Friday, December 15, 2017

The Best Gifts

Will today's kids remember Christmas the way so many of us older folks do?  I'm often accused of being a Scrooge at this time of year because I do not get into the "holiday spirit" in any way.  I'm disgusted by some of our stations going to Christmas music right after Halloween.  I don't put up decorations in the News Room.  I don't do "ugly sweater day" or "secret Santa" or "Christmas cookie exchange".  I like my "holiday season" to last about two weeks--and then we can start looking forward to something I enjoy: warmer weather and being outside without having to bundle up like I'm going on a polar expedition.

But back to Christmas gifts.  No doubt, you have a special gift or two that to this day your remember receiving as a child.  Not because it was the coolest toy that year or that it was super expensive or that getting a gift was pretty much the only expression of love in your family.  I'm talking about a gift that produced special memories or experiences for you.  For me, that gift was a basketball hoop when I was 8 or 9 years old.

In a lesson of delayed gratification, the hoop didn't go up until the spring, when my dad could dig a hole for the post and the driveway wasn't covered in snow.  But once it went up, it allowed me to play ball with my dad and my friends and even my younger sister.  And I still play basketball today--with many of the friends that I have made since coming here to Oshkosh more than 17-years ago. 

I can also tell you my all-time favorite birthday gift: tickets to the Milwaukee Brewers-Cleveland Indians game at County Stadium on July 31st, 1982.  We went with my grandparents.  My sister got a foul ball--something the entire family reminds me of every time I talk about going to a Brewers game.  It was the NBC Saturday Afternoon Game of the Week.  Mike Caldwell started.  Rollie Fingers got the save.  And with the win, the Brewers moved into first place in the American League East--on their way to the AL pennant and the World Series.  Not a bad expierence for a ten-year old kid.

And that is why I wonder if kids today are going to have those kinds of memories when they think back on Christmas decades from now.  Will they talk about how many zombies they killed Christmas Day of 2017 when they got the hot new X-Box game?  Will they even remember the smart-phone case, the pair of fashion sneakers or the Spiderman action figures that will just join the ever-growing pile of toys in their rooms?  Maybe I'll get more into the "spirit of Christmas" if we would get back to giving gifts that mean something--and not just "stuff" somebody wanted for a week or two.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Who Will Be Fred Fisher?

For all of you history buffs, why is Fred Fisher a significant figure in American history?  For all intents and purposes, Fisher was the last person Senator Joe McCarthy accused of being a communist.  During the infamous McCarthy-Army hearings in June of 1954, the Wisconsin Senator got into an argument with Army counsel Joseph Welch.  In an effort to discredit Welch, McCarthy claimed that he had communists in his own law firm--naming Fred Fisher by name.  That led to this famous response from Welch:

The McCarthy Hearings were among the first live government proceedings broadcast on national television--and for several weeks they got huge ratings.  But slowly, people came to doubt all of the accusations that McCarthy and his legal counsel Roy Cohn were throwing around.  The man whose mere mention of your name as a suspected commie could get you fired or blacklisted was exposed as merely being an opportunist, with little evidence to back up his accusations.  Following his dressing down by Welch in defense of Fred Fisher, nearly all public support for McCarthy withered away--and he was left a broken man.  He was censured by the Senate and died--likely from the side-effects of alcoholism--a couple of years later.

I have to wonder, who is going to be the Fred Fisher of the current sexual misconduct craze gripping the nation?  Who will be the person accused that makes America say "Ok, that's enough.  We don't want to hear anymore accusations.  We don't want more people's lives ruined"?

Ninety-three year old former President George Bush wasn't that person.  I thought for sure Senator Al Franken was going to be that person.  He didn't quite go full Joseph Welch, but his resignation speech on the floor of the Senate certainly contained plenty of defiance.  New Yorker Magazine reporter Ryan Lizza was even more aggressive in his denial of allegations against him--but he was fired anyway.

McCarthyism lasted about four years.  But that was in a time before the 24-7 news media cycle that inundates us with information--and commentary--on what is happening constantly.  I expect our current effort to "root out the menace" won't last nearly that long.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A New Hope

A big congratulations to members of the real Republican Party as they celebrate the loss of the hijacked Republican Party candidate in yesterday's special Senate election in Alabama.  The contemptible Roy Moore loses a seat that had been held by the GOP for 25-years.

When faced with a decision between two bad options on the ballot, many real GOP members either stayed home--or wrote in a name of a candidate that would actually stand for their beliefs.  (Or knowing Alabama--they likely just put in Crimson Tide Head Coach Nick Saban on their ballot).  The national political experts likely won't do any "deep diving" on the results of Tuesdays election--because a Democrat won--but if they did, they will likely find that Doug Jones' support was marginally higher than the average Democrat in Alabama.  Roy Moore lost because many Republicans simply didn't vote.

The real reason for celebration for those in the real GOP is that voters have rejected a candidate backed by the repugnant Steve Bannon.  The so-called "political strategist" turned an election that Republicans with Jeff Sessions on the ballot won with a 92-percent majority just a couple of years ago into a 1.5% loss last night--even with the backing of his other puppet candidate: President Donald Trump.  Coming into this special election, Bannon had been talking big about challenging the "Republican Establishment" with primary opponents in races across the country next year.  That would have pitted real Republicans against crazy, fringe candidates that would waste resources and force the party to continually confront the dark elements that we thought had been banished to irrelevancy centuries ago.

I'm sure Bannon and Trump will rail against "the media" for destroying the character of Roy Moore (if that was even possible) but deep down they have to know that their victory in 2016 was a fluke--the perfect combination of over-the-top free media exposure early in a crowded GOP primary field, the worst possible Democratic candidate on the other side of the ticket and a general populace disgusted by the two choices they were presented--and that the tide within the Republican Party is turning against them in a big way.

It's fitting that the new Star Wars movie comes out the same week that Bannon, Trump and Moore go down to defeat--as there is now a  New Hope for a  return to normalcy in the real Republican Party.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Savior Is Coming!

It is apropros that Aaron Rodgers may return as starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers during this holiday season--as many fans believe their savior is about to arrive.  There is this general idea that Rodgers is going to come back from an eight-week layoff and immediately resume playing at a Hall of Fame level.  Despite not working with the receiving corps for two months, timing routes will somehow still be perfect and throws into tight coverage will be pinpoint accurate.  No one seems to have any doubt that an offensive line that has heard a completely different cadence since October will not jump when Aaron uses his "319...319...HUTHUT!!" that usually draws the defense offsides anytime the Packers face a 3rd and less than five situation or that he will immediately recognize the defense is trying to get a substitute on and he will go hurry-up and snap the ball when the guy coming out is just a step from the sidelines.  Or that the deep balls thrown into perfect coverage will be called pass interference again.

Many point to Rodgers' return from his last broken collarbone injury in 2013 when he beat the Bears in Week 17 to win the NFC North and get the Packers into the playoffs--where they lost in the Wild Card Round against San Francisco AT LAMBEAU the next week.  But in that case, Aaron was returning from an injury to his NON-throwing shoulder and, well, the Bears are the Bears.  This year's playoff rally will require winning three games--two of those on the road--against teams already ahead of them in the playoff chase.

Adding to the false hope for Packers fans is the sudden change that took place in the NFC Playoff picture over the weekend.  With Philadelphia losing their quarterback--Carson Wentz--to a season-ending knee injury, the conference now appears to be wide open.  The LA Rams are young and haven't been in the playoffs for years.  New Orleans defense is still suspect, Atlanta is still on the Super Bowl Hangover, Seattle's offensive line is awful and Minnesota and Detroit are going to choke because that is what they do in the playoffs.  So to a person, Packers fans are all like "If we can just get in, we can win this!!"

I would argue that Brett Hundley doing "just enough" (in other words--barely beating three last-place teams) to keep the Packers playoff hopes alive was a dis-service to Aaron Rodgers.  If he somehow comes back at a high enough level to beat three good teams with an offense that was completely inept without him, it will make everyone--including those in the front office--think "Oh man, if Aaron just didn't get hurt, this would have been a Super Bowl team for sure"--and much-needed off-season moves--both in terms of personnel, coaching staff and in the front office--will not be made.  Not to mention the better they might do in the playoffs this year, the worse their draft position will be next spring--reducing the chances of getting an impact player in the first round for a change.

So continue to light the candles on your "Aaron Rodgers comeback Advent wreath" for this is the season of miracles--and false hope too.

Monday, December 11, 2017

When You Can't Afford Any Mistakes

About a week ago I lauded the national news outlets that had done great work in uncovering the actions of the real "fake media" and efforts to undermine the credibility of traditional journalism.  Then last week, many of those same outlets turned around and had very bad weeks--publishing a number of inaccurate stories about the Trump administration providing ample ammunition for the President and his acolytes to turn the people against those trying to report the truth.

First, Brian Ross of ABC News reported incorrectly that Michael Flynn's plea deal with Federal prosecutors contained an admission that he was ordered by Trump to contact the Russians before the election--when in fact that order came after the President won the election.  Then CNN, MSNBC and CBS all aired stories that the Trump campaign was sent links to the Wikileaks information about hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee before they were published.  Somehow, the "sources" for all three of those networks "misread the date" on that email--which was sent the day after Wikileaks posted the emails--and the links were to materials that had already been published for public consumption.  That was followed by Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel tweeting a photo of a nearly empty arena and claiming that was turnout for President Trump's speech in Florida on Saturday night--when in fact the picture had been taken hours before the President arrived.

Obviously, news outlets are going to make mistakes--because they are staffed by human beings.  But the stakes at this point in time are so high that there is absolutely no margin for error--and reporters and editors need to be not just 100-percent sure on their stories--but 1000%--because for a growing number of Americans, one item wrong out of a thousand is looking more like a 100% error rate.

I think too many reporters covering the White House right now are looking for the "grand slam story" that somehow takes down the entire administration--when smaller, completely verified and accurate stories--"opposite field singles" if you will--are more in order.  Let's not forget, it wasn't the Watergate break-in stories from Woodward and Bernstein that exposed corruption in the Nixon administration, they just set the table for the Congressional hearings that revealed the actual Oval Office coverup.

And speaking of Woodward and Bernstein, they made some pretty serious reporting mistakes as well.  In October of 1973, they erroneously identified three men as having received information obtained by wiretapping the Democratic National Committee offices at Watergate.  And just a couple of weeks later, they misattributed information that tied White House Chief of Staff Bob Haldemann to the slush fund that paid the Watergate burglars.  Mind you, their information was correct--Haldemann authorized the payments--but because they wrote that Hugh Sloan told that to the grand jury, rather than he knew about it but was never asked about it in court--they provided the White House with a way to discredit all of their reporting up to that point.

These are dangerous times for reporters in Washington.  The truth is out there--and they will likely find it eventually.  But will anyone be willing to believe it when they do?

Friday, December 8, 2017

Pay Your Bills First

It's too late, but I would still like to nominate University of Mount Union Football Coach Vince Kehres for 2017 Sportsman of the Year.  Kehres likely saved UW-Oshkosh from some major embarrassment by signing off on tomorrow's Division III Football National Semi-Final game being played at Titan Stadium instead of in Ohio. 

When it was announced that UWO was hosting the game, reporters that follow D-III football more closely than me were surprised--as Mount Union had a better record and a higher national ranking than the Titans.  But a Federal Bankruptcy Court hearing this week revealed that UWO getting the home game had more to do with economics than strength of schedule.  You see, there was a very real possibility that UWO wouldn't be able to pay for a road trip. 

The Athletic Department doesn't budget for post-season travel (which when you are one of the top programs in D-III football seems very short-sited)--relying instead on funding from the Foundation to cover that cost.  But when the Foundation went into bankruptcy earlier this year, that required the judge overseeing their case to approve that expense--and there was no guarantee that was going to happen.  UWO likely told the NCAA that having to hit the road before the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl may result in a forfeit--which would be incredibly embarrassing.  That's when Mount Union likely agreed to hit the road instead of hosting the semi-final game.

But should have UWO been made to face that embarrassment?  Let's not forget that the Foundation is in bankruptcy due to irresponsible actions of not only its former directors, but former Chancellor Richard Wells in racking up debt that it could not possibly hope to repay.  And when inappropriate transfers from the school itself to the Foundation dried up after Wells split town, the gig was up.  So why should the creditors who are legitimately owed millions of dollars be made to wait longer for payment so a football team can play a game?

I don't fault Bank First National for trying to block this spending in the bankruptcy court.  This is no different than the family that is in foreclosure on their house taking the kids to Disney World for a week.  We always like to say that playing sports in school is about "learning important life lessons"--and "pay your bills first" is certainly an important lesson to know.  Who knows, today's backup offensive lineman may be a future Foundation Director--and he will know first-hand the effects living beyond your means can have.

It may not be "patriotic" but I shall be rooting for Mount Union to win on Saturday and move on to the Stagg Bowl so that the UW-Oshkosh Foundation can do what is actually right and pay that $100-thousand dollars to the people it is owed.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Sacrificial Lamb

I must admit, I actually feel sorry for Senator Al Franken today.  The Minnesota Democrat is expected to resign in the wake of accusations that he had physical contact with women that they didn't appreciate before he was elected to the Senate.  Yesterday, every Demoratic female Senator turned against Franken--demanding that he quit--even though he is not charged with any crimes, never paid off anyone to remain quiet and isn't even facing any civil lawsuits.

Al Franken is an unfortunate pawn that is being sacrificed by the Democratic Party for future strategic advantage.  By forcing out Franken right now, Dems can claim the "moral high ground" should Roy Moore--with his accusations of pedophilia coming along as baggage--win the Alabama Senate special election next week.  Liberals at every level will be able to point to Franken's resignation and say "See, a Democrat facing the flimsiest of unsubstantiated claims stepped down without any due process and Republicans should demand that Roy Moore do the same!"  And should Moore lose next week, Democrats can hang on to the Franken chip to use when the next GOP Senator or Congressman is inevitably accused of harassment--no matter how old or dubious the claim.

You can bet that the "forced retirement" of Michigan Congressman John Conyers has a lot to do with the pressure being applied to Senator Franken.  Members of the Congressional Black Caucus could not have been happy that one their own was getting pushed out--while a white colleague may have been allowed to skate.  Nevermind that the alleged incidents involving Conyers took place while he was in office (literally in his Congressional office) and that taxpayer money was used to pay off the alleged victims.  Perhaps Senator Franken can take some solace in knowing that his ouster will be seen as a victory for social justice.

One final thing to consider is that Democrats have to feel pretty confident that they can win a special election to fill Franken's seat.  His term runs through 2020, so obviously it won't be allowed to sit empty for two years--although I doubt he will try to hand-pick his successor like Congressman Conyers is by endorsing his son to take his place.  The Democratic Farm Labor party is probably already lining up safe, female candidates to square off for Franken's seat in order to ensure that this doesn't happen again while everyone cares about this issue. 

While they call for his resignation publicly, members of Al Franken's party are likely thanking him in private for "taking one for the team".