Friday, April 30, 2010

They Are Still Around?

Not sure if you've heard about these guys or not--but the Milwaukee Bucks are a win away from making the second round of the NBA playoffs. No team has fallen farther off the Wisconsin sports landscape than the Bucks--thanks to a decade of mediocrity (and worse). But all of a sudden, the Bradley Center is the place to be in Milwaukee.

Tons of credit goes to General Manager John Hammond, who has cleaned up the mess left behind by his inept predecessor Larry Harris. Hammond brought in Scott Skiles--a hardnosed coach who has instilled an attitude that the losing is over in Milwaukee. His decision to draft Brandon Jennings--who skipped college ball in the US to languish on the bench in Europe--is a stroke of genius (so far). Not since Lew Alcindor graced the floor of the old MECCA has a rookie had this great an impact on the Bucks franchise. Hammond's mid-season trade for John Salmons has also brought much-needed toughness to the team.

As for Brandon--he is a superstar in the making--something Milwaukee has been lacking for about a decade now. I just happened upon the second half of his 50-point game against Golden State early in the season--and could not turn the channel--because he was just putting on a show. Now to figure our how to keep him from getting hurt--like every other star the franchise has had.

Even the team marketing is getting better. Gone are the ugly purple and green jerseys--replaced by the classic red and greens worn by Kareem and the Big O. Even Bango the mascot has become a national sensation--as video of his backflip dunk from the top of a 20-foot ladder has gone viral on the internet.

I know you proabably forgot that we had an NBA team here in Wisconsin. Rediscover them tonight on ESPN as they try to get past Atlanta and into the second round.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Very Expensive Babysitting

I always chuckle when I hear people complain about the "exorbitant" amount the state spends on corrections. "It's more than we spend on education" they always like to say. I always like to ask "when was the last time a teacher tried to sell drugs to your kids--or a third grader tried to kill his girlfriend?"

I think the vast majority of us want our neighborhoods to be safe--and would consider whatever cost is necessary to be justified. We hear all the time about the number of people locked up for "minor" drug offenses and how much we could save by not sentencing such offenders to prison or jail time. But think of the message that sends to the other people living in those offenders' neighborhoods? "We think it's fine that these men and women bring drugs into your area--using or maybe selling in front of your kids or committing other petty crimes to get money to buy their drugs." To someone five or 500-miles away from such crimes they may seem minor--but when it's right next door--you want something done--and cost isn't so important.

And that is the bind the DOC finds itself in with the release of a high-risk sex offender in Eldorado this week. Dennis Thiel is such a risk to the community that he requires 24-hour supervision. He will not be allowed to take a single step out of his house without a state agent looking at him. If he gets a job, the agent will have to literally watch him work. If he goes out to get the mail, the agent will have to come to the property--watch Thiel go the mailbox--and then watch him walk back into the house. And I should mention the Department of Health Services is paying for Thiel's rent as well.

The DOC doesn't have an estimate on how much it will cost to provide this "babysitting service" for Thiel--but I'm guessing it will be considerably more than the 30-thousand dollars if he had been kept behind bars--where he would have had NO opportunity to molest another child. Thiel had been committed as a sexually violent person--but Fond du Lac County Judge Robert Wirtz ordered him released earlier this year. Fond du Lac County residents will certainly have a chance to weigh in on that decision the next time Wirtz runs for re-election--but in the meantime the people of Eldorado will have to hope that state agents are doing their jobs in keeping an eye on Thiel. And for them--the cost is absolutely no objection.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Putting Things in Perspective

Imagine for a moment if the Oshkosh Police Department decided it was going to stop enforcing drunk driving laws. No more extra patrols on Friday or Saturday nights. No more keeping an eye on the "bar area" or pulling over drivers weaving in their lane. Those stopped for other traffic offenses would not be asked "have you been drinking tonight?" Anyone who reeked of alcohol would not be asked to "step out of the vehicle".

How many crashes, injuries and deaths would have to happen before you were down at the Public Safety Building or at City Hall demanding that there be enforcement of the laws that are on the books? Would you think about forming your own Citizens' Patrol to try and bring some safety back to the streets? Well that is the situation the people of Arizona are dealing with when it comes to illegal immigration.

Their Federal Government is doing nothing to control the flow of illegals entering the state and it is doing nothing to remove the illegals that are already there. So Arizona lawmakers are taking matters into their own hands. Maybe it's only meant to be a wake up call to Washington: "we are sick and tired of putting up with more crime, violence and drug trafficking--start doing your job". Or maybe it really is a challenge to the seperation of powers between the states and the Federal Government.

Either way, you have US citizens demanding their laws be enforced--whether by Federal agents or local constables. I'm sure you would do the same if crime was happening right outside your front door as well.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

More Follow Up

For those who have sent me their estimates of my federal taxes to debunk the 28% claim I made in a My Two Cents last week--I wish doing my taxes was as easy as you make it sound. In order to get the proper percentage, you will need to get Form 8606 for conversion of standard IRA's and 401k's from previous employers to Roth IRA's. You will also need Schedule D for the capital gains taxes on the sale of employee stock options without holding them at least a year. And you will also need Schedule SE for income derived from self-employment. (Referees are considered "independent contractors"--not the employees of the schools where we work games--and there is no withholdings on that income.) Once you get the 18-pages that we sent in completed on your own--let me know and I'll let you know how close you were. Also factor in--we don't have kids to claim or student interest to write off--and we bought our house too early to claim the credit for that. Be sure to include what is withheld for Medicare and Social Security (Those are taxes too!) You should come up with 27.6 %

Speaking of taxes, we could see a nice break in the future if we get placement of an adopted child. The Adoption Tax Credit is just over 12-thousand dollars--going to more than 13-thousand in 2011. Thank you to Congress for extending the credit--there was serious concern it would be allowed to expire all together.

Following up on the NFL Draft, apparently Draftniks were able to get the night off of work delivering Chinese food--as ESPN's coverage beat a couple of network tv shows in the ratings Thursday night. Now there is a thought of taking the Draft on the road every year--holding it at stadiums on a rotating basis. How many people do you think would turn out for the Draft at Lambeau Field? And how many hours before the Draft would they open the parking lots for tailgating?

Toby Gerhart was apparently given accurate information by the scouts--because he is a "white running back" he was taken by the Lions in the 2nd round. Let's hope he doesn't get converted into an "H-back" or a fullback and is given a chance to be a featured tailback.

Meanwhile, Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle fell all the way to the last pick of the 6th round. Michael Wilbon sounded off on "Pardon the Interruption" last night--claiming NFL executives and coaches don't know how to handle someone who doesn't fit the "stereotypical" format of black athletes. So they get downgraded for "having too many interests". Wilbon says he will root harder for no one more than Myron Rolle from now on. I will too.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Dodd Effect

The Senate begins debate this week on a "Wall Street Reform" bill that supporters claim will prevent another "meltdown" of the global economy. The bill will prevent financial companies from trading in derivatives in order to lessen their risk in issuing loans and will also place artificial caps on the size of companies to make sure they don't get to be "too big to fail".

As a proponent of the free market system, I can't support the measures contained with in the bill. If people feel they were ripped off in buying into derivative funds, perhaps they should have realized what they were buying. Memo to the Kimberly School Board: When the investment advisors say that the Collateralized Debt Obligations that you are buying are full of loans made to people who really can't afford to pay them back, that should give you some pause and make you think: "Gee, is the risk really worth the potential reward?" Or at least "Do I really understand where I am about to invest taxpayer money?" Double penalty points for borrowing the money to make those investments.

But what really gets my goat is that the reform bill is the brainchild of Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd. Dodd is the very Senator who helped to create the situations that led to the mortgage crisis. He led the charge to bully Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make the sub-prime mortgages that created the financial bubble which burst two years ago. At that time, banks were "evil" for locking so many "hard-working" Americans out of homeownership by having such ludicrous requirements like down payments and the ability to actually repay the loan. Senator Dodd also seems to forget he supported the de-regulation of Wall Street that opened the door to derivatives trading without direct SEC oversight.

In a way, Senator Dodd is like an arsonist firefighter who sets the fire on his way into work--then leads the charge into the house to save the family trapped inside so he can look like the hero. Of course, he also has to publicly chastise the homeowners for not taking the proper precautions to keep him from setting the house on fire. It must be really nice to feel like you are above being held accountable for your actions. I guess we can thank Martha Stewart and the rest of her Connecticut friends for giving Senator Dodd that feeling.

Friday, April 23, 2010

They Lose--We All Win

Don't you find it strange that we have reached a point where a government body's inability to pass bills represents a win for taxpayers? Democrats in Madison were unable to get the votes necessary to pass several controversial bills before the end of the current Legislative session.

Dying on the vine last night was a bill that would have allowed for the establishment of Regional Transit Authorities. These authorities would be in charge of funding bus systems in metropolitan areas with populations over 200-thousand people--which no longer receive federal funding. That would have likely included the Fox Cities area and Valley Transit if the 2010 census plays out as everyone expects. The RTA's would have had the authority to levy special sales taxes to make up for that loss of federal funds. And those taxes would have been in effect wherever the transit system provides service. So in the Fox Valley's case--that would have meant a sales tax in Outagamie, Calumet and Winnebago counties. Oh--and we would not have the opportunity to vote for the people who would serve on the RTA's. Nothing better than taxation without representation.

Also going down with the ship last night was the Governor's "Clean Energy Jobs Bill". This monstrosity would have resulted in immediate double-digit increases in electricity and natural gas bills--as utilities would have been forced to raise billions of dollars to pay for state-mandated windfarm and solar array projects--which would provide far less-efficient and far less-reliable energy than our current coal-fired and nuclear power plants. I have no doubt that renewable energy is the future of power in Wisconsin--and the minute that providing that type of energy is profitable, private industry will be tripping over each other to build turbines--provided they can win the all of the lawsuits filed by people who will have to live next to the hundreds of windfarms.

The biggest win for Wisconsin residents--and the biggest loss for Democrats--is the demise of the voter registration bill. Unfortunately (for Dems) people will still have to take action to register to vote--and we will still have to give the minimal amount of proof of residency and identity to cast a ballot. I am baffled as to how it is "unfair" to require someone to present themselves in person to register to vote--or to sign their name on a request for an absentee ballot. Maybe if you are a bed-ridden shut-in or someone who is paralyzed--but that would have been a very, very small segment of the population that would have taken "advantage" of the proposed new system. Now if we could just get proof of identity at the polls--we would really take a big step toward cleaning up election fraud.

So as Democrats Legislators lick their wounds after failing to pass some of their questionable bills--the rest of us can pat ourselves on the back for dodging the bullet.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Do You Feel a Draft in Here?

Leave it to the NFL to take the most overrated event in sports--the Draft--and making it even more overblown. Instead of the usual weekend of selections (and interminable analysis) we now get three days--starting with prime-time coverage of the first round tonight and the second round on Friday. How long before we have Draft Week--with one night dedicated to each round? Stay tuned to ESPN for live coverage tonight of the seventh round of the NFL Draft!! Who will be mister irrelevent? Tune in to Jay Leno tonight to find out!! Actually, I'm surprised that the NFL would want the Draft on a weeknight--since that is when most "draftniks" are out of their mothers' basements delivering Chinese food so they can afford to pay for Mel Kiper's "exclusive" internet content on

If you are putting off going to your daughter's dance recital or your son's little league practice to watch Draft coverage tonight--here are a couple of things to look for:

The wonderful story of Myron Rolle. Rolle didn't play college football last year. He wasn't hurt or suspended for bad off-field behavior or failing his classes. Instead, Rolle was in England as a Rhodes Scholar. Myron knew he was taking a risk by giving up an almost assured first round draft pick by taking a year away from the game. But he hopes to someday become a neurosurgeon--serving in the Third World. I'm still baffled as to why he went to that bastion of higher education--Florida State University.

You'd think that any NFL team would want to have such a smart, talented and upstanding young man on their team--but you would be wrong. Coaches love guys who are "football smart"--able to read plays quickly and to figure out the proper angles to take to make plays--but they are leery of guys who are "book smart". They worry about how committed a guy with plans to be a surgeon would be to "playing a game" for a living. And will he worry about injuring his hands or arms on the field--ruining his chance to perform surgery. Guys like that also tend to walk away from the game in their prime when they realize they can do a lot more with their lives than just bat away footballs on Sundays.

Speaking of ingrained biases in the NFL, keep an eye on Toby Gerhart. Gerhart is a running back out of Stanford who led the nation in touchdowns last year and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. He had a great combine, is fast, strong and durable--everything GM's look for in a feature half-back. Unfortunately for Gehart--he is also white. Yahoo sports created a ruckus this week after quoting Gerhart as saying a scout told him he would be a first round pick tonight--if he was black.

While much of the focus in recent years has been on the growing number of black quarterbacks in the NFL, you haven't heard much about the lack of "diversity" at other positions on the field. Can you name the last "great" white running back--who wasn't a bruising fullback? John Riggins? (Packers fans: don't even start with Travis Jervey) How about the last caucasian cornerback? Remember the debate over whether Jason Sehorn was "overrated" because he was the only white DB in the league? Maybe more GM's and coaches need to read the classic quotes of Shirley Povich writing about Jim Brown lighting up the all-white Redskins and racist owner George Preston Marshall back in the 1960's.

But enough talk about serious stuff--let's get ready for the over-analysis of the Packers need to find a pass rusher and a kickoff return man.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Simple Questions

I had a great phone conversation with a listener yesterday. I'm not going to use his name--although he was one of the few to actually give it to me when he called--because this isn't about embarrasing one individual. Instead, he merely represents that segment of the population a little out of touch with what's going on out there.

He called to complain about "all the conservative talk show hosts" on WOSH and why don't we provide some "fair" discussion of the issues. After listing several low-rated, no-name liberal talk show hosts (they are apparently "fair") that he thought we should add, he mentioned that he was sick of hearing our hosts talk about how we pay too much in taxes. It was his contention that we don't pay that much in taxes--and that "we used to pay a lot more than we do now."

I think he expected me to give him the standard "Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are the higest rated radio shows in the country" line--but instead I asked him in what year we paid more in taxes than we do now? He couldn't answer that. He tried to make a case for the Bush tax cuts--but didn't know exactly how much that actually reduced anyone's taxes.

And then I asked him another simple question: How much is a fair amount to pay in taxes? Again, no answer. I told him that my wife and I paid 28-percent of gross income in federal taxes and withholdings last year. He seemed genuinely surprised that I would know how much I paid in taxes. He was "pretty sure" that he paid less than that--but he had no idea what tax bracket he is in--couldn't understand how I was even able to figure that out.

I stunned our caller some more by telling him that I knew that I paid another 6.5% in state income taxes, a little less than 5% in property taxes and then another 5% on all of my purchases and 51.3-cents a gallon on gas. Again, sheer amazement that I would know the actual cost of taxes in my life.

And then I asked him again--how much is a fair amount to pay in taxes. Finally he said "Well I guess 28-percent." So then I asked if the people paying 35% are overpaying--or if the people paying 10% are underpaying? "Well, I don't know. I guess I don't know what would be a fair percentage."

I don't know if the caller hung up and began to rethink his opinion on what we pay in taxes. I doubt I did. I also doubt that he broke out his W-2's and tax forms to learn the impact taxes have his life.

John Kass had a great op-ed piece in the Sunday Chicago Tribune where he proposed that we pay all of our taxes at one time. No more withholdings on our paychecks--which really serve to lessen the perceived impact--just one big check for federal, state, local, Social Security and Medicare taxes paid on April 15th. I'd bet that a lot of people (like our caller) would be shocked how big that check is.

To sweeten the plan, Kass proposes that all of our elections--federal, state and local--be held the very next day...while the taste of what you just paid in taxes is still fresh in your mouth. I bet we would have some very different "spending priorities" at every level of government if that was the set up.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What Have I Done?

Have you ever done something--and then a few seconds later realize what a massive mistake that was? That's the position I'm in today--after having taken my bicycle to work this morning. As soon as I got to the 9th Avenue overpass I realized that there is absolutely no way for me to get back home this afternoon.

I could lie and say I took the bike today in honor of Earth Week (Earth Day wasn't enough--we had to make it a whole week?)--doing my part to limit greenhouse gasses (since the volcano in Iceland won't cooperate with international efforts to "control" the environment). But in reality, my Jeep is in the shop today to fix a coolant leak and my wife hates getting up this early to drive me to work so I had few other options.

Anyway, if you thought Oshkosh was biker-unfriendly before, this summer you will think that the city has a death wish against pedal pushers. How many drivers do you think will be patient enough to let me into the left turn lane at the 9th and Washburn intersection this afternoon? Or will give me space in their lane going over the overpass? Or won't just run me down trying to make a right hand turn onto Koeller--while I need to go straight?

I could head north on Washburn to 21 and get across 41 over there--but that would require traveling through the construction zone on the frontage road with two narrow lanes and big heavy trucks heading in both directions. And then having to navigate the madness that is the 21-41 interchange with little room to maneuver again.

So now I am stuck--a prisoner of the insane traffic patterns created by all of the road work in Oshkosh this spring. May as well just have someone drop off a sleeping bag and nap in my office until things calm down around 7:00 tonight. Or maybe, I could just throw my bike over the fence along Highway 41--scoot across the four lanes of traffic and the median--then toss the bike back over the fence along Koeller and ride through the parking lots to Witzel--thereby avoiding all of the construction zones. In this case the safest route might be a straight line.

Monday, April 19, 2010

An Athlete We Can All Cheer For

Please add golfer Brian Davis to the list of athletes you root for.

On Sunday, Davis was involved in the first playoff hole of the Heritage Tournament in Hilton Head when he pulled his approach shot to the 18th green into a marsh. The tide was out yesterday afernoon, so Davis' ball ended up on packed sand--giving him a shot at the green. As Davis took back his club, he ticked a dead reed behind his ball. In one of the more arcane rules of golf, you are not allowed to dislodge a loose impediment in a hazard during your backswing.

Unlike Michelle Wie, Davis immediately called over a rules official--who determined that the reed that had been clipped was not embedded in the ground (which would have meant no penalty)--and that Davis should be assessed a two stroke penalty. Needless to say, Davis lost the playoff to Jim Furyk.

Now, it took a slo-mo replay to determine that Davis had actually contacted the dead reed--and perhaps no one would have noticed it if he had not called the penalty on himself. But Davis knew he had made that contact--and he knew that he could not have accepted a victory with that in the back of his mind.

First place at the Heritage netted Jim Furyk just over one-million dollars. Davis can find some consolation in the 615-thousand dollars he gets for finishing second. But the win would have had a much bigger financial impact--as Davis would have been granted full exemption on the PGA Tour for the next two years. In 2009, the last exempt player on the Money List made just over 600-thousand dollars. So even if he was to struggle next year--or suffer an injury--Davis would have been guaranteed a spot on the Tour again in 2012.

While I don't believe in Karma, you have to think that Brian Davis will receive benefits far in excess of the cost of his honesty. You man recall, Appleton native JP Hayes disqualified himself from the Tour qualifiying school in 2009 after mistakenly playing an unapproved ball during one of his rounds. Hayes got through Q School this year and is currently 40th on the Money List having earned nearly 698-thousand dollars already.

In a sport that has taken a serious hit on the "honesty" and "integrity" fronts lately--Brian Davis reminds us what is so great about the only sport where the players call penalties on matter how much it might cost them.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Is There No End?

Today's example of government trying to grab control of every element of your life comes to us from the New Berlin Board of Education, which is considering a measure that would require all students to participate in extracurricular activities in order to graduate. The requirement is based on an overly simple understanding of study results that show kids who participate in band or sports or the school play do better in school.

First off, those of us who love semantics would point out that requiring such activities no longer makes them "extracurricular"--since they will actually be part of the curriculum requirements.

Secondly, kids in extracurriculars do better in the classroom because they want to be in the extracurriculars--not just because they are in the extracurriculars. Sadly, there are some kids who go to class and get passing grades strictly to stay eligible for sports. A special few strive to do better in class because that is a key part in getting a scholarship to play sports in college. It's not like shooting a basketball automatically makes you better at physics.

And just how fair is it to those who currently join extracurriculars of their own free will (a dirty term I know) to have to share facilities or practice time with those who are just "getting a requirement out of the way". I can tell you there isn't a coach in any sport that wants to have six seniors on the team who are just there to be able to graduate. And an attitude like that can easily pollute a locker room and hurt the performance of everyone involved.

And what do you do with the kids who are interested in sports or activities not offered in the school? Do you add a Skateboarding Team, or Figure Skating Club or Future Video Gamers of America? Does the band program have to expand to include "mixing" or "Viral YouTube Video Production"? Don't forget that any new club or sport will have to have an advisor or a coach--and those teachers won't be working for free.

Pity the student who just wants to work after school. Maybe they need the income to help their family, or to pay for their car or to avoid having to take out student loans for college. "Sorry son, you can't make money today because the school thinks you need to be in Forensics in order to graduate."

You're probably thinking "Jonathan, why do you care about what New Berlin schools do?" Well education is a "monkey-see-monkey-do" field. All it takes is one school boardmember to "brag" about their extracurricular requirement at a state conference and boardmembers everywhere are coming home thinking "We need to have that same requirement too--or our kids will be falling behind!!!"

Plus--why should that school board have more control over their students lives than ours? That is what education is all about now--not just learning but parenting in the place of parents.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Memo to Oshkosh Mayor Paul Esslinger (or anyone else looking to buy something "for the City"): While we appreciate your efforts to bring a bit of the Oshkosh's history back to us, the procedure needed to gain repayment through City Hall is the wrong way to go about things. Situations like this are why we have the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation right? They already have funds set up to collect donations and to continue maintenance on "gifts to the city". Aren't they bringing in big bucks to help pay for the Leach Amphitheater and Pollock Community Water Park upkeep? Hopefully we won't see any more unilateral decisions to buy things on behalf of the city.

Submemo to Common Councilmembers that kept calling the fire truck a "gift" or a "donation" last night. Anything that requires repayment to the giver is neither a gift nor a donation. Reimbursement usually means its a loan--not a gift.

Memo to the Winneconne School Board: Voters made it pretty clear last week that they do not want to spend more than the state-mandated revenue cap for their schools. The idea of going to referendum again in June shows that you are not listening to them--and that will just anger them further the next time around. Would a greater margin of defeat finally send the message? And don't be surprised if the margin doesn't change at all if you decide to reopen Winchester School--because those who recognized the need to save that money and who voted in favor of the referendum will change their votes the second time around. They will likely be joined by those who will think that Winchester parents are somehow being rewarded for petulant behavior.

Memo to the Vatican: Trying to blame homosexuality for the problem of priest sexual abuse further proves that you just don't get it. Psychologists generally agree that a person's sexual orientation has NOTHING TO DO WITH DESIRE TO MOLEST CHILDREN!!!!!! Here's a handy link to check out:

Of course, expecting the Church to accept science as a basis for its policies and beliefs is stretch to begin with. Nevertheless, throwing another of your favorite enemies--gays--under the bus further tarnishes the Golden Dome.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Why We Need Death Rays On Our Cars

So the wife and I are driving to the final class of Financial Peace University last night when we come upon a red Saturn doing about five miles an hour below the posted speed limit on Westfield Street. This was in the area of the retirement village--and since I drive that way quite a bit--I figured it was yet another senior confused about which driveway they are supposed to enter or they can't remember if they are on the way to somewhere or on the way back home from somewhere.

I couldn't tell what the situation was--even as we sat at the stop light at Oshkosh Ave because the person was shorter than the back of the seat. Once the light turned green, both the Saturn and I turned left--except the Saturn turned into the middle of the two westbound lanes and continued to straddle the stripes for a couple hundred feet before veering sharply into the left lane and finally coming up to the speed limit.

As I passed the driver (going the posted limit, thank you) I looked over to see the driver was a woman on her cell phone. That would explain the driving well below the limit for so long. And the reason her car was driving down the middle of the road for so long? The car was a manual transmission--so she had to use her right hand to not only steer, but to also shift. Heaven forbid you hang up and drive--or at least pull the phone away from your ear to use the left hand to steer while you change gears!! Before I finally got fed up with my own driving and talking--I used to drive my wife nuts by saying "Gotta shift now" and leaving her with half a cell-phone conversation in her mouth.

As we passed the restaurant near the Highway 41 interchange we saw an Oshkosh Police squad car pulling out of the lot. I'm sure the officer spotted that woman on her cell phone and immediately cited her for distracted driving.

So just as we are calming down and leaving Highway 41 at the 45 interchange, my wife tells me to look at the woman driving the green minivan in the lane next to us. I glance over and see that the woman is balancing her checkbook behind the wheel. She had her checkbook over the center of the steering wheel and was writing things in the register--doing the math as well. Surprisingly, she missed the light changing to green as I pulled away from her and she sat there. She must have eventually noticed what was going on--because she went blowing by me on 45--doing at least 15 above the posted limit.

So I would like to ask President Obama to give up requiring 50-mile a gallon electric cars for Government Motors and instead allow us to order Laser Death Rays on our vehicles--to make our streets safe for those of us that actually drive when we are behind the wheel.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Why I Like Phil

If you listen to "My Two Cents" or the WOSH Morning News Focus regularly, you know that I am a Phil Mickelson fan. This weekend's Masters pretty much summed up why.

On Saturday, Phil absolutely electrified Augusta National by making an eagle on the par 5 13th with a perfect approach shot and a clutch putt. That was followed by another eagle at 14 by holing out his approach shot from 130+ yards out. And then the place very nearly came unglued when Phil barely missed a record third eagle in a row on the par 5 15th from just under a hundred yards.

And then on Sunday, Phil collected his third green jacket in the last seven years--managing to avoid a bogey in the final round--making just enough knee-knocker putts for pars--to hold the rest of the field at bay. And there to greet him after victory on the 18th green was his wife Amy--who could barely get out of bed as she undergoes treatment for breast cancer. I'm sure more than a few people switched out of the "Tiger Camp" and became "Phil Guys (or Gals)' for just that purpose.

But the reason I am a Phil fan came ealier in the day back on the 13th. After a wayward drive put Phil in trees just over 200 yards from the green all of the talking heads on CBS (and a couple of guys watching the tournament with me) were imploring Phil to lay-up--just punch out and try to reach the green in three rather than trying to pull off a nearly impossible shot. So what does Phil do? Of course, he goes for it--launching the ball through a four foot gap between two trees--landing it a yard past the creek guarding the front of the green and rolling it to about three feet from the hole.

And that is why I love Phil. Not because he pulled off the shot--but because he went for it. Sure, it could have been an absolute disaster--off a tree and back at him--or in the creek and it's good-bye Green Jacket. But as he admitted in his post round press conference--that thought never entered his mind. As soon as he saw he had an opening--there was no doubt in his mind that he was going for it. Even if he had put it in the water and lost the tournament, I would still be as big a fan today--because I too want to be the guy who "goes for it".

Too many of us are "laying up" today--or waiting for someone else to take the shot for us--and not enough are going for it. Somewhere along the line we were told that failure is a bad thing to be avoided at any cost. Better to not even try--or to wait until there are safety nets in place before we start living. Well I'm sick of "laying up"--I want to go for the green if there is any chance to make it. I hope that you are ready to do the same.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Politics Simplified

I had a chance to sit down for an interview with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett yesterday (which you can hear coming up later this morning on the WOSH Morning News Focus) to discuss his run for Governor. Of course, the topic of the $810 million high speed rail line came up--as I asked him to "sell" the need for that project to people in the rest of the state who will likely never need to--or want to--ride on the thing any time in their lives.

Mayor Barrett ticked through the usual talking points on the train "It will create hundreds of jobs", "Economic development will spring up around the tracks and stations" and "When gas goes to $4 a gallon again we'll want to take the train." He also brought up the sad reality that the state can't actually use the $810 million dollars for real infrastructure improvement because the Obama Administration specifically earmarked it for high speed rail--and that "If Wisconsin doesn't take it--then some other state will."

After the interview was over the Mayor asked me if he had "changed my mind on the train" (he had apparently been briefed on some of my views). I told him I had not--and when he asked me why I shared with him the very simple analogy I use with everyone else:

The high speed rail project (and much of the stimulus package) is like the sister and brother-and-law that you see only once a year coming to you child's 5th brithday party and giving him a puppy as a gift. You didn't ask for a puppy for your child--they just decided that "every boy should have a puppy". Of course the child (in this case Governor Doyle or Mayor Barrrett) is ecstatic--"Wow a puppy of my very own!! I'm going to love him and take care of him and I will call him George!!" The sister and brother-in-law (President Obama and Democrats in Congress) are beaming because they have "created" this joy--while you (Wisconsin Taxpayers) are shooting them the Look Of Death because what your child really could have used was something sensible--like educational video games or some books. And you know that the child will grow tired of caring for the dog in about two days--and all the responbility will fall upon you.

Oh, and this is no puppy--it's actually a Great Dane puppy that will have to eat about 20-dollars worth of food a day every day for the rest of its life. And its from a bloodline with a history of hip displaysia and intestinal cancer--and it will have behavioral problems that will make "Marley and Me" look like the Westminster Dog Show. And you will not believe the size of the "piles" it will leave in your yard--and the neighbors' yard as well.

Yes, there will be moments you might enjoy the puppy--but we all know how it is going to end. Needless to say, you will forever hold that against the sister and brother-in-law--but they aren't the ones who will be around to have to deal with the consequences--so they really don't care.

Remind me sometime to tell you about the "health care reform is like ice cream" analogy.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Best Day of the Year

Is there any day better than this one every year?

Not only do you have the NCAA Championship game--but also baseball's Opening Day and the start of Masters Week.

As for the NCAA title game--Butler has absolutely no chance tonight. Duke is going to send its goonish front line to crash the boards on every shot and you know that no calls are going against the Blue Devils. So it was a nice run for the upstart Bulldogs--but you have unfortunately run into favorite sons of the NCAA--and no amount of hometown magic is going to help you tonight.

I guess it would not be right to call it Masters Week this year. This is TIGER WOODS RETURNS TO GOLF AND TO THE PUBLIC LIFE AND MAYBE THIS WILL BE THE WEEK WHERE HE GIVES US ALL OF THE LURID DETAILS ABOUT ALL OF HIS AFFAIRS WEEK!!! I can flat out guarantee that Tiger will not shed any further light on anything he did away from the golf course the last few years. "That is a matter for me and my wife" and "I've already answered questions about that" will be the main answers from Eldrick today--along with the boring answers about how he has prepared for the tournament and what his strategy will be at Augusta National.

And don't think that the media circus will affect anything that goes on inside the walls at Augusta. The members there are control freaks and anything that threatens the "Toonament" will not be tolerated. So Access Hollywood, XTra, and Entertainment Tonight will have no place at today's press conference--and their satellite trucks will likely have to set up across the river in South Carolina. And don't expect to see Greta Van Sustren broadcasting from the end of Magnolia Lane.

As for the start of baseball--let's make some Brewers predictions:

I predict Ryan Braun has a monster season--35 homers 125 RBI's. Prince Fielder will struggle a bit--maybe just 30 homers 100 RBI's.

Jeff Suppan has one start after coming off the disabled list--gets bombed--and is cut. The Brewers will have to eat his 12.5 million dollar salary--but anything is better than basically giving up any chance to win every five games.

Yovanni Guillardo stays healthy, gets some run support and wins 18-games. Randy Wolf solidifies the rotation and gets 15-wins. Manny Parra continues to be a headcase and loses 15-games. Doug Davis throws 250-innings--goes 14 and 14. Trevor Hoffman continues to baffle Father Time and saves 35 games.

Alcedes Escobar starts hot--struggles mid season--then finishes strong to win the National Leauge Rookie of the Year. Corey Hart is traded by mid-June--still hitting less than .200. Teenage girls around Milwaukee are heartbroken--first JJ Hardy is sent packing--then their beloved Corey.

The Brewers bounce back from a tough season in 2009 and win 88-games this year. That should be good enough to edge out the Cubs and the Braves for the National League Wildcard--where they win their first-round series with the Phillies before losing to the Giants in the NL Championship Series.

Oh and Cubs fans--enjoy your 102nd consecutive season of futility.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Everybody's Cinderella

I'm sure that all of you had Butler making the Final Four in your NCAA brackets--right? Not only did i not have the Bulldogs getting this far--I had them losing in the first round to UTEP. That's how much faith I had in the team that ran the table in the Horizon League this year.

It's actaully a bit unfair to call Butler a "Cinderella Team". They were ranked in the top ten in one of the pre-season polls--so plenty of people thought they had some of the best talent in the country. But any time a team from one of the "Non BCS Conferences" make a run in the tourney, we all act like they are some miracle--like they don't belong.

And don't you find it ironic that the term "Non BCS Conference Team" has replaced the old "Mid-Major" tag for teams like Butler. It sort of sums up perfectly the glaring difference between the NCAA Tournament--which everyone loves and looks forward to every year--and the Bowl Championship Series--which everyone (but university presidents) dispises. You're telling me that people wouldn't be as excited to see Boise State or Miami of Ohio challenging for the college football championship in January as they are to see teams like Butler, George Mason and Gonzaga make runs in March?

It's just too bad the Bulldogs have to play Michigan State in the Final Four. I am really coming to consider Tom Izzo as one of the best college basketball coaches ever. 12 years on the job--6 Final Fours. That's a pretty darn good ratio. If you go to play for Izzo you have a 50/50 chance of making the Final Four every year. And this year might be his best coaching job ever--given the injuries and limited offensive talent he has on the squad. Why couldn't one of these teams get Duke in the semifinals--so we can send the Blue Devils packing and make everyone happy.

While I'm on the subject of the Tournament--can we please dump the idea of expanding the field to 96? While proponents claim it will give more small schools a shot to make the tourney--we all know those extra spots will go to teams with .500 records--or worse-- in the major conferences. Did we really need to have Northwestern in the tournament this year? This isn't youth soccer--everyone doesn't have to go home with a participation trophy to make them feel better about themselves.

Here is one tournament format change for the NCAA to consider: Form an all-star team of the 63 other schools in the Women's field to take on UConn for the championship. 76 straight wins--everyone of them by double digits--with an average margin of victory of more than 30-points. I know that we hate excellence now in America (guess I should have called them the Greedy UConn Huskies) but just take a few minutes on Sunday or Tuesday to appreciate the best team of all time in their sport as they dismantle two more opponents.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fools Jokes

The only thing I can say about the three year old boy driving his mother's car down Bowen Street yesterday is thank goodness there weren't any roundabouts in his way--or we probably would have been dealing with a major tragedy.

I do have to give the kid credit--he did keep a better speed than some of the older drivers around town.

I see the Democratic National Committee is selling T-shirts playing up Vice President Joe Biden's potty mouth that say "Health Care Reform is a BFD". I think the Republican National Committee should sell some T-shirts as well: "Joe Biden is right--we're all F---ed now"

The RNC could probably make a killing selling Rahm Emanuel bath robes too. You could put "What are you F----ing Looking At?" just below the belt line.

How many people do you think will be lined up to be first on the Zippin Pippin rollercoaster when it opens at Bay Beach in Green Bay after seeing the pile of rubble it collapsed into while being dismantled?

Is it too much of a stretch to consider the Zippin Pippin to be a metaphor for the Jim Doyle Memorial High Speed Rail Line?

Am I the only one who sees those cell phone commercials where the anchorman is reading Facebook and Twitter posts on the air as a frightening vision of the future?

Of course, if that actually does happen, Katie Couric would finally be qualified to be the anchor on the CBS Evening News.

I see that Jeff Suppan will start the Brewers's season in the 15-day disabled list. Is there a 365-day disabled list we could put him on instead?