Friday, April 27, 2012

A Big Day

If I sound a little nervous on the air today it has nothing to do with what's going on here at the Radio Ranch.  Instead, there's some big goings-on at home.

If you are a long-time listener to WOSH, you know that my wife, Michele, and I are looking to adopt a child.  Well, after a more than two-year wait, a birthmother has picked us!  Later today, we need to drive over to Eau Claire to meet her face-to-face for the first time.

We found out about her decision late last week.  It's a bit ironic for me, because I had just started thinking that perhaps it would never happen.  When you first get into something like adoption you start out thinking every day "Is this the day a birthmom will pick us?"  After a few months you only think about the adoption once or twice a week.  And after a year or so, you think about it maybe every month or so.  At the two year mark, you start thinking that maybe parenthood just isn't going to be in our future--and you set about to accept that reality.

To make things even more exciting (or worrisome, depending on your perspective) is that the birthmother is due on May 19th.  That gives us less than a month to get everything we need, rearrange the house and clear schedules to start child-rearing.  Usually, birthmoms make their decision on a potential family for placement around the five or six month mark--giving the lucky couple a bit more time to prepare.  I'm okay with the shorter time line--just less time to worry.

It's funny how "the call" changes your priorities in life as well.  Until last week, my focus for the summer was to get my golf handicap back into the single digits and winning the City Match Play Tournament.  Now it's all about finding a family attorney, stocking up on diapers, adjusting our budget to a one-income family for a while and opening up that Education IRA so our child won't have to get those student loans that "everybody has to get".

Nothing is definite yet.  We may come out of this meeting thinking this might not be the best match for us.  Or the birthmother could reconsider her choice of parents--or the choice to give up her child for placement altogether.  But today is a big first step on what we hope is the best journey ever.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is apparently showing his commitment to recycling by re-airing his 2010 "Vote For Me Because I Got Beat Up At the State Fair" ads in the 2012 recall election.  That got me to thinking about some other political ads of the past--and who would be able to run them again.

Lyndon Johnson's 1964 "Daisy Ad" (Nuclear Blast)--This ad was actually shown just once on TV before everyone got up in arms about the "negative message" (ah, the good old days)--but it was so effective that it made Barry Goldwater look like a nuclear-crazed madman and sank his campaign.  I think Mitt Romney could run this one--but instead of a girl with a flower you could show Kim Jong Un of North Korea or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran firing pushing the button on their nuclear weapons.  Or better yet, run that clip of President Obama telling Russian President Medvedev that he will have "more flexability" to scrap missile defense after this election.

Ronald Reagan's 1984 "It's Morning Again In America"--Let's just take a minute to think back to the optimism of 1984.  Taxes were coming down, people were going back to work in US factories to build things for Americans to buy in stores other than Walmart and the federal deficit was only about 45% of gross domestic product.  NOBODY in this year's Presidential race is allowed to run anything remotely close to the message of this ad because we sure as hell aren't at morning in America.  More like total eclipse.

George HW Bush's 1988 "Willie Horton Ad"--This could have been a possibility for President Obama, but as Massacussetts Governor, Mitt Romney was smart enough to not furlough any convicted killers.

George W Bush's 2004 "John Kerrey's Flip-Flop (I voted for the bill before I voted against it)"--I can flat out guarantee we will see this ad in a new form this year.  President Obama should make hay til the sun sets and the cows come home with Mitt Romney's own budget-busting state-run health care plan that is the basis for Obamacare.

Barack Obama's 2008 "Hope and Change"--Both candidates should be able to re-run this ad this year.  For President Obama empty talking points and lack of details on how to fix anything worked well with his supporters last time around--and since we're facing the same problems four years later--it should be just as effective this time as well.  And as for Mitt Romney, he can runs the ad saying "We can only HOPE that he will CHANGE into Paul Ryan if elected."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What Impresses the Left

It must be an election year--Cool Obama is back. Cool Obama is the President's alter-ego--the basketball-playing-Al-Green-singing-late-night-talk-show-skit-star Barack--all style and no substance.  

Cool Obama was on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last night "slow jamming" his campaign talking points (you shouldn't have to pay for anything--the rich should have to pay for all of that stuff)......

I'll admit, the skit was funny--but the last time I checked, being a stand-up comedian was not part of the President's duties.

Another example of Cool Obama coming back is an email sent out by his campaign this week.  Apparently, when you register to cover a campaign event (as I did back in 2008) the Obama campaign assumes you also want to contribute money (Hey, he's a reporter--he must be a liberal!) and I've been getting soliciations from since the day after the Inauguration.  Anyways, here is what Cool Obama is offering his supporters:


I'll be going to a special event at George Clooney's house in a few weeks, and two grassroots supporters and their guests will join us.  The only thing we've still got to figure out is whether two spots belong to you and your guest--or somebody else and theirs.  So let's nail this down: Any donation you make today will automatically enter you and a guest to win.  Once you decide who you're inviting to join you, we'll be all set.  The Campaign will take care of your airfare and hotel for you.  Please pitch in $3 or whatever you can today, and keep your May 10th clear!  Hope to see you soon.  Barack

No wonder the President gets so many "grassroots contributions"--he's running a sweepstakes!!  In fact, the end of the email is all of the fine print telling me that "no purchase is necessary" and that contributing does not improve my odds of winning--just like a Powerball ticket.

And I guess I was supposed to be impressed that the most powerful man in the world (when he isn't capitulating to third-world dictators) HANGS OUT WITH GEORGE CLOONEY!!!  AT GEORGE CLOONEY'S HOUSE!!!  AND HE WANTS TO TAKE ME ALONG!!!  OMG WHAT AM I GOING TO WEAR???

Forgive me for being so "old fashioned" but my vote will be going to the guy with the best plan to lower the deficit, protect our country from foreign threats, preserve my personal liberties and rewards those who take responsibility for themselves--not the guy who tells the best jokes and hangs with the biggest Hollywood stars.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Tonight, the Oshkosh Common Council will vote on whether to grant Sawdust Days the only waiver from the city's special event permit fee given out this year.  The estimated fee the city is looking to charge is close to 22-thousand dollars-which represents the cost of police protection, street barricades and other city services for the five-day festival.

Of all the events held here in "Event City", Sawdust Days costs taxpayers the most.  Ironically, it was Sawdust Days that led to the event permit fee.  Councilmembers saw the costs associated with the need for more police presence at Menominee Park after continued complaints about people urinating in neighbors' yards and then some violent crime incidents in the park itself--and decided that "to be fair" organizers of such events should bear the costs associated with bringing those expenses upon the city.  Somewhere along the line, however, the Council forgot to charge the inspiration for the fee, the fee.

The Sawdust Days Committee is now playing its ace in the hole--"If we are charged the fee--we won't be able to afford the 4th of July Fireworks!!"  Amazing that the ONLY part of Sawdust Days that 99.5% of people living in Oshkosh care about is the ONLY thing that would have to be dropped due to a fee.  There's no savings to be had in dropping the, say, Cajun Music Stage--or the Sabor y Mexico Stage or the cheesy midway rides and games?

Sawdust Days is no more or less beneficial to Oshkosh and local charities than the Half-Marathon, the Otter Street Fisheree, the Paine's Festival of Spring or the Spring Pub Crawl.  Yet organizers of every one of those events have found ways to cover their permit fees.  And it is time for the most expensive of those events start paying "their fair share" (sorry, couldn't resist throwing that back in the progressive folks' faces)

Appleton (which also has fireworks sponsored by Festival Foods), Neenah and Menasha all have one-day-in-the-park events that draw thousands for good pyrotechnic shows.  Maybe its time for Sawdust Days to become Sawdust DAY.  Just one day requiring police security, barricades and park cleanup--and a much cheaper special event permit fee.  Believe me, the vast majority of us won't miss the other four days.

Monday, April 23, 2012

School Daze

I find the news out of Fond du Lac that the school district there is short on the minimum number of days for this school year rather disturbing.  Fondy Schools werent just one day short--or even two days short--but three whole days short of the 180 minimum for classroom instruction.  And that is not due to snow days or power outages or norovirus outbreaks.  When someone put together the calendar for approval last year, they just didn't schedule enough days.

The first thing that is disturbing here is that an education official is the one that messed up counting to 180.  Apparently, there were days when elementary, middle and high schools had different days off--and administrators thought they could count those days as one contact day for all students.  One would think you could simplify everything by having all students off on the same days.

Another disturbing factor is that the calendar would have stayed the way it was if not for a complaint filed with the Department of Public Instruction.  No one on the Fond du Lac school board complained, no principals said "I think we're a little short on days for the kids here."  It was an anonymous parent (we think) that contacted the state to say "I'd like my kids to actually be in class the absolute minimum number of days required by law.  Thank you."

So now the district is scrambling to actually meet that minimum standard.  They are applying for a waiver to the 180-day requirement.  It wants to count two professional development days for teachers as "class days"--even though kids weren't actually in class.  And they want to add one day to the end of the school year.  Well, not actually a full day--but actually about 3 and a half hours to another day--which again meets the minimum definition of a "school day" under state law.  At least they aren't going the route the Oshkosh School District went a few years ago after it blew through all of its snow days and chose to add a couple of minutes to each class day in order to again meet the minimum number of hours that kids had to be in school each year.

And the most disturbing thing about this is that at tonight's public hearing on the waiver request, there will be parents there complaining about the addition of that extra half-day at the end of the calendar.  They will say they planned family vacations starting that day.  Or the kids leave for band camp or football camp or they start a summer music program that day.  (Don't laugh--that happened here in Oshkosh when this district looked to add days to the calendar in the year mentioned before).  I guess we shouldn't expect school district officials to be worried about kids being in class as much as possible--if parents don't care either.

The good news is that Act Ten should make creating a school calendar easier next year.  WEAC has given up on its two-day union convention every October because they can no longer strong-arm districts into giving teachers those days off so they can (NOT) attend.  There's two more days of actual learning--if we choose to actually use them.

Friday, April 20, 2012

It's All Out There

I have to give credit to the Democrats running for governor in the recall election--there are no hidden agendas in their campaigns.  Sure, we've got the usual "I will work with the other side" and "I balanced all of my budgets while keeping collective bargaining" stuff in the TV and radio ads--but when pressed for details at debates and news conferences the candidates are very clear why they are running.

Secretary of State Doug LaFollette wins the Most Honest Award for his answer at a debate in Green Bay to the question "What is the first thing you would do if elected Governor?"  His reply: "The first thing I would do is raise taxes."  No minced words there.  That should be on his campaign yard signs and bumper stickers.

Kathleen Falk and Tom Barrett have decided to be more "targeted" in their tax increase pledges.  They are jumping on President Obama's bandwagon by promising tax increases on private sector employers and high-income earners--all 100-thousand of them.

Falk decided to up the ante this week by promising to remove property tax limits on local units of government.  I want you to take a look at the current makeup of the Oshkosh School Board and try to guess what they would do if there was no more revenue cap.  Maybe we could break even if we were to invest in a moving truck business to meet the demand of people trying to get as far out of town as possible.  Anyway, Barrett--showing why he's the only one in this race with any kind of chance--isn't taking the bait on that one.  He won't make such a promise.

Barrett is throwing his bone to the public sector unions who aren't getting on board with his campaign this week.  Barrett is promising to call a special session of the Legislature to take another vote on Act Ten--meaning another chance to hold protests at the Capitol and rain down threats on Republicans.  Tom likes to say that he wants to end the "Civil War in Wisconsin".  The question is, does he plan to end it like General Sherman did in the real Civil War--by employing a slash and burn strategy to demoralize all of us?  Or is he General Lee about to surrender all of the troops at Appomattox Courthouse?

I guess we should be glad that the discussion will no longer be about the phoney-baloney issues of "job creation" and "not working with Democrats".

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Gobbledygook Translated

Remember the good old days when businesses were overstaffed and we had to have weekly staff meetings to discuss new "paradigms" and other hot buzzwords in order to fill all of our time?  Well that tradition continues in public education.  Proof of that comes to us from the agenda for today's Oshkosh School Board's Education Committee meeting.  That committee is made up of School Board members and administrators--obstensibly to develop and refine curriculum throughout the district.  But based on today's agenda, it appears to exists just to sit around and hear themselves talk.

I point to agenda item #2--Plan for Engagement DRAFT (my translations follow in parenthesis)

a--Define Student Engagement (how do we get kids to actually pay attention to their teachers and not their smart phones, tablets and the cute boy or girl two rows over?)

b--Create rationale for why we intend to spend time on student engagement, mindset and choice words linked to learning (how dow we sell this garbage to parents and convince them it's some kind of cutting-edge educational program using terms and phrases they probably won't understand and won't question for fear of sounding like they are dumb?)

c--Professional development--Engagement, mindset and choice words (how can teachers use this new "focus" to get more time outside the classroom to "collaborate" on achieving the goals and are there some seminars we can pay for them to attend as well?)

d--Create administration talking points and common vocabulary for engagement, mindset and choice words (if we are going to sell this garbage, we'd better make sure that we use Orwellian "groupspeak" just in case someone actually questions what we are doing.)

e--Determine logical connections to existing school improvement plans (how do we make it look like we are actually doing what we say we are doing?)

f--Establish teacher/administrator opportunities for collaborative analysis of student engagement strategies (didn't I tell you there would be collaboration?)

g--Influence teacher evaluation look-fors and administration look-fors--Targets and tools to monitor (how do we use this junk to distract everyone from standardized test scores as a way to evaluate school and teacher performance?)

h--Create a setting where a robust conversation can happen on student engagement, mindset, and choice words anchored in our new model for value and merit (how many meetings can we hold where we sit around and talk for hours on end telling each other what a great job we are doing and feeling real good about ourselves?)

Because of another far more newsworthy event taking place at the same time--I won't be able to cover this to bring you all of the "groundbreaking" details of this meeting.  Actually I'm hoping Catbert from the Dilbert comic strip will show up and banish the entire Education Committee to "Heck".

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Happy Talk

Some positives today.....

I have to give credit to some of the businesses affected by the closure of the Highway 41/21 interchange closure--they are not taking that bad break sitting down.  Too often, small business owners presented with such challenges adopt the "bunker mentality" and figure they just have to sit there and hope that someone will battle through the construction and the detours to reach them.  Others (ironically, the more successful businesses) get aggressive--increasing their advertising to remind everyone they are still there (like Wally over at Robin's Restaurant is doing)--and then making worth the customer's effort. The McDonalds in the gas station has some food specials--and now they are doing a "frequent lunch" card--rewarding those of us who continue to come in despite the additional headaches.  Once the barricades come down--those businesses will be in much better position to get right back growing.

Best of luck to now "retired" Northwestern reporter Doug Zellmer.  He hung up the notepad last week after nearly 36-years covering local events.  Doug dates back to the era of "old school" journalism--where your priority was getting all the facts you could before deadline--instead of "tweeting" everything the minute you hear about--and when you had to have two sources to go with a story--rather than posting every rumor your hear in an on-line blog.  Doug will be missed on the local beat.  Plus, who else will I be able to tease about the 104-years of Chicago Cubs futility?

And my biggest thanks to the National Hockey League and NBC for giving us die-hard puckheads what we have been begging for for decades now--every playoff game televised nationwide.  No longer do we have to put up with the Penguins on one night and the Red Wings the next night--while I sit in my home office and listen to my beloved Boston Bruins on the internet stream--or watch a little dot go around on my smartphone.  And here's the amazing thing--when you let people see all of the games--THEY ACTUALLY WATCH THE GAMES!!!  Playoff ratings are up 40% this year.  It probably helps that physical play (or as we like to call it "Old Time Hockey") is dominating this year's playoffs.  Kind of shoots that whole "fans don't like fighting" theory out of the water.  Now if the league would just crack down on the cheap shot artists (I'm talking to you Penguins, Capitals and Predators)--things would be really great.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Since You Asked For My Opinion

I was hoping to take part in a meeting today with the consultant the Oshkosh School District has hired to help them find a new Superintendent.  I felt honored when I got the invitation to provide my input on this important community decision.  But then I noticed the time of that meeting: 8:00 AM.  Unfortunately, my job requires me to be here on the Radio Ranch until 9:00, so I asked for a later meeting time.  I was told 8:00 was my time--and if I can't make it, tough luck.  So, I thought I would share my recommendations in a forum where several thousand more people are going to hear it anyway.

1--I want someone who is a "numbers person" in charge of the District.  We've had a parade of "ideas people"--those with plenty of creative ways to spend money, and not so many creative ways to save money.  I want someone who accepts the realilties of property tax limits, Act 10 and enrollment-based state funding and doesn't complain at every turn about the "restrictions" being placed on them.  I know this is a HUGE long-shot--but a person who uses the fiscally sound practice of Zero Based Budgeting would also be a bonus.

2--I want someone with backbone.  Someone who will have the courage to stand in front of some upset PTAs in the near future and tell them they have a choice: they can have more, under-funded school buildings in the District--or they can have fewer, better-funded schools in the District.  School consolidation is the future of Oshkosh, folks--and the longer we wait to undertake it, the more expensive and painful it is going to be.

3--I want someone who believes in open operation of the District's business.  Sure, this is a bit self-serving for someone in the media--but everyone in the District wins when there is greater transparency in government.  Our current School Board has decided to take an adversarial approach to the local media.  Of course, if they would operate within the letter and the spirit of the state open meetings laws and the state elections laws maybe they wouldn't be so unhappy with what they hear on the radio and see in the newspaper.

4--And finally, I want someone who wants to be here.  Someone who is going to actually move their family along with them to Oshkosh.  Someone who doesn't see Oshkosh School Superintendent as a temporary position to bolster a resume that will be sent out for positions that don't require you to worry about budget numbers and people unhappy with the firing of the Boys' Basketball Coach--after you find out about it at the School Board Meeting two nights after it happens.

Sorry my list doesn't include "cutting edge teaching techniques" or "creating globally-aware young people" as priorities.  I'm from that old-school philosophy that you should be able to read and write in proper English and add without using your smart phone when you graduate from high school.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Truly Titanic Tragedies

Now that it has been a century, can we end our obsession with the Titanic?  I ask after a weekend of Titanic this and Titanic that in every newscast and several cable channels.

Academics would agree that the sinking of the Titanic is a very, very minor footnote in American and European history.  The sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-Boat three years later was far more significant, as it increased the pressure on President Woodrow Wilson to enter World War I--finally breaking the stalemate in Europe.

And then there is the greatest maritime disaster of all time--in terms of lives lost--the sinking of the Cap Arcona.  The Cap Arcona was a German luxury liner built in the years between World War I and World War II.  After the outbreak of fighting in Europe, the ship was commissioned by the German Navy as a troop transport and to transport supplies as well.  As the war neared its end--and the Allies began to liberate the Nazi concentration camps--Jews were forced to march to the Bay of Luebeck--where they were detained on the Cap Arcona and some other converted liners.

Just one day before the German surrender, under orders from SS Leader Heinrich Himmler, the Cap Arcona was loaded with high explosives and gasoline and steamed out of port so that it could be blown up at sea.  As fate would have it, the ship was spotted by a squadron of British Royal Air Force bombers--who seeing it marked as a military ship--attacked it.  The bombing set the ship on fire--killing thousands instantly.  Survivors who jumped into the water were shot by SS soldiers on fishing boats in the harbor.  And the lucky few who made it back to shore were shot by more SS troops.  A small handful of former prisoners managed to survive.  The death toll was later estimated at about 5,000--more than three times the number of people who died on Titanic.

And yet, there is little mention of the Cap Arcona in popular cultureNo blockbuster movies in 3-D, no weekend TV marathons, no traveling museum exhibits that charge $25 per person for admission.  Just a small memorial in Holstein, Germany.  I'll grant you it's not as romantic as "Jack and Rose"--but the people killed in 1945 deserve just as much attention as those in 1912.

An ironic twist in the Cap Arcona story, the ship was used as a floating movie studio in 1942 to film scenes in a movie commissioned by Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels telling the story of--you guessed it--the sinking of the Titanic.  Even the Nazi's were obsessed.

Friday, April 13, 2012

In Defense of Beer

Want to create some buzz at work--get people talking about you in the office?  The next time you and your co-workers go out to lunch, order a beer.  I'm not talking about a pitcher, not the happy hour two-for-one, not a shot, not a $9 martini--but just a single beer.

The response you will most likely get from your co-workers is "Are you done for the day?"  And when you tell them "no", they will likely reply "Oh, because you ordered a beer--so I assumed you weren't going back to work."

How is it that we have come to a point that enjoying one beer in the middle of the day is socially unacceptable?  If you're my age, your grandfather likely packed a can or two of beer in his lunch bucket to drink at noon or during his afternoon break.  If you worked at any of the Milwaukee breweries, you were actually encouraged to enjoy the fruits of your labor on break.  But nowadays, you have one pint before the sun goes down, and people treat you like you are the town drunk.

Now I should point out that I drink only microbrews, craft beers and imports--so I consume beer because I like the taste--not just to get alcohol into my body.  And when we head to B-Dubs to get a dozen Buffalo wings for lunch, a crisp, refreshing wheat beer really hits the spot.  Believe me, I've been drinking for about 20-years now and I know that one beer is not going to negatively affect my performance in the afternoon.

So what do you say guys (and liberated gals), don't be afraid to enjoy one of Chippewa Falls finest or one from the Motherland to compement that lunch special.  Remember your motto from college: "Beer, it's not just for breakfast anymore."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I've Had My Share of Fair Share

I think Lake Superior State University can already select its word to be banished for 2012.  "Fair share" has already claimed that title--and it's only mid-April.  Just wait until the Presidential campaign really ramps up.  We will all want to stick our "fair share" of meat thermometers into our ears just so we never have to hear it again.

Actually "fair share" is a brilliant political/economic strategy.  I mean, how do you effectively measure it?  Today, the Senate is expected to vote on the so-called "Buffett Rule"--which is supposedly going to ensure that millionaires and billionaires pay their "fair share" of taxes.  I went through dozens of press releases, Presidential speeches and on-line articles last night trying to find how that "fair share" was being determined--and I just couldn't.  It wasn't until I called up Senate Bill 2059 itself that I found "fair share" is an alternative minimum tax of 30% for those making over one-million dollars a year.

So there we go, 30% of a millionaires income is a "fair share". 

WHOOPS, WAIT A MINUTE!!!  The White House isn't saying that!  According to Spokesman Jay Carney, the "Buffett Rule" is just a "first step" toward making sure the rich pay their "fair share".  What steps 2, 3, 4 or 5 are--well, that information isn't available yet.  Complicating matters, is that this "fair share" still won't come close to making up for all of the additional spending that has been racked up the last three years--so obviously that ISN'T a "fair share"--because there would't be a deficit if everyone was paying their "fair share".  Right?

Another thing that is brilliant is that "fair share" is a one-way street.  There's only a "fair share" of money going into the sytem--there is not a "fair share" coming back out.  You never hear about someone getting more than their "fair share" of entitlements or government services.  Compare the family that gets housing assistance, WIC, Foodshare, BadgerCare Plus and Free and Reduced School Breakfast and Lunch with the same-sized family that owns its own house and is on no public assistance.  Who is getting their fair share?  That is why liberals hate the Paul Ryan budget so much, it requires everyone on the consumption end to get only their "fair share".

Sounds plenty "fair" to me.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tweet Tweet

I have to admit that I am becoming something of a Twitter addict.  I used to scoff at most of the social media on the web--why would I care what everyone is cooking for dinner tonight--and do I need to know what everyone thinks about every dance on Dancing With the Stars?  But once you learn who to follow and who not to follow, Twitter is one of the best things on the Internet.

It has become the preferred format of all types of media to "break" news now.  There have been some ugly battles over who was first to "tweet" about a trade in baseball or an announcement in the Presidential campaign or the latests celebrity to get arrested.  Call me old-fashioned, but I still place a priority on the actual radio part of my job--so stories get "broken" there first--then I'll tweet it.

Where else could I get a golf tip from Hank Haney (@HankDHaney), discuss why "The Searchers" is one of the greatest Westerns ever with Anthony Bourdain (@NoReservatons) and get Drunk Hulk's (@DRUNKHULK) take on the important issues of the day?

The best part of Twitter for me is that it turns my iPhone into a portal into the best sports bar in the world.  There aren't a lot of Boston Bruins fans in this area--but I managed to find several dozen on Twitter--and every game night we can share funny comments, complaints and coaching suggestions amongst ourselves--just like we were all sitting in my living room.

Advertisers are falling all over themselves to get their ads on social media sites--buying the sales pitch that they can specifically "target" people with certain interests.  But I feel sorry for any business trying to figure out my profile.  I follow President Obama (@BarackObama) and Mitt Romney (@MittRomney).  I look forward to fiscally responsible tweets from Paul Ryan (@RepPaulRyan) and new ways to spend more tax money from New York Times economist Paul Krugman (@NYTimeskrugman).  I even follow Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) and Rush Limbaugh (@rushlimbaugh).

If you would like to follow along in my conversation add me @woshnews--that is the news-related account with breaking news stories and some live tweeting of meetings and events in the area--or @jonkrause77--that's my personal account, so you can expect a lot of baseball, golf and DRUNK HULK retweets.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Civil War

I thought I would be bored with the Democratic race for governor in the recall election this spring--but the entrance of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett makes things far more interesting.  I anticipated debates featuring answers like "I think Scott Walker is bad." (applause from the audience).  "I think Scott Walker is really bad" (louder applause). "Well, I think Scott Walker is really, really bad" (wild applause).  But now it's entirely possible that the unions that drove the recall fever the last two years could be hoist upon their own petards (to steal a line from the late, great Howard Cosell)--and that should make for great theater.

The large, public sector unions do not like Tom Barrett.  He committed the great sin of using the changes in collective bargaining included in Act 10 to alter Milwaukee city employee's benefits and pensions--thereby allowing him to propose the smallest property tax increase in his entire term as Mayor.  He also cheesed off WEAC by trying to take away control of the horrible, failing Milwaukee Schools from their endorsed School Board members.

The big problem for the unions is that more voters like Tom Barrett than Kathleen Falk--who has gone "all in" by basically running on a "whatever these unions tell me to say and do, I will say and do" platform.  Every poll conducted so far show Barrett losing to Walker by less than Falk would lose to the Governor.  The unions are also taking a hit from the Democratic leadership--who are flocking to endorse Barrett's campaign--realizing that looking like puppets for organized labor is not good for long-term business.  It's almost like the Party is saying "Thank you, comrades for your hard work to force this recall--now we are going to run our guy again--so you can take it or leave it."

Dems are talking about unity and about how "anyone but Walker" is still a sellable campaign rallying cry--but just how passionate will that base be in a race where the general public might just have something better to do on a beautiful June day than vote?

Republicans shouldn't laugh too hard at the Democratic Civil War.  They are looking at a "hold your nose" candidate, whose odds of winning in the November Presidential election seem to be getting dimmer every week.  Perhaps if the Religious Right would stop trying to drive the GOP train off the tracks with their unpopular social agenda, the fiscal conservatives could get an electable candidate out there to fix the real problems in this country.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Time to Grow Up

Until Louis Oosthuizen made his double eagle, and Bubba Watson hit that crazy hook wedge in the playoff, the image I was going to remember most from the 2012 Masters was Tiger Woods throwing his club and kicking it on the 16th hole on Friday.  A few commentators had some negative things to say about Tiger's actions.  Others actually defended his childish display--saying he's "just so frustrated right now".  This was in addition to the usual capture of Tiger's profane mouth by on-course microphones all weekend as well.

Tiger himself "apologized" for the incident the next day--giving us the old "I'm sorry if I offended anyone"--while having a big grin on his face that said "I don't care what any of you people think about what I do because I'm Tiger Woods."  Just once I wish someone would step up and put him in his place--face-to-face.

I had an experience like that when I was younger.  I was in my early 20's and was kind of a hot-head on the golf course.  Dropping the club after a bad shot, swearing and throwing balls into the woods or the ponds after a bad hole as well.  All of that changed however on the sixth teebox at Brown County Golf Course.

I was two under after the first four holes that day, when on number five I put it in a greenside bunker--took two to get out and then three putted from about ten feet for a triple-bogey 7.  After finally holing out, I let loose with a string of blue language pretty much at the top of my lungs.  The fifth green at Brown County is at a crossover point--meaning there are a couple of tees and greens grouped in a relatively small area. 

As I walked to the sixth tee, a man wearing a Yale Baseball cap and a Yale golf shirt stopped me.  I can still remember what he said: "Young man, I just heard what you said and you should be embarrassed.  Have you considered that there might be people around here like women and children that might be offended by such language?  I suggest you learn to control your emotions better, OK?"  I mumbled something about being sorry and how I would work on that.  I was embarrassed by being put in my place like that in front of not only my friends but everyone else around that teebox as well.

As fate would have it, I got paired with that same guy a few weeks later.  I don't know if he remembered me or not--but I remembered him, as he had the same Yale cap on--but this time an NFL Alumni shirt on.  On the first tee he introduced himself as Dick Jauron--who is best known as the former Head Coach of the Chicago Bears and the Buffalo Bills--but who was a Packers assistant coach at the time.  I watched my langauage and my actions that day--as I have tried to do with every other round that I have played since then.

How I wish there had been a Dick Jauron in Tiger Woods' past.  Someone to tell him that he was acting like a spoiled child and that it is time to grow up.  In what I have read about Tiger's rise through junior golf and the pro ranks, people have bent over backwards to appease him at all times--not wanting to run afoul of the goose that lays the golden eggs.

The patrons at 16 disappointed me on Friday as well.  Think of the powerful message they could have sent to Tiger by booing his club-throwing and kicking.  You NEVER hear a player get booed on the golf course (except, of course for Boo Weekly)--especially at Augusta National--so the sound of that rattling through the Georgia Pines would have been so shocking that even the most petulent sports legend of all-time may finally get the message.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Hope Springs Eternal

As Major League Baseball celebrates its fourth "Opening Day" in the last two weeks, hope springs eternal --well except for Cubs fans.  I'd like to thank Major League Baseball for taking all of the "special-ness" out of Opening Day this year.  You had the two official "opening" games in Japan two weeks ago--but those were on at 3:00 in morning here in the US so nobody really paid attention.  Then St Louis and Miami played that one game "opener" Wednesday night.  And then the "Official Opening Day" games were played at the same time as the opening round of the Masters--forcing sports fans to either switch back and forth all afternoon.  Whatever happened to opening on that first Monday in April--so we get baseball all afternoon and the NCAA Championship Game at night?  That was a great day!

I find it interesting that the national sports media think the loss of Prince Fielder in free agency will cripple the Brewers this year--yet the loss of Albert Pujols will apparently have no effect on St Louis--as they are the consensus pick to win the National League East this year.  The loss of Chris Carpenter for the start of the season apparently won't effect St Louis either.  I think the Redbirds will have a much more difficult time scoring runs than the Brew Crew will this season.  If you take the production Fielder provided and combine it with the total lack of production the team got from its multitude of third basemen last season--adding Aramis Ramirez at the hot corner and replacing Fielder with Mat Gamel should even things out.  St Louis did nothing to replace Pujols' bat or glove.

Speaking of gloves, the Brewer infield should actually catch the ball more often this year.  It all starts with Alex Gonzalez at shortstop--who will provide the first solid defense at that position since.......Wow, the Brewers have had some really crappy-fielding shortstops over the years.  Of course, with Yuniesky Bettencourt gone, who is going to be the Brewers whipping boy this year?  Mat Gamel at frist base will be a defensive upgrade from Fielder as well.  Bill Schroeder won't be using the "well at least Prince kept it in front of him" line nearly as much this year.

The key to the Brewers season will once again be their pitching staff.  Outside of Zach Greinke's basketball injury at the start of the season, and an occassional tight shoulder or sore elbow, the Brewers rotation was healthy and productive all of last year.  Can a franchise that has had every good pitcher it has ever had get seriously hurt avoid the injury bug a second year in a row?  Cross your fingers.  And which Shawn Marcum will show up this year?  The one that battled every game and kept the Crew in it?  Or the one that got absolutely bombed in all of his post-season starts?  And will K-Rod continue to be happy in the setup role?  He has 10-million reasons to be happy--but that's not always the case with him.  And will John Axford be the next Rollie Fingers--or the next Derrick Turnbow--great one season, can't throw a strike the rest of his career?

My prediction is that the pitching staff does stay healthy, the defense catches the ball more often than last year and the team avoids their prolonged slumps often enough to win 89-games this season.  And that should be enough to edge the Cincinnati Reds by one game for the National League Central title.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Lessons My Father Taught Me

Every day I gain greater appreciation for the job my parents did raising me.

I played a lot of sports as a kid--and my Dad made an effort to attend as many games as possible.  Home or away, he would travel all over Northeast Wisconsin to watch--even if I wasn't getting off the bench.  He would usually sit by himself, applauding whenever anyone on my team scored or made a good play.  After the game, he would offer an honest assessment of my performance (usually "You need to be more aggressive").

But not all of my teammate's parents were like my Dad.  Some of them liked to yell at the refs, the coaches and every player except their son whenever we would make an error or a turnover.  I always felt sorry for my teammates whose parents were like that--didn't they realize that all they were doing was embarrassing their son?

There were rumors that one mother told a coach that if both of her sons didn't get the same amount of playing time--she would transfer them to another school.  Another father was the president of the booster club and allegedly threatened to give up fundraising efforts if his son didn't play on varsity.  And then there was the School Board President who may have been applying "pressure" on the Athletic Director to "make some changes" if his son wasn't starting.

Were those rumors true?  When you're 16 or 17 years old you tend to think that they are.  And I have to admit that I thought "Why isn't my Dad doing that for me?"  Why wasn't he raising a stink with the coach?  Why didn't he try to run the Booster Club?  Why didn't he exert a little "influence" to get me off the bench?  It was obviously working for other kids.

But as I get older--and more mature--I realize two things,  1--I wasn't nearly as talented as I thought I was.  And 2--what my Dad did when I was young was far more beneficial for me than anything those overbearing parents did for their kids.  You see, I learned the lesson that PLAYING TIME--LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE THAT IS GOING TO COME YOUR WAY IN LIFE--IS SOMETHING THAT HAS TO BE EARNED!!!!  AND IT IS EARNED THROUGH HARD WORK, EFFORT AND DEDICATION!!  IT IS NOT A BIRTHRIGHT!!  And if all that hard work doesn't get you what you want--usually because someone is just more talented or is working even harder than you--THAT IS NOT UNFAIR!!  THAT IS REALITY!!  WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD, KID!!

So I just want to thank my Dad for not just being a great fan--but for also being a great father.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What We Learned

Every election provides a learning opportunity for all of us.  So what did we learn yesterday?

  • We learned that if you offer to build a new school in a spot that the people who will actually be using the school support--it likely will win approval from the rest of the community as well.  I still wonder what Oaklawn Elementary would look like sitting out there by itself on Ryf Road if that referendum hadn't failed so miserably eight years ago.
  • I learned that I will have to disconnect my phone line before the next round of elections.  I only kept track of the number of calls in the final three days before the primary (33 calls)--but I would estimate that we received at least 75 calls from the candidates, candidate supporters, political action committees and so-called "polling services" in the course of ten days.  I don't need to hear from "Mitt Romney" "Rick Santorum" "Paul Ryan" and "Barbara Bush" that many times, thank you.  Especially when I am trying to nap in the afternoon.
  • We learned that Wisconsinites must spend a lot of time in bowling alleys (almost every Rick Santorum campaign stop).
  • We learned that college students like to be lectured to in a boring, professorial tone (Newt Gingrich's stop at UW Oshkosh).
  • We learned that people still think Mormonism is a racist cult (an embarrassing incident at Mitt Romney's last campaign stop in Green Bay.  First rule of media--never let the guest handle the microphone).
  • We learned that nobody worries about voter fraud in non-partisan races (no poll observers, no accusations of people not being able to vote or people voting who shouldn't have that we get with every partisan election).
  • We learned that having a big name in politics doesn't guarantee you are going to win.  Former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager--who won a statewide race once, lost in a bid for the Fond du Lac School Board.  It probably didn't help that she ran as a puppet of the teachers union.
  • And fiscal conservatives should have learned that if they want a seat in local government in Oshkosh, they might want to run an actual candidate.  As Jim McKay said after the Israeli athletes were killed at the 1972 Olympics: "They're gone...they're all gone".  Perhaps conservatives should form something like Progress Oshkosh--which has done an excellent job of recruiting and prepping liberal candidates for local elections--to get people interested in running again.  I realize that it's time-consuming to keep the private sector running smoothly--and that you want to spend time with your kids and friends and church--but we might want to have at least one person worried about the amount of money local government spends.  Yes, there are property tax caps in place--but one bad statewide election cycle and those could be lifted.  And then it would be "Katie bar the door"--like we "enjoyed" back in the 80's and early 90's.
So enjoy the next week or so--until the recall election campaigns kick into high gear.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

None of the Above

In the movie Brewster's Millions Richard Pryor plays a two-bit minor league baseball pitcher who learns that a great-uncle he never knew existed has died and left him 300-million dollars.  However, to get that money, Brewster has to spend 30-million dollars in 30-days--with no tangible assets or income to show for it.  As part of his effort to blow all the money, Brewster enters the New York City Mayor's race on a "None of the Above" platform.  Of course, the movement catches fire and "None of the Above" easily wins the election.

Never before have I wished that "None of the Above" was an option on the ballot as I do on this election day.  The Republican Primary, City Council, School Board, County Board--I have no interest in voting for any of these people.  I am yet to hear from ANYBODY on today's ballot any of the fiscally-responsible plans and ideas that I support.  So NOBODY is getting my vote.  Good thing there are those school referenda--or I might be tempted to just sit this one out.

But I am serious about "None of the Above" being an actual option in all elections.  You could argue that the 65-percent of people who aren't voting today are making that selection by not showing up at the polls.  But those who get the majority or plurality of those votes cast by the minority still end up winning.  By having the "None of the Above" option, we could make a declarative statement that "We don't want any of these candidates anywhere near seats of power"--and that result would stand.  If "None" wins in a head-to-head race--both candidates lose and two new candidates will have to be nominated until "None" stops winning. 

The multiple seat races we have for Common Councils and School Boards (of which I am not a fan) are a bit more complicated.  In those, "None of the Above" would have to serve as a "firewall"--where those who beat it win seats--those who finish below it are out.

The only problem is that political action committees and Super-PAC's would be formed to overtake the "None" movement--with negative attack ads, robocalls and full color mailers every day.  That would alienate the voters and drive them right back to the "lesser of two evils" philosophy that most of use now to decide who gets our vote.

Oh well, I guess I'll just go with my old standby of writing in Bob Burnell for every office.

Monday, April 2, 2012

No Longer Masters of Their Domain?

It's Masters Week--and time for a "Tradition Unlike Any Other".  That tradition includes pimento cheese sandwiches (yes, they are kind of gross), not a single blade of grass out of place and the presentation of the coveted Green Jacket to the winner.

One Masters tradition, however, could be coming to an end this week.  For years, IBM has been a "corporate partner" of August National Golf Club--meaning it gets a precious few minutes of advertising durnig the golf tournament every year--for a very steep price.  In exchange, the CEO of IBM has been given membership in the very exclusive club.  Well recently, IBM elected a woman--Virginia Rommety--as its new CEO.  This could be very uncomfortable for Augusta National--as they have had a strict "No Women Allowed" policy since it was founded back in the 1930's.

You may recall, this became an issue a few years ago when Martha Burk demanded a boycott of the Masters because they didn't have a female member.  Her on-site protest fizzled out--leading to the absolute funniest moment in Masters history as she and her handful of protesters were forced to stand in a parking lot about a mile away from the Club and some guy showed up with a sign reading "Martha Burk: Go Iron My Pants".  The Club also protected its sponsors from the controversy by simply not having any advertising that year (giving us the GREATEST SPORTS BROADCAST IN HISTORY!)

The one thing that has always tainted the Masters for me has been the membership at Augusta National.  They didn't have an African-American member until the mid-1990's--a few years after Tiger Woods became the first black man to win the tournament.  In a way, the kind of attitudes that were featured in "The Help" still permeate the membership in Augusta.  "This is the kind of place where everyone knows their place."

Chairman Billy Payne holds a press conference on the Tuesday of Masters Week every year.  It will be interesting to see if he will drag Augusta National kicking and screaming a bit further into the 20th century by extending a membership to Mrs Rommety.  I just hope she doesn't expect them to put in women's tees.