so now I have to re-key those numbers in to the new phone. Fortunately I don’t use the thing much so I only have about a dozen numbers to enter.

Oh, and it was raining the whole time I was out looking for phones and batteries. Bleah.

R.I.P., Ken “The Snake” Stabler

Former Raider, Oiler and Saint quarterback Ken Stabler died today of colon cancer at the young age of 69.

If Ken Stabler had the ball with two minutes left in the game and you were rooting for the Raiders’ opponent, you were in trouble and you knew it. He was a superb passer and leader.

Here’s one of his most famous plays.

The NFL changed the rules after that game to say that the only man who can advance the ball after a fumble is the guy who dropped it in the first place. Had that rule been in place, only Stabler could have moved the ball. Neither Banaszak’s nor Casper’s actions would have been legal.

Bye bye trademark

Not trademarks in general, mind you, but the very specific federal ones that the Washington Redskins have claimed on their name.

U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee’s decision affirmed an earlier ruling by the federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. Last year, the appeal board declared in a 2-to-1 vote that the team’s moniker is offensive to Native Americans and therefore ineligible for federal trademark protection under the Lanham Act, which bars protection for names that “may disparage” or bring people into contempt or disrepute.

Lee agreed with that assessment, rejecting the team’s argument that the vast majority of Native Americans had no objection to the name when the trademarks were granted between 1967 and 1990. Instead, the judge questioned why the team ever chose the name, pointing out in his ruling that Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defined the word as “often contemptuous” in 1898, “seventy years prior to the registration of the first Redskins Mark.”

This doesn’t mean the team can’t continue to use the name. It just means that others can copy it and the team logo if they like. Given the loathing much of the public has toward both the word and the logo, I’m not sure how many entrepreneurs might want to copy the things, but now they’re allowed to.

The team plans to appeal the decision.

Brownback sets Kansas back further

This man is going to be known as the most divisive and possibly the stupidest governor Kansas has ever had. First he falls head-over-heels in love with Arthur Laffer’s supply-side economics and implements policies to put them in place, which results in his state losing tax revenue by billions of dollars, causing deep pain to Kansas’s poorest citizens.

Then he and his pet legislature put daily limits on the amount of cash welfare recipients can get from ATMs in any one day, and he then denied he had anything to do with it (except for signing the legislation, of course).

Now he’s let his state in for endless lawsuits by issuing an executive order stating no agency of state government can take action against clergy or religious organizations which deny services to LGBTQ couples as long as they say they are denying those services because of their religious beliefs.

Meh. This is a paper tiger, right? Well, no.

The order explicitly protects religious organizations that provide “social services or charitable services,” meaning that it extends beyond the wedding ceremony.

The order means “a homeless shelter that received a state contract or grant could refuse family housing to a gay couple with a child, or a foster care agency could refuse to place a child in their custody with the child’s family member just because the family member was in a same-sex relationship – and the state could not require them to treat all families equally,” said Micah Kubic, executive director of the Kansas chapter of the ACLU.

Or gay couples trying to adopt could be refused. Or some Catholic hospital could refuse a dying AIDS patient’s partner the right to be at his bedside.

Brownback might be the nastiest dumbest governor in the country right now. That’s saying something since he’s a governor at the same time as Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Phil Bryant of Mississippi, Chris Christie of New Jersey, and Greg Abbott of Texas.

Greece stays, Greece goes, who knows?

Paul Krugman and others have asserted that European banks were the big beneficiaries of the early Greek bailout. They’ve gotten pushback, apparently. Steve Randy Waldman has created a timeline of events from that early 2010 bailout through the second one in 2012. I can’t swear to the accuracy of his analysis, but it seems to buttress what Krugman’s been saying: that Greece has been a victim of European political leaders and financial technocrats who are guilty of practicing bad macroeconomics to the benefit of European elites and the detriment of 11 million Greeks.

The Boston Pops and the Glorious Fourth

I have been whining and complaining about CBS and its miserable broadcast of the Boston Pops annual 4th of July show from the Esplanade in Boston for about ten years now. It looks like the Pops and CBS separated after the 2013 Fireworks Spectacular, as unless you lived in Boston the only way to see the show in 2014 was on a live webcast. That remains the same this year. If you live in Boston you can watch on WBZ-TV from 8-11pm EDT, otherwise you have to watch the livestream.

Following last year’s first-ever live webcast of the event, the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular will stream live online AT, bringing Boston’s famous July 4 celebration once again to a worldwide audience.

Well, good. The webcast can’t possibly be any worse than what CBS had done with it over the past years. This is from 2010:

Okay, CBS, you’re officially on notice about your Pops telecast; I won’t bother watching again. You opened the show with a one-minute picture of the cannon being fired for the 1812 Overture, then went to some seemingly-drunk MC who introduced Toby Keith, who sang two songs. Then you showed the Pops playing a singalong medley. Then, after a bunch of commercials, you showed the drunk again, bragging about the upcoming fireworks display. (Was that Craig Ferguson and is that his normal schtick?)

Just after the half-hour mark of this hour-long cut of what is a three-hour performance for the locals you started showing the fireworks. Yes, they are spectacular. But I wonder if the viewers of WBZ in Boston and those on the Esplanade heard what we did: canned pop music accompanying them. The Pops were neither heard nor seen for the entire twenty minutes of fireworks.

Back in 2006 the CBS geniuses enlisted Aerosmith to play their own music, rather than the Pops playing American patriotic songs.

The webcast sounds better and better.