Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Arsonist Firefighters

It looks like Wisconsin is dealing with another incident of arsonist firefighters. That's the term I like to use for politicians whose policies and laws create economic or social "emergencies" and then who come up with "plans" to save the day. Kind of like a fireman who would set a house on fire--then expect awards for heroism after saving the people inside.

Past examples include Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank--who both pushed for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to back high-risk mortgages to people who couldn't afford houses in the early 2000's--then helped to draft the mortgage bailout plan (which is also failing to keep more than a third of enrollees out of foreclosure) and mortgage regulatory reform acts to clean up the mess they helped to create.

Another example would be Governor Doyle and Democrats in the Legislature who raise personal and business taxes and fees by five-billion dollars in the last budget--then come riding to the rescue with tax credits and incentives packages for Mercury Marine when it threatens to move production to more "tax friendly" Oklahoma. Our heroes!

Now today, President Obama is expected to address the mess he has created for the Bucyrus Corporation. The maker of mining equipment is stymied by the refusal of the US Export-Import Bank's to guarantee loans they need to fill a 600-million dollar order for an energy company that runs a coal mine in India. It's not that the bank thinks either of the entitites isn't credit-worthy--the problem is the coal mine project violates the Obama Administration's new limit on "carbon footprint" and expected emissions from the coal-fired power plants that will be fed by the mine. So one-thousand Bucyrus employees are having their jobs put in jeopardy by Green Initiatives supported by the President.

I wish the President would cancel his appearance in Racine today and instead head over to Bucyrus to tell the union workers who likely voted for him two years ago why he thinks keeping the planet one-tenth of one-degree cooler over the next decade is more important than allowing them to keep feeding their families for the next ten years. Maybe he could put out that fire by assuring them that Congress will approve extending their unemployment benefits for up to three years.

But never fear--Mr Obama could announce today during his visit to Racine that he is asking the Export-Import Bank to "reconsider" the rejection of the loan application. Amazingly, that loan will likely breeze right through--especially when you consider the Indian company is about to enter into negotiations with Chinese mine equipment makers. Of course, that would also make him look like a hypocrite to his "Eco-Supporters"--but that is the kind of risk you take when you rely on theoretical economists as your advisors--instead of people who have actually run businesses in the free market.

And all of this heroism could still be for naught. Lurking around the corner is Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan with a tanker full of jet fuel to spray on the glowing embers of the Bucyrus fire. He is already on record as saying that if Democrats retain the majority in the Assembly, he will bring back Governor Doyle's "Clean Energy Jobs Bill" with its arbitrary renewable energy requirements that will force utilities in the state to build more money-losing wind farms and jack up the price of electricity--thereby making it more expensive for Bucyrus to build monster machines--and therefore marking them far less competitive in the global economy.

Almost makes you think about lighting yourself on fire.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Here's To Their Health

I would like Supreme Court Justices John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas to all go to the doctor today. In fact, I would like doctors assigned to monitor those five Justices as all times for the next two years because we need them to stay healthy and lucid enough to stay on the Supreme Court.

Those Justices make up the slim 5-4 majority that yesterday ruled that the Second Amendment of the Constitution does actually apply everywhere in the United States. By that one narrow "vote", law-abiding people living in the cities of Chicago and Washington DC just won back their right to bear arms--as local ordinances banning the ownership of handguns were struck down as an infringement on one of our most basic Constitutional rights.

While the handgun bans did a great job of keeping weapons out of the hands of people who were not looking to commit crimes--they didn't do such a good job at keeping handguns away from people who were looking to commit crimes. Just last weekend, 54 people were shot in the city of Chicago. 175-people have been killed so far this year there in gun-related violence. The perpetrators apparently didn't have much problem arming themselves--likely with guns stolen from shops outside the Chicago city limits--maybe even from the Fox Valley. I'd be willing to bet that few if any of those stolen guns ended up in the hands of Chicago residents hoping to own them for personal security or sportshooting.

To put this ruling in perspective, one of the first press releases we got in the Newsroom yesterday was from Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold applauding the Supreme Court ruling:

"I am pleased that the Supreme Court has held that the Second Amendment applies equally to the states. Although not unexpected, the ruling is welcome confirmation that the right to bear arms is a fundamental right enjoyed by all Americans that cannot be infringed by the federal or state governments."

So let's take a look at the political spectrum if the four dissenting Justices are put in relation to Senator Feingold:

Four Members of the Supreme Court->->->Senator Russ Feingold->->->95% of all Americans

So here's to the health of the five Justices who believe the words written in the Constitution are to be taken as the law of the land. Maybe Jillian Michaels can move in with them and make sure they lower the blood pressure, the cholesterol levels and eat all their veggies. America needs them now more than ever.

Monday, June 28, 2010

International Financial Peace

I'll give the world leaders who attended the G-20 Summit in Toronto this weekend some credit for talking a good game about debt. For the first time in recent memory, the focus of such high level meetings wasn't about falsely inflating the financial health of the major economic powers--but rather admitting that years and years of short-sighted, politically-popular decisions have shackled those countries with unsustainable austerity and social programs. Now we'll see if all that talk is backed up with actual action.

Most of the nations promised to cut their current national debts in half by 2013--or should I say they promised to cut the "projected" debts in half. Meaning the US debt of 13-trillion dollars won't be cut to 6.5 trillion--instead, President Obama just promised to keep the increases in that debt to just 50-percent of what we are on pace to rack up right now. I know the President and his advisors believe that their increased spending will somehow reduce the federal deficit in the future by "finding savings in Medicare" and other programs.

Speaking of the President, he encouraged the 19 other world leaders to continue to go into debt to "stimulate" their economies. But those who don't subscribe to theoretical Keynesian Economics and who actually live in the real world will likely tell the President to pound sand on that one. I'm pretty sure they realize a small amount of pain now, can go along way toward guaranteeing we don't suffer even greater pain in the future.

We hear all the time about how we "don't have anymore to cut" in public budgets--but one area that can be reduced without actually affecting services is interest on debt. As of June 1st, the country has spent 248-billion dollars in interest payments. That money didn't help seniors buy drugs, it didn't keep illegal aliens from sneaking into the country, it didn't provide free or reduced lunches for school children, it didn't help find Osama Bin Laden. It was merely transferred from the Treasury to banks (likely in China) in a few clicks of a computer keyboard.

Like foregoing spending 15-percent of our current personal income so we can put that into retirement accounts now guaratees our personal financial futures--so too will reducing government spending now guarantee services and jobs tomorrow. I think some world leaders left the G20 summit seeing that light. Others, it appears, may still be in the dark.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Once again, the people have spoken--and their voices have been...........ignored.

The WIAA Board of Control votes to create a new high school football "Superconference"--forcing the Fox Valley Association and the Wisconsin Valley Conference to play each other in football only. That vote comes despite opposition from all of the teams in the FVA who feel they are being "bullied" into the merger. Concerns about late night bus trips during the school week, increased transportation costs for sports programs that are already short on funds and disruption of long-time rivalries have all been ignored. Enjoy those 90-minute each way drives to Marshfield and Wisconsin Rapids, Oshkosh and Fond du Lac fans!!

Kind of reminds you of the votes on a certain Health Care Reform Bill in Washington, doesn't it? Although, Board of Control members don't have to go back to their districts to face angry constituents at Town Hall meetings--or campaign challengers at the polls.

While we are ripping on the Board of Control....I'm glad to see we are another step closer to making sure every student-athlete goes home with a trophy. The BOC has also approved adding another division to the high school basketball playoffs. Now, five teams will get to claim State Championships each year. More teams will also be Sectional Champions and Regional Champions.

I know the "Hoosiers"-type, Cinderella story of a small school beating a big school for the title has happened just once--but doesn't having fewer classes make capturing that championship seem a little more special? I remember some Kohler teams with Joe Wolf and Randolph teams with talented big men that could have given the Milwaukee and Madison teams a serious run for their money.

Maybe if I can generate enough opposition to that idea, the Board of Control will approve it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An Admission

I have to admit...I watched the USA World Cup soccer game yesterday. And I have to admit I was a little excited when Landon Donovan scored the game-winning goal in "stoppage time". The Cardiac Kickers avoid elimination--win their pool--and go on to the "knockout round" (can't soccer come up with more dramatic name for things like THE SUDDEN-DEATH ELIMINATION ROUND!!!)

FIFA may have actually found a way to get Americans passionate about soccer--keep trying to rob them of goals every game. The US wouldn't have even been in the desperate situation they found themselves yesterday if the referee in their game against Slovenia had not wiped out a game-winning goal with a mystery foul. Another goal yesterday was disallowed by a blown offsides call. Apparently, the Third World game features plenty of third-rate officials at its highest level.

Oh and before we get too carried away with our excitement here--this is still not in the same zip code as The Miracle on Ice in the rankings of important sports victories. Algeria should not have been within two goals of the US--we were heavy favorites in that game. And this was just to get our of pool play--not for the World Cup itself.

But nothing gets Americans fired up more than thinking that they are getting hosed. We would be outraged about the World Cup of Darts if we found out the British team was allowed to use illegal equipment or a game-winning double bullseye for the US was disallowed by a phantom foot foul.

My inner conspiracy theorist worries that all these exciting finishes are part of an evil plot to get Americans to embrace "Football" like the other European garbage that is becoming popular: cars the size of shoeboxes, men carrying purses and socialized medicine. Then I am comforted by the fact that no one will remember any of these games by July 30th--when Packers training camp opens.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Death of a Terrorist

A terrorist died this week.

He died not in a drone attack on a Afghan cave or in a firefight with US troops in Iraq--but intstead in a hospital bed in Madison. Dwight Armstrong--one of the four men responsible for the bombing of Sterling Hall on the University of Wisconsin campus--passed away Sunday at the age of 58.

Armstrong is not as well known as Timothy McVeigh or the Unabomer--and he didn't kill as many people as the Al Quaeda operatives on the planes on 9/11--but he is just as evil and cowardly as any of those listed above. Armstrong, his brother Karl, David Fine and Leo Burt loaded up a stolen van with the terrorist's explosive of choice--one ton of ammonium nitrate and jet fuel--and blew it up outside the school building on August 24th, 1970. Killed in the explosion was graduate student Robert Fassnacht--while three other people were injured.

Armstrong and his co-conspirators targeted Sterling Hall because it housed the Army Math Research Center--which in their minds was some major contributor to the Vietnam War. Fassnacht had nothing to do with the military. He was in the building working on a personal project when he became a victim of the "statement" four anti-war radicals wanted to make. He left behind a wife and two children under the age of three.

Armstrong in classic terrorist form--fled the country to Canada--where he lived on the run for seven years before being arrested in Toronto and finally brought to justice. He offered a half-hearted apology to Fassnacht's family--"we didn't think anyone would be in the building at the time"--but insisted that what he did was right--given what the US was doing in Vietnam. "We just should have done it more responsibly" his brother said. Armstrong served three years of a seven year federal prison term.

Like all "great" radicals, Armstrong found no productive way to serve society even after his stint behind bars. He was arrested again in 1987 for selling amphetimines in Indiana and was sentenced to ten years in prison. If you can't stick to "the man" by blowing up his university buildings--just sell drugs to his kids.

The ultimate irony is that the very institution that Armstrong and his terrorist buddies sought to destroy in 1970 was the institution that tried to save his life at the end. He likely could have seen Sterling Hall from his University Hospital bed less than a mile away. It amazes me the UW would have allowed that criminal within 100-miles of campus. Although it did take the University 37 years to put up a memorial plaque in honor of Robert Fassnacht. It's too bad Armstrong died during the summer break--because the retrospective on his actions would make a great "teachable moment" for today's crop of campus "radicals".

No Surprise There

Some recent headlines should not surprise anyone.

"Borrowers Exit Troubled Obama Mortgage Program". More than one-third of those who enrolled in the $75-billion mortgage bailout program have dropped out--and will see their homes foreclosed upon. It turns out that the people who never should have been given mortgages in the first place never should have been give mortgage bailouts either. The problems include: refusal to turn in the paperwork required by the bailout program, the inability to meet even the lower payments negotiated with the banks and a lack of proof of income. I guess the only surprise here is that the dropout rate is only one-third--although analysts fully expect the vast majority of those enrolled in the program to still go into foreclosure because THEY CANNOT AFFORD TO OWN A HOME!!

"Republican Tax Cut Promises Pose Challenge". Independent budget observers believe plans proposed by both of the Gubernatorial candidates--to roll back the five-billion dollars in tax increases approved as part of the last budget cannot be achieved immediately. That would be true, if we continue to increase state spending by ten percent--which was also included in the last budget. I know the idea of actual spending cuts--not reductions in the amount of increases--is a foreign idea in Madison, but it can really be done.

"PETA Wants States to Charge BP With Animal Cruelty". You knew it was just a matter of time before the most media-attention-hungry group in the nation started jumping in front of the news cameras demanding their 15-minutes. PETA's argument is that BP is abusing animals, fish and birds by continuing to spill their oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Good thing for PETA the oil spill didn't take place in Wisconsin--where running over deer with snowmobiles is considered hunting under the law and not animal abuse.

"French Soccer Team Threatens to Quit World Cup". How can anyone be surprised--much less not bust a gut laughing--by the French walking away from a challenge? No wins in your first two games? Time to wave the white flag!! And neither of those games involved Germany. Bonus points for the country choosing a chicken as its mascot for the footballers as well.

Monday, June 21, 2010

That Time Again

I'm trying to imagine what it's going to be like for people trying to get to Country USA this week. In years where there has been little construction, backups along Highway 41 stretched halfway to Neenah and Fond du Lac in each direction. Toss in the amount of road work and overpass closures we have this June and attendees might be better off just camping on the highway and forget about actually getting onto the grounds.

I'd like to tell you that the promoters have made changes in their parking, camping and admissions policies and procedures to ease the congestion on the surrounding highways and streets--but Starshow Presents didn't return our calls for comment last week. So we have no idea if anything has been done to get people into Ford Park any faster than in the past.

I do know that the drinking culture of the event has not changed. A couple of 20-something guys in my golf league look forward to Country USA more than anything else in the year. A week's vacation from work, truck-fulls of beer and drunk women stumbling around the campgrounds. They don't even go inside the gates most of the days--really don't like country music. But Oshkosh is where the par-tay is going on this week, and that makes it the place to be for unattached, beer-lovin' men. In a way, making it impossible to get back out of the concert grounds helps to limit the number of dangerous drunk drivers on the roads. Maybe there is a method to this madness.

As for us locals, we'll avoid the far south side of the city this week, stay off 41 and the frontage roads and remember the "economic impact" our redneck friends bring to town.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Read Up on the Hammer

I don't usually do book reviews--I realize anything I recommend won't immediately jump to the top of the list like Glenn Beck or Oprah picks--but I encourage you to check out a new biography of Hank Aaron written by Howard Bryant--The Last Hero: A Life Of Henry Aaron.

Somehow, the man who held the most sacred record in sports for 33-years is the most under-appreciated American hero in history. A lot of that is due to choices made by Hank himself. He never went for the big-dollar endorsement deals. He was very soft-spoken and tight-lipped during his playing days and never sought to capitilize on his accomplishments by hawking his own line of t-shirts, autographed memorabilia and theme restaurants. I think Hank is more proud of the work he has done off the field trying to raise the African-American community out of the "victim culture" that has kept it behind other racial groups for so long.

When Hank Aaron talks about racism in our culture it carries a lot more weight with me than some others nowadays. He couldn't eat with his teammates in the same restaurant while playing minor league ball in the South Atlantic League, couldn't live in the same apartment buildings as his teammates during Spring Training in Florida and check out some of the death threats he received while chasing Babe Ruth's record. Kind of puts "being the only African-American in a Harvard Law School class" in perspective.

And the fact that Hank played here in Wisconsin for more than a decade--and there is so little honor for him around the state frustrates me. Where is Henry Aaron Drive in our cities? Or the Hank Aaron Little League park? Let's bestow some of those honors while we still have Hank around to receive them. And let's make sure kids know that Hank hit all of his home runs without the help of illegal steroids and in an era where the rules of the game favored the pitchers more than the hitters.

Let's give Henry Aaron the hero's treatment he has gone so long without. He has definitely earned it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What's Going On, Jonathan?

Why do I get the feeling my phone will be a little busier than usual today?

For the 85% of Oshkosh residents who don't get the paper, it's reporting today that I am a candidate for the 54th Assembly District this fall:

That is mostly correct. I am certainly interested in running, but this is just the beginning of a process to becoming an official candidate. Think of it as "forming an exploratory committee." Nobody can run for a public office like that without assembling a huge team of volunteers and without raising enough money to drown out the special interest groups and their attack ads. And if I'm going to give up my job (required for broadcasters looking to get into politics), it would behoove me to make sure that I am getting in there with a fighting chance.

Response around town to the mere discussion of a potential run has been very positive--usually preceeded with "Thank God!!" so that is encouraging. Just give me a couple of weeks here to get ducks in a row and there will be some formal announcement of "go" or "no go". If you wake up one morning and you don't hear me on the air you'll know what happened to me.

That or I've figured out my ballstriking problems and have decided to turn pro in golf. It never hurts to have options.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Political Football

These are not good times for the Wisconsin Insterscholastic Athletic Association. The WIAA is under siege from all directions as it tries to foist a very unpopular conference realignment plan on Fox Valley schools, it sues the State Newspaper Association over broadcast fees, and State Legislators try to force it to open up its internal processes.

Obviously, there is zero benefit for FVA teams to get lumped in with schools from the Wisconsin Valley Conference. I especially feel sorry for Kaukauna and Fond du Lac--who will have the longest road trips if the conference merger goes through. If the WIAA wants to flex its muscles on this issue, why don't they just force Rhinelander and Antigo to go back to playing the Wausau and Marshfield schools? Inconvenience just two schools instead of ten.

As for the broadcast fees fight, as much as we in the electronic media hate paying them, we understand that without the WIAA, the playoffs wouldn't actually happen. Can you imagine what it would be like if individual schools tried to organize their own tournaments? If the Newspaper Association believes sports in public facilities should be streamed for free, why aren't their cameras in Camp Randall Stadium, Miller Park and Lambeau Field?

And then there was that bill in the State Legislature that would have required the WIAA to reveal their financial documents and open their meetings to the public--just like bodies of government--or have public schools banned from joining. The only problem is, the WIAA is not a government. It is an independent association to which member schools belong. There is no requirement for schools to belong to the WIAA--but then they don't get to participate in the state tournaments--and they don't get WIAA refs and umpires to work their games. So who really wins in that situation? Kids who don't get to pursue state championships and lose qualified officials?

I'll be the first to admit that the WIAA is not perfect--but it's the best organization that we have right now. Would you prefer the state take over interscholastic athletics? You may as well plan on budget deficits, admssion fees that increase by five percent every year and lawmakers demanding that all kids at all levels go home with big trophies at the end of the year--because that is only "fair".

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Failure of Imagination

One of my favorite scenes in the HBO miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon" is set in a Congressional hearing on the Apollo 1 disaster--where Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee died when fire broke out in the capsule while they were conducting a simple radio test with Mission Control. In the scene, Senator Walter Mondale is grilling NASA officials as to how the disaster happened--with the hopes of killing the Moon Mission--since those billions of dollars should have been going to expanding entitlement programs (how did he ever lose in 1984?).

The last person to testify is Frank Borman--who is asked directly by Mondale why he thought his fellow Astronauts died. After a long pause, Borman tells the Congressional panel that the disaster happened because of a "Failure of Imagination." Everyone at NASA was so fixated on the dangers of liftoff and orbit and landing on the Moon and getting back off the surface and back to Earth, that they overlooked the equally great dangers of the most routine things on the ground.

Don't you think that we have suffered that same "Failure of Imagination" leading up to the oil spill in the Gulf? In the decades that we have been doing deep-water drilling no one ever thought "What should we do if one of these wellheads breaks a mile under water?" Or "We should come up with an effective way to trap oil leaking from underwater drilling sites--just in case."

Perhaps the great minds who could have developed solutions to the problems that we now face were busy working on alternative energy projects like more cost-effective solar and wind generators. More likely, they were figuring out how to make cell phones that play games, shoot video, provide wi-fi internet, download songs, text, email, Twitter, Facebook, control the lights in your house, play movies and still don't get any reception in your backyard. You know--the really important stuff.

Hopefully, our latest "surprise" disaster inspires a new focus in the private sector to imagine what is possible--and anticipate what is needed to deal with it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Random Thoughts

Republican candidate for Governor Mark Neumann is either very brave--or very foolish. Neumann crashed the Democratic Convention in Madison--holding a press conference Saturday while Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett was making his endorsement speech. If you want to get media attention I guess that is one way to do it. But how could his handlers expect to get a positive reaction? Did they think they could find a Republican in Madison? Did Neumann think that his answering questions from the most hardcore Democratic supporters would somehow change their minds on Big Government, higher taxes and more debt? So he ends up with pictures of him all over the internet with dozens of Barrett for Governor signs behind him. Not sure what that campaign gained there.

I feel sorry for today's kids. The Karate Kid and the A-Team are the biggest hits at the box office? Is there anything original anymore? Their songs today steal riffs from past hits, their TV shows are remakes of junk we watched in the '80's and so are the movies now. Can a remake of "Tron" be far away--or the return of "BJ and the Bear". (Heidi Montag for "Stacks" please). Not only will they be the first American generation to have less personal wealth and assets than their parents--they will also be the first to have fewer cultural advancements as well.

You've got to hand it to the South African World Cup fans. They have somehow come up with a way to make soccer even less enjoyable to watch. The constant buzzing of "Vuvuzelas" threatens to drown out the TV announcers in broadcasts. My wife can't stand them--wondering why the fans don't just cheer. "Cheer what?" I asked her, "We are talking about soccer here." It sounds like all of the stadiums have been overrun by swarms of killer bees. Even the players are complaining about the noise--saying it distracts them from not trying to score. World Cup officials are considering a vuvuzela ban--which will likely result in rioting.

I should have made better use of the two weeks of summer we had back in May. I guess someone should have told us that those would be the only warm sunny days we would have for the rest of the year. Good thing I got my farmers tan early--since we haven't seen much of the sun since. Stupid global warming.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Wake Me When It's Over

The World Cup gets underway today in South Africa. I'm sure that you are joining the rest of the world in hosting viewing parties over the next month and preparing to pour into the streets to celebrate a Team USA victory over Algeria. You weren't? Oh yeah that's right, we are Americans--and we couldn't care less about soccer.

I am a member of the generation that was going to raise soccer to the level of football, baseball and basketball in the US. We were the ones who were supposed to be inspired by Pele coming to play for the New York Cosmos in the late 1970's. We were the ones who were going to go out for soccer in high school instead of football in the fall. We were the ones who were going to turn out by the millions and stay glued to our TV's when the US hosted the World Cup in 1994. We were the ones who were going to "kick the ball around" with our kids in the back yard instead of "playing catch". We were the ones who were supposed to pack stadiums for Major League Soccer. And we're the ones who are now supposed to be enthralled by David Beckham and his anorexic wife.

Of course, none of that has actually happened. Yes, a lot of kids play youth soccer (due mostly to the fact that parents see it as a socially acceptable way to exhaust their kids so they will actually go to bed) but once they step off the pitch, those kids realize what a boring, unwatchable game it is. And spare me the "You don't understand the intracacies and subtle strategies employed by top level soccer teams." Yeah, there's nothing more beautiful than an overmatched team playing for a nil-nil tie--or one team getting the first goal early and trying to sit on that lead for the rest of the game.

What turns me off on soccer the most is the way the slightest bit of contact results in a player going down like he was shot by a sniper in the crowd. Then the trainers come out and carry him off on a gurney--like he's a Civil War Soldier shot during a charge on the enemy. Did anyone see Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks continue to play in a playoff game against San Jose after having seven teeth knocked out by a puck to the face? He even pulled out a few of the loose teeth himself on the bench before going out for his next shift. Even Tiger Woods played an entire US Open on a broken leg. Yet a scrape of the cleats on the ankle of a soccer forward results in the type of agonized reaction that Joe Thiesmann had when Lawrence Taylor broke his leg on Monday Night Football.

So you can keep the World Cup there rest of the world--along with your appeasment of dictators and despots, your socialized medicine and your crippling national debts. I'm more than happy to be an "ignorant American."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

You Can Quote Me On That

This has been a good couple of weeks for really stupid quotes.

Let's start with President Obama and his summary on why he is meeting with experts on the oil spill in the Gulf:

"I don't sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar, we talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick."

We all know that rhetoric is the President's strong suit, so tough talk is all he can really provide during a crisis. We've discussed previously the increadible frustration he must feel in knowing that in yet another case, Big Government is not the solution to the problem. And just whose ass has been kicked? As Florida Senator George LeMieux pointed out, the President hasn't even met with the CEO of BP to discuss how this happened, why fix attempts haven't worked and what the company plans to do clean everything up.

Of course the only thing people are paying attention to is the use of the word "ass". "Not very Presidential" they say. Maybe that's the way he talks to his daughters while sneaking a smoke outside the White House. Or maybe he just wants people distracted from what is really not being done.

Let's move on to now-former White House reporter Helen Thomas and her incredibly enlightened statement on the legitimacy of Israel as a nation:

"They should get the hell out of Palestine. Remember, these people are occupied, and it's their land," and Israelis should "go home [to] Poland and Germany."

This is just the latest in a series of recent incidents that has to have Israeli officials and citizens to wonder if the US still has its back. Condamnation from the White House of new settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, the UN allowing Iran to develop weapons grade nuclear materials and sanctions for raiding the "missionary boats" trying to run the blockade on Gaza.

Is Helen Thomas an anti-Semite? Probably not. I believe that you can criticize the actions of Israel without being a bigot. But to side with terrorists looking to destroy a democracy in a region of the world that is short on the observance of human rights is certainly questionable.

And finally my favorite quote of the week--from Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy:

"I like our training camp schedule."

I would hope that Coach would like the schedule--since he was the one that made it. It's not like the NFL Office released this schedule and the team had no control over it. This is just another example of how over the top we have become in our obsession with football. We're breaking down training camp schedules now?!? I'm surprised one of the reporters yesterday didn't ask Mike to "give us some insight into the decision to go only 'shells' during the second of the two-a-days on August 2nd." To quote Alan Iverson: "We talking about practice.....practice."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Condamning the Condamners

As you might expect, I'm not a big fan of government coming in and taking over private property. That's why I have to raise an eyebrow when I hear about the city of Oshkosh having an independent appraisal done on the Pioneer Inn property. Yes, I understand the frustration in having nothing done on the site for more than four years now--but how is getting government involved in the process really going to move things along?

Let's play out this process hypothetically. Let's say the appraisal comes in right around the price Decade Properties is asking for the site. What have you accomplished then? Or let's say the appraisal comes in at less than what Decade is seeking. Have you just given them ammunition to request lower property tax payments based on the city's "new valuation" of the site? Maybe they could get a refund like several other commercial properties in the city have been getting the last few months for overinflated property values.

And just how do you force someone to sell an asset? They aren't making any more lakefront property--so even just holding on to what is there is still a viable economic decision for Decade. Sure they should spend a little bit more to get the graffiti off the remaining building walls and maybe do a little more landscaping--but so long as people want to live or recreate around water--the land sitting next to the water will be a golden egg.

My least-favorite idea is for the city to "help market" the property. I've heard this term used around several less-than-successful "marketing" efforts. How long has Oshkosh been "marketing" the Marion Road Redevlelopment area? How about the city of Kaukauna "helping to market" the former greyhound track site? And the village of Kimberly "marketing" the former Newpage paper plant? If people at City Hall were experts in marketing and selling property, they would be in the private sector making money marketing and selling property.

And that brings us to the "nuclear option": condamnation of the Pioneer. Mayor Paul Esslinger and City Manager Mark Rohloff said Monday on WOSH that condamnation was not the main goal of having the appraisal done--and that they would "prefer not to have the city own the property." But if Decade opts to continue sitting on the property and not moving forward with any condo or hotel project, that could be the only way some at City Hall would see "progress" being made there. Decade might get it's fair market value for the property--but would taxpayers? If people who make their living developing property think the market is too bad right now to invest anything in a new project--where would the city find another buyer? And would we go through the cycle of hope and despair that we have seen with Marion Road as proposal after proposal falls through for lack of funding or ability to actually sell units. And I'd be willing to bet that anything done down there would include Tax Incremental Financing and a land sale price of one dollar.

So think long and hard, City Council members before stepping into the real estate development world again.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Wooden Pyramid of Success

With the passing of the legendary Coach John Wooden this weekend, I think it's a good time to review his Pyramid of Success. This isn't just for sports--but for every aspect of life.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Being a Man

It appears that public opinion is already beginning to turn for Major League Baseball Umpire Jim Joyce. He of course is the umpire that blew a call at first base with two outs in the ninth inning Wednesday night--costing Tigers pitcher Armando Gallaraga a perfect game. Joyce worked home plate in yesterday's game at Comerica Park in Detroit--and was welcomed to field before the game with a standing ovation from most of the Tigers fans. Sure there were a few boos--but the vast majority of the crowd showed their support for a man that the night before was generally considered to be the stupidest person in the history of mankind (if you listen to talk radio or any of the 13 ESPN channels).

So why the sudden turnaround of public sentiment toward Jim Joyce? Simple--Jim Joyce acted like a man and took responsibility for his actions immediately. It started in the seconds after the initial call Wednesday night. Tigers Manager Jim Leyland came out to argue the call--and Joyce told him "I think I blew it--I'm sorry." And after the game was over Joyce went before the media and again admitted that he had made a big mistake in the biggest single call of his career.

Jim Joyce didn't blame any of the other umpires. He didn't ask why firstbaseman Miguel Cabrera went so far out of position to try and make the play--when staying home would have allowed the second baseman to make a more routine play that would have almost certainly resulted in an out as well. He didn't say Gallaraga should have caught the ball in the pocket of his glove instead of having it bounce off the heel into the webbing--making it look like he bobbled it in real speed.

He didn't issue his admission and apology through MLB's press secretary or post it on his website. He didn't wait to go on Oprah or Larry King or an exclusive interview with MSNBC. Joyce made a mistake and took ownership of it immediately and very publicly. And for that, he wins the respect of those who are fed up with all of the "I'm a victim too" attitude that has poisoned our current culture.

And "big ups" to Commissioner Bud Selig for not bowing to public outcry and issuing a reversal of Joyce's call and giving Gallaraga the perfect game in the ultimate act of revisionist history. I'm sure Whitey Herzog would have been at Selig's office door about five minutes after a reversal ruling asking for Bud to "turn back the clock" and reverse Don Denkinger's blown call at first base in the 9th inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series that allowed the Kansas City Royals to comeback and beat the St Louis Cardinals for the title. And the Baltimore Orioles would probably like Richie Garcia's awarding of a home run to Derek Jeter after Jeffrey Maier reached over the fence to snatch the ball out of Tony Tarasco's glove in the 1996 Divisional Series. (Stop me when you get tired of "we wuz robbed" moments in baseball history).

Now let's all move on to those "suspicious" calls in the NBA Finals.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Curmudgeon Alert!

Today I officially join the ranks of those who believe that "Everything was better when I was a kid." The start of the NBA Finals tonight has me thinking about the Lakers-Celtics series from the 1980's--and how any of the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird teams would mop up the floor with the two title contestants this year.

I was really hoping that NBA TV would have shown all of those classic Finals games featuring Bird and Magic and their three epic duels from that era this week. Unfortunately, we got none of that. Maybe the league-owned network was too embarrassed by what basketball has become today to put up such high quality stuff from its past.

Sure the kids today would laugh at the short-shorts and the mullets and Kurt Rambis's nerd glasses and Kareem's goggles. But maybe they would learn a thing or two about dribbling without carrying the ball every time--and about passing the ball more than twice before putting up a shot--or post moves that aren't limited to just backing down your man and shooting a fall away jumper.

If you ever get a chance to catch some of the Classic NBA games you will likely be reminded of just how great the sport was--when it was actually about the sport. There was no music on the PA system while play was going on. Now, it's almost like the music never stops--lest the fans (or maybe the players) get bored. There was no "High Energy Dance Team" (yes you had the Laker Girls but even their outfits look like 1950's cheerleader stuff compared to today's "Sportsbras are acceptable shirts" attitude) and the players were introduced to the crowd with the lights on and no laser and smoke shows.

I was part of the generation of sports fans that helped elevate the NBA from the second-rate sport that had its Finals shown on tape-delay in the early 80's to the hottest thing in the world by the end of the decade. But the Association lost me and many others when it sold itself out to the marketing of Michael Jordan. No longer was it about the teams or even the quality of the game itself--it was all about selling shoes and Gatorade and movies about basketball in space. Unfortunately, little has changed since then--as we continue to have LeBron James shoved down our throats--despite the fact he has won ZERO championships.

Will I watch the Finals games the next couple of weeks? Sure--even though they start way too late for someone who gets to work at 3:00 in the morning. But don't expect me to think that these two teams are "great" in any way.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What You Call Earmarks, I Call Pork

Wisconsin's Democratic Congressional delegation has posted their annual earmark requests for fiscal year 2011. I say "Democratic" because the Republican members of the delegation are honoring a one-year moratorium proposed by that party. For those who are unfamiliar, "earmarks" are specific spending request tied to larger budget packages--which usually direct federal tax dollars to small local projects in a Congressman's district. You may actually know earmarks by their more common "outside the beltway" name of PORK.

Let's begin today's discussion with a little fact: The national debt just went over 13-trillion dollars. That is $42-thousand dollars for each man, woman and child in the US. You can check it out at this website:

Those numbers apparently mean nothing to the Democrats in Congress--as they have gone about their merry way coming up with billions of dollars of earmarks for next year. Congressman Steve Kagen is requesting an extra 114-million dollars in spending for 73 projects. You can check them all out here:

I won't bore you with going through the entire list--but there are a few that I do want to point out.

Like 3.8 million dollars for "cranberry research" in Wisconsin...3-million dollars for the City of Green Bay to tear down a former mall to build everyone's favorite development: downtown riverside condominiums...720-thousand dollars to find eight to ten housing units for the chronically homeless in Green Bay...339-thousand dollars for something called a "kitchen incubator" at NWTC...a quarter-million dollars for the Native American Indigenous Games in Milwaukee next month....a million dollars for a riverwalk for students in De Pere...and 900-thousand dollars for development of a Specialty Meat Development Center in Madison.

I would encourage you to read through the "purposes" of all these earmarks on Congressman Kagen's website and then ask yourself "Is this the best use of my tax dollars--and worth adding to a 13-trillion dollar debt?" Then remember that there are 256 other Democrats in the House asking for even more of those "necessary funds" and 56 Democrats in the Senate (Russ Feingold is not one of them--to his self-congratulating credit) adding to the debt pile as well.

Until we learn to prioritize in Washington--that National Debt Clock will continue to race faster and faster to a total meltdown.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I'd Like to Talk to.........

There are a few people that I would like to talk to today.

First up would be the DOT official or officials that signed off on closing the Witzel and 20th Avenue overpasses at the same time. DID YOU SEE THE TRAFFIC MESS YOU CREATED IN THIS CITY ON FRIDAY AFTERNOON? I had a simple mission on Friday--get a couple of things from the grocery store before we left for the parent's cabin. That simple mission turned into Mission Impossible as traffic on Oshkosh Ave just east of highway 41 was backed up--both lanes--to the Sawyer Street intersection. Westfield Street heading north to Oshkosh Ave was backed up to Red Arrow Park--as no one could turn left. And 9th Ave was backed up--both lanes--to Sawyer as well--as no one could get onto northbound 41.

I'm sure that more than a few of the people stuck in that mess were just looking to get across--not onto--41 that afternoon--but the closure of both non-exit overpasses made that impossible. Eventually I just gave up and went to a northside store just to preserve my sanity. Oh by the way--the highway 45 interchange was just as backed up later that afternoon as people thought they might be able to "jump the line" on the 41 backup by going around the Butte Des Morts Causeway--but that didn't save a minute at all either. Count me out of leaving my house on Friday, July 2nd.

I'd also like to talk to the Police Chiefs of Clintonville and Marion--along with the Langlade County Sheriff. While I can certainly appreciate the "fact" that people driving five miles an hour over the posted speed limit is the greatest threat to our personal security nowadays--is it really necessary to have an officer on each end of town running radar? Two squads along highway 45 in Clintonville and Marion Friday evening and again Monday afternoon. I guess those are two of the safest cities in Wisconsin if half the police force (or perhaps all of it in the case of Marion) can be out trying to catch FIBS speeding through town. And to the Langlade County Sheriff, thanks for posting a deputy to shoot radar at the end of one of the precious few passing lanes along 45 Monday afternoon. Everyone afraid to move around the RV towing the pontoon boat at 54 miles an hour really appreciated that.

And finally, can someone please talk to President Obama's handlers? First you allow him to blow off the traditional wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetary to take the family back to Chicago. Then when there is the inevitable public outcry that the President isn't honoring the true meaning of Memorial Day, you cobble together a last-minute appearance at President Lincoln's burial place. (Some historians do consider Lincoln the "final casualty" of the Civil War--so I guess we'll let that selection slide--even though he has his own memorial day). Of course, a severe thunderstorm rolls into the area--sending attendees running for shelter in driving rain and lightning. Weather in Arlington, VA yesterday: partly cloudy and 91. A message from above?? Hmmmmmmm