Thursday, May 26, 2016

At Least No One Has Been Offended

When I think of how much the US has spent on "security" since the 9/11 attacks it depresses me.  Entire new bureaucracies were created to deal with the "threat" of multiple hijackings or a dirty bomb or a mass shooting at a public event.  Millions of man-hours are dedicated to screening procedures, billions were spent on new equipment and infrastructure, and everyone is inconvenienced by reduced personal liberties and invasions of our privacy.

You would think that after 15-years, we would have this "additional layers of security" thing down pat.  But instead, waits at airports are longer, the shortage of security personnel is greater and the failure rates of those on the line is growing worse.  It all leads you to wonder: Is the time and expense really worth it?

The single factor driving up the cost of security, slowing down the processes and increasing the need for staffing at all facilities is that we continue to treat every single person in this country as a potential terrorist threat.  As a TSA Pre-Check enrollee, I'm considered slightly less of a threat.  I don't have to take off my shoes or go through the full body scanner when I fly.  And why does the TSA grant me this slight restoration of my rights?  Because I paid them $85. 

But it's about time we ask why I'm even considered a "security threat" in the first place.  The same should be asked about the four kids with the Mickey Mouse ears on at the Orlando Airport, the elderly couple flying to Boca Raton and even the celebrity jetting back to LA from yet another awards show.  How do we justify the time, effort and expense put into making sure that we don't have more than five-ounces of fluids in our carry-ons?

What if the security systems we employ were downsized to handle random checks of flyers instead of each and every one of us having to go through the process.  Or better yet, what if we were honest about who poses the greatest terrorist threat: Saudi, Somali, Pakistani, Afghan and Yemeni nationals.  You know, the men that have actually been involved in terrorist attacks not only here but around the world.

The long lines, the billions of dollars in equipment and personnel and the erosion of our rights have had little to do with making us "more safe".  They have just been an unnecessary expense in a "dog and pony show" that goes out of its way not to "offend" certain groups of people.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Living In Dangerous Times

We are living in dangerous times, my friends.  A time when mere thoughts and words can be treated as "crimes against humanity"--and the "groupthink" envisioned by George Orwell in his novel 1984 is coming closer to reality.

Take for example the incident at a San Diego Padres baseball game last weekend.  The San Diego Gay Men's Chorus was going to sing the national anthem when the man running the public address system instead played a version of the anthem featuring a woman singing.  The chorus issued a statement demanding an investigation into whether the snafu was a "deliberate act of homophobia"--and if a hate crime had been committed.  Playing the wrong version of the national anthem is now considered to be a hate crime.  (That would certainly be true if the version played was the screeching Roseanne Barr edition--which took place in San Diego as well)

Just imagine if a crusading Southern California prosecutor decided to make this case his cause celebre and actually charged the DJ with committing a hate crime--and a bleeding heart jury of Californians convicted the "offender"--and a judge interested only in "social justice" sent him away for a few years to "send a message to homophobes that their views will not be tolerated in this society". 

"What are you in for, pal?"

"I played a woman singing the national anthem instead of a group of gay guys singing it"

"I'd keep an eye over my shoulder in here, pal.  That kinda thing ain't looked upon too good around here."

Meanwhile, the (unelected) New York City Commission on Human Rights is back again with an edict that companies can be fined for failing to use the "pronouns of a person's gender identity".  That means if you were to address a transgender woman as "Mister" or include a "Ms" in the heading of a "gender-fluid" person who is feeling more "male" that week--they could take you to court and you could end up paying a penalty.  The (unelected) Commission has also declared that companies must use whatever pronoun a person requests including "ze" "hir" or the grammatically-incorrect "they" when referring to a single person.  Companies are "encouraged" to develop a protocol of asking every single person they (correct usage here) employ and do business with what pronoun they prefer and then use it every time--of course, under the threat of punishment.

Oh and the fine for violations?  How about $125,000 up to 250-grand.  Like they say, "Free speech ain't so free anymore".

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Further Adventures Of Liberal Man!!

The hottest thing in pop culture today is superheroes.  Comic books are almost cool, every other movie features installments of old and new superheroes and people dressed up like them are no longer treated like the biggest losers on the planet.  Never one to pass up on an opportunity to cash in on a trend, I'm thinking about creating my own superhero: Liberal Man!!

Liberal Man's origin story is that of Todd Thompson--a white man born to an upper middle-class family.  Todd seems to have the perfect life, until he enters the public education system--where he learns that people of his gender and race are exclusively responsible for all of the social ills in the world today.  Then, while attending State University, he asks an Asian-American student where her family is from--and the co-ed goes to the Dean of Students to complain about being made to feel unwelcome in this country.  Todd is kicked out of school for that egregious micro-aggression and creating a hostile environment on campus.  Disgusted by the monster he has become, Todd vows to never hold an actual job--and instead dedicates himself to wiping out social inequality wherever it can be found (or created)--and Liberal Man is born!

In the first edition, Liberal Man heads to North Carolina where a handful of transgender people are not allowed to use the bathroom of their choice.  WHAP!! BOOM!! and Liberal Man punches out the evil Republican Governor and Legislators--and the trans people have bathroom equality!

In the next edition, Liberal Man jets over to Edinburgh, Scotland where women are not allowed to be members of the Muirfield Golf Club.  ZOCK!! PUNCH!! and Liberal Man takes down the stodgy old Scottish men--and just like that, Muirfield has a women's locker room and lounge!!

Then it's back to the US where fast food workers are making just $8 an hour.  SLASH!! CHOP!! Ronald McDonald is brought to his knees and those who mop the floor and take out the garbage are suddenly making $15 an hour!

I notice the biggest movies now feature superheroes fighting each other for no real good reason--so for our big screen blockbuster Liberal Man will battle Conservative Man--taking guns away from law-abiding citizens and blocking Conservative Man's efforts to get guns out of the hands of criminals by calling those efforts "racial targeting".  In the climactic scene, Liberal Man overcomes Conservative Man and his ally Military Man by preventing them from effectively fighting Islamic Terrorism in the Middle East.

The Liberal Man franchise may be limitless, as everyone--except for those like Todd Thompson--are the victims of some sort of injustice in the world today.  And if they aren't, Liberal Man can just make some stuff up--like telling overweight people to diet and exercise is "hate speech".

I would have to end each issue of Liberal Man with a few panels dedicated to the unintended consequences brought on by Liberal Man's heroic actions--like the women of North Carolina being disgusted by the toilet seat being left up and drops of tinkle all over the rim of the bowl.  Or ladies being bored out of their minds as members of the Golfers Society of Edinburgh sit around eating their soup in the cold, lifeless clubhouse of Muirfield.  And the moving crews wheeling in the self-serve, touch-screen ordering kiosks into the fast food restaurants as the teenage employees fawn all over Liberal Man.  You have to have some sort of reality in these stories--just to keep them grounded.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Real Dose of Reality

For those of you old enough to remember, I want you to think back to the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1990's.  Remember how political leaders held press conferences every few days saying the government had to do something to help the people who were addicted to the drug kick the habit and get their lives back together?  Can you recall how state funded treatment programs were set up--and how first responders and even just plain old people on the street were trained to administered anti-overdose drugs?  Remember counties establishing "drug courts" so offenders who were high on crack wouldn't be sent to prison or jail--but instead would receive the counseling they needed while only on probation?

It's okay if you don't remember any of that happening--because none of it did.  The response to the crack epidemic was to make more arrests of those who were not only dealing the drugs--but the users as well.  And the violent and property crimes that increased greatly because of addicts trying to get their next fix and gangs fighting over sales territory were met with longer and longer mandatory prison sentences.  So why are we treating the current heroin and opioid abuse epidemic with kid gloves and so much "concern" for the users?  You need look no further than who is involved in this latest drug wave.

Crack cocaine was the scourge of urban inner cities and the minorities that lived there.  The gangs that ruled the streets and controlled the supplies were everything that scared suburban America.  There were no daughters of state lawmakers committing multiple crimes to pay for her addiction.  It wasn't son of the local business owner who died from an overdose in his home.  It was "those people" who were dying and stealing and seeing their communities decay--and the only proper response was to crack down (no pun intended) hard--and to teach them a lesson.  But now that it's "all of us" who are seeing the effects of opioid abuse, well now it's time for "us" to do something to help these people.

Once again I was disappointed by Attorney General Brad Schimel's "Dose of Reality" program announcement on Tuesday.  Nowhere did the AG say that the time has come to end the "legal" practice of over-prescribing opiate-based painkillers--the leading source of eventual heroin addiction.  There was no suggestion to doctors to stop prescribing those pills to people who are not suffering from debilitating pain.  There wasn't even a recommendation to tell patients "I'm going to give you this prescription for your sore foot--but you will probably end up becoming a heroin addict--so you may want to think about just how much that actually hurts before you fill it".  That would be a real "dose of reality".

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Carpetbaggers

In the days after the Civil War, a number of opportunistic Northerners moved into the defeated states of the Confederacy seeking election to public office--and drawing the support of the newly-freed slaves to win.  Some had lived in their new homes less than a few months before winning positions in statehouses and even Congress.  Some came with the honest intention of helping Reconstruction take place--but many just saw an easy path to political influence.  Those who had lived in the South before then developed a term for their newly-elected officials: Carpetbaggers.  The term came from the cheap luggage the new arrivals used to carry their belongings as they got off the carriages or the trains.

Wisconsin seems to have a new influx of Carpetbaggers in its political ranks.  Much is being made right now of State Senator and Congressional candidate Frank Lasee's actual residency.  Lasee claims an apartment in De Pere is his home.  But his wife lists her residence as being in Racine--and Lasee has claimed that house as both an asset and a residence in legal procedings.  In an expose piece over the weekend, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found Lasee's De Pere "home" listed on the temporary housing website AirBNB as being available for rental any day this year.  Lasee initially claimed that he and his wife only listed the apartment to rent out on Packers home game weekends.  And after the reporter pressed the issue further, the listing came down altogether.

Lasee is not alone in questionable residency.  Congressman Glenn Grothman had to buy or rent a new place when he ran for the 6th Congressional seat in 2014 because he didn't live in the district.  Neither did his Republican primary challenger Duey Strobel.  You may recall that Congressman Reid Ribble had to move a couple of miles because he didn't live in the 8th District the first time he ran for that office.  And there are questions about the residency of State Senate Candidate Mark Elliott here in Oshkosh--as his announcement that he was getting into the race for the 18th District came from Florida--and his Facebook timeline was filled with pictures from the Sunshine State for several previous months.

It should be pointed out that under current state law, a person is not required to live in a district at the time they first run for an office--but they are required to move in before they can begin to serve.  But it seems to me that those already living in an area should make up the pool of candidates to serve that area--even if the Carpetbagger might have a better chance to win.

Monday, May 16, 2016

It's Entirely My Fault

Allow me to apologize for the horrible weather we have had to endure this spring.  It's entirely my fault that we have had to put up with blizzards in April, snow in May and freeze and frost warnings both months--not to mention use of "wind chills" after Mothers' Day.  It's my fault because I have planned a lot more outdoor activities this year than I usually do.

I've umpired more girls high school softball games than normal this spring.  In past seasons, a day they I've had to ump has meant a day filled with clouds, light rain, wind and far below average temperatures.  I've even worked some games played with flurries coming down.  Multiply that by over twenty assignments this year and you can see why we've had such a prolonged spell of unseasonably lousy weather.  And then that gets compounded by postponed games being rescheduled a few weeks later--pushing bad weather forward another few days.

I'm also responsible for bad weekend weather by playing in a few more spring golf events.  On Saturday my usual group froze our buns off for the umpteenth year in a row in a scramble event that was held a weekend later than usual and still had horrible weather.  At least we didn't have to come off the course this time because of sleet.  My other tournament so far this year featured no sun, 45-degrees and 20-mile an hour winds.  You're welcome.

Now, you may recall a few seasonably nice days so far this spring--like that week with temps in the 60's back in March.  That was when my wife and I were in Florida--and they had slightly below average temperatures down there.  And then there was that Friday before Mothers' Day that featured a high of 80.  I spent three hours of that day trapped in the Neenah City Hall for press conferences on the Eagle National Cycles shooting--followed by a couple of hours in a restaurant with my parents enjoying the Early Bird Special.

If I had just planned on doing nothing all spring--no softball umpiring, no golf tournaments, no plans for bike rides, just watching TV in the basement or staying at work for 80-hours a week--we would have had the most beautiful spring in the history of Wisconsin.  (Although, that would have contributed to alarm over "global climate change".)  So next year, I'll make an effort to spend as much time as possible during the spring inside being a couch potato so the rest of you can enjoy some decent weather for a change.


Friday, May 13, 2016

Spoiling Them "Sick"

First off, let me commend the Oshkosh high school students who put together the petition drive to demand additional mental health services from the School District.  You have identified what you believe is a need in your school and you are bringing it to the attention of the people you believe are the ones who should be responsible for fixing it.  Unfortunately, this is not something that the schools themselves should be "fixing".

Let me remind you (and everyone else) that the Affordable Care Act requires all Americans to have health insurance--health insurance that covers mental health counseling and treatment and that cannot deny anyone coverage for a "pre-existing condition".  So your parents should have health insurance to help cover the cost of mental health treatments for you and all of your classmates.  If your parents are low-income, we have a program called BadgerCare intended to cover families with children.  In addition, there are mental health services provided by dozens of private sector providers--some in health networks, some in independent practices.  Just Google it, you should be able to find plenty of options that are not funded by taxpayers.

Coincidentally, the students' demands for more mental health services in schools came the same week that District officials went before the Oshkosh School Board to discuss adding more mental health counselors to the elementary schools.  Merrill Elementary Principal Sara Poquette used an example of the "mental health problems" that teachers face in the classroom as a child throwing a fit because he or she didn't get the color marker they wanted.

Acting up because you got the green marker instead of the blue marker is not a mental health issue--it's being a spoiled brat.  Poquette admitted that most of their behavioral problems in the classroom today are caused by children who expect to get their way all the time.  And who is to blame for that?  PARENTS WHO CANNOT SAY "NO" TO THEIR CHILDREN.  PARENTS WHO REFUSE TO DISCIPLINE THEIR CHILDREN WHEN THEY DISOBEY THE RULES OR ACT OUT IN AN INAPPROPRIATE WAY.

You know what this parenting approach leads to?  Kids like the "Affluenza Teen" in Texas whose drug and alcohol infused crime spree was explained away by never learning the consequences of doing something wrong--because his parents never punished him or denied him any of his wants.  And after getting a slap on the wrist with probation, the kid violates his parole and his Mother helps him escape to Mexico to avoid punishment again.

These children don't need taxpayer-funded "mental health services".  They need actual parenting and discipline in the home.  And to provide this "service" in the schools is just another way to allow those parents to abdicate their duties.  You ever wonder why so many kids are on behavior modification medications nowadays?  It's so much easier to drug your child than to actually discipline them--and "modify their behavior" through punishment or simply not buying them everything they want the second they want it. 

And to expect the rest of us to foot the bill for that?  It sounds like a few adults could use some "behavior modification" as well.