Tuesday, February 20, 2018

They Did That On Purpose

One of the great things about the Founding Fathers and the framers of the Constitution is that they made it very, very, very hard for the Government to take away our rights.  Having paid a heavy price to secure our independence, they didn't want it just given away by one judge, a slim legislative majority or a power-hungry executive.  That's why they made it a long and arduous effort to amend the Constitution--and it's why they built redundancies into the document too.

I was reminded of that as discussions both on-line and on the news channels turned to the potential repeal of the Second Amendment in response to the rash of school shootings over the past decade.  Again, such a repeal would take years and the consent of 38-states to ratify a new amendment to repeal the old amendment.  There has not been an amendment added to the Constitution since 1992 (not allowing Congress to change its salaries within their current terms)--and it was first proposed 202 years before it was finally ratified.  It was just the 17th amendment added since the original Bill of Rights in 1789.

But even if there was somehow a successful repeal of the Second Amendment, that still wouldn't open the door for Government confiscation of guns.  You see, the Fifth Amendment requires the Government show cause before seizing any private property from citizens.  That means the owners of all 300-million weapons in the US could demand a court hearing before any confiscation could take place.  How long do you think it would take to cycle through all of those cases--plus the appeals to which the citizens are entitled under the Sixth Amendment?

And we are only talking about the people that we already know have guns.  To root out those still possessing weapons in unknown numbers, that would require search warrants under the Fourth Amendment.  Judges not overwhelmed by Fifth Amendment cases would be inundated with requests from police agencies to search homes and storage units of suspected weapons owners before any action could be taken against them--triggering their Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights.

We may look at the Founding Fathers as relatively uneducated men with beliefs that don't conform to modern social mores.  But they obviously understood human nature--that there would be knee-jerk reactions to things that happened in our society.  Or that total idiots might be elected to positions of power.  And they built incredible safeguards into our system of governance.  And the most important of those is that the rights of the individual have always, still are, and hopefully always will be more important that the power of the Government.

Monday, February 19, 2018

It's All About Him

Remember all of the criticism of President Obama for "making everything about him".  People used to count the number of times he would use the word "I" in a speech.  There were entire white papers written on how the President turned any events into a referendum on his leadership or into personal attacks on him based on his race.  But his predecessor doesn't hold a candle to President Trump when it comes to self-centeredness.

The latest example comes from the Florida school shooting.  Over the weekend the President blasted the FBI for failing to stop the suspect after being tipped off to his on-line threats several months before the incident.  President Trump tweeted that the Bureau would have stopped the shooter if it hadn't been trying to prove his campaign was involved in collusion with the Russians.

I highly doubt that field agents in Mississippi--where the tip on the shooter's on-line posts came from--or in South Florida were spending a whole lot of time on the Russian collusion investigation.  The President apparently believes that everyone in the FBI works on the same thing at the same time--mainly discrediting him.  That is distressing, as the FBI is part of the Executive Branch of government--and therefore falls under the oversight of the President.

And then, the President took a trip to the hospital where some of the shooting victims remain in intensive care.  He didn't meet with them, but rather spent his time (a very short amount of it as we will discuss in a moment) with doctors and first responders.  A picture of the President and First Lady with the group shows Trump with a smile on his face and a big "thumbs up".  That's not exactly the empathetic type of response one would expect from our leaders at a time of tragedy.  And while much was made of this "visit", it took less than 20-minutes--as the President "needed" to get to a disco-themed party at his Mar-A-Lago estate that night.

When critics call the President "racist", "bigoted", "sexist", "misogynistic", "xenophobic" and "homophobic" I tend not to agree with them.  Mr Trump doesn't hate anyone of different colors, genders, heritages or sexual preferences.  He simply does not care one iota about any of them--unless they can further his own success--then he puts up with them until they are no longer needed.     

Friday, February 16, 2018

Politcially Correct Time Off

Did you know that Spring Break is "culturally insensitive"?  I didn't either--until this week's Oshkosh School Board meeting.  That meeting featured a workshop session on the 2018-2019 student calendar.  The discussion eventually turned to Spring Break--which will be March 25th through the 29th next year.

Director of Learning Kim Brown led the discussion on choosing that date--as it does not match up with Easter--which is April 21st in 2019--for the first time in many years.  Brown initially claimed that the move was due to state testing from April 22nd to the 26th.  But then she added this:

"The other beautiful piece to this is that we realize that we have a very diverse community, and so we think this is a good thing to maybe have spring break at a different time than the traditional Easter"

So what Ms Brown is saying is that the District is committing a "micro-aggression" against non-Christians by having spring break follow Easter every year.  Knowing kids, all they care about is that they don't have to go to school for a week--and that joy likely far out-weighs the "insult" that comes with that time off following a major Christian holiday.

You will note that the time off is not called "Easter Break".  Public school districts went away from using the term "Christmas Break" years ago--and even ditched "Holiday Break" as well.  Now it's listed as just the "Winter Break".  But you will notice nobody is pushing for "Winter Break" to not take place around the Christian holiday of Christmas.  Wouldn't that be a "beautiful piece" in recognizing our diverse community if Oshkosh said "We are going to take 'Winter Break' from December 12th through the 16th this year!"  Then they can recommend cultural sensitivity training for all of the parents that storm the next School Board meeting in vehement opposition to that change.

I also find it interesting that Oshkosh schools will not have classes on April 19th of 2019--Good Friday on the Christian calendar.  How are we celebrating our "diversity" by giving kids off on the most somber of Christian holidays--but not on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, the Jewish High Holidays?  And why don't we not serve lunch during the days of Ramadan--when Muslims fast?

When it comes to "equal treatment" of religion in our public institutions, the options are "all or none".  I tend to lean toward "none" personally as it abides by the letter of the First Amendment.  Plus, we give kids too much time off from school already--with early releases, random off-days every other month and the better part of three months doing nothing during the summer.  Fewer family trips to Disney and those Mexican resorts would bolster the kids' college funds too.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

This Time It Will Be Different

You know how we always say "This time it's going to be different" when there is a mass shooting?  But then there really is no difference after that incident--until the next shooting when we say "This time it's going to be different"?  Well, in the case of yesterday's school shooting in Florida, things will be very different--because this time, the shooter was taken alive.

Like capturing Al Qaeda or ISIS operatives, the arrest of Nickolas Cruz should give us incredible insight into the mind and thought process of a mass shooter that we could not gain after Columbine, Newtown, or Las Vegas--where the shooters either took their own lives, or were shot dead by police.  And hopefully from Cruz we can learn the warning signs, tactics and steps to take to prevent the next mass shooting.

We already knew that Cruz had a history of erratic and violent behavior that had him in trouble at the school for years and ultimately resulted in his expulsion.  Now is the time to figure out why he acted the way he did.  How does he think his parents feel about him?  How did his interactions with classmates make him feel--and how did he come to see them as people that needed to die?  How did treatment by faculty and administrators fuel his anger?  What kind of reaction was he hoping to get the first time he told friends he was going to "shoot up the school"?

Investigators can also get concrete evidence on how much time Cruz spent playing first-person shooter video games.  When he started planning his attack on the school.  How much research he did on previous school shootings.  What he thought when he saw extensive media coverage of previous school shootings.  How he plotted his attack to "maximize damage".  How he planned out the purchase of his gun, ammunition, and smoke bombs so as not to draw attention to himself.  Did he know that there would be no resistance to his attack, as the school is a "gun-free zone" and that liason officers were removed because they "send the wrong message to students of color"?  And why he chose the day he did for his attack.

Yes, this time is going to be different.  This time we are going to learn why these school shooters do what they do.  This time we are going to learn the warning signs and the behaviors that set these boys and men on the path to mass murder.  And this time we are going to start treating those unstable individuals as the threats they are--and not just "troubled youth that need more love".

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

No Sense Pretending Anymore

We are one step closer to actually caring about State Supreme Court Elections.  Candidate Tim Burns has decided that he is going to throw out any pretense of being "non-partisan" and is openly running as a Democratic candidate this winter.  He has criticized Governor Scott Walker and Republican legislators every opportunity he has been given and he flat out promises to overturn or strike down any of their laws if he ever gets the chance.  Burns even puts a (D) next to his name in his TV ads.

Burns' campaign strategy is the culmination of a long-time trend away from "non-partisanship" in these spring elections.  For decades now we have all known where those running for Justice (or State Superintendent of Public Instruction) stand on the "political spectrum"--and you could argue that there have always been "Republican" and "Democrat" candidates in every race.  But until Burns came along, that was played out in actual judicial philosophy.  Candidates that believe in the limited power of Government and that individual rights are clearly spelled out in the Constitution were going to get the support of Conservatives--while those that believe the courts should be used to advance social causes and guarantee equal outcomes (rather than opportunities) were going to get Liberal votes.

But Burns has become the first Supreme Court candidate to make it publicly known that he would use his position to actively defeat political opponents.  In one sentence he attacks nearly every piece of legislation approved by the GOP and signed into law by the governor--and in the next claims that he would not pre-judge cases involving the Governor or the Legislature that come before him.  I would point out that he never provides any constitutional grounds for his out-of-court stances on the cases that have gone before the Supreme Court--other that to call them "destructive".

As you might expect, Burns strategy is rubbing off on the other "liberal" candidate in the race.  Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet is now running TV ads representing President Trump as a "threat to freedoms and rights".  Never mind that the State Supreme Court would never hear matters involving Federal laws, Dallet wants everyone to know where she stands politically--in an effort to recruit "straight party" voters that appreciate Burns' brutal honesty about his affiliations.

Now, I don't want you to think that the third man in the race--Sauk County Judge Michael Screnock--is a pillar of non-partisanship either.  His campaign is getting big-time help from the state Republican party--including cash donations. 

It's just a matter of time before the pretense of non-partisan judgeships (and School Superintendents) is eventually dropped--and these positions move to the fall partisan election cycles--where turnout will be more than 20% every year.  Then they can feature the ugly attack ads that we have come to expect with all elections--not to mention the over-the-top spending, the claims of voter suppression efforts and allegations that illegal voting carried one of the candidates to victory.  And to think, we'll all have Tim Burns to thank for that.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Let the Whole Thing Go

Tonight, the Oshkosh Advisory Parks Board will likely make a recommendation to the City on what to do with the remainder of the Lakeshore Golf Course after the Oshkosh Corporation builds its new corporate headquarters on about 35-acres.  That leaves around 70-acres on site--most of which makes up what had been the front nine.  Members of the Friends of Lakeshore group are pushing to preserve nine holes on the site for continued use as a golf course--with most of the holes converted to par 3's.

As an avid golfer, you might think that I would support that effort--but I do not.  In fact, I strongly oppose the idea of maintaining any of the golf holes on the former Lakeshore site.  For starters, nine-hole golf courses are a money-losing proposition.  They hold far less appeal to golfers--who usually like to go a full 18.  And executive-style par-three courses draw even less interest--as you don't use that $300 driver on any of the holes. 

Even if the Parks Board did decide it wanted to preserve golf on the Lakeshore site, it faces almost insurmountable opposition at City Hall.  Plain and simple, the City of Oshkosh doesn't want to be in the golf course business anymore.  While officials were always careful to claim that their decision to sell Lakeshore was due to the "need to keep Oshkosh Corporation in Oshkosh", let's not forget the same site was offered up for a Bass Pro Shops store just a few years earlier.  And if Oshkosh Corp decided that Des Plaines, Illinois or Northern Virginia was a better fit for them, the City would have jumped at the next chance to offer the course to another company that came calling.

That is why the Parks Board is being asked to make its decision now--so the liquidation process can begin.  If golf is going to be preserved at Lakeshore, the greens, tee boxes and bunkers would need to still be maintained even though the site could not be used for golf this year, or next year, or possibly the year after that.  That is expense with zero revenue in return.  And for a city already crushed by debt, that is not something Oshkosh can take on.  And while they may not be used for a couple of years, the mowers and conditioners at Lakeshore would still need to be maintained and operated--while a decision to dump golf now means they could be auctioned off to other courses and make the City some money.

And even if there was a par-3 course on the Lakeshore site, that would require a new parking lot, clubhouse and seasonal staff to operate it--more expense that city leaders have no interest in incurring.  Plus, when the course fails to make any money, we have to put up with the constant carping of Mayor Steve Cummings (a realtor who--like Al Czervik in Caddyshack--sees golf courses and cemetaries as the greatest waste of prime real estate) reminding everyone the city never should have spent money on the place.

If a private developer wants to come in and turn a couple of acres into a driving range with a little short-game practice area and maybe lessons available for kids and beginners, that would be great--but municipal golf in Oshkosh is now dead--and we should move on from that completely.  Besides, Trace Gardiner is now the pro at Westridge in Neenah and he's looking to do a lot of the same things he did at Lakeshore--and the Oshkosh Country Club is interested in becoming the host for the Oshkosh City Tournament from here on out.  So let's let the Millenials have their walking paths and biking trails for the few days a month when they can tear themselves away from video games and social media.

Friday, February 9, 2018

The B Team

Usually, today's My Two Cents would be my quadrennial love letter to Olympic Hockey.  That and Ryder Cup Golf battle for first place on my list of absolute favorite sporting events.  But this year, I am having a very hard time getting excited for the competition set to start next week.

For the first time since 1994, NHL players are not taking part in the Olympic competition.  The league has barred anyone under contract to a team from heading to South Korea to represent their countries.  That means we will not be getting "best on best" competition that we have enjoyed for the past 20-years.  Instead, Team USA and Team Canada have had to select minor league players that were not on NHL rosters--while many European teams are allowed to use players from the second-best league in the world, the Kontinental Hockey League.

I can't blame the NHL for deciding to bow out of these games.  South Korea is not a "growth market" for the sport of hockey.  Team USA and Team Canada will be playing their games in the wee hours of the morning North American time--so TV exposure will be almost nothing.  Owners have grown tired of having to shut down the league for three weeks every four years, resulting in empty arenas and lost revenues.  And to add insult to injury, the International Olympic Committee does not allow the NHL to use video footage of the games in any promotional messages or ads.  So really, what point is there to sending all-star teams to PyeongChang (or to Beijing, China in 2022)?

There is a simple solution to this.  Ice Hockey could be moved to the Summer Games.  The reason basketball is played in the summer despite being a winter sport in most countries is that in the first couple of Olympics it was played outdoors--on dirt courts (which explains the absurdly low score in the first Gold Medal Game--which was played in a rain that turned the court into mud).  Ice Hockey was also played outdoors at first (even the 1960 hockey venue at Squaw Valley, California was an open-air arena).  But now, indoor refrigerated ice surfaces are common around the world so playing in August or September really isn't that hard.  That would allow NHL'ers on their summer off-season to take part.  But that will never happen because that would mean giving up the premier event of the Winter Games.  While we fawn over figure skating here in the US, in the rest of the world (actually Canada and Europe) the men's hockey tournament is what everyone pays attention to.  That's why the Gold Medal Game is the last event before the closing ceremonies.

In all honesty, Team USA is a bunch of has-beens and never-weres.  I would almost rather have seen us send a college all-star team that was given a year to play in a development program and see if they could re-capture some of the magic of the young unknowns that performed the Miracle On Ice in 1980.  I guess that this year's team could get hot and go on a two-week run and capture gold--but it won't have that same "feel" that Lake Placid had.

That being said, I'm sure that as soon at the Red, White and Blue hits the ice to take on Slovenia for that first game at 6:10 am on Wednesday morning, the butterflies will return to my stomach and I'll be keeping one eye on the TV here in the newsroom--living and dying with each shot, save and goal.  They may be has-beens and never-weres--but they are OUR has-beens and never-weres.  Plus, there's always the women's competition, where all the best in the world are playing--and Team USA and Team Canada are all but assured of meeting for the gold medal yet again.