Friday, January 20, 2017

The Obama Legacy

As he heads out of office today, talking heads are wondering what President Obama's "legacy" will be.  It's important for Presidents to have "legacies"--although I would be hard pressed to tell you what the legacies of Chester A Arthur, Franklin Pierce and Benjamin Harrison may have been. 

Obviously, President Obama's "legacy" was going to be the Affordable Care Act.  It was going to save families $5000 a year and set the US on the path to Socialized Medicine.  But then the sign up process didn't work very well.  And then far fewer young, healthy people signed up for coverage than everyone expected.  And then insurance providers dropped out of the program--giving people fewer choices.  And then in Obama's final few months in office, premiums skyrocketed across the country.  And now Congressional Republicans are working to completely dismantle "ObamaCare". 

Then President Obama's "legacy" was going to be improved race relations in America.  African-Americans and other minorities were going to be "empowered" and the government was going to ensure equality for all.  But then the "birther movement" started.  And then police officers of all races started shooting unarmed men.  And then juries acquitted those officers.  And then there was rioting and protests in the streets.  And then white supremacists openly endorsed a Presidential candidate--and that candidate actually won.

Then President Obama's "legacy" was going to a "reset" in our relationship with Russia.  Vladamir Putin would be brought to heel by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the threat of Russian influence in Europe would be reduced.  But then Russian-backed rebels invaded Ukraine.  And then they shot down a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet with Russian-provided missles.  And then Russia started its own air campaign in Syria killing not only members of ISIS--but also American-backed rebels.  And then a Russian phishing scam tricked Clinton Campaign advisor John Podesta into giving up his email access--allowing hackers to provide Wikileaks with all of the details on how the Democratic National Committee did all it could to keep Bernie Sanders from winning the nomination.  And then the Russians worked closely with the Donald Trump campaign to assist his victory.

Then President Obama's "legacy" was going to be killing Osama Bin Laden, destroying Al Qaeda and ending US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But then ISIS rose up and took Al Qaeda's place in trying to return Western Society to the Stone Age.  And they took over parts of Syria--leading to a devastating three-way civil war.  And then those refugees overwhelmed Europe.  And then ISIS-aligned terrorists attacked Brussels, Paris (twice), Orlando, San Bernadino, Fort Lauderdale and multiple other places around the world.

So what then will be the "Obama Legacy"?  I would say that his "legacy" actually begins today--with the swearing in of Donald Trump as President.  Obama changed the way we look at qualifications for President.  He was a first-term Senator from Illinois who had previously served seven years in the Illinois State Senate and before that was a part-time teacher and the ambiguous "community organizer".  Relatively little political experience for someone elected to the most powerful position in the world.  But Obama made it okay for Americans to vote for someone just because he was "cool" or "different"--not because he was the "most qualified for the job".  And that voting experience begat the political neophyte Trump--who beat a woman President Obama called "the most-qualified person to ever run for President" (after saying she was not ready to be President while running against her 8-years before).  Welcome to the age of the "Celebrity President"--the real Obama "legacy".

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Doing Too Much

When you think about a state university, what do you believe should be its primary focus?  Educating kids, right?  And it's second purpose should be conducting research that can benefit all of society, correct?  Anything beyond that is tertiary in importance and should be done only if resources are abundantly available.  That is why the financial scandal unfolding at UW Oshkosh is so frustrating--none of it needed to happen.

In a nutshell, former Chancellor Richard Wells, former Vice Chancellor Tom Sonnleitner and former UWO Foundation President Art Rathjen colluded to not only bind the university to debt accrued by the foundation--but they also conducted secret fund transfers to cover that debt when the foundation failed to raise the money expected to pay off those debts.  And for what did the foundation accrue that debt?  For student scholarships?  No.  For construction of new on-campus laboratories?  No.  For endowment of research professorships?  Not that either.  Instead, the foundation racked up those debts for a hotel, a football stadium, bio-digesters and a conference center.

Sure the Oshkosh Sports Complex is nice, but we are still talking about Division III sports here--and I've heard from Oshkosh School District officials who are not too happy about having to play off-campus every home game for a rental fee they think is inflated.  They would have preferred that the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation helped them build new football fields at each of the High Schools rather than a shared facility with the University.

The bio-digesters are one of those feel good things that campus liberals like to brag about.  "Look at us turning our campus waste into 'free' energy!"  And the second facility built on a Rosendale mega-farm could just as easily been funded through private investment (if anyone thought there is money to be made in turning cow-poop into electricity).  I bet the UWO greens now feel like Volkswagen owners after the whole "fake emissions standards" controversy.

The Alumni Welcome and Conference Center is nice--and I have attended a number of events there.  But those same events could have been held at the Convention Center, Reeve Memorial Union or the Sunnyview Expo Center.  And I'm pretty sure alumni still know how to get around the campus without a "welcome center".

Of course, the biggest head scratcher--and the one that got people wondering about the Foundation's financing--was the partial ownership of the former Park Plaza Hotel.  Even people at the slap ourselves on the back press conference to announce the purchase and redevelopment agreement were asking "Why is the University buying a hotel?"  It would make a bit of sense if the school offered a hotel and hospitality degree.  Or if getting to the campus from hotels by the interstate was actually a hassle. 

At the ribbon cuttings for all of those now-tainted projects, Chancellor Wells would cite the "Wisconsin Idea"--which holds that the UW System should work to benefit everyone in the state--not just those that come to the campuses.  But I'm pretty sure the "Idea" pertains to things like developing methods to increase dairy cow production, sending graduates with actual job skills back to their hometowns to grow and develop businesses and finding the cures for the diseases that kill so many--not renovating hotels, turning manure into small amounts of electricity and installing new artificial turf on a football field.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Final Slap in the Face

Wow. You've gotta hand it to President Obama--he really knows how to go out in style.  On the third-to-last day of his Presidency, Obama delivered the biggest slap in the face to his country by commuting the sentence of treason convict Chelsea (nee Bradley) Manning.  Manning was to serve a 35-year prison sentence for stealing classified information on US intelligence gathering and providing it to Wikileaks--which published every single document.  The breach put intelligence operations at risk, damaged relations with our allies and placed foreign agents in grave danger.

Liberals hailed Manning as a hero because those actions "revealed the abuses of government power" by those in the intelligence community.  That status was further cemented when--after conviction and sentencing--Manning declared that he actually wanted to be a woman--and should not be held in a men's military prison.  The Obama administration would eventually order the Army to provide Manning with the hormone therapy needed for gender conversion while behind bars.

The President's decision this week was made over the strong objection of Defense Secretary Ash Carter.  It also further damages relations between the White House and Central Intelligence as the outgoing President sends a clear message to the world that exposing state secrets and undermining attempts to monitor our enemies will not be treated seriously--while the new President comes in saying the work of agents in the field is wrong and attempts at political sabotage.  Meanwhile, the loss of quality intelligence makes the world a much for dangerous place for the United States.

Of course, the President's commutation for Manning also undermines liberals' efforts to de-legitimize Donald Trump's Presidency.  When the President says its okay to take state secrets to Wikileaks, how can a righteously-indignant Senator think that its wrong for Hillary Clinton's campaign manager to get tricked into giving up his log-in information so that Russians can provide Wikileaks with emails showing the Democratic National Committee doing everything it can to prevent Bernie Sanders from winning the nomination?

And the best part is, the President doesn't even need to explain himself.  There will be no more press briefings, no more Youtube videos or Facebook chats for the President.  All he has to do is show up for the ceremonial limo ride with Trump to the Inauguration and boarding Marine One to fly off into the sunset.  It wouldn't surprise me that instead of the double "victory sign" we got from Nixon on his way out--Obama gives us the "double bird".

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Fear Factor

As a Constitutional Conservative I would like to welcome all of the Liberals getting ready to join our calls for a more limited Federal Government this week.  And I'd like to extend a very special "Come on aboard" to those specifically demanding scaled-back Executive Powers starting on Friday.

I bet you never thought you'd be joining those of us who hold the vision of the Founding Fathers dear to our hearts.  It all seemed so good when Big Government was taking over health insurance, energy production, the auto industry, diet and nutrition and public education.  You allowed Uncle Sam to define your gender and your marital status and to turn a blind eye to your citizenship status.  You trusted that those in power could "protect you" from experiencing, seeing or hearing anything that might make you feel bad about yourself.  You bought into the belief that politicians can make all of your problems go away--if you just give them enough control.

But then people who don't share every single tenet of your beliefs went and won a bunch of elections last year.  And now you realize just how much freedom and self-determination you have given away.  Now "scary, white men" control so much of your life--and you are scared.  You never considered that the hand that gives can also take away.  You are learning now that there is no real "safe space"--regardless of how many puppies they put in the room for you to pet.

Now you recognize that the Executive Orders and bureaucratic regulations that you applauded so recently might be used against your personal interests--and you want that stopped.  Well, I would say we really needed your support for our limited government efforts 8, 16 or 24 years ago--but you were young and didn't really know much about how things work back then.  Or maybe you were the frog dropped in the pot and you didn't realize your predicament until the water started boiling.

There's a reason why Americans didn't live in fear when Martin Van Buren, Millard Fillmore and Dwight Eisenhower moved into the White House--and with a little determination and a return to the limits those that drafted the Constitution intended to have in place--we might be able to experience that sense of real security again.

Monday, January 16, 2017

An Idea Whose Time Had Gone

Animal rights activists are crowing this week claiming the decision by the Barnum and Bailey-Ringling Brothers Circus to end their show is a "victory for their side".  As if their emails to radio and TV stations in advance of circus stops--or flyers handed out to people going to the show and then just tossed on the ground--were the reason why the company folded up their big tent.  The real reason the show won't go on is that Americans have moved on from that type of "entertainment".

You have to give the circus credit, they had a good run.  It can trace its roots back to the Roman Empire, when unpopular Emperors would quell uprising with special shows at the Coliseum.  That's where the phrase "bread and circus" came from.  In America, the circus brought things to smaller cities that most people thought they would never see--like tigers, lions and elephants.  And to people who did nothing but work and go to church, death-defying trapeze artists and clowns were some big time entertainment.

But now we don't have to wait a year to be entertained like that any more.  I could Google "elephant videos" and get 2.5 million options for seeing pachyderms doing tricks or being cute.  Most zoos have tigers and lions.  We now recognize clowns for the evil beings that they are.  And I could go on Go Pro's website and ride along with daredevils doing crazier stuff than any circus performer could ever hope to do in front of an audience.  Not to mention, I can get it anytime I want, anywhere I want and it's free (except for data charges).

Besides, haven't you always felt a little "dirty" going to a circus?  You knew it was "low rent" entertainment, featuring people that would be considered a very small step up from "carnies".  PT Barnum was the one that coined the phrase "There's a sucker born every minute"--which proved that he knew his shows were a ripoff.  He also famously would hang signs inside the tents pointing "This way to the Egress!!!" knowing full well that most people didn't know what that word meant--finding themselves going out the exit--and required to pay full admission to get back in again.  I'm sure that today's "Special Snowflake Culture" was making it more difficult to find a bearded lady, the world's fattest man and two-headed freaks.

So weep not for the death of the circus.  It will just become a quaint entertainment oddity of our past--like cockfighting, shin-kicking contests, Hee Haw and movies featuring Meryl Streep overacting.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Not Worth a Pitcher of Warm P!$@

The number one thing I won't miss about President Obama after his term ends a week from today is his stunning lack of historical awareness.  The President decided to show that off one more time yesterday during his presentation of Joe Biden with the Medal of Freedom.  In his speech, the President called Biden "The best Vice President America has ever had".  When I heard that, I had to do a double take and ask a Joe Biden kind of question, "Are you effin' kidding me?"

Yes, we have had some real clunkers for Veeps in the past: Dan Quayle, Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew and Walter Mondale spring to mind in recent times--but some of the greatest statesmen in our country's history have also held the position: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and John Calhoun.  We named schools and cities after these guys.  I'm not sure many kids will be attending Joe Biden Elementary School any time soon.

Of course, arguing who is the "best Vice President ever" is a little like Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe spending an hour yelling about who is the best left-handed middle reliever in baseball history.  It's an important position--but not one that really has any major impact.  Adams himself told his wife, "My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived."  FDR's Vice President John Nance Garner took his feeling of insignificance to another level by saying the position "isn't worth a pitcher of warm piss" (and not the Russian hooker kind either).

Some VP's did exert some semblance of power during their terms.  Nixon was dispatched by Dwight Eisenhower to improve relations with the Soviet Union.  Lyndon Johnson called in a lot of political favors--and made a lot of threats--to get John Kennedy's civil rights legislation going in Congress and no one would doubt that Dick Cheney represented the real "power behind the throne" in George W Bush's administration. 

Given the "adventure" upon which we will embark next week, Mike Pence might become the most important VP of all time--since he is not just one heartbeat away from the Oval Office but one scandalous on-line report, one tax return or even one tweet away from ascending to the most powerful position in the world.  Hopefully he won't make us long for the "glorious days of Joe Biden".

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Simple Solution

If social media is to be believed, there is another petition going around demanding that FOX Sports no longer assign Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to broadcast Green Bay Packers games.  The belief is that both "hate the Packers", criticize the team unfairly and don't get as excited about their big plays as they do for the other team's big plays. 

It's entirely possible that Buck and Aikman do hate Green Bay.  They may have grown tired of Aaron Rodgers's smarmy demeanor or Mike McCarthy's doublespeak.  Aikman is a former Cowboy who beat the Packers like a drum during his playing days.  Buck is a St Louis guy, so maybe he grew tired of watching the Lombardi Packers kill the Cardinals every year.

If there is any reason for announcers to "hate" Green Bay, it's likely having to do a game at Lambeau Field in winter.  How much would you enjoy having to work in an open-air booth when it's below freezing and your the only two in the stadium that can't drink to make it feel warmer?  You know who actually does dislike Green Bay?  Al Michaels.  And that is because Al can't get a decent steak in town--and that is all that Al eats for dinner is steak.

There is a very easy solution to getting Joe Buck and Troy Aikman--not to mention Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth off Packers' broadcasts: have the team stink.  Don't make the playoffs.  Don't play games that decide division titles.  Don't have star players that "America wants to see".  You think FOX, CBS and NBC assign their top broadcasting teams to the LA Rams at Cleveland?

When I was a kid, the Packers always had the "C team" announcers.  It will always be the smallest TV market in the league and a 3-4-1 Green Bay versus 4-4 St Louis Cardinals would get guys like Tim Ryan and Johnny Morris or Tom Brookshire and Jim Hill.  You'd sit through that dreck waiting for Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen to do the actually entertaining AFC game on NBC (usually involving the San Diego Chargers or the Oakland Raiders).

Being an also-ran will also make it easier to keep track of when the Packers play.  No more games being flexed to Sunday nights.  No more Monday night games.  Just one Thursday nighter that the NFL requires include every team at least once.  All noon Sunday kickoffs from now on--with Spero Dedes and Soloman Wilcotts on the call.  Unless FOX wanted to punish Green Bay fans for their insolence and they assigned Gus Johnson to scream at the top of his lungs for every play every week.  One quarter of that clown and you will be begging for Buck and Aikman to come back.