Friday, February 17, 2017

Bread and Circus

In the movie Gladiator there is a scene where Maximus dispatches a bunch of other slaves in a staged battle before a small crowd in some remote outpost of the Roman Empire.  After there is little reaction from the fans, Maximus turns to them and yells:



Every time there is a White House press event now, that is the scene that comes to mind.  Government operations should be boring.  Doing the "work of the people" works best when the people don't know its actually getting done.  Everything government does should not be fodder for the next round of late night talk shows or the next Saturday Night Live.

But since day one of the Trump administration, I have expected the Gladiator rhetorical question to wrap up every press conference--whether it be from Sean Spicer or from the President himself.  The only problem is, they are not in the entertainment business--they are in the serve the people business. 

I know folks on the Left like to call the Trump administration "fascist"--like we are back in 1920's and '30's Europe--but it's actually more like the days of the Roman Empire in the first century AD when the rulers provided bread and circuses to keep the masses entertained--and distracted from the slow decay of their government.

Even in yesterday's press conference--where the President again appeared to be woefully under-informed as to what is going on both inside and outside of Washington--he brought up the fact that he "still get great ratings".  He wasn't talking about approval ratings--he was talking about TV ratings!  Who cares if Saturday Night Live is seeing a revival by mocking you and your Cabinet every weekend?  Turn your attention to the stuff you were actually elected to worry about! 

And stop with the obsession over "winning the press conference".  It's like watching loser NFL coach Rex Ryan.  He always "wins the press conference"--yet he has never won a game of any consequence.  Meanwhile Bill Belichick says the absolute minimum amount required in his press conferences--and he's got five rings.  The President is a Patriots fan--maybe he should take a lesson from the team.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Thank You, Global Climate Change!!

If I get a chance to play some golf on a local course this weekend--or the next week given what the forecast looks like for the next ten days--I will not feel the least bit guilty about it.  I won't feel bad for sturgeon spearers that can't get out to their shanties or Battle on Bago folks stuck on the shore.  My thoughts won't be with the Ski-Plane Fly-in with no ski-planes.  There will be no empathy for snowmobilers, skiers, snowboarders and snowshoers having to pack their winter toys in storage.  You know why?  Because those folks had their days in the past.

I remember the brutal winters we had to deal with here in the Midwest back in the 1970's and '80's.  There were years we celebrated highs in the 20's at this time of year like they were the first sign of spring.  Brewers fans can remember season and home openers snowed out at old County Stadium.  A couple of years in high school we had to shovel off our baseball field just so we could get a game in--in April--after spending the entire pre-season practicing in the gym.  And many a Masters were watched with snow still on the ground here--and golf courses weeks away from even starting to prepare to open.

Those were the "glory days" for winter sports.  When ice fishing lasted into the spring.  When snowmobilers had snow covered fields and trails from Halloween until Easter.  And when kids actually had enough time to grow tired of the sleds or inner tubes they got for Christmas.  But now, it is the "glory days" for those of us who enjoy being outdoors--and not having to dress like we are attempting to scale Mount Everest.

One thing I will keep in mind on the links here in February is that the weather is cyclical.  As hard as it would have been to believe high temperatures could reach the fifties during the winters of my youth, it's not that hard to imagine record low temperatures for these same dates coming back.  I will celebrate every stroke taken without cold-weather gloves on--or a stocking cap.  I will soak in the warmth of the sun on my face knowing that many more gloomy days are on the horizon.  I won't get frustrated by errant shots or putts that bobble and miss the hole--because HELLO, I'll be playing golf in February in Wisconsin!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

We're Going to Wish This Was Fiction

Michael Crichton, James Patterson and Jeffrey Archer can step away from the keyboards for awhile--the next great political thriller featuring espionage, computer hacking, blackmail and maybe even a little sex will be written by reporters at the New York Times, the Washington Post and on Politico.com.  And, unfortunately, it's not going to be a work of fiction.

Chapter One was written last week, as the National Security Advisor is forced to quit his job just a few weeks in after those reporters learn that he was in contact with foreign officials while still a private citizen--and then flat-out lying about it.  The Advisor resigns in shame--and the ball is set in motion for the "discovery" of more nefarious backroom dealings.

Chapter Two appears in the newspapers today--as we find out the FBI has documents showing continuous contact between high-ranking officials in the new President's former campaign staff and foreign intelligence officers in the months leading up to the election.  Right now, our writers can only speculate as to what those conversations may have entailed--and who initiated those contacts.

Chapter Three is likely a flashback to that heated campaign, where the President's opponent is badly hurt by emails that her campaign manager allowed to be accessed from his account.  We learn a little bit more about how the initial hacking attack took place--and then we follow the complicated paths by which the information made its way back to the West--and onto the internet. 

In Chapter Four, things start to get serious, as the connection to the foreign intelligence operatives moves inside the White House itself.  A close senior advisor is discovered to be compromised.  His termination comes quickly--but that is not enough.  Now Congress wants an investigation.  The President appoints an "independent investigator"--but when that probe starts hitting a little too close to home, he (or she) is canned as well.  Now Congressional hearings begin, high ranking officials close to the President are subpoenaed--but plead the Fifth and refuse to testify. 

Chapter Five brings in a national crisis.  Even the most-ardent supporters of the President can no longer publicly support him.  Protests are daily occurrences across the country.  Rumors swirl of military leaders ready to act unilaterally to protect US interests from this external threat--as the motives of the Commander and Chief cannot be known or trusted.  And just when it seems the tension can't get any thicker......

Well, I don't want to spoil the ending here--so we will just all have to wait for those chapters to be written.  In the meantime, let's make sure the First Lady isn't showing the President any Queen of Diamond playing cards.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

I Don't Deserve This!

It's a good thing there are just a couple of weeks left in the entertainment industry's self-congratulations period--because I don't think our celebrities can handle getting any more awards they don't think they deserve.  The awards show acceptance speech now features an almost-required opening segment with the star just honored for their work saying they didn't deserve to win.  They then list every other nominee as being "more deserving"--before moving into the also-required laundry list of producers, personal trainers and other hangers-on "without whom none of this would be possible".

The pinnacle of "I'm not worthiness" came Sunday night at the Grammys--as Adele accepted her award for Album of the Year.  Instead of thanking the Academy of Recording Arts and Science for honoring her excellent work last year, Adele instead questioned why fellow nominee BeyoncĂ© didn't win--and all but ran down into the audience to give her the trophy.

It should be noted that in 2013 Adele swept the Album, Song and Record of the Year Grammys as well--but the perception of her win (by liberals) was very different at that time.  Those awards were seen as "justification" for a woman who didn't fit the "mold" of a typical female Pop Star.  Adele is a "larger woman".  She doesn't wear outfits that show off her breasts and her behind.  She doesn't grind on stage with male backup dancers and her songs aren't filled with misogynistic lyrics about how good she is at pleasing men.  So when she won all those Grammys the first time--it was because she was "taken seriously as an artist".

But this year's Grammy wins for Adele were "tainted"--because she beat BeyoncĂ© (who does wear outfits exposing her breasts and behind.  Who grinds with her backup dancers.  And who sings misogynistic lyrics about pleasing men--but who also happens to be Black).  This year's Adele wins were greeted with howls of "White Privilege!!"--along with how the Academy is "racist" and can't bring itself to honor work done by an African-American woman--and that other white people should learn from Adele's "realization" that she "didn't deserve to win".

All of this passive/aggressive self-aggrandizing comes to an end later this month with the Oscars--where I can guarantee that whomever wins Best Actress will say Meryl Streep deserved the award because her usual flat performance with a fake accent was "sooo amazing!"--and the Best Actor winner will say that Denzel Washington should have won. 

Here's a suggestion for the stars that don't think their performances are that worthy of peer honors: Don't submit your work for nomination.  The academies that give out these awards don't handpick the nominees--the studios submit them.  So just tell your studio "I don't want to be considered for a Grammy or an Emmy or an Oscar" and you won't have to worry about taking the trophy away from the "more deserving winner".

Monday, February 13, 2017

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

As someone who gets up before 3:00 AM everyday for work.  I detest the day we "Spring Forward" for Daylight Saving Time every year.  It is a devastating blow to the metabolism to lose that one precious hour of sleep--and it takes several weeks for my body to adjust to its new wakeup time.  (As you might expect, "Fall Back" is much easier to handle--and I feel great the first few days after DST ends).  So that is why a bill co-sponsored by Representative Mike Schraa of Oshkosh calling for Wisconsin to no long observe Daylight Savings caught my eye.

At first, it seems like no longer "springing ahead" would make sense--as we are no longer an agrarian society and the energy savings is negligible.  But there would be some prices to pay.  For starters, I like having those long summer days.  I don't need the sun to come up before 5:00 am in June and July.  I'd much rather it be light out enough to golf until 9:00 PM or sometimes even 9:30.  It's those long days that make the short, cold, dark gloomy days we have to deal with at this time of year tolerable.

Not observing Daylight Savings, would also put Wisconsin in a very awkward "timing situation".  For the majority of the year, we would be on "Mountain Time"--a full hour behind Illinois and Minnesota--and two hours behind neighboring Michigan.  For some perspective on that, consider Green Bay Packers games.  The NFL doesn't start Sunday home games before Noon local time.  That would mean in September and October, the Packers would have to start games at Lambeau at 2:30 "Non-Daylight time"--like they are Denver or Arizona.  Road games played against teams in the Eastern and Central Time Zones would then start at 11:00 am on Sundays--which I can guarantee most churches would not appreciate.  But once the rest of the country went back to Standard Time, kickoffs would resume at Noon or at 3:30 in Green Bay again.

If we were to become a "single time" state, I would prefer that we go to Daylight Saving Time one year--and just never go back.  That would keep us more in line "timing wise" with states around us.  For the spring, summer and early Fall, Wisconsin would be on Central Daylight Time.  For the late fall and Winter, we would become part of the Eastern Standard Time Zone.  That gives us later daylight in the summer--and the winter--but at the expense of much later sunrises in the winter.  It would also mean that the aforementioned Packers games at Lambeau in the second half of the season would kickoff at either 1:00 PM, 4:30 pm or 8:30 pm for primetime games. 

Regardless of what we ultimately decided to do--and I'm betting it's nothing--that alarm is still going to go off way too early.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Bad Luck Bucks

In March of 1969 the Milwaukee Bucks experienced the greatest stroke of good luck in basketball history when they won a coin flip against the Phoenix Suns to secure the number one pick in the NBA Draft that year.  The Bucks would select Lew Alcindor out of UCLA.  Alcindor would change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar--and would lead the Bucks to an NBA Championship in 1971--and another appearance in the Finals in 1974.

But since then, the franchise's luck has been less than stellar.  Kareem would become disenchanted with life in Milwaukee and he forced a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers--where he would win 5 more NBA Championships.  In that same period, the Bucks never made it back to a single NBA Finals.

The Bucks of the 1980's were one of the most successful franchises in the league--but as luck would have it--they were in the Eastern Conference with the Boston Celtics-during the Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish era--and the Philadelphia 76ers--when they had Doctor J and Moses Malone.  The Bucks just couldn't beat both of those powerhouses in the same season.

It looked like the Bucks fortunes may turn for the better in 2001 when they made it to the Eastern Conference Finals behind "the big three" Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson and Sam Cassell.  Unfortunately, Milwaukee had to play Philadelphia with Alan Iverson--whom the NBA was trying to promote as "the next big thing"--and game 7 of the series was in Philly--so you know every call went against the Bucks and they lost.

It looked like the Bucks may have something going again when they drafted Michael Redd in the late "aughts"--but he kept getting hurt--and the team has been in a "barely in the playoffs/barely out of the playoffs" cycle since.

There was a bit of irony on Wednesday after the Bucks announced their D-League team is coming to Oshkosh.  They hosted a big watch party at The Bar for their game against the Heat to drum up more support in the community.  What happens?  Jabbari Parker--expected to team with Giannis Antetokounmpo to power the Bucks franchise for the next decade--suffers his second major knee injury of his short career.  And the team gets blown out.

Greg Pearce and his group might want to make sure that the roof on that new Oshkosh arena is double the strength necessary--because when it comes to the Bucks, they seem to have used up all their good luck.



Thursday, February 9, 2017

Driving While Old

There are a couple of court cases making their way through the system this year that you may want to keep an eye on.  They both involve criminal charges filed against elderly drivers accused of causing crashes that involved deaths and serious injuries.  In a Marquette County case 90-year old Albert Sieg is charged in connection with a crash that saw him run over a married couple that were riding their bikes along the side of the road and then continuing to drive on.  The other is in Oconto County and involves 84-year old Dolly Yashinksy--who ran a stop sign and was broadsided by a car that had the right of way--killing her husband and two elderly friends.

The filing of criminal charges in each of these cases mark a departure from the attitude of the legal system to serious crashes involving older drivers.  For the most part, seniors who run stop signs, drive the wrong way on one-ways or divided highways or hit things and drive off not knowing anything had happened have been treated with kid gloves.  Families agree to take keys away.  Prosecutors say the offending drivers "have suffered enough".  And we all act like there is nothing wrong with having dangerous people behind the wheel just out there driving around.

The attorney for Yashinsky calls the filing of charges against his elderly client "cruel"--given her age and how much she has suffered.  But to his credit, Oconto County District Attorney Edward Burke is defending his decision by pointing out the simple truth: "You can't just arbitrarily draw a line based upon somebody's age".  If Yashinsky had been a 44-year old woman playing with the radio or talking on a cellphone and she ran that stop sign and charges were filed--nobody would bat an eye.  But because she is 84 and probably shouldn't have been behind the wheel we are to just excuse the same actions?

And what happens with these cases becomes more important every day, as Baby Boomers continue to age.  These are people who have been driving since they were 16.  They sang songs about their cars.  They had "special moments" in the back seats of their cars.  They have gone everywhere in their cars--and they will be the last people willing to give up their cars--even when it endangers the rest of society.  But maybe, if we get enough "driving while old" criminal cases--we might be able to talk some sense into them.