Now It Is OREO Cookies…..Why Do Some Conservatives Thrive On Bigotry, Buffoonery?

There seems to be no end to the protracted culture wars that some people are just determined to start and continue. Who cares if people are hurt along the way, there are political points to be scored.

One of the first items on my email list this morning was a news story about blowback over cookies! It started with a major company reaching out through a truly impressively made video to showcase a resolve to stand with gay men and women.

The two-minute short film (at bottom of this post) about the, at times, difficulty of coming out, was produced in tandem by Oreo and PFLAG. As we are too aware, such positive moves that align with dignity and understanding for gay people, often run smack dab into some conservatives who wish to head back to whatever time their red hats are calculated for.

This morning I read that some of the mouthpieces for the far-right are all set and ready to boycott “gay cookies”. I suspect, however, those same conservative shouters are morally fine with Herschel Walker’s primary senate campaign in Georgia, even though the troubled football player was accused by his ex-wife of making multiple threats against her life. In 2005 she secured an order of protection against him. His now ex-wife stated Walker pointed a pistol at her head and said, ‘I’m going to blow your (I do not allow this world on my blog) brains out.’ 

But Walker is straight, and never finished college…so he fits in perfectly for the likes of Ben Shapiro. The ones to fear are not the abusers of women, but the cookies!

The Note,” is filmmaking with wonderful lighting, a few well-placed words, music that drives the mood, and compassion for a young Chinese-American man practicing a coming-out speech before a few close family members. Before the young man shares his truth with his grandmother, his mom slips him a note. “She might be my mother,” it reads, “but you are my son.”

The video ends with a message for viewers to pay it forward. “Coming out doesn’t happen just once,” it says. “Be a lifelong ally.”

What possibly could be the reason for the vitriol from the right about this video, and now the start of what will be a phenomenal failure at boycotting OREO cookies?

Why are bigotry and buffoonery the only way to connect with the conservative base? When we answer that question we may know far more as to why our politics are so dysfunctional.

And so it goes.

Four-Day Workweek In Offing For Americans?

During the pandemic, I have found it most interesting to follow closely certain economic news. Such as the selling price of homes in certain parts of the nation, supply-line issues, inflation, and how workers in many cases are demanding more pay and benefits.

Today, I read more about the growing movement for an idea I have long favored.

The four-day workweek.

There is no doubt, even prior to the pandemic, the stress level in the workplace combined with the lack of time to invest in personal ventures left many employees very unhappy. Not only with their jobs, but sadly, also their lives. The idea of a shorter workweek in our nation has many economists enthused as it is often noted in such work environments an increase in productivity is the result of more time with family and personal plans.

People are taking stock of their lives and the too-real awareness, in the midst of the pandemic, about a stronger sense of mortality and making use of time constructively. Hence, more workers are concluding this idea has merit.

As noted in the article..Working fewer hours per day would bring many parents’ schedules more in sync with those of their school-age children, giving parents opportunities to be more present and less exhausted during family time.

With the “Great Resignation” still in full-swing, and work-induced burnout an official occupational hazard according to the World Health Organization, a growing number of employers — and countries — are rethinking the standard 40-hour workweek. Iceland led the way in experimenting with shorter workweeks, without pay cuts, over several years. The experiment has largely been hailed as a success, with an estimated 86 percent of workers expected to adopt it.

Now Belgium has announced it will allow workers to request permission to compress their work hours into four days. Companies in North America are following suit; a coalition of U.K. companies is expected to replicate the experiment this summer. In the United States, U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) has proposed a bill that would reduce all standard workweeks to 32 hours, requiring overtime pay for anyone working beyond that.

An idea whose time has come?

And so it goes.

Will Children Be Able To Sleep Next To Proposed Amazon Facility In Cottage Grove?

As I wrote last week, I am very supportive of Cottage Grove officials who are working to make sure a job-creating Amazon facility is constructed and operating within 18 months. Tonight more reporting of the proposal was covered on local news.

David Stampli also lives a few hundred feet away from the planned facility and he’s also concerned about noise pollution. “I’ve two daughters, nine and 13. (on WKOW News Thursday evening he stated on-air “they keep asking”) How are they going to be able to sleep at night? There’s going to be trucks entering this facility 24/7.”

That reminded me of another father-child ‘conversation’ that many might recall from the pages of history.

In October 1980, President Carter said in his debate with Ronald Reagan, “I asked Amy the other day what the most important issue was. She said, ‘nuclear weaponry and the control of nuclear weapons.'”

Yeah.

And so it goes.

Amazon Perfect For Dane County Employment Growth

Here we go again.

A great opportunity has presented itself for job growth and increased tax revenue for the Madison area and Dane County. But some naysayers are already building their soapboxes so to undermine the effort.

Headlines were made Friday that Amazon is hoping to build in Dane County one of the largest distribution centers in the country. The massive retailer that finds customers in scores of homes nationwide (at least twice a week here with Prime) has proposed a five-story, 3.4 million-square-foot facility on 145 acres near the intersection of County Highway TT and County Highway N, just north of Interstate 94, in Cottage Grove.

And the selling point for the county is that this project would employ 1,500 people. It is hoped that construction could begin this year if local officials sign off on the deal, with the facility opening about 18 months later. Approval for the project has already received preliminary approval from both the Plan Commission and Village Board.

Local news reports have underscored the economic bounce this facility would provide to the county.

The proposed Amazon project, which is taking about half of the land, could mean a full build-out of the property in 10 years and increasing the village’s tax base by $300 million to $400 million.

But reports have also let it be known that there are some residents who are not pleased with the scope of the plan.

As we enter the third year of the COVID pandemic it is more than fair to write that our county has experienced economic hardships. With the disruptions to businesses, jobs, and the bottom lines of owners and workers alike we need true signs of renewal.

Therefore, it was my hope that upon first learning of this proposed plan a united effort from the local community, to the county as a whole, would be squarely behind the idea. Agreeing that job creation, along with an enhanced tax base that is good for everybody seems more than logical.

After all, we have witnessed the destruction of jobs and livelihoods with COVID and it is in the best interests of our area to stir the pot and create some hope for the future. Is that not part of the job of elected officials? So I applaud the people who worked from the beginning to marshall this idea to a top headline in Saturday’s Wisconsin State Journal.

There will be, in addition to the people who reside closest to the proposed site, others who will reject the idea simply because it is Amazon coming to the county. While I can understand the concerns of homeowners who have invested their lives in the community where the facility will be built, I can not find any rationale for thwarting a massive job creation effort because those jobs are not the correct jobs that should be created.

The dialogue from the anti-Amazon folks forgets about the need for more employment opportunities with good-paying jobs. I would like to think–in the same manner which I watch Washington politicians–that the naysayers might try to find a way they could say yes to the plan in question. Or is the rigidity of their views about Amazon the sole determining factor?

Yeah, it takes no time to ponder that question.

I come from perhaps an old-fashioned background concerning local government. In times of turmoil and economic upheaval, there is a need to lift citizens up, show resolve at pointing to better days ahead, and marshal our governing tools to demonstrate hope for the future.

The local people governing in Cottage Grove are doing that very thing.

And they deserve applause from the entire county. After all, the ones who are unemployed or seeking stable work opportunities should have someone on their side, too.

And so it goes.

Wonder Bar In Madison Saved, But At What Cost?

It is always amusing what issue can energize enough people to take action so as to impact the larger issue at hand. This year in Madison the ‘necessity’ of securing the Wonder Bar from demolition caught my attention.

An 18-story development project aimed at housing and commercial interests had been proposed for the site where the Wonder Bar and another drinking establishment in close proximity now exist. The proposal was a smart idea for a city that does like to talk often about the need for more housing, and knowing the added tax base is always required for the needs of our communities.

But then it seemed a number of locals found themselves to be history buffs and demanded that the 1930s Prohibition Roadhouse built by rivals of Al Capone be saved. After a number of meetings and letters to the editor of the local paper, it was decided that the Wonder Bar would be physically moved so to save it.

The cost of such a move would seemingly require a lot of cookie sales from the proponents of saving it. Or should we just expect the developer to bite that cost, too?

Over the 30 years of living in Madison, I have found myself on both sides of development projects. How it impacts those who live near such a proposal and the economic benefit to the city are two of my major concerns. When the Wonder Bar is the central issue, however, the end result is not difficult to discern.

There should have been strong and unbending support for the development proposed by McGrath Property Group. Tepid support does not cut it in this time of economic dips and uncertainty.

So the news this week about the down-sized plans for the project is not in any way surprising.

“The decision was made due to the continuing unprecedented increases in construction costs which was exacerbated by the high costs of relocating the Wonder Bar on site,” McGrath told the State Journal Tuesday evening. “We get routine feedback from our general contractor on pricing as the design evolves. In this case, costs kept trending in the wrong direction.”

The total cost to move the Wonder Bar was over $1 million and added three months to the construction schedule, he said.

“We are still planning to go forward with a project but it will be a lower scale project, likely four-to- five stories of wood frame over two levels of parking, and the Wonder Bar will remain in its current location,” he wrote to city staff.

There are times when developers have put forth in this city ideas that were truly in need of a total transformation. Then there are those projects where the need exists and the economic uptick for Madison can be clearly demonstrated with density development. It is that last point that sums up what could have occurred–and should have been realized on Olin Avenue.

The Wonder Bar should now sharply increase the costs of their drinks so to help with revenue to the city and to make up for what we are losing from a much-limited development project.

And so it goes.

Madison Marathon Did Not Use Local Merchant For Participant Shirts, Items “Stuck Out On Port”

It was a cold and blustery day for the runners in this year’s Madison Marathon. The snow that had been predicted did not materialize which allowed for much better running conditions.

This evening as a local news report encapsulated the day’s event a rather concerning comment was made that seemed at odds with making this marathon a local tradition.

Sara Kleme, President of Madison Festivals was interviewed by WKOW 27. She said that the pandemic was not the only obstacle to overcome with this year’s event. She stated the biggest struggle was with supply chain disruptions.

She told the news reporter that “we just got all our participant shirts this week from being stuck out on port”.

That sounded really awful the first time I heard it, and it did not improve when I hit the rewind button on the DVR. Local businesses of every stripe have taken a hit to the bottom line from the pandemic with the loss of workers and customers. So when nearly 5,000 participant shirts were needed for the local marathon the project was sent overseas.

Last year when I needed an order of T-shirts for a group of radio enthusiasts I contacted a local professional businesswoman who creates shirts and does her work in the city. In 10 days I had the transaction concluded. The marathon needed thousands of shirts but the order could have–and should have–been kept in this city. That did not happen.

We all talk about buying local and keeping workers on the job. So it is troubling to learn that Madison Festivals, when having the opportunity to keep cash registers humming locally, gave the work project to a place requiring its return via a port.

And so it goes.

Businesses Should Be More Understanding Of Workers’ Needs

One of the running themes being heard and seen around the nation is the at-times high-minded and self-righteous phrasing of “get a job”. The millions of unemployed along with the wide array of openings have spawned a sad exercise in who can be more arrogant when it comes to labeling the unemployed.

The fact is a massive reconfiguration of the workforce is underway. It can be rightly seen in a very positive way. Following the many components to this national story can be uplifting, but as I note from Northern Wisconsin it can also be dispiriting.

What can not be dismissed is that almost tectonic shifts in the workforce are underway.

For instance, record 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August alone. As has been widely reported women are quitting their jobs at a faster pace than men. CBS News reports the biggest reason for the upheaval in the workplace can be summed up in one word.

Burnout.

There is empowerment being felt by workers coast to coast as they assess their lives and desires. It does make for an interesting lesson to watch play out.

For so long many politicians had refused to address the minimum wage and refused to acknowledge the need for a living wage in the county. The pandemic unleashed a series of dynamics in the work world where workers can now demand from employers better wages and benefits. And in some sectors they are getting them.

Some workers have left their jobs for better pay, while others have moved to new areas with the ability to work in a remote-friendly fashion. The other interesting aspect of the flux in the work world is the number of workers who have quit a job, and started their own business.

In the midst of all the changes underway there is, however, a nagging sore spot that continues to abound. On social media this weekend it was noted by a woman that she “Went to a bar for some lunch and as we were leaving I noticed a sign out front that said “money isn’t free” and “get a job it’s the American way”.

That did not sit so well with her, and for obvious reasons, so she did some research on the business concerning the federal relief dollars that it had received. The business in Northern Wisconsin had received $88,900. The loan was forgiven in April 2021.

I am mighty glad the federal government injected funds into the economy, assisted businesses and workers as the country waged war on the pandemic and its broad-based attack on the economy. The bar in this story had every reason to get a loan. And be grateful that the nation cared to see the survival of small mom and pop establishments.

But to assign blame for problems, as the sign strongly infers, on one villainous party, that being the so-called lazy portion of the American workforce, is simply awful.

What is not registered in the posting on that establishment is what is playing out for the first time in decades, by my recollection, where workers feel like they have options ahead of them. And with that power, they can quit a job they hated. We must simply reject the rhetoric that people are lazy and they do not wish to work.

Rather they wish to be valued as employees. paid a decent wage, and have benefits that make their lives better. Perhaps employers will need to up their game on how to keep their workers and attract new ones.

Meanwhile, the wrong-headed notion that Americans are not interested in working can be chalked off as wrong. The data proves why.

Millions of people struck out on their own and started a wide array of business ventures with 4.3 million new business applications filed in 2020 and 3.8 million so far this year.

There are many aspects to this larger story that continues to play out. I have a friend who quit his job in a large financial institution. The reason was a severe mismatch in the corporate offices thinking they could demand a return to all in-person working. He had worked there for over 25 years, took a severance package, and will now use his skills in a new pursuit.

Workers are in the driver’s seat. Businesses need to understand that fact.

And so it goes.

Pine Cone Diner In DeForest Closes With Political Lie, Owner Took Nearly Half-Million In Fed $$

While living in Madison over the past decades I have known two of my favorite restaurants to close. In both cases there was a high degree of resolve to meet and greet long-time customers and share memories. There were efforts made to go out of business with class.

When Wong’s Chinese Garden closed on Atwood Avenue Gah Yuen Wong and his wife, Lan gave out hugs and poured cups of tea as conversations flowed. Over the years I would often joke that his wife needed a pay raise, and Wong often reached into his pockets and told me he had no money.  Lan leaned on the counter and smiled as she has heard our vaudeville routine many times.

La Rocca’s on Williamson Street was a joy as entering was akin to going into someone’s home.  Over the years the owner, Vito, told us of his family who had come from Sicily and why his food was homemade. In my view, it was awesomely authentic. His last day was like a favorite family leaving the neighborhood. Smiles, hugs, and of course Caternia had tears in her eyes.

Such memories are part of the food experience as it is important for such places to end with grace.

That was not the case, however, in DeForest when the Pine Cone Restaurant closed with a sign on the door that was rude and totally a political lie.

The owner of the establishment, John McKay, just like every other restaurant owner in the state faced the same hardships during the ongoing pandemic. Like most business owners he also benefited from the at-times bi-partisan efforts to pump money into the economy and help ensure workers were kept afloat.

As such McKay and the Pine Cone got two Paycheck Protection Program loans, one in 2020 and one this year, totaling $464,040, according to PPP data. The data show the restaurant had 32 employees during the applicable loan period.

So it was the height of having no grace when McKay placed a sign on the door of the diner with a most outrageous lie.

The sign reads like a political stunt from AM-talk radio.

“Due to the decisions of your state government (Evers) and your federal government (Biden), The Pine Cone has been forced to close its doors after 40 years. Thanks for all your support” 

The truth came out when the media started to make inquiries into the matter.

McKay said Thursday the real reason he closed the truck stop restaurant at 6162 Highway 51, was because his lease was up.

It’s just strictly the lease. Our lease was up after 40 years. … Got old and got tired.”

It is disturbing when facts are so easily tossed aside so to feed the narrative that conservatives wish to foment. It is also rather unsightly, when knowing many business people across the country were thankful for the assistance from the federal and state governments, to learn that a local one took the money and was not grateful.

The Wongs and Vito’s family came to this country and for decades ran successful restaurants. When they closed the door on their places for the last time it was surely with mixed feelings.

But it was done with class.

And so it goes.