NEWS/OPINION BRIEFS – Monday, May 15, 2023

Briefs are posted every weekday morning, M-F


For the first time since 2008, it would seem overly optimistic to begin a story with “the Green Bay Packers’ road to the Super Bowl this season goes through …”

Aaron Rodgers, a future Hall of Fame quarterback who was the Green Bay starter for 15 years, took his talents to New York, and succeeding him is Jordan Love, who’s been with the Packers for three years, but is in some respects a rookie. He has one start on his resume, a 13-7 loss to Kansas City Chiefs two years ago.

Packers fans seem generally satisfied to move on from Rodgers, and curious to find out what Love can do. This season’s schedule is not an easy one. Six games are against playoff teams (although that’s one less than in 2022), including the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota Vikings (twice, of course), Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Giants.

For what it’s worth, the Packers have history on their side. The winningest team in NFL history, Green Bay has winning records against all but one team on this year’s schedule. They are tied with the Denver Broncos.

Since Matt LaFleur was named coach in 2019, the Packers are 31-12 against this year’s opponents and have losing records against only the Buccaneers (1-2) and Chargers (0-1).

The Packers have the 24th strongest schedule in the 32-team league. Last year they were 11th. Packers opponents had a .476 winning percentage in 2022. The Philadelphia Eagles opponents had a .566 winning percentage, giving them the toughest schedule.

—Green Bay Press Gazette

Green Bay Packers offensive tackle David Bakhtiari blasted the mainstream media on Sunday for allowing Joe Biden to prescreen questions he takes during appearances.

On Sunday, the 31-year-old player took to Twitter to rip the press and cited the recent photo of Joe Biden holding a card with a picture of AFL-CIO president Liz Shuler and her question about green energy.

“Can we have authentic and real NON-SCRIPTED interviews?? I understand and agree with prepping someone (like studying for a test) but this is a bit too far. It’s just one big play,” Bakhtiari tweeted.

The photo of President Joe Biden’s note card quickly went viral after revealing the precise level of detailed instructions provided to the supposed leader of the free world.

“YOU enter the Roosevelt Room and say hello to the participants,” the note card instructed Biden. “YOU take YOUR seat.”

This is not the first time that Bakhtiari has sounded off on political questions.

Last week when California’s senior Democrat U.S. Senator returned to the Capitol Building, he slammed Feinstein’s “unusual trades” that have made her net worth skyrocket to $200 million.

“How are we as a nation just “cool” with actions like this? It’s cheating in broad daylight,” Bakhtiari tweeted about Feinstein’s unusually prescient stock trades.

—Breitbart News

Some 1,500 law enforcement officers from several states were among 3,000 mourners paying final respects Friday to a Wisconsin sheriff’s deputy who was fatally shot by a suspected drunken driver during a traffic stop.

The funeral for St. Croix County Sheriff’s Deputy Kaitlin “Kaitie” R. Leising was held in the gymnasium of Hudson High School while a montage of photos from her life were shown on a large screen overhead. Leising’s family, including her wife, Courtney, and their 3-month-old son, Syler, stood to the side of the casket, hugging visitors.

Services lasted more than six hours as officers first arrived for three hours of visitation, then sat for the funeral before silently marching to the high school parking lot for an honor guard, gun salute and helicopter flyover. A law enforcement procession drove the casket to a private gathering of family in Baldwin, Wisconsin.

Mourners included a large delegation from the Pennington County, South Dakota, Sheriff’s Office, where Leising worked before moving to St. Croix County last year.

Leising, 29, was slain May 6 in Glenwood, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) east of Minneapolis. Leising and the driver she pulled over, Jeremiah Johnson, were discussing field sobriety tests when he drew a handgun and shot her, the Wisconsin Department of Justice has said. She discharged her weapon three times, but none of the rounds hit Johnson before he fled to a nearby wooded area. Leising was pronounced dead at a hospital.

An hour after the shooting, an officer heard a gunshot in the woods. Johnson, 34, killed himself, investigators said.

—Wisconsin AP

President Joe Biden ginned up racial tensions at the graduation ceremony for Howard University on Saturday, claiming that America’s greatest threat comes in the form of “white supremacy.”

Biden gave the commencement address for the historically black college and university (HBCU) at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. In the speech, the president took a pessimistic view of America’s fight against racism, claiming that it is “a battle that’s never really over.”

Then, Biden told graduates to be on guard for what he views as the greatest threat to our nation.

“The most dangerous terrorist threat to our homeland is white supremacy,” Biden told the crowd who responded with applause. “And I’m not saying this because I’m at a Black HBCU. I say it wherever I go.”

—The Daily Wire

Former President Donald Trump is likely to become the next U.S. president, according to Scottish-American historian Niall Ferguson.

“A second Trump act is not just possible. It’s fast becoming my base case,” Ferguson, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute, wrote in a May 13 op-ed for The Spectator.

Ferguson explained that there is a “campaign of lawfare against Trump” but the effort “has already started to backfire.”

“It may seem paradoxical that the Democrats are harassing Trump in the courts if they want to run against him. But it makes sense: the prospect of him performing the perp walk attracts media coverage, and media coverage is the free publicity on which Trump has always thrived,” Ferguson wrote.

Ferguson added, “Every column inch or minute of airtime his legal battles earn him is an inch or a minute less for his Republican rivals for the nomination.”

Ferguson noted that Trump’s early popularity among GOP presidential hopefuls would play to his advantage, given that the “Republican primary process favors candidates with early leads because most states award delegates on a ‘winner takes all’ or ‘winner takes most’ basis.”

“The lesson of history is clear—the Republican frontrunner usually wins the nomination, and a post-recession incumbent usually loses the presidential election,” Ferguson wrote.

A recession would also help Trump, Ferguson noted, since it would negatively affect President Joe Biden’s re-election bid.

“For the simple reason that no president since Calvin Coolidge a century ago has secured re-election if a recession has occurred in the two years before the nation votes,” Ferguson explained.

—The Epoch Times

More busloads of migrants were dropped off outside of Vice President Kamala Harris’ home as southern states struggle to tackle the influx of illegal migrants coming to the United States with the end of the pandemic-era Title 42.

Dozens of migrants bused from Del Rio in South Texas arrived at the U.S. Naval Observatory near Harris’ home Sunday evening, according to a local ABC affiliate.

The Mother’s Day migrant dropoff comes after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent two other buses with about 80 migrants last week to Harris’ residence.

“Until President Biden steps up and does his job, Texas will continue busing migrants to sanctuary cities to provide relief to our overwhelmed border towns,” Abbott’s spokesperson Andrew Mahaleris told The Texas Tribune.

—Just the News

A recent study found that high school seniors that identified as liberal were more prone to depression than their conservative counterparts.

Columbia University surveyed more than 85,000 18-year-old teenagers from 130 private schools from 2005 to 2018, considering them conservative or liberal based on self-reporting. While all teenagers reported higher depressive affect scores after 2010, liberal students reported higher depressive scores than their counterparts, which were calculated by self-reports regarding their moods, self-esteem, self-derogation, loneliness, depressive episodes, and suicidal ideations and behavior.

“These findings indicate a growing mental health disparity between adolescents who identify with certain political beliefs,” the study read. “It is, therefore, possible that the ideological lenses through which adolescents view the political climate differentially affect their mental well-being.”

Of all respondents, liberal women reported the highest depressive affect, with liberal women without a college-educated parent topping the charts. More women tended to identify as liberal than men, with 22% reporting a left-leaning political ideology. About the same amount, 21% of men identified as conservative.

Those behind the study cited similar surveys that found “common aspects of a conservative identity are equally as protective for adolescent mental health as for adult mental health.” However, when it came to black women, the education of their parents was more correlated with a healthy mental state because “conservatism alone was not protective for mental health.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse funded the study.

—The Washington Examiner

Americans are keeping their cars longer than ever. The average age of a passenger vehicle on the road hit a record 12.5 years this year, according to data gathered by S&P Global Mobility. Sedans are even older, on average — 13.6 years.

Blame it mainly on the pandemic, which in 2020 triggered a global shortage of automotive computer chips, the vital component that runs everything from radios to gas pedals to transmissions. The shortage drastically slowed global assembly lines, making new vehicles scarce on dealer lots just when consumers were increasingly eager to buy.

Prices reached record highs. And though they’ve eased somewhat, the cost of a vehicle still feels punishingly expensive to many Americans, especially when coupled with now much-higher loan rates.

Since the pandemic struck three years ago, the average new vehicle has rocketed 24% to nearly $48,000 as of April, according to Typical loan rates on new-car purchases have ballooned to 7%, a consequence of the Federal Reserve’s aggressive streak of interest rate hikes to fight inflation.

It’s all pushed the national average monthly auto loan payment to $729 — prohibitively high for many. Experts say a family earning the median U.S. household income can no longer afford the average new car payment and still cover such necessities as housing, food and utilities.

Used vehicle prices, on average, have surged even more since the pandemic hit — up 40%, to nearly $29,000. With an average loan rate having reached 11%, the typical monthly used-vehicle payment is now $563.

Faced with deciding between making a jumbo payment and keeping their existing vehicles, more owners are choosing to stick with what they have, even if it means spending more on repairs and maintenance.

—Associated Press

America’s love affair between the automobile and AM radio — a century-long romance that provided the soundtrack for lovers’ lanes, kept the lonely company with ballgames and chat shows, sparked family singalongs and defined road trips — is on the verge of collapse, a victim of galloping technological change and swiftly shifting consumer tastes.

The breakup is entirely one-sided, a move by major automakers to eliminate AM radios from new vehicles despite protests from station owners, listeners, first-responders and politicians from both major parties.

Automakers, such as BMW, Volkswagen, Mazda and Tesla, are removing AM radios from new electric vehicles because electric engines can interfere with the sound of AM stations. And Ford, one of the nation’s top-three auto sellers, is taking a bigger step, eliminating AM from all of its vehicles, electric or gas-operated.

Some station owners and advertisers contend that losing access to the car dashboard will indeed be a death blow to many of the nation’s 4,185 AM stations — the possible demise of a core element of the nation’s delivery system for news, political talk (especially on the right), coverage of weather emergencies and foreign language programming.

“This is a tone-deaf display of complete ignorance about what AM radio means to Americans,” said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers, a trade journal covering the talk radio industry. “It’s not the end of the world for radio, but it is the loss of an iconic piece of American culture.”

—The Washington Post

Footage of a plump snapping turtle relaxing along a Chicago waterway has gone viral after the man who filmed the well-fed reptile marveled at its size and nicknamed it “Chonkosaurus.”

Joey Santore was kayaking with a friend along the Chicago River last weekend when they spotted the large snapping turtle sitting atop a large chain draped over what appear to be rotting logs.

He posted a jumpy video of the turtle on Twitter, labeling it the “Chicago River Snapper aka Chonkosaurus.”

In the video, Santore can be heard sounding stunned by the size of the turtle, which was displaying folds of flesh extending well beyond its shell.

“Look at this guy. We got a picture of this most beautiful sight. Look at the size of that … thing,” he says, using an expletive.

Chris Anchor, the chief wildlife biologist with Forest Preserves of Cook County, said the snapping turtle Santore filmed is quite rare, considering its apparent size. He said it’s also unusual for the reptiles to be seen basking along rivers, but it probably recently emerged from hibernation.

—Associated Press


Last October, UW-Madison’s Center for Communication and Civic Renewal fielded a statewide survey with 3,031 demographically representative Wisconsinites to investigate the civic consequences of political conflict.

Some of our results are grim, but we also find areas of substantial agreement across divides that could help renew democracy in Wisconsin.

Three quarters of Wisconsinites agree or strongly agree that “People should keep talking to people who have different opinions than they do,” with similar levels in both parties.

But whether from intolerance or self-care, 60% of Wisconsinites say they stopped talking about politics with someone because of disagreement. Among those who had, three quarters said they ended discussion with a family member or friend.

Seventeen percent of Wisconsinites report completely ending a friendship or spending less time with a family member due to political disagreement, including 25% of Democrats and 10% of Republicans.

Twenty percent of Wisconsinites agree or strongly agree that they avoid participating in politics “because it puts my safety at risk.”

Similarly, 24% say they avoid politics because “there are too many dangerous people out there.” We see similar levels of safety concerns among Republicans and Democrats.

Our findings could be cause for despair, but we see several signs of hope, too.

Among Wisconsinites who stopped talking about politics with someone, 14% say they tried to restart that political talk within the past two months.

Seventy-eight percent of Republicans are somewhat or very confident that their own vote will be counted, along with 90% of Democrats, and 80% of Wisconsinites overall. Numbers are similar for confidence about in-person votes.

Confidence is slightly lower for other forms of voting – mail, absentee, and drop-box– but we still find majorities in both parties expressing confidence in the counts.

Fifty-one percent of the state’s residents agree or strongly agree that “democracy works best when religious views are kept private and out of the political arena” compared to just 19% who disagree or strongly disagree.

Our survey shows signs of serious civic fracture. But while Wisconsin’s politics are far from ideal, public support for a wide range of civically healthy ideas provide hope that we can move toward repair and renewal.

— Nathan Kalmoe, executive director of the Center for Communication and Civic Renewal; Michael W. Wagner, professor of Journalism and Mass Communication and Faculty Director of the Center for Communication and Civic Renewal and Dhavan Shah, Maier-Bascom Professor and Research Director of the Center for Communication and Civic Renewal

Is Dianne Feinstein the victim of sexism? Could be — but she still needs to go.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently criticized calls for the U.S. Senate’s oldest and longest-serving member, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, to resign from office, saying “I’ve never seen them go after a man who was sick in the Senate.”

Four-term Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow has also said that calls for Feinstein to step down are rooted in sexism.

“I don’t recall it happening to other colleagues of mine who now are also in their late eighties and having various challenges,” Stabenow said.

They have a point.

By the time he retired, Thurmond was 100 years old, but it was well known that he should have left the Senate long before he did. One former Senate aide said that “for his last ten years, Strom Thurmond didn’t know if he was on foot or on horseback.”

American political history is full of men who were allowed to remain in elected office when they were no longer physically able or mentally competent to serve. These men generally were given the benefit of the doubt by their colleagues, the media and the public. But now Feinstein, a woman, is in the same position, and she has been subjected to intense scrutiny and pressure to step down.

…it’s also true that Feinstein, like some male predecessors, overstayed their welcome in office, to the lasting detriment of the American people.

So if Feinstein is the subject of intense scrutiny or public questioning in a way those men were not, it’s in part due to the presence of women and people of color in the Senate, which has helped challenge the status quo that sheltered powerful white men for far too long.

Feinstein’s physical return to the Senate — in a wheelchair pushed by an aide — after a long bout with shingles was hardly the resounding picture of health and competency her staff has been peddling to the media in her absence.

The median age of members of the U.S. Senate is 65, while the median age of the nation they serve is just 38.

It seems improbable at this time, however, that the senator will do the right thing and step down.

That final act of selfishness will undoubtedly mar what should have been a great legacy.

—The Sacramento Bee

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY – In 1972, while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, Alabama Gov. George Wallace was wounded and left permanently paralyzed below the waist in an assassination attempt. As Wallace shook hands with attendees after a speech in Washington D.C. gunshots rang out, and screams filled the parking lot. The governor grabbed his stomach and fell to the ground. His second wife, Cornelia, threw herself over his bloody body. Two men seized the shooter, a fame-seeking loner from Milwaukee named Arthur Bremer.

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