Monday, April 28, 2008

Monday 4-28

I have a birthday coming up in a few months--so the Social Security Administration sent me my annual benefits summary over the weekend. On the front page they nicely point out that unless the goverment raises the amount withheld for social security, the fund will begin paying out more than takes in starting in 2017--just nine years from now. If changes to payouts aren't made, the fund will go broke in 2041. I'll be 69-years old then--and hopefully still around to want to collect what I put in.

Remember the last Presidential election, when the solvency of Social Security was a major issue. The buzzword then was "lockbox". President Bush admitted that the SSA fund was actually a file cabinet with a bunch of IOUs in it. So both he and John Kerry talked about creating a "lockbox" that would contain money coming in from that point on to make sure the fund wouldn't run dry. Did we ever create that lockbox? Can someone tell me how much is in it? That's what I thought.

The candidates for the White House this time around haven't made much of an issue out of the Social Security crisis. Perhaps Democrats have decided that scare tactics didn't work in 2004--so that issue shouldn't be a priority. Republicans are probably happy to let that sleeping dog lie. Baby boomers have reached that age where they tend to make it a point to vote--and they don't want to hear they should have saved a little more during their working careers so they wouldn't have to depend on the system they are bankrupting.

While I'm not happy about Social Security's impending bankruptcy I'm not in a panic. My wife and I are on the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover Plan--so we should have enough socked away for a comfortable retirement whether the government can send us a check each month or not. If for some reason Baby Boomers do leave something behind for the rest of us--it will just be a bonus. Maybe those reaching their retirement age right now can send their unneeded economic stimulus rebate checks to the SSA to put away for their children's future--or their grandchildren's future--and stimuluate the economy when we will really need it.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday 4-25

Tomorrow begins one of the most overrated events in sports: The NFL Draft. To me, the draft really exemplifies the over the top obsession fans and the media have with the NFL. Who is your team goint to pick? Will they trade the pick? How did your team do in the draft? It's all you hear from the second the Super Bowl ends.

From the day they step on campus, college players aren't measured by their success on the field. Instead, the media focuses on what their prospects are for making the NFL. Star juniors are bombarded constantly with the "are you coming back for your senior season" questions. And guys who have been great in the college ranks are denegrated if they are not considered "draft worthy."

ESPN is the greatest culprit in this draft hysteria. Mel Kiper, Junior has spent the same number of days in an NFL front office that you and I have. The draft hype usually starts the day after the previous year's selection day. I'm sure Mel could give you his top 20 for the 2011 draft right now. The "mock drafts" start the Monday after the Super Bowl--and change continuously as Player X has a bad combine workout or Player B had a great pro day on campus.

All of the hype has created a new breed of football fan: "the Draftniks". To these guys, the regular season is played only to set up draft positions. They know the 40 times of every player eligible to be picked--including the second string left tackle at Eastern Washington State. And they aren't afraid to tell you about it--thinking that you are going to be impressed by their obsession.

Adding to the overrating of the draft is that the best players seldom are selected in the first few rounds. Quick, who was the Packers first round draft pick last year? How about their fourth rounder? How about their first round pick three years ago? The ultimate symbol of the uselessness of the draft is Tom Brady. He was taken in the sixth round. Why wasn't he the number one overall pick--given what he has done in his career? And if draft picks are so valuable, why do so many teams "trade down"? And why do their fans cheer when they do trade down? "Alright! We're trading down to get more picks!!"

The ultimate irony here is that tomorrow I will be at a "Draft Party" hosted by one of those geeks I was talking about before. I'm not really going for the endless analysis of Baltimore's number one--I'm just there for the beer and the hot wings.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wednesday 4-23

I know it's not officially Summer yet, but the nice weather the last few days has me ready to make my Summer Resolutions. Most people make their resolutions on New Year's Eve--but I usually find myself regretting all of the things I've failed to do during the summer on that first morning when I have to bundle up to get to work.

I resolve to play at least 60-rounds of golf this summer. That sounds like a lot--but really its just two rounds a week for the 30-weeks we can actually play around here. Round two comes up this afternoon.

I resolve to put the top down on my Jeep as much as possible. I have promised my wife that I will sell the beloved Wrangler when she gets pregnant--since she seems to think it's not very family friendly. (What baby wouldn't enjoy riding with the top down watching the sky go by?) So this will probably be the last summer I get to enjoy top-down cruising. Plus, I have a garage now--so I don't have to worry about those pesky overnight rain showers.

I resolve to put at least a thousand miles on my bike this summer. With gas expected to hit four-dollars a gallon--this will be a financial benefit as well. All I need is a light that works on the handlebars and I should be able to ride to and from work as well. Too bad it's so difficult to bike and carry my golf clubs or two bags of groceries.

I resolve to make as many meals as possible on the grill. I finally have a patio, so no more trudging up and down flights of stairs to get to my grill--so that means pancakes on the grill, pizza on the grill, grilled leftovers, mmmmmmmmmmm.

I resolve to not get a sock tan or a farmer's tan. My wife is always horrified by the tan lines and the stark contrast of my feet and chest--so more time without a shirt on this summer and more wearing of my Birkenstocks. Don't worry, I'll keep my shirt on during the 60-rounds of golf.

I resolve to spend more time at my parents' cabin. I'm not big on fishing (and the lack of cable and internet)--but the peace and quiet is so refreshing. Plus, I don't get any cell phone reception up there--so no calls in the middle of the night to fix a computer problem at the old radio ranch.

Finally, I resolve not to complain about it being too hot. I like it hot and muggy so this has never been a problem in the past. But after this seemingly endless winter, I won't take those sweltering conditions for granted.

Why don't you take some time to make your Summer Resolutions--then go out and make them happen. You don't need to know who wins American Idol or Dancing with the Stars.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday 4-21

This is National Turn Off Your TV Week. It's an effort from a group called the Center for Screentime Awareness--which tracks the amount of time Americans spend sitting in front of the TV. Last year, that was just over four and a half hours a day--or about 1640 hours a year. The group thinks that is time better spent getting some exercise or playing with your kids.

I would love to also encourage you to turn off your idiot box and completely ignore it all this week--but then I would be a big fat hypocrite. I won't make it through one day of TV Turnoff Week. You see, there is a Game Seven tonight between my beloved Boston Bruins and their hated rivals the Montreal Canadiens. You could be jabbing me with a red-hot poker as I sit in front of the tv tonight--but there is no way I am missing this game. Sure I could listen to the game on the internet (as I have had to do with four previous games because the Versus Network apparently believes no one cares about this series in the United States) but how is that any different than sitting in front of the boob tube?

That is the biggest problem with TV Turnoff Week, they never find the right week to hold it. January is out because of the NFL playoffs, February now has the Super Bowl and key college basketball matchups, March has the NCAA Tournament, April the start of the baseball season and the Masters. May and June have the NHL and NBA playoffs. There are a few weeks in July where baseball is in its dog days--and the NFL training camps haven't opened yet. Maybe that's where we should turn off the TVs. After that, August through December has the NFL and baseball's pennant stretch so they are out as well.

I think we should change the effort to Turnoff STUPID TV Week. We can start by tuning out American Idol. The format is contrived, the drama manufactured. Couldn't they do the "elimination show" in two minutes? Instead they stretch the thing out for a full hour wasting everyone's time. Besides, the "losers" usually turnout to be bigger stars than the "winners" every year, so what's the point?

Next to go: any show on TLC or Bravo. Remember when The Learning Channel actually had educational shows? You would learn about mating habits of African animals, or how meat makes its way through the packing house. Now every show deals with how to dress stylishly or makeover your house--I'm not learning much there. Bravo debuted with the promise of "highbrow" entertainment like opera and ballet. Now its nothing but shows about rich people living beyond their means and arguing about petty things. That's real enriching.

And we could probably take a break from the 24-hour news channels as well. How many times do we need to hear arguments about who's the bigger liar in the Democratic Presidential race? And why has CNN headline news turned into the Hollywood report every night?

So turn off the STUPID TV this week--and give the NHL playoffs their highest ratings ever. Maybe they'll come back to a channel people can actually watch everywhere in America.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday 4-18

Larry Krystkowiak is out as head coach of the Bucks. Krystowiak was fired after less than two seasons on the bench in Milwaukee. Despite a horrible record the last two years, I still think Larry K is getting the shaft. The Bucks problems didn't stem from poor coaching--but rather terrible personnel decisions made in the front office.

The demise of the Milwaukee Bucks started in 1998 when then General Manager Bob Weinhauser worked a draft day trade that guaranteed the Bucks could draft Robert "Tractor" Traylor--giving the Dallas Mavericks the pick they used to take perenial all-star Dirk Novitzke. The downhill roll picked up speed after Senator Herb Kohl decided he couldn't afford to pay the "Big Three" that took the Bucks to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001. Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson and Sam Cassell were sent elsewhere over the next two seasons. And then GM Larry Harris tied Milwaukee's fate to Michael Redd by signing him to a big bucks contract three years ago.

Redd is one of the biggest problems for the Bucks. He is often injured, is a streaky shooter and plays no defense. That last quality eventually spread to the rest of the team this year. "Why should I play hard on the defensive end if our 'star' is letting guys by him like a Spanish matador?" Adding to the mess, Redd's contract is un-tradeable under the NBA salary cap structure.

Personally, I think a change at the very top should be the next step in the rebuilding of the Bucks. Yes, Senator Kohl saved the franchise back in the 90's by stepping in to buy the team--but I don't think he is as committed to winning as he should be (kind of like his attitude in the Senate toward Iraq). Just look at the line of clueless General Managers he has run through the front office. Larry Harris was the worst of the offenders. I think the Senator hired him only as a favor to former Head Coach Del Harris--who happens to be Larry's dad.

Harris's selection of Andrew Bogut as the overall number one pick in the 2005 draft just added fuel to the fire that has consumed the Bucks franchise. Let me list some of the players taken in the first round of that same draft and you tell me who you would rather have. Chris Paul of the Hornets--he could be the MVP this year...Deron Williams of the Jazz--he was on the Western Conference all-star team this year...Andrew Bynum of the Lakers--he was hurt for most of the second half of the season, but LA thinks he will be one of the best big men in the NBA for the next decade. Bogut is a solid player, but will he ever be the kind of star you would expect with the top pick. And how many "big name" free agents did Harris sign during his tenure?

Given Larry Krystkowiak's emotional response to questions about his future after the final game of the season, he probably thought he could win in Milwaukee. Too bad he didn't realize he had jumped onto a sinking ship two years ago.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thursday 4-17

It's time to end the hypocrisy in this country over China. The final straw for me came this week when CNN issued an apology to the communist government of China for comments made by one of their talking heads. In case you missed it, Jack Cafferty called the leaders of China "goons" and called products made in that country and exported to the US "junk". The communist leaders called the comments a "vicious attack" and demanded an apology. Amazingly, CNN--who holds themselves as protectors of the First Amendment--actually caved in and issued an apology.

Apparently, the suits at CNN aren't into fact checking. The communist Chinese leaders repeatedly crackdown on those who speak out against the government. Dissidents are imprisoned for life after "show trials" and are allegedly tortured until they are willing to recant their statements. The communist government of China also provides weapons to the militant Islam government of the Sudan--which uses those arms to continue their religious genocide in the Darfur region. If that doesn't make these communist leaders "goons" I don't know what would.

As far as Chinese products being "junk", do we need to review all of the lead paint recalls we had last year? Or the recalls due to improperly labeled packages or dangerously small parts that kids could choke on?

So why did CNN apologize for Cafferty's accurate and socially responsible comments? Probably because they fear the communist leaders will ban CNN programming from future cable or satellite services in the future. This is the ultimate lie perpetually repeated about communist China. "There are a billion people to sell our products to"--and that entices companies--and our own government to look the other way on the communist government's indescretions. The reality is that most Chinese consumers are decades away from using any of the products US companies might be able to sell them. Cars? Most roads outside of the big cities in China are barely useable for horse and carts. Farm machinery? Most rural farmers can barely afford to feed the livestock that currently help work their fields. And as far as TV goes, do you think the average Chinese person cares to get 24-hour updates on Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan?

The communist Chinese government may be a great customer--they are buying fire trucks from the Oshkosh Corporation and a lot of earth moving equipment from Caterpillar--but the irony is that they are using our own money to buy that stuff. The communist Chinese government has huge holdings in US financial corporations--securing the loans that the banks give to us for buying our houses or stocking up on Chinese-made products with our Wal-Mart credit cards.

While Al-queda might be the greatest threat to our physical safety here in the US, communist China has become the greatest economic threat--taking our money and our jobs. And for some reason the decmocratic Federal government, corporate America and CNN are more than willing to help them do it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wednesday 4-16

A few random thoughts today:

I see sportsmen ignored my plea to forego a wolf hunting season and voted in a wide majority to request the ability to shoot an animal that just made it back from the brink of extinction. Hopefully, the natural resources board will sit on that request for a couple of decades to make sure the wolf population can handle human intervention.

I'm disappointed the Oshkosh Common Council is pursing a questionable policy toward voting on issues raised during the "Councilmember Statements" portion of their agenda. They have decided to place the nebulous phrase "and other potential action items" in with the statement notice. Is there anything brought up by Councillors that can't wait two more weeks to be properly noticed on an agenda for the next meeting? I'll grant you, no major decision are made during Councilmember Statements--but that doesn't guarantee something may not be snuck through in the future.

Why did Al Gore invent the internet? So I can listen to the home team broadcast of the Boston Bruins-Montreal Canadiens playoff series on my computer--since the Versus network has seen no need to put those games on television here in the US.

Several bloggers have noted a very negative tone in my recent "Two Cents". One thought it may have been caused by the weather--and I think he or she might be right. It's amazing how great I felt after finally getting out yesterday afternoon to hit some golf balls on the driving range. I'll feel even better after my first round of the year. George Graphos had better be right about those sixties over the weekend.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tuesday 4-15

Can we have one species of animal that we don't hunt here in Wisconsin? I ask this because sportsmen across the state voted last night on beginning the process to establish a wolf hunting season here in Wisconsin. While the vote totals won't be known until later this week, just the fact the vote was held makes us look bad.

Until a couple of years ago the wolf was a protected species--having worked its way off the endangered list. And how did it get on the list? Over hunting by humans. So now that wolves are off the endangered list, we here in Wisconsin can't wait to get back to killing them.

In the interest of full disclosure, I like wolves. I was one of those people who helped fund their re-introduction to Wisconsin by having one of those "endangered resources" wolf license plates for several years--until some jerk in Milwaukee literally stole it off my Jeep about four years ago. I got those plates to help an effort to restore balance to the state eco-system. Wolves were here before we were and play an important role in controlling the populations of other wildlife. Maybe we wouldn't need zone T hunts or earn a buck if we let the wolves get at more deer.

The question on the wolf hunt last night was worded to make it seem the human hunting season would help "control" the wolf population in Wisconsin. It says nothing about what that population would be. Are we going to keep the wolf numbers just barely above the "threatened" level? Will we "accidentally" hunt them back into extinction?

I have no problem with farmers being allowed to trap and kill wolves who have become dependent on killing their cattle to survive. But as for the rest of the state, let's just let nature play out its natural cycles of life and death and see where we stand a few decades from now.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thursday 4-10

I have sort of a love-hate relationship with The Masters. I love the beauty of the course and the great sports moments the event has generated--but the pretentiousness and forced reverence for the tournament are just making me sick.

I've been to Augusta National just once--for the practice days in 2006--and I can tell you the place looks even better in person than it does on TV. The elevation changes, the slope of the greens, the depth of the bunkers and the kaliedascope of colors along the fairways is unbelievable. And you cannot find a weed anywhere on that course--even between the fairways or around the cabins.

The amenities at the course are nice as well. On property parking is free. A bottle of water is a buck--the sandwiches are a buck-fifty--and the candy bars are less than a dollar as well. The souvenier shirts and golf items aren't that big a rip-off either. I always like to say its the rich taking care of the rich.

What really gets my goat is the "false airs" that are put on for this week. The media goes along with it willingly. Count how many times the announcers remind us this is a "tradition unlike any other" and this song--called "Augusta" by Dave Loggins--is the only one you will hear during coverage. The Augusta National club uses its broadcast rights like a club--limiting what commentators can say about the place. Jack Whitaker was banned for calling the fans a "mob" rather than the preferred "patrons". Gary McCord can't set foot in the place because he joked the lightning fast greens were treated with "bikini wax". The first amendment stops at the gate in Augusta.

Diversity stops at the gate as well. Augusta National has just a couple of African-American members and no ladies. There isn't even a women's locker room. Granted, they are a private club and therefore can welcome whomever they want--but c'mon guys it is the 21st century.

As beautiful as the golf club is, the city around it is that ugly. I don't think much of the money generated on the grounds makes it outside of the fences. The street leading to Augusta National from the interstate is lined with the usual assortment of restaurants like Hooters and Pizza Hut that pop up in tourist heavy areas. The rest of the neighborhoods in Augusta are run down and dumpy. Boarded up houses, pothole-ridden roads and a lot of people just standing around on street corners. I can't ever recall seeing on TV a story about what the rest of Augusta looks like. I'm sure the club would cry foul if the "mystique" of their magical place was ruined.

And the field of players for the Masters irritates me as well. Competitive players are often left out because they don't meet the rigid qualifying rules--yet old farts like Charles Coody and Gary Player get to go out there and shoot 90. That's why Tiger is such a prohibitive favorite every year, the challengers are so limited in number the odds swing farther in his favor.

So enjoy this week's coverage of the "toonament". Just don't treat it like some religious experience.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Wednesday 4-09

It's reached the point where I can't even read my own blog threads anymore. My recent Two Cents about what Dr. Martin Luther King would think about today's society resulted in an extended argument about city employee salaries and benefits. The same thing happened to yesterday's request to have Menasha Mayor Joe Laux apply for Oshkosh city manager. My call to have the same strong turnout we saw in the February primary at the April general election resulted in a discourse about teacher salaries and how much they actually "work".

A listener asked me (in person--a refreshing change in today's e-mail, instant messaging, texting dependent society) why I don't jump in on these discussions? As I told him, I would much rather honor those with good points in the medium where a much larger audience gets to hear them: right here on the radio.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tuesday 4-08

Some random thoughts today:

Smoking must make you blind. Yesterday, I saw two smokers miss the little ashtrays in their cars and throw their butts into the streets. One of those cars had several of those "eco-friendly" bumper stickers on it. Apparently the few extra pounds of cabron dioxide produced by my Jeep every year are far more damaging to the environment than the couple of pounds of tobacco and paper filter they throw on the ground everywhere. There are also dozens of butts lying on the ground right next to the container placed outside our building just for the express purpose of holding cigarette butts. As I like to say, the whole world is apparently an ashtray.

I hope Menasha Mayor Joe Laux follows through on his initial interest in the vacant Oshkosh City Manager position. Joe has twenty years experience as Mayor--running a city where public accountability came with re-election every four years. He also has all of the needed degrees and certifications as well. The number one qualification for Mayor Joe: a great optimism about what his city can do. A refreshing change from the constant complaining we here about state funding cuts and property tax limits. The one catch, Joe will have to sell his house in Menasha and move to Oshkosh. I don't think residents would be too happy with a Manager proposing property tax hikes and not having to share in the pain. In addition, Mayor Joe only rides a bike--even in the winter--and that might be a tough commute in December, January and February.

Finally this morning, I have failed all of you listeners. The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association handed out its "Excellence in Broadcasting Awards" over the weekend--and "My Two Cents" only took 3rd Place in the "Best Editorial" category. You deserve only the 1st place editorial--so I'll start stepping up my game.

While we are tooting our own horns around here. "The WOSH Morning News Focus" took 2nd place in the "Best Newscast" category. Again, we'll see if we can tweak a few things and take First next year.