Friday, May 28, 2010

More Lessons Learned

The more you live--the more you learn.

We've learned yet again that those who portray themselves as "Super Patriots" are more than happy to use bullying techniques and threats to get their way. Officials with Midwest Realty Management are getting death threats this week from people who are upset that tenants were not allowed to display an American flag in their windows. Adding to the "media friendly" nature of this story is the fact the tenant is a veteran.

We could go into the lengthy legal debate about personal property rights--but suffice it to say it is well within Midwest Realty rights to limit what is displayed on its private property. It's not just American flags that are not allowed--but Mexican flags, Nazi flags, Confederate flags, Obama campaign signs and Ron Johnson for Senate signs are also banned. Given today's political climate, we would probably have the same bruhaha if someone was allowed to display a Mexican flag. The same people calling for the death of those banning the Stars and Stripes would be calling for the death of those permitting such an "unpatriotic display" in our country.

We always hear about how soldiers are "dying for our freedoms". Well those freedoms include the right to live without threats of personal injury or death from others and the freedom to live pretty much wherever we want. My advice: find an apartment complex that allows you to put whatever you darn well want in your windows--or save up to buy a house and exercise your right to control what what is displayed on your private property.

President Obama is learning a tough lesson this week: Government cannot fix all problems. We hear every day how the President is "frustrated that nothing can be done to stop the oil leak in the Gulf." Is he frustrated that BP can't fix it--or is he frustrated that there isn't some Government entity that he can send in to "save the day"? You know that there had to be a tense White House briefing where the President learned that there is not an Office of Oil Spill Management in Washington, that there isn't an Oil Spill Management Czar and that we don't have billions of dollars of personnel and equipment just sitting around waiting for major oil spills along our shores.

You know that it is killing him that the private sector is the one who has to fix the oil spill--because we all know the private sector is the problem--not the solution. At least he's able to publicly bash BP at every oppunity he can. What would the President do if BP was to say "Hey, you want to crucify us for what happened here--then you can handle the fix and clean up yourself, 'cause we are out of here." The business management materials I've read usually recommend identifying the problem, making sure there is some accountability and working together on a solution or fix. Not continuing to harp on the mistake and continuing to bash the responsible party every chance you get.

Of course those lessons were learned by people who were successful in the actual business world--not someone who has spent their lives in the worlds of academia and politics.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Best Six Billion Dollars We Have Ever Spent

NASA has released the latest images from the Hubble Space Telescope and they are--as usual--spectacular. The best of the new crop is a yellow dwarf star (much like our own Sol) swallowing a planet that has drifted too close (see left)

Have we as Americans ever spent a better six billion dollars than it cost us to build, launch, repair and service the Hubble? It has already outlasted its life expectancy--has produced images even better than NASA anticipated and has given us a greater understanding of our universe and our origins than any other single piece of scientific equipment ever built by man.

My all-time favorite images from Hubble are the one where you see stars literally being born in the Eagle Nebula (see above right) and the Deep Space shot where there are thousands of galaxies all hurtling from what seems to be a common point (the Big Bang Shot?).

As the Obama Administration considers gutting the US Space Program--scrapping the Moon missions, renting space on Russian rockets for low-earth orbit work on the International Space Station and pushing back the timetable for manned missions to Mars--maybe those in the White House should take another look at the Hubble pictures. Or at least video footage of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions. The Manned Space Program continues the evolution of human education and exploration that started with man moving out of the caves--traveling the oceans and taking to the skies. For while pictures from Hubble and other telescopes certainly teach us a lot--man still learns best by seeing things through his or her own eyes.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Let Them Play at Home!!

Next month, fans in Chicago or Philadelphia, Boston or Los Angeles will get to watch their team capture a league championship in their home arena. If they are season ticketholders, they won't even have to switch their courtside or rinkside seats to witness hisotry. They will be able to work the day of the game--drive a few miles to the arena and then celebrate in their hometown bars and restaurants afterwards. And if they feel good enough, can go right back to work the next day.

But for many fans of the NFL, that is something they will never get to experience. For them, the Super Bowl is hopelessly out of reach--either because of the expense of traveling to the neutral site--or the NFL never considering their city to host the big game.

For decades, the NFL ruled out cities north of a select few states unless they had a domed stadium--and even then, it has been a one-and-done for Minneapolis--and a double shot for Detroit just because they switched domes. "We can't have weather--cold or rain and snow--be a factor in our biggest game of the year" NFL officials would say. That is apparently until now.

Today, NFL owners will likely award the 2014 Super Bowl to the new football stadium outside of New York city. The new stadium--which amazingly doesn't have a corporate title yet--does not have a dome--meaning the weather will be a factor in the game. As was pointed out ad nauseum on ESPN Radio yesterday, in the first week of February this year, New York City saw almost two feet of snow. Unless the NFL has hired Al Gore as their climate expert, you cannot rule out similar weather for the Super Bowl as well.

So if that issue is no longer pertinent to the NFL--why not open up the bidding to host the Super Bowl to all teams in the league? Chicago, Kansas City, Boston and Pittsburgh could certainly handle the crowds--Green Bay--maybe not. But they are just as important a city to the league than any other. Or let's go the route of every other major professional sport in the US and let the teams involved in the title contest play at home--in front of their fans--not just executives from major corporate sponsors and stars of shows of whatever network is broadcasting the game that year.

If the Packers somehow ever make it back to the Super Bowl, you could call it the "Throwback NFL Championship Game". No giant corporate tents, no Super Bowl Saturday Night Concert, no Celebrity Touch Football Classic. Just two teams playing in the biggest game in sports--in front of the most passionate fans in the world.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Professor McGee's Excellent Experiment

At a forum on Federal Stimulus Funding spending last week, UW Oshkosh Professor Kevin McGee proposed selecting residents at random to receive copies of local government budgets and have them work with officials to determine spending for the next year--along with tax rates and levies. Professor McGee's purpose--so he says--is to give people better understanding of how their local taxes are spent--and the effect levy caps and freezes has on the community.

Sounds like the Professors hopes that people would get frustrated by the process and angry that they are allowed to only spend "X" amount of dollars and would become opponents of controls on local spending. Or they would throw up their hands and say "This is too hard--maybe we should just leave government spending to Theoretical Keynsian Economists who believe that governement spending is key to a nation's financial growth." But I think the Prof would be surprised by what would actually happen.

If the budget books went to people who are in control of their personal finances, they would simply employ the same techniques they use to budget their income--which doesn't always see a guaranteed increase at the rate of their property valuation. They would use the good old-fashioned economic technique of "Zero Based Budgeting". They would not say "We can spend 3.5% more this year--so let's add 3.5% to all of our line items--and whatever doesn't fit within those budget parameters we will call a "spending cut". Instead, they would start with the known amount that could be spent--prioritize the items that need to be purchased and the services that must be provided with that money and anything left after we reach zero gets cut.

And as a Public Sector employee himself, I don't think Professor McGee would be a big fan of the questions the average resident would ask about the single greatest expenditures for local governments--employee compensation. "Why are pay raises guaranteed instead of based on merit and performance?" "Why are there so many levels of administration?" I'm sure that most participants in the experiment would also want to bring benefits packages more in line with the costs they themselves incur in the private sector.

So let's take Professor McGee up on his offer to bring the budget process truly outside the walls of City Hall, the Orrin King Building and the District Administration building--and let's see whose eyes are opened to the way government funds would be spent.

Oh by the way, on Wednesday, the Oshkosh School Board will be voting to increase the salary ranges of Executive Directors within the District--and creating a new administrative job: Elementary/Instructural Support Principal.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Just When You Thought We Were Ready to Move On

First off, let me extend my thanks to the men and women who served in the Vietnam War. Especially to my uncles who saw action over there and to my Dad who served stateside during that time. Your sacrifices have been sadly overlooked and dismissed for too long. Hopefully this weekend's LZ Lambeau "Welcome Home" will allow all of you to achieve some closure and grow some pride in the efforts you made to preserve freedom throughout the world.

It seemed like LZ Lambeau was actually going to achieve its goal of spotlighting the efforts of those who served in Vietnam--to give those of us too young to have been around at the time and those who couldn't separate the fight from the fighter a chance to properly thank and support the Veterans. But along comes a protest group to reopen old wounds and fire up the empty rhetoric again.

The protest group believes LZ Lambeau is going to be too "pro-war" and will be used as a recruiting tool for the military. That's a laugh. Outside of John Wayne's "The Green Berets" can you think of anything "pro-war" that came out of Vietnam? And if the veterans at LZ Lambeau share the same stories I've heard from other guys who served over there the last thing teenage kids who attend will be thinking is "Man, I've got to get in on that action!!"

The protest group is also upset because they were not allowed to set up their "Memorial Mile" display in the public right of way on streets leading to Lambeau. The memorial sounds like a fine tribute--until you learn that the 4800 headstones represent those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Isn't LZ Lambeau about honoring the service of Vietnam War veterans? Why crash their party with a protest over another war? You don't see World War II vets or those who served in Korea trying to crash this party. Besides, there is plenty of private property around Lambeau Field. If so many people hold the same beliefs as the protest group, it should be easy fill their yards with the gravestones and still make your statement. Undetered, the protest group is going to hold their presentations at a labor hall in Green Bay this weekend. (A labor hall?? Hmmmm)

The protest group even points a finger at our hometown Oshkosh Corporation. The group believes Oshkosh's sponsorship of LZ Lambeau is "proof" this is a big pro-war rally. Does this group know anything about "Truck"? Do they know about the number of veterans who work for the company? Or the number of reservists? Or that the company has been honored by the Veterans Administration, the National Guard and Reserve for its treatment of current and former soldiers and their families? Do they consider that many of the vehicles built by Oshkosh are designed to protect the soldiers who use them? And do they consdier that without the sponsorship money provided by Oshkosh Corporation and other companies this weekend that the LZ Lambeau would probably be held in a city park or a bar parking lot? No--all these people see is the billion dollar contracts the Pentagon awards to Oshkosh and they assume that it's a "greedy" corporation that is "profiteering" from the war.

All the protest group is looking for is publicity--and unfortunately we have given it to them. But their 15-minutes ends this morning. Then the spotlight can shine on those who truly deserve it--not just this weekend--but for the rest of their lives.

Thanks again Vietnam Veterans. Sorry it took us so long to say it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What Hath Brett Favre Wrought

Add Cleveland to the cities held hostage by the whims of a superstar athlete who can't decide where he wants to play. The NBA may as well cancel the rest of the Playoffs now that the Cavaliers are out--and all anyone in the media cares about it where free-agent-to-be Lebron James is going to play next season.

Some Clevelanders are so desperate to keep Lebron they have made a music video to try and sway his decision:

Apparently, there is no crime in Cleveland, there is full employment and all the kids get straight A's in the schools--because there are a number of government officials in that video (including the GOVERNOR OF OHIO!!) taking time to sing about how much they love Lebron. Glad we have our priorities in order there in Ohio.

And as sports talk-show host Jim Rome pointed out yesterday, nice job taking "We Are The World"--which was written and recorded to help end famine in Africa (that worked well didn't it?) and cheapening it by tying it to keeping a millionaire in your city to throw a leather ball in an iron hoop.

Of course, as soon as Brett Favre sees this video he is going to expect the same kind of treatment from the Twin Cities. "Please come back Brett.....Please stay in Purple...We'll rename Metrodome Brett Favre Field to feed your ego". At least Minneapolis has Prince and Paul Westerberg--who can actually sing.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

One Liners

Is soon-to-be Former Senator Arlen Specter going to claim that "I didn't abandon the Democratic Party--the Democratic Party abandoned me?"

Is it too early to start printing "Rand Paul for President" bumper stickers? Maybe we could just tape an "a" and a "d" into all the Ron Paul stickers. That would be the economically responsible thing to do.

I think most Brewers fans would gladly pay a $10 per ticket surcharge to pay off the $22 million dollars owed to Trevor Hoffman and Jeff Suppan so the team can just cut them and bring up someone who can actually get batters out.

Does it hurt the credibility of Harvard University when a guy can present fake transcripts from other schools and get accepted? No one actually checks those things?

No wonder so many of our least-effective Presidents (Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama) were Ivy League grads.

Can someone explain to me why the NHL is playing both conference championship series on the same night--when they could be staggered to give us hockey every night?

I can't wait to see the new "creative" way people who can't manage their money find to get farther into debt now that Auto Title Loans are now illegal in Wisconsin.

The biggest winner in the "Federal Stimulus Package"? The company that makes orange construction barrels and cones. You can't go anywhere without seeing those things now.

You might think that congratulations are in order when you hear that teacher compensation in Wisconsin went up only 3.8% without the Qualified Economic Offer law in place--until you consider that personal income for Wisconsin residents decreased by 2%.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Scary Stuff

I'm guessing that the Sheboygan County Town of Wilson doesn't have a Diversity Council or a
Tourism and Visitors Bureau--otherwise every member of those bodies probably would have quit after last night's Town Board meeting. The Board voted on special use permits for a proposed mosque in a former health food store--and unfortunately, things got ugly (with TV cameras and radio microphones there to capture it).

The board itself did a great job--approving the permits, as there was nothing in the zoning laws prohibiting such a use for the building--but some of the residents used the opportunity to set back religious relations in the area about 200 years.

I'm not sure which was scarier, Alastair Matthews asking the Board to "Uphold the 'one true religion' (I'm guessing Christianity) and deny the mosque request"--or Mark Brill trying to argue that Islam isn't a Constitutionally protected religion because "There isn't a Muslim in this room that can argue that they 'gather peacefully'".

Can everyone see now why the framers of the Constitution made it so clear that there is to be a seperation of church and state in this country? Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of there anything ambiguous about that, Alastair Matthews? Did James Monroe or John Adams say anything about the "one true religion?" in that passage? I couldn't find it anywhere else in the Constitution either, sorry.

Or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; that means the teaching of whatever the religion believes there, Mark Brill. Perhaps Mr. Brill would like to attend a few prayer sessions at the mosque to gain a greater understanding of the beliefs held by the vast majority of American Muslims?

I'm guessing that Mr's Matthews and Brill would rather "peacefully" beat everyone over the head with their Bibles.

Monday, May 17, 2010


There are a couple of things I find unbelievable today.

The first you might have missed last week. The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board--which oversees elections in the state--voted to ban voluntary showing of identification at the polls. That's right, it is now illegal in Wisconsin to prove that you are who say you are before you cast a ballot.

The GAB defends its ruling by saying that someone showing their ID to the poll workers on election day would serve to "confuse, intimidate or offend" someone who does not wish to show their ID. I'm not sure how someone can be "offended" by the simple act of making sure that my vote is actually be cast by me--not someone claiming to be me (or a person who doesn't even exist in our district) because he would not be required to show identification. I guess I owe an apology to the people I "offended" at the polls the last two years by showing my drivers license when requesting my ballot. I didn't see anyone running for the doors in a huff after I did that. Maybe the "offended" parties hadn't show up yet--or couldn't stand the thought of leaving their house out of fear I might question their intentions because they weren't showing proof of identity.

I'm glad the Non-Accountability Board is making sure that those who wish to defraud the election system have every opportunity to do so. I just hope the "election police" are on-hand in November to "confuse, intimidate and offend" those of us who actually do want to guarantee clean elections.

Also amazing me this morning is the reluctance of the Oshkosh School Board to sign on to the "Race to the Top" Program. This proposal from President Obama could provide more than one-million dollars in extra federal funding for the cash-strapped Oshkosh School District next year. There are apparently some problems for members of the School Board however--like more reporting of standardized test scores--and tying student performance to teacher compensation.

More than a few Boardmembers are apparently uncomfortable with testing to see if kids in the district are actually learning what they are supposed to be learning in the classroom. You know, accountability is a dirty word nowadays. And to make teachers accountable for the performance of their students is unacceptable as well. Did I mention that President Obama is the one who proposed all of this?

One would think that a district that is desperate for every single dollar it can get in its current budget crisis would immediately jump on any opportunity to bring in an extra million dollars a year. They certainly don't pass up chances to grab more state taxpayer money by instituting four year old kindergarten or designating more schools for the SAGE program. It's not like the White House is placing outrageous requirements on the district to get the money--like teaching the history of unions (a new requirement put in place by the State Legislature).

Passing on this "Race to the Top" funding would show once and for all that it is NOT "all about the kids" in the Oshkosh School District. Made we should exert a little accountability the next time the School Board puts up a referendum--or go up for re-election.

Friday, May 14, 2010

How Much Should We Lose?

Today, we have the story of an Oshkosh Day Care Center under investigation by the State Department of Children and Family Services for defrauding the Wisconsin Shares Program. Wisconsin shares subsidizes day care services for low-income families--ostensibly so they can keep a job and support the family. Unfortunately, the program has become one of the biggest sources of fraud in state history.

The Oshkosh day care center is just one of 176 providers under investigation by the state for fradulent claims. Earlier this year, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did an extensive report on the Wisconsin Shares program and found widespread accounting problems

• Counties accept almost anything as proof of employment for parents seeking child-care assistance. Notes from employers, phone conversations, checks stubs - all of which are easily fabricated - serve as sufficient proof. As a result payments are sometimes approved based on bogus jobs.

• Caseworkers sign off on child-care arrangements that defy the imagination. In one instance, child-care funding was approved for 85 hours a week even when children were in school all day. If the statements were to be believed, the children would almost never be home. In another case, a woman was granted child-care assistance to work 236 of 238 days, including the day she gave birth to her seventh child.

• Regulators seldom revoke licenses for fraud and are slow to act even when they have strong evidence. In at least two cases, government officials suspected that providers were falsifying documents for three years before finally moving to shut down the child-care operations. Prosecutors have filed only one child-care fraud case in the past five years.

In the age of a $2.7 billion dollar state budget deficit, we hear all the time how there is "nothing left to cut" down in Madison. Yet legislators still found ways to increase spending for Wisconsin Shares by 28-percent over the last five years. Even if it costs us the amount that we are losing to fraud in that program just to make sure we stopped losing money to fraud--wouldn't it be worthwhile--if for no other reason than assure taxpayers that their money is actually being used the way we are told it is being used?

And if the state can't keep an eye on expenditures for day care centers--how are they properly going to police the use of the ever-growing BadgerCare programs? Private insurers spend millions to investigate fraud. How vigilant do you think the state is being in making sure all of the claims are legit?

Eventually we have to ask ourselves: How much are we willing to lose to "help" others?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Unsustainable Committee

Watching the Oshkosh Common Council meeting this week I was intrigued by Councillor Tony Palmeri's efforts to delay approval of weed removal in Millers Bay. Tony was upset that the issue didn't go through the city's Sustainability Advisory Committee first. I bet you didn't know the city had a Sustainability Advisory Committee. It's Tony's argument that many at City Hall don't know about it either--since their input isn't being sought very often. In fact, Councillor Palmeri stated it was time for the Council to determine what--if any--role the Committee was going to play in city politics.

I agree--it is time to determine that--because what is the use in having a committee if no one knows what it is there for? I would have actually enjoyed watching the committee consider the weed removal plan. As soon as the word "chemical" was used, an immediate vote would have been taken to oppose the plan. That would have been followed by a three hour discussion on how boating and fishing in Millers Bay is an "exploitation" of the lake--and where in the Kyoto Treaty the issue of fishing tournaments is covered.

And why stop with just issues in the parks? Why not run all of the city's development plans through that committee? I'm sure that every aspect of life is covered somewhere in the all-encompassing term of "sustainability". Is having a Sonic on the frontage road contributing to sustainable food growth? How "eco-friendly" is the new Oshkosh Corporation painting facility? Should people living in the new residential sub-division be required to have rain gardens? Ditto for street projects and utility improvements. And let's not forget the tree planting program. At this pace, the Sustainability Advisory Committee will have to meet almost every day to keep up with all of its agenda items.

And then the "advisory" part will become too limiting. How can we expect the committee to truly "make a difference" if they don't have authority to place requirements or restrictions on projects? The power to levy assessments would be next--we need to be able to fund our "sustainability efforts" you know.

All of this newfound power and responsibility would all be for naught, however--as the Common Council would continue to ignore their recommendations. You see, they are the ones who actually have to face the voters who have the boats that get clogged with weeds or would be the ones to pay the added assessments to include bike lanes on rebuilt streets and who work at the major industries upon which this community depends.

I liken the Sustainability Advisory Committee to Stephen King's character "Carrie". Would you rather not be asked to the prom--or have the pails of pig's blood dumped on you when you get there?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Big 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15.........

Could the Big Ten Conference do something not motivated by making more money just once please?

I ask this as the conference reportedly courts another five members to join its ranks--creating another "SuperConference" in college sports. Notre Dame, Rutgers, Nebraska, Missouri and a yet to be named school have all allegedly been offered spots in the new "Big Whatever". Conference officials deny the reports--but where there is smoke, there usually is fire--especially in college sports where if there is a chance to make more money someone will always grab it.

The "Big 16" would likely feature two divisions of eight--with a conference championship game for football after the regular season. I'm sure the University presidents can already see stadiums like Ford Field, Soldier Field or Lambeau Field filled with dollar signs--I mean fans for the title tilt and a trip to the BCS. One report had them considering four-divisions of four teams--meaning conference semi-finals games (played on campus in front of 100-thousand more dollar signs--i mean fans) before the title tilt. Isn't it amazing that the main defense for the BCS--a football playoff would mean too many games when the kids should be studying for finals--doesn't pose the same problem when it's each individual conference that gets to keep the cash for their nationally televised playoff game?

The schools the Big Ten might bring in don't excite me at all either. Rutgers? Until a couple of seasons ago--when they were competitive in the pathetic Big East--I would have been unsure if Rutgers was even Division 1-A for football. The only reason they are wanted is because somebody at the Big Ten offices thinks that would get the Big Ten Network on New York City area cable systems. Missouri has had few good runs in any sport and Nebraska football has fallen far from its lofty perch of the 1970's, 80's and 90's. Plus, they stink at every other sport.

The crown jewel for the Big Ten of course would be Notre Dame. But even there, you are getting a lemon. This is not the Fighting Irish of Rockne, Leahy, Parseghian or Holtz. Hell, it's not even the Notre Dame of Bob Davie. Have you seen the Domers in a BCS Title Game ever? They've made it to the BCS just twice since it started--despite having the easiest road to get there--thanks to their own "eligibility" rules.

Yes, fans of every Big Ten school that currently cannot get Notre Dame on the schedule will be jacked up to get them as a conference foe (plus it's an easy "W") but that will wear off in a few years and they will become the same as having Purdue in on Homecoming weekend. Besides, the Fightin's have their own economic incentive to NOT join the conference--that being their individual TV contract with NBC--which has meant big bucks for the Domers--and huge losses for the network. But you know that any of the other networks would be more than willing to pick up the deal--on the outdated belief that fans really care about Fighting Irish Football.

Personally, I think the Big Ten should contract (and actually live up to their name) by dropping the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Maybe they could join the WIAC and find some teams they can actually beat.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Quick Questions

Where you as panicked as I was when you saw the internet headline the other morning "Obama Tabs Kagan for Supreme Court"--before you realized it wasn't Congressman Steve Kagen?

Let me get this straight--Attorney General Eric Holder supports Mirandizing terror suspects and enemy combatants captured in the fields of Iraq and Afghanistan--and wants them tried in US civilian courts--but would be willing to waive some of those rights for American citizens arrested for terrorism on our own soil? It's time for everyone involved to decide what will be considered a "crime" and what will be considered "an act of war" from here on out. Let's just be consistant so that law enforcement knows what to do when we capture these guys (and gals).

How many times do you think the Oshkosh Corporation's record 2nd quarter profits will be mentioned tonight as the Common Council votes on a $5-million dollar TIF district for construction of their new e-coating plant? I've got the over-under at ten.

Will yesterday's bus-garbage truck crash in my neighborhood mean all of the yield signs will be replaced by stop signs--and we won't be able to go more than 200-feet without stopping?

Could the Brewers please spread out their run production? 17 in one game--one the next. Let's try for six every night--that might be enough to offset the sketchy starting pitching.

Can we give ABC golf analyst Paul Azinger the award for the "Greatest Twitter Blast Ever" by asking if Tiger Woods' neck injury "could have been prevented by a Swedish massage?" Two days later I can't help but laugh just thinking about it.

When did the trained response to tornado sirens become "run outside to see where the twister is?" That's what my wife and neighbors did last week. We only head to the basement now if we see the tornado is about to hit the house?

And why did the local TV stations feel the need to apologize for interrupting programming to bring viewers storm updates? THERE WAS A TORNADO ON THE GROUND!!! You really believe seeing the American Idol performances or who was eliminated from Dancing With the Stars is more important than a life-threatening situation for people in the viewing area? That being said--I know the phone in the TV newsroom was ringing off the hook from people who really did feel that way.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dine and Dash

The annual Restaurant Health Code Violations story was in the paper over the weekend. If "slime beginning to form on the soda dispenser gun" is the worst thing we have to worry about in our local restaurants, then we are in pretty good shape around here. I'd encourage you to check out the "Dirty Dining" feature that WTMJ TV in Milwaukee does a regular basis. You would be growing all of your own food if you watched that every day. I don't recall seeing "Rat Infestation" or "Mold on Food" listed among the Oshkosh violations.

The list also shows just how thorough a job our local inspectors are doing. I imagine its a bit easier to keep up with the check ups when you have fewer restaurants to keep an eye on. Hopefully they will be able to step up their "Dance Floor" and "Jukebox" inspections now that the Common Council has decided to retain the fees charged to establishments to have such things in their bars and restaurants.

The biggest thing that I take away from the health code violations story every year is all of the requirements placed on restaurants and bars in the name of health. You can't store raw foods above ready to eat items, you have to wash dishes at a certain temperature, bar glass washers have to have a certain percentage of chlorine in them, foods must be held at very specific temperatures. All of which leads me to wonder why the main comment we get from bar and restaurant owners who oppose smoking bans is "The government shouldn't tell me how to run my business."

I would think that indoor air quality would be as important to a business owner as making sure the tenderloin tips aren't going to cause an e-coli epidemic--or that employees are washing their hands after using the bathroom. Would you frequent an establishment that has a mold problem--or is doing some remodeling and not controllling the asbestos dust?

You don't realize how nice the smoking bans here in the Fox Valley are until you go out in places without one. We took my mother-in-law out to eat Saturday night in Green Bay. You almost forget how to answer the "Smoking or Non?" question when you don't get it for a couple of years. And waiting in the bar area for our table? You start counting the minutes until the July 5th statewide ban goes into effect.

That's when we will take another big step toward "safe dining"--no matter where we go.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Hollow Victory

In a couple of "My Two Cents" I have extolled the virtues of high-level golfers--like JP Hayes for disqualifying himself from Q-School after finding out he used an unapproved ball--or Brian Davis who called a penalty on himself at the Heritage tournament a few weeks ago that cost him a chance to win in a playoff. But today, I have to take a golfer to task for tainting the honor of the sport.

In a recent NAIA (which is the governing body for colleges not in the NCAA) regional qualifying tournament, Grant Whybark and Seth Doran finished in a tie for the final spot in the National Championship Tournament. Because Whybark was a member of the team that had already won the qualifier--he was guaranteed a spot the national tournament. Therefore, Whybark lost the playoff hole by intentionally hitting his drive 40-yards out of bounds--giving Doran the final qualifying spot. Whybark was more than willing to admit to throwing the match. "We all know Seth very well...somehow it just wasn't in my heart to knock him out" he told reporters after the round.

Sounds like the ultimate act of sportsmanship doesn't it? Well then you are probably one of those people who believe that we shouldn't keep score in youth sports--and that everyone should go home from a tournament with a trophy. Those of us who believe sports should be about competition and giving your best from the first shot to the last have a bad taste in our mouths from Whybarks' "concession".

First off, if you are going to tank a match--don't announce it to the whole world--and don't make it so obvious. A missed putt just below the hole or a flubbed chip around the green would have accomplished the task in a much less glaring way than driving your ball forty yards OB and laughing about it. (When I first heard about this, the first thing I thought of was Brett Favre "losing his footing" so Michael Strahan could set the single-season sack record. How much do you think Brett's offensive linemen appreciated that move?)

Secondly, do you think Seth Doran really feels like he "earned" his trip to Nationals? "How did you qualify, Seth?" "Oh, some guy intentionally hit the ball out of bounds in the playoffs because he felt sorry for me." I can tell you from experience, it feels a whole lot better winning because you went out and beat your opponent than it does getting a "W" through a forfeit. And believe me, Doran's life would have been just as fulfilling if he had not won the playoff for that final spot.

I'm a big fan of irony--so now I'm hoping that Seth Doran has the tournament of his life at the NAIA Nationals and knocks off all of Grant Whybark's teammates for the championship--so that the "gracious loser" has to answer to all the guys he sould have been helping to win.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

George Scherck for Governor

In the "good old days" of politics--before you had primary elections for most races--people would be "drafted" for positions. Party leaders would huddle up and decide "Abraham Lincoln would make a pretty good candidate for President--let's nominate him at the convention!" Sometimes the candidates would be more than willing to run--sometimes they would be like "What the??????????"

Anyway, I would like to nominate Neenah Mayor George Scherck for Governor. I'm not sure which party the Mayor would like to run in--but he needs to be on the ballot somewhere. I say that after Scherck cut more than nine-million dollars in projects from the city's Capital Improvements Plan--and comments he made about the cuts during an interview here on WOSH.

Mayor Scherck says he wants to delay construction of some things (like a 5.5 million dollar parking garage) because he doesn't think now is the time for government to be racking up more debt. HOLY COW!! A POLITICIAN WHO THINKS TOO MUCH DEBT IS A BAD THING!! And I loved his comment yesterday with Bob Burnell "Families have their list of Needs and Wants. We're keeping the city's Needs in the plan--and we're just delaying some of the Wants." CAN WE GET THAT PRINTED ON A SIGN OR A PLAQUE TO HANG IN EVERY CITY HALL, COUNTY BOARDROOM, STATE LEGISLATURE AND HOUSE OF CONGRESS???

I'm sure some of you are saying: "Doesn't the Mayor realize that the economy needs to be 'stimulated' right now by more government spending?" Or: "Doesn't the Mayor want to 'create' short-term jobs for people who would be working on those projects?" Or maybe you are thinking: "Doesn't he know he can always raise taxes to pay for that stuff?" Well you folks can enjoy the debt-laden governments everywhere but Neenah.

Under Governor Scherck, I doubt we would have to worry about subsidizing an 828-million dollar high speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison for the next 40-years. And we probably wouldn't be robbing the Transportation Fund to pay for schools or the Medical Malpractice Fund to pay fraudsters in Milwaukee for babysitting kids who don't exist.

So let's draft George for Governor. And while we're at it--for the State Assembly, the State Senate, Congress, the US Senate and President.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Kudos (and non-Kudos)

Kudos to the security staff at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia for finally using proper techniques to deal with idiots who run on the field. There has been much debate as to whether the use of a taser to stop the teenager from running around the outfield was excessive force. Let's not forget this goofball was breaking the law at the time he was tased--and was failing to comply with orders to stop breaking the law. Add in that nobody knew what this guy might do next--we have had fans attack coaches in baseball before--and the use of non-lethal force seems absolutely justified. It's just a matter of time that the number of incidents like this force owners to ensure player safety by building moats around the field (like they do in European and Latin American soccer) or fence in the field (like they do in European basketball).

Non-Kudos to Oshkosh City Planners in the 1960's and 70's. Maybe we know more about the way methane gas builds up and spreads now--but why were homes allowed to be built on former landfill property in the first place? And why wasn't that lesson learned after the infamous house explosion of the '70's? One of the properties the city is now having to buy was built on the same location as the house destroyed in the blast. Now we--the modern taxpayers--are forced to pick up the tab for tearing down those duplexes to ensure public safety. Do we have any other locations like that in the city? May as well take care of those now--before property values go back up again.

Kudos to the Evergreen Retirement Community. My wife and I walked the trail they have along Sawyer Creek for the first time last weekend. What a pleasant little area! My wife loved the flowers. And it took us just nine years to actually go down and check it out.

Non-Kudos to the gawkers who headed out to Clayton last night to check out storm damage. So many people were clogging the road on Grandview that the cops had to be called in to start clearing them out. Don't worry about missing out on "The Show". Every news channel in the area will be on scene shooting video that you can check out at 10:00--you don't need to go down there yourself to "witness it firsthand"--and to get in the way of emergency crews actually trying to help people. And spare us the "I Report" video footage posted on the internet. That damage is a serious blow to people's sense of security--not some Christmas light display meant to be enjoyed by everyone within 20-miles. STAY OUT!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Today's My Two Cents is going to be very short. I hope you will understand.

I got one of those calls last night. One of those calls that just rips your heart out and crushes it right in front of you. I won't give details about it just yet. This is not the time. But just suffice it to say that I am really "playing hurt" right now.

I just want to thank my family and friends for the support they have given and will give me in the future. This is one of those time when you find out you have even more friends and loved ones than you realized.

I also want to give a huge thank you to my wife. She is the one I will lean on the most to get through this difficult time--even though she is hurting as well. How did I ever get so lucky to have someone like her in my life?

That is all for now. Again I hope you will understand.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Greek Lessons

For centuries, the Greeks have been some of the greatest educators in the world. Their philosophers like Socrates, Pythagorus, Aristotle, Plato and my favorite Agrippa the Skeptic helped to found the basis of modern math, the scientific method, democracy, and ethics. Aesop used the fable to teach lessons of morality and practicality. And now the Greeks are teaching the world the dangers of government debt.

Greece--in a word--is beyond broke. Their national debt is 113% of gross national product--meaning they could take every Euro produced by their citizens this year, and it still wouldn't cover the national debt. Greece also has to borrow 13% of their annual budget to cover its deficit.

Greece is a Keynsian-based economy--with giant Federal Government spending meant to prop up the economy, and huge entitlements and pensions that created massive structural deficits that the government no has no hope of ever reducing without gutting programs. Federal employees work 12-months a year--but get paid for 14 (the 13th and 14th Month "bonuses"). It didn't help that the government lied about its deficit when it joined the European Union (claiming to be at 5% when it was actually 12%).

Now that the Global Recession has crippled the private industries--mainly construction and tourism--there isn't nearly enough Federal money available to keep the Greek economy afloat. To keep the Eurozone solvent, Germany and other EU countries are coming in with a huge bailout--opposed by most of its residents. Unfortunately, other socialized economies in Spain, Portugal and Ireland are in just as bad a shape and really can't afford to help--setting up a potential "domino effect" in Europe as country after country goes broke--pulling down their economic partners one-by-one.

So let's take a close look at our Greek teachers one more time. Let's avoid making the mistakes of putting so many people on the public dole, promising entitlements that we cannot ever hope to pay for, using Federal spending as a "stimulus" for economic growth and digging ourselves deeper and deeper into debt.

Maybe Aesop should have written the fable of the Socialist and the Capitalist.