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Archive for January, 2009

The 2009 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

The 2009 Pro Football Class was announced today after sportswriters across America voted on who would have the honor to have a bust in Canton, Ohio.  In the end, six more were added.

Congratulations to them all.

Bruce Smith, Rod Woodson and Derrick Thomas, all witnesses for the defense. All of them now Pro Football Hall of Famers.

The three were elected on Saturday, along with longtime Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, who at age 90 will be the oldest person ever inducted; former Minnesota Vikings guard Randall McDaniel; and the late Bob Hayes, a standout wide receiver for Dallas and the 1964 Olympic gold medalist in the 100 meters.

The induction ceremony will be Aug. 8 in Canton, Ohio.

The only candidate among the seven finalists who didn’t get in was former Falcons and Eagles defensive end Claude Humphrey.

Former commissioner Paul Tagliabue was denied entry for the third straight year, not even making it past the first round of cuts.

Tagliabue, who retired in 2006 after 17 years in the job, has met strong resistance in his three years of eligibility despite the profitability and labor peace the league enjoyed during his tenure.

No such problem for Smith and Woodson in their first year on the ballot.

Not to lower the honor that was placed upon these six men, but I’ve always wondered why Packers Legend and five-time all-pro guard Jerry Kramer is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Kramer retired from football in 1968.  In 1969, he was named as the best Guard to ever play the position in the history of the NFL as part of its 50th Anniversary team.

As of today, he remains the only member of that fraternity to not make it into Canton.

Kramer’s best chances to make Canton have likely long since passed.  As this 1997 article from the Journal Sentinel seems to indicate.

In 1969, Kramer was named by a special Hall of Fame committee as the best guard ever in the first 50 years of pro football.

Who knows what goes through the minds of Hall of Fame voters.

Art Daley, 79-year-old Hall of Fame voter from Green Bay, tried to persuade the other 34 voters to cast their lot with Kramer Saturday. Daley said he was well prepared.

He said he made an ”eight, nine-minute” presentation. He brought with him ringing endorsements for Kramer from former Packer Hall of Famers Bart Starr, Forrest Gregg and Jim Ringo. He also had endorsements from guys who played against Kramer, namely Alex Karras and Wayne Walker of the Detroit Lions, and Merlin Olsen of the then Los Angeles Rams.

Kramer had monumental encounters with Karras, a defensive tackle. Daley had asked Karras if Kramer had benefited mostly by playing next to Ringo and Gregg.

”Alex said ‘no,”’ Daley said. ”He thought it was the other way around.”

Hall of Fame selection meetings often can turn into hollering matches. Daley said no one objected at Kramer’s nomination.

”Only one person, however, seconded my thoughts about Jerry,” Daley said. ”Don Pierson of the Chicago Tribune got up and spoke highly of Kramer.”

There were 35 votes. Kramer needed 28 and failed to get them.

Jerry Mcgee of the San Diego Union-Tribune is a member of the Hall of Fame veterans selection committee that nominated Kramer last June.

Asked for his opinion why Kramer didn’t get enough votes, Mcgee offered these opinions:

”I think there are a lot of people in football who believe Fuzzy Thurston was better — rightly or wrongly. They just feel that way.

”Secondly, there are a hell of a lot of Packers already in the Hall of Fame.

”But probably most important, we’re coming at an age now, most of these younger guys on the selection committee never saw Kramer play.”

In other words, it’s getting harder and harder for old-timers to get in because the NFL is cranking out dozens of eligibles annually. Players become eligible five years after they retire; a coach needs only to be retired.

Only a prima dona of a sports writer would used that second argument.  (Whatever.)

It’s the last part which stings fans like me the most.  Kramer is seeing places in the Hall of Fame go to  for guys who’s fathers and grandfathers idolized him.  He’s being overlooked not because he wasn’t great – the numbers and footage tell us he was – he’s being overlooked because those sports writers who would be nominating him aren’t in the room anymore.

As seen from this footage earlier today, all ESPNews can talk about are the modern players (one of which is on ESPN’s payroll as an analyst) who didn’t make the cut.

Kramer has long since said, not making the Hall of Fame has stopped being something he worries about.  He is respected across the sport for his work on and off the field.  But still, I often wonder how the Kramer’s good friend the late Dick Schaap would have felt on days like this.

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Detroit Still Has a Game on Thanksgiving

Well, at least for this year.

The Detroit Lions‘ Thanksgiving Day game is safe, at least for 2009. But NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says that could change.

During a news conference Friday, Goodell said owners will discuss having other teams host Thanksgiving Day games “as we get later into the year.”

The Lions have hosted Thanksgiving Day games since 1934, but the club fought off a resolution to rotate the game among NFL teams in 1999.

The Lions going 0-16 this past season has only sped up the idea of stripping the Thanksgiving Day Game from the franchise.  It has been a near ratings nightmare for whichever network (Fox or CBS) gets the chore of airing the game since the Lions’ 50 Years of futility has made them impossible to market to football fans.

There is a reason why they’re constantly the ‘early game’ after all.

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From Stadium to Mall

The Chinese government media reports a three to five year effort will soon begin to turn the amazing “Bird’s Nest” Olympic Stadium into the cornerstone of a major shopping complex.

The area around Beijing’s massive Bird’s Nest stadium will be turned into a shopping and entertainment complex in three to five years, a state news agency said Friday.

Officially known as Beijing National Stadium, the showpiece of the Beijing Olympics has fallen into disuse since the end of the games. Paint is already peeling in some areas, and the only visitors these days are tourists who pay about $7 to walk on the stadium floor and browse a pricey souvenir shop.

Plans call for the $450 million stadium to anchor a complex of shops and entertainment outlets in three to five years, Xinhua News Agency reported, citing operator Citic Group. The company will continue to develop tourism as a major draw for the Bird’s Nest, while seeking sports and entertainment events.

The only confirmed event at the 91,000-seat stadium this year is Puccini’s opera “Turandot,” set for Aug. 8—the one-year anniversary of the Olympics’ opening ceremony. The stadium has no permanent tenant after Beijing’s top soccer club, Guo’an, backed out of a deal to play there.

Details about the development plans were not available. A person who answered the phone at Citic Group on Friday said offices were closed for the Chinese New Year holiday.

A symbol of China’s rising power and confidence, the stadium, whose nickname described its lattice of exterior steel beams, may never recoup its hefty construction cost, particularly amid a global economic slump. Maintenance of the structure alone costs about $8.8 million annually, making it difficult to turn a profit, Xinhua said.

One of the downsides of host the Olympic Games is what to do with all the venues once the games are over.  After Atlanta hosted the Games in 1996, they turned the Olympic stadium into “Turner Field,” the new home for the Atlanta Braves.  One can guess what London will turn their future stadium after the 2012 Games into a soccer stadium to be used by a number of Football Clubs.

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Quote of the Day

(From Mike Allen of the Politico Playbook)

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) last night at the House Republican retreat in West Virginia  after reading the news HHS Secretary-Designate Tom Daschle hasn’t paid $128K in taxes for the past:

‘It’s easy for the other side to advocate for higher taxes because you know what? They don’t pay ’em.”

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‘For the People?” Try for Big Labor

Yesterday, President Barack Obama signed four executive orders he said were meant to ‘level the playing field’  between management and labor.

Here’s what they did.

The orders, which union officials say will undo Bush administration policies that favored employers, will:

— Require federal contractors to offer jobs to current workers when contracts change.
— Reverse a Bush order requiring federal contractors to post notices that workers can limit financial support of unions.
— Prevent federal contractors from being reimbursed for expenses meant to influence workers deciding whether to form a union.

“I do not view the labor movement as part of the problem. To me, it’s part of the solution,” Obama said to applause as he signed the orders at a launch of a task force on the middle class, where its chairman, Vice President Biden, explicitly welcomed labor leaders back to the White House.

“Today’s actions show that the Obama White House is the working families’ White House,” AFL-CIO president John Sweeney said in a statement.

No, it’s a union thug White House.

I question one of the above list.  How is it exactly wrong for there to be a sign at the work place saying “Hey, you don’t have to be in the Union?  You have a choice.”  This is a total payback for unions and takes away the employee’s individual right to either abandon the union for another or turn the shop union-free.

As for the orders related to union contracting, I can understand the one about reimbursement.  Taxpayers should not be required to pay for a company’s efforts to discourage a union from being organized.  Though I will say, the one regarding retention could cause problems since many times when a federal contract changes, the federal contractor also changes.

(Ah, memories…)

Not surprising, the National Association of Manufacturers has been watching all of this since it effects the bottom line of many of their members and in the end, the workers who work for them since it is manufacturing which is taking a heavy blunt of the economic downturn.  On their “Shop Floor” blog, they noticed something interesting about the Obama Transition’s legal team for the Labor Department.

Check the metadata of the following executive order signed by President Obama yesterday, and you’ll find the author of the original .pdf document:

It’s Craig Becker, associate general counsel of the Service Employees International Union, the SEIU. (Or counsel.)*

Becker served on the Obama transition’s “agency review team” for the Department of Labor.

Guess that’s what they meant by “Your Seat at the Table.”

* It’s entirely possible that Becker has joined the Administration. He’s not on the Department of Labor’s key personnel list, however. (And we’re not able to check since it’s early Saturday morning. The executive orders are still not posted at the White House’s website, we note. We received the .pdfs via e-mail from an attorney friend.)

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Favre Hasn’t Returns Rodgers Calls

Brett Favre – Classless act.

In the chat [yesterday at the Super Bowl’s Radio Row with former Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Michael Irvin and Kevin Kiley on Dallas’ ESPN 103.3 FM], Rodgers said that, after the Packers lost to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship in January 2008, he and Favre left as friends. But there’s been no communications since.

Here’s the transcript:

Kiley: “You must say to yourself, why doesn’t Brett speak to me. What could it possibly be? …”

Rodgers: “I don’t know. That’s a question for him. I’m not going to put words in his mouth…. When we lost to the Giants [in the 2007 NFC Championship], we left as friends, and I haven’t talked to him in a year….”

Irvin: “Why will you not reach out to him?”

Rodgers: “I did.”

Irvin: “So you called him and he did not call you back.”

Rodgers: “Yeah.”

On a personal level I know how you feel Aaron. 

Not the ‘Brett Favre hasn’t spoken to me in over a year” thing.  But I think all people with friendships ending bitterly can relate.

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A Lefty Says it, So I Don’t Have to

The Political Environment’s James Rowen on why WMC is really pulling out of this year’s Wisconsin State Supreme Court race.

The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce has announced it is sitting out the April State Supreme Court race.

So is the state’s leading Deep Pockets, Deeply Reactionary Big Business organization reforming itself after spending millions on negative TV ads to get ethically-challenged local judges promoted to the high court?

Hardly.

The WMC can read a poll and assess an incumbent’s huge treasury and grasp that a nobody from Jefferson County is an easy shove under the bus driven by sitting Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson – – whose re-election is a lock, and deservedly so.

The WMC will come back into the fray when there are easier pickings.

Frankly, I don’t get why state conservatives are investing the effort in taking out Abrahamson.  Given the state left’s continual rage over how they still believe the last two races were ‘stolen and cheated’ away from them, you could feel the forces of darkness rising up to save Shirley before she even announced she wanted to run again (and leave the State Supreme Court chamber at room temperature in a pine box).  Heck maybe I was foolish enough to believe a two-year detante on Supreme Court races could be issued, since the state left will likely return in force against conservative favorite Justice David Prosser, who’s up for re-election in 2011.

Seeing Charlie’s post the other day only made me sigh.  WMC didn’t cave, they bowed to reality.

Abrahamson’s has nearly $700,000 in the bank compared to what exactly for her opponent?  She has the legacy of holding the office so long, she’s made friends with nearly everybody.  She has business execs, legal scholars, and even reliable conservative allies all in her corner.  With her closer to 80 than 70, I never understood why our side didn’t think it would be smarter to just wait until the seat opens upon her retirement or death.

State conservatives would better spend their time this spring fighting to get one of the two legitimate conservative candidates elected as State Superintendent of Public Instruction.  You don’t have it much better than running against the Deputy of a failed state bureaucracy.  Despite all the entrenched help from WEAC, Doyle-allies, and the like, Deputy Superintendent Tony Evers has to defend an indefensible record at DPI.  The way he and Libby Burmaster have run the place is a disgrace and I’d love to tell us why he didn’t do a better job as the Department’s #2.

My advice for those back home:  Hold your powder on Shirley Abrahamson, it’ll go for naught.  You want to best move Wisconsin in a more conservative direction, help either Rose Fernandez or Van Mobley defeat the WEAC candidate of choice, Tony Evers.

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Who Here Loves Trade Wars?

We might be on the verge of one.

The EU trade commissioner vowed to fight back after the bill passed in the House of Representatives late on Wednesday included a ban on most purchases of foreign steel and iron used in infrastructure projects.

The Senate’s version of the legislation, which will be debated early next week, goes even further, requiring that any projects related to the stimulus use only American-made equipment and goods.

The inclusion of protectionist measures has quickly raised hackles in Europe.

Catherine Ashton, the EU trade commissioner, said: “We are looking at the situation. The one thing we can be absolutely certain about, is if a bill is passed which prohibits the sale or purchase of European goods on American territory, that is something we will not stand idly by and ignore.”

Despite the parlous state of the US economy, some major American firms, including General Electric, are also opposed to the Buy American stipulations, fearing reprisals from overseas and further damage to the global economy.

Bill Lane, government affairs director for Caterpillar, which has just laid off nearly a fifth of its 112,000 work force and is the tenth largest US investor in Britain, warned it was a dangerous step.

He said: “We are the first to recognise that if the US embraces Buy American then the whole notion of buying national will mestastasize and limit our ability to take part in overseas projects.

“We are students of history. A major reason a very deep recession turned into the Great Depression was the fact that countries turned inward.”

It isn’t just the EU.  By the close of business yesterday, representatives from Canada, Australia, and many of the major U.S. trading partners were issuing official statements regarding their concerns on what is clearly a protectionist stance by members of Congress.

And for those of you wondering, even though no tariffs or quotas aren’t actually being raised, a “Buy American” provision (or the similar “Buy Wisconsin” provision) is in fact a protectionist tactic.  You’re creating a class of ‘preferred, if not forced, set of contractors’ on a buyer; in this case the government.  Even more interesting, is how this added stipulation – according to Chicago Customs Attorney Larry Friedman – could in fact be a violation of several trade pacts the United States is member to.

While this strikes some as a simple measure intended to ensure that stimulus money stay in the US, others are concerned that it is a step toward protectionism. Further, it likely violates our commitments under the WTO agreement on government procurement and the procurement provisions of several free trade agreements.

The WTO’s court is not exactly known for taking violations lightly.

Finally, you think that’s fun, wait until they re-introduce the Orwellian-named “Patriot Corporations of America Act,” which died in Committee last Congress but is said President Obama is quite a fan of.

Here’s what it would do.

Patriot Corporations of America Act of 2007 – Grants after 2007 a preference to Patriot corporations in the evaluation of bids or proposals for federal contracts. Defines ” Patriot corporation” as a corporation which: (1) produces at least 90% of its goods and services in the United States; (2) does not pay its  management-level employees at a rate more than 10,000% of the compensation of its lowest paid employee; (3) conducts at least 50% of its research and development in the United States; (4) contributes at least 5% of its payroll to a portable pension fund for its employees; (5) pays at least 70% of its employees’ health insurance costs; (6) maintains a policy of neutrality in employee organizing drives; (7) provides full differential salary and insurance benefits for all National Guard and Reserve employees who are called to active duty; and (8) has not violated federal regulations, including regulations relating to the environment, workplace safety, labor relations, and consumer protections.
Amends the Internal Revenue Code to: (1) reduce the income tax rate for Patriot corporations; (2) reclassify foreign corporations created or organized to avoid federal taxation as domestic corporations for income tax purposes; and (3) increase, for the period between January 1, 2007, and December 31, 2010, the income tax rate for individual taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $500,000 or more ($1 million or more for joint returns).
Where do I find the line to file for corporate bankruptcy?
It had 18 co-sponsors, one of whom was Wisconsin’s Steve Kagen.

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Words of Wisdom, from Michael Weston

“Burn Notice” is perhaps the coolest show I’ve ever seen on cable TV in some time.  I speak its gospel quite often and believe I’ve converted a few friends and co-workers into fans. (Thank you DVD sets!)

When the show first got its start, USA Networks began a series of “Ask a Spy” infomercials to give people a feel for the lead character Michael Weston.  Weston used to be a spy, until he got burned.

Enjoy.

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Stimulus Support is Tanking

Looks like the Left’s gonna need newer, more up-to-date polling.  Things aren’t looking too good according to Rasmussen.

Public support for the economic recovery plan crafted by President Obama and congressional Democrats has slipped a bit over the past week. At the same time, expectations that the plan will quickly become law have increased.

Forty-two percent (42%) of the nation’s likely voters now support the president’s plan, roughly one-third of which is tax cuts with the rest new government spending. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 39% are opposed to it and 19% are undecided. Liberal voters overwhelmingly support the plan while conservatives are strongly opposed.

Last week, support for the President’s plan was at 45% and opposition at 34%.

The party breakdown shows much more is going on in the mind of the American Public.

Over the course of the past week, there has been little change in the views of either Republicans or Democrats towards the legislation. Seventy-four percent (74%) of Democrats support the plan along with just 18% of Republicans. Both those figures are up just a single point from the previous poll.

However, support among unaffiliated voters has fallen. A week ago, unaffiliateds were evenly divided on the plan, with 37% in favor and 36% opposed. Now, 50% of unaffiliated voters oppose the plan while only 27% favor it.

From the actions and statements of many liberals, it is becoming clear to me at least they are losing the PR war on the Obama Stimulus bill.  They have the numbers to steamroll this thing through both Houses of Congress, but aren’t.  They need Republican votes for the biggest political CYA job possibly ever.

This bill has so many toys and treasures in it, it’s an investigative reporter’s wet dream.  Day by day they unveil bit by bit what’s exactly in its pages.  And in the end, that’s the biggest PR problem Democrats have on a bill they once promised they’ve have passed by Inauguration Day – Now 9 Days past.  People are asking the two questions they should be about this boondoggle: “What’s in here?” and “How does THAT create and sustain jobs?”

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