Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Can We Go Back to Real Football Again?

(WARNING! Today's "My Two Cents" features a rant from a middle-aged man about how "things were better when I was a kid")

I have a couple of theorys about the NFL.  First, I believe that if the modern rules of the game had been in place for the entire history of the league, Deion Sanders would be the only defensive player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  "Prime Time" would be the only defensive player not because of his career interception numbers or his prowess as a punt returner.  Instead, Deion would be the only defender in Canton because he never once attempted to actually tackle someone.

Every other defensive player in the Hall of Fame would have been totally incapable of playing in today's NFL.  Think Ndamakong Suh's arm-stomp was "horrible"?  That was an average play for Dick Butkus.  Hitting a receiver trying to catch a ball is illegal because he is "defenseless?  Dick "Night Train" Lane used to clothesline guys coming across the middle--whether they had the ball or not.  Ronnie Lott wouldn't be allowed on the field nowadays--because he would either be suspended for leading with his helmet or he wouldn't be cleared by the team physician because of "concussion like symptoms".  Chuck Bednarik is famous for two things:  being the last two-way star in the league and for almost killing Frank Gifford with a huge hit--forcing a game-winning fumble.  The entire Steel Curtain, Fearsome Foursome and Purple People Eaters would be playing for free--given the number of fines they would incur for "unneccesary roughness".

I follow a number of NFL analysts, "insiders" and talking heads on Twitter--and the general consensus with all of them is that nobody knows how you are supposed to legally play defense anymore.  Touching the quarterback a split-second after he releases the ball--FLAG.  Seperating a receiver from the ball as he tries to catch it--FLAG.  Looking at a receiver as he reaches for the ball on a deep pass--FLAG.  If we had more than four talented quarterbacks in the league right now, every game would go over 100-points.

Which brings me to my second theory:  The only thing that matters to the NFL now is Fantasy Football.  It's no coincidence that the rise of the league as the be-all, end-all of the American sports landscape mirrors the rise in popularity of Fantasy Football.  And since scoring is the only things that counts in the vast majority of leagues--that is the only thing that most fans now care about.  How else to explain the NFL Redzone Channel--which features nothing but scoring plays all Sunday long--or the need to provide all of the individual stats on the "crawl" instead of the actual scores of the games?

As someone who grew up watching football in the glory days of team defense (and the running game--but that's a topic for another Two Cents) this new, all offense all the time trend in the sport bores me.  It might as well be the NBA--where last possession wins every game.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Recreational Hazards

Let me preface today's "My Two Cents" with the fact that I am an 11-handicap golfer--which according to the United States Golf Association--puts me in the top 25% of golfers in the country.  But that does not mean that I am immune to the pressure that comes from seeing water down the right-hand side of a fairway (when my most common miss is a push-fade) or that I never chunk one when I have to carry water to get to a green.  But I think those protesting the addition of stormwater retention ponds as water hazards on Reid Municipal Golf Course need to take a step back and look at the big picture.

I play Reid about three or four times a year--usually in the Fox Cities Amateur or the Appleton City Tournament.  It's a nice little course that is usually in very good condition and that presents a fair challenge for both the location and the price.  It already has the two things that inflate my score--out of bounds on several holes, and large trees that you just can't blast the ball over.  What it doesn't have is a lot of water in play.  The lone pond on the course affects one hole--while an ugly, concrete "stream" scars a few holes on the back nine.  I've seen more than a few guys go down into the "berm" and try to play out--scratching the heck out of their wedges just to save one stroke.  So I wouldn't mind seeing a few more ponds put into play.

I realize the construction of those retention ponds will force the shutdown of at least a third of the holes on the course for one season--and that is a major concern for those who have had their leagues, tournaments and outings at Reid for years now.  But let's keep in mind that Lakeshore Municipal here in Oshkosh was closed for an entire year to deal with its major flooding problems--and most players would agree it was worth the shutdown for the improved playing conditions since.  And if you are worried about losing a few more balls every summer, you probably shouldn't be playing the expensive Tour balls anyway.  Besides, water hazards make a course even better.

Think about it.  If you had to name the greatest golf holes in the world--the vast majority of them have water hazards.  Every hole in Amen Corner at Augusta National has water in play.  So does 15 and 16 at Augusta.  18 at the Blue Monster at Doral....18 at Carnoustie has the berm crossing the fairway twice...the 7th, 17th and 18th at Pebble Beach have a little pond we like to call the Pacific Ocean in play--where the drop zone is in Hawaii.  And of course, the most iconic hole in golf--the 17th at TPC Sawgrass--is just a tee, a green and a whole lot of water.  (Now would be a perfect time to mention that I hit the green at 17 while playing Sawgrass last February).

So I'm asking my fellow golfers to calm down a bit and let a designer take a look at what the city wants to do to help Reid's neighbors deal with unwanted flooding and standing water in their yards.  It sure beats the alternative of the City Council shutting it down and turning it into a housing development as has been suggested in the past.

Monday, November 28, 2011

What's Not Working?

The Missus and I took a trip to Chicago over the weekend.  As we approached the first toll booth in Waukegan a Lebaron Convertible with one of those big RECALL WALKER! and the "blue fist" "I stand with the Unions" bumper stickers went flying by us.  A few seconds later, we saw the portable message sign alerting drivers that the toll for that plaza will increase from $1.50 to $2.80 per vehicle--effective January 1st.

I have to wonder, did RECALL WALKER! Guy think "Holy (expletive), they are almost doubling the tolls down here!" like I did?  Or did he think "Wow, Democratic Governor Pat Quinn is awesome!!  He's making everyone pay 87% more to drive the tollways--just so state workers don't have to contribute 12% to their health insurance benefits!"?

I don't know if RECALL WALKER! Guy had to buy gas while in the Chicago area.  He would have found an average around $3.51 a gallon--compared to $3.09 that I got at a truck stop station just north of Kenosha.  That is thanks, in part, to the higher gas tax in Illinois--69-cents a gallon there (fifth highest in the nation) compared to 51.3-cents a gallon here (11th highest).  If he did fuel up, was RECALL WALKER! Guy thinking "(expletive), I'd rather run out of gas then fill up before I get back to Wisconsin" like I did?  Or did he think "Way to go Democratic-controlled Illinois Legislature!  Make everyone pay 35% more for gas than in Wisconsin so state employees don't have to pay 5% of the retirement benefits!"?

And I can't be sure if RECALL WALKER! Guy bought anything in Chicago.  If he did, he would have noticed the 10% sales tax.  Would he have thought "(expletive) (expletive), are they providing British or Canadian-style health care down here?"  Or would his thought process be "Rahm Emanuel is the MAN!"  He's making everyone pay 100% more in sales tax than they do in Oshkosh so city union employees can still get their 4% raises!"

I should also point out that Illinois' budget deficit is eight-BILLION dollars--compared to the zero budget deficit in Wisconsin.  Unemployment in Illinois was 10.1% in October--compared to 7.8% in Wisconsin.  So RECALL WALKER! Guy: what exactly isn't working here--that is working in Illinois?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black (Hearts) Friday

I sure hope the person in the white or light gray SUV that nearly collided with me making a left-hand turn into the WalMart parking lot at 2:55 this morning got whatever item was so damn important that obeying the rules of the road no longer applied.  Nothing gets you out of a post-Thanksgiving tryptophan coma like having to lock up the brakes to avoid t-boning some moron who is so engrossed in saving 40% on something that the person receiving it won't even be using a year from now.

I'd be willing to bet that Miss or Mister No One Else Exists on This Planet is one of those people who is habitually six or seven minutes late for work at 8:00 every morning.  But on Black Friday, he or she is amazingly capable of making it to a store at 4:00 AM or 3:00 AM or even at Midnight.

I'm also guessing he or she is also one of those people who just can't find enough time to spend with their kids--but will just make up for it by buying everything their children put on their Christmas list.  Nothing says "I love you, son" like a 125-dollar video game system.  I just heard a woman on TV "complaining" that the midnight doorbusters "forced" her to leave her family's Thanksgiving dinner early so she would have time to get to the store.  You know, if Grandma or Grandpa gets real sick or passes away this year, I'm sure they won't regret losing those last few hours that could have been spent together.

It's hard to believe, but I actually can agree with the #Occupy folks who are out protesting the doorbuster sales events in New York today.  Believe me, the #OccupyMyWallet people who aren't already out working hard to pay their bills first--not their Christmas shopping list--were not in line to storm the stores today.  We've got our priorities a little bit better in line.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

It’s time to give thanks again. Here is what I am thankful for:

Once again this year, I am thankful for the love of my wife, Michele. She’s decided to stay with me for another year—although there have been times when she has wondered why.

I’m thankful for Congressmen Paul Ryan and Ron Paul. Their continued efforts to show the fallacy of thinking we can tax and spend our way out of our huge Federal deficit and the recession continues to give me hope for the future of this country.

I’m thankful for the former leaders of Greece and Italy for proving in the “real world” that trying to tax and spend your way out of a huge Federal deficit and the recession is doomed to failure.

I’m thankful for the new divisional alignment of the Big Ten Football Conference. Because of the two-division format, the Wisconsin Badgers remain alive for the Conference Championship Game and a trip to the Rose Bowl. Under the old format, Michigan State fans would already be booking their trips to Pasadena—and the Badgers would be going to Orlando again.

I’m thankful for Dave Ramsey and his Total Money Makeover. By following Dave’s advice for the last seven years, my household has been able to weather economic challenges without the fear and uncertainty that so many other families are facing today.

I’m thankful for Tim Thomas—whose outstanding goaltending backstopped my beloved Boston Bruins to their first Stanley Cup Championship since 1972. That June night has become my new “Happy Place”.

As always, I’m thankful for the WOSH listeners—and those who tune into all of our sister stations. It’s because of you and our wonderful sponsors that I get to talk for living.

And finally this year, I give my biggest “Thank You” to the doctors, nurses and staff at the Bellin Hospital Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit for treating my new nephew, Jackson—who was born almost four months pre-mature. Jackson is home now and doing great--thanks to the fantastic work of these health care providers.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I have a theory about the discontent and frustration felt by the #occupy people:  They had bad toys as kids.

My wife and I were in the toy department of an area store a few weeks ago when I suggested we get one of the kids an "Ernie" doll from Sesame Street.  My wife dismissed the idea saying "He doesn't even 'do anything'"  Technically, she was correct.  It wasn't "Tickle Me Ernie" or "Rockin' Dancin' Ernie" or "Read To Me Ernie".  A child who got that doll would have had to use their imagination to make Ernie "come to life".

That's when I noticed that just about every other toy in the department did "do something".  They would move in pre-programmed ways, or make a certain noise when a button was pushed, or light up when shaken.  Even the books nowadays read themselves.  It's like children can no longer be expected to take an inanimate object and use their own creativity to make it "fun".


When I was a kid, there were far fewer "electronic" toys on the market--we had to be the "voice" the "motor" and  the "program" for our toys.  Those Fisher-Price Little People?  They spent more time playing football or basketball on the floor of my bedroom than they did working the farm they actually came with.  Matchbox Cars didn't follow streets on "sold seperately" mats.  They took part in car chases over and around furniture--or they raced to the "bar and back" in the basement.  And the few video games that we had didn't include "shortcut codes" to skip ahead to advanced levels without "earning" your way there.

And that leads me back to my theory about the #occupy folks.  These young people grew up with toys that did all the work for them.  Elmo always had his own voice, the cars raced around their own tracks and buttons decided what a toy would do.  There was no need to come up with their own games or adventures--everything was pre-packaged for them.  And now that they are out in the "real world", they are frustrated there isn't that "button" to push to make things happen--and they don't know what to do now.  So they sit on the floor and they pout--until someone comes along to give them what they want.

Unfortunately, we are buying the little ones the toys with all the bells and whistles.  But I won't be disappointed if they have more fun playing with the boxes or the wrapping paper on Christmas morning.

Monday, November 21, 2011


So the SuperCommittee on Deficit Reduction has failed to come up with a plan to save us from future financial disaster.  If any of you are shocked by this--you need to get out of the house more often.

Let's be honest, this committee was doomed from the start--not because it was a "bi-partisan" body that came to the table with very "partisan" opinions on how to address our continued budget shortfalls--but rather because the these are the very people who got us into the mess in the first place.  If your car was totalled in a crash involving a drunk driver, would you ask the drunk driver to give you a ride home?

The SuperCommittee meetings should have started with a press conference where each member looked into the camera and said "I am a total moron who approved a whole bunch of spending without giving any thought to how to pay for it.  Therefore I have zero credibility when it now comes to fixing the mess I created."  Next, every member should have quit, saying "President Obama should be coming up with his own plan--since he was elected to provide some leadership for this country--instead of pushing off the actual tough stuff to a Congressional committee that he can blame when he runs for re-election next year."

Instead, a bunch of politicians went behind closed doors to seek a politically-convenient proposal instead of an actual financial solution.  The brutal truth is that it won't be solved by just cutting spending and it won't be solved by just raising taxes.  But when you send people with hard-line positions in to "negotiate" a compromise--and who are incapable of accepting the blame for creating the situation--you are doomed to failure before you even start.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Quick Hits

Just a few thoughts on a couple of topics.....

--Can we have some consistancy on how we handle threats on public officials?  I ask as the Dane County District Attorney announces that he will not seek charges against a convicted felon accused of posting death threats against Governor Scott Walker on Facebook.  Meanwhile, later this month an inmate at the Green Bay Correctional Institution will undergo a federal trial for writing letters to the White House threatening President Obama.  I wonder how a guy locked up in a penitentiary is considered to be a credible threat to the President--but someone walking around free is considered to just be "joking around"?

--I appreciate the importance of deer hunting to certain parts of the state--but I don't think recent legislative attempts to boost the sport are going to do any good.  First time license buyers will now get a deep discount and kids who take a hunter safety course can get high school credit toward their graduation.  Supporters think it will get more young people interested in hunting.  The only problem?  Today's teenager has no interest in hunting--no matter how cheap you make it.  Consider that there is no 3G internet access in the woods and there is no guarantee of success--no matter how good a shot you are.  Why bundle up to sit in the cold and hope that a deer walks by--when there is a video game that has deer walking past you all the time to be shot? 

If we are so concerned about fewer hunters in the field, why not just expand the season to include the entire month of November?  You open up more hunting opportunities for those who can't take next week off of work--and you give everyone more time to bag a buck.  Because we hunt to help control the deer herd right?

--I'm dragging butt today because I had the play-by-play last night for the Division Four Football Championship game between Wrightstown and Somerset.  What a fantastic game--as it became the first title game to go into double overtime.  Wrightstown was down 8 with about 2:00 minutes to go--but put together an impressive drive that ended with a game tying TD and 2-point conversion with less than :30.  The Tigers then stuffed a Somerset 2-point attempt in the second OT to seal the win.  It was a privilege and joy to describe the action as both team literally left everything they had out on the field.  It's a shame someone has to lose a game like that.  Nonetheless, congratulations to Wrightstown on their third state championship.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

One Small Win for Accountable Government--And One Big Loss

Those of us who push for open and accountable government scored a small victory last night, as the Oshkosh School Board rejected the creation of an "investigatory panel" to look into allegations of open meetings law violations by member Ben Schneider II.  The discussion centered on nearly all of the points that I raised in yesterday's "Two Cents"--mainly that Schneider broke no laws by telling the media about Oaklawn Elementary discussions that did not fit the definition of proper closed session material and that there are various avenues of actual legal recourse for alleged rules violations.

Board President John Lemberger tried to cover his butt for this naked intimidation tactic by claiming that he merely wanted to "start a discussion about the Board speaking with one voice after a decision is made".  Well, as Board President he could have had such a discussion by placing on the agenda "Discussion about the Board speaking with one voice after a decision is made"--rather than consulting with the district's legal counsel (at taxpayer expense) to see if he could convene a Kangaroo Court packed with his own lackeys.

Unfortunately, the open government movement suffered a major blow as reporters trying to hold Penn State officials accountable for their actions in the alleged coverup of sexual abuse of children on its campus found out the University is exempt from open records laws.  In 2008, the Pennsylvania Legislature granted Penn State the exemption--meaning reporters will not be allowed to request internal memos, emails, phone records and schedules from those accused of keeping Jerry Sandusky's alleged actions under wraps for at least 13-years.

Care to guess who was the biggest proponent of granting Penn State that exemption from public scrutiny required from every other branch of government?  None other than former President Graham Spanier--who was quick to say he supported the school officials charged with perjury and obstruction of justice in the Sandusky case.  At the time, Spanier claimed the exemption was needed to protect the "competitiveness" of the University--and to save the institution from the expense of complying with hundreds of open records request. 

I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist--but don't you get the feeling that Spanier knew the potential bombshell that exisited in the personnel files and electronic records of both the Athletic Department and the Penn State Police Department?  He had to know it would be just a matter of time before one of Sandusky's victims grew tired of the man walking about free and respected in the community and took their accusations to a reporter who was not in bed with the University.  Better to go to extraordinary legislative lengths to put up a wall around that dirty laundry--rather than have it dragged out for everyone to see.

Fortunately, prosecutors can still subpoena that information--and it will be exposed--but only if the case goes to trial.  If Sandusky was to cop a plea--and the discovery information was to be sealed by the court--we may never know the full culpability of Penn State University and its adminstration.  And those that believe they are not accountable to the people will have scored another big victory.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Kangaroo Court is Now in Session

In baseball there is an old locker room tradition called the "Kangaroo Court".  The veterans on the team levy fines on other players for such "crimes" as running through a coach's "stop" sign on the bases, failing to hit a cutoff man or wearing your socks wrong on the field.  It's meant to be a joke--and to build an esprit de corps in the locker room.  Tonight, the Oshkosh School Board will vote to create its own Kangaroo Court.  It too will be a joke--but its purpose is to intimidate any members who might want to guarantee open and honest government.

In a nutshell, Board President John Lemberger will be given the power to appoint the members of this "Investigative Panel"--which will look into comments Ben Schneider II made to WOSH Radio and other local media outlets about improper matters discussed in closed session.  Schneider came on our station accusing his fellow Boardmembers of talking about Oaklawn Elementary School options that were not properly noticed before several closed session meetings this spring and summer--and which do not fall under the qualifications for closed session anyway.  In other words, Schneider would be "investigated" for exposing improper action by his fellow Boardmembers.

Given the union influence on the School Board, such strong-armed tactics and thuggery should have been expected.  "We got caught--now let's punish the guy who turned us in".  And what better way to do that than to create an extra-judicial entity--controlled by those seeking vengence--to dole out its own form of "justice".

If Board President Lemberger really wants to focus on "misconduct" by members then he should form a panel that includes actual experts on Open Meetings Law--who will examine the entire process of these closed session meetings this year--not just on the whistle-blowing that turned attention to them.  That means no professor who teaches Principles of Good Government at the University, no attorney who specializes in negotiating contracts for labor unions, no handpicked "concerned parent" for this panel.  If you are serious about "investigating" misconduct, Mr. Lemberger, then this panel should be made up of Winnebago County District Attorney Christian Gossett (who actually has the power to bring legal action against an elected official who violates the law), Judge Thomas Gritton (who does not live in the Oshkosh School District) and Assistant Attorney General Thomas Bellavia (the State Department of Justice expert on Open Meetings Laws).

I wonder who would be intimidated by that truly impartial panel looking into School Board conduct?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why We Need To Talk About It

We got a post from a listener Sunday night on our WOSH Facebook page.  The listener was "offended" that Bill Cunningham was using the word "rape" on the air repeatedly while discussing the Penn State scandal.  That listener believes such a word should not be used--and that "their (sic) is other stuff to talk about" besides that.

And that is exactly why we need to be talking about that.

First off, the use of the word "rape".  If you read the grand jury presentment you would agree that "rape" is certainly a proper description of the acts that were allegedly witnessed by Michael McQueary--and that "rape" is probably one of the least offensive ways to describe it.  Perhaps that listener would prefer the terms that Jerry Sandusky and his attorney are using in their "media blitz": "horseplay" or "just fooling around in the shower".  That in NO way diminishes the nature of the alleged offenses--and I'm sure makes all sexual assault victims feel like we really sympathize with their plight.

And as far as the complaint about such topics being discussed on the radio--that is the very attitude that allowed an institution like Penn State or Catholic Church to keep such alleged abuses under wraps for so long.  I can imagine the meeting McQueary and his father had with Joe Paterno the day after the 2002 "shower incident". 

"Coach I saw Jerry having sex with a boy in the shower last night.  The boy was pinned against the wall and Jerry was....."
"Aw, geez Michael, I don't need to hear about that stuff.  I'll talk to the Athletic Director and we'll get this straightened out.  Now don't talk about that stuff ever again.  You hear me?"

And right there, the policy is set: Coach Paterno (and everyone else at Penn State) doesn't want to hear about the molestation of children in his football facility.  Out of sight--out of mind. 

On a related note, I hope you were able to tear yourself away from the Packers game last night to watch Jerry Sandusky and his attorney on NBC's Rock Center With Brian Williams.  Bob Costas asked Sandusky pointed questions about the allegations against him.  Sandusky's answers sounded like 75% of the suspect statements I read in child sexual assault criminal complaints:  they are willing to admit to everything that is alleged--up to the point where it becomes a criminal act.  "Yes I showered with boys, yes I touched their legs, yes I hugged them, maybe my genitals bumped up against them but I didn't have any sexual contact with them!"  And the simple yes or no question of "Are you sexually attracted to young boys?" got a rambling twenty-second answer that ended with "I just enjoy being with children."

So make the decision listeners--are we going to talk about the serial molestation of children with the tacit knowledge of a public institution--or are we going to continue to turn away from it because it "makes us uncomfortable"?

Monday, November 14, 2011

#Occupy My Wallet Update

While members of other #Occupy "movements" have moved on to their real purpose: anarchy and violence--members of #Occupy My Wallet have been busy in more positive directions.

Members of #Occupy My Wallet have been taking advantage of the artificially low interest rates to refinance their mortgages.  Even though we are paying ahead on this debt, having a lower interest rate will still save us tens of thousands over the life of the loan.  #Occupy My Wallet members are finding that banks and other financial institutions really do have money to loan--they just need more people who are likely to repay it to ask for some!  Members are also benefiting from not being underwater on their mortgages and having bought only the amount of house they could afford on just one income.

Members of #Occupy My Wallet are also enrolling for their 2012 benefits.  The high-deductible, Health Savings Account plan continues to be the greatest value in health care--with rates as low at $30 a month.  As an added bonus, the State of Wisconsin has stopped punishing those of us who are being responsible and saving for our health care costs, by no longer taxing contributions to HSA's next year.  We are also enrolling for long-term disability insurance--so if something disastrous happens to us--we will continue to have income coming in.

Members of #Occupy My Wallet were not lined up to buy the new iPhone 4s or Call of Duty 3: Modern Warfare.  Our 3G phones (which we bought at a deep discount after the hot new phones came out a few years ago) continue to operate just fine--and we are too busy working extra hours spending time with friends and family to play a lot of video games.

Members of #Occupy My Wallet celebrated the resignations of European leaders who took part in irresponsible spending patterns for decades.  We now await the selection of Presidents who support cutting back deficit spending that threatens to sink an entire continent--and the world economy.

Members of #Occupy My Wallet issued a sternly worded warning to those coming to visit this winter to wear a sweater.  A La Nina weather pattern is expected--meaning another colder, snowier winter.  #Occupy My Wallet recommends keeping the thermostat at 68 max--even though natural gas prices will be the same as last year.

And finally, #Occupy My Wallet members continue to reject the over-commercialism of Christmas--which this year started weeks before Halloween.  Friends and family should expect more time spent together and fewer costly gifts that you won't be using in a year anyway.

Big Government is still coming for #Occupy My Wallet members--not with riot gear and tear gas, but rather with new taxes and "redistribution of wealth" plans.  We need to be as well-armed in our bank accounts as possible.

Friday, November 11, 2011

In Honor of Those Who Served

For the first Veterans Day ever, I actually know what my dad did in the Military. 

The fact that I was born in Virginia has always been a conversation starter--as you would never know I was a native Suthuhna--I've got no accent and I don't call every soda a "Coke" (although I do eat grits with Tabasco Sauce).  I was born there because my dad was stationed in the Army at the time--and my mom moved out there with him.  Dad already had a college degree--and ended up getting a very low draft number--so he decided to enlist.  But the conversation would always come to a stop when the question was raised about what he did in the Army--because I could never give them an answer.

Growing up, I would see my Dad in his old fatigues--usually when he was going to do something that required getting very dirty--like fixing the car.  I would ask him "What did you do in the Army?" and the answer would either be "That's classified" or "As little as possible".  (My father is a man of few words--my gift of gab comes from my Mother).  So I would just let it go.  Imagine my surprise then when my wife asked Dad the same question over the Labor Day Weekend this summer--and we actually got an answer.

When the question was first asked I chuckled--expecting one of the above pat answers--but this time my Dad said that he worked in Military Intelligence.  My wife asked what that entailed--and Dad answered that he was part of a team that deciphered intercepted messages from the North Vietnamese Army.  My wife then asked if he helped to head off any major attacks by the enemy.  Dad said that he didn't think so--but they did find out how much help the Chinese were providing NVA in the early 1970's.  Maybe after 39-years my Father's military experience was finally "de-classified"--but it was really neat to finally know.

I've always thought it was lucky that Dad got to stay stateside during the war.  I've got a couple of Uncles that served in Vietnam--and they can tell you some stories that would make your hair curl.  He served his hitch--got his honorable discharge--and moved back to Wisconsin to start living the American Dream.

So on this Veterans Day, I'd like to thank my favorite Vet--Bob Krause--for his service (now that I know exactly what it was).  The same goes for everyone else who served--it's because of you that the United States continues to be the best place to live.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Success With Honor

I chose that title for today's "My Two Cents" because it is the motto of the Penn State University football team.  It's a motto that thousands of students who took to the streets of State College, PA last night protesting the firing of Coach Joe Paterno seemed to have forgotten.

Anger is never a proper motivating factor ("it only leads to the Dark Side" said a very wise philosopher a long time ago)--but I wonder how the anger of Penn State fans has become so misplaced?  The signs and chants in last night's protest directed that anger at the Board of Trustees--who had finally brought some semblence of sanity to this tragedy and fired Joe Paterno--effective immediately.  It took a group of business and academic leaders to look at what was going on and realize that there was no way to meet the expectation of the above motto with JoePa still at the helm.  Also, the Board decided that two other coverup participants--former Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz--can enjoy the "full support" of now former University President Graham Spanier.

Paterno and his hired damage-control PR firm had earlier in the day made a last-gasp effort to maintain control in the situation by announcing Coach would retire at the end of the year.  Just give me these final three games and I will leave--on my own terms.  But the Board of Trustees correctly stepped in and re-established that it--and the school itself--is the one with the control here--and it would set the terms of JoePa's departure.

How football coaches and Athletic Department executives could have the run of the campus became clear in last night's press conference--where the local reporters only wanted to know who would be coaching the Nittany Lions Saturday versus Nebraska, why JoePa wasn't allowed to retire on his own terms, and why was Coach being punished for doing only what he was required to do?

Saturday's game between Penn State and Nebraska is now must-watch TV.  How will the fans respond?  Will they boycott the game in protest?  Will that protest be in favor of JoePa--or in support for the molestation victims?  Will the student section chant for those who allowed a child predator to lure in an unknown number of victims for an additional nine years?  Will the players even show up?  Even though they now have a chance to return some actual meaning to their motto: "Success With Honor".

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Below is a link to a Sportscenter segment featuring college football analyst--and Penn State alum--Matt Millen discussing the child sexual abuse scandal affecting his alma mater.

It was tough to watch--as I can relate to what Millen is feeling--having had a friend and colleague turn out to be something that nobody thought they were.  You can see and hear how Matt wants to believe that what is alleged to have happened is not true--but that is in conflict with the nature of allegations and the effect that such actions will have on the victims.

Millen's heartfelt expression of emotion stands in stark contrast to the continued response from everyone else involved in this scandal.  Penn State officials continue to make no acknowledgement of the boys involved--only discussing its support of the adults who helped to keep these allegations under wraps for almost ten years--and who allowed the alleged predator to use their football program and facilities to entice his victims.  I'm guessing this is the "legally correct" thing to do--but it sure makes the institution look cold and uncaring.

And then you have the "impromptu" student rally last night in support of embattled head coach Joe Paterno.  Granted, college students will rally for low-cost pizza, but I'm hoping that one day when they are bit older--and have children of their own--they will look back on last night as one of those things they regret doing.  In the meantime, the campus should probably postpone any marches or vigils in honor of sexual abuse victims--it continues to be clear that winning football games is far more important at Penn State University.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sorry Folks, No Solutions Yet

I took part in a forum last night on the UW Oshkosh campus entitled "Whatever Happened to Good Government in Wisconsin--and How Can We Fix It?"  Also on the panel was former Oshkosh Common Councillor Tony Palmeri, Representatives Gordon Hintz and Dick Spanbauer, Senator Jessica King, Professor Jim Simmons and Jay Heck of Common Cause Wisconsin.  I wish that I could report that this august panel was able to answer both of the above questions--but alas, I cannot.

First off, the combination of professors and politicians without a time limit for responses and comments really limits the time that can actually be dedicated to debate and discussion.  Opening statements were the first 40-minutes of a 90-minute forum.  There is a reason Pardon the Interruption on ESPN is so popular with viewers--give me 60-seconds and let's move on.

The one thing that really struck me last night is how we look back fondly at state government 25 or 30 years ago--when, as Jay pointed out, the state had a really squeaky-clean reputation for government.  What I wonder is how much of that was tied to the fact that we spent a lot less on government back then as well.  We weren't trying to pay for every scratch, bruise and sniffle for everyone making up to three times the poverty level, we didn't have educational programs that started the minute you popped out of the womb, we didn't subsidize ethanol plants and we didn't pay for daycare.

The analogy I cited in my opening diatribe--I mean statement--was this:  If Mark Cuban announced that at noon tomorrow he would be in the middle of Oshkosh with $10-million dollars that he planned to give out to the five people who convinced him that they were "most deserving" of that cash what would you do?  Would you think "Ah, there are a lot more people in Oshkosh that deserve a share of that $10-million dollars than I do.  No need going down there to fight all that traffic."  Probably not.

Instead, you would probably tell your boss you were taking tomorrow off--and you would make sure that you were at the giveaway location with the biggest and best presentation you could put together as early as possible--and you probably wouldn't be afraid to offer "criticism" of your fellow competitors as they make their presentations.  Guaranteed, things would turn ugly early--but you would be in there fighting dirty because $2-million dollars is worth it.

Now what would you do if I told you that at noon tomorrow I'll be in the middle of town with $10 that I would share with the five people that convinced me they were the "most deserving".  You would laugh at that.  Why, because two bucks isn't worth the time or the effort.

And that is my point.  Back when there wasn't nearly the money involved in government operations, spending millions of dollars on campaigns made no financial sense.  But now that we are dealing in TRILLIONS of dollars on the Federal level and BILLIONS of dollars on the state level and HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of dollars on the city, county and school district level--spending "obscene" amounts on the political process suddenly is worth it.  As they point out on Shark Week on Discovery Channel--sharks tend to hang out where there is the most food available.  Take away the food source--and the sharks go away.

We didn't go from Good Government to Bad Government in Wisconsin (or in Washington for that matter).  We went from Good Government to BIG GOVERNMENT and the bigger it gets, the worse it gets.  Maybe it's time to make the payoff for wielding influence in the Capitol a less profitable-enterprise.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Of Course It Gets Worse

For those of you who thought the cesspool that is major college athletics couldn't get any worse, along comes the sexual abuse case involving the Penn State football program to show us we weren't even standing in the deep end yet.

For those of you who missed it over the weekend, former Nittany Lions Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky was arrested and charged with 40 counts of sexual assault of a child.  According to the criminal complaint, many of the alleged assaults took place in the Penn State Athletic Department complex and on football team road trips--with at least three of the assaults witnessed by Athletic Department staff.  Athletic Director Timothy Curley and the school's Vice President for Business and Finance Gary Schultz were charged with perjury after allegedly lying to a grand jury about what they knew about the assaults.

I will spare you the breathtakingly-disgusting details of Sandusky's alleged conduct--and only say that it was first reported to university officials in 1998 and again in 2002--from which the criminal charges filed last week stem.  For I want to focus on the way the University--not just the Athletic Department--responded to these allegations.

Head Football Coach Joe Paterno has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing--as prosecutors say he fulfilled his lone requirement as a University employee--tell his superiors about the allegations.  Not go to police, not bar Sandusky from ever setting foot in the football offices again--just let your boss know about what is going on.  That boss--Cauley--didn't go to the cops either--instead bringing the witness into a closed door meeting with Schultz.  Schultz's involvement sends up the biggest red flag in what looks like a drum and bugel corps competition--as his duties include oversight of the Penn State campus Police Department.  The same Police Department that should have been investigating Sandusky.

While the nature of the allegations are shocking--the University response, sadly, is not.  The culture within all of these Universities and Colleges is that their accountability to the public ends at the edge of the campus.  If you witnessed a co-worker engaging a child in sex in your office, would you tell your boss and just walk away thinking "Well, my responsibility here is done"?  And in what other form of government operation does the police department answer to a non-law enforcement administrator?  Even here in Oshkosh all questions about crime on campus are referred to a Vice Chancellor--not the Police Chief.  And the next on-campus crime numbers press release that I get from UWO will be the first such release I get--in eleven years on the job.  Apparently, it's more important to preserve the image of the campus area being this idyllic place of peace and harmony.

As expected, Penn State administration spent the weekend circling the wagons.  The University President was quick to issue a statement saying Cauley and Schultz still had her "full support".  Both will also have their legal defenses paid for by the University System--and therefore the taxpayers.  Cauley and Schultz are no longer in their positions--having resigned instead of being fired during an emergency meeting of the University Board of Trustees.

You know, these Universities and Colleges can hold all of the rallies and marches and candlelight vigils they want in "support" of sexual assault and abuse victims--but until they stop trying to handle such on-campus incidents "in house" to "save face"--all they are doing is giving those victims a bunch of lip service.  No wonder the majority of college assaults go unreported.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Since You Have the Time...

It turns out the Appleton protesters will not be camping out in City Park all weekend.  I expect there will be a few people who decide they are going to partake in "civil disobedience" and will still pitch a tent--for the exclusive purpose of being arrested and (they hope) making the news.  But for the rest, might I suggest a few other activities to fill your time?

Instead of just standing outside the banks and yelling about the people in suits inside and on Wall Street, why not ask the people actually using the bank if they have a personal budget?  If they do not--provide them with the knowledge they need to make one.  People who have--and stick to--a budget are far less likely to use high-interest credit cards, borrow to purchase big-ticket items like vehicles, and default on their mortgages.  Think about how "empowered" "the 99%" would feel if they were actually in control of their money--instead of sending it to those "evil Wall Street bankers" in the form of interest, late fees and overdraft charges?  If you need some information on fiscal responsibility (and I'm guessing you probably do, Mr Protester), you can find books by Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman and Clark Howard at the public library.

Looking to make a "social impact"?  Why not occupy the streets of known drug dealers?  Based on stories from other protests, many of you seem to know where the marijuana dealers are.  Here in Oshkosh, those criminals took $2.4-million from people who couldn't afford to lose that money--and sent much of it to the drug cartels that are terrorizing people in border towns down south.  I can guarantee "the 1%" didn't contribute anything to that $2.4-million--thereby widening the gap in personal wealth that you hate so much.  If you want to patrol the bars looking for drunks to set on the right path--you could do that as well.

And as you complain about the "lack of access to education"--why not take some time to make sure those with access to free education actually take advantage of it?  The vast majority of kids in K-thru-12 who fail classes and fall behind their peers are those who don't actually go to class.  "Adopt" one of these at-risk kids and make sure they are getting to school every day--not just telling their mom they are "going to school".  Sit with that kid and make sure they actually pay attention to the teacher--and that if they don't understand something, ask a question--rather than thinking it will make them look "dumb" or like a "nerd".  Watch them do their homework (and don't just give them the answers--you don't learn like that) before they settle in for a night of sitting in front of the TV or the video games or the internet.  You might want to chaperone dates as well to make sure they practice safe sex and not add to the "99%" before they can support that baby.

I'll admit, these activities aren't as easy as sitting around in a drum circle and blaming others for your problems--but they might actually earn you the respect of the rest of the 98.9999999% you claim to be "fighting for".

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Second Most Important Election in the History of Democracy

The most important election in the history of democracy was the 1860 Presidential contest here in the United States.  Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Douglas and John C. Breckenridge squared off in a race that would decide the future of the country in a way that no election before or since ever has.

I like to think that Americans at that time knew the paths that lay ahead of them based on how that election would play out.  With the election of Lincoln, they knew that the Southern states would secede--and that bloody civil war would be needed almost immediately to save the Union.  The election of Douglas or Breckenridge would have led to the continuation of the unsustainable division of the country along the lines of slavery and free states--which would still eventually lead to a civil war that, thanks to increased mechanism, would have been even longer and bloodier.  Not to mention more African-Americans being subjected to the horrors of slavery for more decades.

Those 1860 Americans decided that the time had come to finally settle the issue of slavery and the power of the Federal Government--elected Lincoln--and braced for the war that would tear the Nation and families apart.  In hindsight, we think that the decision should have been easy--but I'm sure it wasn't for the people of that time.

Now, the people of Greece will have the chance to head to the polls next month with the fate of the European Union--and perhaps the worldwide economy--riding on their decision.  In the greatest case of political punting since Pontius Pilate gave the people of Jerusalem the choice of setting Jesus or Barabas free, Greek President George Papandreou is putting the EU bailout plan for his bankrupt country up for a referendum.  Approve the plan, and the Greek people accept 11-billion Euros in aid--with a caveat that they must greatly reduce the cost of their welfare state.  Reject the plan and likely get kicked out of the Eurozone and sink under the unsustainable weight of the entitlement programs that got you into the mess to begin with.

I don't know what kind of campaign finance laws and political advertising rules they have in Greece--but I do know that if such a referendum was held here in the US--all of the TV networks could just cancel their programming for the month leaing up to the election, because every group that suckles at the teat of the Federal Government would be running continuous ads bombarding the electorate to save their bacon.

The Greek people have to know the paths that lie ahead of them as they head into this referendum.  It will be interesting to see if they, like our Antebellum American ancestors, choose to address their crisis right away--or decide to keep pushing it off into the future--when it might be too late.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How the "Little Guy" Actually Wins

So Bank of America will not be charging a five dollar monthly fee for customers who use a check card to make purchases.  Let's give Congress and the President a big round of applause for passing and signing into law that bill banning banks from charging fees for the use of check cards or withdrawing money from an ATM.

I'm sorry, what's that?  Congress never passed a bill banning bank fees?  The President never even proposed such a bill?  Are you sure?  I mean, that is the only way to get big, evil corporations to stop sticking it to the "little guy" right?  To pass laws against it?

Oh never mind--it was the people camping out in the park and clashing with riot police in front of BOA headquarters that forced the bank to concede.  What?  There was never a campout or a riot?  Did they threaten to recall the Governor?  No?  Well then how could an all-powerful institution like Bank of America be convinced to drop such a customer-unfriendly policy?

Really, you don't say--people closed their accounts and moved to other financial institutions?  Or at least threatened to take their business elsewhere?  Wow, what a novel idea!

You know, that might work in some other areas as well.  I mean, if you think there's too much fat and calories in a McDonald's Happy Meal--you could choose to purchase another food item for your child at a totally different restaurant!!  And if you think High Fructose Corn Syrup is milked directly from Satan himself, you could buy another beverage from the grocery store that doesn't have any!!  I bet you could even choose to send a message about manufacturing jobs being sent to China by shopping at stores other than WalMart!!

Sure, it will be more work than making a cardboard sign, sleeping in a tent and yelling at guys in suits--but we are 99% of the consumers--and that is where the real power lies.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Welcome to the Wild, Wild West

I'm moving a little bit slower today.  I'm being weighed down by all of this body armor that I'm wearing--along with this steel helmet and shield.  It's also taking me a bit longer to walk out the door and down the aisle as I have to look both ways--dive to the ground and somersault into a crouching position before checking both ways again and then slide along the wall--staying low to the ground.

Why would I have to do this?  Well because the Carry Concealed Weapons law has gone into effect today--and I remember all the talk from opponents of the measure who predicted Wisconsin would turn into the Wild Wild West--with gunfights breaking out all over the place and bullets flying left and right.

Of course I'm being facetious.  Unless you live in certain parts of Milwaukee, there will not be any gunplay in your neighborhood starting today.  The sound of gunfire will not become a regular part of your life.  And people will not be dueling at 30-paces on Main Street or in the park.  We will all go about our daily lives without any greater fear of getting shot--and eventually, we won't even think about the possibility of the person next to us having a concealed weapon on them--just like residents of 48-other states have been doing for years.

That is, until the first case of someone accidentally discharging their weapons in a public place--or the first case where someone actually uses a weapon in self-defense.  Then the media circus will kick into high gear--with coverage of the incident topping all newscasts all across the state.  The same folks who predicted gunfire in the streets will be back out claiming they were "right" about the law.  But then there won't be anything like that again for several years--and life will roll on.

I don't feel any less safe or any more safe today than I did when I went to bed last night.  And there is a good chance that I won't feel any different the tomorrow, the day after that or this day a decade from now.  A couple thousand people will exercise their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms.  Good for them.  Jefferson and Monroe would be very proud.

The one thing I do find disconcerting is the number of bars and restaurants that have been quick to place signs on the doors and walls alerting everyone that concealed weapons are banned from their establishment.  Many of these are the same people who fought tooth and nail to keep cigarettes legal in their businesses--when those things are a thousand times more likely to kill their employees and customers than a woman carrying a handgun in her purse.  Apparently gun owners don't drink as much as smokers.