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Archive for August, 2009

Mercury Marine / IAM Seeking “Clarity” on 2nd Vote

The military has a term for what’s going on in Fond du Lac these days around the 151 corridor…


This only adds to it.

In a surprise turn of events, a Mercury Marine spokesman said Monday night that officials from the company and the union’s IAM Midwest Territory will meet as soon as Tuesday to “bring clarity” to the confusion surrounding union voting at the Labor Center.

“We’re talking,” Mercury communications director Steve Fleming said Monday night.

He declined to elaborate on the significance of the situation but indicated that “talking” did not mean negotiating at the bargaining table.

The brief Mercury statement follows: “In light of the uncertainty surrounding the voting by Mercury employees on the company’s ‘best and final’ offer made earlier to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Mercury and the IAM Midwest Territory have agreed to meet to bring clarity to the communications regarding the unchanged ‘best and final’ proposal.”

The statement came on the heels of voting at the Labor Center that was cut short without explanation Monday afternoon.

Union workers were under the impression when voting ended Monday afternoon that their attempt at a second vote had been dealt a mortal blow, and with it, the chance to save more than 800 manufacturing jobs at Mercury.

Voting ended abruptly by order of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Midwest Office.

In spite of delivering a vote on a proposed labor contract by the midnight deadline Saturday night, union workers were prompted by local union leaders to continue voting throughout the weekend and into Monday.

“We were planning on presenting the outcome to Mercury hoping they would have a change of heart,” said union worker Fred Toth Jr. “The (Midwest) union resisted the second effort for a vote, not the company.”

If you want to see something, I urge you to watch this report for CBS 5 WFRV out of Green Bay.  In it, you will see the union steward just take the uncounted ballots and put them in his truck never to be seen again.

He didn’t offer comment to the press nearby.

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Favre: “I May Have Cracked Rib”

How and when did this happen exactly?

Did he fall out of bed wrong?  Was he not wearing the special QB Red Jersey, or did he fall off the tractor?

Brett Favre told ESPN before the Minnesota Vikings‘ game on Monday that he suspects he may have a cracked rib.

Favre hasn’t had an official diagnosis, but he says taking a deep breath causes discomfort. The 39-year-old quarterback isn’t listed on the injury report and no other other Vikings official mentioned the injury pregame.

The three-time MVP says he has no plans to wear any kinds of special padding, saying “the damage is done.” Favre is expected to play the entire first half against the Houston Texans.

Favre, who signed a $25 million deal with the Vikings on Aug. 18, completed just one pass for four yards over two series in his Minnesota debut just days later.

Me?  I’ll believe it when I see it.  Favre may indeed be injured, but it could also be all a stunt to either get more rest as he continues to work the rust of not being at training camp off or wants the Texans to lay up on him.

That, or he’s not injured, fakes it, and then has a great game to grow the legend.

Sorry if that sounds overly cynical, but I’m taking this season with Brett Favre in Vi-queens purple as he is not the down home country boy who plays for the love of the game, but is a master manipulator who will do and say anything to get his way.

Also, when did he get a medical degree?  I doubt he’s qualified to self-diagnose.

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The “Mouse” Engulfs the “Spider”

A moment of silence please…

Walt Disney Co said on Monday it plans to buy Marvel Entertainment Inc for $4 billion in a deal that would add characters like Iron Man, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four to its entertainment empire.

Disney is striking the biggest media deal of the year so far — one that will unite the Incredible Hulk and Mickey Mouse — at a time when the media business is struggling to cope with spending cutbacks by both consumers and advertisers.

Marvel, however, has a stable of wildly popular characters that it has brought to the big screen in home-run films like “Iron Man.” A sequel, “Iron Man 2” is due to hit the theaters next year, while “Thor,” “Spider-Man 4” and the first “Avenger” movie are slated for a 2011 release.

For Disney, movies like those should help address a key area of concern among investors: How it can better reach more young males.

Indeed, Disney has long been a blockbuster brand with girls thanks to characters like “Hannah Montana,” “Cinderella” and “Snow White,” but has struggled to achieve the same kind of success with boys.

To do so, Disney agreed to pay $50 per share in cash and stock for Marvel, a premium of 29 percent to Marvel’s closing stock price of $38.65 on Friday. The deal has been approved by the boards of both companies.

Marvel’s shares shot up to $48.85 in early trade.

On a sheer business decision, this is the smartest thing both companies could do.  Marvel is often still seen as “Just a Comic Book Company” while rival DC Comics is part of the Time Warner empire.  So, looking at it that way, Marvel would have been stupid to turn this deal down.  They get to keep their characters, continue doing what they’re doing, and can consolidate a mess of overlapping entities with the Walt Disney Company.

Marvel over the past three years has evolved into “a comic book company which sells its characters for movie rights,” into “a film company that makes comics” as it has done a spectacular job with not just the Spider-Man and X-Men franchises, but made hits out of ‘lower tier’ characters like Iron Man, The Punisher (at least the one with Thomas Jane), Ghost Rider, and the Hulk films.  Many people may not know this, but “Iron Man” was the first film done by the company’s newest division, Marvel Studios and was a hit beyond all expectations.

With the Marvel acquisition, Disney gains a built-in infrastructure it can now use to cancel and consolidate their still (though barely) operating comic books and adds a stable of characters for movies which have a proven track record of success at the Box Office in demographics they have a hard time with.  Marvel gains a built-in animation studio at their disposal, a well-known movie studio with its own infrastructure, a series of TV channels to use their characters in programs for, and enough synergy to make you hurl.

This deal is as win-win as you’re going to get when it comes to media marriages.

IGN.com, the video game and comics news website, posts part of the press release on the news of the marriage.  Nobody in the corporate structure seems to be unhappy with what’s going on.

Disney President and CEO Robert A. Iger explains:

    “This transaction combines Marvel’s strong global brand and world-renowned library of characters including Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, Fantastic Four and Thor with Disney’s creative skills, unparalleled global portfolio of entertainment properties, and a business structure that maximizes the value of creative properties across multiple platforms and territories. Ike Perlmutter and his team have done an impressive job of nurturing these properties and have created significant value. We are pleased to bring this talent and these great assets to Disney.”

Ike Perlmutter, CEO of Marvel, adds:

    “Disney is the perfect home for Marvel’s fantastic library of characters given its proven ability to expand content creation and licensing businesses. This is an unparalleled opportunity for Marvel to build upon its vibrant brand and character properties by accessing Disney’s tremendous global organization and infrastructure around the world.”

Early indications are Disney will allow Marvel Entertainment to maintain its current leadership in both corporate and creative and use them expand Marvel properties across the global Disney empire.

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Lee Holloway: AND Still a Slumlord

This is just sad.

Associates of Lee Holloway said the powerful County Board chairman was upset and embarrassed with a report earlier this year that suggested he was a slumlord because of the scores of building code violations at his various properties.

But apparently Holloway wasn’t embarrassed enough to eliminate the problems.

City records show the Milwaukee Democrat and his wife, Lynda, still face more than 150 violations at their mostly north side apartment complexes and rental units. That’s only a slight drop from five months ago.

“There’s been somewhat slow progress,” said Tom Mishefske, operations manager for the city Department of Neighborhood Services, which is monitoring the Holloways’ troubled properties.

The offenses range from minor matters such as leaky sinks and unsanitary basements to more serious matters such as roach and rodent infestation and unsafe second-floor porches.

No Quarter first became interested in the Holloway properties after being contacted by a volunteer adult tutor who was upset with the living conditions for one of her students. The apartment had leaking pipes, no running water in the kitchen, a hole in the ceiling in one room, windows that wouldn’t close and problems with the heating system.

The adult student, Catherine Alexander, has since moved out of the apartment but not before the Holloways took her to small claims court. The case was eventually dismissed.

The Holloways go on to tell the Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice they have hired a number of contractors to deal with their many infractions.  However, they are so under watch by the city housing officials, they’ve been placed under a single auditor to watch over all of their Milwaukee properties.  The couple seem to indicate the couple they can have all repairs done by until the end of September.

An apartment like this seems to indicate otherwise.

Catrina Williams, who lives in an apartment at 2027 W. Atkinson Ave., said she has repeatedly complained about conditions there. During a recent visit, Williams, 28, pointed out roaches in her kitchen, a leaking kitchen sink, a poorly covered hole in the ceiling of one room, extremely noisy neighbors and other problems in her apartment.

Williams said she has talked with her building manager and Lynda Holloway, but they have responded with little more than homemade concoctions – a mixture of baking soda and powdered sugar – for dealing with the roaches.

Lynda Holloway said Friday that she was unaware of the complaints. “What you’re telling me is news to me,” she said.

But Williams, who pays $525 a month in rent, said she is considering moving out of the apartment as early as today.

“I can’t live like this any more,” she said.

Geez, and I thought I lived under a slumlord when I first moved to Virginia.

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Is This the Start of the End of the Class of 2006?

One thing I’ve been wondering as the August town halls have been going on is if this is the moment we finally see the end of the House Class of 2006.  For the first time, it’s those Democrats — elected under the banner of an unpopular war run by an unpopular President — finally don’t have him to use as the political weapon of last resort.  We’ve seen it up in Green Bay with Steve Kagen, who now has to be reduced to holding union-organized and Democratic-funded “town halls” which in fact are nothing short of campaign rallies to boost the man’s legendary ego.

Take Kagen’s classmate Carol Shea-Porter (D) of the 1st Congressional District of New Hampshire who threw someone out of her town hall — BY POLICE FORCE — why?  Because the guy didn’t have a ticket to ask a question.

Who knew democracy worked like a deli counter?

It’s truly amazing to watch people like Shea-Porter, who was once seen as one of the righteous barbarians crashing the gates suddenly seize power and then slam the door in the face of those who put her there.

In four short years Carol Shea-Porter has evolved from a rabble-rousing, town hall disrupting anti-war activist who once had to be forcibly removed from a President George Bush event in Portsmouth to a Member of Congress who instructed armed security guards to remove a frustrated voter from her own town hall event in Manchester on Saturday.

In the appended video, Shea-Porter can be seen instructing security to remove a man for standing to ask a question without a ticket. Shea-Porter previously held a lottery to determine who could ask questions. She can also be heard taunting the man on his way out by saying, “I do hope the movie theater can be a little quieter for you.”

Things seem to only be getting interesting for members of the Congressional Class of 2006 if you ask me.

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No Governor’s Run for Erpenbach

Seriously, was the only person who though Jon Erpenbach had a chance was Jon Erpenbach?

Democrat Jon Erpenbach will not run for governor and will instead seek re-election to the state senate.

With Gov. Jim Doyle not seeking re-election, Erpenbach, of Waunakee, had considered a run for the office. But Erpenbach said he would be unable to commit to it fully because he needs to spend time with his two teenage children.

“It’s going to be huge,” Erpenbach said of the 2010 governor’s race. “This is going to take a tremendous amount of national attention from both sides and it’s going to take someone who can be extremely focused and not have other issues that they’re going to be dealing with.”

‘Not have other issues that they’re going to be dealing with,’ that’s the kind of eyebrow-raising statement which makes guys like me stand-up and wonder if something’s about to hit the fan against Erpenbach.  I personally doubt that, though his pushing of “Healthy Wisconsin” again would be political suicide — even in Wisconsin.  No, Erpenbach’s like way too many Wisconsin legislators, roar one minute and a milquetoast when the really tough decisions come their way.  So he’s not going to do something rash which would cost him his ever-so-safe State Senate seat, short of the old “dead girl/live boy” scenario of course.

No, Jon Erpenbach is a God only in his own mind and the fiefdom of suburban Madison he inherited from Feingold in which he rules.

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Thank Goodness for Public Education!

My occasional drinking buddy Robert Stacy McCain points out how Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift seemed emotionally grounded in the fact an entire generation of school children wasn’t taught the full events of the middle of July 1969.

The city editor at a small daily in Iowa sent a reporter out last week to gather reminiscences of Senator Kennedy. “Be sure to ask about Chappaquiddick,” he said, a request that drew a blank look. The young reporter had no idea what he was talking about. When this story was related to me by the editor’s wife, who is a baby boomer steeped in Kennedy lore, I thought how relieved the Kennedy family must be that a generation of Americans doesn’t automatically reflect on the tragedy that for so long clouded Ted Kennedy’s life and career.

Try it’s a generation of kids with history teachers who didn’t bother to inform them Eleanor.

Personally, I never heard the word “Chappaquiddick” let alone could spell the word until I was 15 and it was brought up in a video on the 1960s I watched in my spring semester U.S. History class as a freshman at Kiel High.  My history teacher — a battle-axe of a woman and the type of history teacher who focused on dates and facts they don’t make anymore — Miss Eichelkraut (Miss “Ike” for short), was no political conservative by a long shot, but she knew history was important.  So after we watched video, I wasn’t as politically charged as I am today, slowly raised my hand and recall asking something close the following question:

“Um, Miss Ike. Did Ted Kennedy just leave that woman to die in his car?”

Miss Ike didn’t really stand there dumb-founded, but she did pause in my statement and say something along the lines of “Yes Kevin, in all likelihood he did.”

I didn’t really leave the classroom that day proud I pointed out to my classmates what was the obvious fact of Chappaquiddick.  I left it aghast that a man elected to such high office and held in such high honor by segments of the population would do such a thing, let alone not report it, let alone not be held responsible for it.  At that age, I cared little about professional politics and the back and forth of who won and lost.  All I cared about then was typical teenage stuff of the mid-90s and had a moral compass based on what my parents told me was right and wrong.

That’s why something like this by Chicago Tribune columnist/blogger Eric Zorn is so telling to the American political and media environment.  In it, Zorn laments that if the 24/7 news media environment of today was around in 1969, Ted Kennedy would have been destroyed politically.  That all of Kennedy’s actions that weekend — as well as all actions done by the investigators on Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod — would have been under a media heat lamp from the moment the news broke.

Well no duh.

It’s that attitude around the events of Chappaquiddick that astonishes me the most around most media and liberal intelligentsia I’ve run into this past week.  “Oh God, do we have to talk about Chappaquiddick?” seems to be the most telling squeal from a cable talking head.

This is me no doubt speculating, but I often wonder if liberals have ever asked themselves when it comes to Chappaquiddick if they’ve put someone other than Ted Kennedy in his place, what likely would have happened to them when dealt with by law enforcement.  Or does that just not matter, that ‘equal treatment under the law’ and all the other platitudes are just that — empty phrases — when it comes to backing someone who shares the same ideology as you?

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Detroit Unemployment Nearly 30%

Here’s hoping this isn’t the future of many more American cities.

Nearly 3 in 10 residents of Detroit need a job.

The unemployment rate in the city of Detroit rose to 28.9 percent in July, the highest rate of unemployment since Michigan started keeping modern numbers, according to the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth.

113,008 people in Detroit are without jobs, 277,815 people are currently employed.

Despite news of an improving economy, many residents of Michigan haven’t felt the impact of the nation’s stimulus programs.  The state of Michigan has the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 15 %.  Other large cities in Michigan are extremely challenges as well.  The city of Highland Park had a 36% unemployment rate in July, Pontiac 35 % and Flint 28 %.

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