The Robin Williams Impact

I used my “Pat Political Point” segment on WSGW’s First Day this past Sunday to focus on the tragic passing of Robin Williams, and the impact he had during my early years.

RobinWilliamsAs you’ll hear, I talk about how his role in Good Morning, Vietnam inspired me to someday work in radio.  I also share how his character in Dead Poets Society taught me to “swim against the stream,” once in awhile.

I received some positive feedback on the segment, but I received this email which bothered me somewhat:

Mr Johnson,
They are only actors.  I could not help but notice that you did not mention his drug and alcohol abuse over his lifetime, maybe this contributed to his health issues, and several marriages. Lets hope our young children do not look up to these types as you do.

It wasn’t his misspelling of my name that bothered me. Rather, it was this flippant attitude some in this country have towards “actors,” as if they have nothing of value to contribute to society.

I responded that Williams suffered from depression, which is a disease.  This caused him to abuse certain substances, which is also a disease.  We should have compassion for those suffering from those afflictions.  I added that if we’re supposed to discount people because they’re actors who have multiple marriages, then I no longer want to hear about the greatness of Ronald Reagan.

Was Robin Williams a flawed man?  Of course.  Is there such a thing as a perfect human being?  If so, please point me in their direction.  I’d like to meet them.

Is his life filled with several examples of selflessness?  Absolutely. Ask the military members who referred to him as the “new Bob Hope” due to the numerous trips he made to Afghanistan and Iraq.  Or read about the work he performed to help St. Jude raise awareness and funding for children dealing with cancer.

True, Robin Williams was a comedian and an actor.  If you choose to dismiss his entire life’s work because you deem those professions unworthy of your respect, then please, do just that.  But you’ll fail to see how Williams impacted millions of people on the stage, on the screen, and behind the scenes, as well.  He made people laugh, think, and cry.  He used his power of celebrity to help people throughout the world.  He made us try to forget–for a moment–about the daily grind of life.

Yes, he’s someone I’ll never be ashamed to say I admired.

“Pat Political Point” on Robin Williams. From the 8/17/14 edition of WSGW’s “First Day.”

So Long, Hilary

Today marked the final “First Day” show with my good friend, Hilary Farrell.  She’s leaving WSGW radio for a new radio position in the Grand Rapids public radio arena.


Hilary’s been a great asset to both our show and the WSGW News Team.  She’ll be greatly missed.

Click the link to hear Hilary’s farewell from today’s show.

Good luck, Hils!

So Long, Hilary! From WSGW’s “First Day” show on 8/17/14

Why Comerica Is No PNC Park

The Detroit Tigers are taking-on the Pittsburgh Pirates in a home-and-home four game series this week.  While I haven’t been to many baseball stadiums around the country, I have to agree with’s Joe LaPointe that Pittsburgh’s PNC Park is a far superior venue to enjoy a baseball game than Detroit’s Comerica Park:

Truth be told, there is only one thing wrong with Comerica: It’s a mediocre place to watch a baseball game because the grandstands are so poorly designed.

Detroit and Michigan fans who make road trips will realize that Monday and Tuesday when the Tigers visit the Pirates at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.


The main, lower grandstand (at Comerica Park) is built far too horizontally. The seating contour pulls back and away from the field. It would be better if it were more vertical, with steeper sight lines, the way most good stadiums and arenas – old and new, indoor and outdoor – are designed.

Because of this design flaw, too many Comerica seats are exposed, soaking fans when it rains and broiling them in the sun on hot days. A cynic might suggest this is intentional because it forces fans to get up, stroll the cool, dry concourses and spend money on things like Ferris wheels and carousels.

Comerica is still a beautiful park, and I agree with LaPointe that it’s a much cleaner and family friendly place to watch a ballgame than the iconic Tiger Stadium.  The centerfield view of downtown Detroit provides a fantastic view.  Yet, for all of its beauty and grandeur, I don’t think it’s a great place to actually watch a game.  If you’re in the upper deck, you’ll get a decent view–especially if you’re behind home plate or partially down the baselines.  It’s a different story if you’re in the lower deck.  Ugh!  It’s way too flat in the lower deck, which prevents you from getting an ideal view of the game.  And like LaPointe mentions, if it’s a hot, humid day, sitting in the lower deck has got to be the worst.  That’s why I think the afternoon crowds seem so lethargic by the middle innings.

No Challenge. PNC Is Superior To Comerica

No Challenge. PNC Is Superior To Comerica

PNC Park is a fantastic stadium.  It’s a new stadium, but it has the intimacy of the older stadiums–like Tiger Stadium.  The lower deck seating is more vertical, eliminating the possibility of getting obstructed by taller fans sitting in front of you.  It also allows for the fans to be closer to the action.  Dr. Heather and I attended a Tigers-Pirates game at PNC back in 2006, and we had seats about 25-30 rows behind home plate.  They were the second greatest seats I’ve ever had to watch a baseball game.  We had a perfect view of the field, concessions were nearby, and we’re treated to an absolutely breathtaking view of downtown Pittsburgh.  Then, we took a ferry boat ride down the Monongahela River to Station Square to enjoy some post-game food and drink.

In my opinion, PNC hands-down is the better stadium.

P.S. The greatest seats I’ve ever had to watch a ballgame?  Upper deck box seats behind home plate at Tiger Stadium.  You were so close to the action, had an unobstructed view of the ballpark, and if you listened carefully, you could hear Ernie Harwell’s voice filtering up the stands from the broadcast booth.

Midwest America: A Future Republican Voting Bloc?

Sure, President Obama may have carried Big Ten Country in both 2008 and 2012, but as Anna Clark explains, this supposed Democratic stronghold is changing…fast:

The Republicanization of the rural areas is just one of the problems that Midwestern Democrats face. The decline of industrial unions, the aging of the population, the relative lack of immigrants, and the out–migration of African Americans and young people all portend challenging times for the region’s Democrats. If Republicans claim more of the region’s 117 electoral votes, the national consequences could be bracing: A lasting conservative shift in the industrial Midwest would nullify Democratic gains in the Sun Belt. Swinging states like Michigan and Wisconsin (which together have 26 electoral votes) into the Republican column would offset Democratic gains in Arizona and Georgia (which together have 27 electoral votes). With a total of 44 electoral votes, a red triptych of Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin would best a blue Texas (38 electoral votes). Absent some leftist intervention, the Party of Lincoln might well come home to the region where it was born 160 years ago.

It’s not as far-fetched as some of my liberal friends may want to believe.

Republican Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and Rick Snyder of Michigan

Republican Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and Rick Snyder of Michigan

State legislatures switched heavily to the GOP in 2010, and have remained in-charge despite Obama’s reelection.  Republicans took-over gubernatorial seats in my home state of Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  It’s in these states where major policy changes have occurred: Further deunionization through Right To Work legislation, a demolition of collective bargaining in Wisconsin, and stricter voting rights bills.

The prevailing thought in 2008 was The Age Of Obama would bring radical change to the country.  On the contrary, it’s been the Republican/Tea Party take over of the Midwest (sans Minnesota) that has brought significant change.

Clark also notes how the demographic changes are driving the Midwest to vote Republican.  So, any gains liberals make in more multicultural regions like the Sun Belt will be offset by the Midwest.

Her conclusion is that all politics in the Midwest is economics.  Sure, social issues play a role, but it’s the Rust Belt that feels left behind, and the people want to know someone is on their side.

I think that’s why minimum wage hike initiatives are popular.  That’s also why “free trade” deals are anathema to Midwesterners.

Populism, Clark argues, is what wins the Midwest.

Republicans have realized that reality.

Will Democrats?

The Fast Food Game

I received a phone call the other day after my show from a loyal listener, and he wanted to complain about “those fast food workers” demanding a better minimum wage.

He explained how a drive-thru worker accidentally handed him back less change than he was expected to receive.  He asked, “How can people who can’t compute correct change expect to make $10-to-$15 an hour?  All they do is make mistakes!”

I responded by saying, “The worker made a mistake or miscounted the change.  I do that all of the time!  My math deficiencies are at times embarrassing!”

The caller scoffed at that remark, but I quickly continued, “But remember, you get what you pay for!”

“What do you mean.” he asked.

I said that you can’t expect five-star service from businesses that pay one-star wages.  If fast food restaurants would pay their workers better wages, perhaps those workers would take more pride in their work.  I also brought-up how paying workers a bit more would help create more demand, which is sorely lacking in this slow economic recovery.

Again, he scoffed at those points.

He then yelled, “These jobs are supposed to be for teenagers!  They’re not supposed to be career jobs!”  I shouted back, “But that’s the problem! Adults who lost jobs due to the recession or outsourcing are forced to revert to taking jobs they once had teenagers!  Why?  Because there aren’t as many good-paying jobs in country anymore!

Once more, he scoffed and laughed.

He didn’t have much of a response when I yelled–yes, I yelled–my final point, which went something like this:

“Please, if nothing else, consider the following point.  You want fast food joints to keep paying low wages.  Those workers end-up having to file for welfare, food, and Medicaid assistance.  You and I pay for those services.  Now, on the flip side, fast food corporations utilize a generous tax loophole totaling around $60 million in savings.  That means when you go pay for that thin, brown slab of “burger” for a cheap price, you’re not only subsidizing the workers who need extra help, but you’re subsidizing the corporations that are enjoying tax loopholes.  It’s a win-win for them!  So, you just keep doing what you’re doing, and sleep well at night.”

This is a listener who doesn’t give up easy, but he ended the conversation saying, “Well, I don’t go to (a specific fast food joint) all that much.  I gotta go!”

Reading this latest story by a McDonald’s franchisee owner on how the company encourages lower wages only solidifies the belief that the fast food industry is running a game, and the rest of us are losing.


The Bake Sale Ban Atrocity

There goes that government overreach again!

The Wall Street Journal’s Stephanie Armour documents the atrocity:

At Chapman School in Nebraska, resourceful students hawk pizza and cookie dough to raise money for school supplies, field trips and an eighth-grade excursion to Washington. They peddle chocolate bars to help fund the yearbook.

But the sales won’t be so sweet starting this fall. Campus bake sales—a mainstay of school fundraisers—are going on a diet. A federal law that aims to curb childhood obesity means that, in dozens of states, bake sales must adhere to nutrition requirements that could replace cupcakes and brownies with fruit cups and granola bars.

Thanks, Michelle Obama!

Her “Let’s Move” campaign became the catalyst for the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to combat child obesity.  You see, obesity is a health issue, which affects all Americans who end-up paying for diabetic-ridden kids through insurance policies.  The First Lady is attempting to raise the awareness of the multiple debilitating effects child obesity has on not just their lives, but all of society, as well!

But raising awareness is Communist, or something like that.

Back to Armour’s tragic story of the poor kiddies having cupcakes literally ripped from their mouths by the federal government:

The law also required the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set standards for all food and beverages sold during the school day, which includes vending machines, snack carts and daytime fundraisers. It allowed for “infrequent” fundraisers, and states were allowed to decide how many bake sales they would have that didn’t meet nutrition standards.

Without state-approved exemptions, any treats sold would have to meet calorie, sodium, fat and other requirements. The law permits states to fine schools that don’t comply.

In an attempt to make children a bit healthier, the law helps sets calorie standards for food sold in schools.  The law also grants states the power to exempt  foods violating the standards for a number of reasons, including bake sales.


Ah, but here’s the caveat: a lot of states are choosing to stick with the standards!

Each state can mandate the number of daytime fundraisers held each year that buck the nutrition requirements. But so far, 32 states have opted to stay strictly in the healthy zone, according to a draft report from the School Nutrition Association, which said the final number could change before the school year begins.

That means students in those states, which range from Alabama to California to Texas, can’t sell fatty or sugary fare that doesn’t meet the federal requirements.

Double Tyranny!

This is causing schools some heartache as they can’t rely on bake sales to help pay for things, as Armour writes:

Schools have relied on these types of sales as revenue streams for sports, cheering clubs, marching bands,” said David Sevier, deputy executive director of the Tennessee Board of Education. “We get the obesity issue, but we don’t want to jerk this out from under the kids.”

This is sad and all, and I hope some Americans fight to stop this massive governmental overreach and let kids remain fat and lazy!  This is America, after all!

Or, I hate to change the subject, but perhaps–perhaps, mind you–there’s a bigger problem at hand, here.

Schools have turned more and more reliant on bake sales to pay for sports, marching bands, school supplies, etc.  Why?  Could it be that national and state spending on schools have dried-up through the years?  School millages pop-up on a daily basis as local communities have to make-up the loss of funding from states.

Instead of crying about “black helicopters coming in to check” on what’s being served at schools, these administrators should wonder why they’re so dependent on these bake sales nowadays.

Maybe somebody should do something about that.

Alas, nobody is doing anything about it, and that’s real atrocity Armour should document.