Post-Crescent Blog

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Monday, July 24, 2006

Good night and good luck

Well, folks, all good things must come to an end, especially those things that simply don't work.

We're deactivating The Post-Crescent Blog (this blog and this blog only) for a couple of reasons, the most predominant of which is that it just hasn't generated the traffic we hoped to see. Running one of these things takes a bit more work than you might think, especially when it's not a hobby or personal labor of love, like so many are. The Post-Crescent will be expanding blog coverage in other areas and for specific events. Again, this is NOT a signal all blogs will be retired.

We enjoyed putting this together and working on it, but in the end, we thought the time and effort needed to sustain the blog can be better used elsewhere, both in the newspaper and online. We'll certainly keep this in mind for the future as our online operations grow, perhaps restarting it on our actual Web site. But for now, we're going to put this baby to sleep.

You're invited to peruse the other P-C blogs, which are listed at http://www.postcrescent.com/specials/blog_directory.shtml. You can also continue to read The Post-Crescent's Views section at http://www.postcrescent.com/opinion.

We have appreciated those of you who were regular readers of the blog, and hope you'll continue to check out our other offerings. Have a good one.

Matt

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Sunday's A-1 and more

Appleton homeowners have undoubtedly noticed that city assessors have associated new dollar figures to their properties. The 2006 reassessment of all city properties has prompted us to offer our readers a primer on how the process works, what your rights and options are, and how even a higher property value doesn't necessarily mean you'll see a higher property tax bill. Reporter Steve Wideman and P-C Madison bureau chief Ben Jones pulled the report together.
We're also kicking off another Post-Crescent Do It! Community Campaign, the annual Backpacks for Kids fund-raiser that plans to stuff 2,010 backpacks for underprivileged students throughout The P-C's circulation area. Kara Patterson is the reporter.
Also on A-1, we'll preview this week's Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture convention in Oshkosh (and there's a special preview section in Monday's P-C).
Elsewhere in Sunday's P-C:
  • A special Living Well edition, Summer Home Improvement.
  • Our Life! section, we profile some of the volunteer groups who care for rescued pets, and Steve Hyden adds his weekly "Check It Out" pop-culture column.
  • An update on the investigation into the recent Ellison Bay explosion; criminal activity has not been ruled out.
  • In Sports, a profile of Greg Gibson, a former Appleton Xavier star athlete who will go on to pitch at UW-Stevens Point next season, despite blindness in one eye since the age of 4.
  • An update on the British Open, of course. Tiger Woods has a one-shot lead over Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els and Chris Dimarco heading into Sunday's final round.
  • Views: An editorial on the public's right-to-know what investigators learned in the Joe Paulus investigation.
  • Fox Valley Inc.: What do businesses get out of asking employees to volunteer time and resources for community causes?
We hope you enjoy the weekend, and your Sunday P-C. We're also online at www.postcrescent.com.
Dan Flannery
Managing editor

Friday, July 21, 2006

Fw: Saturday's A-1

Our front page on Saturday includes our second consecutive centerpiece about the current spiked gas prices. Reporter Ed Lowe looks at the affect the high prices have on the Fox Valley's smaller "mom and pop" gas stations, and another story from the Gannett News Service examines the difficulty the petroleum industry sometimes has in keeping the supply satisfying the demand.
Downpage, reporter Jeannine Aquino gets reaction from Wisconsin's geocaching community to the story early this week about Appleton's Union Springs Park. An Appleton alderman accused some damage to the park on geocachers, but since the story was published, The P-C has heard from dozens of the high-tech gamers, outraged at the accusation. They're coming to the Fox Cities next week to clear their name.
We also hope to update the status of a Brillion woman who's temporarily trapped in war-torn Lebanon, trying to find a way back to her family here.
Elsewhere in the Saturday P-C, our Living Well section highlights homes that can accommodate the homeowners, and their older parents, and our Sports section presents part two of our annual Packers positional previews, today on the revamped linebacking corps.
As always, we hope you enjoy what we can offer.
Dan Flannery
Managing editor
 

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Friday's A-1 lineup

Our lead story in Friday's Post-Crescent is from reporter Duke Behnke, who says suspended police Detective Daniel Dringoli and the city of Neenah reached a settlement Wednesday to resolve Dringoli’s federal lawsuit against the NPD.

Our centerpiece revolves around our fascination and frustration with gas prices. A Gannett News Service story on the failure of the Federal Trade Commission to keep any lid on gas prices, combined with local readers' outlooks on coping with the costs.

On top of the page, we're announcing that the Gannett Wisconsin Newspapers' page devoted to all things Packers -- www.packersnews.com -- has become a free Web site, after a few years of pay-site operation. It's been remodeled, too.

Downpage, reporter Steve Wideman says that Appleton bar owners on Thursday released the latest version of a smoking ban referendum that would exempt 16 bars from the ban. City Clerk Cindi Hesse said if the bar owners collect enough signatures (3,700 of qualified elector electors in the next 10 days the question will be put on the November ballot.

Dan Flannery

Managing editor

 

Find this with a GPS

A very small, out of the way park in Appleton has made headlines and forum and blog posts acorss the country.

P-C reporter Steve Wideman had this in a story on Wednesday, July 19:

The city's smallest park is now a carpet of flowers, much to the joy of Ald. Walter Kalata.

Union Springs Park, a 19-by-30-foot patch of dirt and small trees surrounded by asphalt three blocks off College Avenue, is awash in wave petunias that replace the ones Kalata said were killed by people apparently engaged in a high-tech scavenger hunt.

Memorial Florists & Greenhouses of Appleton planted the flowers Tuesday, said owner Tom Aykens.

"We filled that flower bed and made it look nice," Aykens said.

Kalata had planted flowers in the park early this spring, but said many of the flowers recently were uprooted by people apparently looking for clues in an Internet challenge called geocaching. The game involves using online clues and global positioning system devices to pinpoint locations, called waypoints.

First of all, let me give a nice shout out to Memorial Florists and Greenhouses of Appleton, for being a wonderful community partner and planting some flowers.

Second, I'd like to repeat a sentiment of geocachers who have been sending The P-C comments on this story. A few have written in and found it hard to believe the damage at the park was done by someone participating in the scavenger hunt-type activity. They say that when geocachers cache, it is with respect to the area they are exploring.

Less than a year ago, P-C staff writer Heather LaRoi did a recreation story on geocaching. We reproduced it on the Web on Tuesday, July 18, to add some context to this incident in this park.

Check out these links and find out more:

Technology, outdoors meet in scavenger hunt called geocaching

Appleton park gets redo after geocacher trashing

Tech hunters wreck tiny garden in Appleton

Steve Kabelowsky
online editor

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Friday's front

Fifty-five years ago, what some experts now believe was an F-5 tornado ripped through Waupaca County, killing five members of one family, On the front page of Friday's Post-Crescent, reporter Susan Squires revisits that tragedy, and offers safety tips for today.
Our lead story is a human tragedy of another sort: Kimberly-Clark Corp. announced Thursday that another 150 jobs in the Fox Valley will be eliminated over the next nine months, including 50 in July. Business editor Larry Avila has the story.
Reporter Duke Behnke and the Associated Press combine forces above-the-fold Friday in citing the deaths of several Wisconsin birds that were found to have the West Nile virus.
Downpage, we have an AP story on the recovery of a missing Veterans Administration laptop computer, which was apparently not compromised, and a story by P-C reporter Steve Wideman on the efforts of a Green Bay woman to start an escort service in Appleton.
Dan Flannery
Managing editor

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Slow season

We're getting into the slow part of the year, traditionally, for editorial pages. It's summertime, so school's out. Congress will be recessing soon, and the vacation and festival season tends to slow society down some. There's just not the usual amount of activity going on that generates hard news and controversy.

Editorial writers have to dig a bit deeper and be more creative in order to keep their pages lively.

Matt

Swing and a miss

The paper's recent editorial position toward energy issues - and specifically, gas costs - generally has been to split the responsibility for solving the dilemmas between lawmakers and ordinary citizens. The first group has to realize the oil industry is an oligopoly and requires regulation of some sort and the second group must make a push to change typical lifestyles as energy needs grow and supplies dwindle.

So it's hard to say state Rep. Marlin Schneider, D-Grand Rapids, is completely wrong to voice his suspicions that Wisconsin Rapids is getting screwed in gas prices. But when AAA and a local oil executive both say you're off-base, you might want to reconsider asking the Justice Department to look into pricing irregularities. Unfortunately, this smells stunt-ish, although Schneider wouldn't be the first lawmaker to use gas prices as a political tool.

Schneider sits on the Rural Affairs and Renewable Energy committee in the Assembly. With ethanol surging in popularity, he's sitting in a prime position to advance energy policy. It'd be much more refreshing to see that than the same old complaints about gas prices.

Matt

Photo from state Rep. Marlin Schneider's Web site: http://www.legis.state.wi.us/assembly/asm72/asm72.html

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Light the fuse

Fireworks occupy an odd place in society, which our A-1 story got into today. Mostly, they're legal to sell, but mostly, they're not legal to own or use. However, they're so popular and such an ingrained part of our most entertaining secular holiday that everyone from the police to your neighbors just conveniently overlooks the whole legal issue.

Of course, when some poor sap blows a couple of his fingers off, we all make noise about how they're dangerous and should be supervised, etc., etc., but we don't bother to mention how hardly anybody should be using them in the first place.

In a way, it's sort of like illegal immigration: We all know it's happening, we all overlook it (at least til recently) and we all expect it since it's just become a part everyday living, even though it's against the law.

Matt

Update on ethics bill

There's been some talk about a special session in the state Legislature to take up SB1, the bill authored by Sen. Mike Ellis, R-Neenah, that would combine the state Ethics and Elections Board and strengthen the enforcement capability of the combined board.
But Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, writing in his blog, provides some insight into why that might not be worthwhile.

Larry

Monday, June 26, 2006

Keeping secrets

The ante has been upped in the growing battle between the Bush administration and news media. Last week, three major newspapers published stories about a secret program the government used to track financial transactions in and out of the U.S. Today, the president responded.

The scariest part, I think, is Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., asking for a prosecution of the New York Times for "treasonous" behavior. For reference, here is how treason is defined in U.S. law:

"Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States."

Well, we can all agree that the Times didn't levy war or adhere to our enemies. So we're down to "giving them aid and comfort." That's a rather broad concept, methinks. And honestly, if our enemies are just finding out about programs like these via the newspaper, they're dumb enough that we should have caught them long ago.

Matt

Editorial week in review

Here's a capsule look at the editorials from the last week. To read the full editorial, go to www.postcrescent.com and click on Opinion.

Larry

SUNDAY, JUNE 18
On the trial of state employee Georgia Thompson: It has raised the public's awareness — and public officials' awareness — of the state contracting process and the perception that campaign contributions can be used to influence how contracts are awarded. A criminal case such as this might be an extreme example, but it's an example of how to shine a light on an area that the public doesn't see, even if it's an "open" process. … Thompson's conviction should send a strong message to anyone involved in the process of awarding a state contract that their motives must be pure and their decisions above-board.

TUESDAY, JUNE 20
On the need for a federal shield law for reporters: There are those rare occasions when anonymous sources are necessary. The revelations of the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Nixon is the most familiar example in recent history. Reporters must be allowed to protect the identity of sources, at least with qualifications. The bill in the Senate to establish a federal shield law for the media is a protection that would serve not only the press, but the public, too.
On a Milwaukee charter school giving gift cards to good students who enroll there: One school offering a financial incentive to attract students creates an uneven playing field in the competition that charter and choice school advocates claim is so desperately needed in Milwaukee schools. It might be a good deal for the school and its students, but it's a bad deal for the rest of Wisconsin taxpayers.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21
On law enforcement using data brokers to get personal information: Federal law enforcement says it doesn't encourage illegal behavior from brokers, nor would it approve. But given the nature of the business, that's a "see no evil, hear no evil" attitude. None of the police agencies the AP contacted reported researching the brokers they deal with to see if they legitimately conduct business. In other words, they want to get around constitutional law, dang it, and what they don't know won't hurt them. This is wrong on so many levels, it's appalling anyone ever thought it was OK. If police can't do their jobs without illegal help, we have much bigger worries than terrorism. These tactics are frightening and should be ended immediately, without exception.

THURSDAY, JUNE 22
On a UW policy proposal to weigh nonacademic factors in admissions decisions: It's a way to give full consideration to a student's abilities, dedication and obstacles he or she has overcome. It's a way to find the best candidates for success in college. But grades still matter.
On Gov. Jim Doyle's administration missing a deadline for submitting a public petition on gas prices to the federal government: On a basic level, it's worrisome that the administration that runs an entire state can't figure out how to send a letter and list of names to the nation's capital by a self-imposed deadline. In an election year, however, that bureaucratic baloney reveals the petition to be nothing more than a hollow promise designed to garner votes.

FRIDAY, JUNE 23
On some Grand Chute elected officials keeping pay and benefits, against the vote of town citizens: It's not about the money as much as it's about responsibility and public trust. It's about how they respond to their constituents — actually, how they respond to their bosses. Their response: We don't care about you, what you think or what you want us to do. They've disregarded the recommendations of the committee formed explicitly to make recommendations. And they've disrespected the residents who came out to vote in the annual meeting, not to mention the residents who voted in the April election. Instead of serving the public, it sounds like they're serving themselves.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Community tells the story


The digital world has changed the way in which media tells the story, and it also has changed the role of the reader. One of our readers, Sue Ryals, took photos following a house fire at 126 Main St. in Kimberly on Thursday.

See them here on our Web site.

This just shows another example on how readers can add to the report and can help inform, communicate with and strengthen the community.

-Steve

Friday, June 23, 2006

Close to home

The news that a group of idiots in Florida were planning to bomb the Sears Tower rattled me a bit this morning.

For those who haven't gathered already, I'm a Chicago native, and my mother works in a building only a few blocks from the Greatest Building Ever Constructed. Today's news brought me back to 9-11, when rumors flew that the Sears Tower was next on the terrorists' hit list and I spent the day frantically trying to get in touch with my mom to make sure she was OK.

Just to make me feel better, the Chicago Sun-Times ran a graphic a few days later that illustrated what the extent of the destruction in New York would look like if centered on the Sears Tower. My mom's building fell well within the danger zone.

I wonder what Ozzie Guillen would call these guys.

Matt

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Friday's front

We're cruising into the biggest sports weekend in Fox Valley history with a profile of the volunteer organizations who are making the U.S. Youth Soccer Midwest Regional Tournament happen at fields in Appleton and Neenah. Maureen Wallenfang has the story, and Jeannine Aquino begins a seven-part series on individual volunteers.
Reporter Ed Lowe has the lead story, on Grand Chute's plans to build a new fire station in a growing area of the town. Emergency response times are an issue for the town, but so is money.
Downpage, we'll have the results of the Senate vote on the estate tax, and a Gannett News Service story on the growing debate about the new vaccine that could protect girls from cervical cancer. At issue is the ethics of immunizing 10- and 11-year-old girls, and who authorizes the immunization.
Dan Flannery
Managing editor

Finding fault

Ah, and the disillusionment with government - and personal responsibility - continues.

The Wausau Daily Herald did a big story today on how citizens are getting frustrated with politicians' inability to do something about escalating gas prices. While I think they are right to a point - candidates' constant promises on what they'll do to lower gas prices rarely come close to fruition - the article subtly makes another argument: There are things we can do, too.

It lists several Wausau-area folks who have taken the initiative to change their energy use to less-costly methods. They took the time (and investment) to move part of their everyday living off of petroleum and natural gas and onto renewable energy.

Why don't more people do things like install solar water heaters? It's easier to point the finger and complain, I suppose.

Matt

Don't be cruel

When someone prefaces a statement by saying, "Not to be cruel ...," you know they're about to be. The guilty party here is Jessica McBride, a part-time talk radio host at WTMJ in Milwaukee - scroll down to the post titled, "The big problem with the Travelgate hearings: Where's our Fawn Hall?"

Larry

Lots and lots of studies

One of my semi-regular stops when looking for editorial topics is docuticker.com. It's a wide-ranging roundup of study results. You'll find everything from the latest analyses from the Government Accountability Office to a study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine called "Efficacy of tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage" (in case you're wondering, the study shows it helps). A lot of interesting reading here.

Larry

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Kaufert's column rebutted

Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, is taking some heat for a guest column he wrote that ran in the June 15 Post-Crescent. In the column, Kaufert talks about his support for a bill in the Legislature that failed to get an Assembly vote. Democratic supporters of the bill tried to use a "pulling motion" to get the bill out of a committee and to the full Assembly. But the vote on the motion failed, as most Republicans, including Kaufert, opposed it.
Kaufert says in his column that he never supports "such backhanded attempts to thwart the process, even if it means voting against my own proposal."
However, bloggers Carrie Lynch (here, here and here) and Bill Christofferson point out that's not necessarily true.

Larry

Editorial week in review

Here's a capsule look at our editorials from the past week. To view the full editorials, go to www.postcrescent.com and click on Opinion.

Larry

SUNDAY, JUNE 11
On a quality of life study of the Fox Cities: The good news is that, in many measures and in many opinions, the quality of life here is very good. Compared with other areas of the nation and, in some instances, compared with other areas of Wisconsin, the Fox Cities rates highly in categories such as low crime, education and cost of living. The bad news … well, yes, there's some of that, too. But it's best to acknowledge the bad news and then take it a step forward and look at it as an opportunity to improve our way of life.

TUESDAY, JUNE 13
On the state falling short of its minority spending goal: It's clear the state's initiative overall is lacking. It isn't just about helping minority businesses. It's about helping a community in which a little investment can do a world of good. And it's about creating a stronger economy and a stronger society for all Wisconsin residents. This is a losing streak that has to stop.
On growing sales of flexible-fuel vehicles: One of the main arguments against creating more alternatively fueled vehicles has been that consumers aren't interested in them, so manufacturers won't build them. Well, if the much-publicized waiting lists for the hybrid Toyota Prius don't shoot that one down, these sales figures certainly do.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 14
On a high-frequency ringtone that older people have trouble hearing: The problem is that teens are using the ringer to signal incoming messages while they're in class, a place where cell phone use is almost always banned. ... It's certainly easy to offer some bemused applause to those darned kids who always seem to be a step ahead of those of us who once were just as determined to flout authority.
On Hortonville not being able to get stoplights at a busy intersection: Any system that dictates a small but necessary project has to wait until it's part of a bigger project is a system that's flawed. The good folks of Hortonville deserve their stoplights.

THURSDAY, JUNE 15
On people who abused FEMA aid for hurricane relief: While the reports of people spending federal aid on vacations and strip clubs represent a minority of the overall affected populace, it sends a message about that populace to the rest of the nation despite its inaccuracy, similar to those imbeciles who used the hurricane as an opportunity to commit crimes and incite mayhem. FEMA would do well to learn from this, as it has nearly every other misstep it has made since August. And Gulf Coast residents should be chastened by how a few among them have smeared the reputation of the many. But really … is anyone surprised?
On a state DNR proposal to buy land for ATV trails: The DNR is right to look at the issue. There's a need that isn't being met, and ATVs are incompatible on recreational trails. But the proposal raises many questions that haven't been answered yet.

FRIDAY, JUNE 16
On proposals to reform health coverage in Wisconsin: None of these plans is perfect. None may even be the right answer as it stands now. The point is that each of them gives the rest of the state — and the state Legislature, in particular — something solid to build from. Talk is good, but we need some action on health care reform, too.
On the National Security Agency stonewalling a Justice Department investigation of domestic eavesdropping: As Michael Shaheen, a former longtime OPR head, told National Public Radio: "No one in OPR for the 24 years I was there was denied the necessary clearance, ever, and much less one that brought to a conclusion an investigation. That just makes it smell the worse." Yes, it does.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Hitting for par

Given how our recent editorial on how racism is creeping into the illegal immigration debate generated an overwhelming amount of responses from people upset because they thought we called them racists, and the latest news that state elections ballots will be printed in multiple languages, which has bothered folks (we'll be printing a call about it tomorrow), I have an observation to make that you can take any which way you please.

Geoff Ogilvy won the U.S. Open golf tournament Sunday. Ogilvy is from Australia.

A foreigner won a golf tournament named after our country. And I haven't heard one peep from anyone.

Could it be because he's white and speaks English (albeit with an accent)? I don't know; that would echo the editorial. But if printing Spanish on election ballots is so out of whack, I think it's a bit puzzling that an Australian can win a major golf tournament - a patriotically named one, at that - and it's OK to the same people.

Matt

Friday, June 16, 2006

Military formation

Keep an eye out Sunday for the latest installment of Mail Call, our periodic feature that offers the words and thoughts of soldiers based in the Fox Valley who are serving overseas as well as other members of the military native to the area. The question was volunteered by a woman married to a soldier serving in the National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, based in Appleton.

Matt

Thursday, June 15, 2006

This is amusing

Like any other government official, President Bush has to keep track of any and all gifts he receives for public record. The Smoking Gun published a list of all his foreign gifts from 2004. Interesting to see what the richest and most powerful men and women in the world give each other.

And how cheap the Sultan of Brunei seems to be.

Matt

An embarrassment

Alas.

Turns out it was a Marine in that Internet video singing a song about killing an Iraqi family.

He said he intended no harm. While that may be so, it does not change the fact that he's a moron. I expect he'll be discharged, sacrificed on the altar of public relations, but maybe that's not such a bad thing.

In a world where psychological warfare plays out on the front pages of newspapers every day, doing something like this is stupidity on a monumental scale.

Matt