Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Michael Vick--An American Success Story

How does the headline for today's blog make you feel?  Writer F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that "There are no second acts in American lives."  But for Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Michael Vick--that is obviously not true.  Especially when you consider that for the second time in his 31-years of life, he has signed a $100-million dollar contract with an NFL team.

And that is why you seriously have to consider Vick as an American success story.  We laud people like Dave Ramsey--who squandered his first million dollars and had to file for bankruptcy before building a new fortune on showing people the right way to make money--as examples of learning from one's early mistakes and becoming something even better on the other side.  So why not applaud Michael Vick for learning his lesson while spending his 18-months in Federal prison and returning to stardom in his chosen profession?

As you might expect, after the announcement of the Vick contract on Monday the social media sphere was all abuzz--mostly with people disgusted or offended that Vick was going to be getting that much money.  (By the way, 40-million of that contract is guaranteed)  But let's take a step back and think about this in a cool, emotionless way.  Vick is a convicted felon and is giving up a number of constitutional rights--probably for the rest of his life.  He served out his sentence.  There was no "Paris Hilton/Lindsay Lohan-I'm-too-scared-to-serve-time-early-release-deals".  And he is meeting the terms of his probation by not owning any other animals and talking to kids about the idiocy of dogfighting.  So why should we deny him the opportunity to make a living--and a good living at that?  Apparently, there is a high demand for someone of his talents.

What I find interesting, is how people are totally incapable of forgiving someone who commits a crime against an animal.  Somehow, in our list of social mores, Animal Abuse has moved exponentially higher on the list of "heinous crimes" than anything else--including killing a person.  I laugh every time I see people protesting at the courthouse during the appearance of a dog or cat abuser claiming to be "giving a voice to the animal."  One time I'm going to tell them "There's a hearing for a guy who killed his girlfriend in a drunk driving crash on the next floor--why don't you give her 'a voice' as well?"

Now I should point out, I'm offended by the Michael Vick contract as well.  But only because I don't think a guy who completes fewer than half his passes, takes off running if his first receiver isn't open and has a losing record in the playoffs deserves to be one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in league.  If that's the case, then all of the God Squad Tim Tebow fans should be out protesting as well.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Terms of Endearment

I realize that President Obama needs to seperate us into as many classes as possible to create animosity and advance his social and economic agenda--but can we at least get a few definitions so we know where we actually stand?  I ask this after watching the President introduce his new Chief Economic Advisor on Monday.  Twice during the speech he used the phrase "Working Families and Middle Class Families".  And this was not the only time the President has used those terms seperately--it's actually quite common in his (or his speechwriters') lexicon.

So what I need to know is which of those two classifications do I belong to?  My wife and I both work--so we must be a "Working Family".  But as we learned here in Wisconsin this spring, "Working Families" are only those who belong to public sector unions--because they were the ones who were "under attack" by Governor Walker and the Legislative Republicans.  Those of us seeing the property tax relief and increased efficiency in government operations are obviously not "Working Families".  So, I guess we will have to be "Employed-But-Not-'Working'-Middle Class".

And then you have my parents--who until January were working (but in non-public sector, non "Working Families" jobs) and bringing in Middle Class wages--but are now retired.  And thanks to frugal living and diligent savings and investing, they are now living off of retirement accounts in excess of seven-figures--making them "Millionaires".  Under President Obama's classification that would make them "Rich Fat Cats"--deserving of my scorn--because obviously, they have not been paying "their fair share".  Needless to say, this is going to be a very awkward weekend at their cabin on the lake--and just think of animosity that will hang in the air when we visit their winter place in Florida!

So, if we could just get a flow chart or maybe some set of guidelines before President Obama's next speech on the economy so I know if I should be angry or ashamed of my current place in life, I'd appreciate it.  In the meantime I guess I'll just continue to consider myself part of an "Employed-But-Not-'Working'-Middle-Class-Family-Striving-To-Become-A-'Rich-Fat-Cat'-Family".

Monday, August 29, 2011

Supreme Court Fight Club

So the investigation into the Supreme Court Fight Club is over--and nobody is going to be charged with anything.  A show of hands from those who are surprised by that........anybody?.......that's what I thought.

When you take a look at the police reports that were provided to the special prosecutor you notice that political affiliation apparently affects a person's vision and memory.  The liberal members of the court seem to remember seeing David Prosser going Angry Hulk and putting the Killer Kowalski Sleeper Hold on Ann Walsh Bradley.  The conservative members remember Walsh Bradley going Fatal Attraction on Prosser and him reacting like the Brave Sir Robin from Spamalot.

If anything, this was a hockey fight--without all the pads, gloves and helmets.  Ann Walsh Bradley is the "Instigator".  Playing on a losing team and frustrated by getting her butt kicked, Walsh Bradley decides she is going to come over the boards and take a run at somebody to get her side fired up and perhaps take out a member of the other team.  Prosser is the "Hothead"--easily goaded into a fight and the perfect target for the "Instigator". 

Just like on the ice, the fight starts with trash talk, the two combatants circle each other for a while, maybe there is a few jabs with the sticks--and then the gloves are off.  The two go at it for a few seconds--the fans get a rise out of it--and then the refs step in.

In hockey, the two "combatants" are sent to the penalty box.  Maybe the "Instigator" didn't throw any punches (Claude Lemieux-type fighter)--and maybe the "Hothead" was pushed into throwing down (Tie Domi--or pretty much any other goon that has ever played the game)--regardless, both go to the box.  And maybe that is what should be done here as well.  Ann Walsh Bradley and David Prosser should be "sent off" for a little bit of time to think about what they have done. 

Sticking with the hockey theme, five minutes for fighting represents 1/12th of a game.  A Supreme Court Justice's term is 120-months--so Walsh Bradley and Prosser should be suspended for ten months.  No hearing arguments, no issuing rulings, no collecting a state salary.  Unfortunately, as elected officials, Supreme Court Justices answer to no one--so absolutely nothing is going to come of this.  I guess we will just have to remember this little fracas when these two come back up for re-election--and hand them lifetime suspensions from the High Court.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thanks for the Laugh

Wednesday was not a real good day here at the Radio Ranch.  As our listeners may have noticed lately, we are having some serious satellite issues that are causing problems with several of our shows here on WOSH--and the problems got even worse yesterday.  Those problems kept me from getting down to cover the 20-man playoff in the US Amateur at Erin Hills (it was as crazy as it sounds).  Fortunately, Golf Channel had it on during their window of live coverage yesterday.  Throw in the flat performance by the Brewers in Pittsburgh--and concern over a prematurely-born nephew--and you can understand why I was feeling a bit blue yesterday.

And then I got an email from former Congressman Steve Kagen--which provided me with one of the biggest laughs I have enjoyed in some time.  The email itself certainly wasn't funny.  It was a "letter" detailing all of the things that Kagen and Tommy Thompson "agree" upon in politics (obviously an attempt to discredit Thompson with anyone even slightly right of Kagen's far left position).  The big laugh came as I got ready to send the email to the giant circular file in space and I noticed the "signature" at the bottom.

Kagen sent the email signed:

Steven Kagen MD

Member of Congress (Retired)


Now maybe I missed something while I was busy in the 2010 elections--but I am pretty sure that Steve Kagen did not "Retire" from Congress.  I think it would be more factually accurate to say that Steve Kagen was "Fired" from Congress.  His bosses in the Eighth District got together and said "Steve, it's just not working out and I think you should seek employment somewhere else."  Herb Kohl will have the right to put "Retired" on his emails after next year--because he is not running for re-election. I'm thinking about fowarding the email on to Donald Trump so that in the next season of "The Apprentice" he can point to whatever celebrity is getting the boot and say "You're Retired!"

Furthermore, Kagen has been trying to inject himself into the conversation about who will run for his old seat and for Kohl's seat in the Senate next year--so I guess he's not really done "working" on getting back to Washington.   The Doctor's weekly conference calls with reporters were always good for a few chuckles--and now I guess he's making comedy house calls as well.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What Do You Want Him To Say?

If you have been waiting for verbal bouquets to be thrown in Tommy Thompson's direction now that he has "unofficially" entered the race for the US Senate, you are looking in the wrong place.  As Ricky used to tell Lucy all the time: "Tommy, you got some 'splainin' to do."

The Club For Growth is already on the attack--running TV and Internet ads that call out Thompson's support for "ObamaCare".  They feature a smiling President Obama touting the so-called "moderates" and "Republicans" who were jumping on-board with the budget-crushing program.  In response, Tommy has given us the Jackie Gleason "Hama-nuh-hama-nuh" reaction of a child caught with his full arm in the cookie jar and no good explanation.

You know what I would like to hear?  How about: "Like a majority of Americans, I was overcome by temporary insanity in my support for anything President Obama has proposed.  As a slick politician myself, I was star-struck by his smooth-talking, smartest man in the room persona--and before I could come to my senses I was saying 'That sounds like a great idea, Mr President.  Count on my support.'  But now that I have left the gas chamber of Washington DC, I realize what a horrible idea it really is and just how much Kool-Aid I drank."

In fact, Tommy should give us straight answers on a bunch of Wisconsin-related issues as well.  For instance, all of the Wisconsin Works programs that are costing us an arm and a leg now.  He could start by saying: "You know what, all of that paid babysitting and stuff that we could easily afford when unemployment was three or four percent, really is a back-breaker when the jobless rate is doubled.  Perhaps we should have considered that before starting the programs.  And, yes, I should have realized that people would figure out ways to cheat the system and cost taxpayers millions."

On SeniorCare: "When I first floated this idea--and my successor Scott McCallum got it passed in an election year--I swear we all said it was a temporary program until Medicare started picking up the cost of prescription drugs.  I have no idea why the State keeps paying for it."

And on union worker contracts: "I certainly realized that the private sector was seeing its workers pick up a greater share of their health and retirement benefits and that we should probably expect our employees to do the same--but you didn't see me ever getting recalled, did you?"

Would Tommy Thompson be the worst Senate candidate the Republican Party ever nominated?  No.  But in supporting him, we who believe in fiscal responsibility have to place a lot of faith in the hope that he has learned some lessons from past mistakes we can't afford to make again.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Post-Tiger Era Starts Here

As a golf fan I hear all the time how the game is in serious danger if Tiger Woods can't return to the Superhero level of play that he maintained for so long before his amazing fall from grace almost two years ago.  Well, an event being held this week right here in Wisconsin is giving me plenty of hope that the future of the game is in really good shape. 

I'm talking about the US Amateur Championship being contested at Erin Hills Golf Club in Washington County.  The 315 best unpaid (for now) golfers in the world are right in our back yard, playing for our oldest national championship--on a course that in six years will host the US Open.  The Am is actually a refreshing return to the kind of golf tournament we saw before Tiger came along and turned it into a giant circus.  There are few ropes keeping fans a "safe distance" away from the players.  There aren't a lot of bleachers--so you can plop down a chair and watch a few groups come through--or walk alongside the fairways to keep an eye on certain players for more than one hole.  There aren't giant corporate tents, there are no PUBLIC NOT ALLOWED signs, and there are just a few, downsized sponsorships banners and logos.

And I should mention admission and parking are all free!

Please don't think that just because most of these guys have their college logo on their bags instead of a sponsor that they aren't any good.  Defending Champion Peter Uelien was born to be a golfer.  His father has been running Titleist for the past few decades--so you know he got top of the line instruction growing up.  The number one ranked amateur in the world--Patrick Cantlay, a freshman at UCLA--shot a 60 at a PGA Tour event earlier this year.  And Harris English beat an entire field of professionals to win a Nationwide Tour event just last month.

Even if the names don't hold star power for you--the course at Erin Hills can be the star.  It looks like someone took a Scottish links course and dropped it in the middle of Wisconsin farmland.  And it is unbelievably long--playing at 77-hundred yards this week.  That is the longest USGA championship course in history.  Of course, these young guys this week are making it look as short at the corner muni with their 320-yard drives and 200-yard 7-irons.  (In case you are wondering, the USGA could stretch out Erin Hills to 8200 YARDS for the Open).

And did I mention that admission and parking are free?

So why not take a day or two this week to check out the guys who will be replacing--and maybe making us forget Tiger?--someday.  Getting there is easy.  Take 41 south to the Holy Hill exit.  Head west and just follow the signs to Erin Hills.  Take the kids too.  We need more new golfers joining the game.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Cost of Saving the Planet

We hear criticism all the time about how fiscal conservatives want to balance the state and federal budgets "on the backs of the poor and the elderly"--but we never seem to hear any outcry about how we are "saving the planet" on the backs of those same poor people.

On Friday, Wisconsin Public Service announced that it will be raising electricity rates nearly seven percent next year.  The reason?  The Cross State Air Pollution Rule--which the Environmental Protection Agency put into place earlier this year.  In order to meet the new standards for greenhouse gas emissions, WPS will have to run its most-cost effective coal-fired power plants less--and increase production at the more-costly natural gas-fired plants.  Expensive new emission controls will have to be installed on the coal plants--and the utility will have to purchase power from companies that have "carbon credits" to spare.

Now for many of us, another seven percent on the utility bill every month will be a small price to pay to keep the lights on and the house heated or cooled.  But for those living on the edge, won't that extra cost push them even closer to the edge?  And let's not forget all those "hard-working Wisconsin families" that couldn't afford to pay an extra seven-percent toward their health insurance premiums earlier this year.  This is a 100% increase in their misery.

This is just the latest in a series of shoes to drop as a result of the Obama Administration's new energy policies.  The first was reneging on the pledge to explore for more oil sources in the US--and to actually drill for it (remember that campaign promise?)--and the continued devaluation of the dollar--resulting in much of the increase in oil prices on the international market.  The second came in the pointless "Cash For Clunkers" program, which took tens of thousands of perfectly good vehicles out of the resale market--limiting the availability of less-expensive, reliable used cars.  Up next is the outrageously-inflated CAFE standards for new vehicles coming our way later this decade--driving up the cost of producing and buying new vehicles.

Of course, we have an answer for reducing the impact of our "greener" energy policies--Big Government Programs!!  Can't afford to buy gas?  Just take our publicly financed buses!  Hope your job is on the busline--or you might be walking a ways in the rain and snow.  Can't afford to buy a car or a plane ticket?  No problem, take the heavily-subsidized high speed rail!!  Once you get there--you're on your own!!  Can't afford your power and heating bills?  Sign up for our Energy Assistance Programs!!  Let everybody else pick up the cost of running your three HDTV's, your air conditioner and your kids' video game systems.

Oh well, I guess more expensive gas, electricity and cars are just a small price to pay to keep the global temperature from going up another two-tenths of one degree over the next hundred years--or least until the next major volcanic eruption or change in ocean currents can do it for free.

Friday, August 19, 2011

All We Are Saying..............

Could somebody please record a great, new protest song?  I took a Magical Mystery Tour of the old CD collection last night--browsing some of the politically-charged classics.  Every previous "tough time" in the Rock Era has had songs that capture the mood of the people and have given hope for the future.  So where are the voices of this time?

The Sixties and early Seventies were fueled by the opposition to the Vietnam War (take your pick: John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joan Baez), the fight for equal rights for African-Americans (Marvin Gaye, James Brown, George Clinton) and Baby Boomers' desires to break free of the boundaries established by their more conservative parents.  The malaise of the late Seventies bred the anger and dissatisfaction of the Punk and Post-Punk Revolution (Sex Pistols, The Clash, The MC5, Elvis Costello).  The mid-Eighties featured the new social conciousness voiced by acts like Bruce Springsteen, U2 and REM.  The late-Eighties saw the rise of Rap artists voicing the struggle of the Black community (Public Enemy, NWA) and in the early-Nineties my Generation X rejected the suburban, commercialized world of our parents with the Grunge explosion (Nirvana, Pearl Jam).

But I don't seem to be hearing any voices of dissatisfaction or protest over the way things are going now.  Yes, the Dixie Chicks made comments during a concert--but did they record any songs that directly said "End These Wars"?  Did the backlash from the overly-conservative Country audience scare away everyone else from taking a stand? 

And where are the voices of Black America?  Unemployment above 20-percent, half your members failing to graduate from high school--I'd think someone might have something to say about that.  The aforementioned Public Enemy and NWA rapped about those very same problems almost 25-years ago--urging the community to rise up and take action to improve their lot in life.  But then the Hip-Hop movement rolled in--and it became far more lucrative to sing about getting drunk, getting high and getting lai--um, getting a lot of "lady friends".

I certainly hope that having a Democrat in the White House--and an African-American President to boot--isn't curtailing political dissonance in the arts.   If you aren't happy--and the guy in charge isn't getting it done for you--then he is fair game for criticism--regardless of his ideology.  I'd recommend budding young artists start rehearsing The Beatles' classic "Taxman".  If five percent appears too thankful I don't take it all!  'Cause I'm the Taxman...and you're working for no one but me.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


The Yahoo Sports article on the improper benefits provided to football players at the University of Miami by just one booster is certainly generating plenty of buzz this week.  There is talk of University President Donna Shalala losing her job and the Hurricanes becoming the second school ever to suffer the "Death Penalty"--being forced by the NCAA to suspend its football program for major rules violations.  It's certainly easy to sit here in Wisconsin and point at Miami and get all sanctimonious saying "I'm glad that's not the way we do things at our school."

The Badger fan in me wants to believe that the Wisconsin program--in all sports--is doing everything by the book and above board.  But the reporter part of me has that nagging feeling that it's just a matter of time before the Badgers join the long list of schools with "reported improprieties".  So far the only incident was the infamous "Shoe Box" scandal--where athletes were getting discounts that may or may not have been offered to all other UW students.  You may recall, it cost a number of starters several games and created negative momentum for a team that was considered a favorite to make a run for the Rose Bowl.

In no way am I saying that I know about violations in the Athletic Department--and I'm not saying that I've even heard anything.  I am saying that we just shouldn't go around with a "holier than thou" attitude--because we know those people usually end up getting their come-uppance in the end.  Just ask Ohio State fan--who has seen that program brought to its knees by players trading their jerseys and game-worn equipment for free tattoos--compounded by their former head coach knowing about it and trying to cover it up--then lying about trying to cover it up.  Michigan had its own scandal--with a former head coach violating the NCAA limit on practice time.

It's unfortunate we have come to this point--where everybody has to be held to a certain level of suspicion.  (OK, maybe we don't have to worry about Northwestern cheating).  You have to ask yourself why that powerful running back from Florida has decided to matriculate in the upper Midwest.  You have to wonder who is the guy with the flashy watch and "special guest" credential standing with the Athletic Director on the sidelines during the game.  And you have to question who owns the shiny new SUV with the custom rims parked next to the stadium--is that a coach's or player's (purchased by a single parent who couldn't afford to send their child to college without an athletic scholarship just two years ago)?

As the NCAA peels away the "layers of the onion" that could represent the Miami football scandal to find out who knew what and when--you will hear about everyone from the Head Coach to the Athletic Director to Donna Shalala herself saying that had "no idea such a thing was going on in our program."  While they can claim to be so naive or worse--so blatantly ignorant--we the fans shouldn't be.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Whither Boat Guy?

There are few things you can guarantee in life--but I can safely guarantee that I will never be a "boat guy".  First off, as someone who believes that drowning has to be the absolute worst way to die--"fun on the water" is an oxymoron to me.  I tend to agree with author Samuel Johnson who said "Being on a Ship is like being in prison--with an increased risk of drowning."  I mean, what do people do on boats other than get sunburned and drink?  Secondly, no one who owns a boat seems to use it that much.

That was reinforced over the weekend as four guys I played golf with in my tournaments heard or saw boats out on Lake Butte des Morts or Green Lake and said "Hmmm, maybe we should use the boat sometime this summer."  Boats must be like time shares.  You get sold on "fun and excitement and quality family time" that you are sure come with owning a boat--and then slowly come to the realization that you are never going to come close to getting the value from the thing that you've had to sink into it.

I have a friend who tried to be a "boat guy".  Big dreams of cruising up and down the Fox River and Green Bay--towing the kids on the tubes, fishing for walleye, weekend trips to Door County.  And then came Little League practices, games and tournaments, off-season hockey camps, a cousin's wedding out of town, graduation parties, vacations out of state, weekends with bad weather, and funerals.  Not to mention the damaged hull from when the wife thought she could operate it from the boat landing to the dock and the engine and propeller problems--likely due to lack of usage to keep everything properly lubricated.  That friend recently became "ex-boat guy" earlier this month--agreeing with the old adage that "the happiest day of a boat owner's life is the day they get the boat--the second happiest day is when they sell the boat."

And it's not just busy family men that don't use their boats.  My parents have a pontoon.  They've been retired and living at the cottage since April.  Everytime my wife and I ask about how much fishing or cruising they have done, the answer is always "not that much--we're too busy with other stuff."  People with absolutely nowhere to be and nothing to do don't even have time to use their boat!  And yet--just like the time share market--new people are willing to jump into the "boating lifestyle".

That won't be me.  I've got my golf clubs and that will be my pursuit for the rest of my life.  And believe me, we'll be spending plenty of time together until I'm too old to hit it past the ladies tees.

The next time I hear someone say "we spent way to much time on the boat this summer"--it will be the first time I've ever heard someone say it.  At the beginning I mentioned there were few guarantees in life. I can guarantee every guy with a boat is now saying to his wife, "You know what--we hardly used the boat at all again this year."  And remind me this winter to talk about "boat guy's" seasonal cousin "snowmobile guy". 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Not That There's Anything Wrong With That (or Bert Enjoying Himself In Ernest)

Nothing spices up an otherwise boring Thursday afternoon like a press release from the producers of Sesame Street announcing that Bert and Ernie are not gay.  It seems there are some gay-rights advocates that are pressuring the folks at Sesame Street to bring the roommates out of the closet--to teach kids "tolerance" for gay couples.  Some even want the duo to participate in a marriage ceremony on the show.

Now it has been a number of years since I watched an episode of Sesame Street.  I gave up on the show when they decided to make it more like "ELMO!!...and the rest of the Muppets" to cash in on marketing of the most annoying character in children's television history.  But when I did watch, I don't remember any Muppet flaunting their sexuality.  Big Bird never went on a date--with Snuffalupagus--or anyone else for that matter.  I can't recall any skits starting with Kermit and Prairie Dawn in bed smoking a cigarette and discussing how awkward it was going to be trying to cover up their affair in front of the other Muppets.  As the show's producers point out in their release, none of the Muppets have any sexual orientation.

One of the most effective aspects of Sesame Street is that "non-human" element of the Muppets.  If you pay close attention, you find that each character represents a child at a different stage of social and educational development.  That allows any child to naturally gravitate to one Muppet or another who most closely matches their own place in life.  Personally, I was always a SuperGrover guy--the well-meaning, slightly-self-agrandizing "superhero" who always arrived to make things worse--until the kids themselves actually solved the problem.

Now let's be honest, everyone already knows that Bert is gay.  High-strung, a neat-freak, collects bottle caps.  I mean c'mon.  As for Ernie, sloppy, laid-back, oblivious to pretty much everything going on around him--he's obviously well on his way to being the guy who sits in the LaZBoy all day and asks his homecoming queen wife to bring him more beer.

Sesame Street has certainly dealt with complex adult situations on the show.  I am in the generation who learned about death on the show about Mr. Hooper passing away.  And I know some of the human women on the show have become pregnant--and that was addressed in a "non-technical" way.  And there have been handicapped children featured on the show.  But in those examples--it was the humans that brought the issue to the Muppet's (and therefore the child watching's) world.

If it is so incredibly important to force homosexuality awareness on children--then introduce some gay adult characters.  Have Ellen and Portia become regulars.  Or Tom Cruise and John Travolta.  Or better yet, watch the show with your own 3,4 or 5-year old child and just pretend that Bert and Ernie are gay.  You can say that they are married--and that's why they live together.  I'm guessing that A--your kid will have absolutely no idea what the hell you are talking about, and B--they will not care at all.  Just like the rest of us.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Giving Credit Where It Is Due

Just like Packers fans had to admit that Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy know what they are doing in Green Bay, it's time for Brewers fans to give some credit to Doug Melvin and Ron Roenicke.  Melvin has especially been maligned the last few years for the Brewers inability to make the playoffs--or win in the playoffs.  There was the long-term, big-money contract for a washed up Jeff Suppan, the firing of Ned Yost with two weeks left in the 2008 season, the hiring of the sleepwalking Ken Macha as manager, the big-money contract for a washed up Eric Gagne--the list could go on for the next five minutes.

But this year, Melvin has turned into King Midas, as all of his moves are turning to gold.  Remember when Zach Greinke couldn't stop giving up home runs?  When Yuni Bettencourt kept popping out on the first pitch?  When everyone swore the Crew was going to trade Prince Fielder?  When Kam Loe couldn't get anyone out as the 8th inning set up man?  All forgotten now as the Brewers have won 13 of their last 14 and have stretched their lead to five games in the NL Central.

For the first time in my lifetime (39 years), the Brewers actually have one of the best pitching staffs in the league.  Greinke has straightened himself out.  Randy Wolf is actually getting past the 5th inning--and Yovani Galliardo is actually throwing strikes early in the count.  And the moves Melvin made to shore up the bullpen have drastically cut down on the gut-wrenching, winning streak killing blown games.  The trade for perenial meathead Francisco Rodriguez has been huge--as it has shored up the 8th inning problems and allows the Brewers to play a "7 inning game" knowing the other team will be shut down by K-Rod and the Ax Man the last two frames.

In past years, the loss of Ricky Weeks would have been devastating and started a downward spiral.  But thanks to more Melvin moves, the offense has rolled on.  Felipe Lopez has filled in at second admirably--and Jerry Hairston, Junior provides depth at several other positions as well.  Perhaps Melvin's biggest pick up has been Tony Plush--AKA Nyjer Morgan.  The flaky one is hitting well over .300, is creating havoc for the other team on the basepaths and seems to be keeping a team that has choked in the past much looser in the clubhouse this time around.

Ron Roenicke has been a welcome change from recent Brewer managers as well.  He actually allows starters to work out of their own jams--instead of overworking the bullpen all season.  He is mixing and matching lineups to work around injuries and slumps.  And he actually bunts with two runners on and nobody out--long one of my biggest pet peeves about Ned Yost and Ken Macha. 

As interleage play proved a couple of months ago, the Brewers likely have little chance of beating the Red Sox or the Yankees in the World Series--but you can honestly say the Crew is a serious threat to actually get there.  San Francisco and Philadelphia have slightly better starting pitching--but those two would have to face each other in the first round of the playoffs--so Milwaukee would have to worry about only one of those teams in the NLCS. 

We may be getting ahead of ourselves here--there is still six weeks left in the season--but thanks to Doug Melvin and Ron Roenicke Brewers fans can at least talk about such lofty goals--and not get laughed out of the room.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Well, THAT Was Worth It

Now that Recall Mania is over for those of us here in the Fox Valley, let's take a closer look at some of the numbers.

Tuesday's vote changes 1.5% of the power in Madison.  Two seats out of 132 in the Legislature went from Republicans to Democrats yesterday.  When you factor in the Legislature shares power equally with the Governor and the State Supreme Court, you could argue that just .5% of power changed hands yesterday.

As of the end of July, $35-million dollars had been spent by the recall candidates and all of the special interest groups.  I think when the final numbers come in, we'll be looking at more than $40-million being spent on these races--and that doesn't include what was spent on running the elections or paying the lawyers.  When you consider that there are about 175-thousand public sector employees in Wisconsin--we could have just sent $229 checks to all of those workers--which would have made up for some of what they now have to contribute to their pensions.

Here in the 18th State Senate District, we saw a 14-hundred vote swing from the results in 2008 that gave Randy Hopper a 200-vote win over Jessica King.  This will probably be about a $3.5 million dollar race--so the candidates and the special interest groups spent $2500 per swing voter to change the results this time around. 

I've already received dozens of email press releases from both parties, all kinds of candidates, the Governor, and all the special interest groups that spent so much money this summer.  According to those releases, yesterday's results send a "clear message" that Wisconsin voters reject the Republican agenda, fully endorse the Republican agenda, care about collective bargaining for public sector employees, care about keeping the budget balanced, weren't swayed by union special interest groups and weren't swayed by corporate special interest groups.  The message I take away from the race in the 18th State Senate District race: sexual indiscretions matter--if you're a Republican.

The most telling number is that of the people who stayed away from the polls yesterday.  Turnout in most races was in the 35-40% range--meaning 60% percent of people in Wisconsin don't care either way about collective bargaining, state spending or leaving for Illinois to delay votes.  That might be the most powerful message coming out of the recall elections of 2011.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Story Time With Jonathan

For some reason I'm thinking today about some poor life choices I've made.  You've heard me talk ad nauseum about being debt-free except for the house for almost five years now--but I could have been talking about that even longer--had I been smarter.

The story starts with my experience while in broadcast school.  I headed to the Twin Cities with five maxed out credit cards and a new car loan.  Despite working a full-time job and two part-time jobs I was still struggling to pay the bills and stay current on my debts.  Then I got in a crash that totaled the car--and the insurance settlement didn't pay off what I owed on it.  I was getting calls from creditors all day.  It was then that I decided that I would not let myself get so far into debt ever again.

So after getting my first job in radio, I set about to paying off all that debt--before my student loans started kicking in.  I drove a crappy car that I bought from a friend for $300.  You can imagine what that was like.  And when that one died on me, I bought my sisters old car for $900.  I gave up golfing--and a six handicapper turned into a guy who struggled to break 95.  I ate alot of 89-cent microwave meals and cold cereal and I didn't see many movies.

After a lot of sacrifice and hard work (and a job change) I finally paid off all those credit cards and other debts.  So how did I react?  Did I start paying more than the minimum on my student loans?  Did I start a rainy day fund or start saving for house?  Nope.  What I did was immediately return to the behaviors that got me into the original trouble.

I bought a Jeep Wrangler because I could now "afford the payments".  I put my wife's engagement ring, my share of the wedding costs and our $5000 honeymoon on credit cards and I made just the minimum payments on the student loans.  I guess I thought I "deserved" all of that stuff--since I had to "sacrifice" for so long.

But then my wife found out she would be losing her job--and suddenly I realized that the hole I had dug for us was even deeper than the one I was in back in broadcast school.  Man, did I regret returning to my old free-spending ways.  It's a good thing that week 60 Minutes did its story on Dave Ramsey--showing me the way to debt-free living.  And so began another round of sacrifice and repayment.

Today, I wonder what our lives would be like if I hadn't gone back to being Mr Money-Grows-On-Trees.  Would we have been able to buy a better house earlier?  Would a "delayed honeymoon" trip to Hawaii been even better--knowing no interest would be tacked onto all of those charges? 

It's unfortunate that I had to learn the hard way the price you pay for deciding to go right back to destructive bahavior after sacrificing to get out of a big hole.  Please learn from my experience--and keep in mind today that the long-term benefits area always worth the temporary pains.

Monday, August 8, 2011

You are DENIED!!!

Did anyone see the Suze Orman Show Saturday night?  I had to attend a wedding so I missed it.  I was just wondering if there was a call from "Barry in Washington"?  It probably would have sounded something like this:

Suze--Barry in Washington!!!  Barry, what can I do for you tonight?

"Barry"--Hi Suze, I'm having a problem with a nation--I mean business that I am running.

Suze--What's the matter, Boyfriend?!?!?

"Barry"--Well, I didn't really have any experience before taking over this, uh, company and now everyone is telling met that I am running it wrong.  They all think I am spending too much money and that I am taking on too much debt.

Suze--Well tell me the numbers, let's see you you are doing.

"Barry"--OK, we make 2.6-trillion dollars a year

Suze--Boyfriend, that is amazing!!

"Barry"--but we spend 3.7-trillion a year--and our debt level is 14.6-trillion.  And now my creditors are raising my interest rates because they don't think we'll be able to pay it back.  They're just stupid right, Suze?

Suze--Are you kidding, Barry?!?!  You spend almost one and a half times what you make!  No wonder your FICO score is going down!!  You are broke, Boyfriend.  You need to stop spending money right now and get this under control!!

"Barry"--Um, I can't really do that, Suze.  I kinda promised a bunch of people that I would pay all their medical bills, and pay for their mortgages and pay for their kids' college educations and that if they didn't want to work I would pay them not to do it for a couple of years.

Suze--Barry, no wonder people are telling you need to change!  How do you make any money?

"Barry"--Well, we've got this tax--I mean sales program where half of our customers pay for all the stuff that everyone else gets.

Suze--I can't believe the half that pay can be very happy.

"Barry"--Suze, they are just a bunch of Tea Party--I mean kooks and uneducated simpletons--those who don't pay love it--because hey, who doesn't like free stuff?

Suze--Barry, can I be honest with you--I think someone else should be running your company.  Is there something else you can do?

"Barry"--I don't think so, Suze.  I'm committed to this job through next year--and besides, I don't think there's much demand for community organization anymore.  I guess I could write a third book about myself.

Suze--I'm sorry, Barry, but unless you can start getting a lot more paying customers--adn drastically lower your expenses--I can't see this business sticking around very long.

"Barry"--Well, what if I call people who don't believe in our program "fatcats" and "greedy"--will that solve the problem?

Suze--I'm letting you go Barry--goodbye my love!!

If anyone recorded that call--or can find it on Youtube--let me know.  I'd like to save it for next year.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Now Where Did I Put Those Village People 8-Tracks?

It looks like most of use can look forward to working another five years--thanks to yesterday's stock market plunge.  Hopefully in those five extra years of having to wake up at 2:45 am they will perfect the technology for me to actually do the news from my bed--napping between updates.  You would think that after 13 years I would be accustomed to getting up that early--but you never get used to it.

Anyway, it looks like the economic recovery is farther away than many of us thought it was--especially those at the White House.  Yesterday's drop--based on the economic "experts" you listen to--was due to either the debt ceiling increase bill being approved, expectations that today's new unemployment report is going to be worse than everyone expected or the continuing debt crisis in Europe. 

I guess it's telling that those who rely on Wall Street for their livelihoods are running for the hills because of the debt ceiling plan.  My guess is they agree with the hardline fiscal conservatives that we have actually fixed nothing--and that perhaps having a debt to GDP ratio worse than 1-to-1 is not a sound economic strategy. 

As far as unemployment goes, I'm not sure what we are supposed to be looking for on the horizon to give employers reason to expand their workforces.  Penalties for not providing health insurance to employees?  Increased tax rates because corporations are "greedy"?  Villainization in all of the recall ads?  I was talking with some local business owners at Waterfest last night and they were almost afraid to show their faces in the midst of so many "hardworking Wisconsin familymembers".

And then there is the European Debt Crisis.  If my retirement security is going to be tied to the financial stability of France, Spain and Cyprus--then it might be time to start living fast and dying young.  Entitlements are so entrenched in the European culture that it will likely take all out war to pry them away from those on the dole.  Historians always thought World War Three would be fought to contain Communist expansion.  It may turn out being fought to reduce Socialist influence.

Back in November of 2008 I wrote a My Two Cents piece about the Presidential election debunking the analogy from the left that it was 1980 all over again.  I wrote that we were actually reliving 1976 again--and that the worst was yet to come.  All we need now is Muslim radicals to take a few dozen hostages and for President Obama to give a televised speech lecturing us on how we need to get out of our "national malaise" and how we should just put on another sweater this winter.  1980 can't come fast enough.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Let the Man Live a Life

Can we please put an end to the criticism of President Obama's social life?  I don't mean his social agenda--that deserves plenty of criticism--but rather what the President does when he isn't "Being the President".  I turned on Fox News Channel yesterday and for half an hour the only topic of conversation was the President's "50th birthday party" last night in Chicago.  You had Karl Rove and the other usual talking heads wondering how Obama could be leaving Washington with so many problems going on right now to celebrate his birthday.  It was also pointed out a couple of times that the President has gone golfing more than 100 times since being inaugurated.

Let me point out that President Reagan spent plenty of time away from the White House during his eight years in office.  Remember all of the news footage of Ronnie on his horse, or clearing brush at his ranch--or waving as he walked away from Marine One at Camp David every weekend?  And President Eisenhower practically lived at the golf course while he was in office.  As an avid golfer myself, I'm insulted that the Commander-in-Chief shouldn't be allowed to work on his 18-handicap.

I realize that you have to "be the President" 24/7--but that doesn't mean you have to be a prisoner of the White House that whole time.  Do you really think that if President Obama spent 20-hours a day in the Oval Office that things would immediately get better?  Should he be on the phone calling employers to get a job for all those "single mothers" he mentions in his "economic hardship" speeches?  "Hi, Mr Plant Owner, this President Obama.  I just wanted you to know that even though Carrie lost her last job because she kept taking time off to be with her sick kids--you should still hire her--even though she never actually finished high school and she likes to get drunk and high a lot too."

Let's be honest, President Obama wasn't elected to the "details guy" anyway.  He didn't run on specific plans to fix the economy or balance the budget or end the Wars on Terror.  He's the "ideas guy"--like Tom Hanks' character in the movie "Big"--just an overgrown kid whose main job is just to "be cool"--and to make us feel cool too.  And what do cool guys do?  They play golf with their buddies a few times a week.  They listen to jazz bands.  They throw big 30-million dollar birthday parties.  That is what makes them cool.

So please, let President Obama get out of Washington--and be who he is.  He needs some great stories to put in his third book about himself that you know will be written after his time in office.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Quickly Sherman, to the Wayback Machine

It was unfortunate that Chinese scientists "proved" last month that time travel is physically impossible--since it ruins my goal of going back to key points in history to warn those involved of the long-term effects of their decisions.  I wouldn't try to "change" history--but rather just "tweak" it so things turn out a little better down the line.

The first stop would be the Constitutional Convention of 1787.  I would like to be on hand to offer a few suggestions for items that our Founding Fathers might want to include in the document that would guide the operation of our nation.  I'd start with adding something to that First Amendment to make it clear if contributing to a political candidate represents "freedom of speech".  Of course, after explaining what our current election process is like, Messers Jefferson, Madison and Monroe might reconsider that whole "we don't need a King" thing.

This might also be a good time to ask if carrying a gun on you is what they mean by "bear and keep arms" in the Second Amendment.  Since this was a time that an angry bear or Indian might step out of the woods at any time--I'm guessing they would say "yes".  I'll suggest they put something in there about abortion as well.  That might settle a few arguments 175-years later.

My next stop in the time machine is 1913 as voters and Congress consider the 16th Amendment--establishing the Federal Income Tax.  I would let them know that less than 100-years later, only about half of Americans will be paying any income tax--with some even getting a net gain from the process.  I'd suggest that they consider a "consumer based" form of taxation--as that would increase the amount of revenue and make sure that everyone pays "their fair share".  I'd bring the 17-thousand page Tax Code with me as well--but that might put the time machine over its weight limit.

Up next is a short hop to 1935 as Congress votes to establish the Social Security program.  Here I would warn the lawmakers that in just 70-years, it won't be that uncommon for a person to live into their 90's--meaning they would be drawing on the system for more than 25-years.  They should also know that the 20-workers-to-1-retiree ratio seen at their time will edge closer to just 2-to-1 in the next millineum.  I'd leave themn with a suggestion to consider tying the eligibility age to the life-expentency of the average American--keeping most people in the program for the ten years they anticiapted back then.

The Wayback Machine makes another short hop to 1965 as again we need to warn Congress about the impact of the Medicare program.  I'd better come armed with information on the number of people who will be enrolled in the program just 45 years later--and a price sheet showing the prohibitively high costs of some life-saving procedures that will become common place in the future.  Hopefully some of the other suggestions I have made in the past will have been adopted--so that revenue streams are bigger and eligibilities for entitlement programs are tighter.  I guess a screen capture on the 14-trillion dollar debt ceiling crisis might be just as effectivve as well.

Alas, my dream of going back to "fix" some of our modern-day problems before they start will remain just that--a dream.  Hopefully those that continue to live in an economic fantasyland won't make it any more of a nightmare going forward.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Pat On the Back For Themselves, A Stab In the Back For Us

(One of the many weapons of satire is analogy--and I am about to lay a whole bunch of analogies on you in this My Two Cents.)

Senator Ron Johnson says the Debt Ceiling Bill is "disgusting".  While I would describe the bill as being more "gutless"--what is disgusting is the self-congratulations going on in Washington now.  Plenty of people are patting themselves on the back--and appearing on the news networks--for approving it before the default deadline.  It reminds me of the linebacker who tackles a running back after a nine-yard run on first down and gets up celebrating (like pretending to wield a Samurai sword).  Don't you think "What is that clown celebrating, that its only second and one?"

And since the the "crisis" was entirely the result of decades of deficit spending, poor exit strategies for international conflicts and continued expansion of entitlements approved BY CONGRESS ITSELF--this is like the baseball closer who walks the bases loaded, then gets the last batter to fly out to the wall celebrating out on the mound like he 'shut down" the opposition for the save. "Way to make us sweat for absolutely no good reason."

But let's not forget, this bill does little to actually reduce the deficit in the long run, so the better comparison might be the starting pitcher who walks the first three batters of the game--gives up a grand slam--walks the next three batters--gives up another grand slam--then retires the pitcher on a rocket that gets backhanded by the 3rd baseman--and pumps his fist on the mound.  "Nice job moron--we're still down eight with 26 outs to go."

And it should be pointed out that the debt ceiling increase will get us to about the 2012 election--so this is a lot like a punter backed up against the back of the endzone shanking one just past the line of scrimmage and waiting for his coverage guys to pat him on the helmet like he just boomed one down to the other team's one-yard line.  "Weren't we going for the 'big play' here Head Coach Obama, meant to turn field position and actually lead to a touchdown for future taxpayers?"

The one person who does deserve some congratulations in Washington today is Representative Gabriel Giffords--who entered the House Chambers yesterday like Willis Reed coming to the court at Madison Square Garden in Game Seven of the 1970 NBA Finals with the torn thigh muscle to inspire his New York Knicks to victory over the Lakers--to cast her vote in favor of the bill.  She was SHOT IN THE HEAD and still showed up to do her job.  Maybe Democrats in the State Senate will keep Giffords in mind the next time they think about heading to Illinois to avoid taking a vote.

However you choose to look at it, the Debt Ceiling Bill is NOT a victory for Team USA.  At best, it's a nine-point loss for a team that has lost its last ten games by at least two touchdowns.  Way to go team!!

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Poberezny Legacy

While most of us knew it was coming at some point, last week's announcement that Tom Poberezny was retiring as Chairman of the EAA and the annual Airventure--effective immediately--caught most of us by surprise.  The decision means that for the first time in the organization's history, a Poberezny will not be involved in the day-to-day operations of the EAA.

As much credit as Paul Poberezny should get for working with his friend Steve Wittman to bring the Fly In to Oshkosh--and slowly building the popularity of the event with not only pilots but also the general public as well--it was the vision of Tom who turned Airventure into the international event it now is.  It was Tom who brought high-profile planes like the Concorde, Voyager and Spaceship One to Oshkosh--and who realized that more people would attend the event if the "flight line" fences were taken down--opening the entire grounds to everyone.

It was also Tom who encouraged many of the aircraft manufacturers to make Oshkosh their showplace event for new products and marketing.  This year, we had a double-decker tent on site--raising the ante for the next few years in the manufacturers area.  And Tom has been a tireless advoacate for increasing access to aviation with things like Light Sport Pilot and fighting airport user fees.

Yes, the old-time EAA members may complain about the "interlopers" taking over their Fly-In--with the homebuilders shoved to the side and the unwashed public being allowed to stand close to their airplanes with food and drinks in their hands--but the revenue generated by the event helps keep membership dues low and makes EAA a powerful force in the aviation world.

It's too bad we have discontinued the "Key to the City" program at the Mayors Breakfast during EAA week.  Next year would be a good opportunity for all of the hotel owners, the restaurant owners, the residents who rent out their houses, the volunteer groups and all aviation enthusiasts to give a big "thank you" to Tom Poberezny for making Oshkosh famous for something other than ugly overalls.