Friday, April 29, 2011

Why I Don't Care

Some things to consider as you watch the media frenzy unfolding today:

25,324 Americans were killed in the Revolutionary War--another 2,260 died in the War of 1812 to ensure that I would have the right to vote directly for the leader of my country.  12,950 men were wounded in those wars to ensure taxation with representation, majority rule, seperation of church and state, freedom of speech and protection from illegal search and seizure.

183,588 Americans--including one of my Mother's uncles--died in the European Theater of Operation during World War Two--fighting to protect the British Monarchy from being deposed by Fascism.  Just one member of the Royal Family--Prince George--died in the war.

Three-billion-297-million US dollars were given to Great Britain after World War Two under the Marshall Plan to keep the country from falling under the "Iron Curtain" of Socialism that descened across the European Continent.  Considering the "Nanny State" that now exists over there--perhaps that was money not that well spent.

It's days like today that I am reminded why the United States is the greatest place to live in the world.  The President's brother doesn't get an automatic seat in the Senate or a government-supported mansion.  The people on our money are self-made men with visionary ideas for freedom and democracy--who derived their power from the people themselves--not (as Monty Python so perfectly put it) ladies in a lake handing out swords.  And we don't bow or curtsey to anyone. 

So instead of donning something with the Union Jack today for this "historic occasion" why not throw on some Stars and Stripes?  Celebrate the fact that we don't have to put an extra "u" in neighbor or labor, that we don't have to pay more than half our income in taxes and that we are not subjected to Monday Night Soccer. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

So Much For Merit

The "Give Everybody A Trophy Gang" is at it again.  At the WIAA Annual Meeting this week, the overseer of high school sports in Wisconsin layed out for athletic directors its idea for an all-inclusive football playoff system--that could go into effect next season.  The idea is to take away one of the nine-regular season games--and make that last week the first round of the playoffs--with every team in the state taking part.  All-inclusive playoffs are commonplace in nearly all other WIAA sports.  Everybody gets a shot in basketball, baseball, softball and volleyball--so what is wrong with doing the same for football?  Well...a number of things.

Let's start with just the nature of football.  Unlike basketball, the demanding physicality prevents teams from safely playing more than one game a week.  Under the already-bloated playoff system in place, teams are forced to play three games in the span of ten or eleven days at the end of the regular season through the first two rounds of the playoffs.  In talking with coaches, they hate that--as it takes away from practice and prep time--and it puts a bunch of tired kids on the field for what should be the most important games of the year.  That is why the WIAA is looking to trim the length of the regular season and to stretch out the time dedicated to the playoffs.

Secondly, the first two rounds of the all-inclusive playoffs would be a joke.  Take it from someone who has called more than a few games involving #1 seeds and teams that got in with the minimum of five wins currently needed to make the post-season.  There is a whole lot of running clock in the second half--as clearly-superior teams beat up on teams that should have been practicing for basketball or wrestling.  What is being served by having that same #1 seed taking on a team that didn't win a single regular season game?  Maybe the goal is to get as many backup players a chance to say they played in a post-season contest--because the scrubs would be in very early in all of those games.

And finally, there is something to actually earning a post-season spot.  The current threshhold of five victories--or only four if you play in a conference that has just eight teams--is already too low--but at least it requires you to win some games.  Don't make it?  Then you have learned a valuable life lesson--some teams (and people) are just better at some things than others.

So please WIAA, don't expand the football playoffs.  If anything, shrink the playoff field--and make getting there a true accomplishment.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

So Much For Hope and Change

A new survey finds 53-percent of Americans believe our country's best days are behind her.  Only 31-percent believe America will be a better place in the future.  That is a record level of pessimism infecting the populace.  I'm guessing this poll was not conducted during the dark days of the Civil War, the Depression, World War Two or the Disco Era--or these would not be the lowest levels of optimism on record.

Yes, this is certainly not one of our better periods--but things right now aren't nearly as bad as they were in the eras I mentioned before.  There is no concern about the country being irreparably torn apart, unemployment isn't over twenty percent, there are no bread lines, we aren't under the very real threat of fascism taking over the world, we don't have to line up to buy gas and the Village People aren't cultural icons. 

America's prosperity--like that of each individual citizen--is cyclical.  The Civil War and Reconstruction was followed by dawn of the American Century--as Teddy Roosevelt ushered the US to the lead in the Industrial Revolution and brought us to the status of global superpower.  The Depression and World War Two was followed by the Baby Boom as Ike led us to unprecedented economic growth and the Greatest Generation built the modern American economy.  And of course, Ronald Reagan's Morning in America spawned the longest sustained period of economic growth in the nation's history.

Will the better days ahead be easy to achieve?  Probably not, many of the economic factors in play during our previous downturns don't exist this time around.  We don't have the domestic production facilities sitting idle just waiting for demand to increase, people aren't flush with money accumulated during a period when there was nothing to buy, we don't have double digit interest rates to drop to stimulate the economy, and we really can't afford big tax cuts to put more money in people's pockets.

Despite these challenges, we Americans will figure out how to get out of the hole.  We will realize that getting out of debt will allow us to have all the nice things we think we deserve--we just have to wait a little bit to get them.  We will realize that the Government can't solve every single problem we face.  And we will recapture the self-reliant, "I control my own destiny" attitude that has led America to more "Good Old Days" than any other country on the face of the Earth.

I'm confident there are better days to come.  In fact, I think they are probably just 633 days away.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

You Couldn't Pay Me Enough

You ever watch "Dirty Jobs With Mike Rowe" on the Discovery Channel?  Each episode, Mike features an occupation that a vast majority of Americans would find too disgusting, too smelly or too claustrophobic to ever consider having.  Well, I think someone should recommend Mike and his crew spend the next two weeks in a Wisconsin County Clerk's office, taking part in the statewide Supreme Court Recount. No, performing a recount isn't as gross as inseminating a pig--but it certainly isn't going to be a very pleasant experience.

I listened in on the Government Accountability Board's conference call with all 72 County Clerks yesterday--and was shaking my head in disbelief after just a couple of minutes.  The call itself took three hours--as nearly every aspect of the recount procedure was broken down.  Some of the highlights?

  • People coming in to witness the recount are banned from having black or blue pens or pencils.  The fear there is that someone would be "adding" a few black circles to ballots.  That was followed by the question from the Vilas County Clerk on how he was supposed to ensure that there are no pens or pencils in the recount room--since he wasn't going to do "TSA type strip searches".  The answer from the GAB--just be on the lookout for pencils and pens being used.
  • Clerks are expected to work through the weekends to meet the May 9th Constitutional deadline.  That led to the question from the Green County Clerk as to what the punishment would be if he didn't work over the weekend.  Apparently, folks have already made some plans--and no State Statute is going to keep them locked up in a room counting ballots on a Saturday.  The answer from the GAB--we really recommend you work on the weekends.
  • How far away from recount workers do non-attorney observers need to be kept?  Several clerks had this question as they planned to work in tight quarters.  Obviously, security of the ballots calls for as few people to have access to them as possible--but the law also says anyone who wants to witness the recount must be given access (provided they don't have blue or black pens or any pencils on them).  GAB answer--make sure there is proper space provided a safe distance away from the recount tables.
  • And then my favorite:  Wisconsin Dells lies in four counties.  The Dells apparently uses a ballot counting machine that three of those counties do not own themselves.  So the question was: could the few ballots cast in those wards just be counted by hand (there were eight in one ward and 12 in the other)?  Answer from the GAB--NO, the ballots must be counted the same way they were on election night.  That means someone will have to bring in this counting machine to four different county seats--then train the four Clerks on how to use it--just to count eight ballots.
And all of these situations don't even include the attornies for both candidates challenging individual ballots and every ink mark on them--claiming to know "voter intent".  Maybe we should put up big, colorful tents over all these recount sites--because it is going to be a circus.  Maybe Mike Rowe would like to clean up after the elephants.

Monday, April 25, 2011


This is going to be one of those weeks where I am embarrassed to be in the media.  The source of this embarrassment will be the absolute overkill in Royal Wedding coverage. 

The promos running on ABC Television highlights at least ten anchors, reporters and show hosts that will be "covering" every aspect of the "historic" event.  How many of those reporters and anchors were dispatched to cover the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan?  Five, maybe six in all?  And how many hours of non-newscast time was dedicated to live coverage of that disaster?  Not many that I can remember.  But, ABC News is more than proud to trumpet its "commitment" to covering "the news that affects you".  Yeah, who designed and made the royal wedding dress really affects my life--much more than the release of massive amounts of nuclear radiation into the atmosphere.

It's overkill on meaningless pop culture items like the Royal Wedding that continues driving more people away from the "mainstream" electronic media sources to the "new age" sources of information like blogs and social media.  CNN promotes Lindsay Lohan being sent to jail as "Breaking News"--and then wonders why its viewership is less than Swamp People on History Channel.  Why not try to bring us actual news from Afghanistan or Libya?  You're telling me people wouldn't tune in for live war coverage--or stories about American soldiers and their experiences?

My hope is that a REAL MAJOR NEWS STORY breaks on Friday morning.  Nothing disastrous--like another killer earthquake or a Space Shuttle explosion--but something definitely more important than a government figurehead getting hitched.  Friday would be a good day for US troops to capture Osama Bin Laden--or for Quadafi to decide to surrender his dictatorship.  Imagine the consternation in those New York newsrooms as decisions need to be made: cover something actually important to all of us--or stick with the pointless commitment to a social event.    Maybe it's time to produce WWCD? bracelets.  What Would Cronkite Do?

Oh by the way, WOSH will NOT be carrying the two hours of live Royal Wedding coverage being offered by ABC Radio.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Causes For Concern

Those people you see turning blue now are Milwaukee Brewers fans.  They are painting their faces to express their fanatacism, they are turning blue holding their breaths for disaster to strike.

The concern isn't so much about the performance on the field.  The team this year is pretty much what we expected: an offense that either explodes for a bunch of homers and runs--or struggles to score at all, starting pitching that will at least keep the team in the game, the worst baserunning in all of the majors and a bullpen that guarantees fans from both teams have no reason to go home early.  The real concern is what's going on off the field.

The first point of concern is the huge contract extension given to Ryan Braun.  Let's just say the Brewers haven't had the best of luck when it comes to signing guys to big money deals.  The usual result is a serious drop off in production (Jeff Suppan), are constantly hurt, or they become surly and demand to be traded (Gary Sheffield).  Braunie has already had some nagging injury issues in his brief major league career--tight hamstrings, sore wrist, pulled rib muscles--so fans will now have to cover their eyes everytime he tries to leg out a triple or dives for a ball in the outfield.  Unlike the Yankees or the Red Sox, the Crew doesn't have the financial resources to just dump a big contract like Braun's and find another high priced free agent to take his place.

And speaking of financial resources, Brewers fans should be keeping a VERY close eye on the Los Angeles Dodgers ownership drama.  MLB has stepped in to take over the financial operations of the franchise as owner Frank McCourt's divorce and money woes keep getting uglier.  Brewers owner Mark Attanasio is already being touted as a potential buyer.  Attanasio is a Hollywood guy--and while he is saying how much he loves being the Brewers owner--you know that he has to have some desire to stay closer to home to watch his team play.  His family still lives in So Cal--and the local TV and radio contracts for the Dodgers can dwarf those in Milwaukee--so the temptation to "trade up" has to be great.

If Attanasio is to take his deep pockets to LA, Brewers fans can expect to return to the days of Jeff Cirillo and Richie Sexson being the "major off-season acquisitions"--and dreams of playoff and World Series games at Miller Park will disappear faster than the smoke from tailgate party grills.  Unless Mark Cuban wants to give baseball one more chance to tell him to take his billions and get the heck out.  Maybe Bud Selig could make an appearance on Shark Tank and beg him for money this time around.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Of Card Draws and Recounts

While it might make for interesting news stories and cute pictures, the state's procedure for breaking election ties really doesn't help build confidence in our electoral process.  Wouldn't you agree that using a draw from a deck of playing cards--or flipping a coin or picking a name out of a hat--cheapens the value of the decision?  Unfortunately, it's way too expensive to hold a run-off election so I understand the "game of chance" to decide a winner--but I just wish there was a "more noble" way to break a tie.  My suggestion would be dueling pistols from twenty paces.  I'm guessing we would see more than a few concessions as candidates try to place a value on a part-time political position.

Hopefully it won't come down to the luck of the draw in the pending recount for the State Supreme Court.  Joanne Kloppenburg admits she isn't going to make up 73-hundred votes, but is demanding the recount anyway.  I'm sticking with my initial statement on a recount--that we should have one if for no other reason than to put to bed the claims of "voter fraud" that would be endlessly circulated by the left if original canvass numbers were just accepted as fact.  So think of the recount as a "Million Dollar Muzzle".

And don't believe that this is going to cost just a million dollars.  The Kloppenburg campaign has hired the same attorney who oversaw the Al Franken recount in Minnesota--so you know that every ballot in every county (especially Waukesha) will be overly-scrutinized and likely challenged all the way to the US Supreme Court if necessary.  Justice Prosser will be lucky to get sworn in before his ten year term is half over.

To make things fun, maybe we should come up with a "Recount Bingo" game.  Each square would have a tried and true election process claim or "discovery".  Every time we report on one, you fill in the square until you get five in a row.  Boxes would include "voter intent", "uncounted ballots discovered", "discrepencies in electronic voting macines", and "ballots with only one box marked--and that's for David Prosser".  The Free Space in the middle will be "disturbing irregularities".

We might have to make it a "blackout game" just to extend the fun past the first two days of the recount.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Short Stack

I've got a few short takes on a couple of topics this morning:

The next time spring is cancelled, can someone send out a memo?  Some of us have a lot of stuff planned.  That thumping sound you hear this morning is Athletic Directors at area high schools and colleges beating their heads against their desks.  It's a bit difficult to play baseball and softball or to run track meets with a foot of snow on the ground.  I've already had five softball umpiring assignments postponed this season due to rain, wet grounds, cold temperatures along with high winds and now snow.  Not looking good for our first golf tournament coming up in about two weeks either.

Am I the only one who finds it ironic this big snowstorm comes during Earth Week?  I know, I know--global warming is to blame for non-seasonal blizzards (huh?).  I got a kick out of the pictures yesterday showing UW Oshkosh students putting out rain barrels on campus--while snow is swirling around them.

Why is it that in closely contested elections, Democrats always don't know how to cast ballots and Republicans always don't know how to count them?  In the infamous 2000 Presidential Election in Florida, every hanging chad, dimpled chad and about two-thirds of the votes for Pat Buchanan were "supposed to be" votes for Al Gore.  Here in Oshkosh, former Winnebago County Democratic Party Chairman Jef Hall has picked up a net 14-votes in his recount to tie Tom Pech, Jr in the race for the final Common Council seat--with one district yet to be counted.  I'm guessing that if there is a statewide recount in the Supreme Court race, all of the "missed" votes will go to Joanne Kloppenburg.  Is there a setting on the ballot scanner for "Skip a few Democratic/Liberal votes"?

Then on the other side of these recounts are the Republican County Clerks who can't run an election.  In Florida it was Katherine Harris who intentionally kept butterfly ballot machines to "confuse" Democratic voters and didn't want to "count all the ballots".  In Waukesha County it's Kathy Nickolaus who can't seem to make all of the vote count numbers add up properly. 

Finally, I need someone to show me how to set up a webcam in my Jeep.  Given the popularity of websites showing birds in nests and sturgeon spawning in the Wolf River--I think there would be strong demand to keep an eye on the outrageously bad driving that I see in Oshkosh every day.  Granted, most of the time you would only see the radio station parking lot or the inside of my garage--but the actual road footage would be worth the time investment.  The roundabouts at Witzel and Koeller or Washburn would be a highlight reel in itself.  People going in the wrong direction, making left-hand turns from the right hand lane or gunning it in front of people trying to go "straight" through the roundabout would keep everyone on the edge of their seats.  So would the footage of not one, but two drivers deciding to stomp on it to make a left hand turn inches in front of me at the Koeller/20th intersection a couple of Saturday mornings ago.  I'd need to pan around the intersection to capture the look of terror not just on my face--but on the faces of other drivers who had stopped along Koeller and thought they were about to witness an ugly three car crash.  I've even got a cool website domain picked out:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Digging the Hole Deeper

Back in my pre-Dave Ramsey days I actually had three credit cards.  And like most Americans, I had all three of those cards maxed out--and was making only the minimum payments every month.  Eventually, I got myself into some financial difficulty and was having real trouble making ends meet.  That was when one of the credit card companies (for reasons I will never understand) actually gave me a credit limit increase of $1200.  You would have thought that I had won the lottery!  An extra 12-hundred bucks to spend?  It was like a gift from above that would serve as an answer to all my financial problems.  I came up with this "plan" to put all of my expenses on the card for two months--save up cash to pay off other debts--then get "back to even" from that point forward.

Care to guess what actually happened?  If you thought I went right up to the new credit limit and failed to pay off any of the other debt, you would be absolutely correct.  The extension of more credit didn't provide me any further financial security, it instead created more financial problems--which took years to fix and a whole lot of personal sacrifice.

Well, the Federal Government finds itself in the very same position that I was back in the late 1990's.  Congress is about to vote on raising the Federal Debt Ceiling from its current $14.29 TRILLION DOLLARS to something around $17 TRILLION.  The Obama Administration is like me in the past--continue current spending and we'll try to not take on so much debt in the future.  Paul Ryan and some other members of Congress trying to tie spending cuts to the debt increase are like me now--if we don't change our spending habits, we will be right back here again in a few years looking for ways to take on even more debt.

The President is lucky.  He doesn't have bill collectors calling him at the White House all day wanting to know when he is going to start paying back the money he has borrowed--and no one is threatening to take the Fed to court to collect.  But that doesn't mean he shouldn't make the same positive changes that I--and millions of other Americans have made the last ten years: to get out of the debt trap and to start living within our means.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Not In It For the Long Run

I have to give a lot of credit to those who took part in the Oshkosh Half-Marathon Saturday.  Those of us who golf and play softball would have looked outside at the pouring rain, gusty winds and big, wet snowflakes and said "You know, I think there's some playoff hockey on TV today."  But thousands of runners and walkers saw that weather and thought "I can't wait to spend two hours running through that stuff!"

I've often thought about taking up long-distance running.  Those who do it talk about the "runner's high" you get that pushes you through those days you don't feel like training.  And every year I see the Ironman from Hawaii highlight show and wish I could accomplish something so demanding.  But I just don't have the mental makeup to run for the sake of running.  I get bored too easily.  I can run for two hours at the Y or an open gym playing basketball--but there you are "distracted" by guarding another player, trying to get open, making shots and keeping track of the score.  But when it's just you and the pavement--what keeps you entertained?  I guess that's why every runner you see along the sidewalk has the IPod earbud cords running into their pockets.

And it wasn't just the runners who deserve a tip of the hat.  The dozens of volunteers who set up the race course and manned the water stations probably had an even tougher time.  At least the runners had some physical activity to keep them relatively warm.  I know the Oshkosh Auxilliary Police officers manning an intersection near our house didn't look too happy when I drove by them Saturday morning--but at least they were out there so a nice community event could still happen.

So congratulations to everyone who took part in the Oshkosh Half-Marathon this weekend.  You've accomplished something 90% of us don't have the guts to even try.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Who Are You FIghting For Again?

We have more "casualties" to report in the class "war" going on in Wisconsin.  The latest victims include: the Madison-area Boy Scouts, the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, the Family Resource Network, the West Madison Senior Center and the Wisconsin Women's Health Foundation.  All of these groups will likely see their funding for this year decrease--at a time when we all know "more people need the services provided than at any time before."

So who has turned their "guns" on these groups that help those less fortunate than ourselves?  That cold, heartless Governor Scott Walker?  Those evil Republicans in the State Legislature?  The all-powerful Koch Brothers?  No.  These groups are getting shafted by union members and other liberals planning to boycott the World's Largest Brat Fest.

For years Madison's Brat Fest has raised millions of dollars for hundreds of non-profit organizations in Dane County.  But this year, the event may see lower attendance and less revenue--because unions want nothing to do with Johnsonville Sausage.  Johsonville isn't moving brat-making operations to Mexico or China, or using scab labor in its plant in Sheboygan County.  It's great sin is that employees of the company gave more than 44-thousand dollars to Governor Scott Walker's campaign. 

Never mind that Johnsonville provides 150-thousand brats to Brat Fest--AT NO CHARGE--allowing event organizers to collect 100% profit on food sales.  And ignore that fact that Johnsonville provides free marketing for the event--in exchange for signage on the sight and the internet--the value of which far exceeds the 44-thousand bucks given to the Walker campaign.  To the protesters, all of that good work and charity is cancelled out by their political slant.  Apparently, these union groups have adopted the George W. Bush philosophy they once ridiculed: "You are either with us, or you are against us."  It's a good thing that no hard-working middle class family members work for Johnsonville.

Now the Brat Boycotters plan to put on their own event--"Alt-Brat Fest" they are calling it--on the same dates in a different Madison park, with proceeds to benefit other charities.  They are already touting a focus on "local" meat and beverage suppliers--and "no politics".  I guess that means everybody has to leave their placards at home--and the teachers who shut down the Madison School District for two days to protest at the Capitol won't be able to stand in little circles and reassure each other that they are "all about the children."

So this weekend I will fire up the grill and throw on some brats.......from Kountry Pride Meats in Omro.  Nothing political--I just think they taste better than Johnsonville.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Having failed to prop up lightweight Sarah Palin as a "frontrunner" in the Republican race for the 2012 Presidential nomination, the media machine is now try to foist billionaire Donald Trump on us.  Trump is making the rounds on less-than-respected shows (e.g. The View) "Trump"-eting his qualifications for the position and goals if elected.  He's making a few headlines by rehashing the whole "Obama wasn't born in this country" routine.  Can't we just put that to bed please?  Few people are Constitutional experts so they really don't care if the guy is actually eligible or not. 

While Trump For President would be entertaining (and this what Trump really is--an entertainer), it would also be a total disaster.  The Donald is despot--and while that can certainly get you places in the business world, it won't go very far anymore in Washington.  Don't you get the feeling that Trump believes he'll be able to bring in all the world leaders causing trouble for the US--sit them down at a long table across from him--and give them the "Apprentice" treatment.  "Qaddafi...You're Fired."

I can also picture The Donald flying into Afghanistan, bringing the Generals out to the mountains of Kandahar and telling them "You gotta have your drones flying through that valley, and move those troops up on that ridge over there, and those artillery positions should be a half-mile farther in that direction.  Have you guys never fought a war before?  Do I have to tell you how to do everything?  Don't give me anymore excuses, find Bin Laden or you're fired."

It would be interesting what Trump would do with the city of Washington DC itself.  The White House isn't nearly fancy enough for him.  Get ready for the Trump House--a 65-story office/residential tower befitting "the most powerful man in the world"--with big, gold "T's" on everything.  And we could have the first sitting President to commission his own memorial--perhaps a giant "T" taller than any other building in the world.  And the new Air Force One--either one of the retired Concordes or one of the retired Space Shuttles.

So please talking heads and gossip shows, spare us the Trump for President baloney.  Let us quietly build momentum for former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty--so the Republicans have a chance in 2012.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The CCAP Solution

You might want to sit down.  In today's My Two Cents I am asking the state government to start charging for a free service.  Consider this part of "doing my share" to help the state get through its current financial mess.  But it is clear that the time has come for Wisconsin to start charging for convenience of looking up Circuit Court records on-line.

There's been some gnashing of teeth in Madison this week as Governor Scott Walker has proposed cutting funding for the popular Wisconsin Circuit Court Access Program most commonly known as CCAP.  CCAP has been a godsend for reporters and researchers--allowing us to access any county's court records from our newsroom computers, rather than having to run down to the courthouse and asking a clerk to pull multiple files--or having to sit through dozens of un-related court hearings to get results on a sentencing or arraignment for one high-profile case that we might be covering.  Anyway, rather than seeing a website that averages two to three million hits A DAY as a potential source of cost-covering revenue, the department that oversees CCAP will instead likely choose to shut down the whole thing.

There is precedent in charging for on-line access to court records.  The federal government charges for access to its PACER on-line system.  We are charged eight-cents per download on the site.  You set up a password protected account--give them a check card number--and PACER charges you quarterly for the downloads you racked up.  Is it a hassle?  Sure.  Is it easier than having to drive to Milwaukee or spend an hour on hold trying to get ahold of a clerk to pull a file and relay information to you?  It certainly is.

A nominal charge of just two cents per download on CCAP multiplied by two-million hits a day would generate $14.6-million dollars annually--more than enough to fund the website.  And don't start in on the "unfairly limiting access to public records" argument--because everything you would have to pay for on-line would still be available for free at the courthouse.  An added benefit could be the nosy neighbor who checks to see who she knows that might be in trouble with the law or getting a divorce might decide a couple of bucks a month is too much to pay for "the dirt".

So let's make CCAP pay for itself from now on--so that a convenient and popular program can stay in place--and so that precious cash can be used for things we absolutely "need".

Monday, April 11, 2011

In the Public Interest

I always give my wife a hard time when she complains that a prime time show is interrupted by severe weather coverage, or her afternoon soap is pre-empted by a Presidential press conference or election night results cover up half the screen on Biggest Loser every November.  So imagine the shame I felt yesterday while at a Masters party and Channel 5 decided to break into coverage for a weather update.  "They are breaking in to tell us about a Tornado Watch--not even a Warning?  Don't they know Tiger is about to putt for an eagle??"  That was quickly followed by "Oh my God, I've become 'one of them'!"

As hard as it may be to believe given some of the junk on TV and Radio nowadays, but the number one purpose of the broadcast media is to operate in the "public interest".  Some would argue that we fail in mission--but if you look back at last night, we certainly lived up to that requirement.  We here at Cumulus were wall-to-wall on all five of our stations for two hours with constant updates on Tornado Warnings and storm paths.  All of the Green Bay TV stations did the same.

It kills me when people complain about such coverage.  I remember Fox 11 just getting killed a couple of years ago when it pre-empted American Idol to cover Tornado Warnings in the northern part of their viewing area.  I couldn't believe that the meteorologists had to keep assuring everyone that Idol would be shown in its entirety after the DEADLY WEATHER SITUATION had passed.  I even heard people around here complain afterwards, "It was all the way up in Marinette County--hardly anybody lives up there."  I would try to explain that the few people up there probably appreciated being kept up-to-date on a DEADLY WEATHER SITUATION--even if it meant missing Danny Gokey warble his way through another bad cover version of the Beatles.

So please, try to be more understanding when severe weather or breaking news coverage pre-empts your favorite show or songs.  We are only doing our jobs.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Garbage In, Garbage Out

One of the iconic images of American political history is that of Harry Truman holding up a copy of the Chicago Tribune with the giant headline "Dewey Defeats Truman".  Somebody should now Photoshop Justice David Prosser in front of a screen capture of Thursday's Wisconsin State Journal homepage declaring "Kloppenburg Defeats Prosser".

It looked like Winnebago County was going to make national headlines again Thursday afternoon as more than 1100 "uncounted votes" were going to swing the Supreme Court race back in Prosser's favor--but then Waukesha County had to trump us by "finding" more than 14,000 votes.  It got me to thinking that maybe it's time we change the way we cover elections.

Usually, I scoff at "blame the media" excuses for snafus and people's personal problems--but in this case, I think the criticism is warranted.  Bob Burnell and I complain every year "why does it take so long to get the election results?  Don't they know some of us have to come back to work at 3:30 tomorrow morning?"  And every year we get a call at 8:30 pm on election night from someone wondering if we had results in yet on a certain race.  Thanks to technology, we have become an instant gratification society.  But we obviously are nowhere near advanced enough to get accurate election results immediately.

Adding to the confusion and the anger, is the fact that election night reporting does not stress enough that numbers reported that soon are UNOFFICIAL RESULTS.  There is a reason why the state only accepts certified Boards of Canvass results--and not what is posted on websites.  Mistakes are made, machines malfunction and sometimes ballots just don't register correctly.  And when that happens--and overall results change--half the voters think that something nefarious is afoot and the accusations of fraud start flying.

So, should we just forget about election night coverage of results from now on?  No.  But we should tone down the "WE HAVE A WINNER!!" type hype if we see extremely close races forming.  It wouldn't hurt to tell people "It looks like we will have to wait until we get the official results from the Board of Canvass later this week".  They say that anticipation makes the reward better.

All of that being said, I do still want to have a recount in this Supreme Court race.  Let's make sure that we really aren't dealing with a "Rouge Republican Clerk" in Waukesha County.  It's just too bad that we don't have safeguards in place to ensure that there wasn't double voting or inelligible people voting--but I guess you reap what you sow.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Taking Up the Challenge

Welcome to the part of the show where Jonathan complains about everything--except for today.

Oshkosh Mayor-elect Burk Tower was on WOSH yesterday and said one of his goals is to improve the attitude residents have toward their city.  Tower believes too many people focus on what we don't have--instead of the good things we do have.  I have to agree with Burk--to some degree (remember, it is squeaky wheels that get the grease).  Maybe we should focus a little bit more on the positives in Oshkosh.  So I'll make it a point to feature some "attaboys" or "pats on the back" in the 'Ol Two Cents on a regular basis.  And I mean real appreciation--not smarmy lip-service.

Since this is Masters Week, I've got golf on the brain so this week's positive thing about Oshkosh is Steve Ziblut, the pro at Lakeshore Municipal Golf Course.  Steve might not be a PGA "pro"--but he certainly delivers better service than many of the guys I've dealt with who do have the PGA plaques hanging behind the counter.

Steve is a patient teacher, whether he is dealing with skilled players trying to just tune up their swing--or raw beginners who don't even know how to hang on to a club.  He has events for kids--getting them acquainted with the game and making a very difficult sport fun.

Steve started my favorite event of the year--the annual City Match Play tournament a few years back--growing it from a field of a couple dozen the first summer to more than 100 last year.  Steve also does a great job co-ordinating business and charity outings at Lakeshore and always makes it a fun day on the links.

You might think that running a golf course would be a dream job--any tee time you want, unlimited balls on the range.  One of the things a lot of people don't realize is that when you work at a golf course, you don't get the chance to actually play much golf.  There are maintenance issues, pro shop items to order, bookkeeping and early mornings shifts behind the counter.  Knowing how much Steve loves to play golf, I appreciate he still puts in so many hours--to the detriment of his own game.

But most of all, I salute Steve for the way he makes you feel when you play at Lakeshore.  He actually does care how your round went and follows up on any concerns you might share.  Plus, he laughs at lame jokes and puts up with the same golf stories over and over again--always with a smile on his face.

Steve Ziblut and Lakeshore Municipal Golf Course are something positive about Oshkosh.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


It was about 8:30 last night--with just 1% of the precincts reporting--when I told my broadcast partner Bob Burnell on the air: "Bold prediction: The State Supreme Court race is decided by less than one percentage point and we have a statewide recount."  Now here we are ten hours later, and we still can't declare a winner in the State Supreme Court race--and both sides are gearing up for what could be the biggest political circus in the history of Wisconsin.

It was funny to us when the election officials in Florida were holding ballots up to the light in 2000, trying to determine if there were "dimpled chads" or "hanging chads" and we mocked the protestors as they chanted "Count all the votes!!" or "The votes have all been counted!!".  We smirked as Minnesota endured the Al Franken recount in 2010--as bags of "uncounted" ballots from "strongly Democratic" areas were suddenly discovered behind voting machines, in poll workers trunks and under people's Christmas trees.  And we groaned as Norm Coleman filed lawsuit after lawsuit trying to drag out the inevitable.

Now it will be the rest of the country that will get to point at Wisconsin and laugh.  72-counties doing 72-recounts with 72-teams of lawyers questioning every stray mark on every ballot trying to "discern the intent of the voter".  Both sides will try to top each other with stories of voter fraud, "Smokes for Votes" in Milwaukee, "African-Americans were told they had to show ID to vote" in Waukesha, "the Supreme Court race wasn't even on all the ballots" in rural Jefferson County.

All of that will be followed by the endless legal challenges in 72-counties--all of which will end up before the State Supreme Court itself--where a 3-3 tie is all but assured because Justice Prosser will have to recuse himself.  And then it's on to the Federal Courts.

Selfishly, I'm looking forward to the circus.  Endless fodder for the news grist, endless topics for My Two Cents!!  Enjoy the madness, everybody.  Hopefully we can get it wrapped up before the recall elections in June.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

War Weary

How are you doing in the "War"?

I don't mean the Iraq War, or the War in Afghanistan or even the Nebulous Military Operation in Libya.  I mean the "War On The Middle Class" that is allegedly raging around us.  You don't hear much about this "war" in the national or local news.  The main source of "information" on the "battles" seems to be issue ads on TV, radio and the internet.  If you believe them, the "enemies" are the President, the Governor, Legislators, candidates for the State Supreme court and pretty much anyone else who makes more money than you do.  Easy people to blame--but not the real cause of any perceived decine of the middle class.

To quote the comic strip character Pogo, "We have met the enemy...and he is us."  The middle class has been "waging war"on itself for decades.  And the deadliest weapon has been our own wallets.  Our "lowest cost at any cost" shopping habits have eliminated millions of what used to be relatively stable domestic production jobs. 

When Wal-Mart strong-armed Rubbermaid by refusing to raise its in-store prices as requested by the plastics maker--did you take up picket signs and form blockades to keep shoppers out of the stores?  No, we happily bought the $2.00-cheaper, Chinese-produced garbage cans right next to the Rubbermaid units--driving the company into bankruptcy, a sale to another corporation, closure of the Ohio production plants and that work going to a new plant in China. 

Did you donate to an "action committee" to run ads urging your neighbors to buy an American car?  Or did you rave about the Toyota or Honda that you bought--swearing you would never buy from a Detroit automaker again? 

Did you send out postcards telling parents that letting their kids sit in front of the TV or the computer all day would negatively affect them in the classroom--forcing school districts to create positions like "reading specialist" and "behavioral counselor"?  Or did you demand that "somebody do something" so your child could learn?

Did you borrow just enough to buy a house that was just big enough to meet the needs of your family?  Or did you get the jumbo, balloon, no-money down mortgage to buy a McMansion so that every family member could have their own bathroom--and parking stall in the four-car garage?

Perhaps we wouldn't need to be waging this "War On The Middle Class" if so many of those fighting weren't firing upon themselves.  When my grandchildren ask me one day "Grandpa, what did you do during the War On The Middle Class?"  I'll proudly tell them "I was a concientious objector."

Monday, April 4, 2011

Did I Miss Anything?

The most famous "return"of all time is probably General MacArthur wading ashore in the Philippines in 1944 (which by the way, was staged several times until MacArthur felt it was dramatic enough for the newsreels).  But my favorite will always be Jack Paar's return to the Tonight Show in 1960 after a three week "hiatus" caused by his disgust with NBC censors editing out some of his jokes.  On the night of his return--after a prolonged standing ovation from the studio audience--Paar deadpanned into the camera: "Now as I was saying...."

I would like to thank all of the people who sent me the emails, called me and stopped me out and about town saying how much they missed having me on the radio.  I also thank those who supported me during my "exploration of other options in life" over the past eight months.  It was certainly an interesting time--and a decision I certainly do not regret.  Although, I believe my neighbors are probably happy things didn't work out--since who likes protests in their front yard every day?

So, I'm ready to get back to work doing what I truly love.  I hope you will give me a couple of weeks to get reacquainted with what's going on around here and to get back into the flow of things.  I'll get back to the usual Two Cents material tomorrow.  But today, I would just like to say "Thank you, it's nice to be back."