Friday, April 20, 2018

Baby On Board Everywhere

"History" was made yesterday as Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth brought her ten-day old infant daughter to the floor of the Senate to cast a vote.  Senate rules had to be amended for the occasion--as until now, children were barred from a place where representatives of the people vote on the most-important matters facing our nation.  Now, the place where Republican Senator Charles Sumner castigated Democrat Stephen Douglas over the immorality of slavery--and where Democrat Robert Byrd conducted a one-man, 14-hour filibuster of the Civil Rights Act is no different that the PlayLand at your local McDonald's.

Liberal women's groups would tell you that bans on children in the workplace are archaic attempts to keep females out of the workforce or to prevent them from advancing within the corporate structure.  But men too are bringing kids places they--plain and simple--don't belong.  Upscale restaurants, movie theaters, bars, theme parks--no longer do parents ask themselves "Does a baby (or a child of any age) really belong here?"

When a male Senator asked what if there are ten babies on the floor of the Senate someday--Senator Amy Klobuchur of Minnesota said "that would be wonderful".  Really?  Ten babies throwing a fit while the Senate is trying to debate something like gun control, or environmental policy would be "wonderful"?  Or would debate have to be stopped while the children are comforted or lulled back to sleep?

If anything, babies and kids in the Senate will become nothing more than props for the cameras of C-SPAN or the news channels.  "I have brought my three-year old grandson here today so that he can say he was here when the Senate passed this historic measure".  Or conversely, "If you vote for this bill you are ensuring that my 3-week old daughter will die a horrible death" will become "human talking points" for the theater that is modern politics.

Senator Duckworth has (for now) promised to spare her fellow lawmakers from dirty diaper changes inside the Chamber (which, when you think about it, would have actually been a fitting metaphor for modern politics).  If I was in the Senate, I would move to amend the rules to allow the use of noise-cancelling headphones--as those were invented for the sole purpose of drowning out the sound of crying babies and children that business travelers have had to put up with on airplanes.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Smaller Event City

For years now we've been telling you about the strain being "Wisconsin's Event City" has been putting on the city of Oshkosh.  Huge amounts of overtime for police and fire personnel, the inability to take vacations for city employees, wear and tear on equipment, and general fatigue on those of us who live here and who have to put up with extra traffic on the streets, in stores and at restaurants.  It's why we have the controversial Special Event Permit Fee and why the City had to hire someone exclusively to co-ordinate city services for events.

But it looks like the market itself is going to start providing some relief.  Starting next year, Country USA will drop two days of its festival and feature only three nights of music.  That means two fewer days of backup along Interstate 41 as trucks and campers try to get onto the grounds.  That means two fewer days of needing 20-cops to direct traffic at the South Park interchanges.  It also means two fewer days of muddy pickup trucks filling up the fast-food drive-thrus.

The reduction of Country USA comes after the same promoters cut back on the length of Rock USA at the same site a couple of years ago.  While those who attend those events like to think that they are hard-core partiers--five days is a really long time to be drunk all of the time.  And the promoters recognize that it's hard to keep staff productive for that long and to control costs.  The folks at Waterfest realized that you don't need to have a concert every Thursday night to be successful.  And it has allowed them greater flexibility in booking better musical acts the past few years.

I hope that some other events here in Oshkosh look at Country and Rock USA--along with Waterfest and scale back their runs too.  Especially Sawdust Days--who continue to believe that we need a five day 4th of July celebration--when the 4th itself is really all that people care about.  Maybe the folks at EAA could consider tightening up their schedule--as the final Sunday often feels like the last few miles of a death march--with little excitement and relatively few attendees.  Remember, the Fly-In used to NINE DAYS over TWO WEEKENDS and I think that everyone involved would admit it's a much better event without those extra two days.  A Wednesday to Saturday action-packed run would seem to me to be a better fit now.

If current trends hold, Oshkosh will still be "Wisconsin's Event City"--but it will also be the "Smaller Event City".  And that means the men and women of our police and fire departments can take summer vacations again--and the Farmers Market won't have to buy their own barricades to stay in business.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Coming Full Circle

There is a certain irony in the national trend of converting former big box retailers and department store buildings into storage units.  There are companies that now specialize in converting what used to be retail space into individual and business storage.  One such company is currently working to convert the former K-Mart/Sears store here in Oshkosh into such a facility for U-Haul.

When you think about it, that business model really represents the full circle of American consumerism.  Items purchased from now-defunct retailers are literally going back to the buildings where they were boughtto be put back on the same floor--because we don't have room for all of our "stuff" in our homes.

There may be more of that space opening up soon at the Fox River Mall in Grand Chute.  Younker's will be closing due to the bankruptcy of its parent company, Bon-Ton.  Sears is in its death throes.  And JC Penney may not be far behind them--all victims of changing American spending habits--with on-line retail beating out brick and mortar storefronts.  We may live to see that day that the mall becomes the largest storage center in the Fox Valley.

But I have an billion dollar idea for those soon-to-be-empty anchor stores: Vanity Storage.  Rather than hide your stuff behind a cheap corrugated steel door, show off your items in bulletproof and shatter-proof glass-encased displays for everyone to see.  You bought most of this "stuff" to be cool and appear hip and to impress other people--now you still can!  Vanity Storage will provide mannequins in your size that can wear the cute dress you got for your cousin's wedding--and never wore again.  And all of the pants and shirts that used to fit--until you gained 40-pounds spending every day on the couch playing video games.

In the former furniture departments we can sell multiple adjoining cubes to show off the living room set you bought when Hildy got them for a house on the original Trading Spaces, which you replaced with the furniture that the Property Brothers put in that one house, which was replaced by the reclaimed retro items that Joanna and Chip bought for that one couple on Fixer Upper, which is about to be replaced by what Hildy just bought on the new Trading Spaces.  It would be like an evolutionary display of what your house used to look like.

We would have spaces for the Espresso machine, the rice cooker, the vegetable steamer, the instant pot, French press and pannini grill that you bought because you were going to "learn how to cook"--but ended up ordering take out instead.  Those could be paired with the stainless steel appliances you got--that were replaced a few years later by the black stainless steel that go better with the granite countertops in the "Dream Kitchen" displays.

We could even find space for all of the "classic cars" that you guys bought with every intention of fixing up into show-worthy rolling pieces of art--but that proved to be way too difficult to repair and maintain. 

Vanity Storage could be a huge boost to the retail segment--as people see what other people have stored in their cubicles--and want to have better and more "stuff" in theirs.  Or, retailers themselves could include that as part of their current business models--selling you an item and allowing you to come back a few days, weeks or months later to put it back on display in your cubicle.  They could call it "reverse layaway".  Is there some way I can get a patent, a copyright or a trademark on this idea?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Walk This Way

If you tune into the Milwaukee Bucks-Boston Celtics playoff game tonight, I want you to check out how may times Giannis Antetokounmpo commits a traveling violation.  I don't mean how many times he is called for traveling--because that number will likely be zero--but the actual number of times he takes far more than the two steps allowed by the rules of basketball.

For decades, traveling has been a joke in the NBA.  But it was usually a guy taking one extra step on the way to the basket on a layup.  Now, "fancy footwork" dominates the sport.  Star players especially are being allowed to pick up the basketball and take as many steps as are necessary to shake free of their defender.  In game one, I noticed that Giannis has already mastered all three phases of the Traveling Trifecta.  On a couple of plays in the lane, he pivoted on both feet--which is one of the easiest traveling calls to make.  Giannis also takes the double-backstep to set up a fade away jumper--which is also a pretty easy traveling call.  And of course, he uses the "Euro-step" in every attack to the basket.

As an official, I consider the Euro-step to be the scourge of basketball.  For some reason, the powers that be have decided to allow offensive players to pick up their dribble, take one huge-step in one-direction and then jump onto their other foot in the opposite direction to get around a defender (who likely knows that the player with the ball just traveled by resetting what had been his pivot foot).  The Euro-step is a go-to move for players at all levels now--including sixth-grade traveling teams, where kids pick up the ball at the 3-point-line and think they can make it all the way to the rim without having to dribble again. 

In fairness to Giannis, he is not the worst traveler in the NBA.  Check out the video footage of walking that LeBron James is allowed to get away with--including pivoting on both feet twice to gain about ten feet of space on the court.  But they have nothing on the Houston Rockets' James Harden--who can fill hours of highlight reels with flagrant traveling violations that never, ever get called.  In their game one against Minnesota, Harden hit the biggest shot of the game after picking up his dribble--taking two steps forward, then two steps backward, before jumping back behind the 3-point line to nail the jumper.  The TV announcers pointed out that it was clearly a traveling violation--but then laughed that off.

If the NBA is going to make dribbling "optional" we may as well retitle the sport "European Team Handball" and let guys pick it up and run with it for as far as they want--or Aussie Rules Football, where dribbling is required only every 18-feet.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sneaking Suspicions

We hear from law enforcement all the time, "If you see something, say something".  But what do you do when saying what you have seen can be considered "culturally insensitive"?

Living and working just off of Witzel Avenue, I've driven past the "health spa" that was busted for alleged prostitution last week.  I always found it a bit odd that the place was open at 8:00 on a Sunday night--but I wouldn't have called the cops about that.  What was really suspicious is that I would see different Asian women walking back and forth from the business and the house right behind it on Witzel.  What business has all of its employees living right next door?

You may have heard me ask Oshkosh Police Public Information Officer Kate Mann about this case last Friday--and whether I should have called them with my suspicions that were going on with the women in the house next door.  She said that I probably didn't have to call about that--but that they welcome all calls about suspicious behavior. 

But that raises the question of what is "suspicious"--and what role does race play in it?  If you listen to any of the police scanner apps you hear the occasional dispatch call of "Caller reports three young black men in the neighborhood and they want it checked out".  It's not often you hear "Caller reports three white men in the neighborhood and they want it checked out".  My wife goes to a masseuse here in Oshkosh--but I don't assume that there is more than just massage going on in her office.  So why did I almost immediately have my assumptions about the place on Witzel?  Let's say I--or someone else who had noticed things--had called police and their investigation reveals it was just a close-knit Asian family running the place and that everything going on there was legit.  The white person complaining about it would look pretty foolish wouldn't they?

We don't have a criminal complaint filed yet against the two people arrested in connection with the raid--so details on what led to the police investigation are not yet known.  But word that the Department of Homeland Security was also involved leads me to believe that there was concern about more than just "happy endings" going on in that "health spa".  That place has been open for a couple of years now, how many women may have been doing things in there that they really did not want to do--for money or otherwise--because those of us who "saw things" but didn't "say something" thought it was best to mind their own business? 

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Big Yawn

You know too many teams make the playoffs in your sport when fans don't even get excited about a post-season appearance.  Exhibit A for that in the NBA are the Milwaukee Bucks.  There is ZERO buzz about the Bucks upcoming series with the Boston Celtics--which tips off on Sunday afternoon.  I'll grant you, it's more important to start breaking down the Packers' draft strategy everyday--more than two weeks before the draft--but sports-talk radio in Wisconsin is having a hard time drumming up any interest.

Perhaps it's due to the way the Bucks played down the stretch--looking lethargic and uninspired.  Thanks to the weak composition of the Eastern Conference, it was almost a given from December that Milwaukee was going to make the playoffs, so it seemed like the players decided to put in just enough effort to win just enough games to clinch a spot and then coast home.  The last couple of weeks were a joke in the East, as teams at the bottom of the playoff field did all they could to avoid having to play LeBron James and Cleveland in the first round.  The only team that didn't tank was Philadelphia--which finished the regular season on a 16-game winning streak and avoided the Cavaliers in the first two rounds by finishing ahead of them in the conference standings.

The belief heading into this Bucks season was that this was going to be another building block toward becoming a legitimate title contender.  Instead, the team meandered its way through the regular season--playing inspired ball for a couple of weeks after Jason Kidd was fired as head coach--but then falling back into their usual inconsistent effort and disinterest on most nights.  Yes, there were injuries to key players like Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Delavadova--but those two would have little effect on Milwaukee's poor defense and rebounding--which are based on effort.

The Bucks will get a free pass from the fans next year, who will flock to the new (as yet unnamed) downtown arena just to check out the fancy new digs, but after that they are going to start expecting some results--especially if they make Giannis Antetokounmpo the highest paid player in the league. Surrounding him with marginal talent and second rate coaching--as they have done so far--won't fill the new place once the novelty wears off.

Maybe the Bucks think they are suddenly going to "turn it on" for the playoffs and seriously challenge Cleveland for the conference title.  Maybe they think the injury-depleted Celtics are the perfect first round match up and they can pull off the upset.  Maybe they hope the return of Brogdon and Dellavadova will magically cure their ills.  But more than likely, they are heading for another first round playoff exit--with few people shedding tears over that loss.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Now What?

For real Conservatives, the hits just keep on coming.  House Speaker Paul Ryan's announcement that he will not seek re-election this fall is another blow to the hope that perhaps the founding principals of the Republican Party will be upheld during the Trump presidency.  But now there will be one less voice to say "This is not who we are" after the next Twitter storm, malaprop, unsubstantiated accusation, flippant threat and out-of-left field proposal that comes from the Oval Office.

At this point, I'm hoping for a complete and utter obliteration of the Republican majorities across all levels of government in both 2018 and 2020.  The party is in need of an extreme blood-letting in order to starve the leeches of the extreme right that have attached themselves to the "Party of Trump".  Maybe in 2022 the party can avoid running Holocaust deniers, guys arrested for blocking access to abortion clinics and white supremacy bloggers for major elected positions.

Paul Ryan "retires" at the age of 48--meaning a run for a much higher office in 2022 would come at the prime age of 54.  And by that time, Democrats will have angered pretty much everyone again in the majority of states that the Electoral College map will once again favor a Republican.  And that time, an actual Republican would be running.

But as Ryan goes on his self-imposed period wandering in the wilderness, who takes up the mantle for true Conservatism and the soul of the Republican party?  I'd direct your attention to Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse.  He was my write in selection for Vice President in 2016--teaming him up with Speaker Ryan in the "ticket that should have been"--and the administration that would have still accomplished the legislative victories of the past year--without the embarrassing rhetoric, independent counsel investigations, 60 Minutes porn star interviews and Twitter threats that bring the world to the edge of nuclear war.

Much like Ryan, Senator Sasse is a young, personable Conservative that knows the Constitution, values the rights of the individual, and believes strongly in a limited Government.  He has expressed embarrassment for the man that now heads up the party and has stated opposition to a number of President Trump's extreme positions--including a trade war with China.  With Speaker Ryan's departure from Washington, Sasse becomes the Conservative Luke Skywalker if you will--the last hope against the Dark Lord of the Sith.

Let's hope that he is able to hang on, until Paul Ryan decides it's time to bring real Republicanism back to Washington.