Friday, December 19, 2014

Why Are You Celebrating?

Did you ever have one of those celebrations at work marking some sales record or profit margin or production mark?  And in attendance is invariably the laziest guy in the office who didn't lift a finger to help anyone achieve that performance--or there's the mid-level manager that did nothing but second-guess all of the business plans or try to sabotage efforts of other departments to make his look good.  So everyone else looks at that guy and wonders "What is he doing here?  He didn't contribute in any way to this success!"

Well that is the way I feel about liberals "celebrating" the recent fall in gas prices.  Rachel Maddow on MSNBC is trying to tell her handful of viewers that the gas prices are "proof that President Obama's policies are working".  Meanwhile last Sunday, Keynsian Economist Paul Krugman had to admit through clenched teeth that lower gas prices are good for the US economy--as that puts more money into people's pockets.

While they may force a smile for the camera and pretend to be happy for consumers, low gas prices go against pretty much everything those on the Left hope to achieve.

When President Obama talks about how oil production has gone up during his administration, he isn't talking about drilling in shallow coastal waters or deep water drilling in the gulf.  That production has increased only nominally.  What is fueling America's oil boom is rapid development of more shale drilling in the Dakotas (and the Canadian Plains).  Drilling that is done by "fracking"--the environmental groups' new "public enemy number one"--and an industry that would benefit greatly from the Keystone XL Pipeline that the President refuses to approve.

Lower gas prices also make the public transit options pushed by Liberals less-attractive to more riders.  Walking five blocks to ride the bus for 45-minutes and then walk five blocks to work on the other end in the bitter cold of winter is more amenable when gas is at $4.20 a gallon than it is at $2.60 a gallon when you can drive door-to-door in half the time.  The same goes for using Streetcars and high-speed trains.  With the costs being equal, Americans will almost always choose to drive themselves (usually with crappy music blasting on the radio).  And all those additional drivers again will build support for adding more lane miles in urban areas--as opposed to calls for adding more buses, trains and trolleys.

Lower gas prices will also bring back the full-size SUV.  In fact, General Motors is betting on that--planning to increase production of its larger vehicles in 2015--knowing that when it doesn't cost as much, Americans want as much room as possible in their vehicles.  That will mean more gas usage and increased emissions--a "Green Nightmare" that those on the Left thought they would avoid with the high gas prices we had just a few months ago.

So Liberals can join us for our "party at the pump"--but don't take it the wrong way when we ask you "what the hell are you doing here?"

Thursday, December 18, 2014

We're Getting Punked

Am I the only one with a sneaking suspicion that the controversy surrounding the new movie The Interview is just a ruse--and part of the most-elaborate marketing scheme ever concocted for a new release?

For those who don't watch Entertainment Tonight, E!, Extra, and TMZ Live all in order every night, The new Seth Rogan film is about two half-wit reporters who are granted an interview with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un--and then are recruited by the CIA to kill him.  North Korea has reportedly condemned the movie and demanded it not be released.  That was followed by the "leaking" of Sony Pictures inter-office emails and "anonymous" threats to unleash "9/11 style attacks" on movie theaters that show the film--all allegedly done by North Korean operatives or the government itself.

But if you look at the emails that were "leaked" you don't really find anything that shocking.  Producers think Angelina Jolie is a talentless hack and a spoiled brat?  No surprise there.  (And don't forget that she has a film that she directed--Unbroken--coming out on Christmas day!)  Jennifer Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in the Hunger Games movies?  That just "advances the narrative" about gender pay gaps.  And rich, liberal Hollywood types make racial jokes about President Obama?  We'll put that on page one right under "Dog Bites Man".

And as for the "9/11 style attacks", do we really believe that North Korea has sleeper cell terrorists here in the US ready to rise up and attack movie-goers?  The economic sanctions, the threats to blow their missiles out of the sky and our continued military presence along the border with South Korea don't warrant terrorist action--but a movie does?  All of this is bolstered by "sources" telling the networks (who have ties to Hollywood as well) that the hacking and the threats are coming from North Korea--but the State Department flatly denies having any such information.  Seems to me they would be the first to know about this stuff.

Yesterday, Sony Pictures announced it was NOT going to release The Interview at this time--due of course to the "controversy".  But by doing so, they create "public outcry" for its widespread release.  "We can't let the terrorists win!" will be the rallying cry from those on both the left and the right.  (Who would have ever thought that watching a movie with Seth Rogen playing his usual drunken, pot-head character would become and "act of defiance and patriotism".)  Even the President yesterday encouraged people to "go to the movies"--free advertising and a call to action for an industry that has been struggling outside of sci-fi flicks with huge nerdy fan bases.

So don't be surprised that sometime after The Interview is finally released and does boffo box office numbers that we find out that we have all be had by more "Hollywood Magic".

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Is Barry Bad For Business?

Later today the University of Wisconsin will introduce Paul Chryst as the new Head Football Coach.  Chryst will be the third head coach the program has had in the past four years--following the surprise departures of Bret Bielema to Arkansas and Gary Andersen to Oregon State.  Those resignations have some talking heads and reporters outside of Wisconsin wondering if Athletic Director Barry Alvarez is bad for the Badgers football program.  The belief is that Barry "lords over" the program like some shadowy "Godfather figure" continuing to pull the strings on his "puppets" along the sidelines--and that Bielema and Andersen wanted to be "their own men". 

Barry Alvarez is actually rather unique in major college sports today--a former football coach who has taken over the entire Athletics Department.  Most AD's today have come up through the administrative ranks--they are bean-counters well versed in Title IX, roundtable discussions and the school's "academic mission".  They are more like "Chief Operating Officers".  But coming from the sports side, Barry bring more of "General Manager" approach to the position.  And just like the Packers have been built in the image of what Ted Thompson wants to see--and the Brewers are victims of Doug Melvin's outdated "swing for the fences" mentality--Badger Football will always be predicated upon the Alvarez Model: run the ball, control the time of possession, win the turnover battle.

And consider the results: 3 Big Ten Championships, 2 Heisman Trophy Finalists and the second-most current NFL players of any Big Ten school.  And most importantly--never on probation and banned from post-season play like certain other Big Ten teams.  Would these outside "experts" rather see Wisconsin follow in the path of Michigan--which did everything it could to get away from the Bo Schembechler/Lloyd Carr history of success to plummet to the bottom of the conference trying to run the Spread/Option offense?  Is it better to sell your soul like Ohio State did by bringing in guys like Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer who will lie, cheat and steal to win tainted titles? 

We should also consider the success of UW Athletics beyond Camp Randall Stadium.  The Men's Basketball program is a perennial Sweet 16 team--with the Final Four appearance last year--and a top five ranking this year.  The Men's Hockey team has won a National Championship in the Alvarez Era (although they may be one of the worst teams in the country this year)--and Women's Hockey is among the elite in the NCAA.  The Volleyball team made the National Semi-finals last year in the first year of a coach hired by Alvarez and was in the Elite 8 this year.  Track and Field and Cross Country are among the best in the Big Ten, Women's Softball was re-instated as a varsity sport and has qualified for the NCAA tournament.

Perhaps most-importantly in today's culture, the Athletic Department has ended the fiscal year with a positive balance in the budget for every year of the Alvarez tenure.  

So will Badgers Football under Paul Chryst look a lot like Badgers Football under Barry Alvarez?  Probably.  Will Badgers Football under Paul Chryst be as successful as Badgers Football under Barry Alvarez?  That remains to be seen.  But given the track record, I'd be willing to bet it will.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

All Aboard the Deception Express!!

Today, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett will layout his arguments for construction of a streetcar system in the downtown area for members of the City Council.  Barrett--like nearly all liberals--loves trains (so long as they aren't carrying oil from shale fields) and believes they are the panacea for the city's economic woes--bringing young urban professionals and thousands of high-paying jobs with them (cue the Simpson's "Monorail" clip).

To bolster his argument, Barrett will point to the experience of Portland, Oregon--which has become the darling of streetcar supporter--as it is held up as the perfect example of what a system can be like: high ridership, efficiency and reliability.  Unfortunately, that doesn't actually appear to be the case.

The Oregonian newspaper just last week published the results of an audit (damn auditors, always ruining a great "narrative" with stupid facts and math) showing that the performances of Portland Streetcar are being greatly exaggerated.  The headline writers chose to focus on the 19% inflation of ridership numbers--meaning more than one million fewer people rode the streetcars than the utility claimed.  The same audit found that ridership numbers had been inflated for every year the past five years--but not to the level that was seen last year.

Buried farther in the report is that auditors also found that the 98% on-time claim by Portland Streetcar was also inflated.  The system's own data showed that trains actually arrived on time (which is anything up to five minutes later than the posted time) just 82% of the time.  What's more, the system doesn't even use the computerized system designed to track delays which was put in place back in 2001.

And then buried even farther in the report is a finding by the auditors that operating costs are being understated by nearly 100%.  Portland Streetcar claims to operate its trains on just $160 an hour--the exact number that was demanded of it by city officials.  But the numbers show that it actually costs $323 an hour to run each Streetcar--making it the most expensive form of public transit in the city--compared to $142 per hour for a bus and $188 an hour for non-electric trains.

And then even further in the report we find that the Portland Streetcars are breaking down and experiencing system failures at a much higher rate than expected.  Those cars--produced by United Streetcar right there in Oregon--are the same ones that Mayor Tom Barrett wants to use in Milwaukee.  Fortunately, the braking systems appear to be the only ones to meet expectations so visitors to downtown Milwaukee won't have to worry about dodging out of control Streetcars (cue up the Homer Simpson trying to stop the Monorail clip).

Perhaps the Milwaukee City Council might want to consider just chipping in an buying Mayor Barrett a model train set he can build in his basement and save the city a ton of money.

Monday, December 15, 2014

How Soon They Forget

Last night, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant passed Michael Jordan for third on the all-time NBA career scoring list.  The milestone led to a spirited debate between talking heads both on air and on-line about whether Kobe is now the "greatest player of all time?"

Much of the discussion focused on Kobe's five NBA titles and 32-thousand points--and Jordan's six NBA titles and 32-thousand points.  But missing from the discussion was another player with six NBA titles and SIX-THOUSAND MORE POINTS THAN KOBE AND MJ!!  That would be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Kareem never seems to be mentioned in "Greatest of All Time" discussions.  Maybe it's because he was a center and relied upon others to get him the ball in the low post.  Maybe it's because he played longer than everyone else--and people just assume that he got all of the scoring records due to longevity.  But most likely, Kareem doesn't get his historical due because most of his career came before ESPN, nightly highlight shows and YouTube.

If it isn't in hi-def video, it never happened for people today.  Anyone under 40 probably only remembers Kareem as the guy who was trailing the play while Magic Johnson and James Worthy were leading the Showtime Lakers past everybody.  Anyone under 30 probably never saw Kareem play in a game.  But what they don't seem to remember is that Kareem was one of the most-dominant players in the history of the game.

He was the most-sought-after high school player in the country before choosing to go across the country from New York to attend UCLA.  With the Bruins he lost one game in his entire three years of playing--one game--and he led the Bruins to three straight NCAA titles.  Kareem was so dominant that the NCAA changed the rules to ban dunking because nobody could stop him in the low post--still didn't slow down the Bruins.

In the NBA Kareem unleashed the ultimate, unstoppable offensive move--the Sky Hook--and used it to accumulate most of his 38,387 points.  I've seen pictures of Kareem tossing the Sky Hook over Wilt Chamberlain and David Thompson and dozens of other helpless big men--all jumping and reaching as high as they could--but the ball sailing just past their out-stretched fingers and finding the bottom of the net, again and again and again.

So if you tune over to sports talk radio or TV today and start hearing the Kobe vs Michael talk again, try to remember that "the Black Mamba" would have to average 20-points a game for almost the next FIVE YEARS to catch Kareem.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The New FriendZone

Here's a piece of advice for guys in college today: Don't ever have sex on campus.

One of the other effects of the Rolling Stone-University of Virginia debacle is a new focus on regulations placed upon colleges across the country by the Obama Administration and the Department of Education using Title IX.  Those regulations put into place processes and procedures that rob the accused of their due process and the right to defend themselves against accusations.

Claiming that rape is an "epidemic" on college campuses, the Administration and willing educators have rushed to adopt new policies that work outside of normal police and criminal justice system involvement in investigation of a crime and replace it with self-appointed committees and college employees to investigate claims of rape and administer "justice" themselves.

A student accused of rape by a classmate on campus is subject to questioning by school administrators, is discouraged from retaining an attorney, never gets to question (or in most cases even see the complaint filed by) the accuser and any unwillingness to testify is held against him by those deciding his fate.  None of those involved in the process have forensic investigative training.  None are versed in jurisprudence.  And all of them have been charged not just by their bosses on campus but also by THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES to "do something about rape on campus".  And findings of guilt are based on just a "preponderance of the evidence" (meaning 51% likelihood of being true) rather than being judged "beyond a reasonable doubt".

Compare that to someone accused of rape off-campus by someone who is not a fellow student.  Police--trained in the science of gathering forensic evidence--handle the investigation.  A prosecutor--knowledgeable in the likelihood of finding enough evidence to warrant a trial and conviction--would decide whether to file charges.  A judge would preside over that trial to ensure that the rights of all those involved are protected.  An attorney would defend the suspect and question inconsistencies in testimony along with challenging unacceptable evidence like heresay (e.g. "well I heard from someone that she told them"....) and a jury of the accused's peers would decide if they believe he is guilty beyond the doubt a reasonable person would have.

Supporters of the new college policies argue that "women are at such risk today" that due process needs to be put aside to "assure justice".  They add that the colleges are not conducting criminal investigations--and that expulsion is not nearly as serious as prison time for those found "guilty".  But I'm guessing that "expelled for rape" is no less injurious to a person's reputation as "jailed for rape".  The "rapist" label sticks both ways.

So keep your love life very separate from your school life, guys.  Think of it as an "added layer of protection".

Thursday, December 11, 2014

We Are Better Than That

Whether you want to call it "enhanced interrogation" or "torture", after reading about the techniques described in the Senate Intelligence Committee report I hope that we can all agree that we--as a country--are better than that.  "Rectal rehydration and feeding"--really?  And to make it sound even worse, it was done as much to "show control over the detainees" as it was to actually make sure they stayed alive during a hunger strike.

I understand the use of intimidation and fear in the interrogation process.  I understand the urgency to prevent another 9/11 or another African Embassy Bombing or another USS Cole.  I understand the desire to inflict a little revenge on the people who masterminded all of those terrorist attacks.  I can even understand the argument that you need to "get down to their level" to deal with these barbarians.

But the problem with that is by "getting down to their level", you become no better than the barbarians.  No, we aren't beheading our prisoners.  No, we don't stone women to death, or make them cover themselves from head to toe so that no skin is showing, or force them to marry at the age of 9 or ban them from getting an education or a drivers license.  No, we don't strap bombs to old people to wear into crowded farmers markets.  And we don't hijack planes and fly them into buildings.  But the use of some of the techniques listed in the Committee report make us look just as inhuman.

Personally, I don't care what the people of the Middle East or Europe think of us--or how this report is going to "hurt our global image".  We have saved pretty much everybody's butt from even worse abuses and tyranny at least once and probably twice in the just the past 100-years--so they still owe us big time.  But what I do care about is the standards by which I hold my own Government.  And the actions described this week are not the standards I expect.

So maybe it's a good thing that we expose this ugly side of our nation--and get to work on finding better ways to do things.  Ways more in line with standards we set for ourselves.  And if torture is the only option, might I suggest exposing our detainees to Taylor Swift, One Direction, Miley Cyrus and Iggy Azalea music and media coverage 24-hours a day.  That would likely make even the most hard-core Islamic militant crack.