Tuesday, February 21, 2017

This Democracy of Which You Speak....

One of the favorite chants of the protesters that have taken to the streets since the election of Donald Trump as President is "THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOK LIKES!"  It's been used by illegal immigrants and their supporters as they refuse to go to work or school for a day.  It's used by the idiots that tie up traffic on busy highways and roads to "send a message" by inconveniencing as many people as possible.  And it's been used by the rioters that torch limousines owned by Muslim immigrants and loot the Starbucks that actually support many of their causes.

So here we are on Election Day in Wisconsin, and where are all of these "social justice warriors" and "defenders of democracy"?  I can tell you they certainly aren't on the ballot.  The vast majority of races in our area and across the state today feature the minimum number of candidates needed for the April General Election--or have just one candidate that will run unopposed for another term.  Where are the people so concerned that "Flint Could Happen Here" and who literally weep in the streets when Scott Pruitt is confirmed as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency--but who don't run for the City Council that actually oversees the water utility in their own city?

We aren't going to see them at the polls today either.  Those that repost every single fake news story link, meme and quote taken out of context about Education Secretary Betsy DeVos can't be bothered to vote in the race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction--which is the actual governing body of Wisconsin schools--and which sets the standards for education in our districts.  And yet turnout for that race will be in the single digits--and probably even less for most school board races--which have the greatest direct impact on education in a community.

I'll admit, voting in non-partisan races is "hard".  There are no convenient "D's" or "R's" next to candidates' names to facilitate mindless party-line voting.  There are no attack ads on radio and TV to define a candidate--sometimes even before they officially join the race.  No one is sending dozens of flyers to your house with scary headlines and more taken-out-of-context quotes about candidates.  You have to actually research where these candidates stand on issues, attend a debate or listen to interviews on the radio to decide whom to vote for in these races.  And who can be bothered with all of that when there are protests to plan, clever slogans to draw on signs and memes to circulate on the internet?

Perhaps if TV cameras were set up outside of all polling places today showing the five or six percent of us "bothering" to voting today, more people would be interested in what democracy actually looks like.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Let Justice Be Done

The removal of a sitting politician is certainly not a matter to be taken lightly.  As the "recall mania" of 2011 and 2012 proved here in Wisconsin, residents don't like having their political decisions overturned or challenged before the terms of the winners are concluded.  But I still hope we do get a hearing before the Green Bay City Council tonight on the removal of Mayor Jim Schmitt from office for campaign finance violations.

For those not familiar, Mayor Schmitt accepted campaign contributions in excess of legal limits for his re-election campaign--falsified the reports provided to the Government Accountability Board--and then tried to get his campaign contributors to change their statements once an investigation into his finances was launched.  He pleaded no contest to a couple of charges and avoided jail time or probation.

One resident--Scott Vanidestine--felt that wasn't a suitable punishment for a politician that knowingly broke the law and made efforts to cover up his crimes, so he circulated a petition to have Schmitt removed from office and got enough signatures to force tonight's hearing--maybe.

You see, Mayor Schmitt--in a move all slimy politicians would love--claims that taking the illegal campaign contributions and falsifying the reports and trying to change donation documents after the fact were all done while he was "Jim Schmitt Private Citizen--and not as "Mayor Jim Schmitt"--so the City Council has no right to remove him from office.  He's even found a lawyer willing to defend that claim in court--in an effort to block tonight's hearing.  The case has been assigned to an Outagamie County Judge--because all the judges in Brown County cited a potential conflict of interest--who decided to wait until the last minute today to decide if there will be a hearing.

Hopefully that Outagamie County Judge will allow the hearing to go forward so that the people of Green Bay can seek more suitable punishment for their small, petty and vindictive Mayor.  If only the City Council could also vote to remove his equally small, petty and vindictive political adversary--Guy Zima.  That would be a double win for good government.

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.