Author: Steve Prestegard

Justice Hypocrite

Dan O’Donnell:

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Dallet argued for keeping Governor Evers’ “Safer at Home” order in place, but spent Memorial Day Weekend boating with friends in what would have been a violation of that order.

Dallet, along with Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Brian Hagedorn, dissented from the Court’s decision May 13 to strike down the “Safer at Home” order, which was set to expire on May 26.

In her dissent, Dallet warned that “Wisconsinites will pay the price” for the Court lifting the order two weeks early. Two days before the order was set to expire, however, Dallet joined another family for a boating excursion on Big Cedar Lake. Naturally, they were unable to keep social distance on the small boat.

Had Dallet gotten her way, such an excursion would have been unlawful and punishable by 30 days in jail and $250 in fines because “Safer at Home” outlawed get-togethers with people who do not live in the same home.

Dallet also signed on to Justice Walsh Bradley’s dissent, which blasted the majority for failing to stay its ruling so that the Evers Administration and Wisconsin Legislature could come up with a plan for “safely” re-opening the state:

The lack of a stay would be particularly breathtaking given the testimony yesterday before Congress by one of our nation’s top infectious disease experts, Dr. Anthony Fauci. He warned against lifting too quickly stay-at-home orders such as embodied in Emergency Order 28. He cautioned that if the country reopens too soon, it will result in “some suffering and death that could be avoided [and] could even set you back on the road to trying to get economic recovery.

Given the admonition of Dr. Fauci, I fail to see the wisdom or the equity in invalidating Emergency Order 28 and, at least for the time being, leaving nothing in its stead.

Dallet’s boat trip was captured in a photo posted to a friend’s Facebook page. Ironically, that friend is using a “Stay Home, Save Lives” border on her profile picture.

Dallet isn’t the only offender in this regard, as WTVO-TV in Rockford reports:

Illinois Gov. JB Pritkzer said he and his family have been spending time on their horse farm in Wisconsin, saying they’re doing an essential function.

According to the Chicago Tribune, some have called the travel a violation of his own stay-at-home order.

“I just will say we have a working farm. They’re there now. There are animals on that farm, that is an essential function to take care of animals at a farm, so that’s what they’re doing,” Pritzker said.

A spokesperson for the governor’s office said Pritzker and his family have been living in Chicago but have visited the farm in Racine.

The Governor said his wife and daughter were originally in Florida when the shelter-in-place order was issued there.

One wonders if Pritzker told Gov. Tony Evers he was planning on violating his home state’s lockdown to visit Wisconsin.

 

Coronavirus-divided America

Daniel Mitchell discusses …

… the degree to which the coronavirus has exposed the fault line between those who are subsidized by government and those who pay for government.

In her Wall Street Journal column, Peggy Noonan opines about how the “protected” don’t have to worry about the consequences of economic shutdowns.

There is a class divide between those who are hard-line on lockdowns and those who are pushing back. We see the professionals on one side—those James Burnham called the managerial elite, and Michael Lind, in “The New Class War,” calls “the overclass”—and regular people on the other. The overclass are highly educated and exert outsize influence as managers and leaders of important institutions—hospitals, companies, statehouses. …Since the pandemic began, the overclass has been in charge—scientists, doctors, political figures, consultants—calling the shots for the average people. But personally they have less skin in the game. The National Institutes of Health scientist won’t lose his livelihood over what’s happened. Neither will the midday anchor. I’ve called this divide the protected versus the unprotected. … Here’s a generalization based on a lifetime of experience and observation. The working-class people who are pushing back have had harder lives than those now determining their fate. They haven’t had familial or economic ease. No one sent them to Yale. … they look at these scientists and reporters making their warnings about how tough it’s going to be if we lift shutdowns and they don’t think, “Oh what informed, caring observers.” They think, “You have no idea what tough is. You don’t know what painful is.”

Fareed Zakaria’s column for the Washington Post acknowledges that it is a problem when a bunch of cossetted elites make policy for everyone else.

…there is a broader distrust that we need to understand. …Social power exists in three realms — government, the economy, and the culture. … In all three, leaders tend to be urban, college-educated professionals, often with a postgraduate degree. That makes them quite distinct from much of the rest of the country. …And yet, the top echelons everywhere are filled with this “credentialed overclass.” … many non-college-educated people … see the overclass as enacting policies that are presented as good for the whole country but really mostly benefit people from the ruling class … Let’s look at the covid-19 crisis through this prism. Imagine you are an American who works with his hands — a truck driver, a construction worker, an oil rig mechanic — and you have just lost your job… You turn on the television and hear medical experts, academics, technocrats and journalists explain that we must keep the economy closed — in other words, keep you unemployed — because public health is important. All these people making the case have jobs, have maintained their standards of living… The covid-19 divide is a class divide.

Writing for USA Today, Professor Glenn Reynolds observes that the self-anointed experts are not the ones paying the price for coronavirus policies.

… it’s hard not to notice a class divide here. As with so many of America’s conflicts, the divide is between the people in the political/managerial class on the one hand and the people in the working class on the other. And as usual, the smugness and authoritarianism are pretty much all on one side. … in Los Angeles — where less than half the county is working now — radio journalist Steve Gregory asked the L.A. County Board of Supervisors whether any of them were willing to take voluntary pay cuts during this crisis. He was told by the chair that his question was “irresponsible,” which is to say embarrassing and inconvenient. (By contrast, New Zealand’s senior officials, including the prime minister, are taking a 20% pay cut.) … There really are two Americas here: Those still getting a paycheck from government, corporations or universities, and those who are unemployed, or seeing their small businesses suffer due to shutdowns. …Then there are the hypocritical gestures, like Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s illicit haircut … People don’t appreciate being lectured and condescended to and bossed around. They especially don’t appreciate being urged to sacrifice by people who make no sacrifices themselves.

I’m tempted to focus on Glenn’s point about how American politicians should follow the lead of New Zealand lawmakers and accept a pay cut as a gesture of solidarity.

Heck, all levels of bureaucracy should take a haircut. Bureaucrats already have a significant advantage in compensation compared to the private sector, and that gap surely will grow now that so many businesses have been shuttered and so many workers have been forced into unemployment.

But I want to focus on a different point, which is the inherent unfairness of the elite having consequence-free power and authority over ordinary people.

In part, it’s the point that Thomas Sowell makes in the accompanying quote.

But it goes beyond that. The problem with the “overclass” or “protected class” is that they also don’t pay any price when they’re totally right, somewhat right, or only partly right.

In other words, the people who live off the government, either directly or indirectly, have relatively comfortable lives — all financed by the people who deal with much greater levels of hardship and uncertainty.

At the risk of understatement, that’s not right.

P.S. This gap is exacerbated when government officials display thuggery rather than empathy.

The meaning of this Memorial Day

David French:

I joined the military later in life. I was 37 years old when I went to my Officer Basic Course at Fort Lee, Virginia. I was 38 when I climbed into the back of a C-130 Hercules to fly into Iraq to begin my deployment with the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment at the height of the surge in 2007. I started that deployment with the conventional rhythms of civilian life thoroughly imprinted in my mind and heart.

Service in a war zone  was a jolting experience in countless ways, but nothing prepared me for the shock of death. It’s not just the sheer extent of the casualties—one man, then another, then another, and three more—all cut down in the prime of life. It’s the unnatural inability to truly mourn their loss.

Back home, when a family member or friend dies—or even a friend of a friend—there’s a collective and often community-wide pause. Depending on your relationship to the deceased, you’re able to simply stop, to grieve or to share in the grief of others, to try to help bear another person’s burden. There’s a ritual that matters, and it’s a ritual that—ideally—helps a person begin to heal.

At war, however, there is the shock of loss and the immediate and overriding need to focus, to do your job. In fact, the shock of loss typically occurs exactly when the need to focus is at its greatest. At the point of the explosion—or the site of the ambush—there’s a fight for life itself. On the ground and in the air, there’s the symphony of rescue and response. In the relative safety of the TOC (tactical operations center), there’s an urgent need not just to understand but also to direct the fight.

And then, even when that fight’s over, no one stops. The only pause is for the “hero flight”—the helicopter mission that takes your fallen brother home. You stand, you salute in silence, and then you focus again.

Yes, there are short memorial services, often days later, but nothing about it feels right. Your soul screams for the need to grieve, but your mind answers: Grief is a distraction, and if you’re distracted then your mistakes can cause only more grief. So the cycle moves on, remorselessly. Death, shock, focus. Death, shock, focus.

It’s a cliché of course to say it, but I never appreciated Memorial Day until I had brothers to remember. I was home on a midtour leave on Memorial Day Weekend in 2008. We’d already taken too many casualties, and I’d had no time to grieve. I was still pushing the grief back. I still had to focus. I wanted to enjoy my time with my wife and kids, and to truly treasure that time, I had to hold back. They couldn’t see what I truly felt.

Then, the dam broke. My son was watching a NASCAR race and before the race started, they played Amazing Grace on the bagpipes, and I just lost it. I had to leave the room. It was too much. But that’s also when I saw the value of this day. It gives us back that pause that we lost. It gives us back that ritual we need. Memorial Day, properly understood, helps us heal.

As much as it’s a holiday reserved for remembering those lost in war, Memorial Day has lessons for the crisis of the moment.  Memorial Day in 2020 is a day of grief happening in the midst of a season of grief. Today, in all likelihood, COVID-19 will claim its 100,000th American life. That’s 100,000 souls in roughly 10 short weeks. Even worse, for families and communities, there has been something deeply unnatural about the cycle of loss and mourning.

Sick family members have been whisked away, never to be seen again. Countless thousands have died alone, rather than surrounded by the people they love. Without true wakes, visitations, and funerals, communities have been unable to come together to lift each other’s burdens. There’s an old proverb (the internet says it’s of Swedish origin) that goes like this—“Shared joy is double joy. Shared sorrow is half-sorrow.” In our season of grief, all too many Americans haven’t been able to share their sorrow.

As the country slowly begins to confront the sheer enormity of its loss, we should learn from the power of Memorial Day. When we can gather again—when we can comfort our neighbors in person—remember not just who they lost but what they lost. They lost a ritual of grief that can never be restored. In the months and years to come, however, we can pause for them—we can pause with them—and give them the moments they need to help them heal.

Presty the DJ for May 25

Two unusual anniversaries in rock music today, beginning with John Lennon’s taking delivery of his Rolls-Royce today in 1967 — and it was not your garden-variety Rolls:

Ten years to the day later, the Beatles released “Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany, 1962,” which helped prove that bands don’t need to be in existence to continue recording. (And as we know, artists don’t have to be living to continue recording either.)

Meanwhile, back in 1968, the Rolling Stones released “Jumping Jack Flash,” which fans found to be a gas gas gas:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for May 25”

Presty the DJ for May 24

Two Beatles anniversaries today:

1964: The Beatles make their third appearance on CBS-TV’s “Ed Sullivan Show.”

1969: “Get Back” (with Billy Preston on keyboards) hits number one:

Meanwhile, today in 1968, Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful were arrested for drug possession. (Those last five words could apply to an uncountable number of musicians of the ’60s and ’70s.)

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for May 24”

Presty the DJ for May 23

Today in 1969, the Who released their rock opera “Tommy” …

… two years before Iron Butterfly disbanded over arguments over what “In a Gadda Da Vita” (which is one-third the length of all of “Tommy”) actually meant:

The number one British album today in 1970 was “McCartney,” named for you know who:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for May 23”

“You ever consider a career in Southern law enforcement?”

How, you ask, has this blogger been spending evenings during the coronavirus-mandated statewide lockdown of sorts?

Binge-watching a TV series that screams the ’80s, NBC-TV’s “Miami Vice.”

The short version of the creation of the TV series is two words from NBC programming executive Brandon Tartikoff: “MTV cops.” Or. more precisely, two cops that looked as if they had stepped out of an MTV music video. (Back when MTV played music videos.)

In one sense, “Vice” could be said to be a 1980s iteration of a classic that had recently gone off the air, the original “Hawaii Five-O.”

Both were set in lush locales that hid the seething sewers of crime (and, in Miami’s case, decadence) underneath. (To unreasonable ends, in Five-O’s case; as costar James MacArthur once put it, the show probably solved every crime in the islands halfway through its run.)

Things diverge from there, though. Unlike, say, “Adam-12,” I am confident in asserting that no one decided to go into police work based on “Miami Vice.” Outside of the setting Five-O was a straight police procedural. Vice was sort of film-noirish in that the heroes had skeletons in their own closets.

James “Sonny” Crockett was a former college football star and Vietnam veteran who started the series by trying to avenge his young partner’s death. Ricardo Tubbs was a New York City police detective who went to Miami to avenge the death of his brother, another NYPD detective.

The two are members of the Miami–Dade (then known as “Metro–Dade”) Police Department’s Organized Crime Bureau, called “Miami Vice,” investigating and either arresting or killing drug dealers and various other purveyors of South Florida vice, as well as their politician and dirty cop (including feds) enablers.

Crockett lives on a sailboat moored in a harbor. Thanks to asset forfeiture, Crockett gets to drive a “Ferrari Daytona” (which was actually a replica car on a Corvette chassis) and a speedboat. (Ferrari was upset about the use of the faux Daytona, which wasn’t built by Ferrari to be a convertible anyway, so Ferrari donated two Testarossas for use.)

It’s always interesting to learn who was considered for the roles that were iconically played (if that’s a word) by the eventually chosen actors. Crockett candidates included Jeff Bridges, Nick Nolte, Richard Dean Anderson, Mickey Rourke, Gary Cole, and Larry Wilcox (yes, of “CHiPs”)  before Don Johnson, who had been in four failed pilots (as was Tom Selleck before “Magnum P.I.”) was chosen, reportedly over Wilcox. Denzel Washington would have done a great job, but different job, as Tubbs. Geoffrey Cole, who ended up on “The Cosby Show,” also auditioned for Tubbs.

Johnson considered leaving the series after its second season. Mark Harmon, formerly a rookie cop on “Adam-12,” a sheriff’s rescue guy on “240-Robert” and a San Francisco cop in the movie “The Presidio,” was considered as Johnson’s replacement.

Their boss was initially Lt. Lou Rodriguez, played by character actor Gregory Sierra (previously seen playing a detective in “Barney Miller”). Sierra, however, didn’t like working in Miami, so he was killed — I mean, written out — and Edward James Olmos was cast. And arguably that’s where the series took off in a character sense; the conflict between detectives Crockett and Tubbs and their boss was rather stereotypical in Sierra’s case, but Olmos’ Castillo, described in one place as a “modern-day samurai” with an improbable background for a police lieutenant, was impenetrable and unpredictable, at least until writers lost the plot of his character in the final season. (Olmos joked that he was the highest paid actor per word in Hollywood.)

We started watching the second season, and then when we purchased the whole series (from exactly where you would expect to get DVDs — Menards) we moved to the pilot and the first season. The series certainly was rolling in the second season.

The series is famous for a lot of things, including the start of a lot of acting careers:

One way you can tell its cultural impact, beyond the pastels (an idea creator Michael Mann came up with after going to a Miami paint store — and Crockett’s penchant for baggy light-colored clothing and shoes without socks) …

… is the number of musicians who started appearing in the series during season one, a trend that continued through the third season. The soundtrack is basically a who’s-who of pop and rock music of the ’80s, with a few pleasant flashbacks as far back as the early ’60s.

And, of course, Johnson became a star, as did Olmos.

One of the more amusing moments is when Johnson’s ex-wife, Melanie Griffith (the daughter of Tippi Hedren, with whom Johnson appeared on the 1973 movie “The Harrad Experiment”), appears in an episode as the owner of a call girl service. After the series ended Johnson and Griffith remarried, and then re-divorced.

To say the series is an unrealistic depiction of police work is completely beside the point. Every officer, including Castillo, contributes to the series’ body count to the extent that all of them should have been fired, even if all the shootings passed shooting review board muster. The bad guys usually have the shooting aim of Star Wars storm troopers. Castillo’s detectives lie to their boss about getting personally involved in cases without impunity, and only get called on it once. (Though that was an epic 15 seconds, with Castillo calling their professional conduct in the case “abominable.”)

Miami is, as Hawaii was, depicted as a nest of crime and, well, vice, buried under a sea of cocaine, the wonder drug of the ’80s. (A place called Sex World is prominent in one episode and part of others.) One can only imagine what the producers (including Dick Wolf before he started the “Law & Order” juggernaut) would have come up with a decade later after “NYPD Blue”

The series is quite dark. According to one website 108 people are killed in the five seasons, and frankly that seems low. Crockett is a Vietnam veteran (how that dovetails with his being a college football star and his apparent age in the mid-1980s … well, it’s TV, which is not subject to the usual measurements of time), and he runs into damaged Vietnam veterans who make up plot points in a few episodes. And whether or not Crockett was damaged by Vietnam, he’s got the macho-sensitive brooder thing down. (In two episodes he regrets previous behavior toward a female high school classmate and a former police partner who was homosexual, not to mention his being an absent husband and father, which is why he is an ex-husband. Young Crockett didn’t learn that the way to avoid regrets is to not do the wrong thing(s) in the first place.)

It was also unique for its abrupt endings in the first two seasons of the series that leave unanswered questions. (Did he survive or not?) Not often are there tags with humorous conclusions. In fact, five consecutive second-season episodes end with a suicide, with Crockett yelling “NO!!!” as the character prevents his or her being able to return to the series.

Two of the main characters start by providing comic relief — detectives Switek and Zito, usually found in a van filled with surveillance equipment. (Complete, early on, with a giant bug on the roof.) They’re portrayed as something less than competent early on, though that changes. And then Zito gets killed, and Switek, larger than everyone else and with a penchant for inappropriate comments to match, develops a gambling addiction. The two female leads, detectives Gina Calabrese and Trudy Brown, seem to spend the largest parts of the episodes they’re in engaging in prostitute sting operations.

There is humor in the interaction of the characters, particularly Izzy Moreno the malaprop-plagued informant, such as …

  • “We move in the same social matrix!”
  • “Hey, man, you can’t go in there with those brown shoes, this party is color-cooperated!”
  • “The slightest barometric altercation in the atmospheric pressures tend to affect my paranasal digestive systems.”
  • “Like a lawyer and a priest, when I’m immoralizing women …”
  • “You are ruining your skins! The ultra-veelet rays are destroying the epidermal cortex as we speak!”
  • “Dr. Trautman, yes … He only handles the physotropic symptoms, I was called in to deal with the psycho-kinetic diseases, the neural consciousness frontier.”

… and another informant known as “Noogie,” but otherwise it was pretty grim until the fourth season, which featured episodes about dueling televangelists, a cryogenically frozen reggae singer, UFOs, and the theft of bull semen. Black humor (appropriate for a series involving police) can be found throughout the series, such as when a chemist developing the most pure synthetic cocaine in the world tries some himself (after Izzy fakes trying some), and achieves the first and last high of his life.

Throughout the series Crockett and Tubbs had underworld alter-egos, Burnett and Cooper, respectively. Oftentimes Crockett/Burnett and Tubbs/Cooper got involved with women as part of their cases, but it always ended badly for the women (one of Tubbs’ girlfriends doesn’t survive the teaser), particularly singer Caitlin Davies (played by singer Sheena Easton), who over several episodes testifies against a corrupt record producer, falls in love with Crockett, marries him, gets pregnant, goes on tour and gets shot to death.

One episode later the writers trotted out the trope of a character’s getting amnesia, and so into the fifth season Crockett thought he was Burnett, and acted accordingly, adding to the series’ body count. And then magically Burnett went back to Crockett, conveniently forgetting Burnett’s carnage, and conveniently avoiding the usual career repercussions for a police officer who killed several people.

After Crockett returns to his right mind, the rest of the series (including four episodes that ran after the series finale, one of which may have been a pilot for another series that NBC didn’t buy, and another of which NBC declined to broadcast because of its subject matter, child molestation) foreshadows the end of the series through Crockett’s increasing burnout. That could be said to apply to the series too, particularly when the last two seasons featured increasingly bizarre storylines or repeated stories from earlier seasons.

The series ended with a two-hour finale movie in which Crockett and Tubbs are recruited by mysterious feds (are there any other kind?) to rescue from a fictional Latin American country a corrupt dictator (supposedly based on Panama’s Manuel Noriega, though he looks more like Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, and he’s played by non-Latino non-Arab actor Ian McShane) who is willing to tell all to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Crockett and Tubbs are, of course, nearly killed on several occasions and repeatedly double-crossed, which leads them to their living end.

The series interestingly ends not with the iconic theme music, but with a solo effort by Chicago guitarist Terry Kath …

… whose song ended another cult classic, the 1970s movie “Electra Glide in Blue.”

Lopez Video reviewed the series after doing what we did:

 The concentration on raw aesthetics during the first 2 seasons makes this show a classic. Whether it was Michael Mann, this Yankovich character, or whoever, the primary emphasis of the show was raw aesthetics – the detective stuff came second (albeit a close second).

This was a show about pastel colors, Art Deco architecture, pop music, cars driving fast beach-side, drugs, and most importantly, sockless loafers with flowing blazers over a wrinkled V-neck.

The detective stuff was obviously interesting on a biological level: I want to know the answer to the mystery! The more mysterious, the more I want to know the answer. And the regional ideation with the various Columbian drug cartels or anti-Castro Cubans or the corrupt cops / politicians… It’s all just fun to watch, especially if you’re from Miami. Like bubblegum.

I stand by my original assessment that the show would’ve been far more addicting if the writers had extended the life of the first drug king-pin, Calderone. His story is tied to the motivational drama of Rico Tubbs – Calderone murdered his brother in New York City, thus kickstarting the entire show. 

Instead of killing Calderone by the 5th episode of the 1st season, they should’ve made Calderone an almost omnipotent drug kingpin. His power is profound & supreme. He exists only in shadows.

And so the capturing of Calderone would’ve become the specter that ties the entire series together. This is the season finale everybody tunes in to see (Think: “Lost“).

Anyway, they didn’t do that & the show quickly develops into a psuedo-CSI with a “monster-of-the-week” feel; sometimes introducing random-ass female love-interests for both Sonny & Rico. It’s all kind of blah but you stick around waiting for that new awesome 80s tune or that one unexpectedly good episode of that surprise cameo appearance by Bruce Willis or Julia Roberts. 

Not enough Calderone? They took on Calderone and his brother and his cousin. And Tubbs fell in love with Calderone’s sister and they had a child, but of course they both died.

The double agent aspect of the show elevates it to something special. It reminds me of Scorsese’s “The Departed” & Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” There’s something spectacular in seeing people transform by putting on masks to exist in separate worlds. Having to live two realities is extremely archetypal, and very cinematic.

The undercover theme is what made the show consistently interesting for me.

As far as acting, the real stand outs are Edward James Olmos and Martin Ferrero, with Don Johnson representing the blank every-man like a Warhol silkscreen: even his name is a blank canvas for projection… Don Johnson. It might as well be Al Whiteman.

Yet after a while, Don Johnson becomes quite identifiable as the ideal of a Warrior spirit: the kind of person you want to visualize weekly being in your world, because of this-quality or that-quality.

And as for his partner, played by Philip Michael Thomas, he is the quintessential balancing-force of this Warrior energy… with perhaps more of a Lover archetype activated & mixed-in, as he’s usually depicted rocked by his erotic emotions. Johnson is shown this way as well, but his character seems to develop an awareness overtime to consolidate these feelings in exchange for heightening his job performance… like a pure Warrior. Nothing stands out about Philip Michael Thomas’s character, and yet couldn’t imagine this particular show without him. He’s like the ground-rock that keeps the animality of Sonny Crockett contained.

Finally, the music in the show is great. There’s some classic music-movie moments, running all throughout the show, to the very end of the season finale. The resurrection of good obscure music (even if it was popular in its day) by contextualizing the sounds to new images, is just something I adore about cinema. It gets me high.

Everyone has an opinion of the best episodes …

“Miami Vice” clearly is of the ’80s, which is why it was a stupid idea to make a movie. (I will not dignify that idea by watching said movie.) I wonder, though, if a Vice-style show featuring police chasing around all matter of human depravity could be done in a different locale — say, Las Vegas. (Not like the original “CSI” did.)

Empty Seat Day at Camp Randall

M.D. Kittle:

There’s nothing quite like a Badgers home football game at Camp Randall Stadium in the crisp fall air.  

But Dane County’s stringent, slow, phased-in reopening plan doesn’t allow for the kinds of mass gatherings that University of Wisconsin-Madison home games attract. It could cancel the iconic events —  or at least drastically cramp the Camp’s style. 

The so-called Forward Dane  plan, really more of an order, laid out by Public Health Madison & Dane County, includes strict metrics for businesses to reopen and for Madison life to return to anything approaching normal. Even if the the COVID-19 reduction goals are met, the plan limits outdoor mass gatherings to 250 people maximum, not including employees, until a vaccine is found for the virus. 

That’s 250 people in a stadium that seats more than 80,000 rollicking fans. Closing Camp Randall would punch a huge hole through a significant source of revenue for the University of Wisconsin and its expensive athletic department. And it would sock it to hospitality businesses in downtown Madison and beyond, businesses that have already been hit hard by the Evers administration’s two-month lockdown of the state. 

“So many businesses in the Madison area — restaurants, bars, hotels, Uber drivers, you name it — rely on these Badger home games as a piece of their revenues,” said Scott Manley, executive vice president of Government Relations for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. “There’s a cottage industry built around entertaining people for Badger home games. If the UW isn’t allowed to have Badger home games, those businesses are just going to be destroyed.”

UW spokesman John Lucas in an email told Empower Wisconsin that the local order “does not apply directly to units of a state agency,” but the university will “continue to consult closely with the city and county as conference and university reopening plans continue to develop.”

Responding to a follow-up email asking whether that means the university will hold home football games this fall at Camp Randall, Lucas would not definitively say. 

“We’re continuing to work closely with PHMDC and will consult with them as more information becomes available about the shape of a football season,” he said. 

In the previous email, Lucas said UW Athletics is aware of the planning phases incorporated into the Forward Dane plan from Public Health Madison & Dane County as it relates to gatherings. He said UW-Madison participates in an ongoing partnership with local and state health authorities.

He said the Big Ten Conference is evaluating plans for a return to competition, “with the health and safety of student athletes and spectators as its most important consideration.”

There’s much at stake.

The UW-Madison athletics department generates a $610 million annual statewide economic impact, according to a study by Econsult Solutions Inc., a Philadelphia-based consulting firm. Badgers sports attract about 1.8 million out-of-state visitors to Wisconsin every year, the report, released last year, found. In Madison alone Badgers sports has an annual economic impact of nearly $400 million. 

“Obviously being as close as we are to Camp Randall, that has a huge affect on our fall business,” said Trevor Wilkinson, kitchen manager for Jordan’s Big 10 Pub, at 1330 Regent St., blocks away from the stadium. “We have high hopes that there will be football, but that is as out of our hands as can be at this point.” 

Mangers of downtown bars and restaurants who spoke to Empower Wisconsin Wednesday said they’re trying to keep up with local health information that is daily changing. Jordan’s Big 10 Pub, like others, is restricted to curbside service, for now, under the local health orders. Wilkinson said owners hope to bring back some dine-in service, with social-distancing limitations, next Tuesday. The loosening of the restrictions, of course, is subject to change.

The phased-in Forward Dane plan also could stifle Badgers basketball and hockey games. It limits indoor mass gatherings to 100 people maximum, not including employees — again, until there is a vaccine. Again, that could be a matter for UW and local government officials to iron out. 

Even in the best-case scenario,  pre-vaccine, restaurants, retailers and other Dane County businesses, will only be able to operate at 75 percent capacity. The plan asserts that, in the absence of a vaccine or treatment, “isolation, quarantine and, most notably, strict social or physical distancing such as public health orders like (Gov. Tony Evers’) Safer at Home” are the preferred method of containing COVID-19. While the creators of the plan acknowledge “the strictest of these prevention strategies” come at a “significant cost” to the economy and community, they are more than willing to turn the screw on an extended shutdown if COVID-19 numbers rise. 

“(W)e must not reopen too quickly or without the tools in place to minimize the speed of the virus. Doing so could threaten the progress we’ve made and have more significant health and economic consequences,” the public health policy states. 

A Dane County spokeswoman said she was seeking clarification from experts and would be in touch. She had not followed up as of publication. 

Manley said Dane County’s slow reopening plan puts businesses in peril of shutting down permanently. He said it underscores why it’s economically harmful to have local governments like Dane County create islands of anti-business public health orders.

“Businesses have to stay at 75 (percent capacity) until we have a vaccine, and we don’t know if we will have a vaccine,” the WMC official said. “For those types of businesses, particularly retailers, it’s going to be very, very difficult to remain in business.”