Friday, September 12, 2014

Retail Punishment

On Sunday I will not be watching NFL RedZone Channel for my usual 7 uninterrupted hours.  I won't be getting in a late-season round at one of the 7 courses I haven't played yet on this year's Cumulus Golf Card.  I won't even be spending four hours here in the Newsroom getting Monday's newscasts ready.  Instead, I will be at IKEA with my wife.  For her, this is a HUGE event.  For me, it will be like the Bataan Death March--minus the beatings, the shootings, the blistering hot sun and dysentery.

I HATE IKEA.  And in talking with other people of my gender--that seems to be the sentiment of every American male of certain persuasions.  And let me tell you why.

1--The Layout Of The Store.  I always compare going to IKEA to a cross between a casino and Dante's 9 Circles of Hell.  Once you are in the building, there is no way to get back out.  You go through the revolving door and your only option is to go up the escalator for five stories and then wander through every display to find the escalator to take you down just one more level--where the process is repeated again.  Does anyone ever say "I'm just going to run into IKEA real quick to pick up one thing and then I'll be right back out"?  No, because there is no way to immediately go to the item you want to buy and take it right to the register--you know, the way men usually shop.  Which brings me to Point of Hatred #2.....

2--The Pickup Policy.  Once you do find an item you like, if it's a piece of furniture you can't just grab the stuff and go.  Instead, you need to jot down the product number and then the bin and shelf numbers--because actually getting stuff at IKEA is done in the basement.  So you complete the Death March, bring your "grocery list" to the rows and rows of stacked boxes and load up as many as five packages (all awkwardly-sized) onto your flat cart--hoping you didn't miss a box because that will leave you with an incomplete piece of furniture.  Then you wait to get a parking spot in the loading zone where people who obviously never played Tetris in their lives try to fit all of the pieces for a new bedroom set into a Kia Optima.

3--The Instructions.  The "fun" doesn't end at the store, because once you get your items home, you still have to put them together.  And because IKEA is an "international" retailer, there are no instructions in English.  Instead, you get a little stick-figure man and poorly-drawn illustrations to show you the general idea of how the stuff is supposed to go together.  At some steps you almost wish that you had the English-to Chinese--and then back to grammatically-awful English instructions of most other products.

4--It Is The Most Pretentious Store In The World.  Nothing has a "normal" name at IKEA.  Your average bookshelf is a "space-saving personal media display and storage unit".  And the brand names for all the products are these made-up, unpronounceable Scandanavian words--so you hear people asking "Which do you like better--the Svensgaarden or the Mo'almo?"  They think there are fooling us into believing that this is actually made in Sweden--when we all know they are using the same child labor at sweatshops in China that Ashley Home Furniture used state tax credits to relocate all of their work--allegedly.  And they don't let you forget that they are "Eco-Friendly" as well--as all the furniture is made from trees that were terminally ill and chose to voluntarily end their lives to make way for new saplings.

So wish me luck on surviving my ordeal on Sunday.  And on figuring out how our new office set goes together.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Mr Leinies

I believe in celebrating the things in life that bring you happiness--and for me, one of those things is Leinenkugels' beers.  That's why I want to give a big "thank you" to Jake Leinenkugel--who announced this week that he is retiring at the brewer's president.

I started drinking Leinies in college, when the three options offered by them were "regular", Lite (available only in the Chippewa Falls area) and Red.  Then came HoneyWeisse (yes, I pronounce the "w" like a "v" just like all Germans should) and BerryWeiss--which led to custom mix called a "Jake's Pour"--which was half-Honey, Half-Berry.  I even have a divided pitcher in my basement Leinenkugels Shrine that holds a couple bottles of each brew and makes a Jake's pour much easier.

Around that time, Jake and the family sold the operations to Miller Brewing.  There was much concern that Leinies was going to become the same type of swill offered by its new parent company--but in one of the few smart decisions by the Milwaukee folks, Jake was promoted to president and oversaw operations independently from MillerCoors.  Joining the major with its nationwide distribution systems came at a perfect time, because the American beer consumer was ready to try a lot of new things.

That was followed by an explosion of new craft beers from Leinies--like Sunset Wheat (which made its un-official debut at EAA Hops and Props here in Oshkosh, where Jake was on-hand serving out of unmarked bottles this "new elixer").  Then came new porters, apple ales, Russian stouts, amber bocks and eventually Summer Shandy.

I'm sure that when Jake and the brewers pitched the idea to Miller of selling a beer that is mixed with lemonade, it raised a few eyebrows.  But Summer Shandy now accounts for 60% of all Leinies sales.  It is offered long before summer starts and well into the fall to maximize that sale period.  And it is the only Leinies product available in all 48-states.  Oh, and every other major brewer jumped on the shandy bandwagon as well--but none seem to get it quite right.

There are more than a few beer snobs who turn their noses up at Leinenkugel products because they are not a "real microbrew"--but part of the enjoyment of your favorite beer is actually being able to drink it wherever you may be--and under Jake Leinenkugel, some of my favorites went from back corner of the liquor department items to promoted specials in bars and stores around the country.  All thanks to the vision and expertise of Jake Leinenkugel.

Prost, Jake!

Monday, September 8, 2014

They Are Who We Thought They Were

When former Arizona Cardinals Head Coach Dennis Green uttered those famous words, he was referring to the 2006 Chicago Bears--but that infamous line could just as easily describe the 2014 Milwaukee Brewers--whose late season slide has taken them out of first place and, as of this morning, out of the wild card lead as well.

While panic has set in at Miller Park , I would think that if you had surveyed fans where they thought the Crew would be with three weeks left to go, they would have been more than happy with five games over .500 and a half-game out in the National League Wild Card chase.  Because coming into the season, expectations for this squad were mediocre at best.  It's just the way the team over-achieved early in the season that now has the state they are in this fall looking like a total catastrophe.

This month-long slump is nothing more than the law of averages catching up to a team that was playing way over its collective heads.  The beauty of baseball is that the length of the season and sheer number of games played limits the possibility of fluke teams catching fire for a short period of time and riding that into the post-season, excellence over the long haul is almost always rewarded in the end.

The Brewers have glaring weaknesses and this past month they have all been on display for the world to see.  They are incredibly poor situational hitters--meaning they fail to drive in runners from third with fewer than two outs--and they fail to advance runners into scoring position while making outs.  They are below-average defensively and they are easily the worst baserunning team in baseball--often costing themselves outs and runs on the basepaths.  Their pitchers don't throw enough strikes and they lack power arms to get themselves out of jams with strikeouts.

While the calls are growing to fire Manager Ron Roenicke, the real person who should shoulder the blame for this mediocre mess is General Manager Doug Melvin.  Melvin is an "Old School Baseball Guy" who eschews the new strategy of Analytics in putting together a team.  I'm sure he sees basing roster development on career statistics and trends of both hitters and pitchers to be a "passing fad"--and that sitting around waiting for your poor-contact power hitters to club a bunch of three-run homers is going to return teams to glory any day now.  In the meantime, franchises directed by those who grew up on SABRmetrics will continue to dominate: St Louis, San Francisco, Oakland, the New York Yankees and Boston--pretty much every team that has won a World Series in the past decade.

In the meantime, Brewers fans shouldn't get so worked about about their teams late season swoon.  They just are who we thought they were.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Maybe If We Don't Say the Name, It Will Just Go Away

I was among the thousands of journalists to get an email this week from the Oneida Tribe and the National Congress of American Indians asking our radio station to no longer use the term "Redskins" in reference to the Washington NFL football team.  The Tribe and the Congress maintain that there is "no objectivity" in the use of the name--because any mention serves as an "endorsement" of the term.

I have used this forum in the past to voice my own disdain for the Redskins name and mascot.  Unlike "Chiefs", "Braves", "Warriors", "Indians" and tribal names like "Blackhawks" and "Sioux", "Redskins" has no non-racist connotations and is certainly not a part of our normal vernacular.  I also think that team owner Dan Snyder is a bozo who deserves all of the criticism that comes his way.  But to pretend like the name doesn't exist--or to use "replacement terms" like "The Washington Football Team"--does nothing to change the fact that the team mascot is "Redskins".

Some TV announcers have publicly stated that they will not use the name during their broadcasts.  But the Indianhead logo will still be on all the helmets and at midfield.  The word "Redskins" will be painted in both of the endzones and plastered on walls surrounding the field.  After every score the crowd will still be heard singing "Hail to the Redskins".  So unless you plan to digitally blur all of the visual reminders--and mute the non-broadcaster sound coming from the stadium, viewers are still going to be reminded that it's the Redskins.

What I find most interesting is that during a broadcast of Pardon the Interruption on ESPN this week, Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon--two men who will never be hosting their own shows on Fox News Network--continuously referred to the team as "The Redskins".  These are two very liberal men--who live and work right in Washington DC--who referenced the name nine times in four minutes.  Why? Because they are also reporters--and the fact of the matter is: that is the team name--whether they like it or not.

This isn't the first time the "Language Police" have tried to circumvent facts with "creative language".  The Associated Press StyleBook--the "go-to guide" for word usage and spellings of everything appearing in the media--issued the ultimatum that "illegal immigrant" is to no longer be used to describe those who sneak into the country.  That might make those folks and those who wish to aid their lawbreaking feel good, but it still doesn't change the FACTS that they are not originally from this country--making them "immigrants"--and that they did not follow proper immigration policy and procedure--meaning they are here "illegally". 

Of course, if we don't call them that anymore, will that make them go away too?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Bet the House Payments

I'm already 1-0 on my Wisconsin Badger picks, so I may as well give you all the winners for the Packers schedule as well,

Week 1 at Seattle: The Seahawks just plain don't lose at home.  So I will take them here--but the score will be completely dependent on how the referees call the game.  If it's like the flag-fests we saw in the pre-season where looking at a receiver draws a pass interference penalty, then the final score will be 77-70 as the teams take turns throwing bombs to draw flags.  If it's called like defenses are allowed to be on the field, then the Hawks win 23-17.

Week 2 vs the New York Jets:  The Jets can't decide between Geno Smith and Michael Vick at quarterback.  The Packers dominate 34-10.

Week 3 at Detroit: Everyone seems to be jumping on the Lions bandwagon as a possible challenger to the Pack in the NFC North.  It's still the same group of stupid players--with a less-stupid coach.  The Packers still win 31-27.

Week 4 at Chicago: Does Jay Cutler still play quarterback for the Bears? Packers win 27-21.

Week 5 vs Minnesota: Adrian Peterson rushes for 200-yards in this Thursday nighter at Lambeau, but Aaron Rodgers throws for over 400 and Green Bay wins 33-27.

Week 6 at Miami:  Miami will be an improved team this year--and it will likely be about 90 degrees for this Noon kickoff--but the Packers handle the heat and win 26-20.

Week 7 vs Carolina:  There is no more overrated player in the NFL than Cam Newton.  That fact is exposed in this one as the Pack makes it six in a row 23-14.

Week 8 at New Orleans:  They had better make sure that all the lights on the scoreboard at the SuperDome work for this one as Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers throw for 450+--but the Saints get the ball last and kick a game-winning field goal to send the Packers into their bye week with a 44-41 loss.

Week 10 vs Chicago:  Jay Cutler still healthy and playing in this one?  He throws a game-losing Pick Six in the 4th, Packers win the Sunday nighter 34-27.

Week 11 vs Philadelphia:  I doubt Scott Tolzien or Seneca Wallace will be playing QB for the Green Bay in this one.  Packers win again 28-20.

Week 12 at Minnesota: Remember, still no dome for the Vikings so it could be a bit chilly.  Eddie Lacy outgains AP on the ground and the Packers grind out a 20-16 win.

Week 13 vs New England:  CBS will be hyping this as a POTENTIAL SUPER BOWL PREVIEW!!!!  If that is the case, Tom Brady is getting his fourth ring.  Pats win 38-31.

Week 14 vs Atlanta:  Atlanta stunk last year--but mainly because all of their skill position guys got hurt.  I think they catch the Pack in a letdown from the previous loss to New England and steal one at Lambeau 28-27.

Week 15 at Buffalo:  I predict an absolute blizzard coming off of Lake Ontario December 14th and the NFL sees its first 0-0 tie since 1943.  Yes, I am predicting a tie.

Week 16 at Tampa:  Wow, what a difference a week makes.  Green Bay goes from a foot of snow to 80-degrees and sun--and whips up on the Buccaneers 38-10.

Week 17 vs Detroit: The Lions may have a chance to catch Green Bay for the NFC North title in this one.  That is why they will choke like the gutless dogs they are. Packers 41-14.

Green Bay wins the Division with an 11-4-1 record--but get the #3 Seed behind Seattle and New Orleans.  That means they play at home in the WildCard round beating Atlanta in game marred by the return of the Polar Vortex and dangerous wind chills on a Saturday night at Lambeau 17-6.

The Packers hit the road in the Divisional Round to face New Orleans again and this time Aaron Rodgers sets up the game-winning FG by going over 500-yards passing.  Packers 47-44.

And then it's back to Seattle for Green Bay in the NFC Championship.  Former Badger Russell Wilson stickes it to Wisconsin fans again--running in the game-winning TD late.  Seahawks return to the Super Bowl with a 37-34 win.

In Arizona, Seattle's hopes for a repeat are dashed as Peyton Manning exacts his revenge.  Broncos are Super Bowl champs this time, 34-17.

So there you go.  Start planning your earlier retirement with all of the cash I just made for you.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tenant Nation

The uber-Liberal website has an article trumpeting the move Millenials are making away from the American Dream of home ownership to becoming lifelong renters.  At first I was unsure why a site that endlessly decries the "economic inequality" of America today would extoll the virtues of further dividing the "haves and the have-nots".  But as you read through the article you realize that tenants fit the Liberal mantra of greater Government dependence and control.

It's much easier for Government to interfere in the prices of rents rather than home prices.  We all experienced the disaster created by Congressman Barney Frank and former Senator Chris Dodd when they demanded that lenders in the 1990's create mortgage products that would allow people without the proven financial means to own a home to still purchase one based on outrageous amounts of credit and risk.  Rent control programs however have been in place for decades--requiring a certain percentage of housing development targeted at low-income renters.  Of course, that has created housing crunches in places like San Francisco and New York, where rent control tenants hold onto those units forever and prevent new tenants or residents from coming in.

Renters also tend not to have as many personal transportation options as well.  The hassle of dealing with parking in high-density rental areas leads many to rely on Government transportation options like buses, subways, light rail and even high-speed rail to get anywhere--even though they could afford to purchase and maintain their own vehicles.  Take a little drive sometime and compare the number of "gas guzzling" pickup trucks and SUV's you see in apartment parking lots compared to what homeowners have parked in their driveways and garages.

Those living in apartments have far fewer concerns about property rights.  It doesn't matter to them if the city adopts new fencing standards, exterior appearance ordinances, setback requirements, or RV and boat parking rules.  I can't remember ever seeing large groups of apartment dwellers come before any council or county board to oppose a new regulation or requirement for property.

Let's not forget that tenants have far less stake in the cost of operating Big Government.  They don't get property tax bills or special assessment bills. Most don't get hit with garbage and recycling collection fees, stormwater utility fees or in many cases even water bills.  All of that is just included in the "rent" they pay each month--so if their landlord happens to increase that price to deal with the added costs incurred by Government spending, who does the tenant blame?  The "greedy landlord"--not the City, the County or the School District.

And renting also takes away a certain amount of financial stability.  While it should not be seen as an "investment"--as was the mantra of the 2000's--having a paid-for home is a nice little nest egg.  Those who never build equity in a house won't have that to use later in life--so they become more dependent on Social Security and Medicare to live out the "golden years".  It also make them perfect targets for the scare tactics of "potential cuts to our retirement security" every two years.

Most Millenials are probably blind to what they are giving up--and the control over the lives that will be imposed upon them--by never considering home ownership.  But most probably don't care.  Just so long as they can keep buying their $6 cups of Mohca Java Latte Grande with Almond Milk every day and their No Data Limit cellphone plans every month they will be happy with having less than their parents had--just like the Liberals want them to be.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Hamstrung President

President Obama and his supporters always like to blame the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for preventing him from accomplishing anything during his two terms in office.  But what they choose to ignore are three other factors that are leading this administration to be the least effective since the days of Reconstruction.

The first problem for the President is that he expended enough political capital for both terms in getting the Affordable Care Act passed in Congress.  A lot of Congressional Democrats carried a lot of water up the hill to get that bill passed in a midnight vote on Christmas Eve--and many of them died on that hill.  Dozens lost in the "Tea Party Revolt" of 2010 (or didn't even bother to run for re-election after seeing the writing on the wall).  Others who survived the initial backlash see no need to make that kind of sacrifice again--regardless of how "important" the President's bills may be.  Sure, those in relatively safe Democratic districts like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are willing to back the President no matter what he wants--but he has few other friends anymore on Capitol Hill.

Secondly, the financial status of those the President has tried the hardest to help is adding unnecessary delay to the economic recovery.  It would seem counterintuitive to say that giving more money to the poor benefits only the rich--but when you consider that many of the poor (and the "struggling middle class") are so far in debt that any extra revenue provided to them goes more toward getting out of the hole than climbing the economic ladder it makes more sense.  Who has done the best in the "recovery" so far?  Big Banks--who were owed trillions in consumer debt heading into the downturn, and kept adding interest to those balances until the debtors could start paying it back again.  If we hadn't built the post 9/11 "recovery" upon a foundation of debt, we'd actually be a lot farther along in this one.

And then the President has been hamstrung in foreign policy since the day he entered office by being a Nobel Peace Prize winner.  You don't think military options are moved farther down the list of options--or completely removed in the case of Ukraine--because the President doesn't want to see headlines like "Nobel Peace Prize Winner orders airstrikes on terrorist positions"  or "President Obama--a Nobel Peace Prize Winner--sends additional NATO troops to Eastern Ukraine to confront Russian intervention"?  The motto of the Nobel folks isn't "Peace through strength"--it's "Peace through capitulation and appeasement".  FDR, Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan didn't win Peace Prizes for a reason.

So Democrats running for Federal office can blame "obstructionist Republicans" all they want for the failures of the Obama Administration to do more to "transform America"--but the GOP certainly isn't the only factor in this derailment.