Monday, March 30, 2015

You Will Believe What I Tell You To Believe

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof......

If you were to ask liberals which part of the Constitution they would like to remove first, this passage from the First Amendment would probably compete with the entire Second Amendment (the right of citizens to bear arms) for the top spot.  Our Founding Fathers thought freedom of religion (and the fear of state-imposed beliefs) was so important that they made those the very first words in the Bill of Rights.  And for hundreds of years, those words put the United States in a unique position of having religious harmony and diversity unseen in any other country--where often the Church and the State were one in the same--and differing beliefs led to second-class citizenry, expulsion or imprisonment.

But today, those words are seen an impairment to sameness of thought and action.  Under Federal law and in practice in now 29-states (the latest becoming Indiana--and including Wisconsin and Minnesota) the individual right to free exercise of religious beliefs is to be given the same weight as all other individual rights (including the right to Due Process contained in the 14th Amendment) in civil court matters.  The First Amendment right can only be superceded if it is a furtherance of compelling governmental interest and it is the least restrictive means of furthering that governmental interest.

So might I suggest that those opposed to the Federal law that has been on the books since 1993--and the state laws as well consider attacking the problem at the root: In the religion itself.  And the model for changing the beliefs of the Evangelical Christians and the Roman Catholic church can be found in the liberal infiltration of the public education system following World War II.  The Left's take over of schools started at the grassroots level with unionization of teachers, promotion of those teachers to positions of administration, greater political party involvement in local election of school boards and ultimately adoption of left-leaning curriculum to have great influence on everyone before they turn 18 and can vote.

So why don't Liberals take the same approach to changing Fundamentalist religions?  Get men to give up sex and marriage to become priests or join the ministry.  Innundate the pool of potential Bishops and Vicars so that promotion of your "operatives" becomes more likely.  Gain positions of Arch-Bishop and then make your way into the Vatican itself with appointment as Cardinals--or rise to upper levels of management and TV production in the Evangelical realm.  Maybe even get a Pope that is more liberal than Francis and then begin to establish the beliefs that you want all people to have.

You could write a Common Core Bible that better suits today's social mores.  The whole Genesis and Creation thing would have to come out.  The same for Exodus--because the Ten Commandments are way too restrictive for our lifestyles today--and we wouldn't want someone putting those in a Courthouse and holding criminals to those standards.  Plus, Exodus gives credibility to the idea of a Jewish Homeland in the Middle East.  Deuteronomy is out too--all those rules on sex, the roles of women and how other religions should be viewed are unfair today.

Plus, you can reshape Jesus Christ into a pre-Barack Obama savior.  His 12 Apostles could have six women, three blacks, two Latinos, A Muslim and a trans-sexual.  HIs first miracle could be to change the water into wine at a same-sex marriage that Jesus not only attended but officiated at!  He could be made to say that the rich should be taxed for nearly all they have and that blessed are those on Food Stamps.  You could even have Judas be a rich, white Republican who sells out Jesus after the Vegan Last Supper for Corporate Tax Breaks from the Pharisees. 

It might take decades or even a century for the Left to take over all American religions--but once they do then they will believe everyone has the right to practice those religions just the way they say fit.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The 44-Year Old University System That is Still Living at Home

For years and years and years University of Wisconsin System officials would tell anyone willing to listen that they would be able to operate much more efficiently and effectively if they weren't bound to the political whims and follies of the Governor and the State Legislature.  They would be able to find savings in purchasing and procurement, they would have greater flexibility in hiring, they could be more responsive to changing trends in education and research as well.  If only they could have more autonomy and be trusted to handle their own finances.  They are the experts in education--not the people sitting in the Capitol.

And finally--after years of asking for more control--the UW System was going to be given that greater autonomy by none other than Governor Scott Walker.  UW System President Ray Cross initially praised the Governor for his budget proposal.  But the greater freedom came with a tradeoff--the UW was going to get $150-million dollars less in State funding in each of the next two years while tenure and shared governance were no longer going to be written into state statute.

Suddenly, Ray Cross--and nearly everybody else associated with the UW System--were no longer so gung-ho about autonomy.  Cross even went so far this week as to say that he would resign if the Governor's proposal is approved by the Legislature.  Nevermind that the UW and the Board of Regents could make up for the lost state revenue on their own (with tuition increases) or that new policies of tenure and shared governance could be adopted almost immediately.  Without that dependence on the State (and its taxpayers) the folks in the UW are getting scared.

It's easy to increase tuition when members of the Assembly and the State Senate vote in favor of it and the Governor puts his signature on the bill.  You can always tell students and parents "Hey, it's what the State told us to do".  And when keeping ineffective instructors in the classroom leads to complaints from students and parents it's easy to say "Well, tenure is the law.  We can't fire him or her"--rather than accepting the blame yourself.

In many ways, the UW System is like the middle-aged guy who never moved out his parents' house.  He likes to tell anyone that will listen about all the great things he'll be able to do once he "gets his own place".  But he--and his parents--know that is never actually going to happen--so long as good old Mom and Dad are willing to keep footing the bills and making excuses for his decisions.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

21 Jump Street

It certainly caught a lot of people by surprise this week when we learned that the New London Police Department had placed an undercover officer among the student body at the city's high school to investigate reports of drug use and sales along with bullying.  Those of us in our 40's were reminded of the awful FOX TV show 21 Jump Street that featured Johnny Depp and other talentless young actors playing cops who also went undercover into schools to fight crime. 

But just imagine what it must have been like to be that undercover officer.  First off, to be 21-years old and still able to pass as a high schooler is kind of embarrassing in itself.  But to have to go back into that situation should have warranted battle pay.

First off, you have to the "new kid in school".  That means sitting alone at lunch, having to impress other kids with either the car you drive or the headphones you have for you Ipod or by proving that Katy Perry follows you on Twitter. 

Then you have to sit through Common Core Standard math and English classes all without blurting out "This won't help you at all when you get to college" and blowing your cover.  And do you actually put in the work necessary to complete assignments or pass tests?  I'm sure the entire staff was not informed of the undercover officer's presence in the school--since the more people who know, the more likely the operation is going to be exposed.

And then think about having to shop for clothing.  Tight pants and revealing tops if you are pretending to be a female student.  Or spending hours on making sure that your hair is gelled perfectly if you are a guy.  Was the officer provided with an expense account to make a $1000 "prom-posal" that included reservation of a helicopter that landed on the school lawn so he or she could step off with a single rose like some episode of The Batchelor--since "Hey, want to go to the prom with me?" is no longer consider a proper way to ask someone out?  And what do you do when a 15-year old girl who is desperate for your attention wants to send you "nudes" on Snapchat?

What really disturbs me is some of the comments you see from the "adults" under on-line stories about this operation.  They are "offended" that police would "spy on their children" like this.  Given that the officer was able to buy pot from two kids at the school, maybe it's the parents themselves that should be doing a little bit more "spying"--instead of a modern day Johnny Depp.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

One Question Left Unanswered

Amidst all of the criticism of police using deadly force against armed and unarmed suspects, I hope that the incident in Fond du Lac last night that left a Wisconsin State Patrol Trooper dead puts into context the dangers that law enforcement face every time they are called to an armed robbery, a domestic violence incident and even a routine traffic stop.  The possibility of an armed confrontation is ever present, and to expect officers, deputies and troopers to put that risk out of their minds is unfair and dangerous to all of us.

But one question does remain from the incident involving Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney and Dontre Hamilton.  This week, the Milwaukee Police and Fire Commission upheld Chief Ed Flynn's firing of Manney for conducting an improper pat down of Hamilton after finding him sleeping a public park.  Manney was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in the shooting however, because Hamilton attempted to grab his baton during the ensuing struggle and the officer feared for his safety.

So that begs the question: What is the proper response from a citizen when a law enforcement officer acts in an improper fashion?  Unlike the officers in the Michael Brown incident in Ferguson, Missouri and the Tony Robinson shooting in Madison, Manney was found to be acting without reasonable belief that a crime had been or was being committed. Brown was a suspect in a convenience store robbery.  Robinson had been jumping in front of cars and may have been involved in a fight in an apartment as the officer arrived on scene.  Dontre Hamilton was just lying on the sidewalk in a park--and the Police and Fire Commission decided that having bulges in his pockets did not warrant being frisked.

So what do the rest of us do if we are put in the same situation?  I don't spend much time sleeping on sidewalks, but based on the number of times I'm told I look "just like" someone somebody went to high school with or they used to work with I might look "just like" someone who does. Or what happens if someday I look "just like" the guy who just held up the gas station a few blocks away or the guy that was just involved in a fight outside a nearby bar and an officer wants to do a warrantless search of my person?  As those other incidents have shown, trying to grab the officer's gun or baton or punching him in the face are certainly NOT the answers.  But what is the solution that not only protects my civil rights--but also keeps an officer from feeling threatened?  Maybe that is a question Police Chiefs and Sheriffs can answer during press conferences--so that we can reduce the number of dangerous situations that require deadly force.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

On Golden Pond

I admit that I missed the episode of Home & Garden Television's Lakefront Bargain Hunt filmed here in Oshkosh when it premiered on Sunday night.  Seeing as how it was on opposite the Badgers Basketball game, it could have been hosted by Kate Upton and Crissy Tiegen in their bikinis and I still would not have flipped over.  But a co-worker here at the Radio Ranch--who has misplaced priorities--did tune in and filled me in on the episode.

He says that Oshkosh was portrayed as a quiet, peaceful lakeside town.  The houses the couple was shown--the husband being a big fisherman--weren't the fanciest on the lake but they were decent (remember the premise is to find a "bargain") and just required a little bit of work to be better--although the wife was made to appear hyper-critical of pretty much everything she saw.

What I find interesting is that the show chose to film here in Oshkosh in October.  I'm told that there were plenty of shots of colorful trees along the lake (and interestingly enough, they were apparently still leaves on the trees and no snow on the ground when they came back "two months later" to see what the couple had done with their new house--apparently they fudge on the "two months" thing).  But wouldn't it have been a lot more interesting if they had filmed the show along Lake Winnebago at some other times of the year?

Suppose they came around Mother's Day weekend in May when the HUGE lakefly hatch was underway.  Wouldn't it be fun to watch the realtor and the perspective buyers sprinting from their cars to the house--with their hands covering their mouths and pinching their noses to keep the bugs out?  The camera crews could focus in on the clouds of lakeflies that threaten to block out the sun.  The viewers could try to guess the color of the house underneath the thick layer of bugs coating the siding.  And when they come back to see what the couple had "done with the house" they could show them sweeping up the huge piles of dead lakeflies on the porch and in the driveway.

Or they could have filmed in early April after a big gizzard shad die off and when the turnover on the lake sends all of the dead fish to the surface and along the shoreline--where they pile up and rot in the sun.  Another good time would have been during a late July or early August heat wave when there is a blue-green algae bloom and people are told to keep themselves and their pets out of the lake to prevent toxic poisoning--and it smells like someone opened up a sewage pit in their backyard.  Another good time to film that episode would have been in late February or early March when the ice shoves are forming along the shore.  You don't think people living in Florida or California wouldn't enjoy watching giant piles of ice crushing the boathouse and the shed?  that's ratings gold!

So hopefully Lakefront Bargain Hunt can come back to Oshkosh during a more "interesting" time of the year--if for no other reason that to re-assure us "In-land" bargain hunters that we made the right decision.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Mandatory Exercising of Your Rights

President Obama set the internet atwitter late last week with an off-hand comment about making voting mandatory in the United States.  Liberals jumped on that immediately, praising the President for setting a clear path to "counter the influence of big money in elections" (like special interests on both ends of the political spectrum wouldn't spend even MORE money to influence even MORE voters).  It was also seen as a way to circumvent proof of identity and legal residency laws in a growing number of states (as if every person who doesn't have a legal ID or proof that they live in a particular ward and haven't voted in another part of town already is going to vote for Democrats).  Forgetting for a moment the Constitutional issues that the President ignores in pretty much everything he does, let's get down to what would really happen if voting was mandatory in the US.

First off, execution would require a complete overhaul of the manner in which we conduct elections.  If you live in a politically active area, you already know that lines can get long at the polls.  Now imagine if the 40% of people that don't vote are forced to be there in line as well.  That will lead those on the left to introduce a number of less-accountable ways to vote--such as mailing ballots to all voters (or make that addresses of people that may or may not still be there).  As any clerk will tell you, the polling books are filled with people that have moved without notice, died, or have done something that makes them no longer eligible to vote.  And try to imaging the expense of mailing out (and then likely having to cover the return postage because think of all those Democratic voters that can neither afford nor have access to a stamp).

Secondly, you are making people choose between candidates they don't actually support.  While most non-voting is simple laziness and ignorance, there is a certain percentage of the population that that doesn't like any of the candidates on the ballot.  What is their relief from this voting requirement then?  Will we add my proposed option "None Of The Above" to all races on all ballots?  And if "None" wins, forcing all of the parties to come up with new candidates until someone does win a majority?  Plus, is a person mandatorily voting required to choose a candidate in all races on the ballot?  I know I won't be voting for anyone in the Oshkosh Mayor's, City Council or School Board races next month--but I will in the Supreme Court race and in the Constitutional referendum.  Is that then a "legal ballot"--and who will be making sure that all ballots are "properly filled in"?

And finally, we aren't very good at enforcing a lot of "mandatory" things already.  11% of American men have never registered with Selective Service--even though that is mandatory when you turn 18.  17% of those who should be filing federal tax returns are not--even though that is mandatory.  There are somewhere between 12 and 20-Million people in the US who did not seek mandatory immigration status.  And there are still 41-Million Americans remain without health insurance--even though the Affordable Care Act requires them to have it. 

And the ACA serves as a perfect example of the expense and effort that would be put into making sure "all" Americans comply with mandatory voting.  I'm sure "Organizing for America" would be chomping at the bit to get the contracts to go into all neighborhoods and get people ballots, help them fill out the ballot ("All of the Democrats are in this column ma'am--that's all you need to fill out") and if someone isn't home or can't be contacted or has been dead for years and no one ever followed up on that, just file fake ballots to meet their assigned quotas.  And what would be the punishment for failing to vote?  Prison?  ("What are you in for?" "Didn't vote" "Wow, that's hardcore, man") Fines that no one will ever be able to collect?  Being banned from complaining about the idiots that run this country?

Oh, well.  I guess it's a small price to pay for "freedom".

Friday, March 20, 2015

Why We Don't "Pay" the Kids

I have a question for you today: If Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Josh Gasser played on a Second Division professional team called the Madison Mudpuppies that was coached by General Manager Bo Ryan would you watch their games?  Would you be excited to watch them perhaps face the Lexington, Kentucky Lynx--the top farm club of the Philadelphia 76ers with their ten guys who will all likely be called up to the big club next year--in the semi-finals of the National Minor League Championship Playoffs?  I bet you wouldn't.  I bet you would have no interest in watching any of the 63 knockout games that would played to determine the best non-NBA professional team in the country if such a tournament existed--even if they had cool brackets that allowed you to make picks beforehand and teams that maybe didn't do so well in their own league beat higher-rated teams from other leagues and they gave it a catchy name like March Mayhem.

I bring this up because the issue of paying NCAA basketball players is going around again following a hilarious skit by John Oliver last weekend on his HBO show Last Week Tonight where he takes the NCAA and the Men's Basketball Tournament to task for producing billions of dollars of revenue that do not result in any direct cash payments (none that are legal anyway) to the players themselves:

When you consider the billions that NCAA basketball generates (and even more coming in from football), don't you think some enterprising private sector entrepreneurs would have figured out a way to get at least a share of that?  Where are the 15 or 20 money men who get together and say "Let's get these very same guys to come play for us, where they can make some money, not have to pretend to go to classes and never have to worry about being suspended because their coach wanted to buy them lunch"?

Well I can tell you why that doesn't--and likely will never--happen: When it comes to intercollegiate sports, the name on the FRONT of the jersey is the only one that matters to fans.  And given the choice of watching--and paying to watch--non-NBA and non-NFL teams made up of paid athletes signed by a team or teams made up of unpaid enrollees at a school--the unpaid enrollees are going to win every time.  And if you don't think that is true, then name for me three players on our "hometown" minor league baseball team the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.  Or three players the Milwaukee Bucks have under development contracts in the D-League.  Most of those guys could still be playing collegiate ball--but they wanted to get paid cash for their talents--and so they toil away in relative anonymity.--where any of the NCAA athletes who feel that the current system is "unfair" to them can also choose to work anytime they want.