Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween--Liberal Style

This year I will be celebrating Halloween--Liberal style.

This afternoon I will don my black suit and put on my power tie for the most evil, ghoulish costume you can imagine...a Corporate CEO!!!!

Instead of making children go door-to-door to get their candy, I will go to their houses--so they don't have to work so hard for their handout.

I will be giving out Payday and $100-grand bars--since that seems to be what the new generation thinks it "deserves" nowadays.  (Although Slo-Pokes and Goobers would be far more fitting).

I will not be offended when the kids don't say "Thank you" and instead respond with "Is that all I get?"

I will not expect any candy in return for my kids (OK I don't have any)--since they are the children of privilege and have been getting candy their whole lives.

I will feel shame as the children march en masse to camp out at the local park to protest me not giving them "their fair share of candy".

I will apolgize to the children's parents for my irresponsibility in giving them so much candy that when they ate it all in one sitting they got a stomache ache and threw up.  I will then head back to their houses to give them more candy to make up for what ended up on the living room carpet.

I will pay the dentist bills for all the kids who got cavities because I failed to warn them and their parents that sugar causes tooth decay and that they should have brushed their teeth after eating it.

I will curse the evil candy companies as they report record October sales and increased profits.

Come to think of it--this is going to be the scariest Halloween ever!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

And THAT Is Why I Love Baseball

If I suddenly trail off in the middle of this "Two Cents" it's because I am dead tired from staying up to watch Game Six of the World Series last night.  I didn't plan on staying up until 11:15 pm--since I have to wake up for work just 3 1/2 hours later--but I just could not get myself to stop watching.  Last night's game is why I LOVE baseball.

I'll grant you, the first six or seven innings weren't much to write home about: terrible defense, terrible baseruning, terrible pitching and --what has been a hallmark of this series--terrible managing.  But once it got down to crunch time, the beauty of the game shown through.

After the Rangers went up by 3 in the 8th inning I told my wife I was going to stay up just to watch Tony LaRussa and Albert Pujols get their come-uppance.  A solo homerun made it a two run game.  "Nothing to worry about" I thought, "just three outs to go."  (If Rangers fans or Cardinals haters want to blame me for putting the jinx on this one, go ahead)

I wasn't even that worried when the Rangers closer threw six consecutive balls and put runners on all over the place.  "Just one more out"--then "just one more strike".  But in what is baseball's greatest attribute--the lack of a clock to "end" the game--the Cardinals got that last out, last strike base hit--just out of the reach of the outfielder--to tie things up and send it into extra innings.

I gave very serious consideration to calling it a night and finding out what happened when I got up. But then Josh Hamilton hit a two-run homer in the top of the tenth--and I again figured it would be a few more minutes and everything would be over--may as well stay up.  (And while we are talking about it--can someone write a screenplay for the Josh Hamilton Story movie that MUST be made?  A recovering crack addict who makes his way back to the Major Leagues, watches a man die in front of his son after falling from the stands while trying to catch a ball that Josh had thrown to him, and then hits what appeared to be the World Series winning homer after his team blows a 9th innning lead.  Hello Oscar!!)

Of course, the Cardinals come back with another two-out, two-strike rally in the 10th and on we go past 11:00.  By this time, I am way too emotionally invested in the outcome to even think about going to bed.  Fortunately (for my body--not for those of us wanting the Cardinals to lose), St Louis native David Freese hits a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 11th to win it and force a game 7. 

I know some people who call baseball "boring" and too slow-paced (and when the Yankees or Red Sox are involved it can be).  But for high drama and the uncertainty of when that game-winning play is going to take place--you just cannot beat it.

Now, if we could just play some of these games in the afternoon so I can get some sleep.......

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dear America, F--- You!! Signed, AARP

Last week I suggested AARP start a new ad campaign to address a survey that found a majority of Millenials had given up hope of having Social Social available when they retire.  I thought ads telling those twenty-somethings that saving for your own retirement was fruitless and you MUST depend on the Federal Government to take care of you in your old age.

Instead, AARP has decided to fall back on their usual modus operandi: threatening politicians....

I was actually surprised the ad doesn't end with the assembled AARP "members" giving the camera "the bird"--sending younger Americans a very direct message as well.  And am I the only one struck by the fact the lead "member" in this ad looks exactly like Walter--commedian Jeff Dunham's curmudgeonly puppet?  I keep looking for a hand up the back of that guy and Jose Jalapeno on a Stick somewhere in the shot as well.

Anyway, here is a script that I think would more accurately sum up the message AARP should be sending to the public:

Our fellow Americans, we here at AARP realize many of you have not had a pay raise for several years--or that you have been displaced from your jobs and are making less than you were before--but you owe us.  Years ago, Congress--with no regard for the actual expense--promised us a whole bunch of stuff to get our votes--and now you have to pay up.

Sure, we lived our entire lives in the greatest sustained period of economic growth in American history and could have easily saved up enough to deal with a longer than expected life-span and retirement and maybe even leave a little bit for you when we are gone--but we didn't.  I mean, pot was expensive back in the '60's--as was cocaine in the '70's, those Saab Turbos we drove in the '80's, our timeshares in the '90's and all of those plastic surgeries and Botox treatments we got in the 2000's.  So now we don't have enough to make it for another 20-years.

Besides, there are 50-million of us--and we vote in higher percentages than the rest of you--so quit your complaining and give us what we think we deserve!

Wouldn't you like such honesty in advertising?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

#Occupy My Wallet--Part II

Yesterday, we kicked off the #Occupy My Wallet effort--bringing together the fiscally responsible to call for economic changes that will actually get us out of the recession.  Today, we issue our demands.

1--Immediately develop a plan to reduce entitlement spending at all levels of government to what can be sustained by average income growth of taxpayers.  We may as well start with the toughest goal first.  As we edge closer to a two-worker-to-one-entitlement-recipient ratio, those of us who can do simple math know that is not sustainable.  #Occupy My Wallet members support an increased retirement age for Social Security and increased income limits for all other entitlement programs.

2--Truly reform health care coverage by eliminating all requirements of "ObamaCare" already in place, allowing all Americans to have Health Savings Accounts--regardless of insurance plan, making all HSA contributions and disbursements tax-exempt, repeaing limits on annual contributions to HSA's, allowing carriers to price premiums the same way auto insurers do--based on risk and past history--and requiring health care providers to publish prices for all medical services--allowing patients to make informed health care choices.  #Occupy My Wallet members take good care of themselves and should be rewarded for our efforts.

3--Lower energy costs by eliminating arbitrary requirements on the amount of electricity that must be produced by far money-losing renewable sources, increase drilling for oil and natural gas in America, and open up Canadian oil shale fields by allowing pipelines to be connected to US refineries.  This will not only lower the cost to transport goods purchased by #Occupy My Wallet members--but will also lower home heating costs and reduce our need to fund expensive, sustained fights against anti-American forces in other oil producing countries.

4--End the demonization of private companies and profits.  #Occupy My Wallet members work for corporations and private companies--and their profits mean we keep our jobs.  #Occupy My Wallet members also invest for retirement in 401(k)'s and Roth IRA's containing nearly all Wall Street stocks and bonds.  When they make money, we make money--and thereby lower our dependence on Uncle Sam to see us through our golden years.

5--End subsidies for ethanol production.  This--along with lower transportation costs in demand #3--will ease pressure on food prices.

6--Limit any Federal mortgage subsidy programs to those who had at least ten percent down at closing and took out only 15, 20 or 30 year mortgages.  Those people followed sound financial principles in buying their house and should have been able to afford what they purchased.  Anyone who got a no money down, jumbo, ARM or interest-only mortgage obviously could not afford what they bought--even with the two incomes they may have had at the time.

7--Begin raising interest rates again to encourage savings.  #Occupy My Wallet members are tired of getting less than 1% return on the money they put away for emergencies and large purchases.

When we see these steps being taken in Washington and Madison, then #Occupy My Wallet members will return to "stimulating" the economy with our massive buying power.  If not, we will continue to sit on the sidelines and be content with what we have--at least until you come to take it away from us by force, in the name of "fairness" and "Social Justice".

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

#Occupy My Wallet--Part I

I've decided to jump on the #Occupy bandwagon.  No, I'm not going to New York City to camp in park and defecate on police cars--and I don't plan to join ten other people in a rally outside a closed bank in downtown Appleton on a Saturday afternoon.  Instead, I have decided to #Occupy My Wallet.  That's right, everyday I will be there with my wallet making sure that it doesn't open for business until my demands are met--and I encourage others to join the "fight".

I don't know what percentage of the population #Occupy My Wallet represents.  Everybody in the group so far is employed, bought only the size house they could afford on one salary, spent the last few years paying off their debt instead of racking it up, keeps in good shape, doesn't use recreational drugs, doesn't see their vehicle, their TV or their smartphone as a status symbol, pays cash for their vacations and invests 15% of their gross pay for their retirement.  I'm guessing their aren't many of us now--but many are moving toward us.

Our power doesn't come from having loud bullhorns, big American flags, union backing or having the President claim he "feels our pain."  Our power comes from the money we have--the money that will get all of us back out of this mess.  The money that quite honestly, those of us in #Occupy My Wallet feel isn't being appreciated right now.  #Occupy My Wallet employers didn't get government bailouts--they didn't get any money in Stimulus I or Stimulus II either.  #Occupy My Wallet members aren't getting government help to pay their mortgages or to subsidize their child care. 

#Occupy My Wallet members want recognition as the real "job creators" in this new, new, new economy.  Because you can give all the tax breaks in the world to small business owners and companies and corporations--but until we walk through those doors with our cash in hand--ready to fork it over for a product or service--this ship isn't going anywhere.

Tomorrow, #Occupy My Wallet will release its list of demands.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Europe in Eclipse

I never thought that I would agree with Paul Krugman (the dour, ultra-liberal New York Times economist who also serves as the equally-pompous foil to George Will on ABC's "This Week"), but today, we actually stand on common ground.  In response to the European debt crisis, Krugman is calling for an end to the Eurozone and the use of a joint currency across national boundaries.

Let me be quick to point out that Krugman and I do not agree on the root reasons for placing the Euro on the historical scrap heap.  He believes that nations drowning in debt should be able to print unlimited amounts of their own currency to devalue the debt and "stimulate" the economy with boatloads of government spending and the resulting skyrocketing inflation.  That would be his answer for the US economic doldrums as well.  Tax the rich is in his plan too.  I, on the other hand, believe the Euro should go because it threatens to bring down industrious nations by tying their fates to, shall we say, less-industrious cultures. 

Increasingly, the Euro bailout plan falls more and more upon the shoulders of Germany--the Continent's largest economy.  And increasingly, the German people are getting more and more frustrated with their "partners".  You see, Germans don't get full retirement benefits from the government at 58 like the Greeks.  Their retirement age is 67--increased four years ago as economists saw they would not be able to support the rising costs of the program (HELLO CONGRESS--DID YOU HEAR THAT?!?!).  The German public train system doesn't cost five times as much to operate as it brings in in revenue like in Italy.  Gemerans don't take the month of August off of work to sit on the beach like they do in Spain.  And they don't take two hour lunch breaks to sit at the cafe,drink wine and discuss culture and society like they do in France.  The Huns get up every morning--go to work--and make high-quality products the rest of the world actually wants.

So why would the average German citizen--or politician--want their economic fate tied to the slackers on the rest of the continent? 

When it was first proposed by the Socialist leaders of Europe's major powers in the 1990's, the Euro promised convenience and unlimited economic growth potential.  The 21st Century was going to be the European Century--reclaiming the title of Economic Superpower from the US.  Some countries--like those in Scandanavia and Great Britain--were wise and said "thanks, but no thanks" and kept their own sovreign currencies.  But 17-others were more than happy to tie their boats together and head out to sea.

Now--like the treaties that allowed a small, regional skirmish in the Balkans to lead to World War One--the Euro threatens to sink the Continent into a morass that will likely require the US to come in and save everyone's bacon again.  Provided we don't let Socialist policies take us down the same rat hole as well.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Rays of Hope

And out of the gloom and doom of our everyday news and the continued ecnomic downturn come a few rays of light that really can give us some hope.

--A new study finds 50% of so-called "Millenials" (those currently between the ages of 18 and 29) do not expect to get any Social Security when they reach retirement age.  And a whopping 95% percent realize that there is no way the current level of benefits will be available to them when they become eligible.  (I believe those final 5% who think things can continue as they are match the percentage of Americans who aren't able to do basic math.)

I expect this study to set off alarm bells at the White House (We can't have a generation of voters thinking they can't depend on the Government to provide them with everything they want and need!!) and at the AARP headquarters (Social Security is our political hammer!!  We must start running ads on MTV and Bravo immediately to try and scare these youngin's!!).  But it is incredibly positive that the younger generation accepts the economic realities that their elders continue to ignore--and are adopting the attitude that they will have to be responsible for themselves.  That's why 42% are already putting money away for their retirement--a sharp increase in the savings rate for those under thirty from just a few years ago.

--We hear all the time how bi-partisanship is dead in Madison.  But a bill co-authored by Democrat Gordon Hintz and Republican Dean Kaufert that will allow school districts to establish education foundations that would be operated by community foundations.  Finally, those people who come to school board meetings and ask to have their property taxes raised in order to save Elementary Foreign Language programs or high school courses that average about ten students a semester will have a chance to put their money where their mouths are--without increasing the burden on everyone else in the district! 

Because community foundations aren't under the same tight restrictions on investments that school districts are--the money donated should see better annual growth.  And with a third party involved, hopefully we won't see school board members with personal axes to grind trying to hold up the process of putting that money to use--like we saw with the renaming of the West basketball court in honor of Steve Randall.

--Finally, the Big Ten (12) has suspended Michigan State defensive end William Gholston for tomorrow's game against Wisconsin.  This is not a positive just because it gives the Badgers a better chance of moving the ball against a tough defense--but because it penalized downright dirty play.  If you haven't seen the lowlights, Gholston twisted the head of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson after a tackle last week and sucker punched an offensive lineman in the face far behind another play.  Amazingly, Gholston was not penalized by the refs for either of those plays.  Things were so ugly that one Badger Football Blogger titled his article this week "The Badgers Need to be Ready For 60 Minutes of Unneccesary Roughness".

Michigan State itself had the opportunity to punish Gholston--but apparently beating the fourth ranked Badgers so they had a chance to get millions of dollars by playing in a BCS Bowl game in January was a higher priority than good sportsmanship.  In a rare good move on its part, the conference finally stepped in and sent a message that intentionally trying to hurt your opponents will not be tolerated.

Alright--back to the gloom and doom.............

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gumbel's Law of Slavery Analogies

In previous "My Two Cents" commentaries I have referred to Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies.  It's the somewhat tongue-in-cheek postulate from Mike Godwin that the longer a political conversation goes on--the more likely a reference to Hitler or Naziism will be made.  It is usually the point in the conversation where we cross over from actual serious debate into idiocy.

Well now, I would like to add a new "law" to the science of discussion: Gumbel's Law of Slavery Analogies--which will hold that the longer a discussion goes on about a professional sports contract situation--the more likely an inappropriate comparison to slavery will be made.  It is named in "honor" of HBO Real Sports host Bryant Gumbel--who this week had these comments about NBA Commissioner David Stern in an opinion piece about the on-going lockout............

"His efforts are typical of a commissioner who has always seemed eager to be viewed as some kind of modern-day plantation overseer, treating NBA men as if they were his "boys". ... His moves are intended to do little more than show how he's the one keeping the hired hands in their place."

Now Gumbel's comments aren't the first comparison of pro athletes to Africans brought to America against their will and forced to labor for no compensation.  In fact, it's not even the first one this year.  You may recall, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson made this comment in a Yahoo Sports interview during the NFL lockout this summer:

"It's modern-day slavery, you know? People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way, too."

Sure, I could have called it Peterson's Law of Slavery Analogies--but Adrian Peterson was a football player at the University of Arkansas--while Gumbel graduated with a journalism degree from Bates College--so I would expect him to be a bit more knowledgeable on American History.

If Gumbel wanted to make a reasoned argument that the owners themselves are the ones who agreed to previous labor deals that resulted in bloated contracts for over-rated players, that would have been valid.  So too would have been pointing out that the players have come to the table from the beginning willing to cut their percentage of basketball-related revenues.  But instead, Bryant went immediately to the giant hammer of "slavery"--usually swung by race-baiters like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson in an effort to discredit any points made by non-African Americans.

I'm sure that Bryant Gumbel's and Adrian Peterson's ancestors would have jumped at the chance to be among the highest paid people in America--and to have the ability to change employers through free agency.  But since they did not, then it is probably best just to leave them out of the conversation.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

And Now For a Completely Different Perspective

Leave it to Scientific American to come up with the reason the #OccupyWallStreet effort--and Obama-nomics as an entity are both doomed to fail............

Researchers have found that while some may believe that everyone should be equal in terms of their economic situation--the human brain is, in fact, wired to oppose having those considered "behind" us allowed to catch up.

It's called the "Last Place Aversion"--and it explains why during a period of deep recession, opposition to "redistribution of wealth" supported by the President and the #Occupy hippies is growing.  As Americans deal with having less--the idea of someone who currently has even less catching up to--or passing us by--becomes less appealing.  In simple terms, nobody wants to be in--or closer to--last place.

When you think about it, it's basic Darwinism--the inner drive of the species to be better than every other member--and it's why all attempt at Socialism has failed.  Perhaps the #Occupy folks should leave Wall Street and get into the biology lab--where they can work on removing the "Last Place Aversion" gene from our DNA.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sports Held Hostage

If ever there was an argument for drastically shrinking the number of teams allowed into the High School Football Playoffs the mess surrounding this year's field--and the delay that is proving to be unfair to nearly everyone who qualified--would be it.  Usually, we have an idea of who plays who, where and when by this time--but Divisions 3 thru 7 weren't posted by the WIAA until after 7:00 last night.  Teams in Divisions 1 and 2 still have no idea who they are playing--just three days before the games are set to be played.

The mess is due exclusively to one school--the Messmer/Shorewood co-op team--which is suing the WIAA over an eligibility issue.  Messmer dropped out of its conference without WIAA approval in 2007--and was placed on probation by the administration for four years--starting the next season.  The first three years of that suspension, Messmer/Shorewood never won the requisite number of games to be eligible for the postseason--but this year they have (in their own minds anyway) and they want a judge to force the WIAA to include them in the playoff field.  An injunction blocking the establishment of the playoff field and setting of the brackets has been issued by the judge--putting the playoff process on hold for every other team in the state.

We can argue the merits of deciding sports-related issues in the court of law rather than on the field of play--but what really gets my goat in this case is that Messmer/Shorewood doesn't even have a winning record.  They finished their regular season at 4-4 (playing one less game than the rest of the state due to scheduling problems).  But because they went 4-2 in their conference, they are technically eligible for postseason play under the WIAA's less-than-strenuous playoff qualification process.  What is really sad is that M/S is far and away the largest school in their conference--which features mostly small suburban Milwaukee private schools--none of whom are football powerhouses.

So now, truly playoff-worthy teams like Kimberly and Appleton North--who won all nine of their games--or went 8-1 in the regular season are forced to sit around wait to find out who they play in their first round contests.  You could say that since everyone in those divisions are in the same boat, the spirit of competition isn't being hurt--but it certainly is not the way to handle something as important as a chance to win a state championship.  My point is that we'd be ready to roll with the brackets and matchups in place by now if the field of playoff qualifiers was cut by at least half (and even better 2/3's) to make the playoffs more of a special acheivement and reward teams that actually accomplish something.

Monday, October 17, 2011

In Memory of Dan Wheldon

For the second time in ten years, one of my favorite racecar drivers has died in a crash.  First, it was Dale Earnhardt, Sr--who died in a final lap crash at the Daytona 500 in 2001.  Now it's Dan Wheldon--the two-time Indy 500 champion--who died at the Las Vegas race on Sunday.

Unlike the Earnhardt crash, I didn't see the incident that took Wheldon's life live.  I joined ABC coverage of the race about four or five minutes after the 15-car pileup.  By that time, he had been removed from the car and the emergency helicopter was being fired up.  As much as the ABC announcers were trying to downplay the possibility that someone had been killed, as soon as I saw Wheldon's car covered by a yellow tarp, I knew that he was not going to survive.  Having covered a fair share of airplane and serious car crashes,  I know that the tarp means we are no longer dealing with a vehicle--but rather a piece of evidence that will need to be preserved for an investigation.

I had a chance to talk with Dan Wheldon at the EAA Airventure in 2005--about two months after he won his first Indy 500.  I remember how small a guy he was (about 5-9, 160 pounds) and what a quick wit he had as well.  I think it was the second question in our interview that I asked him if he was irritated by all of the attention Danica Patrick got for NOT winning the 500 that year--while he seemed to play second fiddle by WINNING THE RACE!!  As I was asking the question, he got this little wry smile on his face and I could tell what he wanted to say--but like the skilled PR machines that these top-rank racers are, he gave me the politically correct answer of "Danica brings lots of fans and attention to the sport so it's all good." 

He was worried about a flight with fellow Klein Tools endorser Mike Mancuso later that day at EAA--hoping Mike wouldn't make him lose his lunch doing stunts.  While we waited for the Klein folks to bring him a t-shirt and picture to sign, Wheldon asked me about what it was like to live in town with so many planes flying around all the time.  I appreciated the fact that he was willing to give 15-good minutes to a radio reporter from a podunk radio station.

What angers me about what happened yesterday is the fact that Dan Wheldon really should not have even been in that race.  As proof of what a two-bit operation Indycar Racing has become, the defending 500 champion didn't even have a full-time sponsor.  In fact, this was only his third race of the year.  Wheldon was there only because he had a chance to win $5-million dollars in some cheesy challenge put up by IndyCar President Randy Bernard in a desperate attempt to gin up some interest in a race that was competing with NFL Football and the baseball playoffs for TV ratings.  The prize was to be split with a woman from New Jersey who won an on-line contest (how do you think she feels today?).

I'm trying to take solace in the two things that eased the shock of Dale, Sr's death a decade ago:  1) That Dan's death will make the sport safer.  Ironically, the ABC announcers mentioned that Wheldon was doing the test driving for a "safer" IndyCar--which will be used starting next year.  You'll recall that Earnhardt's death led to required use of the Head and Neck Support device in NASCAR--along with improved safety belts, safer barrier walls and other advancements in the "Car of Tomorrow". And 2) That Dan Wheldon died doing what he loved and was passionate about.  How many of us will ever get to have that as our epitaph?

Dan Wheldon leaves behind his wife and two children--both under the age of two.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Stealers

My wife hopes the person who stole some of her Halloween decorations really enjoys them.  I'm sure that they are smashed on the street somewhere else in Oshkosh--creating a short-term laugh for somebody--but she is not going to be happy for a while.  Being the realist that I am, I had warned her stuff like that left out is just going to be stolen or vandalized--but out it went anyway.

I'm never surprised by what people will steal--or the lengths to which they will go to get something that is not rightly theirs.  All you need to do is tune in to any of our newscasts to learn that.  Take for instance the Crimestoppers reports we get every week from Waushara County.  They've seen entire farm irrigation systems, large commercial grade lawnmowers and large amounts of construction equipment from homebuilding sites.  What gets me is that a lot of this stuff would require multiple people and big trailers to steal--yet no one ever sees anything suspicious?  And then you had the guy in the Town of Menasha stealing all four of the sewer grates at a busy intersection.  There again, heavy objects out in a very visible location and nobody thinks "Why is that guy removing all of those grates?

The one that really made me laugh this week was the theft of a semi-trailer from the WalMart distribution center in Beaver Dam.  First, that would require having a semi to actually haul that away--I doubt someone was able to hook it up to their diesel-dually.  Second, what do you then do with an empty trailer that has a big WalMart logo on its side?  That should look a bit out of place anywhere you try to store it.  The chuckles were doubled when police noted those at the distribution center weren't really sure when the trailer disappeared.  I'll admit, I didn't notice my wife's decorations were missing--but those were pumpkins and stuf--not a 50-foot long semi-trailer.  You'd think someone would say the next day "Hey, wasn't there something here before?"

And then you have the people who think the best theft victims are those in their own family.  We've had a couple of stories recently of nephews breaking into Aunts and Uncles houses to steal cash, guns and other items.  I bet that makes for some interesting conversation at holiday dinners and family weddings.  This week we had a conviction in a case where a woman forged her in-law's signatures on promissary notes and contracts--then sued them for a quarter-of-a-million dollars.  That really takes some guts.  She even went so far as to continue calling them the "quote/unquote alleged victims"--while using flying quotations hand gesture--in court.

So enjoy our Halloween decorations, Stealers.  I know you think you "deserve" to have them more than us.

OK--now that my wife thinks this Two Cents is done...feel free to steal our Christmas lights this winter so I don't have to climb up the ladder in freezing cold weather to put them up and take them down anymore.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Just To Put Things In Perspective

I wanted to tell you about a couple of big "rallies" going on this weekend in Wisconsin.  One of them is scheduled for Saturday in Madison--the other will be Sunday in Green Bay.

In Madison, many of the attendees will have significant student loan debt.  Others will have kids dealing with substantial debt.  In Green Bay, you will have many who are struggling to pay their mortgages and who are worrying about losing their jobs.

At both "rallies" attendees will don apparel of matching colors in a show of solidarity.  They will chant chants, they will sing songs, they will clap their hands and stomp their feet.  Some will even bring signs showing support for those on "their side"--or mocking those they oppose.  In Green Bay, I expect a lot of booing of millionaires.  Law enforcement will be out in force in both cities--making sure things don't get out of hand.  Dozens of media outlets will cover the "rallies"--gathering information for passionate followers. 

An expected 80-thousand-plus will attend the Madison "rally" on Saturday.  Better than 73-thousand will show up for the Green Bay "event".  Numbers that will dwarf the turnout for #Occupy rallies in much bigger cities like New York or San Francisco.  Millions more will watch the action unfold live on TV, will listen on the radio or will log onto the internet for updates--generating ratings that Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow would give their left arms to see in a month.

The Madison "rally" is expected to generate an estimated $1.3-million dollars for the "cause".  The Green Bay "rally" will bring in more than $2-million dollars.  Millions more will be spent at restaurants and hotels in those cities this weekend.  Proving to be an incredible economic boost for the state.

How can you be a part of this "movement" that so many other people care so much about?  Just stop down at Camp Randall Stadium around 11:00 Saturday morning for the Badgers game against Indiana--or swing by Lambeau Field at Noon Sunday for the game against St. Louis.

The best part?  You don't have to hate anyone to attend--well at least not until the Ohio State or Vikings games.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Short Takes

Just some short takes on various topics today:

--Given my wife's excitement over the news of a Kohl's Department Store coming to Oshkosh soon, staying on the Dave Ramsey Plan may be a bit more of a challenge.  Her only disappointment--the store won't be open by the Christmas shopping season.  All we need now in Oshkosh is a Golf Galaxy or one of those stores that sells authentic sports jerseys and ballcaps and I'll need to get a third job.

--It's "Mission Accomplished" for everyone in Washington DC this week.  By approving--but not by enough votes--President Obama's Jobs Act, the Senate has given all those running for election next year the ammunition they need.  For the President, he can go out on the campaign trail and say "I put forth a bill that would have 'created' thousands of jobs and fix our infrastructure and cut taxes and cut spending and they (Republicans) said 'no'"  Senate Republicans can go out and say "We kept the President from sinking us farther in debt with a plan to increase the size of government and not 'create' any long-term jobs for anybody."  And the Red-State Democrats in the Senate can say "Hey, I didn't vote for that bag of flaming dog doo either--check the record!"

--I figure you have about two more weeks to actually enjoy watching television.  After that, both sides in the Recall Scott Walker effort will start firing up their advertising machines.  AFSCME and WEAC will be first on the tube with their "Governor Walker's extreme agenda has cost hard-working Wisconsin families money and jobs"--while showing the protests at the Capitol and the stock footage of a couple looking disturbed by the latest bill they got in the mail.  That will be followed a few days later by Wisconsin Manufacturing and Commerce ads saying "Governor Walker took on the special interests and union lobbyists in Madison and achieved tax savings for most Wisconsinites"--over the stock footage of protesters clashing with Capitol police and all of the headlines about school districts saving millions of dollars on benefits packages.  Our only hope is that they wait until after the World Series is done--and there is really nothing to watch anyways.

--And finally, kudos to those who organized and attended the Oshkosh Pub Crawl last weekend.  Citations and arrests were down this year--while attendance was up.  I know there was a segment of the population here in Oshkosh that was disappointed there wasn't looting and clashes with riot police so they would have grounds to completely shut down the Crawl.   I look forward to continued support of downtown businesses created by this event--here in "Event City."  Prost!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Let Them Work, Senator Kohl!!

Now that "Wisconsin Jobs Now" has wrapped up their pro-Jobs Act rally on the College Avenue bridge in Appleton, they can jump in their VW Microbuses and Toyota Priuses and head down to 1001 North
Fourth Street in Milwaukee to demand that millionaires start paying their fair share to save hundreds of jobs.  I'll spare you the trip to Mapquest and let you know that is the address of the Bradley Center--home of the Milwaukee Bucks.

In case you missed it, NBA Commissioner David Stern announced yesterday that at least the first two weeks of the 2011-2012 season will be cancelled due to the owners' lockout of the players.  That's right, Herb Kohl is keeping hardworking union members from making a living.  The players want to play, they have offered concessions on their share of the income generated by the league--but Senator Kohl and his millionaire and billionaire associates have said that is not enough--and they are trying to bust the union.

Sure, Senator Kohl can claim the Bucks have lost money for years--but he has a net worth of $231-million dollars (I believe that figure leaves him a little short of being part of the "1%" that Occupy Wall Street wants to destroy--so that group will have to sit out this protest)--so he should be able to continue covering those losses out of his own pocket.  Besides, how could he be losing money when he and his greedy partners are getting $930-million dollars annually in television revenues from "evil" Wall Street Corporations like Disney (ABC/ESPN) and Time-Warner Cable (Turner Broadcasting/NBA Network)?

And it's not just the players who are prevented from working--it's the coaches, the trainers, the equipment guys, the ball boys, the concession stand workers, the security guards, the ticket-takers, all of the front-office personnel, the PA announcer, the beat reporters and the play-by-play guys that are losing out on income as well, Senator Kohl.  Those are "hardworking Wisconsin Families" whose efforts have been putting money in your pocket for years, Senator--and now you are taking money out of theirs.  You seem so ready to commit $447-Billion of our (taxpayers) money for President Obama's Jobs Act--why don't you dig into your own pocket and give the players "a fair deal"?  Oh, and you can buy your own new arena in Downtown Milwaukee as well--because we aren't about bailouts for businesses anymore.

So c'mon professional protesters, union brothers and all of those sick of the rich taking advantage of the middle class--take up your picket signs against Senator Herb Kohl and demand that he end the lockout and let the players play.  Because this fight isn't about politics, right? 




Monday, October 10, 2011

The President is Right

One of the things I hate about the current political climate is that when someone from the opposite party or ideology says something that you should agree with--everyone is still compelled to bash that person and denigrate their position.

Case in point, President Obama's statement last week to Orlando, FL TV station when asked about why the ecnomony isn't pulling out of the recession:  "I mean, there are a lot of things we can do.  The way I think about it is, you know, this is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft and, you know, we didn't have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades. We need to get back on track."

Now you would have thought the President had called Americans a bunch of lilly-livered, yellow cowards the way conservatives have reacted to his comments.  Rick Perry (OK--a pseudo-conservative) said it was President Obama who "is soft".  Most of the hosts on this very radio station bashed the President for "bashing America again."  But the truth of the matter is President Obama is correct--we are soft and we have lost our competitive edge.

We don't keep score in youth sports because that would mean having "winners" and "losers".  High schools are doing away with Valedictorians and Salutatorians at graduation ceremonies.  Instead of teaching our children that underage drinking in illegal and wrong--we host house parties for them. We consider a 26-year old a "child" for the purpose of remaining on their parents' health insurance. We oppose merit-based pay raises.  We buy cars that open their own doors, park themselves and now, even compensate for our own inattentiveness behind the wheel.  We demonize anyone that makes more money than us.  And now we are trying to model our economy after systems that have dragged other nations down into financial ruin.

One of my favorite moments during the time I took off last year to "pursue other opportunities" was visiting a house here in Oshkosh where a father and son were both unemployed.  The father--Id' say about 350-pounds--was on disability "you know, because of my back".  The son--I'd say in his mid-20's--complained there were no jobs available.  I asked him what he did--and he said he was a welder.  I told him that FVTC had to add courses last year trying to train welders just to meet demand in the area.  He said "Yeah, but all them jobs are in Manitowoc and Marinette--and I ain't going there just for a job."

So I applaud President Obama for speaking the truth (for a change) and for throwing down the gauntlet.  Now, how will America accept the challenge?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Know Your Protesters!!!

Occupy Wall Street is looking to expand across the country.  The anti-corporation protest movement that started in New York City has announced three rallies in Wisconsin next week--including one in Appleton.  I know the "professional protesters" will be out there--you know, the folks that seem to have a grievance with everything in society today and who seem to get a deluded pleasure out of making everyone aware of that.  But should you--the "Average American"--consider joining the movement?  Well before you go to Hobby Lobby to get your cardboard and magic markers to make your "GREED" and "SHAME" signs, you should probably know what Occupy Wall Street actually stands for.

There are multiple outlets on the internet listing the "Official Demands" of OWS--many of which have absolutely nothing to do with the way business or the economy operate here in the US.  Take for instance demand #2--Repeal the Patriot Act.  I guess I don't see how warrant-less wiretaps on suspected terrorists resulted in higher unemployment--but Occupy Wall Street believes that is the second most important thing that must happen in our country.

And then you have demand #6--End the War on Drugs.  Are the protesters saying we should create jobs by legallizing the sale of marijuana and other recreational drugs?  I know we had 48-people right here in Oshkosh pulling in a total of $2.4 million dollars selling cocaine and heroin over the last two years--so obviously there is demand for the product.  And will we become a more productive country if employers can no longer test employees for drug use?  The folks at OWS apparently believe it will.

Demand #8--National Repeal of Capital Punishment--has me scratching my head.  Is my Roth IRA down 12-percent this year because people who killed others in cold blood were put to death?  Do we have that many potential job creators on death row across the US?

Here's a real scary one--demand #10--Office of the Citizen.  This demand calls for the creation of a non-elected "Citizen Representative" in the federal government that would have Ombudsman-type powers to strike down legislation deemed "unfair to the people".  I'm not sure where in the Constitution such a position is allowed in our democratic-republic style of government.  The rambling explanation of this demand includes references to selection of "experts" to fill out this office who would somehow "know" how to act on behalf of "the people".  Apparently electing our leaders isn't the "fair" way to do things anymore.

Demand #11--the US Must Comply With International Human Rights Law.  I guess this rules out waterboarding businessowners until they hire people.

And then you have demand #13--Prosecutions of the Guilty.  Here again, we have people calling for "fairness" for everyone in the system already handing down decisions on who is "guilty" and who is "innocent".  So much for due process and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

So if these demands are what you believe in as well--then I encourage you to join the "struggle" and Occupy Wall Street.  But if you recognize this as just the same old far-left, quasi-Socialist garbage packaged in a new wrapper, then follow the advice of Sir Winston Churchill during the Blitz of World War Two:  "Keep Calm and Carry On."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Life--Through the Eyes of a Liberal

With the Earth Charter Summit at UW-Oshkosh this week, I thought I would take a look at a day in my life through the eyes of those trying to "save the planet".

I awoke yesterday and shuffled into the bathroom.  Since I have a regular-flow toilet and no restrictor on my shower head I placed further stress on our freshwater supply and lowered the level of Lake Winnebago by a milli-micron--threatening habitat for thousands of fish and other wildlife.

To get dressed, I turned on a light fixture that uses two incandescent light bulbs--thereby causing the coal fired power plant owned by Wisconsin Public Service to increase production--resulting in more greenhouse gasses and a further reduction of the polar ice cap by about one square millimeter--further threatening the exisitance of polar bears.

For breakfast I had a couple of brand-name bagels washed down with major dairy milk--thereby promoting the use of processed food products using grains grown on corporate-owned farms that don't use conservation practices.  The milk came from cows provided with steroids to boost production at huge milking operations whose manure control practices threaten rural water supplies.

I drove to work in my gas-guzzling SUV--providing more money to the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia--who will use it buy another fleet of Mercedes-Benzes and swords to cut off the heads of their political opponents.

Once in the newsroom, I fired up three different computers and monitors--requiring more electricity and further shrinking the polar ice cap.  Among the stories I worked on yesterday was the continued negotiations between the Oshkosh Corporation and its United Auto Workers Union employees.  While I provided comments from both sides-I failed to mention the "obscene" profits Oshkosh made from producing "weapons of war" that will only result in further misery and terror for the innocent people of Iraq and Afghanistan for years to come.  The only stories featuring people of color were those involving drug rings and sexual assaults--thereby perpetuating the perception that racial minorities commit a disproportionate number of crimes in Wisconsin.

Since I was pressed for time, for lunch I drove (another palace for a Saudi Prince) to Burger King to get a couple of double cheeseburgers--made with beef that required clearing of more rain forest in Brazil and operation of inhumane slaughterhouses.

I also downloaded the monthly portfolio report for my Roth IRA.  Those mutual funds are filled with shares of greedy Wall Street Corporations--and my investment in them only endorses their anti-worker, anti-"fair share of taxes" agendas pushed by their over-compensated CEO's.

After driving home in my SUV (another yacht for the Saudis) I settled in to enjoy some Major League Baseball Playoffs on my "energy hog" big-screen HDTV (less ice cap for the polar bears).  The games featured athletes being paid hundreds of millions of dollars to play a game while teachers are forced to pay 12% of their health insurance premiums and 5% toward their retirement benefits.  I also enjoyed a beer with the game--further promoting alcohol use and irresponsible social behavior.

Once the Brewers fell behind by seven runs, I shuffled back to bed.  And despite the "terrible toll" that I inflicted upon our "fragile" planet and my fellow man in the previous 19-hours--I somehow had no trouble falling right asleep--without an ounce of guilt.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Life--According to Ron Roenicke

If there's one thing you can say about Milwaukee Brewers Manager Ron Roenicke, it's that he is more than willing to take a risk.  Starting Zach Greinke on three days rest the final day of the regular season in a game the Crew had to win to secure home field advantage in the 1st round of the Playoffs, starting Jerry Hairston at 3rd base when he had mainly been a bench player since being acquired mid-season, coming back with Greinke on 3-days rest again in Game 2 of the NLDS, a squeeze play in a tie game Sunday when the Diamondbacks had all the momentum going their way--all of which have paid off handsomely.

Roenicke is living proof that those who aren't afraid to fail are the least likely to fail.   Did he think that Greinke might get shelled early in either of those short-rest starts--thereby blowing out the bullpen for the playoffs?  He might have--but he also had a feeling that his big-money ace would dig down and find a way to give them at least five good innings--and the best chance to win.  Was there a good chance that Jonathan Lucroy might whiff on the bunt attempt--or worse yet pop it up, resulting in a rally killing double play?  Absolutely--but he stuck with his gut feeling that "Luc" would come through with another clutch play.

If any of these moves had backfired, Roenicke would be getting roasted on sports talk radio both here in Wisconsin and nationally as well.  But I'm guessing that he would have sat there in front of all the microphones and the cameras and told reporters that the unsuccessful plays were his fault.  He wouldn't rant about how the players are bums or how the umpires had a terrible strike zone or that the ballpark was too dark while the Brewers were hitting.  And by "manning up" he would earn the respect of not only the players--but the fans as well.

Ron is from the old school philosophy on life--where you have to go out and make your own success in the world.  You can't live worried about everything you do not working out exactly as you had hoped.  If you experience failure, you accept the result--look at what you need to do better--and work hard to be more successful the next time.  Just think where we could be as a country and a society if more people had Ron Roenicke "flashing them signs" from the dugout as they play the game of life.

Monday, October 3, 2011

After Further Review.....

In case you missed it late Friday afternoon, a Waukesha County judge struck down the Department of Public Instruction's order to the Mukwonago School District to change its "Indians" high school mascot.  Judge Donald Hassin, Jr cited all of the issues I pointed out in a "My Two Cents" after the Berlin School District received a similar order from the DPI a couple of weeks ago--mainly that the process is unconstitutionally biased against districts.

The attorney who represented the group that challenged the DPI ruling believes this ruling can now be applied to any of the other districts that have been forced to change their mascots in the same process--meaning Berlin, Kewaunee, et al can sue and expect to win (unless of course the case is heard in Dane County).  But I would encourage them NOT to take this back to court.

Since the mascot issue is tied directly to sports in high schools, then we should use this to teach the same life lessons kids learn by competing in athletics.  One of the main reasons rules change in sports is because something happens in the course of a game that makes people realize that the rule in the book is not entirely fair.  But once that changes, it's not like everyone who got screwed by the old version of the rule gets to appeal and have the game results overturned.  And sometimes you get a referee or an umpire that really is biased against one team or the other.  You don't get to play the game again with a different set of officials.

Besides, going back to the old mascot just sets the table for another round of fighting and anger somewhere else down the line.  Eventually, a Democrat will be governor again in Wisconsin--and Democrats will control both houses of the Legislature again.  When that happens, they will just pass the bill they didn't have the guts to pass last session that just says "All Native American mascots are hereby illegal"--instead of setting up the sham DPI "public hearing" procedure that is being thrown out in the Waukesha County ruling.

I've got a couple of suggestions for a new Berlin mascot.  One of them comes from an "Anonymous" (real gutsy there) respondent to that previous "Two Cents" blog:  "The Cavemen"--because that commenter believes anyone who doesn't see blatant racism and hatred in an Indianhead logo on a letterman's jacket is a "Troglodyte".

The other suggestion would be the "Old Hickories".  That would be in "tribute" to Democratic President Andrew Jackson--who initially rose to national prominance by defeating the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814--and then openly defied a Supreme Court ruling overturning the Indian Removal Act, and forced Florida's Native American population to march the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma--resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands.  It should be important that kids know the historic record of those pushing the mascot issue.