Thursday, May 26, 2011

So Many Questions

I'm off tomorrow through next Wednesday--so I'll leave you with some questions to consider in my absence.

What are we going to do without Oprah?  Where will celebrities go to be told how "amazing" or "inspiring" or "hillarious" they are?  How will we know what incredibly overpriced, useless things are "Oprah's Favorites"?  How will we know what books to read?  How will we know if Witney Houston is back on crack or not?  How will we know what movies to watch?  And how will we know what Presidential candidate to vote for?  Doesn't Oprah know how much America depends on her to form their opinions and direct their lives?

Can the people who spent their life's savings to promote Harold Camping's rapture prediction sue that idiot?  Did any of those so sure it was going to happen consider that perhaps it did--and they just weren't judged to be worthy?  And how could anyone take Camping's new prediction of October 21st seriously?  Have the billboards and USA Today ads already been purchased to "warn" us again?

How do members of the Westboro Baptist Church live with themselves? How can you believe that tornadoes that wiped out Joplin are because God wants to punish the US for tolerating homosexuality?  How long until those storm victims get fed up with those idiots and start pelting them with the storm debris?

How does Mother Nature know when Memorial Day weekend is every year?  Have we had nice, dry weather for that weekend in the last two decades?  Would it help if we listed the holiday weekend on early printings of calendars--and then changed it a few weeks in advance? 

Have a safe enjoyable Memorial Day weekend.  One final question to consider:  Where would we be without the men and women who gave their lives in service of country?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Onion Time!!

Since the return of "My Two Cents" I've failed to hand out the prestigious "Big Ol' Sack Of Onions Award".  It's an honor reserved for those who show such audacity--and usually, idiocy--that it deserves special recognition.  To catch up on lost time, let's hand out three "Sack O' Onions" today.

Our first winner is the Middleton Education Association.  This week, the Middleton School District reported it had spent $300-thousand dollars in legal fees in a fight to fire a teacher who was viewing pornography on his classroom computer.  The teachers' union has been the one dragging out the firing--claiming the District failed to follow proper procedures in firing the teacher.  What's more, the union argues the District's policy on computer usage was "ambiguous" on whether viewing porn in the classroom was a fireable offense.  I don't know which shows more "onions"--claiming that using school district computers to view pornography in the classroom does not merit immediate dismissal--or complaining about education funding cuts when your own actions costs your schools $300-thousand dollars.  Just wait until the out-of-court-settlement comes along adding to the unneccessary expense.

Our next "Sack" winners are the Madison School District--and WEAC (the state's largest teachers' union).  These groups are denying properly-filed Freedom of Information requests for the lists of teachers who called in sick last February--but instead went to protest the collective bargaining bill at the Capitol.  The defense for this middle finger in the face of citizens exercising their rights is that teachers who skipped out of their job "would be targeted for threats."  A WEAC spokeswoman--in defending the organization's funding of a lawsuit in La Crosse blocking the release of "fake sick" records in that district--says "it's really unfortunate seeing educators being demonized for their decision to attend the protests".  I should note that many school districts have released the lists of teachers who gave fake excuses to join in the protests--and none have been gunned down outside of their schools--or have even reported receiving any threats.  And when you consider that Madison schools had to be shut down for four days in a row (remember, "it's all about the kids"), I think taxpayers deserve to know who was responsible for this disruption in public services.

So congratulations, Middleton Education Association, WEAC and the Madison School District for going above and beyond in your efforts to stick it to taxpayers and to make sure your protected members aren't held accountable for their actions.  Enjoy the onions.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

This Ain't Paris

Unlike some people, I will never confuse Oshkosh with Paris.  That is why I am not a big fan of the proposed changes to the sidewalk cafe ordinance that will be taken up by the Oshkosh Common Council tonight.  Supporters of the cafe idea--and the relaxed restrictions on them--are trying to sell them as these bucolic little oases of European culture in the hustle and bustle (okay, occassional loud pickup truck) of downtown Oshkosh.

First off, let's start by calling these "cafes" what they really are: smoking areas.  That is why one of the changes proposed for tonight is to allow the bar and restaurant owners to decide if they will allow smoking at the sidewalk tables.  The bars along North Main Street are pinched for space--so they can't build the outdoor "smoking decks" that many taverns with some elbow room have built to get around the state's workplace smoking ban.  Throw some tables on the sidewalk--call it a cafe--and you have the next best thing.

The biggest problem that I have is the proposal to remove the fenced-in requirement for these smoking areas.  Since the majority of businesses that will be putting up these smoking areas are taverns not exactly known for their food--the majority of sales at the sidewalk tables will be alcohol.  Having a fence around the tables will prevent those beer bottles, cups and highball glasses from "taking a walk" up and down North Main.    If memory serves me correctly, State Street in Madison--apparently the inspiration for this idea--has the sidewalk tables fenced in and it doesn't seem to harm the flow of pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks.

Finally, I'd like to know what the city's plan is for when the seagulls and other birds see that there is another food source available to them downtown.  Hopefully, it will be more than just signs telling patrons "Please Don't Feed the Birds".  We all know how effective those are in our parks.  It's amazing how quickly seagulls figure out where they can get a quick meal--whether it is given to them by diners or just laying around on the ground.  Perhaps the Otter Street Fishing Club can donate the miles of fishing line that will need to be strung up over the sidewalks to ward off the birds' dive bombing attempts.

Unless State Street Brats is opening an Oshkosh location on North Main, I likely won't be sitting along the street to eat or drink anytime soon.  But if we are going to have them, let's try to make them as safe and as classy as possible.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Gotta Spend Every Penny

Obviously, plenty of people have failed to learn the lessons of the economic downturn.  It took less than an hour after the Department of Revenue released new projections for the next two years before every advocacy group started sending out press releases calling for the rollback of budget cuts.  Restore all funding to schools, restore all cuts to shared revenues, save Seniorcare, bring back the high speed train.  If there was a way to spend that projected $636-million some political action group was pushing for it.

What seems to be lost on everyone is that these are merely projections of tax revenues.  Let's keep in mind that the reason we are in the gigantic budget mess is that the Doyle Administration and the Legislature based its budgets on far-too-optimistic revenue projections--and used one-time funds to balance any shortfall.  Could anyone really have justified a projected five-percent growth in tax revenues in 2009--based on all of the economic indicators at that time.  But so long as you believe you are going to have that money--you are going to have that money--right?

If you want an everyday example to consider, think of the state as a commission salesperson.  This salesperson has some long-term contracts that have provided a revenue stream that he or she could reliably count on.  But then, those clients had their own financial difficulties, and the salesperson lost some contracts--while other cut back on what they were spending.  Now if that salesperson is responsible, he or she would make the cuts in his or her personal budget to live with the actual income that is coming in.  He or she wouldn't pretend there is less money available and continue to spend what they spent before--and they certainly wouldn't decide to spend even more.

So after making those responsible budget cuts, that salesperson has a couple of good meetings with potential clients--who say they will consider doing business.  Should the salesperson immediately adjust his or her personal budget based on the potential commissions that might come in?  Should they just abandon the effort to control their expenses and just go back to racking up debt and having to use bookkeeping tricks to make it look like their budget was balanced?  Or would the responsible person wait until those contracts were signed on the dotted line and the revenue was actually in the bank before adjusting their spending habits?  And would someone who went through the pain of making major cuts maybe consider putting away some of the new income to make sure things aren't so nasty the next time the economy takes a downturn?  Or would they just spend every penny again--because that's what he or she had always done before?

I guess the way you answer that depends on what lessons you have learned over the last few years.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Riding Out The Rapture

For some of you, this is the last My Two Cents that you will hear.  If the billboards along Highway 41 and the full-page ads in the USA Today are correct, The Rapture is coming to Earth on Saturday.  6:00 pm on Saturday to be exact--which is a good thing, because I am playing golf Saturday morning and I would hate to be disturbed out there by the return of The Savior.

I'm assuming that those who are looking forward to the "end of days" tomorrow are all in on this thing--kind of like Linus and the Great Pumpkin in the Peanuts Halloween Special.  You didn't send in your mortgage payment or pay any of your utilities, because HELLO! you won't be around next week to need a house--or anything for that matter.  I got a chuckle out of the internet stories this week about the business in New Hampshire that has signed up hundreds of people to have their pets taken care of starting tomorrow--and the guy who took out an ad asking to pick up stuff Christians won't be needing anymore.

I'm also assuming that the billboards and ads will change on Sunday to read "So long suckers!!" or "See, we were right!!"  I'll be very disappointed if the same messages are on there beyond
Saturday--because that would mean the buyers really weren't committed to the message, were they?  I'm just glad there haven't been any stories on runs on Kool-aid and cyanide.

As for those of us "Left Behind" Saturday night, there will likely be some positives and negatives.  On the negative side, the Militant Islamists will have a bit of a man advantage for awhile--and Republicans will have to find a new hardcore base to pander to without the main supporters of bans on gay marriage and prayer in public schools.

But there should be plenty of good things about losing a few billion people this weekend.  The "Left Behind" won't have nearly as many clueless people hitting us in roundabouts any more.  It should be easier to get a table at Machine Shed or IHOP on Sunday mornings.  Without the pointless religious channels on the cable system we will have more space available for sports and history programming.  And churches can be converted to business uses--putting some pretty valuable property on the tax rolls again. 

So for those of you leaving us this weekend, enjoy Ray Kinsela's cornfield in Iowa--those of us "Left Behind" will try to get along without you.  Talk to you again on Monday.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Race to Idiocy

Tonight, the Fond du Lac School District will host a screening of a documentary entitled "Race To Nowhere".  According to a press release from the district, the film "examines the colossal price being paid by today's students for the achievement-obsessed way of life that permeates America."  I haven't been able to screen the entire film--but what I see in the trailers available on a website promoting the film is enough to set off plenty of alarm bells.

Editor's note--I don't have video editing software available--so here is the entire trailer containing segments that were played as part of the radio version today:

For the most part, the film attacks President Bush's No Child Left Behind and President Obama's Race to the Top programs--both of which require testing of children to make sure that they are meeting minimum standards of learning in the classroom.  Tests this teacher believes are unfair to kids.........

I love it when those on the left get caught exposing their hidden racism--"children of color just aren't 'wired' to take tests like white kid."  Now I want you to listen to that again--but this time substitute the word "accountability" for the word "testing", as that's really what a test is--holding a student accountable for learning something in the classroom.............. 

This teacher says requiring children to learn the fundamentals of education makes school "no fun"........

OH MY GOD!!!!!  A child in high school having to take TWO MATH CLASSES!!!  Where is Child Protective Services?  Seriously, isn't math the second most important aspect of education behind reading?  You'd hate to have kids with the fundamentals of good math before going to their science or economics classes--might ask educated questions about global warming or Keynsian Economic Theory.

And then you have this teacher who thinks competition in the classroom is a bad thing...........

So you're saying that using proper grammar, spellling words correctly and accurately adding up numbers makes you "a robot".  And isn't "real life" about production?  I'm expected to produce news stories every day.  You might be expected to produce accurate financial ledgers or military vehicles that can handle a rough Afghan road without falling apart.  And as for competition, you might want kids to learn that those who "produce" better--tend to get paid better too.

And then we have this teacher--who apparently believes that America doesn't need to be the best-educated country in the world...............

Really, they hate every minute of being school?  Are you sure they don't hate not being able to play video games all day?  Or texting their friends down the street all day?  Or sleeping all day and "hanging out" all night?  Of course, with instructors telling them how crappy their education system is all day--I guess I can see why kids wouldn't want to be there.  I should also note that footage of kids "studying" in this film show a good number of them with their I-Pod earbuds in.  Apparently listening to a little Lady Gaga makes Shakespeare easier to understand.

So after bashing the "achievement based" education system, the filmmakers must get around to "what we need to do to fix this"--since holding kids, teachers and parents accountable is so unacceptable.  The answer?  No surprise here--it's SPEND MORE MONEY!!!!.................

Given that "Race to Nowhere" is being screened at Fond du Lac High School tonight, the District and the School Board must be giving some tacit endorsement of the message it contains.  So I'm hoping that parents will take the time to go down to the event--sit through the 90-minutes of rhetoric and then ask some tough questions of school officials who are on hand.  I would also hope that they make it clear that around here, we want accountability for the hundreds of millions of dollars that are spent on education--and that we don't want our kids to learn that "just showing up" and "at least try" are good enough in life.

And by the way, there is a $15 cover charge at the door--the proceeds of which are not listed in the press release.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Me, Dad and The Killer

I felt a twinge of sadness yesterday when I heard about the death of baseball hall of famer Harmon Killebrew.  It had been reported just a couple of weeks ago that Killebrew had stopped treatement for esophogeal cancer and had entered hospice care--which usually means the end is near. 

Killebrew was one of those underrated superstars of the game--whose accomplishments seem to fade further from the spotlight as we go along.  He retired as the fifth all-time home run leader--and is still number 11 on the list--passed by a few players whose career numbers are certainly tainted by steroids.  Want to win a bar bet?  Ask who hit the most home runs in the 1960's?  I doubt even the most die-hard, old-time baseball fan would guess Harmon Killebrew before Hank Aaron, Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle--but "The Killer" out-homered all of them over that ten year period.

Killebrew is beloved in the Twin Cites--I had to drive under his road sign almost every day when I lived over there--since the street were the Mall of America is located is Killebrew Drive.  But that is not why his death makes me sad--it's actually more personal than that.

When I was a kid, my Dad had a Harmon Killebrew model, wooden Louisville Slugger baseball bat that he had used as a teenager.  Dad used that bat to hit me groundballs, pop flies and "worm burners" on countless warm, summer evenings.  Not to get all "Field of Dreams" here, but those are times I really miss.  Just a father and son sharing the tradition of baseball and time together.  I think Dad used to hit balls a little bit harder or a little bit farther than I could hope to catch them--just to make me a little bit better.

Unfortunately, that Killebrew bat won't be part of me passing that tradition down to my son.  When I was a teenager, I--in typical teenager form--used the bat for home run derby with my friends....and cracked it.  I slipped the bat back into the spot in the garage where Dad kept it--so I don't know if he ever knew that I had broken it (I guess he'll find out now--since my Mother reads the Two Cents Blog regularly). 

So with the passing of "The Killer", I lose yet another cherished part of my childhood. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

You Knew This Was Coming

Unable to come up with the 73-hundred-plus votes needed to turn around the race for State Supreme Court, Joanne Kloppenberg is now trying to discredit the entire election process.  Kloppenberg (or someone with a greater grasp on the English language) has written an op-ed piece in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel today ostensibly to defend her decision to request the recount--which the JS has called into question recently.

But rather than make reasoned arguments for having all 72 counties take on the cost of recounting the more than two million ballots cast last month (and there were some), Kloppenberg uses the opinion piece to instead lay the groundwork for the inevitable legal challenges that will be filed in an effort to delay and discredit the results of the election.

Among the allegations raised by Kloppenberg are ballots sitting outside of their bags in a clerk's office, holes in ballot bags that were big enough for a hand to fit in and ballots left in voting machines--all of which, Kloppenberg believes, call into question the accuracy of the recount totals.  And of course, the most egregious of these "anomolies" took place in Waukesha County.

Now it should be noted, the ballots just sitting out in the clerk's office took place in Dane County--which almost single-handedly elected Kloppenberg to the Supreme Court with an eyebrow-raising majority and turnout--so no legal challenge will ever be filed against those results.  Better to just put an "anonymous" allegation out there to get people fired up.

As for the "hole-y" ballot bags--let's actually play out the allegation that Kloppenberg is raising there.  Let's say someone did tear a hole in the bag big enough to get a hand in--the ballot sheets would still need to be folded or mutilated to get them out of a hole that size.  Do we have folded ballots in those bags?  And how did the "tamperer" know what he or she would be pulling out?  Did that person manage to find only Kloppenberg ballots and replace them with Prosser ballots?  And did that person take the time to fill out the rest of the ballot exactly like the original voter did--so that the numbers in all of the other races still turned out the same?  And apparently, everyone who did the ballot switching was in communications with each other to know exactly how many "phony" ballots to slip in the bags so as not to skew the numbers so much as to arouse suspicion.

So let's wrap up the recount and live with the final numbers.  If Joanne Kloppenberg wants some reassurance that the numbers are accurate she should listen back to the comments of her fellow Democrats during Legislative debate on the Voter ID bill--that voter fraud is only a figment of Republicanss imaginations meant to disenfranchise the people who usually vote against them.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Battle Royale Looming

Today's My Two Cents was going to be the shortest in history as I considered recapping the highlights of Senator Herb Kohl's time in Washington.  You have to admit, after 24-years there is not a single bill or law or budget measure that you can point to and say "Herb Kohl did that."  Love him or hate him, at least Russ Feingold will have the enduring legacy of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Law--and its continuing erosion in the courts--to hang his hat on.

So let's kick Senator Kohl to the curb as quickly as possible--since that is the nature of our society today--and instead focus on the race to replace him.  Of course, there is one heavyweight matchup that anyone with even a passing interest in politics would like to see--Congressman Paul Ryan versus Former Senator Russ Feingold.  Anyone who didn't think that Herb Kohl was feeling some pressure to "retire" the day after Feingold lost to Ron Johnson last fall is kidding themselves.  Honestly, how many Senators actually "retire" anyway?  Did anyone see Ted Kennedy or Robert Byrd?  They were litterally carried out of the chambers rather than "let someone else have a shot" as Senator Kohl says he is doing.

Anyway, back to the Battle Royale that could be looming in 2012.  Think of it as the ultimate referendum on the size and scope of government.  The champion of "The Government can fix all of your problems" in Senator Feingold, versus the champion of "The Government can't afford to fix all of your problems."  And like any Battle Royale I can already give you the script on how this will play out.  The anti-Feingold ads will endlessly mention his support for Obamacare and the trillion of dollars in debt it will create.  The anti-Ryan forces will counter with the tried and true "He wants to end Medicare and Social Security" angle.  Actually, I'm surprised some third party ads didn't start running over the weekend. "Call Senator Feingold and tell him Wisconsin already told him we don't want his big spending ways in Washington."

Both Feingold and Ryan are playing it coy right now--issuing press releases thanking Senator Kohl for his service and mentioning nothing about their own interest in the position.  But you know it's coming.  There is no way Democrats want Feingold sitting on the sidelines--especially since they are looking at losing control of the Senate in 2012.  And Republicans are a little short on superstars in Wisconsin right now--so Ryan provides the only real hope of repelling Feingold again.

So let's sit back and get ready for the greatest political showdown in Wisconsin history.  Hopefully it lives up to the hype.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Puck Dreams

Wisconsin hockey fans are getting teased again this spring. The blogosphere is rife with rumors of NHL hockey teams that may be on the move either this year or next—and as usual, Milwaukee is named as a “prime candidate” to land one of those teams.

The Phoenix Coyotes continue to operate without an owner—but apparently the City of Glendale agreed to continue committing taxpayer dollars to keep the team at their arena with help from the other NHL teams. It’s hard to believe that a team that had been headed up by Wayne Gretzky couldn’t make any money in an otherwise good sports town. A report out this week shows the Columbus BlueJackets continue to lose money hand over fist. If you have never heard of the Columbus BlueJackets don’t worry, nobody in Columbus has heard of them either—based on attendance figures since their expansion season.

While hockey struggles in those towns—and a couple of others that never should have been given teams (I’m talking to you Miami and Atlanta)--Milwaukee sits there as a beacon of hope—a mid-market city in an area that actually appreciates hockey. The story that has always made the rounds in puck circles is that longtime Chicago Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz always vetoed the placement of an NHL team in Milwaukee—mistakenly believing that his team is a huge draw in the city—and that getting a franchise of their own would hurt his bottom line. Well, Dollar Bill is dead now and his son, Rocky, has managed to bring the team into the 20th century with progressive ideas like actually paying to get good players and putting home games on local cable. So maybe Wirtz opposition wouldn’t be an issue this time around.

Unfortunately, the timing just isn’t right for Wisconsin to finally get an NHL team. For starters, the Bradley Center is not the attractive arena it once was. When multi-millionaire Herb Kohl complains he can’t make cash with his NBA team in the building—what are the odds the NHL will say “that is where we need to be!” And the city and state are in no position to provide the kind of financial assistance that a more desperate area might be willing to pony up as incentive to relocate. Milwaukee County is already charging an extra sales tax to pay for Miller Park—and I doubt the voters in the 5 County area will be racing to the polls to approve another one-tenth of one percent. And if the state can barely afford to pay for the registration stickers on your license plates—millions of dollars to pay for bad hockey in Milwaukee probably shouldn’t be a priority.

So Milwaukee will have to continue to sit in the penalty box—frozen out of the NHL for another few years. Let’s allow equally-deserving cities like Winnipeg, Quebec and Hamilton to get teams this time around—the right team at the right time will eventually come our way. In the meantime, I’ll keep throwing a few bucks at the Powerball and MegaMillions in hopes of winning enough to buy the Boston Bruins and move them here.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Ignorance on the Bench

By now, you've probably heard the comments made this week by Waupaca County Judge Phillip Kirk during a sentencing hearing for a convicted child molestor. If you missed Bob Burnell airing those comments yesterday here on WOSH here's a link to video of the sentencing hearing:

While some have chosen to focus on Judge Kirk's strange choice of words: "sweet smelling jock strap" and "penis floating in the Wolf as walleye bait"--the real focus should be on the shocking ignorance shown in trying to equate homosexuality with pedophilia.

It is hard to believe that someone who is entrusted with sitting in judgement of others can be allowed to hold a blatently homophobic and scientifically incorrect personal belief. Ask any psychiatrist or consult any study of pedophiles and you will find ZERO CONNECTION BETWEEN SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND PEDOPHILIA. Pedophilia is an adult psychological disorder characterized by a preference for prepubescent children as sexual partners; this preference may or may not be acted upon. Homosexuality is attraction to adults of the same gender. Many child molesters don't really have an adult sexual orientation. They have never developed the capacity for mature sexual relationships with other adults, either men or women. Instead, their sexual attraction focuses on children – boys, girls, or children of both sexes.

So for Judge Kirk to spend seven minutes trying to convince a pedophile that he is gay is not only a waste of time--but seems like an overt effort to perpetuate an unfair and painful stereotype. The Catholic Church has been another good one for that--claiming gays infiltrated the clergy to have access to children--in an effort to explain away the priest sexual abuse scandal and its criminal and pathetic efforts to cover it up. What would Judge Kirk's "explanation" have been if the defendent had molested little girls? "Your urges are normal--just make sure they are a little bit older next time, OK?"

If the defendent in this case was actually homosexual and was looking for illilcit gay contact he could have gone to that certain bookstore here in Oshkosh or the nearby park that police are raiding all the time to get his fix. HE WOULD NOT HAVE CHOSEN BOYS ON HIS SCHOOL BUS!

In talking with a reporter who has covered several other similar hearings in Judge Kirk's courtroom, this is a pretty normal admonishment that he delivers to child molestors whose victims are boys. So don't think that this is just a guy who had a bad day or chose a few bad words when the cameras just happened to be the courtroom. This is obviously a deep-seated belief that Judge Kirk holds and is not afraid to share. Maybe the people of Waupaca County are comfortable having such an ignoramus representing them in the dispensation of justice--but to the rest of us outside the county, it just makes you look like a bunch of backwoods bigots.

Monday, May 9, 2011

They're All Gone Now

Lost in the hoopla over the death of Osama Bin Laden last week was the death of the last known combat veteran from World War One.  Australian Claude Choules was 110-years old when he passed away.  He was 14 when he joined the Royal Australian Navy--and lied about his age to enlist.  He was still young enough to serve during World War Two as well.  With Choule's passing, we now run the risk of completely forgetting about "The War to end All Wars".

If you asked most Americans who the US fought against in World War One, I'm guessing it would look like one of those Jay Leno Tonight Show skits where he goes on the street to ask questions about history or current events.  "The Nazis?" would probably be a very common answer.  "The Russians?" would probably be the second most popular answer.  If most people learned about WWI the same way I did in my grade school and high school classes I can't blame them for being clueless.  It was lumped in with pretty much everything else that happened in the 20th Century during the last week of class--because it was more importatnt for us to spend a week learning about George Washington Carver and Susan B. Anthony earlier in the semester (but I digress).

World War One also suffers from a lack of shocking events or easily-identifiable bad guys.  I don't think the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand matches Pearl Harbor--or 9/11--in terms of shock and anger created.  And the Kaiser just didn't seem as evil as Hitler or Osama Bin Laden.  There were no dramatic beach landings (for US forces anyway), no concentration camps to be liberated and no nuclear bomb to end everything.

In fact, the Great War really had no ending.  The Allies never made it into Germany to remove those who had driven the war effort.  The French and the British just wanted to stop fighting and to start punishing the Germans and Austrians--and maybe pick up some additional land for their empires.  And then you had President Woodrow Wilson desperate to create his legacy (and a New World Order) with the League of Nations.  Nearly all historians agree it was the end of World War One that sowed the seeds for World War Two--as heavy sanctions on the Germans created the anger and hatred that allowed National Socialism (Naziism) to rise--and for the Cold War by allowing Communists to sieze power in Russia.

And now they are all gone.  The men who fought the first fight to preserve freedom around the world.  Let's not forget them--or the sacrifices they made.

Friday, May 6, 2011

I Guess He Learned His Lesson

The following is an e-mail that purportedly was sent by a UW Oshkosh student to WTMJ Radio host Charlie Sykes after news broke that Professor Stephen Richards solicited recall petition signatures in his class on March 7th.  That story was given a boost by a student recording of Richards spending about 8 minutes at the start of class that day asking kids to sign the petitions (right outside the classroom please!) and explaining why they should do so (but I won't keep track of who does or doesn't!).  UWO Chancellor Richard Wells says Richards was talked to--and that "corrective action" was taken. The author of the e-mail is not identified.

direct from dr richards class

I'm sitting in Dr. (I use that term loosely) Richards' class as I'm writing this. Just wanted to let you know that instead of apologizing for his actions and everything that has come out in the last couple days, he scolded us. He started by telling us that he has had a police escort all day due to death threats. He then proceeded to tell us that it is illegal to record a professor without his/her permission. He stated that "anyone has any smart phones or recording devices, to turn them off or leave." He then proceeded to tell us that he could have charged those students with some sort of BS crime and had us arrested and kicked out of school. His rant has been going on for the better part of 20 minutes now and isn't showing any signs of slowing down or stopping. Just like his political rants which take place multiple times per week, this is the kind of crap that disrupts our opportunity to learn at an institution of higher education.

I don't see the need to be scolded because this idiot finally got busted. As a criminal justice student graduating in May, this guy is a disgrace to me and the rest of the students in the program.

Just a heads up that absolutely nothing has changed since the "corrective action" that was handed down from Chancellor Wells. The guy is a joke and doesn't deserve his position.

Thanks for getting this story on the air. The CJ students really appreciate that our story is finally being heard.

Now, I've got just a couple of things about what Professor Richards allegedly had to say. 

First, nobody at the Oshkosh Police Department could confirm that Professor Richards was put under police protection and nobody at UWO Police returned my calls yesterday.

Second, when I was in college, it was considered common practice to record lectures in the classroom.  Of course these were the days before professors would archive mp3's of their lectures allowing students to download them and listen back at their convenience--and that was on those little micro-tapes that sounded like garbage anyway (but I digress).  And shouldn't a Criminal Justice instructor know that in Wisconsin a conversation can be recorded so long as one party is aware of the recording?  And isn't recording conversations a common law enforcement tactic--in order to catch suspects discussing or committing illegal activity?

Third, nothing builds the student-teacher relationship more than threatening to have your class arrested and charged with crimes and kicked out of school.  I'm guessing finals can't come fast enough for the kids in Professor Richards' classes this spring--and at the administration building as well.  Perhaps the winds of summer will just blow this whole thing away, right?

For years now UW officials have been telling us that failing to provide employees with hefty raises and better benefits have "made it difficult to attract and retain the best teaching talent."  The more we learn about Professor Stephen Richards, the more I think they might be right.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Act Like You've Been There Before

Sometimes I have to give President Obama some credit.  Seeing some of the "teases" for the President's upcoming interview with 60 Minutes--he justifies his refusal to release the pictures of a dead Osama Bin Laden by saying "There is no need to spike the football."  I'm not sure if he goes on to explain that phrase--perhaps telling the story of Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders--who never spiked the ball or did an over-the-top endzone celebration after scoring a touchdown.  When asked about that during his career, Sanders said his father told him early in his playing career "Act like you've been there before."

I was thinking the same thing as footage of the celebrations that erupted here in the US on Sunday night as word of Bin Laden's death spread.  You had all the flag waving, the chanting, the placards and signs with the red "X" across Osama's face--or crosshairs--and everyone mugging for the camera.  While you can understand the desire to "celebrate" this victory in the War on Terror--I found it hard not to compare those demonstrations to the street celebrations in the Muslim world after 9-11.  Remember how you thought "What is wrong with those people--singing and chanting--because thousands of innocent people were killed?"  Well, how did we act any differently after the Bin Laden death?  "Act like you've been there before."

And that is why I grudgingly agree with President Obama in his decision not to release the Bin Laden death photos.  As a reporter I certainly want to see those photos--since they represent documentation of an historic and news-worthy event.  The only problem is, in our current culture those photos will not be treated as historical documents.  It would take about half a nano-second before someone is hawking "Osama is Dead" t-shirts, coffee mugs, posters, screen-savers and bumper stickers--all featuring the gruesome death images.  A quarter of Facebook and Twitter users would make the photos their new avatars as well.  And when that happens, how does that make us the better people that we purport to be in this global fight?

Act like you've been there before, America.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Don't Worry, They're Used To It

Later this morning, we will play for you the 8-minute long audio segment of the UW Oshkosh professor who solicited recall signatures from students in his classroom.  As much as I would like you to pay attention to what Professor Stephen Richards is telling his students--that more than 100 faculty members are doing the same thing, that he won't keep track of who signs the petition and who doesn't, that state workers won't be allowed to join unions anymore, that Winnebago Mental Health Center will be closing--costing Oshkosh thousands of jobs, and that without unions, state workers will make only $18,000 a year, that even if you don't live in Randy Hopper's district you can still sign the petitions--because they will catch that and just not count it--I'd like you to pay attention to what you don't hear.

One thing you won't hear is a stampede of students coming down from their seats to sign those petitions.  I'm guessing more than a few of the kids were thinking "I'm not even going to be around here for this recall election--so why should I care?"  Or maybe they were thinking "When I graduate and am making half as much as you and paying for 50-percent of my health insurance premiums and all of my retirement benefits I'll be feeling really sorry for you, Professor Richards".  Most likely they were thinking "Dude, I'm $25,000 in debt to be here because my parents thought it was more important to have a boat that we used three times a year instead of saving for my college education--so can you start teaching us something about Criminal Justice please?"

Another thing you won't hear are any protests to open campaigning in the classroom.  Some will believe that is because the students all support the "plight" of their professors--and that they were "appreciative"of the "courage" shown by those "persecuted" workers.  Obviously, at least one student did have a problem with it--acting correctly and taking their complaint about Professor Richards' conduct to college officials--who I'm sure really dropped the hammer on the Prof with discipline that no one will ever learn about.  But as you listen you'll probably find yourself asking "why are these kids putting up with this?"

The answer to that question is really simple: this is par for the course for many of these students.  Remember, this generation has been used as political pawns their whole lives.  These are the kids who were paraded in front of the School Board to put their Elementary Strings instruments in a cardboard coffin they spent all class period building to create the perfect "made-for-local-cable-access-TV-moment".  These are the kids who were assigned to write papers on "What President Obama's Election Means To Me".  These are the kids the Legislature required to learn about the history of labor unions.  And these are the kids who were told they could walk out of their classes and gather in the gym to "protest" the elimination of courses that only six of them were ever going to sign up for anyway.

So while those of us on the "outside" of the education system howl in protest over the "inappropriateness" of Professor Richards' activities on March 7th--the students of Wisconsin's classrooms will just remember it as another regular Monday.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Why They Fight

Overshadowed by the breaking news of Osama Bin Laden's death on Sunday was the announcement from the state's largest teachers union--the Wisconsin Education Association Council--that it was cancelling its 2011 Fall Convention.  For kids, that Convention meant two days off of school in October every year.  For parents, it meant an annual scramble to find daycare or babysitting for younger students--because nobody else is getting those two days off.  For school districts, it meant an extra two days tacked on to the end of the school calendar in June.  And for teachers--based on reported attendance at the Convention every year--it basically meant two paid holidays.

WEAC President Mary Bell says the Convention is being dumped because--without collective barganing power--her union could no longer guarantee that districts could be strong-armed into giving teachers those two days off with pay.  She also bemoans the "loss" of the "best personal development opportunity offered to teachers every year."

This of course leads to the question many of us "uneducated" folks in the private sector would ask:  "Why not just have the Convention on a weekend?"  That of course would make the most sense.  The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association holds its workshops and awards banquets on weekends.  Why?  Because the vast majority of us have to work Monday through Friday.  Besides, I get paid to be here in the studio or out covering news--not to sit in a convention center and learn about strategies to win my next round of negotiations with my employer.

Also consider this question:  do any private sector businesses shut down to allow employees to attend a convention?  Does Best Buy close up during the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas every year?  Is it impossible to get something to eat during the Grocers Association or the Wisconsin Restaurant Association's annual meetings?  No.  And let's not forget the three months or so of summer break that could host an entire week's worth of convention time if so needed.

Bell also lamented during her Sunday conference call that WEAC is already budgeting for the loss of revenues expected if school districts are no longer required to withdraw union dues from employee paychecks.  If "solidarity in this fight" is so great, why would you have to worry about losing anything when such a contribution become voluntary?  I would think the incredible value provided by the union and its executives would lead members to gladly continue handing over the cash--and maybe even pay a little bit more.  Because this whole thing is about rights--not money--right?

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Job Well Done

It may have taken 9 1/2 years--but getting our final revenge against Osama Bin Laden has certainly been worth it.  The boost to American morale is palpable, and perhaps will rebuild support for the many fronts upon which we continue to fight the War On Terrorism. 

Some have been quick to compare this to the death of Hitler in World War Two--a blow that will only hasten the end of the war.  Unfortunately, this is more like the death of Admiral Yamamoto in that same war.  The architect of the Pearl Harbor attack was killed in April of 1943--thanks in large part to an intelligence coup where the US Navy knew where his plane would be flying--and our pilots shot him down.  That was a great blow to Japan--but he was not the man driving their war effort--and the battle dragged on for another two-plus years.

Nonetheless, this is a great victory for the US Military and President Obama.  The President deserves a hearty pat on the back for the efforts he has undertaken in the War on Terror.  Candidate Obama promised to bring the troops home in his first 90-days in office.  Obviously, those troops were still engaged in battle on Sunday morning. 

And the President learned from the mistakes of his predecessors.  President Clinton had the chance to assassinate Bin Laden at least once during his time in office--and passed on the opportunity.  President Bush had Bin Laden trapped in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan early in the war--and allowed him to slip away without a targeted strike.  President Obama had a killshot opportunity in a coutry with which we are not currently at war and he took it.

Some of the reports last night had the intelligence that led to Bin Laden coming from detainees at Guantanamo Bay.  Again, candidate Obama promised to close that facility and return those held there to their homelands.  But President Obama realized the value of dataining those deadly criminals and continuing to employ interrogation techniques that some of us find unsavory--but obviously can lead to important advances in the war.

I hope that everyone is able to put aside the partisanship for a few days and give genuine credit to those who deserve it.  Those who ignored the protesters on the sidewalk calling for the troops to come home, those who raised a hue and cry about Gitmo staying open and those who thought the continued effort to track down the man responsible for the deaths of 2819 innocent people on September 11th, 2001 was a waste of time.

To quote the great wartime leader Winston Churchill: "Now this is not the end.  It is not even the beginning of the end.  But it is perhaps, the end of the beginning."  Let's keep up the good fight.