Friday, December 30, 2011

Winners and Losers of 2011

With this final "Two Cents" of 2011, let's hand out the awards for Winner and Loser of the Year for 2011.

First off, honorable mentions:  In the Winner category, honorable mention goes to State Senator Jessica King.  Proving that good timing is just as important as good strategy, King rode the perfect political storm to an historic recall election victory.  An incumbent with serious character issues and a large number of angry public employees turned a traditionally Republican district King's direction after a narrow loss two years before.

Also receiving honorable mention on the Winner of the Year side: Mitt Romney.  Romney is proving that the Aesop's Fable about the tortoise and the hare is still correct.  He has seen Michelle Bachman race out to the "frontrunner" position--before people realized that she is insane.  Then Rick Perry rocketed past Romney--only to prove that he is a complete airhead.  Herman Cain became the new darling candidate--until we found out that he was the second coming of Bill Clinton.  Then Newt Gingrich became the "Anybody But Mitt" candidate--before people remembered that he is Newt Gingrich.  And now Ron Paul is the new "major challenger" to Romney--but the power brokers in the GOP will never allow Ron to win.  That leaves Mitt as the Last Man Standing--just by standing around.

Honorable mention for Loser of the Year: European Freeloaders.  For some reason, state support for those who choose not to work--and providing universal health care--is bankrupting the European Union.  The Austerity movement will mean people who have made a comfortable living living on the dole are about to get a rude awakening.

Also an honorable mention in the Loser category: State Representative Gordon Hintz.  Rebuffed in his run for party leadership in the Assembly, busted in a prostitution sting, and making national headlines for threatening to kill another Legislator--not the kind of record you want in an effort to move on to higher office someday.  It's never a good thing when Jay Leno is getting a big laugh at your expense.

The runner up for Loser of the Year is Assembly Speaker John Boener.  Somehow, he has managed to squander all of the ill-will voters have toward President Obama by being an even bigger moron.  A good leader knows what battles are worth fighting--and the year-end standoff over the payroll tax holiday was not worth fighting.  A good politician should also know that allowing the "other side" to win on some things allows everyone to win in the long run.

The runner up for Winner of the Year: Congressman Paul Ryan.  Unlike the aforementioned John Boehner, Ryan is the real voice of fiscal responsibility in Washington.  And his decision to not run for President--despite the desperate begging from the real Consveratives in the Republican Party--will pay off in the long run, because the deficit, Medicare and Social Security messes are only to get worse.  At some point sanity will reign and a majority of national voters will be ready to take the steps necessary to get back out of the hole--and Congressman Ryan will have the high ground in that fight.

And now the Biggest Loser of 2012: Former State Senator Randy Hopper.  He became the first sitting State Senator to lose in a recall election.  He also had his private life dragged out into public--in a very ugly way.  And then there was the drunk driving arrest after that.  Randy was seen as a mover and shaker in the state GOP--with perhaps some bigger goals in mind.  Now, that is all gone in the course of one very bad year.

And the Biggest Winner of 2012:  Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  I considered naming Wisconsin taxpayers for this honor--but the fight to undo the changes that resulted in actual tax relief this year is ongoing, and I wouldn't want to celebrate a victory too soon--so Rodgers ends up the winner.  Super Bowl MVP, a shoo-in for this year's NFL MVP and his emergence as popular endorsement pitchman--2012 was about as great a year as possible for A-Rod.  About the only downside was that Tim Tebow emerged as a replacement to Brett Favre as the media darling that steals the spotlight from the great things that Aaron has accomplished.

Thanks to everyone who listens to WOSH Radio for making 2011 a great year.  And here's to a great 2012.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Fight Where Nobody Wins

As someone who is looking to adopt a child, an article in yesterday's on-line edition of the New York Times caught my attention:

It seems Catholic Charities--a leading agency for domestic adoptions in the US is closing up shop in some states--including Illinois--rather than comply with new requirements to place children with same-sex couples.  Church leaders claim their right to practice the tenets of their faith--in this case, that homosexuality is a sin--is being quashed by the states--which claim gays should have the same access to adoption as anyone else.

As usual in this battle between two Goliaths, it is the very people that who actually need the help of both that are caught in the crossfire.  Catholic Charities is an important partner with many states in serving children caught in the foster care system--who are considered very difficult to place with new families--who prefer newborns who don't come with as much "baggage" as an older child who has lived in several homes growing up.  So how does alienating the Church-run program help either the state or the kids?

But the Church is just as myopic.  I have seen same-sex couples parenting their kids.  A gay couple was part of our adoption education program at Lutheran Social Services--and believe me, they are much better equipped to handle raising a child than the vast majority of heterosexual couples that I've seen with children.  And isn't goal of an adoption or foster care program to remove children from abusive, neglectful situations and place them with two people who will love them, care for them and provide them with what is needed to be a sucessful adult in our society--regardless of which body parts those parents have between their legs?

As a private entity, the Catholic Church reserves the right to serve whomever it wants.  And the state is right that same-sex couples are no threat to the health or well-being of children.  Let's try to figure out some way to make two rights into a third right--instead of choosing to make two rights into a horrible wrong.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

If You Talk About It Enough

It's amazing what we are able to convince ourselves of--if we talk about something enough.  I was listening to a national sports talk radio show yesterday afternoon and the hot topic was who should be the NFL Most Valuable Player.  The host admitted that "until a few weeks ago, this was a no-brainer--but now there is some doubt!!"  And I kept thinking "what doubt is there?  The doubt talking heads have created by saying 'there is some doubt!'?"

Aaron Rodgers is the NFL MVP.  This was the "no-brainer" when the Packers were 13-0--and it remains a "no-brainer" now as the Packers are 14-1.  And how one road game where his receivers couldn't catch and his offensive line couldn't block changes that is beyond me.  Yet, show after show on ESPN beats the drum for Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Patriots QB Tom Brady as "potential new frontrunners". 

This is my frustration with the "new media"--if a story is going to be settled without controversy, those covering the story feel the overwhelming need to boost interest by injecting their own controversy.  Back in the pre-ESPN-sports-radio-24/7-talk-cycle world, people would think about NFL MVP the day the award was handed out.  You wouldn't have three hours of "who is the first half NFL MVP" discussions in October.  You wouldn't have weekly Power Polls or Stock Up/Stock Down features.  Those who voted on the award would look at the entire season--at the end of the season--consider who had the best year for the best team and vote for that player.  And this year, Aaron Rodgers would have been the unanimous choice--no doubt about it.

And when A-Rod wins this year's award, all of those talking heads who questioned if he would be the one this week will be back on the air saying "This was an obvious choice, blah, blah, blah...."  Give me a break.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What's Good For the Goose....

I was cleaning out my email yesterday and came across an item I was hoping to talk about last week:,0,7120320.column

It's an Op-Ed article from the Chicago Tribune last week addressing the court battle over Congressional redistricting in Illinois. 

The State's Court of Appeals has ruled that even though the districts are clearly gerry-mandered and obviously drawn up to give one party an advantage in most areas--they are not unconstitutional.  Illinois allows the Legislature to draw up the districts--and the majority party pretty much gets to set the rules.

This may sound very familiar to those of us here in Wisconsin--where court challenges are being filed against redistricting maps approved by the Legislature this year.  "Evil" Republicans are accused of "disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of voters" by drawing them into new districts.  And if allowed to stand, the GOP will "unfairly" win a majority of districts for a decade.  What is different from Wisconsin is that it is Illinois DEMOCRATS that are "guilty" of the affront to election fairness.

Democrats control all three houses of government in Illinois (as if you couldn't tell by their outrageous increases in taxes and tolls) and they drew up their Congressional districts to get an advantage in 11 of the 18 races the next ten years.  What's more, as part of the legal process, the party was forced to release memos that revealed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee basically drew the lines--and the Legislative Democrats just slapped their rubber stamp on them.

I would hope that Wisconsin Republicans would hold up the Illinois example every time Wisconsin Democrats roll out their tired claim of being about "voting rights" and "fair elections" and "equal representation".  Because let's be honest--neither party has any high ground upon which to stand on this issue.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day Blather

While visions of Sugar Plum Fairies were dancing in your head this weekend, this is what I was thinking about.

--Do you get the feeling that shows like Hoarders and Hording will never have an "International" edition?  It's hard to picture an Indonesian woman with 50-thousand dolls.  Or a French man who has never thrown out a newspaper delivered to his house.  In my European travels, I don't remember driving by mammoth self-storage parks either.

--Can someone explain to me why the NFL chose to play nearly all of its games on Saturday?  My family is boycotting the NBA for another decade--so there wasn't much to watch on TV after the gift-opening extravaganza in the morning.  If there had been football on--I can guarantee we would have been watching that.  And now next weekend, most of the games will be played on Sunday again--meaning the Rose Bowl gets pushed back to January 2nd.  When this calendar arragement comes around again in 2016, let's play the games on Christmas Day and New Years Eve day.  I'm guessing there still won't be an NCAA football playoff by that time--so the Rose Bowl can be on January 1st--like it should be. 

--This might be the most important season in the history of the Milwaukee Bucks.  The Bucks have long been an afterthought in the Wisconsin sports hierarchy--and with this year's lockout and the success of nearly every other state team--they are even fathrer out of mind.  And yet, the franchise is out trying to sell the need for a new arena in Milwaukee to replace the "aging" Bradley Center.  Last week, Governor Walker went on the record saying there would be no state money available for a new facility--and the Petitt family isn't about to build another "free" arena for the city either.  So it is up to the Bucks to somehow build up enough interest from fans to make a "We get a new arena or we leave town" threat effective.  Of course, the Bucks really have nowhere to go.  Outside of Seattle, I can't think of a single city that is out there "demanding" an NBA team move to their vacant arena.  Maybe NBA Commissioner can threaten to contract the Bucks--along with the equally unpopular Minnesota Timberwolves--to light a fire under Milwaukee.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Annual Festivus Airing of Grievances

It's Festivus!! According to founder Frank Kostanza, the Tradition of Festivus begins with the Airing of Grievances.  AND I HAVE A LOT OF PROBLEMS WITH YOU PEOPLE!!












Festivus now continues with the Feats of Strength!  Festivus cannot end until you pin me!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Learning From the Past

I have to admit, I'm impressed by how the Oshkosh School Board has learned the lessons from mistakes made by previous Boards.  That is especially true in how it is handling the upcoming Oaklawn Elementary referendum.

Unlike the first attempt at getting voters to approve construction of a new Oaklawn, this Board avoided the temptation of moving the school to an area where no one actually lives.  I was a bit concerned when the District sent out that press release right before the referendum-setting meeting about having an offer to purchase land on Highway A north of town.  I thought "here comes the U-Boat that will torpedo the USS Oaklawn before it can even get out of port". 

But this Board listened to those who will serve as the biggest cheerleaders for the referendum--Oaklawn parents themselves--and decided to build on the site of the existing school.  That is a positive change from the obstinate Board of the past that was so sure that building on Ryf Road would magically create a development boom in that area.  (Obviously, they weren't keeping a very close eye on the looming housing and debt bubble that has brought new residential construction to a virtual standstill since then).

And then this week, the current members showed that they learned another lesson from the previous Board by working on a backup plan in case this referendum isn't successful.  Some might consider that to be a defeatist attitude--but those of us who take a more pragmatic approach to planning see it as a responsible thing to do.  Right now, it looks like that backup plan would call for the closure of Oaklawn--and the re-distribution of elementary school students throughout the District. 

Is that going to be popular with a lot of parents?  Probably not.  But it's a far better strategy than the hard-headed Board adopted in the wake of the first Oaklawn referendum failure--to sit and pout, while the school continued to decay around the students.  I doubt we are going to hear from any current Boardmembers how "embarrassed" they are by their constituents--or how "Oshkosh clearly doesn't care about kids"--if voters say "no" again.

Einstein defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again--and expecting a different result."  It's nice to know this School Board is more sane than some of its predecessors.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

'Tis the Season

We must be close to Christmas--everyone is arguing about religion.

First, you have Lowe's Home Improvement coming under fire from a conservative Christian group for sponsoring the TLC show "All American Muslim".  Then Lowe's comes under fire from everybody else in the world for dropping its ads from the show.

Why a large, successful corporation like Lowe's would kowtow to a fringe group like the Florida Family Association is beyond me.  I'd provide you some information on how many people actually belong to this group--but their website has removed pretty much all of its information--except the link to donate money to them (SHOCKER!).  I doubt the membership is more than a couple thousand people.  Their reason for hating "All American Muslim": It doesn't have any characters plotting attacks against the US.  The FFA contends "All American Muslim" doesn't "accurately portray" American Muslims--because it shows people who do the same things nearly all of us do in our everyday lives. 

If you are to extend the FFA argument against "All American Muslim" to all other programming--then every show featuring Evangelical Christians should include characters that are skimming money off the top at their tax-exempt mega-churches and shows featuring Catholics should also have a child-molesting priest or two thrown in the mix to "accurately portray" those religions as well.

Meanwhile, the hard workers at the Freedom From Religion Foundation are busy as usual this holiday season.  They have filed lawsuits to remove religious symbols from public grounds in several states.  But they are missing the mark with their approach to protesting the Capitol Christmas tree and a nativity scene in the rotunda in Madison.  The "counter nativity" display put up Freedom From features a female "Baby Jesus", the goddess Venus as Mary and what it calls the "3 Wiser Men" of Mark Twain, Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin.

Unfortunately, Einstein and Darwin were not atheists.  In fact, Einstein stated that his theories--which solved a lot of the astro-physical questions that had previously been answered with "God did that"--actually reaffirmed his belief in a higher power.  You could say that Einstein was the first proponent of "intelligent design."  If Freedom From wanted to be a bit more accurate, Einstein and Darwin should be replaced with Stephen Hawking and the recently-deceased Christopher Hitchens.

Or better yet, they could just drop the whole "counter nativity" display--as I think it's rather juvenile--and use what those of us who base our lives on science and the laws of man do best--provide people with the facts.  Hand out copies of Hawking's A Brief History of Time or Darwin's On the Origin of Species at the Capitol.  Better to educate the masses--than try to sway them through insult.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I've been hoping the incredible disparity between the rich and the poor would be closed over the years--but it is clear that nothing is going to change anytime soon--so I think the time has come to recall Santa Claus.  It's obvious that Santa is nothing more than a puppet of big corporations promoting their anti-working families agendas and rewarding his rich friends.

You've seen the TV ads, Santa brings the "one percent" expensive jewelry, big TV's and even leased Lexuses (Lexi?).  Meanwhile, poor, hardworking "99-percent" are forced to rely on the generosity of strangers just to have something to put under the tree.  So let's get those pre-printed petitions ready to remove Father Christmas from his office.

First off, we'll need someone to run against Santa in the recall election.  Someone whose "jolly", "fat" and represents "diversity".  Did the first name pop into your head too?  Of course, Barney Frank!!  He's leaving Congress so he will have time to take over the job.

Next, we need to come up with a more "fair" way of running Christmas.  Why don't we have Santa Barney go from house to house on Christmas Eve taking gifts from the rich and giving them to more "deserving" families. 

Wait a minute--Al Gore just requested Santa Barney cruise around in Chevy Volt rather than a sleigh pulled by reindeer (which should be grazing and mating in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve)--so we'd better give him a month to make his rounds.  Need to keep plugging in every 70-miles.

Oops, Attorney General Eric Holder just requested we drop the whole "naughty and nice" determinant for gifts as well--since that is too "subjective" to be fairly determined.  He recommends Santa Barney distribute gifts strictly based on race, income and sexual orientation.

Hang on, AFSCME just demanded that its members not have to give up anything to benefit anyone else.  So if you put a big blue fist in your window or your front yard, Santa Barney will "passover" your house--and just take more from your neighbor.

Ummm--the Occupy Wall Street folks just weighed in.  They'd like all of the corporate-made toys removed and replaced by "fair trade" items.  So I guess all of the kids will have to enjoy their hand-woven burlap dolls produced by the native peoples of Ecuador from eco-friendly, organic, sustainable growing operations.

The folks on the Diversity Council would also like us to refrain from using the term "Christmas"--since it offends all of the non-Christians.  The preferred term from here on out should be "Non-Denominational Celebration of All Beliefs and Non-Beliefs Day--Unless Your Religion Bans The Celebration Of All Holidays--In Which Case Happy Sunday."

We already have the recall machinery in place--so lets hit the malls and the community carol sings and the masses and let's get those signatures!  It's time to teach Santa the meaning of "fairness".

Monday, December 19, 2011

Living and Giving Like No One Else

Marjorie Drexler is my kind of person.  For those that missed it Friday afternoon, the Oshkosh Public Library announced that Drexler had left them a $1.1 Million bequest in her will when she died back in August of 2010.  The donation came as a complete surprise to everyone at the Library--and to those who knew Marjorie as well.

Library staff didn't know much about Ms. Drexler before her death.  She didn't serve on the Library Board, she didn't sit on any steering committees and she never went to City Hall to complain about proposed budget cuts for the library.  She checked out books and movies--enjoyed them at home--and then brought them back in a timely fashion.

The bequest was never brought to the attention of Library officials before Marjorie's death.  There was no press conference with a big check and a bunch of local politicians and bureaucrats droning on about the decline of public investment in libraries and museums.  There was no "groundbreaking" or "formal dedication" of the Marjorie Drexler Wing or Conference Center.  There was no requirement for taxpayers to put up an equal amount to build something--and there is no long-term expense to the city to maintain a new building or facility.

My favorite part of this story is that--to a person--those who knew Marjorie had no idea that she had a million dollars to donate to the Library.  She worked at Oshkosh Truck and--by all accounts--lived very simply.  No fancy house, no fancy cars, no other conspicuous consumption.  Apparently, she bought only what she needed--and put the rest of her money into retirement accounts and investments.  Amazingly, that gave her more than enough to live on into her 80's--with plenty more left to benefit that which she enjoyed the most in life.

Dave Ramsey's mantra in his Total Money Makeover is "If you are willing to live like no one else now--later, you can live (and give) like no one else."  I'm glad to see Marjorie Drexler proves that really is true.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Please Shut Up Now

Is there a shortage of qualified defense attorneys in State College, Pennsylvania?  I ask because the growing legal team for former Penn State Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky continues to baffle everyone with the public comments they are making.

The latest doozy comes from attorney Karl Rominger who told a local TV station that the reason Jerry Sandusky was showering with boys is because "he was teaching them basic hygene."  It's Rominger's contention that these 10 or 12 year old boys "had no idea how to put soap on their bodies".

When I first saw this video clip, I had to make sure that I didn't have on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart or The Colbert Report or The Onion News Network--because it is so ludicrously implausible that it had to be scripted for a laugh.  Right?  Unfortunately, it was a "real" news channel.

It appears that the Sandusky defense is either trying to win its case in the court of public opinion--or its trying to taint the jury pool so that it would be impossible for their client to get a fair trial anywhere except Amish Country.  (There are more than a few attorneys in our area who believe that if a crime story is featured in one radio or TV newscast that every person within 200-miles of the courthouse has formed an opinion about the case and cannot be expected to be impartial on a jury.)  So the more the story gets on TV, the harder it will be to try the case near Penn State.

Or, perhaps these attorneys believe that Jerry Sandusky's explanations for his behavior fit within the realm of sexual normalcy.  I mean, his original attorney--Joe Amendola--fathered a child with a 17-year old girl--when he was 49-years old.  And that was a girl that he was representing in her efforts to emancipate herself from her parents.  Amendola then married the girl right before she gave birth to a second child.  So to attorney Amendola, the idea of "teaching boys how to shower" by getting naked with them and having intimate physical contact must seem like the kind of explanation any "rational" person would accept.

And while we are on the subject, why hasn't Penn State filed a "cease and desist" action against Sandusky from wearing Nittany Lions apparel when appearing in public?  The day he's arrested the first time--he's got on his Penn State Football shirt and running pants.  He does a videotaped interview with the New York Times--he's got a Penn State golf shirt on.  The second time he's arrested and brought to jail--he's wearing a Penn State windbreaker.  You would think that the University could argue that by continuning to don the school's licensed apparel, Sandusky is giving the public the idea that he is still affiliated with the school.

The guys in legal requested this be added:  Today's My Two Cents is not to be considered legal advice and should not be taken as such.  My Two Cents is not a licensed legal practice and this material is not to be considered a solicitation for legal representation. 

Nonetheless, the time has come for the Sandusky defense to shut its mouths--stay away from the cameras and microphones for a while--and to stop making a horrible situation even worse.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Here's Your Ballot, Mr Hitler

With all apologies to the Republican Party of Wisconsin, Adolph Hitler will not be signing recall petitions against Governor Scott Walker.  Nor will we find Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Santa Claus, Betty Boop or Carl B from "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" on the petitions.

You know why we won't see those names?  Because you would have to be an idiot to try and fill out the petition forms with names that are so obviously fake.  If you are going to cheat the system--it's usually better to do so in a way that will attract less attention--and be harder to determine. 

Even the most naive petition reviewer will notice Hitler on the list--but what about the elderly gentlemen who passed away back in May?  How would someone in Madison know that A--He's dead and B--that he didn't actually sign the petition?  The same goes for the couple that moved out of the neighborhood last year--but never were able to sell the house.  They are probably still on the voter rolls at that address--and is someone going to bring in a handwriting expert to determine if they are the ones who signed the form?  And don't forget about all of those mystery voters living in State Senator Lena Taylor's Milwaukee apartment complex.

The process for forcing a recall--or for simply getting a candidate on the ballot--was drafted in much simpler political times.  A time when the stakes weren't nearly as high and the temptation to cheat wasn't nearly as great.  But those are the rules by which everyone has to play--and if there are some who want to go outside of those rules, well, I guess we don't really have a good way to catch them.

Better to put all of your effort and resources into winning the election--rather than trying hunt down dead Nazis.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Debt Wars

When we were kids it was generally accepted that the next World War would be fought to stop the spread of Communism.  Then President Reagan won the Cold War--with just a few regional skirmishes over the years--and it wasn't so clear what would be the source of the next global conflict.  "Concerned Citizens" like Al Gore told us the next major war would be fought over natural resources--like fresh water, energy sources and tillable land--as the global population soared and those without would rise up to try and take from those who had such resources.  Then along came 9/11 and it looked like religion would be the source of the next World War--with the Judeo-Christian nations battling the Islamic World over what satirist Jonathan Swift described as the "correct way to crack an egg". 

But now it's beginning to look like the new source of international tension will be debt.  More specifically, sovereign debt owed between countries.  Like World Wars I and II, the seeds of this battle have already been sown in Europe.  Nations freed from the burden of self-defense by NATO and the US, embarked on unsustainable financial policies funded during the economic growth of the last three decades by borrowing money from their neighbors.  As the Bible says, "The borrower is slave to the lender".  Now that the sources of credit have dried up, the lenders are expecting some payoff from the borrowers.

The seeds of that discontent are about to get watered and fertilized by the measures agreed to in the Eurozone summit last week--as those profligate nations agreed to the debtor nations' demands to get their financial houses in order--even if that means budgetary oversight from outside agencies.  If there is one thing we have learned over the centuries, people don't like having other nations telling them what to do--especially when those demands mean they might have to work harder and longer.  The public unrest aimed at the debtor governments will soon turn against the lenders--and the drums of war will begin to beat.

Just like in the 1900's the dominoes are lined up to take the regional conflict global.  The oil producing nations of the Middle East will have to choose sides--likely joining the countries that actually have money to pay for that precious crude.  And then there is China--who has become the 21st Century superpower by buying up everyone's debt.  Who do they align with in the Debt Wars?  And will it be on the same side as the United States?  I tend to doubt they are going to keep loaning us money to do battle against them.

The one positive thing is that barren, radioactive wastelands tend not to repay their debts--so we probably won't have to worry about WW3 being a nuclear conflict.  Now we can just concern ourselves with learning the Mandarin language of our future masters.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Opening the Floodgates

Unable to influence enough politicians at the statehouse--or browbeat enough voters at the polls--supporters of increased government spending took a new tact in Colorado--suing the state to raise taxes.  Last Friday, District Judge Sheila Rappaport ruled that Colorado spending on public education is "unconstitutionally low".

Colorado ranks 40th in the nation in terms of money spent per child on public education--at $8,167 per student.  That is about 15-hundred dollars below the national average--and about three-thousand dollars less per student than what we spend here in Wisconsin.  As a percentage of total state spending, Colorado puts 40-percent of its budget to K-12 education--to the tune of $3.2 Billion annually.  Voters recently rejected a referendum to raise income and sales taxes by $2.9 Billion dollars over the next four years to increase school spending.

Of course, in her ruling Judge Rappaport didn't give lawmakers any idea what would be a "constitutional" amount to spend on public education.  (Bigger Government supporters can never actually give you an amount that is "enough" for all of their programs.  "Much more than we are spending now" seems to be the only answer they can provide.)  However, the group that filed the lawsuit actually did have a number in mind: an additional FOUR BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR!

According to the plaintiffs, Colorado should spend 110% of it current budget for ALL STATE OPERATIONS just on K-12 education.  That would take it from 40th in per student spending, to #1 in the nation--racing past New York and it's spendthrift $17-Thousand per child.  And it would do it with no say from taxpayers or their elected officials.  Needless to say, the State will be appealing the decision.

Now before you think "Wow, I'm glad I don't live in Colorado--cuz they're about to get screwed"--think about this:  The blueprint has now been established for circumventing the will of the people in every other state.  You don't think WEAC doesn't have a team of lawyers poring over all 183-pages of Judge Rappaport's ruling to find out if the same legal arguments can be applied here in Wisconsin?  Sure, we spend about 15-hundred dollars more than the national average per child--but anything less than the Colorado levels must be a violation of those poor children's Constitutional right to a "thorough and uniform education system".

And it won't stop with the schools.  Why go to referendum on a Wheel Tax, when you can just sue the City to provide a "thorough" Transit System--or the County to provide "uniform" end-of-life services to all of the elderly?  Why not just dump State Legislatures, County Boards and City Councils all together and let judges and lawyers decide how much is "fair" to spend on public services?

If this decision is allowed to stand, we may all end up feeling like Leslie Nielsen as the Captain of the Poseidon--as he sees the tidal wave about to hit his ship:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Why We Play the Games

I referreed the JV Boys Basketball game between Oshkosh West and Kimberly on Friday night.  In the closing minutes of a one-sided contest, West Head Coach Jason Fahrney cleared his bench--getting in some of his (let's use the politically correct term) "project players".

Before one of West's final possessions, Coach Fahrney called over one of his guards to the sidelines and talked to him about something.  As the ball came down court, that player ran off a high screen, got open at the top of the key, took a pass and nailed a three-pointer.  I don't know if that was the player's first basket of the year or maybe his first three pointer--but let's just say he was very excited about scoring that basket (as were most of the players on the bench).  As he headed back to the other end, that player pointed to Coach Fahrney on the bench--and both broke out into huge smiles.  And in that moment, I was reminded about all that is great about sports. 

It wasn't a game winning shot, but for that young man that three point shot represented the culmination of plenty hard work at practice every week--with no guarantee of any playing time.  To have Coach Fahrney run a play specifically to give that player the opportunity to make that hard work pay off will give him a boost in self-confidence that few other outlets can provide.  And the reaction shared by player and coach shows again the influence that a positive adult role model can have on the life of young men and women.

So forget about Penn State, overbearing parents, basketball brawls and now Ryan Braun.  That three point shot in an already-decided JV basketball contest is why we play the games.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Historical Preservation

I'm really excited this morning--I've found out that everything I have ever posted on Twitter will now be stored in the Library of Congress archives. Whoever thought that my 120-character opinions on Badger football games, the length of Oshkosh School Board meetings, and how much I hate ham will now be available for historians and scholars to pour over for the rest of time.

In fact, anything anyone has ever posted on Twitter will be stored in the archives. Wonder what Snooki thought about the shoes she was wearing on June 13th, 2010? The Library of Congress will now know. Need to know what Kim Kardashian bought on her trip to the mall last Thursday? Archivists in Washington can help you find the answer.

Let's get serious now. The archiving of all Twitter posts is--WITHOUT A DOUBT--the greatest waste of effort and resources since the Kyoto Treaty. Per its website this is the mission of the Library: "The Library's mission is to support the Congress in fulfilling its constitutional duties and to further the progress of knowledge and creativity for the benefit of the American people." Being a regular contributor and consumer of Twitter I can tell you two things: 1--there is am amazing dearth of knowledge exhibited in the vast majority of tweets--and 2--unless you consider teenagers using alternative spellings of profanities to be "creativity", there isn't a lot of that out there either.

Is this really where we are now in terms of historical perspective? We've gone from the Founding Fathers' writings to each other on the meanings of liberty and the process they used to develop our amazing Constitution and Bill of Rights--or Lincoln's diaries detailing his struggles to preserve the Union--to "dang @kelcijoho, u luking fyn grrll!!!!!!" as knowledge that needs to be preserved for future generations.

Oh well, the future author of How Did America Get So Fat, Stupid and Lazy? should have plenty of research material.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hold On a Minute

You hear a lot of things in the radio news business--some of which make you say "Hold on a minute."

One of those came in a press release from the state Democratic Party on Tuesday.  The headline was "Walker Budget Drastically Cuts Funding For Sexual Assault Victims".  The release was in response to stories this week that the Department of Justice let sexual assault crisis centers know that it will be handing out 42% less money in grants next year.  According to the Democrats, Governor Walker cut that funding to pay for tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy.

But hold on a minute--the grants handed out from the DOJ come from a segregated fund that sees its revenue come from surcharges on criminal offenders as part of their sentences.  Fewer people paid those surcharges last year--meaning less revenue came into the segregated fund.  So I have to ask Democrats, should Governor Walker have been out there encouraging more people to commit crimes so there were more surcharges to fund sexual assault crisis centers?  It kind of reminds me of when the state jacked up the tobacco tax on the premise of funding "smoking related healthcare expenses".  But when a lot of people quit the habit, the revenues actually declined--leaving the state even farther in its hole.

The other "Hold On a Minute" moment came Monday afternoon when Rush Limbaugh (heard from 11 to 2 Monday thru Friday and from Noon to 3 on Saturdays) took the talking heads at ESPN to task for tearing down Tim Tebow.  It's Rush's belief that analysts have to denegrate Tebow because he is an Evangelical Christian who leads an exemplary life and who once did a pro-life commercial that aired during the Super Bowl.

Hold on a minute, Rush.  Aren't you the guy who claimed the very same analysts were boosting up Donovan McNabb--who had far superior passing numbers and just as many wins as Tim Tebow--because "they wanted a Black quarterback to succeed"?  Like those experts, I don't care if a quarterback is a Wiccan who sacrifices a live chicken in his locker before a game--if he can't play the position, he can't play the position!  If anything, Tebow is getting a boost from fellow Evangelicals in the media--namely Skip Bayless at ESPN who continue to tout his "intangibles" (code for "devout religious beliefs"?) as the reason he is the Second Coming of God......Johnny Unitas.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Taking Stock

Some thoughts on the hysteria surrounding the sale of Green Bay Packers stock yesterday:

--NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should take time away from fining defensive players for textbook tackles that are now illegal under the "concussion concious" rules and book a lot more time to hand out owner fines.  If you check the fine print on the stock purchase agreement, shareholders fall under the restrictions on all NFL owners.  That means the Commish can fine Packers Stockholders for "conduct detrimental to the league".  I can't wait for Wally and Merle to get called to New York to explain their drunken fight in the Lambeau Field parking lot on game day.  Fines should also be handed out for anyone who goes shirtless to any game below freezing.  The same goes for the Packelope, Saint Vince and anyone else with a FAVRE 4 EVER bumper sticker or license plate.

--I can guarantee that my parents--Mr and Mrs Robert Krause--didn't purchase any Packers stock yesterday.  $295 million renovation projects, personal seat licenses and another 190-million dollar expansion plan will still leave them sitting on cold alumimum bleachers with a puddle of water at their feet--even though it hasn't rained in Green Bay for a week.  I'm sure that everyone else who sits with one cheek off the end of the rows would like to see some improvements to the actual seating bowl one of these years as well.

--Anyone from Oshkosh who bought stock yesterday automatically forfeits their right to complain about property tax increases for infrastructure projects around here.  You can't wait to hand over $250 for a multi-million dollar private enterprise that uses its building a maximum of 12 times a year--yet you bitch up a storm when the School Board asks you to pay 20-dollars more a year for construction of a new school that will be used more than 200-times a year.  (My Libertarian side talking here: People feel good about giving to the Packers because they are doing it of their own free will.  It wasn't seven people at School District offices or 132 folks in Madison saying you "have to" give money to the Packers--and their neighbors didn't overrule their vote against spending that money)

Anyway, enjoy your $250 souvenier.  I'll take the same amount of money and put it in my Roth IRA to invest in companies that will actually pay me back.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

One Expensive Ballot

April 3rd, 2012 is shaping up to be an expensive day for people in Oshkosh.  That is the spring general election day--with a ballot that could feature as many as three tax-increasing referenda.

First up is the Oshkosh School District looking for 13-million dollars for a new Oaklawn School.  The School Board will decide what--if any-chance they will have to win that one tomorrow night.  If they go with the idea of moving Oaklawn to a new site along County Highway A--you can expect the same result as the referendum to build new along Ryf Road a few years back (based on conversations with Oaklawn parents who say even they wouldn't support that idea).  If they opt for the recommendation going before them tomorrow night from a parents group--rebuild on the same site--they will have a fighting chance.  Of course, when has the Oshkosh School Board ever thought that anyone but itself has any good ideas?

Up next will be the Fox Valley Technical College with a referendum totalling up to 85-million dollars.  Oshkosh voters won't have total control on this one--as the FVTC district covers the better part of five counties.  This will actually be a refreshing change of public accountability for the Tech School System--as its boardmembers are not elected--even though they have the authority to raise our property taxes.  I guess we should thank them for at least asking this time around.

And now Common Councilmember Bob Poeschl--sensing that he has ZERO chance of getting his Wheel Tax proposal approved by the council--wants to put that on the spring ballot as well.  I'll be calling this measure the "Penalty For Not Riding the Bus" referendum--since revenues won't go to fund street repairs like in other cities--but rather Oshkosh Transit.  If so many of us weren't being so eco-unfriendly and driving our own cars everywhere we go--we wouldn't need this wheel tax.

So all told, the total of new taxes being proposed for the April 3rd ballot is 98-point-five million dollars.  It kind of reminds me of being back in high school--as my teachers in Honors Economics, Honors English and Advanced Placement Calculus all handed out major homework assignments on the same day--unaware of the load the others were also placing on us.

It will be interesting to see what voters in Oshkosh--who have seen stagnant income growth and decreased property values--will decide to do.  For some reason, I don't think they will be rushing to the polls that Tuesday to add 99-million dollars to their tax burdens.  Call it "Democracy In Action".

Oh, I almost forgot.  If April 3rd is also the date of the Gubernatorial Recall election--you can add another two billion dollars in new taxes to that total above.  Still a drop in the bucket compared to the TRILLIONS in tax hikes that will be at stake in November.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Ah Yes, The BCS

One of my favorite days of the year is Selection Sunday for the NCAA Basketball Tournament--when you look at that bracket (which was better at just 64 teams) and start breaking down all the matchups for the office pool.  One of my least favorite days of the year was yesterday--when we find out who the BCS has screwed again this year.  If baffles me how the same organization that produces March Madness--where people who haven't watched a college basketball game all year are huddled around the office TV to watch a potential Cinderella upset in the first round--can also bring us a system where people talk about boycotting the Championship game telecast.

One of the "selling points" that the NCAA and the idiots that run the BCS tout is that "Every Game Counts".  Except, every game doesn't actually count.  How else to explain how Michigan State can win its division in the Big Ten and beat Michigan head-to-head--but then watch the Wolverines get a BCS bowl bid (and the big cash payout) while Sparty goes to Tampa for a meaningless contest.  Apparently getting your butt handed to you for the second time by the same opponent in the ACC Championship game didn't count for Virginia Tech--who goes to a BCS bowl game, while Boise State (with a better ranking) is shut out of the BCS for the fourth time in sixth years.  And based on the computers--LSU could have lost the SEC Championship game and still played Alabama for the BCS Championship.

I've been told that it's annoying to constantly point out on the air that the BCS Championship is a mythical National Championship.  The NCAA does not recognize an official Football Bowl Division champion--like it does for every other single sport that it authorizes.  There is a Women's Bowling National Champion, a Fencing National Champion and even a Rifle Shooting National Champion.

So how do we change this?  The ideas that always get floated around at this time of year are boycott watching the BCS Championship game or holding Congressional hearings--but we all know that won't change a thing.  The root that allows the BCS to continue to live is money--money that we the fans continue to hand over willingly.  And like the roots of any noxious weed, this will be a tough one to either kill or dig out of the ground.  The key will be to cost the schools more than they can make on the system--thereby catching the attention of the university presidents who endorse and control the BCS.

One of the dirty little secrets of the bowl system is that most schools that go to non-BCS games lose money on the trip.  Schools are required to pay for any tickets they don't actually sell for the game--and considering the increasing number of empty seats at the vast majority of these bowls, that cost keeps going up.  So let's hit the system in the wallet by not bothering to take the trip to Orlando or Tampa or Boise (yes, they host a bowl). 

Step two should be a little bit easier, don't watch any of the games.  It's not called the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas because Meineke Car Care thinks its going to sell a lot of brake jobs to people coming to the game itself.  It wants the constant on-screen presence provided by ESPN's telecast of the game.  If ESPN loses the ratings for these meaningless contests--then the sponsorship money will go away as well.  (By the way, I find it laughable when ESPN talking heads criticize the BCS--when it is their BILLION DOLLAR contract that fuels the whole system.)

And finally, fans will have to take away all the other revenue streams schools enjoy from the bowl system.  That means not buying Rose Bowl sweatshirts, t'shirts, caps and seat cushions at the University Bookstore.  This will be difficult for my family members--as that is becoming the easiest gifts to get for me this time of year.

With two bowl bids going to nearly every one of the conferences tied in to the BCS--that will mean a minimum of $25-MILLION DOLLARS  to the Big Ten, the SEC, the ACC, and the Pac-12 each.  Money that is supposed to salve the wounds of those deserving teams that got the shaft yesterday--and to keep them supporting the giant money grab that robs the fans and the student-athletes of a chance to have the championship actually decided on the field.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Master of Puppets

The Occupy Wall Street movement has a new face today.  His name is Joe Therrien and he personifies perfectly the people who are blaming big corporations and banks for his plight in life.

Joe is a former New York City School District drama teacher.  Joe didn't lose his teaching job due to reduced enrollment or because his union decided it was more important to force the district to cover the cost of Viagara as part of the health insurance package.  Instead, Joe was upset a few years ago that No Child Left Behind was forcing New York schools to focus on unimportant subjects like Math, English and Science--so he quit.  Instead of forming his own acting troupe or setting up shop giving acting lessons or tutoring the children of New York's elite, Joe chose to go back to school to pursue his "passion"--puppetry.
After taking out $35,000 in student loans over three years of study, Joe finally earned his Masters of Fine Arts degree in puppetry.

Unfortunately for Joe, there isn't a whole lot of demand for Master Puppeteers in today's economy--and he can't find a job.  So he now spends his days at the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York, demanding that his student loan debt be forgiven--while building giant puppets that he hopes will "open people up to this new cultural conciousness."

I would like to a study on the degrees earned (or not earned) by those currently in default on their student loans.  I'd be willing to bet that the number one field of study will be an MBA--which for about two decades was marketed as the golden ticket to business success--until everyone and their dog got one, thereby watering down the value of the degree.  After that, you can almost guarantee will be a long list of humanities and social sciences.  That is due in large part to years of kids being encouraged to "follow your passion" when it came to choosing a degree program and a career path.  Educators were so sure that someday there would be a huge demand for Womens Studies majors and Sociologists.

Now that reality has set in for that generation of "passion followers", even the most liberal education officials are admitting that four-year degrees really aren't that necessary to succeed in life.  That's why Wisconsin Public Instruction Secretary Tony Evers was touring a Kaukauna manufacturing plant this week to learn about their apprenticeship programs--which only require high school diplomas.  After the tour he told us in the media that "maybe we need to do a better job of steering kids into technical fields of study."  Unfortunately, no members of the Oshkosh School Board were in attendance for that statement--as it looks at forming a Performing Arts Charter School--where the focus will be on music, singing and acting.  As we say on twitter: "facepalm".

In the movie Caddyshack Judge Smails--played brilliantly by the late Ted Knight--tells caddy Danny Noonan who is whining about not being able to afford to go to college: "Well, the world needs ditch diggers too".  When Brian Doyle-Murray wrote that line, he meant it as a shot at the attitude of the country club elite in the 1980's.  But as those finding out all that student loan debt isn't paying off like they thought are now learning the hard way--the world really does need ditch diggers.  Or at least more than puppeteers.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Do You Want Free Will With That?

Two big thumbs up to executives at McDonald's this morning for stymieing the City of San Francisco's efforts to limit consumer choice and basically telling people how to live their lives.  Starting today it is illegal for restaurants in the City By the Bay to include a "free" toy with children's meals.  The City Council approved the ordinance earlier this year on the argument that toys in Happy Meals force children to drive themselves to Mickey D's and purchase--with their own money--food that is detrimental to their health.

McDonald's had already tried to make the Happy Meal healthier in response to threats from the Food Police--replacing the fries with apple slices and the soda with milk.  But that still wasn't good enough.  The apples weren't organic and it was dairy milk--not soy milk-so the public's "health" was still at risk.

In response to the new law, McDonald's is now "selling" Happy Meal toys for 10-cents--with all proceeds from the sale of those toys going to the Ronald McDonald House in San Francisco.  What an unbelievable marketing coup!  Continuing to provide a product consumers want--and allowing them to benefit a fine charitable effort as well!  The only way it could get better is if the menu boards now included a big notice that "free" toys are no longer available "due to the efforts of over-reaching liberal lawmakers who think they know what is better for your kids than you, their parents."

As you might expect, those over-reaching liberal lawmakers are not taking McDonald's business decision well.  The city's Health Department Director calls the decision "a win for obesity and diabetes."  He also promises to "improve the regulation."  I take that to mean that another ordinance is on the way to just flat out ban restaurants from selling toys, period.

Could I make some suggestions to the San Francisco City Council?  Instead of expending so much energy and effort on trying to limit free enterprise--why not try getting kids to expend more energy and effort in their everyday lives?  Why not have kids spend less time writing essays on how global warming makes them sad and give them more time on the playground for recess and phy ed?  And when they are out there--why not let them play games that actually encourage running around and burning off some calories--like "tag", dodgeball, football or basketball?  Yes, these are games that have winners and losers--and those that don't win might have their self-esteem "bruised"--but it sure beats the increasingly sedentary lifestyles promoted by the internet and video game systems at home.

Or maybe those lawmakers could hold people responsible for the decisions they make.  I know this is a foreign concept to liberals--personal accounatability--it's just easier to take away any and all options they deem "non-beneificial" to their utopian society.  For instance, you could allow health insurance companies to charge more to cover those who are obese and out of shape.  That would send a very clear message to consumers--if you exercise your free will to make poor lifestyle choices--you will be held accountable by paying more than those who mix in a few fruits and veggies every meal.  I'm guessing the whining from the backseat of the car about getting a Happy Meal won't be so annoying when Mom or Dad think about the extra couple hundred bucks a month it could cost them insure Junior.