|News & Editorial Archives, 2010-2012
Fundraiser Donates $400 To Local Cat
Friday the 21st of December, I was very proud to hand Carolyn of the
New Life Cat Rescue a check for $400.00. This year was the most
successful Kittling Brusky Memorial Fundraiser ever, topping last
year's total by nearly forty dollars.
passed away in November of 2009, her memorial fundraiser
has raised over $1,000 for local, volunteer, non-profit cat
shelters. Many people have donated over the years, but some of
the key donors I'd like to mention are Jodi Breault, Bob & Carol
Butt, Ron & JoAnne Vandenboom, Michelle Genrich, Arl Brooks, Don
& Carol Held, Jana Novak, Cindy Seefeldt, Jerry Halkoski, Walter
Unglaub, Tom & Lisa Hare, Jeff Winard, Kathy McGarry, Agatha
Ulrich, and all the members of my family. A complete list of
donors is found on the memorial website.
year, I have changed the way donation amounts are
mentioned on the site. Many people offer one-dollar donations,
and, since every donation is important no matter how small, I now group
all donations under ten dollars into a Friends (bronze) category.
Donations of ten dollars or more are grouped into a Patrons (silver) category,
donations of twenty dollars or more are grouped into a Sponsors (gold) category, and
donations of fifty dollars or more are grouped into a Benefactors (platinum) category.
► Ousted Polka Organization
President Protests, Starts Recall Petition
Dec. 31, 2011
(Mashapotato, WI) Vladimir Siegheil, former president of the Polka
Promenade organization, was seen collecting signatures at area polka
events this weekend in an effort to recall newly-elected president,
Mike Freedman. Siegheil was unanimously voted out of office earlier in
Siegheil claims his recall petition has the support of the National
Polka Radio Broadcasters Union, an organization he admits he founded
last week. "This is a union matter, now," explained Siegheil. "Union
power! Union power! And recall Scott Walker, too!"
As of yesterday, Siegheil's petition has gained four signatures, all of
them apparently family members. "I would have five signatures by now,
but my mom is still on the fence." Siegheil needs to collect 140,000
signatures by the March 17th deadline.
As if a recall petition were not enough, Siegheil has launched a
protest movement which he named Occupy Vliet Street. As with all of the
other occupy movements taking place across the country, we have not
been able to determine the exact purpose of the protest. However,
according to Occupy Vliet Street's Facebook page, the protest seeks to
"...admonish large corporations, tax the bejeezus out of the wealthy,
and get me my job back!" Occupy Vliet Street's current membership
consists of Siegheil, four members of his family, and some homeless guy
named Kevin. "Again," added Siegheil, "my mom is on the fence."
Ironically, the protest is seeking corporate donations and bequests
from the wealthy.
Siegheil currently serves as president of the Nationalsozialistische
Deutsche Arbeiter Partei. When asked about his involvement with
socialist workers' organizations, Siegheil replied, "The shortest line
to the American Dream, my friend, is a soup and bread line."
Is NOTworking For Me
September, when Facebook began controlling the flow of
information by filtering their users' newsfeeds, I quit. Yes, I am one
of the few people in the world who actually quit Facebook and survived.
I was so offended by Facebook deciding which of my friends' news
updates I would see and which of my friends would see my news updates,
I said good-bye to over 450 friends, permanently deleted my account,
and haven't looked back.
Just as I left
Facebook, I joined "the other social networking service"
Google+. I immediately became enamored with G+. It was designed so
well. The user interface and privacy settings were free of the sheer
idiocy that plagued Facebook.
It didn't last
At the end of
October, Google+ introduced "What's Hot on Google+", a
feature that injects posts from random strangers into users' news
feeds. Nobody knows why Google began doing this, but it is believed
that whereas Facebook encourages their users to only friend people they
personally know, Google+ encourages their users to meet and connect
One major problem
with this feature is that the random posts may
occasionally contain profane or obscene content. In one week's time, I
opened my news feed only to be greeted by a post crammed full of
F-bombs and an image of a man groping a woman's chest. Another major
problem is that there is no simple way of disabling the posts from
showing up in your news feed.
One month later,
Google+ still hasn't made an effort to give their
users the ability to block the intrusive posts. While there are
third-party browser extensions that can hide the "What's Hot" feature
from the news feed, these extensions are not viable solutions for the
average user as they require intermediate computing experience to
download and install.
I refuse to
belong to a social networking service that knowingly and
willingly forces unsolicited and potentially offensive material into
users' news feeds without providing a means of blocking it. Therefore,
as of December 1st, I have quit Google+.
Facebook nor Google+ meet my minimum standards for
providing a safe, reliable social networking service, my primary method
for dispensing news has reverted to the use of my website and email.
National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Shame
including myself, were surprised to see that my latest CD,
The First Forty Years, was excluded from the list of eligible
recordings received with the 2010 award nominations form. My fans,
friends, and I were quite skeptical because this was the second time in
a row this has happened to me. The first time was in 2006. [The annual
list of eligible recordings is compiled, in part, from new recordings
received at the Polka Hall of Fame. Both years, my recordings were
received by the Hall of Fame, so it was their responsibility to include
them on the list.] In 2006, I assumed my CD missed the list of eligible
recordings due to a clerical error, so I didn't bother to bring it up.
But, after having witnessed this happen again in 2010, I decided to
search for answers.
Every year, a
list of recordings eligible for nomination is sent out
with the nomination forms to the members of the Polka Hall of Fame.
Since members can simply choose a recording from the list, omitting any
recordings from that list can have serious consequences. Obviously, the
nomination scales will be tipped well in favor of the listed recordings.
When I noticed my
new CD was not on the list, I immediately contacted
the Polka Hall of Fame and alerted them to the error. They reaffirmed
that my recording was still eligible for nomination despite being
omitted from the list, but my concern was not about me or my recording
-- my concern was that the Polka Hall of Fame made an error that tipped
the scales and would almost certainly result in slanted nominations.
Their entire membership received an incomplete list of eligible
recordings. If not corrected, the error could easily steer the
nominations -- a serious violation of ethics for any awards program.
The Polka Hall of
Fame had plenty of time to correct their error, but,
to my shock and disbelief, they chose to let their error slide, and
accepted the results of the slanted nominations. And slanted they were.
My recording, which the Hall of Fame kept off the list, was, of course,
not nominated. Had it been included on the list like it should have
been, the results could have been entirely different.
The Polka Hall of
Fame's unwillingness to fix their own error shows
that they are not above engaging in fraudulent activity. Is letting an
"error" slide which steers the outcome of the nominations any less
indefensible than intentionally rigging the awards? Mistakes are, by
definition, accidental. But when the person or people responsible for
correcting a mistake chooses not to, then is it still an accident?
raises a few questions: How long has this been going on?
How many times have the Polka Hall of Fame's "mistakes" resulted in
keeping certain nominees off the ballot? (I've talked with other
Wisconsin musicians who have experienced the same "accidental"
omissions of their recordings.) If the Polka Hall of Fame is willing to
let its own "mistakes" influence the nominations process, how far will
they go to influence results of the awards? Who is the Polka Hall of
Fame trying to keep off the ballots, and why?
If I ran the
Polka Hall of Fame and it was brought to my attention that
an error made by my organization's staff resulted in a slanted
nomination form, I would immediately void the form and send out a new
one with an explanation and an apology. There is absolutely no question
about it. I'd want my organization's membership to know that their
awards program was being run with the utmost dedication to equality.
This article was
not written out of vindictiveness. Those of you who
know me know that I do not care much for awards. What I do care a great
deal about is fairness. All these years, we members of the Polka Hall
of Fame have unwittingly assumed the awards program operated fairly.
Then I learned the truth. I wrote this article out of a sense of
obligation to share that truth with all of you.
I do not hold
anything personal against any of the board members of the
Polka Hall of Fame. They will all continue to have my utmost respect
for their hard work and dedication to promoting and preserving
Cleveland-Style polka music. My displeasure is only with the bias with
which the organization runs its awards program.
Now that the cat
is out of the bag, major operational and personnel
changes will certainly need to take place if the awards program is
going to maintain any semblance of integrity. Until then, I am publicly
revoking my lifetime membership.
► Follow-Up Comments
Regarding My National
Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame Editorial
October 7, 2010
quite a bit of feedback about my editorial on the
National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame. So far, all of it has been
in support of my article, as many people seem feel that the awards
program has always been tainted by corruption, and that the corruption
needed to be exposed. The two most-popular comments I've received are
"I'm sorry your recording was not nominated" and "It's always the same
people from Cleveland who win". I want to address those two comments.
Please do not
feel sorry for me for not being nominated for Recording
of the Year. It was not my intention to get on the ballot. The only
reason I contacted the Hall of Fame and questioned why my CD was not
included on the list of eligible recordings is because I was
suspicious, since this happened to me twice in a row. I did not need to
be on the list. I did not need the nomination. I just wanted to know
why my recording was denied a fair chance of being nominated. I wanted
to find out if it was accidental or intentional.
For people who
say that it's the same people from Cleveland who get
nominated every year, it's important to understand that an organization
whose membership is mostly local will often vote for mostly local
musicians. If the Hall of Fame's membership is made up of mostly people
from Ohio and Pennsylvania, then most of the nominations will naturally
be for musicians from Ohio and Pennsylvania.
On the 2010
awards ballot for the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall
of Fame, there were 42 nominees for the music-related awards (Band,
Musician, Vocalist, etc.) Of those 42 nominees, I believe only three or
four were from outside the Cleveland-Pittsburgh polka belt. I also
believe this disparity is due largely to the demographic of the
membership. When I went public with my complaint about the Hall of
Fame, comments by musicians from both inside and outside the Penn/Ohio
polka belt supported my evidence that the organization is not above a
little corruption. But what I don't know is who the organization wants
to keep off the ballots, and why. Do they slight musicians because they
are from outside the Penn/Ohio region, out of vindictiveness for
personal reasons, or a combination of both? Every musician will surely
have his or her own opinion on that matter.
Although it is
not the Hall of Fame's fault that its membership will
tend to keep the nominations local year after year, I believe
wholeheartedly that because the organization is national, it has an
obligation to work as hard as it can to expand its membership across
the entire country to prevent local favoritism from continuing to
dominate the awards program. If you want to be national, you have to be
all-inclusive. In my opinion, the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall
of Fame seems far too content with local favoritism. If they were the
Penn/Ohio Polka Awards, then nobody would care. But they have
"National" in their title, and are therefore obligated to see to it
that musicians from all over the country are given better chances of
being recognized and honored. I think Tony P. always did a pretty good
job of exposing Wisconsin bands to the Cleveland crowds for his annual
Thanksgiving weekend polka fests, but bringing in out-of-state bands
once a year not enough. The Hall of Fame needs to drum up membership
outside the Penn/Ohio region. Wisconsin alone is so rich with polka
music, yet so many polka fans up here know absolutely nothing of the
National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame.
Another example of an organization that needs to broaden
its membership is the International Polka Association. This statistic
will blow you away: According to the IPA's own website, 51 out of the
last 55 music-related awards (Band, Recording, Vocalist, etc.) were won
by Polish-style bands/musicians. Only one non-Polish-style musician,
LynnMarie, has won an IPA music award in the past ten years.]
These are my five
suggestions for the National Cleveland-Style Polka
Hall of Fame:
1. The status quo
has got to go. My situation has proven that there is
willful negligence lurking in the organization. The upstanding members
of the board need to clean out the dirt and make restoring integrity to
the organization their #1 priority.
2. The recording
submission process must be streamlined. The Hall of
Fame needs to come up with a single, concise way for bands to submit
CDs. They should establish specific parameters by which every band must
abide, such as an official submission form, and publish the submission
form on their website. I also suggest that as recordings are received
and accepted as eligible, that the Hall of Fame list them on their
website so that the bands and the general public can verify that the
Hall of Fame has, indeed, acknowledged and accepted all eligible
3. The nomination
forms should not be used to narrow down which
recordings will go on the ballot. Instead, the Hall of Fame should use
the forms to harness the collective knowledge of their entire
membership by asking them to write in the names of CDs they believe may
be eligible. When it comes time to print the ballot, the Hall of Fame
should put every recording on there that they've determined to be
eligible. That may mean having twenty recordings on the ballot, but
that shouldn't be a problem.
4. A reputable,
independent accounting firm should be hired to tally
not just the ballots, but the nominations, too. If anyone from the Hall
of Fame tries to tamper with the nominations, the accounting firm will
be able to catch it. Even if no one desires to tamper with the
nominations, using an independent accounting firm will boost both the
membership's and the public's confidence in the organization.
5. The membership
needs broadening. Now and then, the Hall of Fame
should send an emissary to polka events outside the Penn/Ohio region to
expand their membership. Cleveland-style musicians like Ron Sluga,
Eddie Rodick, Christine Hibbs, and Fred Ziwich are phenomenal,
award-deserving musicians in every way, but so are Scott Koehn, Mike
McIntyre, Cliff Penniston, Chris Doszak, Tony Sabo, Jeff Walker, Bob
Breuer, Jeff Winard, Neal Zunker, Don Hunjadi, Billy Micale, Mark
Wenzlaff, Craig Ebel, Jeff Heinz, Mike Kramar, Scott Bixby, Joe Grille,
Steve Meisner, Kenny Brandt, Dave Stolowski, Mike Schneider, Jerry
Bieniek, David Austin, BB Carter, Grant Kozera, Denny Anderson, Gary
Hendrickson, Danny Tutsch... need I go on?
► Response to the
Polka Hall of Fame's Editorial In the Polka Times
November 9, 2010
Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame states that I said the
list of recordings printed on the letter mailed out with the nomination
forms was slanted toward Cleveland bands. That's not quite what I said.
The vast majority of bands and musicians who win the awards live within
the vicinities of either Cleveland or Pittsburgh, however, that may be
a circumstantial result of the majority of voters also living in that
same region. It's possible that whoever is allowing the slanting of the
nominations may favor bands and musicians within the
Cleveland/Pittsburgh polka belt, but that's only speculation. I do not
know exactly what criteria is used to hinder a band's chance of being
nominated. All I know is that I apparently meet that criteria.
The Polka Hall of
Fame also states that I failed to notify them to
nominate my album, but what the public may not know is that the Polka
Hall of Fame compiles their list of eligible recordings from two
sources. When the 2010 nomination forms for the awards were mailed out
to voting members, a letter from the Polka Hall of Fame was included
with the forms which states, "On the reverse side of this letter you
will find a list of new Cleveland-style polka recordings released
during the period of June 1, 2009, through May 31, 2010. The list is
compiled based on notification from polka bandleaders who wish to have
their recording considered for nomination AND FROM NEW RECORDINGS
RECEIVED AT THE HALL OF FAME." [Emphasis mine.]
If the Polka Hall
of Fame is not aware of a new CD that is released,
then of course it's the bandleader's responsibility to make sure the
Polka Hall of Fame knows about it so that they can consider it for
eligibility. Sure, I could have chosen to mail yet another CD to the
Hall of Fame just to attach a note reminding them to put my CD on the
list of eligible recordings, but the point is that I didn't have to --
the Polka Hall of Fame already had my CD in their possession, they knew
it was brand new, and, according to their own information, new
recordings they receive are used to compile of the list of eligible
recordings sent out with the nomination forms.
To make sure I
was correct about this, I contacted the Polka Hall of
Fame. In an email correspondence regarding the recent recording of mine
that was omitted from the list of eligible recordings, a representative
of the Polka Hall of Fame stated, "If the recording was carried in
stock by the PHOF Gift Shop and was entirely new, it should have been
on the list. I saw the list of new recordings which was compiled from
the daily log posted by the clerks, and did not see your album on the
list." The representative then went on to say that she would forward my
concerns to the Hall of Fame staff "to let them know how important it
is to list new recordings on the log we keep." She also added that the
staff at the Hall of Fame gift shop handles many duties and implied
that they should not be blamed for making such a mistake.
I am very
understanding of honest mistakes. I make plenty of them
myself, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. The volunteer staff at the
Polka Hall of Fame gift shop are wonderful people to do business with,
and I don't blame them at all for what happened. A clerical error is no
big deal. The problem is that when certain decision makers at the Polka
Hall of Fame learned of the error and were reminded of how it could
seriously influence the nominations if left uncorrected, they clammed
up and seemed to brush the entire matter under the rug. No matter how
many times I asked the Hall of Fame for an official explanation that I
could share with my upset fans and friends here in Wisconsin, the Hall
of Fame would not offer one.
My reason for
writing this editorial is not to whine about not being
nominated. If awards were important to me, then I surely would have
used multiple means of ensuring the Hall of Fame didn't forget to
consider my recording for nomination. The only reason I wrote this
editorial was to inform the membership and public that the National
Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame, a very storied and prestigious
organization to which many people pay money to belong, has been caught
engaging in unethical practices. The people responsible for that must
be stopped if we are going to take the protection of the sanctity of
our heritage seriously. There is no room for politics in polka music.
My thoughts that
follow are not written out of vindictiveness --
they're just my personal and professional opinion on how the Polka Hall
of Fame's problem with corruption could be remedied.
ingrained powers that be are allowed to remain in power, I
believe they will continue using the awards program to tarnish the the
integrity of the Polka Hall of Fame through their willful neglect of
ethics. They're not bad people -- they've done a lot for the
organization and for polka music and will always have my respect for
that -- but, over the years, they've somehow lost the understanding
that what's best for polka music may not always agree with what's in
their own, best interests.
members of the board and membership will have to take an
unprecedented stand if they want to restore integrity to their
organization. If I were on the board of the Polka Hall of Fame, I would
respectfully but dutifully motion for a vote of no confidence to oust
those whose questionable actions pose a liability to the organization's
reputation. That would open up room for new leadership who can bring
much-needed interpersonal communication and problem solving skills to
the organization. It would also send a clear message to the membership
and to all of polka music that the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall
of Fame is determined to be more important than the people who run it.
Mikrut's "Polkatively Yours" Editorial - Some Needed Clarifications
December 18, 2010
Gene Mikrut wrote
an editorial in the November issue of the Polka Times
newspaper in regard to the recent incident with the National
Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame (NCSPHoF). He did a great job of
explaining in detail the disadvantage recordings experience if they are
omitted from the ballots, however, I believe he meant to say the
nomination forms, not the ballots. The nominations determine who makes
the ballot, and I personally do not know of any circumstance in which a
bona fide nominee was omitted from a NCSPHoF ballot.
Along with the
nomination forms, the NCSPHoF mails out a list of
recordings eligible for the Recording of the Year award. This list is
necessary, because without it, members won't know which recordings are
eligible for nomination. By having this list in their hands, members
can easily pick a recording to nominate. Obviously, if a recording is
omitted from the list, all voting members who use the list to nominate
a recording will not nominate the one that was omitted. I believe that
Gene Mikrut made an honest mistake with the terminology, and meant to
refer to this list, and not the ballot.
To avoid putting
any recordings at a disadvantage, the NCSPHoF has an
obligation to make sure the list of recordings they've deemed eligible
-- the same list they mail out to the voters -- does not have any
omissions, whether intentional or accidental. The entire focus of my
editorial about the NCSPHoF was to explain that they knew of an
omission that was shown to be their mistake, had plenty of time to
correct it, but willingly chose not to.
Gene stated that,
according to me, all recordings purchased by the
organization's gift shop become eligible for placement on the ballot. I
know what he meant to say, but it's not quite accurate. The NCSPHoF
accepts recordings for eligibility by notification by bandleaders and
by the new recordings received at their gift shop. A newly-received
recording does not go directly onto the ballot -- it must first be
screened for eligibility, and then if it is deemed eligible, the title
of the recording is included on the list mailed out to voters along
with the nomination forms.
can be a little confusing. It's easy to get terminology
a little mixed up, and it's also easy to misunderstand the specifics of
how processes unfold. Regardless, I believe the main point of Gene's
article was to explain, in detail, exactly how an omitted recording is
put at a decisive disadvantage. If a band's recording is omitted from
the list sent out with the nomination forms, the only way that band
could still share the same chance of being nominated as the recordings
on the list would be very expensive. The band would have to know
exactly when the NCSPHoF was going to be mailing out the nomination
forms to their members, somehow get a hold of the NCSPHoF's membership
mailing list, and mail out postcards to all the members explaining that
their recording is also eligible. I've estimated that it would cost
somewhere in the range of $400 to accomplish.
band would ever attempt such a feat. That is why it is of
the utmost importance that the NCSPHoF adhere to a code of ethics by
making absolutely certain that no band, musician, or recording is ever
denied an equal opportunity to be nominated.
If the NCSPHoF
wanted to do the right thing, they would have rejected
the slanted 2010 nomination forms and mailed out another set of forms,
and I estimate that it would have cost them roughly $650-$700 to do so.
However, I did not want them to actually do that. I only wanted them to
offer to do
that. Had they offered, I would have immediately told them
to stop the presses and not to bother. I don't care about whether or
not I'm nominated -- I just wanted to see if the organization had the
integrity to be fair and honest no matter the cost.
We all know how
that turned out.