Thursday, September 21, 2017

Just a Reminder: Obey the Law

How would you feel if the Federal Government spent $100-million dollars a year to tell people not to commit murders?  Or if the same amount was spent on groups that went into neighborhoods and reminded people not to rob banks?  You would probably say that was wasted money--as not killing people and not stealing from others is the law--and you shouldn't have to remind people not to break the law.

Well, the "law of the land" as President Obama was so proud to proclaim on many occasions is that you are required to have health insurance--either through your employer or through a state or federal exchange.  In fact, it has been the law for four years now.  But Uncle Sam has been paying $100-million a year to groups across the country whose sole purpose has been to actively recruit people to follow the law.  However, President Trump is looking to cut that to just $10-million next year.

Obviously, these groups aren't doing a very good job.  The uninsured rate--which is the number of people violating federal law--is 30-million people.  That is nearly 12% of Americans--or about one in eight.  Is it possible that that many people have no idea that they are supposed to have health insurance?  Could they have somehow missed in the multitude of pop up internet ads.  Did they all forget the celebrity-endorsed radio and TV ads that have run for years?  Did they not tune into any news broadcasts since 2010?

The "enrollment groups" are outraged over their cuts in funding.  They are of the belief that if they had even more funding, they would be able to convince more people to obey the law.  Their Democratic supporters claim that cutting the promotional budget for ObamaCare will lead to fewer people enrolling in health insurance coverage--I guess because constant reminding that the law requires you to have it is the only way they can remember to do it.

So to save the Federal Government some of that now $10-million dollars that they will continue to spend on "enrollment groups" I'd like to remind you that the law requires you to have health insurance and you can sign up on line this fall.  I should probably also remind you not to beat your children, don't set people's houses on fire and don't steal stuff from stores.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Self-Inflicted Injury Bug

In football--more than any other sport--the possibility of a game, season or career ending injury is greater on every play.  The amount of continuous physical contact wears down the body--and the brain--faster than any other athletic endeavor except for boxing.  It's been described as being in a minor car crash--over and over again.  So why would so many coaches want to maximize the number of times their players are subjected to the risk of serious injury?

While the Packers injury report was expanding last night, there were plenty of on-line questions about why this team always seems to have so many guys get hurt.  The training staff, the medical staff, even the toughness of the players themselves were questioned.  But nobody every seems to wonder if the style of play favored by Head Coach Mike McCarthy may be a factor.

Like a growing number of coaches at all levels of football, McCarthy wants to play an up-tempo offense that often goes no-huddle and with no substitutions for entire series.  The goal is to "maximize the number of plays" the offense can get during the game.  But by running more plays, every game and every season, you also increase the wear and tear on your offensive unit.  Plus, you force the opposing team to keep the same eleven guys on the field--since Aaron Rodgers goes with a quick snap anytime you try to substitute, drawing a 12-men on the field penalty.  But when up-tempo goes three and out--you are putting your defense on the field for a longer time as well--which leads to greater injuries on that side of the ball too.

Today's football players are being pushed to--and often times past--the limits of human endurance for physical contact.  Yes, players were slower and lighter in the past--and were schooled in proper tackling techniques, rather than trying to blow people up every play--but they were also given more time in games and during the off-season to recover from the physical exertion.  Teams ran the ball a lot more--meaning fewer high-speed collisions in the secondary and a game clock that spent most of the game running.  And after each play, they huddled up--giving everybody on the field a chance to catch their breath--or to be substituted for if they were tired or banged up.

I think that it is more than fair to ask coaches like McCarthy, the multitude of college coaches that use no-huddle hurry up and definitely the growing number of high school coaches adopting the same offenses why they think maximizing the opportunities to get hurt is the "only way to win".

Friday, September 15, 2017

My Team is on My Cellphone

Once upon a time, horse racing was one of the most popular spectator sports in America.  Tens of thousands would regularly flock to the tracks--which were located in most of the country's largest cities--but county and state fairs would feature horse races as well.  While there was always the opportunity to bet on the ponies, some people went just to watch the horses run.  Then came off track betting--which allowed people to go to a place not far from their neighborhood to bet on races without having to go to the track itself.  You could even watch the races at the OTB through closed circuit television.  That was followed by on-line betting--which allowed you to not only bet on races from almost any track in the world--but to also watch that race without ever leaving your home.  Today, racetracks hardly draw anyone to watch the races--unless it's a particularly prestigious race--and the sport exists solely for the home bettor.

This Sunday, if you watch something other than just the Packers game at night, pay attention to the wide-angle stadium shots and notice the number of empty seats at most games.  The internet was full of screen captures last weekend of seas of open seats after kickoff in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Cincinnati.  That has led to the TV talking heads discussing why fans are now staying away in droves--for a sport that used to force fans to attend by blacking out games that weren't sold out. 

There's been a lot of talk that national anthem protests are driving away fans.  Or that the media focus on concussions is turning off fans from the sport as a whole.  And you can always point to sky-high ticket prices, outrageous parking fees and food and beverage prices that border on ludicrous--especially when high definition TV brings you much closer to the game at home--where the beer and food are 1000% cheaper.

However, I firmly believe that the decline in attendance at NFL games is due almost exclusively to fantasy football and gambling.  People that play fantasy sports now care more about "their teams" on paper than they do about "their team" on the field.  The league realizes that as well--which is why all stadiums are required to have high-speed wi-fi, there are more highlights shown in stadiums, and the NFL app will send you text alerts when any of the guys in your fantasy games score.

But the decision to build so much of the popularity in the sport on the "fantasy" side will be one that the NFL regrets for a long time.  It has already affected the core of the game--with the entire emphasis now placed on offensive production--because that is where the vast majority of your "fantasy points" come from.  Team alliances are whittled away too, as a huge day by Aaron Rodgers may be good for the Packers--but if you are going up against him in two fantasy leagues, that fourth touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson is killing you--and likely costing you money. 

So until the NFL figures out a way to get all of your fantasy guys to play all of the fantasy guys on your buddy's team in a stadium near you, fewer fans will feel the need to shell out the big bucks to sit at the LA Coliseum or Levi's Stadium.  And the once packed bleachers will look like the giant empty grandstands of horse tracks around the country.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Party Pirates

Those heading up national and state political parties have to be wondering how outsiders have managed to come in and hijack their operations.  Both the Republican and Democratic parties are dealing with subversive attacks that threaten to derail their political directions--and alienate some of their largest support bases.

This clearly started with the 2016 Presidential primaries.  On the Republican side, a man who never declared himself a Republican at any time in his life--and who supported Democrats for years--used a coalition of extremists and those from the lunatic fringe to capture the nomination--and ultimately the Presidency.

On the Democratic side, an avowed Socialist--who had never run as a Democrat in any political race--came from out of nowhere to nearly usurp the nomination from a woman deeply-entrenched in the party and more politically connected than anyone that had run in the last 50-years.  Fortunately for the Democrats, they had firewalls in place to prevent outsiders from actually having a chance to win their nomination--unlike the Republican Party.

And now the trend continues into the 2018 election right here in Wisconsin.  On the Republican side you have a Senate candidate that readily admits he was a die-hard Democrat--even addressing the national convention one year--that now wants to be the GOP nominee.  And this week, a long-time critic of the Democratic Party and its big-money political practices and back-room dealings decided he was going to run for Governor as a Democrat.

It was just a matter of time before those pushed the exterior of the political process figured out a way to breach the walls of the powerful two-party system.  When more control and power are concentrated among smaller groups of elites that demand "political purity" from any candidate that dare seek the nomination, voters look for those that may be more like themselves--than just the guys that write big checks to fund campaigns.  It also doesn't help when you keep trotting out terrible candidates that nobody can support wholeheartedly--turning elections into the "lesser of two evils" from the majority of voters.

We shall see if the era of "Party Pirates" is just a one or two election cycle trend--or if those that think they control the political course of this country and state will be made to walk the plank.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Unbelievable! (If it Hurts Our Cause)

If you say that just the mere presence of a conservative speaker on a college campus makes you feel threatened or uncomfortable, administrators will bend over backwards to accommodate you.  There will be "safe spaces" created in another building, student activists groups will rally around you, comforting you and reassuring you that the bad, evil person talking in another building can't hurt you. Antifa protesters will show up and try to drive off the speaker or prevent anyone from entering the lecture hall where they are speaking--or they will destroy private and school property to intimidate anyone associated with the event.

If you say that having Donald Trump as President causes so much anxiety in your life that you can't function--or that concern about global climate change stresses you out to the point that you can't sleep at night--there will be thousands of internet stories devoting millions of words to your plight.  Employers will be expected to accommodate your inability to come to work on a regular basis.  People with "Dr." in front of their names--but who don't actually practice medicine--will publish research papers claiming to discover a new mental health disorder.  And a few people with "Dr." in front of their names that practice "holistic medicine" will be more than happy to prescribe anxiety medications or medicinal marijuana to help you deal with your situation.

If you say that a manufacturing facility located in your city is making you or your kids sick, plenty of politicians and activist groups will rally to your cause demanding new regulations on all aspects of that company's operations.  They will help you file lawsuits and demand expensive testing of soil, water and air to discover the "cause" of your discomfort.  They will organize protests outside of the company's plant and headquarters.  And they will demand huge out-of-court settlements to "make this go away".  This is especially true if you operate a large dairy farm in rural areas that existed long before new subdivisions were built next door.

But if you say that a wind farm built near your house makes you sick, expect no support from any of those same people.  In fact, plan on all of those activist groups, "doctors", and politicians making every effort to discredit your claims.  They will say that you are a "faker".  They will cite Canadian and European studies that debunk "turbine induced illnesses".  And they will suggest that you "just move" if the wind farm is such an "inconvenience".

Belief--it's a powerful thing--so long as it advances your personal agenda.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Folly of "Controlling" Nature

While the folks in Washington are saying "now is not the time to talk about global climate change", I'm more than willing to take on the topic in the wake of our back-to-back hurricanes hitting the US.  Remember that "taking steps to reverse climate change" is an effort by man to control nature.  We firmly believe that by limiting what we emit into the air that we are going to keep climate conditions within a specific range that we think is most beneficial to the planet.  We are warned that failure to do so will result in more damaging storms hitting places like New Orleans, Houston and South Florida.

But what everyone seems to forget is that the reason Houston, New Orleans and Miami are in line for such devastation from coastal storms is a direct result of man's previous efforts to control nature.  New Orleans sits below sea level on a huge river delta.  The only reason it exists is a system of levees and channels that divert water and keep enough land dry for development.  Houston is very similar--sitting in a bayou--with levees diverting water and swamps being filled in to allow for the sprawling metropolis to remain dry.

South Florida was considered uninhabitable until well into the 20th century.  It was a giant swamp extending from modern day Orlando all the way down to the tip of the peninsula.  But then, the Army Corps of Engineers figured out how to use canals to drain the Everglades and coastal areas like Miami and Naples became developable.  Thanks to massive and expensive human efforts, areas that were naturally designed to handle floods from hurricanes and other tropical storms suddenly placed millions of people and trillions of dollars of private property in harm's way.

And our belief that we can control the natural forces of water, wind and tides will not be daunted by these most recent storms.  New Orleans and Houston keep planning for bigger and better flood control and water diversion systems.  And nobody is questioning more and more oceanfront development in South Florida--especially as more Baby Boomers want to escape the cold winters of the North (although we could certainly work on making those less severe, climate scientists).

So if you want to talk about "climate change" right now, tell me how all of the effort and expense you want to put into controlling nature in the future will be so much more successful than all of our previous actions.

Monday, September 11, 2017

She's One of "Us"

I know we still have three and a half months to go, but I think the winner for this year's "Least Surprising News Story" is the arrest and conviction of Oshkosh Common Councillor Caroline Panske for marijuana possession and driving with an open intoxicant.  In case you missed the news over the weekend, Panske was actually stopped for speeding and erratic driving near Wautoma back in July.  Reeking of beer, Panske refused to take a breathalyzer test and kept telling the sheriff's deputy that he had no right to search her vehicle--which turned up several smoked joints and open beer bottles.

I can't remember if she used this in her two campaigns for the Common Council or the two times she ran for Mayor, but I think Panske should adopt the "She's One of Us" tagline should she seek another term on the Council.  I don't mean the "us" that aren't driving around at 2:30 am after drinking and smoking pot--or the "us" that refuses to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance because Hillary Clinton didn't win the Presidential election.

I do mean the growing number of people who believe that laws they don't agree with should just be ignored--and just because you want to do something, you somehow have a "right" to do it.  Panske's Pledge protest is a petulant response to a democratic result that she didn't like--similar to the three year old that falls to the floor in the store because she didn't get the candy she wanted and screams at the top of her lungs as her parents try to get her back on her feet.

Panske was also the lone Council supporter of a "grass-roots effort" (pun intended) to decriminalize marijuana possession in Oshkosh and lower the fine to just 25-bucks.  While supporters of that effort claim it stops the targeting of minorities, Panske had to know that backing the proposal would likely save her a few bucks in the future.

My favorite part of the criminal complaint filed in Waushara County Court was Panske telling the deputy "I know my rights!!" while he searched her vehicle.  Obviously, she doesn't know her rights, as weaving in and out of your lane, smelling like booze and having a few empties rolling around in your vehicle does give a law enforcement officer "reasonable cause" to search your car at 2:30 in the morning.  A person with an actual degree in the law--and a license to practice that--must have informed her of her actual "rights" in that situation--and that's why Panske chose to just plead "no contest" to the charges instead of moving to have evidence thrown out.

I'm sure there will be plenty of people calling for Panske's removal from the Council--but, not surprisingly--there is no legal procedure for removing a sitting Councillor.  Nor is there a process whereby her peers can even censure her.  Besides, there were thousands of Oshkosh residents doing the very same thing as Panske on that same night--well maybe not driving around while buzzed--and they see absolutely nothing wrong with her actions.  And they vote too.