Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Credit Where It Is Due

Happy days are here again in Oshkosh!  The city's largest employer--the Oshkosh Corporation--lands the largest military contract in its history--$6.7 billion dollars to build the replacement vehicle for the Humvee.  When you add in the service, parts and possible extensions, the deal could be worth $30 billion by 2040.  To fill that order, Oshkosh Defense will have to hire hundreds of new employees--along with those that will be added to the payrolls at the regional suppliers that contract with Oshkosh.  It's the kind of economic development that could lift the entire region for a generation.

A great deal of credit must go to the United Auto Workers members who a few years ago agreed to take concessions in their new contract with the company in order to make the Oshkosh Defense bid as competitive as possible.  Oshkosh was in fierce competition with AM General--which built the original Humvees that the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle will replace--and Lockheed Martin--a manufacturer providing the Pentagon with a myriad of fighting machines that are used on both the ground and in the sky.

There were stories that the other bidders were questioning the ability of Oshkosh Defense to build the JLTV's at the prices the company was quoting.  But Oshkosh was able to show the Pentagon the union contracts already in place--guaranteeing the labor costs for the bid.  Ultimately, the Department of Defense decided that Oshkosh and its workers were going to provide the best vehicle that $250-thousand dollars a piece can buy.

It would have been very easy for the UAW members to reject the idea of pay freezes and higher health insurance premiums and deductibles requested by the company at the start of the bid process.  There were plenty of community leaders who claimed it was another case of an "evil corporation" taking advantage of a "concocted crisis" to "artificially depress wages".  Well, where would those workers be now if AM General had landed this $6.7 billion contract?  They would likely be heading to Indiana to work at that production plant--while the "community leaders" would be standing there with their blue fists in the air.  And those who remain would have to hope that broke European governments start minting more Euros so that they can order garbage trucks again.

Instead those employees who were willing to take a little less are guaranteed of jobs for as long as 25 years.  And all of the other businesses in town that will sell food, cars, houses, appliances and pet treats to those workers get to share in the wealth as well.  So I think the next time you see an Oshkosh Corporation production worker you should give them a hearty handshake and both congratulate them and thank them for the teamwork they exhibited to allow so many of us to win.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Krause's Adjunct to Godwin's Law

One of my favorite truisms is what's known as "Godwin's Law".  It holds that the longer an on-line discussion continues, the greater the probability of comparisons of the subject matter to Naziism or Hitler.  I've seen discussions on topics like gun control, mandatory health insurance and even zoning code enforcement all devolve into what participants believe were the policies of German National Socialists in the 1930's and '40's.

Today, I'd like to propose an amendment to Godwin's Law--call it "Krause's Adjunct"--which theorizes that the longer any discussion about racial issues goes, the greater the probability of comparisons to slavery and the Jim Crow South.

Our latest example of "Krause's Adjunct" comes from Wisconsin Congresswoman Gwen Moore--who on Monday during a conference call with reporters to bash Governor Scott Walker's presidential campaign swing through the South--said Walker's policies are "literally tightening the noose" around African-Americans.  It's always hard to tell exactly what Congresswoman Moore is talking about, but I believe this was said in the context of Walker's support of "3 strikes and you are out legislation" for multiple offense felons--which Moore blames (not the actual committing of the crimes) for the high rate of African-American incarceration in Wisconsin.

How exactly this equates to the lynching of blacks in the South during the era of Segregation I'm not sure.  Those who were lynched usually did not receive a trial or to have police and prosecutors present evidence against them that a defense attorney could challenge or refute.  And many of those killed by the "angry mob" weren't even first time offenders--much less those convicted of a third serious crime.  But to Congresswoman Gwen Moore, the process is the same.

And Moore didn't even give herself an out on her comments because she used (and stressed) the word "literally".  English majors would tell you that would mean Scott Walker was engaged in the physical act of placing a rope around the necks of African-Americans and strangling them.  While Walker's most hated opponents might wish there was video footage of that, I doubt anyone is ever going to witness it happening.

"Krause's Adjunct to Godwin's Law" doesn't even have to apply to conversations about the topic of race.  Given the recent actions of Black Lives Matter protesters, it could also include Bernie Sanders campaign rallies or local Police and Fire Commission meetings.

I saw on Twitter last night a great post from a political pundit: "Here is the list of things that it is okay to compare to slavery: 1--Slavery  That's it, that's the list"  Someone should literally send that to Congresswoman Gwen Moore. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Mascot Down

The sun came up again today--despite the worst fears of Packers fans--who are in mourning at the apparent loss of wide receiver Jordy Nelson to an ACL injury.  Not only does this injury leave the Packers without one of their deep threats in the receiving corps, but it also means fans have one less mascot to root for this season.

Packer backers hate when I refer to some of their favorites as "mascots"--but the team always seems to have a few guys whose popularity with fans and in the community exceeds their actual production on the field.  I'm not talking about Aaron Rodgers or Brett Favre--they have the numbers to back up superstar status--but guys more like Nelson or Clay Matthews or John Kuhn (who make up the three most popular jerseys sold behind A-Rodg).

Compare Jordy Nelson's numbers to those of some of his predecessors--Greg Jennings and Antonio Freeman.  Not really that much different are they?  And yet Jennings and Freeman never seemed to be as "beloved" by the fans as Farmer Jordy.  In fact, the fan base seems to have a bit of animosity against those former stars.  And imagine for a moment if the infamous on-sides kick had made it all the way to #87 and he had been the one to muff it.  Would there have been infinite calls to sports radio demanding he be cut?  And why is so little made of the numerous drops he had while running open in that same game?

Actually, the Packers have a proud history of mascots.  You had Bill Schroeder, Mark Tauscher, Don Beebe, Chuck Cecil and Brian Noble--just to name a few.  All of them seemed to have that "something" that appealed to Green Bay fans more than many other players.  And when mascots renegotiated big contracts, Packers fans celebrated saying "He really deserves it--he's a really great guy".  But when someone like the aforementioned Jennings asked for big bucks, those same fans couldn't understand why he wasn't willing to take less to "help the team stay under the salary cap".

With Nelson likely out of the rest of the year, the Packers may have to go out and find another "gritty" player with "deceptive" speed and "a high football IQ" to replace him.  It's what Packers fans love most about their team.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The World's Most Interesting Amendment

While the First, Second and Fourth Amendments to the US Constitution get all of the glory and attention, the 14th Amendment is making a run at becoming the most-interesting and controversial of them all.  For those who believe that it's not necessary to "memorize facts" about US History and how government works, the 14th Amendment addresses citizenship and equal protection under the law.  It was originally drafted to protect recently-freed slaves and to ensure that they received full rights of all citizens following the end of the Civil War.  Democrats in Southern states would eventually usurp those rights with the Jim Crow laws and segregation.

Since it's final approval in 1868, the 14th Amendment has been used to force the integration of public schools through the Brown vs Board of Education case, legalize abortion through the Roe v Wade decision, decide the 2000 election in Bush v Gore, and recently, legalize gay marriage in all states in Obergefell v Hodges.  That's a lot of historic ground breaking for just a little amendment.

Now the 14th Amendment is being challenged again by Presidential Candidate Donald Trump--who believes the birthright citizenship granted by the law "needs to go".  The Amendment simply states that anyone born on American soil--regardless of the citizenship of their parents--is an American citizens and is entitled to the rights and protections thereof.  The intent was make sure that Democrats in the former Confederate states didn't deny rights to freed slaves because their parents weren't considered "citizens of the US" thanks to the Dred Scott decision.

Trump claims that illegal immigrants of the late 20th and early 21st centuries are taking advantage of the birthright clause by sneaking into the US to give birth to "anchor babies"--which tie them permanently to a US citizen--who has every right to stay here, even if his or her parents have no rights to stay in the country.  Those who back Trump's position point to notes from the original debate on the bill that Congress did not mean for people illegally in the country to be able to give birth to US citizens.  But if that was to be the intent of the lawmakers at the time--and the state's that ratified the Amendment--then they should have put that in there.

But the simple fact of the matter--and the law of the land is--that anyone born here is a citizen.  And that is just another of the things that makes us rather unique in the world.  Few other countries have birthright citizenship.  And let's not forget that not all of the European immigrants of the 1800's and 1900's came here legally.  There were stowaways on ocean liners that snuck in.  There were tourists who never left.  Some just walked over from Canada.  There could literally be hundreds of thousands of us whose families were here for three or four generations that could be denied birthright citizenship because our great-great-great grandparents skipped the stop at Ellis Island on the way in.

Meanwhile, how about we take a moment to once again thank those who have helped to draft and amend our Constitution into a dynamic document that continues to shape who we are as a country even after 226-years--even during a time when politicians and candidates do all they can to ignore it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

And So I Face the Final Curtain..............

If he was still alive, Elvis Presley would be 80-years old.  I've often wondered what Elvis's career would have been like had he not died 38-years ago this month.  Would he still be able to sing?  Would he still be doing shows?  Or would he have had the good sense to retire and just soak up honors at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and music industry awards shows every few years?

I got to thinking about that again this week after the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel review of Kenny Rogers' closing night show at the Wisconsin State Fair on Sunday.  The headline read "Kenny Rogers Struggles at Wisconsin State Fair Show"--and further reading finds that "struggles" might be a generous description of the performance.  "The Gambler" couldn't remember the words to a number of songs in the set.  And the words he could remember, he couldn't hit the notes anymore with his 77-year old voice.  It was the kind of performance that leads you to wonder "What is that guy doing still up on stage?  Shouldn't he have enough money by now to be retired and putting out repackaged 'Greatest Hits' albums every year to rip people off?"

The answers to those questions are contained in the same article.  The people attending that Kenny Rogers show really didn't seem to care.  There was laughter and cheers when Rogers apologized for basically not being able to sing anymore.  For those that spent the money for tickets, this was probably more about nostalgia than it was about some kind of new experience.  In their heads, they could hear the songs the way they were meant to sound--and whatever warbling came from the singer's mouth wasn't that important.  It's how countless cover bands make a living--play the chords in the right order and just let the listeners minds and memories take over from there.

We often mock athletes that hang on too long and get embarrassed on the fields of play.  But there are coaches and general managers who can force those guys out by cutting them or not signing them.  Performers just go on finding smaller and smaller gigs to squeeze those last few dollars out of the shrinking pool of die-hard fans.  Maybe Elvis knew that his abilities were fading and that it was time to step away from the stage.  Like Kenny Rogers, the last few years of Elvis shows were a series of forgotten lyrics (listen to his flubs of "Are You Lonesome Tonight" on Youtube) and once allegedly taking a half-hour bathroom break in the middle of the show in Baltimore.

I will sometimes get asked if I wish The Beatles were still all alive and peforming together and I honestly say "no".  Based on Paul McCartney's performances that I've seen the past few years, he can't sing anymore--and I bet it would be the same for John and George as well.  Instead, I have the eight year's worth of recordings that contain them at the height of their musical powers--and there would be no "Eternal Farewell Tour" to tarnish that.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Improving Society One Vice at a Time

From a young age now, males are being taught that females are not to be treated as sex objects.  We are not to ogle low cut blouses or tight t-shirts.  We are not to check out short shorts or stare in amazement at skimpy swimsuits at the beach.  A woman's sexual history is not to be held against her and verbal consent must be asked for and received during every step of a sexual encounter--or the man has committed a rape.  The over-riding message is: Women are more than just their bodies and the pleasure they can provide to men.  That is unless you are willing to pay for that.

Amnesty International--a human rights group--is now pushing for global legalization of prostitution.  Their argument is that if the "world's oldest profession" was legal everywhere, it would undercut the human trafficking rings that operate around the world--holding women (along with men, girls and boys) as sexual slaves.  They also argue that if prostitution was a "legitimate" career, those involved would be more willing to seek regular medical care and cut down on the transmission of STD's and HIV.

That may all sound like positives, but it fails to take into consideration what effect having open prostitution has on a community and a society.  Do you think the brothels will open next to affluent parts of town like Trader Joe's or Costcos do?  Or will they take over the low-rent buildings on the poor side of town?  And will it be college-educated, career-minded people staffing those facilities because they see "the great money you can make for very little work?"

And if they think legalizing prostitution will suddenly end human trafficking, Amnesty folks might want to consider that making clothing is legal--yet factories around the world are filled with people who are paid pennies a day for their labor--if they get paid at all.  And working in the kitchen of a restaurant is legal as well--but as we have seen here in the Fox Valley--some of those people are not really doing so by choice.

This is actually Progressivism at its worst.  We have a major criminal problem?  Just make it legal and you have solved the crime problem!  Just like the push to decriminalize some drug possession and sales.  Yes, you have fewer people sitting in prison cells--but you also have more people pushing drugs on kids and those that can't afford to be blowing every penny they have to get high.  So really, what problem did you solve.

It will be interesting to see how American feminists deal with the Amnesty International decision.  Will they continue to talk about how the sexualization of women is demeaning, allows men to exert control over women and is an example of social injustice as they have been saying for the past 40-years or so?  Or will their tune suddenly change--with phrases like "empowerment" "control" and "personal choice" suddenly becoming their main arguments in favor of more women selling their bodies? 

Meanwhile, lonely men everywhere are adding a new line item to their personal budgets.......

Friday, August 14, 2015

Over-reactionary Consequences

It is a real shame that the Brown County Sheriff's Department had to lose one of its K9 units to a series of system failures at the PGA Championship.  The dog was being kept in a squad car--which was left running with the air conditioner on.  But then the AC unit stopped working properly--and a system designed for police K9 squads that is supposed to alert the officer and automatically lower the windows also failed--leaving Wix the dog to die from hyperthermia.

While the final incident report will blame the technology for the dog's death, this whole thing was also completely avoidable because the dog didn't need to be at the golf course anyway.  He was part of what I consider to be an over-the-top modern approach to security at special events.

From the federal to the local level, so much in resources, time, money and equipment are spent on making ourselves feel like we are safer.  Consider what my trips have been like to get to the PGA all this week.  To get to the Media parking lot, I have to take a country road out of Howards Grove to Whistling Straits.  At one intersection there are three or four State Patrol Troopers and their squad cars directing light traffic and making sure that I have the proper parking pass to be driving down that road.  About a mile after that, at another intersection are three or four more State Patrol Troopers and their squad cars directing light traffic and making sure that I have the correct parking pass to be driving on that road.  And then about a half mile from there--at the entrance to the Media lot--is another State Patrol Trooper with his squad car directing traffic in and out and making sure that I have the proper parking pass to go into that lot.  About 50-feet away from him are paid civilians making sure that I have the proper parking pass for that lot and directing me to a parking spot.

Once I'm in the lot, I go to the shuttle bus pickup spot--where a security person checks my credential to make sure I'm authorized to get on the bus.  After the ride, I get dropped off at a gate where security personnel scan the barcode on my credential to make sure I'm authorized to be on the grounds.  My bag gets checked--although no one actually examines any of the equipment inside to see if it is really is digital recorders and computers.  I also get wanded down--but I'm not required to empty my pockets--the security person just asks "What's in your pockets?" and I say "wallet and cellphone"--and they just wave my through.  And then about ten feet from the checkpoint is another security person to make sure that I have the correct credential to get into the Media Center--even though she just saw that credential get scanned.

Those in charge of security for this and similar events would tell you that all of these layers of  are necessary because if they weren't in place and there was an incident--the media would be crucifying everyone involved because parking passes weren't checked enough or credentials weren't repeatedly verified.  But if you have a color copier, you could make your own parking pass just like mine.  And if you were to plant an explosive device in a digital recorder or a notebook computer, the folks at the checkpoint would have no idea.

Just like the TSA at airports, we have developed a system of "security by show"--where it looks like we are going to catch any terrorist or crazed gunman at multiple points--but in reality, someone determined to do us harm still stands a very good chance of success.  And unfortunately, that "show" comes with a high price tag--both in terms of money and sometimes life itself.