Friday, October 21, 2016

Rout Night

Tonight is the first night of the WIAA High School Football Playoffs.  It is also the worst night of High School Football of the year.  There will be more blowouts, routs and running clocks in the second half than in any other week of the year.  You know why?  Because about 3/4's of the WIAA playoff field should be at home getting ready for the next sports season.

224 teams make the WIAA Football Playoff field--32 teams in seven divisions based on enrollment.  In each of those divisions, at most 5 or 6 schools have a legitimate chance at winning a state title.  The "reward" of making the post-season requires nothing more than a .500 record in conference play.  That is why every year, there are teams with overall losing records that make the playoffs--because there aren't 224 teams that finish with good enough regular season performances.

And those teams that scrape in with the barely-good-enough records get to meet teams like Kimberly, Brookfield Central, Arrowhead, Homestead and St Mary's Springs in the first round--and get blown off the field.  A few get lucky and match up against equally-mediocre squads in games that aren't particularly well-played--but at least are somewhat competitive.

Supporters of the "Playoffs for nearly everyone" status-quo can point to Winneconne's Cinderella run to a state title a few years ago and say "See, that proves teams with losing records can still go all the way!"  But that is one team--who played smaller schools than they had all regular season--in the 45-year history of the WIAA Playoffs.  Unlike basketball where a team with lesser talent can scheme its way past better, deeper opponents, skill, depth and especially strength differences in football are nearly impossible to overcome.  The play clock and the need to continue to make first downs guarantees that.

Trimming the playoff field considerably would also show that the WIAA is serious about the "protecting the kids" philosophy it espouses in public service announcements you can hear on this very radio station.  The teams that have legit shots at state titles have to play five more games to get the gold ball.  That is more than half the games they play in the regular season--and five more nights of helmet-to-helmet contact that doctors say is cumulative in effect.

So to the 190 or so "also rans", I say congratulations on making the playoffs.  Now enjoy the butt-whippings coming your way.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Vote Now! Before You Lose All Hope

Later today, I will be heading down to Oshkosh City Hall to cast an in-person absentee ballot.  When you work in the media, Election Day is incredibly long and hectic--so spending up to an hour in line to vote can be almost next to impossible.  Voting early eases some of the stress of that day.

Another reason I will be voting today is that I feel the need to cast my ballot before this election process gets me to the point where I don't even want to vote anymore.  As I listened to last night's debate here on WOSH, I was overcome with this feeling that we are going to be in for another long, hard four years--and that the fallout from those four years is likely going to linger for the majority of the rest of my life.

Maybe it was the naivete of youth, but I really used to look forward to voting every election cycle.  But as the years have gone by, that enthusiasm has waned.  The first problem is that we are in a never-ending election cycle now.  People roll their eyes and groan when I says the RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE 2020 starts the Wednesday after the election day.  (I'll put an hour's pay on Fox News Channel having poll results moments after the race is called showing which Republican is the "early frontrunner" four years out.)  After a while, you just need a break.

And then, the quality of choices at nearly every level of government has gone downhill as well.  The only person I can think of that espouses the same values and beliefs that I have that's been on the ballot in the past decade has actually been myself.  (It wasn't like you could just vote for Paul Ryan in 2012--and drawing an arrow putting him at the top of the ticket and Mitt Romney under him would have just messed up the voting machine.)

Unfortunately, making me not want to vote is a campaign goal for both of the political parties now.  When you have lukewarm support for your candidate within your own party, convincing more of the other party's members--and especially those who consider themselves "independent"--to stay home and not cast a ballot becomes all the more important.  Well, I refuse to be manipulated in that way.  They still have write-in slots--and I can still vote for my principles and not have to "compromise" by selecting the "lesser of two evils".

If you still plan to vote on Election Day itself, I wish you strength and resolve to make it there.  You're going to need it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Next Nixon

Sometimes I have to remind myself that this isn't 1968--since it appears that we are electing the Next Richard Nixon.  If you think that I am talking about Hillary Clinton--you would be correct.  And if you think that I am referring to Donald Trump--you too would be correct.

For those of you who took revisionist American History, I'm going to have to provide some background.  1960 was supposed to be "Nixon's time" to ascend to the Presidency.  But he lost a close race to a younger, hipper candidate who promised his legion of young voters "hope and change".  It looked like Nixon's political career may be over.  But in 1968, it really was "Nixon's time".  However, his Presidential win was not so much about passionate support from a broad base--but rather from the complete collapse of the opposing party into chaos and division during the election process.

By all accounts, Nixon was calculating, cold, manipulative and vindictive.  When presented with information on the Watergate break-in (which he had no previous knowledge of and did not take part in any of the planning) his first instinct was not to come clean with the American public and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.  Instead, Nixon authorized a coverup--and then used the resources of the Federal Government to obstruct investigations into Watergate and to intimidate those who tried to get to the bottom of the matter.  He even obstructed Congress by refusing to turn over records and recordings.  And when the Supreme Court finally ordered him to turn over his Oval Office recordings, 18-minutes of that audio suddenly "disappeared".  (Nixon claimed his secretary "accidentally" did that while transcribing them).

Does any of that sound familiar?

What also sounds familiar is the crude, profane and offensive way that Nixon spoke on those secret tapes--which shocked Americans when they first heard them.  "No President should be so foul" they said. 

Nixon and his supporters long claimed that he was the victim of a "media conspiracy to destroy him".  He and members of his administration threatened newspapers that published information on Watergate--and reporters from "offending institutions" were frozen out of the White House loop.

And when Nixon finally resigned in 1974 and boarded Marine One to leave the White House, it appeared that he had done irreparable harm to the Republican Party.  They were now the party of corruption and anyone who had supported Nixon was "toxic by association".  An "entire generation" of voters was never going to support a Republican candidate for President ever again.  And yet, six years later Ronald Reagan won the first of his two landslide victories--and the GOP controlled the White House in 22 of the 34-years after Nixon's resignation.

While many of us may weep for the future of the country this year, we can find some solace in knowing it has been this bad before.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Effect of Dangerous Rhetoric

Rhetoric is a staple of political campaigning.  Convincing people that you stand for something that you don't actually believe yourself is an art form.  But this year's election cycle features more dangerous rhetoric than I can ever remember--and the effect of all of that dangerous rhetoric is starting to come home to roost.

In just the last couple of days the FBI arrested three men in the Kansas City area who were plotting an attack on Muslims in that area.  The men were part of a "militia" that professes to believe in "sovereign citizens" and is "anti-immigrant".  Now where would these men have been hearing that message the last year or so?

And then over the weekend, a Republican party field office in North Carolina was fire-bombed.  Photos from the scene show the phrase "Nazi Republicans Leave Town" was spray painted on the side of the building.  Now who has been using those types of phrases lately?

Add to that a story about how CNN and NBC are providing private security for their reporters covering Donald Trump campaign rallies.  The move comes as attendees yell threats and throw things at the media areas during every campaign stop.  Now why would those people be doing that?

And then you have Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke encouraging people to "take up pitchforks and torches" if Donald Trump doesn't win the election.  I can't help but think of the end of Frankenstein as bloodthirsty mobs take to the streets intent upon "destroying the monster".  Now when have we as a country ever reacted to an election like that before?

Plus, you've got election officials across the country having to defend the security and accuracy of the process--because a growing percentage of the population believes the vote is "rigged"--or that Russian hackers are going to be able to change the results without anyone noticing.  Now why would people suddenly doubt this previously-trusted process?

For years, we have collectively decried the deterioration of political discourse in this country.  But that was based on attack ads that painted each candidate in every race as the "Worst Human On The Face Of The Earth--so vote for the other person".  But the rhetoric in this election has become so vitriolic--and has spread far beyond targeting individual candidates that it threatens public safety and innocent lives. 

I would hope that eventually "cooler heads will prevail"--but in this election, that appears highly unlikely

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

During her time as First Lady, Hillary Clinton wrote a book called It Takes a Village.  The title came from what she claimed was an "African saying" that "it takes a village to raise a child" (which no one has actually been able to verify).  In the book she espoused the liberal belief that children can only be successful in life if they are immersed in government-run programs from the day of their birth that dictate their day care, nuitrition, how they learn to read, what they see on TV, how they learn math, how they learn about sex and gender, what bathrooms they can use and revised versions of our country's history.  Meanwhile, the rest of "the village" is only expected to foot the bill for all of these programs.

One area where it does not "take a village to raise a child" is the holding of children responsible for their choices and actions.  The latest example of that is Todd Kennedy--a volunteer grade school football coach in Connecticut--who made a player on his team run laps because he bullied some of his teammates.  Kennedy says he made it clear to the team early in the season that he would not tolerate bullying--and after kids continued to complain about one of the players--he made that kid run around the field a few times.  A few days later, the parent council that oversaw the football league fired him.  In true chicken-bleep form, members of that committee have refused to comment on the firing or to provide any explanation for their actions.

Since I come from a generation of adults that are independent and have self-worth built upon overcoming challenges and being allowed to fail or to be embarrassed every once in a while--instead of just being told every minute of every day how "great" and how "special" you are--I would like to applaud Coach Kennedy for sending two strong messages to the members of his team: 1--That bullying will not be tolerated and 2--You will be held accountable for your actions--and that accountability will take place in full view of your peers.

Since the football committee won't comment on Kennedy's firing, we can't know for sure their reasoning.  But I'd be willing to bet that if the coach had skipped practicing one day and just had the kids sit in a big circle and "share their feelings"--instead of holding a misbehaving child accountable for all of five minutes--he would have been well on his way to "Coach of the Year" in the league--instead of taking his own two kids to a different league and team.

I guess "the village" has spoken.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Forbidden Fruit

Nothing captures the absurdity of the 2016 Presidential election like the WikiLeaks scandal.  The so-called "freedom of information" website is releasing a series of purported emails from the chairman of Hillary Clinton's campaign this month--and they include information you would expect: the Clinton campaign worked with the Democratic National Committee to torpedo Bernie Sanders' campaign, Clinton promised open borders and unfettered trade to the Wall Street firms that paid her millions of dollars for speeches, the Clinton campaign has reporters at most of the networks and several major websites on call to do "sympathetic" stories for them whenever their candidate was hit hard by real journalism, and that Chelsea Clinton was the only one concerned about the access given to donors to the family foundation.

You would think that everybody and their brother in the press and at Republican national headquarters would be reading these emails verbatim at the top of their lungs to anyone who will listen--but these are actually ill-gotten gains.  The hacking was likely done by state-sponsored Russians.  The State Department has issued a statement asking media outlets not to use anything from the WikiLeaks site, as it believes this is a coordinated attempt by Vladimir Putin to influence the Presidential election.

So to go around trumpeting the not-really-that-surprising "revelations" in the Clinton campaign emails equates to literally aiding the enemy--which makes Donald Trump's use of the "facts" contained in the emails (some of which have been proven to be fake, by the way) almost treasonous and actually makes the Russian subterfuge effective.  And if the Russian hackers can get into the Clinton campaign system, you know full well that they can get into sensitive Republican correspondences--and the Trump campaign too.  Although, the Trump emails are likely all "Who can we totally alienate today?" and the GOP emails are along the lines of "Has anyone considered a name change for the party so people no longer think Trump is with us?"

The correct "usage" of the WikiLeaks documents should not be "we have 'proof' that Clinton is a two-faced liar!" (like that will sway any voters now).  Instead, their acquisition by the Russians should be held up as an example of the complete and utter failure of the "Reset With Russia" diplomatic effort spearheaded by Clinton herself while Secretary of State.  Remember, we were going to work with Vladimir Putin to reduce his influence in Europe, to get him on our side as an ally in the fight against Islamic Terrorism and to put an end to state-sponsored hacking?  Instead, you have a despot who is so emboldened by American weakness that his troops are in Ukraine, his jet fighters are killing those trying to defeat ISIS in Syria and by all accounts, his hackers are brainwashing a Presidential candidate and his legion of gullible followers--all of whom are more than willing to take a bite of the forbidden fruit.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

It's Too Late Now

My lovely wife was really worked up about the Presidential election last night.  She is exasperated that these are the only two people we have to choose from--and she is frustrated that regardless of who wins--we as a country end up losing.  I told her that she should have been this fired up about politics a long time ago, if she hoped to see better candidates now.

One of the biggest drawbacks to the now 2-year Presidential election cycle is that for about 90% of that time, nobody really cares.  It's only the party insiders and zealots that are really paying attention and putting in any work.  Can you name all of the Republican candidates that took part in pre-primary debates on the news channels back in August of 2015?  I don't blame you if you can't--there were twelve people on stage and I think there may have been a "preliminary debate" before that with four of five more candidates.  But who was actually thinking about this election back then?

Yes, the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary got plenty of hype in January and February of this year--but do you remember who won them in each party?  Neither of the candidates that won the Wisconsin primary in April are on the ballot this time around.  How did we "get it so wrong"?  Even the summer conventions fizzled out, as neither party had the contentious delegate battles that would have diverted attention away from vacations, little league games and drinks on the patio in the evening.

Now its four weeks to the election and suddenly everyone is "engaged in the process"--and many don't like the options being presented to them.  Well folks, you needed to be thinking about this stuff 15-months ago.  That is when the seeds of this "Sophie's Choice" now before us were sown.  And they took root and grew while you were paying just passing attention for the last year.

Consider that Robert Kennedy was considered the favorite for the 1968 Democratic nomination before he was shot and killed after the California primary in June.  He had declared his candidacy in March of that same year.  A three month campaign that likely would have defeated Richard Nixon in November and completely changed the course of American history.  An effort like that would be laughed off the national stage today by all of the talking heads on all of the news channels.

So if you really don't like the choice you have to make on November 8th of 2016--might I suggest you get down to work for better choices in 2020?  The start date for that campaign is November 9th of 2016.